Misunderstood Rev. 6:2 - 3 Verbs, 2 Horses, 1 Christ

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    3 VERBS, 2 HORSES, 1 CHRIST​

    THREE VERBS: OVERCOME, PREVAIL, CONQUER
    Consider the following verses: Rev. 3:21; 5:5; 6:2 :

    “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

    “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’”

    “And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

    The first two verses are obviously referring to Christ. He is the Overcomer who grants to all true believers that, as they also overcome, they may sit with Him on His throne. He is also the Lion of Judah who “has prevailed to open the scroll”. He did this by His perfect incarnate life and obedient sacrificial death. Satan tried to deter our Savior from His mission but, praise God, was unable to. His very resistance was used by God for our benefit.

    But what about that third verse, that dark picture of the ominous first horseman? Guess what, that’s Christ too! Are you surprised? Or unconvinced? I was too, at first. But hopefully this article will convince you of this.

    NIKAW, NIKAW, and NIKAW
    First of all, let’s comment on those verbs, since that is the first heading. These three verbs are all the same verb, the lexical form being “NIKAW” (“to conquer”). The only significant difference is in the tense; the first two being past tense. The type of action is very much the same: conquering.

    So why were different verbs even used? Good question. I believe it was a faulty decision of the translators (and here we can’t just blame modern renditions, but have to go back to before the KJV even). It would have been better to have chosen any one of the three words rendered above (overcome, prevail, conquer) – and then to consistently use that word for all three. That way the reader is much more equipped to make that important connection (“Hmm. ‘conquering’, I remember that from the previous chapters. Could this be the same person?”) As it is, in almost all translations I have seen, the variety of renditions of NIKAW have obscured the unity of thought. * I could just as well titled this piece “One Verb, Two Horses, One Christ”, but, of course, aside from being awkward, it would have obscured the initial point I was trying to make.

    TWO HORSES
    Now my point in all this centers especially on that second verse in Revelation 6, since that is the verse many of us have been trained to see as referring either to Antichrist or a fore-runner of him. Yet, if our versions had not covered the tracks so effectively, we should at least have been able to see that this may indeed refer to Christ - which I believe it does.

    Why did I write “two horses”, you might ask, since the passage obviously has four different horses? Actually the two horses I bring up for consideration are the first one here and the one that comes in chapter 19:11. That latter passage clearly and plainly refers to Christ, and I know of no one who would say otherwise.

    Now let’s try an interesting comparison. See if you can spot the difference:

    “and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it” (6:2)
    “and behold, a white horse. He who sat on him…(19:11)

    Pretty close. But take a look at the Greek:

    "kai idou ippos leukos, kai o katemenos ep auton..."

    "kai idou ippos leukos, kai o katemenos ep auton..."

    Because I don’t know all the keystrokes to render the Greek there are errors in spelling above – if your computer even renders this into Greek – but hopefully you get my point. The Greek in front of me for both passages is identical.

    ...EQUALS ONE HORSE
    Does it not strike you as odd that such an identical phrase should be used for two diametrically opposed persons, Christ and Antichrist? It sure did for me. In fact, I found out that the belief that Christ (or His Gospel) was spoken of in chapter 6 had been the majority opinion for much of Christianity’s history. In the last couple of centuries, especially, the understanding of this passage has been darkened, so much that, whenever someone even mentions the earlier, more positive, interpretation it is dismissed out of hand as being “just plain nuts” (and I am speaking from personal experience).

    For the record, my belief that Christ is the first Horseman does not hinge only on the grammatical points raised so far, those points being the same verb used of Christ (NIKAW), and the same phrase used of Christ (Rev. 6:2 and 19:11). Further evidence is found in the rest of Scripture:

    1. Christ’s description of His own mission and,
    2. Old Testament prophetical passages that foretell the events of Rev. 6.

    Christ forewarned His listeners in Matt. 10:34:

    “I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother.”

    The sword comes wherever Christ’s followers go. As believers faithfully proclaim the Word, through faithful preaching, witnessing, and consistent lives persecution is bound to follow.

    Notice the two things that Christ mentions, one He will not bring: Peace. The other He will bring: a sword. With those two facts in mind, take a look at the second horseman:

    “Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill [lit. slaughter 2] one another; and there was given him a great sword.”

    FORETOLD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
    Several Old Testament passages describe the victorious campaign of the first Horseman. We will look especially at Psalm 45 and Isa. 41.

    (Psalm 45:3- 5 and comment from Hendriksen’s “More Than Conquerors”)

    “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, Oh Mighty One!
    Thy glory and thy majesty!
    And in thy majesty ride on prosperously
    In behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness!
    And let thy right hand teach thee terrible things!
    Thine arrows sharpened! Nations under thy feet!”

    “The LXX has ‘And in thy majesty ride, and bend the bow, and prosper and reign…” 3

    The description is no doubt of Christ since the writer of Hebrews says as much (Heb.1:8), going on to quote the next verse:

    “”Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”

    Isaiah 41 adds to this description:

    “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands,
    And let the people renew their strength!
    Let them come near, then let them speak;
    Let us come near together for judgment.”

    “Who raised up one from the east?
    Who in righteousness called him to his feet?
    Who gave the nations before him,
    And made him rule over kings?
    Who gave them as dust to his sword,
    As driven stubble to his bow?

    Here, once again, is the bow that we read of in Rev. 6 (and also without arrows mentioned 4).

    ONE CHRIST
    Actually, many people see two "Christs" here, the one at 6:2 being the Antichrist. But why do they do this? Their system demands it, or at least strongly encourages it. Presupposing that Revelation 6 describes events still future, they are confronted with that man on "the white horse conquering and to conquer". They cannot allow this to be Christ, seeing that there is no time future where Christ does the things described here, with the following horsemen.

    But by understanding the conquering of this horseman as already commenced in the first century, Christ (or the Gospel) advancing through the earth, this passage fits much better.

    Christ being the Man on the white horse, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse, is a very reasonable interpretation. Aside from being the interpretation of many respected leaders and authors in Christianity throughout the centuries, it has the following evidence on its side:

    1. Rev. 6:2 is very similar to Rev. 19:11, the phrase in bold being identical in both verses:

    "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war."

    2. Rev. 6:2 continues the theme of victory of the previous chapters. Notice also that the "crown given to Him" fits well with the crowns "cast to the throne" (4:10) and His receiving of the scroll (5:1-9) and His receiving "power and riches..."etc (5:12).

    3. This verse also ties in so well with the Zion-overcoming passages, especially in the Old Testament, some of which anticipate some of these very images here in Rev. 6 (Isa. 41:1-2; Psa. 45:3- 4, esp. in LXX), Zech. 6:11.

    I see now that my Bible has at least one unhelpful (supposed) cross-reference to Rev. 6:2, and that is Matt. 24:5! I have since changed that to a crossed-out reference, and I suggest you do the same! This wonderful passage in Rev. 6:2 is not about false Christs. It gives glory to Christ, underlines the intent of the Gospel, and teaches us to think soberly about the cost of following the Lamb wherever He goes.

    This is the first of two parts. More to come.
     
  2. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    3 VERBS, 2 HORSES, 1 CHRIST (2nd part)

    William Tong wrote well on this passage in his commentary on Revelation (which is part of Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible 5). Note these four points (emphasis his):

    “(1.) The Lord Jesus appears riding on a white horse. White horses are generally refused in war, because they make the rider a mark for the enemy; but our Lord Redeemer was sure of the victory and a glorious triumph, and he rides on the white horse of a pure but despised gospel, with great swiftness through the world.

    (2.) He had a bow in his hand. The convictions impressed by the word of God are sharp arrows, they reach at a distance; and, though the ministers of the word draw the bow at a venture, God can and will direct it to the joints of the harness. This bow, in the hand of Christ, abides in strength, and, like that of Jonathan, never returns empty.

    (3.) A crown was given him, importing that all who receive the gospel must receive Christ as a king, and must be his loyal and obedient subjects; he will be glorified in the success of the gospel. When Christ was going to war, one would think a helmet had been more proper than a crown; but a crown is given him as the earnest and emblem of victory.

    (4.) He went forth conquering, and to conquer. As long as the church continues militant Christ will be conquering; when he has conquered his enemies in one age he meets with new ones in another age; men go on opposing, and Christ goes on conquering, and his former victories are pledges of future victories. He conquers his enemies in his people; their sins are their enemies and his enemies; when Christ comes with power into their soul he begins to conquer these enemies, and he goes on conquering, in the progressive work of sanctification, till he has gained us a complete victory. And he conquers his enemies in the world, wicked men, some by bringing them to his foot, others by making them his footstool.”

    Excellent comments on a wonderful passage! This is our exalted Christ. Let’s do our parts in this exalted mission, through the power of His matchless grace!

    We can start by teaching correctly about this very passage.


    FOOTNOTES
    1. Another verse that bears on this discussion is the same author’s only use of this word outside of Revelation. It is found in his Gospel, John 16:33, and has direct bearing on this passage in Rev. 6:

    “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have conquered the world.”

    2. “Slaughter”. The choice of word is significant. The generic word for “kill” is APOKTEINW, a word that has a wider range of meaning than this word used here, which is THUW. THUW always refers either to Christ’s sacrificial death, or to the death of believers as they follow Christ. The sacrificial idea is always near the surface. So the death spoken of here in Rev. 6 is killing based on religious persecution, religious reactionism lashing out against Christian testimony. Some other occurrences of this word are Rev. 5:6, 9; 13:8; 18:24; 1 John 3:12. Perhaps the most significant use is the one that occurs just a few verses after this one, Rev. 6:9, describing the faithful believers who died for Christ as “the souls of those who have been slaughtered for the Word of God”.

    3. The Septuagint (LXX) was the Greek version of the Old Testament often quoted by New Testament writers.
    This is continued from the previous post. Most of the posts I write aren't this long. It is just because I have gotten much flak on this one and have had to go into greater detail than I originally intended.

    4. Some writers make too much of the fact that the horseman of Rev. 6:2 has no arrows. But this is merely a figure of speech. Just because we say “bow and arrow” does not require other cultures to express the same truth in the same way. We might speak of a country being invaded as: “Did you hear? There are tanks in the streets of their capitol already!” And yet, what we mean, though we didn't specify, is that these tanks have ammunition – and an occupying army who knows how to use it. Likewise, Christ with a bow, as shown in the quoted Old Testament passages, though having worldwide blessings for His own, has serious and fatal consequences for His enemies.

    5. It is not generally known that Matthew Henry did not write much of the Commentary that goes by his name. Having died before he was able to write any of the portions beyond the book of Acts, the work was finished by other trusted authors, some of them, however, making use of sermon and lecture notes from Henry. One of these authors was William Tong, who did the Revelation and Hebrews portions.
     
  3. OldRegular

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    Following is my take on the white horse I used in teaching the Book of Revelation some years ago.


    It must be admitted that understanding who or what the white horse and rider represent is difficult. Rational logic would seem to indicate that symmetry must be maintained and that the symbolism assigned the four horses with their riders constitute a related series of events: white/conquest, red/war, black/scarcity or famine, and pale/death. However, it is worth recalling at this time William Hendriksen’s remark [More than Conquerors] about the Book of Revelation, namely: The Apocalypse is meant to show us that things are not what they seem. Also note that conquest and war are somewhat redundant activities if the conquest is malevolent, as it must be if the first view above is correct. The argument is also made by others that the bow carried by the rider of the white horse suits neither God or His people [Fred Howard, Laymens Bible Book Commentary, page 76], is a symbol of violence [Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, The Book of Revelation, page 85], or is connected with the enemy of God’s people [Alan Johnson, Expositors Bible Commentary, page 473]. However, we read in the Messianic Psalm 45 that the Messiah goes forth not only with the sword but with the bow:

    Psalms 45:1-7, KJV
    1. My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
    2. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
    3. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
    4. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
    5. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.
    6. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
    7. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.


    However, there are other difficulties in associating the white horse and rider with malevolent conquest or for that matter the antichrist.

    First, and perhaps foremost, every other time that the word ‘white’ is used in the book of Revelation it is associated with that which is holy or heavenly [Revelation 1:14, 2:17, 3:4, 3:5, 3:18, 4:4, 6:11, 7:9, 7:13, 7:14, 14:14, 15:6, 19:8, 19:11, 19:14, and 20:11]. In fact throughout the New Testament, and frequently in the Old Testament, the word white is used in a similar context [see for example Matthew 17:2, 28:3, John 20:12, Acts 1:10, Daniel 7:9, 12:10, Isaiah 1:18]. [The notable exception in Scripture where white is used in reference to that which is unholy is in the Old Testament description of leprosy.]

    Second, and perhaps just as significant, is that the white horse with its rider are sent forth ‘conquering and to conquer’. The word ‘conquer’ comes from the Greek word nikao and means: to conquer, to carry off the victory, come off victorious. It occurs some 16 times in the Book of Revelation [Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, 5:5, 6:2, 11:7, 12:8, 13:7, 17:14, and 21:7] and is translated overcame, overcome, or overcometh, 13 times; conquer or conquering, twice; and prevail, once. Wherever the idea of overcoming, prevailing, or conquering occurs in the Book of Revelation the reference is to Jesus Christ or His Saints, with two exceptions, Revelation 11:7 and 13:7, where the reference is clearly to the beast overcoming the saints.

    Third, it was customary in the Roman army for the victors to return riding white horses. If indeed the Book of Revelation was written for the comfort of 1st century Christians undergoing severe persecution by Rome it could be argued that a symbol of Roman conquest would not be used as a symbol of the victorious conquest of evil. However, if Revelation was written to reveal to the Church the ultimate triumph of the Church over Rome and yet conceal that fact from the Romans the use of the white horse is fitting. The Saints are thus assured that Jesus Christ and His Church would triumph.

    Fourth, and perhaps most significant, no woe, distress, or calamity is mentioned in relation to the activity of the white horse and rider as is the case with the horses and their riders that follow.

    One further interpretation of the white horse and rider needs to be addressed, that of their identification with the antichrist. There is no doubt that the antichrist is active in the world [1 John 2:18]. However, it should be remembered that the antichrist is presented by the Apostle John elsewhere in Scripture as a deceiver [1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7] and by Jesus Christ in the Olivet discourse as a deceiver, not a conqueror. Furthermore, since the world is already in bondage to sin, what is there for the antichrist to conquer? Rather the deceit of the antichrist falls before the Gospel as the Saviour redeems his elect. The antichrist may attempt to deceive the Saints [Mark 13:22] but he can never completely succeed, because they know the voice of the good shepherd [John 10:1-5, 14]. The antichrist can never conquer them because they are in the hands of the Father [John 10:29].

    On the basis of the association of ‘white’ with that which is Holy, ‘conquer’ with the power of God, and in the absence of any woe associated with the activity of the white horse and its rider it would appear that they represent the spread of the Gospel. However, this spread of the gospel is not limited to a given historical period. True the success of the spread of the gospel waxes and wanes, however, the message of salvation will continue until the last of the elect is within the household of faith, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, for indeed the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.[Matthew 16:18, KJV] At that time Jesus Christ shall return in power and great glory, all the dead shall be resurrected and the Great White Throne Judgment shall occur. Satan and his followers shall be cast into the Lake of Fire and the Triune God will dwell with the redeemed in the New Heaven and New Earth forever.
     
  4. kyredneck

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    OR, thanks for that. I'm sure you taught a good class, and still could.

    Just curious, because I suspect you could teach us all a thing or two here, would you describe your take on Revelations as idealistic, futurist, historical, or what? :)
     
    #4 kyredneck, Nov 29, 2009
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  5. OldRegular

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    I believe that book of Revelation was written to and for the apostolic Church, specifically the seven churches in Asia, at a time of severe persecution. However, Revelation, as all Scripture, must speak to the Church throughout time. In that sense I believe that it is a book of comfort, not only for the apostolic Church, but for Christians of all time because it shows the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ and His Church over Satan. [I should note that understanding the message in the book to the apostolic Church is most difficult for me.]

    I believe that Revelation presents what is called the idealist approach setting forth eternal truths concerning the conflict between good and evil. I doubt that the imagery of the book has any particular relation to events in history. However, the central message of Revelation is that "we win" or rather God wins for us. Our faith in Jesus Christ will ultimately be vindicated.

    I only wish that I understood more about the Book of Revelation. Perhaps I should say I only wish I understood a little about the Book of Revelation. In my study for teaching the class I came across the following: John P. Newport writing in The Lion and the Lamb [page 38] quotes Gordon Fee as stating: ....no one should approach Revelation without a proper degree of humility. There are already too many books on ‘Revelation made easy.’ But Revelation is not easy!

    Revelation is certainly a most difficult book to understand and the correct interpretation depends on the approach that we take to it. That being said I believe that regardless of the approach there are certain chapters that should thrill any Chriatian. Those would include the first 5 chapters, particularly Chapters 4 and 5, and the Chapters 19-22. Certainly the imagery in Chapters 4 and 5 is difficult but to see the picture of the Father on His throne, to see the picture of the Lamb as it had been slain to hear the voice shout Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing should bring joy to the heart of any Saint.

    It is, therefore, appropriate that Christians should study the Biblical teachings regarding the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to claim His Bride, to put down all rule and all authority and power, and deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father [1 Corinthians 15:24]. Sadly the book of Revelation is neglected and ignored by a great majority of Christians. They do so to their own spiritual deprivation for in the Book of Revelation:

    1. We see Jesus Christ revealed on a cosmic level, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whereas in the Gospels we see Jesus Christ revealed primarily on a personal level, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God, and our Saviour.

    2. We see, as no where else in Scripture, the Triune nature of God and His glory revealed and emphasized as clearly as human language can express [Chapters 4 & 5].

    3. We see the sovereignty of God in the salvation of His elect, in His providential care over His chosen ones, and in His control of history to achieve His purpose.

    4. We see, through seven different pictures, the triumph of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords over Satan and the dreadful wrath of God meted out to those who continue in rebellion against Him.

    5. We see the sevenfold blessing promised to those chosen in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world and made accepted in the beloved.

    6. We are shown a glimpse of the joy unspeakable and full of glory which awaits those the Father has chosen in Jesus Christ [Ephesians 1:4].

    I have not provided you with a short answer to your question. I just got carried away.
     
  6. asterisktom

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    Short or long answer - it sounds good to me. I also hate that this book is so often typecast as merely endtimes teaching. There is so much more here.
     
    #6 asterisktom, Nov 29, 2009
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  7. OldRegular

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    I will give an AMEN to that!
     
  8. kyredneck

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    Heheh, you could've written more OR. I just saved what I got from you. Thanks.

    I have a mixed approach to the book, somewhat idealistic with strong preterist modifier, if that makes any sense. I believe the book was written during the reign of Nero and it to be significant (as if it all isn't) that The Song Of Moses (Dt 31:19 through Dt 32) is being sang (15:3). But I also believe that Christ reigns now and find myself often wondering if maybe the 'times of the Gentiles' may be close to being fulfilled (pure speculation of course).
     
  9. kyredneck

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    I'll second that Amen from OR!
     
  10. HankD

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    Hi all,

    I am a dispensationalist of sorts. I don’t follow after the details of any one particular teacher such as Darby, Scofield, Walvoord, etc.
    In fact dispensationalists such as Walvoord do not call dispensationalism (as such) a systematic theology but a method of Scripture interpretation.

    Personally, I prefer to use a composite view of the early church fathers in their writings drawn from Scripture concerning the “last days”.

    The early church had no systematic theology of eschatology drawn from something called “dispensationalism” just as they had no such phrase such as “Trinity” for many decades while the Trinitarian doctrine was codified in a systematic theology from the various and appropriate Scriptures.

    Eschatology was/has not been as precise as Trinitarianism.
    But there were elements of teaching concerning what we call the Tribulation (Jacob’s Trouble), the Millennium (Chiliad) and other future event areas in the early fathers drawn for Scripture and in fact at one time I cited some of these quotes from my research.

    Those elements combined with many elements of modern dispensationalism formulate my view but I won’t go into every single detail. For one thing I am undecided concerning a few things. The rider on the white horse of Revelation 6:2 being one of them, however I lean away from Christ Himself being the rider.

    I said all that to give a very short background before I make a comment on your observation of Revelation 6:2 using the following sentences as a point of reference:

    As to the comparison of Revelation 6:2 and 19:11: the context must be considered. In Revelation 6 it is the Lamb Himself who opens the seal which releases the 4 horses. In Revelation 6 the horseman is unnamed and is followed by 3 other horses combined with events very different than the events of Revelation 19.

    In Revelation 19 there is no question as to the identity of the rider who is followed by other white horses. His weapon is a sword not a bow. The beast and the false prophet are also present in Revelation 19.

    As to the question:
    No, as the tool of choice of the antichrist and any satanic worker is deception by disguise. Revelation 6 and 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 could be a commentary on the events of Matthew 24:4-8.


    Matthew 24
    Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
    4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
    5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
    6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
    7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
    8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

    2 Corinthians 11
    13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
    14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

    While Revelation 19 could be a commentary on Matthew 24:30- 31

    30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
    31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

    Still undecided…

    HankD
     
  11. OldRegular

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    HankD

    Always enjoy your posts, even those I disagree with, because they reflect the person you are.

    There is no doubt that some of the early Church fathers believed in the pre millennial return of jesus Christ. However, that is a long way from dispensationalism as they believed that God had only one people, not two.

    Now many dispensationalists like to cite the early Church fathers to lend legitimacy to their beliefs but???????????
     
  12. HankD

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    Hi OR,
    I think a semantic compromise could be reached. I refered once to the New Jerusalem as having one population, one people of God but with Redeemed Israel distinct (but not separate) from the Church.

    HankD
     

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