Intramural Discussions About Terminology,
Expressions, and Definitions Can Spark a
Renewal of Self-understanding Among God’s People
by Mark Mountjoy
Almost three billion Christians walk on this earth at this time and there is no guarantee that when we speak to each other using the same words we necessarily mean the same thing. To be fair, semantic differences between believers do not necessarily stem from ill-will or intent to misrepresent, deceive or mislead. And, in fact, no motive should be attached to this since the purposes of the following discussions and continuing talks are to hash through differences of understanding, hermenuetics, and epistemology and at least come face to face with the issues that we each care about and the subjects which mutually concern us about our Lord Jesus, the New Testament, the Church, evangelism, the saving blood of Jesus and eternal life, prophecy, and the eternal state.
In this issue, we want to focus our attention on words that could trip up, hinder, or otherwise handicap us if we fail to define precisely not only what we mean, but also the perspective we are coming from when we say them.
Words like, ‘soon,’ ‘imminent,’ ‘immanent,’ ‘at hand,’ and ‘quickly’ come to mind. Of course, different Christians have an idea of what they think the New Testament means when it uses these expressions, but assumptions need to be looked at again and again to see if assigned meanings can stand the test of the particular topic and its context and stated implications.1
Are we Christians standing at the opposite end of facts and opposing each other because of a perspective that can be changed simply by walking circumspectly around what we call ‘reality’? I believe the answer is yes!2 Let’s start this study off by looking at two words that sound identical but mean two completely different things . . .
Imminent and Immanent
Traditional and conventional Christian understandings surrounding Bible prophecy and New Testament eschatology often confuse or conflate the meanings of these two different words and, in fact, the New Testament is heavily invested with the idea that the Second Coming was ‘imminent’ (soon, near, and in the proximity of the first believers) but it never ever hints at or suggests that it was ‘immanent’ (everywhere or transcendent).
Imminent (adj.) 1520s, from Middle French imminent (14c.) and directly from Latin imminentem (nominative imminens) “overhanging; impending,” present participle of imminere “to overhang, lean towards,” hence “be near to,” also “threaten, menace, impend, be at hand, be about to happen,” from assimilated form of in- “into, in, on, upon” (from PIE root *en “in”) + -minere “jut out,” which is related to mons “hill” (from PIE root *men- (2) “to project.” Related: Imminently.
Immanent [im-uh-nuhnt] Adjective
1. Remaining within; indwelling; inherent.
2. Philosophy. (of a mental act) taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it. Compare transeunt.
3. Theology. (of the Deity) indwelling the universe, time, etc. Compare transcendent (def. 3).3
In the cause of correct interpretation and legitimate belief, Bible prophecy is not an issue without valid and substantial reasons. We believe Christians (of whatever nuance) should be keenly concerned about what the Scriptures represent about this broad field of studies. And we believe our cause is not imaginary but very real.
But it is between the believer and God, ultimately, to determine for him or herself how far they are willing to explore this subject or see to what extent the civilization of the late Second Jewish Commonwealth (516 B.C.—135/6 C.E.) has a direct bearing on the original Christian concept of a Second Coming of Christ and the end of the age.
In all cases, one will discover that the New Testament (as the Greek words below attest) validates a real rather than imaginary, relative, or ambiguous fulfillment of paranormal activities to signal the genuine annulment of one era and the inauguration of a new everlasting one.
Apokalupsis: an uncovering. The original word is: ἀποκάλυψις, εως, ἡ. Part of speech: Noun, Feminine If transliterated into English the word is: “ap-ok-al’-oop-sis.” It is from Strong’s Concordance #602. There are eighteen occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
Eggus: near (in place or time). Original Word: ἐγγύς. Its function as a part of speech is an adverb. Transliteration: eggus. Phonetic Spelling: (eng-goos'). The short definition of this word is near/ close by, within reach. Strong’s Greek #1451 and there are instances of it.
The expression “at hand” means that something is nearby and that we can practically reach out and touch it. But something that is not at hand is completely out of reach. How could someone like Silas, the writer of 1 Peter (see 1 Peter 5:12) think that the end of all things was at hand in the first century and not be completely wrong and in serious error (1 Peter 4:7)?
Why would Jesus assert that the events in the Book of Revelation were at hand when the majority now believe the prodigies and terrors of the apocalypse are only now beginning to be possible in the 21st century (Revelation 1:3, cf. 22:10)?
In order for officials to gain a different perspective (particularly in regard to Revelation 22:10), they should compare and contrast it with Daniel 12:4 and reflect on the fact that the account in Daniel chapter 12 happened 600 years before Christ but what was said in Revelation 22:10 was more than nineteen centuries ago.4
Epiphaneia: appearance. Original Word: ἐπιφάνεια, ας, ἡ. The part of speech: Noun, Feminine. Transliteration “ep-if-an'-i-ah.” Definition: appearing, manifestation and a glorious display. It can be found in Strong’s Greek # 2015 and it occurs six times.
Episkopé: a visiting, an overseeing. Original Word: ἐπισκοπή, ῆς, ἡ. Part of speech: Noun, Feminine. Transliteration, “ep-is-kop-ay.” It means a visitation of visitation, oversight, supervision, overseership and it is found in Strong’s Greek # 1984. There are four occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
Eutheós: at once, directly. Original Word: εὐθέως. Part of speech: Adverb. Transliteration: “yoo-theh’-oce.” Short Definition: immediately, speedily, soon, at once. See Strong’s # 2112.
Melló: to be about to. Original word: μέλλω. Part of speech: Verb. Transliteration: “mel’-lo.” Short Definition: I am about to, I delay, linger. Strong’s Exhaustive # 3195. There are one hundred and ten occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
Μikron hoson hoson: a little very while. Original phrase: Μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον. Part of speech: adjective and verb. Definition: In a very short while - “γὰρ μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον ὁ.” An occurrence that will not take very long to happen. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible #3398 and # 3745. There is one instance of this expression in the entire Bible and it refers to the approaching coming of God’s Son to the guilty city of Second Temple Jerusalem.
Parousia: a presence, a coming. Original Word: παρουσία, ας, ἡ. Part of speech: Noun, Feminine. Transliteration: “par-oo-see’-ah.” Definition: presence, a presence, a coming, an arrival, advent, especially of the return of Jesus. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible #3952. There are twenty-four occurrences where this word appears in the New Testament and each of them is significant for our research.
Prosdokaó: to await, expect. Original Word: προσδοκάω. Part of Speech: Verb, Transliteration: “pros-dok-ah’-o.” Short Definition: I expect, wait for, await, and anticipate. Found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible # 4328. There are sixteen occurrences of this word in the Christian Scriptures.
Speudó: to hasten, urge on. Original word: σπεύδω. Part of Speech: Verb. Transliteration: “spyoo’-do.” Definition: I hasten, urge on, strongly desire. There are six references to this word in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
Tacheós: quickly and hastily. Original word: ταχέως. Part of Speech: Adverb. Transliteration: “takh-eh’-oce.” Short Definition: soon, quickly, hastily. Strong’s Concordance # 5030. There are ten instances of this word in the New Testament.
Telos: the goal and ‘the study of the purposes of objects with a view to their aims and or intentions.’ Phonetic Spelling: (tel’-os). Original word: τέλος: Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter. Transliteration: telos. It is a neuter noun and stands for a consummation (the end-goal, purpose), such as closure with all its results. Strong’s Concordance # 5056. There are forty-one occurrences of this word in the Bible.
What is interesting and notable about the word τέλος is that its meaning is pregnant with significance in light of the fraught and highly charged legal and existential situation of the first Christians and, if that is invalidated or otherwise disregarded the damage it inflicts goes a very long way towards invalidating the inspiration of the entire New Testament and the fundamental reliability and credence of its message.
When we see a sign that says a store is opening ‘soon,’ or a person or plane will arrive ‘soon,’ do we understand things differently when the Bible says “soon”? Could it be unlimited time traversing multiple lifetimes?5
The word “ταχύ/ quickly” means different things to different Christians. Some reason that time in the Bible is only from God’s perspective and rarely if ever from man’s (see, e.g., Revelation 1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7; 22:12; and 22:20). Along these lines of reasoning, it is believed to be an act of folly to attempt to assign any definite meaning to expressions of time that can be taken to mean inordinately long stretches involving not decades or centuries, but millennia and eons.
In like manner as the word ταχύ, the word τέλος means wildly different things depending upon the confession and the tradition; where some expect the end to come in only a few years, others expect it to happen at the end of time (which they freely own could be billions of years in the future). However, it is incontrovertible that the earliest Christians believed the end/telos could be seen quickly emerging on their historical horizon as the barometer of Jewish hostility against the rule of the Romans in the Holy Land and the role of the Jerusalem Aristocracy as traitors and collaborators came to a fever pitch of zeal, rebellion, anarchy, and destruction.
Thus, when the Bible repeatedly promises Christians in the Book of Revelation that either the events of the Apocalypse or Jesus himself would come “quickly” the fact that that was announced in the latter part of the first century does not necessarily mean it was urgent or signal anything was near at all to many today.
But all Christians would not agree with this logic. Some who object to the long view would ask, To what purpose would Jesus come quickly two thousand years after an emergency and what would that accomplish separated that far and away from the original crisis?
It must be remembered that the original plight was the conflict, chaos, and confusion described in the Book of Revelation and those specific conditions are not actually currently going on, (Revelation 13:13-18 cf. Revelation 19:19-21). And since it is over it could be likened to a scenario where firemen responding to a blaze finally come to help fifty years after a situation of danger, destruction, and possibly death.
Meanwhile, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Jesus forewarned of a time when, very early on, the situation of the earliest believers in the Jewish world would become dangerously precarious (John 16:1-3), but a growing number of believers are not so confident that that view represents the best explanation of any of the New Testament’s dire warnings or any of the numerous apocalyptic gaffes of individuals, churches, sects, and cults over the past 20 centuries.
In these events, Jesus posits his soon and sudden return, not after the fact, but during the crisis (e.g., Matthew 10:23). To put Jesus’ arrival twenty centuries after those circumstances seems not only careless but also superfluous in the extreme. In other words, for Jesus to come after the emergencies announced in Hebrews and James, 1 John, Jude, and Revelation he need not now come at all for the simple fact that those situations have played themselves out and been resolved. It would make no sense for firemen to show up two thousand years after a call for help and claim, “When we promised to come ‘quickly’ we did not mean at the time of the emergency, but when we finally decided to respond!” Many Christians are comfortable with the idea that Jesus could suddenly appear out of nowhere (without context) on a cloudy and stormy day or even a peacefully sunny day, 21 centuries after he promised to come to put first and second century fires out.
Those dangerous fires threatened the very existence of the Christian church when it would still be vulnerably situated in the heart, cradle, and crucible of a hostile and aggressive sectarian Second Temple Judaism.6
Of the twelve words we examined in this study only one of them is actually completely absent from the New Testament: the concept of immanence and Bible prophecy. All other terms—apocalupsis and eggus, epiphaneia and episkope, eutheos and mello, mikron hoson hoson, parousia, prosdokao, speudo and tacheos, and telos neatly and easily dovetail into the notion of the imminent personal return of the Son of God to the rebellious fourth kingdom in order to consummate and annul a diabolical and highly catastrophic cluster of events and emergencies that uniquely fit into what history tells us was the termination of the Second Jewish Commonwealth.
A deeper study of the lexicological and etymological implications of this subject is above and beyond this author’s expertise, but there can be no doubt at all that those proficient in Koine Greek or Greek Orthodox officials would have a field day in this newly opened genre of study.
It is my hope and prayer that qualified Christians will understand the implications of this work and believe themselves to be equal to the task of taking this research much further along.
Exploring the Meaning of Expressions in the Context
of the Second Temple and New Testament Prophecy
The Apostle Paul enjoined Christians to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:2). But in order to do that we must not stop with an examination of lexicological and etymological questions alone because there is another important side of the story that we need to look at: Difficult, problematic, and controversial expressions we find in connection to Bible eschatology. Let’s take a look at some prominent ones . . .
Temple of God - Is the Temple of God in Revelation 11:1-2 supposed to be understood to be the true Church? or was it, in reality, the doomed Second Jewish Temple of ancient fame? We each need to examine and completely familiarize outselves with passages and texts like Matthew 24:1-2, 15, Mark 13:1-2 and 14, Luke 21:5-6; Acts 6:9-14; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. Now, to be fair, in references just to the expression ‘temple of God,’ there are other references that do point in the direction of the Church or individual Christians [being the temple of God or temple of the Holy Spirit] but where should we draw the lines of distinction?7
A secondary string of issues related to the Temple of God must detain us before we move on as it concerns what is referenced as the “Place” (Gr. τόπον) in three important instances. “Our Place,” “This Place,” and “No Place” - These peculiar expressions are found in John 11:48, Acts 6:13-14, and Revelation 20:11.
In John 11:48 it is rendered as “the Place” (Gr. τὸν τόπον); in Acts 6:14 it is coined as “the Place” (Gr. τὸν τόπον), and in Revelation 20:11 it is expressed as “Place” (Gr. τόπος). In the Septuagint (which first century Jews and Christians accepted as authoritative), we find another reference to the Place and it is interestingly situated at the very zenith of Bible prophecy which can be found in Daniel 2:35. However, in the Hebrew text of Daniel 2:35 it is significantly different because it reads “no trace” (לא־ָ /no) + (תרַ֖אֲ/trace) but the LXX it reads “no place” (τόπος ουχ). Unsurprisingly, the Book of Revelation follows the SEPTUAGINT rendering of Daniel 2:35 where John writes (τόπος οὐχ/ no place) to directly suggest that at the very end of the Bible prophecy timeline (Dan. 2:35 cf. Rev. 20:11) Jews and Israelites would NOT succeed in building a Place. But if we follow the logic of the chief priests and Pharisees (who upon the miraculous raising of Lazarus after he had been dead for four days were alarmed) had this to say about the situation,
What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. If we let him alone, all men will believe in him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, “Ye know nothing at all. Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”
And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth, they took counsel together for to put him to death. (Jno. 11:48-53)
Now, in Acts chapter 6 we find another ruckus developing in Jerusalem between people from the synagogue of the Libertines and pilgrims from far-flung places such as Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicia, and Asia, arguing and disputing with Stephen. And the Bible says they were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. They galvanized a crowd of opposers and set up false witnesses which said,
This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the Law.
The first mention of the “place” in Acts 6 refers to it as “this holy place” (τοῦ τόπου τοῦ ἁγίου). From this, we may easily deduce that they are talking about the Temple of God as it was standing securely on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The litigants claimed they heard Stephen say:
“This Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.”
And yet Revelation 11:1-2 through 19:1-4 depict Jerusalem and along with it the prized Second Temple going up in a conflagration of flames and smoke. But after that, however, according to the sequence of events, another war broke out and one of the apparent aims of the war was to have a place, but at the final end the instigators of the war have no “Place” (note again, Rev. 20:11 cf. Dan. 2:35).
The Beast - Who is this beast? Was it the Roman civilization? Was it the Roman military apparatus? or was it Jewish nationalists, freedom fighters, the Zealots, Sicarii, and their Idumean co-religionists? The geometry of a Pyrrhic victory and sudden defeat fails to signal or justify a Roman corollary at all here. This, too, is a matter of perspective. If we look at the broad implications of what is going on between the rise of the beast in Revelation 11:7, his unexpected boastful victory in Revelation 13:2-4, his impending judgment in Revelation 14:9-11; his agonizing punishment in Revelation 16:2, 10-11, and his signal defeat in Revelation 19:19-21 we will perceive that this sinister entity may not be a symbol of the wickedness, power, and demise of the Roman Empire in the early Roman period (because no such expiration of the empire came about anywhere near the first century). Official Christian commentaries routinely offer a plausible argument about who the Sea Beast was by saying things like,
13:1-2 a beast rising out of the sea: Several parallels indicate that the sea beast, as a demonic rival, mimics the Lamb. (1) The Lamb is worshiped by angels and saints (5:14), while the beast is worshiped by the wicked (13:4); (2) the Lamb was slain and rose again (5:6), while the beast was mortally wounded and recovered (13:3), (3) the Lamb sits on the throne of his Father (3:21), while the beast shares a throne with the dragon (13:2); (4) the Lamb redeems believers from every tribe and nation (5:9), while the beast has temporal authority over every tribe and nation (13:7); (5) the Lamb is worthy of power and glory from God (5:12), while the beast receives power and authority from the dragon (13:2); (6) the name of the Lamb is stamped on the foreheads of the saints (14:1), while the number of the beast is branded on the brows of sinners (13:16-18). • The imagery comes from Daniel 7:1-7, where the pagan empires that oppressed Israel in exilic and post-exilic times appear as four beasts rising up out of the sea—a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a creature with ten horns. Their animal features are here combined into an image of imperial Rome, who embodies the power and ferocity of them all.8
The first part of this commentary is priceless but that last part:-“Their animal features are here combined into an image of imperial Rome, who embodies the power and ferocity of them all” exactly contradicts the specificity of the entire New Testament and the direct implications of 1 and 2 Maccabees which makes the Hasmonean Imperial State the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy. The majority of Christians have 1 and 2 Maccabees in their Holy Scriptures and they can easily consult these to discover that Judas the Maccabee and the Hasmoneans and their empire ended up being the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy (Dan. 11:32b cf. 1 Macc. 13:41).
This point, at first, may seem like a small quibble, but it is not. The very notion that the Roman Empire was the embodiment of the evils of all the previous three empires runs counter to the implications of the New Testament that sins and iniquities stretching back to the murder of Abel were reaching their climax in the destruction, not of Rome, but of Jerusalem. (Matt. 23:29-39 cf. Rev. 11:8; 17:20-24)
The “time of the dead” - Why and how does Revelation chapter 11 stand out as an important window of reward and punishment for the servants and prophets and the rebels and transgressors? What contextual framework supports such sweeping statements and where is this event realized in a real historical timeline? Now, reducing the forty-two-month-long attack on the Temple of God, the death of God’s two witnesses, their assumption into heaven, an earthquake and the death of precisely seven thousand people, and the arrival of the kingdom of God into the idyllic notion that Revelation chapter 11 is simply talking about the Church being the Temple of God does not explain why the events in that very chapter are considered “the time of the dead that they should be judged” and a period of reward for the prophets and saints and punishment for those who destroy the earth (Rev. 11:18). A lot more is going on in this chapter than the traditional interpretation would imply!9
Babylon the Great - We covered this in Babylon the Great City—According to the Bible and Babylon the Great in the New Testament. From our observations of the evidence and giving deference to the authority of our Lord in respect to his Matthew 23:2-39 indictment against Jerusalem we would NOT be able to say this Babylon “has” to be the capital of the Roman Empire.10 We should not be able to say this is the Vatican, the capital of the Roman Catholic Church, either.
The notion that John means Rome in Revelation 11:8, 14:8, 17-20; 16:19-20; 17:5-6; 18:19-24, and 19:1-4 goes against something very fundamental to the New Testament and to insist that this city ‘has to be Rome’ rather than Second Temple Jerusalem comes at a steep price! Even if we grant that the Book of Revelation was written in A.D.95 that still leaves three hundred and fifteen years before Rome was seriously burnt with fire (but even then it was not stoned!). And so, in A.D.410 none of the circumstances described in the Book of Revelation happened. And by then the capital of the empire had been moved by Emperor Constantine the Great to Constantinople eighty years earlier on 11 May A.D. 330.
This engrained notion that the Great City has to be Rome falls apart once we reconsider it. For example, in Revelation ten horns hate the woman and destroy her but did Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, or Hadrian, ever try to destroy Rome by themselves or with a league of ten co-conspirators?
Also, it is said by some that John has Nero in mind when he states, “Five are fallen, one is and the other is not yet come.”
This would mean (according to the reasoning) that Nero was the seventh emperor of the Roman Empire. Thus, according to this logic, Julius Caesar was the first emperor,
● Augustus (31 BCE–14 CE)
● Tiberius (14–37 CE)
● Caligula (37–41 CE)
● Claudius (41–54 CE)
● Nero (54–68 CE) (is, Revelation 17:10??)
● Galba (68–69 CE)
● Otho (January–April 69 CE)
The listing that adds Julius Caesar as the first Roman emperor is erroneous as Augustus founded the Roman Empire from the Roman Republic 13 years after Julius’ assassination in 44 B.C. But whether we accept or reject the inclusion of Julius does not alter the fact that Otho is the seventh or eighth Roman Emperor and the Scriptures in no way say that the fifth or sixth king is anything special. Instead, the Bible says the eighth king is the Son of Perdition and his aims are shared by ten co-conspirators who share an hour of power with him (which was basically Simon’s ‘hour of power’ after causing so much trouble, devastation, and misery). This narrative and these events fit nowhere directly into Roman history but do match what we see if we study the course, direction, and evolution of the Jewish civil war - Rev. 17:16-17 cf. Wars 4.9.11:573-12:577. However, if we regard the kings as messianic claimants who fomented insurrections over seven decades leading to the First Great Revolt that scenario better fits the situation described in Revelation 17:7-18, otherwise the Roman Empire NEVER was endangered by an emperor-led coup to burn or topple Rome.
The Marriage of Christ to the Church - How do the events of Revelation chapter 19 fit into the Amillennial schema and is it a past and present reality or a future prospect? A discussion about Romans chapter 7:1-4; Ephesians 5:23-32 and 2 Corinthians 11:2 is very appropriate here. There is obviously some tension between what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:3-4 and what he said in 2 Corinthians 11:2. These are not black or white, either/or issues and we can take both and believe both whilst (at the very same time) also affirming that the marriage of Jesus to his bride, the Church, was consummated, at last, after the Destruction of Jerusalem (see the Parable of the King’s Son’s Wedding, Matt. 22:1-8).
And, while we are on this topic we must be sure not to neglect the implications of Matthew 24 (Olivet Discourse destruction of the Second Temple) along with Matthew 25’s Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The watchfulness around the destruction of the city in Matthew 24-25 is paralleled to the watchfulness in Revelation 16:12-21 and the marriage of Christ to the Church in Revelation 19:1-9.
These are not easy issues to absorb or integrate into one’s consciousness and it takes time, prayer, and reflection to come to terms with what is going on and to think about how to evaluate and assimilate these new realizations and insights into a sensical, logical, and verbal ideation in the heart and mind; and it is for these very reasons nobody should be insulted, accused, pressured, goaded, or pushed into making a declaration about anything until they personally see fit to do so.
The Camp of the Saints and the invasion and destruction of Gog and Magog - Satan was first imprisoned, then loosed. In any case, the Book of Revelation is very clear that his incarceration happened after the Great City was burned to the ground (Rev. 19:1-4), and after the beast and false prophet were cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:21).
After all this, Satan was apprehended and bound and the saints were exalted to thrones where the direction of their gaze was pointed toward the present and the future (Rev. 20:1-4). But in Revelation 20:7 Satan is released from his prison and a brand new round of drama ensues: A multitude of nations encircle the camp of the saints of God and these enemies of the Church are dealt a fatal blow symbolized by fire coming down from God out of heaven: Universal destruction (Rev. 20:9 cf. Gen. 19:24). How, when, and where does this fit into traditionalist and conventional Futurist calendars of Bible prophecy events?11 What is happening in Revelation 20:7ff emerges, takes shape and makes sense if we understand it to mean the founding of the BRAND NEW state of Israel under the rule of Simon Bar Kokhba in A.D.132. At that time, according to the record of his coins and instructions discovered in scrolls found in the Dead Sea Caves in the 1960s, Bar Kokhba instructed his men to prepare for the observance of Sukkot, and this can only mean that he was successful in building a Third Temple in Jerusalem. However, the Levitical Priesthood was annulled on 17 Tammuz A.D.70 when the Sacrifices and the Oblations then ceased. This means that all their efforts to destroy the Church and restore the Levitcal Theocracy in the seventh decade after the Destruction were an abomination to God, just as Isaiah had already foretold it would be,
Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of a house will ye build me? and of what kind is to be the place of my rest? 2 For all these things are mine, saith the Lord: and to whom will I have respect, but to the humble and meek, and the man that trembles at my words? 3 But the transgressor that sacrifices a calf to me, is as he that kills a dog; and he that offers fine flour, as one that offers swine's blood; he that gives frankincense for a memorial, is as a blasphemer. Yet they have chosen their own ways, and their soul has delighted in their abominations. (Isa. 66:1-3).
No Temple, priesthood, or sacrifice was or is acceptable to God besides the Cross, death, and blood of his Son, Jesus, and this is precisely why the actions and ambitions of Bar Kokhba, the Jews, Israelites, and their Godfearing sympathizers was doomed from the start in A.D.132. That futile effort only lasted three and a half years before it was blown away in a cataclysmic destruction wherein the Rabbis report that Hadrian managed to kill four billion or (some say) forty million people.12 Now, whether that casualty figure is accurate or mere hyperbole, the Bible is in complete agreement that the number of participants in that effort would be astronomical, “as the sand of the sea” (Ro. 9:27 cf. Heb. 11:12, and Rev. 20:8).
End of the world - The concept of a soon and sudden end of the world is a popular but contentious one. What do we mean when we use the expression “end of the world”? Do we mean end or termination of the earth? Do we mean a ‘concern’ (as, for example, the world of sports does not mean the ‘planet’ of sports)? Or do we mean a governmental or religiopolitical era such as the Jewish State under the Second Jewish Commonwealth? If we are in any doubt about what the answer to this question might be, the New Testament can surely help us here!13 I am convinced and remain optimistic that if Christians continue to receive encouragement to look into this issue on their own, they will discover (either very soon or gradually over time) that the “world” in question in the New Testament was, in fact, and in substance and reality, the Second Jewish Commonwealth-that is the Law, the State Temple, the Senate of the Children of Israel, the territory and the traditions, and the accumulated corruption, sins, transgressions, and iniquities associated with a then dysfunctional and rapidly deteriorating era. The sudden end of the “world” more directly brings modern Christians into close proximity and direct contact with Second Jewish civilizational and existential realities, many of which are completely foreign to our experience as modern believers: We have no firsthand knowledge about the Levitical Priesthood, and that beautiful and glorious Second Temple (which was not only the center of prayer for the people of God but also one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world), the twice-daily sacrifices, the aroma of burnt offerings, and smells of spices, and incense; the electrifying excitement of millions of Jewish, Israelite, and proselyte pilgrims thronging Jerusalem from the east and the west, and from the north and the south can only be faintly imagined in our minds since those days do not belong to our collective memory!
The eternal state - the home of the soul is described in fairly great detail in the last two chapters of the Book of Revelation, but does the existence of such a realm exclude earth and history as we now know it? Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 describe the last Jewish State war on the mountains, plains, and valleys of Israel in explicit and gory detail, but what is more, it explains that people on earth would embark upon a mass cleanup of the multitudes of Gog afterward (Ez. 39:11-20).
If that war happened on earth and in the Holy Land (which Ez. 38 and 39 seem to make clear) then that effort to bury casualties also happened on earth, however, the question must be asked, Who did the work?
Now, Revelation 20:7-15 posits that war was immediately prior to the incoming new heavens and new earth but it would be superfluous for anyone to engage in such grisly cleanup if the whole planet was to disappear in a moment and the twinkling of an eye. It seems more likely that, as far as life on earth was concerned, the need was there to cleanse the Holy Land, but that, indeed, an entirely new spiritual cosmology was brought to completion in an unseen plane even as we in our present life cannot now see beyond the veil (Heb. 10:20).
Now, this would have to be the case: Life on earth continued [outwardly] ‘as usual’ in the Roman Empire and in the Church, but carnal Israel was no more. At the very same time, after A.D.136 the new Israel never had an earthly headquarters and certainly, it was not Rome! Furthermore, we can explain the existence of sin and evil outside of this city (Rev. 22:14-15) which is the center of the new heaven and earth if we maintain that all Christians who walk in the Spirit are considered citizens of the new Jerusalem and all who do not walk in the Spirit are also considered to be outside of it. However, this positional truth would not be self-evident until an individual actually passes away. Now, with respect to the eternal state, it would be a misunderstanding for Futurists to assume we believe the physical plane we are born, live, and breathe is the actual or even a ‘pretended’ new Jerusalem; it isn’t. The physical plane and the spiritual kingdom we live in as Christians [in the realm of Christianity, whether in heaven or on earth] is one family of the kingdom of God (Eph. 3:15).
But any “capital” of Christianity is could never genuinely be an earthly city but a heavenly metropolis (Heb. 13:14). For a very long time Christians conceived of Constantinople as the capital of Christianity and, as glorious as that city was, her beauty and stability could in no wise exceed or outdistance what God has in store for his people in Jerusalem above (Gal. 4:26 cf. 1 Cor. 2:9, and 2 Cor. 5:1-4). This is a city, a place, and a country that will only belong to us when we leave this earthly sphere of existence and not beforehand (Heb. 11:10, but see Heb. 13:4).
By collaborating, communicating, and sharing in the spirit enjoined to us in 1 Peter 3:15, Christians can help spark inspiring changes in the New Testament self-understanding of God’s people, starting with the authorities of the Church. We can set a good example by our attitudes that we convey that this knowledge is not meritorious (to make us the “only Christians” or “God’s favorite Christians”) or cause the leadership of the churches to suddenly believe they are, somehow, un-Christian, non-Christian, and condemned in the eyes of God.14
This knowledge is part of our common past (our ‘common heritage,’ if you wish) no matter what denomination or tradition a Christian happens to be from, and, as such, it is, in reality, what makes Christianity truer than all of us originally believed it was under the conventional Futurist paradigm of continual disappointment and delay.
If these perspectives and this paradigm shift indicate anything to a Christian it should suggest to him or her that there are many more reasons why confidence in the Gospels is not misplaced or in vain but, instead, the Apocalypse, which book-ends the New Testament, served the precise purpose of preserving Gospel realities that happened on the Cross, in Jesus’ tomb, and at his third-day resurrection. By his return AS HE PROMISED he prevented what would be trampled or blown away in the onslaught of misguided enthusiasm which engulfed the Jewish world and led it into closely-linked and repeated episodes of catastrophic oblivion orchestrated by none other than the Son of God himself (Rev. 5:1-13 cf. 6:1-17).
In this way, the correctness of the original Christians’ apocalyptic hope serves as a tangible real-time confirmation of the Gospel, of the GOD WHO JESUS IS, and as the sure and unmistakable signal that the Church indeed is the new Israel of God.
1 Nothing should be taken for granted that we learned either from our youthful Catechistic, Sunday School, Bible college or seminary training, repetitive indoctrination, or our adult conversion into Christ. Whenever we encounter new and different ideas we must be willing (even if privately) to explore alternatives and weigh them carefully and circumspectly against what we already know and new incoming information that directly pertains to any fresh challenges we are facing in our walk with the Lord.
2 In our illustration a number can be seen as a 6 or a 9 at one and the same time. But in the case that is before us, we are speaking about the claims of Futurism versus the counterclaims of the New Testament itself, and we do not do this against anyone stridently or with pride or ill-will.
Specifically, we are asking Christian officials (and all Christians), respectfully, if the Book of Revelation more accurately describes the Fall of the Roman Empire or the Fall of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. Depending on how we each account for the details and think about the overall implications of the available information we can shift our understanding of what this controversial book means and reimagine how it should function in the faith, life, and future prospects of Christians in the here and now and what we can confidently expect in the world beyond.
3 Christian officials routinely use the expressions imminent and immanent interchangeably when they actually do not mean the same thing, however, such a small detail as the letter i and the letter a make a big difference in a discussion about Bible eschatology and our goal is not to sidestep this issue using language as a way or conduit to get away from the main point of the discussion. Since God is always everywhere he wants to be (immanent) that is not our concern in these discussions.
What we seek to see eye to eye about is whether or not the New Testament is justified in its notion of the imminence of the Second Coming in light of the existence, persecution, judgment, and termination of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, the social world of the Apostles.
4 A definitive anchor or lasso (if you like) can be a reexamination of the many times our Lord spoke of things that would certainly take place within the constraints of a generation “this generation.” Without a consideration of the specific generation, Jesus said these events would be fulfilled in it would be anyone’s guess when anything would finally come to pass.
5 A stairstep of occurrences of claims that events were at hand from a first century perspective should give us cause for pause: See Matthew 4:17 and Luke 21:31, Romans 13:12, 2 Timothy 4:6, and Revelation 1:3 and 22:10.
6 Today there is no similar crisis affecting Christianity, not even from its main rival, Islam. All sectors of the Christian Church are experiencing unchecked growth where, for example, the fastest-growing Christian Church is in Iran, and each year in Africa alone up to six million (!!) Sunni Muslims convert to Christianity, according to the Arabic news agency Al Jazeerah. This is the very opposite of the situation in the ancient Jewish world where the threat of militant Hebrew nationalists caused the Semitic wing of the Church to shrink and wither to a mere 144,000 individuals (Rev. 7:2-8 cf. Ro. 11:4 and Jas. 1:1). Now, if we think about the effect that Roman persecutions had on the Church we will discover that those incidents did not cause the Church to contract but to grow—so much so that it was said by Tertullian, “Plures ef icimur, quotiens metimur a vobis: semen est sanguis Christianorum.” (Apologeticus, L. 13)
This is literally translated to say, “We are made more, as often as we measure by you: the seed is the blood of Christians.” ie. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Even with the opposition of authorities and citizens of the Roman world, within a fairly short time, Christianity became the sole legal religion of the entire Roman Empire. So what kind of threat is the Book of Revelation talking about anyway?
These are not ordinary threats, but extraordinary ones, the kinds of threats and forms of dangers that caused the beast and the false prophet and Satan to pose a special problem to the existence of the Church. And in order for the Church to continue without being killed in its proverbial cradle, Jesus HAD to bring this distinctive and menacing civilization to its definitive end in no long time: and it cannot be said that the Jewish nationalist threat was only relevant to the salvation of Jewish people (because that was not the case at all!). Instead, the dream of an independent Israelite state cost the lives and salvation of countless Gentiles who joined Bar Kokhba’s rebellion out of a desire for loot and because they believed his efforts against the Roman Empire would be ultimately successful.
In the end, it is said that up to 580,000 Jews lost their lives but the tabulation for the number of participants in the revolt, according to the Rabbis, was supposedly four billion people!
However, this cannot be said of the Roman Empire, which hung onto life until that sad and fateful day of May 29, 1453. And yet, in spite of all the ups and downs and advances and setbacks, today the Christian world is rapidly burgeoning towards the three billion mark and is arguably the most successful mass movement in the history of the human race.
7 Authorities can point to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:15-20, or 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Ephesians 2:19-22, and 1 Peter 2:5, but might it be a big mistake to assume that 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:4ff and Revelation 11:1-2 are speaking of Christians or the Church instead of the Second Temple? (see Matt. 24:1-2, and 15; Mark 13:1-2, and 14, Acts 6:11-14, and Heb. 9:1).
8 Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Ed. RSV, p. 508, 2010.
9 Revelation 11:1-2, 12:6, 14, and 13:5 reiterate that these events are happening in a less than four-year window: forty-two months, which is three years and six months or slightly equivalent to a 1,260-day framework. To fix or fasten this brief episode to the Roman Empire proves to be a futile exercise but it suddenly finds relevance if we associate it with the unusual Jewish civil war which began in late A.D.66 and ended beginning in the spring of A.D.70, forty-two months later: the Great City where our Lord was crucified, the Pyrrhic victory, the sudden downfall of Jerusalem along with the obliteration of the originators of the revolt at Masada (Rev. 19:21 cf. Wars 7.8.7383-388) easily comports with the prophecies of Christ in the Olivet Discourse which relates to the Destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem (Matt. 24:30-31 cf. Mark 13:24-27), and not theUniversal destruction of the Roman Empire.
10 According to Christian history handed down to us from Hegesippus, a multitude of Pharisees became convinced that Jesus was the Christ when James stood on the pinnacle of the Temple and announced Jesus was coming soon before he was stoned to death by Ananus at Passover in A.D.62, so this prophecy that they would say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” was fulfilled in the first century. See: Hegesippus Church history/ death of James the Lord’s brother.
11 Students of the Bible must become acquainted with all the available history on second century C.E. Israel that they can get their hands on. This will benefit each and every Christian by showing, first of all, that the Jewish people did not have a feeble belief in Bible prophecy (even if their interpretation of outcomes was in error). On the contrary, the conventional Jewish belief in the Tanakh was strong and robust and they believed they had every reason to expect that both Jews and Israelites would obtain the hoped-for Messianic kingdom at least by the year of Remission which began in the seventh decade after the A.D.70 Destruction of Jerusalem.
However, when professors and teachers, and eschatology savants and enthusiasts neglect or disregard this leg of the narrative they end up doing great damage to the Revelation epitome and narrative precisely because it does not artificially revert back to 6 Sivan A.D.33 or recapitulate and end in A.D.70 or A.D.73 but ends where the state finally ends: In the year A.D.136.
12 Talmud Gittin, 57b.
13 The use of the word “world” in the New Testament, depending on the surrounding context, has a very specific meaning that will not tolerate the idea of even anything as large or expansive as the Roman Empire itself. Examples of this can be found in Matthew 24:14, Luke 2:1 and 4:5, Acts 17:6, Revelation 3:10; 12:9, and 16:14 (see Strong’s 3625).
The initial impact of the Gospel was upon the Jewish world and while the Rabbinic authorities knew the difference between Jews and Christians the regular Jews and Roman authorities as late as the Bar Kokhba Revolt did not know there was a difference between the two religions, (see Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews, p. 199).
14 Christians must strike a deliberate balance between two equally undesirable offenses: Treating realized eschatology as if it was a damnable heresy on one hand, or treating it like it is a meritorious badge to suggest that people who are not aware of these layers of prophecy and Semitic history are lost and unredeemed by the blood of God’s Son.
Neither of these extremes is true! Understanding the New Testament afresh does not mean everybody who believes the Second Coming has to do with an ancient litany of Semitic disasters has to be rebuked and disfellowshipped from the Church or that everyone has to become a Christian all over again. God’s love toward his people does not change with our learning of his Word more perfectly and a better understanding of cryptic texts and enigmatic passages must not be categorized as heinous and deplorable offenses (Acts 18:26; 1 Thess. 5:20-21, cf. 2 Peter 3:18). One of the roles of the Jewish high priesthood was to atone for the errors of God’s people (Heb. 9:7) and there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that Christians have, over the last twenty centuries and probably for as many centuries to come, err in this regard. There can be no doubt that Christ can forgive Christians for unwittingly believing he will come back far after he did so in antiquity (because they never realized it actually happened).
The real issue that stands before us today is: Will Christians be able to forgive one another for actually believing the language of the New Testament was accurate and correct in positing that the end was genuinely near at the time of the approaching close of the Second Jewish Commonwealth?
When Christians Were Jews:
The First Generation
A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion.
How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the Gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy—“The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history’s last generation. But in history’s eyes, they became the first Christians.
In this electrifying social and intellectual history, Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this Temple-centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it.