A Definite Doctrine Based on an Indefinite Plural
By Ellis Skolfield
If you haven't already read "The False Prophet" and "Chiasms & Bifids," I certainly suggest you do so before reading this study because both contain foundational information upon which this letter is built.
As the end approaches, things are going to deteriorate in a hurry. If we are to walk in truth, we must guard ourselves against interpreting Scripture to fit our preconceived notions, for "The Lord takes no delight in fools" (Ecc 5:4). The Bible is not "oral traditions" or "stories" as liberals theologians would have us believe. It is a historic and sometimes prophetic account of God’s dealings with man throughout the ages, written down by men in their stated historic settings. Most of the Bible is written in plain language. The poetic books, the gospels, and the epistles are primarily literal and should be accepted verbatim.
But God’s plan as recorded in Scripture embraces many writing styles: prose as well as poetry, some literal, some figurative. Some is written in a nonliteral way (in figurative language) to achieve an effect beyond the range of ordinary language. So how can we know when a passage of Scripture should be literally or figuratively understood? The Bible itself tells us. Most figurative passages contain sign posts that tell us they are figurative, figurative signpost words like: "I was in the spirit" or "the kingdom of Heaven is "like," or "like unto," or "as" a wedding feast, a mustard seed, a pearl of great price, a king going to a far country or a sower going forth to sow. Now the kingdom of Heaven is not really a wedding feast, a king in a far country, a mustard seed, a pearl, or a sower; it is only figuratively likened unto one! I said all that to get to this: Figurative language must be interpreted figuratively. Only a small portion of the Bible is figurative, but interpreting figurative passages figuratively is of major importance to us because every end-time prophecy in the Bible is figurative in nature.
Revelation is a prophetic vision and as such it is primarily figurative, but since part of the 20th Chapter of Revelation appears to be literal, in 1640 a Dutch Reformed theologian, Jean de Labadie, concluded that Jesus would return to rule over the earthly kingdoms of men for 1000 years at the end of the Christian Era. This "millennium," as it is called, would then be followed by a second Armageddon (Rev 20:8), after which would come the great white throne of judgment. Jean de Labadie's premillennial theory fit perfectly with the Lacunza, Darby, Macdonald, Scofield eschatological scheme of things, so the futurists added premillennialism to their body of doctrine. However, the Reformers of de Labadie's day were not so easily fooled. They saw de Labadie’s view as erroneous and excommunicated him from the Dutch Reform Church. Here is why:
The only support in the whole Bible for a pre-millennial view is Revelation 2:20 and it only works there if we interpret Revelation 2:20 literally in a book most serious eschatologists understand to be figurative. Even to arrive at his view, de Labadie had to ignore two universally accepted rules of Bible interpretation:
Reason #1. No scripture should be interpreted apart from its context. As already stated, most of Revelation is figurative and there is no textual reason to interpret chapter 20 differently than its context.
Reason #2. The Greek word for 1000 is "chilias." The Greek word translated thousand in Rev 20 is "chilioi", an indefinite plural. As an indefinite plural, "chilioi" could mean one thousand, but it could also mean many thousands. Point being: it appears the premillennials are basing a definite end-time doctrine on an indefinite plural. Even though the translation of chilioi as "a thousand" is not incorrect, if we insist on it meaning just one thousand, the intended sense of the passage could be lost.
A figurative interpretation of Rev 20 is not as wild as one might think. Most of the Church considered Rev 20 to be figurative until de Labadie came along. Since it is scripturally provable that the saints reign with Christ in His spiritual kingdom, right this instant, and that we have done so throughout the Christian Era (Eph 1:3, 1Pe 2:9, Rev 1:6, Rev 5:10), then this "thousand" year reign of Christ could actually be a pictorial representation of the whole Christian Era.
Ruling with the Lord
Besides the last trumpet itself, there are other verses that call the premillennial view into question. According to premillennialism, when Jesus returns for His thousand-year reign, He will rule from Jerusalem in all power and glory. During that thousand years, we (the believers of all time) will presumably be ruling with Him in our new glorified and sinless bodies. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is somehow supposed to deceive the rulers (now sinless us in our glorified bodies) for a short season. If that were to be the case, we would again be in sin, which would result in our again being separated from the Lord. That is contrary to 1Th 4:17, which clearly states:
1TH 4:17 "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up...to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall ever be with the Lord." Saints will never again be separated from the Lord! If there’s a Future Millennium, Who's the Strong Man in it?
Jesus said in Matthew 12:29, "How can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless He first binds the strong man?" When Jesus asked that question, He was in the act of casting out demons. The Lord was plundering Satan's house then and He is still doing so today through the Church. Now Jesus permitted Himself to be bound once, at the Cross, but it will never happen again. When Jesus returns to Jerusalem, He will be ruling in all His power and glory. It will be Jesus' kingdom and He will be the "strong man" in it. Released or not, Satan could only plunder Jesus' kingdom if he could again bind Jesus. Laughable. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God the Father where He remains King of kings and Lord of lords, forever just as Ephesians 1:20-21 declares: "...when He (God the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come." That age to come would have to include any future time that Jesus is on Earth, and beyond. No future time of lost power for the Lord. When the Lord returns at the end of this age, He will rule absolutely...and eternally, just as Rev 11:15 states!
It's a Matter of Domain
God gave the Earth to Adam. Adam was made the ruler of the Earth and all that it contained (Gen 1:28). When Adam fell, he delivered his God-given authority into Satan's hands (Luke 4:6). All mankind then became Satan's legal possession. When scripture says "we are bought with a price," that was not just some theoretical acquisition. We were purchased from Satan's kingdom by Jesus' precious blood when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior. By a sovereign act, God the Father then transfers us "out of the domain (or kingdom) of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col 1:13). If you are looking for the kingdom age, there it is, right where the Bible has been saying it was all along. The kingdom of the Lord Jesus has existed ever since Act 2:33-36. At the end of this age, Jesus will indeed return to Earth with His Holy angels and His "holy ones" (in their glorified bodies), all of whom who went to be with Him at the last trumpet (1Co 15:52). Rev 11:15 "And the seventh angel sounded (the last trumpet) and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.' "
Not for just for a thousand years, but forever!
As said earlier, insisting on a literal interpretation of a figurative passage may display our orthodoxy before men, but rob us of what the Lord would have us learn from Scripture. The premill interpretation of Isa 11:6-10 is a glaring example of the "literal hermeneutic" carried to the point of absurdity.
The first five verses in Isaiah 11 are full of figurative expressions that must be understood figuratively: "A shoot [or branch] springs from the stem of Jesse ... a branch from his root will bear fruit ... He will judge with the rod of His mouth ... righteousness will be the belt about His loins and faithfulness the belt about his waist," etc., etc.
All those expressions are obviously figurative, and every conservative Bible scholar I know of understand them to be a pictorial description of the Messiah to be born sometime in the future. This prophecy fulfilled during Jesus' life on Earth. Now, the first time the Jews were driven off their land was when Nebuchadnezzar exiled them to Babylon. The restoration after the Babylonian captivity was the FIRST restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land. Now lets skip Isaiah 6-10 for a minute and go on to verse 11. Here we read that the Lord will restore his people to the Holy Land "a second time."
Isa 11:11 "Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with his hand the remnant of His people."
The Jews were dispersed for a second time into the nations thirty-seven years after Jesus was crucified, in 70 A.D., so the second restoration would have to take place after that. And it did. The second restoration took place in the new nation of Israel, established in 1948 A.D.. In that year, after almost 1900 years among the Gentiles, the Jews were restored to the Holy Land ... for a second time! Now look at the chronology:
Isa 11:1-5 About the coming Messiah 32AD
Isa 11:6-10 About when? ????AD
Isa 11:11 About the 2nd restoration 1948AD
Well, if Isa 11:1-5 is about Jesus' life on Earth, and verse 11 can be positively pinned to 1948, to what time do you suppose the verses in between might refer? Well, because of context, verses 6- 10 would have to refer to the time in between Jesus' life on Earth and 1948, wouldn't they? The only contextually sound way to look at Isa 11:6-10 is figuratively, as a picture of the Christian Era.
Now the premills recognize the figurative elements in Isa 11:1-5: the branch, the root, the fruit, the belt, the breath, and so on. They know this passage teaches that one of Jesse's descendants will be the Messiah. No one really expects a literal branch, with leaves and all, to spring out of the forehead of David's father. It is figurative, and the premill theologians know it, but when they read on a couple of verses, and see a lion eating straw, they say: "Ah, that’s gotta be literal, and since it hasn't happened yet, it must be going to take place in the millennium. And there is more support for our premill view." They further pontificate that during the millennium, a "nursing child will really play by the hole of the cobra," and "the leopard will really lie down with the kid," etc., thus doing away with God's natural law. Anything is possible with the Lord, of course, but a literal interpretation of those verses is certainly not their most probable meaning.
Many well-known Bible teachers are famous for accepting figurative interpretations for figurative language they understand, while demanding a literal interpretation for figurative language they don't ... all the while, heralding their orthodoxy by broadcasting their faith in a "literal hermeneutic." But if the passage in question is figurative, a "literal hermeneutic" will not lead to truth. The literal or figurative nature of a Scripture is not determined by the reader, but by the author, and some Scriptures cannot be recognized as literal or figurative unless the principles of hermeneutics are applied without doctrinal bias. Interestingly enough, many Evangelical groups, including major Evangelical Bible colleges, use the premill view as a litmus test for orthodoxy. One Christian publisher even trumpets proudly that all of its publications are premill, as if a differing view on the millennium were mortal sin. But despite its popularity, the weight of scriptural evidence appears to be against the premill view. It will be interesting to see if the Holy Spirit can quicken the Church to the possibility that it is once again standing dogmatically on false doctrine.
But Is this Truth Important?
Some ask: "Does it really matter what we believe about the millennium? Isn't soul-winning where it's at?" Then making a steeple of their hands they add with eyes cast heavenwards, "Won't we all end up in Heaven together, anyway?" That kind of unctuous platitude just slays me. The idea that any truth is unimportant is of the devil. It ignores the spiritual nature of the Christian's battle and the shrewdness of the enemy. Spiritual warfare is a never-ending battle for truth. As the father of lies, Satan is the author of every false doctrine that gets into the Church. Every false doctrine we believe or teach (no matter how minor it may seem to us) helps the enemy and weakens our witness.
But how can the premill view hurt anyone? In the same way the pre-tribulation rapture myth can hurt. By rocking the Church to sleep with the sweet lullaby of "Judgment deferred," with the siren song that "hard times may be coming, but they're coming for the lost during the Great Tribulation, while we, the Church (because of our great piety and holiness), will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and later, ruling with Jesus in His wonderful millennial kingdom." That sounds ever so good and it certainly serves the flesh, but nothing could be further from the truth! We were appointed as Jesus' spiritual priests and kings for this present age to despoil the domain of the enemy. Every time a saint leads a sinner to the Lord, he is breaking into Satan's house, and carrying off his goods (Mat 12:29). Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as affirmed by the blood of the martyrs and the prayers of the saints, the enemy was bound throughout this age, "that he might not deceive the nations."
And he didn't. For centuries, the western world recognized Jesus as the Christ and that knowledge changed the world, but not any longer. Now the world is changing the Church by trying to make God acceptable to man, rather than warning man that he must become acceptable to God through the sacrifice of His Son. The world is in the condition it is today because we, the Church, have not done our job. And just as Scripture warned, Satan has been loosed upon us ... Rev 20:7-8 "And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore." Jesus bound the enemy at the cross (John 12:32) and then gave the Church the keys:
Mat 16:19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." But the lukewarm Laodicean church of our own day has again set Satan free. Look at the spiritual conditions that have enveloped America in the last four decades. We Christians are responsible -- we are Jesus' kings and priests -- and if we really understand we are responsible we get busy serving the Lord so we will "not be ashamed at His coming." If we really believe that "judgment begins at the household of God," then we "work out our own salvation in fear and trembling," in godly fear of those trials "which are coming upon the earth":
Rev 12:11-12 "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."
However, if we believe judgment is for the other guy after we've been raptured out, or believe judgment is still a thousand years away, ah, that's a different story. Then we can dabble in the materialistic world for a while, repenting when we see Antichrist coming or when the Great Tribulation appears to be on the horizon. Meanwhile, to show our pro-life conservatism, we can protest an abortion clinic or two, join a march of some kind or put a few more dollars in the collection plate.
Few Ears to Hear
Two major problems face the Church today. Apostasy and a militant religion bent on world conquest. If the Church would teach what we can now prove from Bible prophecy, we could stop Islam in its tracks and start a new revival.
We can now understand most of God's intent for Revelation because of two miraculous events that happened in the Holy Land during the last 60 years: In 1948, the Jews established the new nation of Israel. In 1967, Jerusalem was freed from Gentile control. Those two events are prophetically pivotal because they enable us to see Bible Prophecy in a totally new way.
But accepting doctrinal reform has never been easy for the Church. Over the years, I’ve visited many Christian chat-rooms, hundreds of churches and even taught in some. Many of those churches have leaders who claim to be Bible prophecy experts. It isn’t so. They are actually "ism" experts: Preter-ism, Dispensational-ism, Histori-cism or some other "ism." And it’s a tragedy because those "isms" have shut the door to more realistic views of Bible prophecy for over 300 years!!! With"isms" in place, the church never noticed when, after 1967, God actually opened His prophetic books.
I’m reminded of one church leader who typifies the problem. When I met this ism-ite, he was just bubbling over with the usual gossip about who the Antichrist might be, when the tribulation was going to start and whether there was going to be a pre, post or mid trib rapture. I asked if we could go to a blackboard. When there, we opened our Bibles and read...
"Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed," 1Cor 15:51-52
On his blackboard I scratched in all caps, LAST TRUMPET, and asked, "You believe the Church will be taken to be with the Lord at the last trumpet, don’t you?"
"Of course, that’s common knowledge," he replied, smiling.
"Great, then you also believe there can’t be any trumpets after the last trumpet?"
"Sure," he said a bit weakly; he probably guessed where I was headed. "Well then," I said, "If the Church is going to be on earth until the last trumpet, we’re going to be here through six of the seven trumpets in Revelation."
"Oh no," he replies, "the seven trumpets of Revelation are trumpets of judgment and they come after that trumpet in Corinthians."
Then I asked, "Are you saying trumpets will be blown after the last trumpet? Isn’t that contradicting a plain declaration of Scripture?
"The last trumpet in Corinthians has nothing to do with the trumpets in Revelation," he says with conviction.
"Well then, unless I misunderstand you, what the Bible says is the last trumpet isn’t really the last trumpet." His view seemed so unlikely I just had to ask, "Is that what you really believe?"
"The last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 refers to Levitical trumpets only," he said in his most authoritative voice, "Revelation’s trumpets take place during the Seven-Year Tribulation. Everyone knows that."
"Really? Well, let me see of I’ve got this straight. A trumpet in the New Testament, claiming to be the last, only refers to Old Testament trumpets, even though there are seven more trumpets in the New Testament?" What he was saying was so absurdly irrational I just had to ask, "What kind of exegetical slight-of-hand brought your denomination to that conclusion?"
You see the problem don’t you? Despite its irrationality, this young pastor couldn’t see past his church’s tradition. Now I’m not being critical of this brother and don’t doubt for a moment that he was doing the best he could, but like most Church leaders, regardless of stripe, he could only see the Bible through his doctrinal filter. However, if we believe our God inspired the Bible, shouldn’t we believe what it says whether it fits through our doctrinal filter or not?
In another church, I used a blackboard to graph the prophetic days. I showed this church’s young pastor how Daniel predicted the coming of Islam 1200 years before Muhammad was born. I showed him how Revelation predicted the first Islamic Jihad, the Crusades, the birth of new Israel in 1948 and Jerusalem again under Jewish control in 1967. I graphed those fulfilled prophecies so clearly they were virtually impossible to dispute.
From the way he responded, you’d have thought I’d just shot his favorite bird dog. In fact, he started screaming at me, and I do mean screaming: "YOU’RE DOING AWAY WITH THE TRIBULATION !!!" If he could have gathered a fist-waving mob, shouting "Blaspemy, Blasphemy" like the Moslems do, he’d have probably done so.
Pointing to the graphs, I said, "Please calm down my friend, I’m not trying to do away with anything. I’m just showing you another way to look at those verses; a way that we can now prove both scripturally and historically."
"YOU’RE DOING AWAY WITH THE TRIBULATION;" he was shouting so loud my ears were ringing. Reasoning with him was out of the question; I’d just threatened his end-time tradition and he was beyond reason. Though this was the loudest example of the problem, unique it wasn’t. Thankfully, there were a few pastors out there with open hearts or I would not have been able to go on.
Some years later, I chatted with a Christian author who had just written a major book on Bible prophecy. Thinking he might be interested, I showed him how most of the prophetic days had already been fulfilled in new Israel. It seems that prophetic days didn’t fit his scheme of things and certainly not his book, so he disagreed. Even after showing solid scripture (Ezekiel 4:5-6) and many historically verifiable proofs for the prophetic days, he kept on with his, "There’s no such thing as prophetic days." So how do you relate to someone who defends false doctrine when there is Scripture to the contrary? I tried a new approach: "OK, Jim, I can hear your total aversion to the prophetic day concept, so lets call them something else. How does ‘widgets’ sound to you?"
I then showed him how the 1290 widgets of Daniel 12:11 predicted the coming of Islam 1200 years before Muhammad was born. I showed how the 1260 widgets of Revelation 12:6 predicted the birth of new Israel in 1948 and how the 42 months of widgets in Revelation 11:2 predicted Jerusalem again under Jewish control in 1967 ... all three events predicted right to the year! (How those prophetic days fit world history is covered in The False Prophet) Then I said, "But you have convinced me. I won't believe in prophetic days anymore. From now on, I'll believe in ‘widgets’, because those 'widgets' fit scripture and recorded history right to the year."
Jim was not amused, sad to say, and no matter how simply explained, Jim still couldn’t hear truths that didn’t fit his end-time "ism," even when you could positively prove them to him. The above accounts may sound humorous, but really aren’t. I’m just recounting them to make a point: No blindness is as profoundly dark as the blindness you inflict upon yourself and the established churches are not immune from it. Jesus faced the same problem with the Pharisees of His day. He addressed it by saying, "By your traditions you make the word of God to no effect." The generally accepted end-time traditions of today are also making the word of God to no effect. God is truth, and how well we serve Him is not determined by how artfully we can defend our traditions, but on how willing we are to seek out and follow the truth.
It seems that most of the churches in America are far more concerned with defending their doctrinal turf than in teaching the truth. There are a few open-hearted pastors out there, but not many. Over the past 20 years, I’ve written five books on Bible prophecy, none of which has been scripturally refuted by anyone. Those books are either true and of the Holy Spirit or they’re not. That’s for you to decide. But if they are of God, they will change your life and ministry just like they changed my life and ministry and the lives of all who read them with an open heart.
Liberal scholars of many groups, Islamic scholars and the leaders of many other religious organizations question whether the Bible has been accurately handed down to us. It's been over 50 years since I studied textual criticism so this little synopsis may not be in keeping with the latest science, but it's the best I can do from memory.
Undoubtedly some friendly Greek -- Hebrew scholar or conservative textual critic will bring any additions or corrections to my attention via e-mail.
Some believe the Bible has been corrupted over time. It isn't true and here is how we know it isn't.
The last books of the New Testament were written by about 100 A.D. by the apostle John who was still alive at that time. We have over 5300 partial or complete manuscripts of the New Testament penned prior to fourth century A.D. Though not assembled into what we now know now as the New Testament until 300 A.D., those canonical writings of Jesus' apostles were being read all over the known world. Though it is disputed by some Messianic Jews, the New Testament manuscripts were originally written in Koine` Greek and then copied by early Christians into every language known to the world. Our major manuscripts are in Greek, yes, but we also have important early manuscripts in Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, Hebrew, and several other lesser-known languages. We have one small piece of the Gospel of John, found on the Egyptian island of Elephantine, that is early enough to be a piece of the original.
It is impossible to support any kind of later corrupting when we have those 5300 early manuscripts that prove otherwise. In fact, because of this breadth of early manuscript support, textual scholars have concluded -- that for all practical purposes -- we have the original documents themselves. For a claim of tampering to be seriously considered, one would have to show that scribes from Syria, Babylonia, Galatia, Asia, India, Rome, India, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Tarshish and Macedonia -- to name a few -- all made the same mistake, at the same time, for the same doctrinal purpose. An utterly ridiculous idea.
We have similar textual support for the authenticity of the Old Testament. Until a few years ago, the earliest documents we had for the Old Testament were later copies of a 70 B.C. Septuigent in Greek and a Massoretic Text in Hebrew that could be positively dated to the ninth century A.D.. However, with manuscript discoveries at Qumran made in the late 1940s (the Isaiah scroll, the book of Daniel, the book of Jubilees, the Temple scrolls, etc. etc.), some of which could be dated to the third century B.C.. Internal evidence within one Daniel scroll dates it at 350 B.C. As a result, we can now state with some certainty that there has been no tampering with the canonical Old Testament manuscripts between 300 B.C. and 900 A.D..
Despite the span of over a thousand years, the canonical manuscripts are virtually identical !!!! To suggest there was tampering to the Old Testament documents prior to 300 B.C. shows a misunderstanding of Israelite scribal methodology and of their reverence for the Scriptures. First of all, biblical scrolls were written on the inside only to prevent any smudging or smearing that might lead to a missreading of the text. When being copied -- besides many parallel readings -- the copy was compared with the original in every way humanly possible.
The words in each column were counted and then the letters. The first, last, and middle letter and word in each column had to be identical to the original. If the number of words or the number of letters of the copy differed from the original, the copy was destroyed. Then they counted the words and letters in the whole document. They divided the document into quarters and into eighths. The first, last and middle letter in each section had to be the same. The number of words and the number of letters in each section had to be the same.The middle word and the middle letter in each section had to be the same, and they had to be the same for the whole document. If not, the copy was destroyed. Not corrected, but destroyed!
Since there is absolutely no textual or historic evidence that the Old Testament was ever corrupted, any claim of editing must have been made by those religious authorities who didn't like what the Old Testament taught. There are some who claim late-dating for Old Testament prophets, but that claim is unfounded, as well. The books of Moses, originally penned in the 15th century B.C. contain Egyptian words and idioms that fell out on the usage a few centuries later. When the Hebrews entered Canaan, Canaanite words appeared in Scripture, when in contact with the Assyrians, Assyrian words appeared in Scripture. During the Babylonian captivity, when Daniel and Ezekiel were written, Babylonian words and Babylonian idioms appeared in Scripture. So rest assured, these canonical books were contemporary books, written when the prophets claimed they were, and they remain unchanged to this day.
Mark of the Beast
Every vision in the Bible is figurative, none are literal. Joseph’s visions in Genesis were figurative, Ezekiel’s visions were figurative, so were Isaiah's, Daniel's and Zachariah’s were too and so was Peter's vision of unclean animals. Since Revelation is also a vision, that book is also primarily figurative. But before we discuss the Mark of the Beast, we need to determine what the figurative word "beast" actually means. (details on figurative language may be found in "The False Prophet," downloadable from this site).
There are three beasts in Revelation: the Leopard-Bear-Lion "beast," the "beast" with Two Horns and the Scarlet "beast". These three "beasts" are not real beasts because the word "beast" (when used in a prophetic sense) means something other than a wild animal. From Daniel 7, we recognize these prophetic "beasts" to be world empires that existed during and after Daniel’s time.
1. The first beast in Daniel 7 was a Lion. History shows this Lion beast to be a figurative picture of the Babylonian empire. (Babylon controlled the Holy Land from 606 to 536 B.C.)
2. The next beast in his vision was a Bear. History shows this Bear to be a figurative picture of the Medo-Persian empire. (Medo-Persia controlled the Holy Land from 536 B.C. to 332 B.C.)
3. The third beast was a Leopard. History shows this Leopard to be a figurative picture of the Greek empire (Grecian rulers controlled the Holy Land from 332 B.C. to 65 B.C. when Rome took control).
So as far as Bible prophecy is concerned, beasts = empires. Babylon was the Lion, Medo-Persia was the Bear and Greece was the Leopard. Each of these empires controlled the whole known world, from India to Greece and even into North Africa. In other words, the whole Middle East. Now lets pan forward to 95 A.D., where John, a New Testament prophet, foretells the future of the Middle East during our era. In his vision, guess what John sees? Another beast, and we now know what "beasts" mean:
Revelation 13:2 "And the beast which I saw was like unto a Leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a Bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a Lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority."
Beasts = Empires, but this empire is a Leopard-Bear-Lion so it isn’t just one of the above empires, it’s all three rolled into one. In other words, it's the descendants of those earlier empires, in the same geographic location, the Middle East. Looking back at the history of the area, we can now identify this new empire as the various Islamic countries that have controlled the Middle East, and particularly Jerusalem, ever since the 1st Jihad. Some might claim that the Islamic states in the Middle East do not constitute a real "empire" because they are not united under one government. However, The God of the Bible is more concerned with the spiritual realities in a land than He is with how many earthly governments it has. All Middle Eastern states are united under one religion, Islam, and all Moslems subscribe to the central Islamic goal of world conquest for their religion. Quoted below is part of Revelation 13, with a few words inserted (by me) to explain the figures...
Revelation 13:1-5 "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast (an empire) rise up out of the sea (of people), having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns (various rulers of various countries), and upon his heads the name of blasphemy (this empire stands against the God of the Bible). And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion (Leopard-Bear-Lion gives the reader a positive ID, it's the Middle East): and the dragon (Satan) gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his (the Leopard-Bear-Lion's) heads as it were wounded to death (the first Jihad was defeated at the battle of Tours and the battle of Vienna); and his deadly wound was healed (the rise of Islam today and the new Jihad): and all the world wondered after the beast (this Islamic empire). And they (the people of the Middle East) worshipped the dragon (Satan) which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast (the Islamic empire), saying, Who is like unto the beast (the Islamic empire), who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power (over Jerusalem) was given unto him to continue forty and two months."
And here is how you can prove the above to be the correct interpretation. Construction of the Islamic Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem began in 688 A.D.. Jerusalem was freed of Islamic control in 1967 A.D.. Applying the prophetic days of Ezekiel 4:5-6:
1967A.D. - 1278.34 years = 688.66 A. D. An exact historic fit; so the interpretation is true.
Revelation 13:6-9 "And he (the Leopard-Bear-Lion) opened his mouth in blasphemy against God (by saying God has no Son), to blaspheme his name (by trying to change the name of the Creator of the Universe, I AM, to that of a local Arab deity), and his tabernacle (God’s temple mount in Jerusalem), and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him (the Islamic empire) to make war with the saints (the Christians and Jews), and to overcome them (during the 1st Jihad): and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations (of the Middle East). And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb (Jesus, the Son of God) slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear."
Not many do hear, but It is now apparent that 1.3 billion people are being terribly deceived by Satan. The God of the Bible and the god of Islam are not the same beings because the God of the Bible said, "they worship the dragon" (Satan). We should pray for Moslems, not hate them. If they don't turn to Jesus, their eventual fate could be the greatest tragedy in all human history.
We'll skip the Two Horned beast, which is about the Western nations that forcibly seized control of Jerusalem during the Crusades and the British Mandate (Two Horns is not the message of this letter so for details on Two Horns, please read Chapter 12 of "The False Prophet"). But I mention Two Horns because for years I taught that Two Horns gave the Mark of the Beast. I was wrong. A more careful study of the passage led me to realize that the Mark of the Beast is given by the "image of the beast," the revitalized Islam now in the Middle East. (Some eschatologists believe the Ka’aba stone in Mecca to be the "image of the beast" and though I think differently, they could also be right.)
Revelation 13:16 "And he (the Leopard-Bear-Lion) causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the (Islamic) beast, or the number of his name."
Like the rest of the church, I used to teach that above verse was a worldwide prophecy. Wrong again. It just doesn’t fit scripture. This whole Leopard-Bear-Lion prophecy is about a middle eastern empire. "That no man might buy or sell" is about conditions that have existed for Christians and Jews in Islamic countries ever since the 1st Jihad. One only needs to watch the nightly news or read a newspaper to see how true this is. But to understand the mark given by the Leopard-Bear-Lion, we need to read about other marks in the Bible.
In 606 B.C., when the Kingdom of Judah was about to fall, the prophet Ezekiel saw spiritual marks in a vision. He watched when an archangel said ...
Ezekiel 9:4 & 6 "... Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof ... Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house of the Lord."
Later, the writer of Chronicles, a historian, saw the same event, but he didn’t see the mark: 2 Chronicles 36:17 "Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand." So why was Ezekiel able to see spiritual marks, but the writer of Chronicles wasn’t? Well, the writer of Chronicles saw things as they were in the material world. Ezekiel saw angels in his vision, so he was seeing into the spiritual world, and don't all Christians also have a mark (aren't we sealed) by the Holy Spirit? (2 Co 1:22, Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30) But you don't see that seal on anyone, do you? Then in Revelation:
Revelation 7:3 & 14:1 "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads ... And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb (Jesus) stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads."
These seals are on the foreheads of every believing Jew of the Christian Era, but you don’t see them, do you? Of course not, they are only visible in the spiritual world. They are not physical marks, but spiritual marks, and that’s the key to understanding the Mark of the Beast. Since the Lord's marks on His servants are only visible in the spiritual world, it is reasonable to conclude that Satan’s marks, given to the servants the Leopard-Bear-Lion are only visible in the spiritual world. This is not "spiritualizing" as some would claim, but accepting that figurative language demands a figurative interpretation. Scripture goes on to say ...
Revelation 14:9-11 "... If any man worship the (Islamic) beast and his image (the Kaaba stone?), and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb (Jesus): And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the (Leopard-Bear-Lion) beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
So will Islam fall? The God of the Bible says so. As written earlier, it will be a spiritual tragedy of unimaginable proportions, and it will happen because the followers of the Leopard-Bear-Lion have been deceived into rejecting the Son of God who sacrificed Himself for all mankind on the Cross of Calvary. Scripture adds the following:
Rev 13:18 "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the (Leopard- Bear-Lion) beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six," i.e., 666.
Many books have been written about that number, all speculative, but about 20 years ago a former Muslim who could read Arabic told me that 666 was the number of the Koran. I believed him, sort of, and promptly forgot about it. Then about two months ago, another friend told me there were many Islamic sites on the Internet claiming 666 to be the number of the Koran. (You can find these sites yourself by searching: Quran 666.)
Suddenly, the last piece of the Leopard-Bear-Lion puzzle fell into place! Now look at the above verse again:
Rev 13:18 "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the (Leopard- Bear-Lion) beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."
The number of a man! So what man has led a billion and a half people away from the Savior of the world? What man said, "God forbid that He should have a son." Is this not Muhammad, the prophet of the Leopard-Bear-Lion? According to the Bible, the end for him and his followers will be grim indeed:
Revelation 19:20 "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." May our beloved God, who sacrificed His Son for all mankind, take the blindness from their eyes.
Notes on Antichrist
There are only four verses in Scripture referring to "antichrist" by name and one has to ask why the apostle John -- and only John -- mentions him. Well, when were John’s books written? Around 95 to 105 A.D.. The other apostles had all been martyred and John was the only one still alive. By that time, many heresies had entered the church: the Marcionites, the Gnostics, the Nicolaitans, the Balaamites, etc., etc., and John knew about them all.
In my opinion, John’s Gospel and his epistle’s were written primarily to combat those heresies. For instance, John 1:1-18 directly refutes the Gnostic view of the nature of Jesus while the rest of John’s Gospel flatly declares Jesus’ deity and His oneness with God the Father. In my opinion, the four versus in 1st and 2nd John referring to antichrist were written for the same purpose: to combat false views that existed in the early church. The phraes "you have heard" shows that the idea of a coming super bad character called "The Antichrist" was already in the Church....
1 John 2:18, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last time." (NAS)
1 John 2:22, "Who is a liar but the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ. He is THE antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father." (NAS)
1 John 4:3, "And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world." (NAS)
2 John 7, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is THE deceiver and the antichrist." (NAS)
So obviously the spirit of Antichrist already existed in John’s time and he makes no mention of one to come. John also said the church had "heard" antichrist was coming, but then, the Church had also heard another heresy, that Jesus had not come in the flesh, which John straightened out in 1 John 4:1-3. You see what the apostle was doing, don’t you? The 1st century idea of a coming antichrist was just another heresy John was addressing.
In 2ndThessalonians 2 we read about a "man" that "sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." Many believe that "man" to "THE Antichrist" and surely he is against the Lord, but is he the Antichrist of popular belief? Well, let’s look at the Temple of God. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Many believe 1st Thessalonians was written before that destruction, but Scripture indicates otherwise.
1Thessalonians 2:16 "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." Look at the tense of the verb -- past tense, so to what "wrath" could Paul be referring if it wasn’t the fall of Jerusalem? Consequently, Paul wrote 2nd Thessalonians after the destruction of the temple. Now lets look at where God’s Temple is located after the physical temple in Jeruslaem was destroyed:
1 Corinthians 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
2 Corinthians 6:16 "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Ephesians 2:22 "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Once we know where the temple is, we can then look at 2nd Thessalonians 2 in a new light...
2 Thessalonians 2:3-6 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called god, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
Now that we understand where the temple of God is during the Christian Era, this "he" that takes his seat in the human heart is obviously not a human being at all, but a spirit, the same "spirit of antichrist" mentioned in 1st and 2nd John ... and who is the man of sin if it isn't Satan?
About Our Author
Ellis H. Skolfield is a conservative author and Bible teacher who received his theological training at Columbia Bible College, Columbia, South Carolina in the early 50s. He has written five books on Bible Prophecy, one on Multiple Personality Disorder and two on church ordinances. Better known in Africa than in the United States, Skolfield is now 78 and supposedly retired, but he still holds prophecy seminars in his home for church leaders, missionaries and Bible teachers.
Fish House has been publishing Skolfield's studies in Revelation since 1983. Some of his books are already out of print while others are considered standard reference works by many churches. Skolfield's latest book on Bible prophecy is downloadable from this site, as are several of his essays. Other books and papers are downloadable from our home site, www.fish-house.com.
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