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Biblical doctrines Book of Revelation hermeneutics The Papacy

At the resurrection who is left behind?

Recently I have been studying the book of Luke, and especially the passage on the resurrection “...I tell you, in that night there shall be two men [people] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left” (chapter 17:34-37). I asked myself when one person (note ‘men’ is not in the original) was taken by Christ at the gathering of the saved, the resurrection, and another was left, what happened to those who were left?

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The standard explanation today is that this is a description of the so-called Pre-Tribulation Rapture, the secret Rapture, like portrayed in the “Left Behind” series of books and movies. But that doctrine, which is attributed to John Nelson Darby, an early pioneer of the Exclusive Brethren (early 1800’s), in fact, had its beginnings much earlier with the Jesuit Francisco Ribera and later Cardinal Belamine. And this was independent of those who claim Darby had developed the ideas himself. Maybe he did. He certainly developed the system of theology called Dispensationalism, where he linked the restoration of the land and nation of Israel–God fulfilling His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–to a scenario of the Church being caught away from the earth, leaving only the Jews as God’s people and that they would fulfil Millennium prophecies (e.g. Isaiah 65:25) during the subsequent 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth. The only part I agree with him on is that God will fulfil His promise to Abraham.

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The Jesuit Francisco Ribera originated the idea to divert attention away from the pope being identified as the AntiChrist, which was the standard belief during the 16th through 19th centuries with protestant Bible scholars. The Jesuits did not hold to the idea of physical Israel being restored nor a Pre-Trib Rapture, but they developed the notion of futurism, that most of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation would come to a future end-time fulfilment in a final AntiChrist figure, who would rule the world from Jerusalem under some sort of 7-year peace agreement. This was to push attention away from the Papacy as the AntiChrist. But then the Papacy had and still does have all the hallmarks of the AntiChrist in the prophecies.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation hermeneutics

Revelation 22

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The chapter opens with a description of the river of life that proceeds or flows from the throne of God inside the city where Christ is on the throne (v.1). On either side of the river was the tree of life (v.2). This is the same tree that was in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 2:9  And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is river pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

There also was a river that ran out from Eden.

Genesis 2:10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became into four heads.

The correspondence is very strong. You can see the connection between the paradise of the initial creation and the paradise of the final heaven on earth.

I believe also that the tree of life is symbolic of Jesus Christ, who is the source of life to all who believe. “In Him was life” (John 1:4).

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise.

Christ is the fruit of the righteous, as only God is righteous. In Christ is the only way we can be fruitful to win souls. The Lord also says:

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation hermeneutics

Revelation 21

The Apostle John writes that he saw “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away…” (v.1). The implication is that the heavens are remade by God or, at least, the surface of the earth is refurbished, because is it is described as “new.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

As I wrote in our Revelation 19 study, I believe some of this is symbolic language. Of course some is literal but we need to understand which. Read Do the heavens literally pass away or don’t they? The word ‘earth’ in 2 Peter 3:10 means the earthlings. The people are judged according to their works. The ‘elements’ are the ‘fundamental principles’ by which the world has been governed by man. The Greek word translated ‘elements’ is στοιχεῖον (stoicheion), which is related to ‘something orderly in arrangement.’ But all order and government is changed at Christ’s return, which is followed by the new heaven and new earth. The old heavens, both spiritual heavens and the physical environment of the earth are changed. They are restored to the state of creation before Adam’s sin.

The earth is to undergo a purification and a renewal to make it fit for the home of the saints in glory. The old state of things shall be succeeded by a new order, both physical and moral. (This also strengthens the argument that the resurrected saints are not again to be found physically on earth until the earth is purified and prepared for them, which is after the millennium.)

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Biblical doctrines Book of Revelation hermeneutics

Do the heavens literally pass away or don’t they?

What you believe of bible prophecy (eschatology1 in particular) affects how you interpret some passages in the scriptures. I have been often told that the universe is decaying away, which according to standard physics, one should believe. Then there are those who teach about future apocalyptic events and that God will destroy the entire universe and make a new one.

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Figure 1: The planet Alderaan destroyed by the Death Star’s laser weapon. Screen capture from George Lucas’s “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”. Initial theatrical release was May 25, 1977 © 1997 Lucasfilm Ltd. Credit: © 1997 Lucasfilm / Courtesy Pyxurz.

Read,

Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Some cite verses such as the following:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be dissolved in the fire, and the earth and its works will not be found.

Revelation 6:14  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Isaiah 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation hermeneutics

Revelation 20

This chapter includes the one thousand year period, called the Millennium, when Satan is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (v.1-3), the Second Advent of Christ (v.4-6),  followed by a short period of Satan being loosed out of his prison and the battle of Gog and Magog (v.7-10), and finally the Great White Throne Judgment (v.11-15). Satan is cast into the lake of fire where the AntiChrist “beast” and his “false prophet” are. (All bold are my emphases added. Square brackets [ ] indicate meanings of words. King James Version Easy-Reading Bible (KJVER) used.)

Verses 1-3

1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Firstly we read that an angel brings down from heaven the key to the bottomless pit (prison of some kind) (v.1) and the old serpent (the Devil, Satan) is bound there for a thousand years (v.1-3). The ‘angel’ must be stronger than Satan (Matthew 12:29). We’ll see that he is Jesus, who is more powerful than Satan (an angel is not necessarily stronger). After the thousand years bound in prison Satan is loosed for a short period (v.3).

So the question must be asked what does Satan being ‘bound’ mean? That is, Satan is bound “that he should deceive the nations no more”. Before Jesus came to Earth, the first time, all nations were ignorant of the one true God, except for God’s chosen people, Israel. And we read that after Jesus knocked the Apostle Saul (or Paul) off his horse, while he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9 and 26), Saul asked Him who He was (Acts 9:5; 26:15). And Christ told him that He is Jesus, and that He had chosen him (Saul) to be a minister to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, that is, to the rest of the nations of the world.

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Christ tells Saul the mission:

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified [set apart] by faith that is in Me.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation hermeneutics

Revelation 19

The focus here (v.1) is in heaven. Salvation is from the Lord God not the usurper. God has judged the great whore, the “old woman of prophecy,” and avenged the murder of the true believers (v.2). These are the enemies of God, but what do the Scriptures tell us about the timing of these events?

The LORD said to My Lord, Sit You on My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool? (Matthew 22:44. Also Psalms 110:1)

Christ must remain on the right hand of the Father, until all His enemies, including the great whore, are judged or put under His feet (or made His footstool). Christ cannot bodily return in His Second Coming to Earth until all His enemies are piled up and He rests His feet upon them.

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“Left Behind” series of books and movies was very popular promoting a secret rapture.

There is no secret rapture before Christ’s Second Coming. He resurrects all believers, both living and dead, at His Return, and all are judged then, and not before He has destroyed all His enemies.

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30,31)

It will be very well known. It will be noisy. All will see it happen. It will be global.

Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Now read 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:42, 51-54. This means new bodies like the old but instead incorruptible. There is no doubt amongst commentators that these passages are about the Return of Christ and the resurrection of the saints.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation The Papacy

Revelation 18

John saw another angel (v.1) bringing an important message that Babylon the great (the whore) is fallen (v.2). Compare this description with Jeremiah 50:39; Isaiah 21:9; 14:23 and 13:21. There is a very strong comparison between the fall of the old Mesopotamian Babylon city and spiritual Babylon the great, the city of Rome. The fall of Babylon has been already declared (Revelation 16:19 and 17:16) but now it is completed. Verse 2 also signifies that the Papacy, Vatican city (and the Roman Catholic Church) has become the habitation of every foul spirit. The false church has made alliances with the nations of the world for commerce and political power, which is signifies by their fornication with the false church (v.3).

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Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury kisses popes ring indicating recognition and subservience
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So-called protestant Billy Graham accepts and
acknowledges the Papacy. He worked with the RCC
in many of his crusades.

Then the Apostle John hears a voice (v.4) calling God’s people to “come out of her.” “Her” is the Romish Church. Be not a partaker of her sins! As God once had a captive people in the old Mesopotamian Babylon, so He also has people in spiritual Babylon. From the time of the Reformation God has been calling His people to come out of her. It cannot be doubted that He has many true and earnest believers inside the Roman Church or at least those seeking the truth of the true living God. The invitation is given to the people of God yet in captivity, lest by remaining they should be involved in her destruction.

They should not to be involved in the ecumenical movement promoted by the Vatican, to so-called ‘unite’ all under one world religion. Their plan for unity between Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and protestants is, “The only true road to unity was for all to admit their errors and return to Rome.”  False prophets, like Billy Graham, Rick Warren and others in the so-called modern evangelical churches promote this dangerous idea of joining with the Roman Catholics as if they are just another Christian denomination. They are in opposition to true faith. Thus I believe these protestant and evangelical pastors are collectively described in the “false prophet” of this revelation.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation The Papacy

Revelation 17

This is one of the most discussed chapters in the entire Bible. It speaks of Babylon the great, the great whore. But who is she?  What does the great whore in fact symbolise?

In the language of futurist view of Bible prophecy this chapter describes some future world kingdom and its leader, the AntiChrist. For much of my Christian life I was sold that interpretation, and I believed it for a long time. But the interpretation itself was developed and promoted by agents of the real great whore, the Papacy, and the beast, the Roman Catholic Church, which is the false church that has at all times opposed true believers. Do not be deceived and open your mind to the simple straightforward interpretation, which is that the book of the Revelation describes the history of the Church since Jesus Christ formed it and it ends with His second coming.

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The preceding chapters have described a series of historical events that led to the overthrow of spiritual Babylon, which is described here as the great whore or harlot. Up to this point in history the interpretation of the revelation has been largely achieved by looking in history for events that have already happened.

With the sixth vial we saw opening of the way for missionary activities spreading the gospel, from the 18th century up to the present time.  The following seventh vial brings on events that are yet in our future so we cannot be too dogmatic about them. But one thing we can be certain of is that the seventh vial brings on the final overthrow of the Anti-Christ power of spiritual Babylon.  This is described in the last verses of chapter 16. Now in chapters 17, 18 and 19 her downfall, the overthrow of the apostate church, the triumph of the Word of God, and the victory of Armageddon, are described in great detail.

This chapter opens (v.1) declaring that it is about the judgment of the great whore. The word ‘whore’ symbolises the false church as a whore is not the true bride (of Christ), but an imposter.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation The Papacy

Revelation 16

Seven Angels Pouring Vials of the Wrath of God upon the Earth by a British School Painter Influenced by William Blake --- Image by © Burstein Collection/CORBIS
Seven Angels Pouring Vials of the Wrath of God upon the Earth by a British School Painter Influenced by William Blake — Image by © Burstein Collection/CORBIS

Continuing on from chapter 15, where we saw seven angels given seven vials full of plagues of God’s wrath, in this chapter God commands the seven angels to go and pour out their vials of His wrath on the earth (v.1).  These vials, a final group of seven, result in a series of judgments upon the anti-Christ powers, the dragon, the beast, the image of the beast, the false prophet, and Babylon. These were seen to symbolise the world-power which found its embodiment in Rome, and then in its papal form. These suffer under the judgments of God.

Under the seven seals, old pagan Rome was judged and brought to an end. Under the seven trumpets, the Roman Empire in its new form was judged and its destruction symbolized. Hence, under the seven vials, we see symbolized a series of judgments, which weaken and destroy papal Rome; and, with the seventh vial, Babylon, the Great City, symbolising the Apostate Church, falls.

First Vial (v.2) – Poured out on the earth. Grievous sores (ulcers) afflict those who follow and worship the Papacy and have ‘the mark of the beast’.

The term ‘earth’ here as before symbolises people, and in particular the Roman world. The expression “the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image” refers to the supporters of the worldly power and spiritual claims of Rome. See v.13:14-18. Those who suffer are those who listen to the lamb-like dragon (v.13:11), the AntiChrist, the false spiritual power (v.13:14,15). An ulcer is not only a painful and dangerous sore, but is often malignant and foul with corruption. The term is often used to describe moral corruption, and the ulcers described may be moral or spiritual.

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Bible prophecy Book of Revelation The Papacy

Revelation 15

The overthrow of the great city Babylon was seen in chapter 14:8-10, but in chapters 15 and 16, the seven last plagues result in the judgment and wrath of God on the false Roman church system, the great whore. The chapter 14 gave us a summary largely of future events. Chapters 15 through 19 present those same events, but in more detail. These chapters (15-19) are all connected with the fall of spiritual Babylon.

The opening of the seventh seal (chapter 8) resulted in the triumph of Christianity over Roman Paganism. This was followed by seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11) which led to the overthrow of the western Roman Empire by the Goths, Vandals and Huns, and the ruin of the Eastern Empire by the Saracens and Turks. The seventh trumpet, the last trumpet, takes us to the close of secular history with the trump of the Archangel.

Seven Angels Pouring Vials of the Wrath of God upon the Earth by a British School Painter Influenced by William Blake --- Image by © Burstein Collection/CORBIS
Seven Angels Pouring Vials of the Wrath of God upon the Earth by a British School Painter Influenced by William Blake — Image by © Burstein Collection/CORBIS

The seven vials (chapters 15,16) also give the history of an epoch, and, like each of the series of seven, bring us to the end of that epoch. They present the series of calamities that first weaken and then destroy the power of Papal Rome.

Chapter 15 opens with “And I saw another great sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues” (v.1). That is 7 angels with 7 plagues which are to be poured on the earth by use of 7 vials, but they don’t come out until verse 6.