JESUS IS COMING AGAIN
The return of Jesus is a recurring theme in the entire New Testament writings.
Jesus told many parables about a returning master who judges his servants on their conduct in his absence.
One of the questions Jesus’ disciples asked him at the Olivet discourse was, “what will be the sign of your coming” (Matt 24:3). In Matthew 24-25 Jesus then refers numerous times to the coming of the Son of Man.
At the Last Supper, Jesus promised His disciples “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2)
AREAS OF DEBATE
While most Christians believe in the future return of Jesus, there are several areas which are hot items of debate. These include:
The timing of
The timing of
The timing of
TIMING OF MILLENNIUM
We saw in a previous study that the 3 views regarding the timing of the Millennium are:
We also saw how Premillennialism was the original Church view in the 1st – 3rd century. The Premillennial view depends on a consistent literal interpretation of the Scripture.
In the 5th century, Augustine popularized the Amillennial view, which he had derived by interpreting Scripture allegorically.
Amillennialism: The entire Church age (starting at the Cross) is the Millennium (not a literal 1000 years). Christ reigns in heaven and returns after the figurative ‘Millennium’. There is no future for Israel; and all the prophecies for Israel are applied to the Church.
Postmillennialism: The Millennium is a future (or current) literal (or figurative) 1000 years. The Church will reign on earth. Christ returns after the ‘Millennium’. The Church replaces Israel.
Premillennialism: The Millennium is a future literal 1000 years reign by Christ. Christ himself reigns on earth (from Jerusalem) with his Church. Christ returns after the church age (pre, mid or post-tribulation rapture) before the Millennium. God makes a distinction between His dealings with Israel and the Church.
TIMING OF MILLENNIUM
TIMING OF MILLENNIUM
2nd Coming & last judgment
2nd Coming & last judgment
TIMING OF PROPHECY
The 4 views regarding the timing of prophecy are:
Preterism - holds that most or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the End Times refer to events which actually happened in the 1st century AD.
Historicism - treats the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as finding literal earthly fulfillment through the history of the church age.
Futurism - places the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation mostly in the future as literal, physical, apocalyptic and global.
Idealism - interprets all of the imagery of Revelation as non-literal symbols which are perpetually and cyclically fulfilled in a spiritual sense.
4 VIEWS ON PROPHECY – Gavin Paynter
Fulfilled before 70 AD
Fulfilled across history
To be fulfilled
Preterism 1 holds that most
or all of the biblical
End Times refer
to events which
in 70 AD with
of the Temple
1 The term preterism comes
from the Latin praeter, meaning ‘past’.
Preterists use the following verse to support their claims of a 1st century fulfillment of all prophecy:
Matt 16:28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
But we need to remember the rule of context. In all three of the synoptic gospels this statement is immediately followed by three of Jesus’ disciples seeing the glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. E.g. Matt 17:1-2
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
Preterists also use Matt 24:34 to support their claims of a 70 AD fulfillment of prophecy:
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
The response is that the generation referred to is the generation of the End Times.
It is also contested whether the term ‘generation’ (a translation of the Greek ‘genea’) means ‘race’ or ‘nation,’ as the context of many verses would imply. 1 Thus some believe that Jesus is actually referring to the nation of Israel enduring until the End Times. 2,3,4,5 & 6
1 Wikipedia: Preterism 2 Strongs - age, generation, nation, time
3 NAS exhaustive concordance definition: race, family, generation
4 Commenting on this, Bede (672-735 AD) wrote, “By generation He either means the whole race of mankind, or specially the Jews.”
5 Scofield Reference Notes: This generation - Gr. ‘genea,’ the primary definition of which is, “race, kind, family, stock, breed.” … That the word is used in this sense because none of “these things,” i.e. the world-wide preaching of the kingdom, the great tribulation, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the regathering of the elect, occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, AD 70. The promise is, therefore, that the generation - nation, or family of Israel - will be preserved unto “these things”; a promise wonderfully fulfilled to this day.
6 Archer writes that genea (‘generation’) was sometimes used as a synonym of genos (race, stock, nation, people). According to Archer, “Although this meaning for genea is not common, it is found as early as Homer and Herodotus and as late as Plutarch… Perhaps it should be added that if the Olivet Discourse was originally delivered in Aramaic (as it probably was), then we cannot be certain that the meaning of this prediction hinged entirely on the Greek word used to translate it. Genea and genos are, after all, closely related words from the same root. The Aramaic term that Jesus Himself probably used (the Syriac Peshitta uses sharbeta here, which can mean either ‘generation’ or ‘race’) is susceptible to either interpretation…” In fact, in almost every instance where Jesus uses the term ‘generation’, the alternate meaning indicated by the Aramaic, ‘people’ or ‘nation’ works just as well. e.g. Matt 12:39 or 23:36.
PARTIAL & FULL PRETERISM
Partial Preterists advocate, in effect, 2 Second Comings, one at AD 70 and another at the end of the age. 1 Full Preterists believe that all
prophecy was fulfilled with the
destruction of Jerusalem, including the
resurrection of the dead and Jesus’
Second Coming. 1
Irenaeus implies that Revelation was
written in the last decade of the 1st
century. Yet in Revelation the Second
Coming and resurrection are still seen
as in the future. John writes “Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev 21:20).
1 SOURCE: Wikipedia: Preterism 2 Nearly all Partial
Preterists hold to Amillennialism or Postmillennialism.
But the suggestion that the coming of the Son of Man is completely fulfilled with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in the first century is utterly ridiculous. Jesus stated that his angels would be with him, that they would gather his elect and that all men will see him.
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matt 24:30)
“… men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds…” (Mark 13:26-27)
The apostle Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:15-17)
The Full Preterist view (that the resurrection took place in the 1st century while living Christians remained behind) is actually a revival of an old heresy refuted long ago by Paul.
Paul also refutes a heresy that the Thessalonians encountered (i.e. that the Day of the Lord had already come) and makes it clear that this event will not come until the antichrist proclaims himself God in the temple.
2 Thess 2:1-4 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed… He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
After the Ascension of Jesus from the Mount of Olives the 2 angels said to the disciples “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into
the sky? This same Jesus, who
has been taken from you into
heaven, will come back in the
same way you have seen him go
into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
He went up physically from the
Mount of Olives. The alleged
‘return’ of Jesus in 70 AD
advocated by Full Preterists
could not in any way fulfill this
Preterists claim that ancient Israel was supplanted by the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. 1
In contrast, Paul teaches in Romans 11 that Israel will be restored.
1 Wikipedia: Preterism
None of the early Christian writers considered the return of Jesus and the resurrection to have already taken place.
There has historically been
general agreement that the first
systematic Preterist exposition
of prophecy was written by the
Jesuit Luis De Alcasar during
the Counter Reformation. 1 & 2
1 Wikipedia: Preterism 2 Some Historicists have
suggested that Preterism was first advanced in
1604 by De Alcasar to counteract the stigma
which Reformers had placed on Rome by teaching
that the papacy was the historical Antichrist.
The early Jesuits were a conspiratorial
organisation whose single goal was to overthrow
the Protestant Reformation.
PRETERISM - ORIGIN
The oldest Church creeds all look to the coming of Jesus and the judgment as future events.
Old Roman creed
Jesus “shall come to judge the living and the dead”
Jesus “shall come again to judge the quick and the dead”
Jesus “shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead”
As Full Preterism places the return of Christ and the judgment in 70 AD, this means that this position is heterodox or heretical in terms of the earliest creeds of the Church.
Concerning the Lord’s Supper, Paul writes that “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the
Lord’s death until
(1 Cor 11:26)
Thus if Full Preterists
are to be
Historicism treats the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as finding earthly fulfillment through the history of the church age, and especially in relation to the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the Reformation. It became a dominant eschatological interpretation during the Reformation and was the approach was taken by Martin Luther and John Calvin. 1 & 2
The method of interpretation used is not a literal one as the visions in Revelation are seen as symbolic of known historical events.
1 SOURCE: Wikipedia: Historicism (Christian eschatology)
2 Calvin and Luther saw the Antichrist as both the papacy and Islam: The papacy was the Western Antichrist and Islam the Eastern Antichrist. Calvin referred to them as the two ‘horns’ and Luther called them the two ‘legs’ of the Antichrist. (Luther’s Works, Weimer ed., 53, 394f)
The day-year principle is a method of interpretation of Bible prophecy in which a day in apocalyptic prophecy represents a year of actual time. It is used principally by the Historicist school. It is not popular today, but was held by most Protestant Reformers and is retained by the Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Historicist interpreters have usually understood the ‘1260 days’ mentioned in Revelation to represent a period of 1260 years. Historicists usually believe the ‘1260 days’ spanned the Middle Ages and concluded within the early modern or modern era. 1
Using the day-year Historicist approach, Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted a series of failed prophecies about the years 1874, 1878, 1914, 1918 & 1925.
1 SOURCE: Wikipedia – Day year principle
Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Watchtower Society, predicted Armageddon for
1914: “… the ‘battle of the great
day of God Almighty’, which will
end in AD 1914 with the complete
overthrow of earth’s present
rulership, is already commenced.” 1
After 1914, Russell revised his
dates stating that the end would
not be later than 1918: “Also, in
the year 1918, when God destroys
the churches wholesale and the
church members by millions…” 2
1 ‘The Time Is At Hand’ (1911)
2 ‘The Finished Mystery’ (1917)
Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916)
The end came, but only for Russell - he died in 1916. ‘Judge’ Rutherford succeeded Russell as president and predicted that post-Armageddon reconstruction would begin in 1925, marked by the resurrection of the patriarchs: “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old…” 1
1 “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” (1920). ‘The Way To Paradise’ (1924) also states, “No doubt many boys and girls who read this book will live to see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, and those other men of old come forth in the glory of their better resurrection, of perfect in mind and body. It will not take long for Christ to appoint them to their post of honor and authority as his earthly representatives. The world and all the present conveniences will seem strange to them at first, but they will soon become accustomed to the new methods. They may have some amusing experiences at first; for they never saw telephones, radios, automobiles, electric lights, aeroplanes, steam engines, and many other things so familiar to us.”
When 1925 also passed uneventfully, meeting attendance among the Bible Students dropped dramatically in some congregations in France and Switzerland. Attendance at the annual Memorial, which had been steadily increasing since 1919, also plummeted, dropping from 90,434 in 1925 to 17,380 in 1928. 1
1 SOURCE - Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses by M. James Penton, professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Lethbridge and former Jehovah’s Witness
Joseph Franklin ‘Judge’ Rutherford (1869-1942)
Historicism also continues to be taught in the Adventist movement. 1
1 According to Seventh-Day Adventist Historicism the 7 seals and 7 trumpets of Rev 6-9 are generally taken to represent events which took place during the Christian era up to 1844. E.g. the first 4 trumpets have traditionally been identified with the pagan invasions of Western Christendom in the 5th century (by the Visigoths, Vandals and Huns), while the 5th and 6th trumpets have been identified with the assault on Eastern Christendom by the Muslim armies and Ottoman Turks during the Middle Ages. Rev 6:12-13 was fulfilled in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the dark day of May 19, 1780, and the Leonids meteor shower of Nov 13, 1833. The vision of the angel and little book (Rev 10) represents the Millerite movement; the ‘bitterness’ of the book (Rev 10:10) represents the Great Disappointment. The vision of 2 witnesses (Rev 11) corresponds to the events of the French revolution. (However some Adventists today are cautious about these identifications, and many either omit or reject them.) Rev 12-13 contains a prophecy about the forces of evil in the middle ages and end times. The dragon represents both Satan and pagan Rome. The Remnant church is mentioned in Rev 12:17. (SOURCE: Wikipedia: Historicism: Christian eschatology)
Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Adventists use of the day-year Historicist approach led to failed prophecies about the date of Jesus’ return.
William Miller prophesied that Jesus would return to the earth during the year 1844. A more specific date, 22 Oct 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Although thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, awaited expectantly, Jesus did not appear as expected on the appointed day and as a result 22 Oct 1844 became known as ‘the Great Disappointment’. Both Millerite leaders and followers were left generally bewildered and disillusioned. 1
1 Wapedia - Wiki: Great Disappointment
Some attempted to revise the proposed dates but many simply gave up their beliefs and rejoined their previous denominations or the Shakers. 1
In the confusion that followed the Great Disappointment it seemed that almost every Millerite had an opinion—all of them different. Miller said that in one week he received 16 different papers advocating different views, all claiming to be Advent papers. 1
1 Wikipedia: The Great Disappointment
This passage in Revelation 12 shows us that 1260 days are equivalent to a time, times and half a time.
(1 + 2 + ½ = 3½)
Rev 12:6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1260 days.
Rev 12:14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.
Now 1260 literal days do equal 3½ literal years. If 1260 years is meant, what possible valuable meaning would the 3½ unit period have?
DAY YEAR PRINCIPLE
Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the non-literal approach, and many other names) is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols which are perpetually and cyclically fulfilled in a spiritual sense during the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the forces of Satan throughout the time from the first advent to the Second Coming of Christ. As such it is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (excepting the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future. 1
1 Wikipedia: Idealism (Christian eschatology)
J.D. Pentecost lists 3 dangers of allegorical interpretation:
It does not actually interpret Scripture and
there is “unlimited scope for fancy”.
The basic authority ceases to be the Scripture,
but the mind of the interpreter.
One is left without any means by which the
conclusions of the interpreter may be tested.
“Thus the great dangers inherent in this system are that it takes away the authority of Scripture, leaves us without any basis on which interpretations may be tested, reduced Scripture to what seems reasonable to the interpreter, and, as a result, makes true interpretation of Scripture impossible.” 1
1 J. Dwight Pentecost (Things to Come)
LITERAL OR ALLEGORICAL?
With the rise of dispensationalist theology in the nineteenth century, Historicism was supplanted by Futurism as the dominant eschatological viewpoint among conservative Protestants.
The Futurist believes that, while parallels may be drawn with historical events, Revelation is chiefly referring to events which as yet have not come to pass, but which will come to pass at the end of the age when Christ returns to establish his kingdom. 1
Futurist interpretations generally predict a resurrection of the dead and a rapture of the living, wherein all true Christians and those who have not reached an age of accountability are gathered to Christ at the time God’s kingdom comes on earth. 2
1 Wapedia: Christian eschatology 2 Wikipedia: Book of Revelation
They also believe a 7 year tribulation will occur - a period of time when the antichrist will persecute saints and God will judge the rebellious inhabitants of the earth. Futurists differ on the timing of the Rapture of believers (the event when believers are caught up to be with Jesus), but there are 3 main views:
before the tribulation
in the middle of the tribulation
at the end of the tribulation.
We will cover this aspect in a later study.
Some Historicists have tried to link the origin of Futurism to a Jesuit plot, claiming that it was inspired by the writings of Francisco Ribera.
While the book of Ribera (in 1585-1590) did have the perspective of Futurism, Ribera did not invent this viewpoint. It was the view held by all the early Church Fathers.
And it is far more logical to equate the prophetic terms of “time, times and half a time”, 1260 days and 42 months as 3½ years of 1260 literal days than as 1260 years. It is the natural and obvious conclusion when reading the texts.
Preterist: a 1st Century emperor (Pagan Rome).
Historicist: the medieval Roman Catholic church or Pope.
Futurist: a future (man) political & religious leader of a future revived Roman Empire.
The concept of Nero as the Antichrist is often a central belief of Preterist eschatology. 1
While this view is ‘popular’ in some circles today - namely among liberal theologians, and is often presented as the ‘predominant’ view “held by most scholars” on pseudo-documentaries on the History Channel, the Christian apologists who lived close to these times never made this link, but saw the antichrist as a future man. At best, Nero was seen as a “type of the antichrist”.
E.g. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 AD) in his ‘Homilies on Second Thessalonians’ writes, “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work.” He speaks here of Nero, as if he were the type of Antichrist.”
1 Wikipedia: Nero
1 Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was, in turn, a disciple of John. His teachings are considered among the most important of early Christianity and provide important insight into John’s teachings. 2 Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch. XXX v3 “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”
Amongst many others, Irenaeus 1 in the late 2nd century still refers to the antichrist as a future person. In addition, Irenaeus says that John wrote the Revelation “towards the end of Domitian’s reign” 2 (81-96 AD), which was long after Nero’s (54-68 AD) reign. John refers to his book as “this book of prophecy” (Rev 22:19) not “this book of history” so the events were not reflections on events that had already happened, but a glimpse into the prophetic future.
A distinct feature of Historicism, which makes it very controversial, is the identification of the Antichrist, the Beast, the Man of sin or Man of Lawlessness and the Whore of Babylon with the Roman Catholic Church, the Papal system and each successive Pope himself (a common position held by Protestants in the Reformation, which is not prevalent today). 1
According to SDA Historicism… the first beast of Revelation 13 (from the sea) symbolizes the Papacy, and the second beast
(from the earth)
1 Wikipedia: Historicism
Is the Pope or the Catholic Church the antichrist?
2 John 7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Neither the Papal church nor the Pope ever denied the incarnation (i.e. that Jesus came physically in flesh). This was the heresy of the Gnostics - rejected by the church in the 2nd and 3rd century.
1 John 2:22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.
Likewise the Catholic Church and the Pope have never denied that Jesus is the Christ (Greek for Messiah).
The view of a literal future man fulfilling the prophecies of the antichrist was understood from the Scriptures by the early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, 1 Tertullian (2nd century), Hippolytus & Cyprian (3rd Century). They interpreted Daniel’s 70th week as a future event, with a future antichrist coming during a final period of tribulation.
1 Irenaeus writes, “And not only by the particulars already mentioned, but also by means of the events which shall occur in the time of Antichrist is it shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he (Antichrist) being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one; as an apostate, iniquitous and murderous; as a robber, concentrating in himself [all] satanic apostasy, and setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising up himself as the only idol, having in himself the multifarious errors of the other idols.” [Against Heresies: Ch XXV:1]
Irenaeus declares that the Antichrist’s future 3½ year reign, when he sits in the temple at Jerusalem, will be terminated by the second advent, with the resurrection of the just, the destruction for the wicked, and the millennial reign of the righteous. The general resurrection and the judgment follow the descent of the New Jerusalem at the end of the millennial kingdom. 1 This is clearly a Futurist Premillennial interpretation.
Like the other early church fathers, Irenaeus interpreted the three and one-half ‘times’ of the Little Horn of Daniel 7 as 3½ literal years. Antichrist’s 3½ years of sitting in the temple are placed immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. 2
1 www.newworldencyclopedia.org: Irenaeus 2 Wikipedia: Irenaeus
Irenaeus identified the Antichrist, another name of the apostate Man of Sin, with Daniel’s Little Horn and John’s Beast of Revelation 13. He sought to apply other expressions to the Antichrist, such as “the abomination of desolation,” mentioned by Christ (Matt 24:15) and the “king of a most fierce countenance,”
in Gabriel’s explanation of the Little
Horn of Daniel 8. 1
Not only does Irenaeus believe
that the Antichrist is a single
individual but he proposed
that he might be of Jewish
origin and more specifically
from the tribe of Dan.
1 www.newworldencyclopedia.org: Irenaeus
Justin Martyr (c.100 – 165 AD) connects Christ’s second coming with the climax of the prophecy of
Daniel’s “time, times, and a half”, Justin believed, was nearing its consummation, when Antichrist would speak his blasphemies against the Most High. And he contends with Trypho over the meaning of a ‘time’ and ‘times’. Justin expects the time to be very short, but Trypho’s concept is interesting. 1 & 2
1 Wikipedia: Justin Martyr 2 Justin says to Trypho the Jew, “The times now running on to their consummation; and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High. But you, being ignorant of how long he will have dominion, hold another opinion. For you interpret the ‘time’ as being a hundred years.”
Like Irenaeus, Tertullian (c.160 – c.220 AD) identifies the Antichrist with the Man of Sin and the Beast. On the one hand he speaks of many antichrists - as indeed John himself does - men who rebel against Christ at any time. Yet on the other hand he expects the specific Antichrist just before the resurrection… 1 & 2
Cyprian (200-258 AD) pupil of Tertullian also believed in a literal Antichrist… 3
1 SOURCE: Wikipedia (quoting ‘On the Resurrection’, ch 24)
2 In ‘Against Marcion’ Ch XVI – “Well, but who is the man of sin, the son of perdition, who must first be revealed before the Lord comes; “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; who is to sit in the temple of God, and boast himself as being God? According indeed to our view, he is Antichrist; as it is taught us in both the ancient and the new prophecies, and especially by the Apostle John…” 3 " biblefacts.org/ history/ carthage.html">www.biblefacts.org/ history/ carthage.html
Hippolytus of Rome (c.170 - c.236 AD) was a disciple of Irenaeus. He saw the Antichrist as a literal future man. He sees the coming of Jesus and judgment as future events (after the Antichrist) and also expects a kingdom where the saints reign with Christ”. 1
1 In ‘Treatise on Christ and Antichrist’ he writes, “… it is proper that we take the Holy Scriptures themselves in hand, and find out from them what, and of what manner, the coming of Antichrist is; on what occasion and at what time that impious one shall be revealed; and whence and from what tribe (he shall come); and what his name is, which is indicated by the number in the Scripture; and how he shall work error among the people, gathering them from the ends of the earth; and (how) he shall stir up tribulation and persecution against the saints; and how he shall glorify himself as God; and what his end shall be; and how the sudden appearing of the Lord shall be revealed from heaven; and what the conflagration of the whole world shall be; and what the glorious and heavenly kingdom of the saints is to be, when they reign together with Christ; and what the punishment of the wicked by fire.”
Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386 AD) speaks of the antichrist as a literal future man 1 who comes near “the end of the world” 2 and who beguiles “the Jews as though he were the expected Christ”. 3 He is destroyed at Christ’s future coming 4 after a 3½ year rule. 5
In his ‘Catechetical Lectures’ he writes, “But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire shall have been fulfilled, and the end of the world is now drawing near 2 … At first indeed he 1 will put on a show of mildness… and by the lying signs and wonders of his magical deceit having beguiled the Jews, as though he were the expected Christ, 3 he shall afterwards be characterized by all kinds of crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to outdo all unrighteous and ungodly men who have gone before him displaying against all men, but especially against us Christians… And after perpetrating such things for three years and six months only, 4 he shall be destroyed by the glorious second advent from heaven of the only-begotten Son of God, 5 our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the true Christ…”
John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 AD)
sees the Antichrist as a literal
future man who will be destroyed
at the coming of Christ. 1
1 In his ‘Homilies on Second Thessalonians’ he writes, “… he will attack the anarchy, and
endeavor to seize upon the government
both of man and of God. For as the
kingdoms before this were destroyed,
for example, that of the Medes by the
Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by
the Persians, that of the Persians by
the Macedonians, that of the
Macedonians by the Romans: so will this
also be by the Antichrist, and he by
Christ, and it will no longer withhold.
And these things Daniel delivered to us
with great clearness.”
Even Jerome (c. 340-420 AD) sees the man antichrist coming “at the end of the world.” 1
He does not see Jesus’ words “Woe unto them that are with child” as being fulfilled in 70 AD as Preterists believe, but sees them as still future. 2
1 In his ‘Commentary on Daniel’ he writes, “… We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings…”
2 In his letter to the widow Ageruchia in 409 AD he writes “He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ ‘shall consume with the spirit of his mouth.’ ‘Woe unto them,’ he cries, ‘that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days.’”
Gregory I (540-604 AD), the Bishop of Rome, adapted a view common among Futurists today i.e. that the man Antichrist, as a false or substitute Messiah to Israel, will mimic Jesus’ resurrection. 1
1 “What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist, who, when he comes, will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work. For, because he pretends to die and rise again, he wishes the Lord’s day to be had in reverence; and, because he compels the people to Judaize that he may bring back the outward rite of the law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed.” [Source: Gregory I, Selected Epistles, bk. 13, Epistle 1, trans. in NPNF, 2d series, Vol. 13, pp. 92, 93.]
Rev 13:16-17 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark…
the emperor’s image on Roman coins
the certificate of sacrifice to the emperor.
the practice of making the sign of the cross
SDA: an international Sunday law
Futurist: Mark of commerce – most likely a credit facility in the form of a microchip implant or RFID tag.
THE MARK OF THE BEAST
The Preterist idea that the mark is the emperor’s image on Roman coins at least acknowledges that a mark of commerce is being referred to.
“No one could buy or sell
unless he had the mark…”
But by identifying the mark
with coins (a form of
cash) - what kind of
a prophetic sign is
Throughout most of
human history, you
couldn’t buy or sell
unless you had money.
Identifying the mark with the certificate of sacrifice to the emperor is slightly more sensible. At one stage in history Christians were compelled to
obtain a certificate proving that they
had participated in Emperor worship.
But this happened long after 70 AD,
certainly not in Nero’s time! (To be
exact – it occurred in the persecution
by Decius in 250 AD. 1)
1 In January of 250, Decius issued an edict
requiring all citizens to sacrifice to the emperor
in the presence of a Roman official and obtain a
certificate (libellus) proving they had done so.
[www.ReligionFacts.com: Persecution in the Early
Church] 2 46 such certificates have been
published, all dating from this same year (250 AD).
[‘Certificate of pagan sacrifice: Jun–Jul, AD 250’,
Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project, Oxford Univ.]
Libellus from the Decian persecution, found in Oxyrhynchus in Egypt.
Some believe that the mark of the beast refers to the practice of making the sign of the cross, common to many branches of Christianity including Roman Catholicism.
to buy or sell
without making the sign of the
In SDA eschatology the ‘image to the beast’ represents Protestant churches which will form an alliance with the Papacy, and the ‘mark of the beast’ refers to a future universal Sunday law legally enforcing Sunday-worship. Just how likely is that? 1
In JW eschatology the beast represents human government and the mark “is a symbol that identifies its bearer as one who gives worshipful support to the beastlike political systems of the world.” 2
1 Who is going to enforce Sunday worship on the two billion Friday-worshipping Moslems? What about the two billion Hindus, Buddhists, and other eastern religions? Who is going to make them start observing Sunday? What about the hundreds of millions of people who are secularists, agnostics, and atheists? Who is going to make them worship anything at all? [ ellenwhiteexposed.com - What are the Odds of a National Sunday Law?] 2 www.watchtower.org
The Futurist position which interprets the verse literally makes far more sense.
Buying and selling refers to
a form of commerce.
This is most likely a credit
facility in the form of a
microchip implant or RFID
It cannot be cash because
the mark is on the right
hand or on the forehead.
How many people do you
know who carry their cash
on their forehead?
Rev 13:18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
Unlike English, many ancient languages like Hebrew, Greek & Latin had no separate numeral system but letters had corresponding numbers.
Gematria uses the sum of these numbers to give a numeric value to a word or name.
John calls the mark “the number of his name” so it is quite likely that the Gematria (numerical value) of the Antichrist’s name will be 666. But in which language - Hebrew, Greek, Latin or English?
Calculations using a contrived “English” Gematria (e.g. A=6, B=12, C=18, etc) are unconvincing, as historically English speakers used the Latin alphabet and numeral system, before moving to the separate Arabic numeral system sometime after 1000 AD.
Latin was the language of the Romans and the antichrist will rule the revived Roman Empire. However not all of the Latin letters had numerical values.
Some claim that Hebrew is the “heavenly language”, and so any calculation should be done with a transliteration of the name in Hebrew.
However the Revelation was written in Greek, so it is more likely that this is the most important language for calculating the 666.
Preterists see 666 as the code for Nero (r. 54-68 AD), Caligula (r. 37-41 AD) or Domitian (r. 81-96 AD).
It is claimed that the Greek spelling of Nero Caesar (Nerōn Kaisar) transliterates into Hebrew as “נרון קסר” or ‘nrvn qsr’. Adding the corresponding values yields 666.
The Hebrew Gematria used
by Preterists uses some
inventive gymnastics by
relying on a Greek variant
of Nero’s name (adding an
‘n’ to make it fit) and then
still transliterating into
Hebrew. Nero was a Roman
and the Latin title for
Nero is simply spelt “Nerō
Caesar,” which transliterates to “נרו קסר” in
Hebrew (or “nrv qsr”) and has a value of 616.
The NT and Revelation were written in Greek. The Greek Gematria for Nero is 1337.
However there is another more serious problem with the Hebrew Gematria for the Greek ‘Neron Kaisar’.
The rules of Gematria dictate that when the letter Nun appears a second time in a word, it is known as a ‘Final’, and takes the value of 700. 1
1 "http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Gematria">http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Gematria
So to be precise, even NRVN QSR actually adds up to 1316 and not 666.
The Gematria for Caligula is 616. Identifying Caligula as the antichrist relies on a variant value of 616 mentioned by Irenaeus (whom Preterists otherwise choose to ignore when he mentions the timing of
the writing of John’s Revelation).
Although Irenaeus knew several
cases of the 616-variant he
regarded them as a scribal
error and affirmed that the
number 666 stood “in all the
most approved and ancient
copies” and was attested by
“those men who saw John face
to face”. 1
1 Against Heresies Book V, Chapter XXX
Caligula (12 - 41 AD)
Domitian - using the short form of Domitian’s 5 titles … Domitian’s official title in Latin was Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus. 1 The abbreviated form renders a value of 666.
But like many 666 schemes, this is very inventive to make Domitian ‘fit’. In any event he ruled from 81 to 96 AD, long after the alleged Preterist return of Jesus in 70 AD.
1 Source: Wikipedia - Number of the Beast
According to the SDA Church, the alleged title of the Pope, Vicarivs Filii Dei (Vicar of The Son of God), totals 666 in Roman numerals (disregarding letters
that had no numerical value for Romans -
such as the A,R and S in Vicarivs).
This title is not recognized by Catholics
as an official title of the Pope. The
title was contained in the Donation of
Constantine, a document recognized as a
forgery by both Protestants and Catholics.
The beast number 666 some Historicists
claim is engraved in the Pope’s tiara
has never been proven to exist. 1
1 Wikipedia : Antichrist (historicism)
Futurist: 666 = the Gematria of the antichrist’s name and a link to the numerical form of the credit facility.
The VISA Card is interesting when
considering the number 666. Some
have alleged that the word ‘VISA’
(from the VISA card) comprises of
the number 6 in the languages of
three former world empires
(Rome, Greece and Babylonia).
‘VI’ is of course the number 6 in
Roman numerals, ‘S’ is claimed as
the English equivalent of the
Greek ‘Stigma’ whose value is also 6,
and lastly it is claimed that “A in the Babylonian culture is 6”. Thus it follows that VI-S-A is an acronym for 6-6-6.
But while the claims about the Latin alphabet check out because ‘VI’ is indeed 6, the last two claims do not.
The equivalent of the English or Latin ‘S’ is not stigma but sigma, which had a numerical value of 200. Stigma is a now obsolete Greek character, but it was used in New Testament times and did represent the number 6. But stigma was a continuation of the old letter digamma which was the ancestor of the Latin letter ‘F’.
While one can see how sigma and stigma may get confused, it’s totally unclear to me how anyone arrived at the last claim regarding the Babylonian alphabet. The Babylonians had a separate numerical system and they did not have to use the letter ‘A’ from their alphabet to represent the number ‘6’.
Rather their alphabet was cuneiform and utilised a series of wedge shaped characters. The Babylonian cuneiform shape for “A’ is quite distinct from the cuneiform number ‘6’.
Babylonian number system showing the numbers 1 to 6.
The alphabet (a-e) in Babylonian cuneiform
UPC (Universal Product Code) bar codes were instituted in the 1970s and today all products in large grocery stores will have a UPC imprinted on them. It is claimed by some that all UPC bar codes have the number 666 encoded within them. These bar codes are made up of numerous lines of various widths and distances apart. Each number is represented by a 2-line code. The code for the number 6 on the right segment is 2 thin lines, a short distance apart.
The 3 elongated end and middle “guard bars” on every barcode are visually identical to the symbol used to represent the number 6 on the right hand segment of a barcode. Thus 6-6-6 appears to form a template for the barcodes.
Note guard bars and right segment 6
Now let’s look at the three
guard bars located at the
beginning, middle and end
which allow the scanner to
know when the codes start
The beginning and ending
guard bars are encoded as a binary
number 101, while the middle guard bar is encoded as 01010. The beginning and ending guard bars have only three units, the middle guard bar has only five units, but the number 6 has seven units with the binary code 1010000.
So while visually the barcode does appear to be in a ‘666’ template, in reality from the perspective of the computer software that reads it, it is not.
The Internet plays a major role today in eCommerce and financial transactions.
The Hebrew Letter waw/ vav is commonly pronounced ‘w’. In Hebrew, the letter waw is used to represent the number 6.
The common abbreviation for “World Wide Web” is www.
In Hebrew, this abbreviation would be spelled waw waw waw.
Numerically, this Hebrew abbreviation would be 6-6-6.
However, while it is significant that barcodes, credit cards and the Internet are playing a major role in commerce (buying and selling), Revelation specifically
calls it man’s number and refers to a compulsory mark on the right hand or forehead. This cannot apply to the
Internet, credit cards or product bar-coding.
Rev 13:16-18 He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, to be given marks on their right hands, or on their foreheads; and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is six hundred sixty-six. (WEB)
The ‘man’ here in Greek is ‘anthropos’ (ανθρωπου). 1 Man was created on the 6th day. Thus 6 is man’s number.
In addition the number is not 6-6-6, but six hundred and sixty six. In the Greek John says the number is χξς (chi xi stigma 2): denoting respectively 600, 60 and 6; 666 as a numeral - six hundred threescore and six. 3
7 is the number of perfection & 777 represents the triune perfection. 888 (Jesus’ number) surpasses the perfect number 777 by one in each case, while 666 falls short of the divine perfection in each case.
1 a genitive (expressing possession) noun: man-faced, i.e. a human being.
2 Stigma is a now obsolete Greek character, but it was used in the NT times and represented the number 6.
3 Thus the total of ‘www’ is actually 18 (6+6+6) — not 666.
8 is the number of the new creation. Christ (Cristos) is 1680 (8 x 210). Kurios (Lord) has the value 800 (8 x 100). Saviour (Soter) is 1408 (8 x 8 x 22).
The name Jesus (Iesous in Greek) adds up to 888 (8 x 111). In similar fashion the Greek name for the antichrist may equate to 666.
The number of Jesus’ names and titles in Greek.
NOTE: ς is an end-of-word lowercase sigma (σ), which equates to 200.
AN UNEXPECTED RETURN
So we not only expect a future man antichrist, but an imminent future return of Jesus in person.
But Jesus’ return will be unexpected:
Matt 24:36-42 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.
Preterists point out that Jesus said in Revelation, “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Rev 22:7) and that this vindicates their position of a 1st
Jesus said these words in
about 95 AD, which was
after this supposed coming
of Jesus in 70 AD. This
forces Preterists to try and
move the date of Revelation
3 decades earlier (without
any historical evidence and
by dismissing the highly
regarded writings of
HOW SOON IS “SOON”?
2 Peter was written in the 60’s of the 1st century. Yet Peter indicates that the eminence of the coming of the Lord must be viewed in the light of God’s perspective on time. He also indicates that the seeming delay is due to God’s desire for more to be saved.
2 Pet 3:3-9 … in the last days scoffers will come… They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” … But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
AN UNEXPECTED RETURN
“That is how it will be at
the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be
taken and the other left. Two women will be
grinding with a hand mill;
one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matt 24:39-42)
ARE YOU READY FOR JESUS’ RETURN?
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