False Beliefs about the End Times (Part 2)

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In part one of this two-part series, I discussed two beliefs (with a bonus view) about the end times that I feel are false: the belief in a secret Rapture, wherein believers are stolen away from the earth prior to the period of Tribulation, and the view that there will be a literal thousand-year reign—called the “Millennial Reign”—upon Christ’s return. When closely examined, the Bible does not support either of these notions.

Instead, Scripture consistently reveals that the Second Coming will completely and emphatically mark the end of our current age. The dead will be judged, the forces of evil will be destroyed, believers will be given their new “spiritual bodies,” and God will establish the new heavens and a new earth. As C.S. Lewis famously said: “When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.”

Here in part two, I want to discuss three views that are closely related but are inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture. Nevertheless, these beliefs are still held by many Christians who are interested in eschatological matters (those things pertaining to the “last things” that will occur in our world). The three views are as follows:

  • The belief that the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a critical part of the end time prophecies
  • The belief that a third temple must be built in Jerusalem before Christ can return
  • The belief that there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity in the last days

Since all three views are related to how the current nation of Israel is connected to the end times, they are obviously closely connected to one another.

Before going on, I strongly encourage you to read my earlier article called “Is Israel God’s Chosen Nation?” It specifically addresses how we can view the overall place that the modern-day nation of Israel (again, modern-day) holds in God’s Kingdom. The information presented may be difficult for many to cope with, but it is equally difficult to refute.

With that said, let’s get to evaluating the three beliefs at hand.

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Unlike part one, I am going to first describe the three beliefs of this article and then corporately evaluate them. Again, the reason why I am taking this approach is that the views are so closely related—even though they are technically distinct—that rebuking them individually will inevitably lead to much redundancy. It simply makes better sense to evaluate them simultaneously.

The first belief is extremely prominent among Christian Zionists[1] from all denominations and backgrounds. For many, the establishment of a new State of Israel in 1948 was a tell-tale sign that the last days are at hand.

John Hagee is well-known for putting forth this view. Over the last 20 years or so, one can scarcely count the number of times that Hagee has championed Israel as being the linchpin of God’s final plans for the world. For a clear example, he said this concerning the city of Jerusalem:

“God has made that (Jerusalem) His habitation. And He is going to set up his throne there. And He is going to rule the world from there, with a rod of iron for a thousand years . . . Jerusalem is the place that God calls home.”

Notice that Hagee also incorporated the view that Christ will reign in Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. I covered this in part one and, yes, this belief is also in serious doubt (putting it mildly). It is worth mentioning that Hagee—in the same sermon referenced above—went so far as to say that he had instructed Donald Trump that, if he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he would “step into political immortality.” Well, we all know how that prophecy turned out . . .

Moving on, perhaps another contributing factor is that Revelation 20 describes the forces of evil encircling the “camp of God.” The biggest problem here is that much of this chapter seems most logically to be a metaphorical description of things. I described in part one that the “thousand years” certainly fits this mold, as does the very language of “beast,” “dragon,” and “false prophet”; all three symbolically stand for something else (a global empire, Satan, and a corrupt religious system). With that said, taking the description about enemies surrounding the “camp of God” to literally pertain to the current State of Israel is several steps too far.

But I will withhold further comments until I later assess the three beliefs.

The second belief is that, after Israel is “restored,” a third temple must be built for Jesus to return. The foundations of this view are almost exclusively derived from the Old Testament, in texts like Amos 9:11, Isaiah 2:2-3 and, as I mention momentarily, the Book of Daniel. The pastoral team at Endtime Ministries have said: “The Bible prophesies, in many places, that a Third Temple will be built in the near future.” They say “the near future” because they feel that the Lord’s return will be soon, a point I agree on (though for different reasons).

Like the “secret Rapture” theology, third temple theology is largely the product of the dispensationalist movement. As an example, consider Simon Downing’s words in his book, World Empire and the Return of Jesus Christ:

“Dispensationalism also accommodates into its teaching the belief that the Jews must rebuild their Temple” . . . “The building of the ‘Third Temple’ is therefore at the heart of Dispensationalism; even though it recognizes that the Beast will desecrate it before the coming of Christ and the Millennium.”

(Those interested in the origins of dispensationalism can see Witherington’s discussion here on the Rapture, and I discuss the Rapture at length in this article.)

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the third temple will be built for the Antichrist, and that a fourth temple will need to be built before Christ’s return. This is based on certain interpretations of the OT texts, specifically the suggestion that the Antichrist will “put and end to sacrifice” (Dan. 9:27). As those who believe this interpretation posit, that could only happen if there was a (third) temple where sacrifices were being made.

Overall, this belief is part-and-parcel with the notion that the reestablishment of Israel is a predicted (and necessary) end time event. If there is an Israeli nation, there needs to be a temple also. Such is the thinking, anyway.

The third belief is that there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Christ before his return.

A major area of the Bible that is used to support this view comes from Paul’s epistle to the Romans. There, he discusses the identity of Israel as seen through the lens of the new covenant. Concerning the Gentiles being “grafted in” to the tree that is Israel, Paul says:

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26).

To some, this suggests that the Jewish people will—at some point in time—come to Christ and no longer experience the “partial hardening” that Paul spoke of.

Without question, the premise of having a restored Israeli nation and a temple to match feeds into this view. If one believes that Israel being a sovereign nation that possesses its own temple is an end time expectation, then it would make sense that it would be inhabited by many Jews who “come around” and profess Jesus as Lord. Again, that’s if the first two beliefs are true.

There are many more examples that could be used to illustrate these three beliefs, but this provides the necessary foundation to assess them. As you can see, all three of these views are connected. I would almost say that they are, for all intents and purposes, interdependent.

But are they true? Does the Bible really teach any of these beliefs?

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Evaluation

In my estimation, the strongest impetus for accepting all these beliefs comes from the fact that Israel was God’s chosen nation throughout the OT. This is an irrefutable and important fact, to be sure. As Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews.” However, it is something else altogether to believe that the nation of Israel—that is, a particular group of people who happen to live at a particular location on Earth—continues to hold this status.

In all sincerity, affirming this is a genuine case of living in the past. There are many reasons why we should reject this interpretation of Scripture.

For starters, let’s consider what this means historically. Do the Jewish people of the last two thousand years get to immediately “pass go” and collect eternal life? Have they been ushered into God’s Kingdom simply by virtue of their being born in the right place or to just the right set of parents? Put succinctly, does geography and/or ethnicity determine salvation?

According to the apostle to the Gentiles—and a man who professed that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”—the answer is no. In fact, Paul made this very plain:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Clearly, this is the New Testament view of things. However, I would go a significant step farther and state that the Old Testament reveals the same message: being born a Jew—in and of itself— has never merited an individual salvation. Scripture is replete with examples where Jewish believers were cut off from God and the community for their lack of faith and their disobedience. As a startling example, God did not spare an entire generation of believers from dying off in the wilderness: “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone” (Num. 32:13).

We could also look at 14,700 who died on account of the plague God sent (Num. 16:49), those who died in “Korah’s Rebellion,” and the many times the Jews were given over to destruction by groups like the Babylonians, Persians, Philistines, and the like.

For that matter, God did not even spare the rebellious angels from a destructive fate (2 Pet. 2:4).

On a final note concerning this issue, Paul even went so far as to say that he simply hoped to “arouse some of (his) own people to jealousy and save some of them” (Rom. 11:14). If his hope were to save some of them, it logically follows that not all of them were saved simply by virtue of being Jewish. Being Jewish, in and of itself, does not merit salvation. It never has.

Another major problem with these three views—and specifically the view that a third temple must be erected—is that the formation of such a structure is wholly unnecessary in every possible way. Nowhere does the Bible state that there must be a third temple before the Messiah can return. Concerning the previously noted idea that a temple must exist so the Antichrist can “put and end to sacrifice,” nothing could make less sense. Here is a newsflash: Jesus’ death on the cross did eliminate the need for sacrifice! Among other things, the Book of Hebrews spells this out clearly. All of chapter 10 speaks to this, but specifically note verses 11-13:

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”

Christ’s sacrifice rendered the entire sacrificial system obsolete. There is no need for a temple to perform sacrifices ever again, nor does there need to be one so the Antichrist can “put an end to sacrifice.”

Paul did say in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that the “man of sin” will “set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” This also indicates to some that a third temple will be necessary. However, given the fact that the temple of Paul’s day was the same one that was later demolished in AD 70 by the Romans, there is a much more rational interpretation of what he meant here. Elliot’s Commentary explains the likely meaning well:

“(The phrase) ‘taking his seat in the temple of God,’ is a poetical or prophetical description of usurping divine prerogatives generally: not the prerogatives of the true God alone, but whatever prerogatives have been offered to anything ‘called God’.”

Paul’s expression was not about the “man of sin” sitting in a literal temple structure within Jerusalem. Rather, it was an expression showing that he will attempt to usurp everything connected to God, in all ways. To those living at the time, this could not be stated more strongly than to say that this dark figure will seek worship in the very structure that housed God’s presence within the OT.

The temple’s central purpose was to house the presence of God. It was perpetual evidence that Yahweh reigned amongst His people. When Jesus died, the temple veil was torn (Mt. 27:51), representing an end to the old system of things. Jesus was the Son of God incarnate in human form. With Jesus “tabernacling” on earth, God was no longer reigning from a house of stone but was walking among us! Further, God’s Spirit now resides with each of us who believe in Christ; WE are the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).

No matter how you look at it, there is no need for a third temple. Not now and not ever. Even if one were to be constructed, it will not be “God’s temple” but man’s. Further, it will have nothing to do with fulfilling prophecy.

While these points are certainly important, let’s get to the heart of the issue (as I see it). Perhaps the primary reason why all three of these beliefs are wrong is that Jesus and the apostles—particularly Paul, who spoke directly to this issue—were clear that God’s salvation narrative had moved beyond the land of Israel and past one ethnic group of people.

Jesus certainly understood that he was fulfilling the OT prophecies about the Messiah, one of which being that he would be a “light to the Gentiles.” The Gentiles—that is, those who were not ethnically or religiously Jewish—were to be the beneficiaries of Christ’s coming, since the Jews were already in a covenant relationship with God. Since those who are ethnically (or even religiously) Jewish make up a miniscule part of the Earth’s population, Jesus chiefly came to open up salvation to the entire world. This is clearly depicted within many passages of Scripture.

Of course, the very nature of Paul’s apostleship was also built around this mission. Paul was sent specifically to preach to the Gentiles.

Concerning the idea that there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Christ, as supposedly explained in Romans 11:25-26 (and misapplied OT texts), this does not take into account the greater context of Paul’s words. He says that Israel has “experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” However, he adds that “in this way, all Israel will be saved.” What “way” is that, though? He describes that in the previous section. The Gentiles are being “grafted in” to the “tree” that is Israel. In other words, the Gentiles who follow Christ are being accepted into the fold of salvation, right along with the Jews who had been saved.

All people who are saved are now “Israel.”

Paul says this plainly earlier in Romans. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (9:6). Paul’s words say nothing about a mass conversion of Jews to Christ in the end times, nor does anything else in Scripture.

All this proves an important point: The contemporary Zionist movement is misguided because its adherents have missed (or dismissed) the central purpose of why God called Israel to begin with. Simply put, Israel’s purpose was to bring about the fulfilment of the “descendants” promise that God made to Abraham (Gen. 17:1-5). With all-due respect—yet with the brutal honesty I am always compelled to operate with—this is also what the Jewish people have failed to (or chosen not to) understand since the time of Christ.

God did not call Israel to alone comprise His Kingdom of saints and those whom were purchased back from Satan.

I would go so far as to say that it was never about that particular group of people, but about God’s plan to reach all people. When God called Abram—who was later renamed “Abraham”—He did so with a universal purpose. That is, Abraham would begin God’s process of restoring all of humanity. Don’t take my word for it, but listen to how Paul put it:

“For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16).

It’s also worth noting that numerous parts of the OT declared that God was open to accepting non-Jews into the fold. Isaiah 56:6-7 describes God’s invitation to “foreigners” (Gentiles) to serve Him and participate in salvation. Exodus notes that “a mixed multitude” left Egypt with the Israelites (Ex. 12:38). Gentiles who were willing to be circumcised and follow God’s covenant were often permitted to join in Israel’s blessings (Ex. 12:48-49).

If you had only the Old Testament to go on, it would still be obvious that Israel was not God’s only interest. Affirming this does not make one anti-Semitic, or anything of the sort. Rather, it simply means that they understand what the Bible describes as the overall purpose of the nation of Israel. To be sure, God made His covenant with the ancient Hebrews (Ex. 20) .

But to what end? That is the key question.

As the previous passages illustrate, the Bible reveals Israel’s purpose very clearly. God called Israel to be His vessel: the instrument by which He would bring salvation to the world and restore what was lost through the Fall.

Tying the end time expectations to a physical nation of Israel, the construction of a third temple, and the conversion of modern-day Jews to Jesus—as though they are more valuable to God than any other group—not only misses the point of Christ’s coming but destroys the core teachings of the biblical narrative. The same can be said of any view positing that the physical plot of land called “Israel” still possess some type of mystical or divine power: that the soil itself is intrinsically holy.

Both the Old and New Testament teach that God was, is, and always will be interested in the salvation of all people (who will believe). This is true regardless of ethnicity, gender, social status, geographical location, or any of the like; “For there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:11). In fact: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

The bottom line is that, in the work of Jesus, God’s plans for humanity extended beyond the land of Israel and the Jewish people. These matters are not the focal points of the end time discussion, as much as some would insist that they are.

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If you are interested in looking at things that the Bible does teach about the end times, start here and then click on the embedded links.

For more about Israel’s place in history, the NT, and the present day, I will once more point you to my article “Is Israel God’s Chosen Nation?

Footnotes:


[1] In essence, Zionism is the worldview that the nation of Israel held—and more importantly, continues to hold—the unique status of being God’s “chosen nation.” As such, the Jewish people have a divine right to the land and must be supported regardless of how they go about occupying and maintaining it. Typically, there can be no deviation from this belief on virtually any point.

Author: Brian M. Rossiter

I am a Christian teacher, author, and lecturer. Most importantly, I am a truth-seeker. My research has led me to both believe in and defend the veracity of the Bible, evaluating my own personal views in light of its teachings along the way. In addition to my blogs, I have written several books: "The Death Myth," "God Made the Aliens," "Spiritual Things," and most recently, "Missing Verses: 15 Beliefs the Bible Doesn't Teach." My hope in these endeavors is to give skeptics reasons to believe, to strengthen the faith of those who already do, and to challenge each of us to truly evaluate our own worldviews.

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