Eschatos Ministries is dedicated to teaching biblical prophecy from a futurist, premillennial, prewrath perspective.
A Proposal for (Future) Apostate Jerusalem’s Role in a Progressive Dispensational Eschatology: Another Look at Revelation 17–18
by J. Paul Tanner
Among the interpretative problems pertaining to the book of Revelation, the identification of the harlot, Babylon the great, in Revelation 17–18 stands as one of the most significant. Suggestions range from preterist views identifying Babylon as either first-century Jerusalem or Rome, the historicist view of Babylon as the Roman Catholic Church, idealist views, and numerous futurist views fulfilled in the Great Tribulation. The latter would include both symbolic views (e.g., ungodly civilization in opposition to God’s people) and literal views of a future city related to the Antichrist. Dispensational interpreters have upheld the futurist view, usually of a literal rebuilt city of Babylon or a combination of a religious system and a literal city (so Walvoord). In this paper, I hope to show that Babylon the great is apostate Jerusalem (and Judaism) in the time of the Great Tribulation, and that such a position is consistent with a progressive dispensational eschatology. In our Lord’s Olivet Discourse, Luke includes God’s judgment on apostate Jerusalem in A.D.70 (Lk 21:20-24), seemingly to prefigure a greater end-times judgment on Jerusalem inaugurated with the abomination of desolation. Jerusalem as the harlot, then, looks at that unsaved part of Israel that is duped into entering into league with the Antichrist, only to find herself betrayed in the final analysis and a victim of the Antichrist’s effort to annihilate Jerusalem. This paper has two objectives. The first is to present the evidence in support of the theory of Babylon the great as apostate Judaism in the Great Tribulation with its focal point being the city of Jerusalem. The second is to show how this interpretation sheds valuable light on other prophetic portions of Scripture, such as Dan9:27, the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24), and the man of lawlessness in 2 Thess 2.
h.t. Chris White
Last week pretribulational pastor Robert Jeffress delivered an opening prayer at the Jerusalem embassy dedication. In addition, pretribulational pastor John Hagee gave the closing benediction.
Many pretrib teachers are abuzz over the recent event of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. They believe they hear the prophetic furniture shuffle behind the curtain. And that may be the case.
But here is the problem:
They think they will be only spectators in the arena. Pretrib teachers and pretrib believers think they will be raptured at any moment, which will occur before the arrival of the Antichrist’s great tribulation. They are giddy to talk about biblical prophecy from afar. Ironically, they chatter and write profusely about the Antichrist and related Bible prophecy events, all along thinking in the back of their mind that they will escape the front-line persecution of the Antichrist.
They want current events to be fulfillments, preparing the way for the “tribulation period,” a time when they think they will be raptured just before that period, ensued by the slaughter of untold numbers of Jews by the Antichrist.
The Biblical reality is that both the Church and many non-Christian Jews will suffer at the hands of the Antichrist.
The Church will not be a spectator in heaven looking down on Antichrist’s bloody arena. Rather, the Church will be the target of Antichrist within the arena among the wild beasts.
The prewrather thinks differently than the pretribber. Biblical prophecy and current events are not taken lightly. We are not giddy, but sober, for we know that before the second coming, we will become participants in the great persecution of the Antichrist against the world-wide Church. We do not wish this to come upon us; but if it does, we embrace God’s holy decree and trust in his faithfulness no matter the cost.
Perhaps, pretrib teachers should best spend their time preparing their flocks to spiritually face the Antichrist’s great tribulation, than muse over current affairs in Jerusalem.
Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Pretrib Teacher.
Historicism is the eschatological position that says the thrust of prophecy in the Olivet Discourse and Revelation are fulfilled in the span of the church age. So for example, they would say that the great tribulation was not fulfilled in the first century, nor is it to be fulfilled in the future. Instead, it spans the entire church age (i.e. inter-advental). 4 Reasons Why the Great Tribulation Does NOT Span Over the Entire Church Age: A Reply to Historicism – Ep. 113
You may by surprised to learn that most evangelical scholars are not preterists or futurists—they are historicists. But many are a mixture of preterist-historicist.
There are at least four reasons why Historicism is not a valid interpretation.
For then there will be great tribulation unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. (Matt 24:22)
Pretribs think that “the last hour” in 1 John 2:18 implies an imminent rapture. I gave three reasons why it does not. Does ‘the Last Hour’ in 1 John 2:18 Support an Imminent Rapture? – Ep. 112
“Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)
In the immediate context, John is teaching his readers not to “love the world” by desiring its fleshy attachments (1 John 2:15–17). The state of the world prompts John to claim that it is the “last hour,” including the deceptive teaching that “denies that Jesus is the Messiah” (v. 22). This teaching crept in among the believers who John is writing to: “I have not written to you that you do not know the truth, but that you do know it, and that no lie is of the truth….These things I have written to you about those who are trying to deceive you” (1 John 2:21, 26).
Pretrib interpreters have claimed that 1 John 2:18 supports imminence. This is mistaken. It is another example, of many, that we have seen where pretrib interpreters read imminence into the biblical text. We are told that John’s statement “it is the last hour” means that the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church. How exactly they come to this conclusion from the text itself is not possible. They do, however, come to this conclusion based on flawed presuppositions.
They assume that “last hour” excludes the period when the Antichrist arrives. This is fallacious for three reasons. First, nowhere in this passage, nor anywhere in the Bible, does the expression “last hour” indicate that the coming Antichrist is excluded. The pretrib interpreter must assume this.
Second, for the sake of the argument let’s assume this is true, that it does mean the period before the Antichrist. A salient problem remains for them—it does not follow that the rapture will happen before the Antichrist. They have to assume this as well to maintain imminence, injecting the notion that the rapture happens before the Antichrist arrives. This assumption is found in the mind of the pretrib interpreter, but not found in the biblical text.
Third, it is ironic that they cite this verse as supporting imminence, since it indicates the opposite. John states that his readers have already witnessed many antichrists: “so now many antichrists have appeared…they went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.” John defines “antichrist” as “the person who denies the Father and the Son” (v. 22). In the same breath, John has indicated that his readers should expect to see the future Antichrist: “that the antichrist is coming.” There is no exegetical basis to affirm that the church witnesses the former, but will not witness the latter. John never suggests that the church will witness past and present antichrists, but they will not witness the future Antichrist. This inconsistency by the pretrib interpreter is unwarranted. And John does not suggest at all to his readers that they should expect to be raptured before the coming Antichrist. John simply notes the coming of the Antichrist as matter-of-fact. It would make John’s teaching unintelligible and irrelevant for his readers to read it otherwise.
In conclusion, by applying the pretrib’s own definition of imminence to 1 John 2:19—no prophesied events will intervene before the rapture of the church—this proof text does not pass muster as support for imminence.
I want to comment on this recent article by Dr. Mike Stallard who is the Director of International Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
This article above is from the recent January/February 2018 issue of Israel My Glory, which is an arm of the ministry The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
“Prewrath Rapture. Proponents of this position, a modified midtribulational view, believe the Rapture will occur sometime during the last half of the Tribulation”
I appreciate that Stallard did not define it by stating prewrath believes the rapture occurs “3/4th into the tribulation period.” Many pretrib teachers wrongly state this. He uses the accurate description of prewrath: “the Rapture will occur sometime during the last half of the Tribulation.” But here he uses the term “the tribulation,” which is a loaded pretrib term suggesting that this seven-year period is some monochromatic event, all characterized by God’s wrath. Prewrath believes that the Antichrist’s great tribulation begins at the midpoint and at some unknown period during the second half Jesus returns to rapture and resurrect his people; then on that same day the Day of the Lord’s wrath begins to be poured out on this world for the remaining part of the seven-year period.
I would also take issue with his statement, “a modified midtribulation view.” It is not. If anything prewrath is more “modified postrib” since it shares affinities with posttrib. The midtrib view is much more similar to pretrib, especially on the key issue of whether the Church will face the Antichrist. Pretrib and midtrib both believe they will be raptured before the Antichrist’s persecution.
“The pretrib and posttrib views are the most prominent among premillennialists.
This is true, but he fails to mention that prewrath is the fastest growing among all the views, with many pretrib, midtrib, and post-trib believers leaving their positions and affirming prewrath.
“If we assume the prewrath position, the seal judgments would precede the Day of the Lord. These judgments include war (second seal; Rev. 6:4) and seriously unsafe conditions. So this view also fails to handle the “peace and safety” statement.”
Not at all. Stallard does not address the prewrath response to this objection. Recently I did an episode on this very objection on The Biblical Prophecy Program.
I would like to propose an idea to Dr. Stallard. Let’s have a written debate in Israel My Glory between prewrath and pretrib. I actually think that your readers would appreciate this and benefit from this theological interaction. It would allow them to hear the other side from a prewrath exponent. And I am willing to post the entire written debate at my site here, so my prewrath readers can hear the other side as well. Shall we?
Since the comment section of Thomas Kidd’s blog does not work, I will post my comments to his blog article here (his blog article is linked below).
Thank you for your article. If I may, I would like to point out a fundamental flaw in your reasoning without being verbose.
I believe you are linguistically stacking the deck by framing the issue around selective evidence (i.e. the word-concept fallacy).
Christians have been talking about “the Antichrist” from the very beginning because they interpreted Scripture as teaching a future Antichrist personal figure that would persecute the last generation of the church. This is shown in the first Christian document outside of the New Testament, The Didache:
“And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and will perform signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before” (16:4, my emphasis).
I could cite many more like this in early Christianity, who clearly teach both a future and a personal, individual Antichrist figure; e.g.:
“For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule” (5Iren 35:1).
Now, you may claim that the first example above does not use the phrase “the Antichrist”; but then you would be committing the word-concept fallacy, confusing word with the concept. See James Barr’s The Semantics of Biblical Language (ch. 8).
In other words, you are suggesting in your conclusion that Christians did not talk about the concept of a personal eschatological Antichrist figure because the term The Antichrist was not used in most of church history (which is not true in the first place), while at the same time you are limiting your evidence to a single term.
Typically the word-concept fallacy is discussed in biblical texts. But per your argument you can find it in church history. Just another example, Michael Kruger points out when liberal scholars try to argue for a late date of the canon, they focus on the single term “canon,” appealing to the fact that the term “was not used to refer to a list of Christian Scriptures until the fourth century or later” (The Question of Canon, p. 28).
You also assume that in English the lack of an article means that it is not referring to a definite person. My book is titled Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord and yet there is no article in my title, not to mention in the book itself I talk about the Antichrist numerous times without using an article. In the history of the English language, anarthrous ellipsis has been so incredibly common, among other languages as well.
In summary, I believe your analysis and intended conclusion is skewed by excluding important evidence, and thus confusing word with concept.
The notion of the Antichrist is not some recent “dispy” teaching, nor was it some idiosyncratic concept in the corners of church history. The notion of a personal, future, Antichrist figure was the pervasive teaching of our Lord (personified in “the abomination of desolation”), Paul (“man of lawlessness”), John (“Beast”), a host of other terms in the OT, and pervasive in the early church writers.
So to answer your question: “But why do historians routinely assume that sources like this must mean ‘the’ antichrist, even to the point of putting ‘the’ in corrective brackets?”
Perhaps they do this because that was the concept that people were aware of.
In this episode I addressed another prophecy that undermines pretribulational imminence doctrine.
Now when they are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would.(1 Thess 5:3–4)
In this passage the apostle Paul teaches that the thief-like return of the Lord will result in sudden destruction for the ungodly. He summarizes the perception of unbelievers when they will exclaim “peace and security.” During the Antichrist’s great tribulation, the world will experience peace and security for those who are loyal to him. Hence, Paul prophesies that the world will be saying, “There is peace and security” before Jesus returns to mete out his day of the Lord’s wrath upon the wicked. The world will be oblivious to the impending wrath, uttering this slogan before the day of the Lord occurs. Accordingly, this event will happen before the rapture, because the rapture and the day of the Lord’s wrath are back-to-back events; consequently, the prophesy of the world proclaiming “peace and security” renders imminence invalid. Therefore, this is just another prophesied event in a long series of intervening events that will happen before the rapture—rendering the pretrib teaching of imminence contradictory in light of this biblical evidence.
I want to make a couple more comments on this passage. The peace and safety will be illusory, a false security for unbelievers, because eventually unforeseen calamity will come upon them just as unexpected labor pains come upon a pregnant woman (cf. Matt 24:37–39). Paul’s analogy of labor pains is drawn from a day-of-the-Lord passage in Isaiah.
Wail, for the Lord’s day of judgment is near; it comes with all the destructive power of the sovereign judge. For this reason all hands hang limp, every human heart loses its courage. They panic—cramps and pain seize hold of them like those of a woman who is straining to give birth. They look at one another in astonishment; their faces are flushed red. Look, the Lord’s day of judgment is coming; it is a day of cruelty and savage, raging anger, destroying the earth and annihilating its sinners. Indeed the stars in the sky and their constellations no longer give out their light; the sun is darkened as soon as it rises, and the moon does not shine. (Isa 13:6–10; see also Isa 26:17–21)
We should be careful not to confuse Paul’s use of the birth pangs analogy with Jesus’ purpose in using the same phrasing in the Olivet Discourse (“All these things are the beginning of birth pains,” Matt 24:8). Paul uses the phrase in a completely different application. Jesus applies the birth pangs metaphor to particular events before the Antichrist’s great tribulation, while Paul applies it to the situation of the onset of the day of the Lord’s wrath after the great tribulation.
Next, since destruction will come suddenly like labor pangs, Paul says the ungodly “will surely not escape.” Here we see a parallel with Luke, who also uses this “escape” language in the same context as the Lord’s return.
But be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness [cf. 1 Thess 5:6–8] and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth [cf. 1 Thess 5:2–4]. But stay alert at all times [cf. 1 Thess 5:6], praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must happen [cf. 1 Thess 5:3, 8], and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34–36)
Furthering the parallel, Luke’s “escape” language is found in the context of the celestial disturbances as well (21:25–28). This parallel is strengthened when we consider that both the celestial disturbances and this same “escape” language are found during the sixth seal as the ungodly seek to escape the inescapable (Rev 6:12–17).
One further mention should be Isaiah 26:17–21, which references both “birth pangs” and uses “escape” language, followed by a depiction of the resurrection of God’s people escaping from his wrath:
As when a pregnant woman gets ready to deliver and strains and cries out because of her labor pains, so were we because of you, O Lord. We were pregnant, we strained, we gave birth, as it were, to wind. We cannot produce deliverance on the earth; people to populate the world are not born. Your dead will come back to life; your corpses will rise up. Wake up and shout joyfully, you who live in the ground! For you will grow like plants drenched with the morning dew, and the earth will bring forth its dead spirits. Go, my people! Enter your inner rooms! Close your doors behind you! Hide for a little while, until his angry judgment is over! For look, the LORD is coming out of the place where he lives, to punish the sin of those who live on the earth. The earth will display the blood shed on it; it will no longer cover up its slain. (cf. Isa 13:6–10; Joel 2:30–32; Amos 9:1ff)
Returning to Paul’s passage, his reassurance to the Thessalonians implies that they were anxious that they might not escape the day of the Lord. To reassure them, Paul contrasts the ungodly, who will not escape because Christ is coming back as a thief for them, with believers who are obedient-vigilant and “not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would.” Incidentally, this reassuring promise undermines the pretribulational notion that Jesus is secretly coming back as a thief for his church. The metaphor of darkness refers to being apart from Christ and opposed to God. Conversely, not being in darkness refers to the morality of a child of God; thus by their nature, believers should be spiritually vigilant and prepared.
In summary, my main point in this passage is to highlight that the church will be here to witness the ungodly exclaiming that they are experiencing peace and safety. This prophecy that Paul mentions undermines imminence because it will happen before, not after, the rapture.
 Some pretrib teachers have objected that this prophecy contradicts prewrath because they ask why would the world be saying “peace and security” during the day of the Lord’s wrath. Not only is this objection a misrepresentation of prewrath but it also misrepresents Paul’s explicit words. Paul is not saying that they will be saying “peace and security” during the day of the Lord. They will be saying this before the day of the Lord’s wrath happens. Or more specifically, Paul is teaching that they will be saying this “when they are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them.” They will be oblivious to the coming judgment of God. This is consistent with Jesus’s teaching on the same topic when he invokes the Noahic illustration when the generation of Noah was oblivious to the coming flood judgment (Matt 24:37–39). Paul’s prophecy of what the wicked will be saying makes sense in a prewrath framework. In the first half of the seven-year period, there will be wars and major disasters. It will be a chaotic time in the world at large. This is why Jesus cautions believers that it is the beginning of birth pangs, and that we are to “make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matt 24:6). The unrevealed Antichrist during the first half will be positioning himself politically to become a world major power. During this time, there will be no sense of peace and security. Only until the Antichrist is revealed at the midpoint and into the second half will the world under the Antichrist bring stability (see Rev 13). Thus, it makes sense that the world will be saying “peace and security” during the Antichrist’s great tribulation before God’s eschatological. To be sure, this peace and security is a facade, a delusion from giving allegiance to the Antichrist. They do not realize that their so-called “peace and security” will be, as Paul teaches, divinely interrupted with the day of the Lord’s wrath.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14).
The Great Commission is also linked to another event mentioned in the Olivet Discourse: the preaching of the gospel mentioned in Matt 24:14. This link is significant for the same reason as the link with the beginning of birth pangs. It demonstrates that the church will experience the eschatological prophetic fulfillment of the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. The church will not be raptured until this prophesied event happens.
So here we have another explicit prophecy that must happen before the end: the gospel being preached “throughout the whole inhabited earth.” Since Jesus taught in the Great Commission that the church will be on earth up the end of the age, they will witness the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel. Five words demonstrate this point: “then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). The church will not be removed until this prophecy is fulfilled. It is simply another prophetic event that undermines an any-moment return of Jesus.
On a related noted, having established that the church will be present on earth up to the end of the age in verse 14, notice in verse 15 Jesus says, “Therefore [oun] when you see…” The interpreter should not miss that Jesus has the same audience in view after verse 14. In verse 15, Jesus begins to describe the Antichrist’s great tribulation in more detail. There is no justification to claim that the referent “you” in verse 15 and afterwards is different from the “you” before verse 14. In other words, the disciples, who represent the new community of God (i.e. the church), are the consistent audience of Jesus’ entire discourse. In short, since the “you” before verse 15 represents the church, there is no reason—except for theological bias—that it represents anyone differently in verse 15 and afterwards.
At a recent pretrib Bible prophecy conference, Andy Woods relied on the flawed research of H. Wayne House’s Greek statements, and worse, Woods used it with fallacious reasoning to attempt to argue that the “apostasy” Paul mentions in 2 Thess 2:3 refers to the rapture. I exposed this deeply groundless way of interpreting Scripture by pointing out one-by-one his word-study fallacies.
Listen to my critique of this favorite pretrib argument!
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the apostasy [apostasia] comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” (2 Thess 2:3)
“He also caused everyone (small and great, rich and poor, free and slave) to obtain a mark on their right hand [χειρὸς] or on their forehead [μέτωπον]” (Revelation 13:16 NET)
Why will the Antichrist use both the hand and the forehead for his evil-intentioned use in his mark and image system? At this time the reason is speculation. Perhaps those two regions on the human body are most natural and conducive to implement such a technology to identify his subjects. Incidentally, why the right hand? Perhaps it will streamline the identifying process, where scanning for both hands may be inefficient.
As many of you are aware, this past week Apple announced their FaceID for the upcoming iPhone X, which is a tool for facial recognition in identifying individuals so they can unlock their phones for use. Their current phone already uses finger print technology.
I find this interesting, not because I think the Antichrist will use the iPhone or even the technology behind it. I find it interesting because Apple has chosen the two bodily regions (finger and face) that relate to the two bodily regions that the Antichrist will use (hand and forehead).
In short, there is something about those two regions (or parts of those same regions) that are natural for physical recognition of the individual. In other words, why not a big toe and an ear?
Apple’s direction in using these two physical regions may anticipate the mark system that Antichrist will use.
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