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The Purposes of the Tribulation; The Rapture vs. the Second Coming
God's Plan for the Ages – Dispensations Lesson #25
September 16, 2014
"Our Father, it is a great privilege we have to come together to study Your Word and to recognize that as God the Holy Spirit has led us through the understanding of Your Word, we know we are standing upon the shoulders of many who have gone before us. We are so thankful for their guidance, their direction, the way in which they have supported Your Word and defended its inerrancy and infallibility. And Father, we are so thankful that as we continue this study that we come to understand that history is not something that is comprised of accidents, but that You oversee history, guide and direct it toward a future culmination and future goal that culminates in Your glorification among all of Your creatures, among Your angels, among mankind. And Father, as we continue our study, we pray that You'd help us to see how we fit in as individual believers in the Church Age, and how Your plan for us is distinct from all other dispensations and all other groups of those who are saved at other periods of time. And we pray this in Christ's Name, Amen."
We are still looking at the doctrine of the Rapture. We are still focusing on what the Bible teaches about the Rapture. Now for a lot of us who have grown-up in dispensational teaching churches and haven't been exposed much to what goes on outside dispensational churches, we are the minority. We are an oppressed minority. We are the whipping child of everybody who holds a different view. In fact, as we know from our study that one of the consequences of dispensationalism is the understanding of the distinction between Israel and the church and that God has a plan and purpose for Israel based upon the unconditional covenants of the Old Testament (OT). There are many people who are not self-conscious consistent dispensationalists, but they hold to many dispensational distinctives even though they may not be well versed in theology. One of those principles that you see held by many Americans is the importance of Israel. Last week I pointed out that at a meeting there was a news report of a group that's supposed purpose was to support the Christians in the Middle East. Ted Cruz was the keynote speaker; and Ted Cruz came out talking about the importance of supporting Christians and supporting Israel because of those who are antagonistic to Christians are also antagonistic to Israel. He received a lot of push back from Arab Christians who were in the audience. This is typical because, as I pointed out Thursday night when I talked about this, that this is so typical of people who hold to replacement theology. They don't understand the distinction.
When you get into some areas of the world that have quote "Christian" populations, they are not Biblical Christians. Their Christianity is not based on a consistent understanding of Biblical truth. They are sort of cultural denominational type Christians and they may never emphasize the gospel or regeneration or the importance of personal individual faith in Christ; and so they are Christians in "name" only. And then you have another group of Christians that you have in the United States and evangelicals as well. They come out of a different tradition; and about 20% of evangelicals in the United States are not out of background that emphasizes a consistent literal hermeneutic and therefore, a distinction between Israel and the church and that is usually among reformed churches. I gather all that to say, I got an email this morning and the title was "The Cruzification of America." A little play on Ted Cruz's name; and it was written by an advocate of reformed theology and he is going after Ted Cruz and how horrible everything was that he said because this comes from this kind of what he calls a "false view Christianity."
So this battle is very real and it impacts what is out there in terms of what happens in the political sphere and what you can read about in the papers every now and then. So I am going to continue tonight talking about what the Bible says is related to the purposes of the Tribulation and how we understand that that means that the church is not present in the Tribulation. That is important for establishing why we believe that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation, and also the distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Here is our dispensational chart (slide 3): Old Testament Ages of the Gentiles and Israel, the Dispensation of Perfect Environment, Conscience, and Human Government in the Age of the Gentiles, the Dispensation of Patriarchs and the Mosaic Law and the Messianic Age during the Age of Israel, which ends at the Cross, and then the Church Age begins at the Day of Pentecost. We've got that transition period between the Cross and Pentecost, 50 days. So the Church Age ends with the Rapture, and the Tribulation begins, as we will see, from Daniel 9:23 and following that the Tribulation begins with the signing of this covenant between the prince who is to come and Israel. There is a gap. We do not know how long that gap is, but there is at least one precedent that we can point to of a gap between the Cross and Pentecost. So there are these transition periods that occur in-between these dispensations.
So I am looking at the topic of "Why I Believe in a Tribulation Rapture" (slide 4); and last time I talked about the second point (slide 5):
2. The purposes of the Tribulation do not relate late to the church. So I covered this and in a quick review:
- The purpose of the Tribulation is to execute judgment on wicked nations who have rejected Christ.
- The purpose shows the inability of Satan to rule the planet.
- The purpose of the Tribulation is to provide time for millions to be saved. God's grace is very much present during the Tribulation period.
A host without number is depicted in Revelation 7 before the throne of God. So there will be innumerable people who are saved; and I think many of them will be saved because of tracks, because of things that are on the internet, the ministries; so many ministries have material up on the internet that will all be here after the Rapture occurs and I think that there will be a number of people. It is at that time, not long after the Tribulation begins that 144,000 Jews who are saved. That is not the limit of Jews that are saved. Some people teach that or have taught that or at least that misinformation is out there that Christians believe. There will be 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes saved who go forth as evangelists and many millions more will be saved as a result of them being saved.
- So there are millions who are saved and then Israel through their ministry will be prepared to receive the Messiah and His Kingdom.
(1) (Slide 6) Also we see during this time that it is a time of preparation for Israel's restoration and conversion. It specifically related to Israel.
(2) It is called the time of Jacob's trouble in Jeremiah 30:7.
(3) The church currently expresses tribulations and will not experience "The" Tribulation.
(4) The church is mentioned nineteen times in Revelation 1-3, but in Revelation 4-19 the church is not mentioned at all. That is the period of "The" Tribulation.
Various names are used emphasizing the Jewish nature:
- It is a time of Jacob's trouble in Jeremiah 30:7 (slide 7).
- It is a time of judgment on Israel according to Ezekiel 20:37 (slide 8).
- It is a time for Daniel's people, judgment on Daniel's people in Daniel 12:1 (slide 9).
- This is the period described as Daniel's 70th week (slide 10), which we will get into I hope before too much longer.
3. The third point that we looked at was that the church is never the object of the wrath of God (slide 11).
So God is not focusing on this.
A couple of passages were:
1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (slide 12).
Revelation 3:9-10 (slide 13).
And then we get this term "The Great Tribulation" in Matthew 24:21 (slide 14). I described that last time that this time of "Great Tribulation" is not a technical term, I don't believe, for the second half of the Tribulation, but it is a specific term for the increased adversity, the increased horrors of the second half of the Tribulation. That brought us up to the next point, the fourth point, where I stopped last time.
4. The Imminency of the Rapture (slide 15).
Imminency is an important doctrine. This is almost a cornerstone for the Rapture. In fact, there are some people who will state that this is the strongest argument for the Rapture. I think everybody has their favorite view and this is certainly a strong one. We have to understand what imminence means.
- According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED): something is imminent if it is "hanging overhead; if it is constantly ready to befall or overtake one; if it could take place at any moment. It is at hand."
- There is nothing that is required to take place before this takes place. It is very, very close, but not necessarily in time. You always have to be ready for it. So what we learn about the coming of Christ for the church is that it is certain. He is coming. The time it will take place though is uncertain.
- It is not contingent upon anything else. I emphasize this again because it is sort of a corrective for some of the ways we have been taught. The idea that no prophecy is going to take place is going to be fulfilled before the Rapture occurs – that is not a true statement. There is prophecy related to the Rapture, which shows that nothing must take place in order for the Rapture to take place. It is not contingent upon anything. There is no event that must transpire in order for the Rapture to take place. That is why it is imminent. There is nothing between now and the Rapture that must be there. But that doesn't mean that some prophecy couldn't be fulfilled that relates to things afterwards, setting things up for what will take place following the Tribulation.
Clarence Larkin, wrote a book that came out in 1960, 1970, called Dispensational Truth. Have some of you have read it? It is a classic on dispensationalism. Clarence Larkin believes that if the Rapture had occurred in his day that 70-80 years would have to go by before the Tribulation could begin because so many things had to take place to set things up. A temple would have to be rebuilt. Jews would have to be regathered to the land. A nation would have to be established. Many other things that he thought needed to be in place before the Tribulation could begin. His opinion a hundred years ago was that if the Rapture occurred in his day 60-70 years would be necessary to make the transition before the Tribulation could begin. Today we see many of those things take place. Some people believe that the return of so many Jews in unbelief is a fulfillment of prophecy. Others would say, well, we won't use that terminology, but it is clearly prophetically significant. But whatever we say, it has noting whatsoever to do with the timing of the Rapture. That is the important point. The Rapture is not contingent upon these things happening first.
This was the belief in the early church; that the coming of Christ was imminent (slide 16). It could take place at any time. Here is a quote from Clement. Clement of Rome was a pastor in Rome the last part of the first century and he wrote a letter, an epistle, to the Corinthian church. He wrote in that letter, "Of the truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come and will not tarry;" and, "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look." Now Clement is writing probably before the Canon is closed, very close to the end of the first century, but not before the closing of the Canon. His life overlapped the end of the apostolic period, so sometime in the 80s or early 90s was when he wrote this. He believed that Jesus could return for the church at any moment. It was speedily. It could be very quick! He expected it as Paul did; as many of the writers of Scripture did that it would take place in their lifetime.
Now Ignatius was born, I believe, before the end of the first century, but Ignatius reaches maturity in the early part of the first century (slide 17). He is taken to Rome as a prisoner. On his way he wrote various letters to various churches. So these would be dated somewhere around AD 120-130. Now we are in the early part of the second century. He said, "The last times are come upon us, Let us therefore be of reverent spirit, and fear the longsuffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation. For let us either stand in awe of the wrath to come, or show regard for the grace which is at present displayed – one of two things." Now this reveals the fact that he is thinking that the end times are imminent that the time of judgment is upon them, the "last times."
Irenaeus lived a little bit later into the midpoint of the second century, around AD 150-160 (slide 18). He battled a number of different problems that were taking place within the church; and one of his more famous works is called, Against Heresies. In that he writes, "And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, "There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be." "And so his use of the term "suddenly caught up" indicates that it is something that is unexpected. It is something that is quick. It is something that is imminent. It is not dependent or contingent upon any other events.
So there are a number of key passages to understand this discussion about imminency and the Scripture. One of these is in James 5:7-9 (slide 19). As James is coming to the end of his Epistle, but closing with his conclusions. He returns to the theme of the Epistle, which is on endurance and patience in times of trial, and so again he encourages his readers to be patient, to be steadfast, waiting upon the coming of the Lord. So he says, "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord." He doesn't see anything else coming in between his time and the coming of the Lord. That is the next thing that is anticipated. That is why we believe we are waiting for Jesus Christ, not for something else. We are not waiting for the appearance of the Antichrist; we are not waiting for the appearance of the 144,000; we are not waiting for any of those events that take place in the Tribulation. The next thing in the prophetic timetable that we are looking for is the coming of Christ. So he indicates that. He writes from that perspective. He uses illustrations of agriculture in James 5:8. He says, "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
There is a reward promised to those who "love His appearing;" who look forward to His coming. As believers we should anticipate that. Some of us anticipate it a little too much sometimes, but I think as people grow older they yearn for heaven. I see this in many Christians as they mature; that they realize how fleeting this life is and how permanent eternity is going to be. What we look for is the coming of the Lord. It is at hand. It is near. That shows their view of imminency. It could happen at any time. What? 1900 years has gone by since he wrote this, but he anticipated that it would take place in his lifetime.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 (slide 20) is another of these important verses. Paul said that we "wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come." See, he writes this in a first person plural. "We" are waiting. He is telling the Thessalonian readers. If Jesus is going to come during their lifetime they are expecting it to happen at any moment.
In 1 Corinthians 1:7 (slide 21) he says to the Corinthians, "so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Now if they thought that a lot of things had to take place before He could come, why would they be "eagerly awaiting" for Him? See they expected it at any moment. It was very real to them. Jesus' coming is around the corner. We just don't know when it will take place, but it will be very soon! That is what they believed. It was imminent! They weren't waiting for other things to take place first.
Philippians 3:20 (slide 22) Paul says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Do we eagerly wait for the coming of the Lord? Is that something that is a part of your consciousness as a believer every single day? That you are eagerly anticipating the coming of the Lord? If we are suppose to be living today in light of eternity. If we are suppose to be thinking about how we live each day and our priorities each day and our mental attitude each day and our focus each day in terms of how we are going to do at the judgment seat of Christ in preparation for eternity, then we should be waiting eagerly! This should be a present consciousness in our mind that Jesus can come at any moment. Are we ready? Are we focused on the right priorities? Are we living our life in terms of eternity? It is so easy in our world to be caught up in living our life for today, for tomorrow, to pay the bills at the end of the month, to get that next job promotion, to get new cars, to get whatever the things are in life, to reach retirement, to get a place where we can build a retirement home for the future; whatever it might be we are focused on the things now. Are we focused on them in terms of the present or are we focused on the things now only in so far as they relate to our destiny at the judgment seat of Christ? We are to "eagerly wait" for our Savior!
1 Thessalonians 4:15 (slide 23), is another verse that we have gone over in this section on the Rapture many times. Paul says, "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord," that is Jesus taught it as well. What passage was that where Jesus taught this? John 14:1-3. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord." See. Notice who he says, "we who are alive, and remain;" all through this Epistle when he uses the word "we" he is talking about the people. He is not using this in some broad editorial sense, thinking well this includes all Christians down through the next 2000 years. He is talking to those Thessalonian believers that he knew personally and he says, "We who are alive, and remain," expecting that he is in that Rapture generation. And there have been many believers, because of their sense of expectancy down through the generations, who think that they were in the Rapture generation, but were not. So that is the focal point there. Paul comforts them because he sees the nearness of Christ's return and there is no hint of anything that intervenes between his present time and the coming of the Lord. So he is not looking for something else.
Titus 2:13 (slide 24) we are "looking for the blessed hope…." We are not looking for the Rapture. We are not looking for other event. We are looking for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist. So we are "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."
1 Corinthians 16:22 (slide 25) "If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha," meaning may the Lord come. And so he is emphasizing here the importance of anticipating the arrival of the Lord.
Romans 13:11 (slide 26) "And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed." That is each day we are closer, whether it is going to be our physical death or the Rapture, each day we are closer to that time when we are going to be face to face with the Lord.
Romans 13:12 he says, "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand." Do we live with this sense of immediacy? That at any moment Jesus is going to come back and that we need to be prepared. So that is where he concludes in terms of behavioral challenges in Romans 13:13-14; that we are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh." Why? Because Jesus is coming back and when He comes back there is going to be accountability at the judgment seat of Christ. Now that is not put there as fear to scare people into obedience, but a realization of reality; that we will be held accountable and we need to live in light of that future.
Philippians 4:5 (slide 27) Paul says, "Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near." Constantly, He is right around the corner.
1 John 2:28-29 (slide 28) says, "And now, little children, abide in Him." That is stay in fellowship! Walk with the Lord. Walk by means of God the Holy Spirit. Walk in the light. Walk in the truth. He says, "Abide in Him so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." There are going to be believers to "shrink away in shame" when Jesus comes back because they are not prepared. They are the ones who will not have anything rewardable at the judgment seat of Christ, no gold, silver, and precious stones.
1 John 3:1-3 (slide 29) "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did no know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears," at the Rapture, "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself." What is he talking about here? If you understand the Rapture; if you understand its significance, then you are going to cleanse yourself. That is the concept there, purification, 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us, or to purify us, from all unrighteousness." So he says if you understand that future expectation; if you understand that hope that we have, that confident expectation that Jesus is coming, what should characterize us? Then daily we purify ourselves. We are confessing our sins; we are staying in fellowship in order to be prepared for His appearance. So that takes us through the doctrine of imminency.
5. Now (slide 30) I want to get into this fifth point which talks about the distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming.
There are a lot of people who think that these passages that about His appearing, His coming; they think in general terms and so they say, well these are all just talking about Jesus' Second Coming when He returns to the earth. If you hold to an amillennial view of theology, then there is no future Tribulation, there is no Rapture. We are living in the kingdom. It is a spiritual form of the kingdom. Jesus is up there in heaven on David's throne in heaven right now. He just returns to the earth at the end of the age. There will be a judgment and then we go into eternity. There is no future kingdom according to their view. So for them all of these passages relate to the same event. They don't understand and they don't believe in these particular distinctions. So what we are going to point out here in this section is that the Bible describes different characteristics for Jesus' coming and they can only be explained under the idea that there are two different times in which Jesus comes. The Second Coming is sometimes referred to in books to apply to both, that it has two stages (slide 31). Stage one is the Rapture, which occurs before the Tribulation; and stage two is when Jesus comes all the way to the earth and that is a fine and important distinction. Jesus comes first to take and remove believers from the earth in order to fulfill the time of judgment, and it is a purification of the earth in preparation for His kingdom to bring Israel to that point of belief and acceptance of Him as Messiah.
So we are going to draw out these distinctions between the Rapture and the Second Coming (slides 32-44):
1. At the Rapture, the Rapture passages, as we studied in 1 Thessalonians 4, talk about a translation of believers who are alive (slide 32).
They are immediately translated from this mortal, physical, corruptible body into an immortal, spiritual body, a resurrection body. It takes place instantly, as we studied in 1 Corinthians 15:15 and following. It takes place "in the blinking of an eye," literally, less than that, "the twinkling of an eye." But at the Second Coming there is no mention of a translation of believers at all. There is none of that. It is completely different. We see the Second Coming is Jesus coming already with an army with Him. They are already there. Revelation 19 mentions nothing about anybody coming up and joining Him. He comes from heaven with this army accompanying Him already. An army of angels and an army of resurrected saints are already there.
2. Second point (slide 33): According to the Rapture "translated saints" go to heaven.
We go with the Lord. We saw this in our study of John 14:1-3. Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you, and where I go I will certainly come again, that where I am you may be also," which is heaven. So translated saints go to heaven. When the Rapture occurs we don't come to the earth with Jesus. We go to heaven with Jesus, but at the Second Coming translated saints return to the earth with Jesus. So the destiny of translated saints is different in each view. Rapture, we go to heave; Second Coming, we come to the earth.
3. The earth is not judged at the Rapture (slide 34).
When you look at the Rapture passages they are not accompanied by verses that describe a judgment upon the earth; but then the Second Coming occurs there is judgment associated with that. At the end of Revelation 19 we see that the Antichrist and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. Satan is taken into the abyss where he is chained for a thousand years. There is a judgment that takes place there at the end of the Tribulation with the Second Coming, but there is no mention of a judgment on the earth at the time of the Rapture.
4. A fourth distinction that we see (slide 35) is that the Rapture is imminent.
It could occur at any moment. There is no sign; there is no prophecy; there is nothing upon which it is contingent. But the Second Coming follows a definite pattern. There are predicted signs; there are things to watch for. There is a thing, and it will come up again I think next month. We are on the edge of the Jewish high holy days and I believe that we are going to see another couple of blood moons. John Hagee was the one who popularized that erroneous view about the blood moons having something to do with the future of Israel. If you want to hear the critique you can go back and that is a special that is on the Dean Bible Ministries website. So there is no sign. There is a definite set order. The moon turns red like blood. It does; what we are seeing now is not that; and the sun is darkened. So these things happen at the same time. It is not just something that happens with the moon; and there are many other signs that take place. You can follow them through the book of Revelation: the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments.
5. The Rapture, we said we believe, is a church related issue (slide 36). It is not predicted in the OT. There is nothing in the OT that predicts the Rapture.
Now I am going to show that one of the strongest passages I believe for the Rapture is in the OT, but it is not talking about the Rapture. It is talking about God's plan for Israel, but the implication is that those last seven years in Daniel's 70th week prophecy, if those last seven years relate to Israel, then where did the church go? There is no place for the church at that particular time. So it is not predicted. The Rapture is not predicted in the OT, but the Second Coming of Christ, the Day of the LORD passage are predicted again and again and again throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah and Joel and Amos and many, many other passages in the OT. So it is predicted many times. They anticipate it. The reason the Rapture is not mentioned is because the Rapture has to do with the church and there is no prediction of the church in the OT. The church isn't mentioned in the OT. So we would not expect the Rapture to be predicted there.
6. The Rapture is for believers only (slide 37).
It is only for those "in Christ." The dead in Christ will rise first. It is only for Church Age believers, not OT saints. So it is the dead in Christ rise first, but at the Second Coming. This affects all of mankind. It ends the Tribulation period. There are judgments associated with His coming, the judgments, as I mentioned a minute ago, of the Antichrist and the false prophet, abut also judgments of Gentile unbelievers who survive the Tribulation and Jewish unbelievers who survive the Tribulation. And there is a judgment upon Satan and the demons as well. So everybody is affected by the Second Coming, where as the only people who are impacted by the Rapture directly would be Church Age believers.
7. The Rapture takes place before the day of wrath (slide 38).
We are saved from the wrath to come and the wrath to come begins with the first series of seal judgments as I pointed out last time in Romans 6 talking about the wrath of the lamb. We can't fall into the trap of the so called pre-wrath Rapture view. That the wrath of God is only a term for what happens in the final bowl judgments. That is a misconstrued Scripture completely. The wrath of God begins at the beginning of the Tribulation period. The Second Coming of Christ concludes the day of wrath. So they are separated by the Tribulation period, which is the time of God's wrath and the pouring out of His judgment upon the earth.
8. In reference to Satan, there is no mention (slide 39). Satan is not mentioned at all in any of the Rapture passages, no indication. It has nothing to do with Satan. Whereas, when Jesus returns at the Second Coming Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Again, a major distinction between the two views.
9. In the Rapture Christ comes for His own (slide 40). He comes for us. He comes for the church. At the Second Coming Christ comes with His own. He comes for the bride at the Rapture. He comes with His bride at the Second Coming.
10. At the Rapture Christ comes in the air (slide 41). He doesn't come to the earth. He comes in the clouds. "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to be with Him in the air." He comes only in the clouds. He doesn't come all the way to the earth; whereas, as the Second Coming He comes all the way to the earth and engages in various battles to destroy the enemies of Israel and the enemies of God.
11. At the Rapture, as I indicated earlier, He claims His bride (slide 42), but His bride comes with Him at the Second Coming. So this is an important distinction.
12. At the Rapture only His own see Him (slide 43).
That is why some people call it a sort of a secret Rapture. It is not that secret, everybody is going to feel the impact of it when all the believers are taken out of the earth. They are going to be missed. Some of them are going to be driving cars, some flying airplanes, others will be in important key positions as captains of industry, as military leaders, as political leaders, and their absence will create a crisis, I believe, of leadership at that particular time.
13. When the Rapture occurs it sets the stage and after the Rapture the Tribulation begins (slide 44). After the Second Coming the Messianic Kingdom begins. It is an important distinction between the two.
And so we see that the Rapture is covered in that last period of Daniel's 70th weeks (slide 45) starting from the time that the coming prince signs that peace treaty with Israel and ends with the return of Christ and it is in the future. This relates to Daniel's 70th week. Now this is one of the most important passages to understand and one of the most important prophecies to understand. So I have about twenty minutes left. I think I can cover this. So we need to look at this.
This is a remarkable prophecy. I think of all the prophecies that are taught about and studied that have been fulfilled, this is one that is the most detailed and the most extraordinary passage for it gives us a timetable for God's future plan. As we see here, I am just going to use this slide to give us an overview. Daniel, just to summarize what happens in Daniel 9. You might want to turn in your Bibles to Daniel 9:24 as we go through this particular passage. But earlier in Daniel 9 Daniel is found praying and he has been meditating upon Scripture. He has been meditating upon prophecies and promises that are in the book of Jeremiah, specifically in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and in Jeremiah 29:10 predicting that this judgment that God brought upon Israel, where He removed them from the land, would last for only 70 years.
Now Daniel can count and he knows that the 70 years are just about over. So he prays to God that he would at this time restore the people to the land. And he comes before God and he confesses their sins of idolatry, their sins for disobedience to Him, disobedience to the Law, and he is functioning like a priest, as an intercessor for his people praying this prayer. He calls upon God to deliver them. And God answers his prayer in a remarkable way and sends an angel to him in order to explain what God's future plan will be for him. And so this prophecy that begins in Daniel 9:24. We see a prelude to that in Daniel 9:20-21 Daniel says, "Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering." So he has been praying all day and is still in the middle of prayer, and right in the middle he is interrupted by Gabriel who informs him that he has come in order to give him the skill that he's asked for and the understanding of prophecy. So this sets up this particular prophecy.
So Daniel wanted information about the end of the Babylonian captivity (slide 46) and God gave him an answer that extends all the way to the Second Coming. It is a timetable for Israel that is so important to understand. It is for Daniel's people. In Daniel 9:24 Gabriel tells Daniel, "Seventy weeks are determined For your people." Who is that? Israel, not the church. "And your holy city." That is Jerusalem. So Daniel wanted this information and God gives him this remarkable timetable and the subject is Israel and not the church. It is so important to understand that. Alright, we will get an overview (slide 47):
Daniel 9:24 "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city to finish…; and we have six purposes given:
- To finish the transgression
- To make an end of sins
- To make atonement for iniquity
- To bring in everlasting righteousness
- To seal up vision and prophecy
- And to anoint the Most Holy.
So it is 490 years to determine. This gives us the total framework.
Daniel 9:25 focuses on the first part, the first 69 weeks.
Daniel 9:26 talks about this gap between the 69th week, when the Messiah is cut-off, and there is this gap between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week. Now that is really important to pay attention to that gap because it doesn't tell us how long that gap is, but it clearly establishes that gap.
Then we are introduced to the 70th week, which is described in Daniel 9:27.
Now Daniel 9:24-25 (slide 48), "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and for your holy city." We'll talk about the purposes here in just a minute. In Daniel 9:25, "So you were to know and discern from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild." That tells us the starting point. When do we hit the start button on the stopwatch? The start button is when this decree goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem; and from that point, it is not from the point of Daniel's getting this revelation. It is not from the point of their rebuilding of the temple. It is when there is a political decree to allow the Jews to go back to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. So I will tell you this, it is not related to just the decree to go back. It has to do specifically with restoring and rebuilding and those terms have to do with building a military fortification, so that the city is defensible. So from the issuing of that decree "until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks." And so when we look at that and multiply that out, we see that this comes to, we add them together, 7 and 62, we get 69 weeks. This comes out to 69 weeks times 7 comes out to 173,880 days when you work out the whole prophecy related to years. We will get into the mathematics of this in just a minute.
Daniel 9:26-27 (slide 49) – "After the 62 weeks," so you have the seven week period, which is roughly forty-nine years, and then you have the 62 weeks period, and then after that "the Messiah is cut-off and has nothing and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary." It is not talking about what happened in AD 586 because that is already in the past. So looking at the next time it indicates a second temple will be rebuilt and that second temple will be destroyed by a military attack, and the people who do that, the prince of those people, are the one who will destroy the city and the sanctuary. That is what occurred in AD 70 when Rome under Titus, as the General of the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and burned down the temple. And Gabriel then says, "And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined."
Zachariah talks about how Jerusalem is always going to be a millstone around the neck of the nations. This is just something that is a perennial problem and we see that again and again and again in the news. The fights over who controls Jerusalem? Who owns Jerusalem? Are we going to go back to the 1967 borders and basically split Jerusalem? What happens if we go back to the 1967 borders is that everything historically that has been known about Jerusalem goes to the Arabs. When you look at a map and you see the line for the 1967 borders; remember, up until the early part of the 20th century Jerusalem wasn't very large. It was mostly the old city. Up until the late 19th century there was no settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem. So East Jerusalem is the old city. That is what the battle is all about. East Jerusalem is not what is east of the old city. East Jerusalem is the old city. It is that whole historical area.
If you go to Jerusalem, and when we go on our trip to Israel, we drive along and we see the road that was a barricade, where they had the border before 1967. Before 1967 Jews and Christians were limited in their access to any of the holy sites, any of the historical sites in the old city because of Arab control. So this is one of the things that will probably happen again if they were to give up control. That is why Israel said they are not going to do that.
So according to our chronology here this is going to be a constant state of war that will go on in to the future. And then in Daniel 9:27 (slide 49), "And he that is the prince to come will make a firm covenant with the many for one week." That is one seven year period. "But in the middle of the week he will stop to sacrifice and grain offerings; and on the wing of abominations." This is where we get that term "abomination of desolation." "On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." So the one who makes desolate is the Antichrist, the prince who is to come, and there will be a complete destruction of him at the end of this period. So this is the focal point. It is understanding these seventy weeks that have been prophesied.
So let's look at the chronology (slide 51). What do we mean by 70 weeks? Literally, in the Hebrew this refers to seventy units of seven "weeks". Literally it says seventy periods of seven. So 70 × 7 is 490. That could be 490 days, 490 weeks, 490 months, or 490 years. Well it does not fit days, weeks, or months. It only fits if you lay this out over a period of years. So 70 × 7 = 70 weeks of years or 490 years, from that starting point of a decree, a political decree for the Jews to return to rebuild the military defenses of Jerusalem.
The Cause (slide 52). Why 490 years? 490 years is a multiple of seven. The argument is that according to Leviticus 26:34-35 and Leviticus 26:43, that every seventh year was a sabbatical year that was to be observed by the Jews. They failed to do that and so for a period of the years that they failed to do that, this was why they had to spend seventy years in captivity to make up for seventy sabbatical years that they had violated. Now we don't know which ones those were because there is no historical record. There was sometimes when apparently they did provide for intent to observe the sabbatical years, but not all. So most of the time they did not observe those sabbatical years. For those seventy years that their land was not allowed to rest, they are going to be put in captivity for seventy years. This is the argument of Jeremiah 25:11 and Jeremiah 29:10. The context is talking about this seventy year period, this unit of seventy, and so it is multiplied by seven to get the number of sabbatical years that are remaining for Israel's timeline.
Here are the passages (slide 53): Jeremiah 25:11, God says, "This whole land shall be desolation, and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
Jeremiah 25:12, "Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation."
In Jeremiah 29:10 (slide 54), "For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you.' " So that was that seventy year period. Now we are going to take that same unit of measurement and we are going to apply it to the future.
Now there are six things that are mentioned (slide 55) [6 Things that Will be Accomplished]:
1. "to finish the transgression" – that is Israel's rejection of God, their idolatry. So this rebellion of Israel is going to be completed. This isn't talking about the Cross. This is talking about bringing their sin to an end.
2. "to make an end of sin" – all of these purposes are related to Israel, not to mankind, not to the church.
3. "to atone for iniquity" – to deal with this for Israel finally and totally.
4. "to bring in everlasting righteousness" – see this event occurs for all six of these purposes to be fulfilled. Everlasting righteousness isn't brought in until Christ returns. So it is at that return of Christ, specifically for Israel, that these things are realized in Israel's experience.
5. "to seal up vision and prophecy" – all of these prophecies related to this will be fulfilled and this will introduce the Age of the Messiah, the Millennial Kingdom.
6. "And to anoint the most holy place" – and establishing a new temple, which will be the millennial temple that is described in Ezekiel 40 and following. So this is what we see emphasized at this time.
So in The First 69 Weeks (slide 56) we just have to look for the starting point. There are four decrees that take place in relationship to Israel. Here they are on the slide.
1. Decree of Cyrus that we can date to October 29 of 539 BC. It is mentioned in Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 5:13. This is the decree for the Jews to return to the land. This takes place in 539 BC.
2. Decree of Darius that occurs in 519/518 BC described in Ezra 6:1-12, which authorizes them to go ahead and finish rebuilding the temple. It doesn't have anything to do with fortification.
3. Decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus to Ezra. Again it is taking a group of Jews back to the land from Persia (457 BC).
4. Decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus, same Artaxerxes. This is the decree Artaxerxes gives to Nehemiah to restore the city walls and gates. This is what is described in Daniel 9:25 "The streets shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome (or even for troublesome) times." It has to do with the defenses of the city. So this decree we can date from March 5, 444 BC. That is pretty impressive that we can do that.
The Completion of the 69 Weeks – When did it end? (slide 57). So it begins at that point and then it ends historically when Jesus enters into Jerusalem on March 30, AD 33, which is four days before the crucifixion. Jesus enters into Jerusalem according to Luke 21:38-45.
Now (slide 58) there is a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of at least 37 years between the end of the 69th week, which is the cut-off, when the Messiah is crucified, and the beginning of the 70th week. How do we know that? In this gap two specific things take place:
1. (Slide 59) The Death of the Messiah. The Messiah is cut-off after the 69th week and that occurred 4 days after the 69 weeks ended on April 3, AD 33 "and (you will) have nothing", Daniel 9:26a.
2. The second event (slide 60) that has to take place in this gap occurs 37 years later, from AD 33 in the crucifixion to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. And so the temple is destroyed in AD 70. Those two things have to take place in this gap, Daniel 9:26b.
After that it is uncertain how long the gap is. Now when we get to Daniel 9:27 (slide 61) we see that one week of years remains. Is this past or is it future? Now "preterists," now that is a term to describe theologians who believe that all this prophecy in Daniel's 70th week, the Olivet Discourse, everything that occurs between Revelation 4 and Revelation 19, all of that was just symbolic code language for the destruction of Rome. So all of that was fulfilled in the past. Preterist means past. They think that all this prophecy that we think is future occurred in the past. So we will get into this later. There are three views of prophecy:
- one is that all this occurred in the past
- one is that it is kind of occurring now, in the present that is called the historicist view
- and then there is the futurist view and we hold to the futurist view. So we believe that this occurred earlier.
1. So there is a "No Gap" view; that there is really no gap and everything has already been fulfilled.
2. And then we have the "Gap" view.
We believe that there is a gap and we are still in the gap before the 70th week takes place, Daniel 9:27.
So here we get to our timeline (slide 62, Daniel's Seventy "Weeks" Seventy Periods of Seven, Daniel 9:24-27). The decree to restore takes place March 5, 444 BC with Artaxerxes' decree, Nehemiah 2:1-3. So we have our 7 + 62 = 69 weeks. After that the Messiah the Prince is cut-off. On March 30, AD 33 there is a triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, Luke 19:28-40. This is 173,880 days after Artaxerxes' decree. So the 70 × 7 = 490 years. The 69 × 7 = 483 years or 173,880 days. The point is, where are the last 7 years? Where are the last 7 years?
Now how do we understand these years? [Rationale for 360-Day Years (slide 63).] There are synonymous terms or parallel terms used in different prophetic passages. Daniel 9:27 refers to half of this 70th week as a half of a week. It is referred to also as a time (one) times (two), so that gives you three, and a half a time (three and a half). So that works out 3½ that is half of seven. It is also called 1,260 days in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 11:3. Now 1,260 days is also described in Revelation 11:2 and Revelation 13:5 as 42 months. So 42 months = 1,260 days that is equivalent to time, times, and a half a time, so that means that according to God's prophetic calendar a month is 30 days. We have a calendar where we have five months or six months with 31 days. We have one month with 28 days to even everything out. But according to the Jewish calendar, which operated on a lunar calendar, a year was 360 days, not 365 days, and each month was 30 days. So we have to figure this according to a Jewish concept of a linear calendar.
[Explanation of Daniel's 70 Weeks of Years (slide 64)] So 69 × 7 × 360 days = 173,880 days. From March 5, 444 BC to March 30, AD 33 is 173,880 days. You can verify this by taking 444 BC and adding to that 33, which would be 477, but then you subtract a year because there is no zero and that gives you 476 years. 476 years × our calendar 365 and a quarter days = 173,855 days + the days between March 5 and March 30 = another 25 days and that comes to = 173,880 days. It all gets worked out. It is remarkable the precision of God's timetable.
So we have this (slide 65): 70 × 7 or 490 years; the 69 × 7 or 483 years, and then we have to figure out what happens to the last 7 years. (Daniel 9:26 slide 66) So there is a gap and it is after the 62 weeks two things have to happen, Messiah is cut off and has nothing and the sanctuary is destroyed in AD 70. What happens then is that there is this gap (slide 67). You have the Cross, Messiah is cut-off. You have the destruction of the temple but the gap continues until we get to the coming prince and the coming prince will sign a treaty with Israel. The people of the prince who is to come to destroy the city, that is the Romans, so that means that the future prince is going to be coming from where? Babylon? No! Rome, right? It was Romans who destroyed the city. You hear a lot of stuff today. Joel Rosenberg is big on this Muslim-Arab Antichrist. I don't get it! We have got to have Bible scholarship and just read the Text! They have an argument for that. They argue that the peoples, the regions that were used by Vespasian came from the eastern part of the empire, but they were considered Romans and they considered themselves to be Romans. So this future time period is that 70th week that is unfulfilled. The first part was for Israel; the last part is for Israel, not for the church. Okay?
One last thing, Daniel 9:27 presupposes three things (slide 68):
1. A Roman prince.
2. A Jewish nation.
So in order for the start of the 70th week to occur you've got to have a new political organization with a rise of this powerful political figure who is then going to sign a covenant with Israel, which means that there has to be a nation, a government, a people of Israel in the land. So you can't have the Tribulation start without at least those two things and probably the:
3. Jewish temple.
Although it is possible that the temple doesn't begin construction until after this covenant is signed. The temple doesn't have to be finished. Remember, when Jesus was on the earth Herod's revision or rebuilding of the Zerrubabel temple wasn't complete. It wasn't completed until AD 46. And so all it has to be is sanctified. They can put a mobile home up there, kind of like the tabernacle. It is sanctified. They can have sacrifices, and it is sufficient.
We see that this focuses on Israel (slide 69). The years that have already been fulfilled were fulfilled literally. That means that the future must be understood and interpreted on the same basis as the past fulfillment. So this will take place. Here is a picture on the lower screen of the last remaining restraining wall known as the western wall.
I am going to stop here. We will review that a little bit next time and then we will go forward. I believe that this is one of the strongest arguments for the Rapture. Really it is an argument that the church won't be present; that the Tribulation is for Israel. It is not for the not for the church. And therefore, if it is not for the church, the church doesn't need to be here, and it will be removed.
"Father, thank You for this opportunity for us to go through these things and to understand the scope and plan and prophecy. Father, we understand that You have a plan for the church; You have a plan for Israel. Right now Israel is apostate, but there are many Jews that come to Christ, come to an understanding of the Messiah, who read and believe the prophecies of the OT, especially passages like Isaiah 53, and understand that they could have only have been fulfilled in One person and that is Jesus of Nazareth. Father, we pray for many of our friends who are Jews, that they would come to a faith and trust in Jesus Christ, that they would come to understand the truth about who He is and what He has provided for them, and that You can use us in many ways to bring a clear understanding of the gospel to them. Father, we pray these things in Christ's Name, Amen."