Unfulfilled Prophecy

UNFULFILLED PROPHECY (ESCHATOLOGY)

Outline:

(i) Major eschatological events
a) Rapture
b) Tribulation
c) Millennium

(ii) Unfulfilled prophecies

a) The ’70 weeks’
b) Revived Roman Empire and the Person of the Antichrist
c) The Messiah and the Millennial kingdom

Introduction

Eschatology is derived from the Greek word ‘Eschatos’ meaning ‘extreme, last in time, last in place’ and ‘logos’ defined as ‘the logic or study of’. Eschatology is thus defined as the study of the last things or what we refer to as the end times. Biblical eschatology involves great discernment and judgment in the interpretation of biblical text. It is the differences in the interpretation of prophecies that has given rise to the divergent eschatological positions e.g amillennialism, premillennialism, postmillennialism.

Considering the book of Daniel, it is the only apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament apart from the Book of Revelations in the New Testament. The prophetic and apocalyptic section in Daniel from chapters 7-12 gives an extremely detailed insight into future events at the time of writing; some of which had been fulfilled and the rest, which we expect will be fulfilled in a not too far future. The apocalyptic form of Daniel in unveiling future events is related to the sovereignty of God over all and His covenantal promises to the nation of Israel. The apocalypse also involves other theological issues that will be dealt with.

(i) Major Eschatological Events

a) Rapture – Rapture is the ‘catching away of the saints’. One of the most important passages of Rapture is found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 4:13-17). Paul taught that there would be a day when believers in Christ will be reunited with the Lord. It involves the rising up of the dead saints. This is followed by saints who are still alive who will be caught up in mid-air to meet the Lord. This is different from the 2nd coming of the Lord (See table).

Differences
Rapture
2nd coming of the Lord
Relation to the Church
The Lord coming for the Church saints
The Lord coming with the church saints
People involved
Dead saints in Christ
Nation Israel
Direction
Saints rising up to meet the Lord in mid-air
The Lord coming down to earth at Mount Olives

There are 2 views: the pre-tribulation rapture and post-tribulation rapture theory.

Pre-tribulation rapture theory – As its name suggests, supporters of this view believe in the rapture of the church before tribulation. The basis of this theory rests on the literal interpretation of Scripture and the distinction between the Church and Israel.

Summary of the basis of this theory:
(FCF adopts the Pre-tribulation rapture view)

1. Distinction of the Church from the nation Israel. The church is made up of true believers who received the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. Only the true believers are raptured while the remaining professing but unregenerate ‘Christians’ enter the Tribulation period (Rev 2:2). Prior to Pentecost, there is no church but saved individuals form part of the spiritual Israel. After Pentecost, the church is part of Christ’s body and there is no spiritual Israel. After rapture, there is no church but there is a spiritual Israel. The church is a mystery being composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Eph 3:1-7). The mystery was not revealed until the rejection of Christ by Israel. The church is an interruption of God’s program for Israel and this mystery program must thus be completed before God can resume his dealing with Israel. Thus, pre-tribulation rapture is necessary.

2. The Restrainer- Holy Spirit. Paul teaches in 2 Thess 2 that the law of lawlessness is at work but restrained by One for the time being till he is taken away. This is likely the Holy Spirit which resides in the church and he is the restrainer that prevents the man of sin from being revealed. This restraining work is thus ceased upon the removal of the church and is consistent with the revelation of the lawless one at the start of Tribulation.

3. Rapture is different from the 2nd advent of Christ. Rapture involves the meeting of the true church with Christ in mid-air. The 2nd advent sees Christ coming down to earth and planting his feet on Mount Olives. Also, when Christ returns, he comes with his bride, the Church.

Post-tribulation rapture theory – This theory views the rapture and 2nd coming as the same event. It holds that the church will continue on earth until the 2nd Advent of Christ. In other words, the rapture of the church will not take place until after the Tribulation.

Summary of the basis of this theory:

The bases of this theory rest on the denial of pre-tribulation view than on a positive exposition of Scriptures. They are as follows:

1. The lack of distinction between Israel and the Church.

2. Against the nature and purpose of Tribulation. Please refer to the next section on Tribulation.

3. Denies future fulfillment to the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 for a historical fulfillment.

4. Applies God’s program for Israel to the church.

Briefly, the major argument of the post-tribulation rapturist maintains that promise of tribulation was given to church (Matt 24:9-11; Lk 23:27-31; Mk 13:9-13). However, these passages referred to Israel. There are many parts of Scriptures (e.g Jer 30:7) that speaks of Israel being brought into a time of purging to prepare them as a nation for the millennium to follow the advent of Christ. Israel and the church are 2 separate entities in God’s plan and cannot be ignored. Also, Rev 3:10 speaks clearly that the church will be kept from the hour of trial (Tribulation).

Also, the term tribulation must be distinguished in 2 ways. There is a non-eschatological sense in reference to any time of suffering or testing in Matt 13:21, Mk 4:17. The other is the eschatological sense in reference to the whole period of 7 years of Tribulation as in Rev 2:22. Matt 24:29. The non-echatological meaning is used in reference to the church as in Jn 16:33. It does not teach that the church will be brought into the 7-year tribulation. Otherwise, tribulation has already existed for over close to 2000 years since the formation of the church.

The argument against the continuous fulfillment of the prophecy of the 70 weeks in Daniel is covered in a subsequent section. The time lines below summarises the differences between the 2 theories:

b) Tribulation – The tribulation is known as ‘the time of trouble’ that is a period of great distress and suffering unparalleled in history because of opposition or persecution. This is also known as the 70th week in the prophecy given to the nation Israel through Daniel.

Nature of Tribulation

The 7 years of Tribulation is characterised by:

1. Wrath – “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10). See also Zeph 1:15,18)

2. Judgment – Rev 14:7 refers it to “the hour of judgment”.

3. Indignation – God’ righteous anger is executed to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity (Isa 26:20,21).

4. Trial – Rev 3:10: In the letter to the Sardis church, they are told that they will be kept from the “hour of trial” that shall come to test the whole world and all who dwell on the earth.

5. Trouble – Jer 30:7: “That day is great, so that there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble. But he shall be saved from it.” Also Dan 12:1.

6. Destruction and darkness – Joel 1:15: “The day of the Lord … (shall be) as a destruction from the Almighty.” Also Joel 2:2.

7. Desolation – “and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate..”(Dan 9:27) and Zeph 1:14,15.

8. Punishment – Isa 24:20-21: “the Lord shall punish the host of exalted one.. and the kings of the earth.”

Purpose of Tribulation

1. Prepare Israel for her Messiah. Prophecy of Jeremiah (30:7) teaches that this time has particular reference to Israel, for it is “the time of Israel’s trouble.” Thus, God’s purpose for Israel in Tribulation is to bring about the conversion of a multitude of Jews, who will enter into the blessings of the kingdom and experience the fulfillment of all Israel’s covenants.

2. Pour out judgment on unbelieving man and nations. From various passages in Scriptures, it is clear that God is punishing the nations of the earth for their ungodliness. The Tribulation with the reign of the harlot and then the Anti-Christ is part of God’s program is dealing with sin. This then gives rise to the millennial kingdom under the Messiah which is a reign of righteousness.

Time of Tribulation – This is obtained from the prophecy in Daniel which details the chronology of Israel’s future history in seventy weeks. The time tribulation is located in the last week or the 70th week. The 70th week is divided into 2 equal parts of 42 months or 3 and a half years.

c) Millennium – The Millennial kingdom is an earthly kingdom under God’s rule. Daniel 2 refers to it as a rock not cut by human hand which struck and broke the colossal statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Revelations 20:1-7 speaks of the kingdom era as lasting a thousand years. There is a divergence of theological positions on the understanding of the time period of the millennial kingdom. This stems from either a literal or allegorical approach to the interpretation of the kingdom. There are altogether 3 major views: premillennialism, amillennialism and postmillennialism (see timelines for illustration).

Amillennialism – Amillennialism means no millennium. Proponents of this theory will maintain that the name is a misnomer. It is not that they do not believe that there is no millennium but they believe the nature of the millennium is a non-utopian one as contrary to the other 2 positions. The relation of the millennium to the 2nd advent is similar to the postmillennialist position. Israel and the Church are viewed as one people of God. There is no tribulation and the present church age is the millennial kingdom. There is thus no literal 1000-year reign under the Messiah. The church age or the millennial kingdom is followed by rapture, which is simultaneous with the establishing of the new heaven and earth.

Postmillennialism – The prefix ‘post’ means after or behind to. The postmillennialist is defined as the return of Christ after the millennium. In this view, there is no distinction Israel and the Church. Both are seen as one people of God. Postmillennialists do not believe in the tribulation or an earthly kingdom with Christ. They believe in the return of Christ after society has been christianised by the church through preaching and evangelism. The church will aid in the establishment of the millennium on earth, which culminates with the second coming of Christ or rapture.

Premillennialism – The prefix ‘pre’ means before or prior to. Premillennialism is defined as the return of Christ literally and bodily before the millennial kingdom begins. The church is raptured before the 7-year tribulation. This is followed by the 7 years of Tribulation as a judgment of the ungodliness of all the people on earth and to prepare the Jews for the coming millennium under the Messiah. The establishment of the millennial kingdom is a literal 1000 years reign under Christ. The millennial kingdom is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel in establishing an earthly kingdom under the Messiah.
(FCF adopts the Pre-millennialism view)

Timeline for the 3 views:

(ii) Unfulfilled Prophecies

a) The ’70 weeks’

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in lasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty -two ‘sevens’. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens’, the
 Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’, In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” – 
Daniel 9:24-27

In Daniel’s third vision, God reveals His post-exilic plans for the nation of Israel in fulfilling his promise to give them a Messiah and to establish his kingdom (Daniel 9:24). The ’70’ weeks can be divided into ‘7+62+1’ weeks. The ‘weeks’ is largely accepted by scholars to refer to time units of years from the internal evidences in Daniel. E.g 70 weeks = 70×7 =490 years

Attempts to locate the fulfillment of this prophecy in history have led to several positions on firstly, the exact year when the command was issued. Secondly, if the prophecy has been fulfilled (continuous fulfillment theory) or partially fulfilled referring to the ‘gap’ between the 69th week and the 70th week (gap theory).

On the first issue of the dating of the decree

There are altogether 4 decrees concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem:

1. decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple (2 Chr 36: 22-23)

2. decree of Darius confirming Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 1:1-4, 6:1-5)

3. decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra (Ezra 7:11-26)

4. decree of Artaxerxes given to Nehemiah to rebuild the city (Neh 2:1-8)

The first 3 decrees are rejected as the precise wording of the decrees in 2 Chr 36 and in Ezra dealt only with the rebuilding of the Temple and not the city. The rebuilding of the city was only fulfilled in the time of Nehemiah. Also, 2 highly suggested dates are 538 BC when Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the temple and 445 BC corresponding to Artaxerxes’ decree to Nehemiah. The 538 BC date is rejected due to the following reasons:

1. There is no evidence that rebuilding the wall was authorized in 457 BC. Implication was drawn from Ezra 4:12-21 that city walls were rebuilt at that time and the reference to “a wall in Judah” in Ezra 9:9 signifies completion. However, careful examination of these passages does not prove with clarity that the wall was ever completed or even begun.

2. Although houses were built, they were not built in Jerusalem. This was precisely why Haggai rebuked the Israelites that they could live in paneled houses while the temple was not rebuilt. Also, the city was still in utter ruins (Neh 2:17). Thus, Jerusalem was not rebuilt in the sixth century BC.

3. Assuming 538 BC was the correct date, a literal interpretation of the prophecy would not be permitted. 483 years from the start in 538 BC would end in the middle of the 1st century AD. There was no significant event to mark its close. Thus, the date of 538 BC is rejected.

The most plausible one is the decree given in the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign in Persia (Nehemiah 2:1). Nehemiah records the going out of the decree in the Artaxerxes concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Since Artaxerxes reign started in 465 B.C., the 20th year of his reign would be 445 B.C. This is widely accepted by scholars for the date of the decree.

From the going out of the command in 445 B.C., there would be

7+62 weeks = 69 weeks
69 weeks = 69 x 7 = 483 years

Using Jewish calender where 1 year =360 days,
483 years = 483 x 360 = 173, 880 days.

Converting it to our present calender,
We need to account for the number of leap years = 116 days
(173, 880 – 116) 365 = 476 years

Thus, 445 B.C. + 476 years = A.D. 32
(1 BC to 1 AD is one year. There is no year 0.)
This brings us to AD 32 corresponding to the approximate time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a colt and his crucifixion following after shortly. Thus, fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel 9:24 to first part of 9:26 that the Messiah will be cut off (timeline below).

On the second issue: Continuous fulfillment vs Gap theory

The issue of contention here is whether the fulfillment of the first 69 weeks is continuous with the last or 70th Week. Proponents of the continuous fulfillment theory considers both the 69 weeks and the 70th week as been fulfilled. According to the continuous fulfillment theory, after the fulfillment of the first 69 weeks, the 70th week had been fulfilled in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (see chart below).

This contrasts to the Gap theory, which interprets the 70 weeks as having a break between the 69th week and the last week (see chart below). The gap period is the time from the fulfillment of Christ’s death to the start of the 7 years of Tribulation in the last days. We are thus living in this ‘gap’ period so to speak. Here, we see the fulfillment of the 69 weeks but not the 70th week. The 70th week is thus given a futuristic or eschatological interpretation. The Gap theory is more favored due to the following:

1. The continuous fulfillment theory does not explain adequately the non-continuity of the Temple destruction in A.D. 70 some 38 years after the death of Christ.

2. Dan 9:27 speak of the predicted judgment for the one who desecrates the Temple accords to the divine punishment for his arrogant act (Dan 8:25). In this case, this punishment should occur immediately after the desolation of the city and temple in AD 70. This would be consistent with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Babylonians would be punished immediately after the 70 years of exile. Yet, we do not see the downfall of the Roman Empire till several hundred years later after AD 70.

3. We see the destruction of the temple as predicted in Dan 9:24. This occurs some 38 years after the Messiah was cut off. This indicates that the prophecy likely do not follow a continuous fulfillment in time.

4. The interpretation of Dan 9:27 in light of the Olivet discourse (Matt 24:3-31). Jesus spoke of the persecution, wars which would continue to the end of age, climaxing in a time of unparalleled distress or tribulation. It is only after this that he makes mentions of the prophecy in Daniel 9:27 which speaks of the period of desolate abomination or Tribulation. If the prophecy of the 70 weeks was continuous, then it makes no sense for Jesus to place an intervening period before the fulfillment of the 70th week. Also, Matthew 24:29.30 describes the Messiah’s advent following the Tribulation. Thus, the 70th week cannot be fulfilled in AD 70 as the 2nd advent is still not fulfilled.

5. There is no known Roman leader who has made a covenant with the Jews for 7 years. This indicates that this part of the prophecy is yet fulfilled and lies in the future.

6. The presence of eschatological markers in Dan 9:27: Hebrew terms, yashebitim (cause to cease), necheratzah tittak (appointed end). These terms indicate that this section belongs to an eschatological period, qualified in later parts of Daniel as the end times (12: 4, 9, 13).

We want to note the parallel concepts between chapter 9 and 12:

a. Prayer for understanding (9:2/12:8)

b. Desolation of Jewish people (9:27/12:7)

c. 3 ½ years (9:27/12:7,11)

d. Abolition of sacrifice (9:27/12:11)

e. Abomination of desolation (9:27/12:11)

This is because in Dan 9:27, the conclusion of the prophecy gave no specific answer to the time of the end of the captivity that Daniel was praying for in the beginning of chapter 9. The answer to Daniel’s prayer is found in chapter 12 where his prayer would be fulfilled in the eschatological age with all the elements of his petition realised.

Continuous theory interprets the last week as having fulfilled in the Temple destruction in AD 70. This implicates the non-continuity of the last week in the Temple destruction, some 38 years after the death of Christ in AD 32 which discredits the theory. A futuristic interpretation of the last week in the Gap theory is thus favoured.


b) Revived Roman Empire (RRE) and the Anti-Christ

What is it?

The revived Roman Empire refers to a future world political body that has to be inexistence before the ’70th week’. Out of this political organization comes the world ruler who will make a ‘covenant’ with the Jews. This political body is first mentioned as the 4th kingdom in Daniel 2:40-44. A later reference is found in Daniel 7:7, where Daniel refers it to the 4th beast with 10 horns (See also Rev 13:1, 17:1).

What are the characteristics of the RRE?

Revelations 17:1 tells us this kingdom is built on 7 other historical kingdoms. The first five kingdoms that have fallen: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Greece. The 6th kingdom in John’s time: Rome. The last one is futuristic but will have its roots in the Roman Empire and known as the Revived Roman Empire. Debates abound whether this RRE is a revival of the past Roman empire or the RRE is another empire that has the geographical boundaries of the old Roman empire.

In Daniel’s vision …….

The history of the 4th kingdom traces from the start of the Old Roman Empire to its end and ‘fast forward’ to the last days where the kingdom is replaced by God’s eternal kingdom. Thus, the 4th kingdom referred to Rome (old roman empire) and its revival in the last days. The main characteristics of the RRE are:

  • It has both political and religious spheres (Dan 2:41).
  • The political sphere is weak and will be divided into many nations while the religious sphere is strong like iron (Dan 2:41-42).
  • Powerful rule over the whole world, breaking down the preceding kingdoms (Dan 7:7).
  • It is a 10-nation confederacy that will rule simultaneously (Dan 7:7).
  • The Anti-Christ will replace 3 kings in the kingdom (Dan 7:8,20,24).
  • The Anti-Christ will persecute the Jews and desecrate the Temple (Dan 7:21,25).
  • The Anti-Christ will change religious observances and traditions of God-worshippers (Dan 9:27, 2 Thess 2:4-12).
  • RRE establish its world rule in the first 3 ½ years of the 7 years of Tribulation. The Anti-Christ will then rise out of this 10-nation confederacy in the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation (Dan 7:25, 9:27).

The person of the Anti-Christ (Summary)

  • The Anti-Christ is the world ruler who will overthrow the world political order of the Revived Roman Empire (Dan 7:25, 9:27)
  • Reign in the last 3½ years of Tribulation culminating in the second coming of Christ at Mount Olives in the Battle of Armageddon (Dan 9:27; Rev 19:19-21).
  • Possess a fierce countenance and intelligent (Dan 8:23)
  • Ally with other nations to achieve world’s power (Dan 7:7)
  • The source of his power is of a satanic origin (Dan 8:24).
  • Antagonistic towards Israel and persecute Jews (Dan 7:21,25; 9:27).
  • Evil will increase under his reign (Dan 8:25).
  • False peace under His rule and many will die (Dan 8:24,25).
  • Exalt himself: speak blasphemous words against God, desecrate the Temple and set himself as God in the Temple (Dan 7:25; 9:27; 2 Thess 2:4-12).
  • Oppose the prince of princes (Dan 8:25).
  • Broken without human means (divine intervention) (Dan 8:25).

c) The Messiah and the Millennial kingdom

The Millennial kingdom revolves around Christ and is dependent on his return to earth to establish his rule. Everything in the millennium has its origin in the King who is revealed. The millennium is the period of the full manifestation of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. His ministries and manifestations associated with the Messiah at His 2nd advent can be categorized into 2 main aspects, namely the humanity and deity of Christ.

1. Manifestations associated with the humanity of Christ:

a. Glorious dominion – Christ by virtue of his obedience unto death, is given universal dominion to replace that which Adam lost.

b. Glorious government – Christ, as David’s son is given absolute power to govern (Isa 9:6; Ps 45:4).

c. Glorious inheritance – He will possess the land of Palestine in God’s name and institute the kingdom with Abraham’s seed (Gen 17:8; Dan 11:16; Gal 3:16). The land and seed promised to Abraham is realised through Christ.

d. Glorious judiciary – Christ announces God’s will and law throughout the reign (Deut 18:18,19; Isa 33:21-22).

e. Glorious house and throne – Christ as David’s son shall fulfill that promise to David in His reign (2 Sam 7:12-16).

f. Glorious kingdom – describes the kingdom which Christ reigns (Ps 72).


2. Manifestations related to the deity of Christ:

a. Omniscience and omnipotence – His omniscience is recognized (Isa 66:15-18) and his omnipotence sustains throughout the age (Isa 41:10).

b. Receives worship – He is worshipped as God (Ps 45:6).

c. Mercy, goodness – A full display of divine mercy (Isa 63:7-19) and goodness (Jer 33:9) through the Messiah.

d. Will of God revealed and accomplished – Done through the Messiah on earth (Matt 6:10).

e. Holiness and Truth – Holiness (Isa 6:1-3) and Truth will be displayed through the King, fully displaying the divine attributes that Christ may be worshipped as God.

Spiritual Character of the Millennium

Although the millennial kingdom is an earthly one, the outstanding characteristic is its spiritual nature. The spiritual characteristics are derived from its king and Messiah who is the source and giver.

1. Righteousness – Millennial righteousness will emanate in glory and Zion will be called the “city of righteousness” (Isa 1:26). Christ will be a king who reigns in righteousness. The Messiah is the Sun of Righteousness that brings healing in his wings (Mal 4:2). As a priest after the order of Melchizedek, He is the mediatorial king of righteousness. Only the righteous is admitted into the kingdom (Isa 60:21). Israel will offer an offering of righteousness (Mal 3:3) which Jehovah will be pleased (Ps 51:19).

2. Obedience – A complete and willing obedience of the subjects to God was one essential purpose of the original creation. Adam and Eve’s disobedience went against this purpose and implicated all subsequent generations. In this millennium however, Israel experience a renewal of heart and mind that they may store the law in their inwards parts (Jer 31:33). Perfect obedience is thus a spiritual characteristic of the millennium.

3. Holiness – Holiness will be the great distinguishing characteristic of the Jewish people, a “holiness” not their own but imparted to them by Messiah who is in their midst, and possessed by them through a life of faith.

4. Truth – The Messiah is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6) and He will be the God in truth and righteousness. This contrasts to the misguided confidence in the Anti-Christ during his reign in Tribulation where evil and deceit abounds. In the millennial kingdom, the Messiah will judge with His truth (Ps 96:10) and Jerusalem will be called a “city of truth” (Zech 8:3).

5. Fullness of the Holy Spirit – This is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”

(Joel 2:28,29)

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is revealed as part of the glorious restoration of Israel depicted in Ezekiel 37:14, “And I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” The filling of the Holy Spirit in the millennium will be manifested in the worship and praise of God and in willing obedience to Him as well as in spiritual power and inner transformation (Ezek. 39:29; Isa 32:15). The spiritual fervour, love of God, holy, joy, universal understanding of Truth and a fellowship of the saints in the millennium shows forth the righteousness in life and joy of spirit.