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

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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 #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

 

The “Non-Prophet” on: World Kingdoms

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In chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel (written in the 6th century BC), the prophet, a Babylonian captive, interprets a vision of a statue for King Nebuchadnezzar who had the dream. The statue in the dream had a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet mixed with iron and clay. Impressive right? No, what’s impressive is the interpretation of the dream.

What follows is a description of every empire from his time to the Roman Empire and into our day! Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 describes the succession of four historical empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome followed by a loose conglomeration of nations.

Rome would be the strongest but would eventually break up into a loose coalition of countries (symbolized by the iron and clay feet) as iron and clay do not mix. So accurate were his predictions that critics assert they must have been written sometime in the second century. Even if that were true, what we see today in the feet of clay and iron was clearly predicted 2600 years ago.

We know from modern textual studies that Daniel wrote in languages no longer used by the second century. Also, the book of Daniel had long been part of the accepted Jewish Canon (collection of Holy books). Also, as mentioned above, the passage points to a loosely held coalition of nations (feet of iron mixed with clay) after the four world empires, exactly what we see in our day. Critics literally don’t know what to do with this passage.

How would Daniel have known that there would be three successive empires (each swallowing up the previous), followed by a breakdown of empire into smaller loosely connected countries (some strong, some weak)?

Because Biblical prophecy is pre-recorded history…and compelling evidence that God guided the writings of the prophets.

The “Non-Prophet” on: Israel’s Regathering

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Thousands of years before the events, we read…

Deuteronomy 28:64 “Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other.”

Isaiah 11:11a “In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time* to bring back the remnant of his people-”

Ezekiel 36:24 “For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.”

Isaiah 66:8a “Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day** or a nation be brought forth in a moment?”

Luke 21:24 says that the Jewish people “shall be led away captive into all nations


*there were 2 dispersions — The first occurred in 605 BC when Judah was conquered and the Jewish survivors were taken captive to Babylon. The second occurred in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem dispersing the Jewish people all over the known world. This may also refer to the 1948 era regathering and a second regathering at the end of the seven year tribulation after a mid-point persecution/scattering of the Jews. They did not have a nation for 1878 years until, miraculously, after WWII, the nation of Israel was re-born “in a day” (literally) on **May 14, 1948. There are also many prophecies in the Bible about Jerusalem being once again in the hands of the Jewish people.