BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
AD70 Dispensationalism: According to
that view, AD70 was the end of 'this age' and the start of the 'age to come'.
Those who lived before AD70 could only 'see in part' and such, lacking
the resurrection and redemptive blessings which supposedly came only
Herod's Temple in Jerusalem
fell. Accordingly, AD70 was not only the end of Old
Testament Judaism, but it was also the end of the revelation of
Christianity as seen in the New Testament.
AD70 Dispensationalism: According to that view, AD70 was the end of 'this age' and the start of the 'age to come'. Those who lived before AD70 could only 'see in part' and such, lacking the resurrection and redemptive blessings which supposedly came only when Herod's Temple in Jerusalem fell. Accordingly, AD70 was not only the end of Old Testament Judaism, but it was also the end of the revelation of Christianity as seen in the New Testament.
material is being archived for balanced representation of all preterist views,
but is classified under the theological term hyper (as in beyond
the acceptable range of tolerable doctrines) at this website. The
classification of all full preterism as Hyper Preterism (HyP) is built
upon well over a decade of intense research at PreteristArchive.com, and
the convictions of
the website curator (a
former full preterist pastor). The HyP
theology of final resurrection and consummation in the fall of Jerusalem, with its dispensational line in AD70
(end of old age, start of new age), has never been known among authors
through nearly 20 centuries of Christianity leading up
to 1845, when the earliest known full preterist book was written.
Even though there may be many secondary points of agreement between
Historical/Modern Preterism and Hyper Preterism, their premises are undeniably and
THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED AS "HYPER PRETERIST"
"Full preterist" material is being archived for balanced representation of all preterist views, but is classified under the theological term hyper (as in beyond the acceptable range of tolerable doctrines) at this website. The classification of all full preterism as Hyper Preterism (HyP) is built upon well over a decade of intense research at PreteristArchive.com, and the convictions of the website curator (a former full preterist pastor). The HyP theology of final resurrection and consummation in the fall of Jerusalem, with its dispensational line in AD70 (end of old age, start of new age), has never been known among authors through nearly 20 centuries of Christianity leading up to 1845, when the earliest known full preterist book was written. Even though there may be many secondary points of agreement between Historical/Modern Preterism and Hyper Preterism, their premises are undeniably and fundamentally different.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED AS "HYPER PRETERIST"
"One of the clearest and most convincing presentations of the Biblical case for the preterist view of Scripture" - Walt Hibbard Founder, Great Christian Books
Jesus told the disciples, "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." The writer of Hebrews exclaimed, "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Jesus concluded the Apocalypse with these words; "Surely I come quickly." Yet the vast majority of professing Christendom says that Jesus Christ has not returned. In fact, as the year 2000 approaches, people all over the world are expecting Christ to come at any time.
Did the New Testament writers and Jesus really expect Him to return in His kingdom before their generation passed away? Are we to believe the so-called "prophecy experts" who are constantly setting dates and resetting them after their "prophecies" fail only to bring shame to Christianity and Christ Himself? Or do we take the equally dismal alternative of the skeptic, and question the integrity of Jesus and the apostles? Were Jesus Christ and the apostles mistaken? If so, then Christianity must inevitably be a farce. But there is another alternative-an alternative that upholds the integrity of Jesus Christ.
Jesus and the apostles were not mistaken. Jesus Christ did return before some of the disciples died, just as He predicted. He returned to establish an everlasting kingdom-a kingdom without observation, within the believer in Jesus Christ.
In this thought-provoking book, Ward Fenley urges both the modern skeptic and professing Christianity to solemnly rethink their positions concerning the kingdom and integrity of Jesus Christ. Once the timing of the return of Jesus Christ is understood, there will be a far greater appreciation for Him, of whom it is said, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end."
Preface to the Book - Acts 20:26-27 "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
Introduction to the Book - 2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Chapter One: The Time is at Hand
Chapter Two: Some Standing Here
Chapter Three: Signs of the Times
Chapter Four: Signs of the Times, Part II
Chapter Five: Signs of the Times, Part III
Of course, as a Christian, I cannot help but dedicate this book to the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the immutable, omnipotent God. However, I must emphasize those to whom I direct this book: certainly all those who sincerely desire truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6); primarily, though, I direct this book to pastors and teachers of the word of God; for it is these men who are to be delivering the sword of the Spirit to the people of God.
It is my prayer that this book would remind pastors throughout the world of their call to preach the truth. Preaching the truth first begins with a severe scrutiny of the heart pertaining to motives. As pastors we must be honest. If we are to be honest preachers we must be honest with the word of God.
The fear of God must be our compelling objective in being honest with the word of God and preaching the word of God. More often than not, it means preaching those things which the world hates. Therefore, if the world hates the word of God they will hate us. It is usually the case that in churches where the truth is preached, the congregations are small. Pastors are frequently confronted with the temptation to conform their preaching to the desires of the congregation. This stems from a worldly obsession that the number of members in a congregation determines fruit. This obsession results in the fear of men. Because the fear of men is so powerful, it often can lead to doing whatever is necessary to conform and wrest the word of God to the congregation rather than doing whatever is necessary to conforming and wresting the congregation to the word.
This was a constant temptation that confronted the apostles and prophets. Besides the Lord Jesus, Jeremiah is perhaps most well-known for his controversy with the rebellious responses of his contemporaries to the word of God. God prepared Jeremiah for the opposition he would experience from the rebellious Jews of his day:
God gave the words to Jeremiah to give to the people regardless of their hardness against the truth. God essentially spoke the same thing to Ezekiel, i.e. to preach the truth regardless of the response of the congregation:
Those who were the most rebellious were the prophets and priests. God did not hesitate to describe their sin:
Their chief sin was not seeking the Lord. These pastors and prophets claimed the name of the Lord yet refused to preach His word:
Not seeking the word of God is not seeking God. Rather, it is leaning on our own understanding. God’s pronouncement of evil upon the wicked pastors of Jeremiah’s day was primarily because of their idolatry in not seeking God and His word. To seek anything else is idolatry. To not study His word is, simply, idolatry.
Jeremiah brought the truth to these wicked men, and they responded with mocking and deriding. Jeremiah, however, remained faithful to his calling because he was ordained to this calling (1:5).
Therefore, with certainty, he could declare his devotion to God and His word with a pure conscience:
At first it may seem that the problem of the priests and prophets was that they were not accepting the call to their offices. Jeremiah, however, exposes the real problem. They considered themselves pastors and prophets, but in practice they had, in fact, hastened from being pastors to follow God (17:16). Jeremiah was not concerned with men being a terror unto him; he was concerned with God being a terror unto him (vs.17). The greatest Pastor of all taught this precept:
Jeremiah did have his battle, however. His battle was not prophesying lies to the people, which, unfortunately, is the chief problem in today’s pulpits. Rather, his battle was his discouragement over the rejection of the truth. At one time he fell to this discouragement and ceased preaching altogether:
Ultimately this conflict resulted in the fear of men. He was weary of being derided and mocked. The burden of the reproach of the false teachers was heavy upon him. He succumbed to the fear of men and quit preaching...but not finally. Because he was truly called of God to preach, His fear of God and His word prevailed against his fear of men:
The New King James Version states Jeremiah’s rekindled obsession more clearly:
The pastor who is truly called by God cannot and will not hold back the truth. Paul, with a pure conscience, could tell the Ephesian elders he was faithful in preaching the word of God:
Earlier he testified how he had kept back nothing from them:
Paul did not fear men. He taught them the whole counsel of God. He suffered for his adherence to preaching the truth. This truth which he preached brought persecution from the enemies of Christ. Therefore, the question we must ask is, what truth was he preaching that created such contention? Why were his contemporaries so provoked against him? Paul speaks of the message he preached that was the cause of this contention. He declares his infirmities and also, the danger the Ephesian elders would experience as they too preached the truth:
Paul taught true repentance from sin and unbelief and faith toward Jesus Christ (vs.21). He testified of the grace of God (vs.24,32). Finally, he preached the kingdom of God. It was the preaching of true repentance, salvation by grace alone, and the preaching of the unseen kingdom of God that brought rage from the gainsayers. Paul had experienced this, and he knew that as long as the Ephesian elders truly taught these things they too would have to endure the fury of men.
Today it is the same. In the eyes of the world the churches seem to be growing bigger and better than ever. In the eyes of God, however, the message of the grace and kingdom of God is utterly gone. The pastors have feared the faces of men rather than the face of Almighty God just like profane priests and prophets of old.
As God promised Jeremiah so He promises today:
As pastors, if we do not repent of our fear of men God will confound us before them. Is this not already evident? Many wonder why liberalism has permeated the church. They wonder why atheism is so widespread.
It is because the pastors and priests have gone astray. The same was true in Jeremiah’s time:
Their profanity is not even necessarily overt sin as much as it is in subtle indoctrination with heretical principles. Peter spoke of these subtle heresies:
The prophets of the Old Testament and the prophets of Peter’s time had gone a-whoring after other gods. It is still true today. The gods are not only the self-will but also the fearing the faces of other men. To fear men is to worship men. We have become consumed with how men view us as speakers and intelligent philosophers rather than being consumed with how God views us as preachers of His grace and kingdom. For this cause the visible church is withering and emaciated. We cannot expect change until God sovereignly works in the hearts of pastors to fear Him and preach His word. Revival will come when true men of God come forth with boldness and preach the holy word of God. But once again, this must begin with pastors being honest with the word of God in their own studies.
There must be honest analysis of the whole counsel of God within its historical and grammatical context. We must not cater our interpretation according to the lustful desires of the congregation; for not all the congregation is holy. As Moses said:
Preaching the truth will inevitably bring the destruction of those who are not holy unto the Lord which will usually result in a drop of attendance. Yet Paul encouraged the true preacher of God’s word:
God does not consider numbers. That which is sweet-smelling in the sight of God is His word not returning void, but, rather, being the savor of death to death and life to life. In either case the true preacher of God is being caused to triumph by God,...in the sight of God.
The true preacher of God’s word must not corrupt the word of God but preach the word of God with sincerity, i.e., preaching what we know to be the truth, not what men want to hear. In doing so, we, as pastors, will be blessed with, what church attendance could never accomplish--a clear conscience.
I exhort you to faithfully examine the Scriptures set forth in the following chapters. For the Scriptures contain that which Paul considered the grace and kingdom of God.
Dear pastors and laypersons, may you be richly blessed!!
Much love in Christ,
2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God in him are yea,
The subject of this book is perhaps the greatest, and certainly the largest of all Biblical topics. Because the Everlasting Covenant involves every aspect of theology, no small work could ever address it adequately. The magnificent plan of the immortal, invisible God regarding the redemption of lost souls from the power of Death is, without a doubt, the entire thrust of Holy Writ. God has laid open the very core of His redemptive work from Genesis to Revelation.
The Everlasting Covenant has as its nucleus the absolute sovereignty of God over mankind, salvation from the bondage of sin, and the final glorification of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. The everlasting God is the God of an Everlasting Covenant. Therefore, the realization and understanding of this Everlasting Covenant are an integral part of knowing God. The great Promise of the Bible (2 Corinthians 1:20) could only be executed if an eternal God were the Author. If the Covenant is effective, then it is only because of the integrity and faithfulness of God. The Scriptures continually affirm this unwavering integrity and faithfulness, especially as it pertains to the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. These are essentially two extensions of the Everlasting Covenant.
As the faithfulness of God is confirmed in the Scriptures, this should cause one to highly esteem any promises that are recorded, both in their effect and their frame of time. Of course, this is a fundamental element of the Gospel of truth: that is, highly esteeming the promises of God both in their outworking and their timeframe is one of the fruits of a true and saving faith. In light of this, we must pay careful attention to the greatest and most encompassing of all the promises in Scripture-the Everlasting Covenant.
The verse, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” 2 Corinthians 1:20, is an important verse to analyze, especially as it pertains to a first-century Christian’s mode of thought. Namely, what would first-century Christians in Corinth be thinking upon reception of this letter by the apostle Paul? We must keep in mind the fact that the Bible was never meant to be divided into two totally different sections entitled Old Testament (O.T.) and New Testament (N.T.). This division was merely man’s way of making a clear distinction between the time of Christ and the Old Testament prophets. However, nothing in God’s perfect and holy word ever even suggests that division. Thus, it will be of great help to understand that the group of books entitled The New Testament is simply a continuation of God’s word that has been traditionally called The Old Testament. Who was God addressing in Genesis through Malachi? Was it not the Jews? Should it not be expected that the rest of the Scriptures would be primarily addressed to the same group? Once we start seeing the New Testament in terms of Jewish association, the otherwise confusing statements will be clearer and dispel any tradition that has kept us close-minded. However, because the majority of Christian culture is used to identifying the Greek Testament as the New Testament, this book will address it likewise. Nevertheless, we must always keep in mind the continuity of the Abrahamic Covenant through both the Hebrew and Greek Testaments.
If we examine the immensity of the statement “For ALL the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” we will see the enormous implications that a statement like this would carry. What were the promises of which Paul was speaking? With what promises were the first-century Jews aquainted? There is only one promise that contains many promises that virtually every Jew understood: the Abrahamic Covenant. In all the prophecies of a time when there would be “peace,” “dwelling safely,” “no more hunger nor thirst,” etc., it is scripturally impossible to separate the promises from the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore, this book will show that the Abrahamic Covenant is complete in Christ Jesus. It also will prove that the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant, and the Everlasting Covenant are all the same Covenant.
One of the major issues that must be addressed is the role that the Gentiles play in the Everlasting or Abrahamic Covenant.
The Gentile element is an integral part in the ultimate realization of the Abrahamic Covenant as shown in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis:
Since first-century Jews were very aware of this Covenant, it should be made clear that Paul’s statement of all the promises being fulfilled in Christ would mean far more than it would to an uninformed twentieth-century Gentile. The whole Jewish hope was based upon this initial Abrahamic promise and all the related promises interspersed throughout the prophets. The Jews understood well that the realization of the Abrahamic Covenant being fulfilled would be demonstrated by Abraham’s seed, or Seed becoming his children, hence, “the father of many nations.” This is why Paul, particularly in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, placed so much emphasis on the Gentiles becoming children of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, any first-century converted Jew would understand Paul’s explicit phraseology confirming the Abrahamic Covenant coming to fulfillment as the Gentiles repented in faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cross of Christ, His Resurrection, and Parousia (presence) are all a part of the fulfillment of the Everlasting Covenant. Every New Testament writer had an eager expectation and realization of the Abrahamic Covenant. If, in fact, they were led in all truth (John 16:13), then we must assume that their every expectation of glory and the fulness of redemption were valid expectations. There was no deluded hope. There were no hopes in physical realities, only a certain hope that every aspect of God’s promises of a spiritual everlasting kingdom was about to be fulfilled.
If you are sincerely grieved about the continuous lies of false prophets and deceivers (in some cases unaware) intent on getting your money and mind, and you are diligently studying to “show yourself approved unto God,” and not unto men, then, with your Bibles ready and by the grace of Jesus Christ, you will benefit greatly from the Scriptures laid open in this book.
As we affirm the complete establishment of the kingdom of God, the glory of Christ is demonstrated among otherwise bleak systems of a decaying worldview. The full realization of the complete redemption of the believer will bring due honor for the reigning King of the kingdoms of this world. We as Christians are called to humility in view of the clarity of God’s holy word in regard to the establishment of His magnificent City. In this humility, we will both magnify our God by giving Him glory for fulfilling all His promises, and as Christians, we will experience the fulness of joy as we revel in Life more abundantly!
A key issue in understanding the timing of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His redemptive work in fulfilling the Everlasting Covenant, is the Bible’s explicit use of time statements. The modern “evangelical” world has insisted upon taking God’s precise time declarations and distorting them to fit a fleshly hope ( “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19). Most professing Christians are so engrossed in an eschatological outlook that will take them out of their miserable world that they misunderstand the nature of the kingdom of God. They are so consumed with a world that will give them perfect physical peace and health, that they totally disregard not only the abundance of Scripture that explains the nature of the kingdom but also the very clear time references that pertain to the imminence of the kingdom of God. Consequently, for many, their only hope is in a physically realized future kingdom and god and not in the present riches of the glory of Christ.
If you have gone through any eschatological battles concerning the kingdom of God, you probably have been confronted with the difficulty of what seem to be very definitive time statements. When I was a premillennial dispensationalist, I was confronted more than once by postmillennial moderate preterists (These are futurists who believe that all or most of the book of Revelation pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, with the exception of the majority of chapter twenty. Many great Reformers, such as John Owen, were moderate preterists). Those who affirmed the verity of the time statements kept bringing me back to the same passages:
I remembered reading those words as a young teenager, when I always thought, “It (the Second Coming) sure seems like it was supposed to take place back then!” Nevertheless, I could not let the moderate preterists know that. Therefore, I always responded, “Oh, but see, 2 Peter 3:8 says ‘But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ ” Then in my pride and tradition, I would interject, “God’s ways are not our ways,” attempting to look like spiritual superman in the eyes of men. As a premillennialist, I always followed the “literalist” interpretation. However, when confronted with the clear time references in Scripture, suddenly I would throw out my literalist hermeneutic.
God saw my heart. He alone knew of my neglect and misuse of certain Scriptures. Even the unknown deception that existed in my heart (Jeremiah 17:9) He was always seeing. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.--Hebrews 4:13 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:4. He shows such incredible mercy toward His children. He has been faithful in abasing and scourging this son whom He has received.
If you have gone through the same experience or a similar experience, know that you are not alone. Regardless of our past or our present, we are responsible for giving an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in us. Moderate preterists are gravely inconsistent. Even in my own ignorance I could see their inconsistency. In spite of this inconsistency, God has called us to accept what is true and discard the rest. In other words, once God shows you His Truth, get the spoil (the Truth) and run for your Life (Romans 16:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:13)!!!
THE COMING OF THE LORD DRAWETH NIGH
There are several Greek words used in the N.T. for the phrase “at hand.” We will focus on some of these words as they pertain to the nearness of the kingdom of God. However, there are some comparisons that need to be made with other passages that are not related.
We first see the phrase at hand in the ministry of John the Baptist. It is very interesting to note that the first proclamation of any warning or salvation message that John preached was, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The phrase used here for at hand is the Greek word eggiken (hggiken) and has the essential meaning of drawing near. (In the chapters on fulfillment, we will study the person of John the Baptist, his prophetic significance, and why he said the kingdom of God was approaching, or drawing near).
The futurist, of course, would argue from 2 Peter 3:8:
That is, God’s timing is not our timing, therefore, it could mean millions of years. Inspite of this, many futurists affirm that we are in the last days. They make this claim based upon their analysis of certain events that are taking place throughout the world. Consequently, predictions are made to convince people that Jesus is about to come. A question that should be asked is: if one interprets the rest of the time statements with the thousand-year-as-a-day hermeneutic, why not use this hermeneutic with the phrase “last days” as it appears in Scripture? The reason: it would take away all the excitement of wild-eyed predictions of men like Hal Linsdey, Harold Camping, and hundreds of other false prophets. Yet, they tell us we are wrong for interpreting the time statements literally. This amounts to picking and choosing when they want to apply a literal hermeneutic with the time statements. Therefore, they neglect Scriptures they are unable to defend, especially when confronted with other Scriptures that support the same idea. There are several examples of the phrase, at hand showing its meaning of obvious approaching nearness. The following Scriptures should make apparent that, if we take the dangerous position of interpreting time statements in Scripture to not mean what they say, the Bible would lose all meaning as it pertains to time and space:
Even pertaining to physical proximity, we see the word eggizo or at hand used in a very transparent manner to show the nearness of the person or object.
These verses support the plain use of the term at hand or drawing near. To assume otherwise or impose vain twisting upon these words of God as they pertain to the coming of Christ is very dangerous and affects the continuity and integrity of Scripture.
The phrase at hand (eggizo) concerning the Day of the Lord should stand very clear in terms of intention and meaning as we see in these next passages.
A very important aspect of these passages of imminence is the use of words like, “ye,” “your,” and “our.” Who were the apostles addressing? How would the audience on the receiving end of these letters interpret these time statements? According to the faulty interpretation of modern “evangelicals,” the response of a first-century believer might be something like, “Well, Paul does not really mean what he says, or Peter for that matter. ‘At hand’ does not really mean ‘at hand’. Peter, Paul, and James were just trying to keep them on their toes.” If this is true, as many evangelicals affirm, would this not be lying against God and the first-century churches? There is one of three possibilities: Either Paul was mislead thus, the Holy Spirit lied and did not lead him and the rest of the apostles in all truth; the apostles were liars and deceived thousands of church members; or they were telling the truth and Jesus Christ did return when He and the apostles said He would. Using the thousand-years-as-a-day argument to interpret time statements in Scripture is vanity and makes God out to be a liar. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar!
We also must consider the fact that the apostles were promised of God that He would lead them into all truth. Yet many professing Christians claim that the apostles really thought Jesus Christ was going to return in their generation, but that the apostles were mistaken. Would this not mean that Jesus lied to them?:
Was the apostle Paul incorrect in assuming that the Day of the Lord was at hand or drawing near? If, in fact, he was led in all truth, why would he write a letter to poor, unsuspecting Christians building their hopes only to realize, “Oh, you mean ‘at hand’ really meant a thousand years? I sure wish somebody would have told me that thirty years ago.” Neither Paul nor the rest of the apostles nor the churches to whom they were writing were mistaken.
Not only were the apostles certain that the Lord was returning in their generation, but they also were obeying a strict command of our Lord:
Even the Lord Jesus preached His first gospel message with the identical words of John the Baptist.
Very clearly, first-century believers knew that the Lord’s coming was drawing near. Our Lord Jesus and His apostles knew that the Day of the Lord was approaching and would come upon their generation. The word of God abundantly supports this.
THE TIME IS AT HAND
If the apostles were correct in saying that the coming of the Lord Jesus was drawing near, they were also correct in saying that the coming of the Lord was ready. The phrase at hand is used in a more urgent sense than that of the word eggizo or drawing near. The word eggus is used to mean ready or up to the point. Interestingly, Jesus first used the term as it pertained to His coming:
We must first cast down imaginations that would try to twist the meaning of this term. Other passages use the same term confirming the vanity of twisting the term when it pertains to the coming of the Lord.
It is clear that the phrase at hand in these verses cannot be interpreted to mean two thousand years. Was Jesus speaking in vague terms which no one could undertand? Was He just an unknown guru for whom time meant nothing? Are His statements concerning time to be interpreted as exclusively transcendent to finite humans? If so, then we must interpret the apostles’ use of time statements the same way. Some argue that, whenever time statements are used in reference to the coming of the Lord, God’s time is not our time. Where do we find this hermeneutic in Scripture? It simply is not there. In fact, from the verses just cited, we see that God’s time (Jesus’ time) is our time. In light of the clear interpretation of these passages, the verses dealing with the coming of the Lord will come to life, especially as we ponder what a first-century Christian would think. Modern day evangelical prophecy experts argue the transcendent nature of God’s time. However, when they see what they call a “sign of the times” they immediately conclude that we are definitely in the last days. Why do we not apply this same hermeneutic with their definition of last days. If at hand is God’s transcendent timing, and the apostles were not really saying that Jesus was returning in their generation, then why not say that the last days are God’s timing as well? Why not say that Jesus may not return for another two thousand years? Many futurists comfortably interpret time statements depending on whether the statements apply to the return of Jesus Christ: i.e. if the time statements are not referring to the coming of the Lord, then interpret them literally. If they are referring to the coming of the Lord, then God’s time is not our time. We believe that Christ’s use of time statements during His physical ministry on earth are to be interpreted the same way the apostles interpreted them: God’s time is our time. This is true especially as we consider not only the everyday use of time statements by Jesus Christ, but also the urgency in the N.T. Scriptures concerning warnings that the return of Jesus Christ was imminent during the writing of the N.T.
One thing we can know for certain, and that is, we could never know that the time was near or ready until the signs in Matthew 24 came to pass. Once again, we must remember what Christ said immediately after He described the signs that would come to pass just before His return:
These sobering words of Jesus should convince us that it would be a lie for any of the apostles to say that the coming of the Lord was near or ready unless the signs had already taken place. But what saith the Scripture?
In order for the apostles and Jesus to be telling the truth, and in order for the Bible to be fully inspired by God, the signs in Matthew 24 would have had to have taken place for the integrity of the apostles and Scripture to be upheld. When an apostle uses the same word (eggus) that our Lord used in the Olivet discourse in proclaiming the readiness of Christ’s coming, it must have an impact on our view of Biblical eschatology. The gainsayers might argue that the apostles were not aware that they were using the same word. This argumentation ultimately attacks the authority and inspiration of Scripture. Every jot and tittle of the holy Scriptures is fully harmonized and cohesive, always relating to itself (Psalms 19:7,8 “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.”). With the word of God being perfect, sure, right, and pure, it is very presumptuous to assume the apostles were not thinking about what they were writing. The apostles did not write the words of God without carefully considering every other word of God; after all, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). All the apostles knew and understood the Olivet discourse, and they would never write anything that would contradict the words of Jesus or mislead the people of God.
THINGS WHICH MUST SHORTLY COME TO PASS
The same interpretive principle must be implemented with the terms “shortly” and “quickly.” The primary verses we are considering with the word translated “shortly” are found in Romans 16:20; Revelation 1:1; 22:6:
Strong’s first definition for the Greek word used in these passages (tachos) is “a brief space of time.” Notice the appropriateness of this definition as it is used in these other passages.
It is very doubtful that Paul would have waited until September of 1994 before he left Jerusalem. With these verses using the exact same word, we can only conclude that the apostle John was initiating the Apocalypse with the URGENT warning that Christ was returning in a brief space of time. The N.T. Scriptures support that Satan was about to be crushed (Romans 16:20), and Christ was returning shortly.
There are many views regarding those whom John was addressing when he identified the seven churches and their various problems. When I was a dispensationalist (or dispensensationalist), I was always told that the seven churches represented the different time periods throughout church history. Of course, the dispensationalist would always identify the twentieth-century church as Laodicea. Some even have the audacity to identify the beginning of the Plymouth Brethren movement as the church of Philadelphia (I would caution those who speak well of themselves [Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:] ). I will confess that John Nelson Darby’s hyper-dispensational teaching is very popular today and is widely approved by many modern “churches.” However, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” Luke 6:26.
As we examine the apostle John’s addressees in Revelation 2,3, we see time statements of urgency that could only be referring to those living at that time. To the church of Ephesus he writes:
To the church of Pergamos he writes:
To the church of Thyatira he mentions Jezebel, the false prophetess. He warns:
Revelation 2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (Does this not tell us about the timing of the great tribulation?)
He also counsels Thyatira:
To the church of Sardis he writes:
To the church of Philadelphia he writes:
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
We see that at least five of the seven churches were admonished because of the urgency of Christ’s coming. The other two received admonishments that are clearly referring to a near judgment.
John used the word quickly, not only because he had direct revelation from God, but also because he understood the Lord Jesus Christ and the Olivet discourse. John had seen the signs and, therefore, knew that his generation were the ones who would be alive at the Lord’s coming. This brings us to an important phrase concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
YET A LITTLE WHILE
Jesus said in John 7:33 “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me,”; and in John 13:33, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” Christ obviously did not wait two thousand years to ascend to the Father to take the throne; nor was Jesus physically on the earth for two thousand years. John 12:35 reads “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” John 14:19 also says, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” The Greek word mikron is used in these verses which clearly speak of “a small space of time or degree” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). In Hebrews, a phrase is used that is employed nowhere else in the N.T., yet it contains the same word used in the above passages:
The Greek phrase “a little while” is eti gar mikron oson oson. Translation: “For yet A VERY LITTLE WHILE.” There is not a Greek scholar who can contend with this phrase. The promise remains certain: “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” How many times have we heard people say, “If the Lord tarries we will do this or that?” The passage says He “will NOT tarry.” Once again, “He that shall come WILL come.” He did not fail. Not only did He come, but He came when He said He was going to come: “in a little while.” We must also consider the audience addressed here. Verse 36 says, “For YE have need of patience, that, after YE have done the will of God, YE might receive the promise.” Here we see the guarantee that they would receive the Promise, and that in a little while. Were they disappointed? Did Christ or the writer of Hebrews fool them? Did Christ lie? God Forbid! “For it is impossible for God to lie.” God was holding true to the promise He gave on Mt. Olivet. He told His disciples that their generation would “not pass away until all things be fulfilled.” This brings us to a very crucial word concerning the coming of Christ and His kingdom.
ALL THESE THINGS SHALL COME UPON THIS GENERATION
The word generation was one of the first words that truly made me think that Christ said He was returning in the lifetime of the apostles. I was about thirteen or fourteen years old at the time. I went to my dispensationalist pastor to find the answer. (After all, pastors have all the answers...don’t they?) He graduated with a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary with honors in Hebrew and Greek. The answer I received from him regarding the definition of the word generation was, “It means race.” He said this with authority.
Back then, I was not familiar with using the Strong’s concordance so I just took his word for it. That was my problem. I took his word for it. I did not find out until years later when confronted by an inconsistent preterist that the word generationdoes not mean “race.” This inconsistent preterist told me it meant exactly what it said and that I should check it with Strong’s. I did. He was right! There is a word in the Bible that does mean “race.” It is the Greek word genos. (1085. genos, ghen'-os; from G1096; "kin" (abstr. or concr., lit. or fig., indiv. or coll.):--born, country (-man), diversity, generation, kind (-red), nation, offspring, stock). Unfortunately for me, so I thought, the word for generation is genea. (1074. genea, ghen-eh-ah'; from (a presumed der. of) G1085; a generation; by impl. an age (the period or the persons):--age, generation, nation, time.) Strongs’s Nevertheless, the inconsistency of this “preterist” in separating the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem from the glorification of saints became very apparent. Needless to say, the great and sovereign God changed my stubborn heart. He even changed my will. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth” (Psalms 110:3). For this I praise the reigning King!!!
Back to generation: First, it is imperative to understand the Bible’s explicit definition of the word generation. This can be found in the book of Hebrews:
Another passage that defines the word generation is found in Acts 8 where the Ethiopian eunuch is approached by Philip while reading Isaiah 53:
Jesus probably did not live more than thirty three years. “His generation” and “His life” are terms that correlate with each other, signifying the timing of His life and ministry. Also, in Acts, is the sermon of Paul regarding Christ and His fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant:
What happened after David “served his own generation?” He died. His serving his own generation was the period of time that he was king of Israel. How long did David serve his generation, i.e. how long was he king? We find an indisputable passage that defines the generation of which Paul spoke:
In light of these clear definitions of generation, let us look at the other passages containing the same word.
Jesus was referring to the Pharisees of His day. This is proven by vs.18, in which He mentions the name of John the Baptist, and vs.19, where He mentions Himself. It was particularly their generation that came into contact with John and Jesus, and the Pharisees rejected them both; thus, the words: “But whereunto shall I liken THIS generation?”
Clearly, the Pharisees wanted proof that Jesus was truly the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore, they wanted to OBSERVE the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. It is because of this that Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous GENERATION seeketh after a sign.” Jesus was addressing them. Even beyond that, He told them that the Gentiles would rise in the judgment with their generation. Yet another passage that identifies the specific generation to whom Jesus was referring is found in Matthew 17:
The generation that had the privilege of seeing the miracles of Christ was continually being reproved for its lack of faith. They actually were able to SEE the miracles and still doubted the power of God. Christ, accordingly, designated THEM as a faithless and perverted generation. The question of Christ in regard to their faithlessness is certainly proof of the identity of their generation: “how long shall I be WITH YOU?” It is unmistakably clear in this passage that Christ exactly defined his audience.
Peter told the people in his day to “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). The whole theme of the epistles was urgently preparing the professing Christians for the Day of the Lord. The Jews of the first-century were warned to not draw back unto the perdition of the condemned Pharisees. Peter compelled the Jews to repent from the dead works of the Pharisees.
In Luke 17, we find a passage pertaining to the second coming that also uses genea:
It is obvious which generation crucified the Lord of glory: i.e. the generation by whom He suffered many things. Interestingly, Jesus said, “He must first suffer many things and be rejected of this generation.” This definitely gives strong implication that the timing of the two events (Christ’s suffering and His coming: cf. 1 Peter 1:11) is within the same generation, or forty-year period.
Perhaps the strongest passage (besides Hebrews 3:7-10) that classifies the limit of scope pertaining to those who would be alive at the second coming is found in Matthew chapter twenty-three:
Seven times Jesus identifies His audience as “scribes and Pharisees.” He labels them as hypocrites, fools, blind guides, full of extortion and excess, whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness, and lastly, generation of vipers. The Greek word used in vs.33 for generation is different from that in vs.36 It is the word gennema which Strong’s defines as offspring. If Jesus wanted to clarify that He was referring to the race or offspring in vs.36, He certainly would have used gennema. However, this is not the case. Jesus was ever so explicit in declaring to the scribes and the Pharisees that upon them “would come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”; in other words, “upon those living now.”
Do not begin to think the attributes Jesus used to describe the Pharisees do not apply to the false teachers of our generation. They most definitely do. However, we are not to interpret the Bible based upon our experience but, rather, base our experience upon the Bible. That is, the apostates of our day are not the Pharisees of Christ’s day. They may do the same things and end up in the same lake of fire, but they are not the same people. In fact, if we carefully analyze our experiences and compare them with Scripture, we will find that what we previously thought were fulfillments of prophecy in our day were actually fulfilled during the lifetime of the apostles.
An extremely lucid passage that unequivocally associates the timing of the first-century generation is in the Gospel of Mark:
Finally, we see the word generation used in the Olivet discourse. After describing the signs that would take place before the destruction of the Temple, Jesus uses the same word generation to let the hearers know that He would do “all these things” before their forty-year generation would “pass away.”
We have already examined the use of the word eggizo (drawing near) and eggus (at hand), and that the epistles clearly teach that the coming of the Lord was drawing near and at hand. Eggus is the same word used in Matthew 24:32,33. Therefore, Jesus was teaching that the generation to whom He was speaking would experience His parousia.
As we have seen, the very clear time statements of Scripture conveyed with certainty that the coming of the Lord was going to take place during their lifetime. We noted that a first-century recipient of one of the epistles would never assume that an inspired writer of the Bible would be trying to fool his audience. When Paul said “at hand,” or James said “draweth nigh,” the audience knew what the writers were communicating. There are numerous other passages that would positively lead the hearers to believe that Jesus was coming back during their generation. These passages will not contain such explicit time statements as those we have previously studied. Rather, these passages will expose the grammatically natural assumptions of the audience as they understood the Lord and the inspired apostles.
SOME STANDING HERE
Toward the conclusion of the last chapter, Mark 8:38-9:1 was used to show how Jesus associated His coming in glory alongside His reproval of “this adulterous and sinful generation.” If the clear use of the word “generation” (as well as words and phrases like “at hand,” “a little while,” and “quickly,”) was not enough to convince the gainsayers of the truth, Jesus clarified the implication of His timing by saying that there would be some who would not taste death until they had seen Jesus come in His kingdom. A most important question should be asked: how would the audience of Jesus have interpreted His words? Even beyond that, how would the churches to whom the apostles wrote interpret the letters and admonitions warning them of the nearness of the return of Christ? This brings us to a critical place in our observation of Scriptures dealing with the return of Christ, i.e. the analysis of the inferences of the audiences addressed by Jesus and the apostles.
THE AUDIENCE OF JESUS
In Matthew 10, Jesus Christ commissioned the twelve disciples. Jesus directed His commission specifically to the disciples as we see in vs.1:
In vv.5,6 there is, again, another reference distinctly mentioning the twelve and their particular commission.
Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This may not seem relevant at first glance, but when the whole context of chapter 10 is considered, and the audience of the twelve is realized, then vv.22,23 become much more significant.
Matthew 10:22-23 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
To whom was Jesus referring when He said “ye?” Some would like to think he was referring to a group of modern day “Jews.” The Bible, however, says Jesus was referring to “these twelve” (vs.5). If we apply this same audience (the twelve) to the rest of the passage, including vs.23, it becomes obvious that it would be untenable to say that Jesus was referring to Christians two thousand years later. More importantly, for Jesus to say that the Son of man would come before the disciples had gone through all the cities of Israel would definitely imply that His coming would take place before their generation would pass away. Some might argue that those to whom Jesus referred were twentieth century “Jews” that became His “witnesses” in 1948. This however, has NO scriptural support whatsoever. If we read the text with the twelve disciples in mind whom Jesus addressed, then His promise becomes much more consequential:
Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you (the twelve) in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you (the twelve), Ye (the twelve) shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
This is complimentary to the rest of the context. It is to be noted that many things Jesus said in chapter ten happen with Christians today and have happened throughout church history, such as “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Regardless, the intent of the passage is obvious: Jesus was preparing the disciples to expect much tribulation and persecution before the Son of man would come (cf. Acts 14:22). We should also ask ourselves the question, “How would the disciples interpret the words of Jesus?” Once again, inferring a grammatically natural interpretation of the disciples will clarify the meaning of these passages.
A very similar passage is found in Matthew 16 from which the disciples could only infer one interpretation.
Matthew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
There is not a rational Christian alive, upholding futurism, who would say they have never had trouble with this passage. What could be clearer? Jesus again, speaking to His disciples, does not mislead them or lie to them. Instead, He makes utterly clear the fact that there were some of His disciples who would be alive when He returned. (It is fascinating to note that Jesus, upon Peter’s inquiry as to the future of the apostle John, replied, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” John 21:22. This is by no means a prooftext for this argument; however, John was the author of Revelation and was probably alive at our Lord’s coming.)
Some interpret the passage in Matthew sixteen as referring to the transfiguration. This, however, would make no contextual sense. Why would Jesus say, “eight days from now some of you will not taste death until you see Me come in My kingdom”? Would it be so amazing that some of His disciples would still be alive after eight days? Furthermore, if the transfiguration was His coming in His kingdom, were the angels present? Were there rewards for every man according to their works? It is a severe buckling of Scripture to separate vs.27 from vs.28. The prophecy that some of the disciples would be alive at the time when He would reward every man according to his works correlates perfectly with the statement of imminence in Revelation 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” This can be seen more clearly when placed side by side:
Jesus said in Matthew 16:28, “Verily I say unto you...” The word verily or truly is certainly a testimony to the validity of Christ’s promise, especially when considering what He would perform when He came. Those who say that vv.27 refers to a different event than vs.28 must contend with a grammatical pattern used by Jesus in the N.T. Wherever Jesus uses the phrase, verily, verily it NEVER introduces a new subject or idea. It always is continuing the same theme. Therefore, vs.28 could not be referring to the transfiguration. (To understand the purpose of the transfiguration, examine 2 Peter 1:16- 19. This passage explains that the transfiguration was merely a proof that what Jesus said in Matthew 16:27,28 was going to take place, despite the scoffers of their day [cf. 2 Peter 3:3,4]). In fact, the whole purpose of the transfiguration of Jesus was to prove to the disciples that He was not lying. He would come back before some of them would taste of death (Matthew 16:28).
An astonishing passage that will take some exposition concerning audience time is Matthew 21:33-45. This particular passage is spoken before the chief priests and the Pharisees. Jesus, in no uncertain terms, makes sure His audience knows He is referring to them:
Matthew 21:33-45 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
At this point, we will not investigate the details outside of the manifest references to His audience and their consequential appraisal of the parable. We do see, however, that Jesus distinctly shows the Pharisees that the anger of the Lord was most kindled when He sent His Son last of all. The phrase last of all should not be overlooked, for this is what will form the Pharisee’s proper assessment of His parable. If the Lord’s anger was kindled because they slew His Son, it follows that those on whom His miserable destruction would come would be those who killed His Son. The Householder (the Father) sent the Son last of all. Why would He wait two thousand years to destroy the murderers of His Son? Last of all should be clear evidence that the Jews had filled up the measure of their fathers. The Pharisees concluded from the parable that “He spake of them.” Why would they conclude this? Jesus was, in fact, speaking in language the people could understand. Even though the parables were designed to keep the truth from the Pharisees, this particular parable was easily understandable to them, as they recognized that Jesus was referring to them as the “wicked men.” The Pharisees used the phrase wicked men to describe themselves (vs.41). Were they wrong in their perception? Would we be so bold as to add to the phrase, “they perceived that He spake of them however, He was not really referring to them even though they were the ones who crucified the Lord of glory”? It is fascinating to note that the Greek word for “perceived” is ginosko, a word that actually means to know. In other words, “they knew that He spoke of them.” The Pharisees were very aware of the fact that Jesus was telling them they were the ones who would be miserably destroyed.
When Jesus appeared before the high priest prior to His crucifixion, He spoke to the high priest in a manner that would unmistakably bring the priest to a certain conclusion:
Matthew 26:63-65 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God 64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven 65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
Was the high priest thinking, “Oh, He is referring to a distant judgment two thousand years from now”? Or, was the high priest clearly understanding Christ Jesus, and thus concluding, “This Man just told me hereafter He is going to come in judgment.” At this point, it is worth considering the word hereafter. Even though there was no time limit specified, there was certainly an implication that Jesus was going to get vengeance upon this man within his lifetime; for Jesus said, “Hereafter shall YE see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” If we try to comprehend the frame of mind of the high priest, it will help us understand how he interpreted the words of Jesus.
In Luke 12 Jesus invokes His disciples to seek the kingdom of God, and then makes three statements that would give the disciples the distinct impression that the kingdom would come to them in their lifetime.
Luke 12:31-48 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. 41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
First, Jesus tells them that it is the “Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The encouraging words of Jesus emphasizing the sovereignty of God in giving the disciples the kingdom surely were meant to declare the immutable counsel and decree of the Almighty to give THEM, as the elect of God, the kingdom. Second, He likens them as “men that wait for their Lord when He will return from the wedding.” Were the disciples doubting the timing of our Lord, saying, “He of course was not referring to us”? Or, even more blasphemous, “Maybe it is not really the Father’s good pleasure to give it to us now. Jesus means much, much later.”
Truly, the disciples were encouraged in their waiting for their Lord because their Lord would come soon. Jesus also uses a phrase that Peter repeated in his first epistle. Jesus said, “Let your loins be girded about.” Why did He say this? Was it not to prepare them for the coming of the Lord? In first Peter, it is even clearer, especially within its context.
1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Peter, being one of the disciples, knew exactly what the Lord meant by saying, “Let your loins be girded about.” Girding the loins is preparing for something to happen. They were to be watchful, sober, and prayerful. “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” 1 Peter 4:7. Examine carefully Peter’s words in chapter 1:13: “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto YOU at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” How would Peter’s audience perceive this encouragement?
Certainly, they would be expecting Jesus to be revealed to them. It is inconceivable to think that a member of Peter’s audience would respond, “Peter was not actually saying that the revelation of Jesus Christ will take place in our lifetime.” Or rather, “Peter thinks that Christ will come back in our generation but he is mistaken.” The foundation of these arguments are hollow and demean apostolic authority and the credibility of Jesus. It is clear that both Jesus and Peter used the phrase “gird up” to encourage preparation for the Lord’s coming as they waited for Him and that it would take place within their generation. Third, Jesus said “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” It is very dangerous to say that Jesus would emphasize His two-thousand- year future coming just to keep first-century Jews on their best behavior. As mentioned previously, this would not only be deception by our Savior, it would also be terribly disappointing to those whom He loved so much. Even Peter asked if He was referring to the disciples or all those listening. Some might argue that Jesus was referring to all throughout history.
This is incongruous with the obvious audience reference, especially in light of the many statements of imminence already cited, not to mention the fact that, Jesus specifically answered Peter’s question with His words in vv.47,48:
Luke 12:47-48 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Jesus was merely making a distinction between those who knew the Lord’s will and those that knew not His will. Those who knew His will would receive the greater judgment, and those who had never known His will would be as Jesus said, “beaten with few stripes.” This is exactly why Peter, in 2 Peter 2:20,21, explained the gravity of knowing the “Lord’s will,” and yet rejecting His commands:
2 Peter 2:20-21 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Peter knew that the words which Jesus spoke to him in Luke 12 were applying to his own generation. Hence, the admonition was so imperative. Of course, the objector would argue that if the Lord has already come, then there would be no incentive for godly living. Quite the contrary; the eternal age has begun, and the lake of fire immediately consumes the haters of God upon their physical death.
Later, in Luke 12, Jesus uses language that should make it expressly clear that His judgment would come upon the first-century generation:
Luke 12:54-56 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. 55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. 56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
If the signs were not to happen for another two thousand years, why would Jesus question how it was that they could not discern the times? His comparison with the face of the sky was to show that it should be even more obvious that judgment would destroy the God-hating Jews of the first-century. This is especially clear in light of the Pharisees radical deviation from the true religion of God; and more importantly, the fact that Messiah had arrived and was performing miracles promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. As we examine Christ’s usage of the sky analogy, we see a clear statement of imminence. “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.” The word straightway is the Greek word eutheos which Strong’s defines as immediately. That is, when there is a cloud out of the west IMMEDIATELY, they say, “There comes a shower!” AND SO IT IS!
Or, and so it comes. Pertaining to the judgment, the same is true. When they saw the signs, they said, “Here comes the judgment,” and so it came. The judgment of God did not tarry (Hebrews 10:37). The signs were fulfilled, and therefore, God kept His promise of immediate judgment. And so it was!
Luke 19 gives us the account of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because of the coming judgment:
Luke 19:41-44 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Our Lord saw the pending judgment coming upon Israel and declared that it would certainly come. The fact that He mentioned that the stones would not be left upon another testifies to the correlation with Matthew 24 especially, vv.1-3 and vs.34
Matthew 24:1-3 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
The disciples and the Pharisees understood without a doubt that Jesus was speaking of their generation.
The examination of audience time in Luke 21 is abounding with clarity as it pertains to whom Jesus was referring.
Consider these passages and how those hearing Jesus would perceive His words:
Luke 21:19,20,28,36 19 In your patience possess ye your souls. 20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh... 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh... 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Once again, the disciples were the audience of Jesus. This is specifically seen in Luke 20:45, where the writer intentionally points out the fact that the audience was restricted to the disciples even though others were present.
Luke 20:45 Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples...
The disciples were the ones to whom the Olivet discourse was directed regardless of whom the judgment would affect. Therefore, the designation of His disciples as the targeted audience implies strong indication as to how the disciples interpreted Christ’s words and how we should interpret Christ’s words. Jesus explicitly promises that their patience would reap life everlasting. It would be foolish to speculate that Jesus was referring to patience unto physical death especially in light of the following promise of redemption. He therefore besought the disciples to watch and be patient that they would obtain the age to come (cf. Luke 18:30).
THE AUDIENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS
In Acts 2, Peter, in his famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost, informed his hearers that the prophecy in Joel was being fulfilled before their eyes:
Acts 2:16-21 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
The phrase “last days” is used several times in the N.T. to convey to the readers the nearness of the coming of the Lord and the end of the Jewish age (“the end of the age”). The “last days” in the N.T. are the same as the “last days” used in the O.T. prophets.
However, because this will be discussed in the chapters on fulfillment, the only texts which will be examined here are those in the N.T.
Those who were present at the Pentecostal sermon could hardly think that there would be two thousand years of last days before the “great and notable Day of the Lord” would come. When proponents of the modern day “last days” affirm that we are living in them (the last days), I usually ask them, “When did the ‘last days’ begin?” Many times, they will answer, “At the resurrection of Christ,” or sometimes, “At Pentecost.” The latter answer is correct, for the text in Acts proves this. This does not, however, explain the futurist’s obvious distortion of time in comparison to Peter’s presented prophetic fulfillment. In the chapters on fulfillment, the importance of contextual continuity will be emphasized. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that Peter’s hearers were familiar (as were most first-century Jews) with the popular prophecy of Joel regarding the coming of the Lord. Peter’s audience could only understand that if these things were being fulfilled in their lifetime, then the Day of the Lord, and all the events mentioned in Joel would soon take place. This is confirmed by the two texts in Joel and Acts as they proclaimed that the events would transpire “before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” (cf. Malachi 4:5). Peter said, “But THIS IS THAT which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Would his confirmation not put his audience into a state of radical urgency, especially knowing the pending terror of the Lord? Peter was persuading his audience to quickly believe lest God’s wrath would soon come upon them. They understood Peter’s words perfectly well. Any first-century Jew would infer from Peter’s statement that Jesus Christ was coming soon (1 Peter 4:7). This was proven by the fulfillment of signs and wonders (vv.17-20). Many modern evangelicals would argue that the miraculous gifts of the spirit ceased during the apostolic era, yet they affirm that we are in the “the last days.” This is clearly incongruous with the present text. The text declares that the execution of these signs and wonders take place in the last days. When these last days were completed, then the dreams, visions, etc. would cease (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
The “last days” are also mentioned in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews, the author’s intent was to show the superiority of Jesus, the New Covenant kingdom in comparison to the law, and the Old Covenant and its kingdom.
It is also to be observed that the transition from the inferior covenant to a “better” covenant has a direct interchange with the transition from the Jewish age to the eternal age (cf. Hebrews 1:2; 6:5; 9:26; 11:3). This fact will help us appreciate the context in which the phrase “last days” is used. In comprehending that the writer of Hebrews specifically had Jews in mind, and that he was appealing to their frame of understanding pertaining to the covenantal change, the use of “last days” in the prelude of chapter one would undoubtedly give them a sense of urgency:
Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
How would such a statement strike the minds of professing Christian Jews who were in danger of drawing back to the Jewish sacrifices and rituals? These Hebrews were obviously aware of the Olivet discourse in which Jesus said He would not leave one stone upon another. The consequence of awaking these self-proclaimed believers to the fact that they were in the “last days” inevitably would cause them to see the nearness of the “great and notable Day.” “These last days” would obviously be the precursors to the “Last Day” of the Gospel of John. It is referring to none other than the Day of the Lord. This is precisely why the writer of Hebrews warned his hearers of the necessity of encouraging one another lest they would be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as YE see the day approaching.
The writer not only told the Hebrews they were in the last days, he also warned them that the “Day” was approaching. How could the writer tell them the Day was approaching if it was not to come for two thousand years? How would this statement even apply in such a case? For the writer to deliver such an urgent message just to keep them living godly lives would be deception and sin. It would also negate the inspired authority of Hebrews. Even puritan John Owen in his monumental commentary on Hebrews writes of this Day, “It is not such a day, such a motive, as is always common to all, but only unto those who are in some measure in the same circumstances with them....Wherefore this day was no other but that fearful and tremendous day, a season for the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, city, and nation of the Jews, which our Saviour had forewarned His disciples of, and which they had in continual expectation.” Dr. Owen, however, was inconsistent in that he held to a separated future judgment which is destructive to the redemptive outworking of God’s plan, especially as it pertains to the passing away of the Old Covenant. Reformer John Brown also writes of the significance of the phrase, “the Day approaching”: “‘The day’ here referred to seems plainly the day of the destruction of the Jewish State and Church. That day had been foretold by many of the prophets, and with peculiar minuteness by our Lord Himself: (Luke 21:8-12)...“These events were now very near; and the harbingers of their coming were well fitted to quicken to holy diligence the Hebrew Christians, that they might escape the coming desolation.” Heretically, inconsistently, and with no scriptural support, Mr. Brown adds, “But the apostle, to impress on their minds still more strongly the infinite importance of perseverance in the faith and profession of the Gospel, lays before them a peculiarly impressive view of the complete and “everlasting destruction” which awaits the final apostate in a future state.” John Brown-Commentary on Hebrews pg.22 Banner of Truth Pub. It is true that all apostates who exit their flesh without Jesus will experience everlasting destruction. This does not, however, justify Mr. Brown’s defacement of the considered text and prophetic truth.
Mr. Brown, in the first chapter of his commentary, sees the significance of “these last days” in vs. 2 of the first chapter of Hebrews: “...the meaning is, towards the conclusion of the Jewish dispensation. It seems equivalent to the expressions used by the apostle, 1 Cor, 10:11, ‘the ends of the world (age) are come’-the conclusion of the Mosaic economy; Gal. 4:4, ‘the fulness, or the fulfillment of time’-the accomplishment or termination of the period assigned for the duration of the Mosaic economy; Eph. 1:10, ‘the dispensation of the fulness of times’-the economy which was to be introduced when the times of the Mosaic economy were fulfilled; Heb. 9:26, ‘the end of the world,’ literally ‘of the ages’-the period of the termination of the Mosaic economy-the time when the present age or world was about to be changed into the coming age-the world to come. The Christian revelation was begun to be made in the conclusion of the Jewish age. It was before the conclusion of that age that God spake to the Jews by His Son, who, according to our Lord’s parabolical representation, was sent last of all to the husband men: ‘He sent forth His Son made under the law.’ His personal ministry, and for some time that of His apostles, was confined to them; and though by His death the Mosaic economy was virtually abrogated, yet it was not in fact dissolved till forty years afterwards, in the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, and the consequent final cessation of its services.” John Brown-Commentary on Hebrews pg.22 Banner of Truth Pub. It is a shame that the proper observation of Hebrews 1:2 by Mr. Brown should be so tainted by his deficient view of what actually took place during the destruction of the Temple.
The “last days” of chapter one and the “Day” of chapter ten in the book of Hebrews are irrefutable, as the two passages defend the imminence of the coming of the Lord. The application of the predictive warnings could have no greater pertinence than to first-century Jews whose religious system was about to be destroyed forever.
Paul, in Acts 17, preached mightily to the Athenians who were “wholly given to idolatry.” After examining the inscription to the unknown God, Paul preached a message that exalted God as the creator and sovereign controller of all things. Within the context of the sermon, he emphasized that God is not to be likened to idols and the creation of men’s hands. It is with this in mind that Paul then proceeded to speak of the coming spiritual judgment which would extend to the entire world:
Acts 17:29-31 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
In vs.30, we see the long-suffering of God toward the idolatrous Gentiles. Paul utilizes a way of communicating that plainly gives implication of a universal pending judgment that would affect these Athenians. In the past, God restrained His rage against the sinful Gentiles. Within the same verse, however, Paul exclaims that God “now commandeth all men every where to repent.” The word “now” is especially important in this passage. Strongs’s identifies the Greek word nun. He defines the word as meaning exactly what is translated: (“at the present time; immediately”). Even more importantly is the way in which Paul uses the same word to qualify the following phrase. “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world (Gk.-oikumene) in righteousness.” Why would God use the word NOW in commanding all men everywhere to repent? “BECAUSE HE HAS APPOINTED A DAY IN WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.” If the judgment was not to occur for two thousand years, why would Paul even bring up the fact that God winked at the ignorance of the Gentiles in the past? The proper understanding even of an unregenerate Gentile would at least comprehend Paul’s message as implying that the judgment of God was an “appointed” judgment that was going to come upon them. Why were they to repent immediately? BECAUSE THE APPOINTED JUDGMENT DAY WAS GOING TO FALL UPON THEIR GENERATION. “NOW” was the command.
Before, God winked at their ignorance, but the time had finally come when He would unleash His terror in everlasting judgment.
Therefore, as the same command was given to the church at Ephesus, Paul commanded, “Repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly” (Revelation 2:5). Since God sovereignly ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11), then the Day of His judgment was also ordained. Also, because all the decrees of God are immutable, then this judgment Day would come to pass. In light of this, we must take into consideration O.T. history. For example, if this Day was appointed before the world began, then certainly it was appointed at the time of the kings of Israel. Gentiles have existed throughout O.T. history, and we see the continual struggles Israel had with Gentiles, especially during the times of the kings. Considering the abundance of prophets at the time of the kings, why did God NOT command ALL MEN EVERYWHERE to repent then? The Day of judgment was as much appointed during the time of the kings as during the time of Paul. Therefore, if (as the futurist says) the judgment was not to take place for another two thousand years after the generation of Paul, why would Paul suddenly make the plea for universal repentance?
BECAUSE THE APPOINTED DAY WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
1 Corinthians 15 contains the well-known resurrection passage. (At this juncture we will not divert our attention to the nature of the resurrection.) Paul, in defending the fact that there would be a resurrection of the dead, consoles those who had been taken back by the heresy that there would be no resurrection. In his consolation, timeframe plays an indispensable part in the uplifting of their souls. This is especially clear when considering the fact that he made reference to those who had fallen asleep in Christ (vs.18). Paul’s candid language is such that could be interpreted no other way by those who received the epistle:
1 Corinthians 15:51-58 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed,” are the comforting words of the apostle. Many scholars agree that Paul believed that the resurrection and judgment would take place in his generation. This is correct. Where the “scholars” err is when they assume that Paul was mistaken in his expectation of these promises. It is amazing how these scholars affirm themselves as having a greater understanding than the apostles concerning the revelation of prophetic events. In fact, their magnificent prophecy “updates” attain high blasphemy in adding to the words of inspired Scripture. By affirming that Paul was mistaken, they ignorantly, sometimes intentionally, take away and then add to the words of the apostles. This is cause for great warning and, if necessary, extrication from their pulpits and classrooms (1 Timothy 1:19,20; 2 Timothy 2:17,18). Paul did not use obscure language in saying that they, “should not all sleep.” Those who received the faith-building letter took Paul at God’s word.
It is also significant that Paul uses the qualifier, “Therefore” in vs.58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast”. Why “Therefore”? The admonishment was clearly given so that the Corinthians would be counted worthy of the “change” that would come upon all those in Christ.
The same “end” of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 1:8, he reiterates in his commending second epistle to the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 1:13-15 For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; 14 As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus. 15 And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;
This is the same “end” as the “end of the age” in Hebrews 9:28 and 1 Corinthians 10:11. Paul had not only told the Corinthians that they were in the end of the age, he also assured them that he trusted that they would acknowledge the holy Scriptures until the end of the age, or the coming of the Lord. He then proceeded to give the incentive for continuing unto the end, i.e. that the brothers and sisters in the Lord would be each other’s rejoicing in the Day of the Lord Jesus, which Day was at hand (cf. Romans 13:11,12; Hebrews 10:25). Note the phrase, “in this confidence.” Paul not only was certain that the Corinthians would continue trusting the Lord to the end, he also was so certain that the mere knowledge of the nearness of Christ’s coming compelled him to visit them for their encouragement to endure until they received the Promise (Hebrews 10:36).
A promise by Paul given to the Philippians could not be mis-understood by first- century Christians who trusted that Christ would return within His stated timeframe (cf. Matt. 16:27,28; 24:34):
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
What could be more uplifting than: 1.) the knowledge of the keeping power and eternal security of God, and 2.) the fact that this keeping power would be performed until the Day of Jesus Christ. How would the Philippians interpret this confidence of Paul?
Would they assume that it was an indecipherable phrase that only a “scholar” could decode? Or, were they taking into consideration the integrity of their Lord to fulfill His word within their generation and, thus, give them that were living the pledged everlasting life?
Paul not only told the Philippians that God would keep them and perform in them that good work until the Day of Jesus Christ, he also admonished them in the Lordship of Christ to manifest that God had truly begun the good work in them:
Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
“Being sincere and without offence” in regard to the Day of Christ would have no relevance at all in terms of imminence if the coming of Christ was not to take place for two thousand years. After just reading that God would perform this work until Christ’s coming, the Philippians would presume to an even greater degree that His coming was near. Surely, they would infer this, especially coming from the hand of the apostle Paul. Once again, the virtue of Paul should cause us, as it did the Philippians, to never suppose he was either mistaken or misled in his inspiration. If either of these errors were true, would this not deny the infallibility of Scripture? Certainly, to claim this position would declare the facade of our profession of Christianity.
A word that was popular among first-century Christians was apekdechomai (to look). This term is used in several books to convey the nearness of resurrection life to first-century Christians. The first example is found in Philippians:
Philippians 3:20-21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
The change of the body is obviously a question that comes to our mind as we examine this text. Whatever the constitution of this body, it is crucial that we observe the statement of imminence first, before jumping to the assumption that the body is anything other than spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44). The body and resurrection will be extensively analyzed in the chapter on everlasting life. Here, we notice the expectation of Paul and the Philippians as they looked for the Savior. The word look (apekdechomai) is fascinatingly translated in the NKJV as “eagerly awaiting.” Thus, the text:
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
It is astonishing to observe the abundant readiness and expectancy of the first- century Christians. They were eagerly awaiting the Savior. Were they disappointed? The phrase that every first-century Christian embraced was, “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37). The hope was, He will come! He WILL NOT TARRY!!! This is why the Philippians could, with full assurance, eagerly await the Savior’s return. With the anticipated glorification in mind, their only thought was Christ in them, the HOPE OF GLORY. The glorification of the saints is inseparable from their resurrection. The Philippians were eagerly awaiting their full resurrection life, or, the fulness of everlasting life.
Romans 8 also associates the same theme of resurrection and glory with eagerly awaiting:
Romans 8:16-25 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature WAITETH (eagerly anticipates) for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, WAITING (eagerly anticipates) for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait (eagerly anticipates) for it.
The Christians at Rome were likewise EAGERLY ANTICIPATING the return of the Savior to glorify them. They, as well as the creature (those who had fallen asleep in Christ), were eagerly anticipating this great event. In vs.19, the Greek word apokaradokia is used and is defined by Strong’s as “intense anticipation.” The questions that must be asked if one maintains a future coming is: Why is there so much emphasis placed upon eagerly awaiting in the epistles? Also, why would this suddenly be such a major theme in not only the living saints but also those who had died in Christ as well? The dead in Christ were “subjected in hope;” not only them, but all who were alive at this time were subjected to the same hope. Once again, were they disappointed? Deluded? Deceived? Or, were they holding fast to the inerrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ?
The first epistle to the Corinthians contains an assertion in chapter one that would implicitly lead the readers to affirm that the coming of the Lord Jesus would be accomplished in their lifetime:
1 Corinthians 1:4-8 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Corinthians were encouraged to be “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here also, the NKJV translates the word “waiting” as “eagerly waiting.” Strong’s defines the word as “expecting fully.” Why would Paul exhort the Corinthians to eagerly expect the coming of Jesus Christ? He told the Corinthians to eagerly and fully expect the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even more crucial is the promise that Paul made in saying that Christ would “confirm them to the end” (i.e. the end of the Jewish age-cf. Matthew 24:3; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Not only this, but he gave surety that those to whom grace had been given (vs.4) would be kept “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The problem of interpretation is not the difficulty of the passage; rather, the problem is adamant futurists insist on trying to fit the Bible into their own timeframe and worldview. However, through the plain design of the text, we can boldly say that Paul’s intent with this passage is exactly what is written, i.e., the Corinthians were given assurance that their waiting for the coming of Christ would render the great dividend of His confirming them to the end, or the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As was mentioned earlier, waiting was a prominent theme to first-century believers, chiefly because of the blessing that would be procured in patience (cf. Luke 21:19). The exhortation to the church at Galatia was equally admonished in their perseverance. This was eminently necessary in the case of Jews in danger of apostatizing. Of course, this was the principal reason for Paul’s discourse to the Galatians. In the fifth chapter he interjects a controlling impetus to compel the Galatians to endure the reproach and persecution of the apostate Jews:
Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
The completion of righteousness and justification by faith was NOT obtained at this point in the first-century believer’s life, which is why they were still hoping for their new kingdom which they were receiving (Hebrews 12:28). Keeping the faith and enduring were the pressing objectives in the hearts of the N.T. writers. In this passage, Paul assured the Jews at Galatia that he was waiting along with them for the righteousness promised to the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9). Once again, the objector might argue that the death of the flesh was the intended hope in Galatians 5:5. However, this position is contrary to the expected hope of all first-century saints: i.e. the hope of righteousness, or, the hope of the New Heaven and New Earth wherein would dwell righteousness.
There is another word which is also translated “look,” and that is the word prosdokao. In 2 Peter 3 the apostle uses theword to admonish Jewish Christians to ignore the mockers of the last days who were doubting (vv.3,4) the promise of the Lord’s coming:
2 Peter 3:10-14 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Those whom Peter addressed knew very well that the elements and works to which Peter referred were the O.T. rituals and system (Galatians 4:3-9). This is precisely why He reminded them (vs.1) that the prophets of old warned of these times (Acts 3:21-24). Peter used pressing language that would prompt their awareness of godly living. Because the Day was at hand, Peter showed them what manner of persons they were to be while “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” This is very significant as we remember that Peter was present at the Olivet discourse. Because of his keen eschatological knowledge he, with Paul, understood that just as Jesus warned them that when certain signs came to pass they were to know that the time was near, so likewise, Peter warned that the last days had come. Peter said, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” In other words, “because that Day is at hand and God is about to utterly waste the Temple, the Old Covenantal system, and its adherents, you had better be ready. Do not fall into the error of the scoffers. By this warning he could be assured that those who were truly Christ’s would be “found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” It is certain that any true Christian would not deny these compelling words of Peter and would therefore be prepared at the coming of the Lord.
Our Lord gave a parable which was mentioned earlier about those who would begin to say “My Lord delayeth His coming.”
The particular portion that is obviously related to 2 Peter 3 is found in the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 12:45-46 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
A question we must all consider is, why were the scoffers saying, “Where is the promise of His coming”? The scoffers, like the Pharisees of Matthew 21:45, knew that Christ was referring to them and their generation. The problem was, their generation was almost finished, and Christ still had not come and destroyed the Temple like He promised (Matthew 24:2). Of course, this would be inciting the God-hating Jews to mock the apostles, Christ, and the Way. Knowing this, Peter forewarned the Christians not to bend to lies of the enemies of the cross who consequently would be “cut in sunder and appointed his portion with the unbelievers.”
Finally, the phrase eagerly awaiting is found in Hebrews as it pertains to the High Priest coming out of the holy of holies to declare that the sacrifice was accepted (Leviticus 16:17 cf. Revelation 15:8):
Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that LOOK for him shall heappear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Again, in the King James Version the word look is used, and it is also the same word translated eagerly awaiting. There is a clear promise in this passage. The promise is that He WILL APPEAR for those that eagerly awaited Him. The questions are: Were the first-century Christians eagerly awaiting Christ’s return? If so, did Christ appear? The answer to the first question is a jubilant yes as is testified by the above passages. The second question, however, demands more attention. Did Christ appear? The promise was that He would appear for those who eagerly awaited Him. If, as the futurist affirms, He did not appear, then His integrity is at stake. But “what saith the Scripture?” “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” Hebrews 6:18. Christ did, in fact, appear to those who eagerly expected Him to appear when He said He would appear...IN THEIR GENERATION!!!
It is amazing, as will be shown, how the book of Hebrews is the chief N.T. book that describes the transition between the two covenants (8:13). The present passage (9:28) interestingly specifies that Christ died at the “end of the age.” This age was fully consummated when the old age finally did pass away with the destruction of the Temple, and Christ appeared the second time without sin unto salvation (2 Corinthians 3:11). The church’s eagerly awaiting the Savior’s return was simply the substance (Hebrews 11:1) of the type in Leviticus 16:17 of the congregation eagerly awaiting the High Priest’s return after the atonement was made.
We have seen the Bible’s clear commands and expectations of eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. The simple command of waiting for the Lord’s coming discloses the N.T. writers’ anticipation of the appearing of Jesus Christ. Paul counseled the Thessalonians in this manner as well:
1 Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Here, we see not only the command to wait for “His Son from heaven,” we also see the promise and security of knowing that wrath was coming and the Christians had been delivered from this wrath. God’s judgment and presence are inseparable and intimate events that would come upon the first-century generation.
Paul makes a strikingly similar statement in his second epistle to the Thessalonians:
2 Thessalonians 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
Paul actually prays that the Lord would DIRECT their hearts to WAIT for His coming. If it was not enough for Paul to make them think that Christ’s coming was near, now he is praying that the Lord would make them think, and know, and be assured that it was near, insomuch that God would cause them to actually WAIT for Him!!
The apostle directed Titus to the same watchfulness:
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Just as Paul gladdened the hearts of the Corinthians by imparting to them the knowledge of the inexpressible joy he would receive as he and they would be present at our Lord’s coming, so likewise he conveys this same glad tiding to the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.
Again, the Thessalonians were assured by Paul that this great event of glory and resurrection life would soon be fulfilled. Paul, as is his manner, not only assured them of their partaking of the presence of Christ at His coming, but also exhorted them in the Lordship of Jesus Christ that, if they were truly His, they would be loving one another and unblameable in holiness at His appearing:
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Therefore, the promises and commands go hand in hand as first-century believers were about to experience the presence and kingdom of Jesus Christ.
A parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 is the monumental “rapture” text of 1 Thessalonians 4:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The details of the events here will be discussed in the chapter on everlasting life. It is the plain implication which this passage would have on the Thessalonians that will we ponder at this point. He first informs them that God will bring with Him those who had fallen asleep in Christ. “Bring with Him” is the phrase used because they were those who were alive and remaining at the Lord’s coming who would experience this grand reunion. What relevance would this statement have at all to the Thessalonians if they were all going to be dead for two thousand years? More importantly, why would Paul even remotely build their expectation that they might even be living when the Lord would come? The whole element of commanding them to “comfort one another with these words” was so they could rest assured that this glorious Day would, in fact, come upon them. Was Paul mistaken in his assumption that those of the Thessalonians who were alive and remaining would experience this “rapture”? We dare not accuse the inspired apostle of such delusion! Perhaps more than anyone except the Lord, Paul understood the kingdom and its nearness. These Thessalonians fully placed their trust in these inspired writings of Paul. How despicable it would be for Paul, if he was not deluded, to dupe these hopeful Christians into thinking they would soon be with their loved ones in heaven. Ah, but thanks be to God that truly they, as well as all who believe, have sat down with “Abraham Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Day of the Lord would truly come as a thief in the night. God, however, does not build hopes, mislead, and deceive His people just for the sake of getting them to live godly lives. God is a sovereign God who creates and causes every good work and godly action for His own pleasure and glory. Does He not have this power? “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”
Matthew 20:15. Why would God need to give misinformation just to make His people be watchful. God is a God of truth who admonished His people with truth because of the truth: namely, the truth that He was about to come:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Who were “they” of vs.3? The answer is found in chapter two of the same book:
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the WRATH IS COME UPON THEM to the uttermost.
The culprits persecuting the Christians were the apostate Jews. “They shall not escape.” “They” were the same scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23:13-39. They were the ones to whom Paul referred in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Paul identifies the Christians as “ye brethren.” He continued even more clearly to emphasize the fact that the Day of the Lord would NOT overtake them as a thief because if they were truly the elect of God, they would continue to watch and be sober (1 Peter 4:7). “Therefore” is again used in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 to qualify the nearness of the coming of the Lord. Paul proclaimed to them that the Day would come, and if they were not prepared, it would overtake them as a thief. He then advised, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
Lastly, in the book of Thessalonians, Paul, concludes with a promise by the will of God that is inescapable as to the connotation of the passage:
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
“Who also will do it” is the promise that was made. DO WHAT??? Whether you are a trichotomist or a dichotomist in your view of the soul and body, if you are a futurist, you are going to have tremendous problems with this text. Paul prayed and promised that the Lord would preserve their whole spirit, soul, and body blameless at His coming. Regardless of the constitution of these elements, whether all two or three of them, Thessalonian converts would be thrilled about this promise. These converts were already familiar with the incredibly urgent nature of the letter. This last magnificent and inspiring promise, Paul knew, would render the life-changing effects that only the Word of God could perform: preparation for the imminent Day of the Lord.
The Greek word mello is an interesting word when considered as it is used in passages pertaining to eschatological imminence. We see an example of this in Paul’s first epistle to Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
The word mello is translated here “to come.” Strong’s first definition of the word mello is “through the idea of expectation; to intend, i.e. be about to be.” With this in mind, the passage comes alive when this translation is used:
1 Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time about to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Consider these passages with the same word using the translation “about to come”:
1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is about to come.
Hebrews 2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world about to come, whereof we speak.
Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world about to come,
Hebrews 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one about to come.
2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
Some modern “eschatologists” are propagating that God’s kingdom, appearing, and judgment are about to happen. The Bible however, says that it was about to happen in Timothy’s lifetime. Paul certainly would not command his right-hand man to preach that the kingdom, appearing, and judgment of God were about to take place if these events were not to happen for two millennia. The above verses become remarkably clear as we consider how imminent Christ’s coming really was, especially if we contemplate the mind of a first-century Christian and the eager expectation which was justifiably created in them.
We have already observed that first-century Christians were waiting for “the end” and that this end was referring to the end of the Jewish system and age (Matthew 24:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:8) In Hebrews, however, the mindset of the professing converted Jews must be absorbed in our minds if we are to understand the purpose of the writer as he used the word end. As we noted earlier, Hebrews is a book about the transition from the Old Covenant and its world to the New Covenant and its world. The Christian Hebrews were anticipating the looming judgment that was to fall upon Jerusalem. The writer identified this destruction as “the end” and, accordingly, he repeatedly warned the professing Christians to endure until this end:
Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
This same end is implied in chapter 10 especially when taken in context with “the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:22-37 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge HIS PEOPLE 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God 32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Astonishing!!! Note the phrase, “The Lord shall judge His people.” This is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:36-38 which exclusively refers to the Jewish people. The exhortation, once again, is to hold fast because His judgment is near! This passage correlates perfectly with the Olivet discourse in the gospel of Luke:
Luke 21:19-36 In your patience possess ye your souls. 20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
The passage in Hebrews tells us that the Lord will judge His people, which were none other than the apostate Jews. Jesus tells His disciples that in patience, they would possess their souls. He went on to speak of judgment and wrath upon “this people,” clearly referring to unbelieving Jews.
After the detailed analysis of the types and shadows of the O.T. system, the writer of Hebrews then gives the prodigious account of the great men and women of faith (chapter 11). An amazing statement is made at the end of the chapter implying clearly that the promises and heavenly country for which the O.T. believers looked was about to be received by these O.T. saints and those who were living at the time of the destruction of the Temple (A.D.70):
Hebrews 11:39-40 And these all (O.T. saints), having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
The promise to which the writer was referring which first-century saints were receiving is none other than that for which Abraham and the rest of the O.T. saints were looking:
Hebrews 11:10,13-16 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
This same City is that of Hebrews 12:22,23 which positively declares that first-century saints were the recipients:
Hebrews 12:22-23 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
This City is none other than the dwelling place within the New Heaven and New Earth of 2 Peter 3.
toimhn (hetoimane) is the Greek word used to convey the nearness of both the salvation and judgment of God in the book of 1 Peter. The first use of the word is found in the first chapter:
1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
This passage reveals what might be startling to most futurists: salvation to the pre- Parousia saints had NOT fully arrived. However, as the passage states clearly, it was READY to be revealed in the LAST TIME. The revealed salvation was Christ in them (Colossians 1:27). The word ready means exactly what is translated. No matter how much one may scramble, squirm, and twist, there is no way to escape the unmistakable implication that this passage has on the futurists’ view of what they would call ultimate salvation. The simple fact of this passage is that ultimate salvation was about to take place. Not only was it about to take place, it also was going to take place in the last time. LAST TIME, here, simply refers to the last season of the Jewish Old Covenant economy, which, of course, was in the process of vanishing away (Hebrews 8:13). Jewish Christians at this time were very cognizant of the promise of Jesus to destroy the Temple and change the customs (Acts 6:14). Inseparable from the destruction of the Temple was the consummated salvation that would come to every Christian living at that time (John 11:25). Peter reminds his hearers of both events as is seen in this next passage:
1 Peter 4:3-7 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
The fact that God was about to judge the living and the dead is manifest in the words, “For this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead.” Why would the gospel suddenly be preached to the dead if they were not to be judged for another two thousand years? In the Revelation, we see another account of this same event:
Revelation 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
It is specifically because the judgment was about to happen that the gospel was preached to the dead so they would likewise be held accountable to be judged by the word of God (John 12:48).
Our concluding passage that we will assess carefully is found in the general epistle of Jude. The writer, after warning the flock against wolves that would creep into Christian circles and bring them damnable heresies, then proceeds to give a description of the apostate in the last days. Jude established that apostates had arisen and that this torrent of false prophets was foretold by the apostles of the Lord:
Jude 1:17-25 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.
Like Peter’s admonition in 2 Peter 2,3, Jude reminds his readers of what was spoken by the apostles of the Lord Jesus. He emphasizes the portent given by the apostles and the Lord that there would arise false prophets. Jude’s caution was that these Christians would be mindful of this apostasy. With this caution, he makes the explicit statement that they are in the midst of what the apostles warned: the last time. The popular argument against the coming of Christ in A.D.70, as we have mentioned earlier, is that we have been in the last time for two thousand years. As has become profusely clear, this is an eschatological hoax that has beguiled many unsuspecting sheep and goats. Jude gives implicit admonition that defines the soon coming of the Lord Jesus: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Those in the church who read this omen-focused epistle would undoubtedly heed and acknowledge the vigilance urged because they believed Jude to be an inspired writer of Scripture. Certainly, the true sheep of God would be looking for His mercy and His appearing to give them eternal life. Not only would they be looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, but they also trusted Him to “present them faultless before the presence of His glory.” We must be careful to always search the Scriptures to understand the historical context of what the people were experiencing and how they were interpreting these letters. Jude’s hearers were ever so mindful that the Lord’s coming was imminent. This is not only based on the epistle of Jude, but also on the inspired writings of the apostles of which Jude said they were aware.
John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were very united in their eschatological outlook. They both began their ministry with words that no other prophets used as pertaining to the Lord’s final coming in judgment: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What would incite their audience more to prepare for the coming desolation of the Jewish nation and religion? Urgency! Imminence! It was the nearness of Christ’s coming that was the compelling motive for first-century Christians to be on their guard against the heresies of the apostate Jews. Every writer of the N.T. impelled circumspection in the area of shunning attempts to be justified by the law, that they all would be presented blameless before Him at His coming. Only God’s true elect knew that Christ would come in the generation which He had promised, not in some far removed technological generation that had nothing to do with the judgment of national Israel. All the apostles knew this; therefore, the N.T. epistles contain, in no uncertain terms, the strong warnings of impending doom upon the Jerusalem which was below; that the Jerusalem which was and is above would be inhabited by those sheep of God sovereignly elected and redeemed to experience His eternal Presence.
The denial of the time statements of imminence in Scripture is to be refuted as a liberal-supporting heresy that contradicts the fulfillment of God’s monarchy and glorified people. The position is dangerous. I once was there. May God in His rich mercy and compassion deliver His sheep from the Christ-demeaning doctrine of futurism, and show them the wealth of residing in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the Living God.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Time statements are crucial in understanding the appearing of Jesus Christ at the end of the Jewish age. Equally important is the abundance of signs that were present during the Apostolic era. The question of Jesus to the hypocritical Pharisees was to show not only the blindness of these Pharisees to the manifestation of the messenger, John the Baptist, and the miracles of Jesus, it also proves that whatever signs were happening were taking place in the first century. The believing, unsuspecting Jews were oblivious to these very signs of the coming judgment upon the people of God. In fact, the signs of the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, and the dead being raised to life should have been obvious to the Jews. The appearance of John the Baptist was evidence that the judgment was drawing near (Malachi 3:1,2; 4:5). The Jews, however, because of the hardness of their hearts, refused to believe not only John and Jesus but also the signs or works of Christ. Jesus even had to rebuke Philip for his unbelief in questioning the Messiah:
Jesus here declares that His authority and Person should be manifest by His very works. Again, this is precisely why Jesus responded to John the Baptist’s inquiry from prison whether He was the Messiah:
The signs were incontestable. The storm was about to come. The parallel passage to Matthew 16:1-3 is found in Luke 12:
We have seen that Jesus was amazed at the inability of the Jews to comprehend the signs to determine the approaching storm or “heat” of judgment.
Perhaps more than any other century in church history, the twentieth-century church has had the greatest obsession with what the Bible defines as the “signs of the times.” Jesus questioned why the Jews could not discern “this time” or the signs of the times. Yet, within the twentieth century evangelical movement, the vast majority are convinced that we are seeing presently the signs of the times. Why would Jesus be so astonished that Jews could not discern the signs of the times if they were not to take place for another two thousand years? The Christian church has bought the lie that we are in the “last days” and are experiencing the signs of the times. The Bible, however, is very plain that the those in the first century Christian church were the ones who were in the “last days” and were experiencing the signs of the times. The “last days” were the last days of the Jewish age, and the signs of the times were the signs of the time of the end of that same Jewish age and the imminence of the kingdom of God. We will now examine some of the signs by which the first century Christian church could be absolutely convinced that the return of Jesus Christ to judge the world and establish His kingdom was about to take place.
In Matthew 24, Jesus delivers His notable Olivet discourse. Within this chapter and its parallels found in Mark and Luke we see the signs that signified the nearness of the coming of Jesus Christ. He expresses with such certainty the signs that would indicate the imminence of His coming that the apostles would later declare the fulfillment of these signs as they transpired, thus preparing their hearers for the Day of the Lord. The context is just after Jesus had reproved the hypocritical Jews as the children of those that killed the prophets. To show the continuing Jewish judgment motif, here is the context from chapter twenty-three with the first verse of chapter twenty-four:
Without the chapter break the context is held intact. Jesus had just proclaimed to the apostate Jews that he was going to leave their “house” desolate. The whole context in Matthew 23:13-39 exhibits the intense anger Jesus expressed toward the Jews. Too often we break up the flow of the circumstance that had just transpired with the apostates. The first verse of chapter twenty four, without question clarifies the timing of the apostles showing Christ the things of the temple, for the verse says, “And Jesus went out and departed from the temple.” He had just been railing upon the Jews within the temple (21:23) about their self-righteousness and their slaughter of the prophets of God. We can be sure that His anger was kindled when He left the temple. It is important to keep in mind that one of the last statements He made to the Jews was that He was going to leave their house desolate. It was at this point that He exited the temple, and His disciples began to show Him the same buildings from the outside. Therefore, we can be sure what was on the mind of Jesus as the disciples marveled at the stones of the temple. His anger would be turned into the solemn warning to His disciples that He would come back in their generation to waste the Jews and their system.
Just what was it that the disciples showed Christ after He left the temple? There are some differing interpretations as to the meaning of the word temple; however, upon comparison with the other Gospel accounts, the physical temple at Jerusalem is the object of concern. Examine these comparisons:
The subsequent response of Christ assured His audience that He understood that they were speaking of the temple.
The brooding message Christ delivered was that which would signify the final destruction of the Jewish religious system which had been around for at least thirteen hundred years. The consequent response of the disciples asserts the gravity of Christ’s omen against the temple and the correlation between this event and the coming of Christ:
There has been much confusion over the understanding of the disciples in regard to Christ’s pronouncement against the temple. Various interpretations have been set forth by many expositors; nevertheless, we must use the Scripture to explain why the disciples asked what they asked and what they associated with the destruction of the temple. The account in Matthew 24:3 presents two questions asked by the disciples. The questions are: when shall these things be? what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world (Gk. aeon or age)? Some have proposed that the account of Matthew proves that the disciples were addressing two events that would take place thousands of years from each other, i.e., “when shall these things be”, refers to the destruction of the Temple in A.D.70., and “what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world”, refers to a yet future coming and destruction of the physical planet. This argument is quickly dispelled when the mindset of the disciples is considered. Often in eschatological commentaries the significance of what a first-century Jew understood is overlooked. Pondering the response of the disciples to the proclamation of the destruction of the Temple by Jesus should cause us to question why the disciples asked what they asked.
The first question was, “when shall these things be?” The second question was, “what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age.” The question of when is a logical question that any generation of Jews or Gentiles would ask. The second question involved that of Christ’s coming and His ending the age. If it is true that the first question involved the destruction of the Temple, then why would the disciples be so quick to follow that question with asking what the signs would be showing the coming end of the age? The answer lies in the disciples’ understanding of the O.T. We must be careful to not assume that the disciples’ understanding of O.T. prophecy was limited or faulty pertaining to timeframe. After all, they had been with Jesus, who spoke to them of many things concerning Himself, of which things He would probably have corrected them after His resurrection if they were mistaken. But even then the Savior says:
We also must remember the disciples’ response when Jesus questioned them concerning their understanding of the parables of the kingdom of God which involved the timeframe and the nature of the kingdom:
Therefore, when considering some O.T. passages that pertain to the end of the Jewish system, it should be assumed that the disciples were probably aware of those particular passages. Let us investigate some of these passages:
We must not take the telescopic eschatological position and try to separate the taking of the city and the coming of the Lord with the saints with a two-thousand-year interjection. The disciples did not separate these, nor did Jesus, or any of the apostles in the N.T. Scriptures. In Zechariah 14:1,2, the destruction of Jerusalem is clearly prophesied. No gap should be imposed upon the text between the destruction (vs.2) and the coming of the Lord (vs.5). This is one passage that should give us understanding as to why the disciples associated the destruction of the Temple with the coming of the Lord and the end of the age.
Yet another passage that associates the coming of the Lord with the destruction of Jerusalem is also found in Zechariah 12:10-14:
Those who had truly searched the Scriptures were very aware of the fact that the destruction of Jerusalem was synonymous with the coming of the Lord. With these two texts in mind it becomes very evident why the disciples associated the two events.
Greater support that the disciples were not addressing two events separated by thousands of years emerges when the parallel passages are placed beside each other:
Notice the accounts of Mark and Luke as they present the disciples’ questions. Mark and Luke, like Matthew, record two questions asked by the disciples. The first question in all three accounts is the same: "When shall these things be?" When the second question is harmoniously compared, the mind of the disciples is exposed concerning their true assumption regarding the destruction of Jerusalem:
In Mark and Luke the phrase, “these things” is referring to the first question, “When shall these things be?”. “These things” in the second question of Mark and Luke is referring to the Temple. Mark’s and Luke’s account with the parenthetical statement, “the destruction of the Temple” would read as follows: Mark: “What shall be the sign when all these things (the destruction of the Temple) shall be fulfilled?” Luke: “What sign will there be when these things (the destruction of the Temple) shall come to pass?”
The word “sign” should now inform us about the intention and thought of the disciples in regard to the account in Matthew, especially when the parenthetical statement is interjected: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (the destruction of Jerusalem)?” The signs which the disciples requested were those that would prove the imminence of the coming destruction and the return of Christ.
If the disciples were mistaken in their assumption that the destruction of the Temple was synonymous with the coming of the Lord, one would think that the Lord, who knew their hearts (Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Luke 16:15), would have corrected their erroneous conclusion. This, however, is not the case. Rather, He began to answer their questions with what would be the primary text used to prepare the early church for the return of Christ; i.e., so the apostles could identify the signs by which they could assure themselves and their hearers that the Lord was about to judge national Israel and vindicate Heavenly Israel.
As far as signs are concerned it should be noted that many evangelical circles are talking about the signs of the times. It is very true that in the twentieth century we have experienced false Christs, false prophets, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, wars and rumors of wars, etc. However, does the presence of these things validate the supposition that Matthew 24 refers to this century? Have there not been wars throughout the last two thousand years? Have there not been pestilences? earthquakes? famines? Of course there have! One need only to go to the library and look up wars or famines or pestilences, and they will find an abundance of these throughout the centuries following the apostolic era. In fact, it is amazing to see how many generations thought that Christ would be coming in their lifetime because they thought that the signs in the Olivet Discourse applied to their generation. Providentially, the focus in this chapter is not to prove that the signs in Matthew 24 took place throughout Christian history to the twentieth century.
Instead, the focus of this chapter will be to prove from Scripture that these signs took place, with the frequency that our Lord predicted, before the destruction of Jerusalem. In so doing we will, by the grace of God, be able to see and repudiate the extreme deception into which the twentieth-century evangelical movement has fallen.
There are many signs in the Olivet Discourse; however, we will examine three of these signs in particular: the presence of false prophets and false Christs, the persecution of the Christians enduring to the end, and the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.
FOR THERE SHALL ARISE FALSE CHRISTS
The first of the signs we will investigate is the first sign the Lord gives that would be a sure indication of His return, and that is, the presence of false Christs. The first thing that would come into the mind of a twentieth-century Christian upon considering this verse might be something like, “We must be in the last days. There are so many false Christs arising.” The observance of the presence of false Christs in the twentieth century is to be commended; however, when the testimony of Scripture is taken into consideration, it should cause us to reconsider whether we have the right to say we are in the last days. After all, the Scripture testifies with abundance that the first-century church was in the last days (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3). The appearance of false Christs in our century should no more cause us to believe we are in the last days than a twentieth-century virgin birth should cause us to believe that Jesus was born in the twentieth century. In other words, if a prophecy is made in Scripture and FULFILLED in Scripture, we must lean entirely upon the Word of God in understanding and determining prophetic fulfillment.
The text in Matthew is clear. The apostles asked for the signs that would precede the coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the age. The question is, did the appearance of false Christs take place within the apostles’ generation? There is unanimous support among the N.T. writers that false Christs had arisen and that this emergence of false Christs proved positively to the apostles that they were in the last days.
In the book of Acts we find several clear examples of these pseudo-Christs appearing. The first example is found in Acts 8:
The people of Samaria were seduced into thinking that Simon was “the great power of God.” Simon accomplished this seduction by his astonishing sorceries. The Word teaches us that all the Samaritans gave heed to this man from the least to the greatest, thus fulfilling Christ’s words, “and shall deceive many.” We also see the signs which Simon performed to persuade the people. He practiced sorcery to convince the people that he was the “great power of God.” This title was not only by their claim but by Simon’s also. This would accurately be a fulfillment of our Lord’s words in the Olivet discourse:
Jesus said “take heed that no man deceive you,” yet these Samaritans “all gave heed” to Simon because of his signs and wonders.
Another account of antichrists arising is found in Acts 13. Here again, we see a fulfillment of Christ’s prediction that there would arise false prophets:
Elymas is identified as a false prophet. In this case, deception and turning men from the truth was his craft. His method was to pervert the right ways of the Lord and keep men from hearing the words of the Lord. Paul, in defense of the truth, classified Elymas as a child of the devil, an enemy of all righteousness, and full of subtlety and all mischief. Truly, Elymas was an antichrist and a false prophet.
In Acts 16 we see an account of a false prophetess who was possessed with a devil:
The word “soothsaying” is defined by Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible as “supposed to rave through inspiration); to divine, i.e. utter spells (under pretence of foretelling).” Christ had foretold that there would arise antichrists and false prophets. This woman was clearly raving through her supposed foretelling or false prophesying.
Modern “eschatologists” rave about the prevalence of false prophets and antichrists in our century. These eschatologists often cite characteristics of both the antichrists and their followers. Some of the characteristics that these men have observed in these antichrists are eloquence of speech, denying “orthodox” Christianity, immoral lifestyles, etc. They also frequently notice that these antichrists have small congregations. This particular characteristic may be true in some instances. This, however, is not always the case. Consider the mass cult of Catholicism which dominated church history for over a thousand years with their pope-glorifying, Mary-worshipping heresies. What about the huge Judaizing movement of the “Church of Christ” with its diabolical doctrine of baptismal regeneration? The cult of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” denying the deity of Jesus Christ? The polygamist, man-deifying sect of Mormonism? These congregations are enormous. Their speakers are often dull and dry, filled with liturgical spew. Or what about the man-centered, Arminian-based gatherings of the “Assembly of God,” “Calvary Chapel,” and other fellowships catering to the lusts of the unregenerate man? They all are fundamentally erring from apostolic Christianity. Therefore, we must conclude that just because a congregation is small does not mean it is a cult of an antichrist. This brings us to an important point regarding the true spirit of Antichrist that existed in the first-century Jewish synagogues.
More than any other century, the first-century Jews were filled with the spirit of Antichrist. In order to identify this spirit we must know the truth. The apostle John in his first epistle warned the Christians to be aware of the spirit of Antichrist and confirmed that many false prophets had already gone into the world.
There is a way to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. This way is being born of God and knowing the truth.
John informed his readers that the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world. How were John and his readers able to identify this?
What were the signs? John states in certain language the chief characteristic of the spirit of Antichrist: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” Anyone that would claim that Christ or Messiah had not come in the flesh was antichrist:
The task at hand is to first identify the truth about the Messiah. That is, we must recognize His office as the Christ or the Anointed One. The Greek word Christ or Christos means anointed. The Hebrew word Messiah (mashiyach) is translated the same.
It is imperative to understand that the word anointed, in reference to Messiah, can be referring to either His anointing as King, or His anointing as Priest (Exodus 28:41; 29:7; 40:12-15). It is His anointing as Priest or High Priest that must be understood in order to appreciate the significance of John’s warning. In Exodus the type and shadow of the anointing of Jesus is illustrated with the anointing of the Levitical high priest:
It is this anointing type with which first-century Jewish Christians were familiar. Any Jew reading John’s epistle would understand John’s intention when he used the word Christ. This intention is fully developed by the writer of Hebrews as he defended the superiority of Christ against the apostate Jews (Hebrews 3:1-6; 5:1-10; 6:20; 7:20-28; 9:11-28). These apostate Jews were denying a fundamental aspect of the Christ, and that is, His manifestation in the flesh as the High Priest who would make atonement for His people. It is true that the Deity of Christ was also denied by these same apostates; however, Christ’s Deity is implied in His claim as Messiah. To deny Christ’s anointing is to deny His Deity. John makes this implication evident:
John summarizes the coming of the Messiah as God in the conclusion of his first epistle:
As we have seen, the anointing of Christ as the High Priest is essential in understanding the significance of Antichrist or literally, the opponent of Messiah. Who could this be? The greatest blasphemy would be to deny the High Priestly sacrifice of Christ and affirm the continued sacrifices of a sinful high priest on earth. This also is confirmed in the book of Hebrews:
The writer was warning these Hebrews in Jerusalem (13:14) that drawing back to perdition would only heap the fiery indignation of God upon their heads. The perdition when seen within the context of Hebrews is irrefutably referring to the affirmation of the continued sacrifices by sinful high priests. It is these men/man who, in their unbelief and wickedness, would exalt themselves above all that is called God by affirming that their sacrifice was greater than Christ’s. The immensity of this sin is seen when the chief end of the sacrifice of Christ is considered. It was Christ’s death that demonstrated the eternal wrath and love of God, for which, He was to receive all glory (Philippians 2:8-9). To deny Jesus as the Christ is to deny His glory and the act which earned Him that glory.
The antichrists/Antichrist would be punished with a much sorer punishment than those who died without mercy under the law of Moses. (Even today the same blasphemy is committed in affirming that Christ shed His blood for men in the lake of fire, thus making void the payment for sin and sacrifice that satisfied the wrath of an angry God. Universal atonement is merely a subtle residue inherited from its Pharisaic ancestors.)
Once the truth of Christ as the eternal high Priest is established then the error becomes transparent:
The spirit of Antichrist was already in the world, which is exactly why John could write with certainty that he and his reader were in the last hour:
There are many that are claiming that we are in the last hour. John, however, was the inspired apostle. It is true that there are, without a doubt, false prophets in our century, but John specifically cited the presence of antichrists as a fact whereby his hearers would know that it was the last time. How did John know that they were in the last hour? He was in the presence of Jesus as He admonished the disciples to be aware of the signs that would take place before the coming of Christ (Mark 13:3). Why would John incite his hearers to KNOW they were in the last hour? We cannot dismiss John’s time statement for two reasons: 1.) The use of time statements in Scripture consistently pertains to real chronology, thus, agreeing with John’s statement of imminence. 2.) John cited the presence of antichrists which proved he and his hearers were in the last hour.
The mere warnings in Scripture should be enough to convince students of the Word that the apostles actually believed Christ was returning in their generation: John, again, warning his readers of the antichrists which had arisen, lets them know why there is such urgency:
Paul’s warnings against false teachers permeate virtually every one of his epistles. In 2 Corinthians we see a blunt caution regarding the “ministers of unrighteousness”:
The book of Galatians commences with an abrupt signal concerning those who would bring another gospel to this Galatian congregation:
Paul actually confirms that these false apostles had already crept in to the assembly at Jerusalem:
It should be made clear at this point that the apostles were convinced that anything in addition to the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14) whether circumcision, baptism, free-will, or sacrifices, was another gospel. Therefore, those who propagated such false gospels were to be named false prophets.
Paul continued, in his letter to the Galatians, to tell them of his amazement that they would bear with these false teachers and their gospels:
As far as Paul was concerned, he wished that those who taught another gospel would castrate themselves. These were those who would desire to make a fair show in the flesh and in others’ flesh as well.
In the book of Acts, Paul assures the Ephesian elders that after his departure these false prophets would arise:
These wolves were none other than those to whom the Lord was referring when He spoke to His disciples:
This subject of wolves is also found in found in Matthew 10 which contains a very strong statement concerning the coming of Christ:
Jesus associates the presence of these wolves with His coming before the disciples would have gone through the cities of Israel.
Paul also, in keeping with the manner of His Savior, associates the presence of the enemies of the cross with the return of Christ in the book of Philippians:
These Philippians were encouraged by Paul’s excitement over the fact that Christ, for Whom Paul and his readers were eagerly awaiting, would return to give them their glorified bodies and subdue these very enemies.
These same enemies of the cross were the Judaizers of Colossians 2:
The false teachers were persuading men to return to the elements or rudiments of the Old Covenant. This is also seen in vv.16-23:
In his epistles to Timothy, Paul declares their position as being present in the latter times, in which false prophets would arise, Paul even named those who were making a shipwreck of the faith:
In the second epistle of Peter, we see a similar admonition:
Peter’s affirmation of the words spoken by the holy prophets and apostles confirms the knowledge these readers had concerning those false teachers who would arise in the last days. In this passage, these false teachers were scoffing the promise of the Lord to return in the generation in which they were living (Matthew 24:34). The generation of which the Lord spoke was almost ending, and these false teachers were mocking the integrity and words of Christ to fulfill His promise.
Jude goes to great length to describe the characteristics of these false teachers that had come in the last days of the Jewish age:
The signs of false Christs and false prophets were unequivocally fulfilled within the writings of the New Testament. They were fulfilled to such a degree that the apostle John could tell his readers with certainty that they were in the last hour and that the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world. Paul, Peter, and Jude likewise affirmed that the last days had come and were proven by the prevalence of false Christs. Because of this vast appearance of false Christs, the apostles knew that the time of the end of the Jewish age was near, and the coming of Jesus Christ was about to take place.
YE SHALL BE HATED OF ALL NATIONS
Throughout the centuries of church history, Christians have been martyred at the hands of those who oppose the Gospel of Light and Life. Even within the twentieth-century there have been hundreds of thousands of martyrs for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Without a doubt, persecution is what every true Christian will experience in their lifetime. In fact, if we are claiming to be Christians and we are not experiencing persecution for our faith, it is very possible that our faith is not a saving faith. The Scripture is clear:
“Yea and all that will LIVE GODLY in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution.” This is one of the great promises in Scripture.
Unfortunately, those who are unlearned in the things of Scripture have perceived, not only in this century, but in previous centuries, that the persecution Christians are experiencing or had experienced were signs of the end of the physical world. The Scriptures testify that persecution would be a sign of the impending end of the Jewish age. This is precisely why our Lord told the disciples, “he that endures to the end shall be saved.” Upon analysis of the Scriptures, it becomes clear that the signs of persecution that preceded the end of the Jewish age actually took place within the book of Acts. In order to appreciate the record of the fulfillment of these signs, we must first examine the prophecies of our Lord to the disciples.
In the Apostolic commission, Jesus gives an admonition that ultimately would prepare these disciples for the persecution that would come upon them:
A similar passage is found in Luke:
Some have assumed that these particular passages are referring to a far-removed group of Christians in our century or, for that matter, in any other century beyond the generation of the disciples. Matthew and Luke, however, qualify the entire commission of the disciples:
Specifically, Christ told His disciples to not go to the Gentiles but, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This is why His statement in vs.23 is so imperative to understanding the persecution of the disciples and its relationship with the coming of Jesus Christ:
Jesus prophesied in distinct terms that persecution would be an unmistakable sign to prove that His return was imminent. This is seen with equal clarity as we compare the synoptic records of the Olivet discourse:
Among the accounts in Matthew 10, Luke 6, and these three accounts of the Olivet discourse, the individual signs included in this persecution are manifest: the disciples would be delivered up to be afflicted, killed, and hated. Specifically, this would involve being delivered up to councils, beaten in the synagogues, and brought before rulers, kings, and governors for the sake of Jesus as a testimony against them and the Gentiles. Also, men would lay their hands on the disciples, put them into prisons, cast their name out as evil, and separate them from their company. In all these persecutions, the sign of shaking the dust off their feet and rejoicing in that day would be a testimony of the disciples acknowledgment of their receiving persecution for their Lord.
The question should be raised: were these exact signs fulfilled in the lives of the disciples? Before asking this question, it is important to identify Christ’s audience. Matthew qualifies the disciples as the audience of Jesus in vs.3:
Jesus qualifies the timeframe in which the persecution must take place:
It is obvious that Christ intended not only to prepare the disciples for His coming but also to prepare them for the persecution that would test their faith before His coming. The sign of persecution and the specific individual signs included in this persecution were indisputably fulfilled as is testified in the book known as the Acts of the apostles. We will examine the signs as they appear throughout the book.
In Acts 3, Peter, after commanding a lame man to be healed, delivered a sermon exhorting the Jews to repent and be converted in order to experience the presence of the Lord. In his conclusion, he reminded the Jews of the Abrahamic Covenant, and that in Christ, this Covenant was fulfilled both to Jews and Gentiles. The Jews’ response was nothing short of the entrance of that great persecution which would come upon the disciples:
Jesus predicted that the Jews would lay hands on the disciples and put them in prison thus, the Jews “put them in hold.” Later in chapter four, we find another prophecy fulfilled:
We must be careful to observe before whom, and for what cause the disciples were interrogated. Notice in vs.15 the command of the Jews for the disciples to exit the council (Gk. sunedrion: a joint session of Jewish leaders-Strong’s). The same word was used by our Lord in the Gospel of Mark:
The Jews also clearly expressed their hatred for the disciples because of the name of Jesus (Acts 4:2,18); another prediction of our Lord:
In Acts 5:17-21, the same elements of persecution (laying on of hands, appearance before councils, and casting into prison) take place again after the healing of those vexed with various infirmities (vv.12-16):
The Jews would have brought the disciples before the council had the Lord not miraculously intervened. Immediately after this, however, the disciples were found preaching Christ in the Temple. The Jews then were able to bring them before the council again:
“Ye should not teach in His name,” was the command of the Pharisees. We see again the persecution for the name’s sake of Jesus (Matthew 24:9).
The Jews’ hatred prophesied by our Lord began to manifest itself increasingly as the disciples preached to them the forgiveness of sins through Christ:
God sovereignly protected the disciples through the words of one of their own lawyers, Gamaliel. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Jews from fulfilling yet another aspect of the elements of persecution:
This event caused joy in the disciples’ hearts primarily because of their devotion to their King. Another reason they were rejoicing may very well have been because they remembered the words of their Lord who predicted this type of persecution:
The disciples were delivered to the council and beaten just as their Lord had predicted. Consequently, the disciples rejoiced just as Jesus commanded:
Truly, that day of persecution had come for the disciples, and they willingly rejoiced in being beaten for their Redeemer.
An aspect of persecution that often goes unnoticed when examining the lives of the disciples is that of having their names reproached and cast out as evil for the Son of Man’s sake (Luke 6:22). This type of persecution often came from the Jews as they professed to be defending the Law of Moses. An example of this element of persecution is found in Acts 6,7 where the Jews bring Stephen before the council. Here is a portion from chapter six:
The Jews clearly reproached Stephen and cast out his name as evil. Ultimately, at the end of Stephen’s monumental sermon, the Jews. convicted by their conscience, stoned Stephen to death; thus, the words of our Lord: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.” Matthew 24:9.
In Acts 8, Paul (Saul before his conversion), after commanding the death of Stephen, relentlessly persecutes Christians in a rather violent manner:
Saul’s hatred for the Christians continued until his conversion in Acts 9:
Upon his conversion, Paul would then fulfill the Lord’s predictions in the Light rather than darkness. Ananias received word from the Lord that Paul would now be used by the Lord to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The response of Ananias was one of caution considering the persecution Paul had previously inflicted upon the church. The Lord then informed Ananias that Paul would now be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:8) of which Jesus had previously predicted that all His disciples would suffer:
Paul had joined the ranks of the disciples in enduring tribulation before his entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Immediately upon his preaching Christ in the synagogues, Paul’s experience of persecution for the name of Jesus would begin:
Christ’s prediction that His disciples would be killed for His name’s sake became an intense reality in the hearts of His disciples with the martyrdom of James, the brother of John, in Acts 12. At the same time, Peter, again, was cast into prison:
Although the persecution was becoming more severe, the saints knew that prayer and the grace of God would enable them to endure to the end. Even the fury that had resulted in the death of James would not cease the bold proclamation of the Gospel, for the disciples knew the reward: the inheritance of Jesus Christ.
One of the characteristics of the Jews that contradicted the Gospel of Christ was envy. In the gospels this is evident between the Pharisees and Saducees as they became increasingly jealous of Jesus while multitudes flocked around Him. Likewise, in the book of Acts, this same jealousy is observed among those Jews who were envious of the large crowds drawn to the disciples. Thus, the Jews were ill-affected against the apostles and their doctrine:
This type of response of the angry Jews is clearly a fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy.
The disciples’ response to the Jews’ anger is also very important as we see their obedience to their Lord when He commanded them concerning these circumstances:
In Acts 13 the Jews tried to dissuade the crowds from following the Way of the disciples. This tactic was also used to persecute Christians at Iconium to the extent that the disciples fled to preach elsewhere:
It may have been that some of the same men who stirred the people against the disciples at Iconium followed the disciples to the region of Lycaonia where they persuaded the people to stone Paul:
After this stoning, Paul and Barnabas exhorted the disciples to continue through persecution because it was through this persecution that they would enter the kingdom of God:
Christ told His apostles that they would be scourged for His name’s sake (Matthew 10:17). Paul experienced this severe type of persecution from the Gentiles in Macedonia after exorcising a demon from a soothsayer:
In Acts 17, the Jews, again moved to envy, cast out the name of Jason as evil for the cause of Christ:
Certainly the declaration of Christ as King was enough to bring the whorish, Caesar-exalting Jews to persecute Jason and the brethren before the rulers, so fulfilling the prophecy:
Paul’s ministry in the last chapters of Acts unequivocally fulfilled the Lord’s prophecy, not only according to the record of Acts, but also by his own testimony in his epistles. It is however, in Acts that we see the accounts of this fulfillment. In chapter twenty-one, the Jews in Asia laid hands on Paul to kill him:
Later, the anger of the Jews intensified as Paul confessed that God had told him to go to the Gentiles:
Jesus told His apostles that they would be brought before councils (Mark 13:9). In Acts 23, Paul is brought before the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Their fury was incited to such a level that some of them vowed a strict oath:
Another aspect of the prophecy of our Lord concerning the persecution of the apostles was that of being brought before governors and Gentiles to give testimony of Christ before them. This also was fulfilled in Acts 24:
Paul, under the new governor Festus, was brought to King Agrippa who requested that Paul bear testimony:
In vv.2-29, Paul testifies of the prophets and the risen Savior, by which testimony Agrippa confessed he was almost persuaded to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). Jesus exactly foretold of this element of persecution that would come upon the apostles:
In the epistles, also, there are various testimonies to the trials and persecutions experienced by the apostles, many of which have already been cited in the book of Acts.
In Romans Paul associates his sufferings for Christ with the glory that was about to be revealed in him (Romans 13:11,12), though admitting they were not worthy to be compared:
The present time, as we will see in Corinthians was the distress and persecution experienced especially by Jews defending the cross of Christ. The sufferings were those which converted Jews had to endure prior to entering the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). It was with patience through much tribulation that Paul and the early Christians would eagerly wait for the promised glory in them:
In the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul distinctly testifies of the decree of God that the apostles would be appointed to “death” in persecution. This “death” is sometimes seen as metaphorical in the sense that the apostles had no regard for their physical lives. By doing so, they would fulfill the words and decrees of God for their suffering (Acts 14:22). Paul’s first testimony of his own appointment for persecution is found in 1 Corinthians, chapter four:
Within this passage, Paul includes in the apostolic trials these elements of persecution: a spectacle unto the world, fools, buffeted, reviled, persecuted, defamed, made as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, each of which was prophesied by the Lord (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:9 Luke 21:12). Jesus promised His disciples: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake” Luke 21:17; therefore, these persecutions never moved Paul:
Paul alluded to their existing persecution as a motive to encourage singleness:
In the introduction to the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul immediately exhorts the saints concerning the comfort of God during their times of tribulation and distress:
It is interesting to note the phrase sentence of death in vs.9. Strong’s defines “sentence” as a judicial decision. Their distress and persecution was much more than just a rough day. The suffering of converted Israel was part of God fulfilling His redemptive plan.
This is seen further in Colossians 1:
An important truth found in this passage is the statement that Paul would “FILL UP that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh...to fulfill the word of God.” Whatever deeper meaning lies within this passage, we can know that the tribulation which Paul was undergoing was a judicial decision of God in fulfilling His plan. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, tells the saints that he had despaired even of life. He expounded upon this in chapter four:
Paul was confident that the distress he experienced had a great reward in the end:
Such was Paul’s confidence and disposition of heart that in light of the eternal weight of glory his distresses were but a light affliction. May God grant us the grace to examine our present trials as such in light of our present glory.
In further detail, Paul describes the trying fire that the saints were enduring:
The apparent negative elements in this passage manifestly fulfill the words of the Lord in His prophecies concerning the persecution His apostles would endure. Yet Paul, through all this, never wavered in his joy through Christ:
The eleventh chapter of the same epistle describes the frequency of Paul’s distresses:
Regardless of the magnitude of infirmities, Paul still rejoiced through Christ:
In vv.32,33 Paul makes reference to an experience near the beginning of his ministry:
Through some attempts of men to imprison Paul, the Lord chose to deliver him. Nevertheless, persecution always awaited him (Acts 20:22-24).
More than any other epistle, Paul, in 2 Corinthians, expressed not only his persecutions but his joy in them as well:
Paul, in Galatians, reminded them of his own persecution of the church, a fact that often goes unnoticed in the study of fulfilled prophecy within the N.T.:
He continues the book of Galatians to make very clear the fact that persecution was always a threat to those who were faithful to preach the cross of Christ as opposed to the will of man. He even mentions the experience of Peter fearing those of the circumcision, which also testifies to the obvious presence of persecution:
Paul described Peter as a pillar; yet even Peter was swayed, as well as Barnabas (vs.13), by the relentless persecution of the apostate Jews.
Paul encouraged the Galatians to forsake their apostasy and be as he was in experiencing and enduring persecution because of the offense of the Gospel:
Paul was bringing to the Galatians’ remembrance their previous devotion to the Gospel of grace and Paul as the minister to the Gentiles. The Galatians obviously had a good beginning but began to be hindered by those who were persuading them that one must be circumcised in order to be saved.
The trouble-makers were stumbling at the Rock of Offense primarily because through Christ, the Rock, their self-exaltation was exposed. Thus, they were revealed as the chief sinners by the law of God. Their trust was in the arm of the flesh through the law which only showed them to be at enmity with God. This was manifestly clear during the life of Jesus as we have already seen. The hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisees were His chief targets. Christ prophesied that these same hypocrites would persecute the Christian church before He would return (Matthew 10:23). The effect of the Pharisees was leaven in the church of which, Jesus told the disciples to beware:
This leaven, Paul reminded the Galatians, would leaven those churches which would bear with false gospels. The words of Christ were coming true in the hearts of some of these Galatians, so much so that Paul was forced to label the Galatians as “bewitched”:
The sufferings were those that were inflicted upon these Galatians for their profession of the cross of Christ alone. This profession is what brought the persecution to them. Paul appealed to this persecution as potentially having been suffered in vain if they were willing to draw back unto the Old Covenant rituals for justification.
Paul, however, urged them by his own experience to walk in the rule of glorying only in the cross of Christ, a glorying which showed Paul to be an apostle upon whom would come the prophetic reality of persecution as spoken of by the Lord:
To the Philippians, Paul joyfully testified of his bonds because of the Gospel of Christ for which he had become imprisoned as prophesied by the Lord:
For those who were truly Christians, persecution resulted even in added boldness because of their knowledge of the coming glory and the realization that Christ’s prophecies were being fulfilled in their lives. Paul displayed this joy and confidence expressly in the rest of the first chapter:
Not only had God sovereignly ordained the saving faith in His elect, but He also had ordained their sufferings as well. Paul was so consumed with his passion and love for God that he not only recognized faith as a gift, but he was also firmly convinced that suffering for Christ was a gift, especially considering the results of that suffering that would turn for his salvation (vs.19).
Paul, again, reminded the Philippians that, whatever his situation of suffering, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) promised by Christ (John 14:16-18) was causing him to be content:
His “state” was that of being cast into prison, experiencing hunger under bonds promised by the Lord (Luke 21:12).
The afflictions that Paul experienced are observed in Colossians as tribulation lacking in Paul’s flesh that ultimately would be completed to “fulfill” the Word of God:
The theme of affliction continues in the epistles to the Thessalonians, as Paul made known to the Thessalonians the contention that came by preaching the Gospel. In the first epistle, as in previous epistles, Paul unites this affliction with the inevitable result of joy in the Holy Spirit:
Paul then exclaims the poor treatment he received at Philippi:
Jesus spoke of counting the cost, not only in terms of the apostles’ submission to the lordship of Christ in obedience, but also the cost of suffering persecution for His name’s sake:
Paul and the apostles experienced much contention for the sake of the Gospel knowing that this was a part of bearing the cross of Christ. This correlates with filling up that which was lacking in the body of Christ. The “mocking” of Luke 14:29,30 would be the reaction of professing Christians drawing back because of the Judaizing persuasion who would merely affirm their own heresy as they observed these “Christians” lose heart and faith. Thus, Christ’s words were very pertinent to the mind of Paul; namely, that if such an apostasy of a professing Christian would take place, that person is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, chiefly, because of the great blasphemy that would transpire against the Gospel. Paul, therefore, by the grace of God, was never moved at the threat of affliction, for he could not bear the thought of bringing reproach to the name of Christ. Much can be learned from Paul’s commitment to the Gospel by modern preachers who may be guilty of withholding truth for fear of contention with their hearers.
This admonition can especially be gleaned from the rest of Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians regarding their sufferings:
Suffering was the inescapable product of preaching the truth of a nothing-but-Christ-crucified Gospel. This type of preaching enraged the Jews against the apostles (vs.15) assuring the apostle Paul to the degree that they had filled up their sins, a phrase Jesus used to describe the Jews upon whom the end of the age and wrath of God would come:
It is no wonder that true Christians at this time were so overflowing with joy at their persecution. They were certain that God was going to avenge them speedily:
This, of course, was the primary motivation for Paul encouraging the Thessalonians in endurance, particularly in light of what would also take place when Israel would be judged, which, fascinatingly, is contained within the same context:
Not only did Paul comfort them with these words, he also sent Timothy to comfort them as they were experiencing these afflictions to assure them that these predestined afflictions would have, in the end, everlasting life:
What was Paul’s incentive for these suffering Thessalonians? They would live if they stood fast through the multitude of persecutions, the very persecutions through which they would enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
The second epistle to the Thessalonians, from the very start, continues this encouraging stimulus during the distress of Gospel affliction and relates this affliction with the impending judgment upon the adversaries of the cross:
It is a recurring motif in the epistles of Paul to brighten and revitalize the Christians’ perspective of everlasting life. The apostle strengthens the faith of these Christians by promising the coming judgment upon those who are persecuting them. It was a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God for the purpose that they would be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. They were suffering for the kingdom of God, and the very enemies which were persecuting them, God had promised and ordained would do so in order for the Jewish Christians to endure and fill up that which was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Thus, these Christians would fulfill the prophecy of the Lord Jesus:
It is clearly evident that joy was the overriding theme that carried Paul and the Thessalonians through the profusion of persecution. Jesus’ words were ringing loud and clear in the hearts of these Christians. These very words convinced them all the more that the signs of persecution indicated the soon coming of their Redeemer.
Timothy was given sober, yet compelling motivation by Paul in the beginning of the second epistle. Paul used forceful language to persuade young Timothy to press through the trial which was coming and would continue to come upon him so long as he lived godly in Christ:
2 Timothy 1:7-12 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Paul assured Timothy of the grace and power of God given to His people to endure persecution. Along with this assurance, Paul reminded Timothy of the immense salvation of God through the Lord Jesus Christ as an impetus to stir Timothy into a radically bold preacher of the Gospel of Life. Paul even uses his own testimony as a motivating factor for Timothy’s boldness. The clear association of persecution with the coming of the Lord is evident.
Timothy was commanded by Paul to consider and remember why and for Whom he and Paul were suffering:
The cross to bear was severe; yet for those who were truly Christ’s, the yoke was easy and the burden was light in comparison to the salvation with eternal glory that would be revealed at the presence of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. For Timothy, persecution was understood to be one of the incontestable indications that rule with Christ was about to begin (4:1). Paul aided Timothy by declaring his own bonds and his suffering trouble as an evil-doer for the cause of Christ.
After declaring the entrance of the last days, Paul tells Timothy of the great promise made by our Lord to those in Christ Jesus which applies to men of all ages but was particularly a catalyst for godly living in light of the nearness of Christ’s return:
As is evident from his epistles, Paul frequently wrote from prison. In his epistle to Philemon, he informs Philemon of his encounter with a runaway slave of Philemon who was converted after his acquaintance with Paul in prison:
The question should be asked, why was Paul in bonds? He faithfully preached the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, by Whom Paul was individually told he would suffer for Jesus’ name’s sake:
The book of Hebrews, perhaps more than any other N.T. book, emphasizes the necessity of continuing in the faith unto the end of the Jewish age. The greatest encouragement the writer could give was that of emphasizing what Christ had endured. In chapter one, the glory of Christ is contrasted with the great humility He suffered for the salvation of His people. Chapter two explains, in detail, the purpose of His death. The writer conveys the immense suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This was to prepare them for the suffering they would endure during the great tribulation. Chapter three is the first exhortation to the Hebrews to consider what Christ had done as they experienced the great persecution from the apostate Jews and the world. In giving them the exhortation he admonishes them to consider the faithfullness of not only Moses to his house but even greater: Christ’s faithfullness to His house, i.e., the spiritual eternal house of the believers in Christ:
1 Corinthians speaks of the same people:
Just as the Jews in the wilderness saw the signs and wonders of God and still rebelled, so the professing believers in the first century also saw the signs and wonders and were in danger of rebelling:
The forty-year period or generation was almost complete, and the promised land was about to be entered. Because of the immense persecution, some mere professors were falling away, showing their initial unbelief:
As is the manner of the writer of Hebrews, he again reminds the Christians of the example of Christ to bring them encouragement during this time of suffering:
What was the real “time of need.” Was it not the tremendous persecution imposed by the apostates, the same group that killed the Lord Jesus? These first-century Jewish Christians were in a war for their souls, and the key element in winning this war was a constant remembrance of the faithfullness of Christ to His people and His Father. The Christians were continually reminded of the endurance needed to break through the revilings and reproaches of the enemies:
Once again “the end” of the Jewish Temple, system, and nation was in sight, and the promise of the heavenly Jerusalem was just about to be obtained (Hebrews 10:36,37; 12:22,23).
In the last four chapters of Hebrews, the theme of enduring persecution is abundantly clear, especially as it relates to the nearness of the return of Christ. In chapter ten, the continuance of faith is urged as the judgment of the Lord is considered in relation to Israel. In vs.23, an admonition to “hold fast” is given as the prelude to what was about to come upon them:
Vv.24 and 25 explain why there was such urgency to continue:
“The day approaching” is not a phrase to be cast away as some incomprehensible statement of the uncertainty of God’s timing. Rather, the rest of the context confirms the fact that the Day of Judgment was approaching, and God was about to judge His people. The writer made it very clear that it was imperative for these first-century believers to continue in the faith, enduring persecution so they would not be judged with national Israel:
These verses dealing with the judgment of God are clearly related to vs.25 and speak of the same “Day” that was imminent. It is, however, the rest of the chapter, still within the same context, that indisputably associates persecution and the coming of the Lord:
The exhortation to these first-century believers is to remember the persecution they and the writer endured for the name of Christ. The writer uses an interesting word concerning their persecution. He reminds them of the “reproaches” they experienced for the name of Christ. Isaiah speaks of this same form of persecution in the prophecy of this same time period: the end of the Jewish system and Old Covenant curse upon the true people of God:
A strong correlation is seen considering the identical apocalyptic language that is used in Hebrews 1:10-12:
We must remember that the theme of the book of Hebrews is the change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, NOT the change from the first physical heaven and earth to an imagined second physical heaven and earth (cf. Hebrews 12:22-28). The problem the first-century believers experienced was the extreme persecution and reproaches by the apostate and blasphemous Jews. Isaiah’s prophetic warning became a reality in the lives of the early Christians. Once again, the reason for the urgent warning to endure the incessant reproach and revilings was the extreme nearness of the return of Jesus Christ to fulfill the Abrahamic promise. The warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 is within the same context of vv.32-37, especially vv.36 and 37:
One must violently contort the scripture to escape both the obvious context and imminence implication of the passage. The patience in vs.36 refers to the endurance through the surge of persecution that had come upon these believers. For them to know that Christ would come in a very little while and would NOT tarry would be a compelling and comforting exhortation to continue in the faith of Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews 11, it is often overlooked that the intention of the writer in bringing these examples to the Hebrew mind was to assure his readers that the complete fulfillment Abrahamic promise for which the O.T. saints were looking was about to come. Several of the examples of faith given in chapter eleven involved those O.T. saints that endured persecution in order to, one day, receive the Abrahamic promise of a heavenly country (vv.11:10,14,16). The example of Moses is clear in associating persecution with the ultimate reward that would be given to him in the day of the Messiah, i.e., “the recompense of the reward,” which Colossians says was “Christ in you the HOPE of glory.” Moses had hope for glory, but he did not have that glory in Him which was Christ who also was the promise:
Toward the end of chapter, the writer explicitly relates persecution as it pertains to Christ’s return upon the first-century church. He uses an example of the ancient women of faith longing for a better resurrection which the writer also associates with obtaining the Abrahamic promise:
The last verse in the passage is to show that the Promise for which all first-century Christians were looking who had true faith in the living God, was about to be granted to men and women of the faith throughout the ages. Specifically, the O.T. saints would not be made perfect, i.e., receive their better resurrection, without the first-century saints, hence the phrase, “God having provided some better thing for us.” Thus, we see the incentive intended to motivate the early church to continue steadfast in the faith (Colossians 1:23).
Chapter twelve continues this same theme with the ultimate example of endurance, who was Christ Jesus:
Not only were the Hebrews to consider the great cloud of witnesses, i.e., the saints mentioned in chapter eleven, but they were also to consider the One who gave them the very faith in which they were admonished to continue. It is interesting to note the fact that the writer told the Hebrews to run he race with patience. Why with patience?
First, an immense amount of patience was required, especially of these Hebrews to endure persecution from their very own countrymen (2 Corinthians 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 2:14). Second, patience was required to eagerly anticipate (Romans 8:18-25) the imminent return of Christ. James uses this point to compel his readers:
The Hebrews were to consider Christ lest they be wearied and faint in their minds. Wearied because of what? It is clear that persecution was the theme addressed both in the examples of the O.T. saints and in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, vs.4 and the following verses are kept in their context:
The Hebrews had not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. The sin to which the writer referred is none other than that mentioned in Hebrews 10:26,29,35,38,39. Consider the subject:
The sin is unbelief. This is the core warning throughout the entire book of Hebrews. Even in chapter four, it is evident that the physical type and shadow of the promised land could not be entered because of unbelief:
This reminder to the Hebrews was designed to show them that entrance into the heavenly promised land would be impossible without faith in Jesus Christ. The Hebrews had not yet shed blood striving against the sin of unbelief. Paul had to deal with this same subject in his first epistle to the Galatians:
The offense of the cross manifested itself in the persecution of God’s people. For Paul to draw back to circumcision was to draw back from the faith [something that would never happen to those who had truly believed unto the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:38-39)].
Nevertheless, the warning was to keep those aware who were beginning to concede to the reproach of the enemies of the cross. Paul declared that tribulation and persecution was a part of God’s plan for the early church, especially the converted Jews:
The “afflictions of Christ” are those same afflictions which the Hebrews endured. These “afflictions” are very likely a parallel to the “chastening of the Lord” in Hebrews 12. The writer had just confirmed in chapters ten and eleven that it was imperative for these converted Jews to continue in the faith. Chastisement was a corporate “scourging” of these Jewish Christians.
This does not negate the fact that God chastises us today. In fact, it confirms that he does since we are in the age to come, and we are the “sons of God.” But we must not forget the context from which the passage is taken:
In vs.9, we see the correlation between the “subjection unto the Father” and “living.” They were about to experience the “fullness” of resurrection life (John 1:16).
Vs.15 clearly is referring to the amazing apostasy which had come by this time:
John, in his first epistle, also exclaims that this “falling away” had begun and clearly marked that they were in the “last time”:
Paul, as well, identified this growing threat to professing Christians in his epistle to the Galatians:
The writer to the Hebrews uses the example of Esau to show the comparison of Israel’s rightful place concerning the promises and covenants of God (Romans 3:1,2; 9:4,5). Esau by his natural birth should have received the birthright, but because of his sin, which the writer identifies as “fornication,” he lost all the privileges that would have been his. The “fornication” is representative of the adultery that professing Christians were committing. Paul made clear the fact that no true Christian would leave her Husband. Their first husband (the old man) had died:
Esau’s sin may have manifested itself later in outward acts of fornication; however, the implication of the passage is referring to his defection from God. The first-century Jews who had made a profession of Christ were beginning to defect by returning to the weak and “beggarly elements” of the law (Galatians 4:3,9), thus negating their natural-born status as those who had received the covenants and the promises.
In Hebrews 12:17 we see the extreme desire of Esau for the blessing:
Notice that Esau “would have inherited the blessing” but “he found no place of repentance.” It was the blessing that Esau sought with tears, but there was no repentance in his heart. This same motif can be found in the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians:
It was a worldly sorrow that was working death in the hearts of many professing Jewish believers. The worldly sorrow was that of being disappointed in their failure at performing that which they thought would save them. Their sorrow was not working true repentance unto salvation. The true Christians, on the other hand, were having to endure the trial of persecution imposed upon them by the apostate Jews. The persecution, as Paul mentioned in Galatians 5, was because of the cross. The cross was the chief element that was cause for stumbling in the hearts of unbelieving Jews. If salvation was procured through the cross, then all efforts at justification by the law were futile. This, of course, contradicted the apostates’ wicked standard of righteousness. Therefore, these same apostates either 1) tried to incorporate law into the gospel, hence the Judaizers, or 2) they outwardly opposed anything that had to do with the salvation and Deity of Jesus Christ.
After the brief passage in Hebrews 12:16,17 dealing with Esau, the writer continues his theme with an even more exclamatory passage that irrefutably associates the kingdom of God with the context of the persecution described in chapters ten and eleven:
The great contrast between the covenant of death (blackness, darkness and tempest) and the covenant of life (Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the Living God, etc.) is seen in this covenantal transformation passage. This was the great encouragement that was designed to compel these first-century Jewish believers to press through the hardships of persecution so they would inherit the blessing.
Chapter thirteen begins with an exhortation to brotherly love and immediately commences with a request by the writer that the Hebrews would remember those in the bonds of prison:
“The body” once again refers to that corporate entity of Israel that was, by sovereign decree, having to enter the heavenly Jerusalem through much tribulation (Acts 14:22).
In vs.9, we see the urgent warning which these Christian Jews had to heed if they were going to prove themselves as the sons of God at His appearing and His kingdom:
“Them that have been occupied therein,” refers to the apostate Jews still bound to the law. They were the ones trying to sway the true Christians from their gospel under grace. It was these same apostates that were serving the tabernacle and the earthly rituals, thus showing themselves to still be servants to the law of sin and death:
Directly opposed to ritual salvation were the Christians whose altar was a spiritual altar in the heavenlies. However, the writer adamantly continues the association of persecution with the imminent coming glory:
The sufferings of Christ were to be accomplished outside the camp, and so were those sufferings that were to come upon His followers. The reproach was the continual mockings and revilings by the enemies of the cross. But why suffer persecution? Why bear His reproach?
The heavenly country for which Abraham longed had finally come into sight on the horizon. Mt. Zion and the City of the Living God were about to come. The word mello (“to come”) is properly translated within the context:
The promise was Christ: their City, their Country, their Temple made without hands, their All in all. The Jews were about to enter into the rest and kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4). There was, however, a prerequisite that all those elect had to endure, and that was the reproach of Christ outside the camp: the Jerusalem which was below, (Galatians 4:25) which would be destroyed “in a little while.”
James commences his epistle with certain language that contained obvious implication, especially in light of what has previously been shown:
Many of the first-century converted Jews had been scattered among the nations because of the faith of Jesus Christ. It is evident from what we have studied that there were members of the Judaizing movement plaguing the Christian-Jews and trying to dissuade them to the heresy of combining Christ and the works of the flesh for salvation of the soul. Between the Judaizers and the overt Pharisees who utterly denied the Deity of Christ, the Jewish believers were under great pressure to conform to the apostasy. The temptations mentioned here are not necessarily the common temptations which twentieth-century Christians endure but rather the temptation of drawing back unto the perdition of the Judaizers (Hebrews 10:38). That is, when James tells these Christians to count it all joy when they fall into diverse temptations, these were the temptations of conformity to the apostate Jews. It is also interesting to note that the result of patience having her perfect work would be that the Christian would one day be perfect and entire, i.e., Christ would be completely formed in him:
This is seen clearly when comparing a similar passage:
Those who professed to be Christians would have their faith tested in a most unique way since they would come face to face with the generation who crucified the Lord of glory.
Later in chapter one, James continues his admonition to the twelve tribes scattered as they persevered to the end of the Jewish age; however, this admonition was not without a promise to those who would endure:
Once we are able to see the enormous significance of the persecution against the Jewish Christians, the impact of this verse is startling. The inference that the first-century believing Jew would make, especially after knowing the promises of the Lord Jesus that persecution would come upon them before His return, would inevitably be that the crown of life was about to be obtained. The trial would take place during the temptation, then their reward would come. This becomes amazingly clear in chapter five where James, with the most distinct language, relates the endurance of the Christians to the return of Jesus Christ:
Could James have been more clear? Would his audience be assuming that, despite their incredible sufferings and temptations, their Lord Jesus would not return to give them their crown until thousands of years after they had been martyred? Is this how they would interpret James? Would this weighty admonition and promise be construed as an unmotivating command that would not yield any benefit for millennia to come? Imagine the cruelty of James to lead these suffering Christians into thinking the Lord’s glorious return was at hand, before the door.
Not only was the promise of the crown of life sure, but also the timing of the Crown of Life. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, was at the door and about ready to judge His enemies and bless the precious fruit of the earth; yet, this blessing would only be sure to those who would endure. This is seen in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul, like James, associates the crown with persecution and the coming Judge:
As we have previously seen, the word “shall” is the Greek word mello which, properly translated, means about to. In context, verse one would read:
Paul, immediately after this great promise, also assured Timothy that the false teachers would arise bringing not only damnable heresies but persecution to those of the faith as well. Timothy was exhorted to be watchful and endure afflictions. Even Paul declared his own readiness for the crown of righteousness that he predicted was coming to him and all who were longing for the appearing of Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul associated his own sufferings with the appearing of Jesus and the crown of righteousness, or as James says, the crown of life.
Both Paul and James affirmed the necessity of endurance through persecution by the enemies of God. They also both affirmed that the Crown of Life would soon come upon every believer who loved the appearing of their Lord Jesus Christ. James, in particular, was using the same language His Lord used on the Mount of Olives when He described in detail the persecutions that would be the sign of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ; persecutions that would clearly demonstrate that the Judge was at hand and ready to give the Crown of Life.
The epistle of 1 Peter begins with an introduction similar to that of James. This introduction is of no small significance, especially considering the audience and their experience:
Compare this with the introduction of James:
The phrase, “twelve tribes” is very important as we analyze the experience of these converted Jews enduring the immense persecution by the apostates. Peter is primarily addressing the same group of people, i.e. Jewish Christians who, as we shall see, were enduring a “fiery trial” of persecution.
Peter, like the other apostles, addresses his audience with great words of encouragement coupled with a warning regarding the imminent trial they must endure:
The “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” was none other than the fullness of the presence and kingdom of Jesus Christ in the hearts of His church (Luke 17:20,21). This, or rather, Jesus Christ would be their reward for enduring the fiery trial.
The question might be raised: “How can we know that this was the sign of persecution that would come before the return of Jesus Christ?” First, not only does Peter’s language reveal the imminency of the return of the Lord Jesus, i.e. “READY to be revealed in the last time,” but also the fact that He directly associates the coming of Christ with the trial:
Once again the question must be raised: How would those who received this letter be interpreting Peter’s words in light of the persecution THEY were enduring? In comparing audience time with the very real experience of persecution endured by these believers, it should be evident that these Christians were certain that their reward was undeniably imminent, particularly in light of the fact that Peter, led in all truth, would unquestionably tell them the truth. That is, the appearing of Jesus Christ would be the fullness of their “salvation ready (Gk. about to) to be revealed in the last time.”
Second, of what persecution was Peter aware? Did Peter know of some persecution which the Lord Jesus forgot to mention? Would Peter place such heavy emphasis upon a trial that the Lord, with whom he walked, did not even specify? If the trial to which Peter referred was the same persecution which the Lord predicted, (a persecution which some affirm was not to take place for thousands of years), why would Peter speak with such incredible urgency? How could he dare use such manipulative language with those who trusted that he was a true apostle of Jesus Christ? The primary reason for the intense urgency of Peter’s letter is because He was under the personal ministry of His God who proclaimed in the most transparent language that the fiery trial would come upon his generation (Matthew 10:17-19; 24:34). The only message of persecution which Peter knew was that which His Lord spoke while on the earth:
Peter himself knew that even he would be affected by this same persecution:
Peter affirmed this in his second epistle:
Are we to assume that shortly does not really mean shortly at all, but rather, that Peter was referring to a death he would die thousands of years later?
It is also interesting to note that the same passage in John where the Lord warned Peter of the death he would die has within its context a clear time statement in light of the above references:
In other words, “Peter, I have just told you that you will die, and I may will that John live until I come. You be concerned with yourself.” One of them would die before the Lord would come and the other might not.
Peter was sincerely convinced, by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and personally, by the Lord Jesus, that the Lord would reward those who endured the trial with the great salvation promised throughout the Scriptures. This is precisely why he associated the sign of persecution with the salvation that was “about to be revealed in the last time.”
Again, in chapter one, Peter uses urgent battle-like language to prepare his hearers for the revelation of Jesus Christ:
It is clear that the “grace” or “salvation” to which Peter, as well as the prophets, referred was about to come to completion. Those whose faith would fail would never be the recipients of this salvation. It is with this knowledge that Peter writes. He urges:
The first-century Christians, particularly converted Jews, were to hope to the end, i.e. the end of the Jewish age. They were to hope for the time when Christ would destroy the temple; the outward sign that the new spiritual and everlasting kingdom would be established. It was at this “end” that the grace promised would be brought. Notice Peter’s words: “the grace that is to be brought to YOU.” These Christians were the ones that were urged to GIRD UP the loins of their minds for the purpose of continuing in the faith so they would receive the salvation of their souls, something that had not yet fully come to pass:
The fire which would prove that their faith was the faith of gold, or the faith given by God, was about to be fueled. The early Christians were about to be tested like no other generation, and the reward in the end would be the salvation of their souls; the grace that would save them.
Even with more strength than the first chapter, Peter, in chapter four and the first verse of chapter five, drives home the imminent trial which was to come upon the first-century Jewish Christians and forcefully relates this trial to the glory which they were about to receive:
First, we must ask, why would Peter tell them to not think it strange concerning the coming persecution? Surely his motive had within its reasons the obvious words of the Lord Jesus with Whom Peter was present in virtually all His prophecies concerning the judgment that would come upon national Israel and the glory that would come upon the Israel of God. We must remember the material previous to the promise, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”-Matthew 24:34:
The promise of Christ assured the apostles that there would be incomparable trial on both the people of God and the apostate Jews immediately preceding the coming of the Lord. There would be plenty of reason to think it strange had the Lord not specifically prophesied of the very tribulation they were about to endure.
Even more convincing in the passage is the blatant association of imminent glory with the persecution and trial:
Imagine the thought and anticipation of these Christians who were about to experience some of the terrifying circumstances of persecution. Would they dare assume that Peter was gravely mistaken in his affirmation of imminent glory? Was Peter mistaken or was He clearly echoing the words of Christ?
“Immediately after” were the words of our Lord. Consider the fervency with which the apostle Peter spoke concerning the prophecies of the Lord Jesus. What other tribulation or glory would Peter dare mention that would be in addition to the words of Christ than that which would come upon his generation?
It is clear not only in Matthew but in Peter’s epistle, as well, that there would be a reward for enduring the great tribulation and trial that would test the first-century Christians: the reward of glory.
He continues the context of associating joy and persecution to let his readers know that the imminent glory would, without a doubt, come upon them as they emerged out of the fiery trial:
Compare vs.14 with a similar passage in Luke where the Lord is speaking with Peter present:
Why be happy? Because they knew that the Lord’s prophecy was being fulfilled in their lives. So many in our generation love to think that the prophecies of the “last days” are being fulfilled in our lives. If we would seriously consider the words of Jesus and the apostles, we, as Christians, would experience even greater joy than the first-century believers. This is only appreciated when we understand that the glory which was to be revealed is NOW revealed in all those in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, the first-century Christians could only be thrilled at the promise of Peter by the Holy Spirit that they were about to fully enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. This is why they were to LEAP and be glad with exceeding joy in the face of persecution.
Peter, in vs.17, again uses distinct phraseology to relate another subject within the context of persecution and glory, and that s the issue of judgment:
This is called “separating the wheat from the tares.” How could Peter know that the time had come for judgment to begin? Once again, persecution is the key in Peter’s decisiveness regarding not only the imminent glory, but also the grand separation of the wicked from the just. (The nature of the judgment obviously must be taken into consideration; however, we must identify the timing of the judgment in order to identify the nature). The determining phrase is conclusive: “The time has come.” The new “house” of God had been around for years since the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Why would “judgment” suddenly have come at the time of the writing of this epistle? What was so significant about this time more than the thirty years before, or thirty years after, or perhaps nineteen hundred-thirty years after? The significance of this time was that the great and qualifying sign of persecution and trial had begun. This fact alone persuaded Peter and the early Christians that the Day of the Lord was “at hand.”
It is in the first verse of chapter five that Peter affirms not only his authority as an elder but also his authority as an apostle and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ in connection with the sufferings and glory that was to be revealed.
1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
With the sufferings of Christ and the consequential sufferings of the first-century Jewish believers in mind (Colossians 1:24), Peter then combines two phrases that, beyond any dispute, prove that the “sufferings” of chapter four vv.12-14 were to be equated with, and prove the inevitable nearness of, the return of Christ. First, he declares that he IS a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.
Paul was affirming his status during this particular period of change: the peculiar time in which the Holy Spirit was transforming those who had believed in Christ into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), i.e. from the temporal glory of the Old Covenant to the eternal glory of the New Covenant. Second, Peter confirms that he is “a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed.” The word, “shall be” is the Greek word mello which, when translated in context, reads: “a partaker of the glory that is about to be revealed.”
What could be more conclusive? How could Peter be so certain that the glory was ABOUT TO BE REVEALED? He understood very well the prophecy of the Lord Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, and not only this, but also the clear observation that the persecution which was taking place in the lives of those Jewish Christians was the precise fulfillment of that very prophecy; a prophecy which Jesus predicted would be a sign of His coming. This is exactly why Jesus was so concise in His prediction:
James certainly understood that he was observing these same signs of persecution as well:
Both Peter and James were entirely persuaded that Christ was about to return because of many signs that were taking place, but specifically, in the context of Peter, because of the predicted persecution promised them by the Lord:
Jesus knew who His audience was and did not mislead them. Peter knew that he was a part of that audience and was not mislead.
The audience Peter was addressing knew that he was an inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who was promised that the Holy Spirit would lead him into all truth. Therefore, Peter’s audience was completely convicted that the persecution they were enduring was a sure sign that the fullness of their glory was ABOUT to take place.
Peter concludes his first epistle with a final proclamation and association of the persecutions and consequential glory that was to follow. In fact, to see this incredibly clear association, we must see the entire context of the first eleven verses of chapter five:
We have seen that Peter was certain that the New Covenantal glory was about to be revealed in all those who were enduring the persecution against believers in Jesus Christ. Peter then builds their hopes even more by guaranteeing the crown of glory at the appearing of the Chief Shepherd. Then, after an exhortation to humility, he pleads for his hearers to cast all the cares of fear that were overwhelming many of them: i.e. fears of those who were persecuting them.
These first-century believers were experiencing much emotional duress. However, the intent of the passage is clearly implying the same persecution as was previously mentioned; namely, the persecution by the enemies of God: the Judaizers. Notice what Peter writes in vv.8,9:
Many agree that Peter wrote this epistle between A.D. 62-64. It should be noted that, historically, the Neronic persecution was reaching a level of persecution that these Christians had not yet experienced, hence Peter’s admonishment:
The persecution had begun. The Devil was using not only the apostate Judaizers to try the Christian’s faith, but he was also using the Romans under the reign of Nero to persecute Jewish Christians that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire (1 Peter 1:1). It was very likely that this was the period of time in which Satan was loosed to try to deceive the nations, lest they should believe the Gospel. This persecution and attempted deception is found in Revelation 12:6-17; 20:1-4,7-9.
1 Peter 5:8 speaks of the Devil in the present tense: “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Why was the Devil roaring? This roaring demonstrates the great wrath that the Devil had against Christ and His people because he knew he was about to be crushed shortly (Romans 16:20), i.e. the Devil knew the time was short:
The command to resist the Devil steadfastly was accompanied with two motivating facts. The first was the fact that these believers were not alone in their suffering affliction. Second was the fact that the result of the endurance through this persecution would be eternal glory. This is also shown by Paul as he encouraged the Thessalonians with the same words of comfort:
Here, Paul assures the Thessalonians not only that they will receive the glory promised, but also that those unbelieving Jews who were persecuting the Christians were about to experience the most intense wrath of God; hence, “wrath is come upon THEM to the uttermost.” Peter, likewise, knew with full assurance that the glory which was about to be revealed in him and his hearers (Romans 8:18) would definitely come after they had suffered “a while.”
Clearly, Peter was writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit and confirming the truth of God that the persecution which first-century Christians, particularly Jewish Christians, were enduring was a manifest sign that the coming glory was at hand. Even Paul, as an apostle born out of due time, was divinely persuaded by the Holy Spirit, who was leading him into all truth, that the end of national Israel was imminent, and the Old Covenant curse of death was about to be abolished. The persecutions which were especially coming upon him with increasing frequency were proof to him as well as to those who were directly or indirectly influenced by the teaching of the apostles that Christ would, in a little while, reward them with His presence among them. The writer of Hebrews attested to this fact with one of the most conclusive passages concerning the sign of persecution and the fullness of the Everlasting promise given to Abraham:
The patience needed to endure the intense persecution of the Jews could only be supplied by the very God who promised that the persecution would come. The Lord Jesus Christ made it perfectly clear that the apostles and those under their teaching would experience scourging, beatings, having their name cast out as evil for the Son of man’s sake, being brought before kings, governors, rulers, and even death for some of them. Each of these were incontestably fulfilled within the book of Acts as well as the New Testament epistles.
Though the experience of persecution was enormously grievous to these first-century believers, the persecution produced a peculiar intimacy among these same believers, especially in light of the fact that these tribulations were promised by the Lord. Even more endearing was the knowledge that these Christians had concerning the revelation of Jesus Christ and His complete victory over the enemies of God which would be proven by the destruction of the very system in which these enemies trusted. The New Testament writers, being led in all truth, assured the saints under their ministry that the full glory of Christ was about to be revealed and that persecution was one of the signs by which they would be convinced. Perhaps no other Scripture supports this more clearly than Paul’s comforting words (which we have already observed) to the Church at Thessalonica
The persecution which the converted Thessalonians were experiencing Paul identified as “a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.” Strong’s defines the word token as an “indication.” Thus, Paul was declaring that the afflictions the first-century Christians were undergoing were manifest tokens, or clear indications of the righteous judgment of God.
The apostles, because of the discernment the Holy Spirit had given them, were able to discern the particular sign of persecution as a sign of the times; i.e. the times of the judgment and glory which were about to be revealed through the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead.
Email PreteristArchive.com's Sole Developer and Curator, Todd Dennis
(todd @ preteristarchive.com)
Opened in 1996