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Three Easy Rules to Help You Study Prophecy

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Studying the Book of Revelation is intimidating and it does take some intentional work to understand it. But, it’s no where near as intimidating as you think if you keep three rules in mind (covered in detail below).  My goal with this blog is to make complex things simple in regards to end-times theology and understanding. I think most people are intimidated by the subject and many have decided that it’s too complex to figure out anyway, so they retreat to a position of just being okay with the basics — that Jesus is coming back somehow, some way, at some point.

I used to be there too. But then I read verses that say things like, “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), and “all scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), or “not one jot or tittle (the smallest marks in the Hebrew language) shall pass from the law until all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). Even the book of Revelation itself says that whoever reads and keeps the prophecies found in Revelation will be blessed (Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:7). It’s the capstone of the canon, the grand finale of the fireworks show, the crescendo of the symphony, the best part of the love letter, and the climax of the movie, but somehow the enemy has convinced most believers that it’s too convoluted to understand. How did this happen?

First of all, I think it’s because of spiritual warfare. Yes, it’s real. Yes, there is a real Satan and in his twisted mind, he still thinks he can usurp God’s plan and take his place. Satan lusts after the worship that only God deserves and the more he can confuse people about end-time prophecy, the more it plays to his advantage — even though we already know who wins. The enemy knows Bible prophecy. He has studied it for thousands of years. He wants to rewrite the playbook and get our eyes off of the incredible victory that is coming for Christ and for us. If the enemy can take away the biggest motivation factor for expectant living and sharing our faith (Jesus’ soon return/Rev. 22:7) then he will do just that. The enemy does not want God’s people living with the sense of purpose, clarity, and urgency that a proper understanding of end-times events provides.

Second, I think some well meaning but unwise Christians have done unnecessary damage to how people view Bible prophecy. There is never a shortage of date-setters even though Jesus himself said that, “no one knows the day or the hour…” (Matthew 24:36). That doesn’t mean we can’t know the season or general time frame however, but that’s another post for another day.

Third, considering the fact that there are a few different methods of interpretation (Idealist, Preterist, Historicist, and Futurist views) when approaching Revelation, this adds another layer of confusion. If you have 3 or 4 super intelligent authors or seminary professors who say vastly different things about how to interpret the book of Revelation, then how in the world are we supposed to know which view is accurate? Am I reading your mail? If so, please keep reading!

I should note here that the various views of the end-times is an in-house debate. It’s not a salvation issue. Some truly Godly people who love the Lord and love the word of God disagree on the order of end-time events. Through MUCH study and a great amount of conviction, I fall firmly into the futurist, pre-trib, pre-mill camp (If you don’t know what that means stay tuned for future posts on that topic), but I would never berate a brother or sister in Christ who held another view. Sadly, I see this happen way too often when Christians disagree. For some reason these believers forget all about John 13:35 that says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

There is a famous quote attributed to an early church leader that says, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Let’s unite around the essentials, allow for differing views in the non-essentials, and demonstrate true Christian love toward each other, even if we disagree on how the end-time pieces fall into place. But, don’t let the term “non-essential” make you think you don’t need to study and form your own convictions. Have the courage to pursue truth wherever it leads.

So, to bring it back to where we started…making complex things simple. Here are three very important rules to follow when studying prophecy and attempting to form your own conviction about the nature of Bible prophecy and of end-time events.

I. STUDY THE TOTALITY OF SCRIPTURE

If scripture is without error and of divine origin we should see a harmony and cohesiveness within it’s pages, and we do. The more I study it, the more I know that only a sovereign God could have put it together. We see lines of theology introduced in Genesis and progressively revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments. We see a divine harmonization of passages written at different times by different writers. For those who want to take the time, you’ll find that the internal and external evidence for  the reliability of scripture is overwhelming.

With those facts in view as we study prophecy, we can confidently interpret scripture with scripture and take every world literally unless it’s clearly a figure of speech. It is very easy to take verses out of context or brush them off if we don’t understand that we should let scripture shed light on other parts of scripture. When symbols are used in the book of Revelation for example, we can’t use contemporary concepts to understand them. We have to search the Old Testament for instances of those symbols. This unlocks the meaning of the symbol and harmonizes it with scripture. I’ve seen some Christians treat the Old Testament like it is obsolete and only study the New Testament in depth. This does them a disservice because, “ALL SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and useful for teaching…” (2 Timothy 3:16). You cannot fully understand Eschatology without understanding the progression of theology from Genesis to Revelation.

II. DON’T SPIRITUALIZE

Too often, students of the Bible tend to “spiritualize” the meaning of prophecies even though they don’t do this with any other areas of scripture. For example, when the Bible talks about various people groups, we understand they are talking about specific countries, areas, or groups of people. In most cases, we can trace the history back to those people. But some prophecy teachers use “replacement theology” and replace Israel with the Church and that God is done with Israel (even though Paul spends 3 chapters in Romans [Ch. 9-11] clearly showing God is NOT done w/ Israel or the Jewish people).

Another example is with the Millennium (the 1000 year period of Christ’s rule on earth after the Tribulation period). Even though the Old Testament prophets say over and over again that the Lord will rule on a literal throne from Jerusalem, and Revelation chapter 20 says six times that there will be a 1000 year reign of Christ, many prophecy teachers say this is figurative for the Church age. The problem is no other scripture sheds light on this being figurative. No where in scripture does it say the church has replaced the Jews, nor is there any precedent for spiritualizing the meaning of the 1000 years. Everywhere else where God uses a number, that number is to be taken literally. When the Gospels tell us Jesus chose 12 disciples, it meant exactly that. Precision and accuracy are hallmarks of God’s nature.

III. USE LOGIC

We need to use our God-given ability to apply logic to compare and contrast passages of scripture to develop a framework of understanding of end-time events. For example. If the rapture where we “meet the Lord in the air” is imminent (meaning it can happen at any time with no preconditions) as taught by Paul, and if the tribulation begins with the confirming of a covenant by the anti-christ, and if the anti-Christ cannot be revealed until after the rapture occurs, then logic demands that the rapture must occur before the tribulation. Here’s another example. If the anti-Christ stands in the temple in the middle of the seven-year tribulation period and there is not currently a temple in Jerusalem, then it stands to reason that sometime between now and the middle of the tribulation, a third Jewish temple will be constructed. (BTW, did you know there’s an organization called The Temple Institute that has already constructed all of the instruments, trained priests who’s DNA traces back to the Levitical line of the Old Testament, has the building plans, and funding for the third temple?)

As you read prophetic passages without spiritualizing the meaning and recalling other related passages, you can use logic to connect the dots and develop clearer convictions and a better understanding about the nature of end-time events.

By following those rules, I have found that studying Bible prophecy and the book of Revelation to be the most exciting Bible study I’ve ever taken on — mainly because these three rules clear the fog and unlock God’s word. I am 100% convinced that God means what he says and says what he means, that the totality of scripture completely harmonizes, and that our God-given ability to use logic connects the dots.

When studying scripture with that approach and with the attitude that you will follow truth wherever it will lead, I believe you will come to the same conclusions I have (Pre-trib, Pre-Mil, Futurist Positions). But even if you don’t, you will still have a much better understanding of scripture. I hope this post will help encourage you to study prophecy with a sense of clarity and expectancy. God’s word was never meant to be boring or convoluted.

For further reading, be sure to check out the previous posts on the 5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation.

 

What The Experts Are Saying

Screen Shot 2017-01-21 at 10.27.04 AMI’ve been working on a Bible prophecy book (more on that coming soon) to help everyday Christians like me understand Bible prophecy and in my research I was surprised to find so many trusted Christian teachers saying essentially the same thing…that we have more reason than any other time in history to believe Christ’s return could happen in our day. A careful study of the signs that Jesus and others in scripture point us to make me believe we are nearing these events.

Do I feel crazy for saying that? A little, yes. I’m a pretty reserved person who does not like to draw attention, but in the past few years I have become convinced that understanding and teaching Bible prophecy is part of my calling. When I look with natural eyes I want to shrug it all off, but when I prayerfully study scripture taking God at his word I look at the world have to conclude that the conditions of our day perfectly parallel the Biblical narrative for the end times.

There are several specific signs Jesus gave during the Olivet Discourse, especially in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. A careful study of these gave me the solid conviction that we are in this time frame. With this conviction, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being sensationalistic. I wanted to know what the pros thought so I intentionally researched to see if I could find clear quotes and specific stances from long trusted and non-sensationalistic prophecy experts.

What I found was astounding. Every trusted source I checked implied or boldly proclaimed that we are currently in the season of the Lord’s return. Several adamantly believe that we are the generation that will experience the rapture.

I know, I know…people have been saying that for years. I get it, and I understand the reservation. My point is, these aren’t quotes from obscure lone wolf personalities who had some special revelation or strange esoteric method for foolishly setting a date for the rapture or the end of the world. These are solid, highly respected, non-sensationalistic, credentialed experts who have been studying scripture and world events for decades and have a clear sense that the end-time events are likely closer to us than most people think.


WHAT THE PROS ARE SAYING
These are listed in no particular order. Also, this is a partial list. Since I originally compiled this list I have come across several more solid Biblical scholars who feel we are in the season of the Lord’s return including: Terry James, Pastor Tom Hughes, Pastor Greg Laurie, Hal Lindsey, etc.

DR. DAVID JEREMIAH, Author, Senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, in El Cajon, California. “Those with the discernment to read the signs of the times today (Matthew 16:2-3) recognize that the similarities between Daniel’s Babylon and today’s Western culture are signs that Daniel’s dark prophetic visions loom close on the horizon.” Dr. David Jeremiah, Agents of Babylon, (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015), p. 10.

BILLY GRAHAM, Famous Evangelist, Minister, Author. “What a time to take the news of the day in one hand and the Bible in the other and watch the unfolding of the great drama of the ages come together. This is an exciting and thrilling time to be alive…It is not just Christians that sense something is about to happen. The world knows that things cannot go on as they are. History has reached an impasse. This world is on a collision course. Something is about to give. With increasing frequency, commentators from secular media speak of Armageddon.” Billy Graham, The Reason for My Hope

DR. JOHN F. WALVOORD, Theologian/Pastor, President of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986 (Died in 2002). “Just as history was prepared for Christ’s first coming, in a similar way history is preparing for the events leading up to His Second Coming… If this is the case, it leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Rapture may be excitingly near.” Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, rev. Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 217. J.

DWIGHT PENTECOST, Theologian, Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (Died in 2014). “Will you imagine please, a platform that is shut off by a curtain thats drawn? There’s a lot of activity going on behind that drawn curtain. If there’s a little crack between the bottom of the curtain and the floor, you can see feet rushing around, you can hear furniture being moved, you can hear things going on. You can’t see, but you know that the stage manager is in control and is directing to make sure that every person and every prop essential to that drama is in place. I think that’s the day in which we’re living.” The Road To Armageddon, Charles R. Swindoll, John F. Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, 1999, Thomas Nelson, Pg. 100.

DR. TIM LaHAYE, Pastor, Speaker, Author (Best known for the “Left Behind” Series, Died 2016). “…we have more reason than any generation before us to believe He will come in our generation. ” Are We Living In the End Times? By Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, 1999, Tyndale House, Pg. 6

THOMAS ICE, Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. “We believe that God is now setting the stage for the next era of history, which is known as the Tribulation. There are signs around us that give evidence of this.” Charting the End Times, (Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers, 2001), p. 118

RON RHODES, Author, Speaker. “Do I believe we are living in the season of the Lord’s return, and if so, why? Yes. I say this because of what I call the “convergence factor.” Not only has Israel come together as a nation again, as prophesied (Ezekiel 26-27), but a number of ancient prophecies of the end times seem to be converging in our day.” (Living on Borrowed Time by Dr. David Reagan {with Ron Rhodes}, Lamb & Lion Ministries, 2013, Pg. 76.)

JAN MARKEL, Radio Host, Conference Leader, Founder of Olive Tree Ministries. “I think the church is headed into the homestretch of her history and I base that not on emotions or wishful thinking. I base that on what I see happening daily. Just a few examples here that tell me we’re in an actual countdown.” Radio Show: comfort one another with these words episode 8-23-16

JEFF KINLEY, Author, Speaker. “The events outlined in Scripture concerning the last days are no longer relegated to futuristic fantasies or the religious rants of wannabe prophets scurrying about the periphery of mainstream Christianity. The prototypical street-corner doomsday prophet wearing a “THE END IS NEAR” sandwich sign may still seem a bit oddball, but his message isn’t quite as absurd as it once seemed. Not since the early church first received the New Testament letters has there been such a spirit of expectancy among students of the Bible and prophecy. “ As It Was In The Days of Noah, Jeff Kinley, 2014 Harvest House Publishers, Pg. 138

AMIR TSARFATI, Bible and Prophecy Teacher from Israel, Founder “Behold Israel”. “These are the last days. We’ve come to the finish line. The rapture of the church can be any minute.”

DR. CHUCK MISSLER, Author, Speaker, Founder of Koinonia Institute. “…It appears that we are presently being plunged into a period of time that the Bible says more about than any other period of history–including the events of the New Testament.” Prophecy 20/20, Dr. Chuck Missler, 2006, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Pg. 2

ROBERT JEFFRESS, Pastor/Author. “After writing this book, I am more convinced than ever that we are living in the period of time the Bible calls ‘the last days.’ If that is true, then we may be the generation that sees the Second Coming of Christ.” (Countdown to the Apocalypse, Robert Jeffress, 2015, Faithwords, Pg. 10

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ, Author, Speaker, Daughter of Billy Graham. “If I live out my natural lifetime, I believe I will live to see the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. I don’t say that based on my feelings. I base that on the signs the Lord gives and what I see going on in the world”

DR. DAVID REAGAN, Founder of Lamb & Lion Ministries. “The signs of the times are shouting that we are standing on the threshold of the Tribulation…The time remaining is short. The time for action is now.” The Man of Lawlessness, Dr. David Reagan, 2012, Lamb & Lion Ministries, Pg. 26

DR. MARK HITCHCOCK, Pastor, Author, Speaker. “When I look at the world today, I see events unfolding exactly as we ought to expect them to be unfolding if the Bible is true. And that gives me great confidence that although I don’t understand everything all the time that there’s someone at the wheel. That God is in control. That’s the great message of Bible prophecy and that’s the great message of hope that we have.”

BILL KOENIG, Whitehouse Correspondent, Author, Speaker. “Everything that is Biblically significant…12 or so items..that we can watch to understand where we are Biblically and prophetically are in active play right now.”

This Should Wake the Bride!

Geopolitical Convergence

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In Jeff Kinley’s amazing book, Wake the Bride: Facing These Last Days with Your Eyes Wide Open, he uses a personal story as an analogy for how to study prophecy and understand our times.

Kinley shares a story about a hiking trip he took to view a 60 year old airforce plane crash site. The crash site was so remote that officials decided to leave the wreckage after the bodies were removed from the remote mountain peak. Kinley notes that after hours of hiking he wondered if he picked the wrong spot. Just then he stumbled on one piece of debris. Then after more hiking, another piece, then another larger piece. The closer they got to the crash site, the more debris they found.

I believe this is an effective metaphor for understanding our times. There are several clear key things that must fall into place in order for Biblical end-time events to occur. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Gospels and letters highlight specific end-time events that will occur. We see the conditions for those events clearly in our day unlike any other time in history. All of the signs and conditions are converging in our day.

Just like the hiking trip where Kinley saw small signs, then more and more signs as he moved closer to the site of impact, we should expect the same thing prophetically as we get closer to the culmination of all things.  As I have been studying the end-time signs the past few years I’ve seen them increase in frequency and severity, just as Jesus predicted in his famous Olivet Discourse where he said the signs would be like birth pains. Older prophecy experts who have been watching and studying for decades note that there used to be one major prophetic event every decade, now we see prophetic developments WEEKLY and at times DAILY!

There are various categories of signs but in this post I want to stick with one category, the geopolitical signs. Below, I have described a few of the end-time conditions the Bible predicted, then I’d like you to ask yourself if we see those conditions today.

BIBLICAL CONDITIONS PREDICTED

I. THE RUSSIAN-IRANIAN PARTNERSHIP

Ezekiel 38 describes an end-time war against Israel led by modern day Russia and Iran and joined by Syria, Turkey and several other Arab/Muslim nations that, in our day, openly state they want Israel to be destroyed. Many Christians have never heard of this war even though it’s one of the clearest and most detailed end-time prophecies. Ezekiel 37-39 detail Israel’s return to her land followed by this end-time battle. Isis and the war in Syria have served as the means for the major players of this future war to form the unprecedented coalition.

II. NATIONS TURNING AGAINST ISREAL, FOCUS ON JERUSALEM AND BORDERS

Zechariah 12:3 tells us that Jerusalem will be the focus of conflict with surrounding countries and the focus of ALL the nations in the end times (note: “that day” in the Bible refers to the Day of the Lord, AKA the end-times when God’s judgement will fall). The description of Jerusalem as an immovable rock is a reference her borders. In ancient days, heavy boundary stones were used to mark territory. In the end-times all nations will be dead set on moving Jerusalem’s boundaries. We see that forming today (see note on UN Resolution 2334 below ). Israel is the apple of God’s eye. When people mess with Israel, they are poking God in the eye (Zechariah 2:8).

III. DESTRUCTION OF DAMASCUS, SYRIA

Isaiah 17:1 tells us about a coming day (see verse 4: “in that day”, i.e. the Day of the Lord) where Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, will be destroyed overnight (vs. 14). This event may occur before, during, or after the Gog-Magog war referenced above. It also may occur before or after the Rapture of the Church. The Bible is not clear on the timing other than it will occur in the last days close to or in the 7 year tribulation period.

IV. INCREASE IN WARS, THREATS OF WAR, EARTHQUAKES, AND FAMINES

Matthew 24:6-8 tells us there will be a steady increase in these conditions as the Day of the Lord nears. Verse 6 tells us the end won’t follow immediately when we see these wars (WWI, WWII anyone?) but these signs will noticeably increase as the Rapture and the Tribulation draw near. I say this because Matthew compares the totality of the signs cited as birth pains in verse 8. Although we’re focusing on the geopolitical signs, since these verses also mention an increase in earthquakes I should note that earthquakes continue to climb to unprecedented levels. Consider this. In 1973 there were 4,539 earthquakes worldwide. In 2000 there were 19,131 and this trend has continued since then. In 2013 there were 89,622. In 2014 there were 118,404 and 118,955 in 2015!

V. EUROPE JOINED TOGETHER BUT UNSTABLE

Daniel 2:41-43 describes the conditions of the final kingdom or entity in the area of Europe (where the seat of the Roman Empire once was) as being united but extremely unstable. The vision talks about iron trying to mix with clay (power with fragility) which is an apt description of the European Union today.

VI. A CALL FOR “PEACE AND SAFETY”

1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 describes the conditions of the world just prior to the rapture and the tribulation period. It describes a sudden collapse of stability (I believe it will be global social and financial collapse caused by the rapture itself) to occur at a time when the world is calling for “peace and safety”. (Note: this phrase specifically shows up in the UN Resolution 2334 from 12/23/16 as well as in multiple public speeches from world leaders including several US Presidents.)

TODAY’S UNPRECEDENTED GEO-POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

In our day we see ALL of these lined up simultaneously. Russia and Iran are in partnerships with all of the key players, the nations are turning against Israel. In just a few days 70 nations (a Biblically prophetic number representing the whole world) will meet in France to take action on the horrible UN resolution cited above. Israel recently bombed a convoy carrying chemical weapons just outside of Damascus where there’s a high probability that hordes of chemical weapons are stored underground.

There are more wars and rumors of wars today than there have been in my lifetime. As I write this, the US recently kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and is putting troops on the Russian border just days before the inauguration of a new president. Virtually anywhere you look on the globe there is conflict or impending conflict. Insane dictators have or are close to having nuclear capabilities making for non-stop rumors of war.

The fragile global economy continues to move toward collapse, apparently only held together by God’s prophetic timing. Europe is destabilized by an influx of millions of people from the mid-east as it continues to melt down. Africa is a mess including South Africa where thousands of land owners have been killed. South America continues to decline. Various leaders continue to call specifically for “peace and security” in the context of Israel as cited above.

Ten years ago, this was not even on our radar. Think about how fast the geopolitical landscape has changed. I’m not a mathematician but I am certain that it is statistically impossible for these conditions to all line up simultaneously specifically as foretold in scripture for the end times unless the Lord showed his prophets history in advance.

Also, it defies logic to think that these conditions could fade away, then return together again at a later point in history. This demonstrates that the season of the Lord’s return is closer than most may think. There has never been a convergence of prophetic conditions similar to this. What we’re seeing is truly unprecedented and it should be getting our attention as believers.

IS THE BRIDE MOSTLY ASLEEP?

I love what Jeff says as he describes a common attitude of the day. He says, “Much like hikers, those attempting to scale “Revelation Mountain” typically fall into several categories. Some believe in last day’s prophecy, but choose to keep their distance, safely remaining in the valley below. They’ve concluded that Revelation and prophecy are far too complex for anyone to really understand. So they settle for general truth — “Jesus is coming back…I hope. And that’s enough for me!” So they remain in virtual ignorance about things to come. But this does very little for their present lives or future confidence.”

I fear that the Bride, the Church, many true believers in Christ, are mostly asleep. Somehow we’ve been convinced that His return is in the far distant future…if it’s really going to happen at all. There are many more signs and conditions than what I’ve listed above, but these alone should at least get our attention.

Every word of scripture is truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and every letter of prophecy will be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). God means what he says and says what he means. Now more than ever before, we should take him at his word. Everything he said would happen is falling into place. All the more reason to trust every word of scripture and take it literally.

Let’s wake the Bride and allow Bible prophecy to give us a sense of urgency as we share Christ with our family and friends, and as we prayerfully consider how to live more boldly, more holy, and more intentionally for our soon coming Savior.

EXPERT INTERVIEW: Brian Thomas

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Brian Thomas and his wife Denita founded God1st.org in 2009 and have been coming along side churches to help them teach on various topics including Salvation, Christian Living, Bible Prophecy, the Biblical mandate and Importance of Blessing Israel, Marriage and Family, and Social and Moral Issues among other topics.

Brian has taught at several national prophecy conferences, is a personal friend of mine, and has an almost photographic memory of scripture as it relates to Bible prophecy. He is a great teacher and has the ability to unpack Bible prophecy in a non-sensationalistic and thoroughly Biblical way. He was kind enough to answer some questions relating to Bible prophecy. This post is long, but well worth the read. I have categorized the questions incase you would like to read it in chunks or skip to a specific topic. I guarantee you will learn a lot from this gifted teacher.


BIOGRAPHICAL

How did you become interested in Bible Prophecy?

Well believe it or not, I have had an interest in Bible prophecy from as early as about seven years old. We often hear Bible prophecy teachers point to a particular event in the world or in their life that sparked their interest in this subject, causing them to “see the light”. But I honestly never had such an event. The best answer that I can give when people ask this question is that the Holy Spirit placed the desire for the Lord’s return in my heart at a very early age. So early that I do not recall when the desire began. But one thing that I do remember is a conversation that I had with my cousins as a young boy. I was about ten years old, one was about eight and the other about seven. We were out riding bicycles, doing what most young boys do outside. We came to a stop to take a bit of a rest break and for some reason, Bible prophecy came to mind. I started speaking to them about the 7 year Tribulation that is to come, and several other future prophecy events. When I finally finished speaking after several minutes, they just sat there on their bikes in silence with the “deer in the headlights look”. It was as if I could read their minds saying, “This guy has really lost it!”

So the interest was there from my childhood but in 2007, the Lord began pouring the burden into my heart. My craving for prophecy came like a flood and in 2008, I accepted God’s call to proclaim the message of Bible prophecy to the world.

What impact has the study of prophecy had on your personal walk with the Lord?

It has caused me to live with a sense of urgency and preparedness. When a person truly believes in their heart that Christ could return at any time, it makes one want to always be ready. For example, I may be tempted to be impatient or unkind with my wife over a disagreement. But then I think, “What if Christ returns and finds me in this state?” Of course, my salvation would not be nullified but I think it would really dampen my first face to face meeting with my Lord if He were to return to find me in a sinful state.

It makes me think about the Jewish wedding tradition that Christ alludes to in the scripture. When a Jewish man and woman would become engaged for marriage during the Bible days, the groom would depart from his future bride and return to his father’s house to build a home for them. What the bride didn’t know is when he would return for her. It could be days, weeks, or months so it was critical for her to always be ready. She wanted to make sure that she got her marriage off to a great start by being prepared for him, excited to see him, looking her best, dressed in her finest clothes so that her groom would be pleased to make her his bride. It is important for me that Christ finds me in my best state as well when He returns for His bride, the church.

And lastly, studying prophecy has given me an urgency to reach the lost. So many prophecies are being fulfilled today in our lifetime that the Bible declares would be the final stages just before the return of Christ.  Many have not accepted Christ as Savior and therefore will not be ready when He returns. I have a strong burden on my heart to reach as many as possible because I truly believe our Lord will be coming back any day now.

What ministry, event, or project are you working on right now that you are excited about?

I will be speaking at a church in Baltimore, MD in December at their 2nd annual prophecy conference. Wonderful congregation there that I really enjoyed fellowship with on my first visit.

I am in the process of working out a partnership with Blessings of Israel, which is a ministry that provides food and products from the Promised Land of Israel. Our ministry Blessings to Israel emphasizes the importance of supporting God’s chosen people and their significance in Bible prophecy so I think it is a natural fit that I am excited about.

We will be launching a new podcast soon at God1st.org where listeners can find brand new shows related to current day events.

What other prophecy experts have influenced your understanding of end-times prophecy?

Dr. David Reagan – I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference a few years ago and we immediately hit it off. He has sort of taken me under his wings and provided a lot of encouragement and support. I guess it is safe to say that he is a veteran amongst prophecy teachers and he sees the need to pass the torch to the younger generation. Upon meeting me, a young man, which is a rarity in Bible prophecy, he has been a strong advocate and encourager to assist me with reaching the young generation.

Nathan Jones – I had the privilege of interacting with Nathan online and upon meeting, we found a lot of common ground. Nathan focuses on using today’s technology (internet, social media, mobile devices, etc.) to spread the word of Bible prophecy. I have developed a great relationship with him in that we often bounce ideas and new discoveries off one another concerning avenues for sharing Bible prophecy with the world.

Dr. Tim LaHaye – Like millions of others, I have been a longtime fan of his Left Behind series. His work has had a great influence on me for teaching Bible prophecy as many have been saved through reading his books and watching his movies. I have an excellent commentary that he created, Revelation Unveiled that is a frequent go-to resource when I study and teach Bible prophecy.

Others like Donald Perkins and Grant Jeffrey are individuals that I have gleaned much knowledge through their teachings.

What would you say is your unique calling in the area of Bible prophecy?

The importance of the nation of Israel. Our Lord placed a strong, almost unexplainable desire in my heart for the Jewish people which is spelled out in our mission statement:
Our mission is proclaiming the soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel lies in the center of events that point to the second coming of our Messiah. Therefore, this ministry seeks to raise awareness as to why all Christians should place a special focus on the Jewish nation while anticipating the return of our Lord.
We encourage all Christians to pray without ceasing for Israel and bless their great nation. The Lord told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:3.

Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?

People often find it puzzling that I am a mathematician in that I received a BA degree in Mathematics. What’s the connection to Bible prophecy? None whatsoever as far as I can tell…I’m just one of those strange individuals that loves math!

What is your favorite Bible prophecy resource or study tool?

Revelation Unveiled by Dr. Tim LaHaye. If you want to really understand the prophecies of the book of Revelation, this resource is a must-have for your library.

HERMANEUTICAL (Proper Biblical Interpretation)

What are some important things to keep in mind when studying Bible prophecy?

Always keep the word literal in the forefront of your mind when studying and interpreting Bible prophecy. There are numerous belief systems that sprung up all do to overly symbolizing scriptures. Of course we know that there is symbolism in Bible prophecy and we are called to seek the meaning when detected. But I love to refer to a saying that my friend Dr. David Reagan coined which states, “When the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense or else you end up with nonsense!” This is a very true statement. The eschatological view Preterism, for example, is the belief that all prophecies of the Bible have already taken place. Obviously Jesus Christ has not returned to earth but Preterism explains everything away by way of spiritualizing passages which leads to a circus of interpretations and belief systems. So in summary, always first look to interpret Bible prophecy for its literal meaning. When a literal interpretation is not possible, we then look to symbolic meanings. This way, we avoid interjecting our own preconceived notions onto the meaning of scriptures.

What errors of interpretation have you seen that make Bible prophecy inaccurate, inaccessible, or confusing?

Allegorical interpretation. This approach has led to all kinds of wild theories. Harold Camping is a classic example. Camping insisted that the real meaning of any passage is to be found in its hidden spiritual meaning that can only be decoded by true believers. By doing this, Camping could impose whatever meaning he wanted upon scriptures, which is what he did. He is infamous for having numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. He also taught that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent the Church which is far from the truth.

Allegorical interpretation has led to the rise of false doctrines like Replacement Theology which argues that the Church has replaced Israel in the eyes of God. A quick reading of Roman 9 -11 clearly proves Replacement Theology to be incorrect. Preterism, the belief that all prophecy of the Bible has been fulfilled, is another false teaching that came about due to allegorical interpretation.

What is the most compelling reason (or two) that you see for a Pre-Tribulation rapture?

This is one of my favorite points of discussion. There certainly are many compelling reasons for the Pre-Tribulation rapture but I will narrow it down to what I believe are the two most compelling: (1) Imminence (2) Primary Purpose of the Tribulation.

Imminence

The Apostle Paul gave an account of being taken from earth to be with the Lord in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. We see that Paul is speaking of a resurrection that will occur quickly, in the twinkling of an eye. When the dead in Christ rise, there will be no corruption associated with their bodies. They will have glorified bodies at that point.

This account from Paul continues a common theme in the scriptures: Imminence. Post-Tribulation & Mid-Tribulation raptures do not have the imminent tone because calculations on timing can be easily made. We know that the seven year Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27). If the rapture only occurs at the midpoint or end of the Tribulation, we could easily calculate the event to the day based on when the Antichrist makes the covenant with Israel. Imminence is displayed in the message that Christ gave to the church at Sardis, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you”. – Revelation 3:2-3.Other accounts of this being an imminent event are found in Matthew 24:27-28, 42-51; Luke 12:35-40. The recurring theme is to watch and be ready.

Primary Purpose of the Tribulation

Symbolism is found between the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Marriage Supper, and the Jewish wedding. The marriage supper is spoken of in the book of Revelation, “Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” – Revelation 19:9. The marriage supper will occur in heaven. Those who are invited will be called blessed because it means they have received eternal salvation through Jesus Christ and have gone to live with the Lord in the eternal state. This event is called a marriage supper that will celebrate being joined with Christ just as we have earthly wedding receptions between husband and wife. There was a Jewish wedding tradition during the time of Jesus on earth. Once an engagement period ended, the groom would go to his father’s house and prepare a wedding chamber. When the chamber was ready, he would go to get his bride to bring her to the chamber. The bride would know he would come for her at some point but did not know when so she had to be ready at all times. When the groom returned for his bride, he would take her to the wedding chamber where they were sealed for seven days. After the seven days, the bride and groom would exit to a large wedding celebration. It may very well be that this same event will occur in a spiritual sense when Jesus raptures the Church. He told us He will return but at a time unknown, so we must be ready. He will take us into heaven to wait out the seven year Tribulation that will be taking place on earth. At the end of the seven years, all those that were raptured will participate in the marriage supper in heaven. At the completion of the supper, we will return with the Lord to earth to defeat Satan (Revelation 19:11-21). I think the Rapture/Marriage Supper will parallel the Jewish wedding tradition.

Confusion surrounding the rapture is settled once it is determined who the event is for. Is it for Israel, the Church, or both? The Rapture is an event that was promised to the Church of the New Testament. For this reason, it was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. A review of the Old Testament reveals that the focus was on the Jews. But with the New Testament, the focus shifts to the Gentiles and the establishment of the Church. The reason for this shift was because God temporarily suspended His plan for Israel due to their continuous rebellion. In reference to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, Apostle Paul wrote, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” – Romans 11:11. This verse reveals that God presented salvation to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected Jesus. The Gentiles did what the Jews did not do by accepting Jesus as the Son of God believing that He died and rose again. For this, their reward is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 as being caught up to meet the Lord. The “dead in Christ” refers to the Church Age Saints (Christians). This is a reward because it means Jesus will take Christians out of the earth before having to suffer through the Tribulation.

Some incorrectly believe the Church permanently took Israel’s place in the eyes of God due to Romans 11:11. But as stated in the verse, even though the Jews stumbled, they did not fall meaning that God will restore them and fulfill His promise to Abraham once His plan for the Church is completed. We are seeing that fulfillment in this generation as God returned the Jews to partially claim their Promised Land in 1948 when Israel officially became a re-born nation. But there is more land that He promised them that they do not yet have. Once the Church (Christians) is removed, God will complete His plan for Israel during the seven year Tribulation when they will finally accept Jesus as the Messiah and enter the Millennium with all of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). Daniel 12:2 reveals that the Jews will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation.

The Rapture occurring before the Tribulation becomes apparent after carefully studying the Seventy Sevens prophecy from the book of Daniel. Daniel received this prophecy from an angel over 500 years before Christ would first come to earth. The Jews were in captivity at the time to a foreign nation. Their captivity began when King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire invaded Israel. The Babylonian empire was later conquered by the Medo-Persians where the Jews remained under oppression. God had allowed this as punishment to the Jews for repeatedly rebelling against Him through sin and worshipping idol gods. The angel Gabriel came to Daniel and revealed that God would give the nation of Israel seventy weeks to accomplish certain tasks. These seventy prophetic weeks are actually 490 literal years. The seventy weeks were broken into three segments (7 weeks, 62 weeks, 1 week). One of the tasks was to repent of their rebellion. The angel revealed to Daniel that Jesus Christ would come someday but would be crucified because the Jews would continue to rebel and display their rebellion in rejection of God’s Son. This would occur after the 62 week segment, meaning one week (7 literal years) would be left of the prophecy. Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago but the events detailed in the last week have not yet occurred. The last week is the seven year Tribulation that is still to come. The time between the end of the 62 week segment and the beginning of the last week is known as a prophetic gap. This gap was filled by the Church age. God brought salvation to the Gentiles as a result of the Jews rejecting His Son Jesus (Romans 11:11). His plan for Israel was put on hold as a result of this. But once the Gentiles (Church) is removed by way of the Rapture, God will complete His plan for Israel. When the Church age is removed from the timeline, the seventy sevens prophecy of Daniel perfectly continues from the end of the 69th week (62 week segment) into the 70th week (Tribulation) without a break. God still has a “score” to settle with the nation of Israel and with Satan. Since the Church was not involved in the rejection of Jesus when He first came to earth, it makes sense that the Church will be taken out of the way so as to not get “caught up in the cross fire”. The purpose of the Tribulation (70th week of Daniel’s prophecy) is to bring the Jews to repentance and finally accept Jesus as the Messiah that they have rejected for hundreds of years.

Please understand that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews does not mean that every single Jew rejected Him. All of Jesus’ disciples were Jews and there are many Jewish Christians throughout the world today. But the majority of them have never accepted Jesus as the Messiah. God will unleash tremendous wrath on them during the Tribulation and allow the Antichrist to bring down the worst persecution the world has ever seen. Two-thirds of them will be killed and at that point they will finally turn to God who will open their spiritual eyes to realize Jesus is the Messiah they have always looked for. The scripture states that the remaining one-third will accept Christ and be purified at that point (Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:10; Zechariah 13:9). Jesus will return to earth at the end of the Tribulation and they will then mourn for Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7), finally realizing their mistake of crucifying Jesus. Satan will be imprisoned in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years at that point. He will be released at the end of the 1,000 year period to receive his final defeat (Revelation 20:1-10).

So it is clear that the Tribulation is designed to bring the Jews to repentance. God will do this out of love, in the same way a parent disciplines a child when he or she is disobedient. This is why Matthew warned the Jews to watch for the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15). They will be on earth when the Antichrist comes to power. The Church is not warned to look for the Antichrist but is told repeatedly to watch for Jesus. The reason being that Jesus will come for the Church before the Tribulation begins. Although the Tribulation is to bring the Jews to accept Christ, non-Jews should NOT be complacent. If a living Gentile has not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, they too will suffer through the Tribulation period. So it is important that all immediately accept Jesus and become a born again Christian if you have not done so already.

STATE OF PROPHECY IN THE CHURCH

How would you encourage a pastor or church to begin teaching on prophecy?

I recommend that a pastor or church bring in a Bible prophecy expert to hold a weekend conference. God has raised up numerous individuals that have dedicated their lives to studying and teaching Bible prophecy, meaning Bible prophecy is their area of focus. I will admit that understanding and teaching Bible prophecy requires a tremendous amount of preparation and study. Many pastors are already stretched thin with juggling the demands of shepherding their flocks and therefore find it somewhat difficult to get motivated to delve into Bible prophecy (not that I’m making an excuse for so many pastors that dismiss it, just stating that I am understanding to a degree). So I recommend that they bring in a Bible prophecy teacher on at least a quarterly basis to present a conference. But the teaching should not only occur during the conference weekends. In between conferences, the pastor should piggyback on what was presented by being a student of the information himself while expounding on it to his congregation. Many people are perplexed by things that are going on in the world today. I think that pastors will be pleasantly surprised to find that parishioners are eager to learn and will be intrigued upon learning that events in our world today are prophesied in the Bible. So to summarize, (1) bring in a Bible prophecy expert to get the ball rolling, (2) expound on information from the conference, (3) relate current world events to prophecies of the Bible.

Do you think the teaching of prophecy will lead to church growth (in numbers and maturity)? Why or why not?

I do believe it will lead to church growth in numbers and maturity. I think this will happen because a lot of people have questions concerning why certain things are taking place in the world. Many wondered why terrorists intentionally flew planes into buildings on September 11, 2001, why the Palestinians and Jews are in constant conflict, why marriages are failing at a high rate, to give a few examples. Well the answers to these questions are found in Bible prophecy and I think the hunger for these answers and for what the future holds will draw people to the church. I think the 12th chapter of Daniel alludes to this. We find in Daniel 12:4, “…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” I believe this is referring to the Tribulation. As devastating calamities are coming upon the earth during that time, people will seek out answers as to why the events are taking place. Many will “run to and fro” to the Bible trying to figure out what is happening and knowledge of end times events will increase.

What do you see as the top reason churches should consider teaching Bible prophecy?

Bible prophecy gives hope for the future. People often portray prophecy as gloom and doom and I have often heard pastors say prophecy is just a distraction. But to those individuals, I say God must have wanted us to have a lot of distractions because He placed lots of prophecy in the Bible. Nearly a third of the Bible is Bible prophecy. And I think pastors are doing a great disservice to their congregations when they choose to ignore Bible prophecy because what hope, what true hope can one have if you take away Bible prophecy? For example, think of a person who has lost a loved one who is a Christian. That person has died. You can have great hope and the grieving is not so devastating when you know that at the return of Christ, prophecy says that person will be resurrected, they will rise again and you will be reunited. I’ve heard pastors dismiss prophecy in many ways such as they must focus on issues of today like immorality with children, rebellious children, problems in marriages, unemployment, financial troubles, sickness, etc. But what better hope can you give a person then to say when Christ returns, instantly all these problems will come to an end? So I say that Bible prophecy is where we get hope, we get incentive that we can keep pressing forward even through the struggles of today. Bible prophecy lets us know that in the end, Jesus wins and therefore we as His followers win as well. Trouble will not last always. A perfect existence is coming.

Do you think talking about prophecy and end-time events will make a church seem weird or scare away seekers? Why or why not?

I do think that unfortunately some will view a church that teaches prophecy as weird and scare some people away. The reason for this is directly due to people like Harold Camping. Camping, who recently passed away, claimed to be a Christian and authority on Bible prophecy. He made numerous failed predictions concerning the return of Christ. Many in the world laughed at him and laughed at us as Christians, putting us all into the same “company” when it comes to Christian beliefs. Any true Bible believing Christian knows that we cannot predict the return of Christ. The Bible makes that very clear. But Camping has caused many to view all Christians as quacks. But on the flip side, true seekers, meaning those that truly hunger for God’s word will not be turned off by a Church that teaches prophecy. They will be drawn to it and not be afraid of being ridiculed by non-believers for an association with a prophecy believing church. Just like the Apostle Paul, true seekers will be excited about the return of Christ and look forward to that event.

What topics or common mistakes should churches avoid when teaching Bible prophecy?

Avoid the temptation to view & interpret Bible prophecy based on one’s own personal experience. One mistake concerning interpreting the Bible in general is that many do not view it through the eyes of the culture of the day in which it was written. The Bible has numerous parables that directly relate to the Jewish culture of that day. For example, to get a clear meaning of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, one must understand the Jewish wedding tradition and how it relates to the return of Christ. Understanding the Feasts of the Lord that were commanded for the Jews to observe is critical for understanding the correlation to Bible prophecy. But many in the western world, read the Bible through the eyes of our western culture and we therefore miss interpretations.

Another common mistake is reading news headlines into prophecy. It is good to view current events in light of Bible prophecy as many prophecies are being fulfilled in our day. But some go overboard and try to make everything a sign of the times or fulfillment of prophecy when it really is not.

And lastly, a common mistake that has led to all kinds of false interpretations is Replacement Theology. The fact that Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah resulting in their world-wide dispersion, has led to a great satanic deception which has invaded the Christian Church with many teaching that God’s covenant with Israel no longer exists. This is known as Replacement Theology – the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded Israel as the people of God. This belief causes one to misunderstand the Tribulation, end time events concerning Israel, etc. Romans 9 – 11 makes it clear that the church has not replaced the nation of Israel.

How can we best reach Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy?

I must admit that I have found reaching Millennials with the message of Bible prophecy to be a real challenge. The majority of Millennials have bought into the belief that morality is based on feelings rather than the truth of God’s word. Many deem that what is right or wrong in life is determined by whether it feels good or not. Being a follower of Christ requires that we deny our own agendas. Jesus in Mark 8:34 tells us whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Accepting Bible prophecy means being willing to be ridiculed and persecuted for standing for what’s right. We already see persecution of Christians in the world today and it will climax during the Tribulation when all on earth will have to make the decision to choose Jesus Christ or the Antichrist. Choosing Jesus Christ may mean, going hungry because we may not be able to buy food or missing out on a job for refusing to compromise on a moral issue. So the first thing we must do is get Millennials to accept the “denial of self” frame of mind.

Secondly, Millennials are much less likely to read a 200+ page book on Bible prophecy. Social media, text messaging, smart phones have sort of conditioned us to only digest things in bite sized pieces. Anything that takes more than a few minutes to listen to or read, the Millennials likely will bypass. So I think the message of prophecy needs to be delivered to that generation in bite sized pieces via social media. I have found that video / animation social media posts that run 30 seconds to a minute seem to be effective in reaching the short attention span that we often see in Millennials. There are always exceptions to the rule but this seems to be the common theme.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

What is the most compelling end-time sign you see taking place in our day?

The rebirth of the nation of Israel. Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-35 in His Olivet Discourse. A day earlier in Matthew 21:18-19, He had put a curse on a fruitless fig tree and immediately the tree withered away. He did this as a prophetic symbol that God’s wrath would be poured out on the Jewish nation due to their spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ. Many Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah at that time and most present day Jews still reject Him as the Son of God. But they will realize He is the Messiah at the end of the Great Tribulation.

So Jesus told the disciples to watch the fig tree. When they saw it bloom again, it would mark His soon return. The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The blossoming of the fig tree was symbolic of Israel “blooming” into a nation again. Jesus stated when they saw these things to know that His return is near and that He would be waiting at the gate of heaven, waiting for the command from the Father to return (Matthew 24:33).  He went on to say that this generation shall not pass until all these things happen (Matthew 24:34). He was referring to the generation that sees the fig tree blossom. The wrath of God was poured out on the Jews in 70 AD and they were driven into exile away from the Promised Land. But after 1878 years, Israel blossomed into a nation again on May 14, 1948 as fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus told us what to look for, therefore prepare yourself because our Messiah is coming for us soon!

How do you think Christians should respond to what we’re seeing in the world today?

The late Pastor Adrian Rogers coined a phrase that I really love when it comes to prophecy and the conditions of the world today. He would state, “It is getting gloriously dark”. It is getting dark in that immorality continues to get worse and worse and our hearts grieve as we see the rebelliousness to God and the tremendous suffering that it is causing in people’s lives. But the flip side of that is that the Bible declares things would happen this way just prior to the return of our Lord. So we Christians should not be discouraged. Yes, our hearts break for the darkness that is occurring and we do not delight in people’s suffering. But we should be extremely excited over the idea that our Lord may be returning for His people any day now. And I truly believe we are the generation that will witness the return of our Messiah to earth.

What is the most encouraging advice you can give to Christians right now regarding the times we live in?

Bible prophecy is a message of hope & comfort. We find that in the words of Apostle Paul: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Notice that Apostle Paul concluded his message by stating to comfort one another. The Pre-Tribulation Rapture is an event of comfort knowing that we will rise to be with our Lord and saved loved ones. Paul wrote the above text to the Church at Thessilonica in response to their sorrow/concern. The people there were troubled believing they had missed the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Apparently an imposter had written to the Church stating that Christ’s return to earth had come and gone. This imposter signed Paul’s name to the letter. So Paul is comforting them to let them know that day has not come. In verse 13, Paul refers to those that have died as “those who have fallen asleep”. He is instructing the Church to not be sorrowful as if there is no hope for them. He continues in verse 14 by stating that if they believed Jesus died and rose from the dead (meaning they were Christians), God would also resurrect those who had accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah before their death. These people will be resurrected and taken up to live with the Lord. Paul then speaks of the sequence of the events. There will be the sounding of a trumpet, the Lord will descend from heaven, the dead in Christ (Christians) will rise from the grave first, then those who are alive will be caught up (raptured) with them into the clouds where all will meet the Lord in the air. From that point forward, Christians will always be with the Lord. Paul gave these words so that we would comfort each other knowing that we will be with our Christian loved ones that have passed on and we will all dwell with the Lord forever.

The Apostle Paul preached about hope in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. He was addressing those who said there was no resurrection and told them that we know there is a resurrection because Christ rose from the dead. Since Christ was resurrected, we have hope knowing that all who have died in Christ (Christians) will be resurrected also to eternal joy. This pertains to the raising of the dead when the rapture occurs. Christians who are alive will be caught up to the Lord in the air after the dead rise (1 Corinthians 15:23). The unsaved will also rise from the dead (Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29). But their resurrection will occur at the end of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth. They will face the opposite fate of resurrected Christians, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”. – Revelation 20:13-15.

1 Corinthians 15 makes it crystal clear that Paul is referring to those that have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior when he wrote “the dead in Christ”, which is the Church of the New Testament. This does not apply to the Old Testament Saints (Israel) because Christ had not yet come to earth during their time. Therefore, they did not yet have an opportunity to receive Him.

Jesus stated that He would return from heaven for those who believed in God and accepted Him as the Son of God, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” – John 14:1-4. I believe Jesus is referring to the Rapture before the Tribulation with these words. So although times may look very dark for Christians today, it seems that every segment of society is pushing against the ways of God and promoting immorality, great things are on the horizon for those of us that put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

How close do you feel we are to the Lord’s return and why?

I feel we are extremely close to the return of our Lord. I am cautious to not make a prediction because the Bible makes it very clear that we cannot know the day of His return. But the Bible makes it clear that we can know the season. Jesus told us in the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35) that the season of His return would be marked by the blossoming of the fig tree. I believe this fig tree is the nation of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Joel 1:7; Luke 13:6-9). The generation that sees it reborn as we did in 1948, would be the generation to see His return (Matthew 24:34). Israel’s rebirth happened 68 years ago. How long is a generation? Well, it is up for debate. Depending upon context, 40, 70, 100 are all cited as length of years in the scripture for a generation. But I think it is important to not get caught up in the exact number. But instead, realize and recognize what Christ told us to look for. We are excitingly close!

OTHER

Is there anything else you would like to share or comment on regarding Bible prophecy?

Bible prophecy is a message of joy and happiness. I feel so disappointed when I hear people describe Bible prophecy as gloom and doom and I often hear people in the church portray it that way. But I can honestly say that when I go to Bible prophecy conferences and have fellowship with attendees, that those are some of the most joyous events that I have ever seen. You want to see a group of happy people? Go to a Bible prophecy conference. Why are so many of the people there so filled with joy? It is because we all know the end of the story. And the end is that Jesus returns to proclaim the earth. Satan will be defeated and we will live in a perfect world right here on this earth for all eternity, living in the presence of our Lord! What a great picture to have in our minds of what is yet to come!

5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation: KEY# 5

5keystoRev_K5

KEY#5: THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE TRIBULATION PERIOD IS ISRAEL, NOT THE CHURCH

Previous Keys: (1.) Start With The Book of Daniel  (2.) Interpret Revelation Literally  (3.) The Symbols Are Easier To Understand Than You Think  (4.) Revelation is Written Chronologically

As I mentioned in a previous key, if the book of Revelation is seen as merely allegory, then it has no real meaning. One unfortunate teaching that has come from this approach is known as “Replacement Theology”. This teaches that any reference to Israel or the Jewish people is really talking about the Church. It “replaces” Israel with the Church. Scripture clearly teaches that God is not done with the Jewish people. Read Romans chapters 9-11 and it’s abundantly clear the Jews are still God’s chosen people. That doesn’t mean they are all good or that they are saved (unless they have accepted Christ), but it does mean that God is not done with them. The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15, see also 12:2-3, 17:7) was an unconditional covenant. Many Old Testament covenants had conditions but this one had none. It’s based solely on God’s character and plan.

In the Old Testament the tribulation period was referred to as “The time of Jacob’s (the Jews) trouble”. In the 70 weeks of Daniel Chapter 9, it’s all about God’s plan for the Jewish race. As I mentioned in Key #1, there is a mysterious pause or break between the 69th and 70th “week” (of years) which we now know as the “Church age” or “the age of grace”.

Think of it like this. God is working out his plan for the Jewish people during the first 69 sets of 7 years, Jesus comes at his first advent, the Jewish prophetic clock pauses during the Church age. At some point (I believe sooner rather than later) the Church is taken out of the picture at the Rapture.

Soon after, the tribulation period begins (with the signing of a treaty) causing the Jewish prophetic clock to start again in order to complete the last set of 7 years — which is also the duration of the tribulation period. Jews and Gentiles will choose to follow Christ during the tribulation period, but they are referred to collectively as “tribulation saints”, not “the Church” as we refer to believers today during the Church Age. At the end of the tribulation period Jesus returns and sets up the Kingdom (as promised in the Old Testament and clearly stated in Revelation chapter 20) and reigns physically on earth for 1000 years.

Also, consider this. After 3 chapters about the Church, in first verse of chapter 4 a trumpet is sounded and John hears the words “Come up here.” I believe this indicates the rapture because there is no mention of the church again until chapter 19 when we return with Christ. We find that throughout the following chapters (4-18) God’s attention turns back to the Jews and Israel. There are 2 Jewish witnesses, 144,000 Jewish evangelists, and the entire world is focused on Jerusalem (which by the way is exactly what we’re seeing today).

A study of various key prophetic verses (especially Ezekiel 37-40) demonstrate that although the Jews are God’s chosen people, most of them won’t accept Christ until the tribulation period. Passages also indicate that a small remnant would turn to Christ before that period once they were back in their homeland.

That’s exactly what we’ve seen. Israel miraculously became a nation again in 1948 (just as predicted) but they did not control Jerusalem until 1967 after the Six Day War (in which they defeated all of the surrounding nations who attacked them…in 6 days!). Right after this war a small remnant of Jewish people began accepting Jesus as the Messiah. This phenomenon has continued. In 1967 there were ZERO Jewish Christians in Israel. Today there are over 20,000 (2011 study) and over 150 Messianic Jewish churches in Israel, and many more in other parts of the world.

A study of the people of Israel will show that prophecy has been fulfilled in many ways. It also explains why Satan has used evil rulers in every age to mistreat and attempt to eliminate the Jews. From Pharaoh, to Mordecai, to Hitler, to today’s terrorists and radical Islamic states, there has been a millennia long attempt to destroy the Jewish race.

Why? Because the scriptures and the messiah came from her, and because end-times prophecy requires a return of the Jews to their land then to their Messiah! God said Israel is the “apple of his eye“. The worst way to hurt someone is to hurt their kids. The biggest reason is Satan still thinks he can win if he destroys an essential element to end-times prophecy…the Jews.

I hope these 5 keys (Previous Keys: (1.) (2.) (3.) (4.) will help make your study of Revelation less intimidating and will provide confidence and clarity in God’s Word.  It takes time and effort to study effectively but the payoff is worth it. Not only do we know the Bible better but we know Him better.

Remember the promise in Revelation 1:3 — “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.”

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Here are a few GREAT books to get if you would like to dig deeper.

The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times (Morris)

40 Days Through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times (Rhodes)

Charting the End Times: A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy (LaHaye/Ice)

Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (Walvoord)

The End Times in Chronological Order (Rhodes)

Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (LaHaye/Hindson)

The “Non-Prophet” on: The Signs of the Times

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Matthew 24

3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

9 “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:33 — “So likewise, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.”

Luke 21:28 — “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!


“What a time to take the news of the day in one hand and the Bible in the other and watch the unfolding of the great drama of the ages come together. This is an exciting and thrilling time to be alive…It is not just Christians that sense something is about to happen. The world knows that things cannot go on as they are. History has reached an impasse. This world is on a collision course. Something is about to give. With increasing frequency, commentators from secular media speak of Armageddon.”

— Billy Graham, The Reason for My Hope, 2013


FOR FURTHER STUDY

Luke 21Daniel 12:4Matthew 24:37  • 1 Timothy 4:12 Timothy 3:1-5Romans 1Ezekiel 38-39 (Russian-Iranian-Led alliance in last days) • 1 Thessalonians 5:32 Timothy 4:3-4Revelation 13:17 (cashless society/mark technology) • 2 Peter 3:3 (scoffers)

5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation: KEY# 4

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KEY#4: REVELATION IS WRITTEN CHRONOLOGICALLY

In previous posts we’ve looked at the first three keys. (1.) (2.) (3.) — and today we’ll look at the fourth key. Many Christians don’t realize that Revelation is written chronologically (with a few parenthetical sections that provide further detail). This was eye opening to me the first time I realized it.

There are four main ways people have viewed Revelation over the centuries. Idealist, Preterist, Historicist, and Futurist.

The Idealist View allegorizes Revelation but we’ve shown the main problems with that method — primarily that man can allegorize Revelation to mean just about anything their imaginations come up with. Also, if you can allegorize one section of scripture, what’s to say you can’t allegorize the entire Bible? Where does it stop? The Idealist view causes scripture to lose it’s meaning.

The Preterist View claims that everything in Revelation has already happened in the past (namely in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem) but there are major problems with this view as well. The main problem being that John wrote the book of Revelation around 95 AD while exiled on the Island of Patmos; about 15 years after the fall of Jerusalem. This view also allegorizes various things found in Revelation and we run into the same problem as the Idealist View mentioned above. A final major problem with this view is that Revelation clearly details a complete and decisive defeat of Satan at Christ’s return, a great “White Throne” judgement of evil-doers and several other major events which clearly have not occurred yet.

The Historicist View sees Revelation as a symbolic representation of the entire course of History from John’s time to the end of history. This view was popular during the Reformation era but has many problems and has led to as many as 50 versions of this view. It simply does not work.

Finally, the Futurist View teaches that the events in Revelation will occur in the future. Revelation claims to be prophecy. Prophecy is by nature, future. As mentioned in Key#2, this view interprets Revelation literally — just as we do with the rest of scripture. Where symbols are used we find the answers in the immediate or broader context of scripture, not from our own ideas.

It’s important to note that very smart Bible-believing Christians may hold different views and that this is an “in-house” debate. Salvation does not depend on one’s view of Revelation. Truth does matter, however, and beliefs lead to choices which effect the world around us.

After countless hours of careful study and after reading over 50 books on the topic by the most highly respected prophecy experts of the past few generations (Walvoord, Pentecost, Morris, LeHaye, Ice, Rhodes, Reagan, Missler…to name a few) I am convinced that the Futurist view is without doubt the correct and most thoroughly Biblical view.

All of that said, we find in the Book of Revelation some key “in text” reasons confirming the book is written chronologically. Our first clue is found in chapter 1 where Jesus himself  provides the simplest outline ever given for the book of Revelation. In verse 19 the glorified Lord said to John, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”

So, we have…

I. THINGS YOU HAVE SEEN – Glorified Christ in Heaven (Ch. 1 vs. 12-18)

II. THINGS WHICH ARE – having to do with the 7 churches (Ch. 2-3)

III. THINGS THAT TAKE PLACE AFTER – Future/Tribulation/Kingdom/Eternity (Ch. 4-22)

There’s your outline for the book of Revelation.

There are also specific phrases throughout Revelation demonstrating that it is written in chronological order. Phrases like “after this”, “when he had opened the seventh seal”, “the seven last plagues”, and “after these things”. These are time-oriented sequential phrases and there is a natural progression and build up of events throughout the book. Even the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgements are each numbered in order from one through seven.

The only sections that are not in clear chronological order are Chapters 10-14, but they are clearly parenthetical chapters providing more detail on other portions of the book of Revelation. It’s almost like an intermission in the middle of the book. After the seal and trumpet judgements, John pauses to provide more detail and to let you catch your breath. Then he picks back up in chapter 15 with the bowl judgements.

When you compare Revelation with Daniel as we mentioned in Key #1, the chronology of both books is the same and they fit together like an interlocking puzzle. Each book stands on it’s own but sheds further light on the other.

I hope this key helps you in your study of Revelation!

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Here are a few GREAT books to get if you would like to dig deeper.

The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times (Morris)

40 Days Through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times (Rhodes)

Charting the End Times: A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy (LaHaye/Ice)

Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (Walvoord)

The End Times in Chronological Order (Rhodes)

Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (LaHaye/Hindson)

5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation: KEY# 3

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KEY#3: THE SYMBOLS ARE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND THAN YOU THINK

In the last post we looked at the importance of using a literal interpretation when studying the book of Revelation. We highlighted the important adage, “If the plain sense makes sense, then seek no other sense, or you will end up in nonsense.” The logical question then is, “What if the plain sense doesn’t make sense?”

Sometimes we find clear figures of speech in scripture. It’s obvious they should not be interpreted literally. For example, Jesus frequently used hyperbole in his parables as he talked about things like; camels fitting through the eye of a needle, or pointing out a spec of dirt in someone’s eye while we have a plank in our own eye, etc.

Other confusing passages can be better understood simply by studying the larger context. What do the surrounding verses and chapters say? What is the historical context? How can the context of the entire Bible shed light on a specific passage? And still other passages can be better understood by looking for earlier uses of the word or symbol. This is known as “interpreting scripture with scripture” and it this method helps us understand the symbolism found in some of the prophetic passages of the Bible. Such is the case with most of the symbolism in Revelation.

All of the symbols in Revelation first appear somewhere else in scripture, OR the meaning of the symbol is given in the immediate context. This is very important. We look for earlier precedents of a word or symbol and allow them to inform our understanding of symbols found in Revelation. People get into trouble when they bring their own ideas into what the symbols mean. We need to let scripture, logic, and the Holy Spirit be our guide.

One caveat. Notice I didn’t title this post, “The Symbols Are EASY to Understand”. They are not easy to understand, they are just EASIER to understand than most people think. It takes some time, effort, and prayer to understand the symbols Biblically. Helpful commentaries by trusted experts — who believe God’s word is inerrant and who interpret it literally — are greatly helpful as well. Their commentaries help connect the dots to the symbol’s Biblical origin.

There are seven basic categories of symbols that show up in Revelation; animals, colors, objects of nature, man made objects, people and numbers. We read about symbols such as the seven lamp stands, the beast rising out of the sea, a beast with seven heads and ten horns, a woman riding a beast, the seven seals, the seven scrolls, the seven bowls, the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” (no, not the 1980’s professional wrestling version), and the lamb seen in heaven’s throne room? Those are just a few examples.

We’ll unpack some of the symbolism found in Revelation in future posts, but the main purpose of this post is to help those who have been intimidated or confused by the symbolism in Revelation. You can have confidence that the symbols have clear meaning. It is well worth the effort to uncover their meaning. They just take some study and prayer to understand. Once a symbol is understood it brings fresh meaning to the text and practical insight into how these symbols effect us today!

Up next is KEY#4: REVELATION IS WRITTEN CHRONOLOGICALLY

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Here are a few GREAT books to get if you would like to dig deeper.

40 Days Through Revelation: Uncovering the Mystery of the End Times (Rhodes)

Charting the End Times: A Visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy (LaHaye/Ice)

Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (Walvoord)

The End Times in Chronological Order, Rhodes

Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation, LaHaye/Hindson

 

5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation: KEY #2

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KEY#2: INTERPRET THE BOOK OF REVELATION LITERALLY

Many people over the centuries since John wrote the book of Revelation (around 95 AD) have allegorized various aspects of the book to mean a host of different things. This history and approach to the book confuses people because if we allegorize the book of Revelation it loses it’s meaning.  People can put any meaning they want into the Book of Revelation and other prophetic texts if allegory is allowed. We need to use the same interpretation method for Daniel and Revelation that we do for the rest of the Bible. As it’s been said, “If the plain sense makes sense, then seek no other sense, or you will end up in nonsense.”

In other words, take God’s word at face value. If Revelation says multiple times that after the tribulation period, Jesus will set up a 1000 year kingdom on Earth, then it means that he will literally set up a 1000 year reign on Earth. If it says 144,000 Jewish witnesses will receive Christ and become evangelists during the tribulation period than there will literally be 144,000 Jewish evangelists (and many more Jewish believers) in Christ. The number 144,000 is not symbolic for anything. The book of Revelation definitely contains some symbolism. However, the symbols are understood from the context of the chapter or from other books in the Bible. When studying scripture we have to careful to interpret scripture with scripture instead of our own ideas.

One very unfortunate outcome resulting from the failure of using a literal interpretation of prophecy is what’s known as “Replacement Theology”. In replacement theology, Bible teachers replace the Jewish people with the Church. Anywhere the text refers to Israel, Jerusalem, or the Jewish people, adherents to replacement theology teach that these passages are really talking about the Church. To be blunt, this is bad theology leading to clearly unbiblical consequences, but more on that in once we get to Key #5 in a few posts.

One reason a literal interpretation is so important is that it puts prophecy into a real context. Before I understood this, I used to gloss over prophetic passages. I viewed them as having meaning to their immediate audience but not to me personally. I wouldn’t have said it that way, but that’s the effect it had when I came across Old Testament prophecies.

The great thing is that the literal interpretation method can be tested. God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”. If past fulfilled prophecies were fulfilled literally, we can be sure that future yet-unfulfilled  prophecies will be fulfilled in like manner. In short, fulfilled prophecy verifies the literal interpretation method.

For example, many Old Testament prophets predicted Israel would become a nation again and that she would control Jerusalem again. For centuries theologians (beginning with St. Augustine and carrying over into the Catholic church and into Protestant churches) allegorized all of these verses because Israel had been destroyed in 70AD. If they would have applied a literal interpretation they would have understood from many passages that Israel would one day become a nation again.  Every detail regarding Israel’s rebirth as a nation happened literally and was fulfilled to the exact detail.

Another example would be the succession of world empires detailed in Daniel chapter 2 before any of them came to pass. These major world empire prophecies were also fulfilled literally…in every detail. The specific prophecies surrounding the birth of Christ were all fulfilled literally…to the detail. You get the point. Over and over again Bible prophecy makes unbelievable claims. Over and over again they are fulfilled literally. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” All scripture, including every single prophecy was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

We need to trust that God says what He means and means what He says. A literal interpretation of scripture honors God and His word. There’s nothing Satan would like more than to get us to doubt scripture. That’s been his M.O. from the beginning and it’s what he craftily continues to do. If the enemy can’t get us to reject God’s word, he’ll do anything he can to make scripture seem murky and confusing. A literal interpretation of scripture opposes this tactic and gives us very clear insight into God’s faithfulness to his word. It also gives us greater clarity as we study end-time Bible prophecy.

Up next is KEY#3: THE SYMBOLS ARE EASIER TO UNDERSTAND THAN YOU THINK

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Here are a few GREAT books to get if you would like to dig deeper.

The End Times in Chronological Order, Rhodes

Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation, LaHaye and Hindson

The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy, Rhodes