Posts Tagged ‘amillennialism’

Is National Israel Still Part of God’s Plan OR Has God “Superseded” National Israel With The Church?

May 2, 2016

At issue is the view that Jews who reject Jesus as the Jewish Messiah are consequently condemned by God, forfeiting the promises otherwise due to them under the covenants. Versus the view that God STILL has a plan for national/ethnic Israel which He will ultimately fulfill in the future.  This is an either/or question: it cannot be both.  If you cannot understand the role of Israel in God’s plan, you cannot understand the Bible.  So which view should you believe and why?

Amillennialists – representing the largest view in terms of sheer numbers (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc.) – hold that God is finished with national, ethnic  Israel and that the Church is now God’s only vehicle and only people.  Many of these Amillennialists bristle at the term “replacement theology,” saying it is not accurate.  They prefer terms such as “supersessionism” or “expansion.”  But what does it mean to “supersede?”

Merriam-Websters’s definition: “to take the place of (someone or something that is old, no longer useful, etc.) : to replace (someone or something); to cause to be set aside; to force out of use as inferior; to take the place or position of; to displace in favor of another.” The term “supersessionism” comes from two Latin words: super (on or upon) and sedere (to sit). Thus it carries the idea of one person sitting on another’s chair, displacing the latter.  The title “replacement theology” is this merely an obvious synonym for “supersessionism.”

From Wikipedia: “Supersessionism, also called replacement theology or fulfillment theology, is a Christian theological view on the current status of the church in relation to the Jewish people and Judaism.[1] It holds that the Christian Church has succeeded the Israelites as the definitive people of God[2][1][3] or that the New Covenant has replaced or superseded the Mosaic covenant.[4] From a supersessionist’s “point of view, just by continuing to exist [outside the Church], the Jews dissent”.[5]”   And in its Etymology section it states: “The word supersessionism comes from the English verb to supersede, from the Latin verb sedeo, sedere, sedi, sessum, “to sit”,[7] plus super, “upon”. It thus signifies one thing being replaced or supplanted by another.[8]”

So, in spite of a great deal of quibbling over semantics, there is very little question that yes, Amillennialism DOES IN FACT hold to “replacement theology.” It is simply dishonest to hold otherwise.

For the record, another of the three major views on eschatology – Postmillennialism – ALSO believes in “replacement theology.”  [See also here].  Their claim is that the Church took over all of Israel’s blessings/promises.  ONLY Premillennialism believes God STILL has a plan for national/ethnic Israel.

Let’s go back to the source of this view: In its simplest expression, replacement theology could be expressed as follows: “The Jews have rejected Christ; therefore God has rejected the Jews and the Church is now the ‘New Israel.’”  In the words of Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.):

“We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.”

From an article titled “The Truth About Israel”:

  • “The Israeli claim to Palestine as a Jewish state by divine right is incorrect, and their continued enforcement of this claim, by military oppression, is unjust.”
  • The progressive revelation of scripture makes it clear that today God has only one people and it is the Church. We must not apply Old Testament prophecies to the State of Israel when Jesus, Peter and Paul have radically redirected our thinking concerning the Covenants of Promise. They are now given directly to the Church.
  • “It is a mistake for Christians to exalt Israelis to the position of being God’s chosen people.”

Should we believe this? Consider two verses of Scripture (Jeremiah 31:35-36) that prove we shouldn’t:

  • This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.” declares the LORD. — Jeremiah 31:35-36 NIV

First of all, God gave that land to ISRAEL as an EVERLASTING POSSESSION: Gen 12:1; 12:7a; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7-8; 17:19; 25:5-6; 28:3-4; 28:13-15; 32:28; Leviticus 26:40-45.

And I state for the record that I continue to see the sun, the moon, the stars, and the ocean tides continue. AND SO ACCORDING TO GOD’S PROMISE HE IS NOT FINISHED WITH NATIONAL ISRAEL.

Let’s consider the Abrahamic Covenant: “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”  — Genesis 17:7-8 NLT

Questions: “What does ‘everlasting covenant’ mean?” “What does ‘I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you’ mean?” “What does ‘It will be their possession forever’ mean?”

Was Israel completely faithful? Let’s just agree they were completely faithless.  But what does the Mosaic Covenant say about this.  Did God say He would permanently sever His covenant?

And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey His voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and He will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. —Deuteronomy 30:1-5 ESV

What happens in this passage? Does God say here, “If you mess up, I am DONE with you!”??? NO!!!

What about the Davidic Covenant?: “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. “ — 2 Samuel 7:10-16 KJV

Again, in reference to the Davidic Covenant: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.” — Psalm 89:30-37

How does this passage not tell us that even if Israel forsakes God He will NOT “utterly take from him” and “His covenant He will not break,” but that “his seed shall endure forever.”???

Remember we read Jeremiah 31:35-36? Consider these verses just before it.  It is one of the great promises in all of Scripture and why I am a Christian and not a Jew – because this Old Testament passage promises the NEW Covenant which Jesus inaugurated in His Body and Blood.  But note who God makes this covenant with: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  –Jeremiah 31:31-34

When the angel came to announce the Virgin Birth of Jesus to Mary, he gave to her a crystal clear reference to a literal fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7 regarding David’s throne: “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. — Luke 1:30-33

What does the New Testament say about God’s relationship with Israel? Does it tell us that God is DONE with Israel and that they can and have been “replaced” in His plan?  Jesus’ words:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” – Matthew 23:37-39

Jesus prophesies to Israel that they would be left desolate and not see their Messiah again. UNTIL THEY SAY…  And THEN they will be completely restored just as the rest of God’s word promises.

Paul’s words: For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: — Romans 11:25-26

Here the problem becomes worse for those who want to claim God is done with Israel and the Church fulfils all of Israel’s promises and blessings. Because after clearly distinguishing between Gentile believers and Jews, Paul states that the Jews will come back to God and be saved.  And so how on earth can they claim to be both the Gentiles AND the Jews at the same time and in the same sense when God’s word contrasts them this way???

One day, Paul promises, the Jews will come BACK to their true Messiah, as it is written: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” – Zech 12:10

And on that day, national/ethnic Israel WILL say, just as Jesus prophesied, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” and God will restore them as His Covenant people, just as He said He would all along.  Otherwise, these prophesies were FALSE.  Because it is very obvious historically that “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” have NEVER to this moment repented over what they did to their true Messiah Jesus.  This event MUST happen, which simply means amillennialists and postmillennialist are profoundly wrong.

Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven in Acts chapter one, His disciples “asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” — Acts 1:6.  If Jesus was NOT going to restore the kingdom to Israel, this would have been the obvious moment to tell them, dontchathink?

God’s Word GUARANTEED that Israel would be resurrected in the very last days (see Ezekiel 37:11-12). There is NO condition for Israel to fulfil for this to happen: and how COULD they have–they were DEAD!

God is absolutely NOT finished with Israel. He has a plan to restore them and fulfill His EVERY promise.

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Are You Building Your Ark Yet? Seeing the World Clearly Through the Literal Word of God

October 24, 2013

This article is about the deception that I submit is clearly characterizing these last days and the view that we need to read and understand our Bibles LITERALLY to understand the end times in which we live.  Allow me to explain how the title and subtitle zoom in on how these objectives inter-relate: “Are you building your ark yet?”  Imagine for a moment what would have happened in Genesis 6:13-18 had Noah refused to understand God as literally saying He was going to destroy the earth with a literal flood and that God wanted Noah to build a literal ark of certain specified literal materials and dimensions???  What would have happened to the human race??? What would have happened to Noah when the first drops began to fall and he shouted into the rain, “I thought this was all just an ALLEGORY!”

The allegorical method (essential to Amillennialist and Postmillennialist interpretation) has come to dominate so much of the “Christian Church’s” understanding of the Bible.  So first of all, allow me to define “allegory” with a few online dictionary definitions:

Is that what the Bible is?  Seriously?  Is THAT all your Bible is?  NOT.

Now allow me to present a very different method of interpreting the Bible:

THUS SAYS THE LORD

Billy Graham said in one of his televised Crusades that as he began his ministry, he struggled deeply with the question as to how he would present the Bible: would he make his ministry about trying to argue the truth of the Bible, or would he simply state it as the Word of the Living God?  He chose the latter path – and I would argue that his powerful ministry as the greatest evangelist in the history of the world after St. Paul bore out that fact.  If we just allow the Word of God to speak for itself, it has power that can change the world.  If we impose our human unbelief upon it, it has no power for it is no longer the Word of God at all, but only the perverted word of men.

What does the Bible say about itself?  And how should we receive it?

  • Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. —  Psalm 1:1-2
  • The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.  — Psalm 19:7-9
  • Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. – Psalm 119:11
  • Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. – Psalm 119:70
  • Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  – Psalm 119:89
  • Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  – Psalm 119:105
  • These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  – Deut 6:6
  • The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever – Isaiah 40:8
  • Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, A people in whose heart is My law; Do not fear the reproach of man, Nor be dismayed at their revilings.  – Isaiah 51:7
  • And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.  – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
  • and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:15-17
  • For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. — Hebrews 4:12
  • We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  – 2 Peter 1:19-21
  • Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.  – Jude 3
  • He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.  Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.  – Daniel 12:9-10

The last days are coming, and “deception” will be THE factor that will plunge most of the world into hell.  One of the things that we learn about Satan and the coming Antichrist who will be personally indwelt by Satan is that the coming political Antichrist will be a master of deception.  Both Daniel and the coming Antichrist are given “wisdom” in terms of “mysteries.”  Daniel used his gift to untie or untangle mysterious visions so that the truth could be clearly revealed and understood.  Antichrist, on the other hand, will use his wisdom in the exact opposite way of Daniel: he will be able to so entangle the truth into so many knots with his words that no one will be able to understand the truth from his lies and what is right and good from his deceitful framing of all the narratives that he will present.  Antichrist’s goal in twisting the truth with his rhetoric is clearly displayed in Daniel 7:25 and Revelation chapter 13: he will present a narrative that we care clearly seeing today, that Christians are “intolerant” and essentially the bogeyman and that THEY are the source of all the problems.  We’re already increasingly seeing this – but all too soon it will lead to the most vicious and terrible wave of persecution in the history of the world as Antichrist begins his mission to murder every single believer on earth.  The last days are upon us and everyone who has the spirit that Daniel described in Daniel 12:10 can clearly see it.  Today we live in a world of “spin.”  And I submit that many “good people” are simply flat-out deceived politically and culturally be a tsunami of lies that have engulfed the world.  The spirit of antichrist is already here.

Christianity is slipping away in America, there is no question about it.  In 2012, 75% of Americans identified themselves as “Christian,” versus in 1990 – when that percentage was 86%. I submit that the decline of Christianity in America has a very great deal to do with “deception.”  It has to do with the fact that something watered down and perverted has been substituted for “Christianity” and more and more people are rejecting a “Christianity” that has NOTHING to do with Christ or His Word.  But think of it this way: given that 3 out of every 4 Americans still call themselves “Christian,” HOW IS IT that many of these same Americans now support homosexual marriage and abortion???  I defy anybody to explain to me how anybody could open up a Bible and say, “God approves of homosexual marriage.”  Just read Romans chapter one, if you don’t like Leviticus 18:26.  How can anybody read Psalm 139:13-16 (eg., “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb“) and explain to me how God has anything other than abject horror for the abortion mindset that has now consumed over 55 million innocent babies in America?

For the record, 58% of Americans support homosexual marriage.  And how can that be when 75% of Americans call themselves “Christians”???  When the Bible denounces homosexuality as an “abomination” (Lev 18:22) and a “detestable act” (Lev 20:13) and when the Bible says that homosexuality is the lowest moral point a culture can degenerate to resulting in the full wrath of God (Romans chapter one, especially 1:26-27)?

I survey the demise of Christianity in Western Civilization and particularly in America and I think of the words of King Theoden in Lord of the Rings as he surveyed the world where evil had nearly completely consumed what little good was left: “The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. How did it come to this?

How about this as moving toward an answer to that question: only 19% of CHURCHGOING CHRISTIANS even SAY they read the Bible every day. And 57%  only read their Bibles four times a year or less.  How about what a Gallup survey said: that only 22% of those calling themselves “Christians” believe the Bible is fully inspired by God Himself.

How about this?  “35% of “born-again Christians” do not read the Bible AT ALL.”  And “among those who say they read the Bible, the vast majority only read it during the one hour they attend church each Sunday morning.”

I completely agree with this statement from Ron Rhodes, President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries:  “such statistics make it more than obvious why many Christians are easy prey for spiritual deception. The level of biblical illiteracy among Christians may be one reason why many believers hesitate to stand for Godly values on the public scene.”

The next two paragraphs of the same article:

“Recent studies by The Barna Group and the Gallup Organization conclude that any reasonable understanding of biblical facts and truths is seriously lacking among Americans. Today, basic Christian truths are virtually unknown to a majority in this nation.

“American Christians are biblically illiterate. Although most of them contend that the Bible contains truth and is worth knowing, and most of them argue that they know all of the relevant truths and principles, our research shows otherwise. And the trend line is frightening: the younger a person is, the less they understand about the Christian faith.” —Barna”

I want to begin by exploring that question: “How did it come to this?”  How is it that 75% of Americans say they are “Christian” even as a majority of Americans say, “I’m a Christian, and I believe that God smiles down every time a mother has her own baby ripped apart in her womb.”  “I’m a Christian, and I believe that God loves homosexuality.”  How is it that WE have voted for these things, and considered ourselves good people and even good CHRISTIANS as we did so???  How is it that we call ourselves “Christians” and blatantly ignore the blatant point of Romans chapter one and so many other Old and New Testament Passages???  Note: I pick these two topics because they ought to be OBVIOUS to anyone who reads  the Word of God; and if we can’t even understand the obvious, how can we understand anything at all???

Today, the Anglicans, the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and numerous other denominations, have actively supported homosexual marriage as a union celebrated by God.  Many of these churches are celebrating homosexual unions and celebrate the fact that they have openly homosexual bishops.  And we just witnessed the new Catholic pope join them as he undermined Christians who would have the politically-incorrect gall to condemn gay marriage.

Deception, indeed.  It is all around you.  And statistically speaking, if both the people sitting next to you aren’t deceived, then YOU ARE.

Here’s a survey of Bible passages that I believe help to explain what has happened (in scriptural order):

  • The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. – Genesis 6:5
  • “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD” – 2 Chronicles 19:2
  • You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. — Psalm 52:3
  • But he who sins against Me injures himself; all those who hate Me love death — Proverbs 8:36
  • A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left. — Ecclesiastes 10:2
  • Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! — Isaiah 5:20
  • For God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of those who in their wickedness suppress the truth – Romans 1:18
  • Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools – Romans 1:22
  • They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. — Romans 1:25
  • In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe to keep them from seeing the light of the glorious gospel of the Messiah, who is the image of God. — 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  — Galatians 1:6-9
  • Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron — 1 Timothy 4:2
  • But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. — 2 Tim 3:1
  • They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. — 2 Tim 3:6-7
  • For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. — 2 Tim 4:3-4
  • “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” — Rev 3:15-17

“How did it come to this?”  Let me explain.  Because the answer has EVERYTHING to do with understanding Bible PROPHECY and with having a LITERAL interpretation of the Word of God.

This terrible spiritual sickness of Christian thought began in the 5th century through the teaching of a brilliant theologians named Origen of Alexandria (A.D. 185 to circa 254) and Augustine, bishop of Hippo (354 – 430 AD).  These two thinkers introduced and systemized an “allegorical” view of the Bible.  See here (http://www.lastchanceministries.com/Origen.htm) for more.  Basically, these two men were looking at a world that no longer had a literal, physical, national Israel – which had been destroyed by Rome in 70 AD (just as Jesus literally prophesied in passages such as Matt 23:37-39 and 24:1-2, 34).  And that fact of a “missing Israel” warped their understanding.

There are so many Bible prophecies that center around a literal, national, Israel existing in the last days that I literally cannot list them all.  But consider Ezekiel chapter 37 – the prophecy of the dry bones that come to life prior to the last days war of God and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39.  Consider the numerous references to Israel in the Book of Revelation (ex. Rev 7:3-8; 11:1-2; chap 12). (See http://israelect.com/reference/WillieMartin/Israel_in_Revelation.htm for more).  And consider that the Messiah of ISRAEL in the Old Testament Messiah (See http://israelsmessiah.com/prophecy/messiah/Y%27SHUAH.htm).  The Old Testament Scriptures tell us that this Messiah would, for example, sit on the throne of King David of Israel in Jerusalem and rule with a rod of iron.  Why would Messiah sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem if Israel were no more???  What people was David king of???

You should begin to see Origen’s and Augustine’s dilemma: national Israel needed to exist for the Bible to be right, but national Israel had been wiped off the map and there was no sign on earth that it was coming back.  They could either a) read the Bible literally and believe in faith that God would one day regather Israel as His Word says or b) create an entirely new system of interpretation that turned the Bible into allegories/metaphors rather than literal truths.

Tragically, they chose the latter approach.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the theology they created rather than the actual Word of God.  They allowed their human minds – partially due to their lack of faith and partially due to their intellectual arrogance – to triumph over what God prophetically foreordained would LITERALLY happen in the last days.  And in their error they replaced Israel with the Church (the allegorical approach known as “replacement theology”).

Allow me to present a champion of Amillennialist thought in the words of Covenant theologian Oswald T. Allis to describe premillennialsm:

“One of the most marked features of premillennialism in all its forms is the emphasis which it places on the literal interpretation of Scripture.  It is the insistent claims of its advocates that only when interpreted literally is the Bible interpreted truly”

As a premillennialist, I completely agree with Allis’ characterization.  Yes, that’s right; whatever you do, don’t be like those wicked premillennialists and actually try to interpret your Bible THE WAY GOD DELIVERED IT TO US.

What are the consequences of the Amillennialist “allegorical” approach to “understanding” the Bible.  Try this question from Pew: “Do many religions lead to God and eternal life?”  79% of Catholic Amillennialists and fully 83% of Protestant Amillennialists said YES.  Amazingly, amillennialist Catholics (79%) and amillennialist Mainline churches (83%) were the most likely of ALL respondents to abandon the orthodox Christian confession that only Jesus Christ gives eternal life.  And while their are many strong and staunch Christians who embrace amillennialist theology, once you embrace a hermeneutic approach that encourages highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture, you open the door wide to abandoning the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement and the bodily Resurrection.  All of these abandonments of genuine and orthodox Christianity have been done by the opponents of dispensationalism.  Whereas a literal interpretation of the Bible guarantees against such radical departures from the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Allow me to provide a personal example: I am somewhat directionally impaired, certainly in comparison to my dad who has an incredible intuitive sense of direction.  Imagine my dad gives me directions to get me somewhere that I really need to get to.  He tells me which streets to take and which way to turn.  But I don’t take his directions “literally.”  Instead, I decide to “interpret” them in our classic Origen/Augustine allegorical approach.  Where will I end up???  NOT WHERE I’M SUPPOSED  TO END UP, THAT’S FOR SURE.

And so beginning in the fifth century, allegoricalism won, literalism (and TRUTH) lost.  Nothing needed to mean what it actually said; anything could merely be an allegory or a metaphor that stood for something else.  Except, that is, for God’s remnant who ALWAYS rightly believed that one day, God would fulfill His literal Word LITERALLY.  There were always Christians who joined Jews praying for Israel’s regathering.

God’s Word only makes sense when we let the Scriptures say what they literally clearly MEAN rather than whatever passes our fancy.  Want some examples?  Consider Zechariah 12:2-3 and 8-11:

“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.  On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves…  On that day the LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD going before them.  On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.  And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.  On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”

Also consider passages like “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” – Psalm 83:4

How many nations have experienced more rabid hatred than Israel?  How many peoples have experienced the hatred of the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews (that’s the entire Jewish population of Israel TODAY) were murdered in a campaign to systematically wipe out an entire race?  How many cities on earth are the holiest site of the three major world religions?  How many cities are as torn by demands to be the capitol of two different peoples?  What other city today is more likely to be “a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling” than Jerusalem???  When “Christians” assure us that “Israel” is just an allegory/metaphor for “the Church,” that ITSELF is hatred for Israel.

It is impossible for me to understand how somebody can read such passages and say that these prophecies aren’t being literally fulfilled in our time before our very eyes.  Just as it is impossible for me to understand how somebody can read about God being pierced and tell me that that wasn’t a literally-fulfilled prophecy of Messiah Jesus.

How about this one;” A NATION SHALL BE BORN IN A DAY.”  I read Isaiah 66:8 and all I can say is a miracle literally prophesied by God occurred on May 14, 1948.  I read Jeremiah 30:1-3 and Isaiah 43:5-7 which prophecy the regathering of Israel in the last days and I see literally fulfillment of God’s Word.  Most of all, I see the prophecy of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14 and I KNOW that God literally brought Israel to life from a state of death that had lasted for two thousand years.

What about this one: as the Book of Acts begins, and the disciples of Christ – soon to be His apostles – ask Jesus one last question before He ascends into heaven they ask:

 “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  (Acts 1:6)

And I want you to carefully note here that Jesus most certainly does NOT say, “What are you talking about?  How have you missed the entire point of my Amillennialist teaching?!?!?”  Yes, ultimately the CLEAR LITERAL FACT OF SCRIPTURE is that God WILL restore the kingdom TO ISRAEL.  In fact, the entire MILLENNIUM is ALL ABOUT God fulfilling His promises to Israel.  Because He is a faithful God who fulfills His Word.

There are SO MANY prophesies just like these.  The Bible makes sense when it is allowed to simply speak for itself.  It becomes incomprehensible gibberish when it is defiled by man to say anything else.

Remember, there are two major views today: there is the amillenialist view, which is based on an allegorical interpretation of the Bible, and there is the premillenial view, which is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture.  There used to be another dominant view that has lost most of its credibility: it was called Postmillenialism – and it was also based on an allegorical approach.  According to Postmillenialism, the millennium was not a future state, but began to exist when Christ established the Church through His Twelve Apostles (i.e., the Book of Acts).  And according to Postmillenialism, the world was going to become better and better as the Church evangelized the world, until finally the world would be in a state of perfect Utopia.  And then – after the Church had made the world perfect – Jesus would come and usher in the eternal state.  Well, there were a few problems with that: the first was that it was human-centric rather than God-centric because it was not Jesus Christ saving the world for the Church, but the Church saving the world for Jesus Christ.  Do you see the problem?  The second problem was little things like the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Cold War, etc.  You have to be a true ideologue to believe that the world is becoming better and better when in obvious fact it is clearly becoming worse and worse (as Premillennialists predicted would happen before the coming of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, for the record).

Too bad the Postmillenialists refused to read 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and understand it LITERALLY.

What’s the problem with Amillennialism?  As I described, it is basically the position formulated to explain a world where Israel did not exist (as the Bible said it had to in the last days).  And so the first Amillennialist interpreters assumed an allegorical approach to interpreting the Bible so that it did not have to mean what it said (and therefore couldn’t be wrong just because it wasn’t literally true).  With Israel out of the picture, the 1,000 Millennium in Revelation 20 was meaningless – because the purpose of the Millennium is for the Messiah of Israel to literally fulfill every prophecy given to Israel and the Jews.  For instance, there are prophecies that state that the Messiah of Israel, the Son of David, would rule and reign with a rod of iron on the throne of King David in Jerusalem.  There are prophecies that state that the entire world would worship the Messiah of Israel, and would come up to Jerusalem to do so.  There are prophecies that state that Israel would rebuild the Temple.  And there are MANY OTHER such prophecies.  But if there is no Israel, and Israel is merely an allegory representing the Church, well, those prophecies are merely allegories representing something else, too.  As is the Millennium itself.

You run into huge problems.  Beginning with the fact that all the things the Premillennialists said would happen (e.g., the literal rebirth of national Israel, the literal preparation for a last days Temple in Jerusalem, the rise of a unified Europe so that Antichrist could seize control, the rise of Russia as Gog and Magog, the rise of China as the kings of the East (as per Rev 16:12, Rev 9:13-16), as well as many other things, such as the rise of technology to make the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-18) possible.  I mean, Amillennialists have been mocking literalist Premillennialists – particularly Charles Nelson Darby – for 150 years.  They don’t bother to struggle with the fact that all the stuff the man said would happen ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  Just as he said it would because he was just teaching what the Bible literally said would happen.

Here’s another example of how this terribly flawed allegorical approach leads astray: Read Isaiah 65:20: “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”  What period does this refer to?

Let’s look at another problem with the denials of Amillennialism: the denial of the Millennium itself.

Edward J. Young is a widely respected Amillennialist, and takes the ridiculous position that Isaiah 65:20 describes the eternal heavenly state.  He has to do that, keep in mind, because he denies the literal 1,000 year Millennium reign of Christ on earth.  And in his well-known and influential commentary on Isaiah, he accordingly interprets “the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed” as meaning – and I quote – “Thus one of the blessings of the new age is that of longevity” (vol 3, p. 515).  But let me ask you a simple question: how old do you think you’ll be when you die in heaven???  This passage OBVIOUSLY does not refer to the eternal state, but rather to the Millennium.  The Book of Revelation mentions the Millennium [“Mille anum” = “thousand years”] SIX TIMES in Revelation 20:1-7. But Young cannot consider the Millennium at all because as an Amillennialist he has decided that all the passages in the Book of Revelation that refer to the thousand years of the Millennium are all “allegorical” and there IS no Millennium because there is no reason to have a Millennium because they have interpreted Israel and the eventual fulfillment of prophecies made to Israel out of the Bible.  So all that’s left is heaven.  And he is therefore forced to take an absurd conclusion.  The sad fact of the matter is that the Bible doesn’t drive the Amillennialist’s theology: his Amillennialist theology drives his world rather than what the Bible teaches.

Let me point out again just how incredibly foolish this passage becomes in the words of another top Amillennialist scholar J.G. Voss describing his Amillennialism:

“Amillennialism is that view of the last things which holds   that the Bible does not predict a ‘Millennium’ or period of worldwide peace   and righteousness on this earth before the end of the world.  Amillennialism   teaches that there will be a parallel and contemporaneous development of good   and evil — God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom — in this world, which will    continue until the second coming of Christ. At the second coming of Christ the   resurrection and judgment will take place, followed by the eternal order of   things — the absolute, perfect Kingdom of God, in which there will be no sin, suffering nor death.”

But again, THERE IS DEATH in Isaiah 65:20.  WHERE DOES THIS PASSAGE FIT INTO THE WORLD?  There is only ONE possible time period that makes any sense whatsoever: the Millennium.  But the Amillennialist denies the Millennium as any kind of literal time period (of one thousand years as the Bible tells us SIX TIMES in just ONE chapter) and is therefore reduced to idiocy simply because he refuses to believe the clear LITERAL truth of Scripture.

But the worst thing of ALL about Amillennialism – as I believe I have shown – is that the same hermeneutic that is used to justify the same theology that allows you to replace Israel with the Church allows you to replace marriage with homosexuality and precious babies with abortion.  Yes, these things are an abomination if you read your Bible literally.  So more and more “Christians” are saying, “Well, let’s just not read it literally then.”  That way we can have all the benefits of Christianity and all the benefits of secular humanism all at the same time.

Let’s make Christianity compatible with what the secular humanists and the atheists teach.  That way we won’t have any culture wars, you see.

Dinish D’Souza in his great book, “What’s So Great About Christianity” makes this point when he writes, “Unfortunately the central themes of some of the liberal churches have become indistinguishable from those of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, and the homosexual rights movement.  Why listen to Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong drone on when you can get the same message and much more interesting visuals at San Francisco’s gay pride parade?  The traditional churches, not the liberal churches, are growing in America.” [pg. 4]

D’Souza in his previous paragraphs had documented all the statistics to prove that “fundamentalist” denominations and churches were EXPLODING not only in America but all over the world while mainline liberal denominations were shrinking and dying away.

THAT’S why “Christians” call themselves “Christian” while supporting one thing the Bible decries as evil after another.  And THAT is why fewer and fewer people are identifying themselves as “Christian” in the first place, as the mainline churches that still wield vast institutional influence in both wealth and media coverage die out while the Christianity they used to teach devolves into political correctness and secular humanism.  And the reason that the actual New Testament Christianity that takes the Word of God seriously is exploding around the world is because the Spirit of God is still at work in these last days just before the rapture and the beast of Revelation.

Check out the membership of the wicked Jesus Seminar: Robert Funk is Disciples of Christ – one of ‘the Seven Sisters” of mainline Protestant liberalism.  John Dominic Crossan is a Catholic.  Marcus Borg is an Anglican.  You go down the list of members and without fail you will find mainline liberal denominations that embrace allegorical Amillennialism or Postmillennialism and despise literalist Premillennialism as its members.  These are people who allegorized the Bible in order to accommodate the Word of God to their own massive unbelief – which as I’ve described was how allegoricalism began in the first place.

What has happened is that – without fail – the allegorical non-literal denominations have allowed, enabled and in fact ENCOURAGED their members to deny every key doctrine of the Christian faith.

Christians should be under the Bible as the Word of God to us.  Who is Jesus?  He is who the Bible says He is.  It is as simple as the song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”  And it is a result of abandoning the Bible as the literal Word of God that these denominations have increasingly abandoned the Christian faith altogether.

There’s a great metaphor to end on: the violin that was played as the Titanic sank just went for auction for the price of $1.5 million.  The last song played as the ship plunged into its icy grave was “Nearer My God To Thee.”  We can read this and understand that just as there are no atheists in foxholes, THERE ARE NO ATHEISTS ON SINKING SHIPS.  But look at it this way: the Titanic is an appalling example of stunning human arrogance and ignorance and the resulting refusal to understand clear literal warnings of impending doom.  Here’s a stat: they had 20 lifeboats for 1,178 people but they had 2,435 passengers and 892 crew (for a total of  3,327 souls).  Do the math. And as those heedless people perished after putting their trust in fools, they blithely played “Nearer My God To Thee.”  And what I’m saying is that THAT is what the Church is largely like today and it is what most Christians are like today.  The last days are upon us and they couldn’t be more ignorant or more deceived.  DON’T BE LIKE THAT.

I urge you to read the Bible.  And I urge you to simply let the Bible be the Word of God and allow it to speak to you as it was written to speak to you.

A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 1-3

November 27, 2012

Why that title?  Because we’re going to take a “midlevel” approach to explore the Book of Revelation.  Obviously, we could easily spend a year or MORE in this book, couldn’t we?  For example, I have a two-volume commentary on Revelation by Robert Thomas that totals well over a thousand pages!  That’s too low or detailed a level for the type of discussion we can have.  Or we could fly over Revelation in one article at a really high level and try to provide a summary of the Book in one hour of Sunday School.  What we’re going to do is take a plane ride over Revelation and fly over it at a mid-level altitude that will let us get the gist of about two chapters a week on average.

With that in mind, here are a few “nutshell descriptions” of the Book of Revelation.  Here are the one-sentence summaries of Revelation from a couple of pastors I know well:

A fun exercise, approached it from several angles, and settled on this version:

“Jesus pulls back the curtain of time to give us a preview of the final chapters of this world’s drama and give us a glimpse into the world to come.”

Another pastor and I put our heads together to come up with this one:

“Revelation is a message of hope to God’s people as they struggle against evil.”

I tried to be as descriptive as I could in my sentence:

Sinful man will progressively shake his fist at Jesus Christ until evil appears to take over the whole world, but God will ultimately end the problem of evil once for all and provide an eternity of shalom for His people through the King of kings and Lord of lords.

I believe that’s a worthy exercise for any book or passage you study: can you sum up the point/message in a big-idea sentence?  You are forced to stop and ask yourself: what is the point of what I’ve read?

If you want to go even further and offer a two-word description of what Revelation is about those two words are “Jesus Christ,” NOT “the future.”  Is the future important in Revelation?  Of course.  But in Revelation we find out what Jesus DID, we find out what He’s GOING to do and we find out that He is King of kings and Lord of lords who will reign over the Universe surrounded by His people forever.  And the beauty of the Book of Revelation is that it was written so that St. John’s first reader of Revelation could get that about Christ.  And someone a thousand years ago could get it.  And we can get it today.  They wouldn’t understand all the “future stuff” that was divinely intended for a future day; but they would understand the main idea of the Book of Revelation: One day King Jesus will kick the devil’s butt and throw him along with the world’s worst human dictator into hell, and then it will all be a forever of good times for Jesus’ disciples.

Moving on: how many of you have heard the term “newspaper prophecy”?  What does that phrase say to you?  Do you think it is intended as a positive or a negative description of literal interpretation of biblical prophecy?  It’s usually been used as an insult to deride those who see the last days picture falling into place.  On the view of this attack, people like me take whatever headline is in the news at the moment and twist the Bible prophecy to fit that headline.  And such people will point to periods when many in a generation believed the world was in the last days when it really wasn’t – particularly the periods around WWI/WWII.

Here’s my response to that: Take WWII.  You can see why some people may have believed that we were in the last days: we had a figure – Adolf Hitler – who very definitely seemed “Antichrist-like.”  You had the entire world locked in a terrible war that resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million people.  But while there were many things that might make the late 1930s and the early 1940s seem like a candidate for the Tribulation, one thing was missing that those who favor a literal interpretation said HAD to happen according to the Bible.  What was that one thing?  THE EXISTENCE OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL.  Just as one example, Daniel 12:11, 11:31-37 and 9:27 say that the Antichrist will set up an abomination that causes desolation in the last days during the Tribulation.  That is a major event in Bible prophecy.  Jesus in Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14 tells us this was still an event to happen in the future.  2 Thess 2:3-4 says that Antichrist will set himself up in God’s Temple and declare himself to be God.  Which temple would that be in?  There is only one possible candidate.  When Daniel referred to the temple, it could be none other than the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  Revelation chapter 11 is a prophetic account that that Temple will one day be built again.  And this is just one of many, MANY ways that a literal interpretation of Revelation would lead us to definitively state that no state of Israel, no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  The state of Israel as prophesied in Ezekiel simply has to exist for the events prophesied in the last days to occur.   And so an informed student of Bible prophecy could know for certain in 1939 that whatever would happen was not yet the Tribulation.

And so the accusation of “newspaper prophecy” massively fails.  Because the people accused of perverting Bible prophecy to suit the newspaper are the very same people who were boldly and confidently predicting that the state of Israel would rise for centuries before it actually happened.  As an example, Charles Nelson Darby was claiming back in 1819 in writing that if his dispensationalism was correct, the state of Israel would have to be reborn.  And had we been relying on our newspapers prior to 1948, as critics falsely claim we do, we would have agreed with said critics and pronounced that Israel had been expunged from the pages of anything but ancient history and that the rebirth of the state of Israel could never have happened.  And in fact on THAT most significant ground of the rebirth of the nation Israel exactly as we rightly claimed the Bible prophesied, it is in in fact our critics who looked at their newspapers beginning some 1600 years ago (Augustine appx. 398 AD) and wrongly concluded that Israel was obliterated forever and therefore out of God’s prophetic plan.  It was the amillennialists who in fact were the ones who engaged in “newspaper prophecy” in that most pejorative sense.

And while the folks like Hal Lindsey who are demagogued as “newspaper prophets” at least adjust their speculations to accommodate new developments, the amillennialists, postmillennialists, etc. never bothered to adjust THEIR “newspaper theology” to the REALITY that the state of Israel – in direct fulfillment of God’s Word – had come into existence precisely as the premillennialists/dispensationalists they mocked had said would happen.  Israel stands as a refutation of these theological systems that attempted to “replace” a national Israel that should NEVER have been “replaced” to begin with.

I’ve written articles that describe some of the key differences between amillennialism, postmillennialism and premillenialism/dispensationalism.  If these terms confuse you, read up on them.

That said, the Book of Revelation ultimately WILL be “newspaper prophecy.”  Because when the events described in Revelation are ultimately fulfilled, a good newspaper will report the events as they unfold and intelligent readers will say, “That’s what the Bible said would happen!”  That’s because when Revelation is fulfilled (as it will be), it will very much happen in real time for real people to really witness.  And the newspapers of record in that soon-approaching day will report the modern news version of what was revealed to John in 96 AD.  Which is to say that there truly is coming a time when one can look at the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other and rightly end up with “newspaper prophecy,” isn’t there?

I previously mentioned the Book of Daniel.  Here’s a question: of the 404 verses in the Book of Revelation, how many of them do you think allude to the Old Testament?  And the answer is 278 or 69%.  That’s a lot of Old Testament!  So here’s another bone to chew on: a lot of people say (complain, really) that no one can understand the Book of Revelation because of all the symbolism.  Here’s where that falls apart: A GREAT DEAL OF THE SYMBOLISM IS SYMBOLISM RELATING TO THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND WE SAW HOW THE OLD TESTAMENT WAS LITERALLY FULFILLED IN HISTORY.  As an example, take the over 400 prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament.  We saw that literally HAPPEN, right?  And it turns out that these O.T. prophecies were fulfilled LITERALLY, right?  My point is that where there is symbolism, you can very often take that symbolism, see what it ties into from the O.T., and then see how that O.T. symbolism was fulfilled.  The symbolism of Revelation was in many cases already explained to us before, in other words, and all we have to do is apply the fulfilled O.T. symbolism to the symbolism we need to understand in the Book of Revelation.

Question: “What do the seven churches in Revelation stand for?”  The seven churches described in Revelation 2-3 are seven literal churches that all existed at the time that John the apostle was writing Revelation. But even though they were real, actual churches in that time, there is also a larger spiritual significance for churches and believers today. John’s first purpose of the letters was to communicate with the literal churches and meet their needs at that time. The second purpose is to reveal seven different types of individuals/churches throughout history and instruct them in God’s truth and His expectation of them.

A possible third purpose is to use the seven churches to foreshadow seven different periods in the history of the Church. The problem with this view is that each of the seven churches describes issues that could fit the Church in any time in its history. And for those who would say that Laodicea is the final age, well, we’ve already got Bible passages that tell us that there will be a falling away in the last days (Ex 2 Tim 3:1-5; 4:2-3), don’t we?  So, although there may be some truth to the seven churches representing seven eras, there is far too much speculation in this regard. Our focus should be on what message God is giving us through the seven churches. The seven churches are:

(1) Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the loyal, persevering, enduring church that had left its first love (2:4).

(2) Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the persecuted church that would be rewarded for its faithful suffering (2:10).

(3) Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the formerly faithful church that needed to repent because it had embraced false teachings (2:16).

(4) Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the active, serving church that became too cozy with a false world system (2:20).

(5) Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church of incomplete deeds that had fallen asleep and needs to spiritually wake up (3:2).

(6) Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the small, patient, persevering church that is urged to hold fast and promised to be kept from the time of testing (3:10).

(7) Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the useless, gutless church with the lukewarm faith (3:16).

Jesus begins speaking to His Churches because He tells us what’s coming and asks us, “Are you ready?”

Tune in next week.  I will be going through the entire Book of Revelation taking about two chapters per session.  Revelation is the ONLY Book in the Bible that promises a special blessing to those who read it (Rev 1:3), but many don’t bother to study it because they have been told that it is so difficult.  It isn’t all that difficult if you read it with a literal hermeneutic principle and simply accept the story as it is being told.  And in fact the only reason it is so incredibly “difficult” is because the amillennialism/postmillennialist approaches have so wrapped the Book up in allegory that it “literally” doesn’t say what it in fact rather clearly says.

Part Two: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 4-5

Part Three: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 6-7

Part Four: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 8-9

Part Five: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 10-11

Part Six: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 12-13

Part Seven: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 14-15

Part Eight: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 16-18

Part Nine: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 19-20

Part Ten: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 21-22

The Crisis In The Islamic World, The Future And Bible Prophecy

February 14, 2011

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article titled “The Crisis In Egypt, The Future And Bible Prophecy.”  I have also written an article titled, “Iran, Iraq And The Future In Bible Prophecy.”  But I would now like to expand to the entire Muslim world, given the massive unrest that is going on as we speak.

The crisis in Egypt isn’t over; it has merely reached a new phase with the departure of Mubarak.  The largest and most powerful nation in the Arab world is now being ruled by a military council; who knows for certain what will happen next?  Only our Lord God, who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10).  And to a much lesser extent, the Bible exegete who rightly divides God’s prophetic Word of truth.  And no one else.

Let me say at the outset that there is a great deal of disagreement in the area of Bible prophecy and eschatology (the study of “last things”).  I represent a very solid viewpoint in Protestant theology who embrace premillennialism (which holds that Jesus Christ will return to prior to establishing a literal 1,000 year millennium on earth per Revelation 20:1-7) and dispensationalism (the two basic tenants of which are that God has dealt with humanity progressively in an unfolding manner in history and that Israel is distinct from the Church).  On a dispensationalist view, God began with Israel and He shall faithfully keep all of His promises to Israel and end with Israel.  Dispensationalists read passages such as Romans 11:16-24 and recognize that God did not kill the olive tree of Israel or plant an entirely different tree; rather, He grafted Gentile Christian believers into the olive tree of the hope of Israel which He had planted in Abraham centuries before.  On a dispensationalist perspective, the purpose of the Millennium reign of Christ on earth will be to fulfill every promise that God ever made to Israel that Israel was not ready to receive: God will one day expand Israel to the boundaries that He promised Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21); one day all the nations trulywill one day go up to Jerusalem to worship Messiah on the forever throne of King David (see Zechariah 14:9, 16; see also 2 Samuel 7:9-16 and Psalm 89:29-37); the wolf will one day really lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), etc.

The dispensationalist will excitedly assure you that God’s promises are not like a human politician’s promises, in which some skilled lawerly linguist reinterprets the promises and explains that said promises were fulfilled, however unliterally was their fulfillment.  Rather, when God makes a promise, He will ultimately fulfill that promise LITERALLY in His sovereign timing.  It is God’s nature to fullfil His Word.

And all of this beautfiful fulfillment of God’s Word concerning Israel – according to the dispensationalist – will begin to happen when all Israel finally “will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son” (Zechariah 12:10).  Israel is “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8).  Nations harm Israel at their peril.  And God will not ultimately forsake “His people” or “His land” of Israel.

There are other views toward eschatology.  The most dominant view in the Protestant world at one time was Postmillennialism.  It holds that the millennium is a metaphor, and that Christ’s millennial kingdom is even now being extended over all the earth by the preaching of the gospel.  And that when most of the world is converted to Christ, Christ will return to His kingdom.  It largely went out after World War I; World War II pretty much killed this view off as the optimism of humans ushering in the kingdom of heaven for God proved to be unattainable.

Then there is the more substantial view of Amillenialism – which is the view of the Catholic church as well as a number of Protestant mainline denominations.  It holds that there is no literal future millennium (a means no).  It teaches that although Satan is currently bound, the kingdom of evil will continue to increase in parallel along with Christ’s kingdom.  But when Jesus Christ returns, the end of the world will occur and there will be a general resurrection and a general judgment of all human beings.

We don’t see early evidence of amillennialist thought until Augustine described the view in the early 5th century.  I would argue that the key reason that Augustine set out the highly allegorical and metaphorical interpretation system of amillenialism was due to the apparent absence of national Israel.  Israel had been wiped out by Rome in AD 70, in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:2.  With no Israel, any system based on taking Bible prophecy literally fell apart.  Prophecy was something to be explained away, rather than revelled in as proof of a God who truly knows the end from the beginning.

It didn’t have to be that way.  One just had to believe the Bible and to truly trust in the God whose Word the Bible is.

There is another key difference between premillennialism and its amillennialist and postmillennialist rivals: literalism.  Premillennialists want to take their Bible literally.  Oswald T. Allis, an amillennialist champion of covenant theology and a vigorous opponent of dispensationalism, said on page 17 of his book Prophecy and the Church:

“One of the most marked features of premillennialism in all its forms is the emphasis which it places on the literal interpretation of Scripture.  It is the insistent claims of its advocates that only when interpreted literally is the Bible interpreted truly; and they denounce as “spiritualizers” or “allegorizers” those who do not interpret the Bible with the same degree of literalness as they do.  None have made this charge more pointedly than the dispensationalists.”

And, while amillennialists have been quite willing to do a great deal of “denouncing” of their own, I agree with Allis’ point: premillennialists and dispensationalists DO seek to literally interpret their Bibles, in marked contrast to his own amillennialist and Covenant viewpoint.  There are passages that speak of the arm of the Lord, or refer to God as a great bird protectively keeping His people under His wing.  The biblical literalist knows that God doesn’t have arms or wings or feathers because many other passages tell us that God is Spirit and doesn’t have a physical body apart from Christ who assumed a human image in the incarnation.  So we rightly understand passages describing God’s strong arm or God’s wings as metaphors.  But there is no place in Scripture that tells us not to understand the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom as a literal kingdom or a literal thousand years.  We read the Bible literally unless context demands that we read it otherwise.

On the other hand, every single mainline liberal denomination that has evacuated historic orthodox Christianity has been one that has interpreted their Bibles using the allegorical approach of amillennialism and postmillennialism.  And I will include the nation of Germany that first became the most atheistic nation in Europe and then became the hosts of Nazism’s attempt to destroy the Jews and their influence upon “Judeo-Christianity” and the Christendom that Judeo-Christianity created.  An illustration of this phenomenon was revealed in a Pew Poll in which respondents were asked the pluralist question, “Do many religions lead to God and eternal life?”  70% of all surveyed said “yes.”  Amazingly, amillennialist Catholics (79%) and amillennialist Mainline churches (83%) were the most likely of ALL respondents to abandon the orthodox Christian confession that only Jesus Christ gives eternal life.  And while their are many strong and staunch Christians who embrace amillennialist theology, once you embrace a hermeneutic approach that encourages highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture, you open the door wide to abandoning the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement and the bodily Resurrection.  All of these abandonments of genuine and orthodox Christianity have been done by the opponents of dispensationalism.  Whereas a literal interpretation of the Bible guarantees against such radical departures from the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Dispensationalists also believe in the doctrine of the rapture of the saints prior to the divine judgment of the Tribulation.

What is the Tribulation?  It is described in the book of Revelation, beginning in chapter 6 and continuing through chapter 18.  It is a seven-year period of time that culminates the “Seventy Sevens” of prophecy given to Daniel (Daniel chapter 9).  It is a period during which God will give sinful mankind it’s chance to govern itself apart from God.  It is a period of divine judgment as God pours down divine wrath upon wicked humanity.  Interestingly the church is never mentioned even a single time after the words “come up here” in chapter 4.  Prior to that the word “church” was all over the place.  Where did all the Christians go?  What we see instead are Jews who become Christians after the rapture of the Christian church, and 144,000 Jewish Christians divinely sealed from each of the Twelve literal tribes of Israel (Revelation 7) evangelizing the whole world even as an insanely evil global dicator known as “the beast” or “Antichrist” reigns under the possession of the devil himself.

What is the Rapture?  Well, those words “come up here” (Revelation 4:1) sum it up pretty well.

The word “rapture” (to seize or snatch) was translated from the Greek word “Harpazo” in 1 Thess 4:16.  “Harpazo” has the same meaning as the Latin word “rapturo” in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate written in AD 385. We can consider the writings of early Christian exegetes such as Ephaim the Syrian, who wrote about AD 373 in a book entitled, “Antichrist and the End of the World”:

”We ought to understand thoroughly, therefore my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hungers and plagues, violent movement of nations and sins, which have been predicted by the Lord.

Let us prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms the world. Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh. Believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand. Believe me because it is the very last time. Because all Saints and the elect of the Lord are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord in order that they may not see at any time the confusion that overwhelms the world because of our sins.”

That’s just one particularly clear example from the Church Fathers. Papias – companion of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John – believed in the literal earthly pre-millennial doctrine. As did Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodius, Commodianus, and Lactanitus, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Melito of Sardis, Jerome, Gennadius, Hippolytus of Rome, Nepos, Ambrose of Milan, as well as others. Pre-millenialism was in fact the dominant view of the church for the first few centuries. It is the oldest eschatological view.

Contrary to a very oft pubilicized misconception, Charles Nelson Darby did not “invent” dispensationalism.  Dispensatioanlism had already been around LONG before Darby came onto the scene.  But Darby did systemize and popularize dispensational eschatology more than had been the case previously.  And it has since exploded to become the dominant view of the Protestant church, in terms of numbers of adherents.  This is hardly a point against dispensationalism, as we are frequently told: we knew that as the last days approached, knowledge would be greatly increased (Daniel 12:4).  And in fact as we see more and more things that the Bible described that are being fulfilled right in front of our eyes, that understanding shall certainly continue to be increased.  It seems quite unremarkable to me that as we get closer and closer to the last days, we would understand more and more about the last days and about biblical eschatology.

One of the things that Charles Nelson Darby and those who came before him did was literally predict that there would HAVE to be a state of Israel in order for prophecy as they understood it to be fulfilled. He implicitly taught that if his system for understanding Scripture was correct, there would be a powerful nation of Israel at a time when there was no evidence whatsoever that such a nation would arise literally from the bones and the ashes (see Ezekiel 37 and see here).  And, as God’s workings with man so often come about, it was because of his faith and the faith of early dispensationalists that Israel DID reassemble from the bones.  It was the early Christian “Zionists” who believed in the regathering of national Israel who largely funded the purchase of the land of Israel for the future establishment of a nation.  Prior to Darby and the dispensationalists, Israel had been an empty desert wasteland populated only by a few nomads; because of the biblical Zionists the land flowed with water in yet another literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Darby and the dispensationalists also predicted that Russia – at the time a backwater and hardly a major international power – would become mighty as the land of Gog and Magog in the ultimate north (see Ezekiel 38).

Now allow me to get closer to our present day and refer to another “Darby” who correctly predicted events to come according to an understanding of dispensationalist eschatology: a Messianic Jew named Joel Rosenberg.  Allow me to quote from my aforementioned article “Iran, Iraq And The Future In Bible Prophecy“:

A Wikipedia article on Joel Rosenberg probably provides the most concise summary (accessed June 23, 2009):

Rosenberg’s novels have attracted those interested in Bible Prophecy, due to several of his fictional elements of his books that would occur after his writing of books. Nine months before the September 11th attacks, Rosenberg wrote a novel with a kamikaze plane attack on an American city. Five months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he wrote a novel about war with Saddam Hussein, the death of Yasser Arafat eight months before it occurred, a story with Russia, Iran, and Libya forming a military alliance against Israel occurring the date of publishing,[7] the rebuilding of the city of Babylon,[12] Iran vowing to have Israel “wiped off the face of the map forever” five months before Iranian President Ahmadinejad said the same,[13] and the discovery of huge amounts of oil and natural gas in Israel (which happened in January 2009).[14] The U.S. News & World Report have referred to him as a “Modern Nostradamus,”[15] although Rosenberg tries to play down those proclamations, stating that “I am not a clairvoyant, a psychic, or a ‘Modern Nostradamus,’ as some have suggested.”[16] He gives the credit for his accurate predictions to studying Biblical prophecy and applying to the modern world.[16]

Why did Rosenberg predict that there would be a “kamikaze plane attack on an American city” by Islamic terrorists?  Because he accurately understood the evil at the heart of Islam.

Why did Rosenberg predict a war between Saddam Hussein and the United States resulting in the overthrow of Saddam and his brutal regime?  That’s where it gets interesting.

Joel Rosenberg had done a thorough study of the Book of Ezekiel and of the Bible (as a couple of overlapping articles summarize – Article 1; – Article 2).  He learned that one day, according to the Bible, a massive army under the leadership of Russia and many of its former republics (Magog) and Iran (Persia) and consisting of many countries that are today Islamic [e.g. “Cush” (modern-day Sudan and Ethiopia); “Put” (modern-day Libya); “Gomer” (modern-day Turkey); “Beth-togarmah” (modern-day Armenia); and many peoples “along the mountains of Israel” (modern-day Lebanon and possibly Syria)] would form an “exceedingly great army” that would one day attack Israel.

What Rosenberg noted was the absence of two countries: Egypt and Babylon (i.e. Iraq).  Egypt had been a perennial enemy of Israel until 1973, when Egypt alone in all the Arab/Muslim world forged a historic peace treaty with the state of Israel.  That left Iraq.  Rosenberg asked himself, “How could a nation like Iraq, under the leadership of someone like Saddam Hussein, NOT participate in this mega-colossal-last-days attack on Israel?

Rosenberg concluded that Saddam Hussein WOULDN’T refrain from such an attack.  And that meant that Saddam Hussein would have to go.

And so, NINE MONTHS before the 9/11 attack, Rosenberg in his “fiction” created a scenario in which terrorists flew a plane in a kamikaze attack, and the United States took out the Iraqi regime and replaced it with a stable Western-friendly government.

And because the Bible is the true Word of an all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning as revealed through His prophets, the scenario laid out by Joel Rosenberg turned out to be eerily true.  It wasn’t a “lucky guess”; it was based upon the God who had revealed the last days to an inspired prophet named Ezekiel some 2,600 years ago.

Thus we have Iraq, its tyrant who had filled mass graves with the bodies of at least 400,000 of his own people, overthrown and a stable democracy growing in his place.  And we have Iran, a country strongly allied with Russia; a country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons; a country that has announced its intent on the destruction of Israel; a country under the leadership of men who in all likelihood believe in establishing a future by an act of violent apocalypse.  Two countries on two very different paths.  And both paths known to God 2,600 years ago.

It is not my primary purpose to attack other Christian viewpoints, but rather to argue that the predictive power of Bible prophecy viewed through the lens of dispensationalist theology has been nothing short of remarkable.  And to argue that when the Bible is given a chance via literal interpretation, it shines brightly as the true Word of the Living God.

One day, the early dispensationalists taught, Israel would be regathered as a powerful nation.  It happened literally, not metaphorically or allegorically.  One day in the far north a nation would grow to prominence such that it could lead an international invasion against that nation Israel.  It happend as Russia became a superpower.  It happend literally, not metaphorically or allegorically.  The nations that would be led by Russia would include the nation of Persia (modern Iran) in a strategic alliance and and a host of nations that would have some powerful commonly-held ideological rationale to launch an all-out attack against Israel.  That has happened quite literally.  And today Russia, Iran and modern Islamic states have both a common alliance and a common hostility to national Israel.  Just as the Bible literally taught would happen in the last days.

There was a period during which naysayers ridiculed dispensationalist interpretations of prophecy, because many dispensationalist Bible scholars talked in terms of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  But the same Gog and Magog in the north is back in international power, and the new Russia is more involved with its Islamic alliance than ever.  Literally.  Just as the Bible taught all along.  A good presentation of just how powerful this very literal last days alliance is can be read in Joel Rosenberg’s book Epicenter.  He supports this powerful endtimes alliance with documentation galore.

Joel Rosenberg described a world in which two powerful Muslim nations – Egypt and Iraq – would somehow NOT join the last days alliance.  I describe that further in my article “The Crisis In Egypt, The Future And Bible Prophecy.”

Right now Egypt is being controlled by the military.  And that is the best state of affairs for Israel, given that the military is the most pro-Western element in all of Egypt.  I don’t profess to have any idea what kind of government Egypt will ultimately end up with; I merely state that Egypt will ultimately-  and frankly amazingly (along with modern Babylon Iraq) – NOT participate in the war of Gog and Magog described in Ezekiel 38 and 39, in which a Russian-and-Iranian-led host of Islamic states attack Israel in the coming last days.

But what about the many other Islamic nations that are likewise experiencing great unrest with all of these “days of rage” erupting in first one Muslim nation and then another?

Here’s a map detailing the spread of protests currently erupting all over the Arab world:

You can add Iran to that list, as protests are erupting even as this article goes out.  You can also add Bahrain.  And I have no doubt other Muslim countries as well.

What about THESE countries?  Is democracy afoot throughout the Islamic world, which has never had democracy in its entire history?

People should stop and think: is it a mere coincidence that the Muslim world has been a world of tyrant kings and dictatorial regimes, while democracy spread throughout Christendom and as a direct result of Judeo-Christian principles?  Or is there something fundamentally and profoundly wrong with Islam as both a religion and as a political system?

We have the recent example of the Palestinian Authority, which had democratic elections only for the people to enthusiastically vote for the terrorist organization Hamas.  Secular humanists and liberal religionists have denounced this as an embrace of religion which makes democracy impossible.  But that is clearly not what our American founding fathers who created the first lasting democracy in human history believed.  Rather, our founding fathers argued that true religion and the morality which true religion fosters are ESSENTIAL for a democracy and a people capable of self-government.

I think now of the Andrew McCarthy book The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. (and see the descriptions of this book here and here).  And I would submit that on the one hand we have the Islamic threat of radical jihadism, and we have the Western threat of serving as the useful idiots of radical jihadism.  It was liberals and liberalism which gave us the multiculturalism that leaders of the most powerful European countries (Germany, the UK and France) are now vehemently denouncing as having fomented the spread of radical Islam.  And as an example of this we have breathless mainstream media liberals describing the Egyptian people as a nation of freedom-loving secularists when the truth is very different.  According to a Pew survey:

“At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Majorities of Muslims in Jordan and Nigeria also favor these harsh punishments.”

Which is to say that rather than being a theory, it is a fact that secular humanist liberals have done more to spread radical Islamist jihadism than anyone short of the radical Islamist jihadists themselves.  And it is in fact those who embrace a literalist view of the Bible who have most strongly decried this moral stupidity for years.

God knew these days would come thousands of years ago.  He knew that the Middle East – for centuries a forgotten backwater – would become central in the last days due to the discovery of and need for oil.  God knew that Israel would be once again established as a nation literally coming to life from dry bones (Ezekiel 37).  God knew that ancient Persia and modern day Iran would once again come to dominate the Middle East in the last days.  God knew that Russia would rise to become a great bear in the last days.  God knew that something would unite virtually all of the nations surrounding Israel to join in an attack against the tiny nation that God founded through Abraham.  And God knew that these nations would come together in one massive force against that nation Israel as described inEzekiel 38-39.  Because God knows the end from the beginning.

Even as I write Libya’s Gaddafi is calling upon Palestinians to revolt against Israel.  Already the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been saying the treaty with Israel is over and calling for preparations for a war on Israel.  And this isn’t a bunch of allegories; it is quite literal, indeed.

As you read your newspaper and watch your news, does this all-out war described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 seem farfetched?  Or does this insane attack against Israel seem to be the far and away the most likely outcome as history unfolds just as God described through His prophets?  The only thing that should seem farfetched is the conclusion of this battle, as God supernaturnaturally comes to Israel’s aid and destroys this massive army that would seek to destroy His people.  But is such a demonstration of divine power really so incredible for a God who knows the end from the beginning, and revealed that knowledge in His Word?

And I would argue that an explosion of democracy in the Islamic world – which the very same liberals who cheer it now vehemently denounced when Bush was advocating it – may well backfore horrendously just as it did in the Palestinian Authority.  It may well be the agent that binds the Islamic world together into the coalition led by Russia and Iran that will one day come streaming toward Israel in the rapidly approaching last days.  Once any of these radical jihadist groups such as the ayatollahs in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian Authority – and outfits like the Taliban or the Muslim Brotherhood – gain powere through a popular vote, they become impossible to vote out.  Because they are fundamentally anti-democratic; in fact they despise democracy and everything it stands for.  And once they get power, they will never let it go.

Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party never had more than 37% of the vote in Germany.  But once in, he and the Nazis totally seized power.  The same thing happened with the communists in Russia and everywhere else that communism has spread.  And it has happened again and again with Islamofascists like the Ayatollahs and secular Islamic dictators such as Saddam Hussein alike.

As I consider the popular Islamic people’s uprisings in light of passages such as Ezekiel 38-39 and Psalm 83 (e.g., “They say, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!'” – Psalm 83:4), I believe that this move in the Islamic world will not end well for most of the nations experiencing these “days of rage.”

What the Bible predicted would happen as the Word of a God who knows the end from the beginning will happen.  And it will happen very literally indeed.

As Iran gets the nuclear bomb – and Iran WILL get the nuclear bomb, thanks to Western liberals and American Democrats (see my articles here and here) – it will become emboldened in a way that will make its previous insolence to the global community seem like nothing.  They will feel impervious, and they will most certainly join Russia in an attack upon Israel as leaders of a pan-Islamic international force.  And this coming world war against Israel will be no allegory and it will be no metaphor; it will be terrifyingly literal.

But you don’t have to be afraid.  Because the God who told us that these days would come is sovereign over the world.

I pray every single day, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” which is what Maranatha means.

As one who stands quite guilty indeed of being a biblical literalist, I believe that the Lord will rapture His people before the coming Tribulation which will test and judge the whole world and ultimately bring about the national restoration of Israel to its Messiah.  I believe that this rapture will “snatch” every single genuine Christian as the Lord comes for His people and meets them in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Jesus went to prepare a place for us; and we will soon be with Him in His beautiful and glorious presence before we return with Him as He comes to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19).

I believe that the rapture will even catch those Christians who don’t believe in the rapture.  Even as I believe that as one who loves the Lord’s coming, I will be awarded a special crown in heaven.

Jesus said that in the last days before His return to earth as King of kings, the times would become so fearful and so terrifying that men’s hearts would fail them for fear (Luke 21:25-26. KJV).  But Jesus said to His own, “Do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

You don’t have to be afraid if you have Christ in your heart.  Especially if you also have the prayers for His soon coming on your lips.

Maranatha!