Monday, March 13, 2017

ANIMAL SACRIFICES IN THE COMING MESSIANIC KINGDOM---REALLY? (Part Two)

It is no secret that animal sacrifice in the future messianic (millennial) kingdom has been a thorny problem for many interpreters. In this second article, we will attempt to answer the main questions about the purposes for such sacrifices.

In the first article we dealt with several important matters which, hopefully, shed some light on this subject. First , we noted that future animal sacrifice is a major interpretive issue in the O.T. Ezekiel alone has some 50 verses on just the animal sacrifices; and that four other prophets speak of such sacrifices in Messiah’s kingdom. Also, O.T. prophets, N.T. apostles and Jesus Himself make reference to a future temple (temples always have sacrifices connected with them). Second, we said that these future sacrifices do not signal a return to the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant came to an end with Christ’s death and in Messiah’s kingdom, it is the New Covenant that is in force, not the “old”. Although there are some similarities, there are many significant differences between the age of the Mosaic covenant and the coming kingdom age. These differences show that this is not a return to the Mosaic covenant. Third, animal sacrifices in the O.T. never did take away sin and they will not take away sin in the coming kingdom. Only the death of Jesus on the cross takes away sin. People in all ages are saved the same way; they are justified by faith alone based solely on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Animal sacrifices did not and will not remove sin. But while they do not take away sin, they did accomplish something in the Mosaic economy and will accomplish something in the future kingdom of Jesus.

Additional Clarifying Points

At this point in the study, there are two other matters that need to be mentioned. First, who will need to sacrifice animals? Logically, we would think that not everyone will need to sacrifice animals. It would seem that those of us in our resurrection bodies (ones like Jesus had at His resurrection) will not need animal sacrifices. We will have been glorified (Rom. 8:30), thus bringing to us the final aspect of our salvation. Not only do we have resurrected-glorified bodies, but the “flesh” (Gal. 5:13-21) no longer is a part of us. We no longer can sin. Therefore, we no longer are contaminated in any way by sin or a sin nature. As we will see, animal sacrifices are important to ritual purification but it would seem that glorified believers would not need such purification. But it is possible (and here we speculate) that we, nevertheless, might need to fulfill all of God’s “righteous requirements” in the millennial age, just as Jesus did when He persuaded John the Baptist to baptize Him (cf. Matt. 4:13-15). John’s baptism was one of repentance and Jesus did not need to repent. But He saw believed He had to fulfill all of God’s righteous requirements, which at that time included Law observance and John’s baptism.

Believers who have made it through the tribulation alive (the “sheep” of Matt. 25) are in non-glorified/non-resurrected bodies. Although Satan’s world system is gone, they will still have the capacity to sin and become unclean, since they still possess their “flesh”. These will need a way to approach the holy God who is present in His glory. They will need this temple in order to have fellowship with the glorified King Jesus. As an example, in Zechariah 14:16, the people specifically mentioned as needing to sacrifice at the Feast of Tabernacles were those gentiles who had previously been in nations that had attacked Jerusalem during the Tribulation. They were in need of purification in Jerusalem. Also, as people are born in the millennial period, they (as every person has had to do throughout history) must personally respond in faith to Jesus. Though born in the glorious messianic age, they still have the “flesh” and can sin, and need to be justified, and will need offerings as they come to the place where the Shekinah dwells. Amazingly, many will not believe and be saved, and yet, they will still need to make use of the animal sacrifices as they come to worship in Jerusalem.

It is worth noting that the Bible observes that there will be no temple (and thus no sacrifices) in the final, eternal kingdom of God (Rev. 21:22). No temple will be needed because there is no threat of uncleanness or need for ritual purification in the eternal kingdom of God where only redeemed ones dwell.

This brings us to the second matter which is the presence of glory of God on earth. The future kingdom age is very different from the present age. In the gospel record, Jesus had restricted the use of some of His attributes of deity and veiled His glory. In the church age, we do not actually see Christ as He will appear in His glory (though three apostles did when He was transfigured before them). But this is not so in the kingdom. Ezekiel had seen the “Shekinah” (‘divine presence’, or ‘glory of God’) depart from Solomon’s temple (Ezek. 9-11). Just as the Shekinah departed from the temple in the past, so the Shekinah will return permanently to the millennial temple (Ezek. 43:1-9). It is the presence of the glory of God which will require a temple and the animal sacrifices. (We don’t need one today because Jesus is not present in His glory). As we observed in the first article, the purpose of a temple was to provide a place for unclean man to approach a holy God. And there will be many who are in that condition living on the earth in the millennial age.

The Purposes of Animal Sacrifices in the Coming Millennial Kingdom.
Animal sacrifices never took away sin under the Mosaic covenant. They did not back then and they will not in future. To understand the purposes of animal sacrifices in the future kingdom, one must understand their purposes in the Levitical/Mosaic system.

Animal Sacrifices in the O.T. Levitical System The nation of Israel was a theocracy, and as such, was unique among all the peoples on the earth. Israel was subject to the Mosaic covenant (law code). There was blessing if an Israelite obeyed, but if he disobeyed he needed a way to handle the breaking of law. This is where the animal sacrifices came in. When an Israelite broke the law, two things happened. First, that one was no longer a member in good standing in the theocracy; and second, that one was out of fellowship with the Lord God (much like today when believers sin). Animal sacrifice made restoration in both areas possible. First, he would return to an accepted position in the theocracy by bringing the appropriate offering. It was not a matter if he felt good about it or even had faith. Reinstatement would be his, if he came with the appropriate offering. (This would be like paying a fine for a speeding ticket. You might not want to; you might hate the system; and you might not like the judge. But if you want to be back in favor with the government and avoid any further negative actions, you pay the fine. At that point you become “forgiven” by the government). So even an Israelite with a bad attitude or lack of faith benefitted from bringing the correct offering. In the theocracy they experienced “forgiveness”. Second, the sacrifice would bring a restoration of fellowship to the Lord. However, the right heart attitude/faith was required. Time and again in the OT, the prophets exhorted the people to come to the Lord with the proper heart attitude because God was not pleased with heartless offerings (e.g. Isaiah 1:10-20). For the second aspect to be effective, the heart had to be right. Now, it must be remembered that these sacrifices could not cleanse the conscience (Heb. 9:13-14) and they could not save the soul. This is why people had to believe in the God who saves in order to be justified. But these sacrifices did do something. They did effectively bring temporary, ritual cleansing (purification) for the worshipper. It was a means by which Israel could attain to their holy status as God’s chosen, covenant people.

These sacrifices dealt with legal obligations and external matters like blessing versus discipline. They were temporary, not eternal, in nature. But they did restore the Israelite to a positive relationship with other Israelites in the theocracy, and they did restore him back to fellowship with his God (if indeed faith was there).

Animal Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom

The same two functions of animal sacrifices will be true in the Millennium. First, it will be essential to experience full millennial blessings and to avoid disciplines from God for Jews and gentiles who are in their physical bodies. It is clear that physical blessings will come to those who adhere to the ceremonial laws.

And we must remember that the Shekinah glory will be present and there can be no uncleanness. Uncleanness is easily communicated, as was pointed out by the priests of Haggai’s day (Haggai 2:11-13). Purity must be protected and the animal sacrifices will have that function in the coming kingdom.

And it is also clear that there are negatives to avoid. Zechariah 14:16-21 informs us that non-conformity to kingdom laws will result in such things as drought and disease being experienced by lawbreakers. Revelation 12:5 and 19:15 (Psa. 2:9), teach that Messiah will rule with a “rod of iron”, which speaks of absolute intolerance of sin, rebellion and law breaking. To avoid these negatives, sacrifice must be employed. It is worth noting that many will conform externally but not really be believers. This is seen in the great, Satanic led rebellion at the end of the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:7-10). These individuals apparently will keep their legal status in the kingdom by means of sacrifice, but will not be in real fellowship with God. Only at the end of the age will their true colors be seen.

The Concept of “Atonement”

What does the word “atonement” ( kipper) convey? Commonly it is thought to mean “to cover”. This is based on Genesis 6:14 where Noah was commanded to cover the ark with tar. However, that (as recent conservative scholarship has shown) is not the identical root that is used in relationship in discussing the Levitical sacrifices nor the ones mentioned by Ezekiel. The ark account and the Levitical requirements are not speaking of the same thing. Rather the word kipper has the idea of purging, cleansing or purifying. The animal sacrifices cleanse/purify/purge because there is uncleanness, defilement or contamination that exists. The blood of these animals eliminate (kipper) defilement and this brings ceremonial “atonement”.

These sacrifices will make it possible for people to move from uncleanness to holiness as they approach the Shekinah in the millennial temple. How it does this is not explained, but there is no doubt that such purification and restoration takes place. They will ritually purify and cleanse just as they did in the Levitical system.

Animal Sacrifices As Memorials

Often it is thought that the animal sacrifices in the millennial age will be just like the Lord’ Supper (communion) in the church age; that is, they will point back to the cross. But we fail to find such an idea taught by the prophets or the apostles. The sacrifices clearly have a purpose and that is for ritual purification. However, given the fact that the completed scriptures will be present in the millennial age, the great truths about Jesus work on the cross will be universally known. In light of that, it would seem that the sacrifices (along with the nail scarred hands and feet of the Savior) would indeed call the cross work of Messiah Jesus to mind. It is hard to imagine that the sacrifices would not in some way be a constant reminder of The Sacrifice. So while a memorial of Christ’s death is not the given purpose of these sacrifices, it is very likely that they will bring to mind that day in the first century when Jesus died for our sins, and provided the means of justification.

Concluding Thoughts

There are four points to review as we conclude. First, there will be actual animal sacrifices in the future millennial kingdom. These are actual and not symbols of something. Second, they will have the same function as the sacrifices in the Old Testament, which was not to bring about the justification of people. The sacrifices never did take away sin and they will not in the future. The sacrifices were for ritual purification, enabling a sinful man to approach a holy God. The presence of the Shekinah is a key element in the need for animal sacrifices. Third, the sacrifices addressed two areas of life: (1) life in the theocratic nation of Israel, and (2) life in fellowship with God. It was possible to maintain “fellowship” in the kingdom (without faith), keeping oneself in “good standing” in the nation. But faith in God was needed for a person to have fellowship with God (just like cleansing today requires a proper heart attitude for the believer). There was, is and shall be a distinction between ceremonial cleansing and spiritual cleansing (justification). And fourth, “atonement” does not mean “to cover” but rather communicates “purging” or “cleansing”.

Today, without the presence of the Shekinah, animal sacrifices are not needed. But, as believers, we rejoice in the amazing power of the blood of Christ, which justifies, sanctifies and shall glorify.

(For additional reading on the animal sacrifices, the reader could consult: (1) “The Footsteps of the Messiah” [rev. ed.] by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, pp. 449-487, and (2) “The Coming Last Days Temple” by Dr. Randall Price, pp. 533-557.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

ANIMAL SACRIFICES IN THE COMING MESSIANIC KINGDOM---REALLY?

More than one person is truly puzzled by the numerous statements in the Old Testament that there will be a temple and animal sacrifices in the coming kingdom of King Jesus. Some are surprised by the fact that such is even found in the Scriptures, while others border on being outraged by this teaching since it seems to them to devalue Jesus’ death on the cross. Those who are aware of animal sacrifices in the millennial kingdom, and who believe that this is a future kingdom on the earth (premillennialists) often find it hard to explain why there would be such sacrifices. Those who believe we are presently in Jesus’ kingdom (amillennialists and postmillennialists) dismiss the idea of future animal sacrifices as the literalism of premillennialism gone bad.

SOME PRELIMINARY ISSUES AND QUESTIONS

Before we discuss the reasons for animal sacrifices in the upcoming millennial kingdom, there are several matters that we should deal with.

(1) Exactly where do the Old Testament prophets speak of a future temple and future animal sacrifices? Actually, both Old and New Testaments speak about a future temple and/or a future sacrificial system. This great volume of material makes it impossible to quickly dismiss the subject or to explain away one or two difficult verses. A temple and sacrifices go together. The purpose for a temple was to provide a way for sinful people to approach a holy God, and this always included sacrifices. To have a temple is to assume sacrifices in it. This basic fact is important in our discussion about a future temple and future animal sacrifice

s. The following prophets speak about animal sacrifices, which include guilt offerings and sin offerings. Ezekiel gives us the most information, but others contribute as well. The passages that mention the sacrifices are: Ezekiel 40:38-43; 42:13; 43:18-27; 44:11-15; 44:27-29; 45:15-25; 46:2-15; 46:20-24; Isaiah 56:7; 60:7; 66:20-21; Jeremiah 33:15-18; Malachi 3:3-4; and Zechariah 14:16-19. Others refer to a future temple, including the above mentioned prophets, along with Joel, Micah, Haggai, the Lord Jesus and the apostles Paul and John. There is an immense amount of material which speaks about this matter.

We are to approach these portions literally (normally) as we would the rest of the Scriptures. However, because of theological concerns, many have argued that we cannot, and should not, take these passages literally, but rather symbolically. But if these are to be taken symbolically, just what are these scriptures talking about? There are hundreds of details in these passages. If they are symbolic, the symbols are never explained. This spiritualizing approach leaves large portions of the Scriptures and hundreds of Holy Spirit inspired details without any meaning. The resulting “exposition” of these passages becomes little more than the speculations of the interpreter. No. It is best to take these passages as teaching that there will be a real temple in the millennial kingdom where actual animals will be sacrificed.

(2) Is this future system a return to the Mosaic law? No. What lies ahead is not a return to the standards and practices of the “old” covenant. The Apostle Paul is clear in Galatians 3 and 4 that the Mosaic (old) covenant ended with the arrival of the Messiah Jesus. God had promised to Israel that the day was coming when He would make a “New” covenant with Israel (Jer. 31:31-34) which would replace the old. The New Covenant is based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Luke 22:20). Though all the provisions of the New Covenant were provided for by Jesus’ death, the fact is that national Israel (the one with whom the covenant was made) has never experientially entered into the covenant. When the millennial kingdom comes, it is the New Covenant which is in force, not the “old”. Believers in the millennial kingdom will have the Book of Hebrews, and all of God’s revelation, and will be fully aware that it is only the blood of Jesus that permanently and eternally removes sin. Kingdom rules, not Mosaic rules, are in effect.

Another observation that should be made is that when the details of the future temple and sacrifices are looked at, there are great and profound differences to be seen. For example, the detailed plan of the temple given by Ezekiel with its porches, chambers, walls, gates, steps and various other rooms are so very different from the temples of Solomon or Herod. This is simply not a description of those temples. Furthermore, the temple described by Ezekiel is huge, covering an area of one square mile, thus not fitting on the present temple mount. Also, this future temple, unlike those in the past, will not actually be located in the millennial city of Jerusalem. (As a side note: A few years ago I was at the Temple Institute in Jerusalem where they are preparing for the rebuilding of Ezekiel’s temple. I asked one of the presenters there what they thought about the dimensions given in Ezekiel and the apparent problem that the present temple mount could not possible hold Ezekiel’s temple. The response was that we cannot take all the details literally. So interestingly, they are passionately preparing for building the literal temple of Ezekiel, but not according to the floor plan of Ezekiel. And in this, they are like many Christian theologians who spiritualize the text, seeing the details as symbolic).

It should further be noted that some elements are missing from the details of Ezekiel’s temple and sacrificial system. For example, there will be no high priest (since Jesus will be the High Priest), no ark of the covenant, no candlestick or table of showbread and no veil. Also, it is just the descendants of Zadok who will function in a priestly role (as was promised by the Lord---1 Sam. 2:35; 1 Kings 2:27, 35). And there are numerous differences in details related to numbers and amounts in the two sacrificial systems (so much so that some rabbis say that it will be up to Elijah to explain these things). All these point to the reality that the millennial kingdom will not be a return to the “old” covenant.

(3) What was God’s purposes for animal sacrifices? And did they contribute to the salvation (justification) of people in the Old Testament? The answers to these questions will frame the answer to the question related to millennial sacrifices. All biblically knowledgeable believers know that not one sin was ever taken away by animal sacrifices. Hebrews 9:11-14; 9:25-10:14 powerfully declares that all sin was paid for completely by the death of Christ on the cross. And in contrast to His death, not one sin was removed by the death of an animal. So, for those who might think that the idea of future animal sacrifices demeans Christ’s death, it doesn’t. The past sacrifices did not remove sin, and those in the future will not remove sin. In the next article we will deal in some detail with what the O.T. sacrifices really did, including the concept of “atonement”.

Furthermore, in evaluating the role of O.T. sacrifices, we must remember the clear discussions of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3 and Romans 4, where he presents Abraham as the great example of one in the O.T. who was saved (justified) by faith alone, apart from any works including animal sacrifices. His point is that people have always been saved the same way----justified by faith alone, based on the work of Christ alone.

It has been my experience that believers are often not clear on how people were saved in the Old Testament. When asked, they often mumble a little. They might believe that animal sacrifices didn’t take sin away, but frankly are not sure as to the role of animal sacrifices. But that point must be clear if there is going to be clarity in understanding the sacrifices in the millennium.

Regarding salvation (justification) in the Old Testament as well as the New, there are some things that we need to remember. First, some things are the same. (1) The need for salvation is the same, since all people are equally lost. (2) The basis for salvation is the same, and that is the death of Christ on the cross. His death alone removes sin. (3) The requirement for salvation is the same, and that is faith. (4) The object of salvation remains the same, and that is faith in the true God who alone can justify. But, second, the content of one’s faith is not the same. From N.T. times onward, one must believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior (Acts 16:30-31). People in the O.T. did not know about the cross, and so, the content of what they were to believe differs from people in the N.T. or in our age. According to the Apostle Peter, not even the prophets who spoke about a suffering messiah understood what they were writing about (1 Peter 1:10-12). The point being made here is that justification by faith alone is God’s way of salvation, and that animal sacrifices never played a role in the justification of people who lived under the Mosaic covenant.

In our next article, we will take a look at some key details related to the purposes of animal sacrifices, and by so doing, come to a reasonable conclusion about what will take place in the future in the days of Messiah and His spectacular Jerusalem temple.

Monday, January 9, 2017

COUNTING THE YEARS - A STUDY OF DANIEL 9:24-27 (Part 3)

When numbers are used in the prophetic books of the Bible, they are used in their normal quantitative way. Contrary to the view of too many theologians, numbers are not used in a symbolic way, which leads to “number mysticism” in interpretation. About 94% of the time in prophetic literature, numbers are used in the way we normally use numbers. They tell us of a certain quantity (9 plus 4 equals 13) and the numbers don’t represent some mystical entity. So for example, when Revelation speaks of the 144,000, it is telling us that God will select and protect 144,000 Israelites in the tribulation period and then tells us that there are 12,000 from each of 12 tribes in Israel. There is nothing in the context to suggest that the number 144,000 is symbolic of something. So it is with the passage that we are looking at in Daniel 9. The numbers are to be taken in their usual quantitative sense and there is nothing in the context to indicate that 7 times 70 does not mean 490 (in context, actual years).

The Starting Point of the 490 Years. Daniel would probably have assumed that the beginning of the 490 years would be at that moment when Gabriel was giving him the information he desired. Gabriel appeared to Daniel in 538 B.C. But that was not to be the starting point of this prophecy. Rather, it would be the issuing of a formal decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. That decree would actually be given almost 100 years later by the Persian king Artaxerxes (444 BC). So the prophetic clock for the 490 years would begin ticking around 444 B.C.

The Seventy Units of Seven. In our first study, we noted that Daniel was informed by Gabriel that God was going to have 490 years of special dealings with Israel, at the end of which, He would accomplish His six goals (9:24). (We dealt with those 6 goals in Part 2 of this study). The 70 units of seven, however, would be in three unequal parts; of 7 units, 62 units and 1 unit.

The Start to Messiah. From the issuing of the rebuilding decree to the time when Messiah would be present would be 483 years (7 + 62 or 69 of the weeks). This seems a strange way to phrase it. But the first unit of 7 (49 years) was the time frame for the complete rebuilding and restoring of the city of Jerusalem to a fully functioning city once again. (Nehemiah gave this a good start when he got the walls erected just enough to give the destroyed city protection). Then the next 434 years (62 weeks) would be from that point of a completed Jerusalem to the time of Messiah.

The Time Gap Between Week 69 and Week 70. Each week immediately followed the week that preceded it without any gaps. However, Gabriel clearly stated that “after” the 69th week (7 + 62), two events would take place. These events were the cutting off/killing of Messiah, and second, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The normal reading of the text leads one to observe that these two events will take place after week #69, but before week #70. We now know historically that these events took place in AD 33 and 70.

Some have objected to this idea of a time gap as an artificial intrusion into the prophecy. However, this idea of a gap is not unusual in the prophets who did not, for example, see two comings of Messiah with a rather lengthy gap of time in between. For example, all Christians believe that “for unto us a child is born” (Isa. 9:6a) took place in Bethlehem millennia ago. But the statements given in Isa. 9:3-5, 6b-7, concerning the future kingdom, the destruction of Israel’s enemies and the ruling of this Son have yet to be fulfilled. The same holds true with Isaiah 61:1-2, Zechariah 9:9-10 and numerous other passages.

The Final Week---the 70th. With the 70th week not coming immediately after the 69th, the natural question is, when does the 70th/final week begin? The text declares that the starting point of the final seven years (the 70th week) is when the leaders of Israel (who are in unbelief) sign a covenant agreement with “he” (9:27), identified in 9:26 as “the prince who is to come”. This “prince” or leader will be a descendant of the people who would destroy Jerusalem in the same time period as the killing of Messiah. Historically, this was done by the Romans. So the statement here goes along well with Daniel’s previous prophecy (in Daniel 7) that this covenant-making leader will arise out of the old Romans Empire (or western culture). When this covenant is made between this leader (who is usually identified as the Antichrist) and unbelieving Israel, the last seven years of this prophecy starts.

Events in the Final Week. Gabriel’s revelation in 9:27 contain six key points. First, the 70th week begins when the covenant is signed. Second, the covenant that is made is for 7 years. Apparently the time period is part of the agreement. Third, this leader (Antichrist) will purposely break the agreement half way through the seven years. This prophecy does not give us information as to what the cause might be for him doing this. (Revelation does shed light on the matter). Fourth, at the time of the breaking of the covenant agreement, the nation of Israel will have a temple and will be involved in a full Levitical worship system. The text does not tell us how long this has been going on. But it would seem likely that it has been going on for a relatively short period of time; perhaps just a two or three years. It would seem that the ability to rebuild the temple on the temple mount would have been part of the covenant agreement. Fifth, when the covenant is broken there is a cessation of this Levitical worship system. The Antichrist (in looking at Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2) will take his place in the Jerusalem temple claiming to be God. At that time, the entire world is said to worship the Antichrist as well as Satan. Sixth, all of this will be brought to an end. It will not be allowed to go on and on. It is, of course, N.T. revelation that builds upon these statements and gives us some idea what this is going to look like in the last days of the tribulation period and that it is none other than King Jesus who will bring this one to his end.

Final Thoughts. As stated at the beginning of this brief study, this short prophecy of four verses, found in Daniel 9, is really quite important for us to understand. So much of the later prophecies given in the New Testament are based on the chronological indicators found in these verses. So much of our understanding of the sequence of coming events rest on Daniel 9:24-27.

There is far more to this prophecy than we have looked at here, but the point was to remind us of the importance of this particular prophecy. But it was also to remind us that the Lord God is very precise about His plans and purposes. He does not randomly do things or “go with the flow”. His prophetic word is very detailed and He will fulfill in precise detail all of it just as He declared He would.

Monday, December 12, 2016

COUNTING THE YEARS A Study of Daniel 9:24-27 (Part 2)

Counting and naming all the multiplied trillions of stars is something that God has done (Psa. 147:4). Known to God are the total number of hairs on all of our heads (Matt. 10:30). The detailed structure of the universe reflects mathematics everywhere which in turn points to intelligent design; that of our all-knowing Creator God. God is certainly the greatest mathematician of all. So, we should not be surprised that when He speaks of numbers related to the future, that these numbers are precise and not vague abstractions which are left to our imaginations to decipher. God sent Gabriel to Daniel to let him know that God was going to have 490 years of special dealing with the nation of Israel. We continue our study of the “70 Weeks Prophecy.”

A Review of the Last Study. There were three important interpretive truths found in Daniel 9:24. First, the prophecy is about Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s land (Israel), and not about the gentiles or the church. Second, the “70 weeks” are actually “70 units of seven”, or 490. The context points to this being 490 years. Third, these 490 years have been carved out of the times of the gentiles, but when they are completed, God six specific goals will be accomplished.

God’s Six Goals for the 490 Years. When the 490 years have come to a completion, six specific things will be accomplished. The first three goals were accomplished by Christ’s work on the cross. However, these three goals (which relate to the New Covenant) have not yet been applied to the nation of Israel. The stated six goals are the subject of this article.

(1) THE TRANSGRESSION WILL BE FINISHED. The first divine goal of the 490 years will be to bring to completion the transgression (Heb. pesha) of Israel. This word “transgression” focuses on the deliberate rebellion and apostasy of Israel and it is declared that this will be brought to an end. The definite article is used so that it is not just Israel’s rebellion generally in view, but the rebellion of the nation. What must be in view here is Israel’s rebellion as it was manifested in their greatest rejection in the nation’s history; that of rejecting the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. This is the rebellious act of Israel that will be brought to an end within the Seventy Weeks.

In order for the Messiah to return and for His kingdom to be established, Israel must turn in faith to Him. Jesus declared that the one thing that must be true before He would return is the change in Israel related to their view of Him.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (Matt. 23:37-39)
Israel’s rejection of their Messiah will be over and Israel will be restored. This is integral to God’s overall plans for this earth.

(2) TO MAKE AN END OF SIN. In this goal of God, the idea appears to be that sin generally will be brought into judgment and forgiveness granted. Israel, whose national life had been so characterized by its waywardness, will now live apart from sin. Their sins have been judged and they have been forgiven. So the vain, purposeless life lived by Israel when they walked far from God will be over. There will be a new spirit in Israel, a new attitude towards sin and righteousness. This reality will be in place as the Seventy Weeks concludes.

(3) TO MAKE ATONEMENT FOR INIQUITY. The third purpose of the Seventy Weeks is to deal with the sin issue by making atonement for it. This is looking at the cross of Jesus Christ, since it is the only thing that takes care of sin. It is the cross alone that makes it possible for anyone to be reconciled to God whether gentile or Israelite (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17-21). The great purpose of Daniel’s Seventieth week is to bring Israel to the point where they repent and embrace the salvation that is provided by their Messiah, Jesus. The complete payment for sin was in the past at the cross, but it will be in the future that the payment will be applied to Israel (cf. Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Isa. 59:20-21; Ezek. 36:25-27; Jer. 31:31-34).

(4) TO BRING IN EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS. The first three goals deal with the negative issue of sin and how sin, particularly Israel’s sin, will be dealt with and removed. The next three goals relate to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom, which was spoken of earlier by Daniel, in Daniel 2 and 7.

According to the Old Testament prophets, one of the marvelous characteristics of the Messiah’s kingdom is that of righteousness (cf. Isa. 11:2-5; Jer. 23:3-6). Righteousness, not sin, will prevail in the realm of mankind and therefore, in the nations of the earth. This will be a time unlike any other. There has never been in Israel, or anywhere else on earth since the fall, the domination of righteousness. While the believer is certainly to be considered “righteous” today because of justification, this goal of God finds it ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah’s kingdom when Daniel’s people will live righteously and Daniel’s land will be characterized by righteousness (cf. Isa.1:26; Jer. 33:14-16). A time of righteousness is clearly in view in this passage.

One of the very real problems for those who see Christ’s kingdom being established at His first coming (amillennialism and postmillennialism) is the obvious absence of righteousness in the world today. If this “everlasting righteousness” came into the world at Christ’s first coming, where is it? It is evident that the nations of the world are not affected by it. Unrighteousness is what characterizes this world as it remains under the domination of the “god of this world”, Satan. The lack of righteousness in the world today speaks loudly against the notion that Christ established His kingdom at His first coming.

(5) TO SEAL UP VISION AND PROPHECY. The term “seal up” “indicates a complete fulfillment of all prophecy” coupled with the idea that there will be no additional prophetic information given. With the Lord Jesus present in all His glory, the forever kingdom of God established and the earth reclaimed from the usurper, Satan, prophecy is seen as completely fulfilled. Those who live at that time will recognize that all has been fulfilled. There will be no need for people to have prophetic visions or for God, who will then dwell among believers, to give revelation.

(6) TO ANOINT THE MOST HOLY. While some have suggested that this refers to the anointing of the Lord Jesus, others have observed that the expression is never used of a person but rather it is the anointing of the Holy of Holies in the new millennial temple. The term being used is qodes qodasim which is frequently used in reference to the Holy of Holies. It seems best to understand this anointing as the setting apart of the millennial temple for the ministry to which it was ordained.

These six goals simply have not, in some cases, been fully fulfilled; and in other cases, have not been fulfilled at all. But these six specific goals that God Himself has made will be fulfilled and must be fulfilled. The coming period of tribulation will bring all of these goals to a final and full completion. The coming time of tribulation will indeed be the worst of times, but the best of times as well. It is a comfort to believers today to realize that this world remains under the control of the sovereign God. Men, nations and demons cannot derail God’s planned purposes. And when the birth pains of the tribulation are over, then the kingdom of Messiah Jesus will be born; an incredible era characterized by righteousness, joy, peace and the very presence of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ. Our best days, and earth’s best days, lie ahead of us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

COUNTING THE YEARS - A Study of Daniel 9:24-27 (Part 1)

Critical. Essential. Uniquely important. Highly significant. All these words, and more, describe the place that Daniel 9:24-27 has in one’s understanding of end time events. These four verses contain an amazing wealth of information. The chronological structure provided by this prophecy becomes the basis of our seeing accurately numerous other prophecies, as well as giving a chronological framework for the last days of man on this earth. The Book of Revelation rests squarely on this prophecy of the “seventy weeks” . Since the details of this prophetic portion are so very important, we are going to take several studies in it. For some this may be a new area of investigation which ought to prove helpful in developing a solid biblical understanding of end time events. For others it is familiar ground, but as the Apostle Peter stated, it is good to stir up our minds by way of remembrance.

The Setting of the Prophecy

Daniel’s Scripture Reading. The prophet Jeremiah twice declared that the Babylonian captivity would last for 70 years (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). While personally experiencing that Babylonian captivity, Daniel was motivated to pray as a result of reading from the Prophet. At that point in time, it was about year #68 of the 70 years, and it seemed to Daniel that nothing was happening as far as Israel’s return to the land was concerned. And there were only two more years to go!

Daniel’s Passionate Prayer. Daniel’s prayer (9:3-19) began with confession of sin. Using a variety of words for sin, he acknowledged that Israel stood guilty and condemned for their unrighteousness. He further acknowledged that God was perfectly righteous in disciplining them by sending them into captivity. But he also noted that because God was righteous, He had to fulfill His promise to restore them back to the land (9:17-19). And so, Daniel passionately prayed that God would now move to do what He promised because His holy name was at stake. God’s reputation would be sullied if He did not fulfill His promises. And then, to be very specific, Daniel again and again (9:16-19) focused on two things in his prayer: Israel, the people and Israel, the land (holy city/temple). These two were the objects of Daniel’s prayer. It is important to note that Daniel was not praying for the church nor was he praying for the gentile nations. The people of Israel and the land of Israel were the subjects of his praying. And when the messenger angel Gabriel was sent in response to Daniel’s prayer, he gave Daniel information concerning those same two subjects. The subjects of Daniel’s prayer is a pretty obvious matter when the text is read carefully, but it is nevertheless critical in one’s interpretation of the “seventy weeks” prophecy. The “seventy weeks” have to do with Daniel’s people and Daniel’s land (holy city).

The Beginning of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy

Three important interpretive matters are found in 9:24 , the first verse of the prophecy. First, the angel Gabriel revealed that he had come to answer Daniel’s prayer concerning the people and land (holy city/temple) of Israel. Gabriel stated the coming seventy weeks concern “your people and your holy city” . So once again, the content of the prophecy has to do with Israel and not the gentiles or the church.

Second, Gabriel said that “seventy weeks have been decreed” . Two points need clarification. The word translated “decreed” means “to cut off” or “to determine”. Daniel was being told that seventy weeks have been “cut off/out” from the times of the gentiles. When this time has been concluded, God will finally and completely restore Israel and establish the kingdom of Messiah. This will be explained in 9:24 as God’s six goals for this period of time are set forth.

When Gabriel said that “seventy weeks have been decreed” , the main interpretive concern is what he meant by the phrase “seventy weeks.” The term “week” is somewhat unfortunate since we usually think of a week as being 7 days. However, the Hebrew word in the text (shavuim) simply has reference to a unit of seven. So seventy units of seven (or 490) have been determined for Israel. It is the context in which the word is found that points to the meaning. This is much like the English word “dozen”, which is a unit of measurement indicating twelve of something. If I were to say, “I have a dozen”, the listener would only know that I had twelve of something but would not know exactly what I possessed. But if our conversation had been about red pens, then the listener would know (in the context of our conversation) that I had twelve red pens. So the context of Daniel determines the exact meaning of “seventy sevens.” And the context brings us to the conclusion that it is seventy sevens of years (490 years) that is being spoken of. So God is informing Daniel that He will have 490 years of special dealings with Israel, at the end of which, He will accomplish His six goals. There are several reasons why we believe that years are being talked about.

(1) It agreed by nearly everyone that the prophecy could not be speaking of 490 days, since in this prophecy Jerusalem must be built, destroyed and rebuilt again. This simply could be accomplished in a little over a year much less have all the other details of the prophecy come to pass.

(2) In the context of the prophecy, Daniel had been thinking about years as he contemplated Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years. He knew that in just about two years the Babylonian captivity would be over. His thoughts, therefore, are not about days but about years.

(3) Israel’s captivity was based on their violation of the Sabbath year law (see 2 Chron. 36:21). It is likely that Israel’s violations in years would be matched in years by their ultimate restoration.

(4) Daniel used the unit of “sevens” in one other place in his book (10:2-3). There he related that he had been fasting for three units of sevens, but carefully added the fact that is was units of days. It is apparent that Daniel adds “days” to the phrase because he did not want his readers to think of the unit of seven in chapter 10 was the same as that in chapter 9.

(5) The final week (the 70th) aligns well with other scriptures if it is seen to be a period of seven years. The final “week” (the 70th) begins with the signing of a covenant. This covenant is broken half way through the week (or 3 ½ years into the time of trouble--the 70th week in this prophecy). It is at that time that the great tribulation comes on Israel. If years are involved then it means that 3 ½ years into the final week, an unprecedented time of trouble and desolation comes on Israel and the world. In the Book of Revelation, John speaks of this period of 3 ½ years as “forty-two months” and “1260 days”, and by so doing, points to the “week” of Daniel as being a period of seven years.

So the evidence is compelling that this prophecy is about 490 years of God’s special dealings with Israel which will result in their restoration back to the Lord and the long awaited arrival of Messiah’s kingdom.

The third significant interpretive matter found in 9:24 are the six goals of God. When the 490 years are concluded God will have: (1) finish the transgression; (2) make an end of sin; (3) make atonement for iniquity; (4) bring in everlasting righteousness; (5) seal up vision and prophecy; and (6) anoint the most holy place. These goals and their fulfillment will be part of the discussion in the next article.

When we see such a prophecy as this one and come to understand its meaning and significance, we come away realizing that God’s plan is very specific. But even more, it will be fulfilled because, as Daniel observed, God’s reputation is at stake in all of this. So even though events in our world appear to be spiraling out of control, and there is no one at the controls, the truth is God’s purposes are clear and His timing is impeccable for fulfilling those purposes. He will accomplish all six of His goals. He will end the dominion of Satan and evil men. He will establish the long awaited kingdom of Jesus Messiah.

We see our world on the decline morally and spiritually, and mankind seems so indifferent to the true God and Savior. But none of these attitudes or actions will thwart the purposes of God. We do indeed have a confident assurance as our foundation and lift

Monday, October 10, 2016

GETTING READY FOR THE ‘DAY OF CHRIST’

I never cease to be amazed, and encouraged, by the place that prophetic events had in the minds and hearts of the writers of the New Testament. They clearly understood what so many today fail to understand. And just what would that be? They understood that prophetic truth was given to us to alter and adjust the way we think, and that way we live TODAY. Information about the future was designed to target life in the present, and not simply to inform about what will take place in the future (though it does do that). So when pastors neglect to teach their flocks about what God is going to do in the future, they are actually depriving their people of a key element that is needed for godly living today.

Prophetic truth is not limited to a few sections of the New Testament, but rather is found everywhere. For example, we normally don’t think of Peter’s writings as being eschatological. But in about 25 verses in his two brief letters, Peter includes truths about coming future events. Philippians is not viewed as a book about prophetic themes, but it has some 15 references to the future. When the N.T. writers were instructing and exhorting believers to godly living in an ungodly world, they frequently had them focus some on the future where “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” And it is a phrase out of Philippians that I would like to focus on in this article. The phrase is used three times by the Apostle Paul. It is the phrase “the day of Christ.”
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until THE DAY OF CHRIST.” (1:6) “…so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until THE DAY OF CHRIST.” (1:10) “…holding fast the word of life, so that in THE DAY OF CHRIST I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (2:16)
What is the “day of Christ”?
It is sometimes thought that this is the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament phrase “the day of the Lord.” There are similarities. Both of these phrases do carry the idea of a time of special divine intervention and dealings with mankind and creation. So both include the point that God is going to intervene in a unique way. But they really are looking at different times of special divine intervention.

In the Old Testament, the “day of the Lord” is used dozens and dozens of times by the writers of the Old Testament. When we look at these many occurrences, it is seen that this phrase includes three major events: (1) the tribulation period; (2) the coming of Messiah (2nd coming, we would call it); and (3) the time of kingdom blessing, which is the reign of Messiah. Clearly all three of these are special times when God uniquely enters His creation. And while all of mankind is involved, the nation of Israel is the focus of the three events that are part of “the day of the Lord.”

However, the way Paul uses the phrase “the day of Christ” points us in another direction, away from the phrase “day of the Lord.” It looks at something unique in the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church.

The “Day of Christ” in Philippians
Starting with the third use of the term “day of Christ” (2:16), we can see a number of important details. The Apostle encourages the Christians at Philippi to keep offering the Word to people since that is what this crooked and perverse world desperately needs (2:15). And, of course, it is God’s truth that fellow believers also need in their walk with Christ. Believers need to faithfully and persistently set forth God’s truth to others. They, like us today, needed to persevere as lights in this spiritually dark generation and we do this by continually presenting the truth and standards of God to people. Such labor is not easy and it does indeed require an active, persistent effort. He then explains the purpose for such hard, exhausting work (“toil”). It will not only have an impact on people today, but it will make a big difference when Christ comes for us (the rapture) and when immediately after that event we stand before Him at His “judgment seat.” If they will faithfully set forth the Word of God, then neither Paul nor the Philippian believers will have run in vain. If, on the “day of Christ” (that time of Christ’s special intervention into the world and into our lives), when these believers stand there with Paul, it would a time of great joy, and also proof that all of Paul’s hard work was not in vain.

The same athletic imagery of not “running in vain” was also used by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, where again he was speaking about the rewards that would come to him at the judgment seat, if he diligently served Christ. If these believers would continue living faithfully, then Paul would have grounds for glorying at the judgment seat since his labor among them would clearly not be in vain. The point that laboring for Christ is never an empty, meaningless way to live (“in vain”) is given emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15:58 as well, where the Apostle declares that “our labor is not in vain in the Lord”. It will make a difference now and later.

The first use of the “day of Christ” (1:6) also points to the rapture, followed by the judgment seat. The believers at Philippi had partnered with the Apostle from the time they came to faith in Christ (Acts 16) up until the time he wrote this letter. They had regularly supported him financially (e.g. Phil. 4:16) and they had been involved in the ministry alongside Paul (e.g. Phil. 4:3). He was convinced that their faithful service for the Lord would continue right up to the day when they all would come before Jesus at His judgment seat. (By the way, this statement also points to Paul’s expectation that the Lord would come in the lifetimes of the Philippians and himself!). And if they did continue on as he expected, then on the “day of Christ” there would be great reward.

The second use of the “day of Christ” (1:10) is in the same basic context as the first use of the term. The emphasis here is on the believer focusing on the very best things; things that stand the test of God’s standard of excellence. Paul wants them to live this way so that ever increasingly their lives would be authentic (without hypocrisy) and lives that would not put stumbling blocks in front of others. The unasked question is, of course, why bother working so hard at this Christian life when we could just take it easy. But living with the level of disciple and focus that Paul is speaking about will be worth it in the “day of Christ.”

It becomes clear that our daily lives are to be ordered by the realization that we will give an account before our Lord Jesus in “the day of Christ”. This concept is woven so expertly by Paul (and other NT writers) into the fabric of their discussions on living quality lives today for Jesus. We are to keep on keeping on in our work for Christ, which is called “exhausting toil”. We are to strive towards greater excellence in our lives and greater dedication to the Lord. Why such effort? Paul explains the purpose for all this effort: “in order that” our appearance before the Lord will be a time of glory and joy (not a time of embarrassment and shame). It is good to be reminded of these truths as we live today and continually find it challenging to swim against the strong current of a “crooked and perverse generation.” And pastors need to be encouraged to proclaim all of the counsel of God, which includes such important doctrines as the rewarding of believers. It will be worth it all “in the day of Christ.”

Monday, August 8, 2016

HERESY, FALSE TEACHING AND MAL COUCH

This article marks four full years of writing a monthly piece for Scofield Ministries. Not long before Dr. Mal Couch went to be with the Lord Jesus, he called me and asked if I would write articles for Scofield. I was glad to be of help to my friend Mal and I am thankful for this opportunity to share the Word of God in this venue.

I mention this because prior to all this, Mal and I would talk fairly regularly about biblical and theological matters. He would often call and want to know what I saw happening in this or that school, or perhaps some trends in the church. He was rightly concerned with the matter of false teaching that was flooding the churches and institutions of Christian higher education. And he was rightly concerned with what would likely take place in the future. We were both observing doctrinal erosion taking place at an alarming rate, and the sacrificing of truth on the altars of bad exegesis, personal kingdom building and religious tolerance. I miss those phone calls and times of discussion. But I miss even more Mal’s devotion to the truth of God and his willingness to point out teachings that were not aligned with a good exegesis of the Scriptures. There are fewer and fewer like Mal Couch in today’s church.

And as Mal and I suspected, the reality of false teaching has not gone away. In fact, as many readers are well aware there is an inglorious future for false teaching as the Bible reveals that there will be deep inroads into God’s truth. The Apostle Paul issued clear warnings about what the church would face in the future.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
And so, reflecting on the concerns of our friend Mal, let us remind ourselves of the role that false teaching will have in the future. To try and organize the subject, let me suggest that there are five distinctive moments in the future of apostasy and error.

(1) THE PRESENT GROWTH OF FALSE TEACHING WITHIN THE CHURCH. As we observed in the above verses, there will be a deep decline in the truth as the church age heads towards its end. Error of all kinds, coming from Satan and his forces, will come flooding into the church with approval of those who lead the church. These teachers, according to the Apostle Paul, deceive others but are also deceiving themselves (2 Tim. 3:13). These have been promoting error for so long, they actually believe their own falsehoods. This is an important insight from the Apostle.

Consider the impact of the Emergent Church movement with all its variations. It has, at its very core, a lower view of the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not seen as all that clear nor are they the absolute, final authority. Thus there is hardly any area of doctrine that has not be altered, denied or ignored.

Consider that it is increasing difficult to find a local church with solid, exegetical teaching of the Word. Most of what passes for preaching/teaching in the evangelical church is a superficial glance at the Scriptures followed by lots of stories and supposed application. But this application lacks biblical authority because they do not emerge from a study of the text of Scripture. This preaching is more religious entertainment than thoughtful exposition of what God has said.

Consider the ever increasing absence in teaching the critical doctrines of biblical prophecy. Very little time is given to these doctrines which call men to live better now because of what lies ahead when Jesus returns.

Consider that seeping into the thinking of evangelical churches are ideas and doctrines that were once the domain of the cults (such as annihilationism) and the operating principles of new age/occult movements (such as contemplative prayer).

(2) THE SUDDEN EXPLOSION OF ERROR AT THE RAPTURE. There are, of course, in this world pastors and teachers who are faithfully teaching God’s Word. But imagine what it will be like when all who teach truth are taken out suddenly and supernaturally at the rapture event. There will be for a brief time none who proclaim the truth of Scripture. Error will dominate as never before (except maybe in Noah’s day). This is what the Apostle Paul was referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 when he said that “the apostasy comes first” (before the Day of the Lord begins and the Antichrist revealed).

(3) THE FLOURISHING OF FALSE RELIGIONS IN THE 1ST HALF OF THE TRIBULATION. The Rapture event, which is accompanied by the removal of the Spirit’s ministry of restraining sin, will prepare the soil for the flourishing of much religion, all of which does not see Jesus Christ correctly. Revelation 17 reveals the domination in the west of a false church (the great Harlot). This church will become incredibly wealthy and amazing powerful politically. It will be “drunk” with blood of the martyrs of Jesus. It is totally apostate. Then there will be a revival of the OT Jewish religion with its animal sacrifices and rituals (Dan. 9:27). But it is a religion that is blind to the truth related to Jesus Christ, son of Abraham, son of David. It too is deep in error (though that will eventually change). We must assume that the major religions of the world today will flourish to one degree or another in the first half of the Tribulation period. Satan gladly has people worship something, as long it is not Jesus. Worshiping anything/anyone is not his final goal, of course. But this situation will do until Satan is ready to bring in his one world religion, in which he and the Antichrist are the objects of worship.

(4) THE GREAT ONE WORLD RELIGION OF SATAN AND THE ANTICHRIST IN THE 2ND HALF OF THE TRIBULATION. The absolute climax of apostasy is seen in the 2nd half of the tribulation. It is at that time that the world will worship the Devil and his close associate, the Antichrist. Revelation 13 gives a very clear picture of what lies ahead for the worshipers of this world.
“And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast (Antichrist); and they worshiped the dragon (Satan), because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast saying ‘Who is like the beast and who is able to wage war with him?’…And all who dwell on the earth will worship him….
Paul adds the point that the Antichrist will take his seat in the Temple of God in Jerusalem and by so doing, declare himself to be God. Paul then explains that this comes about because people have rejected God’s truth, preferring the lies that come from Satan. (2 Thess. 2:4-12) All of this error comes to a sudden, dramatic end by the appearance of the Truth. Jesus, who declared Himself to be “the truth” (John 14:6) will terminate all falsehood and will establish God’s truth on the earth.

(5) THE BRIEF APPEARANCE OF REBELLION AND APOSTASY AT THE END OF THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM. We are a little surprised when we learn from Revelation 20 that at the conclusion of the Messianic (Millennial) kingdom, that error will return. We wonder why. Satan, the deceiver/liar and the father of error, will be temporarily released from his imprisonment in the Abyss. He will find some who are ready to rebel against the Lord who is truth. So, it appears, that for a brief, final time, error is back in the realm of mankind. But, once again, why would God bother allowing this to happen? Unfortunately, the text of Revelation 20 does not give an explanation.

It is my best guess that God (who is a great educator) allows for this error filled rebellion to take place to illustrate one final time that man’s problem has never been his environment or circumstance but rather it has been his heart. In the Messianic kingdom, all the excuses that people give for embracing that which is sinful (lack of education, poverty, the influence of culture, Satan’s influence, disease or sickness, flourishing of evil people, etc. etc.) are simply not there. These things do not exist which means that the end time rebels have lived in a perfect environment. But the rebels (who were born in the messianic age but never personally placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ), illustrate that people go to that which is false because they have bad hearts; that is, they are inwardly sinners. The problem is their heart and not the environment. The rebellion is quickly put down by God, but the point is made: men love error because their nature is that of a rebel against God and His truth.

So we know something of the future of apostasy and error. What are we to do since the Bible is abundantly clear about what lies ahead? Obviously, we are not called upon to stop the end results. But we are to faithfully teach God’s authoritative, inerrant Word whenever and wherever we can. After Paul told Timothy of the false teachers who were coming, he communicated the following guidelines for him and us.
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them…All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.” (2 Tim. 3:14, 16 – 4:2)