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End Times Interpretation II

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Question #1: 

Hello! and Happy New Year! I have some Bible questions. I have a question in our Bible Study we are studying 2 peter. I was mentioning how I am getting excited for Christ’s return. What I meant and did not say was I am looking forward to being with Christ in Heaven. Well a gal shared that in Amos 5:18 we are not to be excited about Christ’s return. What is Amos 5:18 saying to Jewish people and what does it say to the Christians. How does Amos 5:18 and 2 Peter 3:12 tie together? Thank you

Response #1: 

Good to hear from you. As to your question, I would say that the main difference is the audience. 2nd Peter 3:12 is addressed to believers, but Amos 5:18 is addressed to unbelievers who are "saying the right things" about God in their hypocrisy – and for those of us who live in this country today, it is certainly not news that many people "talk the talk" for their own personal advantage but have no intention of "walking the walk". That is the group Amos is addressing, in true prophetic fashion calling upon Israel to return to the Lord, not just giving Him lip-service as in saying "the day of the Lord!", but genuinely repenting and returning to Him in faith. After all, the Day of the Lord is the Second Advent, and that "day" is preceded by the Tribulation – not a time to be anticipated with joy. Indeed, only the faithful who understand these matters from diligent seeking of His truth will possess the spiritual wherewithal to be able to "look forward" through that darkness to Jesus' return ("That day will be a day of darkness, not light!"). For those of us who are believers and who are preparing spiritually, that "Day" of Christ's return is indeed the legitimate and blessed focal point of all our hopes, for it is the day of our resurrection, our reunion with Him, and of our great reward and eternal life. For those who are only giving God lip-service, however, that "Day" is likely to be a day of judgment, at least for those who have taken the mark of the beast (as many unbelievers will). So I see nothing contradictory between Amos and Peter in these two passages. The context in Amos is replete with all the trappings of what the evil do in the Name of God, but for those who respond so as to "hate the evil, and love the good" (Amos 5:14), instead of judgment to be feared, our Lord's return will mean only blessing, an unending eternity of wonder in the New Heavens and New Earth which, unlike the present corrupt world destined to be incinerated with all its evil, will endure forever in light and righteousness. This hope of ours is precious and not only legitimate to consider but actually essential to keep in mind, especially if it be our lot to have to endure those difficult times to come.

I certainly wish you and yours a blessed and spiritually productive 2012 as well!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Good day to you, I hope your holidays went well. I have been trying to understand the events surrounding the first resurrection and Armageddon. There are a few passages that focus on these events in different ways, and I was hoping you could comment on my understanding of these things. 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17 indicates that all of the dead in Christ will come with him when he returns in the sky, and that the believers who are alive will be snatched up to them. Then going to Zechariah 14 my understanding is iffy. Christ will come back and stand on the Mount of Olives, and it also says that he will go out and fight. Zechariah 14:1-5 confuses me as to the order of his coming in the sky, standing on the mount, and going out to fight. Are those in Jerusalem are already at war when Christ comes? Are the believers that come with Christ involved in the battle? And, do the believers stand on the Mount of Olives with the Lord?

Then going to Revelation 20:4-6, this passage just focuses on believers that were in the tribulation. It seems to make this distinction because, I believe it is saying, they will have positions of rulership with Christ during the millennium. Would you agree? Also the ESV and NIV translations differ greatly in meaning. The ESV says:

"Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."

And the NIV:

"And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

In the ESV it is all who remained faithful, and potentially even unbelievers who did not receive the beasts mark and yet survived the tribulation. The "they came to life" indicates that they were dead, but given the preceding sentence I thought "they came to life" might actually be "resurrected" which could include those alive. In the NIV it is only those who died for their faith. I am confident you know what is actually said in the Greek.

Finally, I will be going to basic training in about two weeks. I don't have any problems being in the military as I believe God distinguishes between the individual, the Church, and governments that he put in place; governments having authority from God that individuals do not. I also believe strongly in submitting to the authority that will be over me. I also agree with you when it comes to staying out of politics. With that in mind I have a couple questions. What are examples of people pursuing justice now? And, given the potential identity of Babylon is there any advice you would give to someone joining the military? While still submitting to authority, what actions should I stay mindful of? I know that it is important not to hate my enemy; enemies are a distinction of politics, I am simply a pawn moved by the authority God has given to governments. Is there a better way to look at this?

As always, thank you for your careful and insightful exegesis,

Response #2: 

Very good to hear from you again, and I hope you had a blessed Christmas as well. These issues – and the specific passage you ask about – are covered at the following link: CT 5: a. Jesus Christ's Return to Earth on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:2-7).

You have got the basics of it down right. The resurrection occurs at Christ's return, and as 1st Thessalonians 4 makes clear, we newly resurrected believers will be marshaled together in the sky before our Lord takes his stand on the Mt. of Olives and begins the slaughter of Armageddon. The conflict raging at that time which He will resolve is antichrist's final invasion of the land with the purpose of destroying Israel, and the combatants whom our Lord will save – that is, those who have not just been resurrected – will be for the most part the inhabitants of the Jewish state who, while having rebelled against the false Messiah, have not yet accepted the true One. Many of these will convert when they see Him return in glory (too late to be a part of this echelon of the resurrection, however). The details of this campaign are also covered in CT 5 at the link: "The Beast's Armageddon Campaign", and its antecedents in the same study under "The Darkness (incl. the Jewish Rebellion)".

Scripture is clear about the fact that Jesus will win this victory without any assistance (e.g., Is.63:1-6; Rev.19:21). However, there are indications that we believers in resurrection will be involved in the rounding up and incarcerating of Satan's legions (see the link: in CT 6, "The Incarceration of Satan and his Demons [esp. section d.]"). I know of no scriptures which address the situation in Israel on the eve of Armageddon as far as non-Jewish believers are concerned, but I have opined elsewhere how that for those who are still alive near the end of the Tribulation and able to heed the command to "flee Babylon", Israel would be the most likely place – and perhaps the only place – wherein to find refuge (see the link: in CT 5 "Flee Babylon"). If that is so, the case can certainly be made for the involvement of these individuals in the defense of Israel just prior to the Lord's return (not, however, earlier in the Tribulation). In my estimation, this would be the only time and place for legitimate Christian involvement in combat during the Tribulation.

As to Revelation 20, if I understand your concerns they would seem to be based upon that portion of verse five which begins with ""the rest of the dead". This sentence is not part of the original scriptures but is a later gloss added to explain things (but of course the "explainer" got it completely wrong). As I say at the link in footnote 31 of CT 6: "The sentence "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (KJV), is a later, non-scriptural addition, and is not a part of the actual biblical text ". I have covered this in more detail at the following links:

The gloss in Revelation 20:5

Interpolations in the Bible

As to your present situation, since we are certainly not "Babylon" at the moment, but a sovereign country under God with the right and responsibility of defending ourselves in the world, military service is not only honorable, but at a time when it is not mandatory and certainly hazardous it is also especially laudatory, and I thank you and commend you for your decision.

It has been some time since my own service, but in terms of the issues you ask about I see the situation today as being comparable; I was never asked to do anything that violated my Christianity, and, as far as I can tell, it seems to me that even today if a person is asked to do something "anti-Christian" it would almost certainly have to constitute an "illegal order" in any case. I was never under fire, but in my reading of history it seems to me that it is certainly possible for a man to be a good Christian and a good warrior at the same time. Whether or not particular military operations are really in the national interest or "just" is a political concern, not a military one, except, as I say, if things get to the point of asking servicemen to do things which are wrong by any standard. Things may change in the future, and certainly will once the Tribulation begins. To draw a loose historical analogy, before 1933 it is very unlikely that a German officer would have been asked to do anything morally irregular; after 1933 service in the German army made avoiding moral compromise very difficult if not impossible. Of course an officer who was told to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler should have realized that this was the point of no return. I expect that when antichrist takes command there will be a similar decision point for military personnel under his command. We are certainly not there yet, so I find your decision both honorable and commendable, and promise to pray for your safety and success.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ whose soldiers we are,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

In the book of Revelation it mentions how those who receive the mark of the beast will be tormented "day and night" in the presence of the Lamb and His holy angels. I understand that Hell is eternal, and that God will recreate the universe. Will the night cycle still remain in the eternal torment state as that passage suggests?

The other question is regarding the strong delusion mentioned in 2nd Thessalonians. I heard a sermon where the preacher stated that it involves demonic beings and fallen angels masquerading as extraterrestrials to deceive the human race into believing that they created us. Are there any biblical references that remotely teach this?

God Bless,

Response #3: 

That's a good question. We know that in the New Jerusalem there will no longer be any night at all (Rev.21:25; 22:5). We also know that the lake of fire will be a place of darkness (Is.8:22; Matt.8:12; 22:13; 25:30). There is no indication that either of these eternal statuses will change. We see in "day and night" generally one more clear contrast that the Lord is drawing for all mankind between the right way and the wrong way (see the link: "Darkness and its symbolism"), and it is also true, however, that we human beings operate and understand things in terms of time. It is hard for us to imagine what it would be like to be alive eternally with no "time clock", let alone with no clear demarcation of time such as the passage of the days (and nights). My own supposition on this is that there will be "time" in eternity in the sense of sequence; i.e., we will not be tormented by time as is often the case in this corrupt world but there will be a "one thing after another" progression. After all, we exist in the universe God created for us composed of space and time. So on the one hand it is possible that the "day and night" phrase is phenomenological, that is, it just means "forever and without end", and that we are not to read any more into these words than we would when the Bible talks about the "sunrise and sunset" (when in fact of course the sun does not actually rise or set: the earth rotates). On the other hand, it is possible that time in the eternal future will still be divided by "24 hour periods" – days for those in the New Jerusalem, nights for those in the lake of fire.

As to the speculation on 2nd Thessalonians, I have exegeted this passage in great detail in the CT series and invite you to have a look at the link: "The Unleashing of the Mystery of Lawlessness". The notion that the "empowerment of error" is to be reduced this narrow and non-scripturally supported idea is quite a stretch (and one I would not subscribe too, especially in view of what we can glean about this passage from the Bible; discussed at the link).

Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I just ran across your site, for which I thank the Lord.

I am a very simple person, in my 8th decade, so would greatly appreciate a "simple answer", if there is such a thing.

Is the "Lord's Day" synonymous with the "Day of the Lord", or are they two different things?

Thank you kindly for your answer.

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your kind words.

The two are different. "The Lord's Day" is mentioned only at Revelation 1:10, and is John's designation there for a specific day of the week, namely Sunday, the day of our Lord's resurrection.

"The Day of the Lord" is a technical, prophetic term for the end times, and refers to the day of our Lord's return (i.e., the Second Advent), and/or the time preceding it (i.e., the Tribulation), and/or His Kingdom which begins that "Day" (i.e., the Millennium). A "day" can thus cover quite a bit of time – but, after all, "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" (Ps.90:4; 2Pet.3:8), and the Genesis days are exemplars of the entire plan of God for human history (with day seven foreshadowing the Millennium; see the link). For more on this please see the link: "The Day of the Lord".

Hope that was simple enough! Do feel free to write me back if it was too simple and you still have questions.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hello again brother Luginbill,

http://bibletreasuresandpearls.blogspot.com/2011/11/left-hand.html

In the comments section, of the above posting one reader asks about the topic of goats and it being acceptable to use in Passover (Exodus 12:5) and this topic had come up previously here (my other blog):

http://susanflutterbys.blogspot.com/2011/03/sheep-and-goats.html#comment-form

and I put together more of what I had found here:

http://susanflutterbys.blogspot.com/2011/03/more-on-topic-of-goats.html

and from the last links comment section below article:

My March 27,2011 comment: Woke this morning with this thought: It is possible....the goat represents the flesh, because God was MADE into flesh for our sakes, although flesh that is without sin...therefore the goat in Exodus 12:5 had to be without spot... That thought carries nicely into a judgment setting because Jesus's sheep represent His children, and the goats then are representative of the world, which is the flesh.

I looked through your email section to see if you had any Q&A about the topic of goats, and if there was one I couldn't find it. Is there any more info on the topic of goats, and maybe any kind of parable/sayings of those times/cultures that would give more clarity to this subject? When I tried to look up commentaries on Exodus 12:5 they often leave out any comment about the topic of the goat, and when they do comment on it they usually say it refers to sin, which doesn't really make sense to me, unless they mean flesh because Jesus was flesh yet without sin, so THAT does make sense to me.

Thank you for your time and wisdom on Biblical things.

Response #5: 

Always good to hear from you. Exodus 12:5 does most definitely say that goats as well as sheep are acceptable, and of course the goat (notably the "scapegoat") was used in various sacrifices throughout the Old Testament.

From what we know about how Passover is now celebrated and how it was celebrated in biblical times after the Exodus, the lamb is the animal of choice and I know of no particular case where goats are said to be used. However, this is a distinction which, at least in Old Testament times (and probably in the New Testament too), is really not very clear. That is something we in the modern west have difficultly understanding. For instance, when Jesus says "Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather" (Matt.24:28 NIV), most people would see a big difference between that rendering and the KJV's "eagles" – but what is the truth? The truth is that while "vultures" is the better translation, to the people of the ancient world the vulture and the eagle were essentially the same bird. They may not be to our way of thinking or to our system of biological nomenclature, but they certainly were both large carrion feeding birds which, at least as they circle in the sky, are difficult to distinguish. The same thing, it so happens, is true of (ancient Mediterranean) sheep and goats. These were often pastured in one large group, so that "separating the sheep and the goats" (Matt.25) is something that would ring true as an often necessary task for any herdsman of Jesus' day. On top of that, many of the sheep in the middle east even today are of a slightly different build and appearance than those we are familiar with in the west: they are taller, skinnier, with longer hair and longer ears. That is to say, they look quite a lot like goats – hence the essential equating of the two in Exodus 12:5 and the need to split them up as not automatically separate in Matthew 25. Finally, as to the identification of the goats with perdition and the sheep with salvation, no doubt that is due to the scapegoat bearing sin and being separated from the community while on the other hand the lamb is the primary symbol for our Lord – whose sheep we are – in the capacity of being our Sacrifice.

In Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd of the Sheep,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Thanks Dr Luginbill :)

My own suspicion is that it (goat) represents the flesh, and that Jesus was made flesh but was without sin (spot) therefore a spotless "goat" or scapegoat for us, and we have flesh but we await new bodies that do not have any "goatiness" about them at all, that these old goat garments will be toasted, but that those who cherish their goatiness and this world will be toasted with what they love most, that which is perishing. I'm going to check more into the character of these two creations of our Lord, to see if I can detect more and understand why Jesus picked them to represent us people...I already know that a goat can devour anything and not get sick, but a lamb can get very sick from eating the wrong things, get diarrhea and if their wool gets dirty and isn't cleaned up for them, it can cause their death...so that is an interesting thing when you think about them in a spiritual application.

Thanks again, love reading your website...interesting thoughts about the year 2026

Response #6: 

And thank you as well.

Interesting info and thoughts on your part too!

Your brother in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Bob,

I have been re-reading some of your articles re: Revelation in recent weeks and today I received this in my email inbox. I subscribe to this chap's commentary letter re: the Mus. world (he's an American of Coptic Chr. descent - don't agree with everything he says and often his admittedly insightful intellect is undermined by a lot of anger when the subjects of his reports usually hang themselves by their words/actions)...

Anyway, that's the background but today he quoted this Mus. Brotherhood spokesman who called for a new United Arab States with Jerusalem as its capital. Obviously, this is a revival of the old idea of a Mus. caliphate (as the article mentions) but I found the parallels with what the Word says about the King of the South, et al quite interesting (especially as the Brotherhood will, should the still-hanging-on regime finally collapse [as may happen due to their absolute incompetence and over-the-top violence] dominate Egyptian politics over the next few years at least).

Of course, none of these current goings-on may have any part to play at that future time but I thought I'd forward it regardless. Certainly, I see nothing as totally irrelevant if for nothing else than historical episodes usually provide a precedent (or even a template) for later events.

Response #7:

Good to hear from you. I appreciate the insight and the information. It has seemed to me also that all this "Arab spring" development may be laying the groundwork for what is soon to come. As you suggest, we resist getting too caught up in the details, but watching the trends is never a bad idea, especially as the time is now very short.

If you haven't already done so, you might want to consult what CT 3B says about the King of the South who is to be distinguished from antichrist (see the links).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Having come across your site weeks ago in my search for biblical eschatology, I continue to read your material with great interest.

Out of curiosity, I was wondering if you are familiar with Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum's book Footsteps of the Messiah? His book, which is available through www.Ariel.org, is, to date, the clearest book I've read on end times; similarly, your studies, though differing from Dr. Fruchtenbaum on some topics, is not only clear, but thought-provoking and brilliant (your explanation as to why the Anti-Christ will be from the tribe of Dan is intriguing--I've never read anything quite like it), so please keep up the great work.

I'm involved in a study/discussion group on prophecy at my church, which meets the first Friday night of each month. We look at global events--particularly, the ongoing and potentially explosive events in the Middle East--through the lens of Scripture. Our discussion group's moderator forwarded tonight's itinerary (red text): Our plans are to update the situation in the Mid-East, then to start discussing Magog, Rus of the north, and the current rise of the Kings of the East, China. We will look at Russia and China's role in the New World Order, as well as their role as it relates to the prophesies in Ezekiel and Revelation. Those are our plans, but are subject to God's plans over the first week of the new year. Please enjoy the article, below.

May He guide, protect and nourish you and your loved ones in 2012.

He's returning soon,

Why Iran's Top Leaders Believe That the End of Days Has Come Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are convinced that the End of Days has come. To truly understand how just how dangerous Iran’s regime really is, American leaders need to better understand Shia eschatology. Whenever I have an opportunity I listen to John Carthcart's study on The Second Coming of the Lord, which can be heard on weekdays on a Christian radio station (Carthcart's ministry is World Missionary Evangelism, whose website is wme.org). Though I don't agree with him on some of his conclusions, by and large, his insights on how the Bible sheds light on historical events is very interesting; however, I was recently disheartened when I heard him identify the Lord Jesus as Michael the Arch Angel. How he arrives at this age-old preposterous conclusion is anyone's guess, but it probably smacks of the Jehovah's Witness' faulty and dangerous exegesis. I'm debating whether or not I should contact him, as I would like to do so in love. I've heard well-known and highly-regarded commentators erroneously credit the person speaking in Zechariah 13:6 as the Lord Jesus Christ, when this passage is actually a continuation of the false prophet's rhetoric and behavior verses 4 and 5. As John McArthur expertly points out, "When the false prophet denies any association with pagan practices, others will challenge him to explain the suspicious wounds on his body. False prophets would cut themselves to arouse prophetic ecstasy in idolatrous rites, but they will claim the scars represent some attack they suffered from friends." McArthur goes on to say that in verses 13:7-9, "Zechariah turned from the false prophets wounded in 'friends' houses to the true prophet wounded in the house of his friend's house, Israel." Boy, it show helps to have an outstanding commentary like John McArthur's Study Bible!

Dr. Luginbill, most commentators, by and large (Fruchtenbaum being one of the exceptions), believe that the Kings of the East are coming from mainland China. What are your thought on this? As an ardent student of biblical prophecy, I have several questions, which I would like to pose at a later date, if I may. Have a great New Year and may God continue to bless you abundantly as you serve him.

Response #8: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. I am familiar with Dr. Fruchtenbaum's ministry and have listened to some of his tapes on the gospels, but have not read this particular book you mention. Fructhenbaum's views on the end times, as far as I am aware, are very much in the mainstream of traditional evangelical eschatology, and as you no doubt can see from what you have accessed at Ichthys, my own work has departed from many of the (in my view erroneous) suppositions upon which the traditional view of these matters is based (the pre-Tribulation "rapture", for one).

As to the kings of the east, in my view this reference at Revelation 16:12 is meant to show us the totality of the involvement of the entire world in antichrist's Armageddon campaign designed to destroy Israel once and for all. At the point where they are mentioned, the beast has previously conquered the south (the first half of the Tribulation), and has just returned from the north (following his departure to quell the insurrection there occasioned by the darkness of Rev.16:10); what is left of the west, dominated by Babylon just recently destroyed, is also firmly in his camp. Therefore we have every expectation that his forces from these three quadrants will be represented in the final battle. At this point, i.e., just prior to Armageddon, the only biblical quadrant of the world not previously discussed in scripture in reference to the end times is the east, but with Revelation 16:12 we see that the other passages which speak of antichrist's domination of the entire world (e.g., Rev.13:3-4) have indeed included the east whose leaders now dutifully bring their armed forces to Israel for the final conflagration in response to beast's commands (Rev.16:13-14). This is all covered in part 5 of Coming Tribulation under the links "The Darkness" and "The Kings of the East". So I would certainly include China in this description, but would not exclude all of the other nations and their leaders at that future time, all, that is, who dwell in what constitutes the biblical "east".

Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic words. Naturally, not everyone agrees on all the details of these matters, but it is my firm conviction that we are given so much information in scripture about them precisely so that we may understand what can be understood before the time, and I welcome any questions you may have about these things or about the specific interpretations advanced in these studies.

If you do decide to engage in some apologetics on the matter you mention, here are a couple of links you might find helpful:

The Divinity of Jesus Christ: Jesus is not Michael

Old Testament Christophanies are not Michael

Please feel free to write any time.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #9: 

Hi Dr Lugenbill,

I was reading a posting by someone on a message forum about all those calculations derived from numbers in the book of Daniel, and sorry to say, usually such calculating leaves me scratching my head and more confused than I thought I was at the beginning....sigh....however, the poster does bring up the fact that we used to be, at one time, on a 360 day calendar. When you made your calculations for the approximate end of our 6000 week world apocalyptic calendar, did you use a 360 day or 365 day calendar to figure out the approximate time of the Lord's return? Over 2000 years those 5.25 (adjustment for leap years is .25) add up to a 28.7677 years difference. Wouldn't it still be according to a 360 day calendar?

I'd appreciate your help in trying to sort this tangle out.

truly in Jesus,

Response #9: 

Good to hear from you – hope you had a good Christmas.

The solar year is 365+ days, of course. The 360 days of the Jewish year (mentioned in regard to the Tribulation on a number of occasions) reflect a lunar calendar of 12 moths of 30 days each. It was standard practice in the ancient world to have lunar months (easy to track), but without any other consideration this would have resulted in the problem of having spring in winter and summer in fall – eventually, if there were no adjustments. Therefore every ancient system of which I am aware used a process of intercalation, that is, adding additional days or even an additional month from time to time in order to keep the calendar in step with the seasons and the solar year (that is apparently true of Israel as well; see the link: in SR 5, "The Age of Israel"). So the year-calculations in the Bible (and in these studies) are made largely independently of this issue of lunar months – because the seven millennial years of a thousand years each are solar years, not lunar years (see the link). It is true that in Revelation the actual Tribulation itself is sometimes described in terms of 360 day years, but that is because of the importance of emphasizing the split between the first and second halves (i.e., the Great Tribulation is measured in months and days, not years, even though it lasts approximately three and a half years). Finally, if the seven days of human history were measured in lunar rather than solar years, then the Tribulation should have begun in circa 1997 (or 2004, assuming that Daniel's seventieth week were not a part of both the Jewish and Church ages). By either calculation, the Tribulation would now be over.

These are potentially confusing issues. I do appreciate your question and would be happy to correspond about it with your further.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for taking time to help me sort this through. I wasn't able to make sense of it, you helped me understand it much better. I had Christmas and New Years Eve at work, at a hospital...it was good, on New Years Eve we had a little potluck, and it was a pretty quiet evening so that was a blessing.

I hope you had a nice one as well.

I still have to study all of this much more, and over time I believe the Lord will shine through it all, and make all that was irrelevant or mistaken fall away so the clarity of the truth shines brightly for all His elect.

God Bless You and family and loved ones in 2012 and always,

Response #10: 

You are very welcome.

I certainly wish you and yours a blessed and spiritually productive 2012 as well!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

If we look at the Book of Revelations, Chapter 13, Verses 16, 17, and 18 we find the following description of the number of the beast:

"This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666."

I used to believe something similar to your interpretation: namely, that when the anti-christ comes, he will come with a name, and his name (using Greek gematria) will sum to the number 666. However, something led me to doubt this; besides the issue of how one would translate the beast's (likely international) name to Koine Greek, the biggest hint that this would not be the literal case lied in the next verse:

"Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb (aka, Jesus Christ), standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads" (Rev 14:1).

If we look at the gematria of Jesus name, we notice something interesting: it sums to 888. The fact that the beast's name sums to 666 and Jesus' name sums to 888 cannot be a coincidence, and I am certain that the Apostle John knew this when he wrote the book.

Another thing which is clear is that the emperor of Rome at the time of writing, Nero, also had an interesting gematria: his name summed to 666. I bring this up because the connection with the Roman emperor was more than a coincidence. Throughout the New Testament, the Epicurean and pagan traditions were associated with Greek and Rome (Act 17:18-33). Particularly, if we look at the first chapter of Romans, we see an interesting description of the godlessness of the Roman government: namely, because they worship the Earth and created things, God gave themselves over to the sensual lifestyle, and they started to engage in many different perversions, as described in verses 22 through 25. This summary of "eat, drink, and be merry" is summarized also by Our Savior in Luke 12:19, where he likens the Epicureans to the fool who will have their livelihood taken away by the Lord, something which is also a subtle but undoubtedly an intentional allusion to the following verse in the Book of Job: "What hope has the godless when he is cut off and God takes away his life?" (Job 27:8).

One can see that it's established that the Roman empire is humanism (and with it atheism), and 666 is used for the figure head of the Roman empire at the time, Nero, it might be worth it to investigate this connection.

To further solidify the point, let us consider what the number six represents:

* The six millennial days in *human* history, led by *humans*, as opposed to the seventh millennial wedding day of the bride of Christ and our Savior, and the eight everlasting day when heaven and earth are recreated.

* The six parts of the human body (two arms, two legs, one chest, and one head), compared to the seven parts of a Christian with our new hearts, and the eight parts, which will be our body, our heart, and our union with God at the end of history.

We can see a clear pattern here regarding numbers: six means humanity, sinfulness, and the flesh. Seven represents the completeness given by God through His grace. Lastly, but certainly not least, eight is the number of perfection, and thus of God Himself (Jesus Christ). Considering how Plato (c. 427-347 BCE) in the Cratylus considers gematria to be capturing the non-material essence of the concept represented by a word, it is no wonder than John incorporated this literary device while The Book of Revelation was penned, and we see that 666 represents the philosophy of humanism, and that 888 represents the eternal, perfect nature of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

In addition, consider the following verse:

"He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead," (Rev 13:16)

Here, the mark of the beast (humanism) and the notion that everyone should accept it represents what the new Epicureans (such as Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, etc...) are doing with the philosophy of humanism and worship of "things that creep":

http://www.the-brights.net/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_atheism

The receiving of the mark "on his right hand or on his forehead" represents the two ways in which humanism will be embraced: by the hands and sensual activities of the common people, who will unleash lewdness and lawlessness which man has never seen before. The forehead represents the minds of those in academia, who shall fervently embrace with all their intellect the pagan and atheistic philosophy of humanism, in stark contrast to the chosen, who will be devoted to our Lord with the full intensity of their minds, and thus have the Lord's name on their forehead.

"so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name" represents the unprecedented number of laws which will go into effect to eliminate the "intolerance" of Christianity. Those who speak of what the Bible says, such as pastor Åke Green (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Åke_Green), will be unable to participate in the commerce and activities of daily society unless they embrace the number of the beast.

Likewise, the fact that the Bible refers to it as "man's number" should no doubt be the final nail in regards to what 666 actually stands for. It appears that those who believe that 666 will come as a chip or a barcode to be literally put into someone's arm or forehead, or an actual tattoo might be an overtly literal interpretation of a very figurative text, and indeed, a very dangerous one; much like the doctrine of a pre-tribulational rapture, people will invest themselves looking for a number, only to overlook the much more subtler poison which the Devil will no undoubtedly use to fool the vast populace.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #11: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Naturally, this is deeply furrowed ground, and the number of putative solutions seems to be nearly as numerous as the possible permutations. Still and all, I stand by the interpretation advanced at the link in CT 4 under "The Mark of the Beast" and "The Number of the Beast". I will attempt to address your objections below with apologies in advance for any misunderstanding on my part of your position:

1) Nero only equals 666 in Hebrew, and only if one uses the version of his name indirectly transliterated into Hebrew from Greek (his name transliterated directly from Latin into Hebrew yields 616), and only if we assume his name is "Nero Caesar", whereas of course he was commonly known as Nero, and his full name was really "Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus". If I were allowed to 1) use any number of languages I wanted to get to a basis for the specific name to be transliterated, 2) use any of the three likely languages of the time (i.e., Hebrew, Greek and Latin) as the basis for this calculation once the form of the name had been determined, and 3) use whatever version of the particular name suited my purposes, then I dare say I could make any president of the United States into "the beast" (e.g., an English "e" could be an eta or an epsilon in Greek; in Hebrew it could be a sere with or without yodh or a segol or a chateph segol – or left out entirely). Case in point is your analysis of the Name "Jesus Christ". Clearly, this particular version of His name renders differently if we do to it the same thing that is necessary to get Nero's name to equal 666 (namely, transliteration into Hebrew, not Greek). Also, in the context He is called "the Lamb", and of course by factoring "Lord Jesus Christ" or "the Lord Jesus Christ", or "Lord Christ", or "the Lord Christ" or "our Savior Jesus Christ", or etc., we will get a different number in each case (with many possibilities for each depending upon which precise name, which transliteration base, and which language we decide to use).

2) In fact, of course, it is the name "Jesus" on its own in its Greek spelling (in the nominative) which equals 888 (not "Jesus Christ"). What significance this has eludes me. Other than the fact that 888 is one third more than 666, I don't see any relationship at all. The visual relationship, i.e., three eights versus three sixes, is a completely modern phenomenon which occurs only in the Western version of the Arabic system of numerals (which, as I point out at the link in CT 4 "The Number of the Beast", dates only back to circa the 15th century). In the Greek system of numerical notation, 888 = ωπη, while 666 = χξϛ, and these sets of symbols bear no particular relationship, one to another.

3) I can't agree that Romans chapter one is directed at the Roman government. In fact, while there is no signal of this, the passage gives every indication of being completely general and applicable to all unbelieving mankind. After all, later in the letter Paul very particularly stresses the need for obedience to the secular authority (Rom.13:1-7). In short, I find no connection between the number and Rome. Of course, the beast is the leader of revived Rome (as well as of Babylon) and is the seventh in the series of emperors following #6, Nero, so we don't have to look to the number itself for such a connection. But to a certain degree that is all beside the point since the purpose of the number is to serve as an alternative to the name per se – the reason for the explanation of the number is to identify it as just such an alternative so as not to be deceived through not realizing that the number is just as bad as the name (in terms of taking it onto one's body). As I say in the aforementioned link:

"Since in verse seventeen [Rev.13:17] we are told specifically that the alternative form of the mark is "the number of his (i.e., the beast's) name", the "number of the beast" mentioned here [in v.8], therefore, has to be the same numerical equivalent of antichrist's name referenced in that previous verse. That is to say, "six hundred and sixty six" is the number which both constitutes a numerical value for the beast's name and which also functions as the alternative (and superior) form of the mark".

The chances that any genuine Christians will make it to the Tribulation's mid-point when this mark becomes mandatory without already recognizing antichrist for precisely who he is are nil in my view. This prophecy is a final "fail safe" designed to take any vestige of excuse someone might have about just what taking the mark will mean, namely, choosing Satan's son over the Son of God. Finally on this point, for these reasons the number is not something that is meant to have any meaning in terms of discovering antichrist – it is instead a final explanation point to make the issue clear to even the most self-deluded person on the planet at that time.

4) As also explained in the context cited and alluded to above, "666" may look like "three sixes" to us, but that was not a possibility in antiquity. Therefore 666 is "six hundred and sixty six" and not "6" in any direct way, with the result that observations about what the number six means in scripture are also a bit beside the point (i.e., since we are dealing here not with "six" or "three sixes" but most particularly with "six-hundred-and-sixty-six": χξϛ).

5) As to John's "incorporation of this literary device [of gematria]", I'm afraid that here we have a fundamental difference on our view of scripture. The Book of Revelation states that John was shown these things by an angel and told by the Lord to write them down. That is to say, this is an inspired book that proffers precisely what God means it to proffer, not a literary composition like Plato's dialogues but a prophetic message from God:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:20-21 NIV

6) As to humanism, I would certainly agree with much of what you say about its intolerance to Christianity, but I think it is dangerous to reduce the number and the mark it represents to an allegory. The Bible generally and the Book of Revelation in particular are in fact very clear about what is and what is not meant to be taken allegorically. In Revelation, John tells us "I saw a sign" when allegory is in view; otherwise, we are meant to take what he tells us at face value. In terms of this issue, I see no textual cues which would allow us to go in that direction. If one wishes to adopt a mystical interpretation, well, it is a free country, but that approach violates my own view of proper, orthodox hermeneutics entirely (please see the links: in CT 1 "Hermeneutic Issues"; in CT 4 "War in Heaven", and "Things to Come II"). The danger here is that from what I find represented in prophecy antichrist will in fact be an arch-religionist. After all, he is the one who "sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2Thes.2:4 NIV). Since he pretends to be Jesus Christ, he certainly will not be rejecting false versions of Christianity (of which there are many of course). Therefore if we fixate on humanism as the problem, we are very likely going to be swept up in the fervor of the religious reactionary movement of the beast (please see the link: "The Characteristics of [Antichrist's] New Religion" in CT #4).

7) Finally, I certainly appreciate your spirit and your discernment in the case of many of things you discuss here (your rejection of the pre-Trib rapture and your acceptance of the 7 millennial days just to name two), and I think that your point on "the number of a man" is a good one. This number and the means of interpretation of it are usually terribly over-stressed as well as misunderstood. The number is first and foremost a means to confirming that antichrist is the beast (which by the time of the enforced marking will be clearly known to all Christians who have given any serious prior attention to these matters), but also and importantly a caveat against assuming that the number is not the same as the name and that therefore taking it onto the body will not be a rejection of Jesus Christ – which in fact it most certainly will be.

Thanks for the email. As I say, apologies for any misunderstanding of your positions here. I certainly appreciate your spirit and your dedication to the Word of God.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12: 

It's okay; I do know and focus on other issues besides this, but yesterday I had a moment wherein this explanation seemed crystal clear in light of five things: 1) The name of Jesus summing to 888. 2) The manner of unbelief which is present in almost all youth across the globe, moving far beyond "lukewarm" agnosticism to an active view that Christianity (along with Islam and Orthodox Judaism, which according to them is "the same desert fiction") must be exterminated for society to progress; the only religions they embrace are the ones that are essentially sophistic, such as Wicca, Buddhism, and various eastern religions 3) The number of threats in the world which seem to be done in the name of religious extremism (terrorism, killing of adulterers and blasphemers, etc...) 4) The number of selfish, materialistic scientific ventures which religion seems to be a bitter stumbling block, with transhumanism being the largest of these (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism) and lastly 5) The way that sexual libertinism is becoming a fundamental human right, and opposition to deviancy in sexuality is essentially becoming equivalent to fascism.

Also, humanity seems to be one big religious disaster away from such a system to gain serious momentum. One possible disaster is climate change decimating world economies, where in this case American evangelical leaders such as George W. Bush and Christianity will essentially go down in infamy. Another possible disaster is a nuclear war from Islamists in Iran, which will probably result in not only result in the global rejection of Islam, but other religions which hold similar values (death penalty for homosexuality, Adam and Eve creation story, etc...) which also includes Christianity. Yet another possible disaster is the ultra-orthodox transforming Israel from a secular modern democracy to a country which rivals Saudi Arabia in terms of anti-female rhetoric and theocratic laws; something which will definitely send a message of "this can happen to other western countries", and once it's realized that Christianity incorporates the exact same scripture of Judaism, it's only inevitable that the humanist opposition lumps Christianity in with it. There are many more, but these three are the first that come to mind.

If there is anything I have learned from human history, it's that whatever is talked about in academia is generally going to be a good model of future human cultural values in /n/ generations, where n is a small single digit number. It's happened with the Enlightenment and various other intellectual pursuits, and I feel that you as a member of academia should have a good feeling of this as well (if not, look at what your students currently espouse and compare it to the rhetoric emerging from The Ivory Tower™ in the 1970s).

I know that as a former atheist, prior to the grace of God, there was essentially nothing that could get me to believe in any religion; the case for scientific materialism does a very good job at appearing iron-clad, far more so than Christianity does at first glance. (The truth is, I believe this to be very much intentional that the Lord allowed this to happen, and John 15:18-19 essentially tells us that if you truly believe in Christ, you *will* be hated). Even when the advent of spectacular miracles comes, I still feel that the 150 years of scientific materialism will still take a long time to grind to a halt and reverse, possibly far longer than the seven years of tribulation will allow for.

For the most part, your analysis is spot-on on a number of points, and I concede those to you. For this reason, I will only respond to pertinent points addressed by your response; if I am silent to a point you raised, it is likely because it caused me to change my mind. However, I still feel deep down in my spirit that 666 is about humanism, and even with all of the magnificent tricks in Satan's bag, I doubt that even he could cause the un-Christian world to go into a new religious fervor, which leads me to think that Revelation is a description of the (very violent) extermination of all religions (save some fanantic Christians) in exchange for a humanist utopia.

My major question in response to this, is how will we correctly translate the Beast's name into the Greek system, especially if there isn't a direct one-to-one correspondence in transliteration? Likewise, if the anti-christ were to reside in Jerusalem (which seems to be hinted), and especially since Hebrew is a living language while Koine Greek is dead, wouldn't it be more logical to use Hebrew as the language for the gematria?

I disagree that the visual phenomena of three numbers in a row is only significant in Western Arabic Numerals (WAN), even though it's certainly most apparent in WAN. It is known by anthropologists that every culture in the world uses a numeral system in which the radix is ten (or some variant in ten). As a result, the phenomena of x + 10*x + 10*10*x in a number has some universality. In addition, the choice of three consecutive numbers is also universal, since the average number of objects a typical human can instantaneously count is three.

What I said above still applies here. Also, it should be mentioned that in both Greek and Hebrew gematria, numbers are tiered by the ones, tens, and hundreds place. As a result of this, the individual number "six" /still/ has significance to "six hundred sixty six", since it's six selected from each of the three available tiers of numerals. Because of this, even though there isn't a clear visual motif in either Greek or Hebrew, there's definitely a good reason as to why "666" relates to the sole number "6". I was actually considering right after I sent you this email whether or not I should have included this bit. Now I know the answer. By the way, just to clarify, I did not mean to suggest that The Book of Revelation is equivalent to secular, pagan works of antiquity, but I think it's also important to factor in literary devices which were used at the time. Revelation 14:1 doesn't begin with "I saw a sign", and yet says that the 144,000 will have the name of Jesus Christ and His Father on their foreheads. What led me to think that 666 was symbolic wasn't a desire to add some Gnostic mystical twist to the scripture but rather the simple observation that Revelation 14:1 describes something similar to Revelation 13:17, yet appears to be entirely metaphorical, unless we are to literally assume that the 144,000 will actually get the name of God at the exact same time the mark of the beast is issued. 

I don't mind; I know this is going to be a very contentious point, and I'm open-minded enough to accept your viewpoint too, given the fact that there are many bad interpretations in the world on Revelations. I thank you for the time you have taken to analyze my viewpoints, and I appreciate reading from you.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #12: 

Thanks for your reply and for your spirit of civility (not much in vogue these days when there is any sort of disagreement about viewpoints, large or small).

As to your five observations, my impression is that we are not terribly far apart, merely more interested in different aspects of the interpretation. I will give a brief response here to each more for the purpose of clarification than anything else.

1) Ancient Greek (the whole idea of "koine" as being somehow different is grossly over-exaggerated) is only spoken today in a few isolated communities, but the Greek New Testament is still the Bible of Greek speaking communities. Ancient or Biblical Hebrew is just as "dead", with Modern Hebrew being, especially in terms of its essential syntax, a new language (and one, I might add, which is no more conversant with gematria than is Modern Greek). But of course all of this would have been unknown to John, and it was inevitable that he would give the number in the language of his own day. The problem of interpreting the number is in this respect not much different from the problem of interpreting the Bible from its original languages: non-native speakers must in both cases either rely on skills they have developed personally or alternatively listen to some expert opinion. In other words, just as the Bible has to be taught by qualified teachers in general, so this particular point would have to be taught in the same way. English did not exist at the time of writing, obviously, and not everyone speaks English anyway. So to my way of thinking, the fact that the number is in Greek is on the one hand no obstacle, and on the other hand any other language would present an obstacle to all who are not native speakers. The Great Persecution, moreover, will be a worldwide phenomenon, so the fact of the beast's residence in Jerusalem from the mid-point of the Tribulation forward doesn't seem to be significant for this point – Christians worldwide will need some help with the interpretation in any case. What does strike me as very unlikely is that the letters should be Greek but the name Hebrew. The most straightforward way to understand the passage in my view is as a Greek book written to a Greek-speaking audience wherein the Greek number system represents a name in Greek. What the "ground form" of the name will be and in what language we cannot say before the fact, and there may be some issue in how to turn it into the proper Greek form whence to do the calculation, but assuming that we are to turn it into Hebrew first and then Greek or use the Hebrew system based on Greek letters strikes me as unwarranted from anything we are given in the text which, as I say, characterizes this as a very simple process.

2) On the visual point, I admit to being "mathematically challenged", but I have a hard time accepting that the fact that two ciphers each of which have three numbers is particularly significant: there are 999 of these in the Arabic system (1000 if three zeros are included as a possibility), and 9 numbers which all share the same digits (10 if three zeros are included). I did not mention it before, but while the number 6 does have some biblical significance, the number 8 is not, as far as I know, of any particular import, especially regarding our Lord Jesus. And as pointed out before, there is no biblical significance to eight-hundred-eighty-eight or, aside from this passage, to six-hundred-sixty-six which are, obviously, not at all the same as 8 or 6 respectively. Finally, while "three digits in a row" may perhaps have some visual importance if they are all the same, in Revelation 13 we are beyond all argument dealing with the Greek system, so that the actual comparison we have to address is in fact three letters representing numerals: ωπη, versus three letters representing numerals: χξϛ, where none of the three letters is the same.

3) As to the tiers, I get your overall point, but while logically a chi, xi, and sigma all "relate to six", visually they are different letters in the Greek system as opposed to being the same exact digit in the Arabic system. If the mind "sees" a correspondence, it would be in spite of the eye.

4) On scripture versus secular literature, I would agree that taking into account literary devices is important. Gematria is, after all, a literary device. I only wish to draw a very firm distinction between what the Spirit has done and what He has not done. I do think there is a significance to 666 – as I state in the links previously given, the use of the feminine of the number ought, in my view, to be seen as relating the number to the multiplicity of "ways" to salvation according to the beast's false system (since "way", Gr. hodos, is the most common feminine noun supplied in such cases). THE significance of the number six-hundred-sixty-six is specifically called to our attention by the text in any event, but that is not at all the case in terms of any numerical value or subsequent meaning we may wish to assign to Jesus' Name (indeed, this is the first time I have heard this interpretation, and I have seen a lot of theories about Revelation). I do appreciate your comments here, and apologize for any possible over-reaction to your previous point.

5) Revelation 14:1 is describing the 144,000 after their martyrdom (see the link: "The Martyrdom of the 144,000"). So they are in their interim bodies at this point. We know that our resurrection bodies will bear the Lord's Name (Rev.3:12; 22:4), so it is not surprising that the interim bodies of the 144,000 should do so. I only say this by way of explanation, since it seems to me we are really on the same page here. The 666 tattoo will be literal, but that does not preclude it from having a symbolic meaning as well (which in my opinion it most certainly does).

As I say, I appreciate your comments on the dangers of humanism and its essential hostility to the truth. One of the things I have written about in this series is the uncanny ability antichrist will apparently possess to attract individuals from all extremes of the political, religious and ideological spectra: he will manage to appear to be all things to all people, except to true believers in Jesus Christ. My main caveat relates to investing too great an emphasis on humanism to the exclusion of the religiosity of the beast's movement. He will claim to be the Messiah, after all, and I have no doubt that many on the "right wing" will flock to his banners because of the neo-conservative friendly aspects of his all-inclusive system – especially when he so vigorously opposes Israel's tribulational opponent, the King of the South, whom the beast will style as "the antichrist" (see the link: "Antichrist's Alliance with Israel").

Please feel free to send you other questions any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

The word "all" in Rev 13:7 is the same word "all" in Luke 2:1: "Pas" (Strong's 3956)

Rev. 13:7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all [pas] kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Luke 2:1, And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all [pas] the world should be taxed.

So, the antichrist will rule the whole world in the same manner that Augustus taxed the whole world…right?

Response #13: 

Good to hear from you again.

As to your question, setting aside the sometimes flexible use in the Bible of pas in Greek (and col in Hebrew), the key issue here is the realm ruled rather than the adjective which describes it. Antichrist's rule is said to be complete and worldwide in that it comprises "all races, languages and nations" – and in the very next verse, Revelation 13:8, we are told that "all the inhabitants of the earth (ten gen < Gr. ges; cf. GE-ology; GE-ography)" who are not believers will worship him. But at Luke 2:1, although many translations say "world", we are actually told that it is pasan ten oikoumenen which was to be enrolled. The oikoumene or "ecumen" is, technically speaking, the "civilized world" rather than all of planet earth, and in Luke's usage there means the Roman world, the world under Augustus' direct and indirect control. So provinces like Gaul, protectorates like Judea, and possibly even client states like Armenia would fall into that category, but separate countries like Parthia and unconquered barbarian territories like Britain (at that time) would not.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Hello sir,

I hope you are doing fine? I pray for you daily. I read from your website daily( currently reading "the Tribulation begins".

I am not keeping well. I have been diagnosed with a serious health problem. But, this is not my concern. My main concern is my spiritual and mental weakness. I am losing courage. All of a sudden I am scared of death. I am behaving like a coward. I am scared of facing martyrdom or physical torture. In the past 2 years of my Christian life I have never behaved like this, was always willing to die for Him. The thought of the coming tribulation scares me, and there is no way I can stand it in my present condition.

I am getting craziest of thoughts, most inhuman tortures come to my mind.

Sir, I have never won anything in my life, never achieved anything. I have always been a looser. Salvation is one thing I don't want to lose. I don't want to lose Jesus. At present salvation seems to be the most difficult thing in this world.

I am trying to keep myself calm. How do I overcome this?

In Him,

Response #14: 

Please do not lose heart! Contemplating the Tribulation can be a scarey prospect, but remember: the Lord never puts on us anything we cannot in truth handle (1Cor.10:13). Granted, from our limited human perspective it may seem so at the time, but looking back we can always see that He was there with us in the storm, and that there was really never any danger that we were going to sink.

"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:29-31 NIV

The Lord is always there, holding onto our hand, and indeed there is no one and there is nothing that can snatch us out of His hand.

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."
John 10:28-29 NIV

One thing which it is very important to remember in the Christian life is that we are only required to deal with one day at a time and only with the realities of the situations we are actually confronting. Human beings that we are, we naturally are prone to worry about tomorrow and all the potential horrors our imaginations, prodded by the evil one, can "cook up". But that is a mistake.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:34 NIV

We are here because of the Lord and for the Lord. We serve in this world at His good pleasure, and none of has any guarantee of a tomorrow in this world. Indeed, our "tomorrow", the one for which we breathlessly wait, is the one that reunites us with Him and begins an eternity of bliss and joy beyond our present comprehension.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.
Philippians 1:20-23 NIV

The Tribulation will be a terrible time, yes, but it is by my calculations still years away at present (see the link: "the probable date of the Tribulation"). It is certainly my hope and expectation that I will be ready for it when it comes (neither do I feel myself ready at present), and that through this ministry others will be ready even though not ready at present. In the meantime, if we trust the Lord, He will take care of all of our other "todays", and if we follow His lead and commands so as to continue in our spiritual growth we no doubt will find, if so wills the will of God, that we are indeed ready for all that comes when it comes. There is no time to waste, but there is ample time to become ready for everything our dear Lord Jesus calls us to endure, and, like the children of Israel during the days of the Exodus plagues, we can be sure that He will shelter us even during the worst of the storm. Not everyone will be called to martyrdom. Many will be spared to be resurrected while still alive at the Lord's return, and we are right to take encouragement from that fact:

(15) For we tell you this by the Lord's own Word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord (i.e., the Second Advent which brings the Great Tribulation to a close) will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the archangel's blast on the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first (in resurrection), (17) then we who are alive and remain will be snatched up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and in this way we shall always be with the Lord. (18) Therefore be encouraging one another with these truths.
1st Thessalonians 4:15-18

In the meantime, just as the scroll of Revelation which John was given to eat was "sweet in his mouth" though it soured his stomach, so we have the right as Christians who trust in Jesus Christ to enjoy the study of the Tribulation before the fact, reveling in the victory of Christ at its end and our victorious gathering together to Him, in sure and certain confidence that He will provide everything we need to get through whatever it is our mission to get through – one day at a time.

I am very sorry to hear of your health problems, my friend, and all the pressures you currently find yourself under as well. But please know that every day you keep believing, keep reading your Bible, keep studying the truth, keep believing that truth and applying it to your life, and, when opportunities arise, keep helping others do the same, you are in fact winning – the most important thing which may be one: eternal life and reward through the victory of faith.

For everything that has been born from God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith [in Christ]!
1st John 5:4 (cf. v.1)

But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1st Corinthians 15:57

In all this we are decisively victorious through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:37

So while many use this world to the full in a worldly fashion, we have set our hearts on winning the race that brings not a perishable earthly crown but an eternal one.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1st Corinthians 9:25 NIV

Every step forward is a step towards the goal of the high upward calling to which you have been called, and in persevering there is great reward.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9 NKJV

Learning how to cope with the pressures of life in a godly, Christian way, that is, learning how to gain control over our thoughts and emotions is not something, sad to say, most Christians have mastered (please see the links: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?" and "Spiritual Fainting"). Christians who are determined to grow despite the opposition of the evil one are going to receive these sorts of broadsides you are experiencing, so that sooner or latter we have to learn how to put faith in front of sight, how to lean on God's power and not our own.

(9) And [the Lord] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, because My power is made complete in weakness". Most gladly then will I boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may tent over and around me! (10) Therefore I rejoice in my weaknesses, in the abuses against me, in these pressures, in persecutions and disasters on account of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

Few of us are capable of making use of God's truth in such a valiant way (though we should aspire to it and work constantly towards it). This sort of mature application of the Word of God can only be accomplished through a muscular faith, and, like our muscles, faith needs fuel (the truth of the Word, learned and believed) and exercise (actually applying these truths to our lives through faith) in order to put on that muscle and grow stronger.

You are running this race well. Please do not give up or lose heart. The Lord is with you, and as you continue to grow in Him you will learn how to sense His presence more clearly and how to rely on Him in peace more consistently. Trust Him to bring you along in just the right way and at just the right speed. No Olympic champion ever went directly from good intentions to a gold medal. They did it through much hard and consistent work over many years of toil and effort, so that on the day of big race, they were ready. You will be ready too, for everything the Lord has in mind for you. And I am confident that He has many wonderful things in mind for you: a significant ministry and a marvelous eternal reward for encouraging others yourself in God's due time.

Strengthen the hands that are weak. Steady the knees that are giving way. Say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong! Don't be afraid! Look, your God is coming to avenge you. God [will] recompense [both them and us]! He will come! And He will rescue you!
Isaiah 35:4-5

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NIV

You are in my prayers until we meet the Lord in the air on that great day of days,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello sir,

Thank you for your encouragement. I feel much better after reading your email.

I won't give up. With His help I will keep fighting.

Thanks you once again for being there

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #15: 

Wonderful, my friend!

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2nd Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV

Hang in there my friend, and may the Lord always be with you!

In Jesus Christ who is our joy and our great reward,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Dear Professor,

Another set of questions and issues that I would like you to address and clarify, whenever is convenient for you.

I noticed quite a significant difference between your translation (or the translation that you used) and my Polish translation of 2 Peter, 1:20. In your text it says: 'no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection', whereas in my Polish Bible it says (my translation): 'no prophecy of the Scripture is not for personal interpretation/clarification' and in the footnote it says: 'Only Church (RC in this context) defines with authority, what is the meaning of the texts of the Holy Scripture'. I sense a significant difference in meaning and quite obviously what you says makes sense, as opposed to what it says in my translation. It looks like rather like an usurpation of power at the cost of addressing the issue of genuineness of prophecy, which has perhaps always been a problem and an easy target for those lacking knowledge of the Scripture.

Response #16: 

Good to hear from you as always. I draw encouragement from your persistence in pursuit of the truth of the Word of God!

2nd Peter 1:20 cannot be properly understood without the rest of sentence, 2nd Peter 1:21. Here is the ESV version of verse 20:

. . . knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
2nd Peter 1:20 ESV

While I think the above is more or less self-explanatory (as most good translations will be), nevertheless this phraseology is subject to misinterpretation if a person or group makes a biased assumption about whose interpretation should be accepted but does so without reference to the next verse:

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:21 ESV

The purpose of verse 20 as defined by verse 21 is to demonstrate that true scripture has only been written individuals who were actually inspired by the Holy Spirit in the service of Christ to write parts of the Bible according to the will of the Father. In other words, these verses, taken together, very clearly (and I would argue unmistakably, if fairly considered together in any reasonable translation) show that the Bible is our sole authority – because it is God's inspired Word. That is not the case for any other human source, regardless of claims or charisma or apparent miracles or tradition or authority of any other type. Therefore the interpretation in the notes you relate is entirely wrong since it ignores scripture as the sole authority on the one hand, and establishes an alternative authority not mentioned in these verses on the other. Indeed, if we assign the authority over Christian faith and practice to any other source outside of the Bible, we are directly contradicting the implied mandate of these two verses: "since scripture doesn't come from personal will but from the will of God inspiring the exact words of the Bible through the Holy Spirit, do not listen to those who wish to place their own experiences, interpretations, traditions or "words" of any kind over the true authority for all believers, the Word of God."

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Question #17: 

It says in the footnote of my Bible that history (as far as we know it) does not confirm the prophecy presented in Daniel, 11:40. What is your opinion, as somebody who specializes in ancient history, on this matter?

Response #17:

The last part of Daniel chapter 11 is universally recognized by exegetes who believe in a literal Tribulation to be referring to antichrist and his operations during that yet future seven years (Jerome is the first to be on record as having the description of the beast begin with verse 21 in terms of his type, Antiochus Ephiphanes, a position with which I concur). It is true that the earlier portions of chapter eleven do deal with the by now historical events of the contest between the Seluecids and Ptolemys. However, they were all yet future when Daniel wrote the prophecy. The thing that secularists do not understand about all this is that one of the main purposes for the earlier verses of Daniel 11 is to bring the narrative of events down to Antiochus Epiphanes, an important type of the beast whose behavior and activities mirror antichrist's in many ways. In so doing, Daniel, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gives us much critical information about tribulational events not found elsewhere in scripture, first by comparing Antiochus Epiphanes to the beast typologically, and later by shifting into talking about antichrist exclusively. By the time we reach verse 36 at least, the prophecy is dealing entirely with antichrist (not Antiochus Ephiphanes at all). So of course Daniel 11:40 "does not conform to [PAST] history as we know it": the events being predicted there have not yet happened in the first place.

Question #18: 

What is the meaning of Matthew, 24:15? According to my footnotes it relates to the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. Is this interpretation correct, or is the sense of this prophecy eschatological?

Response #18: 

This is another end-times prophecy. The Romans did destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but there is no credible evidence of a prior setting up at that time of an idol in the temple precinct which "causes [spiritual] devastation". Indeed, the Romans sacked and destroyed the city including the temple as soon as they (finally) broke down the city walls. Jesus' words at Matthew 24:15 and the passages in Daniel whence the original prophecy stems anticipate an internal idolatry followed by a period of great apostasy (e.g., Matt.24.21ff.), a scenario completely at odds with the actual Roman conquest of the first century (but not with what will happen in a few short years after antichrist takes control of the world; see the link: "The Abomination which causes Desolation").

Question #19: 

The footnote I've got for Ezechiel 34:16 puzzles me. The text says: 'but the sleek and the strong I will destroy'. It says 'destroy' in the footnote of the translation that I use, but 'protect' in the text. Which on is correct?

Response #19: 

Here is the NASB's translation:

I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.
Ezekiel 34:16 NASB

This translation is a very precise rendering of the Hebrew original. Generally speaking, the Masoretic text of the Old Testament is quite reliable, but there are places where there is some small problem – and many more where there is in fact no problem but, since the text is difficult to understand, a problem is assumed. This is an instance of the latter. The text as it stands makes perfect sense, once it is correctly interpreted and translated (as above). The Lord will rescue the weak, but the strong are so only because of their exploitation of the weak (cf., "blessed are the poor" of Lk.6:20 vs. "woe to the rich" of Lk.6:24); as a result of their wicked exploitation, the unbelieving fat/strong sheep will be fed by the Lord . . . with judgment (i.e., they will be judged and destroyed – woe to them). For those who do not "get" this interpretation, some have (apparently) suggested "protect" instead of "destroy" by making a very small textual emendation, specifically, by reading the root verb as shamar instead of shamad. In Hebrew, the resh ('r') is very similar in its orthography to the daleth ('d'), and the two are in fact frequently confused. This is an ingenious suggestion, but in my view it is completely unnecessary and wrong.

Question #20: 

Talking about Genesis, I need to ask you professor - how to interpret the whole Book, from the beginning? It is a matter of critical importance, as people tend to ask questions about the meaning and interpretation of Genesis, not infrequently using it as a 'proof' that Bible should not be trusted. Is it an accurate description of events, is it symbolical, is it a combination of both? If so, where specifically should it be taken literally and where not?

Response #20: 

Genesis is meant to be taken literally. As with all other scripture, unless the Bible itself gives us a clear signal that a certain passage is entirely symbolic, we should not consider it so. For example, in Revelation 12:1 when John tells us that "a great sign appeared in the sky", both the wording used to introduce the woman and the nature of the description make it clear that we have to do with symbolism. When Joseph dreams about the twelve stars and twelve sheaves, both the nature of the dream and the fact that it was a dream make it clear that we have to do with symbolism. When scripture says that God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden with two important trees in its midst, that of life and that of 'knowing good and evil', and that Eve was tempted by a serpent, ate of the fruit of the second tree, then gave it to Adam for him to eat, and that they were both subsequently expelled from the garden, well, nothing in the description or in the introduction of the material gives us any reason to consider this as anything other than a literal accounting of what actually happened. It is the case that many people find this to be mythological, etiological, or just untrue, and it is also the case that even many supposed Christians can be found opining that "this is only symbolic". Such persons do themselves and others great spiritual harm. Finding excuses for not believing what the Bible says very specifically is true is the dry rot of faith, and seeing symbolism alone in things which are not symbolic at all or only derivatively so is a particularly virulent form of such misinterpretation.

Question #21: 

After a verse number you used 'ff' in one of the studies. What does this mean?

Response #21: 

English convention (not now used by all, it is true) is to double the letter of the abbreviation when more than one is meant: p. = page / pp. = pages ; f. = following page ; ff. = following pages

Question #22: 

Could you clarify Isaiah 6:9-10. Why would God want his people to be 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding' and so on, as the passage goes? I know that verses 11 to 13 put some temporal limitation on this state, but why did God desire this (if, of course, it is possible to discern this at all) and could you explain what is meant by verses 11-13, what time specifically does God have in mind there?

Response #22: 

On Isaiah 6:9-10, we may compare what Jesus says in the gospel of John:

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
John 9:39 NIV

The Lord wants everyone to be saved (1Tim.2:4; cf. 2Pet.3:9; Jn.3:16), and in His ineffable mercy and love has made universal salvation possible through His death for all of our sins on the cross. But along with perfect love comes a perfect standard of judgment. Just as God could not erase our sins without sacrifice so that His one and only beloved Son had to die in our place for salvation to be possible, so He will not force anyone in contravention of their own free will to place faith in Jesus Christ. For all who refuse to submit to Him – and submission is the simple act of accepting through faith Jesus and His work in our behalf – judgment is the inevitable result, and a self-chosen judgment at that (this is all discussed in some detail in BB 4B: Soteriology [please see the link]). And just as God empowers response to Himself, so He allows and – in order to make the choice and contrast all the more stark – occasionally empowers self-willed choices against Himself and His Son our Lord (cf. Matt.18:3-4). This empowerment will be exponentially intensified during the Tribulation:

And then the lawless one (i.e., antichrist) will be revealed, [that same one] whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of His mouth and destroy when He appears at His [glorious] return – [that same lawless one] whose appearance [will come about] through Satan's empowerment [and will be] accompanied by every [sort of] false miracle, both signs and portents, and by every [sort of] unrighteous deception [designed] for those who are perishing, [namely those who will believe these lies] because they did not open themselves up to the love for the truth so as to be saved. And for this [very] reason God is going to send upon them an empowerment of error (i.e., facilitating it; cf. Ex.14:4) so that they may believe the lie in order that they may be condemned, [even all those] who have not believed the truth but have [instead] approved of unrighteousness.
2nd Thessalonians 2:8-12

Question #23: 

Based on Revelation 2:13, should we understand that Satan lives in Pergamon? What does it mean, is this place symbolic?

Response #23: 

This is covered in CT 2A "Pergamum". The seven churches represent the seven eras of the Church. So the statement is true for all believers of the era . . . and for all believers of the Church Age generally. Satan has his headquarters here on earth; this is the place of his throne. Therefore we all find ourselves in enemy territory. That, at any rate, is the deeper interpretation of these verses. It is true that there was a huge monumental altar to Zeus in Pergamum (today it's in the Berlin museum), so that initially and superficially that may be in view (i.e., historical Pergamum was a well know place of pagan influence and religion). But these seven mini-epistles have as their primary meaning the larger interpretation of laying out the trends for the Church as a whole (see the link: The Seven Churches).

Question #24: 

Why when talking about his coming, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vulture and a dead body (Luke 17:37)?

Response #24: 

Two reasons: 1) to illustrate the gathering together of the Church in the sky at our Lord's return as something that will "just naturally happen" (this was apparently a common metaphor: cf. Job 39:27-30); 2) to draw attention to the fact that we all "partake of one bread as one Body" (1Cor.10:17; cf. Jn.6:53), that is, we have this resurrection life only because Jesus died for us. Eagles is a better translation than vultures. In the ancient world, the two birds were felt to be indistinguishable, but the latter has quite a different connotation for us today than the former.

Question #25: 

You wrote: 'The lion face (Jewish age) is a picture of Christ as the promised Messiah. The lion is the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5; cf. Gen.49:9-12), and has a messianic connotation throughout the Old Testament (cf. Num.23:24; 24:9)'. In what sense do Num.23:24; 24:9 relate to messianism?

Response #25: 

Numbers 23:24: Balaam's prophecies are very much focused on the eschatology of Israel, so that this verse (compare especially Zech.9:14-15) and Numbers 24:9 (cf. the whole prophecy) look forward to the second advent. The Lion of Judah, the Messiah, is the one who delivers Israel at the second advent and who governs in the Millennium. So wherever we see the Lion of Judah in a prophetic context, we are justified in seeking an application to the coming Messiah.

See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!
Revelation 5:5

Question #26: 

Regarding translation of your resources:

a. What type of degree is M.A.B.S? In your CV it says you've got it in Hebrew Old Testament, but I couldn't work out what specifically M.A.B.S mean.

b. You say in the biography FAQ, that 'as a P.K., I was always around these issues'. What is a P.K.?

c. Finally, the text says: 'I went to seminary in CA'. What is CA?

Finally, I wanted to share with you that God has given me a grace that left me truly amazed. At the start of my study of Ichthys, which started with my search for resources of canonicity, I remember that you said in one of your texts that one can sometimes recognize, whether the text is divinely inspired and that it feels different. That made me think that I may well never reach that level of understanding and I would perhaps never discern, whether what I'm reading is genuine divine text, or apocrypha. And a few months later I was reading a book in the Bible and it 'felt' somewhat different. I remember having my doubts whether it is really a book inspired by God. Later it turned out, that it was on the list with apocrypha that you provided me (one of the deuterocanonical books, but I cannot remember now, which one). I only regret having wasted so much time in the past.

In Christ,

Response #26: 

As to the second set of question:

a) M.A.B.S. stands for "Master of Arts in Biblical Studies".

b) A "P.K." is a "preacher's kid", a fairly common abbreviation in U.S. circles indicating that a person's father was a minister.

c) CA is the U.S. postal code for the state of California.

I am delighted to hear that you are experiencing the growing light of the truth of the Word of God. Keep on this track and it will lead you to all things good:

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18 NIV

You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:19b-21

However, please do not get discouraged by past events. Whatever time we have wasted (and we have all wasted time), whatever opportunities we have squandered (and we have all squandered opportunities), and whatever sins we have committed (and we have all sinned – and been forgiven all of our sins in Jesus Christ!), God deals with us "where we are" and we must deal with "the actual situation" in which we find ourselves. As long as we are alive, as long as "it is called 'today' ", we have a job to do for Jesus Christ and an opportunity to serve Him to His good pleasure and our eternal reward. That is true every day, regardless of past failures (of which we all have a very long list). The evil one loves to get us looking backward to the point of being fixated on the past. But for believers in Jesus Christ who find themselves still here on earth in spite of past imperfection, there are only three days: 1) yesterday, the day we came to belong to Jesus; 2) today, on which we should strive to serve Him might and main with no regard for anything else in the past beyond His sacrifice for us and our acceptance of it; 3) tomorrow, when we shall be reunited with Him for all eternity and rewarded for what we do today – assuming we are doing anything for Him today, which will not be the case if we are obsessing about unimportant yesterdays.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

You are running a good race. Don't look back or even side to side, put press on towards the upward goal set down for us all by the Lord we love, and strive to break the tape.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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