A Proper Hermeneutic
As I stated in a previous article, I am a “literalist,” in that I take Scripture at face value. I interpret Scripture with an face-value hermeneutic. Normally we understand what we read or hear by taking what is said to us at face value. People normally don’t use allegoric language in everyday conversation nor does the Word of God. It is critical when interpreting Scripture to understand words and phrases in its context as well as what the words meant when they were first penned. The only hermeneutic that makes the Bible alive and meaningful is the hermeneutic that takes Scripture exactly for what it says. However, we are not to ignore the many obvious figures of speech and expressions that are found in Scripture, instead we are to discover what the text says understanding it in its most normal, natural, customary sense. The immediate context along with comparing Scripture with Scripture is the only basis for discovering truth.
One example is found in Revelation 12:3 which speaks of a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. Of course this is figurative language, it’s not talking about a beast like dragon as we see depicted in the movies. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, allowing the context to interpret this figurative creature you will discover that the great dragon is Satan (Revelation 12:9). Another example can be found in Revelation 17:1 which describes the great harlot who sits on many waters. To understand what is meant by the word “waters” we only have to read further in the context to discover that the waters are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15). I didn’t have to spiritualize or allegorize the Scripture to understand this truth, it’s right there in the context. The same is true of all Scripture, no matter what topic, we have to discover truth by examining every verse in context, then broaden our understanding of that truth by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Allegorization of prophetic text only allows any assortment of meanings to be inserted into the text. Allegorizing Scripture only spirals into the most horrific heresy imaginable.
When studying prophetic text, we should approach it with the attitude that God meant it to be understood. After all, the word “Revelation” after which the last book of our bible was named means in the Greek “a disclosure of truth” and the events contained in the book of Revelation are “made visible to all.” One mistake many make when viewing prophetic Scripture is they will presuppose the text rather than doing a careful, thorough investigation and thereby assume, believing something is true without proper proof. Assumption is the fault line of interpretation, violating the laws of hermeneutics always ends in poor interpretation. Which of course, is the foundation of error.
The Rapture of the Church is the crowning point in Church history from the Cross onward. Every generation since Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father has looked to it as more than just a future promise, but as a present hope. The event itself is the glorification of the Church as both the dead and living when Christ appears exchange mortality for immortality. The Rapture is victorious over both “Death” and “Hades” as both are defeated in that pinnacle moment, “Death” is swallowed up in victory (1Cor. 15:54-57). It is victory for the Church, not through her own efforts, but through our Lord Jesus Christ. That victory was accomplished just over 2000 years ago on the Cross and secured for every believer by the resurrection, Jesus Christ the firstfruits of resurrection, afterward, those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:23).
This article will be the first of a series dealing with Daniel’s 70th week using Matthew 24 as a springboard. Walking through this last prophetic week we will see that Jesus gave His disciples a sequence to the events leading up to the rapture itself, ending with the Day of the Lord’s Wrath upon the wicked remaining. We will also see how Matthew 24 corresponds with the Revelation and how Paul in his epistles to the Thessalonians taught and gave the exact sequence of events as Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. Though all three provide different details pertaining to the 70th week, the sequence and order of the events remain the same.
Before we get into our study, I’d like to show you the attitude many of our so called modern “Apostles” are promoting concerning the Rapture of the church. In an interview with The Voice Magazine Online Dr. Bill Hamon was asked rather or not the teaching of the rapture was helping or hurting God’s purpose.
The Voice: We have a lot of rapture teaching in the Body of Christ. Is that helping or hurting God’s purpose?
Dr. Bill Hamon: If we were going through great persecution and were being killed and tortured, half-starved to death, and looked like we had no hope or future, it would be encouraging. Rapture teaching is one of the most faith deadening teachings ever preached. It has the most neutralizing affect on a Christian’s aggressive growth process. We have a lot to do in this Earth and there is going to be a lot of stuff that we need to do in eternity. If you don’t have a big comprehensive vision, both restorationally and eternally, then what motivation is there to do much except try to win a few souls to get a big reward in heaven?
Is the commission which Jesus Christ gave to His foundational Apostles to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… (Matt. 28:19a), to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) an underdeveloped comprehensive vision? Because that is what I get out of Bill Hamon’s answer. Is the Rapture teaching one of the most faith deadening teachings ever preached? If that is so, that would include the Apostle John who gave us the Revelation. If that is so, that would include the Apostle Paul who taught the Thessalonians of Christ decent into the clouds to “catch up” the dead and the living (1 Thess. 4:17). And if that is so, that would include Jesus Himself who taught His disciples in the Olivet Discourse He would gather together His elect from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:31). The reason men like Dr. Bill Hamon, Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench want us to move away from a rapture mind-set is because the teaching of the rapture interrupts their agenda to conquer the nations and set up what they consider to be the kingdom of God. Why evangelize “to win a few souls to get a big reward in heaven” when you can have the world? Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and “immortality” to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10) also places a love for His appearing in the hearts of His people with the promise of reward (2 Timothy 4:8). There is a real push today to either cling with a firmer grip to the Word of God or totally forsake it within the Church walls. There is, right now, in our day, movements masquerading as Christianity using a global deception engineered by the spirit of antichrist to bring all under its authority. And it’s going to get worse!
Spirit of Antichrist
“The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can’t stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church today…Much of the visible church nowadays seems to think Christians are supposed to be at play rather than at war. The idea of actually fighting for doctrinal truth is the furthest thing from most churchgoers’ thoughts…In a climate like that, the thought of even identifying someone else’s teaching as false (much less “contending earnestly” for the faith) is a distasteful and dangerously countercultural suggestion.” (John MacArthur; The Truth War. pp. xi, xiv-xv; Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2007)
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding over who the antichrist is, most conclude this future figure who will rise onto the world scene to be the false Christ, a counterfeit Christ. It is clear from Scripture he will be one who seeks to replace Christ and claim sovereignty over the kingdoms of world. With this conclusion I concur, however the spirit behind this sinister figure is now already in the world (1 John 4:3). The overriding catalysis of the spirit of antichrist is deception. It is crucial to make a vital distinction about the source of this deception. While the person of antichrist does represent a counterfeit Christ, the “spirit of antichrist” represents a counterfeit Christianity. Anything that passes as a counterfeit has to seem genuine. This counterfeit has to look convincingly orthodox to the average onlooker and, in fact, it does, until one bothers to look behind the facade. (2 Thess. 2:7; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3-4; 2 Cor. 11:3-4; 13-15) are some verses which warn of a subtle counter movement attempting to pass itself off as the original truth. (The White Horse-Many shall come in My Name)
In the context of the “spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:1-3) we are not talking about cults, or false religions, but a decisive difference between truth and error; “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). Confronting the encroachment of teachers or teachings that claim prophetic authority, but fail to present and honor Jesus Christ in a way consistent with the whole of the Scriptures is what is in view. The entire Bible, produced of the Holy Spirit, is not only the Spirit of truth, but is also the spirit of prophecy. To prophesy is a proper term to describe the proclamation of God’s Word as it forecast events, or to speak forth God’s truth. The essence of every genuine prophecy is its message, and or, testimony of Jesus Christ, the witness borne to Him; “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). As God’s church, “the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), we should reject any prophesying that preoccupies itself with mystical ideas, ideas which take focus off of who Jesus Christ is and what He has accomplished through His death and resurrection.
I take no joy to stand against the many who would subvert God’s Church, to point out error, I wish it was something I could avoid. But I can no longer deny the church I love so much the whole counsel of God just to be accepted. I find myself in a veracious position for if I don’t speak truth, I deny both my faith in Jesus Christ, and the explicate warnings of Jesus to watch, to speak the truth in love in the hope that some may hear the Barean Call and search the Scriptures with an open mind and quit being gullible to the obvious heresy being handed to the church today. Men such as Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo of the Emergent Church Movement; men such as Bill Johnson, C. Peter Wagner and Mike Bickle (the three streams) of the NAR and the many men and women of the Word of Faith movement have pulled the wool over the eyes of the Church and it’s my conviction based on Scripture that these movements operate through the spirit of antichrist and serves as the greatest example to the Church as the “Counterfeit Christianity” I have described above.
In the next article, we will turn to the Olivet Discourse, examining it verse by verse where we will discover what lays ahead as we approach the “end of the age” and how relevant it is to the Church. I have discovered the Olivet Discourse to be both a wealth of information and a comfort, knowing that Jesus Christ is Sovereign over all things visible and invisible. That His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom which can never be moved, and that it is Jesus Himself who will establish His Kingdom and rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.