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Weekly Word


Views of the End Times: Postmillennialism

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 15, 2019.

Over the last two weeks we have asked questions that have filtered out two different views on the end times.

  1. Full Preterism denies that Jesus will come back literally and physically to the earth.
  2. Amillennialism denies that Jesus will reign physically on this earth for 1,000 years of peace after his Second Coming.

Today, we will ask another question and will focus on a view that is called Postmillennialism.

Does Jesus come back before the Millennium?

Of those who believe that there is a real Millennium upon this earth, there are two broad views with many variations within them.  Premillennialism says that Jesus returns before the Millennium.  After his Second Coming, he sets up a kingdom and rules over this earth for 1,000 years.  Postmillennialism says that Jesus comes after the Millennium and then leads us into the New Heavens and the New Earth.  At this point, the view may sound a lot like Amillennialism, but the differences will soon make sense. 

So, what exactly does Postmillennialism teach?  First, they teach that the Church will have a powerful witness that eventually converts most of the world to Christ.  The nations of the world will operate based upon the Bible and God’s truth.  This will create at least a thousand years of peace on this earth in which Christ rules spiritually from heaven over all the earth through the Church.  Thus, they believe in a literal millennium, but not with Jesus ruling over it physically on the earth.

The view is similar to Amillennialism, but they differ on their perspective of the nations of the world.  Postmillennialism has a very positive view that things will increasingly become better and better.  Some believe there will be an event or drastic change in which the nations of the world embrace Christ’s rule, whereas others see a gradual change.

They teach that the Church has a cultural mandate to disciples the nations in all its spheres of influence:  Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business.  Thus, they seek to take dominion over these areas and reconstruct them to be operating from the mind of Christ.

When Jesus returns, he is basically congratulating the earth for a job well done.  Here is an image to picture this view.

They do not emphasize that the Millennium must be 1,000 years.  In fact, they typically state that it may be longer.  The key is to recognize that they expect the world to become better and better until we enter a long period of peace one earth.  This view was popular before the two World Wars of the 1900’s.  However, it is seeing a resurgence of followers lately.  They often teach that Christ won’t come back until Christians get their act together and convert the world.  They work to Christianize society on every level.

Postmillennialism employs the same allegorical or symbolic approach to prophecy that the previous views did.  So, let’s deal with this first.

I believe that it is better to approach prophecy with a literal, or historical-grammatical, method than to use an allegorical method as your primary method.  Why do I believe this?  Here are some reasons.

First, it is the normal approach to communication.  It is clear from Scripture that God is trying to communicate to and through a particular culture.  When he states, “Come, let us reason together…though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow…,”it is clear that he is trying to get Israel and other readers to understand God’s heart and plan.  The literal interpretive method allows us to determine what God was saying to that culture at that time, and thereby what it may mean for us today.

Second, the literal approach allows us to deal with symbols, metaphors, and allegories when they are indicated in the text.  The literal approach pays attention to clues in the text and the context to recognize and decode such symbolic language.  Basically, it takes the passage literally until there are indications of symbolism in the text.  Even these symbols are intended to give a particular and literal meaning.  They are not given in a vague way so that brilliant scholars, who need to turn in a dissertation in order to receive honors, can exhaust the manifold ways that their imagination can interpret them.  Symbols are not meant to confuse, but rather to give texture to literal truths.  Let’s look at a couple of examples.

In Exodus 19:4 it states, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself.” (NKJV).  In this verse, God is speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai with all of Israel camped out below.  Does this literally mean God sent gargantuan eagles to pick up each of the Israelites in Egypt and fly them to Mt. Sinai where He was, like a Tolkien fiction novel?  Of course, it doesn’t.  The reader knows this is not literally true because the book has already told us quite literally how God helped Israel to make it from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, and there were no eagles involved.  The literal method recognizes that a metaphor is being employed and determines how the symbol matches up with the literal things that happened in their escape from Egypt.  It would interpret this to symbolize God’s help from above, lifting Israel up out of the reach of Pharaoh and bringing them next to God’s presence at the mountain.  God literally helped them, but it is likened to eagles lifting us up to God.

Another example is Psalm 42:9. “I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?  Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’”  (NKJV).  We know immediately that the Psalmist is not looking at a rock in his hands and calling it his God.  It is our literal understanding of the countless passages, that explain what is meant by “God,” that informs us that a metaphor is involved.  Thus, the literal method recognizes the metaphor and asks how it correlates with the literal reality of God.  We would basically recognize that a rock represents a solid foundation that will hold up what is built on it, and it is also a protective place that thwarts our enemies, like Samson in the Rock of Etam (Judges 15).

Of course, there are countless other examples in the Bible where wisdom is personified as a woman, the Devil is depicted as a dragon with 7 heads and ten horns, and Jesus is called a door and a gate.  All of these are symbols that can be connected with clear literal truths because of the context of Scripture.  As you can see, the literal method recognizes when the allegorical or symbolic approach to a part of Scripture is valid.

A third reason the literal method is better than an allegorical approach to prophecy is because the Bible itself uses this method.  Though there are a multitude of examples, Matthew 8:16-17 speaks of Jesus healing the people of Israel and casting out demons.  Matthew sees this as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53.  If we are interpreting this passage rightly, we will come to see that God’s Suffering Servant would take our infirmities and our sicknesses.  This is a literal interpretation.  The same is true of Isaiah 7 where it talks about a virgin giving birth to a son and naming him Immanuel.  Sure, the prophecy has an immediate relevance to Isaiah’s days, but the disciples say (and most likely were taught by Jesus) that when it is rightly understood it points to Christ, who was literally born of a woman who had never been with a man before.

How about Jesus himself?  In Matthew 22:29-33, the Sadducees are trying to trip Jesus up regarding the resurrection.  They do not believe in the resurrection because they are too sophisticated to believe such a thing.  They posit to Jesus a scenario where a woman has been legally married to seven different men.  Who is her husband in the resurrection?  They are trying a “reduction to absurdity” argument against the resurrection.  Notice that Jesus tells them where their problem is.  They don’t know, or understand, the Scriptures, nor do they understand the power of God.  If they understood the power of God then they wouldn’t have a problem with the idea of a physical resurrection.  When I know that God can do anything, I will be careful in trying to place limits on what He may or may not do.  God can resurrect the dead if he wants to.  He is God and is able to do that, period.

As for understanding the Scriptures, Jesus quotes a familiar line from Scripture, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Jesus uses an extremely literal interpretation of this verse.  God is speaking to Moses long after the deaths of each of these men.  However, God doesn’t use the past tense, “I was the God…”  Instead God states the present tense, “I am [presently] the God of…”  He challenges them with this statement.  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  No Israelite in his right mind would think to call God the God of the dead.  That would be tantamount to calling him Hades or Pluto, the god of the underworld.  In some sense (spiritually) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive.  God was even then, even now, still their God.  And, if they are still alive spiritually, and if God has the power to make bodies and put spirits in them, then what is the problem with the resurrection.  This is not a sermon on the resurrection, but it is clear that Jesus himself uses a literal approach to interpreting Scripture.

Lastly, we could list countless places where the promises regarding the Messiah that would save Israel were literally fulfilled in Jesus.  Why wouldn’t the promises that point to his Second Coming also be taken literally?

The fourth reason that the literal method is better than the allegorical approach is because it allows the text to tell us what God says, instead of putting our ideas and sensibilities in the driver’s seat of interpretation.  If we primarily use the allegorical method then we have little restraint or guardrails in our interpretation.  However, if we use the literal, historical-grammatical, approach, the Bible can speak for itself.  When we run into metaphors, we connect them with the literal meaning to which they point.  I would rather listen to what God has to say then be enamored with the countless, imaginative interpretations of those who treat prophecy as an allegorical communication.  Even then, they tend to accept as literal the things that they want to accept as literal and treat as allegorical the things they want to treat allegorical.

What other problems are found with Postmillennialism?  Their rosy picture of the future of humanity sounds nice, but is society really getting better and headed towards Utopia?  Yes, as technology increases and our knowledge increases, there are some things that are better today.  However, few people have a real sense that humanity is actually getting better.  For every advance in technology, we are faced with a tension that exists between what we will do with it.  It presents an increased power for good, and yet also an increased power for evil. 

The Utopian Vision exists everywhere in our world.  Communism promises a worker’s paradise, but oppresses those same workers.  Capitalism promises to lift the world out of poverty and yet leaves many behind in despair.  All the different religions of the world promise peace to those who follow their principles and yet the places where their world view rules are not the picture of Utopia.  Even the Church demonstrates the tendency to be corrupt as its institutions grow larger, more prosperous, and more powerful.  So, what would happen if the Church controlled the whole earth without Jesus physically here?  I shudder to think of it.  Do we not remember the lessons of Europe and the struggle for freedom of conscience and association?  No, the Church was not intended to rule over the earth in these fleshly bodies.  Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, only glorified believers who have been made fit for such duties can do so.  Only Jesus can properly bring peace to this earth and until he shows up, I see no other hope.

Another problem with the Postmillennial view is that it doesn’t deal with passages that warn of apostasy in the end times.  The word apostasy means to walk away from the faith and to stop believing in Jesus for salvation.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 we are told that the Second Coming of Christ will not occur until “the falling away” happens and the “Man of Sin” is revealed (who is also called “the Lawless One whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” in verse 8).  Some versions translate it as the rebellion and others as the apostasy.  The noun has the definite article, which means that Paul has a particular apostasy in mind and it goes along with The Man of Sin, The Lawless One, aka The Antichrist being revealed.  It is The Apostasy of the end times.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul writes tells the young pastor that the Spirit expressly warns of people departing from the faith in the latter times, or end times.  Notice that they are going towards the teaching of demons.  Also, in his second letter to Timothy, Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that the last days will be very perilous.  His description of the people of the last days sounds suspiciously close to a description of our generation.  In the next chapter, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul says that they will not endure sound teaching, but heap up teachers that itch their ears, i.e. tell them what they want to hear.  As we approach the end times, people will not draw nearer to Christ, but farther away.  Notice that it doesn’t say that they will quit calling themselves Christians.  Rather, they amass teachers who tell them that they are okay as they follow the doctrines of demons mentioned earlier.

I believe this view especially contradicts our Lord’s words in Matthew 24.   Up to verse 14, Jesus is describing a period called “The Beginning of Sorrows.”  This period is always referred to as not being the end, but rather leading up to the end.  This period is completed in verse 14 when the Gospel is preached in all the world, that is when the end begins.  During the period before the end times, Jesus states that the love of many will grow cold and lawlessness will abound.  This seems to speak of the overall tenor of the earth coming to the end of the time of sorrows.  It also states that the true believer will need endurance to be saved.  Are the end times that lead up to the Second Coming any different?

If you skip down to verses 37-39, you can see that the answer is “Nope!”  It looks about the same.  People are carrying on with life as if the warnings of God are irrelevant, and God’s people are removed.  At his Second Coming, Christ is not coming back to a world that has been Christianized by the Church, or if it has, it is not a form that reflects Christ, but rather Antichrist.  His Coming is compared to The Great Flood, which was good for the few who were righteous and horrible for the many who were not.

My points are not intended to make us depressed about living for Jesus and reaching the lost.  There are people getting saved every day, and we can have the joy of participating in it, if we will be faithful to plant seeds of the Gospel, water them, and help to harvest those who respond.  Yet, we delude ourselves if we think that the Church in its current condition can fix the world by taking over the governance of the earth.  Such dominionism and reconstructionist ideas will only cause the world to hate the Church even more, and lead to corruption in those places where there is success. 

Prophecy is clear.  The kings of the earth are not destined to surrender their power to Jesus Christ, but rather to Antichrist.  At his Second Coming, they will double down on their bet and try to attack the Lord Himself as he comes from the heavens (see the end of Revelation 19).  This makes plain sense of the many passages, in both the Old and New Testaments, that declare judgment upon all the nations.

When we choose to allegorize Scripture that makes perfect, literal sense rather than listening to what God has to say, we lose a lot of the value that Christ is giving us in these truths.  This is not a matter of salvation.  A person who believes in Premillennialism or Amillennialism can be saved.  However, we set ourselves up for grand delusion when we try to do in the flesh what only Christ can do through the Spirit.

Jesus will come before the Millennium because it is he who will personally set up the Kingdom of God on this earth.  It is he who will rule, not through mortals in earthly bodies, but through glorified saints of God in heavenly bodies.  O, the world may enter a period where it thinks that it has fixed things, but the Bible tells us, “When they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.  And they shall not escape!” 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (NKJV)

Postmillennialism audio


View of the End Times: Amillennialism

Revelation 19:19-20:15, Various other passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 8, 2019.

***** CORRECTION: In the audio, it is stated that Constantine the Great passed an edict of toleration in 325 AD.  This is in error and should be 313 AD. *****  

Last week, we looked at the question, “Is there a literal, physical return of Jesus in the future?”  The view that says, “No,” to this question is called Full Preterism, and believes that everything prophesied in Scripture has been fulfilled in the past, i.e. there is nothing left to be fulfilled.  Christians will eventually convert the whole world and bring humanity into Utopia.  Jesus only rules from heaven spiritually.

I made the case for why this is an unorthodox position, and, even more importantly, unbiblical.  Today, we will ask another question that will filter out another group.

Is the promised, earthly rule of Jesus Christ literally 1,000 years?

Of all the views that accept a literal, physical return of Christ to earth, amillennialism says, “No,” to this question.  Amillennialism is a word that is made up of four roots.  The “a” at the front is a negation of whatever comes after it.  The “mill” comes from the Latin for “1,000,” while the “ennial” is from the Latin for “years.”  Finally, “ism” refers to a belief or system of beliefs.  Thus, amillennialism literally refers to a “No-1,000-Year Belief.”  So, what do they believe?

Amillennialists believe that the promised earthly kingdom is a spiritual one that is occurring now, and is not actually 1,000 years in duration.  To them, the references to a thousand years is only symbolic of a long period of time.  They would also believe that Satan being bound up in the bottomless pit is a symbol of his being bound by God working through Christians.  He is not literally bound in a spiritual prison.  They also believe that Christians are to work for God’s kingdom despite the world around them rejecting Christ.  They are awaiting a physical return of Christ, but when he does return, he will resurrect everyone and give a final judgment.  Immediately, glorified believers enter with him into the Final State, which is the New Heavens and the New Earth.  This view is positive towards Christianity as God’s kingdom, but pessimistic towards the world’s ability to get better.  They do not expect a Utopia upon this earth politically.  Here is a visual representation of this view.


The main thing to understand about this view is that it sees only two periods to the Kingdom reign of Jesus.  They believe that all the Old Testament promises of a Davidic King, who saves Israel and rules over all the earth, are not to be understood literally, but rather spiritually or allegorically in the Church.  The first phase of this kingdom is a spiritual phase with the Church that is clearly not 1,000 years, since we are now at about 1,988 years from the ascension of Jesus.  To them, Jesus will never rule physically on this earth.  He will only do so in the second stage of his reign in the New Heavens and New earth.  

We can recognize that at least they expect a literal return of Jesus, a literal resurrection, and a literal new heavens and new earth.  This is more than we can say for the full preterists.

Those who are not amillennialists believe that, though we are in a spiritual kingdom now, there will be a reign of Christ upon this earth where he is physically present, before we go into the new heavens and new earth.  Thus, they see three phases to the kingdom of Christ.

Though this view is better than full preterism, it allegories or spiritualized some important promises of the Old and New Testaments that in no way require such an interpretation.  The kingdom of Messiah is prophesied all throughout the Old Testament and it involves a descendant of David bringing the exiles of Israel back to their land and ruling over the entire earth in righteousness and truth.  It is usually described as lasting forever, but in Revelation 20, we are given further insight.  Though Christ will reign forever, he will first rule on this earth for 1,000 years before transitioning his reign into the new heavens and earth.  Let’s look at that passage.

Revelation 19:19-20:15.  The reason I want to start at the end of chapter 19 is because the original did not have verses and chapter divisions.  Some people want to treat chapter 20 as if it is a hard break from the obvious Second Coming in chapter 19.  This is not the case.  In the Greek it is fairly clear that chapter 20 is merely a continuation of the narration that began in chapter 19.  

I will interpret this passage with a historical-grammatical method (sometimes called a literal method).  Amillennialists will typically call the literal view “ignorant” and act as if it can’t understand symbols and figures of speech.  This simply isn’t true.  The literal view accepts that symbols and figures of speech may be used, and yet also believes that it will be obvious in the text that it is happening.  Even then, the literal view believes that the symbols and figures of speech are always picturing literal truth and literal things.  We will see this in Revelation 20:2.  There the dragon is a symbol for the literal Devil or Satan, mainly because it directly interprets it for us.  Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries has a good saying regarding interpreting the Bible literally, or in its plain sense.  He says, “If the plain sense makes good sense then seek no other sense, lest you end up in nonsense.”

This passage clearly pictures Jesus coming back and capturing the Beast, who is a symbol for a world leader that is empowered by Satan, and his side kick the false prophet.  They are literally put in the Lake of Fire, even though the word fire is most likely more than what we would recognize exists on this earth and the lake is clearly not of this world.  We then go into chapter 20, which literally says, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven...”. It just continues the theme of characters who are dealt with at the Second Coming of Jesus.  So, we see Satan captured, bound with a great chain (which we can recognize is most likely a metaphor for something that binds angels), and put in the bottomless pit, which is a prison (vs. 7) for spiritual beings.  He is unable to deceive the nations for 1,000 years.  Meanwhile, the righteous who have been resurrected reign “with Christ.”  It is obvious from the passage that it doesn’t mean in the heavens.  Nothing is said about what that 1,000 years will look like.  It fast forwards to the end of the “millennium,” or thousand years, and Satan is released.    He goes out and, true to form, deceives a multitude as large as the “sands of the sea.”  They surround the city of the saints and fire comes out of heaven and devours them.  At this point the heavens and the earth that we are in now, will flee away from him who sits on the throne.  Everyone still in the grave is resurrected and a Final Judgment occurs.  Those who are not in the Book of Life are thrown into the Lake of Fire and the glorified saints enter with Christ into the New Heavens and the New Earth.  Talk about an amazing promise to those who are suffering for Christ today!

The allegorical approach, or the spiritualizing method, simply ignores what the passage says and treats everything as a metaphor for what is happening now.  Thus, different amillennialists may explain this passage somewhat differently, but they will all agree that it spiritually describes what is happening today.  They see the Great White Throne Judgment of verse 11 as the actual Second Coming of Christ.  To them, chapter 20 has just scoped out and given us a picture of the period from the cross to the Second Coming.  The problem I have with this is that they have no good reason for taking the Second Coming as literal and yet the binding of Satan as allegorical, or the Resurrection of the Righteous as literal, but the 1,000 years as symbolic.  It becomes a very subjective approach to declaring things allegorical that offend my sensibilities.  Here are some other passages that are contradicted by this view.

Luke 1:31-33.  Here the angel is telling Mary that she will have a son and shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be given the throne of his father David.  Then he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.  Notice that this is not a hard to understand passage.  The throne of David is never equated anywhere else in Scripture with God’s throne.  If Jesus is given the throne of David, the most obvious understanding of this within the context is that he would be the King of Israel.  Remember that the current king wasn’t even from the tribe of Judah (Herod the Great).  Israel had lost control of the kingship and it was dominated or controlled by Rome’s Caesars.  Also, notice that Jesus will rule over the “the house of Jacob” forever.  Even if we were tempted to think that the throne was a spiritual throne, the house of Jacob seals the deal.  If it had said the house of Israel, a case could be made that Israel represented the Church.  However, the word Jacob is always used of Israel when they have fallen short of their calling.  To spiritualized this passage is to break all the rules of communication.  It clearly states he will be the King of Israel and rule over them.

Another passage is Luke 22:28-30.  Here Jesus is speaking to his closest disciples and tells them that they will sit at his table in his kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  At first, we might think that Jesus is talking about a spiritual kingdom, but as you move through each phrase, you begin to have more and more trouble keeping a spiritual meaning.  There is no way realistically to spiritualized the “twelve tribes of Israel” with something equivalent within the Church.  These types of things are either given outlandish interpretations or allegorized to be irrelevant details that only point to a spiritual rule with Christ.  However, it is quite obvious that Jesus is promising them a position in a coming kingdom where they will have seats of power over the people of Israel and their tribes.

The last passage I will look at is Acts 1:6-7.  This is right before the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and the apostles ask Jesus if the kingdom will be restored to Israel at this point.  Jesus dismisses the question.  However, he does not do so by rebuking them for being “slow of understanding.”  He does not tell them in exasperation that they should know by now that it is a spiritual kingdom and it has already started.  He does not explain that the Church is taking Israel’s place in the promised kingdom.  He does none of these things that amillennialists do.  Instead, Jesus explains that it is not for them to know the seasons, or proper times for things to happen, that God the Father has kept under his own authority.  Their question is legitimate, but they are simply denied the answer.  The straight-forward understanding of this passage is that the apostles still believed that there would an earthly kingdom with the Messiah reigning over Israel and the whole earth.  Jesus basically tells them to focus instead on being a witness of him and his gospel throughout the whole earth.

No doubt, there are spiritual parallels between what is promised in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah’s Kingdom and what we are experiencing right now.  One would expect this because it is the same God who is doing both.  However, these parallels should only serve to give us confidence in God’s plan and promises, rather than displacing the literal message that has been communicated in his word.  

Thus, we see that a straight-forward reading of the Bible demonstrates that all the apostles expected and taught that there would be an actual, physical reign of Jesus on this earth.  Also, we see that at least the Apostle John was given the information that this reign would last 1,000 years before it was moved into the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The historical roots of this view

The last point that I will make has to do with the history of this view.  From the death of Jesus until the early 200’s (about 170 years), all the Church Fathers or Elders taught a literal millennium that was in the future.  They used a word that came from the Greek word “Kilo” called chiliasm.  Around the end of this period, some began to attack the belief in a 1,000 year reign because it grated against the sensibilities of those who had been trained in Greek philosophy.  They usually castigated the book of Revelation as not being legitimate because it has the passage that is most clear about this matter.  However, they were mostly unsuccessful at first.  Over the course of the 3rd century men like Origen of Alexandria and one of his later students, Eusebius of Caesarea, promoted an allegorical interpretive method of the Bible, which claimed to find the deeper and truer meaning of the texts.  Though this method of interpretation was very much in the minority, by the time you get into the period from 300 AD and 400 AD, several things happen that change this.

In 313 AD, Constantine the Great issues an edict accepting Christianity as a religion recognized by the empire, which gave it protections that other religions had enjoyed all along.  Near the end of the century, the emperor Theodosius, who was a staunch Christian, passes an edict lifting Christianity to the official religion of the empire and then also banning paganism.  This change from being persecuted by the empire of the world and then being completely accepted, had an affect upon the Church as a whole.  Going from the end of the 300’s into the 400’s, two bishops named Augustine and Jerome (the man who translated the version of the Bible called the Vulgate) wholly embraced the allegorical approach and promoted a rudimentary amillennial view.  

As long as Christianity was persecuted, the promise of a physical reign on this earth was held onto firmly by most Christians.  However, once Christianity became accepted by the empire and the future looked triumphant, Greek philosophical outlooks completely took over most leaders of Christianity.  We see a similar condition in our own country (USA) today.  Many in the Church have been inundated with a humanistic, materialistic, evolutionary philosophy that stands upon the Greek philosophy of the past.  We too see leaders and whole denominations that surrender to the pressure of the current societal thought patterns.  We can make the mistake of trading the precious promises of God for a bowl of lentils that will only fill our bellies temporarily.

So, what was this Greek philosophical outlook that looked down on such beliefs of the Church?  Probably the most powerful was the view that physical things were always lower, less noble, even bad compared to spiritual things, which were higher, noble, and typically good.  This set up a tension between the beliefs of Christianity and the great philosophical outlooks of the world.  They didn’t surrender everything- note that they still expected a physical return of Jesus.  However, they compromised as much as they dare, and yet set up the future for later daring theologians who would embrace Full Preterism.

Amillennialism may hold to some very important truths, but they also surrender others that we must not surrender.  Christians must hold firm to the truth of who Jesus is and the promises that he has given us, instead of trading it away for the acceptance of the world today.  Jesus is literally coming back to the earth.  And, he is doing so in order to set up a kingdom on this earth that will create a peace that lasts for 1,000 years.  This is part of the hope of the righteous!

Amillennialism audio


Views of the Endtimes: Full Preterism

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 1, 2019.

Today we begin a series on important prophecies of the Bible and how different Christians have come to interpret them.  Our approach will be to ask a question regarding a particular aspect of prophecy, which will then serve as a filter that creates a clear separation between different views.

For those who think that prophecy is unimportant, or worse a wild, goose chase, I would give a caution.  Jesus and his apostles not only taught that prophecy was important, but they also gave more prophecies that aligned with the Old Testament ones that had not been fulfilled yet.  In fact, if you simply take the number of verses that have a prophecy in them, whether they are fulfilled or not, and divide it by the total number of verses in the Bible, you will find that around 27 to 28 percent of the Bible is prophecy.  So, prophecy is obviously important to our Lord. 

However, prophecy is not an attempt to tell us everything that will happen in the future.  We must remain humble and cautious in these matters.  If we are to take our Lord and his Apostles seriously for our salvation, and daily walk, then we should also take them seriously as they spoke on things that they said were to come in the future.

Is there a literal, physical return of Jesus from heaven in the future?

Our first question has to do with what is called the Second Coming of Christ.  Is it still in the future, and will it be a literal, physical return of Jesus from heaven?  There is a group of Christians who claim that this is not what the Bible says will happen.  We will talk more about how they get there in a bit.

We will focus on the main views, rather than on the multitude of individual interpretations that people hold.  Even these individual interpretations can be sorted into categories, which our filter questions will help us analyze.  I say this because it may appear as we go along that I am presenting these views as a monolithic or absolute scheme.  This is not so.  To give you an idea, this first category that we will look at has over sixteen unique approaches.  However, they all agree that the Bible does not say that Jesus is going to return to earth physically.

The group that answers the above question as, “no,” is called Full Preterism, or, as they like to call themselves, Consistent Preterism.  The name preterism uses the prefix preter, which comes from the Latin word for “past.”  It refers to how a person approaches Bible prophecy in general.  Preterists see Bible prophecy as being fulfilled in the past, as opposed to futurists, who see much of it to be fulfilled in the future.  Preterism is the view and preterist is the person who holds the view.  In fact, any time you read a prophecy in the Bible, you have to ask yourself what it is predicting and whether that has happened or not.  Thus, I would technically be a preterist regarding the prophecies of the First Coming of Jesus, but the word is not really used in that way.  There is a group that is usually called Partial Preterists or Moderate Preterists.  They would say that most of prophecy has been fulfilled in the past except for the Second Coming and the Resurrection.  We will talk about them at a later date.  So, how do full preterists come to believe that Jesus has already come back and fulfilled all the prophecies of the Bible?

Before we answer that question, let’s get a better feel for what all they believe.  If you think the Bible says something that hasn’t happened yet, it is only because you are ignorant of exactly what was meant and the historical events that fulfilled it.  According to this view, the Day of the Lord and the end times are references to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The reign of Jesus, or Messiah, over all of the earth is actually a spiritual reign, and not meant to be a physical reign on earth.  The Second Coming of Jesus is also a spiritual event in which Jesus came in wrath upon Israel in 70 AD.  They will typically add that, when a person first believes on Jesus, they have their own personal, spiritual, Second Coming at that point.  The Final Judgment scenes of Revelation have already occurred in 70 AD, as well as the resurrection.  Yes, according to this view, you missed the Resurrection that the Bible talks about, and Satan has been bound, metaphorically of course.  We are actually in the New Heavens and the New Earth already because they were never intended to be physically new, but rather, spiritually new.  So, what are we doing?  The goal of the Church is to help all humans discover and accept what Christ has done for them.  The whole world will eventually be converted and mankind will enter Utopia.

Now, this view has variations about exactly when all these things were accomplished, but they generally fall within the first century AD.

Before we go into the negatives about this view, let me just say up front that they say much that we can agree with.  Those who believe that Jesus will literally and physically return, also believe that he is already spiritually reigning in our hearts.  They also believe that Christians already participate in the Kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, believers are described as those who have judged themselves already, and thus will avoid the Final Judgment.  Lastly, they also believe that the works of Satan can be bound by believers who stand against him and trust God.  So, many aspects of this view can be embraced.  The problem is that they see these things as the only thing promised in Scripture.  Is everything promised only metaphor and none of it also literal?

This would be my up-front statement:  This view directly contradicts Scripture and offers unsatisfying reasoning for their “misinterpretations” of the prophetic passages.  Let’s deal with three main arguments from Scripture that Full Preterists use to substantiate their view.

In Matthew 24:34, we are told, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”  Immediately before this verse, and in all three of the Gospels, Jesus is telling about his Second Coming.  So far, it looks like a good case.  They believe that Jesus is pointing to his disciples as he says, “this generation…”  However, in verse 33, Jesus first refers to those who “see all these things,” and then states “this generation.”  This leaves the door open that it is just as possible that Jesus is referring to a later generation, i.e. the generation that sees all these things. 

If you study Matthew 24 and chart out what Jesus prophesies about the future, you come away with an outline that has two parts.  The first part he calls the “Beginning of Sorrows.”  He clearly states that it is a period that is not the end, but comes before the end.  He details many signs that will occur during this period in which the Gospel goes to the ends of the earth.  This becomes the tipping point to the second half of the discussion.  After the Gospel goes to the ends of the earth, then the end will come.  So, all the signs before this (false christs, wars, great earthquakes, famines and pestilence, persecution and martyrdom, false prophets, lawlessness, and the love of many growing cold) are not signs of the end times at all.  The Gospel would be preached to all the world under difficult circumstances, but believers were not to confuse that with the end.  Luke states that this period of difficulty that is not the end would last until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  This period is not dated.  To say that the Gospel was preached in all the nations by 70 AD requires a very limited view of what Scriptures promise.  It really is a big stretch.  After Matthew states that the end will come, he describes the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ.  Some signs of these times were signs in the heavens and on earth, and false christs and prophets doing powerful signs to deceive.  All Christians before the end would see the first set of signs, but this second set would be seen by the generation that would also see the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus is not predicting that he would come back during the first century.  He is stating that the generation that sees the second grouping of signs would see him come back.

In Matthew 16:27-28, we have another statement that at first glance appears to state that Jesus had to come back during the first century.  The problem is that this is not exactly what it says.  In verse 27, Jesus clearly speaks of his Second Coming “in the glory of His Father with His angels, and…reward each one…”  Then verse 28 states that some who were still alive at the time that he was speaking would not die before they saw the Son of Man coming “in his kingdom,” with no mention of angels and rewarding people for according to their works.

Mark 9:1 adds the phrase that they would see him “present with power.”  All three gospels follow this statement up with the account of the transfiguration of Jesus.  James, John, and Peter see Jesus transfigured before them.  What is that?  We are told, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.  Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’  While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!’”  (NKJV).  These three disciples were allowed to see Jesus in his glory and kingdom power.  John sees this again in chapter one of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  If only one of the Gospels had done this then we might still be speculative, but all three connect these two events directly.  The disciples themselves clearly saw the transfiguration as the fulfillment of what Jesus said, and not the Second Coming.

In Revelation 22:12 and 20, preterists emphasize the promises that Jesus is coming soon, which is the translation used by NIV, ESV, RSV, NLT, and some others.  The argument is that Jesus said he was coming soon, and 2,000 years is too long to qualify.  He had to come earlier.  This overlooks the reality that Old Testament passages often speak of things happening “soon” that are hundreds of years or more later.  The word that is translated “soon” in these passages is not a word about timing primarily, but of manner.  It is an adverb in these verses that speaks of how he will come, not when.  In other places it will use the noun form of this word in a prepositional phrase that similarly speaks of how it is done, not when.  Thus, Jesus is encouraging his followers that, when these things happen, they will happen quickly. 

We should also note that there are plenty of passages in the New Testament that speak of a delay of Christ’s Coming.  2 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Knowing this that scoffers will come in the last days walking according to their lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’  For since the fathers [patriarchs] fell asleep [died], all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’”  Notice that things would take so long that scoffers would be using that as the foundation for their unbelief.  Also, Peter states that they forget about the judgment of the flood.  The Second Coming of Christ will be like the flood judgment, only this time it will be by fire.

Another passage regarding delay is Matthew 24:48-50.  There Jesus tells a parable that says, “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of…”  Again, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that it will take long enough for believers to quit watching, abuse their position over other believers, and even embrace the ways of the world.

On top of this, the Revelation itself, during the 7th Trumpet of Revelation 10:6, declares that “there should be no more delay.”  Up until then God has been restraining things and keeping the end at bay, but at some point, He ceases and allows things to quickly come to a head.

Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries ( has this to say about preterism.  “Against preterism, futurists note that key events described in the book of Revelation simply did not occur in A. D. 70.  For example, in A.D. 70 “a third of mankind” was not killed, as predicted in Revelation 9:18.  Nor has “every living creature in the sea died,” as predicted in Revelation 16:3.  In order to explain these texts, preterists must resort to an allegorical interpretation since they did not happen literally.”  I would add that these attempts to explain an allegorical fulfillment are often extremely stretched.  Now let’s quickly lay out several reasons why we know that Christ will come back literally, physically, and from heaven, which hasn’t happened yet.

First, the resurrection of Jesus and those who followed him was always considered physical and for every believer of all time.  In Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned us not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in the fires of Gehenna.  He clearly warns of a physical punishment within Gehenna.  This ties together with Revelation 20, where all the dead are resurrected (bodily), judged, and put in the Lake of Fire.  We can understand a person taking the book of Revelation as mere symbolism, but the words of Jesus are clearly more than symbolic.  He is clearly warning of the foolishness of such fear.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, cannot be understood without terrible twisting of the text to mean anything but a literal, physical resurrection of the righteous.50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (NKJV).  Paul categorically states in verse 50 that, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” which the preterist view point contradicts.  So, what was God’s solution to this problem?  Paul explains that God will change our mortal flesh and blood into a glorified body that cannot perish.  Paul’s argument does not make sense without a literal resurrection and one that encompasses every believer, even those today.  To say that this is a spiritual resurrection truly stretches the argument because in the argument our flesh itself is the part of the problem that the resurrection solves.  Paul also states, in Philippians 3:20-21, “20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (NKJV).  Over and over again, the resurrection is connected to a bodily transformation, from an earthly body to a heavenly body (which is never meant to mean a spirit).

If there is still any question, Acts 1:9-11 should put the argument to rest.  Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (NKJV).  Here we see that the apostles were told that Jesus would return in like manner as they saw him go.  This would be from heaven, supernaturally on the clouds of the sky, and in a glorified body that is physical, yet immortal.  Of course, this perfectly matches up with the scene described in Revelation 19.

11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head weremany crowns. He [e]had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in [f]fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a [g]sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the [h]supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people,[i]free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. “

In countless places throughout the New Testament, believers are encouraged to be faithful and the hope placed in front of them is the Second Coming of Christ and the Resurrection of the body.  These promises often make little sense in the original context if we treat them only as spiritual metaphors. 

Let me just remind us again that I do not have a problem with recognizing spiritual fulfillments of these prophecies.  Yes, for many, the day they die is basically the Second Coming of Jesus.  We are also spiritually raised up to new life in order to live for Jesus.  However, it is a travesty to surrender the greatest promises that the Lord Jesus and his prophets have given us.

In fact, these arguments are the same arguments that unbelievers use to prove that Jesus failed.  Preterists appear to be trying to cut these arguments out from under unbelievers, and yet then they come across as many cults do when their prophecies fail.  How many Christian cults and false teachers have proclaimed that Jesus was returning on a certain day, only to be proven as liars?  The answer is many, and growing every day.  If they don’t flat out say that they were wrong, they often declare that they were correct, only Jesus came back spiritually.  You just can’t see it.  This doesn’t cause people to marvel at the power and wisdom of God.  Rather, it causes them to shake their head and blaspheme God.

Jesus is coming back, and all who have embraced him in faith will enter into his promised kingdom over all the earth, where the swords will be pounded down to ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3).  As Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.  Even so, Amen.”  It won’t be just Israel seeing him in 70 A.D., and they won’t just metaphorically see him.  He will be seen by all the nations in the flesh.

As we look at the world today, it is becoming clearer and clearer that mankind will not save itself.  Our leaders will not solve the problems of the world because the problems of the world are rooted in the sin of mankind.  Only Jesus can save us from our sins, and only Jesus has been given authority from God to rule the whole earth physically from Jerusalem.  Amen!

Endtimes audio


The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Mark 6:14-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 25, 2019.

Our Passage today is about how people in power do not like to have anyone rail against their sins in public.  Imprisonment and execution can be done in a moral manner and will occur under good governance, but they are the main methods and means of tyrants to keep a firm hold upon society.  The Bible warns that in the last days mankind will be more likely to kill believers than less.

We should praise God for the protections that have been provided for us in t he United States of America.  However, we are guaranteed that it will not last forever.  It is important that we recognize that our purpose on this earth is to take our stand beside Jesus before all others and without shame.  To do this without redefining Jesus in our own image, we must remember that our reward is not what we experience in this life, but what we shall experience in the life to come.

John’s imprisonment and death

This story tends to work backwards in time, which doesn’t give us a good idea of when John had been imprisoned and executed, and how long before this it was.  Those who have researched the history tend to see an overlap of less than a year in the ministry of John and Jesus before he is arrested.  It is also thought that John may have been in prison up to a year.  We will deal with the story by looking at the imprisonment and death of John first, and then we will come back to verses 14-16.

Before we get into John’s arrest, we must also take a moment to talk about the convoluted Herodian families, and just which Herod is being referenced here.  The Gospels don’t always give good clues to us because they had lived through these things and it was obvious.

Herod the Great is the Herod that is mentioned in the stories about the birth of Jesus.  He had been made king over all of Israel by the Romans.  He is also the one who ordered all children under 2 years of age in Bethlehem to be killed.  He was a dangerous man who was considered by many to be somewhat insane.  He executed three of his sons under suspicions of plotting to assassinate him.  Herod the Great died within 3-4 years of the birth of Jesus, which allowed Joseph and Mary to come back from Egypt and settle in Nazareth. 

Upon the death of Herod the Great, his kingdom was broken up into 5 parts and divvied up between three sons and 1 daughter.  Now, Herod had married many different wives and so, most of the brothers mentioned here are actually half-brothers.  The Herod of our passage in Mark 6 is one of these sons and is usually called Herod Antipas.  Herod Antipas was given rule over the Galilee (the western side of the Sea of Galilee including Nazareth) and another area called Perea, which was on the eastern side of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and about half way down the Dead Sea.  Notice that John the Baptist would have been baptizing people on the edge of his territory.

John the Baptist had a clear message.  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  He often challenged the people on specific sins, even calling out the Pharisees, but what got him in trouble was when he called out Herod Antipas for his sin.  You see, Herod Antipas had gone to Rome at the same time as one of his half-brothers named Herod Philip (not Philip the Tetrarch who is mentioned in the Scriptures).  There he had fallen in love with his half-brother’s wife, Herodias.  Yes, as her name implies, she is related and is actually the half-niece of Herod Antipas.  Apparently, the feelings were mutual because they divorced their spouses and married each other when they returned to Israel.  Now, the Law of Moses specifically prohibits marrying your brother’s wife, while he is still alive, not to mention the flimsy “case” for divorce.  Secondly, a case could also be made that she is too close in kinship to be lawful to marry.  Thus, John the Baptist calls out Herod Antipas for an illegitimate marriage.

People in power do not like religious prophets calling them out for their sin.  It is a personal affront, but also a political threat that can undermine their authority.  John had multitudes of people listening to his words and responding in repentance, which leads Herod Antipas to have him arrested and thrown in prison.

Herod Antipas had enough of his father in him to imprison John, but not so much as to have him executed.  He not only feared John as a holy prophet, but he also feared what the people would do if they heard he had killed John (Matthew’s Gospel specifically mentions this).  Yet, we are told that Herodias, his unlawful wife, wanted John the Baptist dead.  She could not do so because her husband stood in the way. 

This sets up the scene, that Matthew and Luke both describe, wherein John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?”  Of all the people in Israel, John the Baptist seemed the most confident in who Jesus was.  Yet, after he had spent weeks and months in prison, it is clear that he began to wonder if he had missed something.  How could the Messiah be in Israel, and I am in prison under threat of death?  Surely, he will take power and set me free any day now.  In those passages, Jesus tells the disciples of John, “Go tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them.  And Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Matthew 11:5-6 NKJV).  The word “offended” here is the Greek word Skandalizo, and literally means “to cause to stumble.”  It comes from the concept of a stumbling block or stone in the Old Testament.  Basically, Jesus is telling John to hang on to his faith.  He is right and Jesus was doing all he was supposed to do.  Sometimes we think God should be doing things that the word never says that He must do.  In those times, we must trust Him, even it means we will die.

Our text tells us that an “opportune day” came.  This is in reference to the evil desire that Herodias had for John.  Whatever we allow to grow in our hearts, will one day find an opportune time to be expressed.  This is why we are warned to guard our hearts, not from being wounded in love, but from sinful desires that rise up and consume our inner dialogue from day to day.  Herodias nurtured murder in her heart and finally an opportunity came and she fell headlong into the full expression of that sin.

The opportunity comes in the form of a party that Herod Antipas throws for his birthday.  All his nobles, chief men, and high officers of his lands are gathered.  Herodias has her daughter (Herod’s step-daughter) dance before the king and his assembly.  No doubt, this is a typical, sensual dance that stirs up the passions of the king and was no doubt set up by Herodias, knowing her husband very well.  Herod is so pleased by the dance that he offers the young girl anything up to half his kingdom as a reward.  She goes and asks her mother what she should say, and her mother tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist.  I would not think the young girl had such a gift in mind.  However, she does not seem to put up much of a protest.  When she asks Herod for John’s head on a platter, Herod is in a bind.  He had given his word by oath and would look weak, impulsive, and untrustworthy to his administers.

We are told that Herod is “exceedingly sorrowful” at this reply.  This is the same word that is used of the rich young ruler who Jesus told to sell everything and come follow him.  That young man was exceedingly sorrowful because he wanted to follow Jesus, but he also had a large amount of wealth that he did not want to give up.  It is also the word used for Jesus in the garden on the night he was betrayed.  As he prayed that night, he was exceedingly sorrowful unto death.  This is part of the tragedy of sin.  Most people are not as completely evil as they can be.  However, we can become so tightly entangled in a great web of sin that it traps us into descending further.  Many wicked things are done by unwilling people who feel that they are trapped and have no other choice.  Yet, remember the message of John the Baptist.  Repent.  Herod was only trapped because he continued to refuse a place in his heart for repentance.  We too are only as trapped as we are insistent on resisting the call to repentance.

Herod’s fears about Jesus

This leads us back to the beginning of our passage.  Herod had executed John and it bothered him enough to be superstitious, but not enough to repent.  You see, when word of the exploits of Jesus reach him, he concludes that John the Baptist has come back to life and is going to cause him even more trouble.  It is interesting that there is no statement of a fear of God, only of John.  This scene is a reversal of the scene where Jesus asks his disciples who people are saying he is.  There too we are told that a common theory of who Jesus was said that he was Elijah.  This is not as strange as it may seem to us.  Elijah had been taken up into the heavens by a heavenly chariot.  Also, Malachi 4:5 prophesied that Elijah would appear before the great and dreadful Day of the Lord, and he would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers.  This is a beautiful picture of what wholesale repentance can do in a society.  We know that this theory was not true.

The second theory was that Jesus was The Prophet or at least just one of the prophets.  This is a reference to an interesting prophecy that Moses himself had given in Deuteronomy 18:15. He said that a particular prophet would come in the future that would be like him.  This seems to mean that he would be on the same order and magnitude of Moses.  Thus, many prophets had arisen since Moses, but none of them with such deliverance from bondage, and establishing a completely, new order within Israel.  “The Prophet” was seen as either the same as the Messiah, or another who would work with the Messiah to reform Israel.

I take time to go through this because, in our flesh, we come up with religious speculation and superstitious conspiracy theories.  Even today, many Christians exist in a kind of Herodian sphere where they have enough religion to speculate and respond in fear to the things ahead of us.  However, the Holy Spirit of God is working to reveal to us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  Herod put to death the very one who testified the truth about Jesus.  If Herod had only listened then he would know exactly who Jesus is.  He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!

Our passage ends at this point.  In Luke 13:31-33, we are told that Herod Antipas sought to kill Jesus.  When the Pharisees bring this up to Jesus, he basically tells them to go tell “that fox,” I will do what I am going to do and he can’t stop it.  Herod Antipas, or Caesar for that matter, had no power over Jesus.  He had to go to Jerusalem and die there because that was the prophesied plan.

Herod Antipas received one more chance and gracious witness of the truth from God when Pilate was determining what to do with Jesus.  He sends Jesus to Herod Antipas because Jesus was from Nazareth, which was in his territory.  We are told that Herod was excited because he wanted to hear what things Jesus would have to say.  However, Jesus refused to play his game and so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and deferred to his judgment.  There was no place for repentance in his heart.  Religion was only a fun game to play or a fine sounding instrument to play, and that was all.

Within ten years of the death of Jesus, Herod Antipas and Herodias are caught up in a political maneuver that causes them to be exiled to Gaul, where they later died.  If only he had responded to the tremendous people who witnessed to him of the truth of God’s Word.

John the Baptist is not recorded as the first Christian martyr because Jesus stated that John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and rightly belonged to the era of Israel under the Law of Moses.  With Jesus, a new era was beginning.  The remnant of Israel was called out in order to become the Church of Jesus, wherein both Jews and Gentiles would become one people of faith upon the foundation of Jesus and his apostles. 

We too can find ourselves in a position much like John the Baptist.  The difficulties and sufferings that we face in this life at the hands of selfish and even wicked people can cause us to question Jesus.  Precious, few believers in America need to really fear martyrdom, dying for our faith and testimony in Jesus.  However, this is part of the condemnation that comes upon this world.  God has sent us prophets and righteous people speaking the truth, and we have persecuted them and put them to death.  More people have died in this last century than all the previous centuries combined.  Part of that is because of the increase in population, but part of it is because the world hates the message of Jesus, and thus hates those who truly follow him.  Yet, such hatred, persecution, and even martyring, will not destroy us.  The work of John was not destroyed by his death and the work of Jesus was not destroyed by his death.  May we always remember that the things we do that are of God cannot be destroyed, but will only produce a harvest at thirty, sixty, even a hundred-fold!

Martyrdom audio