Monday, December 14, 2015

IT’S NOT HERE YET, BUT IT’S COMING (A Look at the Day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)

What a person believes determines how they behave. There is the homicide bomber who believes that he is pleasing his god by blowing himself up and taking the lives of many others as well. Or the one who puts powerful, but destructive, drugs into her body because she believes that present pleasure far outweighs any future consequences. And then there are those who generously give because they believe the biblical admonition that giving is better than receiving. Everyone believes things which in turn gives direction to both attitudes and behaviors.

In the young church at Thessalonica believers were fearful because of something they believed. They had become convinced that the “day of the Lord” had begun and they had entered the time of great tribulation. They had listened to false prophets, likely a persuasive teacher as well as a pseudo-letter claiming to be from the Apostle Paul, with the result that many believed they were in the tribulation. Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 to assure them that their belief was not true and that they were to live confidently and not fearfully.

This passage in 2 Thessalonians has some difficult matters connected with it, however, in this brief study we want to highlight certain pivotal points in order to understand what it is teaching. We will approach this by looking at several key issues.

Defining the “Day of the Lord”. The “day of the Lord” is a concept that is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament. It refers to a time of special divine intervention in this world (e.g. Joel 2, 3; Zechariah 12-14; Zephaniah 3; Matt. 24:29). It includes three events: that of the 7 years tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ to the earth and the Messianic (millennial) kingdom. Since the “day of the Lord” would begin with the terrible time of tribulation, this is what the Thessalonian believers had come to believe they were in. Because of their persecutions, some were promoting this false idea that they were in the “day of the Lord.”

The Sequence of Events in the “Day of the Lord”. As an apostle, Paul could have just said: “no, you are not in the “day of the Lord”. And even though he had apostolic authority, there were those who challenged his authority. However, he also had the authority of the prophets of the O.T. which would carry a great deal of weight. So instead of just saying “no, you are not in it”, he pointed out that an event clearly taught in the O.T. as the starting point of the “day of the Lord” had not taken place. And if it had not taken place, then obviously the “day of the Lord” could not have started. Daniel 9:27 teaches that the tribulation period begins with the signing of a treaty between the Antichrist (the leader of a western nation) and the leaders of Israel. This event not only starts the seven year period of time but also reveals the Antichrist. But no such event had occurred which meant the “day of the Lord” could not have begun. Later the N.T. would add the point that at the outset of the tribulation period will be THE apostasy (the massive turning from God’s truth on the part of the “church”). This apostasy is closely connected to the unveiling of the Antichrist (the “man of lawlessness”.) Paul mentions this end of the age defection from the truth of God by those allegedly part of the church and John would give details later on. (Revelation 17)

The Event Prior to the “Day of the Lord” and the Rapture Event. But there is more. In 2:6-7 these believers are reminded that presently sin’s full blown manifestation is being contained. That will change, however, when the Holy Spirit (2:7) ceases His ministry of the restraining of sin. (Note that the Spirit Himself is not “taken out” of the world; as it is impossible for an omnipresent God to be removed from anywhere. Also, the reality is that the Spirit must be present on the earth since no one could be saved without the working of the Spirit in conviction and regeneration. Multitudes will be saved during the tribulation). It is the ministry of the restraint of sin that is removed. There is a clear sequence that must here be noted in 2:7-9. The ministry of restraining sin is removed and then Satan’s man is revealed as the Antichrist (at the covenant signing).

At this point it should be observed that in history the Spirit has used God ordained agencies to restrain sin in the world; namely the family, human government and the Church. Human government in the end time will be totally corrupted by Satan’s forces and the family is likely a shadow of what God intended (being badly degraded in much of the world). The church is the great agency of restraining sin and the removal of the Church out of the world in these end times will have a breathtaking impact on the world. The Church, with all of its imperfections and flaws, still retards evil in this world. The removal of restraint is best understood as the removal of the church at the Rapture event. The Spirit indwells the Church (1 Cor. 3:16-17 where “you” is plural and is speaking of the church body and not the individual believer. The individual believers is indwelt as well according to 1 Cor. 6:19). The removal of restraint takes place before the unveiling of the Antichrist (which starts the tribulation). Again, this points to the church’s removal prior to the tribulation. This affirms Paul’s teaching that the church has no part in the time of tribulation.

And the statement of 2:1 must be noted. Here Paul bases this discussion on our “gathering together to Him” which is the rapture event. He is calling the Thessalonian believers back to his first letter where he twice emphasized that believers in Jesus Christ are “delivered out of the wrath to come” (1:10), and that “God has not destined us for wrath” (5:9). These are powerful statements revealing the exempting of Christians from the future wrath of God; that is, the tribulation aspect of the “day of the Lord.” So Paul based his discussion of the “day of the Lord” on his previously given instruction on the rapture event; an event which removes believers out of the world prior to the “day of the Lord”.

As Paul winds down his discussion in 2:13-14, he encourages them that they have been chosen by God “for salvation” (which basically means “deliverance”). In light of the context of future events, the “salvation” is most likely not looking at regeneration/new birth but at our “deliverance” from these terrible days of tribulation; reinforcing what he already said in his first letter to the Thessalonians.

The Events Within the “Day of the Lord”. So the Apostle taught that the sequence is: the removal of restraint followed by the apostasy/unveiling of the man of sin. Paul then adds a couple of other truths about this Antichrist. He will take his place in the temple, and by so doing, declare himself to be deity. This is Daniel’s famous “abomination of desolation” that Jesus referred to as the great end time sign in Matthew 24:15 which occurs at the half way point of the seven year tribulation. Also, Paul informed his readers that this blasphemy is short lived as the Lord will bring Antichrist to his end at the Second Coming. But between his unveiling and his termination, the Antichrist will have extraordinary powers by which he will deceive multitudes of people during the tribulation period. Many will believe him and this belief will dictate how they live their lives during those terrible days.

Concluding Thoughts. So the believers at Thessalonica have been informed by Paul that some were believing that which was not true. There was no reason to live in fear and worry. They were not in the “day of the Lord.”

What we believe about future events also plays an important role in how we behave. If we live in a genuine anticipation of the Lord’s return and our immediate appearance before Him at the judgment seat, then we will purify our lives, says 1 John 2:28-3:3. We will live more focused lives for Christ, deal aggressively with sin and live in anticipation of seeing Him. However, if we are like the slave that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 who believed that “my lord delays his coming”, then we will be like that slave. He is described as one that lived badly and very sinfully. We must not think and thus believe “my Lord delays His coming.”

The Savior’s Second Coming is spoken of much more than was His first coming to the earth. We celebrate that coming each December because we know He came. His Second Coming is even “more certain” as it is spoken of many more times. Our real beliefs determine our behaviors.

Monday, November 9, 2015


When my children were little tikes they loved watching “Sesame Street” and particularly liked the “which of these does not belong” segment. In that segment, several objects were seen on the TV screen with one of them being different than the rest. For example, there might be three triangles and one square. My children (being unusually brilliant) usually figured out pretty quickly that the square did not belong with the triangles.

In the theological world, some things are just not the same and “do not belong” together. The church of Jesus Christ and the nation of Israel are not the same, and in spite of attempts by Replacement Theologians (RT) to equate them, they are not the same entity. RT does not have any NT passage which teaches that the church has replaced national Israel. They only can come up with passages that “imply” or “suggest” the position they are attempting to establish. The absence of any NT discussion of the church replacing Israel is significant because God spent 2000 years (from the days of Abraham and Moses) declaring that Israel was His “chosen people”; His covenant nation. The OT scriptures constantly reinforce the truth that God and national Israel were in a binding covenant relationship; a covenant that the Faithful God would fulfill. In light of the hundreds of references to the unique place of national Israel in the plan and purposes of God, we would rightly expect God to give us a chapter or two in the NT (or maybe a whole letter) explaining to us that Israel has been set aside and replaced by the church. No such NT passage exists which ought to alert everyone to the very real probability that no such replacement has taken place. Some things “do not belong” together. .

In our previous four studies, the focus was on certain scriptures that are used to promote RT, and it was seen that none of them do so. In this study, we want to give some other biblical evidences as to why these two are not the same things; that is, why the church is not a continuation of OT Israel. .

(1) A DIFFERENT STARTING POINT. The nation of Israel began with the calling of Abraham (around 2100 BC) while the church began on the “Day of Pentecost” (around 33 AD). The church did not and could not exist before the Ascension of Jesus Christ back into heaven after His resurrection. Ephesians 1:20-23 says,
“…which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and GAVE HIM AS HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
The Body of Christ did not begin to form until after the Ascension and could not, therefore, have been in existence in some other form in 2100 BC. Furthermore, it could not have been formed prior to Pentecost because that is the day, in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit’s ministry of “baptism” began. And the only way that a believing person gets into the Body of Christ is through Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 1:5). No Spirit baptism, no Body/no church. This underscores another important reality and that is there are no unbelievers in the church, the Body of Christ, but there were many unbelievers in OT Israel. They are not the same. .

To try to present the church as a newer form of OT Israel does not align well with the distinctive starting points of the two entities; they really are not the same. It is like trying to say the square has corners like the triangle and, therefore, it really is one though just a bit different. .

(2) THE UNIQUE CHARACTER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. One of the Apostle Paul’s great contributions to the doctrine of the church is found in his letter to the Ephesians. Among other things, he instructs believers that the church is (1) a mystery and (2) that it is one new man. These points focus on the unique character of the church as compared to national Israel. .

(1) A Mystery. In Ephesians 3:1-6, Paul reveals a truth not previously found in the OT; that is, that believing gentiles would be equal with believing Jews in the Body. The truth is not that gentiles would be saved, since that was clearly spoken about in various OT scriptures. But equality of the two is different. This informs us that the makeup of the Body and the makeup of Israel is different; thus, they are not the same.

(2) One New Man. It is in Ephesians 2:14-15 that the Apostle teaches that believing Jews and believing gentiles were made “into one” group, and that the two are now “one new man.” This one new man is an entirely new entity. It is not a gentile nation nor is it the nation of Israel. The church is not a continuation of Israel. This Body is something distinct from Israel. .

It must be noted here that RT love to use this passage in Ephesians to prove that gentiles who are now “brought near” and are “fellow citizens” are seen as being incorporated into Israel. And they go on to declare that because gentiles are now part of Israel, there is no distinct future for national Israel. .

Aside from the fact that this contradicts the distinct place of the Abrahamic covenant in God’s program (see Part 2, August 2015), it also assumes that being a participant in something automatically means equality within that entity. Believing gentiles are “partakers” (Romans 11) in the Abrahamic covenant but not the fulfillers of it. It was made between God and Israel. Furthermore, if Paul had wanted to say that gentiles were part of Israel, he could have done so. He does not. It is just as important to observe what Paul does not say as well as what he does say. The “one new man” is a soteriological organism which is entered by faith alone in Christ alone. Soteriological oneness does not equate with oneness in God’s past or future dealings. It does not mean that gentiles are now Israelites. Believing gentiles share with believing Israelites in many of God’s promises but this hardly means that they become Israelites. The truth of gentile salvation was seen from the very beginning when God told Abraham that in him “all the nations would be blessed” (Gen 12:3; 18:18). Most likely, Paul would have said gentiles were “into” Israel and not “with” Israel, if he were teaching that God’s promises to national Israel has been aside and given to the church. He is simply demonstrating the present equality of Jews and gentiles in the entity called the “church”. He is not setting aside God’s covenant commitments, nor is he denying a future for the nation of Israel. .

(3) INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL DIFFERENCES. Without spending much time on this point, we can say that there are external differences between Israel and the church. For example, Israel had an army; required the payment of taxes (tithes); and had national boundaries. These are not true of the church. Internally there are also marked differences. In Israel there were only some who were priests (the tribe of Levi), while all believers are priests in the church. Another example is that the nation of Israel operated under a very different covenant than the church. In the church, all are believers but that is not the case in Israel. .

The church and Israel are different and Replacement theology simply has no definitive NT passage which states that the church is the “new Israel” or that the church has replaced Israel. Therefore, they are forced to see “implications” or “suggestions” as they attempt to establish their position. Non-replacement theology has the bulk of the OT as well as the powerful discussion of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9-11. God has not set Israel aside and He has not made the church the “new” Israel.

Monday, October 12, 2015


All Scripture is inspired and important but there are times when some scriptures rise to a place of greater importance because a certain subject is the focus of attention. In our current discussion, we are addressing the subject of the church replacing Israel in God’s program. And as we saw in our last study, Galatians 6:16, Romans 9:6 and 11:26 take on greater importance than usual when the matter of “church-Israel” is the subject. Another important scripture in the discussion is that of Matthew 21:43. This is often used by Replacement Theology (RT) to try and establish its’ position. In this article, we want to view several scriptures used by RT but will highlight Matthew 21:43.

Matthew 21:43
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (NASB)
This verse is generally used by RT to show that Jesus is permanently removing the kingdom from national Israel.

The Context of Matthew 21:43. The earthly ministry of Jesus was now entering the final week, the “passion week”. A year earlier, in Matthew 12, the nation’s leaders had declared openly that Jesus had not come from God, but was really an agent of the Devil. With this terrible, willful sin of rejection by Israel’s leaders, Jesus turned from the nation. Things changed dramatically in Jesus’ ministry, and He now talked of His death, but also introduced the church, declaring that “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). And during the last year of His ministry, Jesus and the religious leaders were periodically engaged in contentious debates. Such is the situation in Matthew 21 which records events on Tuesday of the last week of Jesus’ ministry. The discussion begins at 21:23. The View of Replacement Theology. RT sees this as the moment when Jesus permanently removed the kingdom from Israel and gave it to the church. The “nation” mentioned in 21:43 is said to be the church. The following quote reflects this idea as it is found in RT literature.

“As a matter of fact, Israel having rejected its king, the kingdom of God would therefore be taken from it and given to a nation bearing its appropriate fruits (Matt. 21:43). For this eventuality Jesus made provision by the establishment of His church, the new Israel and the people of God.” (Zorn, Christ Triumphant, 30)
The term “church”, of course, is not actually found in the verse but is the interpretation of the author, based primarily on his theological position.

The View of Non-Replacement Theology.
In fairness to everyone, all interpreters face the problem of dealing with something that is prophetic in nature. The kingdom will be taken away and it will be given to someone else. So all must look past this statement to see what lies down the road.

Several points need to be made. First, the Lord Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leadership; specifically the chief priests, elders and Pharisees. These leaders had effectively pronounced judgment on themselves (21:41, 45). Jesus’ rhetoric is aimed at them (as it would be in Matthew 23) which explains the harshness of His statements. However, the leaders did in fact represent the nation and the people of the nation of Israel. The nation stood condemned. Those who had seen and heard Jesus were again being informed that they have lost out on God’s gracious offer of the very soon arrival of the Messiah’s kingdom. But the statement doesn’t automatically mean what RT says it means. First, it does not say specifically that Israel for all time will lose the kingdom. Second, it does not say specifically that it is the church that would get the kingdom of Messiah. Better is the view that it is the present generation of Israelites (the ones rejecting Jesus) that will lose out. But aren’t we doing the same things as RT; that is, letting our theological framework interpret an unclear passage? The difference is that Jesus again deals with this very matter two days later on Thursday afternoon. And since we all believe in the progress of revelation, where new revelation adds to, clarifies, or expands previous revelation (does not contradict it), then His statements given 48 hours later do help clarify. In Matthew 23, Jesus again denounces the religious leaders and now makes it clear that judgment is falling on that generation (23:36). But the next verses are very important because it is revealed by Jesus that Christ’s rejection of Israel, and Israel’s rejection of Christ, is not permanent and eternal. In 23:39, the word “until” (ews) coupled with the following statement of messianic recognition, clearly affirms that Jesus will come again once the nation is repentant, recognizing Him as their Messiah. So we conclude that Matthew 21:43 is indeed looking at a change but it is from an unrighteous present generation in Israel to a righteous future generation in Israel (the kind describe by Romans 11:25-27; Zech. 12 and 13; Ezekiel 36:24-28, etc). The verse is, therefore, not describing an ethnic change from Israel to gentiles. Michael Vlach notes that RT must prove that Matthew 21:43 rules “out the possibility that a future nation of Israel will experience the fulfillment of the kingdom. But Matt. 21:43 does not do this.” (Vlach, Church Replaced Israel? 143)

1 Peter 2:9-10
In this passage, the Apostle Peter uses a number of OT designations as he speaks about the privileged position of believers in the church. RT generally sees this as Peter identifying the church as a new Israel. Peter says that the church is a “chosen people” (which emphasizes our common life because of God’s initiative in selecting us); a “royal priesthood” (which points to our privilege of ruling and serving); a “holy nation” (which focuses on us being separate from the nations of the world and a unique community of people); and a “people belonging to God” (which emphasizes that we are God’s private possession). All these terms have an OT background which would have special meaning to Jews. And it should be noted that the recipients of Peter’s letter were most likely believing Jews (not denying there could have been a few gentiles in the mix), which would be something an apostle to the Jews would do!

It important to observe that nowhere does Peter declare the church to be the new Israel. There is continuity between Israel and the church in that we, as recipients of His election and grace, are chosen by God to do His work in the world right now. We are assigned by God to be His witness in the world to unbelievers, just as Israel was given that task in the OT. Hiebert has a good summary of Peter’s statements.
“It does not naturally follow from the parallels between Israel and the church that Peter believed that the church has permanently replaced Israel, and that the latter will not again enjoy a separate existence under the favor of God. Israel’s future is inseparably connected with it acceptance by faith of the returning Messiah (Zech. 12:10-14:11; Acts 3:19-26; Rom. 11:25-27). D.E. Hiebert, 1 Peter, 147
Michael Vlach adds that there are times in the Scriptures when “Israel imagery” is applied to non-Israelites without these becoming Israelites; as in the case of Egypt in Isaiah 19:24-25 (Vlach, 149). So without Peter saying “church = Israel” or that the church has now permanently replaced Israel, the proof that RT is looking for is not found here.

Galatians 3:29
Here Paul refers to gentile believers as the “seed of Abraham” which is used by RT to prove that gentiles are now spiritual Jews. But this phrase does not mean that believing gentiles in the church now fulfill the promises given in the covenants to national Israel. There are, in fact, several ways that “seed” of Abraham is used. It is used of the physical descendants of Abraham (remember that Abraham had a number of sons); it is used of Jewish believers; and it is used (as in Galatians) of gentile believers (who spiritual father is Abraham the believer). (For an excellent discussion of the “seed of Abraham”, see Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s, “Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, 126 ff.) He notes that RT would have a much better case if the subject were the “seed of Jacob/Israel.” While each of these scriptures could have so much more written on them, it does become clear that RT cannot come up with any definitive, objective evidence for its’ position. At best, things are “implied” or “suggested”, which does not meet the standard of clear exposition. And such exposition is required if the supposed great change from Israel to church did occur in the plan of God. More on this in upcoming articles.

Monday, September 14, 2015


As we walk down the airport concourse to the departure gates, we note that the planes are fairly close together. The plane at Gate 14 seems to be just a few yards away from the plane at Gate 15. However, just because they appear to be close together, no traveler thinks that it really doesn’t make any difference which plane you board. Soon after take-off the difference would be apparent. If you want some time at the beach then the flight to San Diego at Gate 14 would be the better choice than the flight to Topeka at Gate 15. It does indeed make a huge difference which plane you get on.

To many Christians in today’s church, it makes little difference if one boards the theological plane called Replacement Theology (RT) or if the other one which sees Israel and the Church as distinct is boarded. They are, after all, so close together. But, of course, they really are not. And the theological plane you board will take you to very different prophetic destinations.

We have observed thus far that there are two basic approaches in the matter of Israel-Church; those that see a distinction between Israel and the Church in God’s program and those that don’t (RT). In our last study, we saw that the unconditional, unfulfilled Abrahamic covenant is a formidable challenge to the legitimacy of RT. We also noted that to prove their point that the Church has replaced Israel, RT must show that the NT scriptures teach that “church” and “Israel” are used interchangeably; or in the words of RT William Cox (in our previous study), “as a matter of scriptural fact, these terms are used interchangeably….” The following is a brief discussion of the scriptures most often used by RT.

Galatians 6:16 Almost all in RT will reference Galatians 6:16 in their quest to show Israel and the Church are used interchangeably, and therefore, that the Church replaces Israel in God’s program. The verse reads as follows:

“And those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
This verse is part of the conclusion to the Apostle Paul’s letter. He has argued carefully that the Law cannot justify a person. He has explained that both Jews and gentiles are justified by faith alone in Christ alone (Gal. 2:16). He then made it clear that we began our new life in Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit and we are sanctified by the same Holy Spirit’s work (3:2-3). In other words, we are both justified and sanctified by faith. When he speaks of “those who walk by this rule” he is speaking about believing Jews and believing gentiles who have come to understand this great truth. He then pronounces a blessing on these believing Jews and believing gentiles.

The View of Replacement Theology. RT holds that Paul has been emphasizing the unity of Jews and gentiles, and that it is, therefore, unlikely that he would end his letter with a statement that would separate them. Their argument hinges on the word “and” (kai). They state that this word can be used in explicative sense; in other words, it should be translated “even.” Thus Paul would be pronouncing a blessing on “them” (gentile believers) “even upon the Israel of God.” The explicative use of “kai” is like an equals sign; gentile believers = the Israel of God.

The View of Non-Replacement Theology. The normal and usual use of “kai” is that of a copulative sense (“and”). By far, this is the usual way the word is used in the NT. The explicative sense (“even”), though possible, is unusual. So there should be something in the text which would compel one to this secondary usage. But there is nothing to lead the expositor away from the natural copulative sense. So, as a number of grammarians have noted, making “kai” to mean “even” is forced and unnatural. Blessing is pronounced on believing gentiles and on believing Jews.

As we noted, Galatians builds a strong case for justification and sanctification by faith. But it also contains a harsh rebuttal of Judaizers who wanted to include Law keeping as part of the equation. The Apostle commends Jews who have come to understand “this rule” (2:16), and singles them out for blessing. Gentiles who did not struggle with keeping the Mosaic Law (though they had their own struggles) are also blessed because they have come to accept God’s righteousness on the basis of faith alone. But the believing Jews who “walk by this rule” are seen as the true Israel of God.

It is more than strange (if RT is correct) that Paul would introduce such as seismic theological shift (that the church is now the true/new Israel) in the conclusion to a letter with no explanation. Surely, if he had wanted to reveal such a profound change, he would have detailed it in the body of this letter where theological analysis took place. And it makes little sense that he would introduce such a major doctrinal change based on the secondary use of “kai” used in a rather casual way.

It must be noted that since this is the key verse to prove a “church = Israel” change, it reveals a very weak foundation. The grammar and the context are resolutely against RT. And to compound the problem for RT, they have little else to work with.

Romans 9:6
The View of Replacement Theology. This verse is used to try and demonstrate that Paul is using “Israel” in a way that goes beyond the normal ethnic boundaries.

“But it is not as though the Word of God has failed, for they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”
The point made is that ethnic Israel is seen as distinct from “spiritual” Israel; implying that all who are believers are “Israel”, including the Church. But a closer inspection shows that this verse offers no support for RT.

The View of Non-Replacement Theology. In Romans 9:1-5, the Apostle is giving the eight prerogatives given to national Israel, who are Paul’s “kinsmen according to the flesh” in 9:3. The term “Israel” is used ten times (in Romans 9-11) in this unique section of Romans devoted to the past, present and future of Israel. It is used only of ethnic Israel. Paul’s contrast in 9:6 is simply between believing Jews and unbelieving Jews. There is no mention of the church or of gentiles in 9:1-6. In fact, there is no doubt that “Israel” is defined by the statement that these are the Apostle’s “kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Romans 11:26-29
“and thus all Israel shall be saved; just as it is written, ‘the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’ And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the Fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
The View of Replacement Theology. Some RT believe that “all Israel” refers to the church, but the consistent use of “Israel” in Romans 9-11 as an ethnic group speaks loudly against this. Other RT see this as a reference to Jews being saved throughout history, but this is unlikely since Romans 11 is looking into the future salvation at the end times. Furthermore, the fact that a relatively few Jews have come to faith in each generation doesn’t fit with the great doxology at the end nor with the need for this inspired discussion. Still other RT concede that this is speaking of the national salvation of Israel in the future, but do not concede that the future restoration of national Israel is included.

The View of Non-Replacement Theology. It is vital to see that Paul ties in Israel’s future redemption with God’s covenant promises to the “fathers.” God is faithful to all His covenant promises. It will start with bringing Israel into the New Covenant. And then, as Jesus observed in Matthew 23:39, a redeemed national Israel will then be ready for Messiah’s coming and ruling in His kingdom as well as Israel’s restoration to the Land that was given to them. Israel means Israel.

While our study has of necessity been brief, a deeper study of these verses will validate these conclusions. These verses simply do not support the position of RT. And, as we will see in our upcoming studies, there are important lines of evidence and important scriptures which show that national Israel does have a future in the plan of God. Israel will indeed be restored back to their former position because of the faithfulness and loyal love of their covenant keeping God. We need to board the right plane.

Monday, August 10, 2015


The answer to the above question is definitely not in the same category as “how many angels can dance on a pin head?” Now perhaps angels might be interested in the dancing question, but answering the question in the title is highly significant in the study of biblical prophecy. Believing that the Church of Jesus Christ is the “new Israel” will lead a person down one prophetic path. If, however, one believes that the Church and Israel are distinct entities in God’s plan and program, then a very different path will be traveled. It does make a difference what you believe on this matter.

In our last study it was observed that there are two basic views concerning the Church and its relationship to Israel. Replacement Theology (RT) believes that God is done with national Israel and that the Church has replaced Israel in doing God’s work in the world. Israelites may be saved today (and there might even be “national salvation”) but Israel will not be restored to their former place of prominence. The second view is simply that the Church and Israel are distinct and the church has not replaced Israel. And while Israel has been temporarily set aside because of their disobedience and unbelief, God will fulfill His promises to ethnic Israel and restore them in the future. This second view is held by dispensational theologians, though this second view is not exclusively a dispensational position.

In concluding the first study, it was noted that RT must demonstrate that the New Testament writers teach: (1) that God’s many promises made to Abraham and his descendants will not be fulfilled to Abraham and his descendants; (2) that God clearly declares in the NT that the Church has replaced Israel; and (3) that after 1500 years of “Israel” meaning a specific ethnic group that the term has now been redefined by scripture.

At this point we need to begin to demonstrate why the Church is not the “new Israel”, and in the process of doing so deal with the verses presented by RT to support their position.

#1 – The Biblical Covenants God Made With Israel
The Abrahamic covenant, and the covenants which flow out of it, were made with a specific people, the nation of Israel. This is a central issue in this discussion. (Note that a much more detailed discussion can be found in Dr. Couch’s book “Messianic Systematic Theology of the OT”, and my book “Understanding End Times Prophecy”). Genesis 12-50 carefully records that this covenant was made with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. This Abrahamic covenant was everlasting (that is, it would last at least as long as the present universe) and it was unconditional (that is, it would depend on God alone for its fulfillment). In Genesis 15, God graciously helped Abraham’s weakened faith by legally ratifying the covenant with animal sacrifices. This point is critical because once and for all God declared that He would fulfill all its provisions to Abraham and his descendants. The Apostle Paul made a powerful point in Galatians 3:15 when he observes that no one can change a ratified covenant; one that is legally binding. The provisions of the covenant cannot be changed and this includes the parties of the covenant. In other words, no one can now change the covenant parties from God and Abraham’s descendants to God and the Church. Here is Paul’s statement.

“Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations; even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises (ie. an unconditional covenant) were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.”
The three covenants which flowed out of the Abrahamic covenant, developing in greater detail the seed thoughts of the Abrahamic covenants are: the Land covenant (a specific land area given to Israel), the Davidic covenant (the rule of David’s descendant over Israel and the nations of the earth), and the New covenant (dealing with the matter of sin and spiritual deliverance). Now, most of the provisions of these covenant have not been fulfilled. But God committed Himself on oath to fulfill them. To change the parties of the covenants from Israel to the Church goes against God’s covenant promises to Abraham; against the point that ratified covenants cannot be changed; and against the testimony of Moses, the OT prophets and NT Apostles that Israel has a future.

The presence of the everlasting, unfulfilled OT covenants requires that they be fulfilled to the same people who are the party to the covenant. That party is Israel, the descendants from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel). To substitute the Church for Israel simply goes against so much of what the Bible says.

#2 – The Use of the Term “Israel”
It is the view of RT that the term “Israel” and the term “church” are used interchangeably by the New Testament writers. This, of course, is critical to their position. The following quote fairly represents the view, though others might frame it in a slightly different way.
“God’s people were known in the OT as “Israel”. The same people, in the NT, are known as “the church.” As a matter of scriptural fact, these terms are used interchangeably; the church is referred to as “Israel” (Gal. 6:16) while the OT remnant is referred to as “the church” (Acts 7:38). (Wm. Cox, Amillennialism Today, p. 46)
But we must ask if this really is a “scriptural fact” or not. This will require a look at several key NT verses. But first, we should observe the general use of the term “Israel” in the Scriptures.

“Israel” is used over 2,000 times in the OT. And there, it is always used of national Israel; a specific ethnic group descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. A Philistine is never called an Israelite. A Canaanite is never called an Israelite. An Egyptian is never called an Israelite. While it is true that Ruth the Moabite believed in Jehovah and became a part of the nation, she is never called an Israelite. She is a wonderful example of the fact that God was and is interested in bringing gentiles to Himself. But it is a “scriptural fact” that “Israel” in the OT is never used of anyone aside from those who are the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. The NT use of “Israel” is built on the OT use.

In the NT, the term “Israel” is used 73 times. There is little doubt that about 70 of the 73 times the word is used of national Israel. (For example, when the ministry of John the Baptist is discussed, Luke 1:80 says that “he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel”; and there can be no real question what he meant by “Israel”). So overwhelmingly, the term “Israel” as used in the NT is consistent with its 2,000 uses in the OT. And again, we would make the point that if the meaning “Israel” has now changed (after 1500 years of consistent usage) it would be expected and required that a clear and detailed explanation would be given. But the question now focuses on the few references used by RT to establish their position that it a “scriptural fact” that the terms “Israel” and “church” are used interchangeably. So we will take a look in our next study at their key verse Galatians 6:16, along with Romans 9:6 and Romans 11:26.

RT is paddling against a very strong current biblically and theologically. The unconditional, unfulfilled Abrahamic covenant along with the consistent use of the term “Israel” are strong forces against the view of RT. And we will argue that no amount of paddling will bring them to the place where the church is the “new Israel.”

Monday, July 13, 2015


A realtor will tell you that the three most important factors in selling a property are (1) its location, (2) its location and (3) its location. If you have watched HGTV you know this is very true. And a theologian might tell you that the three most important factors in arriving at good theology are (1) definition of terms, (2) definition of terms and (3) definition of terms. When biblical and theological terms are not carefully defined, then one can pretty well expect that the result will be theological confusion. This holds true in any area of theological study including that of biblical prophecy. How a person defines Israel and the Church will have a profound effect on one’s understanding of biblical prophecy. This is an extremely important subject and one that needs careful analysis. Clarity here will bring clarity throughout biblical prophecy. This will be the first article in a series on this significant matter.

The Two Basic Views. We all recognize that theologians will hold many views on any given subject, and that would be true on the “Israel-Church” issue. But for the purpose of these brief discussions, the two main positions will be set forth.

This view, commonly associated with dispensationalism (though not exclusive to dispensationalism), concludes that Israel is a unique nation chosen by God to be the channel of bringing about the restoration of everything that was lost in Eden. Israel is a specific ethnic group, descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), which is united by a covenant relationship with God. This covenant is everlasting and it is unconditional (depending on God alone for final fulfillment), but it is largely unfulfilled. It will be fulfilled completely in the future with the same people (ethnic Israel) with whom it was made.

God’s choice of Israel to accomplish His great purposes in restoration and reconciliation is a major biblical and theological matter. But two points should be made. First, Israel’s election never meant that God became disinterested in the gentiles. God intended to bring the Savior into the world to save the world through Israel, and that He did. From the first giving of the covenant, God’s intention to save gentiles was seen. Second, Israel’s status as the elect nation did not mean that every individual Israelite would receive spiritual salvation. National election and individual election are two different matters. All Israelites must also place personal faith in Messiah Jesus.

The Church is distinct from national Israel. When that generation of Israelites that witnessed the coming of Jesus Messiah turned away in unbelief, God temporarily set Israel aside and raised up the Church (that body of believing Jews and believing gentiles) for an undetermined period of time to do God’s will and work in this world. This was not something revealed in the Old Testament which is why the Apostle Paul referred to the Church as a “mystery.” When God’s purposes for the Church are completed, God will restore Israel to their former place but not because of Israel’s goodness. God’s covenant with Israel was unconditional and He will do what He promised. God will restore national Israel during the “Seventieth Week of Daniel” (aka the Tribulation) which will lead to total covenant fulfillment. Evidences for making a clear distinction between the Church and Israel will be presented later on. To remove any suspense, the distinction between Israel and the Church is the position taken by the author in these articles.

#2 – THE CHURCH IS THE NEW ISRAEL This view is commonly called “Replacement Theology.” This view holds that Israel’s sin and unbelief connected with their rejection of Jesus Messiah caused God to set aside national Israel completely and permanently and replace it with the Church. The promises given to Israel in the Old Testament have been transferred over to the Church. The view is sometimes called “supersessionism” because the Church has superceded Israel. This position is reflected by these theologians.

“What further statement could be needed in order for us to say with assurance that church has now become the true Israel of God and will receive all the blessings promised to Israel in the Old Testament.” (W. Grudem, “Systematic Theology”. 863) “The Old Testament records two kinds of promises which God made to national Israel: national promises and spiritual promises….The spiritual promises are still being fulfilled through the church today. Israel’s national promises all have been either fulfilled or invalidated because of unbelief.”(W. Cox, Amillennialism Today, 83)
It needs to be noted that there are differing views within “Replacement Theology” on God’s present attitude towards Israel. There are two basic views.

(1) PUNITIVE REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY. This view states that because of Israel’s rejection of Jesus, God, in wrath, abrogated His covenant with them and is punishing them. For centuries this was the position of the Roman Catholic Church as well as some of the Reformers. The harsh, punitive attitude reflected in the Jews being “Christ killers” flows from this form of Replacement Theology.

(2) ECONOMIC REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY. Two key events in the 20th century has softened the above attitude towards the Jews: first, the Holocaust, and, second, the establishment of the state of Israel. And, it is likely, that the influence of Dispensational Theology has also played a role in the evangelical church’s attitudes towards Israel. Economic Replacement Theology basically says that Israel’s role as the people of God simply expired with the coming of Jesus as God then transferred their position to the church.

Both of these two views deny a restoration of national Israel. The first view holds that there is no future of any kind for the Jews. The second view acknowledges a future salvation for Israel but denies a future restoration of Israel (that is, Israel will have no special role in the future in fulfilling God’s work and will).

For Replacement Theology (RT) to be true then there are three points that must be demonstrated from the Scriptures. First, they must show that God’s many eternal, unconditional promises made to Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob will not be fulfilled to them. There needs to be clear New Testament evidence that all of those commitments made by God in the Old Testament have been set aside by God Himself. The writers of the NT must declare that this is the case. Second, there must be a clear discussion by the Apostles that the Church has now replaced Israel in God’s program. This is such an important issue that it would be necessary to have the matter discussed clearly and forcefully. There ought to be a number of passages which detail this monumental shift from Israel to the Church. And third, it must be shown that the term “Israel” which had just one meaning (an ethnic people) for some 1500 years now has a new meaning. Again, this would require clear, unmistakable declarations by the NT writers. God was so very clear about the identification of this people Israel. From the days of Moses to those of Nehemiah, “Israel” had just one meaning. It is difficult to believe that God would change the meaning of “Israel” without letting all of us know, by giving a clear and detailed discussion of the issue. On the other hand, we would expect God to reinforce His view of Israel through the pens of NT writers. And we do have such a clear, unmistakable discussion of that very thing in Romans 9-11.

As we will see in upcoming articles, RT is an exegetically weak theological position. The Scriptures commonly used by RT are inadequate to support this theological view. Clear exegesis, and not a resorting to analogies and metaphors, is what is required.

NOTE: The author has found that Michael J. Vlach’s book “Has the Church Replaced Israel?” (B & H Publishing Group) is an excellent book, and one that the reader will find valuable when dealing with this important subject. It is highly recommended.

Monday, June 8, 2015


People living in Nicaragua or Nigeria are probably not too interested in the answer to this question. It likely has not entered their minds. However, believers living in America often wonder if our country does have a place in end time prophecy. It is hard for us to imagine that such a powerful nation would be totally absent from prophecy. Now, the quick answer to the above question is, of course, “no, the USA is not mentioned in biblical prophecy.” But if we should be living in the days immediately preceding the Tribulation, then it is very likely that the United States does find a place in the scenario of events.

There has been recent attempts by some Bible teachers suggesting that “Babylon” of the Book of Revelation is really the United States of America. The evidence presented for such a determination is not strong exegetically. And, it seems to me, that there are numerous points found in Revelation 17 and 18 which do not align well with such an interpretation and, in fact, speak against it. But if the USA is not “Babylon”, is it not part of end time prophecy? We cannot declare with certainty that such is the case. But there is a chapter in Daniel which could shed some light on the matter.

Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts
THE SETTING. Daniel received this vision fifty years after King Nebuchadnezzar had received his vision of the “great metallic statue” (in Daniel 2). In that vision, God revealed that there would be four human empires which would be followed by the forever kingdom of God. Those kingdoms would succeed one another and the final kingdom would be destroyed totally by God Himself, who would then establish the kingdom of the Stone (the kingdom of Messiah). Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (chapter 7) reveals the same identical information that is found in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (chapter 2), but does give some new, vital information on the fourth and final kingdom of man.

VISION SUMMARY. Four strange looking beasts (empires of man) would emerge out of the sea (gentile nations), being energized by the winds of heaven (divine involvement and activity). The first beast was a winged lion (Babylon) which was followed by a bear (Medo-Persia) and then by a four headed leopard (Greece) and finally by an animal that simply did not look like any animal found in a zoo. That animal (Rome) was ugly and ferocious. As in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 2), the fourth kingdom (Rome) had two distinct parts to it. Here the terrible, strong beast (part 1) grew eleven horns (part 2). Ten of the horns emerged first, being followed by an eleventh horn designated as the “little horn.” The “little horn” did not stay little for long, but soon grew larger than the other ten and dominated them. It must be remembered that “horns” stand for both kings and their kingdoms.

A LOOK AT THE “LITTLE HORN” . Daniel was particularly interested in the fourth beast and its horns, and so, asked questions of the interpreting angel. Here is a brief summary of what the text reveals about the “little horn”, who is none other than the Antichrist, the dominant human figure of the Tribulation period.

  1. He chronologically arises after the 10 other horns, indicating that he and his kingdom are a late arrival on the world scene, in comparison with the others.
  2. While initially he is not as great as the other 10, he soon becomes so. He will become larger than the others and will dominate them.
  3. He will forcibly defeat three of the 10, most likely by military means. (This would take place in the early days of the Tribulation, if this is what is being described in Revelation 6:1-2). Furthermore, this shows that the Antichrist and the 10 kings are all existing in the world at the same time. It would seem that the 7 who were not specifically conquered simply acquiesce and submit to the Antichrist (note where all 10 are seen as under his authority in Revelation 17:12-13). This would be the western confederacy of nations: 10 western nations (coming out of the old Roman empire, plus the nation of the Antichrist.)
  4. In the second half of the Tribulation, he will target believers in the Lord Jesus and will put many of them to death (7:21 with Rev. 13:7-8).
  5. His anti-God, anti-Christ activities will be accelerated during the second half of the Tribulation when he will become a world dictator and object of worship (7:25 with Rev. 13:4-6).
  6. After his short-lived successes, he will come to his end by the powerful judgment of God. He, his followers and his evil world empire will be exterminated by a direct judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:11ff.).

SPECULATING ABOUT THE “LITTLE HORN”. For years Bible students have talked about the ten nations and have speculated about the European Union as fulfilling this prophecy. As the years go by, it seems as though this union is not nearly as powerful economically, politically and militarily as forecast. There are significant cracks appearing in this union as nationalism rises again and many of their economies are near bankruptcy. Very little was said about the eleventh nation which historically arises later and becomes dominant over the ten.

Is it possible that this distinctive eleventh nation could be America? At this point in history, the USA is still the dominant power in the west. Now, fifty years from now, if Jesus does not return, that could change dramatically. But if the rapture and Tribulation were (for sake of argument) one year away, then it is hard to imagine that this country would not be a significant player in the final days of man’s empires. In other words, America would be part of the empire of the Antichrist.

Keep in mind that the “seventieth week of Daniel” (the Tribulation) begins only when the Antichrist makes a treaty with Israel. When he makes that treaty, he is the ruler of just one nation, since the western confederacy of eleven nations is not formed until the first half of the Tribulation. This means that the Antichrist comes from a very powerful nation who is able to actually defend Israel and come to her aid. There are no nations that really fit that bill (Germany might be a candidate sometime in the future but not now). And America, at its roots politically and culturally, is a western nations.

Another factor to keep in mind is the rapture of the Church. When the rapture event removes all believers from the world, including America, then all nations will experience immediate, dramatic moral and spiritual changes. Can you imagine what our nation will be like one week after the rapture when believers are removed? We are witnessing a moral and spiritual decline right now which will accelerate immediately. The decline will be breathtaking.

So while this country is not specifically mentioned in biblical prophecies of the end times, it could be possible that this nation is there as the unnamed eleventh empire. This would seem to be a real possibility, IF the final events are soon to unfold. Something to consider.

However we might answer the question, “is the United States in prophecy”, we are to remember that we hold dual citizenship. We may be citizens of the United States, but our primary allegiance is to our heavenly citizenship. This means we are to represent King Jesus authentically are we live as “aliens” and “pilgrims” in this world (Hebrews 11). Someday the question we have considered will be answered clearly, but until then I would hope that our focus on serving and worshipping our King will be greater and greater.

Monday, May 11, 2015


One of the thorny issues that believers are confronted with when facing an aggressive unbeliever is the problem of pain and suffering. The story of life on this planet is largely one of painful existence; as there is so much war, crime, disease, destruction, broken lives, broken dreams, broken relationships and all the suffering that comes from these things. No one escapes or is exempted. And the daily news tells us that things are not getting better. In fact, we may be on target if we believe that things are getting worse. We just cannot get around the fact that this life has a lot of pain and our attempts to anesthetize ourselves with pleasure, power and possessions simply does not work. It never has and never will.

So, the unbeliever pointedly asks, “where is this good God of yours?” “How can you promote the idea of a loving God inhabiting this universe when you everywhere see senseless destruction, abuse of innocents, rape, murder, horrible diseases, terrible brutality and so much more?” These, of course, are not trivial matters. But the perspective of these unbelievers is wrong. And, unfortunately, the perspective to too many believers (especially those holding to prosperity theology) is similar to unbelievers. Both have a one-world view; that is, the focus is exclusively on this present life on this present earth.

The Necessary “Two-World” View. A number of times in past articles we have referenced a “two-world” view; which we have described as living in this present world but with a clear focus on the world to come. The Bible speaks often about the incredible future that God has planned for His people and makes it abundantly clear that the best is yet to come. All of this is based on the restoring, reconciling work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. If all we do is focus on present pain, we will not do well. Biblical prophecy is a significant part of the answer to the problem of pain.

Prophetic Truth is God’s Answer. . Biblical prophecy supplies the needed perspective as is seen in the words of the Apostle Paul.
“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us….For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now…even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:18, 22-23
What an accurate description of life on this earth. But also, what an accurate perspective. Present suffering and pain is so far superseded by future glory.

The Apostle was no ivory tower theologian who was isolated from life in this world. He says the following in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Just in case we might misunderstand his “momentary, light afflictions” we need to review his life experiences in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Most of us would not think of these as light afflictions if they happened to us!

Without having a clear view of what is coming, this present life will likely be seen as a very bad, senseless joke. Image you have a scale where you place a brick on one side. The brick is so heavy that the scale is completely weighed down on that side. The brick is pain and suffering. If that is the totality of the situation then the brick encompasses all of life and is not offset by anything. We look at the brick, focus on the brick and perhaps curse the brick. But if we should place Mt. Everest on the other side of the scale, all of a sudden the brick is not so formidable. In fact, Mt. Everest so totally dominates that the brick is seen as nothing. Paul is right. The sufferings of this present life are not to be compared with the coming glory. C.S. Lewis in his book “The Problem of Pain” agrees with Paul.
“A book on suffering which says nothing of heaven, is leaving out almost the whole of one side of the account. Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings on earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one.”
Satan and sin. The Scriptures are straightforward in their declaration that presently Satan is the “god of this world.” And since, according to Jesus, he is both a liar and murderer, what should we expect would be taking place in this world, his realm. Does not his rule bring about an abundance of suffering and pain? And furthermore, it is a self- evident truth that sin always has consequences. That is the way, the moral universe was built. Sin produces all kinds of bad things. The woman who has contracted cancer might ask why God allowed it, but might it possible that her smoking of two packs of cigarettes a day played a part in it. The man who is lonely and depressed might wonder why God has allowed this to engulf his life. But then, again, perhaps it was his adulteries that are now bearing their fruits. The point should be obvious that God can hardly be charged with maliciously bringing pain and suffering into this life when sin, Satan and man himself are the causes.

Heaven and the New Earth. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God has been working at bringing a complete (and enhanced) restoration of everything that was lost in Eden. Paradise, unhindered fellowship with God and a life of great purpose and significance is what God is bringing us to. Psalm 16:11 reminds us that “in Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” While heaven is our temporary residence if we should die prior to end time events, it is the new earth that will be our eternal dwelling. A world free of sin, death, crying, disease and pain; exactly what God originally designed. We will not be living as disembodied spirits floating around in the clouds. We have been built to live on the earth and to the earth we will go. The Apostle John states that he saw “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). The Apostle Peter says that believers look “for a new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). A new earth is being created to be our residence forever.

The fact is that the new (a fresh version of the old) earth is so wonderful that God Himself is going to come down and “live with” His people. And where He is, there is fullness of life and joy (Rev. 21:1-5). And that is undoubtedly why Peter informed us that “righteousness dwells” there. Nothing vaguely resembling sin will be part of our experience.

The Resurrection Body. Our physical bodies were defective from the day we were born. Our legacy is genetic deficiency. We may escape for some years the noticeable breakdown of body parts, but it will catch up to us all. In Psalm 90, Moses observes that man’s years are basically 70 in number. If we happen to go beyond that 70th year, our experience will be “labor and sorrow.” In other words, the physical body will wear out and fail. So, it is a great and wonderful revelation when we learn that we are going to receive, at the resurrection, a new body which will live forever free of pain and problems. It is a body which is built to live on this new earth with no possibility of breaking down. This was all part of God’s original design and it will come to pass. THE BEST IS YET TO COME.

A Concluding Thought. The problem of pain and suffering is very real and would be an overwhelming issue if not seen through the lens of biblical prophecy. The need today is to return to biblical prophecy and learn what God says He is going to do. There, in His prophetic word, God has told us much about what awaits His children, and it is the “eternal weight of glory” which dismisses present pain and suffering. The critical matter is, therefore, to know that we are indeed children of God by new birth through faith in Jesus Christ. As believers, we need to focus on the wonderful and profound truth that God is good. Yes, He is.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Daniel spent most all of his life in Babylon living throughout Judah’s period of captivity. If someone had asked him if he was a premillennialist, he, of course, would have no idea what was being asked. This term would not come into existence until many centuries later, but nevertheless, Daniel would be a champion of a premillennial point of view because he understood God’s covenant promises to his people Israel must be fulfilled.

Premillennialism, as most of our readers know, holds firmly to certain points. First, it believes that the return of Jesus Messiah to the earth will be prior to the start of His messianic (millennial) kingdom. Second, He will rule on this present earth (not on the new earth) for a literal period of 1,000 years. David’s throne is an earthly throne, not one in heaven. Third, at the beginning of His reign the resurrection of believers (the “first resurrection”) takes place and at the end of His thousand year rule, there will be the resurrection of the unsaved dead. Fourth, this period of time is necessary because God has made, on oath, promises to Israel which have not yet been fulfilled.

The Great Statue Vision (Daniel 2).  When Daniel was taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, along with others he was educated so that he could more effectively serve the Babylonian king. When the King had a dream (more like a nightmare), he wanted to know the meaning of the dream, and so, he summoned a group who were allegedly able to interpret the dream for him. They were unable to do so. The result of this failure on the part of these who were on the King’s payroll was that they would be put to death. Daniel, who unfortunately was a member in good standing of this elite group, told the King that he could interpret the dream if given just a little time. After cooling down a little, the King recognized that killing off all these scholars of his would bring him no closer to getting what he wanted, which was to know the meaning of his dream. He decided to give Daniel a little time. After prayer with his friends, Daniel received from God all the needed information about the dream as well as its interpretation.

The Content of the King’s Dream.   Daniel 2:31-35 records the basic substance of the dream. The dream centered on an immense statue made of a variety of metals. The head was of gold; the chest and arms of silver; the thighs of bronze; the legs of iron; and the feet and toes were of iron combined with clay. But strategic to the dream was the next part; the appearance of a stone.

There was a stone which came crashing into the statue, hitting it on its feet. The stone was a “raw” stone in that no human hand had sculpted it. The stone hit the statue with such incredible force that it knocked it over and pulverized each and every part of the statue. After that, a strong wind came and blew away everything, so that not one grain, one flake or bit of residue of the statue remained. It was then that the stone grew and grew until it became a great mountain, dominating the world. Nebuchadnezzar was deeply impressed with Daniel’s ability to relate back to him his dream, and so, was quite open to the interpretation that Daniel would give.

The Interpretation of the King’s Dream.   Daniel 2:36-45 is Daniel’s interpretation of the dream. Basically, the various metals represented the next human kingdoms that would rule the world, beginning with Babylon itself. After Babylon would come Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and then Rome in another form that will appear at the end of human history. The focal point of Daniel’s interpretation was on the feet and toes of the statue where the stone hit. The toes are said to represent “kings” which will reign at the end of times. (Later in Daniel 7, we learn that these kings exist at the same time as one another and will be dominated by someone known as the “little horn”. This “little horn” is the first discussion in the Bible of the man we commonly refer to as “the Antichrist”). It is in the days of those 10 kings that God will establish His kingdom.

The uncut stone forcefully strikes the statue on its feet (not in the head or on the knees) which means that God’s kingdom (the stone) will be established at the end of human history. Now, it is very important to note that the kingdom of God that is going to be established is done so only after the total and complete removal of all of man’s kingdoms. There are no traces of the statue to be found anywhere. The sequence of events in the dream is absolutely clear and is fundamental to the interpretation of this dream.

Important Applications of the Statue Vision.   There are a number of key facts which point to God’s kingdom (the messianic/millennial kingdom) being established in connection with the Second Coming of Christ and not in connection with His first coming (which is the position of amillennialism). First, the destruction of the statue is sudden and violent, and is, neither tranquil nor gradual. A quiet, imperceptible victory of a spiritual kingdom is not in view (the position of post-millennialism). The world is not going to be cleaned up, reformed or “Christianized” by the activities of the church. The kingdoms of this world will never be changed by the efforts of man, whether believer or unbeliever. These kingdoms will be suddenly terminated by the Stone. Second, the “stone kingdom” only comes into existence after the total destruction of the kingdoms of man. It is after the statue is totally pulverized and blown away that the stone kingdom fills the whole earth. There is simply no allowance of a parallel existence or a co-existence of man’s kingdoms with the Messianic kingdom. The viewpoint of amillennialism is that the kingdom of Jesus Messiah began at the first coming, exists today and will end at His Second coming. It is obvious that man’s kingdoms not only exist, but dominate the world today. But this is NOT allowed by what is seen in Daniel’s vision.

Third, the kingdom of iron was not destroyed at the Jesus’ first coming. When Jesus came into the world the Roman Empire dominated. When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, the Roman Empire dominated. He did not destroy or remove it which is what is required in this vision. Fourth, the kingdoms of iron and clay did not exist at the first coming. There was no such ten-fold division of the Roman Empire when Jesus was here on earth which would also be required in this vision. He could not have commenced His kingdom at His first coming because this ten-fold division did not exist. Fifth, all of the kingdoms in the vision are political/physical kingdoms. In interpreting the vision, it would be highly questionable to have all the kingdoms be political/physical kingdoms and then to have God’s kingdom not to be of the same kind. The text ought to let us know that we are looking at an entirely different kingdom form if that were the case. Now to be clear, the rule of Christ will be the most “spiritual” of all kingdoms anywhere and at any time. It will be a time where the glorious Christ is present on the earth; where true righteousness dominates all of life on the earth; and where peace, justice and joy are everywhere. But it is still a physical/political kingdom in that a king rules from Jerusalem over all the nations and peoples of the earth.

It is safe to say that Daniel is indeed a premillennialist. His interpretation of the King’s dream makes it abundantly clear that the facts about God’s coming kingdom fits exactly the premillennial pattern but simply does not align itself with either amillennialism or postmillennialism.

Monday, March 9, 2015


The preacher on television looked straight into the camera and declared enthusiastically, “We are kingdom people and we must give ourselves to kingdom work.” This, of course, got a number of “amens” from folks in the congregation. They were not exactly sure what this meant or what they should do, but it certainly sounded biblical. Most in the congregation and in the TV audience had forgotten that three weeks earlier the pastor had said that when Jesus comes He will set up the kingdom. So, is the kingdom of God something present or something future? In light of the regular use of the phrase “kingdom of God”, there needs to be some clarity on the matter. Hopefully, this article will help us define what is meant by “kingdom of God.”

Defining the Term: “Kingdom of God”
The “kingdom of God” is a great theme in the Scriptures. God is the eternal King who rules now and shall rule in the future. The phrase is used a little over 200 times in the Bible. When we look at the way “kingdom of God” is used, we can come to some important conclusions.

The term “kingdom of God” refers to the rule of the sovereign God over His creation. In both the general concept of a kingdom and in the biblical idea of the kingdom of God, three essential elements are found.

(1) A sovereign, authoritative ruler. There must be a ruler in a kingdom who has the authority and power to rule. God rules over the entire universe (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:6). In the book of Revelation, John uses the term “throne” some 40 times as he speaks of God’s sovereign rule over the heavens and earth.

(2) A realm to rule. There must be a realm to rule. This element of a kingdom focuses on the subjects to be ruled. In the biblical contexts, inevitably there is authority over someone or something is found.

(3) The exercising of authority. If there is to be a real kingdom, there must be the actual exercising of authority. In theory, of course, a ruler might temporarily be forced to leave his realm of authority and still be viewed as a ruler. But there can be no kingdom in a full and complete sense without the active exercising of authority. All three of these elements of a kingdom is seen in David’s statement in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12.

Biblical Distinctions in the Concept of the Kingdom of God.
As we read our Bibles on the matter of the kingdom of God, certain distinctions need to be observed. At first, some of these appear to contradict on another, but they are simply different aspects of a wonderfully diverse concept.

(1) Distinctions in the beginning of the kingdom of God. In some passages, the kingdom is seen as something that has always existed, but in others it is not yet come into existence. Sometimes the kingdom has a starting point (as in Daniel 2:44) while other times it is and has been in existence (as in Ps. 29:10).

(2) Distinctions in the scope of the kingdom of God. Sometimes the Bible speaks of the kingdom as being universal in its scope, including all created beings (Ps. 103:19). Yet on the other hand, the kingdom is seen as being earthly in scope (as in Daniel 2:44-45) where Messiah will rule from His throne in Jerusalem.

(3) Distinctions in the administration of the kingdom. The kingdom is sometimes revealed to be ruled directly by God Himself, with no human mediator ruling on God’s behalf. God administers His own rule (as in Ps. 59:13). In contrast to this, God’s rule is administered indirectly through a human mediator as in Psalm 2 where the Son rules the nations of the world.

(4) Distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven? The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is found only in Matthew’s gospel. In the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke it is the “kingdom of God.” This leads me to conclude that since Matthew was writing to the Jews with their keen sensitivity to misusing the name of God, he simply substituted the term “heaven” for “God.” This would have made his discussion more acceptable to his Jewish readers. So it seems that no distinction should be made between these two expressions. (Years ago, Dr. Couch and I found that we were in agreement on this matter).

Various Aspects of the Kingdom of God.
As the Scriptures discuss the rule of God over creation, various aspects of the kingdom become apparent. If we are going to understand God’s kingdom rule, these must be observed. It also becomes clear that the context in which the kingdom is discussed will play a crucial role in determining which aspect is in view. The following aspects of the kingdom of God are presented for your consideration and study.

(1) THE UNIVERSAL KINGDOM OF GOD. This is God’s rule over the entire universe. In this kingdom, nothing happens outside of the control of the will of God because He is sovereign. (1 Chron. 29:12; Ps. 145:13). This would be the very broadest aspect of the kingdom.

(2) THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM OF GOD. This would be God’s rule over all those who believe, that is, those who have experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Though some do not think that such an aspect exists (perhaps out of fear of certain aspects of liberal theology), it does seem that this is the basic idea of several passages. (Col. 1:13; John 3:1-10). So this aspect would have been in existence since the days of Adam and Eve. And, it is worth noting, that this aspect of the kingdom of God is not what John the Baptist was announcing.

(3) THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM OF GOD. This is being used to refer to the rule of God over a temporal earthly kingdom (as in the days of the Judges of Israel where God was the king and there was not a human king).

(4) THE MYSTERY FORM OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the mysteries of the kingdom. This is an aspect of the kingdom that simply was not revealed in the OT. This form would come about because Jesus, the King, had been rejected by Israel. This aspect of the kingdom would exist between the two coming of Christ. God rules over people on the earth who have related themselves is a positive, neutral, or negative way to “Christendom” (including believers, rejecters and professing people). Unlike the spiritual kingdom of God, unbelievers exist in this form of the kingdom.

(5) THE MILLENNIAL/MESSIANIC KINGDOM OF GOD. This aspect of the kingdom of God is yet future. The OT prophets wrote much about this aspect of the kingdom where Messiah will rule over all the nations of the earth, and not just over Israel. This is the aspect of the kingdom that John the Baptist declared was “at hand” and what he was offering to Israel. The nation of Israel rejected it when the spurned the Lord Jesus. But in the future time of tribulation, Israel will turn in faith to Jesus and He will return and sit upon the throne of His ancestor David.

(6) THE ETERNAL KINGDOM OF GOD. The kingdom of God eternal is actually established when Jesus returns at His Second Coming. Phase #1 is the messianic kingdom on the present earth; while phase #2 is connected with the new heavens and new earth that will be created (Rev. 21:1). Here ruling authority is turned back to the Father by the Son (1 Cor. 15:23 ff.).

So when the TV preacher declares that we are kingdom people that are to be doing kingdom work, he really needs to explain himself. He needs to make it clear, as a good exegete of the Word of God, just what he is preaching about. We are, in fact, in several aspects of the “kingdom of God” and yet we go look forward to that marvelous future aspect of God’s kingdom.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Many too many within the Church today do not tell the whole truth. In a church culture where so many churches are busily marketing themselves and putting on a happy face to draw folks in, these all too often stay clear of some of those “hard” doctrines of the Bible. There is a tendency to go quiet or to mumble when counter culture teachings surface, such as hell and damnation.

The matter of hell and future judgment is often avoided when presenting the good news of salvation in Christ. But the truth is, there is a flip side to the good news and that is the bad news. Jesus Christ died for the sins of human beings, so that if they will accept God’s free gift of eternal life, they will be eternally secure in their position as a child of God. This truly is good news. But the whole truth should also be given; that there are very real consequences (the “bad news”) for an individual who chooses not to accept God’s free gift of eternal life. The consequence is death that is eternal.

In our previous article, we defined death essentially as “separation.” Death means separation of some kind, not non-existence. The Bible speaks of three kinds of death. First, there is spiritual death, which means that a person is separated from God because of their sin (cf. Eph. 2:1). And unless this condition is corrected, that same person will experience the second death (Rev. 20:14) which is eternal separation from God. The “second death” is avoided only through a person placing their trust in Christ for salvation. The third kind of death is that of physical death. When a person’s material body dies, the body and the soul/spirit separate. The body is placed in the ground but the immaterial part goes either to heaven or to hell, depending on whether or not Jesus Christ is the savior of that person.

The previous article addressed the future of the believer in Christ after his or her death. And it is an incredible future for sure. This article will focus on the future of the unbeliever after physical death. And as a reminder, this subject of the future of the individual is in many ways the most personally important aspect of biblical prophecy.

THE INTERMEDIATE STATE OF THE UNBELIEVER. At death the unbeliever, just like the believer, continues to consciously exist. But his existence is truly unpleasant. The Scriptures teach that the unbeliever faces torment. Some have pointed out that sheol/hades is simply used as a term for the grave or for a hole in the ground, but is never used of eternal punishment. It is true that sheol in the O.T. often means “grave”, but it is used of a place of punishment (e.g. Psalm 9:17; Prov. 23:14 where no amount of parental discipline will keep a child from the grave, but it can keep him from punishment in sheol). In the N.T. hades/hell usually are term for punishment (Luke 16:23; Matt. 5:22; 11:23; 23:33), as well as being used for the grave. It is also should be noted that the Bible does not speak of hell is as a place of eternal punishment. Technically, hell will come to an end (thus is not eternal) when it will be cast into the “lake of fire” (the place of eternal punishing). So the immediate fate of the unbeliever is going to be a terribly unpleasant one, which is why God so patiently works with people to bring them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It should be mentioned here that the theological idea of “soul sleep” as postulated by Seventh-day Adventism is completely refuted by such passages as Philippians 1:21-23 and 2 Corinthians 5:5-8. The refutation of “soul sleep” is beyond the scope of this article (see my book, “Understanding End Times Prophecy”, pages 350-352).

THE ETERNAL STATE OF THE UNBELIEVER. The future of the unbeliever is completely opposite from the believer who will experience a fullness of joy forever (Psalm 16:11). They will experience suffering, loss and ultimate separation. Jesus soberly warned about their future and exhorted people to avoid being placed there (Matt. 24:51; 10:28; 11:21-24; 18:9; 8:12; 5:22, 29-30; 7:23; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Luke 16:19-31).

The Apostle Paul’s description of the future of the unbeliever really is very sobering. Unbelievers are not going to be “partying” in hell with their friends and a keg of Cours beer. The reality is far from that. Note what he teaches in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

“...when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His might angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

The unbelievers will “pay the penalty” because they would not let Jesus pay the penalty for them (note Eph. 1:7). Those who carelessly pushed aside the love and grace of God will now experience the judgment of God (note God’s character in Exodus 34:6-7). “Pay the penalty” is a legal term which indicates that punishment is determined by a lawful process. This punishment will come as a result of the “Great White Throne” judgment (Rev. 20:11:15) where unbelievers are revealed as unbelievers because their names are not in the “book of life”; and where their punishment is determined by the “book of deeds” (which strongly suggests that there will be degrees of punishment).

The Apostle then describes what the imposed penalty will be. He speaks of their “destruction.” This is not speaking of annihilation (another subject that is outside the scope of this article, but see pages 356-359 in UETP), but rather refers to ruination; that is, the loss of everything that makes life worth living. In this life, we can experience this to some degree when we live futile, empty lives that push a person towards suicide. In one sense, it is like being deeply, severely depressed forever. Life has no meaning. It is a painful, useless existence that the unbeliever has. Yes, it also includes conscious punishment according to Judge Jesus (Matt. 13:42, 50; 24:51).

A second thing to note in Paul’s discussion is that the unbeliever will be “away from the presence of the Lord.” The unbeliever is forever separated from the Lord. Man who was created for fellowship with God will instead not have God in their experience at all. There is no experience of “common grace” (God’s unmerited favor towards all people). Everyone in this life experiences God’s grace to some degree; as Jesus noted the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. This may not seem like much since many unbelievers may not acknowledge or appreciate God’s grace in their world. But when it is absent, it will be noticed. We do not necessarily appreciate the air we breathe, but take it away and suddenly it has great significance.

The Apostle also notes the duration of their experience. It is “everlasting”. The punishment will last forever in this place of confinement called the “lake of fire.” Jesus also spoke of the eternality of it in Matthew 25:46. It must be noted that if the believer’s experience is an everlasting one then the unbelievers is also. Jesus used the same word in Matthew 25:46 to describe the duration for the believer as well as the unbeliever.

The sobering reality is that the future of the unbeliever is truly a terrible one. This information is given in the Scriptures to warn unbelievers and cause them to turn to the Savior. But it is also a powerful exhortation to we who are believers to be more merciful to those obnoxious, sinful unbelievers that are part of our personal world. We sometimes want to see them judged now and removed from this world. But when we understand that their future is horrible, it ought to have a tenderizing effect on us. Their future is forever in separation, loss and torment and the only remedy is the good news about Jesus. We who possess this good news need to proactively seek to be filled with grace and truth and let them know that there is a Savior; and yes, they do need saving.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I do readily admit that death is not the most pleasant of subjects, and people generally prefer not to think a lot about it because deep inside it brings uneasiness or just plain fear. The biblical truth that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27) pointedly reinforces what man intuitively seems to sense---that there is life after death. The concern is, therefore, what will life be like after life here is over?

It is not surprising, therefore, that many are quite ready to listen to ideas and philosophies that teach tranquility and peace for all after death and the absence of punishment of any kind. This may take the form of a television special that gives the testimonials of those who claim to have had near death experiences that are warm and wonderful, or philosophies that teach such things as reincarnation. Even some within the church suggest that since God is a God of love, people do not need to be unduly concerned about what lies beyond death.

But of all the truths found in biblical prophecy, none is as important or personal as “what happens to me when I die?” The Bible does speak clearly and confidently on the matter. This article will be a reminder of what happens to the believer in Jesus Christ at death, and the next article will focus on what happens to the unbeliever at death. As we shall observe, the future of the believer and the unbeliever are not at all the same. First, it is important that we define what is meant by “death.”

The Biblical View of Death. Though death is both real and inevitable, it is unnatural. When God created His “very good” creation, death was not part of it. It is the sin of Adam and Eve that brought death into the world, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12. But death should not be, and that is why, eventually, death will be finally conquered and completely banished from the new creation (1 Cor. 15:26).

In the Bible there are three kinds of death. (Eph. 2:1; Rev. 20:14; Gen. 35:18-19). There is spiritual death (the separation of a person from God); the second death (the eternal separation of a person from God; and then there is physical death (the separation of the material part of man from the immaterial part). Death basically means separation. Death does not mean non-existence, nor does it mean annihilation.

So when a believer in Jesus Christ (one who is no longer spiritually dead; that is “separated from God”) dies physically, his body (material) ceases to exist and his soul/spirit (immaterial) continues to exist. The issue is where and how does the immaterial exist. The Scriptures do tell us a number of things about what transpires after physical death

The Intermediate State. The “intermediate state” is that time between physical death and final resurrection. It is that condition that Uncle Fred is presently in. There are some truths about this state that are quite certain. First, believers are guaranteed that nothing, including death, will ever separate us from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). Second, believers never need to fear what happens at the moment of death. Death is not some long, dark, foreboding tunnel we travel through. Rather death for the believer is put in very non-frightening terms; such as “sleep” (1 Thess. 4:13-15). Third, believers are assured that death brings them immediately into the glorious presence of Jesus Himself. In two passages that are grammatically and theologically powerful (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23), the Apostle Paul declares without any reservation that believers can only be in one of two places. They are either here on earth or they are in heaven with Christ. Here or there. There is no third option. There is no “soul sleep” (Seventh-day Adventism) nor is there any “purgatory” (Roman Catholicism). The strong grammar of these passages not only presents two options only, but also tells us that there is no time lapse between death and being with Jesus the Lord. Death brings a believer instantly into the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One matter that is not clear but rather might be suggested has to do with the conscious state that the believer is in. In other words, does the believer have a temporary body, something to house the immaterial part prior to resurrection? Jesus’ transfiguration holds an interesting possibility. And it has to do with the presence of the Old Testament hero Moses. Moses, whose body was buried at his death in the plains of Moab, appears on the Mount of Transfiguration in bodily form. This appearance was, of course, chronologically prior to Jesus’ resurrection, and thus the resurrection of anyone else. No one received a resurrection body before Jesus, the “first fruits of the resurrection”, was resurrected. (People, like Lazarus, were returned to life but in their earthly physical bodies, not their resurrection bodies). So perhaps we do not exist in spirit form but have some sort of clothing for our immaterial parts. It would not, of course, be a problem for the Creator to call such bodies into existence.

The Eternal Future of the Believer in Jesus. It was the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that His followers would be with Him and see His glory. That prayer will be answered. We possess “eternal life”, but “eternal life” is not simply endless existence, but speaks of a quality of life; that is, the life of God Himself being possessed by regenerate men. In eternity we will have a quality of life which is simply beyond our present experience or understanding. There will be some differences between believers based on the Judgment Seat of Christ, but all will enjoy the wonders of eternity. What will it be like to live without the incessant pull and power of the flesh? What will it be like to be holy and forever righteous? What will it be like to have absolute peace with God and be in complete harmony with all the rest of mankind and all creation? What will it be like to live without sin, crying, pain and death?

From what we can discern in Revelation 20-22, the focus of our lives after the resurrection will be on the earth, not heaven itself. The Lord apparently will be returning to His original plan of establishing something similar to the Garden of Eden. When church age believers are resurrection they will join with the recently resurrected Old Testament and Tribulation believers at the Second Coming. As King Jesus comes to earth to establish His marvelous kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace, all believers will be with Him. For a thousand years, believers will revel in the righteous reign of the King. Then, after the thousand years are completed, the new earth and new heavens are created and the indication of Revelation 21 is that we believers will reside on the new earth. There will be full, unhindered fellowship with God as He comes and takes up residence among us. Our imaginations cannot conceive of the glorious days that await the follower of Jesus Christ. By His grace, not our goodness, we have an incredible future to look forward. For sure, the best is yet to come for the believer in Jesus.