Category Archives: Eschatology

Millennial Primer

Here are four elementary overview timelines of the four major viewpoints with regard to the Millennium mentioned in Revelation 20. Narrated by David Murray, Professor of OT and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and of HeadHeartHand Blog and the Connected Kingdom podcast with Tim Challies, you will love his marvelous Scottish accent and the graphic and simple explanations of these different views

Amillennial Timeline

Amillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Post-Millennial Timeline

Postmillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Pre-millennial Timeline

Premillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Dispensational Timeline

Dispensational Premillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

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Why Predictions of the End are Misguided

Everyone is talking about Harold Camping and the failed prediction of the beginning of Judgment day marked by the rapture on May 21, 2011.  When citing reasons that he was wrong, many are citing the words of Jesus which state:

“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Mark 13:32 & its counterpart in Matthew 24:36)

The irony of this sort of argumentation is that those who use it are tacitly affirming that even though his conclusions may be wrong as no one knows the day his approach is not, that is, it is ok to see the Bible as some sort of crystal ball that reveals future events.  I submit that using this verse as a refutation of Harold Camping fails for the same reason Harold Camping’s reasoning fails:  it is based on a faulty and sloppy hermeneutic. It abuses the text and teaching of Jesus and the Prophets and Apostles.

Observation 1: The verse in question is not a reference to the end of the world. Both passages reflect the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13 and Matthew 24) and Jesus is answering a very clear and direct question:  When will the temple be destroyed?  Jesus is referencing a judgment event that will occur in the lifetime (generation) of his hearers and is not referring to the “end of the world” as perceived by the latter day prognosticators like Harold Camping and Hal Lindsey.  This verse has been torn from its context and abused by so many.  I rarely hear anyone use it contextually.  So, go back and read the whole chapter and read it in light of the question asked by Jesus’ disciples at the front end of the discourse.  The destruction of the temple marked the “end of the age”, not necessarily the same as the “end of the world”.

Observation #2: The real problem is the approach of Harold Camping  to the Bible as a whole.  He sees it as a book full of codes that need to be deciphered. Once you have cracked the code you can predict the future events and characters in the future that will rise and be the main players in the end time scheme.  The real criticism of Harold Camping is not Mark 13:32 rather it is his faulty approach.  It is a mistake to treat the Bible like a crystal ball.  It is a mistake to use it like a Ouija Board.  It is a mistake to use it as a road-map of future events. Ignoring the clear meaning of the text in its context and transporting its meaning two millennia into the future is bad Bible study.  Camping is wrong not because he misunderstands a single passage or group of passages, or made a mistake in calculation or even because of Mark 13:32 – he is wrong because he mistreats the Bible, misunderstands its main message, and ignores universally agreed upon principles of interpretation.

Observation #3: The real problem is not Harold Camping.  Most people recognize him as obviously disturbed and wrong.  The real problem is the massive amount of “acceptable” teachers out there who use the same faulty methodology but know better than to be too specific about their predictions. The list of people in this camp include:  Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Jack Van Impe, Chuck Smith, Chuck Missler, and a whole bunch of others who are willing to “predict” the time of the end.  This trend in the church is “fringe” and not substantively different than Harold Camping.  Many of these teachers were certain and convinced that 1988 was a key year in the end time calendar.  When that date passed, they adjusted their interpretations and main characters in their dramas.

So, if you are going to jump on the criticism bandwagon with regard to Harold Camping (and you should, he is wrong about this and so many other things) then you should look very carefully at the teaching of these other men who are essentially treating the Bible in the same way and arriving at similar conclusions that are also wrong and misleading.

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The Mark of the Beast

Our series on heaven has engendered many questions, here is a peripheral one that came up that I wrote a response to today so I thought I would post it…

QUESTION. In your opionion WHAT IS THE MARK BEAST IN REVELATION????? I know it is not a day, computer chip, but a number because of the letters that make 666? So what do you know and how far off am I??? Oh! Revelation speaks about receiving the mark in the right hand or forehead that gives you the mark; and what translations do you have that say what the mark really is???

First, as with all passages of Scripture, context is king.  Many fixate on the mark of the beast  (Revelation 13:16-18; 14:9; 20:4) as if the mark of the beast were the most important image in the book of Revelation.  It is not. It also does not occur in a vacuum.   In fact, in the passage that it is mentioned the mark of the beast is placed in contrast to the mark placed on the 144,000 (Revelation 7:3 and 14:1).  I raise this because the mark of the beast does not stand alone in Revelation but it is nowadays curiously always mentioned alone, or apart from the necessary contrast that is always made in the book.  This is an important contextual observation for the following reason:  If you are going to literalize the mark of the beast, then you must literalize its counterpart which is the mark that is placed on the believers, the mark of Christ/God.
The context of Revelation is much more filled with the mark that is placed on those who believe and persevere than those who don’t believe and concede to the mark of the beast.  This marking (sometimes equated also with “naming”) begins in the letters to the seven churches in the beginning of the book.  In Pergamum those who overcome are given a new name and in Philadelphia this name is “written” on the overcomer, he is marked with this name.  In Revelation 5:9 the song of the Elders speaks of those “purchased for God” and this “marking” is an activity that speaks of ownership, you should think of the branding of cattle for a good corresponding action, in Revelation 14 those who are marked on the forehead are those who have been purchased.  In Revelation 7:3 the bond servants of God are described as those who will be sealed…on their foreheads.  In 9:4 the seal of God on the foreheads protects those who have it from the effects of the 5th trumpet.  This mark is summed up in 14:12 where we are told:  “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” and in Revelation 19 where Jesus is marked also with names written on Him and those names are described as one which no one knows, His name is called the Word of God, on his robe and thigh is written King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Revelation 22:4 pictures those in the new heavens and earth as those who have the name/mark on their forehead.   These are not meant to be understood as literal tattoos, but identifying marks characterizing obedience, allegiance, and action.
So the contrast is made to the mark of the beast, it is a reflection of the marking on the beast who has on his seven heads blasphemous names (13:1).  Those who follow the beast are characterized by allegiance and obedience to the beast, ie. they have his name written on them, they are marked by his mark.  The receiving of a mark is Revelation language for worshipping and following the beast and his ways which means denying the mark of Christ and His ways.  So also the whore of Babylon is marked with a name written on the forehead.  Again, not intended to be understood as a tattoo, but an identifier pointing to allegiance and worship and obedience.
Second, in order to understand Revelation we must travel backwards, not forwards.  What I mean by that is the book of Revelation is steeped in Old Testament imagery and reference.  When you don’t understand something in Revelation start looking first to the Old Testament.
These markings are reflected in the practice of the phylacteries:   “And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.  (Exo 13:9)  This obvious Old Testament imagery cannot be ignored.  The law of God was symbolically placed on the forehead and hand of Israelites to mark them as God’s people.  This is the important OT reference point for our understanding of the mark in Revelation.  The person who placed these symbols on their person was declaring an allegiance to God and a commitment to obedience as a covenant declaration.

I don’t believe that the mark has anything to do with verichip, bar codes or any such thing.  I think the numerological reference (666)  is adequately explained by the text:  it is the number of man.  If we need a more specific referent, I am most comfortable with identifying 666 with Nero.

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More Signage Evangelism, and Just Stupid Signage

More Signage Evangelism in our small town.  These handmade signs pop up on a regular basis and they always have a “compelling” message.  I love this sign.  It is soooo appropriate.  We should be afraid of the verichip in the same way we were afraid of bar codes in the 70’s and 80’s.  Look at the power the anti-Christ has with bar codes.  Sheesh.

Now that the bar code has been with us for some time, the shift is on.  It is not bar codes per se, but now it is bar codes in conjunction with implantable chips  (read about this pablum here).  This is the equivalent of Christian grafitti, it is a blight on the environment and most municipalities don’t allow this sort of signage.  Since I live in the “county” there are less controls.  nonetheless, the foil border is a nice touch of class.

The VeriChip is the new “projected” tool of the anti-Christ, his means of controlling what we buy and sell.  In essence, what left-behinders have done in the last few decades has been to brand any sort of technological achievement as a sign of the end times.  As things become better, they call them worse.

News flash to all who oppose technology: Evil people in positions of power have used whatever means available to them to control and abuse their subjects.  We have nothing to fear from technology, only the people who may misuse it.  Hence, the VeriChip is a  potentially helpful and therefore beneficial or potentially misusable and therefore harmful piece of technology.  So was fire.  Fire is used to warm us, cook, heat our water, and fire was used to burn Christians.  I oppose fire.

Staying with the same theme of stupid signs;  who is it that needs this sign?  Notice the step by step instructions!  The sign also implies that washing is optional for non-employees.  Some of you probably take it that way.  What particular educational system failed to tell us how to properly wash our hands?  This photo was taken at the Starbucks in Granada Hills, but I think it is in all Starbucks.  Is there not a hand washing section for Starbucks employees in their employee handbook?  Do they not cover it in orientation?  Are they hiring kindergartners???  And for all you slobs out there who forgot the basics of personal hygene, the foundation of a civilized people is:  WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!

If you are easily offended, stop reading here.

For all you Boston Legal fans, do you remember when Alan Shore first meets Shirley Schmidt?  It is in the men’s restroom at the firm, and Alan extends his hand without washing his hand- a response to her inappropriate intrusion into the men’s room – and says “don’t worry, I have a very clean p$@#s”.  Trust me, you are not that clean.

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The Lost Holiday


We celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Easter. We celebrate Good Friday. We celebrate the important events of the life of Christ. Why don’t we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus? Certainly the Ascension is as important as the Incarnation. I contend that our ignorance of the Ascension has adversely affected our theology, especially our eschatology.

The Ascension is recorded in Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-12. See post on Acts 1:1-11.

Part of our prejudice toward the Ascension is that we regard it as only a physical movement of Jesus into heaven. The incarnation is the physical movement of Jesus to the earth, but additionally, actually primarily, we ascribe theological meaning to the Incarnation. We do not afford the Ascension the same privilege. So it is relegated to any other physical movement of Jesus, say his travels from Galilee to Jerusalem. This is a major mistake for our theology.

The doctrine of the Ascension has its roots in the military movements of the Old Testament culture and the priestly movements approaching the temple for worship (Exodus 34:24). The Psalms of Ascent are found from Psalm 120 – 134, these are possibly the hymns sung in approach to the temple and the temple mount.

But the real foundation of the doctrine of the Ascension is found in Psalm 110:1: “the Lord said to my Lord; Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

Here are some passages of Scripture for your own study of the Ascension: Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-11; John 6:62; 14:2, 12; 16:5, 10, 10, 17, 28; 17:5; 20:17; Ephesians 1:20; 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; 4:14; 9:24.

Here are some important elements of the doctrine:

  1. It is the capstone of the resurrection. We believe that the resurrection affirms the work of Christ on the cross, it is God’s stamp of approval on what Christ has done. In like manner, the ascension cumulatively continues this affirmation, and elevates Christ to His appropriate place of adoration.
  2. It shows that the kingdom of Christ is a universal kingdom and not simply the kingdom of the Jews. He ascends and takes the eternal throne of David, and its realm includes the heavens and the earth. The kingdom is an eternal one, never to end, and Christ will not be replaced or superseded.
  3. In his work as King he sends the Spirit by whom He rules and guides and protects his Church.
  4. It points the believer to the true nature of the kingdom, and the true focus of his attention. Now the mistake that is made in most eschatalogical systems is the missing of this very point. The kingdom of Christ extends to the earth, even now, as we express and obey the gospel. So it puts our proper focus on the life which we have here and now, a new creation in us. It pushes us back to the original mandate of the book of Genesis, to subdue and fill the earth. The focus of our work is the work of redemption and the sharing of life. Here and now. Many, who still see major kingdom work left for Christ to accomplish, adopt a pessimistic view of the world and church – hence tend to be inappropriately “other-worldly”.
  5. It includes his work of mediation and intercession for us.
  6. It is expressed in the squashing of his enemies. In this sense it would include his judging activity in the events surrounding AD 70.
  7. It will culminate in total justice.
  8. It is included in however you define the “second coming” of Christ. The Second Coming is considered a part of the exaltation of Christ, which is a subset of the Ascension of Christ.

I will expand on these ideas in future posts.

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Acts 1:1-11; Coming on the Clouds

This post is a follow up on the Second Coming post a few days ago. I asked the question what is the real meaning of “coming on the clouds”? Here I want to relate the saying to the real meaning of the ascension. It is my opinion that too much emphasis is placed on the physical movement of Christ as it is described here, as opposed to the significance of the picture as it is set up for us in the Old Testament. Continue reading Acts 1:1-11; Coming on the Clouds

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The Second Coming

Well there you have it, Jesus is here.

I haven’t written a lot about eschatology, but this may lead me into it. Here is a start. What does the Bible mean when it talks about Jesus “coming” on the clouds.

Revelation 1:7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

Daniel 7:13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Isaiah 19:1 The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

Matthew 24:30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.

Acts 1:9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

Psalm 104:3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind;

What does coming on the clouds mean? Look before you answer.

Assumptions and preconceived notions too often determine our understanding of a particular text of Scripture. So the modern Christian may be unduly influenced by childhood sermons or pictures, even a movie like “Thief in the Night,” as to the meaning of “coming on the clouds.” That meaning becomes encoded in my brain, then every time I read that passage I conjure up that picture.

The question becomes, is that the intended picture. If you looked at the passages in the last “coming on the clouds” blog entry I hope you noticed Isaiah 19:1. In Isaiah 19 we have words of judgment upon the nation of Egypt. The LORD is described as “riding on a swift cloud” as he comes to judge Egypt. He does so not personally but through an intermediary: Assyria. Does the LORD visibly appear in the cloud? apparently not. The imagery speaks of judgment, power and glory.

By the way, since Isaiah mentions Egypt, look back into the Exodus story about God and his usage of the cloud imagery in guiding Israel and especially as it relates to the tabernacle: Exodus 40:34-38.

More later…

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Metaphysics, Darren "Dutch" Daulton and the End

I am re-posting this old post from my previous blog – I was reminded of it looking at the last two posts. From the sublime to the mundane. Alvin Plantinga is a premier philosopher, the flip side is Darren Daulton. To follow up on stupid things heard on the radio and the definition of a prophet this post will also include those wacky predictions of the end of the world/rapture.

Darren Daulton was a former Major League Baseball player with the Philadelphia Phillies who is now waxing poetic on the end of the world and “metaphysics.” Here are some quotes from Mr. Daulton:

“That will be the end of this dispensation. I really don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know what words to use so people won’t think I’m goofy. But by Dec. 21, 2012 [the last day recorded on the Mayan calendar], people will have a pretty good idea. It’s all about consciousness and love. We have the ability to create whatever we want. We’re all made of energy.”

“There is no good or bad,” he says, explicating the Dutch Theory of Being. “We’re all the same, but we’re all different. The higher we ascend, the more the same we are.” (Daulton was known as “Dutch” during his playing days).

When I share my thoughts and experiences with them, I tell them there’s absolutely no way their minds can comprehend what I’m trying to relate,” he says. “My friends are limited to the five senses.”

Darren claims to be dealing with the area of “Metaphysics” which is a branch philosophical studies that strives to explain the nature of being, or reality. It really is a legitimate study, but as with all arenas of life, there are fringe elements and extremists.
Of all the things he says in the article, most interesting to me (today) was his claim regarding the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.

Good to see that date setting loonies are not just of the Christian variety. Here is a hall of fame of recent Christian date setters:

  • Emil Gaverluk of the Southwest Radio Church (still on the air in the LA area, it is out of Oklahoma) predicted that the rapture would occur by 1981
  • Edgar Whisenant wrote a book: “88 Reasons the Rapture is in 1988.” Estimates of his book sales range from 4-6 million copies. He actually set September 9-11 as the actual dates.
  • Paul and Jan Crouch (Trinity Broadcasting Network) were so enamored of Whisenant’s theory that they cancelled all live broadcasting of their program and aired tapes of programs having to do with the rapture, in case unbelievers might tune in to “understand” what happened.
  • In 1989 Whisenant wrote a follow up explaining why he was a year off
  • Hal Lindsey (he denies that this qualifies as date setting) wrote:

“When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May, 1948 the “fig tree” put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was “at the door,” ready to return. Then He said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34 NASB). Obviously, in the generation that would see the signs — chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so. (The Late Great Planet Earth, pp. 53-54).

  • Charles Taylor wrote in the Bible Prophecy News that Jesus would return in 1992 writing:

“What you are starting to read probably is my final issue of Bible Prophecy News, for Bible prophecy fulfillments indicate that Jesus Christ our Lord will most likely return for us at the rapture of the Church before the Fall 1992 issue can be printed.”

  • Grant Jeffrey wrote that A.D 2000 is the “probable termination date for the last days.”
  • Lester Sumrall also chose 2000,
  • Harold Camping published a book entitled 1994,
  • Jack Van Impe has generalized dates like the late 80’s or the 90’s look good. Recently he is claiming 2011 as the rapture, with the return of Christ in 2018.
  • Chuck Smith told a 1981 New Year’s Eve audience “If we’re here next year at this time, I will be very surprised.” This was after publishing 1981 as a date he was convinced was the time of the rapture.

Kooky. Is that a word?? People believe weird things.

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