30 ¶ And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Like most of us, the Jews were taught so many errors that they were unable to understand the truth when it was presented to them. Many Christians are blind to great Bible truths because they’ve been taught so many errors by preachers whose main concern was their work for Christ rather than Christ. Judge what you are told by the Bible, not the Bible by what you are told.
The Bible is simple in its organization. The Old Testament ends with Malachi with the prophets being after the books of history and law because now they are looking forward to Christ’s second coming. The gospels are a transition with the Old Testament in force until Christ is dead and risen. Acts is a transition which shows the changing history of the early church until all truth is revealed to them that they are going to get. It is the age of the Apostles and their personal power and miracles which God gave to them but which die out when the Bible is complete and together in the early second century. Then comes Romans through Philemon, the Church Age where the dispensation of grace is preeminent. Then comes the transition book of Hebrews and the General Epistles and Revelation which reveal doctrine in the Tribulation, the wrath to come.
Every verse applies to you doctrinally if it doesn’t contradict the Church Age letters’ clear statements. Every verse in the Bible can be applied to you practically but you must be careful not to be a Judaizer and attempt to put yourself and anyone else back under the Law. There are smaller divisions as well but 95% of the Bible is written to a Jew under the Law and/or in the Tribulation. Christians who claim to be the new Jew have a problem when Christ condemns them for saying they are Jews when they are not (Revelation 3:9). Then they adopt the rituals and priestly attire of the Hebrews and we’re off to the races with preachers calling themselves apostles and prophets and people killing people in the name of Christ. It would be laughable if it were not so tragic that Benny Hinn has never healed anyone and that Oral Roberts had to call the ambulance when a tent fell down on a meeting and injured dozens of people he should have been able to heal. Why aren’t these fakers going to a children’s hospital cancer ward if they are genuine?
Many verses do double duty. For instance, Hebrews 6:1-6 show doctrinally that in the Tribulation you can lose your salvation and, if you do, you can’t be saved again. It spiritually and practically applies to a Christian today in showing that you can’t get saved twice, once saved always saved.
I’d be very afraid if I was one of those people who believed that the whole Bible is the same and there are no dispensations or different doctrinal periods. Based on that, they believe they can lose their salvation. If that’s the case, then the verses in Hebrews show that once they do they are lost forever. Christ won’t be crucified again. Once again, if I was one of those, “it’s all the same” people, then I’d be very afraid if I questioned, because of their behavior, whether or not someone was actually saved, because ascribing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan is the unforgiveable sin and you would be doomed. (Mark 3:28-30).
So, be careful, those of you who insist that you have to twist verses to keep them from contradicting other verses and mock those who are called “dispensationalists”. My hearing shuts off as soon as I hear any preacher force the Bible to contradict itself to justify his own personal convictions.
The theology of the early Christians was premillennial, as in Christ would return to reign for 1,000 years literally, and they were awaiting and expecting his return.
“The apostles were apparently unanimous in believing that Christ would soon return to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Volume 3, Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944, 575.)
It was dispensational, as they knew that God had dealt differently with Adam than He had dealt with Noah and differently with Moses than He had dealt with David and on and on. The only common thread was that they had to believe God, believe what He said. They had a dispensational end-times belief, as well, with a translation of the church (popularly called “The Rapture” today) before a Great and terrible Tribulation.
Chiliasm, the early belief by the church fathers concerning the end times would produce statements by Shepard in 150, who refers to the church being saved from the tribulation to come, Victorinus in 240 referring to the rapture of the church, Cyprian in 250 referring to the rapture, and the most extensive work on millennialism by Ephraim the Syrian in the late 300’s in his work, On the Last Times.
I am including some quotes of the writings of early church leaders regarding the end times in the way they viewed them. I have used the website biblefacts.org and its online edition of writings of the early Christian church. First, specifically, in regard to the church being taken out of the way;
Shepard 150 AD
• The writer, after escaping a huge terrifying beast with four colors on its head (white, red, black and gold), met a virgin in his vision. "like a bride going froth from a bride-chamber, all in white...I recognized from the former visions that it was the church." the virgin explained that she escaped destruction from the beast (the Great Tribulation) because of God's special deliverance. "Thou hast escaped a great tribulation because thou hast believed and at the sight of such a huge beast hast not doubted. Go therefore and declare to the Elect of the Lord His mighty deeds and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation which is to come. If ye therefore prepare yourselves and with your whole heart turn to the Lord in repentance, then shall ye be able to escape it, if your heart is pure and blameless." After explaining to him that "the golden color stands for you who have escaped from this world," the virgin concluded her messages with, "Now ye know the symbol of the great tribulation to come. But if ye are willing, it shall be nothing."
• Commentary on the Apocalypse 6.14 - "'And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up.' For the heaven to be rolled way, that is, that the Church shall be taken away. "And the mountain and the islands were moved from their places." Mountains and islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid the persecution."
• Commentary on the Apocalypse 15.1 - "And I saw another great and wonderful sign, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is completed the indignation of God.' For the wrath of God always strikes the obstinate people with seven plagues, that is, perfectly, as it is said in Leviticus; and these shall be in the last time, when the Church shall have gone out of the midst."
Cyprian 250 AD
• Epistle 55 - The Antichrist is coming, but above him comes Christ also. The enemy goeth about and rageth, but immediately the Lord follows to avenge our suffering and our wounds. The adversary is enraged and threatens, but there is One who can deliver us from his hands." It is significant that he did not write about enduring the persecution of the Antichrist. Rather, Cyprian promised that Christ "is One who can deliver us from his hands."
• Cyprian Speaking of the immanency of the Rapture, he wrote, "Who would not crave to be changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ and to arrive more quickly to the dignity of heavenly glory." After telling his readers that the coming resurrection was the hope of the Christian, he points out that the Rapture should motivate us as we see the last days approaching. Cyprian says that "we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible." Referring to his hope of the approaching Rapture, he encouraged his readers as follows: "Do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an early departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent?" Cyprian concludes his comments on the translation of the saints with these words: "Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us hence, and sets us free from the snares of the world, and restores us to paradise and the kingdom" (Treatises of Cyprian - 21 to 26?).
Ephraim the Syrian 373 AD
• On The Last Times 2 - ...because all saints and the elect of the LORD are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and be taken to the LORD...
Now, with regard to their looking for a future fulfillment of prophecy as found in the apocalyptic books of the Bible; Papias 70-155
• Fragment 6 - After the resurrection of the dead, Jesus will personally reign for 1000 years. He was taught this by the apostle John himself.
Justin Martyr 110-165
• Dialogue 32 - The man of Sin, spoken of by Daniel, will rule two times and a half, before the second advent.
• Dialogue 110 - The man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us, the Christians.
Irenaeus 178 AD
• Against Heresies 4.26 - Daniel the prophet says "Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things."
• Against Heresies 5.25 - In 2 Thessalonians the falling away is an apostasy and there will be a literal rebuilt temple. In Matthew, 24 the "abomination spoken by Daniel" is the antichrist setting in the temple as if he were Christ. The abomination will start in the middle of Daniel's 70th week and last for a literal 3 years and six months. The little (11th) horn is the Antichrist.
• Against Heresies 5.26 - The Roman Empire will first be divided and then be dissolved. Ten kings will arise from what used to be the Roman empire. The Antichrist slays three of the kings and is then the eighth king among them. The kings will destroy Babylon then give the Babylonian kingdom to the beast and put the church to flight. After that they will be destroyed by the coming of the Lord. Daniel's horns are the same as the ten toes. The toes being part of iron and clay mean some will be active and strong while others weak and inactive and the kings will not agree with each other.
• Against Heresies 5.27 - In Matthew 24, the two men one taken and the other left does not refer to the rapture but second coming. They are taken to never ending fire.
• Against Heresies 5.30 - The Name of the Antichrist equals 666 if spelled out in Greek. Do not even try to find out the name until the ten kings arise. The Antichrist shall be from the tribe of Dan. That is why the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in the apocalypse. The fourth kingdom seen by Daniel is Rome. Titan is one Greek word that comes out to 666. The rebuilt temple will be in Jerusalem.
• Against Heresies 5.35 - The resurrection of the Just takes place after the destruction of the Antichrist and all nations under his rule. Many believers will make it through the tribulation and replenish the earth. In the resurrection we will have fellowship and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings. The new heavens and earth are created and then the new Jerusalem descends. These are all literal things, and Christians who allegorize them are immature Christians.
Tertullian 190-210 AD
• Marcion 3.25 - Millennial reign, resurrection, and the New Jerusalem are literal. In the resurrection we shall then be changed in a moment into the substance of angels
• Marcion 5.16 - The Anti-Christ will be a real man and set in a real temple.
• Treatise of the Soul 1.50 Enoch and Elias will come back to die. They are the two witnesses of Revelation.
Origen 230 AD
• Against Celsus 2:49 - Quotes Paul about the antichrist, as a literal person who works false miracles.
• Against Celsus 6:45 - There is a literal future Antichrist coming.
• Against Celsus 6:46 - The prophecies in 1 Thessalonians and Daniel are real prophesies about the end of the world. There will be a literal rebuilt Temple.
Commodianus: 240 AD
• 35 - Resurrection is at the end of the 6000 years.
• 41 - Antichrist notes
• 43 - End of the age
• 44 - The first resurrection. those who were not martyred under the antichrist will marry and have children during the 1000 years. no rains, snow, cold during the 1000yrs.
• 80 - Resurrection of the body will be when six thousand years are completed, and after the 1000 years when the world has come to an end.
Lactantius 285 AD
• Divine Institutes 7:14 – 6000yrs till millennium. (Some do not think Book 7 was really written by Lactantius.)
• Divine Institutes 7:16-17 – end times… very good…
• Divine Institutes 7:19 – 1st paragraph anti-Christ 4 battles??
• Divine Institutes 7:25 – 6000yrs, end of days is after the fall of Rome. The Sibyls agree.
• Divine Institutes 7:26 – After 100yrs (7000yrs) at battle of Gog the sun stands still for 3 days. Righteous hid in the mountains then come out, all evil is gone. No more nations. 7 years the woods are untouched. Burn arms of the nations.
• Epitome of Divine Institutes 71 – the last times: - very good…
• Epitome of Divine Institutes 72 – literal 1000yr reign.
• Fragment 8: And what am I to say with respect to men, when the very elements themselves will disown their order? There will be earthquakes in every city, and plagues in every country; and monstrous thunderings and frightful lightnings will burn up both houses and fields. Storms of winds will disturb both sea and land excessively; and there will be unfruitfulness on the earth, and a roaring in the sea, and an intolerable agitation on account of souls and the destruction of men. There will be signs in the sun, and signs in the moon, deflections in the stars, distresses of nations, intemperateness in the atmosphere, discharges of hail upon the face of the earth, winters of excessive severity, different frosts, inexorable scorching winds, unexpected thunderings, unlooked-for conflagrations; and in general, lamentation and mourning in the whole earth, without consolation. For, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." By reason of the agitation and confusion of all these, the Lord of the universe cries in the Gospel, saying, "Take heed that ye be not deceived; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet by and by." Let us observe the word of the Savior, how He always admonished us with a view to our security: "Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ."
Victorinus 240 AD
• Commentary on Revelation 2 - Allow fornication on a "pretext for Mercy," the name written on the white stone is "Christian" granting "unlawful peace" over new forms of Prophecy.
• Commentary on Revelation 4 - Rainbow above god's head is red and blue symbolize the judgments of water and fire. 24 elders are the 12 Apostles and 12 Patriarchs.
• Commentary on Revelation 6 - Heaven withdrawing like a scroll is the church taken away.
• Commentary on Revelation 7 - Angel ascending is Elijah. 7 angels (Shepards) are attack the antichrists kingdom. Babylon is the ruined Roman kingdom. Do not look to the order of Revelation, the vials and trumpets are the same events.
• Commentary on Revelation 11 - great wings given to the woman are the two prophets and those who help her.
• Commentary on Revelation 13 - 2nd beast is the false prophet.
Of course, modern Christians don’t know what God said. The modern fundamentalist believes in a Bible that never existed where all of the original manuscripts were located in one place in one Bible at one time, breathed out by God. (Wouldn’t that be “expiration” rather than inspiration?). Of course, translating theopneustos(?) as “God-breathed” is like saying you are going to watch a football game on your “far-off seeing” instead of your television. But, they’ve never seen the original manuscripts that are the only Bible they say were inspired by God and they don’t know anyone on earth who has either.
Like the Jew of Christ’s time the modern neo-evangelical or mainline Christian doesn’t know what’s happening to him or his world because either he’s a theological liberal and his faith and religious beliefs are based on his own imaginings and fantasies or he’s a conservative and he stands on a Bible that doesn’t now exist and never existed in history.