At the risk of seeming to preach to the choir, I want to review with you some very basic things that we understand about the Bible. The Bible is the story of the earth, its past, its present and its future, that is the primary message of the Bible. We know that from its beginning, and we know that from its end. In the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis it is recorded that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the 22nd chapter of Revelation we see the perfection of that earth revealed:
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse.
We know that this new dispensation doesn’t take place someplace else beside the earth, even though it is described elsewhere as ‘new heavens and new earth’. It’s clear that we’re talking about a new dispensation, a new era of the earth, an earth without flaws and faults. And it’s clear that because it is God’s purpose to fill the earth with His glory, it is His purpose also, therefore, to glorify the inhabitants of the earth. And the inhabitants of the earth--you and me–need to look to the earth for the situs of our glorification and for our future. And there must be 5,000 testimonies that could be adduced to prove that point–call only a few to mind: 37th Psalm where on 7 occasions the Psalmist indicates that the salvation of people is destined for and bound up in the future of the earth; the 72nd Psalm vs 16 - 19:
His name shall endure forever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed;
and the 11th of Isaiah, starting at the sixth verse,
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. . . for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
And so on, and on, and on.
It is no secret to us either that this message of the Bible has been long obscured. The serpent’s lie, ‘thou shalt not surely die’, has obscured the truth of the Bible because if man does indeed have an immortal soul then the earth is almost an irrelevancy–it’s only a place where, if you will , this husk entombs the soul for a short time. Indeed, even the sacrifice of Christ is irrelevant in a scheme where it is postulated that man has an immortal soul. Christ’s death had nothing to do with man, he was already immortal. But it seems to me that while this Bible message which seems so plain to us, and so obscure to many of our friends may be less obscure now than it has been in the past. And I say that for several reasons. In the past because of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, I think that thinking people have thought of the Bible as a sort of collection of fables from which could be gleaned the ethics of the Judeo Christian morality. But now, even the evangelists, it seems to me, soft pedal the notion of hell. Hell is not preached much anymore even by the most rabid of the evangelists. Because, I think, they are unable to justify it in the logic of their own minds. They are afraid, if you will, of the ridicule that the preaching of such doctrine would bring upon them. And the scientific mind of the 20th century rebels at the notion of believing in something with no tangible evidence to support it.
The world stands on the brink of a cataclysm; economic and political calamity. And nobody today is out of reach of the world’s madmen. It seems to me it will only be a short time before the madmen of the Middle East put a bomb on a plane , for example, so fixed are they in their determination to serve us ill. Men’s hearts are failing them for fear and we have an opportunity, to serve up the logic and the comfort of the scriptures. A nd where do we find ourselves, as we see the day approaching and as we have this great opportunity? Well, I have here something called The Grand Structure of the Apocalypse ; it’s an attempt to outline a study of the book of Revelation, the first paragraph of the introduction says,
One wonders sometimes why it is that a community
Who have the truth, the pearl of great price
Can find the Apocalypse so difficult to understand..
(Well, I can understand that part, it is difficult
To understand; it requires effort)
And can be so ignorant of its message
Apathy and ignorance are the great foes of the truth.
Like the teenager in our society, who walks down the street
with his tape recorder in his hand,
And earphones clamped to his head, we have become a community
Who depend on canned food of taped expositions
Of the word for our spiritual food to
Sustain us in our Bible classes and private devotions
All this while the manna from heaven which
Will enable us to become while the word made flesh remains buried in our
Bibles. We have forgotten the words of the wise man that Hezekiah
The king said, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the
Honor of kings to search out a matter."
So we find ourselves, most of us–the speaker included–a prophetic know-nothing in very exciting times. And what I would like to review with you for just a moment this morning , primarily to peak your interest to rekindle the interest in prophecy which I knew as a young teenager at the time of WWII, to the end that we’ll become more profitable servants.
We were all raised on the prophetic interpretation of the Apocalypse; that the revelation should be interpreted using the continuous historic approach. That is to say, the chronology is there, and it starts with the time of John and it goes all the way up to the time of the end, and there’s an unbroken link if only you can divine it all. One of many various charts which have been circulated is one of the simpler ones, called Two Minutes to Twelve. And the time clock starts at the 6th chapter of Rev. Where the prophetic message really starts–you recall the first few chapters have to do with the messages to the 7 churches of Asia–and the 1st segment of the clock says paganism dethroned by Constantine, the 2nd the church becomes corrupt, 3rd Roman empire broken up, 4th Jerusalem taken by the Saracens, 5th, the Papacy becomes powerful, 6th the rise of Turkey, 7th French revolution, 8th, end of Papal temporal power, 9th, WWI and final decline of Turkey, WWII and rise of Russia, Next, the Israeli state and communism–that’s 2 minutes to twelve, and 12 oclock is the return of Christ All of us have, I think, a note of caution, or ought to have a note of caution when we see those kinds of events being applied with specificity to prophetic interpretation. It may be so, but then again it may not be so.
And one who takes issue has said that the continuous historic interpretation of prophecy is probably wrong. The reason is because Revelation is a book of the Bible. It is singularly a mosaic, if you will, of quotations from Old Testament prophets. That Jesus, when he gave his message to John on the Isle of Patmos, put together a prophetic body of material drawn from Old Testament sources. We should look to those Old Testament sources as to interpretation of prophecy rather than to events in history. After all, in interpreting revelation, who gives us the authority? The Bible doesn’t give us the authority to say that a particular event that happened in 1512 is a particular verse in Revelation. The only place that that kind of authority can be given in scripture is where the New Testament confirms the Old Testament prophets. And we’ve got plenty of examples of the confirmation of OT prophecies by a statement by the NT author that this is what the prophet meant when he said what he said in the OT. And until we have that kind of authority it’s not warranted for the interpretation of the Apocalypse. A good example of what he’s talking about there would be, for example, in the 2nd chapter of Acts, where after the Holy Spirit was visited upon those gathered together on the day of Pentecost Peter said,
These are not drunks, as you suppose ,seeing it is but the third hour of the day, but this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel, "And it shall come to pass in the last days , saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughter shall prophesy and your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions; And on my servants and on my handmaids in those days I will pour out my spirit and they shall prophesy. (Joel 3. 28).
Well, that’s an illustration of something that Joel said that Peter said was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. It surprises me, and I bet it surprises you ; we would have given an apocalyptic interpretation to that verse in Joel , indeed we have done it, but Peter chose to apply it to the events transpiring on the Day of Pentecost. So the point is, we’re constantly surprised by the way the OT scripture is fulfilled in NT events. So we ought to be willing to be surprised, so to speak, when you make a determination about the interpretation of the prophecy, because life’s like that–you’re likely to be surprised about some of the positions you take with respect to prophecy. He confirms his point that the OT and the Apocalypse is a mosaic of the OT by taking scriptures from both the OT and Rev. And put them side by side and showing how there is a great similarity, and one of the notable examples that comes to mind is he takes the 79th Psalm and compares it to the 11th chapter of Revelation. Revelation he says reminds us that this Jewish book with Jewish emphasis is probably wrong in making all these applications to Europe and the European Economic Community and things that were unrelated to the Middle East and what he sees as as the real message of the Apocalypse and that is the age old battle between Esau and Jacob, between the Jew and the Arab.
But the last great conflict he sees will not be Gog, coming down against Israel, but will be the conflict between Jew and Arab. This conflict he sees with the Arabs being victorious and the Jews being prostrate at the feet of the Arab nations and that Israel will only openly be saved after this terrible subjugation, during which they become humbled, lose their pride, and turn to Yahweh. Then Christ will return, and after that the Gogian invasion .
The continuous historic method has validity. The 2nd chapter of Daniel certainly is continuous historical prophecy. For example, the 2nd chapter of Daniel, a portion of which we read , certainly is continuous historical prophecy. Daniel sees a vision: the vision is of Babylonia, Medo Persia, Greek, Roman,, the division of the Roman Empire smiting the image on its feet–that is a series of events, long past Daniel’s time, in chronological sequence. And Revelation 17 is, a more elaborate discussion of the events described in Daniel 2 and 7. You will recall in the 7th chapter of Daniel Babylonian, Medo Persian, Greek Roman empires are all identified by names, so there’s no question about the interpretation of the prophecy. In Revelation 17 the image is reconstituted and destroyed, the notion being that there is a succession of world powers, and there is a world power yet to come, and that world power described in the Revelation 17.8:
And the beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition–and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder –skip on down–there are 7 kings, five are fallen, one is , and the other is not yet come, and that beast which is to come is the 8th beast.
The interpretation of that is that these are 7 forms of world powers–5 of them are past, 1 is (thought to be the Ottoman empire)–1 yet to come–that’s the Russian empire? Some say. Others say it’s the Germanic. Look at vs 12–the 10 horns are 10 kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but have received power with the kings one hour with the beast. Ten toes in Dan 2. 44, 10 kings here. Ten toes reconstituted in one image, 10 kings under the leadership of the beast.
So our minds run wild because we have these 10 kings that are gonna receive power one hour with the beast–we have 10 nations in Europe, the Economic European Community, what’s more they signed that Treaty in Rome, called the Treaty of Rome. This is just the perfect confederation of nations to come under the domination of Russia. And, as it says in the 14th verse, the beast and the 10 kings shall make war with the lamb and the lamb shall overcome them. So we have somehow a European/Russian alliance making war with the Lord. The difficulty with that fact is that the beast with the 10 horns in the 16th verse shall hate the harlot and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. The ten are no longer ten nations anymore, they are 12–Spain and Portugal just joined the European Economic Community. Now can you see those 12 nations turning on the head of apostate Christianity and destroying it? Somehow that doesn’t have the ring of authenticity. The only trouble with that is that it doesn’t square with this verse that says the 10 kings are going to destroy the head of apostate Christianity.
So let me suggest to you an alternate theory which somebody else may have written down but I was just trying to think of alternative theories. And that is we always think of this reconstituted Roman Empire in some sort of European setting. And yet the Roman empire in Daniel’s day and John’s day was a Middle Eastern empire. It’s true that it’s sway ultimately went as far as Gt Britain, but it’s more true that the Roman Empire and it’s antecedents like, Greece, Medo Persia and Babylon had had their center in the Middle East. And if you’re looking for 10 nations, it’s easy to find them–exactly 10–in the Middle East–Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Ethiopia and Lebanon. Where do we get the 10th one? The PLO, the Palestinian state, the dislocated displaced Palestinian state represented by Arafat. You recall that in Daniel 2. 44 the ten nations were partly strong and partly broken. Surely that’s true of the Arab nations, some are partly weak and partly strong. It’s true that the Arabs are demonstrating their terrorism in Rome; it is also true that when the Pope was shot the plot came out of Bulgaria, a Communist state. So why not have a confederation, if you’re looking for a confederation, of Russia and the Arab states? Isn’t it more likely that they would commit an act of terrorism , if you will, against the Papacy than a group of European nations as this verse we just referred to requires? Moreover, in the 18th chapter of Revelation, after the harlot is destroyed by these ten kings, in the 9th verse it says that these kings shall bewail her and lament her. They are the European kings lamenting the destruction of the Papacy.
Now I’ve said all that not to persuade you of that opinion–I’m not even sure I’m persuaded of it myself. I suggest to you , a student of history with a vivid imagination can do wonderful things with the Apocalypse. I encourage you to do them. I’d like to see the enthusiasm; we need the enthusiasm, we need the zeal. If somehow we could harness our enthusiasm for scripture to serve the ends of truth, that’s what we should set out to do. ` Let me hold out to you an example , perhaps the greatest secular intellect of our age, Sir Isaac Newton. He was a great scientist at the university–you know, all the teachers at the university which was controlled by the church in those days, took holy orders and became priests. He never did, because he didn’t believe in the trinity and he made all of the arguments about the nature of Christ and his relationship with God. And he was a student of prophecy, but he allowed himself to be objective in the final analysis and not allow his own enthusiasm, his own wanting of himself to be right, and Christ coming back tomorrow, and everything being wonderful. Now there’s a man that can take an objective view. I’m sure he could find events, if he had wanted to, in his day, that would have Christ coming back tomorrow. You know, in the 25th chapter of Matthew in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, that is followed by the parable of the talents.
Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day or hour when the son of man cometh.
That verse doesn’t apply only to the first parable, but it goes on to say as a continuation of the sentence, almost.
Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour in which the son of man cometh, for the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling into a far country
and then goes on to the parable of the talents. What I’m trying to say is that Jesus said, the best way to watch is to utilize your talents. So that he that received five talents came and brought five other talents saying
Lord thou deliverest them to me five talents, behold I have gained five talents more. His Lord said unto him, well done, thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faith ul over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
Watching does not consist of standing still; watching consists of exercising and utilizing one’s talents.