ESSAYS IN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY
By Thomas Williamson
There are many detailed speculative prophecy scenarios nowadays that are regarded as established dogma in some religious circles. Yet if anyone asks where these speculations can be found in the Word of God, those who propose them cannot give a scriptural basis for what they teach.
In some cases, our modern prophecy teaching is based on just a few proof texts taken from the Old Testament, and when these texts are examined in an unbiased manner, taking their original historical context into consideration, it sometimes turns out that they do not at all teach what the popular prophecy teachers say that they teach. Could it be that there is little or no scriptural basis for some of the sensational end-times beliefs that are so confidently preached as gospel truth in some of our pulpits?
Meanwhile, there are other Old Testament prophetic statements that we have overlooked, because their teaching is contrary to our preconceived beliefs about the end times.
We dare not be dogmatic about our prophecy beliefs, or make them a test of fellowship, unless they can clearly be substantiated from the Word of God. The purpose of the following essays is to examine some of our cherished beliefs about prophecy, in the hope that we will learn to be a little less dogmatic about things that cannot be rigorously established from the Bible. As a result, we will be able to avoid needlessly condemning each other over uncertain prophecy teachings, thus preserving our Christian unity and love for each other, which is a much better and more useful possession than any feeling of false certainty about the exact course and timing of future events to take place in conjunction with Christ's glorious Second Coming.
I will be examining these prophetic passages from the point of view of a long-time student of God's inerrant Word, and holding to the certainty that everything predicted in God's Word will be fulfilled. So, if you are quite ready, come along for a fascinating and thought-provoking examination of some familiar Old Testament passages that perhaps do not say exactly what we thought they were saying.
ISAIAH 9:6-7 - THE PROPHET ISAIAH'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall perform this."
The sentimental story of the baby Jesus in a manger, adored by shepherds, is an essential part of the Christmas story. But there is so much more to it than the details of His birth. Isaiah, in this passage, gives us vital information, as to the effects and consequences of the miraculous coming of Christ into the world in human form.
"The government shall be on his shoulder." Make no mistake about it, Christ, not the Devil, is running the show and ruling our world. In Matthew 28:18 He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth."
He is "the mighty God." He was not just a great teacher or moral example - He was God incarnate on earth. The various religious groups that deny His deity, while giving Him lip service as a great prophet, have totally missed the true Christmas message. This would include Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, The Way International, etc. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself," 2 Corinthians 5:19.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." According to Strong's Concordance, the Hebrew word for "increase" is marbiyth, "a multitude; also offsprings; spec. interest (on capital), - greatest part, greatness . . . " Christianity is meant to be a growth enterprise - Daniel predicted that "the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." Daniel 2:35, compare with Daniel 2:44. Christ compared the Kingdom of Heaven with a grain of mustard seed which becomes a great tree, Matthew 13:32. The influence of the Christmas message upon mankind will inevitably increase, not decrease. "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
"Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom . . ." Peter tells us in Acts 2:29-31 that Christ was raised up for the purpose of sitting on David's throne, and that this divine purpose was fulfilled.
" . . . upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." Christ came to establish the Kingdom of God, and He succeeded in that mission. Liberal theologians like Albert Schweitzer have taught that Christ failed in His attempt to bring in the Kingdom of God. But that is not what the Bible says. Jesus said, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." (Matthew 12:28). Paul said that God "hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" ("Colossians 1:13).
Some interpreters, who do not like to admit that Christianity is meant to grow, to succeed, to prosper spiritually, have tried to eliminate the force of Isaiah's Christmas message by saying that Isaiah was talking about Christ's Second Coming in Isaiah 9:6, not His First Coming. Such a notion is an abandonment of any kind of literal interpretation of Isaiah's statement that the increase of Christ's government and peace would follow upon His being born as a child. Christ came as a baby the first time. No one claims that He will come as a baby, through natural processes of childbirth, when He comes the second time. Clearly we are now in that period in which Christ's government and peace are meant to increase.
While we are correct to look for the final triumph of Christ's kingdom at His Second Coming, sometimes we forget about all that was accomplished by Christ at His first glorious Advent. At Christmas and all through the year, let Isaiah's prophecy, concerning the results of Christ's first coming, guide us in our meditation on all that God has done for us as a result of a Child being born in a manger in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
JEREMIAH 30:7 - TIME OF JACOB'S TROUBLE - FUTURE OR FULFILLED?
"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."
There has never been a consensus or unanimity of opinion as to the meaning of this prophecy of Jeremiah. Therefore, we must be cautious not to be dogmatic about its meaning, or to build an entire theology on this one verse.
Some modern commentators have assumed that Jeremiah is writing about the future Great Tribulation period, to take place at least 2600 years after Jeremiah's time. It is believed that the Tribulation will be specifically used by God as a time of judgment, testing and persecution for the Jews, in order to force those who survive to accept Christ as their Messiah. It is further assumed that since the main purpose of the Tribulation is to clobber the Jews, there is no need for Christians to be around, and therefore they will be "raptured out" before the Tribulation begins.
However, not all commentators agree that Jeremiah is talking about a far distant future tribulation to take place at the remote end of the Church Age. Many expositors have believed that Jeremiah refers either to the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews (586 to 538 BC) which began shortly after this prophecy was delivered, or else to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.
Matthew Henry assigns this prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He connects Jeremiah's statement that "none is like" this day of trouble, with Christ's statement in Matthew 24:21, (which he sees as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem) that "then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."
Adam Clarke sees the "time of Jacob's trouble" as a reference to the conquest of Babylon, where the Jews were held captive, by the Persians in 538 BC, and then he also applies it to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. "When the Medes and Persians, with all their forces, shall come on the Chaldeans, it will be 'the day of Jacob's trouble,' trial, dismay, and uncertainty: but he shall be delivered out of it, - the Chaldean empire shall fall, but the Jews shall be delivered by Cyrus. Jerusalem shall be destroyed by the Romans, but the Israel of God shall be delivered from its ruin. Not one that had embraced Christianity perished in the sackage of that city."
Matthew Poole casts his vote in favor of the Babylonian Captivity as the "time of Jacob's trouble:" [It] is not agreed, nor yet whether this text refers to the times of the Messiah, when the nations should tremble, or the time when Darius invaded Babylon, or the times of Gog and Magog (of which read Ezekiel 38), or the time when the Chaldeans invaded Judah: this last seemeth most probable, and that God by this intended only to rouse the Jews out of their security, and put them off from expecting peace according to the flatteries of the false prophets, assuring them that the times that were coming next were not times of peace, but such as should make them tremble." Poole sees the "breaking of the yoke" from the necks of the Jews, in Jeremiah 30:8, as a reference to the fall of the King of Babylon at the time of his defeat by Darius.
F. Cawley, in "The New Bible Commentary," says, "The time of Jacob's trouble could be applied to the immediate situation [imminent captivity in Babylon], though it has a much longer period in view - the whole period of the captivity."
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agree that Jeremiah 30:5-7 refers to the Babylonian Captivity, with emphasis on the Persian conquest of Babylon at the end of that captivity, which results in the Jews being delivered. The "trembling" of Jeremiah 30:5 refers to "the misery of the Jews in the Babylonian Captivity down to their 'trembling' and 'fear' arising from the approach of the Medo-Persian army of Cyrus against Babylon" while verse 7 deals with "the partial deliverance of Babylon's downfall," which in their view "prefigures the final, complete deliverance of Israel, literal and spiritual, at the downfall of the mystical Babylon (Revelation 18, 19)." This view may give some comfort to the adherents of a future "time of Jacob's trouble" but even here the primary interpretation is with regard to the Babylonian Captivity, already fulfilled, an event which prefigures a future deliverance of literal and spiritual Israel.
Only in recent years has it become popular to use Jeremiah 30:7 as a proof-text for a "primarily Jewish" nature of the future Great Tribulation, even though there is nothing in the context of Jeremiah's prophecy that hints of such an event, or of such a remote fulfillment of a prophecy that seems to fit so well into the context of the urgent Babylonian threat against Judah at the time that Jeremiah spoke.
It is certainly convenient and comforting to think of the Great Tribulation as "primarily Jewish," which by implication lets all Christians off the hook for such a time of trouble (even though the Bible teaches that Christians should expect tribulation, Acts 14:22, John 16:33, Romans 5:3, 1 Peter 4:12, Revelation 1:9, etc.)
The description of the phantasmagoria of horrors that are soon to be experienced by the Jews in Palestine has become a staple of modern prophetic preaching. Jerry Falwell has said, "There will be one last skirmish and then God will dispose of this Cosmos . . . Millions of Jews will be slaughtered at this time but a remnant will escape."
Tim LaHaye says, "Prior to Israel's conversion, Zechariah predicts that two-thirds ('two parts') of the Jewish people in the land will perish during the tribulation period. Only one-third of the Jewish population will survive until Christ comes to establish His kingdom on earth." In reality, Zechariah does not predict that two-thirds of the Jews will soon die in Israel. The context of Zechariah 13:8 is that of events in the First Century AD, meaning that the prophecy with regard to the deaths of two-thirds of the Jews was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. (One wonders, why is it that those who really believe that two-thirds of Jews living today in Israel will soon be killed are not doing everything they can to warn those Jews and urge them to leave Israel before it is too late? Don't they care about the Jews? Hmmm, and Huhhh?)
Entire books have been written about how the Jews will suffer in the future Tribulation. Jack Van Impe and Roger Campbell, in their book "Israel's Final Holocaust," have a chapter entitled "The Time of Jacob's Trouble," in which Jeremiah 30:7 is used as the proof-text for the predominantly Jewish character of the Tribulation. They say, "It must be remembered that the Tribulation is especially related to Israel." That is a polite way of saying that God is really going to stick it to the Jews. Somehow some of us have gotten the idea that the Jews will be deserving of worse punishment than the Gentiles when Christ returns, but is this not a subtle form of anti-Semitism? Why the poor Jews should be singled out for God's wrath, over and above all the billions of nasty, brutish, unregenerate Gentiles, is not really explained, other than the ritual reference to Jeremiah 30:7, a verse which has been wrenched out of its context of events among the ancient Jews of the 6th Century BC.
Meanwhile, it must be considered very questionable whether any of the Old Testament prophecies of judgment against the Jews can be applied to the time period after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Christ said in Matthew 23:35-36 that the Jews living in His generation (from 30 to 70 AD) would suffer and pay the price for all the sins of their forebears: "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." (Zacharias was not chronologically the last Old Testament martyr, but he was the last martyr in the Jewish Old Testament in which the book of 2 Chronicles is placed last).
The unsaved Jews who called for Christ's crucifixion in Matthew 27:25 were more accurate than they knew, when they said, "His blood be on us, and on our children." The punishment for their rejection of the Messiah literally fell upon them and their children, that is to say, the generation that was living when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. There is no need for any Jews living today or in the future to suffer that punishment, nor is such a judgment on the Jews predicted in the Word of God. Jewish people living today are in no way to blame for Christ's crucifixion, any more so than Gentiles living today.
Christ said with regard to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled," Luke 21:22. Virtually all commentators, including Scofield, agree that in this passage Christ was talking about the AD 70 judgment upon Israel, not some future Tribulation period. So the question is, when Christ said that ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN would be fulfilled against the Jews, during the "days of vengeance" from 67 to 70 AD, did He really mean ALL THINGS, or did He mean that some things written against the Jews, such as Jeremiah's prophecy of the "time of Jacob's trouble," would remain unfulfilled until 2000 years later?
If we give Christ's words some serious thought, then it will become apparent that the concept of a "primarily Jewish" nature of a future Tribulation is unscriptural. ALL THINGS with regard to God's vengeance against the Jews, including Jeremiah's "time of Jacob's trouble" and the Zechariah 13:8 slaughter of two-thirds of all the Jews, must have been fulfilled by the time of Rome's invasion and destruction of Israel in 70 AD. Many terrible things have happened to the Jews since then (Spanish inquisition, Russian pogroms, Hitler's holocaust) but none of these things were specifically predicted in the Bible and none of them had to happen in order to fulfill any definite prophecies with regard to God's "vengeance" against the Jews. The prophecy teachers who say that two-thirds of all the Jews have to die in order for Christ to return are mistaken. Not a single Jew has to die in order for Christ to return.
My personal conviction with regard to the meaning of Jeremiah 30:7 is that the time of Jacob's trouble, and of his being saved out of it, were totally fulfilled when Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon in 586 BC and then liberated by the Persians in 538 BC.
The entire context of Jeremiah's passage is with regard to these events in ancient times. In Jeremiah 29:1-4 the prophet says he is writing to the first group of captives who are already in Babylon. He assures them that God will take care of them and cause them to prosper (29:5-7). He says they will not be coming back to Judah immediately as promised by the false prophets, but that they will be restored from captivity after 70 years (29:8-14). In 29:15-32 he rebukes various false prophets, some of whom will shortly be executed by the King of Babylon. His prophecies in chapter 30 are simply a continuation of chapter 29 - in 30:3 he promises again, as he did in 29:8-14, that the Jews will be returning to their homeland in Palestine. 30:18 speaks of the return of the captives and the rebuilding of Jerusalem which the Babylonians had left in a ruined state. There is absolutely no reason to believe that in 30:7, with the mention of the "time of Jacob's trouble," the prophet has suddenly jumped out of the context of events in the 6th Century BC, to refer to some mysterious, unknown crisis that is to come upon the Jews 2600 years later.
The Scofield Reference Bible attempts to create a discontinuity between Jeremiah 29 and Jeremiah 30 by putting a large break in the page, in the middle of those 2 chapters, with the words "Prophecies Not Chronological," hinting that at this point the prophet has suddenly jumped into prophecies of the remote, distant future. There is no justification for breaking up the text at this point. Even the chapter division between 29 and 30 is not inspired - the chapter divisions were not added until the 13th Century AD.
In light of these considerations, it is time for us to reconsider and rethink the entire school of speculative prophecy that postulates that a future Great Tribulation will be primarily for the purpose of judging and punishing the Jews. There is plenty of sin and wickedness to go around among all of us in these last days, and there is no reason for the Jews to take the brunt of the punishment, over and above the Gentiles, for mankind's end-times rebellion.
There is no hint of this emphasis on gloom-and-doom for Jews in the end-times in Paul's prophecy of Romans 11, in which he says, "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Romans 11:25-26.
EZEKIEL 35:5 - NOT A PROPHECY OF ENDLESS WAR BETWEEN JEWS AND ARABS
"Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end."
This passage is part of Ezekiel's prophecy against Mount Seir, another name for Edom. This verse is sometimes cited today as a proof-text for the belief that there will always be hatred between the Arabs and Israelis, and that there is nothing that can be done about it, no way for there to be peace between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews, until Christ comes.
But where does this passage say anything at all about Arabs? Let's look at the historical background with regard to the Edomites.
Edom, a nation consisting of the descendants of Esau, twin brother of Jacob and son of Isaac and Rebekah, was located to the southeast of Judah, in a rugged, mountainous region which is now the southwestern part of the kingdom of Jordan. Edom is sometimes referred to as Esau (Malachi 1:3), Idumea (Isaiah 34:5) and Mount Seir (Ezekiel 35:3). All of these names are interchangeable, referring to the same nation, Edom.
Genesis 36 describes the rapid growth of Edom. Deuteronomy 2:5 informs us that Edom's territory was not part of the land promised to Israel and never would be: "Meddle not with them, for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given Mount Seir unto Esau for a possession."
Throughout ancient history, the Edomites manifested their hatred against the Hebrews, as shown by their refusal to give Moses and his people permission to pass through Edomite territory in Numbers 20:14-22. However, in the time of Elisha, the Edomites joined in a military alliance with Israel and Judah, 2 Kings 3:9. Later, Judah defeated Edom in war, 2 Chronicles 25:5-12.
The major prophecies against Edom are found in Isaiah 34, Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14 and 35:1-15, and the book of Obadiah. Isaiah prophesied of God's judgment against Edom about 700 BC, while Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah all delivered their prophecies of impending doom upon Edom around the year 600 BC.
It would make sense to look for the fulfillment of these prophecies against Edom in that general time period of history. However, some have proposed that these prophecies against Edom are still unfulfilled, and that their fulfillment will take place in our generation, in the early 21st Century AD.
There are 2 big problems with this theory. 1. The Edomites no longer exist. It is impossible to punish a people who have already disappeared from the face of the earth many centuries ago. 2. The prophet Malachi, writing about 400 BC, speaks of God's judgment of Edom as having already taken place. "And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness." (Malachi 1:3).
History records that the Edomites were ravaged by the Babylonian armies in the early 6th Century BC, and that near the end of the 6th Century BC, the Nabateans attacked the Edomites, driving them from their mountain fortresses of Mount Seir, into the Negev Desert to the west.
The ancient prophecies against Edom were completely fulfilled, and there is no need to look for those prophecies to be fulfilled yet again today, especially since the Edomites no longer exist as an identifiable nation or ethnic group.
Some will say, "Are not the Arabs Edomites, and does not the 'Curse of Esau' rest upon modern Arabs?" Though the identification of Edom with the Arabs is a common traditional belief, there is absolutely no Scriptural or historical basis for this notion.
The Arabians are often mentioned in the Old Testament, as a nation totally distinct from the Edomites. For instance, the Chronicler mentions Edom in 2 Chronicles 8:17 and Arabia in 2 Chronicles 9:14. The Edomites were not Arabs - they were Edomites.
Obadiah prophesied that the house of Esau would be completely wiped out (v. 18). If he was talking about the Arabs, then Obadiah's prophecy was false, since the Arabs are very much with us today. If Obadiah was talking about Edom, like he said that he was (v.8), then his prophecy has been fulfilled, since Edom has long since disappeared as a nation.
An examination of the standard reference works yields no hint nor evidence of any connection between Edomites and Arabs.
If the Edomites are not Arabs, then what did happen to them? We find the answer to that in the "Antiquities of the Jews" by the reliable ancient Jewish historian Josephus, writing of Jewish conquests in the 2nd Century BC.
"Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews." Chapter IX, (2).
William Whiston, translator of Josephus, adds this note: "This account of the Idumeans admitting circumcision, and the entire Jewish law, from this time, or from the days of Hyrcanus, is confirmed by their entire history afterwards. This, in the opinion of Josephus, made them proselytes of justice, or entire Jews." Since that time, the Edomites have been part of the Jewish nation. Some believe that the Edomites are still identifiable today as Sephardic Jews, but this is speculation.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary on Obadiah confirms that judgment came upon Edom in ancient times, starting with the Nabatean invasion soon after the time of Obadiah:
"Soon after this time, Edom was pushed out of her ancient home by the Nabateans, so that she had to move to the west side of the Dead Sea. Hebron was made the capital of her new home in south Judah. The Maccabees, especially John Hyrcanus (circa 125 BC), subdued and Judaized the Edomites. They were finally destroyed with the Jews in 70 AD by the Roman general Titus." (According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, this conquest of the Edomites by John Hyrcanus took place in 109 BC).
Adam Clarke's commentary, Matthew Henry, and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown all see the prophecies against Edom as being fulfilled partly by an invasion by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the early 6th Century BC, and partly by the Maccabees. Jeremiah 25:21 specifically predicts the humbling of Edom by Babylon, the same power that conquered Jerusalem 5 years before the destruction of Edom.
Some commentators believe that some of the early prophecies of judgment against Edom were fulfilled by the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, about 700 BC. There is no hint anywhere that any of these prophecies against Edom remain to be fulfilled in modern times, or that they can be applied to the current crises in the Middle East.
Some have thought that there will never be peace between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, based on the statement of Ezekiel 35:5. However, we have seen that this passage concerning Edom has nothing whatsoever to do with the Arabs, whether ancient or modern. Scripture and secular history reveal no information about an inevitable hatred between Arabs and Jews over the centuries.
Through the years, Jews and Arabs have lived, for the most part, in harmony in the Middle East. On various occasions, Jews have fled to Arab and Muslim lands to escape persecution by the supposedly more enlightened European "Christians." Many Jews fled to Morocco, Turkey and other Muslim lands to escape the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century.
The current strife between Jews and Arabs in Palestine did not begin until the early 20th Century, with the rise of the modern Zionist movement, in which Jews laid claim to lands that had been occupied by Arabs for centuries. We have no way of knowing whether there will soon be peace between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, but there is nothing in the Word of God to indicate that such a peace cannot take place.
The prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah against Edom should not be wrenched out of their proper historical context, and made to apply to modern peoples who have no connection with Edom.
The purpose of these prophecies was to assure the Hebrews, at the time that they were taken captive to Babylon in 586 BC, that Jehovah would not allow the covetous Edomites to occupy their land. God promised that the land of Judah would remain vacant, and that the nation of Israel would be restored on that land after 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11, 29:10, Daniel 9:2).
The application of those prophecies for today is that we should not be prideful as the Edomites were, believing that they were safe from God's wrath and could never be overthrown in their mountain fortresses. Also, we should not be covetous as Edom was, nor rejoice when judgment and suffering come upon others.
The fate of Edom, and its complete disappearance from the family of nations, constitute a powerful reminder of God's justice, His judgment, and the sure fulfillment of all that He has promised in His inspired Word.
EZEKIEL 38-39 - WILL THERE BE A RUSSIAN INVASION OF ISRAEL?
Over the centuries, there has been a traditional belief, based on Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, that Russia would invade Israel in the end-times.
It is believed that this invasion will take place at approximately the same time as the Rapture and Great Tribulation.
Meanwhile, Russia has declined as a military power in recent years, losing large portions of its territory and suffering serious military setbacks in such places as Afghanistan and Chechnya. There are now real questions as to whether Russia has the military capability to mount a massive ground invasion of Israel, or whether she will have such capacity any time in the foreseeable future.
Does the tradition of a Russian invasion rest on sure Scriptural ground? Is it possible that we have been mistaken in believing that the Bible teaches that such an invasion will take place?
One "proof' that the invaders described by Ezekiel are Russians is that the invasion comes from the north, Ezekiel 38:6. However, this proves nothing - there are many nations located to the north of Israel.
When Jeremiah predicted that Israel would be invaded by Babylon, which is actually located east of Israel, he described this invasion as coming from the north, Jeremiah 1:13-15, 4:6, 6:1, etc. No one has suggested that these were actually Russians and not Babylonians who would attack Israel in Jeremiah's time.
The second "proof" is the reference to Meshech and Tubal in Ezekiel 37:2. It is supposed that this actually means the Russian cities of Moscow and Tobolsk. But Moscow, founded in 1147 AD, and Tobolsk, founded in 1587 AD, were not even in existence at the time of Ezekiel's prophecy.
The word Meshech means sowing, possession, or precious price, and has no etymological relation to Moscow which is a Finnish word. (Meshech actually sounds more like Mexico than Moscow, which of course proves nothing). Meshech was a son of Japheth, and it is believed that the tribe of Meshech lived in what is modern-day Turkey.
As for the tribe of Tubal, or Tibareni, this is believed to be a tribe that lived to the north of Syria, thousands of miles away from the modern Siberian city of Tobolsk. Tobolsk, with a population of about 62,000, is hardly one of the great cities of the world, or even of western Siberia. In 1917, Russian president Alexander Kerensky described Tobolsk as "a backwater." Why would Ezekiel pick such a small, obscure town if he wanted to identify Russia?
In Ezekiel 27:13 we are told that Tyre traded with Meshech and Tubal. This shows that Meshech and Tubal were nations that existed back then, in the 6th Century BC. Therefore they cannot possibly refer to Moscow and Tobolsk which were not founded until many centuries later.
The third "proof" for a Russian invasion is the reference to the so-called "Prince of Rosh" in Ezekiel 38:2. Don't bother looking for the Prince of Rosh in the King James Version - he is not there. The KJV, along with most modern translations, correctly translates this phrase as "chief prince."
The Hebrew word rosh appears 456 times in the Old Testament, always as an adjective, never as a proper name describing any nation or geographical region.
According to Strong's Concordance, rosh means "the head . . . whether literally or figuratively (in many applications, of place, time, rank, etc.): -band, beginning, captain, chapiter, chief (-est place, man, things), company, end . . . excellent, first, forefront . . . principal, ruler, sum, top." There is no mention of rosh meaning Russia or Russian. The word Russia is believed to be a Finnish word meaning "rower," referring to the early Viking explorers who rowed down the Russian rivers. There is no etymological connection between Russia and the Hebrew adjective rosh.
The only other place where Ezekiel uses the word rosh is in 27:22, where it refers to chief spices, not Russian spices. The first place where rosh appears in the Bible is Genesis 21:22, where it refers to Phichol as chief captain, not Russian captain. Phichol was a Canaanite, not a Russian.
In 2 Samuel 8:18 rosh refers to David's sons, who were chief rulers, not Russian rulers. In 2 Chronicles 26:20 rosh refers to Azariah who was chief priest, not Russian priest. In Daniel 10:13 rosh refers to the archangel Michael, who was one of the chief princes, not a Russian prince or a Russian archangel. In Habakkuk 3:19 rosh refers to a chief singer in Habakkuk's choir, not to a Russian singer.
(Nowadays, one of the chief holidays in the Jewish religious calendar is "Rosh Hoshana," which means Head of the Year, not Russian year).
Those who hold to the King James Version as God's preserved word for today must ask themselves: will they reject the KJV and embrace the mistaken "Prince of Rosh" translation, or will they accept the correct translation in the KJV which says that Gog was the "Chief Prince" of Meshech and Tubal?
As we have seen, there is really no Biblical authority for the tradition of a Russian invasion of Israel. Such an invasion may possibly take place some day, but it would not be a fulfillment of Bible prophecy nor a necessary prelude to Christ's Second Coming.
Many modern observers have noted, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that Russia has declined greatly as a military power, which raises the question of whether Russia, which can no longer control its own reduced territory, has the power or the willingness to mount an invasion of a country as distant as Israel.
The article "Post-Imperial Blues" by David Remnick in the October 13, 2003 issue of the New Yorker states that "The Russian Army, the inheritor of the structures, arms, and tactics, of the Soviet armed forces, is now a shambles: a psychological wreck, a material ruin."
Jeffrey Taylor, in the article "Russia is Finished" in the May 2001 Atlantic Monthly, says, "One of the most spectacular elements of the Soviet Union's collapse has been Russia's fall from military superpower No. 2 to a country whose army can be neutralized by bands of irregulars fighting with little more than the weapons on their backs."
This theme of the disintegration of Russian military power is also presented in the 1997 book "One Point Safe" by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.
Some have insisted that Russia still has powerful military capabilities which are being cleverly concealed from us, and that recent Russian setbacks in Chechnya have been allowed to take place in order to fool us into believing that Russia is powerless.
Perhaps the jury is still out, as to just how much military muscle can be mustered by the Russians. Meantime, we should be cautious about building speculative prophetical dogmas based on the future activities of a country such as Russia, which simply may not have the power or capacity to bring about the events that are so confidently predicted in prophecy conferences.
Another consideration is, what possible motive would Russia have for invading Israel? A full one-sixth of the population of modern Israel consists of recent immigrants from Russia. These Israelis still speak Russian, identify as Russians, often visit their Russian homeland and are held in affection by the Russian government and people. Why would Russia conduct an attack that would endanger and kill as many as one million of their own people living in Israel?
If Ezekiel 38-39 does not refer to a Russian invasion of Israel, then what does it refer to?
The first thing we must recognize is that if we follow the literal method of interpretation, as demanded by all the prophecy teachers, then it is quite evident that Ezekiel was talking about an invasion in ancient times. He describes the invaders as riding on horses, all of them (even the commanders), 38:15. No modern-day armies travel exclusively by horse, not in Russia or anywhere else.
Ezekiel describes this army as fighting with bucklers, shields and swords (38:4), with shields and helmets (38:5), with shields, bucklers, bows and arrows, handstaves and spears (39:9). No modern armies use such weapons today, not even the Russians. To spiritualize these references into modern weapons is forbidden by the literal principle of Bible interpretation. We are forced to the conclusion that Ezekiel was describing warfare in ancient times, using weapons which would be totally outmoded and obsolete today, especially against a nuclear power like Israel.
As for the reference in 39:9-10 to the Israelites using the weapons of the invaders for firewood for 7 years, this would certainly fit ancient times a lot better than it would the contemporary, nuclear-powered nation of Israel.
Over the years we have been taught that Ezekiel 38-39 refers to a future invasion of Israel which will take place in conjunction with the Rapture. However, Ezekiel 38-39 makes absolutely no mention of the Rapture or Second Coming of Christ. The setting and context of this invasion point to an event which took place in ancient times.
The best explanation of Ezekiel's prophecy is that it was a reference to the invasion of Israel by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. This interpretation is explained in such commentaries as Matthew Henry, Clarke's Bible, and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.
God felt that it was important for His elect people to know in advance that the invasion of Antiochus, which threatened to wipe out the entire Jewish religion and way of life, would come in the latter days, 4 centuries after the time of Ezekiel, and that the Jews would be victorious over the invaders. This Syrian/Greek invasion was also prophesied in Daniel 8 and 11:21-35 and in Zechariah 9:11-17.
The theory of a future Russian invasion of Israel is just a theory, and nothing more. It is not a rigorous teaching of the Word of God. Therefore, we should not make a dogma or test of faith out of this speculative notion of a Russian invasion, nor add to the Word of God by preaching about something that is not prophesied in the Bible and will quite possibly never happen.
Why "Meshech and Tubal" Do Not Mean Moscow and Tobolsk
John Gill - "Meshech and Tubal were the brethren of Magog, and sons of Japheth, Genesis 10:2, whose posterity inhabited those countries called after their name; who, according to Josephus, are the Cappadocians and Iberians; and among the former is a place called Mazaca, which has some affinity with Meshech; and there was a country called Gogarene, a part of Iberia. According to Bochart, these are the Moschi and the Tybarenes, people that dwell near the Euxine See, and under the dominion of the Turk; wherefore the Grand Turk may be called the chief prince of them."
Gary Demar, in "Last Days Madness:" "Edwin M. Yamauchi, noted Christian historian and archeologist, writes that rosh 'can have nothing to do with modern Russia,' and 'all informed references and studies acknowledge that the association with Moscow and Tobolsk is untenable.'"
C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines, professors at Moody Bible Institute, in "Doomsday Delusions:" "However, the identifications of Meshech and Tubal are not in doubt. Few scholars today equate them with Moscow and Tobolsk. Rather, combined ancient testimony attests to the fact that Meshech and Tubal were located in central and eastern Anatolia (Asia Minor), respectively. The foregoing arguments render the 'Russian' hypothesis untenable."
Chuck Missler: "'Meshech' and 'Tubal' were principal cities in ancient Anatolia, which constitutes the eastern three-fourths of modern Turkey."
Arthur Bloomfield, in "A Survey of Bible Prophecy:" "Meschech and Tubal are names of men, grandsons of Noah . . . Connecting these names with present-day Russian cities is not based on any ethnological nor etymological considerations but only on the accidental similarity of sounds."
Timothy Dailey, in "The Gathering Storm:" "It must first be noted that any connection of Tubal with the Russian city of Tobolsk is completely specious. . . . The Assyrian cuneiform texts clearly locate Muskku and Tabal in central and eastern Anatolia."
Richard Abanes, in "End Times Visions:" "Greek historian Herodotus identified Meshech and Tubal as the Moschoi and Tiberenoi tribes who lived in central and eastern Anatolia between the 11th and 6th Centuries before Christ."
Fred Zaspel: "Meshech (MSK) is often mistaken for the modern Russian city of Moscow. . . Again, this identification, as even Ryrie admits, is unfounded also. . . Mushki (MSK) of central and western Asia Minor . . . fits very well. These people were well known to Ezekiel."
DANIEL 7:13-14 - CHRIST SETS UP HIS EVERLASTING DOMINION
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him.
"And there was given him dominion, and glory, and kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
These verses predict that the Messiah will come and set up a Kingdom and a dominion that is everlasting, and will never be destroyed. It is very important for us to know just when this event takes place. If Christ set up His everlasting dominion and kingdom at His first advent, then we are in that kingdom now. If He failed to set up the kingdom the first time around, and we are waiting for Him to try again at His Second Coming, then we are not yet in the kingdom.
The Scofield note on Daniel 7:14 tells us that "Daniel 7:13-14 . . . antedates the fulfillment of Daniel 2:34-35." Okay, let's check out Daniel 2:34-35: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."
Daniel 2:44-45 tells us when this stone will smite the image: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed. . . . Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter."
This great kingdom, represented as a mountain that will fill the whole earth and never be destroyed, will be set up "in the days of these kings." Which kings? There is almost universal agreement that the image of Daniel 2 represents 4 great world empires and that the 4th great empire was that of Rome. Sometime during the time of the Roman Empire, God was going to set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. If God did not keep that promise during the time of the Roman Empire, then it is too late for the prophecy to be fulfilled, because the Roman Empire is completely dead and gone.
Did God set up the kingdom promised in Daniel 2 while the Roman Empire was still in existence? The answer is yes: Christ said in Matthew 12:28, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." In Luke 16:16 He said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Paul, a Roman citizen, said that God "hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son," Colossians 1:13.
Did Christ set up an everlasting dominion at His first advent, thus fulfilling the promise of Daniel 7:13-14? The answer is yes: Christ said in Matthew 28:18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." It would be hard to imagine a more all-encompassing dominion than this - all power and authority, in heaven and earth.
We are now in that kingdom which was promised in Daniel 2:34-35 and 7:13-14. This is a strong argument for church perpetuity - the conviction that there always have been true New Testament churches on earth, from the First Century until now. If the kingdom will never be destroyed, then the Lord's churches will always continue on earth, and Christ will receive glory through His Church throughout all ages, Ephesians 3:21.
Not only will there always be true Christians and true churches on earth, but there will also be a victorious growth of Christianity, which Daniel compares to a mountain filling the whole earth (see also Matthew 13:31-33, Galatians 4:27).
Some will object to the teaching that we are now in the Kingdom - they have been taught that the Kingdom is earthly in nature and does not begin until after Christ's Second Coming. But we have already seen ample teaching from the New Testament that we are already in the Kingdom and that it is not an earthly kingdom, since Christ told Pilate in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world."
Also, we are told that the Kingdom set up in Daniel 2 and 7 is everlasting, and shall not be destroyed. That certainly would not apply to any temporal, earthly kingdom, which would come to an end when the Millennium is over. Clearly the Kingdom that was promised in Daniel 2 and 7 is spiritual in nature - we don't have to wait for it to be set up; we are in it now and it shall never be destroyed.
Somehow we have gotten the impression that Daniel 7:13-14 will not be fulfilled until Christ's Second Coming, but the text clearly states that the fulfillment takes place when the Son of man comes to the Ancient of days, and is brought near before Him. This took place at Christ's Ascension, after His resurrection. It could not possibly refer to Christ's Second Coming, since Christ at that time will depart from the immediate presence of the Ancient of Days, rather than being brought before Him.
Greg Bahnsen and Kenneth Gentry, in "House Divided," say concerning this passage, "Daniel sees the expansion of the kingdom to the point of dominion in the earth (Daniel 2:31-35, 44-45; cp. Isaiah 9:6-7). The Messiah's ascension and session will guarantee that 'all people, nations and languages should serve Him' (Daniel 7:13-14). It must be noticed that Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of the Christ's ascension to the Ancient of Days, not His return to the earth. It is from this ascension to the right hand of God that there will flow forth universal dominion."
Scofield is correct in stating that the events in Daniel 7:13-14 are identical with those of Revelation 5:1-7. But what we sometimes fail to realize is that the events of Revelation 5 are not in the future - they were fulfilled shortly after His resurrection, when Christ ascended to the Ancient of Days. As a result of Christ rising, ascending to the Father and being seated on David's throne at God's right hand (Acts 2:29-36), it is a present truth that Christ has redeemed us to God by His blood, Revelation 5:9, and that we have been made unto our God kings and priests, Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 1 Peter 2:9. The Apostle John speaks of all these things as being in the past tense - they are already fulfilled. We are not waiting for Christ to set up that kingdom in which we serve as kings and priests, nor are we working to bring the kingdom in - it was already a present reality at the time that John wrote, and it is a present reality today.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say concerning Daniel 7:13-14: "This investiture was at His ascension 'with the clouds of heaven' (Acts 1:9; 2:33-34; Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 28:18), which is a pledge of His return 'in like manner' in the clouds (Acts 1:11; Matthew 26:64), and 'with clouds' (Revelation 1:7). The kingdom then was given Him in title and invisible exercise; at His second coming it shall be in visible administration. . . . The words, 'in the clouds,' and the universal power actually, though invisibly, given Him then (Ephesians 1:20-22), agree best with His investiture at the ascension."
Matthew Henry agrees that Daniel 7:13-14 refers to Christ's ascension: "When the cloud received Him out of the sight of His disciples, it is worth while to enquire whither it carried Him; and here we are told He ascended to 'his Father and our Father, to his God and our God' (John 20:17). He was brought near, as our high priest, who for us enters within the veil, and as our forerunner. He is represented as having a mighty influence upon the earth, v. 14."
Concerning Daniel 7:14, Adam Clarke says, "This also is applied to our Lord Jesus by Himself, after His resurrection, Matthew 28:18. 'His dominion is an everlasting dominion.' Christianity shall increase, and prevail, to the end of the world."
Matthew Poole says, "This relates to His ascension, Acts 1:9-11, at which time, though King before, Matthew 2:2, yet now, and not before, He seems to receive His royal investiture for the protection of His church and the curbing of their enemies, which He says he had before, Matthew 28:18, 1 Corinthians 15:25, Daniel 2:44."
Christ's dominion, as described in Daniel 7:13-14, is a present reality, and it has been for almost 2000 years. It is time for us to get with the program, and to have understanding of the times, to know what God's spiritual Israel ought to do, 1 Chronicles 12:32.
DANIEL 9:24-27 - DANIEL'S PROPHECY OF THE 70 WEEKS
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." Daniel 9:24-27.
Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks is one of the most significant prophecies in the Bible, and one of the most misunderstood.
In this prophecy, the Jews were given the approximate time of the coming of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, there was a great air of expectancy among the Jews 483 years after the order by the Persian king Artaxerxes for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BC (see Nehemiah 2:4-8).
It is generally accepted that the weeks in Daniel 9:24 are weeks of years, or periods of 7 years. The coming of Christ after 483 years (69 times 7), thus fulfilling this prophecy, is one of the greatest proofs of the divine inspiration of the Bible.
When Christ came, He told the people that "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel," Mark 1:15. The time that had been fulfilled was the chronology given by Daniel.
Daniel 9:24 gives us specific prophecies that would be fulfilled by Christ by the end of the 70 weeks or 490 years. He would "finish the transgression," which was accomplished when Christ died on the cross, saying "It is finished," (John 19:30, see also Hebrews 9:15).
He would "make an end of sins," which can be understood as making an end of the sacrifice for sins. Christ did this when He offered Himself for our sins once and forever on the cross, Hebrews 9:26, 10:12, thus taking away the sin of the world, John 1:29, 1 John 3:5.
He would "make reconciliation for iniquity." Christ made reconciliation for the sins of the people on the Cross, Ephesians 2:16, Hebrews 2:17.
He would "bring in everlasting righteousness." Christ has been made unto us righteousness, Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:20.
He would "seal up the vision and prophecy." We are told that Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets, Matthew 5:17, Acts 3:18, Romans 3:21.
The Most Holy would be anointed, and this was fulfilled when Christ was anointed to be our Savior, Luke 4:18, 21.
In Daniel 9:26 we are told that Christ would be cut off, but not for Himself - He died for us. The next event after that on the prophetic calendar would be the arrival of the "prince that shall come" to destroy the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.
This was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman general Titus came, within one generation of the time of Christ, as predicted (Matthew 23:35-36, 24:34) and destroyed Jerusalem.
In verse 27 we are told that Christ would confirm the covenant with many (not all) for one week (Daniel's 70th week). We are told in Hebrews 12:24 that Christ was the mediator of the new covenant. In the middle of the week Christ caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease, when He died on the cross for our sins - at that moment when He was on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in half (Matthew 27:51, see also Hebrews 10:18).
This disruption of the temple sacrifices was a sign that Christ had opened for us the way into the heavenly sanctuary, so that the animal sacrifices in the Temple were no longer necessary. (Based on this reference to Messiah's ministry culminating "in the midst of the week" it has been traditionally believed that His earthly ministry lasted for 3 1/2 years).
Over the centuries, the great commentators have agreed that Christ is the One who confirmed the covenant with many (see Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Adam Clarke, Jamieson Fausset and Brown, Edward Young, John Calvin, John Wesley, Geneva Study Bible, etc). The Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine and Eusebius regarded the 70th week of Daniel as having already been fulfilled by Christ's earthly ministry, as did the Venerable Bede, John Wycliffe, Luther, Melancthon, John Gill, etc.
Take a close look at Daniel 9:24. This verse clearly describes Christ's earthly ministry, and tells us that all these things, including His making reconciliation for iniquity by dying on the Cross, were to take place within the 70 week period. Therefore, all 70 weeks have already been fulfilled.
To place the 70th week in the future is to deny that Christ made reconciliation for iniquity when He died on the Cross, which would strike at the very foundations of Christianity. If Christ did not make reconciliation for iniquity on the Cross, then we may as well become Muslims or Zen Buddhists.
However, some prophecy teachers in recent times have come up with an alternative interpretation which places the fulfillment of Daniel's 70th week into the future.
They say that the "prince that shall come" in verse 26 is the Antichrist, and that the Antichrist will make a seven-year treaty with the Jews in Israel at some point yet in the future. Some have identified this as any treaty that may be made between modern Israel and the Palestinians. They say that whenever we see such a treaty enacted, that will signal the start of a 7-year period of tribulation - some say that Christians will be "raptured out" at that time, while others say that Christians should be prepared to go into hiding when they see the peace treaty signed.
There are a lot of mistaken consequences that naturally arise from this incorrect interpretation of Daniel's prophecy. This type of thinking results in an irrational, morbid fear of (and opposition to) any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, thus helping perpetuate an ongoing conflict that has claimed thousands of Jewish and Arab lives.
Not only that, but since there is at this time no Jewish Temple offering animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, those who follow this theory feel that it is their duty to help destroy the Muslim Dome of the Rock and build a Temple on that site.
Some fundamentalist Christians have donated millions of dollars to Jewish terrorists so that they can attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock. The activities of these terrorists have been rejected by the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli people, who do not want to be plunged into a devastating war over this issue.
How is it possible that these events in Daniel's prophecy, which were so clearly fulfilled in the First Century AD just as Daniel said they would be, can be projected 2000 years in the future?
Those who insist that Daniel's 70th week has not been fulfilled, insist that there must be a gap of 2000 years between Daniel's 69th week and his 70th week. In other words, God lied when He said that the prophecy would be fulfilled within 490 years.
We have no right to insert a gap between the 69th and 70th week, any more than we would have the right to put in a gap of thousands of years between the first 7 weeks and the 62 weeks. For us to add a gap in time, where God has not made any mention of it, is to add to the Word of God, and we are not permitted to do that.
Those who insist that the 70th week is in the future say that there must be a great slaughter of the Jews when the Antichrist breaks the peace treaty with them. However, there is absolutely no mention in Daniel's prophecy of anyone breaking any peace treaty or any covenant with anyone. Read it again - we are told that He, the Messiah, will confirm the covenant, but there is absolutely nothing about anyone breaking or abrogating any covenant or treaty.
In fact, there is nothing in Daniel 9:27 about making any covenant or treaty. "He," that is, the Messiah, will not make a new covenant - He will confirm the covenant that was already in existence between God and His people.
Edward Young explains the correct meaning of this confirmation of the covenant by the Messiah: "The Hebrew words are unusual. They are sometimes interpreted as though they meant simply 'to make a covenant.' Such an interpretation, however, is incorrect, for it does not do justice to the original which can only mean to cause a covenant 'to prevail,' or 'to make a covenant firm.' The implication is that the covenant is already in existence and that its terms and conditions are now to be made effective. . . .
"It is better to regard the subject as the Messiah, since He has been the most prominent Person in this passage. The covenant which is to prevail is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people."
Matthew Poole's commentary says: "I say then, with Graser, Mede, and others, that this he is the Messiah, and the covenant He confirms is the new testament or covenant. . . . 'Shall confirm the covenant;' He shall corroborate it, as if it began before His coming to fail and to be invalid. 'With many;' noting thereby the paucity of the Jewish church and nation, compared with the great increase and enlargement by believing Gentiles throughout all nations and ages of the world. . . ."
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let it be repeated that there is absolutely nothing here about the Antichrist or anyone else breaking a covenant with the Jews, as taught by sensationalist "prophecy teachers." Daniel 9:27 teaches that the covenant will be confirmed, not broken.
Supposedly when the Antichrist comes and breaks the peace treaty and starts killing the Jews, this will be a fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy. But this cannot be true.
In Luke 17:22 Christ said, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, that "these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." In other words, all the Bible prophecies of judgment upon the Jews would be completely fulfilled at this time, with nothing more left to be fulfilled. (Compare with Matthew 23:35-36, where Christ says that all the punishment for the various sins of the Jews would come upon that generation that was alive in the First Century AD).
Virtually all Bible commentators agree that the events described in Luke 21:20-24 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. Even the great Scofield teaches this - you can look it up on page 1106 of the Old Scofield Reference Bible.
Think about it - if all the prophecies of vengeance and judgment against the Jews were fulfilled in 70 AD, that would include Daniel's prophecy with regard to the 70 weeks. That means that the judgments of Daniel 9:24-27 cannot possibly refer to anything that is going to happen to the Jews in the future. It was all fulfilled in the First Century AD.
Everything that Daniel said would happen within the 70 weeks, in Daniel 9:25, was indeed fulfilled within 490 years. Daniel did not say that the desolations predicted in Daniel 9:26-27 would happen within the 70 weeks. However, Christ did say that these desolations would be fulfilled within one generation of His crucifixion, and it all happened as predicted, by 70 AD.
Since that time, many misfortunes have happened to the Jews, such as the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust, etc. But none of this was necessary to fulfill any Bible prophecy, nor is there any need for a mass slaughter of the Jews in modern Israel to fulfill any Bible prophecy.
Here are the implications of a proper understanding of Daniel's 70 weeks: Now that we realize that the 70 weeks have already been fulfilled, we need no longer fear a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. Such a treaty would have absolutely nothing to do with the manifestation of the Antichrist's infernal presence, nor the approach of the Tribulation.
Nor do we need to help build a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, or try to start World War 3 by blowing up the Muslim mosque that is there now. Our job is to build New Testament churches, not to help construct a temple for animal sacrifices, which according to the epistle to Hebrews would be an act of apostasy against Christ.
Some Christians have developed an unhealthy and unscriptural fixation on the belief that there must be devastating conflicts in the Middle East that will result in the demolition of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and the slaughter of millions of Jews, in order that the "ancient prophecies" may be fulfilled.
This type of deluded thinking is a bad testimony and it makes all fundamentalist Christians look like a bunch of enthusiasts for war and destruction. It may help explain the knee-jerk support, from some elements of the "Christian Right," for American involvement in any war or "pre-emptive first strike" anywhere in the Middle East, for any reason or no reason.
In reality, there is nothing in the book of Daniel, or anywhere else in the Bible, that says that there must be a temple with animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, or a mass slaughter of the Jews, in order for Christ to be able to return.
Ralph Woodrow, in "Great Prophecies of the Bible," says, "The fact is, Daniel 9:27 says nothing about a future rebuilt temple, nothing about restored sacrifices, nothing about the Antichrist making a covenant with the Jews! There are over 280 references to 'covenant' in the scriptures and NOT ONE of them in any way introduces the idea of a covenant being made between the Jews and the Antichrist."
We have seen that the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 was fulfilled 19 centuries ago, within the time-frame predicted by Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should stop misusing it as a proof-text for nutty, speculative notions about "things to come" in the Middle East in the near future.
Contradiction Between the Bible and Scofield Notes on Daniel 9:24
The Bible says in Daniel 9:24, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon the holy city . . . " C.I. Scofield, in his commentary on this passage on page 914 of the "Scofield Reference Bible," says, "Verse 26 is obviously an indeterminate period." Scofield would place a gap of 2000 yeasrs or more between the 69th and 70th week.
According to Daniel, the 70 weeks form a determined period, with no gap. Scofield says the period is "indeterminate," saying "When the Church age will end, and the 70th week begin, is nowhere revealed." That is a direct contradiction of Daniel's statement about a determined period of 70 weeks. Scofield admits that the temple of 9:26 is the one destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, but then reads into 9:27 another temple to be built 2000 years later in Jerusalem. In reality, the sacrifice and oblation in verse 27 take place in the temple of verse 26 which was destroyed in 70 AD, not in a mythical "third temple." There is not a shred of evidence for believing that Daniel meant for us to understand that he was talking about 2 different temples in verse 26 and verse 27, with a gap of 2000 years in between.
Much of the modern system of prophecy speculation depends on the insistence on inserting 2000 years between Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27, and on dissecting Daniel's depiction of the destruction of Herod's Temple, to make it appear that there are 2 temples lurking in the text. Based on this terribly unlikely and non-literal understanding of Daniel's words, modern "prophecy experts" have built a superstructure of speculative end-times scenarios that have no basis or support anywhere else in the Bible, which is why they keep trudging back to Daniel 9 as their "proof-text." It is a shame that dogmatic conclusions about the future are so stubbornly based on the extremely tenuous gossamer of speculation based on invisible penumbras inserted in Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks.
AMOS 9:11-15 - FULFILLED BY NATIONAL ISRAEL, OR BY THE CHURCH?
"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof: and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
"That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.
"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowmen shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
"And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
"And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God."
When we read this passage, we have a tendency to regard it as being a prediction of the literal restoration of the nation of Israel in the latter days. Amos 9 is commonly used as a proof-text for an end-times restoration of national Israel. Jeremiah's prophecies of the restoration of Israel cannot legitimately be used to prove a literal end-times restoration of Israel, since he stated that his prophecies would be fulfilled within 70 years after the destruction of Israel in 586 BC (see Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10).
At first glance, Amos appears to be talking about a second literal restoration of national Israel. The Jews, after being restored to their land in 536 BC as predicted by Jeremiah, were definitely pulled up out of their land and scattered by the Romans in 70 AD. So it would appear that Amos is promising another restoration that will be permanent, in which the Jews will be restored to Palestine, never again to be pulled out.
However, in Acts 15 we find out that Amos was not talking about a literal restoration of the Jews in national Israel at all. He was predicting the conversion of the Gentiles to the true God, a process that was taking place in the time of the Apostles, thus fulfilling Amos' prophecy, and which has been taking place throughout the Church Age.
In Acts 15:13-18 we read, "And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down: and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."
The Scofield notes attempt to obscure the significance of this inspired apostolic interpretation of Amos' prophecy, claiming that James is talking about "the final regathering of Israel." Clearly this is not what James is discussing, nor was that subject under consideration at all in the Jerusalem Council. James distinctly states that the conversion of the Gentiles under the ministry of Simeon, or Simon Peter, as described in Acts 10-11, is the fulfillment of Amos' prophecy. It was at this time that God first began to visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. Scofield says that the "residue of men" refers to Israelites, but in the original Amos passage, the reference is to "the remnant of Edom" - it is talking about Gentiles, not Jews as Scofield would have us believe.
The debate at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 did not in any way deal with the question of a future literal national restoration of Israel. It dealt with the question of how to incorporate the Gentiles, who God had begun to visit in a saving way, into the Lord's churches. It was this ongoing conversion of Gentiles that James identified as a fulfillment of Amos 9.
Some may say, "What about the prophecy that the tabernacle of David would be restored? Does this not refer to a future literal temple in Jerusalem?" No, because the tabernacle of David was not a temple - it was a mere tent. Few if any prophecy writers would insist that the literal tabernacle, as described in Exodus, will be reconstructed in Jerusalem in the end-times. Scofield himself, in his note on Acts 15:13, spiritualizes the tabernacle of David, making it refer to the re-establishment of the Davidic rule over Israel. This is a totally non-literal interpretation. Scofield is correct to realize that not all Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled in a woodenly literal manner. But he is incorrect to assign the prophecy of Amos to a restoration of the earthly Davidic dynasty over national Israel, which is something that was not remotely mentioned, discussed or thought of during the Jerusalem Council.
The Jerusalem Council did not in any manner uphold any principle of racial or ethnic privilege for the Jews in a future restoration of Israel. On the contrary, such a possibility of racial privilege for the Jews was specifically denied by the Apostle Peter when he said in Acts 15:8-9, "And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles],
purifying their hearts by faith."
If we carefully consider the context in which James quoted Amos 9, it is clear that he regarded it as a prophecy of the gathering in of Gentile souls in the Age of Grace, which was already taking place in 52 AD. It was not a prediction of a restoration of the earthly Jewish political entity, which was not even a matter under consideration at this council.
Paul Sisco, in "Scofield Versus the Scriptures," says with regard to the Jerusalem Council, "After the disputing had subsided and the testimonies of the experiences of the apostles were related, it was necessary that they should turn to the O.T. prophetic scriptures for enlightenment and proof of their fulfillment in this new movement of the Holy Spirit. These men searched and knew the scriptures. They applied them correctly under the Holy Spirit's leading, so in this instance, James speaking of Simeon's or Peter's testimony concerning God's salvation of the Gentiles, turns to Amos 9:11-12 to prove that Peter's ministry to the Gentiles was a fulfillment of this prophecy. . . Therefore, the prophecy that follows must agree with the situation then present, and not to some far-off future period."
Concerning Amos 9:11-12, Matthew Henry says, "To him to whom all the prophets bear witness this prophet here bears his testimony, and speaks of that day in which God will do great things for his church, by the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah. The promise here may refer to the planting of the Christian church, Acts 15:15-17. It is promised, that in the Messiah the kingdom of David shall be restored (v.11). . . . By Jesus Christ these tabernacles were raised and rebuilt. . . . In him God's covenant with Israel had its accomplishment, and in the gospel-church the tabernacle of God was set up among men again. This is quoted in the first council at Jerusalem as referring to the calling in of the Gentiles and God's taking out of them a people for his name."
Matthew Poole says concerning Amos 9:11-12, "Now as it refers to Messiah's kingdom, it is a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles, as appears Acts 15:16-17. . . . That this is a prophecy of setting up the kingdom of the Messiah, and bringing in the Gentiles, is very certain."
David Chilton, in "Days of Vengeance," says, "The prophet Amos foretold the subjugation of 'Edom' under the rule of the House of David (Amos 9:11-12), and the New Testament interpretation of this text explains it as a prophecy of the conversion of the nations under the government of Christ (Acts 15:14-19)."
Kenneth Gentry, in "He Shall Have Dominion," says, "Other passages illustrating how the Church fulfills prophecies regarding Israel are found in the New Testament. Citing Amos 9:11-12, James says God is rebuilding the tabernacle of David through the calling of the Gentiles (Acts 15:15ff)."
Ron Smith in "Apostolic Interpretation" says, "When the Apostle James quoted this passage in Acts 15:16, he seemed to be calling the church the tabernacle or house of David. God is now rebuilding this house that was fallen and bringing the Gentiles in 'to boot.' In Acts 15:14 James said that the bringing in of the Gentiles to the church was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Amos."
Willard Ramsey, in "Zion's Glad Morning," says, "[God] has repaired the 'tabernacle of David'(Acts 15:13-18), i.e. the House of God, now the church. . . . James says that the prophecy of Amos (9:11-12) agrees with God's purpose to take out of the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14-16). . . . It has nothing to do with the second coming; James paraphrases Amos according to James' own time-frame and says simply, 'after this' (after the 'day' of which Amos spoke, i.e., during the first advent of Christ). . . . James cited this verse to confirm the validity of what they were doing at that time through the church. If Amos' prophecy is fulfilled only after the second coming, it did not confirm the work they were doing and had no relevancy to their problem."
Oswald Allis, in "Prophecy and the Church, says, "The words of Amos, 'all the nations upon whom my name is called,' clearly imply that Edom and all the Gentiles are to be incorporated with Israel as the people of the Lord. . . . James declares expressly that Peter's experience at Caesarea, which he speaks of as God's 'visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name,' was in accord with the burden of prophecy as a whole, and quotes freely from Amos in proof of it. . . . the words quoted by James apply directly and definitely to the situation under discussion, the status of the Gentiles in the Church, and that this is the reason that James appealed to them. The words, 'I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen' do not refer to a future Davidic kingdom. . . . They naturally refer to the first advent and to the whole of the great redemptive work of which it was the beginning and which will culminate in the second advent. The only natural interpretation of this passage is that it refers to the Church age and to the ingathering of the Gentiles during that age."
Calvin Goodspeed, in "Messiah's Second Advent," says, "James (in Acts 15:15sq.) interprets the prophecy of Amos (9:11sq.) . . . as affording proof that the Gentiles are to share in the promises to Israel, and as already in process of fulfillment in the conversion of the Gentiles as represented by the case of Cornelius.
". . . For this reason, all commentators we have been able to consult on this passage, including Meyer, Wordsworth, Canon Cook, Plumptre, Lechler in Lange, Schaff, A.R. Fausset, Olshausen, Cambridge Bible, Abbott, Howson and Spence, Hackett, and Alford, interpret the prophecy quoted as referring to the reception of the Gentiles to the Gospel, and their subsequent salvation and gathering into Christ's spiritual kingdom in the present dispensation. As Meyer says, 'The prophecy has found its Messianic historical fulfillment in the reception of the Gentiles unto Christianity, after that thereby the Davidic dominion, in the higher and antitypical sense of the Son of David, was re-established.' Bishop Wordsworth explains, Amos declares in these words, 'that the true restoration of the tabernacle of David is to be found in the reception of the residue of the human family, and in the flowing in of all nations, into the Church of Christ.' They all associate this prophecy with our Lord's first coming, and make the building again of the tabernacle of David refer to what was to follow this coming of David's greater Son."
The references to abundant harvests, rebuilding of the waste cities, and being deeply planted in the land so as not to be uprooted, are predictions of the fruitful ministry of the Lord's churches (Galatians 4:27) and the perpetuity of those churches to the end of time (Ephesians 3:21).
Matthew Henry comments thus on Amos 9:14-15: "The remnant shall return, and shall build the waste cities and inhabit them, shall form themselves into Christian churches and set up pure doctrine, worship, and discipline among them, according to the gospel charter, by which Christ's cities are incorporated. The kingdom of the Messiah shall take such deep rooting in the world as never to be rooted out of it (v. 15): I will plant them upon their land. God's spiritual Israel shall be planted by the right hand of God Himself upon the land assigned them, and they shall no more be pulled up out of it, as the old Jewish church was."
We should not presume to appropriate any of God's promise to Jews after the flesh, and apply them to the Church, without scriptural and apostolic authority for doing so. But in this case, it is clear that James taught that the prophecy of Amos was being fulfilled by the spread of the Christian gospel message among the Gentiles, such as the Italians who were converted by Peter's ministry in Acts 10-11. James, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has shown us how Amos' prophecy is to be applied. It cannot be interpreted as a prediction of future national blessing for the Jews, not when the Holy Spirit has stated that it is a prophecy of the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles.
One reason why certain theologians in the Scofield mold are so anxious to deny that Amos prophecied of the Lord's Church is because they teach that there are no Old Testament prophecies about the Church, or about the Gentiles being part of God's people. They see the Church Age as a parenthesis, an afterthought in the mind of God - supposedly Christ failed to set up the promised Kingdom of God at His first advent, so that meant that God's purpose of setting up a literal Jewish kingdom was temporarily set aside for thousands of years.
This pessimistic, defeatist theology teaches us that God's real purposes will not move forward again until Christ's Second Coming - until then, we are just to twiddle our thumbs, patiently waiting for the Rapture, until God's "prophetic time clock" starts ticking and tocking again, and the real action resumes.
That is why some Bible teachers strain so hard to deny the plain meaning of Amos' prophecy as interpreted by James in Acts 15. According to the Holy Spirit speaking through James, now is the time for God's people to rebuild and inhabit the waste places - now is the time for the abundant Gospel harvest in which the plowman shall overtake the reaper. A proper understanding of Amos 9 will revolutionize our theology and our practice. It will give us purpose in life, a great cause to live and die for, as we labor for the increase of Christ's government and peace - an increase which, according to Isaiah 9:6-7, already began at Christ's first advent, at which time He successfully set up His Kingdom (Matthew 12:28, Luke 16:16, Colossians 1:13).
The notion that the Old Testament prophets never predicted that Gentiles would be one with the Jews, as part of God's people, can be quickly and decisively disposed of by checking out the prophecy of Hosea 1:10, "And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."
Now we go to Hosea 2:23, "And I will sow her unto me in the earth: and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art my God."
Now let us see how Paul applies these passages from Hosea in Romans 9:24-26, " . . . Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people: and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God."
There can be no doubt that Paul is talking about the conversion of the Gentiles, since in Romans 9:30-31, he says, "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness."
Paul in Romans 9, in common with James in Acts 15, quotes Old Testament passages that we might have thought were applicable only to Jews after the flesh, but Paul and James apply them to the Gentiles. There is no reason why we should be shy about laying hold of these promises of God's blessings upon the Gentiles in the Church Age - these promises are for us.