Articles by Alex Dodson
Dr. Samuel Miller of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote in 1833 after experiencing the wonderful years of the Second Great Awakening in America – “The frequency, the power, and the precious results of revivals, in almost every part of the American churches, within a few years past, cannot but fill the hearts of intelligent Christians with joy, while they furnish a most animating presage of the rapid manner in which the conversion of the world may be expected to proceed, when ‘the set time to favor Zion shall come’; and a no less gratifying pledge of the ease with which the Head of the church can solve that problem so perplexing to human wisdom – How the number of candidates for the ministry may be so rapidly multiplied, as in any good measure to meet the urgent and increasing demand for spiritual laborers, both in the domestic and foreign field? Let such revivals as we have been permitted to see, but with augmented power and extent, visit the churches year after year, and fill all lands, and the work will be done. The knowledge and glory of the Lord, without the interposition of what we call miracle, will soon fill the earth.” (Princeton and the Christian Ministry, Vol. 1, p. 701-702)
Ezekiel in the last chapters of his book describes a temple that would be built in the future. When Ezekiel prophesied this new temple, the old temple built by Solomon had been destroyed and lay in ruins. He spends nine chapters describing this new temple along with the land and city. Matthew Henry writes, “Here is one continued vision, beginning at this chapter (40), to the end of the book, which is justly looked upon to be one of the most difficult portions of scripture in all the book of God. The Jews will not allow any to read it till they are thirty years old, and tell those who do read it that, though they cannot understand every thing in it, ‘when Elias comes he will explain it.’ Many commentators, both ancient and modern, have owned themselves at a loss what to make of it and what use to make of it. But because it is hard to be understood we must not therefore throw it by, but humbly search concerning it, get as far as we can into it and as much as we can out of it, and, when we despair of satisfaction in every difficulty we meet with, bless God that our salvation does not depend upon it, but that things necessary are plain enough, and wait till God shall reveal even this unto us.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Ezekiel, p. 993) To say the least it is a difficult passage to fully understand. Yet, it is a part of God’s Word and definitely there is a message there for us.
Ezekiel prophesied about the judgment of Jerusalem and other nations in Ezekiel 1-32. In chapter 33, a messenger came and gave the news that Jerusalem had been destroyed. Ezekiel then spends the rest of his prophecies in telling about the restoration of Israel in the future. He is giving his messages to the Jews in exile where he is also among them. “Ezekiel was living among the exiles 700 miles from Jerusalem, and during the period of his preaching the temple was in ruins…Ezekiel was taken into exile as a captive in 597 BC, after Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem and carried away Jehoiachin, the royal family and the leading citizens and skilled artisans.” (Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, p.1304.) While he was in exile, Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.
Daniel gave a tremendous prophecy of a rock that struck a large statue and broke it to pieces. The rock grew and became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. Later, Daniel interpreted this as the kingdom of God destroying the kingdoms of this world and replacing them. The kingdom of God would crush all other kingdoms and would last forever. It starts out as a rock but grows into a huge mountain and fills the whole earth. The rock was cut out of a mountain without human hands. This kingdom would have its origin in God and be a spiritual kingdom. (See Daniel 3) This prophecy began its fulfillment when Jesus came into this world and announced, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom ofGod is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 KJV) This then was the beginning of a kingdom that would grow into a huge mountain and fill the whole earth.
Jesus came into the world to establish a spiritual kingdom over which He would reign. This spiritual kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus at His first coming. When He began His ministry, He announced the setting up of this spiritual kingdom. In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (KJV)
As I was listening, the preacher commented that we could be raptured at any moment even before the sermon was finished. The popular teaching today in many evangelical churches is that Christians will be raptured at any moment. There is nothing that has to take place before the rapture can occur. Only after the rapture will the prophetic clock begin to tick again. The church is now awaiting an “any moment rapture” when it will be whisked out of the way and then the great tribulation will take place after the Christians leave. Is this very popular teaching true to the Scriptures? That is what we want to answer in this article.
Today, the popular dispensational view of Christ’s Second Coming includes a period of time called the great tribulation. This is said to last seven years. It is preceded by the rapture of the church. After this tribulation which effects primarily Israel and the Jews and the end time world, the millennium begins with Jesus reigning on his throne from Jerusalem. This view is very popular today and is reflected in such publications as the Left Behind series. All evangelical Christians believe in the Second Coming of Christ. This is not in question. The question this article is concerned with is this popular view of the great tribulation. Is the popular view correct? What exactly does the Bible say? Is it possible to have a different view of this great tribulation than the popular view stated above and still be biblical?
So much of modern day prophecy interpretation goes back to Daniel’s Seventy Weeks recorded in Daniel 9. Especially does the popular teaching of the dispensational view of the Second Coming depend much on the interpretation of this passage. We hear a lot about a seven year tribulation period predicted for the future and the destruction of Israel and the rapture of the church. All of these are taught in relationship to Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Sevens) prophecy and especially the seventieth week (seven).