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Readings in Christian Theology, Vol. 3

Readings in Christian Theology, Vol. 3

by Rick Shrader

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It was in 1994 when I read two and one half of this three-volume set, edited by Millard Erickson. Now in 2020 I picked up the third volume and finished it. This third volume has three parts to it: New Life in individual experience, in collective expression, and in future extension. It was the third part I hadn’t read. This is basically a collection of articles on eschatology. I especially enjoyed J.O. Buswell on the question of eschatology, Wm. Shedd on the intermediate state, E.Y. Mullins on last things, C.S Lewis on heaven, and John Walvoord on dispensational premillennialism. I didn’t enjoy Harry Emerson Fosdick on changing categories. The three volume set is worth reading, but try to do it in fewer than 30 years.

 

Entrance Into The Kingdom

Entrance Into The Kingdom

by Rick Shrader

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Robert Govett (1813-1901) was a British theologian and pastor of an independent church, Surrey Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk, England.  This book is a reprint by Schoettle Publishing Company in 1978, first written in 1853.  Schoettle seems to be a recent publisher that prints books about the millennial kingdom.  Some noteable authors are Philip Mauro, George N.H. Peters, Author Pink, and Earl Radmacher.  They print all of Govett’s books that are available.  I had never read Govett before but I was interested in this title.  I was not pleasantly surprised.  Govett had a broad partial rapture view.  I say broad because he held that although we are born again by grace alone (even eternally elected), yet we must work as Christians for rewards.  Okay so far.  Govett, however, taught that without good works the believer will miss the first resurrection and not be in the millennial kingdom.  He was so pointed in this view that he believed that refusing believer’s immersion or ignoring the Lord’s table would cause one to miss the kingdom (not heaven, but the kingdom).  He admitted that even Wesley and Whitefield we such ones (p. 215).  The bulk of the book is taken up with explaining how those whom the Bible says will miss the kingdom are actually believers, not unbelievers, who are living carnally not spiritually.  Interesting but very unorthodox, especially for a fellow premillennialist.

 

A Big Wall with a Beautiful Gate

A Big Wall with a Beautiful Gate

by Rick Shrader

(On the final day of the month.  Reading the last chapters of Revelation.)  In the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22, God describes the final country (or city if you will) that is to be built.  A city “foursquare.”  A city that would be about half the size of the continental United States where the saints of God will live throughout eternity.  A country really.   “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country” (Heb. 11:14).  This country of God’s will have a wall around it.  “A great wall and high, and had twelve gates” (21:12).  The city is for the saints, i.e., believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who now are alive eternally in the presence of God.  “The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it” (21:24).  Interestingly, “The gates of it shall not be shut at all by day” (21:25).  And yet, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they that are witten in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).  His final country has a permanent wall; though it has welcoming gates, only those who have previously applied for citizenship are allowed to enter and all others are forbidden.  We know that God is righteous and holy in all His doings.  Therefore it is obviously a righteous thing for Him to have a city (country) that has a wall and gates, but also to have a definite requirement for becoming a citizen.  You must come the correct way or the righteous and holy God will not allow you to enter.  That requirement is faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior from your sins.  Come to Him today.  He refuses no one who comes the proper way.

 

The Kingdom in History and Prophecy

The Kingdom in History and Prophecy

by Rick Shrader

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Another book relating to theological reading this year is this 1915 book by the well-known founder and President of Dallas Seminary and forwarded by C.I. Scofield.  My copy is a 1967 reprint though I also have a Kindle copy.  I have been interested in the subject of the kingdom of God since my introduction to the subject by Alva J. McClain’s Greatness of the Kingdom in my seminary days.  In an age in which there is a lot of Christian writing about a multitude of topics related to current culture, it seems refreshing to read a 100 year old book on Bible doctrine that doesn’t try to avoid offending or boring the reader.  If you like Bible doctrine, especially prophetic doctrine, you will like this book.

At the close on my favorite chapter, “The Call of the Bridegroom,” Chafer writes, “If the pastor is mourning over the cold, unspiritual condition of his church, let him consider the warm, glowing love and devoted service that has always accompanied the right understanding of this ‘blessed hope.’  If the church is given to carelessness and worldliness, let him recall that for this there has been provided the ‘purifying hope.’  As under-shepherds shall we not go down on our faces before God and there question whether we have been giving these dependent ones their ‘meat in due season’?”

 

 

Dispensationalism Before Darby

Dispensationalism Before Darby

by Rick Shrader

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The title of this book  invites you to read it.  The common complaint about dispensationalism is that it began 150 years ago with John Nelson Darby.  Watson gives abundant historical fact to the contrary.  William Watson is Professor of History at Colorado Christian University.  He received his B.A. in History from California State Polytechnic University, his M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in British history from the University of California, Riverside.  He is well qualified to speak on this issue.

The book is filled with original source material.  Watson explains, “The method I followed in this work was to spend four years studying only primary sources before reading the historians and theologians.  This was made possible by using the search engines of Early English Books Online (EEBO) and the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (EST/ECCO).  Only later did I check my conclusions with that of other writers, historians, and theologians” (p. vii-viii).  Also, “It is my intent to show that the ideas of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism (known at the time as Restorationism) existed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, long before John Nelson Darby who is considered the father of modern dispensationalism and Theodore Herzl (the father of modern Zionism) articulated them.  The ideas espoused by Darby were present in earlier British theology dating to English Puritanism long before Darby set them within a framework that subsequently arose as a system in the 1800s” (p. 2).  In addition, “In the late eighteenth century, more than a generation before Darby, belief in a rapture of the Church before a great tribulation was commonplace in Britain.  The belief was held not only by Baptists like Killingsworth but also by leading Anglicans like Hort, Broughton, and Hardy, and even by Scottish Presbyterians like Fraser” (p. 262).

Watson’s documentation of the original writings is thorough enough to become tedious.  At the end of many chapters are charts including names, subjects, and dates showing premillennialism, rapture doctrine, and dispensational teaching long before Darby.  “Very little of what John Nelson Darby wrote in the 19th century was new” (p. 339).

 

 

Cross, Creation and also Prophecy

Cross, Creation and also Prophecy

by Rick Shrader

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There are three great mountain peaks of importance in Biblical history.  First and foremost is Calvary.  The cross is the center of all God’s workings with this world.  If the believer could say with Paul, “I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), he would know the most important fact of all history.  A second fact of history is creation.  It is amazing how many times God confirms His Word or His attributes with references to creation.  He did this with Job (chapters 38 & 39); the Psalms are filled with them (e.g. 19 & 104); as are the prophets (see Isa. 40); and the New Testament continues the pattern (Acts 14:17; 17:24-34; Rom. 1:20; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11 and many more).  A third fact of history is prophecy.  And this fact is the one most neglected at this present time.

Although I love to learn about creation especially with reference to evolution, and I know how important understanding creation is to a firm belief in God’s Word, I also believe that a firm grasp of prophetic events is essential today especially if, as I surely believe, we are living in the last days.  Noel Smith, one of my professors in Bible College, always challenged the freshmen students to get an early and firm grasp on Genesis chapter one because this would serve them well throughout their coming ministry.  This advice has been substantiated throughout our lives.  But I would also say that if a young man would fully study the Bema Seat of Christ and live in the light of what will happen there, it will serve him even better in his ministry.

Within my lifetime the interest in prophecy has decreased substantially among the churches.  The Bible conferences of the early twentieth century were primarily prophetic conferences.  Bible Colleges, Study Bibles, prophetic books with color charts all encouraged a young generation to look for future things and evangelize in light of them.  But we seem to have lost interest, or at least the interest has been overshadowed by other things.  Yet this is what the Bible predicts will happen in the end times (2 Peter 3:3-4; 1 Thes. 5:3; Matt. 24:12; 1 Tim. 4:1 and 2 Tim. 3:1-5).  Even creation, as important as it is, is the past, whereas prophecy is yet to happen.  Creation is history to us, but prophetic things may well be contemporary to us and our children.  There is no more profound statement in Scripture than Matt. 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, nor,  ever shall be.  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.”  Do we really believe the Lord’s statement is true?  If so, how could anything be more urgent than understanding and preparing for that?  The world will not be destroyed again with water, but it will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:6-7) and our generation may be the very one to suffer in that time.

The following are seven reasons why we need to revive prophetic preaching in our day.

Time:  the greatest obstacle

One thing is certainly true about the second coming of Christ, it is nearer than it has ever been before.  Peter explained (2 Pet. 3) that the scoffers in the last days will argue that it has been a long time since creation and all things continue as they always have been, and therefore we need not worry about the future.  Peter answers that time is nothing with God (“one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day”) and, in fact, the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night.

It is true that some of the prophetic preaching of a generation ago was too sensational and even included some date setting, predictions and so forth.  But I can’t help but think how God’s people were encouraged by looking at the current world situation and realizing that the stage could be set for prophetic things to begin.  Well if the stage was set then, how much more today?  I don’t think the good preachers of yesterday could have imagined how the world could have gotten worse, or how the world could be more ready for the coming of Christ, but it is.  Yet, tragically, there is less preaching on the coming of Christ, not more.

Imminency:  the greatest urgency

To pretribultionists the return of Jesus Christ in the air (the rapture) can happen at any moment.  “Other things may happen before the imminent event, but nothing else must take place before it happens.  If something else must take place before an event can happen, that event is not imminent. . . By an imminent event we mean one which is certain to occur at some time, uncertain at what time.”1  John said, “the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3).  Peter said, “But the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7).  James was most descriptive when he said, “Behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Jas. 5:9).  Our Judge is at the door, we should “all rise” at attention.

Since Jesus may come at any moment, the truth of tribulation passages becomes very urgent.  No one can read Revelation chapters 4-19 and desire to be in that wrathful time nor want anyone else to be.  When Jude tells us to look “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21), he also tells us “of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (22-23).  This imminency demands attention to evangelism.

Rapture:  the greatest cataclysm

The study of Biblical history, including creation, is a study of the great cataclysms that have shaken and changed the world:  creation out of nothing; the fall into sin; the universal flood; the tower of Babel; the resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the last remaking of the universe when the elements will melt with a fervent heat and there will be a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:12-13).  But consider the rapture among these great events.  For those alive when it happens, it will be the most cataclysmic event since the universal flood of Noah’s day!

Every time I read 1 Thessalonians and come to 4:13-18, I slow down and think to myself what effect this will have upon the whole world.  The dead in Christ stand up, then all the living saints join them in the clouds to meet the Lord there!  We are talking millions of resurrected and millions of living saints ripped from this earth, from loved ones and from neighbors, and being totally gone.  Do we really believe such a thing will happen and in fact might happen at any moment?

To the believer this is a mixed emotion.  It is “the blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13) of the church for which we are to “look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:21).  Yet, we know it will be a cut off time for many, “for when they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them” (1 Thes. 5:3), “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:12).  This is the next great cataclysm in world history.

Tribulation:  the greatest judgment

To the question of why God doesn’t seem to do anything about the violence and suffering, the hatred and war, the murder and immorality, the answer is that He is longsuffering.  Peter tells us that this longsuffering is for the sake of those who are headed for perishing (2 Pet. 3:9).  The coming tribulation period is a time of awful judgment for the world’s sins committed throughout this age of grace.  It is also a time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) when God will bring the last judgment upon His own people for their rejection of their Messiah Jesus Christ, and for their reception of the false Messiah, antichrist.

When the seals are opened, a fourth of the living are killed with sword, hunger, and death (Rev. 6:8).  When the trumpets sound, a third of life in the sea, and “many men” die (Rev. 8:9-11).  When the vials are poured out it is for the “wrath of God” (Rev. 16:1) and by this “was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone (Rev. 9:18).  Paul says that it “is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you . . . In flaming fire taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:6-8).  It will end at Armageddon when Jesus will “tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15).

We must warn people of this coming tribulation as we warn people of hell itself.  We are the watchmen on the wall who see the evil coming.  Jesus said, “the tribes of the earth will mourn” (Matt. 24:30) and John said, “all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7).

Armor:  the greatest witness

When Peter writes of the destruction of the present earth, he says that we must therefore be a holy people “in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:11-12).  Now is not the time for worldliness in our personal lives or our methodology.  This is a time for holy armor.   Paul will repeat this need many times, “wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13); “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12); “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation . . . By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Cor. 6:2, 7); “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thes. 5:8).

It is because we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against  principalities and powers who are Satan’s emissaries in high places (Eph. 6:12) that we must have this armor on.  Paul reminded Timothy that, “in the latter days some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 3:1).  Satan is organized and has a doctrine that he uses against believers, especially those who have on the armor.  When Paul was in Ephesus the demon said to the Jewish exorcist, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).  We should ask ourselves, do the demons know me?  Am I enough of a risk to their plans that I make any difference?

Evangelism:  the greatest motivation

I mean by this that prophecy furnishes us with the greatest motivation to evangelize, and I have already made this point in various ways.  Consider hell itself.  None of us can really fathom the eternal nature of a lake of fire which is real, hot, and long (see Rev. 14:10-11).  I must say that if I understand anything about it at all, I would not wish that eternity on anyone, not even my worst enemy or the most evil person in the world: not on Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein.  Paul said, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3).  These were the people who tried to kill him, who hated him for his change of religion, who taught him that it was a service to God to kill Christians.  It perhaps was, that when Paul was taken up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12), he also caught a glimpse of the reality of an eternal hell, and it formulated his whole evangelistic point of view.

But even more than that, human beings are image-bearers of the eternal God.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  If God loves the vilest of sinners and was willing to die for his soul, who am I not to care about his salvation?  Prophecy clearly informs us of the sinner’s terrible destiny.  I realize also that Satan hates the sinner and wishes his damnation.  It is through Satan’s lies that the sinner will not believe or be delivered from the wrath to come.  “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Cor. 4:4); “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26); and perhaps worst of all, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:11-12).  Could it be true, that refusing the gospel now will greatly hinder a person’s reception of the gospel in that time of tribulation?

Hope:  the greatest cleansing

The rapture is “the blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13).  Christ in us is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  “We are saved by hope” (Rom. 8:24).  The apostle John said of prophecy and hope, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).  Prophetic studies and the expectancy of the return of Christ are the greatest motivators to our progressive sanctification.

David wrote, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, in thy likeness” (Psa. 17:15).  Paul said, “we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).  “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Some might say that living godly because we might be caught in  sin when Jesus appears is an improper motivation.  But is it?  Isn’t that part of the reason for the Bema Seat?  “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9-10).  We know that we will not be judged for the guilt of our sin.  That judgment took place on the cross, and praise God for that!  But the reward or loss of reward is based on how we run the race.  Sanctification is progressive for the believer, and we should want to be progressing not digressing when He appears.

And So . . . .

I had more thoughts than these.  The apostles constantly preached the kingdom of God as our future reward and as the culmination of God’s progressive program.  The New Jerusalem as the Father’s House prepared for us outshines anything we have known on this earth.  And perhaps greatest of all, we shall see Him face to face, Who loved us and gave Himself for us.  Amazing love! How can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me?

A few days ago I heard a recorded message of old J. Vernon McGee preaching on the second coming of Christ.  McGee died in 1988 but he, though dead, yet speaks.  I couldn’t help but think how his older manner and his southern drawl probably turns off most listeners today.  I could only wish that my own voice would have a portion of the influence that his rusty old voice still has.  Especially twenty eight years after I’m gone!  They also said of the apostle Paul, “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:10).  We are not here to tickle the ears of our generation but to be, like Noah, preachers of righteousness in the face of coming disaster.  May God help us to be such in these latter days.

Notes:

Renald Showers, Maranatha Our Lord Come! (Bellmawr, NJ:  Friends of Israel, 2013) 127.

 

Of Antichrist and His Ruin

Of Antichrist and His Ruin

by Rick Shrader

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We may not think anything of John Bunyan other than his wonderful Pilgrim’s Progress and even with that we would be miles ahead of those who don’t know him.  Yet I have found that his other books open a door to Bunyan that I did not know even from reading his great allegory.  Bunyan was a respected speaker and writer of his time.  His books show a depth of thinking and a careful use of Scripture very typical of dissenting believers in those days.  His book Advice to Sufferers is the best I’ve ever read on the subject of Christian trials.  However, when it comes to prophetic things Bunyan was not necessarily in our pretribulational, premillennial camp, those categories not being too familiar in his day.  In speaking of the antichrist Bunyan typically makes the Roman Church the embodiment of him.  Bunyan speaks of the antichrist as having body, soul, and spirit.  His spirit and soul always dwell in the world of lost men, the devil himself empowering the spirit.  But the body of antichrist is seen primarily in the Catholic Church, the great evil of his day.  “Take things therefore more distinctly, thus:  The antichristians’ spirit, is the heaven of antichristians; their sun, moon and stars, are their superstitious ordinances; their earth is the body of flesh of Antichrist, otherwise called the church and synagogue of Satan.”  Further on he writes, “For as concerning his masses, prayers for the dead, images, pilgrimages, monkish vows, sinful priests, though when the spirit of Antichrist was in them, they did bear some sway in the world; yet now, of what esteem are they?  Or who has reverence for them? . . . . As therefore the burning fiery furnace, and the den of lions, were the support of the horrible religion of the Babylonians of old; so popish edicts are the support of the religion of Antichrist now.”  Interestingly, Bunyan saw God destroying antichrist by providences throughout history, even in the way the English Church displaced the Catholic Church.  He writes, “As the noble king, king Henry VIII did cast down the antichristian worship; so he cast down the laws that held it up: so also did the good king Edward his son.  The brave queen, queen Elizabeth also, the sister to king Edward, hath left of things of this nature, to her lasting fame behind her.  And if one such law of Antichrist hath escaped the hand of one, another hath taken it, and done that execution on it that their zeal and piety prompted them.”  And interesting but surely lacking view of the destruction of antichrist.

 

 

 

Will The Antichrist Be Muslim?

Will The Antichrist Be Muslim?

by Rick Shrader

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One of the difficulties for Christians in apologetics is that they have to know a lot about many religions and cults, but the religions and cults only have to know about Christianity. The growing threat from Islam reminds the Christian of this very thing. That is why I was glad to receive a book exposing Islamic beliefs (and deceptions) and read it with great interest. It is a 2009 book, The Islamic Antichrist by Joel Richardson.

Richardson’s purpose, however, is not simply to inform believers regarding Islam, but to propose that the coming antichrist will actually be a Muslim called the Madhi, the messianic figure of Islam, and that his empire will not be western but eastern. Although I would recommend the book to become better informed about Islam, I could not agree with Richardson’s thesis about the antichrist. First, I will try to explain his reasoning, which at times can be confusing, and then will explain why I am not convinced of his proposition. While giving good information about Islam, Richardson’s understanding of prophecy seems shaded by it and therefore sees Islam behind every prophetic bush. I will allow his own words to inform us about Islam, and then I will take time to respond to his view on an Islamic antichrist.

Richardson seems to do a thorough job of explaining, quoting, and footnoting sources from Islam. He takes time to give some history of Muhammad and the writing of the Qurʹan (which Muslims believe is inspired) pointing out how Muhammad himself didn’t know what happened to him and even believed he might have been demon possessed (chapt. 11, “The Dark Nature of Muhammad’s Revelations”). Besides the words of Muhammad in the Qurʹan, Muslims have the Sunna, a record of sayings, customs, teachings, and examples from Muhammad. These are equally important to Muslims. The Sunna contains two types of sources: the Hadith literature is the collection of oral sayings of the prophet handed down over the years. The Sirat literature is basically biographical (chapt. 2, “The Sacred Texts of Islam”).

Other interesting chapters of the book are “The Mahdi: Islam’s Awaited Messiah;” “Islam’s Ancient hatred for the Jews;” “Islam and the Goal of World Domination;” “Understanding Dishonesty and Deceit in Islam;” and “The Great Apostasy, Terror, and Islam’s Conversion Rates.” All of these give good information regarding the real nature of Islam. Richardson shows how lying and deception are virtues in Islam if it helps the cause of Jihad or promotes Islam or even if it protects Muslims from harm or embarrassment. He also believes that America is accepting the lie that Islam is basically peaceful rather than understanding that all Muslims are obligated to participate in world-wide domination, whether it is by repopulation of enemy countries, or fighting under the black flags of Jihad and beheading infidels.

Richardson quotes Mawlana Sayid Abul Ala Mawdudi, an Islamic scholar writing,

Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in a better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.1

Richardson then quotes Aduallah al-Araby, in his book The Islamization of America, describing an interfaith meeting where an Islamic cleric said, “Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.”2

Will the antichrist be Islamic?

I will try to explain Joel Richardson’s view that the antichrist is not a westerner, as is widely believed among conservative prophetic scholars, but is a Muslim and that his ten nation coalition described in the Bible is made up of Islamic nations, not European.

First, however, Richardson writes, “Among the Major Signs, the most anticipated and central sign that Muslims await is the coming of a man known as ‘the Mahdi.’ In Arabic, al-Mahdi means ‘the Guided One.’ He is also sometimes referred to by Shiʹa Muslims as Sahib Al-Zaman or Al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, which translated mean ‘the Lord of the Age’ and ‘the Awaited Savior.’”3 Richardson also says,

Throughout the Islamic world today there is a call for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. The caliph (khalifa) in Islam may be viewed somewhat as the Pope of the Muslims. Muslims view the caliph as the vice regent for Allah on the earth. It is important to understand that when Muslims call for the restoration of the caliphate, it is ultimately the Mahdi that they call for, for the Mahdi is the awaited final caliph of Islam. Muslims everywhere will be obligated to follow the Mahdi.4

Jihad is the conflict that leads up to the coming of the Mahdi (p. 25). Faithful Muslims must begin that war so that Mahdi will return, ending the conflict by final domination of the entire world. These faithful Muslims will carry black flags with the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger” (p. 26). Mahdi will plant a white flag in Jerusalem when the destruction of Israel and the domination of the world is complete (p. 27).

Muslims see Jesus as a prophet but not as their messiah or Mahdi(Muslims do not believe Jesus died on the cross, but lived and was taken to heaven at a later time). They believe he will return in the last time and convince the world that Islam is the true religion and turn Christians to Islam (chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).

These facts about Islamic eschatology are fascinating and important in order to understand Islam (the author adds more details as well). Richardson, however, because these beliefs are so universal in a universal religion, believes that this Mahdi and this Muslim Jesus will actually be fulfilled in the Biblical antichrist and false prophet. That is, the Biblical antichrist will portray himself as the Muslim Mahdi and the whole Islamic world will follow him. Richardson also believes that the Biblical false prophet (of Rev. 13) will pretend to be the Muslim version of Jesus who will support the Mahdi and also cause the Muslim world to follow this deception (chapt. 5, “Comparing the Biblical Antichrist and the Mahdi,” and chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).

To support his conclusions, Richardson spends time explaining Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38 & 39 as the antichrist and his confederates. (chapt. 10-”The Revived Islamic Empire of the Antichrist”). Having posited that, he describes the nations in Ezekiel 38 as Islamic nations—which, of course, they are. He doesn’t entertain the view (at least not here) that the battle of Gog & Magog happens before the battle of Armageddon. He does say,

Prophecy teachers and Bible scholars have different opinions regarding the identification of Gog and his coalition of nations. The majority position for the past few decades, however, has been that the invading army of nations described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not the army of the Antichrist, but another army led by another world leader. I personally reject the idea that Gog is anyone other than the Antichrist.5

To support this claim Richardson uses the reference to Gog & Magog in Revelation 20:8 after the millennium to try to say that antichrist couldn’t be in both places a thousand years apart. But, of course, that would also be a problem for his view as well. Also in support of his view, Richardson claims that after the Roman empire ended, the fifth kingdom is the Ottoman Empire which makes up the ten nation confederation of the antichrist. He rejects the idea of a “Revived Roman Empire” or of a European ten nation confederation.

He warns that we should not read our current situation into the Scripture as, he thinks, the past generation has done (which, of course, he is obviously doing).

No, the antichrist will be western

As I have said, I am not convinced of Richardson’s view, novel though it may be, and must stick with the majority view on this. Here are my reasons why.

  1. 10 toes, 10 horns. When Daniel sees the great image in chapter two, the legs are of iron which is the Roman Empire (to which even Richardson agrees). The ten toes (2:40-44) are mixed with iron and clay because they are attached to the legs of iron. Also, in chapter seven, Daniel sees the four beasts, the fourth of which is the Roman Empire described as a terrible beast having ten horns. The ten horns are on the Roman beast. The little horn who is the antichrist comes up out of these ten horns (7:19-25). This is much more a picture of a revived Roman Empire than a middle-eastern Islamic Empire.
  2. The people of the prince. In the great prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks (Dan. 9:24-27), the antichrist will sign a covenant with Israel which he will later break (vs. 27). Before this, Daniel depicts the destruction of Jerusalem by saying, “and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (vs. 26). The Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD. Here the antichrist is called the prince that shall come and his people are those that destroyed the temple. They were (and will be) Romans.
  3. King of the north. Daniel 11:36-39 is one of the most graphic descriptions of the antichrist and his hatred for Israel. In vss. 40-45 a king of the north is described coming into the land to fight against him. The antichrist destroys this northern king (whom most see as Gog and Magog) and then becomes the victor.
  4. The God of his fathers. Daniel 11:37 says that the antichrist will not “regard the God of his fathers.” This has been traditionally taken to mean that the antichrist is Jewish. Though some have doubted that this is clear from the verse, Rolland McCune writes, “Racially or ethnically, it appears that the Antichrist is Jewish. Daniel notes that he will have no regard for the ‘[elohim] of his fathers’ (Dan 11:17). If this is taken in its Old Testament sense of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of Israel—then this would indicate that the Antichrist has a Jewish background.”6 If this is the case, an Islamic Mahdi doesn’t fit Daniel’s description of the antichrist.
  5. Gog & Magog. The nations of Ezekiel 38 & 39 are definitely Islamic. Richardson criticizes older writers for seeing this as Russia, Moscow, etc., due to name similarity, a view which has been corrected many times by men of my view. Interestingly he quotes Matthew Henry and Josephus as examples, showing how far back the old view goes. At any rate, no one argues with the fact that the nations following Gog are from the middle east and above. But there is no evidence that Gog is antichrist. That is pure conjecture. This is the king of the north, and is defeated long before the antichrist is defeated at Armageddon.
  6. The harlot of Rev. 17. John describes a harlot riding upon a beast (who is the antichrist). The beast has 10 horns (his ten nation confederation). These 10 nations “receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (vs. 12). For the first three and a half years the antichrist and his confederates use the woman and then discard her. For the second three and a half years a new religion is established with the beast, the false prophet, the image, and the 666. Many have believed that this harlot is the Roman church, not that the antichrist himself is the Pope or the Catholic Church personified. This religious system that deceives the world is this Roman-based Church which the antichrist uses to come to power. In such a case, the ten nations and the beast upon which she is riding extend wherever she extends, which means that the antichrist’s western confederation exists wherever this western Church exists (many would say all of Europe, as well as North and South America).7
  7. Antichrist, not AntiMahdi. I think an important point to make is that the apostle John gives us the title of “antichrist” in his first epistle (2:18). The antichrist will pretend to be Christ. I know that “anti” can mean “against” as well as “instead of.” The point is that he will be a false Christ. Even Jesus warned that “many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5). But an Islamic antichrist would not say this. In Richardson’s view the false prophet is the one who would say that he is Jesus Christ.
  8. Premillennial writers. This point would not come first, but it should be mentioned. Many prophetic writers have held to the common view that the antichrist is western and that the ten nation confederation is western. Many of these writers wrote long before world powers were aligned in any specific way. In his historic work, Things To Come (1958), J. Dwight Pentecost, in dealing with the antichrist and his ten nation confederation, quotes from these men holding the same view: Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, Edward Dennett, Arno C. Gaebelein, Sir Robert Anderson, S. P. Tregelles, William Kelley, Harry A. Ironside, G. N. H. Peters, E.J. Young, Walter Scott, Roy Aldrich, and F. C. Jennings. Again, this would not matter against plain Biblical teaching, but it is a strong testimony that many men who believe in a literal interpretation of the Scripture hold to a western antichrist and confederation.
  9. Historical naiveté.   Richardson himself says, “In America, we are infamously America-centric. As American Christians we read into the Bible our own American experience.”8 Also, “We must not read our assumptions or modern events into Scripture. We must allow Scripture to speak for itself.”9 Yet when commenting on Jesus’ words that those who kill you will think they do God a service, Richardson says, “Islam, however, fits Jesus’ prophecy perfectly.”10 So he is doing this very thing. It is always tempting to see the fulfillment of prophecy in our own circumstances though other circumstances in history probably fit much better than our own. I think if I had been a German Christian in the 1930s I would surely have thought Hitler was the antichrist, and maybe Himmler the false prophet. But it wasn’t so. Sure, we have thought that Russia would be the king of the north, and maybe it still will be. But we will not know until it happens. That’s what makes the second coming of Christ imminent.

And So . . .

I will say again how much I profited from Richardson’s knowledge of Islam and his careful documentation of its beliefs. His view on an Islamic antichrist is his view, and maybe that of many others. I think he is reading too much into the Scriptures that describe the antichrist. He may not be looking for the rapture but I am. And when the church is gone and the end time events begin, we will be praising God for His sovereign working of His mighty plan, and we will rejoice when we see it happen. Maybe that will be in our life-time with events as we now know them and maybe not. It could be a hundred years from now with totally different events. But either way, the church will always say with John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

 

Notes:

  1. Joel Richardson, The Islamic Antichrist (Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009) p. 144.
  2. Ibid. p. 145.
  3. Ibid. p. 21.
  4. Ibid. p. 24.
  5. Ibid. p. 83.

6.Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology, vol. III (Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010) 373.

  1. See McCune, p. 374, and also J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 324.
  2. Richardson, p. 190.
  3. Ibid. p. 86.
  4. Ibid. p. 192.

 

 

 

 

The Islamic Antichrist

The Islamic Antichrist

by Rick Shrader

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Joel Richardson has a mixed background and reputation in prophetic circles. This 2009 book has created a lot of interest because it is Richardson’s thesis that the antichrist is Islamic, not “Christian.” (See my article in this issue for a refutation of that view) In trying to look up Richardson’s background and connections I found that he has often appeared with and written for Glenn Beck, even claiming that God has given him divine revelation concerning his Scriptural insight. Some have claimed that this is not his real name but a pen name for matters of security. He evidently holds a mid or pre-wrath view of the rapture. In the book he often describes Christians in the tribulation (p. 180, 184). He has written for and with Walid Shoebat who appears on conservative news channels as an Islamic expert. However, Shoebat has his own problems, professing to be a former terrorist, which was questioned by the Jerusalem Post (3/30/08) and others.

While this book does give a lot of good information concerning Islam and its beliefs, Richardson’s main thesis is that we have not understood the prophecies of the antichrist correctly. He believes that the antichrist will actually be the Islamic Mahdi (the Muslim Messiah) and that the false prophet will turn out to be a man claiming to be the Muslim Jesus—a man who denounces Christianity and turns the world to Islam. Richardson believes that the ten nation federation of the antichrist is identical with the Islamic nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 and therefore there will be no “Revived Roman Empire” but rather a “Revived Islamic Empire.” Richardson is so convinced of Islam’s advances in the last few years that he sees no other alternative than to believe that Islam will shortly rule the world through the (false) Mahdi.

Though I learned a lot of interesting facts and details about Islam, I have to recommend this book with caution due to Richardson’s unseemly connections and especially his claim to revelation.

 

 

The Coming Battle of Gog & Magog

The Coming Battle of Gog & Magog

by Rick Shrader

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Recently I overheard someone talk about the good old days of prophecy conferences when we used to fear Russia and communism. Aren’t we even closer to the Lord’s return today than we were back then? I have often said myself how those preachers from a generation ago could not have conceived a world like we live in today. Israel, as a nation, has never been in such dire straits as it is today; never has east and west been at such tension as it is today; never has there been the real possibility of total annihilation of large cities and small countries; and, sadly, never has America’s strength in the world been doubted as it is today. The nations to the south, north, and east of Israel have never put forth the kind of pressure that is applied today and seldom with the same vitriol.

It also appears certain that a conflict of some kind is coming with those nations, especially to the north of Israel, because of their threat, not just to Israel, but to western nations as well. While we have learned (sometimes the hard way) not to be date setters or prognosticators of political circumstances, we have also learned not to reject prophecy because the circumstances don’t seem to work out the way we want. There are no “signs” of the rapture, and the tribulation will come upon the world as a thief who comes unexpected. But that should not keep us from preaching prophecy and expecting the Lord to come at any moment. Even the most conservative prophecy preachers knew that sometime the stage would be set for the scene to begin. Even if it doesn’t this time, it will sometime.

With the Islamic extremists spreading their terror around the world, and their obvious intention to wipe Israel off the map, and their boldness in attacking Christian-based countries, it seems we are headed for a world-wide conflict with Islamic terrorists. As I write, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has just died, and Yemen’s president Abd-rabbu Mansour Hadi has resigned. The absence of these two “friendly” leaders leaves Israel surrounded by even greater potential threats. There is no way of knowing in any definite way that such a conflict will be what the Bible predicts of the tribulation time and it would be foolish to preach it as such. Yet one of these times the stage will be set as God alone knows and wants, the rapture will occur, the antichristian king of the west will sign a treaty to protect Israel, and the tribulation will begin, and kings of the east, west, north, and south will begin making their moves on the chess board of the world.

These things will happen some day. If I lived in the 1930s I would surely have thought that this scenario was imminent. But it wasn’t. In the 1970s, every time Henry Kissinger (a German-born Jew representing western American interests) left for Israel, we pretribulationalists began getting ready for the rapture. But that wasn’t it either. And what we see today may or may not be the setting for the tribulation that only God knows and will cause to happen. We may go another hundred years. But then, it could happen now as I am writing or as you are reading. One thing is for sure, we’re closer to it now than we’ve ever been.

So let’s review one of those great prophecies of the tribulation period, not making any predictions, but simply realizing that one day these things will happen and, yes, it could be soon.

The overall picture

A time of tribulation is coming that will last seven years. This is the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27) and is divided into two halves of three and a half years each (see Rev. 11:1-3 for the designations of “forty two months,” and “a thoussand two hundred and threescore days,” in addition to “time, and times, and half a time” in 12:14). The tribulation officially begins when a treaty is signed by the antichrist with Israel (Dan. 9:27, called the “covenant with death” and “agreement with hell” in Isa. 28:18). The antichrist will rise to power during the first half of this time as the rider on the white horse of Rev. 6:2, going forth “conquering and to conquer.” In the middle of the tribulation he will break his treaty and desecrate the sacrifices in Jerusalem (2 Thes. 2:4). This is called “the abomination of desolation” by Jesus (Matt. 24:15, also Dan. 12:11). The second half of the tribulation (“great Tribulation,” Matt. 24:21) will bring great wrath upon those left alive.

The whole conflict will end at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Some emphasize the final conflict in the valley of Megiddo, and some emphasize a whole war lasting the entire three and a half years. Ryrie says, “Probably both emphases are valid, for there will be several battles encompassing more than just the local area of Megiddo that precede the final and climactic battle at Megiddo.”1 One of those battles is called “Gog and Magog” and is described in detail in Ezekiel 38 and 39. This is not the final battle often called the battle of Armageddon, but a previous battle that sets the stage for the final conflict.

The geographical participants

In the whole campaign of Armageddon there are essentially four main participants, five if you include the Lord from heaven Who is the final Victor after the last battle. These four earthly participants are easily designated as the kings of the east, west, north, and south. The kings of the east, who come late in the campaign, are described as a great hoard of 200 million (Rev. 16:12, 9:16). The kings of the south and north are mentioned by Daniel (11:40), not to be confused with the contemporaries of Daniel described in 11:5-35. The king of the west is the antichrist, the “prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:26) of Daniel’s vision, the one who breaks the covenant in the middle of the 70th week.

The battle of Gog and Magog concerns the king of the north and his invasion into the land of Israel early in the campaign. This king is described in Dan. 11:36-45 as “the king of the north;” in Isaiah 10:5, 30:31, and 31:8 as “the Assyrian;” in Joel 2:20 as “the northern army;” and in Ezek. 38:2 as “Gog, of the land of Magog” (NKJV). This battle will be the first major conflict affecting Israel in the tribulation, and, with the defeat of the northern king, will allow the king of the west to become the primary power in the war.

The time of the battle

There are varying views as to when the battle of Gog and Magog takes place. Some put the battle before the rapture so that it would be a current event even for the church; some put it in the millennium when Jesus returns to the earth; but most put it within the seven year tribulation. Of those, the two major views are that this battle is essentially Armageddon, or that it happens at or near the middle of the week and is the catalyst for the next three and a half year campaign. I think the latter is the preferred view.

That the battle of Gog and Magog takes place at the middle of the tribulation makes sense for a number of reasons. Daniel’s vision of this northern invasion in Dan. 11:40-45 is followed in 12:1, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to the same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” This defense of Israel by Michael is described again in Rev. 12:7 immediately following the mention of the 1260 days in verse 6. This places Michael’s action at the middle of the tribulation, and therefore, places Daniel’s northern invasion “at that time.”

Dwight Pentecost lists ten reasons why he believes the battle takes place at or near the middle of the tribulation.2 Included in these is that Israel is still dwelling in peace when the invasion takes place; that Satan is cast out of heaven at this time and leads the northern army against Israel; and that the defeat of the northern army allows the antichrist to turn against Israel, breaking the covenant and desecrating the temple sacrifices. In addition, the time it takes to clean up after this battle (7 years to burn the weaponry, and 7 months to bury the dead, Ezek. 38:8-16) fits this time better than at the end of the tribulation.

Gog and his allies

Ezekiel gives a list of allies who will participate with the king of the north in the invasion of Israel at the middle of the tribulation. First, Gog is described, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against them” (Ez. 38:2, NKJV). Here, we are told that Gog (most likely a title meaning chief or head) is the head over the lands of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Then in verses 5-6 we are given the names of five allies that join with Gog, “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you” (Ez. 38:5-6, NKJV)

There is considerable discussion over the identity of these places. This is important because these names may identify nations that exist today and are ready to participate in the destruction of Israel. Older prophetic writers (simply early or mid 20th century) commonly identified Rosh as Russia and Meshech and Tubal as cities of Russia (Moscow and Tobolsk).3   They quote Josephus, Jerome, and later Gesenius, as well as the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge as sources. Therefore, these identities cannot be dismissed out of hand. But more recent writers have questioned the connections, especially based on linguistic-sounding names. Others caution reading modern names into the text which, 2500 years ago, may not have known today’s nations at all. Even by 1969, Charles Feinberg wrote, “It is not worthy of the prophecy to make identifications merely on the basis of similarity of sounds. . . There have been many writers who connected the name Rosh with the Russians, but this is not generally accepted today.”4 I would say that such may be the case, but we must remember that God was not bound to time, and He wrote what would take place in our day or yet in our future, and we shouldn’t rule out such an eventual result. In addition, it is not really “reading into a text” to try to fit the prophecy with current events. There is nothing wrong with asking if the stage could be set for end-time events. That is not to say that this is absolutely what Ezekiel saw, but only that perhaps it could be what he saw.   The mention of the “far north” (38:6, 15, 39:2) also shows that Gog comes from a land, not just north of Israel, but far north. This leaves quite a wide berth of possible fulfillment as to the land of Magog.

The other five associates of Gog mentioned in verses five and six have also undergone much scrutiny. I would suggest Ryrie’s conclusion written in 1999, for the general identity of all the associates.

“The countries of that northern coalition are listed in Ezekiel 38:2-6; they include the territory of Magog, which will be ruled by Gog and was identified by Josephus as the land of the Scythians, the region north and northeast of the Black Sea and east of the Caspian Sea. Today, these are the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States including Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan and perhaps some of the smaller states of the commonwealth. Meshech and Tubal includes the area of modern Turkey. Persia is modern Iran; Ethiopia, northern Sudan; Put, Libya; Gomer, probably the eastern part of Turkey and Ukraine; Beth-togarmah, the part of Turkey near the Syrian border. Many, but not all of these nations, now have large Muslim populations.”5

What is important for us today is Ryrie’s last sentence. The radical Muslims today are surrounding Israel and would gladly join in such a confederation for this common cause. Renald Showers has also written, “It should be noted that the present government of Turkey is being threatened by Islamic fundamentalists. As a result, some leaders fear that Turkey could become another Iran. If that happens, then all the nations named in Ezekiel 38:5-6 will be characterized by a militant Islamic hatred of Israel.”6 Showers, writing in 1996, did not see the events of the last few years as Turkey has pulled away from western alliances and become more friendly toward the extremists.

Thus, if the rapture were to happen today, this battle of Gog and Magog would be a short three and a half years away. The lands described in Ezekiel easily describe the countries surrounding Israel and that have common cause for Israel’s destruction. Regardless of the ancient or modern names, the land never changes, and neither do God’s purposes.

The result of the battle

The invading armies from the north come into a land that is dwelling in “unwalled villages” and “at rest” and that “dwell safely” (38:11). This is because Israel is protected by the western king’s treaty. But Gog has had enough, and with her allies she believes she can plunder and destroy without intervention from the west. It is at this point that God miraculously intervenes. Ezekiel 38:18-23 describes the northern armies being destroyed on the mountains of Israel in such a way that the world takes notice and fears. Showers describes it,

“He will then actively intervene to destroy the massive invading force through a fierce earthquake, landslides, self-destructive panic, pestilence, excessive rain, great hailstones, and fire and brimstone (38:19-22). The destruction of the invading army will be so extensive that the mountains and open fields of Israel and a valley near the Dead Sea will be congested with corpses. God will bring fowl and beasts to eat many of them. It will take all the Jews seven months to bury the rest of the dead and seven years to destroy their weapons (39:3-5, 9-20). If this invasion takes place shortly before the middle of the Tribulation, then this destruction of weapons will continue into the early part of the Millennium.”7

In addition to God’s miraculous intervention to save His people Israel from human destruction, 38:21 says, “And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains.” Some believe this “sword” is God’s use of the antichrist, the western king, who also comes to defend his treaty. Once the king of the north is destroyed, however, the western king has no need of such a treaty and turns against Israel and rises to world dominance. This we know will be true of the antichrist.

And So . . .

A showdown is coming between the west and the Islamic terrorists countries surrounding Israel. The tension continues to build around the world as violent attacks against the west continue to escalate. The situation we see today may or may not be the precursor to the great battle of Gog and Magog that Ezekiel describes, but one day this scenario will happen. Nothing must take place for the rapture to occur, and if it were to happen today, these events would immediately begin to align as the tribulation would begin.

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

Notes:

  1. Charles Ryrie, “The Campaign of Armageddon,” Countdown to Armageddon, various contributors (Eugene: Harvest House, 1999) 198.
  2. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969) 350-355.
  3. See Pentecost, Things To Come, pp. 326-331; John Walvoord, The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967) 105-108; Leon J. Wood, The bible & Future Events (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973) 122.
  4. Charles L. Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969) 219-220.
  5. Ryrie, 199.
  6. Renald E. Showers, “Gog and Magog,” Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, Mal Couch, ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996) 124.
  7. Showers, 125.