Thessaloniki is a Greek city with a long and rich history that spans over 2300 years. It was founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander of Macedon, who named it after his wife Thessalonike, daughter of Philip II of Macedon and sister of Alexander the Great. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. As a military and commercial station on the Via Egnatia, which ran from the Adriatic Sea east to Byzantium (i.e., Constantinople), it grew to great importance in the Roman Empire. It was also one of the first cities where Christianity spread, thanks to the missionary work of Paul the Apostle. Thessaloniki later became the second largest and wealthiest city of the Roman Empire, after Constantinople, and was known as the "co-reigning" or "co-capital" city.
Thessaloniki has witnessed many historical events and changes, such as invasions, sieges, fires, earthquakes, plagues, revolutions and wars. It has been part of various empires and states, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Greece, Nazi Germany and modern Greece.
Today, Thessaloniki is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for Greece and southeastern Europe. It is also renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life.
Who Was the Apostle Paul?
The Apostle Paul was a Christian leader who played a crucial role in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the first century A.D. He was originally named Saul of Tarsus and was a Pharisee, a Jewish sect that followed the Law of Moses strictly.1 He was also a persecutor of the early Christians, until he had a dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus, where he encountered the risen Christ and became a believer.2
After his conversion, he changed his name to Paul and devoted his life to preaching and teaching about Jesus. He founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe, and wrote many letters to them that are part of the New Testament, including 1 and 2 Thessalonians.3
Paul also faced many hardships and dangers, such as imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, riots, and plots against his life.4 He was eventually executed in Rome, probably around A.D. 64 or 65, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Nero. Paul is regarded as one of the most influential figures of Christianity and one of the greatest theologians of all time.
What is 'Eschatology'?
The word eschatology means "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind." It comes from the Greek word eskhatos, meaning "last." Eschatology deals with the expectations of the end of the age, human history, or of the world itself. Different religions and traditions have different views and beliefs about eschatology, such as the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment, the apocalypse, the millennium, heaven and hell, etc. Eschatology is an important topic in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other faiths.5
Christians at Thessalonika Awaited
Something Intended to Happen Within Their Lifetime
Early Christians believed that the Apocalypse could happen soon. St. Paul told two of the early Christian communities that some of them would live to see the return of Jesus and the end of the world (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 5:1-4, and 5:23-24). This belief made it urgent for these early Christians to follow God’s laws and spread Jesus’ message.
In 1 Thessalonians, we learn that before becoming Christians, the Thessalonians worshipped idols. Paul praised their change of heart towards the truth when he said,
“Ye turned to God from idols, to serve a God living and true, and to await Son his from the heavens, who he raised from among [the] dead—Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath coming” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
After they came to have faith in Christ, St. Paul describes two things about them: they were awaiting the coming of the Son of God from the heavens, and he would deliver them from the coming wrath. The ability to wait and be delivered from something that was on its way implies that these events were expected to happen during their lifetime. The following verses further support this idea and do not deviate from it.
The 'Wrath" the "End" and the Abomination
of Desolation Were Expected to Happen Soon
In the passage above, the concepts of God's anger and the return of Jesus are linked. This is a common theme throughout the New Testament, and in this particular context, the ideas of God's anger and the end (τέλος) are combined. In his second epistle, Paul also discusses the idea of the abomination of desolation, which Christ had foretold to the apostles and would take place in the Holy of Holies within Jerusalem's Second Temple (as mentioned in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14).
Reading from the Sahidic Coptic New Testament, along with George Ricker Berry's Greek/English Interlinear,
“For ye, Brothers, ye became imitating the churches of God, these which are being in the Judæa, in the Christ Jesus, because ye suffered also by your (fellow)-citizens according as those by the Jews; these who put to death our Lord Jesus and the prophets, and us they persecuted; they please not God, and they are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they should be saved, for them to fill up their sins always: but arrived upon them the anger unto the end.”
The translators of the King James Version used the word "uttermost" to translate "telos", whereas they used "end" everywhere else. Unfortunately, "uttermost" is confusing and does not have a direct correlation for study, analysis, and reference purposes (for example, see Matthew 10:22; 24:6,13,14; 1 Peter 4:7 and Revelation 2:26). It can be observed that the concepts of "wrath" and "end" (τέλος) are not unrelated to the core teachings and testimony of our Lord. They are also not dissimilar to the expectations and claims of the contemporaries of Paul, namely the Apostles Peter and John.
The Thessalonian Christians:
the Apostles’ Hope, Joy and Crown of
Glory Before Christ at His Parousia
Paul utilizes language to depict how unique these Christians are, and he implies that something extraordinary will happen to them. He said,
“For what is our hope or our joy or the crown of our glorying? Are not even ye rather, before our Lord Jesus the Christ in his parousia?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
According to Paul, the promise that they were eagerly anticipating was to be presented before Christ at his Parousia. This was not an abstract concept or a distant event, as implied by Paul and other apostles through their language of imminence.9 10
“To Be About to Happen”
When we mention the term "imminence," what does it actually mean? According to standard dictionaries, it refers to the quality or condition of something that is about to happen very soon. Secondly, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, "something about to occur" is defined as imminence. However, it is important to note that imminence and immanence cannot be used interchangeably nor are they synonyms. Imminence refers to something that is impending, while immanence refers to something that is subjective and restricted entirely to the mind.
Furthermore, the words ‘imminence’ and ‘possibility’ are not interchangeable. Many Christians state that Christ’s Second Coming is “imminent” and has been so since the first century “because it [is possible] it could occur at any moment.” This reasoning and definition of imminence are incorrect; imminence and possibility have distinct meanings. For example, when someone is on the brink of stepping off a cliff, that is one thing, but if it is possible for them to step off the cliff but remain there for another two thousand years, their fatal step was possible but not imminent in any sense.
Similarly, the New Testament does not teach that Christ's Parousia (his second coming) could happen at any moment. There is no suggestion from Jesus or the Holy Apostles that it may or may not happen. There is only one thing that they teach regarding it, which is that it will certainly happen within specific historical and contextual parameters (Revelation 1:1, 3, 7, compared with Revelation 22:10 and 20). These parameters no longer exist as they were applicable only until everyone living in the first century had died (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34; James 5:1-9; Revelation 10:1-11).
According to Jewish history, those who were centenarians in the third decade of the second century would have been the oldest individuals from the first century.
Furthermore, the claim that Christ could have returned within an eighteen hundred year continuum, when there has been no Second Temple since its destruction in A.D.70, is quite impossible and unrealistic (see e.g., Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4-8).
In addition, the Bible does not teach that an event that marks the end of a specific age could happen at any time without adhering to the necessary requirements. Thus, prophecies that separate the Second Coming from the New Testament imperatives are destined to fail each and every time. Paul's usage of the word "mellomen" meaning "about to be" in 1 Thessalonians 3:4 supports his belief that these events were almost going to happen (as seen in Acts 17:31 in this respect). Therefore, his convictions do not permit the notion that these events could happen in any specific time, including the twentieth century or in the future of mankind.
If Paul's beliefs are to be accepted, they do not support the common notion that these events could have occurred just as easily in the 20th century or any future era as they did at that particular time.
The Parousia of Our Lord Jesus
Christ With All His Saints
Paul not only shared the idea that persecutions were imminent, but he also emphasized the importance of showing love towards one another and outsiders. He encouraged them to follow the Apostle's example of treating both Christians and non-Christians with kindness,
“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 KJV).
This is not the only place where the coming of the Lord with his saints is eagerly anticipated. Jude 14 also expresses the same hopeful expectation. In both instances, the current circumstances led these writers to believe that the return of Christ was imminent and likely to happen soon. (see e.g., Hebrews 10:25, 36-37).
“This We Say Unto You by the Word of the Lord”
The following passage is interesting because traditional beliefs now dictate that the Second Coming must occur at the end of human history, rather than during the upheavals that occurred at the end of the Mosaic era. However, Paul's own language contradicts this claim. As we speak, and for the last twenty centuries, the Law Age has already ended, and the Scriptures frame the Second Coming and related events within first century parameters.
Twelve other references in 1 and 2 Thessalonians must be taken into account along with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 so that when Paul writes, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven," this part of the promise refutes the idea that our Lord's return was anything other than a personal event fulfilled only "by proxy." In other words, if only the Roman general Titus was expected to come and not the personal return of Jesus, Paul could not argue that the Lord himself would descend from heaven. Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Acts 1:11 essentially say the same thing: "this same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
What About the Rapture?
Questions about the Rapture arise naturally because interpretations of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 suggest that a mass disappearance of Christians could happen unexpectedly at any time and this creates not only mass expectation, but also mass anxiety. This has been true since it was first taught over two hundred years ago and prior to the Great Disappointment of 1844. After the American Civil War, many Christians became enthusiastic proponents of the Second Advent, which they believed the mainstream Christian church had neglected since the first century.
Sermons, writings, and camp meetings created an explosion of enthusiasm and excitement on the American religious scene, and everyone was convinced that Christ's Second Coming could not be very far away. Several writings had a significant impact on the thinking of many, including Clarence Larkin's The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World, the Ryrie Study Bible, and the founding of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and publication of the Watchtower magazine by Pastor Charles Taze Russell fed the flames of hopefulness in the early 20th century.
Through Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, Ryrie's Study Bible, and the distribution of tens of thousands of Dispensational theology tracts helped permeat American Christianity and spread ideas of a sudden Rapture to leader who in turn founded their own denominational movements that had never existed before.
Russell's work advocated a narrower window, suggesting that the end of the world would come in 1914. When the Rapture did not happen as anticipated, new dates were proposed by his successor, Joseph Rutherford, but the 20th century, by and large, only witnessed repeated expectations and disappointments regarding prophecies lifted out of the New Testament without any regard to their contextual constraints.
Without any contextual information, the timing of the Second Coming is uncertain and could occur at any point in time - today, tomorrow or even a thousand years from now, (or perhaps already happened). However, by reexamining 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the range of possible options instantly becomes narrower and more precise.
For instance, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 describes the Thessalonians as actively awaing the coming of the Son of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-19 comprehend the wrath upon the Jews with the "presence of the Lord at his coming" and 1 Thessalonians 3:13 end with "to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
Paul's stream of consciousness from 1 Thessalonians 3 to the the next chapter is unbroken and his astonishing claims in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tie our Lord's return to the sounding of the trumpet of God. This is significant because Paul has already said that the moment of change (the Rapture if you like) would happen at the "last trump" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52).
In the Book of Revelation, we discover that there are a series of seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet, as mentioned in Revelation 11:15, is the final one which signals the moment when the saints are immediately changed. This trumpet is referred to as the "third woe" in both Revelation 11:14 and 15, and also in Revelation 12:10. However, this teaching poses a difficulty as it places the translation of the saints within the timeline of first-century history.
According to Revelation 12:10, this occurred in A.D.66 - after the initial signs of civil, economic, and international distress mentioned in Revelation 6:12-14, but coincident with the emergence of the Judæan-Idumean nationalist alliance in Revelation 13:1ff..
We understand this to be the year A.D. 66 because that was the time when two noteworthy events happened: The departure of the Jerusalem Church to the town of Pella and a strange sky battle over the Second Temple. of the first Eusebius wrote,
“The whole body, however, of the Church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his Apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers form the earth.(Church History 3:5:3).
And that is what we see happening in Revelation 12:6 and 14. Meanwhile, in Revelation 12:7-9 and 12 and 13 Satan, in the midst of all this action, had been ousted from heaven. This happened in a battle that is assumed by many commentators to have occurred in prehistoric times but, in fact, it is also a first century event duly recorded in both Tacitus’ Histories and reiterated in Josephus’ Dissertation 3.5.13 where we read,
“Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shown with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror.” [see, e.g., Revelation 11:1-18; 12:7-17 cf. Josephus’ Wars of the Jews 6.5.3:297-300, Dissertation 3.5:13)]
So the Seventh Trumpet, the battle and ousting of Satan, and the flight of the Mother Church to the wilderness are not disparate events strewn all over prehistory and history. These happened in the same historical moment or time-frame: A.D.66. And it is interesting to note that the “manchild” that was birthed by the Mother Church was caught up to God and to his throne, but not the Mother Church herself (Revelation 12:5, 6, 14-15). In other words, not only was the “rapture” not at the first trumpet, but the last, when it happened it was not a unilateral event that removed all Christians from the earth (Revelation 12:17).13
Obviously, understanding exactly what Paul means in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is truly difficult (2 Peter 3:16). However, the timing and many other aspects suggest that we have no choice but to believe that these things were near the point of happening at the time and are now already fulfilled. Admittedly, it is challenging to fully comprehend and appreciate what is predicted; however, what is clear is the promise, the audience, the situation, and the context. If these are ignored or disregarded, the prophecy will be removed from its original first century context, and what is fundamental to authentic New Testament Christianity will be forfeited (Matthew 3:2; 4:4; 10:23; 16:27-28, etc.).14
Are Paul’s Words Meaningful or Superfluous?
As we move into the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, we are faced with several daunting issues. One of these is the need to examine chapter divisions and their impact on our ability to understand the text. Additionally, we must carefully consider how different ideas relate to one another and contribute to our overall understanding of Paul's thoughts.
Finally, we must avoid imposing our preconceived notions on the text and instead build our interpretations on the terminology used by Paul. There are three key points to consider here.
First, the notion of chapters is a human construct that may or may not align with the structure of the text itself. Second, the discussion in this section is closely tied to what was said in 4:13-18.
Finally, the reference to a thief in the night can be seen as a direct allusion to passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus describes his own return as "surreptitious"-as a theif in the night. Something that really happened but there is still a quality of uncertainty about exactly when it happened.
Additionally, the concept of "peace and safety" in 1 Thessalonians 5 is similar to language used in the Book of Revelation (see Revelation 18:7).
To begin with, if we consider 1 Thessalonians 5:1 to be a natural extension of Paul's thoughts in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, we can deduce that during the lifetime of the Thessalonians, the Jerusalem Aristocracy - comprising the wealthy High Priestly class and the leaders of Sanhedrim who knew Jesus had risen from the dead but paid the soldiers to propagate a false story that His disciples had stolen His body - never believed that the city would be destroyed, not even until the very end! The phrase "When they shall say peace and safety" essentially means the same as "I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow" (Revelation 18:7).
This is a very different interpretation than the one that says 1 Thessalonians speaks of a "peace treaty." In our view of the situation it means that the Sadducees just don't believe in Bible prophecy and it was completely beyond their imaginations that Jerusalem was going to be leveled to the ground.
“Faithful is [God] Who Calls You,
Who Will Perform It”
As Paul brings his correspondence to a close with the Greek Christians, it is notable that he still has the impending Second Coming at the forefront of his mind. With unwavering confidence, he writes,
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
This passage contains clear and unambiguous language. However, there are some who read it and still refuse to believe that Paul suggested the Thessalonians would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetimes.
These denials represent a serious problem; they demonstrate cognitive and psychological attitudes that are prejudiced and hostile to any suggestion that on this point the New Testament might be correct and literally true.
People who hold these views tend to interpret the text as a promise to the entire church throughout history, or to themselves personally. Some may even concede that Christ could have returned during the first century—but chose not to do so. In the end, they cannot bring themselves to believe that Paul intended his words to apply to the Thessalonians specifically.
Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, like many other references we have already examined, serves no purpose if it is another meaningless comment from Paul.
It is important to note that our disagreement with those who do not share our interpretation of these texts does not mean that they are bad or unintelligent. Rather, their fundamental values and beliefs do not allow them to accept the idea that the Second Coming occurred without their direct experience of it.
All our lives we were taught and groomed to believe that the Second Coming is an event we are guaranteed to witness and observe. As a result, many individuals will likely continue to believe that Jesus will return imminently, regardless of the evidence presented to the contrary because it will be difficult for to conceive of anything that supports the existence of Christianity if it does not align with the belief that Jesus promised but chose not to return in the generation of his contemporaries.
Due to significant differences in the interpretation of apocalyptic information we are facing an intra-Christian crisis. We are at an impasse and must take action. Ignoring the problem is not an option. We need to approach the situation realistically and pragmatically, facing the facts.
One of those facts is that Futurist churches are unlikely to provide spiritual guidance and encouragement for those of us who realize the critical importance of the Acts of God that led to the termination of the Mosaic era.
For the average person, nothing has happened since Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1:10, despite his promised judgments in both Jewish and Christian antiquity. However, we see things differently and recognize that his promises have been fulfilled, and because he was faithful to his promises Christianity exists, not in spite of it.
Despite this, we must acknowledge that we are a part of the growing kingdom of God that has been developing over time and is still being fulfilled in the present. Therefore, we must take action to establish local ministry and service networks for Christians and those seeking truth. We must also strive to leave a lasting legacy for future generations when our time on Earth comes to an end.
Thessalonika is a city with a long and rich past and the Apostle Paul wrote to a congregation there expressing an eschatology of immence and not possibility. Again and again he stressed that our Lord Jesus would return in their lifetime and he did this by linking what was to happen to the wrath, the end, and Jewish contrariness that would cause God's wrath to accomplish the end.
We noticed that each chapter in 1 Thessalonians directs towards the Second Coming, which Paul perceives as a significant event attended by "all [God's] saints." Paul made it clear that it would not be an impersonal or by proxy event because the Lord himself would descend from heaven with a shout. We also discussed how the Rapture doctrine became dominant in American Christian thought in the 19th century. However, for the events of the first century to be false would contradict not only Paul but also the New Testament itself. The Thessalonians believed Paul, unlike the Jerusalem Aristocracy who did not believe. Their disbelief was so strong that, just before their destruction, they said, "Peace and Safety," and, "I sit a queen and am not widow and shall see no sorrow."
In conclusion, Paul confidently assures the Thessalonian Christians that the Lord's Second Coming would fully occur in their lifetime and vindicate Jesus's own claims to the Jewish world that he is the Christ, the Son of God.
Second Thessalonians is another example of New Testament prophecies that make claims about the then near future that would be completely and utterly unlikely: That the most sacred space in all Judaism would become the scene of brazen acts of sorcery and that those duped by the false messiahs and false prophets would be destroyed in direct connection to this grievous and egregious wrongdoing. Another unlikely claim of 2 Thessalonians was a repeated mantra echoed elsewhere in the New Testament: that the same Jesus who died by crucifixion, was buried, and rose again, would return in the clouds of heaven to preside over the forty-two month Zealot Second Temple occupation and the Destruction of Jerusalem. These events would lead, inevitably, to the close of a religious era that had persisted for over 14 centuries.
Now, these two claims are critically important for a number of reasons: One, they were both to be public and if they failed to happen the earliest Christian beliefs and expectations would be falsified by being seen as pious lies; religious fables. Two, if this sacrilege of the Second Temple was fulfilled as was foretold and the Lord appeared as he promised and Jerusalem fell as was decreed, Christian claims would be verified and confirmed as 100% true.
However, there are a number of pathways (alternative histories) one could take that would completely miss what both these epistles claim, and these [conventional] tangents lead to a long history of unrelated and irrelevant associations which seem quite benign until a disagreement about their validity is openly voiced. It is when the conventional explanations of the claims of 1 and 2 Thessalonians arise that divisive disputes between Christians explode into the open.
Keep this in mind as we examine what Paul predicts will happen to the Second Temple at the end of the Jewish era because the purveyors of the conventional narrative don’t want their story or the logic for their interpretive choices to be cross-examined, questioned or scrutinized, however, Truth has nothing to fear and should invite doubts and questions in order that we can have a surer less superficial footing on what the New Testament says and means.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, which is slightly shorter than the first, Paul introduces three new expressions - apocalypse, annul, and epiphaneia. These, along with his prediction that the man of sin would sit in the Second Temple exalting himself above all that is called God, exponentially tightens the social and contextual constraints already made evident in 1 Thessalonians.
In 1 Thessalonians, the coming of the Son of God, the wrath, the persecution about to be, the day as a thief, and the resurrection of the body, soul, and spirits of the Thessalonian believers are made an explicit legitimate expectation of those Christians. However, 2 Thessalonians adds indelible links to the social circumstances first broached in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and 5:1-4.
“The ‘Apocalypse’ of Our Lord Jesus From Heaven”
To start, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 describes the "apocalypse of our Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power." This reminds us of 1 Thessalonians 3:13. However, Paul is not the first to introduce the idea of apocalypse - Jesus did so in Luke 17:30. Peter also references it in 1 Peter 1:5, 7; 5:1. The concept of apocalypse refers to an "unveiling," or revealing of something previously hidden.
In the New Testament, the revelation of Jesus as Lord is seen as the moment when the collapse of the Jewish world will reveal that Jesus is indeed the expected Christ. This revelation is not primarily about the date or the loss of lives, buildings, or important sacramental institutions of the Jews.
Instead, it is about the claims Jesus made about his Person and origins (John 1:1; 8:58; 16:27; 17:8 and Revelation 21:5-7). In other words, the Destruction of the Old Order reveals the truth about Jesus and the New Order, whom the majority and their rulers thought was just an empty claim and everything in the Jewish world would continue on as usual. But once Jesus fulfilled the prophecies he made and brought to nothing all those temporary types and shadows, it leaves him as the only way for salvation and eternal life, then, now, and forever (1 Timothy 6:14-15).
The Parousia & Epiphany of Our Lord
Directly Linked to the Jewish Rebellion
and the Doomed Second Temple
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, the many Christians presently understand Paul's warning to avert that the Lord's parousia was near in the lifetime of the first believers. However, the text actually means something quite different. The thrust of Paul's denial is that the Parousia of Jesus had not already begun and would only occur after the anticipated apostasy or rebellion had commenced.
The verses from 2 to 13 clarify that the rebellion would have originated in the unhappy Second Temple amid Jewish misconduct in there. That building was so beautiful and magnificent that it was ranked as was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
No Second Temple, No Second Coming
Paul's discussion in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 is significant because he describes the specific social circumstances that will occur during the Second Coming: apostasy, the emergence of a man of sin, and a violation of the holiest areas of the Second Temple (as mentioned in Matthew 24:15). Additionally, Paul claims that the man of sin is currently active yet being suppressed (verses 5-7). Regarding the Jewish decision to stop the daily sacrifices on behalf of Rome, which was part of the agreement made with Pompey the Great in 63 B.C., breaking this agreement is only one aspect of the “apostasia” the Apostle Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. In other words, this falling away is neither a “catching away” of believers nor a deviation from local church governance to the Diocesan model that progressively emerged in the maturation of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Wars of the Jews 2.10.4:195-198).
For information about Ancient Jewish magic, refer to Martin Hengel's writings on the misuse of Yahweh's name for magical purposes in The Zealots, p. 67 and below. Additionally, Josephus writes about the introduction of new and unusual forms of worship at the start of the rebellion in A.D.66 - Wars of the Jews 2.17.3:414. . Upon hearing these reports, Agrippa II decided to send in 3,000 horsemen from Auranitus, Batanea, and Trachonitus. The Aristocracy took control of the Upper City, while the Zealots seized the Lower City and the Second Temple – a fulfillment of Apostle Paul's prophecy. A week of violent infighting followed. Learn more about the accusations the Book of Revelation makes directly against the Zealots in Revelation 13!
More Details on 2 Thessalonians 2 Are in Revelation 13 and Cannot Refer to Fictitious Events Made Up by Jesus and the Apostles
I I would like to discuss the impact of misinterpreting the Bible on our perception of current and historical events. It was in 1976, eight years after becoming a Christian in 1968, that I started to give the Bible my full attention. By 1978, I had developed a strong interest in current events eschatology and regularly read Chick_tracts, which greatly shaped my thoughts and beliefs. According to these tracts, the Roman Catholic Church was labeled as the "whore of Babylon," and the Pope was considered to be the anti-Christ. On the morning of September 28, 1978, I woke up to the tragic news that Pope John Paul I had suddenly passed away. So, when I heard the news about the Pope's death, I was taken aback and spent days feeling numb and spacing out, thinking that Jesus was coming soon and the end of the world was imminent. This experience made me realize that Christians who hold interpretations shaped by Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, which they believe refer to State Christianity, can be led to fear and become very judgmental of anyone who deviates from what they believe is "the only acceptable narrative."
However, it is debatable whether this interpretation is correct. Based on their belief in "speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent," they can build a doctrine about the Roman Catholic apostasy and the personal coming of Jesus based on what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians--but it is not real! Thus, the only choice they have is one driven by fear: to label people as "heretics" and kick them out of the church.
They believe something to be unacceptable only because they had not heard of it before, or they deem it to be condemnable purely because it is completely different from their own narrative. However, if we compare and judge their claims, we might conclude that what they say aligns less with dangerous possibilities that Paul's readers would have recognized at that time.
As we delve deeper into our present investigation, we inevitably realize that sinister and dark measures were being taken to secure and maintain control of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by deliberate and direct complicity with Satan himself! The Olivet Discourse (in Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 and Revelation chapter 13:11ff) offers insight into what that alliance entailed. Revelation 13:11- reads,
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
Several things need to be recognized about these prophecies amidst the noise of claims about what they supposedly mean. Immediately, a strong link can be recognized traceable to the cherished Hebrew past when the First Temple was initiated and fire came down from heaven to signal Yahweh's approval of what was done (2 Chronicles 7:1-22). The false prophet's feat of making fire come down from heaven in the sight of men at the Second Temple was meant to prove that the Mosaic age would continue uninterrupted.
In other words, the A.D. 66-70 war was not going to be the end of the Second Temple, the Law, or the customs. It was, instead, going to be a renaissance, a fresh beginning, a bold continuity of a system of things that the New Testament repeatedly declared was on its way out, and that under bizarre circumstances (Acts 2:19-20; Jude 14 cf. Revelation 8:1-13).
Additionally, the act of buying and selling is significant when viewed in the context of Second Temple practices, which our Lord had already criticized and even displayed open anger towards (Matthew 21:12-13). Furthermore, it is important to note that the mark of the beast is not coincidentally the same as the number of talents of gold collected annually by King Solomon collected every year (See e.g.,1 Kings 10:14; 2 Chronicles 9:13!!).
The cryptogram points to a loyalty oath to the leadership of Simon Bar Giora as a specific figure, if we take Josephus' comments about the wound on their right hand into consideration (Wars of the Jews 220.127.116.113).
In light of these events, Jesus' "Epiphany of his Parousia" (as referenced in Titus 2:13, 1 Timothy 6:14, and 2 Timothy 4:1, 8) are intertwined and aimed at dismantling these misguided endeavors at messiahship by tyrannical, sinister, and impious imposters.19
Now, for others, who see the matter differently, the person of the Emperor Constantine, the rise of the Papacy, the subject of Christian apostasy and the advent of Roman Catholic State Christianity, and the building of St. Peter’s Basilica are introduced into the text arbitrarily, needlessly and without any warrant whatsoever.20
However, Constantine, the Papacy and any apostasy of Christians pertaining thereto were at least as far away as A.D.325. But what difference would any fourth-century (A.D.325) events make for the Thessalonians in the midst of dangers present in the first century? If it is true Paul was issuing a warning about Roman Catholicism none of the Thessalonians would or could ever live long enough to see it! So what’s the point? The events of Emperor Constantine and State Christianity were a full 266 years off into the future. It would be like making the concerns of the A.D.2279 hot topics and urgent concerns for us in the here and now!
Nothing in A.D.325, or 606, and 1914 or 1948 could have been of the least interest (or importance) to those Macedonian Christians! But what would be important? What would be important was the upcoming cessation of their present persecutions and the tangible results of the upcoming Destruction of Jerusalem and with it the pending Parousia of our Lord (whose full implications and results are now hidden from our prying eyes).
Now, it is understandable that some will wonder why this interest could be proper in the coasts of Macedonia so far away from mountainous Judæa and Jerusalem. How would events at such a distance be relevant at all?
Well, however, many or few reasons come to mind, and one of them for sure is this: the adversaries of these Christians were Jewish loyalists. Their base of operations against Christians would almost certainly have been Jerusalem (and perhaps even Qumran, too). Their leaders were spread out all over the Roman Empire and, as we are told by Paul elsewhere, were also in competition with the Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). They were using every trick in the book in order to turn the Gentiles back from the Gospel to the Law (2 Timothy 3:5-9). However, the Law’s end was literally just around the proverbial corner and there was a distinct danger of losing Christians to the very real charms and attractions of the fading and soon-to-be-destroyed Jewish system of things (Galatians 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10 cf. Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31, 38-39).
Second Thessalonians 2 is also significant because it tells us that if the Second Coming was going to happen it would happen with the Second Temple. This fact alone, however, presents insurmountable problems for, if true, then the Parousia could not have happened at any time after that very Temple disappeared in a furnace of fire and smoke.
Furthermore, it means that for the past 1,943 years, the Second Coming was entirely impossible without a State Temple in Jerusalem.21 What is more, for the very same reasons the Second Coming of Christ could not have happened in the last 65 years either. This is for the simple fact that the Jews (many of whom are both Socialists and atheists) do not want, see no need, or are in no real mood to build a Temple after all this time. And even if it can be argued that many people do want one, it is really meaningless in the face of the prophecy because to want one and to have the one that the Apostle Paul had in mind in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 are really two completely different things.
We can even go a step further and say that if the Jews never get around to building a Temple that will only further destroy the possibility that Jesus could allegedly come back “at any moment” or on any given day or night. Notwithstanding these hypothetical discussions, the truth of the matter, as laid out in 1 and 2 Thessalonians: Jesus was coming back the Second time in the final days of the Second Temple. There is no possible way to logically avoid this conclusion.
Obtaining the Glory
The final verse in 2 Thessalonians is 2:14 which speaks of those Christians “Obtaining the glory of our Lord Jesus.” This is what they awaited and hoped for. When the religious world of their mortal foes was collapsing in a horrific and surreal cataclysm theirs was illuminated with the brightness of the noonday sun, shining in the glory of Jesus Christ the blessed Son of God. That, according to what the Apostle Paul attested in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 was the time when he would come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired by all those who believed (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” Nothing in 1 or 2 Thessalonians or the history of the Jewish people prevents this astonishing conclusion from being reached. The time, the circumstances, the context, the language of imminence (See 1 Peter 5:1 where Peter speaks of “the glory and the apocalypse ‘about to be revealed’), audience relevance, promises, commitments, assurances and the clear suggestions of anomalies in Jewish salvation history gives us the reasons, the confidence and the boldness to declare that what was expected surely came to pass and the half will probably never be told!
Summary of All Passages
A summary of all the passages we have covered in 1 and 2 Thessalonians will wrap this essay up. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 reads,
“For they themselves speak concerning you, how we came unto you, and how ye turned to God out of the idols to serve the living and true God; and to expect his Son out of the heavens, this (one) whom he raised of those who are dead, (even) Jesus, this (one) who will deliver us out of the anger which cometh.”
This verse directly implies they were told by Paul to wait for Christ's return and at the same time be delivered from the coming wrath. In 2:14-16 we read that the, “. . .[wrath] is come upon them the wrath to the end” Of this “end” 1 Peter 4:7 and 2 Peter 2:1 and 3:10-12 all early Christians eagerly anticipated.
In 2:19-20 we read,
“For what is our hope or our joy or the crown of our glorying? Are not even ye rather, before our Lord Jesus Christ in his Parousia? For ye are our glory and our joy.” (See Endnotes for my comments on this verse).
Continuing into chapter three (v. 4) we encounter a word deeply suggestive of imminence “mellomen,” “We told beforehand you are about to suffer tribulation” (Concerning this tribulation see 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5). In 3:12-13 we read,
“To the end that he may establish you. . .at the coming of the Lord with all his saints” (Such a goal can be seen in Matthew 24:30; 26: 64 and Jude 14).
The sum of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-19,
“We the living who remain to the Parousian of the Lord, in no wise may anticipate those who are fallen asleep; because himself the Lord with a shout of command, with the voice of archangel's and the trumpet of God shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we the living who remain, together with them shall be caught away in [the] clouds for [the] meeting of the Lord in [the] air; and thus always [with] the Lord we shall be. So encourage one another with these words.”
This event, assuming from the text its direct relevance to the Thessalonian believers, finds ample support in the prodigious affairs related to the Destruction of Jerusalem. Both in the flight of the Church from Jerusalem, the armies and the fight in the sky over the Temple and in the apparent upward departure of souls from there, there is no better time in history than then, when these things were both expected by Christians and reported by Jewish and Roman historians to have actually taken place.
First Thessalonians 5:1-4, like 2:14-16, puts a social parameter around what was expected to happen, “For when they shall say ‘Peace’ and ‘Safety’ then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” But of the Christians,
“Ye are not in darkness that that day shall not overtake you as a thief” (See 2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 2:24-25; 3:10-11 and 16:15).
If that day was not to come in their lifetime, these comments would be utterly pointless!
Paul’s comments in 5:23 and 5:24 round out what he has endeavored to say in one way or another through his whole first epistle to those Christians:
“Now himself the God of peace may sanctify you wholly; and entire your spirit and soul and body blameless at the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ may be preserved. [He is] faithful who calls you, who also will perform [it].”
Notice how Paul in verse 24 affirms that God will do it. This affirmation is in direct contradiction to the notion that God did not want to do it, did not intend to do it then, but will certainly do so at some other time and in completely different circumstances than the ones spelled out both here and in 2 Thessalonians.
In 2 Thessalonians Paul continues to remind the Christians that their tribulations will lead to the apocalypse of Jesus, the destruction of their foes, and the rest and glory of all those who believed the testimony of the Apostles. From 1:4-10 we read,
“Repose with us at the Apocalypse of the Lord Jesus from heaven with [the] angels of his power in a fire of flame . . .”
Furthermore, in 2:1 the Apostle addresses misleading news that the day of Christ had already begun and was present,
“Parousias of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering to him. . . [it] is not present [enestiken] accept the apostasy first [apostasia proton]. . .”
In the following verses Paul does not leave to guesswork or open question what he meant by ‘apostasy’ for, as the savage apostasy under Antiochus IV Epiphanes ravaged the Second Temple in 167 B.C., this one would make what was done then look like child’s play! Here is just one terrible incident that happened to people who refused to believe the Gospel. During Passover,
“Eleazar and his party opened the gates of this [inmost court of the] temple, and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God in it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, THE GREATER PART OF WHOM WERE NOT PURIFIED, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the temple, in order to seize upon it; which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor. Upon which there was a very great disorder and disturbance about the holy house; while the people who had no concern in the sedition, supposed that this assault was made against all without distinction, as the Zealots thought it was made against themselves only. So these [Zealots] left off guarding the gates any longer, and leaped down from their battlements, and fled away into subterranean caverns of the temple; WHILE THE PEOPLE THAT STOOD TREMBLING AT THE ALTAR, AND ABOUT THE HOLY HOUSE, WERE ROLLED ON HEAPS TOGETHER, AND TRAMPLED UPON, AND WERE BEATEN BOTH WITH WOODEN AND WITH IRON WEAPONS WITHOUT MERCY” (Wars of the Jews 5.3.1:99-102). *(For other harrowing incidents see Wars of the Jews 4.4.3:251 and 4.5.1:312-2:317).
The sum of 2:3-12 told the Thessalonians and reminds us that “[Christ would] annul [the man of sin] with the Epiphany of his Parousia.” Second Thessalonians 2:3-12 depicts the abrogation of the Jewish world in events foretold to involve sheer anarchy and cynical pretensions involving the Second Temple of God. It is these circumstances, corroborated by authentic and reliable Jewish history, that tell us that the Parousia of our Lord Jesus took place as was anticipated.
But about five hundred years ago Christians, who knew nothing about first or second-century Jewish and Christian antiquities, thought these very prophecies foretold events that happened in A.D.606-607 under Pope Boniface III who, supposedly fulfilled this prophecy and right here we want to ask Christians what can the election of a pope in the seventh century have to do with a text to Macedonian Christians written about concerns that were pressing and relevant in the first century?
Meditate on this and reflect on how this is basically a serious outpoint that does nothing less than ruin the narrative and introduce interpretive confusion and clamor.
Nothing in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 has practical, real, or actual relevance to things happening in the Christian world as far away from the first century as eternity itself! No apostasy in Catholicism, leadership anomalies in the hierarchy of the Church, or crisis could capture the essence of the text of Paul’s warnings to the Thessalonian Christians in any way, shape, or form. And this, among other things, is how Christians end up struggling against changes for the better that they immediately (and mistakenly) see as changes for the worse.22
And finally, a summation of 2:14 was written to say, in effect, that those Christians were chosen, not to go through strong delusion and destruction but to obtain salvation, through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and belief in the truth. Indeed, said Paul, they were “Called. . . by our Gospel. . .to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We have reviewed the entire body of information contained within Paul’s two Thessalonian epistles. In them, we clearly see the Apostle Paul’s apocalyptic assurances to the Christians at Thessalonica sometime before the Jewish rebellion that broke out in the autumn of A.D. 66 and the eve of the A.D.70 Destruction of Jerusalem. He does not present these as his ideas only but as the Word of God inspired by God. Moreover, so far as we can tell from the texts, Paul had nothing in mind regarding religious developments as far away in time and place as Medieval Europe or in seventh-century Roman Catholicism nor world misery set to unfold in our modern era or on the eve of the end of time itself.
As I intimated at the outset, it is not so much what we have at our disposal that makes a major difference in interpretation so much as how we are interpreting data and the relevant (or irrelevant) considerations that are being added or withheld from the total equation. In other words, a good quality interpretation depends on the handling of all the available evidence, not just one fact to neglect or rejection of the rest. Preterist interpretations of most Bible prophecy texts differ greatly from Futurist teachings because of the way we are paying attention to information and the attitude we have toward what was said.23
Thus, in Atavist terms, what really matters is what the epistle was intended to say, first and foremost, to the Thessalonian believers. Then, from that starting point our understanding of the Second Coming of Christ, from text, context, word usage, audience relevance, what we know about Herod’s Temple, the Second Jewish Commonwealth, the Jewish rebellion, and the Destruction of Jerusalem, leads us to reach very different conclusions than others who regard those considerations as being immaterial to the validity of an interpretation or to the discussion at hand.
They call what we believe ‘heresy’ and we believe they are engaged in license, or, in other words, it is they who are exercising excessive freedom in interpreting matters that require restraint to the evidence at hand and, in the wake of their latitude of exegesis comes harm and disrepute not only to the world-wide Church but to Christ our King and Savior.
Nevertheless, Christians who hold these Preterist views and seek to persuade others to a new life in Christ are endeavoring to spread the word and be called Atavist Bible Church for association, fellowship, and identification purposes.21 We encourage anyone who sees, understands, and agrees with the logic and value, and benefit of interpreting the Word of God in this light to establish and lead a group of Atavist Bible Christians in their own locale.
May God bless your efforts to understand his Word and to do his will.
1 Historicists believe in a coming associated with the Papacy in 1798, an unusual and historically erroneous interpretation of Daniel 7:25ff. The logic behind this view is derived from the idea that in A.D.538 “the last of the three kingdoms was uprooted, and the Papacy was recognized. Then in 1798 the Pope was ‘kidnapped’ and died. The ‘times, times and half a time’ is three and a half years, or forty-two months and, using the year for a day principle you get 1,260 years. Such is the bizarre reasoning and math of some Historicists, but the thing to remember is that A.D.538 still has nothing to do with any fourth kingdom that arose as a direct result of the defeat of Greek rule over the Jewish people in the Maccabean Revolt and its aftermath in the second century B.C.
2 The conventional belief is epitomized in the classic Christian Creed drawn up in A.D.325 at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea and called The Nicene Creed.
3 This belief that the Second Coming shall transpire at the end of human history and time is not because of the Bible or the New Testament but in spite of both. When the heavens and the earth passed away in Revelation 6:12-17 neither the Seven Trumpets had been blown nor the Seven Bowls poured, nor had Jerusalem fallen. This is because in Semitic idiomatic parlance, the passing of the heaven and the earth does not mean the destruction of the planet but only the demise of a government: (Jeremiah 4:22-27; Isaiah 13:1-22 and 34:1-17, etc).
4 Full Preterism retains the conflation of the Second Coming and the Great White Throne Judgment as a single event that happened in A.D.70.
5 Atavist eschatology holds the Second Coming as a series of events from around A.D.66-70 and the Great White Throne Judgment as the downfall of the united Israelite State led by the government of Bar Kokhba in A.D.132-136.
6 Partial Preterism or so-called “Orthodox Preterism” is merely an ideology that seeks to concede some New Testament prophecies to their Second Commonwealth context but not all. The reasons for this are either a benign misunderstanding of the issues or a deliberate effort to preserve the Nicene Creed from criticism.
7 Christians are in agreement with the Apostles on High Christology, the Personhood and Deity of the Holy Spirit, faith in Christ as the means to salvation. Classical churches from antiquity still preserve the Scriptural belief in baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Too, the reality of eternal damnation or beatific bliss in the New Jerusalem are the hallmarks of fundamental Christianity.
8 From Matthew to Revelation the New Testament consistently presents the end of the Mosaic era as something that was immediately upon the heels of the Apostles and the first Christians. However, to take the terms “world” “end of the world” and the immediacy of their demise and apply them to the global world at large is to immediately misconstrue what was said and intended and, according to reliable historical sources, came to pass in proper time.
9 Are these mere expressions of gratitude? Are they more than that? I confess to being utterly baffled by what Paul says here.
10 If the concept of imminence does not include the imperative that something is truly “about to happen” rather than “may happen” then the word has lost its genuine meaning and its use in discussions is lip service only.
11 Some Futurists will candidly admit that they believe Paul’s apocalyptic expectations completely failed and they are fine with that, but others recognize the implications of saying Paul bore testimony to God falsely; for them this is seen as a disastrous admission.
12 Eusebuis’ comments about the flight of the Jerusalem Church are as follows: “But the people of the Church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city, and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.” As the War of the Destruction began in the autumn of A.D.66 we can be sure that the departure of the Church was no later than that time.
13 It does not seem proper, but rash and unwise to conclude that just because the Mother Church was not caught up to God and to his throne like her son that he was ‘holy’ and she was not. The gorgeous and splendid description of this Church in Revelation 12:1 should make us think twice before reaching such an unjust conclusion. Then why should she stay and the son go? The only logical answer is that some portion of the Church was destined by God to rule the world and this plan did not include the Christian Church in its entirety. In all events, however, the Jerusalem Church was not left behind because she was somehow 'wicked' or in any way less than holy.
14 To take this one passage out of the twelve Paul wrote and expect to make an interpretation that has Scriptural integrity backing it up and that should command the respect and allegiance of the Christian people throughout the ages and through difficult times and dark circumstances is, in a manner of speaking, highly presumptuous and problematic. If God could not keep the steadfast promises he made to the first Christians, how will he be able to help us when the going gets rough? It seems to be a better idea to come to terms with the real meaning of this text than to turn it into what amounts to a platitude and a fiasco that by its very historical misplacement cannot come to fruition but only must be believed willfully against both the context of its writing and its intent to its original audience.
15 The importance of community organization and chapters of the Church in cities, towns, and rural areas is something that cannot be overstated. The surest proof of the intensity of our Christian convictions must appear in our actions, not just beliefs, endless discussions, and mere words. If nothing is left as a legacy when we go, the world will be none the wiser for our being here. We can BE the difference we wish to see in the Christian world!
16 According to the faith of some, to allow us to come into their homes or to share a meal with us in fellowship would endanger their salvation, according to their misunderstanding of these matters (e.g., 1 John 3:2-3; 2 Peter 3:4) and their application of the commandments of 2 John 9. This is just one of the reasons that like-minded Christians must band together in love and fellowship and as fellow workers in ministry to host opportunities for Divine worship and spiritual services on an ongoing basis.
17 Concurrent or parallel lines of inquiry around mendacity involving sorcery, dark arts, or manipulative mysticism should not be written off here when, according to multiple sources, these factors played a central role in the nationalist strategy to woo the undecided populace into coming to the aid and defense of Jerusalem from distant lands and those who were resident into staying in lieu of a miraculous sign of deliverance from the onslaught of the Romans–all of which, of course, was contrary to the commandments of our Lord and completely untrue and cost them their lives (Matthew 24:15-20 cf. Luke 21:20-24). The earliest roots of Kabbala are traced to Merkava mysticism. It began to flourish in Palestine in the 1st century C.E. and had as its main concern ecstatic and mystical contemplation of the divine throne, or “chariot” (merkava), seen in a vision by Ezekiel, the prophet (Ezekiel 1) Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kabbala. See also Mekubbal (מְקוּבָּל Məqūbbāl) mysticism.
18 See, Rasmusen, Keith, G., The Bard of Pendragon, for this Hebrew interpretation of Revelation 13:18 on p. 324. Rasmusen belongs to a school of thought that sees the Book of Revelation as having a double fulfillment in the first and second Jewish revolts, but this is not the position of Atavist eschatology which sees only Satan’s release and the Second Revolt as representing a discrete prophecy event in the second century.
19 The Jewish rebellion had immediate disappointing results: Its stated aims were to free Judæa from Roman rule. However, when that was unexpectedly accomplished total anarchy ensued as insipid hatreds burst forth and infighting carried the day. Out of the chaos John Giora, the Levite (of Gischala) occupied the Temple from A.D.66-70. Soon thereafter over ten thousand Idumean soldiers took part in a grisly massacre at the Temple which turned the sacred courts immediately into a human butchery. In the city, huge crowds of Jews got together and committed suicide as there was no escape and conditions worsened. After Ananias the High Priest was assassinated, Simon Bar Giora, a son of a proselyte from the Trans-Jordan wound up being the recognized “lord and savior” of Jerusalem in the third year of the War of the Destruction (Revelation 17:12-13, 17 cf. Wars of the Jews 4.9.11:573-12:577).
20 However there is no historical way to connect Roman State Christianity to the developments of the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 7 without erasing the accomplishments of Judas the Maccabee, the Hasmonean Dynasty, and their brief but critical empire. Nothing from the fourth century of Christianity or thereafter can properly supplant what happened in the second century B.C. without simultaneously doing great violence to the Jewish salvation history timeline. However, the events of A.D.66-70 make sense when it is understood the coup was about restoring the Jewish rule, authority and power into the hands of the Jews, as it was till the rise of Pompey the Great in 63 B.C. Such was the thought in view of Romans being the Feet of Iron and clay rather than the Herodian Kingdom of Edom.
The reality was that the Herodian Kingdom was itself the object of the prophecies of Daniel 2:41-43. By the Jewish revolutionary attempts to advance Jud æa as a nationalist Messianic State, and doing so with the help of the Idumeans, they unwittingly fulfilled the prophecies of Daniel 2:43 and picked their ten generals accordingly (Daniel 2:44 cf. Wars of the Jews 18.104.22.1682-4:568).
21 Jewish opportunities to rebuild the Temple presented themselves first in the Bar Kokhba episode where it is said that he actually raised a structure “The Bar Kokhba Temple” and it is said that Rabbi Gamaliel offered his Passover sacrifice in the new Bar Kokhba Temple between A.D.132 and 136 (Ready to Rebuild pp. 76-80). The source for this stunning information is said to be nineteenth-century Lithuanian Rabbi Samuel Shtrashun who made this assertion in his commentary on Pesachim 741. According to Ice and Price Shtrashun’s source was Dio Cassius (ibid., p. 282).
Further attempts to rebuild were fostered around A.D.313 and later around 362 at the behest of Julian the Apostate. In all these events, those efforts were met with peculiar disasters that Christians of old claimed as nothing other than Acts of God. Right now we are living so far away from the immediacy that the New Testament commends itself that it really makes no difference if a temple was built or not—not that God will ever let it happen without an immediate challenge by his powers of Providence.
23 Should we futurize a prophecies if we do not understand it? A desire to be an eye witness of an event scheduled for someone else's lifetime would be futile.
Whiston, William, Josephus, The Complete Works. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998.
Ice, Thomas and Price, Randall, Ready to Rebuild. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1992.
Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba. New York: Random House, 1971.
Harkabi, Yehoshafat, The Bar Kokhba Syndrome: Risk and Realism in International Politics. Chappaqua, NY: Rossel Books, 1983.
Horner, George William, Sahidic Coptic New Testament. London: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1911.
Horsley, Richard A., and Hanson, John S., Prophets, Bandits, and Messiahs: Popular Religious Movements at the Time of Jesus. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985.