Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 12, PAGE 12b-17

Proper Application Of New Testament Prophecy

Hoyt H. Houchen, Aurora, Colorado

The caption of this manuscript is not intended to convey the idea that this will be an authoritative, final, and unquestionable meaning of the passages in the New Testament that shall be the object of our consideration (some of which are admittedly difficult and doubtful as to precise meaning). It shall be our purpose to evaluate key passages in the New Testament which are misused by the speculators and to point out that their views are inconsiderate of these scriptures as to time, circumstances, and conditions which surround their writing, and as a result they are contrary to other writings in the New Testament. It should be obvious to all that when a speculative view of one passage is inconsistent with the indisputable teaching of another passage, the speculative view must be discarded and rejected as that which is "contrary to the sound doctrine" (I Tim. 1:10). This observation by no means obligates any exegete to set forth an inerrant explanation of what an abused passage does mean. Illustrative of this fact is Revelation 20 and other such passages which speculators abuse and declare theories which run opposed to other scriptures at every turn. To observe this does not make it a matter of necessity to produce an unmistakable commentary on the meaning of Revelation 20.

Rules To Be Applied

The Bible is subject to rules and principles and these rules and principles must be adhered to if the Bible is to be respected and understood. A loose handling of the scriptures without any regard for its rules of interpretation can only result in fanciful, fanatical, and far-fetched views which suit the imagination of the interpreter but which are not even remotely related to or connected with the truth. The most frequent disregard for principles of Biblical interpretation, and the proper application of them, is observed in the realm of prophecy and especially by those who espouse modern millennial theories. As an example, in our study of hermeneutics, one of the basic rules to be learned is that "doubtful passages, which are capable of more than one construction, must be so construed as to harmonize with those which are positive, and can have but one meaning." (Rule Ten, Rules of Bible Study, Dr. Carroll Kendrick, p. 51). Many of the so-called "seers" in the world today, who have so much to say about prophecy, literalize about all that they "see" and they fail to realize that they array one passage against another. Truth is congruous; it does not contradict itself. Each passage of scripture must be interpreted in light of every other passage of scripture. For instance, "The language of scripture may be regarded as figurative, if the literal interpretation will cause one passage to contradict another." (Hermeneutics, prof. D. R. Dungan, p. 196). The failure to even consider, much less apply such specific rules of exegesis, is largely responsible for the rank fanaticism that is being showered upon the world through the "voices" of prophecy.

Two major premises of premillennialism are that (1) the Jews as a nation will return to Palestine when Christ returns to earth and then will be converted to Christ, and (2) that Christ will establish a literal throne in Jerusalem and will rule over the whole earth for a period of one thousand years.

May we now turn our attention to some key passages that are abused by the speculators and determine, if we can, their proper application.

Matthew 19:28

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The view is taken by some that Jesus is referring to the future resurrection of all men, or the "new generation" or "regeneration." They refer the time to a period after the second coming of Christ. To them this will be a future kingdom upon earth. In the Oliphant-Rice debate, John R. Rice, a premillennialist, commenting upon this passage said: "Here is the way to know about that kingdom — when these twelve apostles (with a substitute for Judas) — when the twelve apostles sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes! Then the kingdom will be begun!" (The Oliphant-Rice Debate, p. 170). What is the context of this passage? Peter had said: "We have left all, and followed thee; what then shall we have?" Jesus then proceeded to show what they would have in the regeneration. What is the regeneration? It is the period of time in which people are being regenerated. The same word appears in Titus 3:5. This was the time that Jesus would sit upon his throne and the apostles would sit upon thrones. The sitting was to take place at the same time. When? In the regeneration, when men are being regenerated. Peter declared that Jesus was raised up to sit upon David's throne (Acts 2:30-36). Jesus had already affirmed that all authority had been given to him (Matt. 28:18). That we are now in the period of regeneration and that Jesus is now upon the throne and the apostles are sitting upon their thrones, we notice what Jesus said in Luke 22:28-30: "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Two things were to be done in the kingdom: (1) eating and drinking at the Lord's table, and (2) the apostles sitting on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Since we have the Lord's supper now (I Cor. 11); therefore, the apostles are reigning with Christ now in the kingdom of Christ.

Matthew 24

In their efforts to prove that there will be a re-gathering of the Jews to Palestine when the Lord returns, Matthew, chapter 24, is offered as a proof-text by the premillennialists. They refer to verses 30 and 31, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet. and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," and they regard these verses as a plain declaration that all the Jews will be someday restored to Palestine.

Time and circumstances are not taken into account by those who espouse the above view. Questions had been raised by the disciples in Matt. 24:1-3. "And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (vs. 3). The second coming of Christ could not have been in the minds of the disciples when they asked their questions because they did not even believe in the first place that Jesus would be killed. They had false hopes, supposing that Jesus the Messiah would abide forever (Jno. 12:32-34) and it was because of this mistaken conception of the Messiah that they were disheartened and their hopes vanished when they learned of his death. It was an event which they did not at all expect — they thought that he would remain on earth. The idea of the Lord's second coming could not have been their question when they did not even believe that he would leave the earth. Their question is better understood when we take notice of their question in the other accounts. Mark records it "what shall be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished?" (Mk. 13:3) and Luke writes it "what shall be the sign when these things are about to come to pass?" (Lk. 21:7). The disciples, Jews, believed that Jesus at the appropriate time would use his armies, destroy their enemies and bring to an end the Jewish age. The import of their question was "What is the sign?"

Jesus described in the verses following the terrible destruction of Jerusalem and the great tribulation that was to come upon mankind. Jesus was to come in destructive judgment upon Jerusalem. Precluding this were to be wars and rumors of wars. The speculators, the "seers" and the "voices" of prophecy fail to consider the event which is described in Matt. 24 as the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. All that they can "see" and "voice" is the second coming of Christ. The time of this description by Jesus is determined in Matt. 24:34, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished." The things referred to would occur in the generation of those who were living then. Jesus had foretold "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21) and "But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people." (Lk. 21:23). History testifies that this tribulation did take place. Josephus describes the inhabitants of Jerusalem fleeing to the mountains, mothers eating their own children, and the number of the dead was so great that the living could not bury them. (See "Wars of the Jews," Book 5, chapter 12).

As to the proper application of Matt. 24, J. W. McGarvey points out "But, as we have just seen, the expression 'all these things? designates things to be witnessed and experienced by the Jews, and it would be a mere truism to say that their race would pot pass away till all of their own experiences had terminated. The true key to the interpretation of this much disputed passage is found in the expression 'all these things,' repeated from the preceding verse. It must here have the same meaning as there; for an identical expression repeated in consecutive sentences always has the same meaning, except when something is introduced in the new connection to force upon it a different meaning. There is certainly nothing of the kind here. We therefore conclude, that in the two statements, 'This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled' and 'When ye see all these things, know that he is near,' the expression 'all these things' has the same meaning. But in the later instance, as we have shown under verse 33, it means all the events previously mentioned in the speech except the coming of the Son of man." (Commentary on Matthew, p. 212).

Matthew 25:31

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." The future kingdom proponents seize upon this passage in their efforts to prove their theory by making a play upon the word "then." (See Oliphant-Rice Debate, p. 174). We have already shown, however, in Matt. 19:28 that Jesus is now reigning upon his throne and the twelve apostles are reigning with him. What the speculators fail to see is that although Jesus will be on his throne at his second coming, Matt. 25:31 does not state that he will enter his throne at that time. Matt. 25, as the context clearly portrays, is a judgment scene; it does not depict a coronation. Christ will come to judge individuals and not nations, as some suppose. The genders in the Greek that are employed in the passage will not permit this judgment to be that of nations. The word "nations" in verse 32 is neuter gender, whereas the word "them" in the same verse is masculine gender. "Ye blessed" in verse 34 and "ye cursed" in verse 41 are also masculine as are also "these" and the "righteous" in verse 46. This passage refers to the throne of judgment upon which Christ will be sitting when he comes the second time and this will be a judgment of individuals. It is the judgment at the last day (Jno. 5:28,29) and it is in harmony with II Thess. 1:7-9. Vengeance will come upon the wicked and the righteous will go into eternal life (Matt. 25:46).

Acts 3:19-21

After Peter had told his audience to repent and be converted in verse 19 of the above passage, he then stated in verse 20 and 21, "And he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God bath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." The wild speculators can see only one thing in this passage and that is a national restoration of the Jews to Palestine at the second coming of Christ. However, what proves too much proves nothing for them, because the 21st verse says, "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things..." Whatever the times of restitution are, Jesus must remain in heaven until then. If "the times of restitution" refers to the time when the Jews go back to Palestine and will be converted, then it would be before the second coming of Christ, so their proof-text proves too much for them. Christ must remain in heaven until these times. Peter was telling the Jews to repent and be converted then, but according to the "pre-mill" theory, the Jews could all wait until a future time when will all be converted when Christ comes the second time. The word of God does not extend to the Jews any special privilege upon the basis of an exclusive conversant made with them. The gospel of Christ has the same provisions in it for the Gentile as it does the Jew. God made no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile (Rom. 10:12); both must submit to the same terms of the gospel in order to be saved (Rom. 1:16). Verses 25 and 26 point out that the Jews are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God had made with their fathers and that God had first sent Jesus to bless them "in turning away every one of you from your, iniquities." How were they to be turned from their iniquities? By repenting and being converted, that which was urged upon them by Peter in verse 19.

While it is difficult to determine the exact meaning of the phrase, "restoration of all things," we do note that it is limited to the things "whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets." J. W. McGarvey comments: "it consists in the fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions; and the remark gives assurance that Jesus will not return again till all these predictions have been fulfilled." (Commentary on Acts, p. 63).

Acts 15:16-18

One of the common perverted passages by those who claim that there is to be a future restoration of the Jews and a reign of Christ upon the earth is the above passage, a quotation from Amos 9:11-15. The specific statement to which they refer is "After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; And I will build again the ruins thereof, And I will set it up."

God made no promise to restore the old literal kingdom as it was. It was rebellious and displeasing to God. The house of David was set up again when Jesus, who was of the royal family of David, was exalted at God's right hand and was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:29-36). The passage was fulfilled when Jesus ascended to heaven and occupied the throne of David, a spiritual throne. Those who literalize the "tabernacle of David" look for the time in the future when Jesus will re-occupy the old literal dilapidated throne of David. They miss the point because they misapply the scripture. The throne of David is in heaven, Christ is ruling upon it, that reign began when Jesus ascended to heaven, and it is a spiritual reign.

Again, what proves too much proves nothing. If the tabernacle of David is not to be set up until the second coming of Christ, then the residue of men cannot seek the Lord, nor the Gentiles receive the gospel until the second coming of Christ. The purpose of rebuilding the tabernacle of David is set forth in verse 17, "that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, And all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called." The consequence that we have just mentioned is but one of many that result from the mishandling and misapplication of scripture.

Romans 11

A reference to some things mentioned in this chapter is necessary in the consideration of the proper application of New Testament prophecy. Here as in other New Testament passages, the speculators think that they can see a future return of the Jews as a nation to Palestine. Paul asks in the beginning of the chapter, "Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew." Then in verse 5, Paul wrote, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of Grace." Paul is simply teaching that not all of the Israelites were lost. Paul himself was an Israelite. The rejection of the Jewish nation had nothing to do with the salvation of individual Jews. A remnant had looked for forgiveness through Christ and these are the "elect" whom Paul refers to in verse 7 and 8. That the Jews fell as a nation and that it was the final doom of the Jews as a nation is evident in verse 11. The "fall" is that of the nation but any individual Jew could return to the favor of God by submitting to the terms of the gospel.

In the illustration of the olive tree in verses 17 and 18, the Jews are described as having been broken off the olive tree. The Jews by unbelief had been severed from God's favor (the olive tree) and by faith the Gentiles were brought into union with God. The acceptance of the gospel upon the part of either a Jew or a Gentile would be dependent upon his choice as an individual. Neither has any special favor with God. The following from the pen of R. L. Whiteside is noteworthy: "It is hard for some to see that God totally and finally rejected and destroyed the Jewish nation, but did not irrevocably reject the Jews. Paul gives himself as an example that God had not irrevocably cast off the Jewish people. That he referred to himself as an example shows that he had in mind the Jews as individuals and not as a nation. His case shows that the door of salvation had not been closed against the individual Jew. And his olive tree illustration shows that he was speaking of the individual Jew and not of the nation. Both Jews and Gentiles were grafted into the same olive tree, and both by the same process. Paul's conclusion — "and so all Israel shall be saved" — has been greatly perverted. The future kingdom folks put the emphasis on so, So is an adverb of manner. He had been showing how the Jews might be saved, and not that the nation would be restored. He had shown that Gentiles were grafted in by faith — saved by faith in Christ. "And so" — in like manner — shall all Israel be saved. Peter had made the same point before the Jerusalem brethren: "But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they." (Acts 15:11).

"How many Jesus may yet be converted to Christ, no one knows; but those who are converted to Christ will be in the one body with all converted Gentiles, "where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision, and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all." (Col. 3:11). (Kingdom of Promise and Prophecy, pgs. 60, 61).

I Thessalonians 4:16, 17

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." It is asserted by those who contend that at the Lord's second coming there will be a resurrection of the righteous saints, a reign of Christ over his saints upon the earth for a period of one thousand years, at the end of which there will be the resurrection of the wicked and the final judgment. These millennial theorists actually think that they can see these two resurrections the passage just presented, the resurrection of the dead saints before that of the wicked. The truth of the matter is, Paul was not contrasting the resurrection of the saints and the wicked, but was speaking of the dead saints and those living when Christ comes. The Thessalonian brethren were concerned about their dead ones in Christ and whether they would share in the glories of Christ's second coming. The point is: the dead saints will be raised first, before the living shall ascend. The wicked dead are not the subjects under consideration. At the second coming of Christ, the saints will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and the wicked will be avenged in that day. This harmonizes with II Thess. 1:7-9, and remember that each passage is to be interpreted in light of every other passage.

Revelation 20

Certainly no discussion of the proper application of New Testament prophecy would be complete without a reference to Rev. 20. This has been the "sugar stick" for about all of the wild and fanciful views of the speculators, and there is no passage that has been more perverted.

Much of the book of Revelation is symbolical and highly figurative. The book was primarily written to Christians at the time that it was written and it was to comfort them in time of persecution. It is a book of consolation to all faithful Christians who read it and it gives the light of hope that Jesus will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil, one of the key verses, if not the key verse, Rev. 17:14.

The millennial theorists literalize the portions of Revelation that will weave into their views and the rest they are willing to make figurative. They can let a day stand for a year in other prophecies when they have to come up with a certain date in history, but they MUST literalize the thousand years in Rev. 20 to meet their demands for a literal one thousand year reign of Christ upon earth.

Rev. 20 is a good example of what we asserted at the outset of our study, that we shall or even could give a clear, concise, precise, infallible interpretation of every passage that comes into the focus of our comments, but most assuredly we do know that this passage is not teaching anything that is contrary to truth taught elsewhere in the structures.

John saw "the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God" (vs. 4). It is said of them, no other group, that "they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (vs. 4). Verse 6 states: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection" and "they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." They are to be priests and they are to reign — they are a royal priesthood. We know that Christians are priests (See I Pet. 2:9). We are informed in Rev. 1:6, "and he made us ("to be" is italicized) a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father." Whether or not this is the reign referred to, in order for Rev. 20 to convey even the idea of a literal and future one thousand year reign of Christ upon earth over his saints, it womd have to mention the second coming of Christ, a bodily resurrection, a reign on earth, a literal throne, Jerusalem, us, and Christ on earth. None of these things are mentioned in the chapter; therefore, it has to take a long stretch of the imagination to twist out of the chapter any semblance of the premillennial view. Indeed Rev. 20 is an inadequate proof-text for the speculators.

In Rev. 20:12, John saw the dead standing before the thrones. All the dead will be judged and this harmonizes with the judgment scene that is depicted in Matt. 25:31-46.

We have not considered all of the passages of New Testament prophecy but we have considered a few, especially those in particular which have been taken out of their setting and twisted to teach things which are contrary to the word of God. Many of the prophetic utterances before the death of Christ, such as Matt. 3:2 and Matt. 6:10, are projected to the future by the premillennialists but as we have seen, the kingdom of Christ has comes it was established when Jesus was raised up to sit upon David's throne in heaven, Christ is now reigning over his saints, (I Cor. 15:25,26), he will continue to reign until the last enemy is destroyed, which is death, and there is not the slightest hint that he will ever put his feet upon this earth again.

Every honest effort should be made to properly apply the teaching of the scriptures, whether they be prophetic or otherwise. Truth can only result from the proper application of Bible teaching.

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