The Great Tribulation
Jerusalem, A.D. 70
"“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation." (Matt. 23:29,34-36)
Dispensationalists and others see the Great Tribulation of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 as a future event for us. However, Jesus told His disciples that it would occur within a generation (40 years) from their time (about A.D. 30) and involved the destruction of the Temple and other buildings then standing (not a rebuilt temple thousands of years later). It is a historical fact that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Roman army. The destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews from Israel effectively ended the Old Testament religion and released the Church from any ties to it.
Judgment against Jews of that generation for rejecting Messiah
Malachi 4 ____________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 3 ______________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 8:10-13 _________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 11:20-24 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 12:38-45 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 21:28-22:14 (v.7 with Lev. 21:9) _____________________________________________________
Matt. 23:35-36 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 24:2 (see Luke 19:45-46, Lev. 14:33-47) ______________________________________________
Matt. 24:34 __________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 27:25 __________________________________________________________________________
Luke 13:1-5 ("you shall likewise perish __________________________________________________
Luke 13:6-9 (with Matt. 21:18-22) ________________________________________________________
Luke 19:41-44 ________________________________________________________________________
Luke 21:31-32,36 ______________________________________________________________________
Luke 23:28-31 ________________________________________________________________________
Romans 2:9 __________________________________________________________________________
1 Thess. 2:14-16 ______________________________________________________________________
Dispensationalists say that the "Last Days" are the last days of the Church before a future Great Tribulation. But the New Testament authors clearly say that they were living in the Last Days in the first century. Paul warned Timothy of the apostasy that he would have to deal with in those days, and indeed had already begun (1 Tim. 1). When John writes, "the last hour" had already come because many antichrists were appearing. The temple was to be destroyed in A.D. 70. Thus it was the last days of the Old Testament dispensation. It closed a major chapter in the history of the world and God's manner of dealing with Man. The sacrificial system and the unique status of Israel as "God's Country," established by God Himself in awesome display on Mt. Sinai, was being ended forever.
Hebrews 1:2 __________________________________________________________________________
James 5:3,8,9 _________________________________________________________________________
1 Peter 1:5,20 _________________________________________________________________________
1 Peter 4:7,17 _________________________________________________________________________
1 John 2:18; 4:3 (2 John 7-11) ____________________________________________________________
1 Timothy 4:1-3 _______________________________________________________________________
(Acts 20:28-31; 1 Tim. 1:3-7, 19-20)
2 Timothy 3:1-8 _______________________________________________________________________
Jude 3,4,18 ___________________________________________________________________________
Acts 2:16-17 _________________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 2:2-4 (with Heb. 1:2, 12:22-24) _____________________________________________________
2 Peter 3:3 ___________________________________________________________________________
(See "2 Peter 3," below, about "coming" in 2 Peter 3:10.)
Consummation of the Ages - The Church Age is the last age of the earth, contrary to premillennialists. (Postmils who regard The Last Days to be the entire Church Age equate "last days" with "end of the ages.")
1 Cor. 10:11 __________________________________________________________________________
Hebrews 9:26 _________________________________________________________________________
Hebrews 6:5 __________________________________________________________________________
Hebrews 2:5 __________________________________________________________________________
Contrary to the understanding of some, "coming" does not always refer to the bodily return of Christ. It can refer to a coming in judgment or blessing to an individual, church, or nation in the midst of history. Since Christ now rules at the right hand of the Father, shattering rebellious nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2), the context of a particular passage must determine whether the coming refers to a judgement of Christ in the midst of history or to His bodily coming at the Last Judgement. This is sometimes challenging because judgments upon nations in the midst of history borrow the language of cosmic catastrophe from the Last Judgment. This difficulty of determining the reference of the coming to a mid-history or end-history in certain cases, however, does not undermine preterism (or postmillennialism), if it is granted that Scripture teaches that there are both types of comings.
Comings in the midst of history:
To establish the Kingdom at His first advent:
Matt. 16:28 __________________________________________________________________________
In the person of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:
John 14:16-18, 28 _____________________________________________________________________
In the death of the believer:
John 14:3 ____________________________________________________________________________
In fellowship with the repentant and obedient believer:
Rev. 3:20 ____________________________________________________________________________
John 14:21-23 ________________________________________________________________________
When believers worship together:
Matt. 18:20 __________________________________________________________________________
Rev. 2:5, 16 __________________________________________________________________________
Upon nations (before the Last Judgment):
Dan. 2:21 ____________________________________________________________________________
Dan. 7:13,22 _________________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 19:1 ___________________________________________________________________________
Micah 1:3 ____________________________________________________________________________
Nahum 1:3 ___________________________________________________________________________
God's judgement against a nation and its government leaders is often described symbolically as the collapse of heavenly bodies. Even Dispensationalist Charles H. Dyer says, "Such imagery, then indicates that the God of the heavens (the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars) is moving in judgment against a nation (blotting out their light). When a national government collapses in war and upheavel, it is often poetically portrayed as a cosmic catastrophe - an undoing of Creation..
Genesis 1:14-18 ("signs" which "govern") __________________________________________________
Genesis 37:9-10 _______________________________________________________________________
Judges 5:19-20 ________________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 13:9-10 ________________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 34:4 ___________________________________________________________________________
Ezekiel 32:7-8 ________________________________________________________________________
Joel 2:28-31 __________________________________________________________________________
A 1st Century Coming
Malachi 4:5-6 _________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 10:23 __________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 16:28 (Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) ________________________________________________________
Rev. 1:1,3; 2:16,25; 3:3,10,11; 22:7,10 _____________________________________________________
Matt. 24:34 __________________________________________________________________________
Luke 21:31,32,36 ______________________________________________________________________
Luke 22:67-69 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 26:64 __________________________________________________________________________
Dan. 7:13 ____________________________________________________________________________
1 Cor. 16:22 _________________________________________________________________________
Maranatha is Aramaic for 'Come, O Lord' and was a common expression of greeting, encouragement, and triumph among first-century Christians.
Here I have listed each of the predictions (in bold) that Jesus made about what would happen in the Great Tribulation as they were stated in Matthew 24, and after each one I have given the confirmation from Scripture itself that the predictions were fulfilled in the first century.
False Prophets (vs. 5,10,11,23-26):
Acts 5:34-39 _________________________________________________________________________
Acts 8:9-11 __________________________________________________________________________
Acts 13:6 ____________________________________________________________________________
Acts 21:38 ___________________________________________________________________________
1 John 2:18-19, 26, 4:1-3________________________________________________________________
Jude 3-4 _____________________________________________________________________________
Rev. 2:2, 14-15, 20, 3:9 _________________________________________________________________
2 Tim. 1:15, 4:10, 14-16 ________________________________________________________________
2 Cor. 11:13-15 _______________________________________________________________________
Famines (v. 7):
Acts 11:27-30 ________________________________________________________________________
They will kill you (v. 9):
Acts 7:54-60 _________________________________________________________________________
Acts 12:1-3 __________________________________________________________________________
Rev. 2:13 ____________________________________________________________________________
(All the apostles were martyred except John.)
Lawlessness is increased (v. 12):
Matt. 12:43-45 ________________________________________________________________________
Luke 2:1 (oikoumene) __________________________________________________________________
Col. 1:6, 23 __________________________________________________________________________
Rom. 1:8 ____________________________________________________________________________
Acts 2:5 _____________________________________________________________________________
Abomination of Desolation (v. 15):
Dan. 9:24-27 (See diagram below) _____________________________________________________________
Rev. 11:1-3 __________________________________________________________________________
Luke 21:24 ___________________________________________________________________________
Luke 21:20-21 ________________________________________________________________________
As a matter of historical record, Christians did flee Jerusalem prior to the slaughter by Roman armies in A.D. 70 (see "Historical Witness of God's Vengeance against Israel", below).
With child and nurse babes (v.19):
Luke 23:27-31 ("yourselves" and "your children") ___________________________________________
Greatest Tribulation Ever (v. 21) compare with:
Ex. 10:4-6 ___________________________________________________________________________
2 Chr. 1:12 __________________________________________________________________________
1 Kings 3:12 _________________________________________________________________________
Joel 2:2 _____________________________________________________________________________
Not "greatest" in extent (after all, only 8 people in the world were saved from Noah's flood), but intensity (92% of Jews exterminated).
Greatest trib. because greatest crime: Killed God's Son.
Coming from east, vultures (or eagles) gather at corpses (vs. 27, 28):
Christ’s coming in judgment would not be a small affair that you would have to search out to find. It would engulf the whole region, just like a lightning storm that covers the whole sky. The symbol of the Roman armies was an eagle. Christ is saying that He will send them in judgment and fill the region of Judea with corpses. (Compare with Rev. 9:13-15: the armies cross the Euphrates River to come into Jerusalem and make Jerusalem a city of corpses. As a matter of historical fact, the Roman armies did come across the Euphrates into Jerusalem Also compare with Rev. 17:12-13 - the armies commanded by ten kings under Roman authority destroyed Jerusalem.)
Heavenly bodies shaken ("Lights out" for Jerusalem - see above, "Lights Out for the Ungodly") (v.29):
Joel 2:28-31; Acts 2:15ff ________________________________________________________________
("this which you see" means that Joel's prophecy is starting to be fulfilled then, when Peter was speaking)
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven" (KJV) (v. 30):
Subject: 'sign;' verb: 'appear' - the Son does not appear, His sign does!
"The destruction of Jerusalem was the sign that the Son of Man. . . was in heaven, ruling over the world. . . ."
Come with power and glory (v. 30):
Matt. 16:28 __________________________________________________________________________
Mark 9:1 ____________________________________________________________________________
Luke 9:27 ____________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 26:64 (sees Him sitting, not descending) _______________________________________________
Luke 22:67-69 ________________________________________________________________________
Coming in the Clouds (vs. 29-30)
Mark 14:62 __________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 26:64 __________________________________________________________________________
Also compare with "clouds" in connection to God's judgment on other nations:
Isaiah 19:1 __________________________________________________________________________
Nahum 1:3 ___________________________________________________________________________
Psalm 104:3 __________________________________________________________________________
Tribes of the Land will mourn (v. 30):
Zech. 12:10-14 ________________________________________________________________________
with John 19:37 _______________________________________________________________________
Angels (messengers) gather (lit. Synagogue) the saints (v. 31):
Matt. 23:37 __________________________________________________________________________
James 2:2 ____________________________________________________________________________
Heb. 10:25 ___________________________________________________________________________
Rev 2:9, 3:9 __________________________________________________________________________
2. Not last trumpet:
Num. 10:1-10 ________________________________________________________________________
Lev. 25 Jubilee _______________________________________________________________________
3. Greek word aggelos can mean either spirit or human messengers:
Matt. 11:10 __________________________________________________________________________
Luke 7:24; 9:52 _______________________________________________________________________
James 2:25 ___________________________________________________________________________
4. Acts 1:8 __________________________________________________________________________
5. Rev. 19:14-15 ____________________________________________________________________
(The army is the Church, Rev. 19:8, which is now in heaven: Heb. 12:22-24; Eph. 2:6)
Fig tree (v. 32): not a symbol for Israel and its rebirth as a nation in 1948, as Dispensationalists argue.
1. Luke 21:29 - "...and all the trees."
2. Olive tree, not fig, is the biblical symbol for Israel.
3. This chapter describes Israel's destruction, not restoration.
Nothing in the text indicates that the fig tree is anything more than an illustration of how the Jews knew that summer was near.
"One will be taken" (v. 39-41): The one taken is in the judgment of death, as in flood, not rapture: "they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (v. 39; cf. Luke 17:27-28). This is also indicated in verses 27 and 28 in which Christ's coming is connected with the corpses that are found wherever the Roman armies (eagles) march. Christ tells Christians to "flee to the mountains" (v. 16), not even taking time to grab a cloak, when they see "Jerusalem surrounded by armies" (Luke 21:20); because if they remain, they will not survive (Matt. 24:22). The servant who fails to keep watching for the coming of judgment and is caught unaware will be "cut asunder" (Matt. 24:51). Death to God's enemies is not a feature of the Dispensationalists' pretribulation coming of Christ to rapture the Church, only of the posttribulation coming when the Antichrist and his followers are killed. And why would Christians be urged to flee to the mountains if Jesus was coming in person?
The fact that Christ never mentions a pre-Tribulation rapture and secret coming for the Church in His most detailed speech on the signs of the beginning of the Great Tribulation is surely significant. According to Dispensationalists the rapture is THE sign that marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation, because when the Church is removed from the earth, Israel's prophecy clock is restarted.
No 'Church Age' protracted tribulation (as per Church Historicists):
1. Jesus says that the tribulation is "cut short" (v. 22), not a protracted length of time.
2. All the events foretold to occur during this time were accomplished during that 1st century generation, like the gospel being preached to the whole world (Col 1:6, Rom. 1:8).
3. "Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24), refers not to the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948, or some later date, but to a forty-two month period around A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Gentile armies (Rev. 11:2).
No double fulfillment of the Great Tribulation:
1. The tribulation concerned "this generation," and nothing "ever shall" occur like it in history again (v. 23).
2. The Coming cannot be placed long after the Tribulation: It occurs "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (v. 29).
3. This generation shall not pass away until all these things fulfilled (v. 34).
"Generation" … Jewish race?
"Generation" is not referring to the Jewish "race" - "Genea" means "generation," not "race," everywhere else in the Gospels. (If it means "race" in Matt. 24, then the Jewish race must pass away at the end of the Tribulation!)
Is Christ's Judgment in Matthew 25 the Last Judgment, on in the Midst of History?
Many preterists take verse 36 - "But of that day and hour" - to be Christ's transition from His "this generation" coming to His Second Coming when "Heaven and earth will pass away" (v. 35). On this view, "taken" would refer to the death of the ungodly at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:9). Other preterists view the A.D. 70 Tribulation in chapter 24 and the judgment seat of Christ in chapter 25 as all part of the same event - Christ sits on his throne judging the nations at this time, as well as throughout later history (Psalm 2).But whichever coming 24:39 is referring to, "taken" does not mean the rapture of the saints.
The Bottom Line on Matthew 24:
The description of Christ's coming is the most difficult passage for most people to see as a first century event. However, in this chapter, as well as others in Matthew, Jesus also quite literally says that "all these things" will occur to the generation then living. The events He predicted to occur before and during the Great Tribulation are confirmed to have taken place, to the letter, before A.D. 70 by Acts and the epistles as well as contemporary historical accounts (e.g. Josephus). Since the passages in the Old Testament concerning God's coming in judgment are clearly figurative and are comings in terms of God sending foreign armies to cause His promised destruction, it is reasonable to interpret the coming in Matthew 24 the same way. I see no other way to resolve the conflict between the "this generation" events and the "coming in the clouds" passage.
Greatness of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Luke 21:23, Rev. 6:17, 14:19-20)
"Whereas the war the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in manner, of those that ever were heard of; both of those wherein cities have been fought against cities, or nations against nations.... Accordingly it appears to me, that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared with these of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were." Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Pref. Sec. I & 4).
"[I]n Jerusalem [the dead] obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood." Josephus (Wars 6:8:5).
"At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand of them were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan were prodigious. There were besides, two thousand and two hundred taken prisoners.... Now this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river...." Josephus (Wars 4:7:5-6).
The Foundations Destroyed (Matt. 24.2; Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6; Rev. 18:10,19)
"And where is not that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses mid large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many ten thousands of men to fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations." Josephus ( Wars 7:8:7).
“While the holy house was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain. Nor was there commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, old men, profane persons, and priests were all slain in the same manner. . . . Moreover, many, when they saw the fire, exerted their utmost strength, and did break out into groans and outcries. Perea also did return the echo, as well as the mountains round about Jerusalem, and augmented the force of the noise. Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder. For one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as if full of fire on every part, that the blood was more in quantity than the fire, and that the slain were more in numbers than they who slew them. For the ground did nowhere appear visible because of the dead bodies that lay upon it” Josephus (Wars 6:5:1).
"Thus were the miserable people beguiled by these charlatans and false messengers of God, while they disregarded and disbelieved the unmistakable portents that foreshadowed the coming desolation; but, as though thunderstruck, blind, senseless, paid no heed to the clear warnings of God." Josephus (Wars 4:5:3).
Famines (Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev. 6:5-6)
But the famine was too hard for all other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty; for what was otherwise worthy of reverence, was in this case despised; insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very months, and what was still more to be pitied, so did mothers as to their infants. . . ." Josephus (Wars 5:10:5)
Lawlessness (Matt. 24:12; Rev. 9:20-21,11:8-10, 18:4-5)
"I suppose that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against those villains, the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom perished by, for it brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed." Josephus ( Wars 5:13:6)
"But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come thither from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were destitute of holy men, the judgement of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men." Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (3:5:3); also see Josephus, Wars (4:9:2)
The Abomination of Desolation (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14)
"And now the Romans, upon burning the holy house itself, and all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the Temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them." Josephus (Wars 6:6:1).
Terrors and Great Signs from Heaven (Luke 21:11)
"In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armor. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit tip the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came rushing tumult of their departure." Tacitus (Histories, v. 13).
The Book of Revelation is often viewed as a book of defeat. The Church ends in a lukewarm 'Laodician' age, and Satan has gained control of the entire world. But actually Revelation was a message of victory to the first century church. Its great Satan-empowered persecutors, apostate Israel and Rome, would be destroyed before long. We are told of "the vastness of the redeemed (7:9-10), the open door for missionary triumph and the Christian's reign with Christ over the nations (2:25-27; 3:7-9), the submission of the kingdoms of this world to the kingdom of Christ (11:5), and the utter victory of gospel proclamation (19:11-21).
The view that Revelation refers primarily to events in the first century will be surprising to most people, given the popularity of Dispensationalism and its energetic promotion by high-profile Bible teachers in our day. Their argument against the preterist view is that statements that Christ is coming "quickly" do not refer to a soon coming but that Christ will descend rapidly rather than gradually floating to earth when he comes thousands of years in the future. The Greek word, tachus, simply means a short span of time and can carry either connotation. However, in the context of Revelation, "soon" is the only meaning that makes sense. It would provide no comfort to first-century churches that were facing persecution for their faith that "When I come thousands of years from now, I will descend rapidly rather than slowly." When Paul says in 1 Tim. 3:14, "I hope to come to you soon," would it make sense for him to mean that "I hope to come to you many years from now; you may even be dead by then, but when I do come I will travel at high speed"?
Four Views of Revelation:
The prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the first century
1. The book begins and ends affirming that the events would come soon:
2. The book was written to existing churches (see the map in your Bible) to prepare them for the coming events:
Rev. 2-3 _____________________________________________________________________________
1 Peter 4:17 __________________________________________________________________________
No where does the Bible teach that the seven churches symbolize seven stages of the church in history, ending with a luke-warm `Laodician' church.
3. One of the kings of the Beastly empire is reigning at the time of the writing (Rev. 17:10). _________________________________________________________________________________
Internal evidence for Revelation being written before A.D. 70.
Many believe that Revelation was written by John during the reign of Emperor Domitian (c. A.D. 95). This would mean, of course, that the subject of Revelation could not be the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. But this view is mostly based on one ambiguous statement (it could be translated either as supporting a pre-70 date or a post-95 date) by the Bishop Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202), who is known to be in error regarding other first century historical facts. The infallibly inspired book of Revelation itself provides strong evidence for a pre-70 authorship.
The thematic evidence in Revelation 1:7: Christ is to come upon a) those who pierced Him, i.e. the Jews, b) those who are of the "tribes," i.e. the Jews, and c) those who dwell in "the Land," i.e. the Promised Land. Revelation insists upon a soon (1:1,3; 2:16,25; 3:3,10,11; 22:10,20) judgment-coming of Christ, involving the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the accompanied devastation, which occurred in A.D. 67-70, and the punishment of first-century Jews, the crucifiers of Christ. Jesus clearly prophesied these things to occur to that generation then living (Matt. 21:45; 22:7; 23:35-36; 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32,36; 23:28-31).
2. The political evidence: The sixth emperor of Rome was still living at the very time John wrote (Rev. 17:10). Nero, the sixth emperor (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero), corresponds to the description of the Beast; and he is followed by Galba, who reigned but "a little while" (Rev. 17:11).
3. The architectural evidence: The temple in Jerusalem was still standing (Rev. 11:1,2). It was destroyed, never to be built again (Heb. 8:13; Rev. 21:22; Jer. 3:16), in August A.D. 70, by General Titus of the Roman Empire.
4. The ecclesiastical evidence: After the A.D. 70 fall of Jerusalem, the Jewish culture and Jewish competition with the Church was gone. But Revelation shows that the Christianity in John's day was at an early stage of development. Christians were obviously still intermingling with the Jews and presenting themselves as the "true Jews" (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). The language of Revelation has a strong Hebraic cast.
(For external evidence for Revelation being authored during Nero's Reign and answers to objections from external evidence, see Appendix 2: Some Objections to Authorship of Revelation During Nero's Reign Answered.)
Nero is the Beast
1. His place as the sixth among the Roman emperors (Rev. 17:10).
2. He was followed by a seventh, briefly reigning emperor (Galba, Rev. 17:10).
3. His name is the numerical value of 666 (Rev. 13:18).
4. He lived while the temple still stood (Rev. 11:1-2).
5. The prominence of his persecution in first century Christianity (for 3½ years, Rev. 13:5, from Nov., A.D. 64 until his death in June, A.D. 68), . . . and more.
Jerusalem is the Harlot
The view held by all Protestants during the Reformation was that the Roman Catholic Church was the Harlot because it killed so many Protestants, as Foxe's Book of Martyrs documents. Revelation describes the Harlot as "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Rev. 17:6). Many Church Historicists still hold this view. Some preterists interpret the Harlot to be the ancient city of Rome, riding on the Roman Empire. This view makes a very neat thematic division for the Book of Revelation: Chapters 6-11 deal exclusively with the fall of Jerusalem, and chapters 13-19 deal exclusively with the fall of Rome. But the following is my defense of the Harlot as ancient Jerusalem.
1. Both are called "the great city" (Rev. 14:8; 11:8; 21:10; Matt 5:35).
2. The Harlot is filled with the blood of the saints (Rev. 16:6; 17:6; 18:21, 24; with Matt. 23:34-48; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51-52).
3. Jerusalem had previously been called by pagan names quite compatible with the designation "Babylon" (Rev. 14:8 and 17:5 with 11:8).
4. Peter sends his first epistle from "Babylon" (5:13), which most probably refers to Jerusalem.
a. Jerusalem is Peter's place of residence (Acts 7:3, 8:1; Gal. 1:18, 2:1-9).
i. The epistle is addressed to those "scattered" in the surrounding regions (v. 1). Acts 8:1 says that everyone scattered from Jerusalem, "except the apostles."
ii When Jews from Jerusalem met him at Antioch, they intimidated Peter and caused him to compromise the faith, presumably because he would be called to account by them upon his return to Jerusalem (Gal. 2:11-14).
b. Peter is the apostle to the circumcision, Paul to the uncircumcised (Gal. 2:7-9). Paul established the church in Rome, not Peter. Paul resolved to "preach the gospel where Christ was not already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation" (Rom. 15:20); and he knew enough of them personally (Rom. 16).
c. Peter sends the epistle through Silvanus, or Silas, who is a "chief man among the brethren" at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-32)
d. Peter sends Mark's greetings from Babylon (5:13). If this Mark is John Mark, nephew of Barnabas, which is probably true, he lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
5. Rome could not fornicate against God, for only Jerusalem was God's wife (Rev. 17:2-5, cp. Isa. 1:20; Jer. 31:31).
6. There is an obvious contrast between the harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff.; Heb. 12:18ff.). There are several literary contrasts between the two: Introduction (Rev. 17:1 v. Rev. 21:9), character (17:1 v. 21:9), environment (17:3 v. 21:10), dress (17:4 v. 19:8, 21:11), and name (11:8, see Isa. 1).
7. The fact that the Harlot is seated on the seven-headed Beast (obviously representing Rome) indicates not identity with Rome, but alliance with Rome against Christianity (cp. Matt. 23:37ff.; John 19:12-16, Acts 17:7). It would be redundant for the Harlot to symbolize Rome when the Beast already does.
8. Jerusalem had a Kingdom over all the kings of the earth in a covenantal sense. Israel was unique among all the nations as specially chosen by God to be a kingdom of priests (Ex.19:6) that offered sacrifices for and was the source of redemption for the nations. The Gentile nations recognized Jerusalem's preeminence (1 Kings 10:24; Ezra 1, 4-7; cf. Rom. 2:17-24). The preeminence was removed because of her unfaithfulness (Matt. 21:43).
1. In Acts 1:11 the angels tell the disciples that Jesus will return just as He left. Jesus did not leave riding on a white horse.
2. The conflict of the rider in Rev. 19 is with the beast and the false prophet (v.20), the same historical, first-century characters with whom Revelation has already been dealing.
3. Revelation opens and closes with declarations that the events described "will shortly take place," "for the time is near."
4. The sword coming from the riders mouth is clearly, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17; cf. Heb. 4:12-13; Isa. 11:3-4; Isa. 49:1-2; Jer. 23:5-6; Hos. 6:5; Ps. 2:8-9; Dan. 7:13-14; Isa. 63:1-6). The enemies are conquered by the preaching of the gospel.
5. Correlation of verse 14 with Matthew 24:29-31, where "immediately after" the destruction of Jerusalem the conversion of the nations begins, as Christ sends out his angels/ministers throughout the world to gather in the elect. (Note: The church is in heaven now: Eph. 2:6; Heb. 12:22-23).
6. The marriage supper that these saints attend (vs. 7-9) is associated with the destruction of the false bride, the earthly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:25).
The Millennium of Revelation 20 began with Christ's victory over Satan at His first coming.
1. "Thousand" is used in other places in the Bible to designate an indeterminately long amount of time. For example, "The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine" (Psalm 50:10). God, of course, owns the cattle on the thousand and first hill too.
2. This is the only place in the entire Bible where the reign of the Messiah is said to last a thousand years, and Revelation is the most symbolic book of the Bible. (Note: No millennium mentioned after Gospel accounts of Great Trib.) It seems that something of such great importance would be mentioned more than once. (Also note that Revelation 20, nor any other N.T. verse, no where mentions Christ reigning physically from earth. He reigns over the earth from heaven.)
3. Based on the Bible's chronology, the period of time from the completion of the Temple by Solomon until its destruction in A.D. 70 is exactly 1000 years. The Temple millennium is a figure of the Church Age. The 1000 years might also refer to the period from the reign of King David and his seed to Christ. David being a type of the Christ, the thousand year period from David's rule to Christ's first coming is a type of the Messianic reign. This is in keeping with Revelation's use of Old Testament symbols to represent New Testament realities (Rev. 8:3,4; also see Heb. 9:23,24).
4. The events that inaugurate the Millennium are things that Christ accomplished at His first coming.
Col. 2:15 ____________________________________________________________________________
1 John 3:8 ___________________________________________________________________________
1 John 5:4-5 __________________________________________________________________________
1 Peter 3:22 __________________________________________________________________________
Heb. 2:14,15 _________________________________________________________________________
John 12:31,32 ________________________________________________________________________
Eph. 4:8 _____________________________________________________________________________
John 3:16 ____________________________________________________________________________
b. Satan's binding is in reference to him not deceiving the nations. In the Great Commission, Jesus is given "all authority" in respect to discipling the nations (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Matt. 12:19,28; Heb. 2:14,15). In other words, we're talking about two sides of the same coin. (Christ judicially, definitively bound Satan at His first coming, but His rule is progressively manifest on earth - Heb. 2:8; Acts 2:34,35; Matt. 13:31-33; Dan. 2:34,35).
c. The first resurrection refers to being born again (see "The Resurrection Question" below).
1 Corinthians 15:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
. . . Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changedC 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
. . . Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
(vv. 22-26, 51-55)
Postmillennialists believe that the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20 refers to a spiritual resurrection when a person is born again. At the end of history, at the Second Coming of Christ, there is a physical resurrection of both the saved and the lost. Amillennialists agree with postmils on the resurrection of the saved and unsaved at the end of history, but say that the first resurrection simply refers to believers' souls in heaven after they die. Dispensationalists hold to a physical resurrection of the Church at the beginning of the Tribulation, another at the end of the Tribulation for the Old Testament saints and Jews who had become Christians but then killed during the Tribulation, and a third physical resurrection of only the unsaved at the end of the Millennium. Historic premillennialists believe in a resurrection of the righteous at the end of the Tribulation and a resurrection of the unrighteous at the end of the Millennium.
1. A resurrection is a passing from death to life. The first resurrection of believers, in which they reign with Christ, occurs when a person is born again:
Eph. 2:5,6 ___________________________________________________________________________
Col. 3:1 _____________________________________________________________________________
Heb. 12:22-23 (the Church is spiritually in heaven now) _______________________________________
2. It is no more necessary that the first resurrection be physical because the second one is, than it is that the second birth be physical because the first is: John 3:3-8.
3. It is because the first resurrection is being born again that those participating in this resurrection are not hurt by the "second death" (Rev. 20:6) - eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).
4. All believers are priests now :
Rev. 1:6 _____________________________________________________________________________
1 Peter 2:9 ___________________________________________________________________________
5. The Church reigns because Christ reigns now:
Dan. 7:27 ____________________________________________________________________________
Eph. 1:18-23 _________________________________________________________________________
6. In John 5, two resurrections:
spiritual, vs. 24-25 _____________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________
physical, vs. 28-29 _____________________________________________________________________
7. There is no resurrection mentioned in Revelation at the beginning of the Tribulation. This contradicts the Dispensational teaching of a pretribulation rapture. The fact that the word 'church' is not mentioned after chapter 3 of Revelation does not prove that the church is not on earth during this time. The word 'church' is not mentioned in Romans 1-15, or the word 'God' mentioned in the Book of Esther. So what?
8. There is no pre-Tribulation rapture mentioned in Christ's main teaching on the Tribulation and the signs that precede it (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).
9. In the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:30), Jesus says that wicked (tares) are removed from the earth before the righteous (wheat). This contradicts the premillennial rapture scenario, where the righteous are removed from the earth, then the wicked at the end of the Tribulation or Millennium.
10. There is one resurrection of all believers, the whole Church:
1 Cor. 15:23 (the full-harvest) ____________________________________________________________
1 Thess. 3:13 ("all his saints") ___________________________________________________________
2 Thess. 1:10 ("all that have believed") ____________________________________________________
11. Believers resurrected at the end of history (end of the Millennium):
1 Cor. 15:52 (physical resurrection of righteous at the last trumpet)
1 Cor. 15:23-27, 50-57 says that the physical resurrection of believers will not occur until Christ has conquered all of His enemies. Christ will not have conquered all of His enemies until the end of the Millennium.
Premils say that a thousand year gap between the rapture and the end of history is represented by the word 'then' in "those who are Christ's at his coming, then comes the end" (1 Cor. 15:23-24). But this passage says that the end comes when death is destroyed, and the destruction of death is what causes the rapture (1 Cor. 15:23-27, 50-57).
The resurrected Church is delivered up to the Father at the end of history (1 Cor. 15:24; Rev. 21:9-11) as a spotless bride in all her glory (Eph. 5:25-27). The purification and triumph of the Church, while occurring judicially at the cross, is also a history-long process of the Church learning to live out its call to purity and victory.
12. Wicked also resurrected and judged when Christ comes to resurrect His elect (contrary to premil's):
John 5:28-29 _________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 10:32-33 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 13:30, 38-43 (One "time of the harvest" including both good and evil "at the end of the age")
Matt. 16:24-27 ________________________________________________________________________
Matt. 25:31-46 ________________________________________________________________________
Acts 17:31 ___________________________________________________________________________
Acts 24:15 ___________________________________________________________________________
Rom. 2:5-8,16 ________________________________________________________________________
Rev. 20:15 ("if anyone was not written in the book of life" - therefore some were, some were not)
13. No marriage or death after the "rapture."
Luke 20:35-36 _____________________________________________________________________
Since there is no marriage or death after the resurrection of the righteous, the premil cannot account for Millennial passages like Isa. 65:17ff, which say birth and death continue in the Millennium. If there are no births during the Millennium, where would the followers of Satan come from at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7)? Also, Dispensational premils say that Jews who are alive at the end of the Tribulation are not resurrected, but pass into the Millennium in their natural state. But they also say that the resurrection at the end of the Millennium is only for the unsaved, so there is no way for the righteous who die in the Millennium to be resurrected. Luke 20:35-36 is irreconcilable with any type of premillennialism.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the lives of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshiped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
J. Marcellus Kik writes, "In the King James version the verbs sat, was given, lived, reigned, are in one tense; while the verbs had worshiped, had received, are in another. But in the Greek the same tense is used for all - the aorist. Since they are all in the same tense they must refer to the same time.
This translation is the American Revised Version except for the substitution of "lives" for "souls." Contra amil's, the New Testament rarely uses the Greek word "psuche" to mean disembodied spirits. It usually means "persons" (Acts 2:41, 43; 3:23; 7:14; 27:37; Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 3:20; Rev. 16:3) or "life," especially in John's writings (John 10:11, 15, 17; 12:25; 13:37, 38; 15:13; 1 John 3:16; Rev.8:9; 12:11).
A Few of Historicism's Fallicies:
1. Like Dispensationalists, Historicists nearly always have a historically self-centered view that the events in Revelation are unfolding in their own day. So like Dispensationalism, the interpretation of Revelation by Historicists has to keep changing as events change. The Reformers can be somewhat excused for seeing the Pope as the fulfullment of many of the evil characters in Biblical prophecy since they were being persecuted and murdered by forces aligned with the Papacy in several places in Europe, but looking back from hundreds of years later at the failures of their interpretations, we can easily see the subjectivity of their method of interpretation. There is even a great deal of disagreement among Historicists about what events that were hundreds of years in their own past were fulfillments of particular passages of Revelation.
2. While Historicists claim that Revelation is the Almanac of the Church, they show a geographical and cultural self-centeredness by interpreting the fulfilment of Revelation as occuring exclusively in Europe and the Near East.
3. The Pope could not be the Antichrist or Man of Sin as Historicists claim because both of these characters were active in the first century (1 John 2:18-22; 2 Thess. 2:7), yet Roman Catholicism was not around in the first century. Also, Roman Catholism does not deny that Jesus came in the flesh as the Antichrist does (1 John 4:3).
4. While Revelation opens and closes with statements that the events will soon take place, Historicism stretches Revelation's period of fulfillment through its day-age theory, making Revelation mostly irrelevant to the first century audience it is addressed to. While there are places in the Bible where God coordinates a certain number of years to a certain number of days, there is nothing in Revelation that says that that is the way it should be interpreted, and the statements that it will soon be fulfilled count against expanding the days into years.
2 Thessalonians 2 is a notoriously difficult passage. This is partly because Paul gave the Thessalonians information about this event that is not recorded in the letter (2:5). There are, however, very clear statements that limit the interpretation to Paul's own day. The event is past, not future, for the following reasons, given by Dr. Ken Gentry:
Regarding #6, "the situation in which the Thessalonians found themselves," is their persecution by the Jews and, later, the Roman Empire. The letters to Thessalonica were written from Corinth around A.D. 52 not long after Paul's visit to them (1 Thess. 2:17). The Jews in Thessalonica strongly opposed Paul's ministry (Acts 17:1-15), and continue to do so in Corinth (Acts 18:5-11). So fed up with the Jews was Paul that it is here he determined to turn from the Jews and preach to the Gentiles. In 1 Thessalonians 2:16 Paul says that the Jews "always fill up the measure of their sin [religious apostasy against God]; but wrath has come upon them to the upmost [the result of political apostasy against Rome]."
The Apostasy: Could be either religious or political. Religious: In support of the religious apostasy view, Judiazers in the Church were causing many to turn from the faith (Gal.; Acts 15). Paul warned Timothy that apostasy would become an increasing problem in the last days, soon after Paul's death (1 Tim.4:1-3; 2 Tim.3:1-13). John later writes that "it is the last hour" because of the extent of the apostasy (1 John 2:18-19). Political: Gentry favors the political view. The word `apostasy' was used more often in the ancient world to refer to political rebellion. When the Jews rebelled against Rome, Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were killed and carried off. With Judaism ruined, Christianity became the focus of Rome's wrath. This fits with Judaism being the restrainer (see below).
The Man: Religious: The High Priest or former High Priest like Ananias (cf. Acts 23:3; Josephus, Antiquities, 20:9). Political: Many in the early church, St. Augustine, identified Nero with the Man of Sin. Moses Stuart says, "The idea that Nero was the man of sin mentioned by Paul, and the Antichrist spoken of so often in the epistles of St. John, prevailed extensively and for a long time in the early church. However, Nero had died by the time that the Temple was destroyed. Nero could have "displayed himself as God" in the sense that he "set in motion" the Roman army's destruction of Temple and their subsequent worship of Roman ensigns there. Or "the Man" could be taken as a reference to the Roman Emperor, whomever that may be at the time. A double meaning parallels how Revelation speaks of the Beast. Rev.13 says that the Beast's number is 666, which is the value of the name Nero Caesar; but the Beast is also the Roman government, of which Nero was the sixth 'head' (counting from Julius) and who happened to be ruling at the time John wrote (17:9-10).
Of Lawlessness: Religious: The High Priest was offering false sacrifices after Christ's true sacrifice had been made and instigated the persecution of the Christians. Political: Revelation 13 also says that the Beast puts his mark on the forehead and hand of all who worship him. This is a perverse imitation of the seal of God's Law (Deut. 6:6-8; Rev.7:2-4, 9:1).
Takes His Seat in the Temple, Displaying Himself as God: Religious: By opposing God's Son, the Messiah, the High Priest rejected the God the Father, making himself his own God (Genesis 3). Political: All of the Roman emperors deified themselves. Nero presented himself in a chariot as the sun god Apollo, while burning Christians for illumination for his self-glorifying party. Roman coins picture Nero as Apollo. Ephesians worshipped him as "Almighty God" and "Saviour." The Greeks declared Nero to be Zeus. In A.D. 70 Titus carried out the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple set in motion by Nero. Josephus reports: "And now the Romans...brought their ensigns to the temple...; and there did they offer sacrifices to them...(Wars 6:6:1). By September, A.D. 70, the very temple of which Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 was gone forever. This was the "one who makes desolate" prophesied by Daniel (9:27) and Christ (Matt. 24:15). (See Daniel diagram, below). Other pagan kings who sent armies to destroy the Temple are spoken of in the same language:
Dan. 11:29-31, 36 _____________________________________________________________________
Isa. 14:4, 13-14 _______________________________________________________________________
Eze. 28:2-18 _________________________________________________________________________
Deluding Signs: Both the Man of Lawlessness (vs. 9-12) and the Roman Beast of Revelation 13 delude the unsaved to worship them by means of false signs and wonders.
He Who Now Restrains: Religious: Possibly James, leader of the believers in Jerusalem. James was martyred in A.D. 62 by the High Priest Ananus, who was immediately deposed; but the retired Ananias was still influentual behind the scenes. Political: Some in the early church viewed the restrainer as Claudius, Nero's step-father and successor to the throne. Tacitus says that Nero's tutors "collaborated in controlling the emperor's perilous adolescence" (Annuls 13). Another view is that the restrainer is the apostate Jews and the apostasy is political rebellion of the Jews against the Roman Empire. Judaism was an officially protected religion by the Roman government because it was a religion that existed when the territory first came under Roman rule. Christianity was considered a Jewish sect, and so was given the same government tolerance as Judaism. This protection, and the Pax Romana (the peace of Rome), allowed Christians to preach the gospel throughout the Empire without government interference up through the early reign of Nero (Acts 18:12ff.; 22:25-29; 25:11-12; 28:19). But when Jewish zealots rebelled against Rome, and Rome subsequently destroyed Temple, the center of the Jewish religion, in A.D. 70, Christianity continued. Christianity then became seen as a religion in its own right. It was a new religion and challenged the authority of the Roman Empire: "They all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" (Acts 17:7). The lawlessness of the Roman Empire, and Nero in particular, then became revealed in its persecution of the Church. The Roman Empire and the Pax Romana began to crumble. The Spirit-empowered Gospel of Christ eventually conquered the Roman Empire. As verse 8 says, "the Lord will slay [the lawless one] with the breath of His mouth." Indeed, in the fourth century Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion.
The biggest stumbling block to a preterist interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2 is the description of Christ's coming: "And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8). However, this same language is used to describe Christ's method of destroying the wicked in His first coming in Isaiah 11:4: "And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked." The "rod of His mouth" is the Word of God, and "the breath of His lips" is His Spirit; for "the sword of the Spirit is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17; cf. Rev. 19:15). Christ wields this "rod" in judgment in the midst of history from the right hand of the Father according to Psalm 2, where Christ is now seated (Acts 2:34-36). The same type of judgment/coming language is used for past judgments against Assyria (Isa. 30:27-31) and Israel (Mic. 1:3-5). The language of 2 Thess. 2:8 ("Consume" and "destroy") is directly parallel to the prophecies of Daniel: "It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms" (2:4); "The judgment shall sit, and they shall consume and destroy it unto the end" (7:26). This coming of Christ is against the ancient Roman Empire (see p.104 diagram). Furthermore, this language is in accordance with the many passages that clearly predict a coming in judgment against Israel in the first century because of her apostasy (Mal. 4:4-6; Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21; Matt. 16:27-28; 23:34-36).
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 could refer to the Last Judgment, but I think it more likely that "our gathering together with Him" is a qualifier to "coming," meant to refer to Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:31 that the saints will be gathered together (synagogued - James 2:2) in a separate and distinct assembly from the Temple after its destruction in a "this generation" coming (Matt. 24:34).
Final Judgement at Second Coming
1 Thes. 4:13-18 clearly speaks of the Second Coming because it teaches about the bodily resurrection (rapture), and 2 Thess. 2 is clearly speaking of a 1st century judgment for the reasons given above. But which categories should 1 Thess. 5 and 2 Thess. 1 be placed in? Preterists have taken different views. Gentry argues that 2 Thess. 1:7-9 is speaking of the Second Coming because 1) a different word for "coming" is used here than in 2 Thess. 2, 2) 1:9 speaks of "everlasting destruction," and 3) 1:7 speaks of "mighty angles" and 2 Thess. 2 doesn't. On this view, Paul says that the apostasy and destruction of the Man of Lawlessness must occur before the resurrection (rapture), but he does not say how long between the two events. He doesn't mention the millennial gap that Rev. 19 and 20 puts between the destruction of the Roman Beast and the Harlot (apostate Jerusalem) on the one hand, and the resurrection on the other hand. Gentry remarks, "Thus, the Second Advent provides an eternal resolution to their suffering [at the hands of the Jews]; the A.D. 70 Day of the Lord affords temporal resolution (cp. Rev. 6:10)."
Keith A. Mathison argues that 2 Thess. 1 refers to the same 1st century judgment as 2 Thess. 2 because the language of 2 Thess. 1 parallels the temporal, 1st century judgment prophecied in Daniel 7:9-12, Joel 2-3 and Matt. 16:27-28. He also argues that 1 Thess. 5 speaks of the A.D. 70 judgment because 1) the phrase "the Day of the Lord" is found there and 2 Thess. 2, 2) he uses the same word he has used before to change subjects that he has used before (cf. 4:9), 3) the mention of "birth pangs" parallels Matt. 24:8, and 4) when the Christians at Thessalonica were afraid that "the Day of the Lord has come" (2 Thess. 2:2), they understood the transition between 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Thess. 5 because it would not make sense for them to ask that question if it could be answered simply by checking if they had been raptured or not.
It should be noted that Dispensationalists also view the coming of 1 Thessalonians as different from the one mentioned at 2 Thessalonians 2:8. The first is a secret coming at the beginning of the Tribulation to rapture the Church; the second is the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, when only dead Jews are resurrected; living believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, will remain on earth in mortal bodies, not meet the Lord in the air.
Preterists are divided over whether 2 Peter 3:10-13 applies to the establishment of the New Covenant and destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, or to the end of history when the consummate New Heavens and New Earth are established. I favor the latter view, but I will give both arguments.
The A.D. 70 view (from David Chilton):
1. The "last days " (3:2-3) consistently refer to the first-century, when the Old Covenant was passing away.
2. In his first letter, Peter identified the last days as his own time (1 Peter 1:20) and says, "the end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7).
3. Peter is exhorting first-century Christians to live holy lives in light of the nearness of judgment (vs. 11-14).
4. "Heavens and earth" is used in similar passages in a covental/metaphorical sense, as in Isaiah 51:51-16 and Jeremiah 4:23-31. Thus God's covenant with Israel was a new creation, and the dissolution of that covenant, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in A.D. 70, was the destruction of that creation. Now "the world to come" has come, through Jesus appearing in the Last Days (Heb. 1:1-2:5; cf. 12:27-28).
5. Similar language for the fall of governments in the midst of history is used in places like Isaiah 34:4, speaking of the fall of Edom, and, most significantly in Matthew 24:29 & 34, speaking of the fall of Jerusalem in the disciples' generation.
6. Where did God promise to bring in a "new heaven and new earth"? — Isaiah 65 and 66, in which birth and death still occur. And the Gospel brings all mankind to bow before the Lord (66:22-23), so it must be before the Last Judgment.
7. The word "elements" is not used in the New Testament to refer to the physical universe: Gal. 4:3,9; Col. 2:8,20; Heb 5:12 (cf. "oracles of God": Acts 7:38; Rom.3:2). The word is used for the provisional, Old Covenant revelation. These Old Covenant elements were burned up in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and the Temple burned, ending those ceremonies forever.
The end-of-history new heaven and new earth view is the following (from Kenneth Gentry):
1. The destruction of the heavens and earth are expressly tied to the material creation (3:4-7).
2. There are no time factors or cultural limitations, as there are in first-century, symbolic apocalyptic passages (e.g. Matt. 24:29, cf. v. 34; Rev. 6:13-14, cf. Rev. 1:1, 3; 6:10; Isa. 13:10, cf. 1, 14-21).
3. 2 Peter teaches that those who are judged in history are "reserved" for another judgment day, at the end of history. The examples of Noah and Lot, who remain on the earth after a historical judgment (2:5-9a), like the A.D. 70 judgment, are contrasted with fallen angels and the ungodly whom God "keeps under punishment," "reserved" for the later Judgment Day (2:4, 9b). Likewise 2 Peter 3:7 says that the present heaven and earth are "reserved" for the "day of judgment." (Notice that hell is only a temporary place of punishment where the ungodly are reserved for the Judgement Day, when they are cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity - Rev. 20:10,15).
4. The book promotes spiritual perseverance in anticipation of the historical long-run (2 Peter 3:15,17). Mockers scoff at the long wait associated with it (2 Peter 3:3-4, 9), and Peter suggests it may be thousands of years before Christ returns (3:8).
5. The longsuffering of our Lord is due to a process that is necessarily age-long: the calling of all men to repentance and salvation (3:9, 15). This process still continues today and will continue until the end of history. The way that we "hasten the coming of the day of God" (3:12) is by evangelistic endeavor (cf. Matt. 6:10, Acts 3:19ff).
Gentry holds to the "Last Days" as the entire New Covenant period, so the mockers could be a reference to people throughout that period. But even if the Last Days are restricted to the first-century (Peter says they will arise "among you," his first-century audience — 2 Peter 2:1), there is no problem with the mockers referring to those who mock an event thousands of years away from the first-century. Denying the Last Judgment is a sin no matter how far away that Day is. And placing these mockers in the first-century would not preclude other mockers arising later in history. Also, mockers who die in judgments in the midst of history still must face the final Judgment Day when hell is dumped into the eternal lake of fire.
It should be noted that this destruction of the heavens and earth cannot literally occur immediately following the (future) Last Days and Tribulation as many "literalist" Dispensationalists would have it, because nobody would survive it to see Jesus descend with the Church or survive into the Millennium. Dispensationalists who recognize this problem put a long period of time between the Last Days spoken of in 2 Peter and the Last Judgment mentioned in the same chapter, just as I would.
Dispensational Gap: Dispensationalists put a 2,000 year gap, no where mentioned in this passage, between the end of week 69 and the beginning of week 70, to make it fit their futurist account of the Tribulation. And they do this despite the fact that they admit that the first 69 weeks were fulfilled literally to the day. Too bad they aren't consistently literal. Yet Jesus tells us when the "desolation" spoken of by the prophet Daniel would occur: Within a generation from the time of Jesus' earthly ministry:
Matt. 24:15-16, 34:
Luke 21:20, 32:
Dispensationalists also make the interpretive mistake of misreading Christ as the Antichrist, ignoring verse 25 that defines the Prince as the Messiah.
Interpretation of Key Phrases:
"week" refers to a seven year period: Gen. 29:27-28; Dan. 10:2 - says "weeks of days," it seems, to distinguish from week of years in previous passage.
"finish the transgression" - Israel culminates her transgression against God by killing His Son (Matt. 23:37-38; cf. 21:33-45; Acts 7:51-52).
"seal up sins" - in the sense of reserving sins for punishment. One generation after Christ declared the Temple "desolate" (Matt. 23:38) it was destroyed (Matt. 24:2,34).
"to make atonement for iniquity" - Christ's atonement for sin on the cross, which all temple rituals foreshowed (Heb. 9:26).
"to bring in everlasting righteousness" - the atonement establishes righteousness (Rom. 3:21-22).
"to seal up vision and prophesy" - Christ fulfills the prophesies made about Him (Luke 18:31; cp. Luke 24:44; Acts 3:18; Mark 1:14-15)
"to anoint the Most Holy" - Christ's baptismal anointing (Luke 4:17-21). "Messiah" is Hebrew for "Anointed One."
"Messiah the Prince" - The Prince is not the antichrist, as Dispensationalists claim, but the Messiah.
"Messiah will be cut off and have nothing" - Christ's death for our sins (Isa. 53:8). Being "cut off" represents a cursing (Lev.7:20); Christ became a curse for us.
"people of the Prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary..." - Messiah has just been called the Prince (v.25); this is not the Antichrist. The people of the Prince are the Roman armies that Christ sent in judgment against Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:27-28). Dispensationalists and preterists agree that this passage refers to the Great Tribulation. However, contrary to the Dispensational view, the Great Tribulation occurs after the seventy weeks have ended. In Daniel, this event is placed in the indefinite future. Jesus, however, tells us that the Great Trib will occur one generation (40 years) after His earthly ministry (Matt. 24:34).
"He will confirm a covenant with the many for one week" - Beginning of Jesus' ministry (Mark 1:9-15). "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many..." (Matt. 26:28; cf. Luke 1:72). "He" is not Antichrist.
"in the middle of the week, He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering" - the sacrificial system ends when Christ is crucified 3.5 years after He began His ministry (John 19:30; Matt. 27:51; Heb. 8:13).
"and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate..." - This passage refers to the same event as verse 26b, above. The war that causes desolation of the city and temple is placed in the indefinite future in Daniel. However, Jesus says that "the abomination that causes desolation which was spoken of through Daniel" (Matt. 24:15) occurs one generation (40 years) after His earthly ministry (Matt. 24:34).
There is no second, "revived" Roman Empire, as Dispensationalists say the modern European Economic Community is. Rome has already been destroyed by Christ's everlasting kingdom. Also, the "little horn" in Daniel 7, 8, and 11 is not the Antichrist, as Dispensationalists claim, but probably the Herod line of rulers, who were the represenatives of Rome in Israel, and who tried to kill the baby Jesus and later claimed to be a god in Acts.
Ezekial 38 & 39 predicts that in the "last days" (38:8,16), before a future Tribulation, the Jews will be gathered from the nations and return to the land of Israel, as actually occurred in the 20th century, after having been scattered since Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70. Modern day Russia will then attack Israel during the Great Tribulation. As Ezekiel 38:2 says: "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal." The word "Rosh" sounds like Russia, and is north of Israel, just as Ezekiel foretells that armies will come from "remote parts of the north" (Eze. 38:6,15; 39:2). The horses, swords, armor, bucklers, and shields mentioned in Ezekiel are symbolic terms for modern implements of warfare like tanks, M-16s, machine guns, rockets, and bazookas.
1. Gog and Magog are never mentioned in the Rev. 4-19, which describes the Great Tribulation and Israel's destruction. They are only mentioned in Rev. 20:8, at the end of the millennium. Obviously the "Gog and Magog" of Revelation is not literally the same "Gog, of the land of Magog" in Ezekiel. Revelation often borrows figures from the O.T. as types to describe future figures: "Jezebel" (2:20), "Sodom and Egypt" (11:8), "Babylon" (14:8), "new Jerusalem" (21:2).
2. "Last days" or "latter days" in the O.T. simply means "in the future." (Compare Deut. 31:29 with its fulfillment in Judges 2:20), not necessarily the time called "the last days" in the New Testament. Scripture teaches that Israel was scattered in the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 29:14; Eze. 6:6-9), and the gathering of Israel from many nations was fulfilled seventy years after the Babylonian captivity (Jer. 29:10).
3. The word "Rosh" has nothing to do with Russia. In fact, it is a mistranslation. "Rosh" is not a proper name but a word that simply means "chief." Rather than "The prince of Rosh," Eze. 38:2 is better translated as "the chief prince."
4. Ezekiel says that the armies approach Israel from the north. It does not say that the homelands of the armies were to the north of Israel.
5. An alternative to the futurist, Dispensational interpretation of these passages is that Ezekiel 34-48 predicts the events that are described in the books of Esther and Nehemiah. Israel's slaughter of its enemies described in Ezekiel 39 fits with the number killed by Israel in Esther 9. Both Ezekiel 38:5-6 and Esther 8:9 say that Israel's enemies come from the Persian Empire. On this view, Ezekiel 38-39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews.
6. The preterist interpretation can deal naturally with the mention of the ancient weapons, rather than having to speculate about how they might be figurative descriptions of the latest high-tech weapons of a modern army, like the futurist, so-called "literalist" interpretation does.