I have been reading your book Daniel : a prophet to the nations and I found it to be very educational. However, I sent a part of the book about premillenialism to a premillenialist. I thought it would be proper to get a response to some of the questions you raised and that I would like answered. The part of the book I sent was the chapter ” Daniel and Premillenialism” I felt he answered some of your questions. I will attach his short answer to you below. My question is: are these responses to some of your points in your chapter either misinformed, misconstrued, or a reasonable response on his part to continue being a premillenialist?
“Dr. Oakes has a right to believe what he wants. But he should be careful not to stand too strongly on positions that are contrary to what the apostles believed and taught. We know what the apostles believed. Those who were taught by the apostles have told us. Papias, the bishop at Hieropolis (across the valley from Colossae (see Colossians 4:13)), taught premillennialism. The reason why Papias is important is that he was a contemporary of John the Apostle, the person who wrote Revelation. Papias personally knew John and had been taught by John. Papias was premillennial (Ireneus, Against Heresies, Bk. 4, ch. 33, section 4). Justin Martyr, another early to mid-2nd century church leader, taught premillennialism. And there is a third witness to what the apostles taught. Polycarp was the bishop at Smyrna, one of the churches Jesus addresses in the book of Revelation. Polycarp was a personal friend of John the Apostle, the one who wrote the book of Revelation. Polycarp’s church was one of only two churches which Jesus praised without any criticism (Revelation 2:8-11). Polycarp had a disciple, named Ireneus, who grew up under the tutelage of Polycarp and was sent out by the Smyrna church to join a work the Smyrna church had begun in order to reach the Gauls in present day France. Ireneus tells us that those who heard John teach relayed that John told them Jesus taught premillennialism (Against Hereisies, Bk. 4, ch. 33, section 3). Ireneus also taught that the Antichrist would reign for 3 years and 6 months and sit in the temple at Jerusalem (Against Heresies, Bk. 4, ch. 30, section 4). When Ireneus wrote this, there was no temple and there was no Jerusalem. The Romans in the Bar Koppa rebellion in 134-137 A.D. wiped Jerusalem off of the map. But Ireneus wrote that the Lord would come and send the Antichrist to the lake of fire and bring in the times of the kingdom for 1000 years. So I would just encourage anyone not to state too emphatically that premillennialism is wrong. They may just find that they are the ones who are wrong. I further note that Dr. Oakes, in reading through Daniel, does not address the very language Daniel employs. He seems to scoff at premillennialist who see a gap of uncertain time period in Daniel 9:26. But God told Daniel that there would be 70 periods of 7 on this earth. Dr. Oakes appears to agree with premillennialists that we could understand these periods of 7 as periods of 7 years. Thus, both Dr. Oakes and premillennialist teach, based on Daniel 9, that there would be 483 years until the coming of the Messiah. But Dr. Oakes apparently believes that the 70th week (the last period of 7 years) follows immediately after the 69th week. This, in fact, is unsupported by Daniel. Daniel tells us that after the 69th week (that is after the 7th week and the 62nd week), three events would occur (Daniel 9:26). Daniel has each of these events happening after the 69th week and before the 70th week (compare Daniel 9:26 with Daniel 9:27). If an event happens after the 69th week and before the 70th week, then there must be a gap between the 69th and 70th week. We cannot simply read away Daniel’s language. If Daniel had meant to say that the Messiah would be cut off during the 70th week, he would have said so, as he plainly states that in the midst of the last week the abominations that makes desolate would occur. But though Daniel links the abomination that makes desolate to the 70th week, he makes no such linkage for the cutting off of the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem, or the destruction of the temple. Rather, he states that these three events would occur after the 69th week. I am not sure how Daniel could make it any more plain that there would be a period of time after the 69th week and before the 70th week. We also know from history that there would be a gap. Daniel tells us that after the 69th week, the first event would be that the Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26). The second event is that Jerusalem would be destroyed. The third event is that the sanctuary would be destroyed (Daniel 9:27). Even if we were to take the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. as a fulfillment of Daniel 9:26, 70 A.D. is more than 7 years after 33 A.D., when the Messiah was cut off. Thus, even Dr. Oakes would have to accept a gap of some time. But, upon a close reading of Daniel 9:26, not only was the temple to be destroyed, but also the city would be destroyed. Jerusalem was not destroyed in 70 A.D. One has only to read history to understand that the Jews continued to live in Jerusalem after 70 A.D. In fact, Titus had no desire to destroy the city in 70 A.D., although he did destroy the sanctuary. However, in 136 A.D., the city was destroyed. You can look up on the internet the Bar Koppa rebellion and read about the destruction of Jerusalem then. The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy concerning the city in Daniel 9:26 did not happen until 136 A.D. This is over 100 years after the Messiah was cut off. And yet, Jesus said that not one stone would be left on top of another. This, to this date has not happened. The great stones around the temple still stand today. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where Jews regularly gather to pray, is one of the very walls of the temple mount that was present in Jesus’s day. But Jesus said that the day would come that one stone would not remain on top of another (Matthew 24:2). We also know from Jesus’ teaching that there would be a gap in Daniel’s chronology. Jesus, in Matthew 24, told his disciples about the signs of the end times. He said there would be wars and rumors of wars, nations would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. He said there would be earthquakes, pestilence, and famines. He said that the gospel would be preached to all the world, and then the end would come. You can go back and read history. There were no notable wars between nations and kingdoms between 33 A.D. and 70 A.D., although there were some relatively minor internal wars. There were no notable earthquakes between 33 A.D. and 70 A.D. There were some small earthquakes around Pompeii and one larger one in 62 A.D. But certainly this was not a notable time for earthquakes. Jesus next links the end times with Daniel 9:27, by stating that when the abomination that makes desolate is seen in the temple, then those in Jerusalem should flee. He states that the days following the abomination of desolation would be the worse tribulation that the world had ever or would ever see. Such simply cannot be true of 70 A.D. The Holocaust was worse for the Jews than the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., with far more Jews being systematically persecuted and destroyed than ever happened in 70 A.D. The Bar Koppa rebellion and aftermath in 136 A.D. was far worse for the Jews than 70 A.D. Further, for the church, there has been far greater persecution than occurred in 70 A.D. The Armenian genocide of 100 years ago was a far worse persecution. The destruction under the Muslim Tamerlane was far worse in terms of total deaths, cruelty, and inhumanity. And for those in the world at large, Stalin killed far more people than died in 70 A.D., as did Mao in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and many other despots. Yet, Jesus tells us that the tribulation that follows the abomination of desolation will be the absolute worst the world ever would see. Unless we are to conclude that words do not mean what they say, either Jesus is a liar or 70 A.D. is not the event Jesus references in Matthew 24. There is a tribulation still coming that will be the worst the world has ever seen. Jesus links this tribulation to the abomination that causes desolate spoken by Daniel the prophet, who told us that this would happen in the midst of the final week. Thus, there is a significant gap in Christ’s view. So, in answer to your question, since the 70th week has not yet happened, Daniel’s prophesies are not yet all fulfilled. Some are still in the future. And stating this does nothing to diminish the glory of God. I do not even understand how someone can say that a hidden coming of Christ (which is apparently what Dr. Oakes argues) is somehow
more glorious than an open and revealed coming of Christ that premillennialist believe. 2 Thessalonians 1 seems to argue to the contrary in stating that the open and revealed coming of Christ is in fact the glorious one. The fact that Christ reigns in His church today is glorious, but it is nothing like the glory that will be revealed when He comes. Read 1 Peter 1 some time. Again, I repeat. Dr. Oakes is free to believe whatever he desires. And he is free to push or teach what he thinks to be right. Nor do I believe Dr. Oakes to be a heretic simply because he disagrees with the view of the apostles as recorded by those who heard them. But I believe the burden of proof is on him to explain why he thinks that the apostles and the early church were wrong in their understanding of the return of Christ. I believe in premillennialism because I believe that is what the Bible teaches. John tells us in Revelation 20 that Jesus will reign on this earth for 1000 years. Further, the Old Testament prophets consistently prophesy a time of future blessing for Israel on this very earth in the very land given to their fathers. The fact that the earliest church also believed in premillennialism tells me that they read the Bible the same way I and many others do. “
Editor’s note: Now we are returning to comments from the original questioner.
On a side note, I do believe that your position on end times doctrine to be very reasonable. Probably the most reasonable. But for instance, when I read Psalms 2: 2 and when God speaks about ” His annonted” I know as a christian that David is speaking about Jesus Christ but also I can see why the jews would think David is writing about David. (And in other similar verses as well in Psalms). The historic Jews, being the most expert in scripture and linguistics, seemed to have the “most reasonable” position so much so that they missed out on the messiah’s first coming! That is why I fear using a reasonable position sometimes when it comes to scripture though I still gravitate towards it. You mentioned it is not an essential doctrine and I agree that it is not to our salvation. But I don’t want to miss the signs of his second coming! So while you seem to want to dismiss Israel’s current situation as fulfilling prophecy( from what I understand) I can’t help but think (perhaps against reason) that Isreal’s reinstatement after 2000 years and the current crisis with the middle east for the past 60 years must mean something prophetically. Also with the fact that God still has a convenant /love with israel as a nation (romans 11:1-2, 11 or 144,000 Jews.
In my appendix I am very careful to explain what I am arguing against. The view I argue against is, as stated in the book: “The premillenialists hold to the belief that the kingdom of God did not come at Pentecost. They believe that the kingdom of God will be ushered in at some date in the future. According to this doctrine, the arrival of the kingdom of God will herald a literal 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ in the literal city of Jerusalem.” In the next sentence, I add that most premillenialists believe in a seven year “rapture” which will culminate in a great battle at the end of time called Armageddon.”
It is the thesis of my appendix that this belief is not biblical and that it is not taught in Daniel or anywhere else in the Bible. I do not deny everything your friend is espousing. I do not know exactly what the second coming of Jesus will be like. However, your friend does literally nothing to refute the thesis I state above in his comments. Certainly, Irenaeus and others did NOT teach that the Kingdom of God had not yet begun. Certainly, Irenaeus and Justin did NOT teach that Jesus would reign in a physical kingdom in Jerusalem for 1000 years. Neither did Papias or Polycarp. Neither believed in the physical return of Jesus to reign in physical Jerusalem. Certainly Jesus did NOT teach that there will be a rapture of seven years or that he will come back to reign on a physical throne in Jerusalem. There is no evidence that any of the apostles or any of the early church fathers believed in these things.
I do not have a major problem with any of the points your friend makes. He says that some of the early church fathers had apocalyptic views about the antichrist. I agree that they did have these views, but it is not this view which I seek do undermine in my appendix. It is the false teaching about the Kingdom of God which I seek to disprove, and your friend did not even address this question.
I do not deny the possibility that some events happening in the Middle East today might possibly be, in some sense, a fulfillment of some prophecy which I do not yet understand. What I say is that we should be extremely cautious about speculatively interpreting current events as fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel when we know that all of his visions have a clear fulfillment in the past (with the exception, of course, of Daniel 12). I do not know the exact nature of the end times, and feel it would be presumptuous of me to say that I do. I have no reason to differ with your friend on many of the points he makes, but he does literally nothing to disprove the major point I make in the appendix.
In my book, I argue that the 70th week has been fulfilled. Both Jesus and Daniel prophesy the events of AD 70 with remarkable accuracy. I do not care to debate how bad 70AD vs 136 AD vs the Armenian genocide or anything else was. Clearly Daniel 9 and Matthew 24 are apocalyptic language. The moon did not turn red and the stars did not fall from the sky when Peter gave his sermon in Acts 2. I do not deny that that Matthew 24 may also have future implications. I do not deny that Daniel 9 may also have future implications. I will agree that my understanding that the 70 weeks are completely fulfilled in every possible way might not be completely true. We (and I am included in the we) should be humble and not make too strong claims about future fullfillment of particular prophecies. What I deny is that Jesus will return to live in a physical body on a physical throne to lead a revived Jewish state at the end of time. I deny that the Bible or Daniel specifically predicts a seven year “rapture” of the believers, leaving behind the mass of unbelievers. This is not prophesied in the scripture, it was not taught in the early church and it is disproved by Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God.
About the gap, your friend has clearly not read my book on Daniel 9. He should read it, as he has no idea what I say about Daniel 9 which, of course, is not his fault because he does not have my book! He will find that he and I agree substantially about Daniel 9. There is a “gap,”, but the gap is 40 years, and the 70th week is very clearly fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. So, it is not fair to your friend to make him argue against a view of mine which he has not even been exposed to. If he reads my material on Daniel 9 he will see that we are in essential agreement (except on the length of the gap).
So, I stand by my basic thesis, which is that the description of premillenialism, as stated above, is not biblical. It is especially wrong because it involves a basic misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. I believe that your friend has yet to show the existence of this belief in the early church or in the Bible.
[This spiritual man] shall also judge the vain speeches of the perverse Gnostics, by showing that they are the disciples of Simon Magus.