The flock of God is in a quandary. New vaccines, using a new genetic technology, are now freely available for protection against the COVID-19 virus. Many voices are raised, confidently asserting that these products are safe and effective. Federal, state, county, and employer mandates are coming down the pike, requiring millions of Americans, including children, to be vaccinated or face exclusion and/or termination. Meanwhile, other voices, just as confident, assert that the vaccines are not safe and effective, and that the mandates violate God-given principles and constitutionally guaranteed rights.

So many voices. So much confusion. So much fear, pressure, and division. How should Christians respond?

I want to begin by addressing my target audience: pastors. My message is: You must teach your people. It will not be enough, or even especially appropriate, simply to preach a sermon on Romans 14, urge them to study the issues for themselves, make the best choices they can, and then live and let live. We are not dealing here with an instance of Christian liberty in non-essentials. We are dealing with an especially sharp and dangerous satanic attack. The ruler of this world is coming against your flock—lambs included—in order to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10; 14:30). Using a wide variety of human instruments seated in high places, he is trying to confuse, frighten, shame, cajole, and intimidate your people into making a medical decision that could cost them their lives and the lives of their children. They need a good shepherd: someone who will tell them the truth and guide them to still waters, where once again they can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Brothers, the Good Shepherd is counting on you (John 10:1-18).

 

INTRODUCTION

I am a retired pastor, putting myself in the shoes of active pastors, and writing this essay for them, their flocks, and all concerned citizens. I earnestly hope it helps.

The essay is divided into three parts. First, I discuss whether Christians should be vaccinated with one of the new genetic vaccines. Second, I discuss how I believe Christians should respond to vaccination mandates. And third, I offer a list of resources on this subject that have helped me greatly.

Parts 1 and 2 deal with prudential judgments concerning vaccines and vaccine mandates. A prudential judgment is a judgment that is not based on a direct biblical command, but on a relevant biblical principle. The Bible says nothing about vaccines and vaccine mandates. It does, however, give us relevant principles by which we can make biblically based decisions on both. In the paragraphs ahead I will try to identify the relevant biblical principles, supply trustworthy “facts of the matter,” and then apply the principles to the facts, so that God’s people can make prudential judgments that are wise, safe, and honoring to the Lord.


PART 1

Should Christians Be Vaccinated with One of the New Genetic Vaccines?

The Principles Involved

To my mind, the primary biblical principle involved here is quite simple: God has given us a body, purchased it for himself through the redemption that is in Christ, and therefore requires us to steward it carefully for our good and his glory. A corollary of this principle is that if we are parents, God has also made us stewards of the bodies of our children, with a charge to promote and protect both their spiritual and physical well-being, until the day comes when they are old enough to make health decisions for themselves (John 9:23; 1 Thess. 2:4-12; 1 Tim. 5:8).

Many biblical texts, all of which reveal the sanctity of the human body, affirm this principle (Matt. 6:22; John 2:21; Rom. 1:4, 6:12; 1 Cor. 7:34; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 5:29; Phil. 1:20; James 3:6; Jude 1:9). Perhaps the most important is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Addressing the issue of sexual purity, he writes:

Flee sexual immorality. “Every sin that a man commits is outside the body.” But the sexually immoral man is sinning against his own body. Or don’t you realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have received from God? Don’t you realize that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price: Therefore, glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Paul’s message is clear: Redemption in Christ has ethical implications for how we manage our bodies. We are not our own. Christ has purchased us for God: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). Our bodies belong to him. They are, and always must be, set apart for his holy purposes. Day by day we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). Yes, for wise reasons he may permit them to get sick or be injured. But that does not give us a license to defile, damage, or imperil them. On the contrary, we must conscientiously steward them, for they are precious vessels that God desires for his eternal home, purposes, and glory—and for our eternal joy. It follows, then, that as good stewards of a divinely created, redeemed, and sanctified body, we must never put any deadly thing into the temple of the Holy Spirit.


The Facts of the Matter

Keeping these principles in mind, let us now consider some important and well-established facts about the new COVID-19 vaccines. I understand that some who are considered experts will contest the truth or relevance of these facts. Such disagreements are part and parcel of the spiritual warfare I spoke about at the beginning of this essay. But they are also signs that God is testing our love of the truth. There is no escaping it: If we hope to make wise, safe, God-honoring decisions about these vaccines, each of us will have to examine the truth claims on all sides of the debate. Through prayer, personal research, and respectful dialog with others, we must discern the real facts of the matter for ourselves. Happily, we know that God will help us. He has told us that if any of us lacks wisdom, we need only ask, believe, and work hard to find the truth. All who do so may rest assured that God will give them the grace they need to make the right choices (James 1:5-8).

Having studied these matters for many months, I give you here, under seven headings, the fruit of my research. I believe this is trustworthy information. Using the resources supplied in Part 3, as well as those of your own choosing, you will be able to evaluate it for yourselves.


1. The new genetic vaccines are experimental, insufficiently tested, and irresponsibly promoted.

The widely used Pfizer and Moderna vaccines employ a technology never before approved for use on human beings. Traditional vaccines usually consist of inert or weakened pathogens (i.e., bacteria or viruses) introduced into the body in order to awaken our stunningly complex immune system. If all goes well, it sends out a diverse army of specialized cells (i.e., antibodies) in order to find and destroy the pathogens, and also to log a cellular memory of the invasion for war against future invaders. Henceforth, the body is prepared to respond to a stronger version of the pathogen entering from “the wild.” In short, traditional vaccines intentionally introduce weak pathogens into the body in order to prepare it for an unintentional invasion by stronger ones.

The mRNA vaccines are different. They primarily (but not exclusively) consist of trillions of particles of synthetic messenger-RNA (mRNA). As the name implies, these tiny strands of man-made genetic material were designed to enter our cells and send them a message: “You are now ordered to produce trillions of spike proteins, just like the one found on the COVID-19 virus: the one that could attach itself to you, order you to manufacture more viruses, and thereby sicken and kill your whole body.” The goal, then, of these vaccines is to temporarily turn our cells into spike protein factories, so that our immune system will be trained to attack the business end of a COVID-19 virus: its spike protein.

The Johnson & Johnson and Astra-Zeneca vaccine use a somewhat different technology. These contain adenoviruses that have been genetically modified to produce spike proteins identical with those of the COVID-19 viruses. Once again the goal is to awaken the immune system to go to war against the entering wedge of the COVID-19 virus: the spike protein.

Hindsight is 20/20. In the case of the mRNA vaccines, we now know that trillions of the messenger molecules do not remain in the tissues of our arm as intended, but pass by way of the lymphatic system into our bloodstream, where they are absorbed by the cells in our blood vessels, including the small capillaries. Henceforth, these cells produce large spike proteins, which clog the capillaries and produce tiny blood clots. This clotting can damage various bodily organs; and in the case of the heart, spinal cord, brain, and lungs, any such damage is irreparable. As we shall see in a moment, not only can this happen, but it does.

This is why extensive testing is so important. On average, it takes about seven years of development and testing in order to insure a vaccine’s long-term safety. But when the COVID virus reached our shores, people panicked (or were made to panic), rulers acted in haste, and pharmaceutical companies abandoned longstanding protocols for vaccine development, testing, and rollout. Researchers knew very well that all previous attempts at developing a coronavirus vaccine have ended in failure, and frequently resulted in injury and death when tested on animals. Nevertheless, the researchers skipped animal testing, as well as testing on specific human control groups. Also, full data for the trials of these vaccines is still not available to the public. As a result of this warp speed rollout, we had no clear idea about the short term effects of these vaccines, and no idea at all about long-term affects, or how they might affect our immune systems.

Thus, the pharmaceutical companies, which are immune to vaccine-related lawsuits, are actually experimenting on millions of people around the world. We are their guinea pigs. Dr. Eric Reuben, advising the FDA on the mass vaccination of children, said, “We’re never going to learn how safe the vaccine is unless we start giving it, and that’s just the way it goes. That’s how we found out about complications of other vaccines.”

Alarmed by such irresponsibility, and fearing its long-term consequences, Dr. Raymond Obomsawin wrote:

It is vitally important to appreciate that . . . there is only limited, short-term safety data for these vaccines, and that it is impossible reasonably to infer long-term safety without first observing the impact on human health over the next few years. Specifically, the potential for late-onset effects such as the development of autoimmune diseases, cancer, neurological disorders, and infertility is highly relevant for young people who have a lifetime ahead of them. These potentialities need to be fully assessed and ruled out with certainty before it is possible to proceed with confidence.


2. Cells lines derived from the bodies of aborted babies were used in the production and/or testing of these vaccines.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson used cell lines derived from aborted babies in the testing, development, and production of their vaccines. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used these kinds of cells in some of their testing, but not in development and production.

These facts are troubling to many Christians, who rightfully judge that abortion is the murder of an innocent human being, and who know that God condemns murder. They are confused, however, by Christian leaders who say we can (and should) condemn abortion, but are permitted to benefit from the cells lines of aborted babies, since God is a God who can trump evil by using it for good. What biblical principles should guide us here?

There are at least two.

The first is found in Romans 1:32, where Paul castigates the Gentiles, not only for practicing evil, but also for approving of those who engage in it. It is clear, then, that a Christian should never say or do anything that would approve—or seem to approve—of evil, for that would make him complicit in the evil so approved. But if we receive a vaccine that is associated in any way with abortion, are we not giving tacit approval to those who test, develop, or produce it in this way? Are we not—in effect, if not in intention—encouraging them to continue using cell lines from aborted babies? On the other hand, if we reject the vaccine, and freely tell folks why, are we not bearing witness to God’s truth, and hopefully awakening the consciences of many?

The second principle is found in Romans 3:8. In his dialog with an imaginary Jew, Paul asks, “Shall we do evil that good may come?” (Rom. 3:8). Obviously not. And that must be our own reply to all who say, “Yes, aborting the baby was evil, but now that she’s dead, shouldn’t we redeem the evil by using her cells for good?”

“What!” cry the disciples of St. Paul. “In order to save our own skins shall we encourage Big Pharma to keep striking hands with Planned Parenthood, or with any other abortuary that is trying to make extra profits from the murder of unborn babies? No indeed! Rather, we need to hear again the Word of God: ‘Come out from among them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and do not touch the unclean thing; and I will receive you,’” (2 Cor. 6:17).


3. The vaccines are unnecessary.

If the COVID-19 virus were like the bubonic plague or the Spanish flu, threatening entire populations with death, there might be a case for fighting it with an experimental vaccine. But it is not:

  • The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19—over 99%–will survive; most will experience mild to moderate symptoms, some none at all.
  • Even among the most vulnerable demographic, ages 65 and over, there is a 95% survival rate.
  • It is true that those with two or three “co-morbidities” (i.e., medical conditions that weaken the immune system) are more vulnerable to serious disease and death from COVID-19. But as we shall see, common sense measures of prevention, together with early treatment with repurposed drugs, guarantee highly effective protection, protection that is far greater than that of the experimental vaccines.
  • There is an infinitesimal chance that a healthy child will die of COVID-19 (.0002%). Some children have an innate immunity to the virus, likely traceable to memory cells generated by common colds (which are caused by coronaviruses). Others, perhaps as high as 60% here in America, have already passed through a COVID-19 infection—usually with mild symptoms, or none at all—and acquired a natural long-lasting immunity that, unlike the vaccines, will protect them from COVID-19 variants. Nor, by the way, do children transmit the virus, though they can, and typically do, contract it from adults. As we shall see in a moment, there is a significant chance that a child will be injured, permanently disabled, or killed by the vaccine, especially if he as already acquired a natural immunity. Thus, the (alleged) benefits of vaccination come nowhere near to outweighing the risks.
  • The official Infection Fatality Fate (IFR) for COVID-19 is inflated, and perhaps dramatically so. People who died with COVID-19, including suicides and accident victims, were counted as dying from the virus. One wonders: How many flu-related deaths have been reckoned as COVID-19 deaths? The PCR test for COVID-19 is known to give many false positives. Governments gave hospitals strong financial incentives to report ordinary deaths as COVID-19 deaths. Pathology professor Timothy Allen wrote, “It seems clear that the correct IFR is just a little worse than the rate for the 2017-2018 flu.”
  • Once again, if COVID-19 vaccines are unnecessary for the vast majority of the general populace, then they are exceedingly unnecessary for all who have acquired natural immunity by passing through an infection. And again, it is now known that vaccinating people who have natural immunity causes more adverse reactions than vaccinating those without. Why in the world would we do that, especially to children?

Throughout this pandemic, powerful elites, enabled by various media outlets, have consistently misinformed or underinformed us, thereby keeping the public in a state of ignorance and fear. The simple truth is that a COVID-19 infection is not especially dangerous, a healthy immune system is nearly always able to fight it off, and we have safe, effective, and inexpensive medications to treat any who are in special need. The new experimental vaccines are unnecessary.


4. The vaccines are ineffective.

When the new vaccines were rolled out, Dr. Fauci told us that they were “virtually 100% efficacious.” This led people to believe that they would permanently protect us from infection, transmission, disease, hospitalization, and death. In fact, they do none of these things. Yes, in many cases they offer temporary protection from COVID symptoms. But when the protection wears off (usually after 4-6 months), the vaccinated are again vulnerable to “breakthrough infections,” hospitalization, and death.

Hard data confirm this truth. In Israel, over 85% of the populace has been fully vaccinated. However, as of this writing public health officials now report over 16,000 cases. They also tell us that approximately 80% of those who died were vaccinated, and that this year’s deaths from COVID are 12 times higher than last year. The situation is much the same in other highly vaccinated locales, such as the U.K., Ireland, Wales, Australia, and Singapore. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. nearly 90% of the adults in Vermont have been vaccinated, yet cases are surging, and, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, 40% of the recent fatalities were fully vaccinated.

These developments tell us that the vaccines do not work. If fact, it now appears that they actually make things worse, since they promote the evolution of variants and confuse and weaken our immune systems. Accordingly, many authorities now judge it far safer for most folks to let a COVID-19 infection run its course, while treating the elderly and the vulnerable with safe and effective repurposed drugs. This approach allows our immune systems to generate robust antibodies that will attack all parts of an invading COVID-19 virus (and not just the spike proteins), thereby protecting us from variants, and also nudging the entire populace towards herd immunity.


5. The vaccines are dangerous.

This is my single greatest concern. Something is wrong with these vaccines. They are sickening, disabling, and killing many people.

Again, some experts trace this problem to the trillions of large, durable, and toxic spike proteins generated by our vaccine-modified cells clogging our circulatory system and settling in vital organs.

Others spotlight additional chemicals used in the vaccines, some of which are “proprietary,” and therefore secret. Two well-known ingredients are polyethylene glycol and polysorbate, both of which can produce anaphylactic shock (sudden allergic reactions) in certain individuals.

Still others worry that the vaccines are actually encouraging the generation of more (and more toxic) variants. Presently we are seeing this in parts of Europe, where a new variant, impervious to all existing vaccines, is hospitalizing many. Also, it appears that the vaccines can confuse or damage the immune system, with the result that previously healthy folks are now experiencing viral infections such as mononucleosis, herpes, and shingles.

Whatever the causes may be, one thing is sure: The victims are many, and the adverse reactions are diverse and serious.

As of this writing, the CDC reports 17,000 COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths, 80,000 hospitalizations, 25,000 permanent disabilities, and 800,000 total adverse events. Eudravigilance, the European reporting system, now associates the vaccine with 26,000 deaths. Whistleblower data gathered from very reliable Medicare charts show that nearly 50,000 elderly Americans died within two weeks of vaccination. Since adverse events are under-reported or misreported, these numbers are actually much higher. Steve Kirsch, using eight different parameters for calculation, concludes that the new vaccines have killed at least 150,000 Americans, and permanently disabled 300,000. As we have seen, in highly vaccinated countries like the U.K., Ireland, Holland, and Israel, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging. In Australia, multiple-cause hospitalizations are surging. In highly vaccinated countries all-cause excess deaths are surging. Are we asking why?

Unveiling the variety, frequency, and seriousness of the adverse reactions, the official OpenVAERS website pointedly mentions blood clots, low platelets, strokes, anaphylaxis (allergic reactions), heart attacks, myocarditis (especially among young boys), Bell’s Palsy, miscarriages, and menstrual irregularities. Heart-rending personal testimonies, available for viewing on websites designed to publicize the stories of vaccine victims, put flesh on these statistics, and reveal the dreadful human cost of our errors.

I am especially concerned about the vaccination of children and youth. On the one hand, we have seen that this demographic is essentially impervious to serious illness and death from COVID-19. On the other, there is grave danger that many of our children will be injured, permanently disabled, or even killed by a new COVID-19 vaccine. Based on reports to the CDC, Steve Kirsch calculates that some 570 American youth, aged 12-17, have already died from vaccination. In the highly vaccinated UK, teen deaths are up 125%. Anecdotal evidence continues to pour in, giving us stories of teens who die in their sleep, in front of their computers, or on the playing field just days after their vaccination. Maddie de Garay, a 12-year-old girl, was part of a test group of about 1,100 youth. She nearly died from the vaccine, and now appears to be permanently disabled. Many outspoken medical authorities, decrying the great push to vaccinate children and youth, use words like insane, heartbreaking, and criminal. I could not agree more.

No vaccine in history has generated this range of adverse reactions. The official indifference to this fact is stunning, as is the failure of our media outlets to report it. Normally, 25-50 deaths that are even remotely associated with an experimental vaccine would bring testing and distribution to an immediate halt. In 1976, 32 deaths shut down human testing of the swine flu vaccine. Yet here and in much of Europe the march towards universal vaccination goes on, despite the fact that these vaccines are proven to be both ineffective and dangerous.

Who will tell the people the truth? Who will be for them a watchman on the walls?


6. The way out of the pandemic is not through mass vaccination, but through common sense methods of prevention, and through early treatment with cheap, safe, and effective repurposed drugs
.

This point cannot be overemphasized, for it is the prime antidote to the fear that controls the masses. Currently, the powers that be in Europe and America are fixated on a one-size-fits-all strategy: vaccination. But for well over a year respected scientists and doctors around the world have been exploring other strategies, not only to prevent infection, but also to treat one when it occurs.

And they have found them. We now know that fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and a daily regimen of vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc offer significant common-sense protection against infection. In some countries, governments encourage protection by distributing hyrdoxychloroquine or ivermectin for regular use. Very importantly, we also know that in the event of an actual infection, early treatment with hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, zinc, and other safe, repurposed drugs, including humble aspirin, will mitigate symptoms and prevent hospitalization and death for multitudes. The Fareed-Tyson protocol, relying upon such medications, has saved the lives of over 7,000 COVID-19 patients, and has resulted in a 99.76% risk reduction, with no deaths or disabilities. The websites of Steve Kirsch and the FLCCC offer us more. (See below)

Further support for this strategy comes from India. The state of Kerala, which banned the use of ivermectin, presently has about 186,000 cases of COVID-19. This is 65% of all cases in India. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh, which aggressively promotes the use of ivermectin, has only 193 active cases, despite boasting over 200 million more citizens than Kerala! Yes, inexpensive repurposed drugs offer high levels of protection against COVID-19. But more than that, they allow our immune systems to develop special antibodies that will attack the entire virus (and not just a particular spike protein), thereby supplying robust protection against future variants. The end result, for folks who are willing to walk this path, is strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, as well as peace of mind, durable acquired immunity to COVID-19 variants, and a major contribution to herd immunity.

The vaccination path confers none of these benefits; indeed, it appears to work against them. Which path, then, is it most reasonable to take?


7. People are now becoming aware of these facts, rejecting the vaccines, and pushing back against vaccine mandates.

Just as you cannot keep a good man down, so you cannot keep the truth from getting out, especially in the age of the Internet! (2 Cor. 13:8). And thanks to the conscientious, courageous, and costly labors of a growing cadre of medical professionals, the truth is getting out, despite a flood of opposition from various powerful elites.

The truth-tellers are manifold. They include scientists, doctors, nurses, and public health officials. Space does not permit me to share their extensive credentials, but I am well pleased to lift up the names of just a few: doctors Peter McCullough, Robert Malone, Pierre Kory, Simone Gold, Joseph Mercola, Ryan Cole, Charles Hoff, Lev Zelenko, Harvey Risch, Scott Atlas, Peter Breggin, and many more. While differing among themselves on minor points of science and policy, all of these professionals challenge the safety of the new vaccines, oppose vaccine mandates, eagerly promote early treatment as our best weapon against the pandemic, and vociferously denounce authorities who would keep us from supplying that treatment to the needy.

Very importantly, their leadership has caused thousands of other professionals to join with them. As a result, over 10,000 doctors and scientists from around the world have signed the Rome Declaration, a public statement that articulates the principles mentioned above.

Happily, the people themselves are also speaking up. We now have websites where the vaccine-injured tell their stories, and where the relatives and friends of the vaccine-killed can do the same, hoping to alert a slumbering public. Similarly, victims now meet and exchange information on various social media platforms. Meanwhile, concerned citizens collaborate in Facebook groups, demonstrate in county squares, write letters to local newspapers, and contact government leaders and public health officials. In short, truth is going out and minds are being changed.

The result is major push back against the powers that be. We especially see this in the growing opposition to vaccine mandates coming from lawyers, doctors, nurses, soldiers, teachers, police officers, border patrol agents, firemen, pilots, air traffic controllers, and more. This opposition is quite revealing. If the new vaccines were properly vetted, shown to be effective, and known to be safe, most folks would receive them gladly. But they are not. Accordingly, more and more people are rejecting vaccination, even as influential leaders lie to them, bribe them, shame them, threaten them, fire them, and otherwise try to force them to take the jab.

The people’s response to all this pressure is visceral, and in full accord with nature and nature’s God: “Life is good. I need a healthy body to enjoy it. Nothing you can say or do will induce me to destroy it.”

For a comprehensive survey of the evidence for vaccine failures and dangers, click here.


The Principles Applied

I have argued that the biblical principles involved in the vaccination quandary are simple and clear. First, we must conscientiously steward the health of our bodies and the bodies of our children. We must never do anything that might injure or destroy these precious temples of the Holy Spirit. And second, we must never approve, or seem to approve, of an evil; nor are we to encourage an evil in any way, even if it might seem that through the evil some measure of good may come.

Speaking personally, after applying these principles to the relevant facts of the matter, I have concluded that I must not be vaccinated with one of the new genetic vaccines. The risks far outweigh any of the supposed (and largely disproven) advantages. To do so would be to jeopardize my life, health, capacities, and future fruitfulness in ministry; and to do so in the case of my children would be unthinkable. And again, these particular vaccines are morally tainted through their association with abortion and abortion profiteering. I cannot be a party to that. However, I can tell folks the reasons for my decision, and so become a voice for the unborn and the sanctity of human life.

Pastors, I urge you to share these principles and facts with your people. I also encourage you to direct them to any other resources that will help them educate themselves and stay abreast of developments in this highly consequential public debate. Having done that, you can safely leave the final decisions with them, knowing that you have done your duty, and that you are “innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26; Rom. 14:1-23).


PART 2

How Should Christians Respond to Vaccine Mandates?

The Principles Involved

Once again, the central principle involved here is quite simple: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). However, in order to understand and apply it correctly, we need to think for a moment about the idea of authority.

What is authority? A basic definition, fully harmonious with biblical teaching, would be: Authority is the right to exercise power in order to enforce conformity to one’s will, or to discipline or punish those who refuse to conform.

In the Bible we meet the supreme authority in the universe: God Most High, the creator, sustainer, providential ruler, and moral governor of all men and nations. For our good and his glory he has instituted laws by which he would have us live. If we obey them, he will commend and bless us. If not, he will discipline or punish us. In all of this, his motives are good: The High King of Heaven uses his supreme authority to maintain order, enforce justice, secure the well-being of his creatures, and preserve his proper honor and glory (Ex. 20; Deut. 28; Mal. 1:6, 14; Matt. 28:18; John 17:2, Eph. 1:18-23; Rom. 13:1-7).

The Bible also reveals that God delegates some of his supreme authority to men and angels. Focusing our attention on men, we learn first of all that he delegates his authority (and therefore assigns responsibility) to individuals. That is, he gives each of us the right, the power, and the prerogative to govern ourselves according to his will. Of all delegated authorities, this is the most fundamental. It is the only one over which we have complete control, and the only one for which we must give an account to God (2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:5). In the face of every spiritual test, including the test of new vaccines and vaccine mandates, we must take care to exercise it well.

There are several other kinds of delegated authority, all of which are given for specific purposes, and to be exercised within fixed limits. Thus, God delegates authority to husbands to govern their wives (Eph. 5:22). He delegates authority to parents to govern their children (Eph. 6:1). He delegates authority to elders, to govern their flocks (1 Tim. 3:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5). And finally, he delegates authority to magistrates to govern the citizens under their jurisdiction (Rom. 13:1-8; 1 Pet. 2:13-16).

But again, God has placed certain limits on those to whom he delegates authority, and this in two main ways.

First, leaders in every sphere must use their authority in obedience to the will of God. They are not at liberty to act on their own, but only as his ministers: as his representatives upon the earth (Rom. 13:6). As a general rule, this means that they will always use their authority to protect and promote the physical and spiritual well-being of those under their care. This is true even in the case of magistrates who are called to use their authority to punish evildoers, since the administration of divine justice secures the overall peace of a given community. If a leader uses his authority well, God will honor him and reward him (Rom. 13:7; 1 Tim. 3:13). But if he uses it selfishly, in order to promote his own interests and/or harm those under his charge, he has lost the mandate of heaven, fallen under the judgment of God, and forfeits the obedience of his subjects. Indeed, he rightly elicits their principled opposition. More on this in a moment.

Secondly, leaders are authorized to use their authority only over those within their jurisdiction, and for the purposes proper to that jurisdiction. For example, a husband and a father has God-given authority over his wife and children so that he may effectively protect them and provide for them, spiritually and physically. But if he tries to exercise this kind of authority over another man’s wife and children, he has stepped outside of his jurisdiction, violated God’s creation order, and stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Again, a church leader has authority from God to govern the affairs of his church and administer church discipline. But if he tries to use his ecclesiastical authority to control the decisions of individuals, husbands, parents, or magistrates, he has stepped outside of his jurisdiction and violated God’s order. And this too will bring on the hornets.

Much the same is true in regard to magistrates. They have God-given authority over the citizens in their community, but only for the purpose of praising those who do what is right, administering civil justice to all equitably, and imposing discipline and punishments on those who do what is wrong (Rom. 13:1-8). If any citizen—an individual, a husband, a wife, a child, a church leader, or a temporal ruler—has committed a crime, the magistrate has God-given responsibility and authority to judge, acquit, or punish them. But beyond that, he has no right or responsibility to touch a hair on their heads.

Summing up, God is the supreme authority. He delegates some of his authority to different kinds of leaders. He authorizes them to govern over those under their jurisdiction, for the purposes proper to that jurisdiction, and for the good of those under their care. However, when a leader oversteps any of these boundaries, his reach becomes overreach, his commands become null and void, and his subjects need not comply. Indeed, his subjects now have a positive duty (respectfully) to resist, for he has lost the mandate of heaven, and God—the supreme authority—is now against him.

Taming the Tension

Living as we do in a fallen world, we see this kind of thing all the time. Sin infects the lives of all people, including leaders. Therefore, whether in the home, the Church, or the State, leaders will all too often abuse their God-given authority.

Turning to the subject at hand, let’s consider some examples from the sphere of government. In Communist China magistrates dictate to parents how many children they may have; and in the recent past, they have forced abortion upon women whom they thought were having too many. In Germany, homeschooling is now illegal; in effect, German children are considered the property of the State, which pretends to have greater authority over a child’s spiritual and intellectual formation than his father and mother. Here in the United States, government officials, citing an alleged public health emergency, invaded any number of jurisdictions not properly their own, closing schools and businesses, shuttering churches, barring private gatherings, forbidding hospital ore rest home visitation, enforcing mask mandates, and (now) trying to mandate universal vaccination.

Who is sufficient for these things? Who has the wisdom to discern the lawfulness and justice of such acts, and to make a correct response to them? Answer: those who have understood from Scripture the nature, purpose, and limits of divinely delegated authority. It is only through biblical wisdom from God that we will be able to make wise, just, and safe decisions about any mandate coming down from “the powers that be.”

However, those decisions will not always be easy. For again, we live in a fallen world, a world in which we Christians often experience a distressing ethical tension.

On the one hand, we take seriously all the biblical texts that tell us to submit to temporal rulers. We understand that honorable rulers are ministers of God and administrators of his justice. We recognize the power of sin, the works of the devil, and the horrors of anarchy. Therefore, our default position is to eagerly support good government, and to work hard to achieve, maintain, and improve it.

On the other hand, we also know—both from Scripture and painful historical experience—that Satan can attack, and sin can infect, any human institution, including government. When it does, the result is that wicked magistrates reach beyond their jurisdiction, promote evil instead of good, harm those under their care, disobey the law of God, and forfeit the moral authority they had from him. Under these painful circumstances, when justice has become injustice, it now falls to the Christian to declare, “I must obey God rather then men” (Acts 5:29).

Jesus Christ and his apostles all experienced this tension. When they did, they responded biblically and memorably, giving us the wisdom, courage, and pattern we need to do the same (Rev. 11:8). Though our Lord had received orders from his Father to go to an unjust death like a lamb to the slaughter, he did not hesitate to point out the lawlessness of his trial; nor, throughout his lifetime, did he fail to challenge, reprove, and shrewdly evade the hostile and illicit powers that were arrayed against him (Matt. 23:13-26, 26:47-68; John 8:59; 18:28-32). Similarly, when the Jewish authorities commanded the apostles to no longer teach or preach in Jesus’ name, Peter and John boldly replied, saying, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in the sight of God for us to listen to you instead of him. As for us, we cannot help but speak about the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20).

Down through the centuries multitudes of discerning Christians have followed their courageous example, and some have paid the supreme price in order to stay safely on the side of God and his will. Today, in the midst of various encroaching tyrannies, many brave Christians are doing the same. I reckon Archbishop Carlo Vigano to be among them. With governmental responses to the current pandemic very much on his mind, he said, “Submission to legitimate state authority is the soul’s link to divine justice; but submission to illegitimate authority turns submission into subservience, and renders the soul complicit with evil.” For earnest Christians, either one of these failures would be calamitous. We must obey God rather than men.


The Facts of the Matter

Our subject here in Part 2 is vaccine mandates. If they haven’t reached you yet, they will. Though numerous legal challenges are working their way through the courts, President Biden has ordered the vaccination of all federal workers, including military personnel. Also, he has directed OSHA to compel businesses with more than 100 workers to mandate their vaccination or regular testing. Though OSHA has yet to act, and though the legality of such a dictate is in dispute, many businesses, including hospitals and universities, are already complying voluntarily. While some governors and state legislators are opposed to COVID-19 mandates, others are not. Here in California, for example, Governor Newsom has expressed his determination to mandate the vaccination of all students age five and over, in both public and private schools. The mandates will not likely stop there. Christian leaders, employers, and employees must prepare themselves.


The Principles Applied

Based on my reading of the biblical principles involved, and applying those principles to the facts of the matter, I judge that all such mandates are unlawful, destructive, and unconscionable.

Basically, my reasons are two-fold.

First, by mandating any medical procedure, temporal rulers are operating outside of their proper jurisdiction. God has given them authority only to administer civil justice for the good of the community. In the promotion of the latter, it is perhaps conceivable that in the event of an especially dangerous pandemic rulers may lawfully mandate a temporary quarantine of the symptomatic and contagious citizens; such a mandate, which must never cancel the right of healthy persons to work and worship, would resonate with common sense and genuinely reflect the love of one’s neighbor. (For a short discussion of the bearing of Levitical laws concerning leprosy on the issue of government mandated public health, see the Warrenton Declaration, Sections 17 and 18)

There is, however, is no biblical precept or precedent that could ever justify the State forcing a particular medical procedure upon any of its citizens, Christian or otherwise. Such a mandate would violate the sanctity of the God-ordained relationship between the citizen, his own body, and his creator. God has not granted the State stewardship over the bodies of its citizens; he has granted it to individual citizens, and to them alone. Intuitively, we all know this, especially those who cherish freedom and individual human rights. Bible-believing Christians are among them, and for very special reasons: They know that God has redeemed their body; and they know that he has given them a stewardship to take care of it (1 Cor. 9:17). My body is under my jurisdiction, and I am under God’s. My body is not under the jurisdiction of the State.

Secondly, by mandating this particular medical procedure (i.e., the injection of an unnecessary and demonstrably dangerous vaccine), rulers and/or employers are forcing me to expose the temple of the Holy Spirit—whether mine or my child’s—to injury, disease, and possible death. Moreover, they also are forcing me to receive a product that is morally tainted by association with abortion and abortion profiteering, with the result that I am indirectly encouraging pharmaceutical companies to continue their evil practices.

In short, this particular mandate pressures me to violate my conscience. But this I can never do, for Scripture instructs me to live in all good conscience (Acts 23:1), to keep my conscience void of offense towards God (Acts 24:16), and to hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (Acts 24:16). It is a great evil—and a great folly—for the State to coerce the conscience of any of God’s children. Nevertheless, in order to test his children and to convict the world, God permits it from time to time. Knowing these things, the committed Christian will not cave in to evil edicts (Dan. 3). His conscience is not captive to the State; it is captive to the Word and Person of God.

Pastors, some of your people have already faced vaccine mandates, and it is certain that more will. They will feel great pressure to “take the jab” in order hold their jobs, feed their families, protect their careers, keep their kids in school, maintain amicable relations with their employer, and honor God by submitting to “the powers that be.” This test of their wisdom and courage is a raging river; you must help them to cross it.

Teach them the powerful biblical principles involved in this matter. Give them all the information they need to make wise, safe, and godly decisions. Help them understand that God’s command to submit to magistrates is not absolute; that there are times when it is not only permissible, but even imperative, to disobey. Yes, they must do so respectfully and, if at all possible, non-violently; but they must do so, firmly and steadfastly. Remind them that when push comes to shove, they must obey God rather than men.

Further Healthy Reminders

Along the way, you might also remind them that the supreme law of our land is the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution, with its glorious Bill of Rights; that these documents embody many biblical principles; and that these principles trump all unconstitutional mandates, federal laws, state laws, court decisions, or bureaucratic rulings.

Does God tell Christian Americans to obey “the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1)? Well, those would be the Declaration and the Constitution. Accordingly, in God’s sight the highest civil duty of American Christians is to obey the principles and precepts contained in these two documents, and therefore to challenge any president, congressman, Supreme Court justice, or lesser magistrate who departs from them. The Church is the light of of the world, the pillar and support of the truth in the earth. Here in America she is under orders to speak prophetically to the powers that be, insisting that all rulers obey the law of the land, rather than break it themselves (Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 3:15).

Finally, you might also remind them of the Nuremberg Protocols, a short list of principled procedures developed in response to the gross malfeasance of the medical establishment in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. These protocols, now ensconced in our own federal statutes, specifically address medical research, but also apply to medical treatments. They reflect timeless principles that are well supported by common sense, natural law, and biblical precept. Here are four that seem especially relevant to our present discussion: (1) Medical treatment must never be coerced, but always follow after the patient’s voluntary consent; (2) doctors must inform their patients of all known or possible dangers prior to any treatment; (3) the benefits of a treatment must be known to outweigh the risks; and (4) treatment must be immediately stopped if harm ensues.

Are American Christians now being required to submit to federal, state, city, or employer mandates that violate the Word of God, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Nuremberg Protocols? Pastor, your flock needs you to help them answer these important questions.


CONCLUSION

Let me close this section—and this essay—with a few practical words addressed to all God’s people.

As a retired pastor, the vaccines mandates have not (yet) affected me directly. However, I have read widely on the subject, and thought hard about what I would do if they did.

My counsel to you is that you carefully study the biblical principles and facts of the matter on vaccine safety and vaccination mandates, asking the Lord to help you reach full conviction on both of these issues.

If your conscience will not permit you to receive a genetic vaccine, and if you face a vaccination mandate, you can seek a religious exemption. Though anything is possible these days, it is hard for me to imagine that in the end the U.S. Supreme Court will not uphold them. (See the relevant resources in Part 3.)

Do not quit your job; instead, force your employer to fire you. In the midst of your spiritual test, this will put him to the test, and perhaps give you an opportunity to speak of your faith.  Hopefully, it will also insure that you receive unemployment compensation, and possibly even reparations in due season.

Be bold in discussing your convictions with your fellow employees; if push comes to shove, ask likeminded folks to join with you in stepping away from your employer. All of you together are more powerful than any one of you alone.

If appropriate, you might consider joining with others in a class action lawsuit challenging the legality and/or constitutionality of the mandate that led (or may lead) to your dismissal. The legal resources cited below should be of help.

Are you a Christian parent, concerned about the health and safety of a child who is attending public school? Might your situation be the voice of Providence? Might this be time to consider a Christian school or homeschooling? Yale epidemiologist Harvey Risch certainly thinks so: “If it were my child, I would home school them. Honestly, I would organize with other parents to take them out of the school and create homeschooling environments. There’s no choice. Your child’s life is on the line.”

Yes, it is hard to find a new job or a new school; but it is impossible to find a new body. At all costs you must protect it, except at the cost of spiritual compromise. Furthermore, radical action out of loyalty to the faith will inevitably call attention to that faith. Perhaps God has prepared you for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Perhaps he desires that your Christian witness will win souls to your Savior.

So then, let us be willing to pay the price: certainly for the health of our families, but especially for the honor and glory of our God. And take comfort: The Lord himself told us that this kind of thing would happen (John 16:33; Acts 14:22). But he also told us that we are not alone: Others have experienced it before, and many are experiencing it today (1 Pet. 5:9). As we join with them in holy obedience, we become faithful witnesses who are purchasing gold tried in the fire, and acquiring true and lasting wealth (Rev. 1:5, 3:18).

But above all, remember Immanuel: the God who is with us in the midst of every test (Dan. 3:25). And remember that he has promised to richly supply all our spiritual and physical needs, so that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Phil. 4:19; Heb. 13:6).

PART 3

Helpful Resources

The resources listed below will help pastors, Christian laymen, and all concerned citizens to educate themselves about the COVID-19 pandemic, the new genetic vaccines, and vaccine mandates. Hopefully, the materials will enable you to reach conviction on these matters, make wise personal choices for yourselves and your family, and serve in your communities as a well-informed and responsible citizens. I have sought to include only the most essential links (they will carry you to many others), and to categorize them in a way that will give you easy access to the information you seek. Occasionally you will need to search for a resource: Just place the key words supplied in the title of the resource in the search field of the website involved. Also, please consult this page from time to time, since I plan to add further resources in days ahead.

May God richly bless you all with his wisdom and courage in these challenging last days.


Helpful Websites  

America’s Frontline Doctors
Global Covid Summit (Very Valuable)
National Vaccine Information Center
Truth for Health Foundation
Children’s Health Defense
Daniel Horowitz / The Blaze
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
Vaccine Safety Research Foundation
The Brownstone Institute
Collateral Global
The Expose (UK)
Covid Call to Humanity

Helpful Newsletters

CHD: The Defender
Joseph Mercola
Jeff Childers
Alex Berenson
Eugyppius

Helpful Articles, Videos, and PDF’s

AFLDS White Paper on COVID-19 Vaccines (Search)
Dr. Charles Hoffe on mRNA Vaccines
Dr. Ryan Cole on mRNA Vaccines
COVID-19 Vaccine Secrets w/Resources
Guide to Home-Based COVID-19 Treatment (Search)
Dr. Thomas Siler: The Unvaccinated are Looking Smarter Every Day
Dr. Robert Malone on Vaccine Mandates
Dr. Peter McCullough on Vaccines and Vaccine Mandates
The Warrenton Declaration on Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, and Authority
CDC Lies Documented

Expert Forums and Declarations

Global COVID-19 Summit
Physicians Declaration
The Great Barrington Declaration
The Warrenton Declaration on Authority and Mandates

Vaccine Injuries and Deaths

OpenVAERS
1000 COVID-19 Stories
COVID Vaccine Victims
The Expose (UK)
Vaccine Safety Research Foundation
Vaccine Injured Speak Out
Senator Ron Johnson’s Panel on the Vaccine Injured
75 Prominent Athletes Suddenly Dead
Vaccines Increasingly Dangerous to Youth
Dramatic Increase in Still Born Babies
Doctors for COVID Ethics
Over 300 Athlete Deaths
Testimonies of/about the Young
Vaccine Deaths
Survey of Evidence for Vaccine Failures and Dangers
Dr. Stephanie Seneff of Danger of Vaccine Induced Neurodegenerative Disease

The Abortion Connection

Desmond Allen: Moral Objections to Current Vaccines
Clifford Grobien: Exemptions Are Needed

Early Treatment: Options and Outlets

Steve Kirsch: Vaccine Research and Resources
Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC)
America’s Front Line Doctors (ALFDS)
Seven Cells
Speak With an MD
Push Health
Horowitz: Fauci’s Criminal Disregard for Early Treatment Options 
Dr. Thomas Siler: Getting Through the Next Six Months
Studies on Efficacy of Ivermectin

Vaccine Mandates

The Next Prohibition
West Point Vaccine Mandate an Unlawful Order
Worldwide Protests of Vax Mandates, Passports, Lockdowns

Legal Resources

Parallel Economies, Legal Resources
The Healthy American
The Liberty Counsel
The Thomas More Society
The Warrenton Declaration on Authority and Mandates

Keeping our Kids Safe

Why Are We Vaccinating Children Against COVID-19? (Research Article)
Paul Alexander on Vaccinating Children
CHD: The Defender
Dr. Thomas Siler: What Questions Must We Ask Before Vaccinating Our Children?
13 Reasons Why You Should Not Let Your Child Take the Covid-19 Vaccine (Expose, UK)
Dr. Peter McCullough: Why Kids Must Avoid the mRNA Shot
Dr. Harvey Risch on Vaccine Mandates for Children
Why Kid’s Immune Systems Can Handle COVID-19
Dr. David Gortler: The FDA has Failed in Its Duty to Protect Children
Why Do They Want to Vaccinate Children?
The Unity Project (Parents, Turn in Here!)
“Leave the Kids Alone!”
A War on Children
Children: The Faultline Exposing the COVID Narrative 
Two 15 Year Olds Dead
Dr. Robert Malone: Omicron and the Kids

 

 

 

 

 

Then the woman fled into the wilderness,
where she has a place prepared by God,
so that there she may be nourished for 1,260 days.
(Revelation 12:6)

 

Every hiker, pilot, and ship’s captain needs his instruments. They are crucial equipment for knowing one’s location, getting one’s bearings, and reaching one’s destination. That’s why I love Revelation 12. It is crucial equipment for Christ’s Church. It gives her a precious paradigm for a pilgrim people.

A paradigm is like a pair of glasses. It’s a set of concepts through which we can view the world. Using images drawn from the Old Testament, Revelation 12 gives us a paradigm, a precious way of looking at the Christian life.

Consider the symbols involved. The Woman is the Church, the Mother and the Bride of Christ (12:1-2). Her Son (and her Husband) is the Lord Jesus Christ, now the High King of Heaven. The Dragon is the devil, a defeated enemy who chases and persecutes the woman (12:3-6). And the wilderness is the evil world-system, through which the Woman must pass as she journeys to the Promised Land: the new heavens and the new earth.

This paradigm opens up our text, which gives us a great promise. For just as God nourished Elijah in the wilderness for 1260 days (1 Kings 17), so too he promises to nourish his Church until her difficult pilgrimage is complete.

How does he do this? Above all, he does it in our quiet times, when he speaks to us through his Word, and moves us to pray in his Spirit. But he also does it in the assembly of the saints, the preaching of the Word, the sacraments of the Church, and the exercise of the ministries to which we are called.

Why does he do this? He does it so we can know who we are in Christ, thereby overcoming the accuser of the brethren (12:7-12); so that we will remain eager to share our faith, thereby giving birth to the rest of the Lord’s offspring (12:17); and so that our face will always be turned, thereby turning it towards Christ and the Promised Land (12:14).

Pilgrim, receive this his precious paradigm, stay strong, and rejoice! You’re almost home!

 

The apocalyptic vision here under consideration is one of a number found in the book of Daniel in which we behold the course, conflict, and climax of Salvation History from the time of the Babylonian Empire until the coming the Kingdom of God in its fullness at the end of the age (Dan. 2, 7, 9, 11, 12).

The purpose of these visions is clear: to give God’s suffering people hope.

The method is also clear: to give them hope by means of repeated symbolic representations of: (1) God’s absolute sovereignty over history; (2) the necessity—and brevity—of holy suffering on the part of his saints; (3) the final overthrow of the enemies of God and his people; and (4) the final rescue, restoration, and vindication of the saints on the Day of Judgment, when the Kingdom appears in fullness, triumphing once and for all over the kingdoms of this fallen world.

Needless to say, such prophecies are of great eschatological importance. But given the abundance and complexity of the symbolism involved—and the multitude of interpretations offered—how can we interpret them with confidence?

The short answer is: When we employ the New Covenant Hermeneutic (NCH). (More here)

The long answer is: When we let Christ and the apostles be our theological guides; when we have understood the nature and structure of the two-fold spiritual Kingdom they proclaimed; when we follow them in seeing Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP) as NT truth mystically communicated under  OT type and shadow . . . then, and only then, will we be able to approach these otherwise daunting visions with true spiritual confidence. (More here and here)

With Daniel 7 before us, let us see if these bold assertions are really true. In particular, let us see if this prophecy really does confirm the two-fold spiritual Kingdom of NT eschatology, thereby enabling us confidently to decide between the amillennial and premillennial interpretations, not only of Daniel 7, but of all OTKP.

The Four Beasts (1-8)

In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream in which he beheld visions from God. In the first part of his vision he saw the four winds of heaven stir up the Great Sea in such a manner that four powerful and terrifying beasts rose up out of it, one after another (1-3).

The first was like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard (4-6).

The fourth— stronger and more dreadful than the rest—was largely indescribable, though Daniel does manage to convey its rapacity by mentioning its iron teeth (well suited for devouring) and its powerful feet (well suited for trampling). This beast had ten horns (2:41-41). While contemplating the horns, Daniel saw a little horn rising from among them: It tore out three horns by the roots, had the eyes of a man, and spoke boastful words (7-8).

The message of this vision—which is almost identical with that of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a huge, four-part statue (chapter 2)—is clear: The sovereign God has decreed that between the days of Daniel and the coming of the Kingdom of God in its fullness, four earthly kings/kingdoms shall arise. Like monstrous, predatory beasts, they will emerge from the turbulent sea of fallen, sinful humanity (2:24ff; Isaiah 7:12, 13, 57:20).

Because of the particular symbols used to describe these four beasts, conservative commentators are nearly unanimous in identifying them as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The NT gives further insight into this vision by unveiling Satan as the unseen ruler of all the kingdoms of this world (Luke 4:5, John 12:31, Eph. 6:12, 1 John 5:19); as he who (under God’s over-arching sovereignty) summons one evil empire after another onto the stage of history (Rev. 13:1); as he who, since the days of Babel, has sought to use proud and wicked men to consolidate the entire world-system around himself, thereby usurping the worship of God and mimicking his absolute sovereignty (Mt. 4:8-10). One day, according to Daniel and the NT writers, he will get his wish—and much more besides (2 Thess. 2:1f, Rev. 11:5, 16:14).

The Ancient of Days (9-12)

Even as the little horn continues to exalt himself, Daniel beholds the chariot-throne of God arriving upon the scene for final judgment. Immediately, other thrones are set up, and the Ancient of Days—He who was, and is, and is to come—takes his seat (Rev. 4:8). His garment and his hair are as white as snow and wool, emblems of his holiness, righteousness, and age-old eternity. His throne and its wheels are ablaze with fire, a token of his wrath, now fully kindled (9). A stream of fire pours forth from before him, ready to engulf his enemies. Ten thousand times ten thousand holy ones stand before him, ministering to him, alerting us to the cosmic dimensions of this Day.

The court is seated and the books are opened: The Judgment has begun (10). As soon as it does, the little horn is forever silenced, for the body of the beast from which it arose is now slain and cast into the blazing fires of hell (11). So too, one must assume, are the rest of the beasts, whose dominion was lately taken away, but who were allowed to live (perhaps as members of the fourth beast) only for a little time (12).

There can be no reasonable doubt that this majestic vision depicts the Last Judgment. As we have just seen, it is preceded by the destruction of the final earthly kingdom, and it is followed by the saints taking possession of the everlasting Kingdom of the Most High (7:18, 26-27). But if this is so, then NT teaching concerning the Last Judgment must be brought to bear upon the passage before us.

When it is, wonderful things suddenly appear before our eyes!

Who, for example, is the Ancient of Days? Verse 7:13 (and Revelation 4) make it clear that this is indeed the One we immediately think of: God the Father. Yet the NT calls for a more nuanced answer, since there we also learn that God the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22), and that all must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (Mt. 25:31:f, Acts 17:31, 2 Cor. 5:10). The Ancient of Days of vv. 9-10 is, then, God the Father acting through Christ—the very Christ who, when he came to John on Patmos, appeared in the form of the Ancient of Days (Rev. 1:14)!

The NT answers other important questions, as well.

Where shall the Judgment Seat of Christ appear? According to the NT, it will appear in the skies above the earth (Mt. 19:29, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Rev. 20:11-21:2).

Who are the thousands of thousands who stand before him and minister to him? Doubtless the holy angels, but also the glorified saints, rejoicing in their new resurrection bodies and exulting in the justice of God (Mt. 13:43, 24:29-31, 1 Cor. 15:50-58, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Rev. 15:1-4, 16:6, 19:11-21).

Who is seated upon on the other thrones that were “put in place,” presumably around the throne of Christ itself? Again the NT fills in the blanks, assuring us that the thrones belong to the saints, who, under Christ, will judge both men and angels (Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 6:1-3, Rev.4:4, 19:11-21, 20:4).

And what of the books that were opened when the court sat for judgment? The NT helpfully identifies them as the Book of Life, and also the multitude of books in which God has recorded the deeds of men, so that all may be judged according to their works (Luke 10:20, Rev. 20:12).

We conclude, then, that the NCH does indeed richly illuminate this mysterious OT revelation of the Last Judgment.

The Coronation of the Divine Son of Man (13-14)

As Daniel continues to watch, still another vision appears before his inward eye. He beholds a Personage—One like a Son of Man—coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days. An entourage, presumably of angels, brings him near to the throne (13). At this point, God gives him dominion, glory, and a kingdom—or a right of universal sovereignty—so that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. Unlike the dominion of the four beasts, the dominion of the Son of Man will be everlasting. Unlike the kingdoms of the four beasts, the Kingdom of the Son of Man—the realm that is the fruit of his universal reign—will never pass away or be destroyed (14).

Doubtless the OT saints found this text quite mysterious, for it raises three great questions arise that would remain unanswered until Christ and the apostles flung open the doors of truth for all to see: 1) Who is the One like a Son of Man; 2) What is the nature of the transfer of authority here envisioned; and 3) When exactly does the transfer occur?

As for the One like a Son of Man, nearly all evangelical commentators identify him as the Messiah, the divine-human Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 9:25-26). True, there is a certain parallelism between the inheritance of the Son of Man (v. 14) and the inheritance of the saints (vv. 18, 27), a parallelism suggesting to some that the Son of Man symbolizes the saints. But our text explicitly identifies this Personage as One who is like a Son of Man, and it uses the singular pronoun throughout to speak of him. As for the parallelism itself, the NT explains everything, declaring that through Christ the saints will indeed reign (and judge) upon the earth (Rev. 2:26-27, 5:10).

Very importantly, the Lord Jesus repeatedly spoke of himself as the Son of Man; it was, by far, his favorite self-designation. Moreover, towards the end of his earthly course he explicitly referenced this text when speaking to the Sanhedrin about his Parousia, lest there should be any confusion about who he understood himself to be (Mt. 26:64, Mark 14:62)!

But what about the nature and timing of the transfer of authority from the Ancient of Days to his Messiah? If we were shut up to the OT, having no recourse to NT teaching on this matter, it would indeed be most natural to conclude that God plans to bestow absolute and universal sovereignty upon the Messianic Son of Man at the (time of the) Judgment described in the vision immediately preceding; and that it may well be the Messiah himself who executes it (7:9-12). Interestingly, some of the OT apocrypha, along with a number NT texts, make it clear that this was the impression of at least some of Jews of Jesus’ day, possibly including John the Baptizer himself (Mt. 3:12, John 12:34). (1)  Nevertheless, the ambiguity here is considerable, and stands as an open invitation to search the NT for much-needed help.

Happily, the NT does not disappoint. When was it, according to the NT, that Christ came to the Ancient of Days, riding upon the clouds of heaven (v. 13)? And when was it that God gave him dominion, glory, and absolute sovereignty over all creation, so that in the end all peoples, nations, and men of every tongue might serve both Him and his Father (14)?

As we have already seen, both Jesus and his apostles answer fulsomely: All this occurred when the Father highly exalted Christ by raising him from the dead, catching him up into heaven on clouds of glory, seating him at his own right hand, and bestowing upon him all authority in heaven and earth, so that he might apply and consummate the redemption that he achieved through his humiliation on earth, thereby bringing in the Kingdom in its full, final, and glorious form (Luke 19:12, Mt. 28:18ff, Acts 1:9-11, 2:22-36, Phil. 2:5-11, Heb. 1:1-3).

On this score, Rev. 4-5 is of special importance. Indeed, one might well argue that these two chapters constitute a NT elaboration of Dan. 7:9-14. In Revelation 4 we behold the Ancient of Days, the eternal Creator and Judge of the world, seated in glory upon his throne. Then, in Revelation 5, we behold the Redeemer. Using apocalyptic imagery reminiscent of Daniel 7, the Spirit here depicts the session of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having “prevailed” on earth to fulfill all righteousness and to atone for the sins of his people, the Lion/Lamb enters heaven, comes before the Father, and, in taking the scroll from his hand, receives all authority in heaven and on earth (Rev. 5:1-7, 12). Henceforth, he is authorized to “break the seals” on God’s last will and testament. That is, he is commissioned to superintend the remainder of Salvation History with a view to applying the merits of his redemptive work to God’s elect, gathering in a chosen people for his possession from every tribe, tongue, people and nation, thereby creating a kingdom of priests who will in inherit (the fullness of) eternal life and who will everlastingly reign upon the earth (Rev. 5:8-14).

This is Daniel 7:9-14, writ large.

But this line of interpretation raises a legitimate question: Why, in Daniel 7, would the Spirit represent the heavenly reign of Christ as coming after the Last Judgment? Several answers immediately come to mind.

First, the text itself hints that here we are actually dealing with two visions rather than one, for both begin with the telltale introductory phrase: “I saw in my vision by night” (7:2-12, 13-14). Yes, the chapter as a whole may indeed be reckoned as a single vision; but at the very least, these verbal markers suggest that 7:13-14 touches upon a new (though related) theme. The NT, as we have just seen, confirms this very thing.

Secondly, the burden of the chapter is to speak of the great inversion of cosmic rulership that will occur at the end of Salvation History. It is, then, altogether fitting for the Spirit here to touch on Christ’s heavenly reign in such a way as to emphasize its end result, precisely as he does in verse 14.

Finally, the sequence of the two visions effectively underscores a pervasive biblical theme: The Messianic Son of Man—though himself divine—is nevertheless subordinate to the Ancient of Days; the Ancient of Days is the fountainhead of the authority by which he (the Son of Man) will rule in such a way as to create the eternal Kingdom of God. As we have seen, the NT fleshes out this important theme in a number of texts, especially 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. (2, 3)

Given that Daniel received this vision in an era when God was pleased to veil the mystery of the Eternal Covenant, it should not surprise us that here much eschatological truth is fused, hidden, or (purposely) left unclear. This includes the two stages of the Kingdom, the Messiah’s heavenly reign, its distinctly redemptive character, the exact sequence of events leading up to the Judgment, the Messiah’s role in the Judgment, and his role in the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness.

But in the NT—and especially in Revelation 4-5—all is finally unveiled, clarified, and set in good order. Therefore, the NT mysteries of the Kingdom—and the NCH built upon them—do indeed prevail, not only to open up Daniel 7, but all OTKP. Without them we are at sea. With them, we reach our desired haven and stand confidently upon solid ground.

The Vision Interpreted (15-28)

As the vision draws to a close, Daniel inquires as to the meaning of what he has seen, and then receives a measure of further illumination from one of the angels involved. The section falls nicely into four parts. I will comment briefly on each, highlighting aspects of special relevance for our study.

In verses 15-18, we find the prophet—grieved and troubled by the persecutions yet in store for God’s people—asking for more light on the vision as a whole. One of the angels responds, identifying the four beasts as four kings/kingdoms that will arise “out of the earth.” However, the emphasis here, as elsewhere, falls upon the eternal Kingdom of God, which the Most High—the sovereign LORD of all history—will bestow upon the saints from heaven above (2:44-45). As we have seen, verses 13-14, supplemented by an abundance of NT teaching, reveal that God will accomplish the final inversion at the Parousia of the glorified Son of Man. This is the blessed hope of all the saints, both OT and New (Titus 2:13).

In verses 18-20, Daniel relates that even after this broad explanation, he remained curious about the fourth beast. As if in answer to his curiosity, the vision suddenly resumes, so that now he sees the little horn making war against the saints and prevailing over them (v. 21). In a moment, the angel will explain the meaning of these ominous symbols. Meanwhile, the prophet’s vision ends with yet another sighting of the coming of the Ancient of Days (who is Christ at his Parousia), vindicating the faith (and the faithfulness) of the saints, and bestowing upon them the joys of eternal life in his Kingdom (1 Thess. 1:3-10). By now, the motif of the entire vision—indeed, of the entire book—has become clear: God warns of coming conflict with a view to producing endurance, but also promises coming triumph with a view to producing courage, hope, and eager expectation.

In verses 23-27, we have the angel’s (partial) explanation of the vision of the fourth beast. Several key points—much illumined by the NT—may be made.

First, the fourth beast, which is emblematic of the final earthly kingdom, will be different from all the rest, largely because it will succeed in devouring the whole earth (v. 23). Here, the global hegemony of the ancient Roman Empire is partly in view. However, that very hegemony anticipates something far greater, something eschatological, and the true burden of this verse: In the days of the fourth beast, Satan will finally achieve his age-old purpose—manifested from the very beginning at Babel—of creating a counterfeit kingdom that overspreads the entire world (Gen. 11:1-9). Later, the apostle John foresaw much the same thing, writing, “And all the world marveled and followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3; 12:9, 16:4). Only “the saints”—the true spiritual Church of all generations, but especially of the last generation—will refuse to marvel, follow, worship, and otherwise receive his mark of ownership (Rev. 13:8, 17:8, 20:4).

Secondly, the verbiage of verse 24 suggests to some commentators that the life of the fourth beast is destined to unfold in three separate stages. In the first, the beast arises from the Great Sea: This marks the advent of the ancient Roman Empire. In the second, “ten” horns (i.e., kings/kingdoms) arise from head of the Beast: This marks the totality (symbolized by the number ten) of the serial manifestations of Greco Roman culture subsequent to the fall of ancient Rome. In the third, one final horn arises, subduing “three” of its ten predecessors. This speaks of the final eschatological embodiment of the Roman Empire, achieved by the Antichrist, who suddenly consolidates the residuum of Roman power and influence (symbolized by the number 3). This approach, advocated by E. J. Young, is quite attractive in that it allows us to see how, from the time of Christ right up to the Consummation, the territories, peoples, and culture of the ancient Roman Empire remain near the center of the drama of world history.

There are, of course, other views. For example, many of our Dispensational brethren, adopting a highly futuristic interpretation of this verse, look for an end-time confederacy of ten European nations, over (the remnant of) which the Antichrist will rule after subduing three of them. However, this approach seems too futuristic: Certainly the text itself does not teach it explicitly. Moreover, if the numbers ten and three are meant symbolically, then the Dispensational view becomes a prescription for fruitless speculation and failed “fulfillments” based upon the ebb and flow of European politics. By my lights, Young’s approach is far preferable.

Verse 25 sketches the character and career of the Antichrist. He is arrogant and blasphemous; he will attempt to alter well-established customs and laws (including many pertaining to religious observances); and—for a brief, divinely ordained season—he will “wear out” the saints (i.e., persecute them to the point of apparent defeat). This, as we have seen, is none other than the Last Battle, which, according to the NT, will be pitched by the Man of Lawlessness and his subservient world-system against the true spiritual Church of Christ (Mt. 24:9-13, 2 Thess. 2:1f, Rev. 11:7-10, 16:14, 20:8).

In verses 26-27 the angel brings his message to a close by once again sounding a note of final triumph. The NT fully illumines his words. At Christ’s return, the Son of Man will execute final judgment, destroying not only the antichrist and his followers, but also “the dragon” that inspired and empowered them all (Mt. 25:41, 2 Thess. 2:8, Rev. 17:14, 19:19-21, 20:10). After this, the kingdoms of the world will become  the (universal) Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ: He—and the saints with him—will reign forever and ever (v. 27, 1 Cor. 15:28, Rev. 11:5, 22:5). Amen.

Premillennial Musings

From all we have just seen, it certainly appears that the NCH powerfully opens up this majestic but deeply mysterious OTKP, giving us a simple, biblically coherent interpretation, thereby warning and encouraging the saints of all subsequent generations.

Alas, premillennial views do not fare so well.

Premillennarians assert, for example, that verses 9-12 do not describe the Last Judgment at all, but speak instead of a lesser judgment that will immediately precede Christ’s millennial reign. This is counter-intutive in the extreme.

Regarding verses 13-14, some commentators, following Scofield, argue that Daniel is describing a special “investiture” in heaven, by which Christ, just prior to his millennial reign, will receive authority from the Father to descend to the earth and rule there (Rev. 5).

Others, such as Fausset, Walvoord, and Pentecost, contend that these verses—and verses 26-27 as well—simply describe Christ’s Second Coming in order to inaugurate his millennial kingdom upon the earth.

The great difficulty with both of these views—apart from the fact that they are needlessly complicated and confusing—is that they miss the thrust of the chapter as a whole. For again, the Spirit’s purpose in giving Daniel this vision was clearly to illumine, prepare, strengthen, and encourage all the saints—both OT and New—with a revelation of the entire course and sequence of “the kingdoms of this world;” a revelation of all that must occur up to and including the Consummation, after which God’s everlasting Kingdom will appear in its glorious fullness.

But premillennarians, bound by their eschatological commitments, are forced to deny what is right before their eyes, and so to assert that the prophecy merely takes us to the end of the present age, after which there must still come to pass the Millennium, the (last) Last Battle (Rev. 20:7-10), and the Last Judgment, all of which the Spirit somehow neglected to mention, not only here, but in chapter 2, as well!

The net effect of this fundamental error is to eclipse the grandeur what God actually revealed, to becloud the vision of the saints, and to defer their fondest dreams for an extra thousand years!

Conclusion

We conclude, then, that unlike premillennarian literalism, the NCH does indeed supply the most satisfying interpretation of Daniel 7; an interpretation that helpfully equips Christ’s Church for the dramatic closing scenes of the present evil age, even as it kindles their hopes for a glorious, everlasting, heavenly Kingdom soon to come!

NOTES

1. See George Ladd, New Testament Theology, p. 136.

2. 1 Cor. 15:20-28 makes it clear that Christ’s heavenly mediatorial reign is temporary, and that after the Consummation he will subject himself afresh to the Father. Whatever the nature of this further and final subordination, it is clear from a great many other biblical texts, including Daniel 7:14, that Christ will indeed rule forever, with and under the Father, over the eternal Kingdom of God (Psalm 72:7, Isaiah 9:7, Ezek. 37:25, Luke 1:32-33, Rev. 5:13, 11:5).

3. It is true that Jesus, in speaking with the Sanhedrin about his Parousia, referred to Daniel 7:13. This does not mean, however, that he would endorse the conclusion of those commentators who argue that Daniel saw the Son of Man coming to the Ancient of Days at the Parousia in order to receive sovereignty and a kingdom. As I argued above, either this view seriously misunderstands the structure of NT eschatology, or else it refuses to bring it boldly to the (interpretation of the) text. No, in speaking as he did, Jesus was not saying that he will fulfill Daniel 7:13 at the Parousia. Rather, he was saying (to us, his NT saints) that just as he came to the Ancient of Days upon clouds of glory to receive his heavenly Messianic reign, so, at the Parousia, he will come from the (right hand of the) Ancient of Days on clouds of glory to consummate it. A great many NT texts confirm this very thing (Mt. 24:30, 13:26, Acts 1:9-11,1 Thess. 4:17, Rev. 1:7).

NOTE: This esay brings together excerpts from my forthcoming book, The Great End Time Debate: Issues, Options, and Amillennial Answers (Redemption Press). In the following critique of dispensational premillennialism I often refer to subjects covered in that book. In the present essay I will supply links to other articles where I offer biblical support for my general assertions about the Kingdom of God, Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP),  the Millennium, and the Consummation.

Exposition

(For a time line of Dispensational Premillennialism, click here)

Dispensational Premillennialism is a recent, complex, and increasingly controversial form of modern Historical Premillennialism (HP). It was developed in mid-19th century England by John Darby, a leader of the small but influential Plymouth Brethren Movement. In a day when theological liberalism was rotting out the foundations of mainline Protestantism, dispensationalists held loyally to a high view of Scripture and so won favor among biblical conservatives. Also, as the murderous 20th century progressed, the dispensational interpretation of biblical prophecy—which was decidedly pessimistic about the future of world society—seemed to make good sense of the tumultuous times in which people were living.

As a result, Dispensationalism enjoyed a large following. It included a number of devoted apologists: men like C. I. Scofield, Harry Ironside, William Blackstone, and A. C. Gabelein. Evangelist D. L. Moody did much to spread the new eschatology among Christian laymen, as did the popular Scofield Reference Bible and the Prophetic Conference Movement. In time, dispensationally oriented Bible colleges and seminaries began to spring up here and there, from which there flowed a continuous stream of teachers, pastors, writers, and conference speakers. Familiar contemporary proponents of Dispensationalism include William Criswell, Norman Geisler, Dave Hunt, Thomas Ice, John Hagee, David Jeremiah, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, John MacArthur, Joel Rosenberg, Charles Ryrie, Chuck Smith, Charles Swindoll, Jack Van Impe, and John Walvoord.

Two Peoples, Two Plans, Seven Dispensations

At the heart of Dispensationalism lies a novel and highly controversial thesis, namely, that God has always had two different plans for two different people groups: one for Israel and another for the Church (comprised largely of Gentile believers). This conviction is reflected in its picture of Salvation History, which is divided into seven different dispensations. These are defined as seasons during which God tests people in a particular way. Accordingly, dispensationalists break up the Era of Promise and Preparation (i.e., the era stretching from the fall to the advent of Christ) into four separate dispensations: the dispensation of Conscience (Adam), Human Government (Noah), Promise (Abraham), and Law (Moses/Israel).

Among these, the fourth is of special importance, since it was during this troubled season of Israel’s moral failure that God, through his OT prophets, ever-increasingly promised that he would restore his (scattered) people to their homeland in Canaan, send them a Messianic King, and set up a global theocracy with Israel as the head and the Gentiles as the tail. Dispensationalists interpret these OTKP’s quite literally, and therefore anticipate a future “dispensation of the Kingdom” in whcih God’s earthly people—ethnic Israel—will again be living in Canaan/Palestine, reigning triumphantly with their Messiah over the other nations of the world.

This brings us to the NT era. Here God finally sends his Son into the world for the express purpose of offering the promised theocratic Kingdom to Israel. However, as the four gospels make painfully clear, Israel largely refuses to submit to Christ, thereby failing their test and forfeiting the theocratic Kingdom. But this does not spell the death of God’s Kingdom promises. Instead, God graciously postpones the dispensation of the Kingdom until the Millennium (Matt. 11:20f). Meanwhile, about mid-way through his earthly ministry, Christ unveils a new plan by which God will henceforth create a new (heavenly) people and introduce a new dispensation: the Dispensation of the Church, or the so-called Church Age (Matt. 13:1f). Some dispensationalists speak of this dispensation as the “mystery form” of the Kingdom, since here Christ does indeed rule over his saints, but only inwardly, by his Spirit.

Very importantly, dispensationalists insist that this new plan was a pure mystery. That is, the OT prophets never foresaw or spoke of it at all. Rather, Christ introduced it altogether de novo during the days of his flesh when he realized that the Jewish nation would soon reject him. And that, of course, is precisely what happened, with the result that on the Day of Pentecost the crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Christ did indeed give birth to a heavenly people, pouring out the Holy Spirit on his disciples and seating them—along with all who would afterwards believe their report—in heavenly places at the Father’s own right hand.

The Consummation

This brings us to the most complicated part of the dispensational system, the part that deals with the Consummation. I will sketch it as simply as I can.

First comes the secret Rapture. This is “phase one” of the Lord’s Parousia, the phase of his Coming in which Christ descends from heaven for his saints. When he does, he will resurrect the saints of old, transform the living believers, gather them all to himself in the sky, and then take them with him to heaven, where, for the next seven years, they will enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Again, the Rapture is a “secret” event: Here, no (unbelieving) person on earth sees Christ or the departure of the glorified Church. Also, it is an “imminent” event: Since God has not given us any signs by which we might know that it is at hand, no one can know when the great catching up will occur. The saints must be prepared for an “any-moment Rapture.”

Next comes the Tribulation. Based on a unique and quite literal interpretation of Daniel 9 (see below), dispensationalists argue that the Tribulation will last for seven literal years. During this time 144,000 converted Jews will preach “the gospel of the Kingdom” to all nations. This is the good news of Christ’s coming millennial reign, and also of access to that reign through personal faith in him. As the 144,000 preach, many Jews and Gentiles will believe. However, mid-way through the Tribulation the Antichrist will step onto the stage of history. When he does, the whole world will go after him, believers will undergo fierce persecution, and God will pour out dreadful warning judgments upon the earth. This season of three and a half years—referred to as The Great Tribulation—concludes with the Battle of Armageddon: a military conflict centered in Palestine that will scarcely get under way before Christ returns visibly, in power and glory, to rescue his beleaguered people and destroy their enemies.

This return is “phase two” of the Parousia (and is also called the Revelation). Here Christ will come with his saints (and all the holy angels). His feet will touch down on the Mount of Olives. More Jews will be converted. OT saints—and believers who died during the Tribulation—will be raised from the dead. Then Christ will judge the living Gentile nations, punishing many, but permitting those who treated his “brethren” (i.e., the Lord’s Jewish emissaries) well to enter the Millennium. Likewise, he will also judge between believing and unbelieving Jews. Finally, he will cast Satan into the abyss for 1000 literal years. Then all the glorified saints will return to heaven and the thousand-year Kingdom Age will begin.

Throughout the Millennium Christ will reign on earth and over the earth from the earthly Jerusalem. A glorious rebuilt temple will become the center of the global worship of God. In commemoration of Christ’s atoning death, priests will again offer animal sacrifices and observe Jewish feast days. Though sin and death will be marginally present, the Millennium will largely be a time of widespread peace, prosperity, longevity, righteousness, and joy. On those rare occasions when rebels rise up against their King, Christ will swiftly punish them with a rod of iron, possibly with help from certain glorified saints living on earth or sent from above. At the end of the Millennium God will permit Satan and his demon hosts to arise from the abyss and deceive the nations one final time. A final battle will ensue, wherein a confederacy of rebellious nations will attack the camp of the (largely Jewish) saints. But God (or Christ) will quickly intervene, destroy his foes, cast Satan into hell, and raise the millennial saints from the dead.

Now comes the Last Judgment. Here the focus is upon the unbelieving dead, who will be raised and brought before the Great White Throne, where Christ will judge them according to their works and then cast them into the Lake of Fire.

Finally, God (or Christ) creates the World to Come, the new heavens and the new earth. This is the eternal home of the redeemed. The Church—God’s heavenly people—descends to the new earth to join Israel, God’s earthly people. Though remaining forever distinct (according to some dispensationalists), both now live and serve together in the eternal Kingdom of God and Christ.

Current Status

Among modern scholars dispensationalism has largely fallen out of favor. Nevertheless it is still preached by a great many pastors, for which reason it has also acquired a large following among the people in the pews. Indeed, for over 150 years evangelical Christians have been saturated with dispensational thinking, whether in sermons, prophetic conferences, novels, or movies. If, then, it truly is in error, many of god’s children will need considerable time, effort, and eschatological re-training to unlearn it. But if they are Good Bereans, they will be willing to pay the price.

Critique

As ever, the most effective way to understand, evaluate, and critique any given eschatology is to see what it has to say about the four underlying issues in the Great End Time Debate (GETD): The Kingdom of God, the proper interpretation of OTKP, the meaning of the Millennium, and the nature of the Consummation. Let us do so now, taking a close look at Dispensational Premillennialsim.

View of the Kingdom

Dispensationalism misunderstands the Kingdom of God in the following three ways.

First, it misunderstands the nature of the Kingdom. Classic dispensationalism identifies the Kingdom as a future earthly theocratic reign of Christ over ethnic Israel and the nations. However, the Didactic New Testament (DNT, the specifically teaching portions of the NT) identifies the Kingdom as a direct reign of God the Father, through Christ the Son, by the Holy Spirit, over all who have entered the New Covenant by faith. Thus, the Kingdom has nothing to do with a return to the theocratic institutions of the Mosaic Law, all of which have been fulfilled and rendered obsolete by Christ and the New Covenant. (More here)

Secondly, it misunderstands the structure of the Kingdom. As in the case of Historic Premillennialism, so here: Dispensationalists look for three stages of the Kingdom, whereas the DNT looks only for two. (More here and here)

Thirdly, dispensationalists misunderstand the people of the Kingdom. According to the DNT they are a great multitude taken out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, bound as one through their common faith in Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:28f; John 6:37, 44, 65; Eph. 2:11-3:13). This is the true spiritual seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29). This is the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). The DNT is emphatic: God does not have two separate families, nor does he have two separate plans for those families: a Gospel of the Kingdom for the Jews, and a Gospel of Grace for the Gentiles. Through Christ, God has broken down the middle wall separating Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14). Henceforth, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Henceforth, there is one flock (John 10), one Woman (Rev. 12), one Bride (Eph. 5), one Wife (Rev. 21), one Body (Eph. 5), one New Man (Eph. 2), one Olive Tree (Rom. 11), one City (Rev. 21), one Royal Priesthood (1 Pet. 2), and one Holy Nation (6:16; 1 Pet. 2). Therefore, let no man rebuild what God has forever torn down (Gal. 2:18); and let no one separate what God has forever joined together (Matt. 19:6).

View of OTKP

Like many Historic Premillennarians, dispensationalists interpret OTKP quite literally. Thus, the hermeneutical problems of the latter are the same as those of the former. Their literal approach entangles them in historical anachronisms, apparent contradictions, a resurrection of the OT Law, a rebuilding of the wall between Jew and Gentile, and the problem of millennial conditions said to endure forever. And this in turn brings them into direct conflict with NT teaching on the nature and structure of the Kingdom introduced under the New Covenant. (More here and here)

Thankfully, progressive dispensationalists have begun to feel the force of these objections. Recognizing that the Kingdom is indeed “already” and “not yet,” they acknowledge that even now the greater David is reigning on his heavenly throne, and that under the New Covenant the Church is indeed participating in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Accordingly, these interpreters (who nevertheless still adhere to the basic the dispensational scheme of Salvation History) argue that OTKP has a double fulfillment: It speaks both of the Church Era and also of a future Jewish millennium. Amillennarians acknowledge this as a small step in the right direction. It is, however, but a first step in a long journey that will only end when dispensationalists finally come home to the eschatology the Bible and their Protestant forefathers.

View of the Revelation

The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is the rock of dispensational theology. Broadly, it grounds their conviction that God has a double purpose in Salvation History: the salvation of the Church (his heavenly people), and the salvation ethnic Israel (his earthly people). More narrowly, it governs their understanding of the Revelation. Very importantly, dispensationalists find the perceived harmony between Daniel 9 and the Revelation compelling: The one seems clearly to reinforce the other, and so to vindicate the entire dispensational system. Accordingly, in this this section we must spend some extra time discussing these crucial matters.

 I will do so in three steps. First, we’ll look briefly at the dispensational interpretation of Daniel’s famous prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9). Next, we’ll discuss their interpretation of the Revelation, emphasizing its (alleged) correspondence to Daniel 9, and offering amillennial critiques along the way. Finally, I will conclude with some remarks designed to show why dispensational interpreters have so grievously misunderstood this precious book, the Grand Finale of all Scripture.

  1. The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel’s Seventy Sevens

Here, very briefly, is the standard dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.

The theme of the grand theme prophecy is not the future of spiritual Israel (i.e. all God’s people, Jew and Gentile), but of ethnic Israel. Daniel’s people and Daniel’s city are not spiritually circumcised Jews and Gentiles, but rather the Jewish race and nation (Dan. 9:24). Throughout OT times, God promised the latter a theocratic kingdom, mediated by his Messiah. But before Israel can enter this promised Kingdom Age, it must first traverse Daniel’s “seventy sevens.” These are seventy weeks of calendar years, totaling 490. The 69 weeks of verse 25 began with Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem (445 BC); they ended at the birth (or triumphal entry) of Christ. Verse 26 gives us the events of the 69th week, in which Christ was rejected, and after which the Roman general Titus came and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. But now something unexpected happens. At this point in the prophecy, Daniel leaps over the entire Church Age (now some 2000 years long), thereby rendering God’s dealings with his heavenly people (i.e., the Church) a mystery, a hidden purpose and plan later to be unveiled by Christ.

Accordingly, verse 27 gives us future events that are set to occur during the seventieth week, the week that follows the secret Rapture of the Church. Here, “God’s prophetic time clock” begins to tick again; here he resumes his redemptive dealings with the (physical) sons of Abraham. Dispensationalists refer to this week of seven years as the Tribulation. At the beginning of the Tribulation, the Antichrist makes a covenant with ethnic Israel. In the middle of the week he breaks that covenant, suppresses Jewish worship, and defiles the (restored) Jewish temple. This marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation, a 3½ year season of dreadful divine judgments upon the world, and intense persecution for believing Jews and Gentiles. At their end, Christ will return in glory, destroy the Antichrist, and welcome the Jewish saints who have survived the Tribulation into the promised Kingdom Age. According to Revelation 20, this age will last 1000 literal years. (More here)

  1. The Dispensational Interpretation of the Revelation

In the paragraphs ahead I will sketch the dispensational interpretation of each section of the Revelation, and then offer a brief amillennial reply based on all we learned earlier about the purpose, literary genre, structure, and themes of the Revelation  (More here, here, and here)

Chapter 1 of the Revelation gives us a vision of the exalted Christ, the One who will first bring to pass God’s purpose for the Church (Rev. 2-5), and thereafter God’s purpose for ethnic Israel (Rev. 6-20).

 Amillennarians reply: Yes, chapter 1 gives us a revelation of the exalted Christ, the Lord of the remainder of Salvation History. But no, the book does not give us God’s two-fold purpose and plan, first for the Church, and then ethnic Israel. Rather, it gives us God’s singular purpose and plan for his one and only people, the Church, comprised of elect Jews and Gentiles of all time. Here, however, the emphasis falls upon God’s New Covenant people, as the High King of Heaven enables them to make their difficult spiritual pilgrimage through the lengthy Era of Gospel Proclamation.

Chapters 2-3 give us the Lord’s messages to the seven Churches of Asia. Real as they were, these churches also symbolize the universal Church, and (for some interpreters) the historical stages through which she must pass over the course of the Church Age. This age is the “mystery parenthesis,” a season of Salvation History that neither Daniel nor any of the other the OT prophets foresaw. It is the age that Christ unveiled when, in anticipation of his rejection by Israel, he said, “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18) Thus, in chapters 2-3, Christ is speaking to the Church, about the Church, in the Church Age. Soon, however, he will be speaking to Israel, about Israel (and the nations), during the Tribulation, and on into the Millennium.

 Amillennarians reply: Yes, the true nature of the Church, as the spiritual Body of the Messiah, was a mystery to the OT prophets. However, the prophets did indeed foresee the Church, and were moved by the Spirit to speak about her, albeit under a veil of OT imagery. And this is true of the prophet Daniel himself, who was actually speaking about the Church in Daniel 9! As for the Revelation, in chapters 2-3 the High Prophet of Heaven speaks to the Church about the various strengths and weaknesses that she will manifest during her pilgrimage to the World to Come. Then, in chapters 6-20, he speaks to the Church about the persons, powers, events, and institutions she will encounter along the way. In the Revelation, ethnic Israel is never in view, whereas Israel’s anti-type, the Church, is always and only in view.      

In chapters 4-5 we have John’s vision of heaven, its occupants, and the worship that fills it. The apostle hears a voice, saying, “Come up here” (Rev. 4:1). For many interpreters, this is a veiled reference to the secret Rapture. For all interpreters, the 24 elders represent the raptured, glorified, rewarded, and worshiping Church. In her presence, and eliciting her praise, Christ receives from the Father the title deed to the earth and prepares to unfasten the seven seals. When the unfastening begins, so too does the 70th week of Daniel (i.e., the Tribulation). That is, the exalted Christ launches God’s eschatological dealings with ethnic Israel and the nations, all with a view to bringing in the (1000-year) Kingdom Age.

 Amillennarians reply: No, John’s journey to heaven does not picture the Rapture (a doctrine not found in the DNT). It does, however, remind us that through the new birth all the members of Christ’s Church are seated in the heavenly places in/with him. As for the scene in heaven, it is timeless, and therefore depicts the worship of all God’s people of all times: the Church. She is comprised of OT saints (symbolized by the 12 patriarchs) and NT saints (symbolized by the 12 apostles). The scroll in the Father’s hand is a last will and testament, containing the eternal inheritance of the saints promised in the Covenant of Grace: the Gospel (Rev. 21-22). Howver, before they can receive that inheritance, the High King of heaven, who prevailed upon the earth for the salvation of his people, must first unfasten its seven seals. That is, he must preside over the various historical events through which his redemptive work will be proclaimed and applied to the hearts of his elect. He must superintend the pilgrimage of the Church throughout the Era of Gospel Proclamation, after which he will come again to consummate God’s plan in final judgment and redemption, and bring in the new heavens and the new earth, the eternal inheritance of the saints.

Chapters 6-19 give us the Tribulation, the seventieth week of Daniel. In essence, it is a seven-year season of world evangelization, during which 144,000 redeemed Israelites will proclaim the Gospel of the (coming millennial) Kingdom amidst ever-increasing and ever-intensifying providential judgments, culminating in a supernatural judgment at the personal Coming (Revelation) of Christ (Rev. 7:1-8, 19:11-21). The judgments are serial in nature, progressing from the seven seals (6-7), through the seven trumpets (8-11), and on to the seven bowls (15-16). Writes John MacArthur, “The seal judgments include all the judgments to the end. The seventh seal contains the 7 trumpets, the seventh trumpet contains the 7 bowls.” Midway through the Tribulation, the Antichrist (i.e., the Beast) will arrive on the scene, break his covenant with Israel, defile the temple, and devastate Jerusalem; thus do the 3½ years of the Great Tribulation begin (Rev. 13:5). This section ends with chapter 19, which alone of all the chapters in this section gives us the second coming of Christ in glory (19:11-16), the demise of Christ’s enemies gathered against Israel at Armageddon (19:17-21), and the close of the Great Tribulation.

 Amillennarians reply: No, these chapters do not speak of a future seven-year tribulation. Rather, together with chapter 20, they give us six parallel recapitulations of the course and character of the High King’s heavenly reign. Each one begins at the beginning of the Era of Gospel Proclamation and ends with a more or less symbolic representation of the return of Christ in final judgment and redemption. Literal interpretations of the 140,000, the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, the bowl judgments, the two witnesses, the permutations of 3½, the mark of the Beast, and the Battle of Armageddon all wreak havoc with the text. They needlessly strain credulity, engender crippling fears, and obscure the meaning, solemnity, and wonder of these parallel visions. Here the dispensational interpretation works positive harm to the Church by projecting the fulfillment of these chapters onto another people and into a distant (post-Rapture) future. Because the flock of God is journeying through the howling wilderness of this present evil age, it needs to hear the voice of its heavenly Shepherd (Rev. 12:1-17). Here and elsewhere, dispensationalism cuts it off. (More here)

Chapter 20 gives us the goal and aftermath of Daniel’s 70 weeks: the 1000-year Kingdom Age, in which all OTKP is (literally) fulfilled at last. First, Satan and his demons are cast into the abyss, paving the way for vastly improved spiritual and physical conditions upon the earth. Then, in “the first resurrection,” Christ raises the OT saints and the Tribulation martyrs. They, along with those who came to faith during the Tribulation, enter the Kingdom Age and rule with Christ throughout the Millennium. OT temple worship, centered in Jerusalem, is revived, but only to commemorate the finished work of Christ. Again, the Millennium is basically a lengthy season of peace, prosperity, longevity, righteousness, and joy. Nevertheless, as time passes many of the children of the tribulation saints fall into unbelief. This results in a series of dramatic eschatological events that will bring the Millennium to a close: the release of Satan from the abyss, a gathering of rebellious nations against Jerusalem, a divine judgment by fire, a second resurrection (this time of the unrighteous dead), and a final Judgment of all unbelievers at the Great White Throne.

 Amillennarians reply: No, Revelation 20 does not describe a future 1000-year reign of Christ upon the earth. Rather, it gives us a seventh and final recapitulation of the course and character of his heavenly reign. During this time, which stretches between the Lord’s first and second advents, Satan is bound from deceiving God’s elect, and from gathering the unbelieving world to the Last Battle. It is a long time (symbolized by 1000), but also a finite time, during which the triune God (3) completes (10) the application of the redemption purchased by Christ (10 x 10 x 10). During this time the souls of believers who die in the faith are raised to spiritual perfection and reign in life with Christ in heaven above. This is the first resurrection, a spiritual resurrection that secures, for the saints, their bodily resurrection at the Parousia of Christ. At the end of the age Satan is released from his restraints and gathers the unbelieving world against the Church for the Last Battle. But Christ returns in fire to destroy his enemies, raise the dead of all time, consigns the unrighteous to the Lake of Fire, and brings in the eternal World to Come. (More here)   

Dispensationalists hold conflicting views on chapters 21-22. All look for new heavens and a new earth. All look for a physical city, the eternal habitation of the saints. Many look for a physical tree and water of life, albeit with spiritual properties and benefits. Some say that the middle wall between Jew and Gentile will be removed once and for all; others say it will endure forever.

 Amillennarians reply: Yes, chapters 21-22 give us the eternal World to Come; but no, we should not bring a literalist hermeneutic into it. Here, the Church—comprised of all God’s people of all time—is not only the Bride of Christ, but also the City of God. She is the Bridal City, forever dwelling in glory in the new creation. The throne of God and the Lamb, the river of the water of life, the tree of life and its fruits and leaves . . . all are spiritual realities, rather than physical objects. They are symbols, teaching us that the sovereign Father and Son, by the Holy Spirit, will forever refresh, nourish, and maintain the good health of their beloved children and Bride in the glorious World to Come.

  1. Why the Dispensational Interpretation Fails

Our dispensational brothers have stumbled badly in their interpretation of the Revelation. It will serve us well to ask ourselves why. I would answer as follows:

They misunderstood the intended audience of the book, which is the Church.

They misunderstood the nature and purpose of the book, failing to see that it is an extended prophecy, designed to edify, exhort, and encourage the Church as she makes her pilgrim way to the Promised Land through the howling wilderness of this present evil world.

They misunderstood the underlying theme of the book, which is the exaltation of Christ, the High King of Heaven, who, at the Father’s right hand, rules heaven and earth for the ingathering, upbuilding, preservation, and final glorification of the Church.

They misunderstood the literary genre of the book, which is biblical apocalyptic, and therefore interpreted the persons, places, objects, and events of the Revelation literally instead of figuratively (i.e., in terms of the spiritual realities previously disclosed in the DNT).

They misunderstood the structure of the book, failing to see that its five major blocs are meant as a celebration of the heavenly reign of the exalted Christ, and that the very lengthy fourth bloc (chapters 6-20) gives us parallel representations of the course and character of the High King’s reign. They also failed to see that this structure rules out their futurist interpretation, but instead mandates an “idealist” interpretation, according to which the key symbols (i.e., the Woman, the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, the Harlot, Babylon the Great, etc.) all stand for persons and institutions that Christ’s Church will encounter again and again throughout her historical pilgrimage. (More here)

Finally, they misunderstood the ancillary purpose of the Revelation, which is to give us the Grand Finale of Scripture: a biblical movement that introduces no new themes (such as a future millennium), but instead simply rehearses and celebrates all that has been previously disclosed in the Bible, and especially in the master key to the Bible: the DNT.

In short, our dispensationalist brothers have stumbled over the Revelation because, in trying to understand it, they turned away from the High Prophet of Heaven and the DNT, choosing instead to impose their novel interpretation of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks upon the Grand Finale of all Scripture. The result has been enormous complexity, and therefore great confusion and controversy. But the cause was simple: They failed to listen to Him (Matt. 17:5).

View of the Consummation

For believers steeped in the DNT, dispensational teaching on the Consummation is painful in the extreme. The essential problem here is that it destroys the Blessed Hope of the Church by breaking God’s one eschatological gem into tiny pieces, and then sewing them like sequins on a false time-line of future Salvation History. The result is still more confusion and controversy, neither of which well serve a people upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:11).

In our journey towards eschatological clarity I have sought to address every element of the dispensational Consummation. Working out way through the dispensational time line, let us review what we have learned.

First comes the Rapture, when Christ secretly returns to the earth and removes his glorified Bride to heaven, thereby marking the onset of a seven-year season of tribulation. We have seen, however, that this teaching is based on a faulty exegesis of Daniel 9, and also on a small handful of NT texts forced into its mold. In truth, the catching up of God’s glorified saints occurs at the one Parousia of Christ, when the High King returns in power and glory, raises all the dead of all time, transforms the living, and gathers all men and angels before his throne for the Judgment (Matt. 13, 25; 1 Thess. 4). (More here)

Next comes the (seven-year) Tribulation, or the 70th week of Daniel. Here, error abounds. The Great Tribulation of Revelation 7:14 is the entire present evil age, begun at the fall and stretching all the way to the Consummation. Now over six millennia long, it has ever been a season of tribulation for the true saints of God. The permutations of 3½ years, found throughout the Revelation (i.e., 42 months, 1260 days, a time, times, and a half a time), recall Elijah’s years in the wilderness, and therefore symbolize the entire Era of Gospel Proclamation as a season of persecution and divine provision (1 Ki. 17:1-6). The “greatest tribulation” of which our Lord spoke in Matthew 24:21 is a brief season of unspecified length, set to occur at the end of the age; a season of affliction for both the Church and the world. Dispensationalists are correct when they identity Daniel’s 70th seven as final “seven” of Salvation History, the “week” in which the Antichrist will rise to power, deceive the world, and persecute the saints (Dan. 9:27). They err, however, when they identify the “week” as seven literal years. And they further err when they assert that the Church will escape it. Quite the opposite: The Spirit’s purpose in giving this prophecy is to prepare the saints for the final 69 weeks, and especially for the 70th! In those days the saints must take up the weapons of their warfare and, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, fight bravely right up to the last hour of the Last Battle (2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:19f; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4:5). (more here)

Next we have “phase two” of the Parousia: the Revelation of Christ, that is, his visible coming with his saints, at which time he will resurrect only the OT saints and Tribulation martyrs, and welcome Tribulation saints believers into his millennial Kingdom. We have seen, however, that this truncated view empties the Consummation of much of its Christ-centered power and glory. For again, there is only one Consummation of all things, set to occur at the one Parousia. When it is complete, the divine Consummator will lay the shining trophy of the God’s completed Kingdom at his Father’s feet, thereby concluding his Messianic reign, rather than beginning it. (More here)

Next comes the Millennium, or the so-called Kingdom Age. By projecting it in the distant future, dispensationalists misrepresent the true structure of the Kingdom, giving us three stages instead of two. Also, their premillennialism further disrupts the unity of the Consummation by requiring a third coming of Christ at the end of the Millennium. But neither the DNT nor the Revelation support this scenario, teaching as they do that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 symbolize the lengthy era between Christ’s first and second advents.

We conclude, then, that the dispensational view of the Consummation seriously departs from Scripture, robs Christ of his proper glory, and needlessly confuses the saints by breaking up the one Consummation into multiple comings, resurrections, judgments, and transformations of nature. (More here and here)

Conclusion

These are difficult days ahead for the Church. We are heading for the Last Battle. (More here) As never before,  the Body of Christ will need to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and ever-increasingly energized and encouraged by her one Blessed Hope (Phil. 1:27; Eph. 4:4). This is not a time for confusion and controversy; it is a time for recovering this historic Blessed Hope of the Church. (More here) Accordingly, I would urge my  dispensational brothers to rethink your position, and to come home to the good old paths of our Protestant forefathers. On that solid ground they stood strong amidst many dangers, toils, and snares. If we will stand with them, in these last days we can do the same.

 

 

NOTE: This essay is an excerpt from my book, The Great End Time Debate: Issues, Options, and Amillennial Answers (Redemption Press, 2021)

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These mysterious chapters give us Ezekiel’s famous prophecy of the Deception, Destruction, and Disposal of Israel’s great eschatological enemy: Gog and his confederation of evil armies. In the latter days, by divine decree, they all will go up against a people fully restored to the LORD and his covenant blessings, thinking to annihilate them and seize their homeland. But it is Gog and his armies who will be annihilated. Under furious strokes of divine judgment they will suffer complete and everlasting destruction upon the mountains of Israel.

How shall we understand this prophecy?

The answer from our premillennarian brethren is predictable and disappointing. Embracing prophetic literalism, they argue that Ezekiel is predicting a military war against latter day Jews who are spiritually renewed and happily resettled in their ancestral homeland of Palestine. But once again there are telling disagreements among them. Some, following the lead of Revelation 20:7-9, place this battle at the end of the Millennium. Others say it will take place just prior to Christ’s Second Coming and the onset the Millennium. This, however, forces the latter group to explain why Ezekiel has the Messiah living in the land before the Last Battle, rather than coming to it afterwards (Ezek. 37:24-25).

There are other problems as well, and of the same kind that appear in all Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). As we have seen, the conspicuous use of figurative language warns against prophetic literalism. But if, in the case before us, the warning is ignored, our text is seen to conflict with other OT prophecies of the Last Battle, entangles us in numerous historical anachronisms, and plunges us into incredulity. For consider: Would (or could) modern armies bring wooden weapons to the field of battle? Would there be enough such weapons for a nation of millions to use them as fuel for seven years (Ezek. 39:9)? If all the people of the land worked daily for seven months to bury the bodies of their defeated foes, how many millions of corpses would there have to be (Ezek. 39:13)? How could the Israelites bear the stench or avoid the spread of disease?

But if prophetic literalism is not the key, what is? The Didactic New Testament (DNT) points the way. As we have seen, according to the NT the Kingdom enters history in two stages: a temporary spiritual Kingdom of the Son, followed by an eternal spiritual and physical Kingdom of the Father. Sandwiched between the two stages of the one Kingdom is the Last Battle: a final global clash between the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Satan, during which, for a brief moment, it will appear to all the world that the Lord’s Church has been destroyed. However, nothing could be farther from the truth, for in fact the Last Battle is the sign and trigger of the Consummation of all things: No sooner has it begun, than Christ himself comes again to rescue his Bride, destroy his enemies, and usher in the eternal Kingdom of the Father (and the Son).

These NT mysteries richly illumine large portions of the book of Ezekiel, including our text. In chapters 33-37 Ezekiel prophesies about the Days of the Messiah, and about the great spiritual renewal that he will accomplish among God’s people. In these chapters the prophet is using covenantally conditioned language to speak of the Era of Gospel Proclamation, during which the Father will bring “the Israel of God” into the spiritual Kingdom of his Son (Gal. 6:16). Later, in chapters 40-48, Ezekiel encourages the saints with visions of the Everlasting Temple (40-42), the Everlasting Glory (43), the Everlasting Worship (43-46), the Everlasting Wholeness (47), the Everlasting Homeland (47-48:29), and the Everlasting City (48:30-35). In these chapters he is using covenantally conditioned language to picture the glorified Church in the eternal World to Come. And what is sandwiched between these two great blocs of prophecy? You have guessed correctly: A covenantally conditioned picture of the Last Battle, cast as the Deception, Destruction, and Disposal of Israel’s most fearsome enemy: the armies of Gog.

Keeping these introductory thoughts in mind, let us now begin our journey through Ezekiel 38-39.

The Deception of Gog (38:1-17)

In verses 1-6 God commands Ezekiel to prophesy against Gog—who is consistently represented as a person—and the seven nations that will join him in the eschatological assault against Israel: Meschech, Tubal, Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah. The number is symbolic, indicating that these nations typify the entire world. So too does the fact that they are situated to the north, east, and south of Israel. Rev. 20:7-10 further opens up the meaning, declaring that Gog and Magog will be gathered from “the four corners of the earth.” The message, then, is that Gog—unveiled in the NT as a personal antichrist controlled by Satan himself—will gather together the entire world-system for a final attack against the NT people of God: the Church. Her enemies will mean it for evil, but the all-sovereign God of providence, intent on a final majestic display of his glory, will mean it for good (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28, 9:14-18, 11:36; 2 Thess. 2:1ff).

In verses 7-9 God elaborates. The battle will occur “after many days” and “in the latter years”—that is, at the end of the Era of Gospel Proclamation. By his providence God himself will summon his foes, emboldening them to gather together against the LORD and his anointed servants (Ps. 2:1-3; Acts 4:23-31; Rev. 13:7). Accordingly, they will go up against a people gathered out of the nations and henceforth resting securely in their homeland and upon the mountains of Israel (v. 8). That is, they will attack the Church: a people called out of the world-wide Domain of Darkness, and planted in the heavenly places in Christ. Because of man’s sin, those places were long a desolate waste (i.e., uninhabited); but now God’s nation dwells there in peace and security with their mighty risen Lord (Eph. 1:3, 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; Heb. 12:22). Observe again from verse 9 the universality and magnitude of the attack against the Church: “Many peoples” are joined with Gog, and together they cover the land like a cloud (Rev. 13:3, 8, 20:9).

In verses 10-13 God elaborates further, this time probing the evil motivations of Gog and his hordes. Seeing both the prosperity and powerlessness of a peace-loving people who trust in God rather than walls and weapons, they will be emboldened “to capture spoil and to seize plunder” (v. 12). So too will many covetous onlookers, typified by the merchants of Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshsish (v. 13; Rev. 18:15-19). These images speak of spiritual conditions in the last of the last days. Hitherto the Church has enjoyed a wealth of adherents, as well as religious, moral, and cultural influence; now, however, all is attenuated. Spiritually speaking, she is no longer “the navel of the earth,” the spiritual center of human civilization (v. 12). The moral force of the Gospel—and the moral influence of the Church that proclaims it—no longer register on the conscience of a lawless world. Accordingly, it now dawns on the rulers of this present evil age that there is nothing to prevent them from seizing, not simply the property, but also the religious, philosophical, and moral high ground of the followers of the Prince of Peace (Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1f; 2 Thess. 2:1ff). Foolishly, they decide to try.

Before pronouncing judgment on his foes, God reiterates his decree one final time (vv. 14-17). Yes, Gog will discern the vulnerability of the LORD’s little flock (v. 14). And yes, a multitude of latter-day nations will follow him in the attack, animated by the same spirit that motivated so many of Israel’s former enemies to invade Palestine from the north (v. 15; Is. 41:25; Jer. 1:13-15, 6:22f). But why are these things so certain? It’s because God himself has ordained them, and because he has done so in order to manifest his glory to all mankind (v. 16). As in the Exodus, so at the Last Battle: God will demonstrate his wrath and make his power known upon vessels fitted for destruction, even as he displays the riches of his glory upon (persecuted) vessels of mercy, whom he lovingly prepared beforehand for glory (Rom. 9:22-23, 2 Thess. 1). Over the course of many years the former prophets spoke of these very things. Why? Because God himself had decreed them (v. 17; Deut. 32:34-43; Is. 34:1-6, 63:1-6, 66:15-16; Joel 3:9-14; Mic. 4:19-23). Amidst all their tribulations the saints are invted to take refuge and comfort in the absolute sovereignty of their covenant-keeping God.

The Destruction of Gog (38:17-23)

Having spoken at length of the Deception of Gog, the LORD now unveils his Destruction (vv. 18-23). When the murderous armies attack his beloved land, he will jealously pour out his fury, anger, and blazing wrath upon them, even as he did upon his uniquely begotten Son, so that his chosen people might be rescued from these most dreadful enemies (vv. 18-19; Ezek. 20:33-35; Matt. 27:4; Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

The first judgment is an earthquake. It is cosmic in scope, affecting seven sectors of the creation: fish, birds, beasts, all men, all mountains, and all human constructs (vv. 19-20; Heb. 12:29, Rev. 11:3, 16:8). In verses 21-22, seven more judgments are announced: sword, pestilence, blood, overflowing rain, hailstones, fire, and brimstone (Rev. 17:16). The numbers are clearly symbolic, and so too is the message. The NT decodes it. Ezekiel’s catalog of OT punishments symbolizes the one cosmic judgment by fire set to occur at the return of Christ (Matt. 3:12; Luke 17:29; 2 Thess. 1:8, 2 Peter 3:7, 12; Rev. 20:9). When it comes, all men and nations will see and confess that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the indeed the one, true, living, and altogether holy God (v. 23; 2 Thess. 1:3-10, Phil. 2:9-11).

The Disposal of Gog (39:1-20)

Chapter 39 gives us the Disposal of Gog and his hordes. Verses 1-8 begin with a brief recapitulation of his Deception and Destruction, wherein we learn again of the universality (v. 6), purpose (7), and certainty (v. 8) of the coming judgment. Observe from verse 6 that when it does come, all the earth will be living in security. But when people are saying, “Peace and safety,” sudden destruction will come upon them like labor pains upon a pregnant woman; and they will not escape (1 Thess. 5:3).

The theme of verses 9-10 is eschatological pillage and plunder. That the passage is symbolic is clear from the numbers used: six kinds of weapons will be used for fire over the course of seven years. The meaning? Time and again Israel had been pillaged and plundered by her human enemies; the Last Battle will be their last attempt, when fallen man (6) will do his very worst. But here, says God, is where it ends, and where the tables are forever turned. For here eschatological Israel will pillage and plunder all her foes, and for all time; her victory will be complete (7).

 The NT unveils the fulfillment of our text. By God’s decree the saints will have a share in the Judgment. “Do you not realize,” asked the incredulous Paul, “that the saints will judge the world” (Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4)? In that Day, the glorified Church will pillage her enemies and plunder their illicitly held possessions. When the fires of judgment have performed their work, a world formerly gone over to Satan and his seed will forever belong to the saints of the Most High. The humble will inherit the earth (Gen. 3:15; Dan. 7:18; Matt. 5:5, Luke 4:5-7; 2 Pet. 3:10-13).

The message is much the same in verses 11-16, which describe the burial of the hordes of Gog. The imagery of verse 11 is designed to communicate the immensity of the burial ground, while that of verses 12-15 staggers us with the multitude of dead bodies that will lie there. Verse 16 makes the latter idea explicit, declaring that the valley will suddenly become a city (or at least play host to a city) that men will call Hamonah (i.e., Multitude). The NT gives the interpretation: In the Judgment the resurrected saints will receive from Christ the honor of co-laboring with him in the eschatological cleansing of the world. The Church will have a role in the final casting out of all things that offend (v. 13; Matt. 13:41; 1 Cor. 6:2-3).

Verses 17-20 alert us to the symbolic character of the entire prophecy, since now we learn that the corpses of Gog are not actually buried in the valley, but instead become a sacrificial meal prepared by the LORD on the mountains of Israel for every sort of bird of the air and beast of the field. Here again the theme is the Last Judgment. We are assured of this by its NT counterpart, Revelation 19:17-21. Drawing liberally from Ezekiel’s words, the Spirit there associates “the Great Supper of God” with the Second Coming of Christ as Judge of all (Rev. 19:11-16). Passages from the DNT decode the symbolism of both prophecies: At the Parousia, Christ, the holy angels, and (perhaps) the saints themselves will fall upon the wicked and cast them into Gehenna, where the latter will be eternally devoured by the fires of divine judgment (Matt. 13:39-43; Rom. 2:5-10; 2 Thess. 1:3ff, 2:8; Jas. 5:3; Rev. 19:20, 20:14-15). Thus shall they become a kind of sacrifice, not to atone for sin, but to glorify the holiness, righteousness, justice, wrath, and power of the divine Judge of sin (Rom. 9:19-24; Rev. 15:1-8, 16:4-6).

A Final Promise of Restoration (39:21-29)

This section brings the prophecy to a close, paving the way for Ezekiel’s description of life in the everlasting World to Come (40-48). Appropriately enough, it gives us yet another promise of Israel’s eschatological restoration (vv. 25-29).

In verses 21-24 God casts a backward glance at his supreme purpose in the Judgment previously described: “That they may know.” He desires all to know his glory (v. 21). He desires Israel to know his covenant faithfulness (v. 22). And he desires the Gentiles to know that whenever they (briefly) triumphed over his people and nation, it was not because he was unable or unwilling to save them, but because they had sinned, with the result that for a little season he was forced to hide his face from them in judgment (vv. 23-24; Is. 54:8).

Mindful of this purpose, and eager to instill hope in his suffering people, God therefore concludes the prophecy with yet another promise of eschatological redemption (vv. 25-29). The blessings are familiar. He will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the house of Israel (v. 25). They will forget their former disgrace and live securely in their own land (v. 26). Their holy and blessed life will bring honor to his name (v. 27). They will learn to see his sovereign hand, both in their previous exile and in their return (v. 28). And when in fact they have returned, they will rest in this glorious confidence: Never again shall God hide his face from them in judgment, for he will have poured out his life-transforming Spirit upon all the house of Israel (v. 29; Heb. 8:1-13).

How shall we interpret this final promise? That it appears to be speaking exclusively of ethnic Israel can scarcely be denied. However, the NT assures us that such is not the case. In fact, the promise will be fulfilled in Christ, under the New Covenant, in the two-fold Kingdom that he will introduce. On this view, Israel’s history of sin, exile, and return stands as a type of the history of all God’s people of all times, whether Jew or Gentile. Having sinned in Adam, as well as by their own evil choices, God has exiled them into the Domain of Darkness, where they suffered grievously at the hands of their many enemies. Yet because of his everlasting love for them, he will take action. In the last days, he will set his glory—the Person and Work of his Son—among the nations, draw a chosen people to him, justify them, fill them with his Spirit, and plant them securely, with neither shame nor disgrace, in their new heavenly homeland.

Yes, at the end of the age the unbelieving world-system will mount a fierce attack against God’s holy nation, for it is appointed to the saints that they should follow in the footsteps of their Master (John 15:20; Rev. 11:7-10) But after they have suffered a little, and after they have been sanctified through it, God will yet again set his glory among the nations. He will do so by sending the High King of Heaven back into the world to destroy and dispose of all his foes, and to establish his people once and for all in their eternal homeland: the new heavens and the new earth (1 Pet. 1:3-9).

In that day, all men—both saints and sinners—will indeed come to know the LORD. They will come to know the sovereignty, righteousness, justice, power, wrath, love, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, and grace of the one true living triune God.