My journey to a different worldview
By Jim Leverich, June 2020
Through many years of attending different non-denominational Christian churches, the only “end times” viewpoint that I ever heard referenced was “dispensational premillennialism.” This viewpoint refers to an earthly “millennial” reign of Christ, following the imminent “rapture” of the church and the “great tribulation.” Although I don’t recall hearing many sermons on the topic directly, the “rapture” and “great tribulation” were often referenced.
This view of the “end times” had an effect on the way I viewed the world. From the time I was 12 years old, I had been taught that Jesus would return very soon to “rapture” His church and that the world would continue to morally decline until that time. For some, this view may inspire motivation to use their lives in service to God but for me, it inspired very little. I lived selfishly and wastefully, using most of my resources on myself and immediate family. When I thought about poverty, starvation, injustice, abuse, human trafficking, etc… the problems seemed too overwhelming. How much of an impact could I possibly make in the short amount of time before the “rapture” occurred? If it’s going to end soon anyway, why try to deal with any of the world’s major issues? I didn’t think I could do much, or that it was my responsibility, so I didn’t do anything.
Until I began investigating the differences between what I was reading in the Bible and what I had been taught, I didn’t even know there were other “end times” viewpoints. Several years of studying the subject and praying has changed my “end times” view and my worldview. A historical search will show that of the four major eschatological viewpoints, “dispensational premillennialism” was not the dominant view of the church for the large majority of church history. This is no longer true, however, there are many Christians who still hold different viewpoints today. Some early historians, including Flavius Josephus, who wrote “Wars of the Jews” in AD 75, detailed many events during the Jewish-Roman War that paralleled the prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation. It can be argued that a large amount of evidence from the Bible and other historical sources points to the fulfillment of many of these prophecies in the years preceding and the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Historians, scholars and early church leaders have documented their beliefs and insights into every aspect of Bible prophecy. Although there are a wide range of viewpoints in this area, this work is easily accessible and provides valuable information about the history and origin of many church beliefs. For the purpose of this article, I will address only a few of the major questions that I began to wrestle with as I studied the “end times.”
Why write a letter to these seven churches that actually existed during that time, warning them to watch for all these things that would take place very soon, if it didn’t even apply to them? Some theologians from various viewpoints agree that the information contained in the letters directly applied to the issues plaguing these churches at that time. If Revelation was written after AD 70, like many contend with the support of little evidence, then why doesn’t John mention the horrific Jewish-Roman War or the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple?
The last days
Some of the first verses that I began to study on the subject of the “end times,” are in the book of Acts. (All verses used in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible):
“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord . And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’ ” Acts 2:16-21
Here, Peter says what they’re witnessing is happening in “the last days.” Are “the last days,” the time from the beginning of the “church age” until the end of time, like I was taught, or could it mean something else? The following verses point to the “last days” being the time in which the authors were living:
“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.” James 5:2-5
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” Hebrews 1:1-2
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18
The prophet Joel describes the army that is coming against Israel in “the last day.” A similar description is given by the apostle John in Revelation. The same colors and battle formations are often used by historians to describe the Roman army during that time.
“They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like men of war; Every one marches in formation, And they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; Every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, They are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter at the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them, The heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, And the stars diminish their brightness. The Lord gives voice before His army, For His camp is very great; For strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” Joel 2:7-11
“And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.” Revelation 9:17
What about “the day of the Lord,” “coming on clouds,” “the sun being darkened” and “the moon not giving her light?” These phrases are also found in some old testament books symbolizing God’s judgement on a nation at the hands of another nation. These verses from Ezekiel prophecy God’s judgement of Egypt at the hands of Babylon in 605 BC:
“For the day is near, Even the day of the Lord is near; It will be a day
of clouds, the time of the Gentiles. The sword shall come upon Egypt, And great anguish shall be in Ethiopia, When the slain fall in Egypt, And they take away her wealth, And her foundations are broken down.” Ezekiel 30:3-4
“ ‘I will also water the land with the flow of your blood, Even to the mountains; And the riverbeds will be full of you. When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,’ Says the Lord God . ‘For thus says the Lord God : ‘The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you.’ ” Ezekiel 32:6-8, 11
These verses from Isaiah prophecy the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC:
“ ‘Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man’s heart will melt, Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. ‘I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the Lord of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.’ ” Isaiah 13:6-7, 9-11, 13, 17-17, 19, 22
The Gospel preached to the world
What about the Gospel being preached to the whole world before the end comes? In the following verses, Paul describes this having already happened using the same language:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.’ ” Romans 10:18
“Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.” Colossians 1:5-6
Coming in judgement
What generation is Jesus speaking about in Matt 24:34? Some believe Jesus is referring not to His second coming, but to His coming in judgement on Israel using the Roman Army. What if He would have said, God is coming on the clouds of heaven? Maybe He said it the way He did to show beyond a doubt that He is God. The following verses point to that very generation as being the one He’s speaking of:
“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. ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” Matthew 23:34-39
“When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Matthew 10:23
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7
“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ “ Matthew 24:1-2
The prophecies in Daniel and Revelation both use very similar imagery and details. Many believe they are describing the same events. In Revelation, Jesus not only states repeatedly that He’s coming soon, but John is also instructed not to seal the words of the prophecy because the time is at hand.
“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.’ “ Revelation 22:10
Daniel however, is instructed to seal the book because the prophecy is for the “time of the end.” This suggests that the “time of the end” would not mean the end of life on earth, but the end of God’s covenant with the nation of Israel.
“And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’ “ Daniel 12:9
Although there is some recent debate about the date, most scholars believe this prophecy was given around 535 BC. If it did end with or shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which I believe the majority of the evidence points to, that’s about 600 years, and Daniel was told to seal it.
If the main focus of John’s prophecy in Revelation didn’t apply to those in the first century but does for those 2000 years plus in the future, it should have been sealed also I would think.
That’s over 1400 years longer than Daniel’s prophecy. If that was the case, it would make more sense if John’s vision was sealed and Daniel’s wasn’t. But that’s all a matter of perspective and viewpoint.
As in many other books in the Bible, several verses in Revelation tell the reader that the language used in certain places is symbolic. Why are some of the events in Revelation to be taken literally and some to be taken as symbolic and how do we know the difference? Being taught from an early age and from several different pastors to read Revelation from only one perspective, it seemed clear. The following verses inform the reader that symbolism is being used and gives the interpretation:
“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.” Revelation 17:9-11
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,’ But the angel said to me, ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.’” Revelation 17:1, 7-7, 18
“Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’ “ Revelation 17:15
“And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Revelation 11:8
“Where also our Lord was crucified,” identifies the “great city,” as Jerusalem.
Abomination of desolation
There are many ideas as to what the “abomination of desolation” is. Some believe this was fulfilled when the Roman Army invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the temple between AD 66 and AD 70, some believe it has a future fulfillment, and others believe it has a dual fulfillment. Some historic accounts state that when the Romans entered the temple under Titus, they set up images of Zeus and Caesar and offered sacrifices to them, before completely destroying it. This would have definitely constituted an abomination that makes desolate.
“ ‘Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’ ” Matthew 24:15-16
These verses in Luke go into further detail:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.” Luke 21:20-21 NKJV
“And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.” Daniel 11:31
The 70-week prophecy
In the 70-week prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, the angel Gabriel gives Daniel a detailed account of future events:
“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. ‘Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.’ “ Daniel 9:24-27
Many historians and scholars agree that the command to rebuild Jerusalem was given in 444 BC by Artexerses, (the king of Persia from 465 BC-425 BC). Using the day for a year scale that was used in Numbers 14:34 and Ezra 4:4-6, it would be 483 years from the time the command was given until Messiah is cut off. Much debate has been made over the length of the year used in this prophecy. Using the Jewish calendar year of 354 days or a prophetic year of 360 days, would have placed the crucifixion of Jesus between AD 30 and the middle of AD 33.There is really no need to debate the exact time and date that this event happened. Any miscalculations in dates and times have been made as a result of human error, not by God. In other words, the prophecy was fulfilled exactly when God said it would be because time doesn’t exist to Him.
Even more debate has been made over the timeline of the last week in the prophecy. Some believe the 70th week was pointing to the events that took place immediately after Jesus was crucified, some that there was a 40-year gap that would give Israel a chance to repent, and others, that it contains all of history from that time until the present day. It seems to be quite a stretch that the final week would last 2,000 years into the future when the rest of the weeks calculated out perfectly. Also, any sacrifices made in a new rebuilt temple as I was taught will happen shortly before the end, would certainly not be acceptable and blessed by God after Jesus has fulfilled the law and become the only acceptable sacrifice.
Daniel 12:7 gives another indication of when this prophecy was fulfilled:
“Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” Daniel 12:7
“All these things,” including the cessation of vision and prophecy happened by the time the power of the holy people was completely shattered. Many believe “the holy people” in this verse is in reference to Israel because the “holy people” under the new covenant have an everlasting kingdom, therefore their power can never be “completely shattered.”
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Daniel 2:44 NKJV
These verses also seem to indicate that vision and prophecy have already ceased:
“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” I Corinthians 13:8-10
The Greek word for fail, in reference to prophecies in this verse, actually translates “be done away,” and the Greek word for perfect translates to “complete.” Many believe that “when that which is perfect has come,” is in reference to the completion of the Bible and not Jesus at His second coming, as I was taught. In other words, when the Bible was completed, vision and prophecy ceased. There is also a warning in Revelation 22 against adding to or taking away from the “prophecy of this book.”
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19
For some, the evidence points to this prophecy having been fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in
Many believe, as I was taught, that the church will be taken from the earth before the “great tribulation.”
The following verses are commonly used as evidence for a pre-tribulation rapture:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Revelation 3:10 NKJV
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV
Some ancient historians and members of the early church have written accounts describing the escape of the infant church during the Roman invasion of Jerusalem. The accounts state that the church fled to the city of Pella, which is in northwestern Jordan, during this time. Some maintain that several of the verses used to point to a pre-tribulation rapture are actually describing this event, and that some of the other verses are describing when Jesus comes back to judge the world.
These verses from Matthew describe the wicked and the righteous being taken and judged at the same time when Jesus returns at the end of time:
“ ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ‘Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ ‘Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ ” Matthew 25:31-46
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ “ Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The children of God
What about the promises made to Israel? Is the nation of Israel in mind, or the church, or both? There are many verses used as evidence to support each viewpoint. The following are a few of the verses used to show that the children of God are now anyone, from any nation, that has put their faith and trust in Jesus and that God’s promises and blessings continue for them:
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.” Romans 9:6-8
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29
“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:15
The old covenant has been made obsolete by the new. If the old covenant was still in effect, ethnic Jews receive God’s acceptance and blessings by following the law. Yet Scripture states plainly that, after the cross, anyone from any nation must put their faith and trust in Jesus to be accepted and receive His blessings. Jesus put an end to sacrifice and offering with His death on the cross as prophesied by Daniel. No other sacrifice for sin has since been acceptable.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:7-13
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Matthew 27:51
Many theologians agree that the tearing of the veil of the temple symbolized the end of the old sacrificial system. It was replaced by Jesus Himself, the only acceptable sacrifice.
The beasts and the 144,000
As with many of the verses in Revelation that contain a number, I was taught that 144,000 was the actual number of ethnic Jews that would be saved after the “rapture” of the church. Many, however, believe this to be symbolic of the Jews who were saved and became the infant church before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
There is also much debate and speculation about the identities of the “beasts” of Daniel and Revelation. Many believe that these “beasts” are present or future kingdoms and leaders, and that the “mark” will be a visible mark on the hand or forehead. Others, that the “beasts” are actually the Caesars, dynasties and empire of Rome and that forsaking God and worshipping them is what is referred to by receiving the “mark.” This language is also used in other places to show one’s allegiance. These verses from Revelation state that those who worship and follow God have His name written on them:
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12
The first resurrection
Another highly disputed subject is the timing of the resurrection of Revelation 20. The large majority believe that this has a future fulfillment, but some, that this event has already happened.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4-6
The belief in the timing of this event will be heavily influenced by the “end times” viewpoint of the individual. Some believe that this is the same event described in the following verses:
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:51-53
It doesn’t say exactly when this resurrection happened or who the resurrected saints appeared to, it just says it happened after His resurrection and they appeared to many. Witnessing this event could have definitely been another reason that the early church flourished despite the extreme persecution it endured.
These verses from the book of Matthew are controversial because they don’t appear in any other Gospel and there is no other historical documentation of this event. This has led some Bible scholars to suggest that these verses were either added by mistake, or that they’re describing a legend instead of an actual event. Many however, believe that this was an actual event and have pointed out the fact that each Gospel was written from the perspective of the author, and therefore, contains information that is not in any other book. It has been shown by many scholars that although they contain different information, the Gospel accounts do not conflict.
One area of contention on this subject is that in Revelation 20, John describes the resurrected saints as being beheaded for their witness to Jesus and to the word of God, and not having worshipped the beast or received his mark. How could this have been the event described in Matthew 27 when Jesus had just been crucified and raised to life? We know from the Bible as well as from other historical sources, that Jesus had many followers before He was crucified. Although John the Baptist is the only follower of Christ that the Bible mentions having been beheaded before Jesus was crucified, this was a common form of execution during that time and many others likely suffered the same fate. This was especially true for Roman citizens, which is why the Apostle Paul was beheaded while many others were executed in much worse ways. As the following verse points out, at least some of Jesus’ followers at the time were Roman citizens:
“Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’ ” Luke 3:14
These Roman soldiers were asking John the Baptist what to do as he was baptising a large group of people. If these soldiers became believers and were found guilty of serving God instead of their Roman gods and Caesar, they would have likely been beheaded. A large majority of historical records from that time period have been destroyed or lost. In other words, just because there is no surviving historical account of certain things, doesn’t mean they didn’t actually happen.
Some believe that the first resurrection and it’s timing are also detailed in the following verses from the book of Daniel:
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2
“and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” Daniel 12:7
“All these things” includes the first resurrection, which leads many to believe it to be a past event.
The number 1,000 is used symbolically throughout the Bible to refer to an indefinite amount. Therefore, some believe the “millennium” to be an indefinite period of time in which Christ reigns over His kingdom from heaven.
“He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,” Psalms 105:8
“For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalms 50:10
There are many different views on the “millennium” and what will happen during this time. When the verses describing the “millennium” are interpreted literally, it would appear that Jesus will set up a 1,000 year, earthly kingdom at His return. When read symbolically, the meaning changes significantly. Some believe these next verses describe the spiritual kingdom that fills the earth during the “millennial” reign of Christ.
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ ” Matthew 13:31-32
“Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’ ” Matthew 13:33
A similar description is given in the book of Daniel, where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream that only Daniel can interpret. Most scholars agree that the four kingdoms described are: Babylon – the head of gold, the Medes and Persians – the chest and arms of silver, Greece under Alexander the Great – the belly and thighs of bronze, and Rome – the legs of iron, mixed with clay – the nation of Israel. These verses describe God’s kingdom being set up during the period of time when Israel is under Roman control. This eternal kingdom then fills the whole earth, which many view as the fulfillment of the millennial prophecy.
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all— you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” Daniel 2:31-45
The following verses are used to support the view that Christ is currently reigning over all of creation from heaven:
“Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
I Peter 3:22
“…which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:20-23
After years of prayer and study, I now have an entirely different “end times” viewpoint. I now believe that the majority of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation were fulfilled by the end of the first century. At that time, God’s new covenant, (which applies to anyone from any nation who knows Jesus as their Lord and Savior), made the old covenant with the nation of Israel obsolete (Heb 8:7-13, Gal 3:19-29), vision and prophecy ceased, (meaning no new revelations from God through prophets – Dan 9:24), and the “millennium” began. During the “millennium,” God’s love and light will continue to fill the world and it will gradually become more peaceful. At the end of this period, there will be one last rebellion by the enemies of God that will be crushed and Jesus will return to earth at the end of time. This could happen tomorrow or it could happen thousands of years from now.
This journey has changed the way I see the world and my responsibilities in it. Life on earth could continue for thousands of years so I no longer believe that what I do with my life doesn’t matter or make a real impact in the world. God chooses to get His extraordinary work accomplished in the world by using ordinary people like me, and everything I choose to do now impacts future generations. If I’m not willing to do this work however, He will not force me to. Whether my time here lasts for many years or ends tomorrow, I’m responsible and accountable for how I’ve used what I’ve been given. I don’t own anything, I’ve just been given stewardship of some things. This new worldview has affected everything from the way I spend my time and money, to the way I conserve water and other resources. I have way more than what I need but this is not the case for millions of people worldwide. Most of my possessions and resources are now used to help suffering people, instead of to make my life more comfortable. Reducing down to only things that I need and spending less so I can give more, has given me an amazing sense of freedom and fulfillment. I wish I would have taken this approach to life many years ago.
Although my view of the “end times” has changed, I respect other viewpoints, and those that hold them. There is much more scriptural and historical evidence that can be used to support this viewpoint as well as some that can be used to argue against it. The four major viewpoints all seem possible when studied from different perspectives. Many brilliant scholars and theologians have very different biblical viewpoints in some areas, so it’s very likely that at least some of our own viewpoints are incorrect. In the past, I was not willing to believe anything that was counter to what I was first taught because I was convinced it was right. My pride had made me unteachable. I’m not encouraging taking someone else’s word for anything, only being open to the possibility of being wrong, and humbly being willing to listen and learn from God during study.
In reading and studying now, I keep in mind that biblical authors did not use punctuation and sometimes even chronological order of events in their writing style. Instead, they wrote in blocks of information. This explains why some of the information in the Gospels appears in a different order from one book to another. For example, the kingdom parables, the healing of the Roman centurion’s servant, the healing of paralyzed man, the calming of the storm, etc… all appear in different orders from book to book. Something as simple as punctuation, beginning a new chapter where it was not intended, or a preconceived bias, can significantly distort the entire meaning of the writing. Also, many Greek and Hebrew words do not have an exact English equivalent which can also lead to the wrong conclusion about the meaning.
In church history, differences in viewpoints have caused some groups of people to treat each other disrespectfully to the point of division and even bloodshed. There could be one fulfillment or a dual fulfillment of the “end times” prophecies, the viewpoint that I’ve come to believe could be correct or another one could be. I still wrestle with many questions about the meaning of certain “end times” details. Regardless of which viewpoint we believe, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and are worthy of each other’s respect. I’m not a pastor, scholar or theologian and I’m in no way qualified to teach the Word of God. Wars, religions and cults have been started as a result of the misinterpretation of Scripture, so to say that it should be handled and taught with extreme care is a huge understatement. This article is not an attempt to sway anyone to another viewpoint, only to convey the result of my journey. The last thing I would want to do is to lead anyone into believing something that isn’t true. If I’m incorrect about anything I’ve written, which is entirely possible, I sincerely apologize.