In 1987, Dominionist author, Gary North of the Institute for Christian Theonomics wrote, "As you probably know, Christians disagree about the doctrine of "the last things," called eschatology. 'I firmly believe that conservative Protestants in the United States are about to get into the biggest theological shouting match of this century over the question of eschatology. Dominion and Common Grace, p. ix
That "shouting match" has been well under way ever since. The primary issue of eschatology (study of last things) focuses on "time" and how it is to be interpreted.
Gary Demar, a student influenced by North, in the Appendix 1 of the most recent edition of his "Last Days Madness Book, Obsession of the Modern Church p. 381, has the following to say about time.
""The time element" plays a major role in prophecy. In fact it plays a defining role.", p. 379. Those claim who the imminence in Bible prophecy is relative, engage in what he calls theological double talk.
Time, Prophecy and The Resurrection in Daniel 12
Daniel 12 spoke of the resurrection as an event which would occur at a defined period of time.
"And at that time Micheal shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall wake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the starts forever and ever." (Dan. 12:1-3)
Many see this prophecy as yet to occur in our future. Why? They dismiss the imminent time parameters found in the text.
Daniel says the prophecy would occur "at that time". What time? It is a time within the history of "your people" i.e. the people of Judah. It is they who had gone into captivity under the Babylonians in 586 B.C. They were the subject of Daniel's reference to "your people".
Secondly, Daniel speaks of the time of affliction or tribulation. This period though troublesome would be a one time occurrence in the history of the southern kingdom. When viewing this reference in the New Testament, it opens up more definitive evidence on the time of its fulfillment.
The Overthrow of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD
Jesus quotes the prophecy of Daniel 12 on more than one occasion during his ministry. One such occasion is Matthew 24:21. He speaks in the context of destruction of the temple saying to his disciples that the event would be unparalleled in the nation's history. Matt. 24:21 is a verbatim quote of Daniel 12:1 from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.
All Would Come Within Jesus' Own Generation Matt. 24:34
In response to the disciples question of when would the stones of the temple all be thrown down and of his coming and parousia, Jesus gave two significant responses.
- When the gospel had been preached to all the nations throughout all the inhabited earth, then the end would come, Matt. 24:14
- All events of Matthew chapter 24 assuredly would be fulfilled before the first century generation passed.
Those are time statements which have sever implications for Jesus' quote of Daniel 12.
Both Prophecies Fulfilled
First, the apostles confirmed that the gospel was preached to all the nations throughout the inhabited earth during their lifetime. In the text, the inhabited earth means the Roman Empire. It was considered the world in their day.
That the gospel was published in all the world in the times of the apostles is evident from Rom. 10:18, and Col. 1:5, 23. This first criteria was met in the days of Jesus' apostles and confirmed in the writing of the epistles.
Secondly, we have the question of all prophecy being fulfilled within Jesus' own generation. In this, we offer three options which have been presented for our consideration.
- Jesus lied or was mistaken and the events did not happen.
- There are disciples living today who were alive during the time Jesus was on earth.
- Jesus came as and when he said he would, i.e. before all in that generation died.
Unbelievable enough, we have had notable believers who chose option 1. C.S. Lewis was one of them. Even more though less notable have opted for number two. In view of the language, they are not ready to dismiss Christ as a liar and thus they reason there are people alive on earth since the first century. As difficult as it is to imagine, at least there is a more honorable attempt to accept Jesus' words as true.
The Problem Number Two Creates
The real issue with number two is that it "redefines" the word generation (genea) in a manner foreign to its use in Matthew and the Bible. A generation is a group of people living at or about the same time. Matthew's gospel is introduced with the generations of the Christ, of whom it is said he had 42 generations beginning with Abraham to his own which was equal to that of Christ's.
The Hebrews letter defined generation as 40 years, equaling the time God delivered Israel from Egypt, (Heb. 3:9). Thus, the limits of the prophecy to truly honor Jesus words must fall within the 40 years of a generation. That would imply and demand a first century fulfillment.
Now it should be obvious why some believe option 1 was much better than option two. They understood the meaning and use of generation in the Bible, where as those who chose number two redefined the term to fit their view of the prophecy. This led to the improbable and impossible conclusion that men are yet walking the earth from the first century.
Accepting the Time as It Is Written
Those who opt for number three, accept the time as it is written, i.e. in Jesus' own generation. They see his coming (parousia) and hence the resurrection of which Daniel spoke as occurring within the 40 years limitation of a generation.
Thus, the event found its fulfillment in the first century.
Further Proof of Jesus' First Century Return
Matthew 13:38-45 is also a quote from Daniel 12. Jesus said the event would occur at the end of the age, the same term used in Matthew 24:3. By that, he meant the end of the Jewish age marked by the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD.
A Verse To Measure the Time
"And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed."
Secondly, Paul quoted Daniel 12 in Romans 13:11-12, saying that it was the "hour" to awake out of sleep for their salvation was nearer (about A.D. 58) than when they first believed. If we were to take note that Roman Christians began from Pentecost of Acts 2, we have a point from which to begin their salvation.
They started at Pentecost in A.D. 30. Paul wrote Romans around A.D. 58. That's a total time of about 28 years.
Further, the overthrow of the temple occurred in 70 AD. The time between the writing of Romans and 70 AD is approximately 12 years. That means the time of their salvation was nearer to 70 AD, then it was to Pentecost of A.D. 30.
However, if we disregard the imminence in the verse, said to be "at hand" (having drawn near) and the "high time" or "hour" to awake out of sleep by projecting it into our future, we end up with a verse that falsely teaches and contradicts the words of Christ.
Again, the time from Pentecost to the writing of the Romans epistle was 28 years. But the time from the writing of that letter until today is almost 2000 years. How is the latter nearer than 28 years? It clearly is not. Yet that is the implication of the those who deny Jesus' came in the first century.
It is essential that we interpret Bible prophecy considering the audience to whom it was originally written. What was imminent to them cannot be imminent to us. Time prophecies do not work that way.
Daniel prophesied the resurrection would occur in the history of Judah but in connection with the time of great tribulation and the overthrow of the Jewish temple.
Jesus quoted from Daniel 12:1 saying the event would occurred before all the people then living died. Since they have now died, Jesus words must have been fulfilled. Otherwise, we are faced with either option 2 or 3 above.
Paul taught that the "hour" of salvation and resurrection (awaking out of sleep) had drawn near in his day. In fact, it was nearer to fulfillment than when they had first become believers.
Christs coming was fulfilled in the first century in connection with the Roman invasion of Judea and the overthrown of the temple in 70 A.D. before that generation passed away.