(This is an excerpt taken from a much larger article/book I have been working on over the last 5 months. It has not been edited yet, but still will benefit those that are studying this subject and are open to an honest and exegetical critique. Enjoy!)
3. The Eschatology of “Christian” Dispensational Zionism:
Introduction: The modern day Christian Zionist movement is a consistent outgrowth and byproduct of Dispensationalism. This eschatological view of Bible prophecy has only been around for about 150 years. It was founded and systematized by the teachings of John Nelson Darby, and then picked up and popularized through Cyrus Scofield (The Scofield Reference Bible), D.L. Moody and Donald Barnhouse. Its largest boost has come through the radio and television airwaves.
Popular so called “prophecy expert” authors that litter the contemporary Christian book store shelves are Charles Ryrie (The Ryrie Study Bible), John Walvoord, Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, Grant Jeffrey, John Hagee, Chuck Smith and Hal Lindsey. Religious institutions peddling this false view of Bible prophecy are the Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary and the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, Assembly of God Bible Colleges, Calvary Chapel Bible College, The Master’s Bible College and Seminary, etc.
U.S. presidents that have embraced this system have been Jimmie Carter and Ronald Reagan. Reagan told Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director; “I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if we’re the generation that is going to see that come about.” The remark was published by the Jerusalem Post and widely distributed by the Associated Press. This raised red flags not just among the liberal left, but among conservative Christians that understood their Bibles better than Reagan and the “prophecy experts” he had been influenced by.
The ICEJ (The International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem) was founded in 1980 with the goal to “comfort” Israel by educating Jews on their national heritage and convince them to leave other countries and come back into the land of Israel. I say “comfort” in quotations because it is the ICEJ’s agenda to usher in the “rapture” of the church which would involve in their theology – a 2/3’s death of the Jewish population during the Great Tribulation. This is ironic since they claim Preterists or those that don’t support their cause are anti-Semitic and yet their theology is the most insulting and dangerous view of the modern “Jew” today! The organization has joined up with the already entrenched and powerful Jewish lobbyists to support the Israeli land and policy agendas to the U.S. and other foreign nations.
Dispensational distinctions associated with the inclusion of the Christian Zionist movement include:
- The separation of Israel from the Church in Bible prophecy.
- A “literal hermeneutic” is drilled into the students and congregations of interpreting Bible prophecy – without ample training in studying the kind of genre (ex. apocalyptic figurative language) being studied or trying to find the literal meaning of the text.
- The “gathering” in 1948 of Israel becoming a nation was allegedly the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and is the “super sign” for our generation.
- The context and desolation of the first century temple Jesus and the disciples are talking about in Matthew 24 is ignored or double-fulfilled away in order for its theology to be forced into the text claiming that our generation will see another literal re-built temple to appear that will be desolated by the Anti-Christ who is allegedly “Alive and Well on Planet Earth.”
- This system is known for the belief that whenever there is a war in the Middle East, a famine, earthquake, false teaching, missionaries sent into a foreign country, etc. these “signs” are being fulfilled right before our very eyes in the News. These events are supposed to indicate that the rapture of the Church followed by the second coming 7 years later is genuinely near in our generation.
- Our generation is supposed to also witness a global Great Tribulation attended with a world-wide Armageddon war which has Russia and China as alleged players.
- All of this is followed by a literal coming of Jesus on a literal cloud to earth. Once on earth, Jesus is allegedly going to reign on a literal throne in the literal city of Jerusalem for a literal 1,000 years in the land of Israel – as promised by God to Abraham.
- Then another temple is going to be built with animal sacrifices taking place while Jesus allegedly smells the stench of these sacrifices as he sits and reigns on a literal throne in Jerusalem.
Before we begin getting into the eschatological errors of this group, we should point out that one of their founders and most outspoken “theologians” doesn’t even know the gospel. Consider these comments given by John Hagee (One newspaper account puts it this way):
Trying to convert Jews is a “waste of time,” he [Hagee] said. . . .
Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha’i, needs to believe in Jesus, he says. But not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced with Christianity, he says.
“The Jewish people have a relationship to God through the law of God as given through Moses,” Hagee said. “I believe that every Gentile person can only come to God through the cross of Christ. I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption.
“The law of Moses is sufficient enough to bring a person into the knowledge of God until God gives him a greater revelation. And God has not,” said Hagee . . .
These are extremely alarming statements that undermine the very gospel itself. Clearly the faulty dispensational system and Zionism, have become an idol to this man (and to so many of his and the systems followers) so much so, that he/they have distorted the fundamental gospel message. Jesus in the gospel of John chastised the Jews of his day for studying Moses (the law and the prophets) thinking that in that they would receive eternal life and yet Jesus says they testify of Him – “…and yet you (the Jews) refuse to come to me to have life” (cf. John 5:39-40). Jesus chastised his fellow Jews of his day for trusting that they were “Abraham’s descendants.” Yet Jesus informs them that they are no different than anyone else in that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” needing to be set free only by Him and His words – and if they did not believe in Him they would die in their sins (cf. John 8:24, 31-59). Peter quoting Moses in Deuteronomy 18 mentions that Moses predicted the coming “prophet” of Jesus and if they wouldn’t believe in him they would be “cut off” in the judgment of AD 70 and thus they needed to be “saved from that terminal “perverse and crooked generation” that Moses prophesied of and that they were living in (cf. Deut. 32:5, 20/Acts 2:20-40; Deut. 18:15-19/Acts 3:17-23). As I will demonstrate, they were judged and cut off at His coming in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70! If not believing in Jesus in the first century didn’t work for the Jews, it is more than difficult to see how Hagee thinks things have changed since the arrival of the novel dispensational and Zionist movement for so-called “Jews” today!
I point this out only to demonstrate that if this man doesn’t even understand the gospel because he is blinded by what he thinks the doctrinal implications of dispensational Zionism teaches, then it shouldn’t surprise us that he is wrong on virtually everything when it comes to eschatology. Let’s examine some of this views on us being the terminal generation allegedly witnessing the signs that mark Jesus’ return.
Dispensational Zionist Signs Being Fulfilled In the News for Our Terminal Generation?
Here are John Hagee’s 10 signs (taken from his book, Beginning of the End, pp. 85-100) in which he asserts are proof that our generation is the “terminal generation” that will see the soon return of Jesus:
1. An Increase in Knowledge: Based upon Daniel 12:4 our terminal generation is supposed to be seeing the fulfillment of this passage through “technology” such as, airplanes, the TV, life-support and the Internet etc….
The Truth: In context, the “knowledge” here is in reference to the work of Messiah and His coming salvation and judgment (previously discussed in Daniel 7; 9:24-27) which would be revealed in the prophetic “words of the scroll” concerning “the time of the end.” Roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 Jesus and the NT authors are describing how Jesus and the Church is fulfilling OT prophecies and such “knowledge” of Jesus’ salvation and imminent judgment was increasing. This has nothing to do with “technology”!
Daniel was told to “seal up” the vision because its fulfillment was “far off” (concerning Israel’s coming salvation and judgment) (Daniel 8:26). John picks up where Daniel leaves off regarding the same prophetic material and was told “not to seal up” the vision, because the time was “at hand” (Revelation 22:10). For this false system of theology/eschatology to interpret “far off” literally as hundreds of years but then turn around and interpret “at hand” spiritually as meaning thousands of years, is unspeakable logic and pathetic or apply inconsistent hermeneutics!
Obviously John Hagee and his Dispensational Zionist colleagues (similar to the unbelieving Jews during AD 30 – 70) have not paid attention to the increased knowledge on the time frame and spiritual nature of the salvation and kingdom that Jesus (as Messiah) and the NT writers were addressing. Sad but true.
2. Plague or Pestilence in the Middle East (Zech. 14:12-15): Hagee amazingly sees these passages being fulfilled via the Ebola virus and or modern day radiation resulting from nuclear wars etc… – lol. Wow.
The Truth: It is true that plagues are described literally as in Exodus 7-12 and in the covenant curses and blessings say of Deuteronomy 28 or Leviticus 26 for example. But these kind of covenant curses and blessings can also be used symbolically in the Bible and that is what I believe we have here in Zechariah 14:12, 15. The NT informs us that prophetically there are two Jerusalem’s one earthly and literal representing the old covenant system, and the other spiritual and heavenly representing the new covenant system (Galatians 4:25-26). The earthly and old could be shaken and removed, while the other could not (cf. Hebrews 12). In Zechariah 14:2 the nations surround the earthly old covenant Jerusalem in the events surrounding AD 66 – 70. During this historic time frame, the Idumean Zealots surrounded Jerusalem as did the Roman armies (consisting of all the known conquered nations of that time) and attacked her from within and without.
But in Zechariah 14 we also have a description of the spiritual new covenant Jerusalem and what would take place roughly during the same time period. Here we see new covenant Jerusalem “raised up,” “when evening comes, there will be light,” “living water” flows out from her, and she is fully inhabited “never again will it be destroyed,” with the new covenant Messianic Kingdom being established (vss. 7-11). We see a clear fulfillment of this in Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 21-22. Christians living in the new covenant age/Kingdom/New Jerusalem experience these spiritual blessings of eternal life. But those outside the gates of the City are cursed living in spiritual darkness etc… Here in Zechariah 14:11-15 we find the spiritual condition and judgment that befalls those that came (and continue to come) against God’s people in the New Jerusalem. They are described as being cursed/plagued with all that they touch (ex. their animals) and having no water, while those within the New Jerusalem enjoy living water and all that they have (including their animals) are “HOLY TO THE LORD” (vss. 20-21). This is prophetic and symbolic language describing those blessed in the Messianic Kingdom or those opposed and are thus cursed outside of it.
3. The Re-birth of Israel in 1948: Allegedly our generation witnessing the “budding of the fig tree” in (Matthew 24:32-34) is supposed to be a fulfillment of Israel becoming a nation in 1948. Also since Isaiah 66:8-10 speaks of Israel being born in a day, this too is allegedly speaking of 1948.
The Truth: Hagee miss-interprets Jesus’ teaching here in the Olivet Discourse and twists OT prophecies to support his self-fulfillment World War III agenda. If the budding of the fig tree is Israel becoming a nation in 1948, then what kind of fulfillment will Hagee give “…and all the trees” or “all the nations” in (Luke 21:29) happening in 1948?!? These men seem to want to avoid this parallel passage and for obvious reasons.
Regarding Isaiah 66:8-10 Jesus taught that the covenantal status of Israel and her “kingdom” would be “taken” from her in AD 70 and be “given” to another “nation” “bearing the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43-45). Peter understands the Church being that “nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Isaiah 65-66 is a unit and when this nation is born and rejoicing takes place is when the New Jerusalem comes in her fullness according to chapter 65 and rejoicing takes place (cf. 65:18-19). The writer of Hebrews and Paul in Galatians 4 (and elsewhere in the NT) identifies the Church as “Zion” and or the “heavenly Jerusalem” “the Church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:22-23). The old covenant kingdom or Jerusalem would be “shaken” one more time (ie. in AD 70) with the new not being able to be shaken because she is spiritual or heavenly (Hebrews 12:27-29). The time of this nation being born or inheriting the New Jerusalem and her land was “about to” take place: “For here we do not have an ENDURING city (because it was about to be “taken” from OC Israel and “given” to NC Israel in AD 70) but we are looking for the city that is ABOUT TO COME” (Hebrews 13:14 YLT). This is when Christ was going to come in a “very little while” and “would not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37). Israel or the New Jerusalem being born anew or again imminently is also found in the book of Revelation which tells us its content would be fulfilled “shortly” and not 2,000+ years away (Revelation 1:1; 21:2–22:6-7, 10-12, 22). Post AD 70 the nations are gathered into the New Jerusalem/Israel through the gospel (Revelation 22:17). 1948 has nothing to do with Isaiah’s restoration/birth of Israel motif in the Messianic or new covenant age – period!
Jesus’ Born Again experience and Israel’s/the Churches
In the book of Acts 13 we learn that Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was His born again experience:
“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent…. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings – that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” (Acts 13:26, 30-32 quoting Ps. 2:7).
Jesus needed to undergo the process of being born again for His posterity and brethren – the Church (Heb. 2, 12:23). At Christ’s resurrection, He became the Churches “firstborn” or “firstfruit(s)” from among the dead ones (Cols. 1:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-21). But in what way was Christ’s resurrection the “first”? He surely was not the first to be biologically raised from the dead. His resurrection was the “first” in which Adamic (spiritual) death was overcome and would soon be overcome for the Church at His AD 70 return. Christ would conquer “the sin” of “the [Adamic] death” magnified through Israel’s Old Covenant “the Law” at His return to close and bring an “end” to the Old Covenant age in Jesus’ “this generation” (ie. AD 70–Mt. 24/1 Cor. 15). This process had begun with His resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The reference to Christ being the “firstborn” in Colossians is a new exodus theme. In the first exodus under Moses, God delivered Israel through the offering up of the blood of the firstborn lamb on the doorpost and through the sacrifice of Israel’s enemies – the first born among the Egyptians. This exodus and establishment of the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai resulted in God creating Israel as a heavens and earth (Isaiah 51:15-16).
The soteriological and eschatological pattern in the NT is that Jesus recapitulates Israel’s redemptive history, and then the Church follows. So just as Christ needed to undergo severe persecution and death before He would be raised and established as the “firstborn” from among the dead, so too the Church (pre-AD 70) was in the process of filling up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Cols. 1:24-27). The Church was thus in the process of being united to Christ’s death in baptism and being raised into His resurrection image (Rms. 6:8ff.). She was a seed being sown into the ground and simultaneously dying and rising into this new image of the heavenly man (1 Corinthians 15: 43ff.). The Church had to undergo sever persecution (described as “birth pains”), to function as a general sign that the coming of Jesus to “gather” Her (or raise Her from the dead) into the Kingdom would take place in the first century “this generation” (Mt. 24:8, 30-34; Lk. 21:27-32). Under the Old Covenant, unfaithful Israel was in a perpetual state of child labor and in pain being unable to give birth or bring salvation to the Gentiles (Isa. 26:27-28). But the faithful remnant united to Christ’s death and resurrection would bring these soteriological and eschatological “groans” in “child birth” to the Gentiles, and thus “all Israel would be saved” or raised from the dead (cf. Romans 8:22-11:15, 26-27). The remnant would be faithful to give birth to a nation (the Church) in a day (Isaiah 66:8).
I will be dealing with other OT texts Hagge twists to try and fit a 1948 fulfillment later in this article.
4. The Jews Are Continuing to Return Home to Israel from Russia and Other Countries: Supposedly Jeremiah 23:7-8 is the fulfillment of this modern day “sign.”
The Truth: The Prophet Jeremiah deals with Israel coming back into her land under the spiritual leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra from the 70 years of Babylonian captivity (being in the North not modern day Russia). This gathering back in the land in repentance (which fulfills the re-gathering promises) has nothing to do with 1948 – a gathering in the land in unrepentance. This gathering in the land under Nehemiah and Ezra was typological of a gathering into the Messiah – the coming “righteous Branch” (vss. 5-6) in His kingdom, a heavenly land and New Jerusalem. I will discuss the NT’s shift of being “in Christ” fulfilling OT’s “in the land” promises in a bit.
5. Jerusalem is no longer under Gentile Rule: Hagee amazingly claims the Six Day War in 1967 fulfills Jesus’ teaching concerning the fulfillment of the “times of the Gentiles” in (Luke 21:24).
The Truth: “There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23-24). First off, Jesus tells us that this event would be fulfilled in His contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Luke 21:32). Secondly, this event is contextually and grammatically connected to the fall of the Temple in AD 70 and the questions asked by the disciples regarding its destruction in vss. 5-7 and Jesus’ exhortation to that generation to flee Jerusalem when they see the armies surrounding the City vss. 20-23 (which we know the Idumean’s and Roman armies did with the Christians fleeing the city per Jesus’ instruction). So the Gentiles trampling Jerusalem is clearly fulfilled in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 and the “times of the Gentiles” being fulfilled refers to the time prior to AD 70 when Gentile powers and nations (such as Rome) controlled the city. Post AD 70 there is spiritual New Jerusalem that cannot be “shaken” or trodden down by any Gentile nation (“times of the Gentiles”) today. This is the point and fulfillment of this passage and the events of 1967 have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
6. International Instant Communication: Hagge and others claim that without the technology of TV, the radio, satellites, etc… how could the entire planet earth view Jesus coming on a cloud in Revelation 1:7 and the two witnesses in Revelation 11? Surely since these passages couldn’t be fulfilled prior to our day, the fulfillment was for our generation and the end times is right before us right? Uh, not even close.
The Truth: Hagee and other Dispensational Zionists think that the technology of TV is the only way Jesus could be literally seen by “every eye” of the “earth” at the same time (cf. Revelation 1:7). First, Revelation tells us that its content would be fulfilled “shortly” (not in our generation thousands of years away removed from its first century audience) and this includes verse 7 which is under discussion here (Revelation 1:1, 7). Secondly, “every eye” is qualified in the passage to be “those who pierced him” (first century Jews not all humanity) and “all the tribes of the land” (“tribes” being first century Jews with “land” being a better translation here than “earth”) would mourn at His coming. Thirdly, “see” in the Greek has the meaning of “perceive” or “understand” and we use it today in the same, “Do you see (understand) what I am saying?” Through the destruction of old covenant Jerusalem and her Temple in the historical events of AD 66 – AD 70, the Jews “understood” or “saw” that Christ had come through the Zealot Idumean and Roman armies.
Let’s now turn our attention to the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Of course Hagee takes the testimony of the two witnesses “literally” and if the entire globe or “the inhabitants of the earth” witnesses their death, then according to this kind of thinking it must imply the invention of the television. The two witnesses whom have the characteristics of Moses and Elijah, have to do with the testimony of the OT (the Law/Moses and the prophets/Elijah) and the people of the Land (not the globe–Rome and apostate Israel) seeking to silence this testimony. The number three and a half is a broken seven and represents a time of sorrow and pain. So this has reference to the rejoicing and coming together (of these at one time enemies – Rome and apostate Jerusalem) in a united cause to silence and put Christ and the testimony of the Church to death (cf. Matthew 24:9; Colossians 1:24). A global televised production of this alleged event, is so far removed from the context of the prophecy that it is just scary and desperate speculation on the part of Hagee and other modern day prophecy guru’s.
7. Days of Deception (Jeremiah 9:5): According to Hagee, Jesus’s second coming is imminent for our generation because “deception” is so rampant today in the world.
The Truth: First, this is not a global heightened level of deception taking place on planet earth in this passage, but rather Jeremiah is dealing with the gross sins or deception of his contemporaries and exhorting them on how they have broken the Mosaic covenant and therefore the covenant curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 would continue to follow them if they would not heed him. Those that were wicked and that would not heed his words would be carried off into captivity or fall by the sword (of the Chaldeans) (cf. Jeremiah 9:13-16).
8. Famines and Pestilence (Matthew 24:7-8): Hagee believes that the Ebola virus and AIDS fulfills this passage and thus World War III and Christ’s imminent return is near per Hagee’s view.
The Truth: Again, Hagee ignores the context of what the Olivet Discourse is all about – “the end of the [old covenant] age” (not planet earth) with the destruction of its Temple that Christ and the disciples are talking about! Therefore, all of the signs mentioned here would be fulfilled in their contemporary “this generation” (AD 30 – AD 70) (Matthew 24:1-34). I will demonstrate how these signs were fulfilled prior to AD 70 later in this article.
9. Earthquakes (Amos 1:2; Zechariah 14): Per this passage, Hagee believes that the increasing earthquakes today are signs of an imminent return of Christ which will lead to one large earthquake predicted in Amos 1(?) which will get everyone’s attention.
The Truth: The passage addresses a previous earthquake in Uzziah’s day but I don’t see anything in this text which suggests a future to us planet attention type earthquake predicted.
Perhaps Hagee is also appealing to a hyper-literal interpretation of Zechariah 14 once again. Here the earthquake in Uzziah’s day is mentioned within the context of Jesus coming and the Mount of Olives splitting in two (Zechariah 14:4-5). As we noted earlier, Jesus says that according to the OT scriptures (John 7:37-39=Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47; Joel 3:18) the living waters (of the Holy Spirit) which would flow from the Church (the Messianic Temple) is a spiritual fulfillment. Therefore, to literalize verses 4-7 does not flow with the context and how the NT authors understand the fulfillment of this passage. Likewise, the OT confirms a spiritual/apocalyptic/symbolic interpretation of God coming down upon the Mount of Olives, mountains and valleys being removed or spilt etc… (Isaiah 31:4; Micah 1:3-4; Habakkuk 3:6). A visual scene of Jerusalem shows that the Mount of Olives is an obstacle in the way to and from Jerusalem. Apocalyptic or symbolic language concerning this mountain splitting and a clear and level road being made simply means that God made a way of escape for the Christians in AD 66 by removing the apostate mountain of old covenant Jerusalem/Babylon.
Their physical flight from Jerusalem during this time (cf. Matthew 24:15-20/Luke 21:20-24= Josephus, Jewish War 2:20:1; 4:6:1; 4:7:3) is also described for us one again in the book of Revelation chapter 12. The woman clothed with the sun and crowned with 12 stars having the moon underneath her feet is the church described as the faithful or New Israel. She is giving birth to a “male child” who is not Christ, but rather other members of the collective body of the church. In the Old Testament unbelieving Israel would be in labor groaning but could only give birth to “wind” and could not bear forth a child – or give birth and bring salvation to the peoples of the earth (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18). However, faithful Israel is able to bring forth the male child and salvation for the world in one day (as we saw in Isaiah 66:6-14). This is a reference to the time of the birth pains Jesus discussed in Matthew 24:8. Old covenant Israel after the flesh would groan in pain wanting what the church had and was about to give birth as well, but because of their rejection of Christ, their womb was cursed only to give birth to wind. The sufferings and groanings of the Church were momentary and would bring forth salvation to the world. Here in Isaiah “a male child” also represents “her children” plural. So we have Israel becoming born again and transformed through the metaphor of child birth. This is not referring to Mary giving birth to Jesus. That this male child is given a rod to rule the nations is the fulfillment of the promise given to the church in Revelation 2:27.
The child being snatched up to heaven in verse 5 is but yet another description of what we saw of the two witnesses being raised up and called up to heaven in chapter 11. Resurrection and new birth are parallel concepts describing the transformation of the church as God’s new Israel and kingdom.
The mother fleeing and being given wings to flee to the desert for 1,260 days or 3 ½ years represents the church fleeing for safety to Pella as Christ exhorted her to do in the Olivet Discourse. The Dragon represents Satan moving within his servants of the synagogue of Satan who persecuted the Christians and then sought to deceive them into staying within Jerusalem to fight the Romans.
In verse 10ff. we reach the consummation once again. Satan and the apostate heavenly civil and religious rulers of Israel are cast to the earth (cf. Matthew 24:29). These were the accusers of the brethren – a scene played out for us in the book of Acts of which the church finally receives “relief” from at Christ’s parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:14-16). This is also the time of vindication in which they will rule over their enemies through the means of Christ coming to render upon their enemies “tribulation” and “wrath” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
A mountain(s) in apocalyptic literature such as we have here in Zechariah 14 and in the book of Revelation are not always literal. For example the persecuting apostate old covenant Israel is described as “Babylon” “Egypt” “Sodom” or “The Great City” in Revelation and the early Church was exhorted to “come out of Babylon, my people…” Through the imprecatory prayers of the church they had that mountain removed once and for all “shortly” in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 (Revelation 1:1; 8:8/Matthew 21:21-22; 11:8; 18:4).
In Zechariah the mountain that was once an obstacle becomes a smooth valley and or a way of salvation/escape. Again this is the figurative language of the prophets and interpreted spiritually in the NT (Isaiah 40:34; Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4-5). Through Christ “I am the way” and His word, the Church found salvation and deliverance from their first century persecutors – old covenant Jerusalem.
10. As in the Days of Noah (Matthew 24:36-39): Hagee and other Dispensational Zionists claim that our modern day wickedness such as murders, rapes, kidnappings, assaults, child abuse, parental abuse, etc… are signs that our terminal generation will see the Lord’s return. As the wickedness in Noah’s day resulted in the flood, so too Hagee reasons there is coming a worldwide Great Tribulation period.
The Truth: Of course every generation throughout world history has been characterized with such wickedness and therefore could use Hagee’s reasoning that their generation was the “terminal” one. But the facts are that Jesus’ contemporary generation was described as “perverse” and “adulterous” not just for their wickedness but specifically for rejecting their Messiah (Acts 2:40/Deuteronomy 32:5, 20; Mark 8:38-9:1; Matthew 24:34). Jesus connects the wickedness of His contemporary generation for rejecting Him with the days of Noah in Luke 17:25-28. As far as comparing a global flood with a global Great Tribulation period coming in our generation I have only two brief points. First, I believe the Bible teaches a local flood and not a global flood (and time restraints will not allow be to develop this). Secondly, the Great Tribulation is described in local terms – “There will be great distress/tribulation in the land and wrath against this people” (Luke 21:23). The Great Tribulation period is described from Jesus to take place against Israel (“the land” not the planet) and “against this people” (again the generation of Jews that rejected Him as their Messiah). And passages appealed to in the book of Revelation for a global Tribulation period quoting “earth” can and should be translated as “land” which is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse.
Having refuted Hagee’s signs let’s now turn our attention to Jesus’ and demonstrate how they were fulfilled in His contemporary “this generation” (Matthew 24:4-34).
A Brief Exegesis of Matthew 24-25
“End of the age” – Were the disciples “confused?” Did they ask about the end of planet earth?
All Dispensational Zionists begin with the disciples question in Matthew 24:3 and simply assume what they need to prove when they assume that the disciples were “confused” in associating Jesus’ coming and end of the age with the destruction of the temple. Since the Zionists theology separates these events by thousands of years, and the disciples linked them to be fulfilled altogether, they merely assume the disciples were mistaken and not them or their system. Here are some key hermeneutical steps the Zionist willfully skips:
- The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the phrase “this age” to be the old covenant age of Moses and the prophets and the “age to come” as the new covenant or Messianic age.
- In the book of Daniel the consummation of the major eschatological events can be found in chapters 7, 9 and 12. Daniel connected the eschatological “time of the end” events such as the desolation of the temple, the resurrection, the tribulation, the coming of the Son of man and the arrival of the kingdom, to take place when the city and temple would be destroyed – or “when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered” “all these things” (not some of them) would be fulfilled together (cf. see the consummation scenes in Dan. 12:1-7; Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 27; 9:24-27).
- In Matthew 13:39-43, 51 Jesus taught that the judgment and resurrection (“the time of the end” eschatological events) would take place at the end of their old covenant “this age.” Jesus specifically asks them if they understood His teaching on the time of this harvest at the end of their “this age” and they emphatically responded “Yes” (vs. 51).
- Jesus had previously taught that He would return in some of their lifetimes (Matthew 10:22-23; 16:27-28/Mark 8:38-9:1).
- Jesus previously taught them that all the blood from righteous Abel (from Genesis up to those He would send to them) would be avenged when the temple was destroyed in their “this generation” (Matthew 23:30-36, 38). Isaiah in his “little apocalypse” (Isiah 24-28) posits all of the eschatological events (judgment, de-creation, avenging the sin of blood guilt, the blowing of the trumpet, the resurrection, etc…) to take place together when the temple would be destroyed or “when he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces” (Isaiah 27:9).
So before we even get to Matthew 24, the disciples could have discerned from such prophets as Daniel and Isaiah, that all of the eschatological events would be fulfilled when the temple was destroyed. The record clearly states that the disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on “the end of age” or the end of their “this age.” And lastly, Jesus had already taught them that some of them would live to witness His return and the destruction of the Temple. Therefore, they were NOT mistaken to associate and connect Jesus’ coming (to destroy the Temple [that they were looking at and discussing] in their generation) with His coming and the end of the age.
Just because Matthew (as a responsible narrator) or Jesus have elsewhere shown us where the disciples were confused in Matthew’s gospel, does not mean that they were confused here in Matthew 24:3. In fact, when the disciples are confused or wrong about something they ask, Matthew’s gospel clearly teaches us, that this indeed is the case (ex. Matthew 16:6-12, 21-23; 17:4-5; 19:13-15; 20:20-25).
Milton Terry was spot on when he wrote of Jesus’ teaching on the “end of the age” in the Olivet discourse and elsewhere in the NT (such as Hebrews 9:26-28):
“The ‘end of the age’ means the close of the epoch or age—that is, the Jewish age or dispensation which was drawing nigh, as our Lord frequently intimated. All those passages that speak of ‘the end,’ ‘the end of the age,’ or ‘the ends of the ages,’ refer to the same consummation, and always as nigh at hand.” “…the writer regarded the incarnation of Christ as taking place near the end of the aeon, or dispensational period. To suppose that he meant that it was close upon the end of the world, or the destruction of the material globe, would be to make him write false history as well as bad grammar. It would not be true in fact; for the world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. It is futile, therefore, to say that the ‘end of the age’ may mean a lengthened period, extending from the incarnation to our times, and even far beyond them. That would be an aeon, and not the close of an aeon. The aeon of which our Lord was speaking was about to close in a great catastrophe; and a catastrophe is not a protracted process, but a definitive and culminating act.” Milton S. Terry, Biblical HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 441-442. After all the second appearing or coming of Christ to close the old covenant age is further described as Christ coming “…in a very little while” and “would not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).
Therefore, since Matthew 24-25 is about Christ coming in judgment upon old covenant Jerusalem in AD 66 – AD 70 to bring an end to the old covenant age (not the planet earth or to end the Church age), the Dispensational Zionists are the ones confused in Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and not the disciples. Having established that the discourse is about the end of the old covenant age and not world history or planet earth, we can readily see how all these things would be fulfilled in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matthew 24:34).
In Matthew 24:34 Jesus clearly identifies that the “this generation” of the “you” (first century Jews not 21st. century ones) of whom He is addressing would not pass away before “all these things” (the signs, end of the age and His coming) would be fulfilled. The Greek word for “generation” here is genea and is used over 30 times in the N.T. and in each context it is never used as anything other than to address a 40 year generation or in particularly, the first century contemporary generation of Jesus, the disciples or their contemporary enemies. However, some of the Dispensational Zionists and their alleged “scholars” have admitted to this but claim Matthew 24:34 is the exception to the rule and thus they feel they have the liberty to make up their own definitions of the word to fit their theology. Let’s go over a couple of them.
The first false view claims that “this generation” is interpreted to mean, “the Jewish race will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled.” There is simply no solid exegetical or lexical evidence for this use of genea in the NT. If the race of Jews was intended by Jesus or Matthew, they would have used the Greek word genos.
The second main error popularized by Hal Lindsey, an alleged “prophecy expert” who, based on current events and not the Bible claimed,
“WE are the generation that will see the end times… and return of Christ.” And “unmistakably… this generation is the one that will see the end of the present world and the return of Christ”
And then this view was fueled from the pulpit from mega church Pastors such as Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel (one of my former Pastors) movement:
“…that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”
In his book Future Survival (1978) Chuck wrote,
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”
Lindsey began by admitting that a generation “was something like forty years.” Since 40 years have passed, instead of throwing in the towel on his theory, Lindsey now claims a generation could be 60-80 years. If this doesn’t sound new, it’s because it isn’t. The “expanding” of a generation is exactly what the Mormon’s and Jehovah’s Witnesses have done with their false predictions concerning “this generation.”
John Hagee writes,
“There are ten prophetic signs in Scripture that describe the world in the last days. When these ten prophetic signs occur in one generation, that generation will see the end of the age.”[ii]
And of course according to Hagee, our generation allegedly has seen all ten of these (how convenient).
Again, genea in the gospels and especially the phrase “this generation” is never used in directing the reader to a future generation but rather always to the contemporary one of Jesus’ and His first century audience. Had this been the intension of Jesus, He could have simply said, “that generation…” instead of “this generation…” So much for taking “this generation” “literally” and how it is used everywhere else in the Bible! The fact remains that all of the signs Jesus gives here in Matthew 24 were seen and fulfilled before the end of the old-covenant age in AD 70.
Jesus predicted that false messiahs would come in the generation of the first century disciples and they did: Theudas (Acts 5:36; 13:6), Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), and Simon (Acts 8:9-11) to name a few. In the epistles of John, John writes (as that generation was ending) informs the first century church that they knew it was “the last hour” because the Antichrist’s had arrived (1 John 2:17-18). For those who understand the “Antichrist” and “Man of Sin” to be the same person, we should point out that this individual was alive and “already at work” during the time of Paul (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). Contrary to the popular science fiction writings of Dispensational Zionist Hal Lindsay, this individual is not “alive and well on planet earth” in the form of some political leader of Russia, Iran, Iraq, etc.
The Jewish historian Josephus writes of a false prophet during the destruction of Jerusalem which deceived the Jews to stay and fight the Romans:
“Of so great a multitude, not one escaped. Their destruction was caused by a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to those remaining in the city, that “God commanded them to go up to the temple, there to receive the signs of their deliverance.” There were at this time many prophets suborned by the tyrants to delude the people, by bidding them wait for help from God, in order that there might be less desertion, and that those who were above fear and control might be encouraged by hope. Under calamities man readily yields to persuasion but when the deceiver pictures to him deliverance from pressing evils, then the sufferer is wholly influenced by hope. Thus it was that the impostors and pretended messengers of heaven at that time beguiled the wretched people.” (Josephus, Wars, 6.3.6.).
“Wars and Rumors of Wars”
“In AD 40 there was a disturbance at Mesopotamia which (Josephus says) caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people. In AD 49, a tumult at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. At Caesarea, contentions between Jewish people and other inhabitants resulted in over 20,000 Jews being killed. As Jews moved elsewhere, over 20,000 were destroyed by Syrians. At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour’s time.” (John L. Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p. 28)
“The Annals of Tacitus, covering the period from AD 14 to the death of Nero in AD 68, describes the tumult of the period with phrases such as “disturbances in Germany”, “commotions in Africa”, commotions in Thrace”, “insurrections in Gaul”, “intrigues among the Parthians”, “the war in Britain”, and “the war in Armenia”. Wars were fought from one end of the empire to the other. With this description we can see further fulfillment: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7)[iii]
When Jesus was addressing wars and rumors of wars, He was not referring to what is going on in modern day Russia, China, Israel, Iraq, United States, or Europe today. To reach into Matthew 24 and back into the OT and twist these passages and prophecies by asserting that they are referring to these modern day countries and to us today is irresponsible exegesis to say the least.
Again, the Bible and history record famine and pestilences during “the last days” (AD 30 – AD 70) of the Mosaic old-covenant age and generation (Acts 11:27-29). In AD 40 and AD 60 there were pestilences in Babylon and Rome where Jews and Gentiles alike suffered.
The book of Acts records for us an earthquake occurring in the Apostolic generation (Acts 16:26). “…just previous to 70 AD there were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea.” (DeMar, Gary, ibid., 64)
“Put to Death”
The first century Christians were to expect tribulation, to be brought before kings and rulers, imprisonment, beatings, for the sake of Jesus. Please read the book of Acts 4:3,17; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 14:19 to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Luke 21:12. In fulfillment of our Lord’s words, Paul and Silas were beaten (Acts 26:23) and Paul was brought before rulers and kings – Gallio, (Acts 28:12), Felix (Acts 24), Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25). Peter and Paul were put to death in the persecution of Nero.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
The reader at this point says, “I got you. How are you going to be able to prove the gospel was preached throughout the entire globe before A.D. 70?!?” Allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, this is not difficult to prove at all:
|“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)|
|“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)”(Mark 13:10)||“…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)|
|“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)||“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).|
|And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) ” (Mark 16:15)||“…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)|
|“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)|
Jesus nor the Apostle Paul meant nor understood these phrases of “into all the world,” “all nations,” “every creature,” or “end of the earth,” to be global terms. These are describing the nations of the Roman Empire or the world as they knew it.
“Abomination that causes desolation”
In Luke’s account of the abomination that causes desolation, the fulfillment of this prophecy is identified with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem and laying it waste in the years of AD 66 – AD 70, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” (Luke 21:20-22). History records for us that the early Christians were not deceived by the Jewish false prophets and fled to Pella and were safe.
Any Bible College or seminary class on hermeneutics would tell us that we need to follow a grammatical historical hermeneutic. One of the steps involved in interpreting how language and terms are used is to honor the way language is used during the time it was written in. Josephus who was a close contemporary of Jesus’ time describes the destruction of Jerusalem in practically the identical language:
“Now this vast multitude is indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world;”[vi]
The words “For then shall be great tribulation…” are words linking the tribulation period with the preceding fleeing of the disciples from Jerusalem in the previous context (vs.17-20, cf. also Lk.21:20-23). The great “wrath” and “distress” upon “this people” in the “land” in (Lk. 21:23) is parallel to Matthew’s tribulation period described for us in Matthew 24:21. The Tribulation period is not a global event as the Dispensational Zionists have tried to portray it, but a local event that took place in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation.”
“The stars shall fall from heaven” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds”
God’s coming on the clouds and stars falling from heaven, as used elsewhere in the Bible, are metaphors referring to the judgment of nations, not the destruction of the physical planet. This can be seen in such O.T. passages referring to the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Edom, and Israel (Isa. 13:9-10; 19:1; 34:4-5; Ezk. 32:7-8; Amos 5:21-22; Psalm 18; Psalm 104; Hab. 1:2ff.). Did God come on a literal cloud when he judged Egypt by means of the Assyrian’s in 670 B.C.: “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt” (Isa. 19:1)? Was the literal heaven “dissolved” and rolled back like a scroll and did literal stars fall down from heaven when National Idumea (or Edom) was judged by God in the OT: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment” (Isa. 34:4-5)? In Matthew 24, the context is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. The sun, moon, and stars represented the universe of Israel and her rulers which would fall from her covenantal significance by A.D. 70 for rejecting Christ and His Apostles and prophets (cf. Matthew 23:31-36). Reformed and Puritan theologian John Owen had this to say of this text,
“And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. And our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident then, that, in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood” (John Owen, Works, Banner of Truth Pub., Vol. 9, 134).
John L. Bray correctly writes of the stars falling from the heavens of Matthew 24:29:
“Jewish writers understood the light to mean the law; the moon, the Sanhedrin; and the stars, the Rabbis.” (John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p.125).
“Heaven and earth will pass away”
So far we have found contextual and grammatical reasons to interpret the “end of the age” as the old covenant age in vs. 3, the stars falling from the heavens in vs. 29 to be the religious and civil rulers falling from the places of power when Jerusalem and her Temple was destroyed in AD 70, but what of verse 35 which addresses the “heaven and earth” passing away? Surely that is referring to the end of planet earth? Once again there is contextual and a historical hermeneutic within the Christian church to also understand this to be referring to the old covenant heavens and earth and it’s temple.
G.K. Beale’s research indicates,
“…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.” (G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25). J.V. Fesko, Last things first Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, (Scottland, UK, 2007), 70.
Reformed theologian John Brown in identifying the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 5:18 writes:
“But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 ), 1:170).
Commentators are correct to identify the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 5:18) as the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 24:35), but the context of both point us to the old covenant system and not the planet earth. According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:17-18 if heaven and earth have not passed away, then we are currently under all of the “jots and tittles” of the old covenant law.
And now specifically of the passing of heaven and earth here in our text, Evangelical Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis makes the following comments on Mark 13:31/Matthew 24:35:
“The temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.” And “. . . [T]he principal reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm. Mark 13[:31] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. (Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis a contributing author in, ESCHATOLOGY in Bible & Theology Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 157).
Jesus nor the NT writers ever predicted the end of the planet earth as is simply assumed by so many here in Matthew 24:3, 29, 35 and elsewhere in the NT. When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a preterist interpretation of virtually every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70. (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–68), 9:134–135. John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, , 1989), 3:452, 454. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust,  1990), 1:170. John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul Volume 2, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 617–618. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 363–365. Kenneth Gentry (contributing author), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 89. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs: GA, 1999), 68–74, 141–154, 191–192. James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1998), 269–279. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (contributing author) Eschatology in Bible & Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 145–169. Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004). Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 114, 157–158. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 345–346. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 645, n.42. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 84–86. C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002).
These interpretations are, individually considered, “orthodox.” Yet when full preterists consolidate the most defensible elements of Reformed and Evangelical eschatology, anti-preterists unite in opposition to even some of their own stated views. The full preterist combines the two competing “orthodox” views on the coming of the Lord and de-creation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 to form a consistently exegetical and historical position:
1. CLASSIC AMILLENNIAL VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24-25 is the ONE second coming event as is the de-creation spoken of here.
2. PARTIAL PRETERIST VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man happened spiritually and the end of age, de-creation of verses 3, 29 and 35 are descriptive of the passing of the old covenant creation/age and establishing the new by AD 70.
3. FULL PRETERIST VIEW (Synthesis of 1-2 “Reformed and always reforming”): The coming of the Son of Man is the ONE second coming event (as is the de-creation spoken of in verses 3, 29, 35) whereby Christ came spiritually to the old covenant creation/age in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 and establish the new.
Conclusion on Zionist “Signs” Theology:
We have examined the Dispensational Zionist claims that our generation is the “terminal generation” experiencing the “last days” signs, and therefore expecting an imminent return of Jesus and have found that sound exegesis of these signs and end of the world type language points us to a first century AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” fulfillment. The Dispensational Zionist interpretation of Matthew 24-25 is using a sensationalistic newspaper approach and not a grammatical historical hermeneutic.
We now turn our attention to the Dispensational Zionist “in the (Holy) Land” Theology.
Dispensational Zionist “In the (Holy) Land” Theology
Dispensationalism argues that Israel under the Abrahamic covenant has not yet inherited all of the land promised by God, in spite of God clearly saying otherwise (Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 4:20-21; Joshua 11:23; 21:41-45; Nehemiah 9:21-25). The objection from Dispensationalists is that Israel has not inherited the land “forever.” Sometimes in Scripture “forever” means forever and other times it simply means a long time. Under the old-covenant God’s promises made to Israel concerning the land had not failed to come to pass. In type and shadow form, through the 40 year reigns of David and in particularly Solomon, Israel received peace “in the land” as promised by God. All the blessings under the old-covenant were realized “in the land.” However, in the N.T. we discover that the anti-type of the Abrahamic promise is found in the gradual 40 year “this generation” pre-parousia reign of Jesus’ and the reception of a “heavenly country” that was “about to come” in the first century (Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:14YLT). The N.T. emphasis is not “in the land” but rather in a person – “in Christ” through faith. For “in Christ” are all the promises of God realized (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20). The life within the seed and core of the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled in the “seed” of Jesus Christ and all those who believe in Him (Jew or Gentile) and become the true new covenant Jew or Jerusalem of God (Galatians 3:6-29; 4:21-31; Romans 2:28-29). Dispensational Zionism teaches that the millennium temple of Ezekiel’s prophecy is a literal temple with animal sacrifices to be performed while Jesus is literally reigning in Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. However, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans and Galatians along with the writer to Hebrews, Christ’s sacrifice is a once and for all atonement which perfects God’s people and the animal sacrifices pointed in type and shadow form to Christ’s sacrifice! Again, the Apostle Paul quotes Ezekiel’s millennial temple prophecy and clearly says that it is the Church that fulfills Ezekiel 37:27/2Corinthians 6:16 (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-6; Ephesians 2:19-22). Jesus says that “according to the Scriptures” (cf. ex: Ezekiel 47), from out of a Christian’s heart will come “living waters” (cf. John 7:37-39). Christians are the New Jerusalem, New Creation and Bride which came down from heaven when the old-covenant Jerusalem/Adulterous Bride was destroyed “shortly” and “soon” in Revelation 17-22:6-7, 10-12, 20. This heavenly City that comes down from heaven is NOT a “literal” city! The purpose of the establishment and maturity of the New Jerusalem (the Church) in A.D. 70 is that the Church is now prepared to bring the Nations of the world “healing” through the gospel. The reason there is evangelism and “sinners” being born and converted in the New Creation is because it is a description of what is taking place in the New- Covenant age today – Ezekiel 47; Isaiah 65-66/2 Corinthians 5:17; John 8:38; Revelation 22:1-17. Imposing a sensationalist “literal hermeneutic” within the genre of a vision and apocalyptic literature, is a disaster of great proportions for the Church and one that does have political ripples and consequences in how we as a country founded upon Biblical principles understand our foreign policy!
In this section I want to analyze the various “proof texts” that Dispensationalists use to support that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I will focus mainly on the writings of John Hagee and Thomas Ice. We also examine the empty claims of Dispensationalists that OT prophetic material made to Israel cannot be applied or fulfilled in the Church age.
Now days most Dispensationalists are either abandoning the system or going further into it by embracing the “Christian Zionist Movement.” This movement seeks to try and persuade Jews from around the world to move back to Israel in order to usher in the Great Tribulation period and hasten the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the Church. Newspaper prophetic sensation John Hagee has built a foreign policy advocacy organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI) around this false doctrine and false interpretation of Scripture. He is pushing for a pre-emptive war with Iran to quicken the “rapture.” In 2006 while lobbying in Washington Hagee was clear in his agenda, “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West,” he said. This was supposed to be a step in the right direction as allegedly mapped out in the Bible, “a biblically prophesied End Time confrontation…which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation…and the Second Coming of Christ.” Hagee not only uses guilt manipulation techniques on the members of his church and T.V. audiences to tithe to his “ministries” through his false “prosperity gospel,” but also uses guilt manipulation to push his false Dispensational Zionism doctrine. Hagee clearly insists that if you are not on board with him and his alleged Holy Spirit led agenda of believing 1948 was a fulfillment of prophecy, and that God has a literal real estate “forever” in the literal city of Jerusalem today, any other view for a Christian to embrace “sin.” It is sad that this false doctrinal system/gospel of Hagee’s is tolerated among Evangelicals and it is more scary when he is allowed to lecture and manipulate our politicians and give them “altar calls” while pushing this agenda as part of his “gospel” of redemption etc…
In Deuteronomy 4:25-31; 28 – 29; and Leviticus 26, God lays forth His covenant with Israel of blessings and cursings. If Israel obeyed God they would be blessed in the land and if they disobeyed, they would be “scattered” among the Nations. The condition for their re-gathering back into the land was repentance and faith. Even though this is clearly laid out in the texts above, Dispensational Premillennialists such as Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and Arnold Fruchtenbaum assert (in order to defend their system that 1948 was a prophetic gathering), that Scripture actually addresses two re-gatherings of Israel in the land: 1) in un-belief, and 2) another re-gathering in belief. Thomas Ice quoting his favorite dispensationalist theologian states,
“The re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 has not only thrown a wrench in amillennial thinking, but it has also thrown a chink in much of the premillennial thinking. Amazingly, some premillennialists have concluded that the present state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. For some reason the present state somehow does not fit their scheme of things, and so the present state becomes merely an accident of history. On what grounds is the present state of Israel so dismissed? The issue that bothers so many premillennialists is the fact that not only have the Jews returned in unbelief with regard to Jesus, but the majority of the ones who have returned are not even Orthodox Jews. In fact the majority are atheists or agnostics. Certainly, then, Israel does not fit in with all those passages dealing with the return. For it is a regenerated nation that the Bible speaks of, and the present state of Israel hardly fits that picture. So on these grounds, the present state is dismissed as not being a fulfillment of prophecy.
However, the real problem is the failure to see that the prophets spoke of two international returns. First there was to be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, namely the judgment of the Tribulation. This was to be followed by a second worldwide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, namely the blessings of the messianic age. Once it is recognized that the Bible speaks of two such regatherings, it is easy to see how the present state of Israel fits into prophecy.”
Ice then seeks to give us some proof texts for this position,
“In 1948 when the modern state of Israel was born, it not only became an important stage-setting development but began an actual fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies about an international regathering of the Jews in unbelief before the judgment of the Tribulation. Such a prediction is found in the following Old Testament passages: Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-24; 38-39; Isaiah 11:11-12; Zephaniah 2:1-2 presupposes such a setting.” (Ice, Ibid.).
Scripture simply does not teach a prophetic “re-gathering in unbelief” and that is why other dispensationalists are struggling with this position! Let’s briefly address some of these passages that Dispensationalists use as their “proof texts”:
The context of this passage is dealing with the Babylonian captivity and has nothing to do with Israel being re-gathered back into the land in 1948! The context is that Israel was being unfaithful to God and wanted to be like the heathen nations around them. Therefore, God would take Israel out of her land in the wilderness (symbolic of the Babylonian captivity) and “purge” the wicked there so that the unbelievers would perish as God had purged the unbelieving generation under Moses in the wilderness. So this text actually teaches the opposite of what Dispensationalists say, because it would be the unbelievers who would be purged and die outside the land and not enter it. How is this passage teaching us that unbelievers would be re-gathered in the land of Israel in 1948 “in unbelief” is baffling to say the least!
Paul combines and applies both Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 20:34 to the Church age in 2 Corinthians 6:17 which Dispensationalists claim cannot be done in any way.
Again, the context is the “near” (vs.3-4) judgment of Israel by means of the Babylonians in B.C. 586 for their sins of spilling innocent blood and idolatry. The unbelievers are “dross” and would “melt.” This prophecy has nothing to do with God gathering Israel in the land in 1948 as a covenant gathered blessing, and it definitely does not teach a gathering of Israel in unbelief in 1948 either!
The immediate context of this chapter is describing Israel’s sins of idolatry and her sins of blood guilt. For these reasons she was scattered into the Gentile nations and made slaves. As slaves they remained unfaithful to God and were thus a poor witness of Jehovah to the nations in which they were scattered. But God for His own great name sake would cleanse them from their sins and call them back into their land to rebuild the waste places. In type form, this prophecy (and chapter 37) was fulfilled under the restoration of Nehemiah and Ezra when the people came back into the land in repentance and began re-building the waste places of Jerusalem. There is NO contextual evidence whatsoever that there was a “re-gathering” of Israel in “unbelief” let alone any suggestion whatsoever that 1948 is the focus of this prophecy!
Ezekiel 37, 40-48
John Hagee writes of this chapter,
“MORE THAN 2,600 years ago the prophet Ezekiel prophesied the resurrection of Israel from the Gentile graves in the lands to which she had been scattered, predicting the rebirth of Israel, which took place May 14, 1948.”
“I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Ezekiel’s vision has anything to do with the resurrection of the dead saints of the church.” (Ibid.).
“The dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision represent the nation of Israel during the Dispora, beginning in A.D. 70 (Ezkek. 37:11). Gradually the bones came together, and the sinews and flesh came upon them.” (ibid. 130-131).
And popular Calvary Chapel Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie has sought to get his piece of this sensationalistic money making pie as well,
“On more than one occasion in Scripture, Israel is compared to a fig tree (see Judg. 9:11; Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7-8). I believe that Mark 13:28-29, along with many other Scripture passages, such as Ezekiel 37-39, speak of the rebirth of Israel—the regathering of God’s people. When the nation of Israel comes back into the existence, Jesus was stating prophetically, it is a supersign that His coming is near.”
Of course some Dispensationalists disagree with Lindsey, LaHaye, Smith, Laurie, Courson, Ice, etc., that Ezekiel 37 has anything to do with 1948,
“The Israelites residing in Palestine today are not the fulfillment of this prophecy.”
Everyone agrees that the resurrection depicted in Ezekiel 37 is a “national” resurrection. In other words Israel experienced national and covenantal “death” when she was scattered from her land and experiences a “resurrection” when she is restored back into the land. Again, like chapter 36, this prophecy was partially fulfilled through typology when the two houses of Israel came back into the land under the restoration and leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. However, both chapters contain elements of Messiah’s work of salvation (the anti-type) with the coming Messianic New Covenant.
Ezekiel 37:22-28 discusses the coming New Covenant King/Shepherd who would cause: 1) His people to possess the land, 2) establish an everlasting covenant of peace with them, 3) multiply them, and 4) “sanctify” them by establishing His “sanctuary” and “tabernacle” in their midst forever. Oddly in seeking to idolatrize the Dispensational Zionist system, this group actually believes that promises made to OT Israel (such as these NC promises) cannot be fulfilled in and through the NT Church. These are amazing claims and anyone reading the NT can know without a shadow of doubt that they are false. Let’s examine them. Keith Mathison provides a helpful list of quotes from some of Dispensationalism’s leading theologians on this point:
Lewis Sperry Chafer. “That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture.”
J. Dwight Pentecost. “…it would be impossible for the church to fulfill God’s promises made to Israel.”
Charles C. Ryrie. “The church is not fulfilling in any sense the promises to Israel.” Keith A. Mathison, DISPENSATIONALISM Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995), 19 (bold emphasis added).
Are these claims really true?
OLD TESTAMENT TITLES AND ATTRIBUTES OF ISRAEL WHICH ARE, IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, REFERRED TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (This section is taken from The Church Is Israel Now, By Charles D. Provan – special thanks to Michael Bennett for sharing this):
THE BELOVED OF GOD
A) Israel Is Beloved Of God:
– Ex. 15:13, Deut. 33:3, Ezra 3:11
B) Disobedient Israel Is Not Beloved Of God:
– Lev. 3:16, Jer. 12:8, Jer. 16:5, Hos. 9:15
C) Christians Are Beloved Of God:
– Rom. 9:25, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:12, 1 John 3:1
THE CHILDREN OF GOD
A) Israel Are The Children Of God:
– Ex. 4:22, Deut. 14:1, Isa. 1:2,4, Isa. 1:2,4, Isa. 63:8, Hos. 11:1
B) Disobedient Israel Are Not The Children Of God:
– Deut. 32:5, John 8:39, 42, 44
C) Christians Are The Children Of God:
– John 1:12, John 11:52, Rom. 8:14,16, 2 Cor. 6:18, Gal. 3:26, Gal. 4:5,6,7, Phil. 2:15, 1 John 3:1
THE FIELD OF GOD
A) Israel Is The Field Of God:
– Jer. 12:10
B) Christians Are The Field Of God:
– 1 Cor. 3:9
THE FLOCK OF GOD AND OF THE MESSIAH
A) Israel Is The Flock Of God And Of The Messiah:
– Psa. 78:52, Psa. 80:1, Isa. 40:11, Jer. 23:1,2,3, Jer. 31:10, Eze. 34:12,15,16, Mic. 5:4, Zec. 10:3
B) Christians Are The Flock Of God And Of The Messiah:
– John 10:14,16, Heb. 13:20, 1 Pet. 2:25, 1 Pet. 5:2,3
THE HOUSE OF GOD
A) Israel Is The House Of God:
– Num. 12:7
B) Christians Are The House Of God:
– 1 Tim. 3:15, Heb. 3:2,5,6, Heb. 10:21, 1 Pet. 4:17
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
A) Israel Is The Kingdom Of God:
– Ex. 19:6, 1 Chr. 17:14, 1 Chr. 28:5
B) Disobedient Israel Is Not The Kingdom Of God:
– Matt. 8:11,12, Matt. 21:43
C) Christians Are The Kingdom Of God:
– Rom. 14:17, 1 Cor. 4:20, Col. 1:13, Col. 4:11, Rev. 1:6
THE PEOPLE OF GOD
A) The Israelites Are The People Of God:
– Ex. 6:7, Deut. 27:9, 2 Sam. 7:23, Jer. 11:4
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not The People Of God:
– Hos. 1:9, Jer. 5:10
C) The Christians Are The People Of God:
– Rom. 9:25, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 4:12, Eph. 5:3, 2 Th. 1:10, Tit. 2:14
THE PRIESTS OF GOD
A) The Israelites Are The Priests Of God:
– Ex. 19:6
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Priests Of God:
– 1 Sam. 2:28,30, Lam. 4:13,16, Eze. 44:10,13, Hos. 4:6, Mal. 2:2,4,8,9
C) The Christians Are The Priests Of God:
– 1 Pet. 2:5,9, Rev. 1:6, Rev. 5:10
THE VINEYARD OF GOD
A) Israel Is The Vineyard Of God:
– Isa. 5:3,4,5,7, Jer. 12:10
B) Christians Are The Vineyard Of God:
– Luke 20:16
THE WIFE (OR BRIDE) OF GOD
A) Israel Is The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
– Isa. 54:5,6, Jer. 2:2, Eze. 16:32, Hos. 1:2
B) Disobedient Israelites Is Not The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
– Jer. 3:8, Hos. 2:2
C) The Christians Are The Wife (Or Bride) Of God:
– 2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:31,32
THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
A) The Israelites Are The Children Of Abraham:
– 2 Chr. 20:7, Psa. 105:6, Isa. 41:8
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Children Of Abraham:
– John 8:39, Rom. 9:6,7, Gal. 4:25,30
C) The Christians Are The Children Of Abraham:
– Rom. 4:11,16, Gal. 3:7,29, Gal. 4:23,28,31
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE
A) The Israelites Are The Chosen People:
– Deut. 7:7, Deut. 10:15, Deut. 14:2, Isa. 43:20,21
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Chosen People:
– Deut. 31:17, 2 Ki. 17:20, 2 Chr. 25:7, Psa. 78:59, Jer. 6:30, Jer. 7:29, Jer. 14:10
C) The Christians Are The Chosen People:
– Col. 3:12, 1 Pet. 2:9
A) The Israelites Are The Circumcised:
– Gen. 17:10, Jud. 15:18
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Circumcised:
– Jer. 9:25,26, Rom. 2:25,28, Phil. 3:2
C) The Christians Are The Circumcised:
– Rom. 2:29, Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11
A) Israel is Israel
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not Israelites:
– Num. 15:30,31, Deut. 18:19, Acts 3:23, Rom. 9:6
C) The Christians Are Israel:
– John 11:50,51,52, 1 Cor. 10:1, Gal. 6:15,16, Eph. 2:12,19
A) Jerusalem Is the City And Mother Of Israel:
– Psa. 149:2, Isa. 12:6, Isa. 49:18,20,22, Isa. 51:18, Lam. 4:2
B) Jerusalem Is The City And Mother Of Christians:
– Gal. 4:26, Heb. 12:22
A) Israelites Are Jews
– Ezr. 5:1, Jer. 34:8,9, Zech. 8:22,23
B) Disobedient Israelites Are Not Jews:
– Rom. 2:28, Rev. 2:9, Rev. 3:9
C) The Christians Are Jews:
– Rom. 2:29
THE NEW COVENANT
A) The New Covenant Is With Israel:
– Jer. 31:31,33
B) The New Covenant Is With The Christians:
– Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:6,8,10
AN OLIVE TREE
A) Israel Is An Olive Tree:
– Jer. 11:16, Hos. 14:6
B) The Christians Are An Olive Tree:
– Rom. 11:24
OLD TESTAMENT VERSES REFERRING TO ISRAEL WHICH ARE QUOTED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AS REFERRING TO THE CHRISTIANS
– Lev. 26:11,12, Eze. 37:27, 2 Cor. 6:16
– Deut. 30:12-14, Rom. 10:6-8
– Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5
– Deut. 32:36, Psa. 135:14, Heb. 10:30
– Psa. 22:22, Heb. 2:12
– Psa. 44:22, Rom. 8:36
– Psa. 95:7-11, Heb. 3:7-11
– Psa. 130:8, Tit. 2:14
– Isa. 28:16, Rom. 10:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:6
– Isa. 49:8, 2 Cor. 6:2
– Isa. 52:7, Rom. 10:15
– Isa. 54:1, Gal. 4:27
– Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:8-12
– Hos. 1:10; 2:23, Rom. 9:25-26, 1 Pet. 2:10
– Hos. 13:14, 1 Cor. 15:55
– Joel. 2:32, Rom. 10:13
Dispensationalists believe that OT prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel in such passages as Isaiah 11, 35, 43, 44, 61; Ezekiel 11, 28, 34, 37; Jeremiah 16, 18, were made exclusively to Israel and therefore cannot be fulfilled in and through the Church “in any sense.” Dispensational Zionist John Hagee believes these passages motivate the Church to get Jews around the world to re-inhabit Israel today in order to hasten the “rapture” of the Church and usher in the last days World War III event. However, the context of these passages and how they are understood by the NT authors, make it clear that these “gathering in the land” promises were fulfilled 70 years after the Babylonian captivity under the restoration ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (in type or partial fulfillment form), which pointed to them being ultimately fulfilled in Christ and through the Church (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Dispensationalism argues that Israel under the Abrahamic covenant has not yet inherited all of the land promised by God, in spite of God clearly saying otherwise (Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 4:20-21; Joshua 11:23; 21:41-45; Nehemiah 9:21-25). The objection from Dispensationalists is that Israel has not inherited the land “forever.” Sometimes in Scripture “forever” means forever and other times it simply means a long time. In the passages listed above, God’s promises made to Israel concerning the land had not failed to come to pass. Indeed in type and shadow form, through the 40 year reigns of David and in particularly Solomon, Israel received peace in all the land that God had promised to give Israel. All the blessings under the Old Covenant were realized “in the land.” However, in the NT we discover that the anti-type and “true” fulfillments of the Abrahamic promise is found in the gradual 40 year “this generation” pre-parousia reign of Jesus and the reception of a “heavenly country” that was “about to come” in the first century (Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:14YLT). The writer to Hebrews (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) applies the New Covenant Promised Land, City, Tabernacle/Temple, Mount Zion, Sabbath/Rest/Inheritance and Kingdom promises made to Old Covenant Israel to the Church with the reception of these promises to be fulfilled at Christ’s “in a very little while” coming in which He would “not tarry” (Heb. 1-10:37). The NT emphasis is not “in the land” but rather in a person – “in Christ” through faith. For “in Christ” and through the Church, are all the OT promises of God realized and fulfilled (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).
The New Covenant promises
Since the gathering back into the land and New Covenant prophecies of Jeremiah 30-31parallel much of the same historical re-gathering and New Covenant material found in Ezekiel 37, we should probably examine the blatantly unbiblical comments of dispensationalists who claim that the New Covenant promises made to Israel are not being fulfilled in the Church. Dwight Pentecost writes,
“the Church cannot be presently fulfilling the New Covenant.” John Walvoord agrees, saying that “the New Covenant is with Israel and awaits the second coming of Christ for its fulfillment.” (Mathison, Ibid. 28)
Pentecost concedes that if the Church has been redeemed with the blood of Christ under the New Covenant, then the other covenants must also be applied to the Church and that would mean that the Bible does not teach an earthly millennium,
“The whole covenant takes on importance, in addition, for amillennialism attempts to show that the church is fulfilling Israel’s covenants because the church today is redeemed by the blood. If the church fulfills this covenant, she may also fulfill the other covenants made with Israel and there is no need for an earthly millennium.”
Charles Ryrie claims that the Bible condemns Dispensatinalism if the New Covenant is being fulfilled by the Church,
“If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.”
These are obviously startling statements to say the very least. How can any Christian claim that he or she has not been redeemed by the blood of Christ’s blood under the New Covenant when the Scriptures are so clear that we are? The answer is that these men have become so engrossed in defending their eschatological system, that this has forced them into rejecting foundational elements to the gospel and indeed the Christian faith.
Jesus began fulfilling the Davidic Covenant or “One King” prophecies of (Ezek. 37:22; Jer. 30:9) at His ascension (Heb. 1-2). Every element that is required for a King to reign is given to Christ through the Church. He was seated on a throne and rules through a City and Nation—that is the Church (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 12; Gals. 4). The sending of the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Davidic and New Covenant is the focus of attention in (37:24ff.).
One Shepherd with one flock
Jesus would be Israel’s “one shepherd” who’s sheep would walk in His judgments and observe His teachings and do them (Ezk. 37:24). This prophecy is clearly fulfilled in the words of Jesus in John 10 and 17. Obviously OT promises made to Israel are being applied to the Church–the New Covenant fold of God! In the striking and sacrifice of the True Shepherd, the everlasting New Covenant (v. 25) seals the sheep’s/Churches salvation (Mark 14:27; Mt. 26:28; Heb. 8, 12:24, 13:20).
A New Covenant Temple, Peace and Sacrifices
The New Covenant of peace and temple motif began with Christ sending the Holy Spirit within His people. It would be competed and matured when He returned in AD 70 for them. At this time God placed His glory and everlasting peace “within” the Church who is the ultimate New Covenant fulfillment of the Temple promises (Hag. 2:9/Jn. 14). Christ and the Church are the fulfillment of Israel’s New Covenant Tabernacle/Sanctuary/Temple promises with Christ being the chief corner stone (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22-23/“the builders rejected”/Acts 4 “YOU rejected”/Mt. 21:33-45/1Pet. 2:4 -10; Ezk. 37:27/2 Cor. 6:16; Ephs. 2:19-20; Amos 9:11-12/Acts 15:7-19). God’s New Covenant/Temple/Kingdom plans for Israel were not postponed because of Jesus’ rejection and sacrifice (per Dispensationalism), but rather this rejection of the nation and belief of the remnant and the Gentiles established and began fulfilling God’s Kingdom promises made to Israel with Christ’s return in AD 70 bringing them to full maturity. While here in Ezekiel 37 and on the temple motif alone, we see Paul quoting Ezekiel 37:27 in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and applying this prophecy to the Church! But Dispensationalists seem oblivious to the hermeneutics of Paul and remain adamant that this is somehow a prophetic description of a “literal” rebuilt temple in the millennial age,
“These promises anticipate the detailed plans for God’s new sanctuary (chaps. 40-43). This literal structure will serve as a visual object lesson to Israel and the nations of God’s presence in the midst of His people.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1299).
BUT Paul claims that the Church is the fulfillment of these temple/millennial promises and says nothing about a literal “rebuilt” temple in order to fulfill Israel’s millennial promises thousands of years off in the future!
One of the most disturbing elements within Dispensationalism’s “literal hermeneutic,” is that within this literal rebuilt temple, animal sacrifices will be re-instituted. Some Dispensationalists such as Scofield gave the farm away by claiming that it is possible that the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s temple prophecy are not to be interpreted literally,
“The references to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day”
But obviously it only stands to reason, that if the sacrifices are not to be interpreted literally, then neither should the altar or the entire temple structure itself (in which theses sacrifices are offered) to be interpreted literally!
Unfortunately, most Dispensationalists seek to defend that these are literal animal sacrifices taking place after Christ has returned to Jerusalem and sits on his literal throne,
“However no difficulty exists if one understands the proper function of these sacrifices. First, animal sacrifices never took away human sin; only the sacrifice of Christ can do that (Heb. 10:1-4, 10). In Old Testament times Israelites were saved by grace through faith, and the sacrifices helped restore a believer’s fellowship with God. Second, even after the church began, Jewish believers did not hesitate to take part in the temple worship (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) and even to offer sacrifices (Acts 21:26). They could do this because they viewed the sacrifices as memorials of Christ’s death.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1305).
First of all, the writer of this statement (Charles H. Dyer) fails to acknowledge that the writer to the Hebrews applies the sacrifice of Christ’s blood of the New Covenant to the Church thus “condemning” (Ryrie’s term) Dispensationalism altogether (Heb. 7-10, 12).
Secondly, I appreciate the admission by Mr. Dyer, that Jewish Christians were obeying the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, because this is what Jesus clearly taught they should do in Matthew 5:17-19 before He fulfilled it all. Here Jesus instructs that ALL the jots and tittles of the Mosaic Old Covenant Law are to be obeyed UNTIL: 1) heaven and earth passes away, which is equivalent to the time period of when 2) all the Law would be fulfilled. Dispensationalist Thomas Ice seems oblivious to what this text says and actually cites it to claim that the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ’s first coming,
“The Mosaic Covenant…” “…was fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus Christ during His first advent (Matthew 5:17). (Ice, Charting the End Times, Ibid., 79).
But clearly the Old Covenant Law was not all fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but was binding and should be obeyed until heaven and earth passes away or it is all fulfilled. But since the futurist interprets “heaven and earth” here as the planet having not yet vanished, this necessitates that the Church today should be obeying all of the Mosaic Law—including the animal sacrifices. However, the truth is that the Christian Jews did participate in temple worship and animal sacrifices during a particularly unique period (“this generation” roughly AD 30-70) in which the Old Covenant was still being fulfilled by Jesus and the New was reaching its full maturity. According to the writer to the Hebrews, the Old Covenant Law was still in the process of “aging” and would “soon vanish” at Christ’s “in a very little while” return in which the “about to” reception of the New Jerusalem/Creation would take place (Heb. 8:13-10:37-13:14YLT). This all took place “soon” when the Old Covenant Mosaic Temple was destroyed at Christ’s return in AD 70. Dispensationalists (and most futurists) concede that “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13) is a literal time statement that most likely applies to AD 70,
“…the author’s words suggest that he recalled the prophecy of Jesus that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matt. 24:1-2). Probably this prophecy was fulfilled soon after Hebrews was written. If so, it was a dramatic confirmation of the writer’s thesis about the Old Covenant.”
But unfortunately once in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, the abomination and desolation of this same first century temple Jesus and the disciples are looking at and discussing, becomes an alleged rebuilt one thousands of years removed from them. How you might ask? Apparently all it takes is a wave from the eisegetical wand of Dispensational theology. And although the literally “soon” vanishing of the Old Covenant in (Hebrews 8:13) applies to the temple being destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s coming in a “very little while” in which He would “not delay” in (Hebrews 10:37) is spiritualized away by these “literalists” and finds no contextual harmony with their literal interpretation of “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13)!
Once the Mosaic Law was all fulfilled and it “soon vanished” at Christ’s imminent return in AD 70, there is no Scriptural support for the statement that “The Old Covenant Is Not Dead.” (Hagee, In Defense, Ibid., 158). God indeed has kept His vows and has not altered His covenant promises, sending Jesus in a literally “some standing here,” “this generation,” “soon,” “in a very little while” time period in order to fulfill all of Israel’s promises by AD 70. For Dispensationalism to claim otherwise and return to the prophecies contained in the prophets and Old Covenant Law for support of another re-built temple with animal sacrifices, is a complete reversal of what the book of Hebrews teaches. The writer instructs us that redemption moves from physical Old Covenant types and shadows to their spiritual New Covenant substances and “true” fulfillments in Christ and through the Church. The writer says nothing about all of the Old Covenant Law being fulfilled in Christ’s earthly ministry, and neither does he teach that it is “not dead” and will somehow come back to life again thousands of years off in the future with another re-built temple for Israel! These concepts are literally READ INTO THE PAGES OF THE NT with millions of Evangelical Christians asleep and refusing to be Bereans and hold these men accountable!
Dispensationalists claim that other OT passages such as Isaiah 66:20-23 teach the literal temple and sacrifice motif to take place in our future. And yet Paul references this passage in Romans 15:16 to demonstrate that he was a priest (in the temple predicted by Isaiah) offering up as a sacrifice the Gentiles (not literal animals). The prophecies in Isaiah that Dispensationalists reference as “proof texts” concerning the Jews and Gentiles coming to the “last days” Holy Mountain/Mount Zion/Temple, Jesus and the NT authors identify as being spiritual and fulfilled in the Church (John 4; Hebrews 12; Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2).
The Dispensational Zionist movement may claim to be a “Christian” movement directed by the Holy Spirit, but what we have found (through sound exegesis) is to the contrary. It’s founders (such as John Hagee) are confused on very simple elements to the gospel. They have adopted a “newspaper” sensationalistic approach to Bible prophecy instead of an exegetical one. They are oblivious to what Christ and the NT’s teaching means to be “in Christ” (and not “in the land”) where all prophecy is fulfilled. Like the hardened first century Jew rejected Christ’s and the NT’s teaching on an AD 30 – AD 70 imminent arrival of the parousia, judgment and resurrection of the dead, and arrival of the New Creation (the “kingdom” promises) due to a hyper-literal hermeneutic — so too has the “Christian” Dispensational Zionist followed. It’s “Christian” tradition is not the “tradition” I see in the NT. Rather, they have sought to “make null and void” God’s teaching in these matters, “due to their (unbiblical) traditions.” Selah.