A very popular doctrine in the church these days is generally titled, as per a best-selling book: “Victorious Eschatology”. The book was written by Harold Eberle. Well written, I contend it nonetheless fails to embrace and address too many clearly expressed elements of prophetic scripture. And in that error, I contend that teaching fails the test of scripture.
The DOCTRINE called Victorious Eschatology (I will refer to it, for convenience as VE in this writing) asserts that the destruction of the temple by the armies of Titus in 70AD fulfilled pretty much all of the hard prophetic announcements of the Old Testament, thereby ushering us (the New Testament church), into a new era of overwhelming grace in which we will pretty much be insulated from troubles, and thereby free to progressively extend the kingdom of God in preparation for the coming rule and reign of the worthy King, our Lord Jesus.
I fully agree that our King will be Jesus, and that He is coming to rule and reign. THAT is the true victorious eschatology of the word of God. The error to VE is in checking off the “tough stuff” as being fulfilled by the horrendous events surrounding the destruction of the temple, and Jerusalem in 70AD.
First of all, I would remind us that our beloved brethren in other parts of the earth would experientially disagree that these are days of grace without persecution and increasing trouble. Our beloved brethren are being beheaded, crucified, and burnt alive, in most cases by the same enemies of the people of God that have been written about for thousands of years.
More important than even visual evidence, however, is the eternal Word of God.
Jesus told us clearly what NOT to think, as a pre-emptive strike against the false teachings He knew would be propagated in the church – teachings that would attempt to disarm and distract the saints from the end-times warfare (and glorious victories of that warfare). It is not yet time to beat our swords into plowshares:
(Matthew 5:17-20 NKJVS)
17 “ Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
EVERYTHING Jesus told us is “for assuredly”. The wording of verse 18 is for emphasis, so that we would not miss this absolute and un-negotiable truth. The smallest punctuation mark will by no means pass away till ALL is fulfilled. FULLY FILLED, to its absolute completeness.
The destruction of the temple, and Jerusalem, in 70 AD fails to meet the criteria of “all” being fulfilled. For example, Daniel 12:1 and 2 were not fully filled. Please note that “AT THAT TIME” in Dan 12:1 speaks of the time pertaining to an anti-christ who will be active in kingdoms both to the north and to the south of Jerusalem. This did happen IN PART during the pre-NT days of Antiochus Epiphanes, but those days failed to see the fulfillment of Dan 12:2. The people of Daniel were not delivered. And there are no reports of the arch-angel Michael having stood up to war on behalf of Israel:
(Daniel 12:1-2 NKJVS)
1 “At that time Michael 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.
Fast forward into the New Testament – If these verses apply to the destruction of the temple in 70AD, how could Daniel’s people, the Jews, be considered as having been “delivered” – unless it means delivered to slaughter or to dispersion?.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
That book is opened at the end of the age, not in 70 AD:
(Revelation 20:11-15 NKJVS)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
In support of the more historic interpretation of the verses in Daniel 12, we were told WHEN this would occur, verse 1 above said: “AT THAT TIME” meaning, at about the same time as the never-paralleled troubles.
This next verse in Daniel 12 clearly speaks to us of a resurrection of the dead. Did that occur in 70AD?
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Verse 2, above, sounds remarkably similar to this end-times-return-of-Jesus prophecy:
(1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NKJVS)
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
It is interesting that these tough words are actually given to the saints as a comfort. The comfort is not in their ease. The comfort is in knowing it is the plan of God. There is, by the way, false comfort in saying “peace, peace, when there is no peace”.
Daniel 12, therefore cannot soberly be checked off as done. It is yet-to-be-done.
There are countless more scriptures, pertaining to end-of-age violence, destruction, and trouble, that cannot be checked off as fulfilled by the destruction of 70AD.
For example – Psalm 110 (recited more times in the NT than the birth of Jesus), concludes with these yet to be fulfilled verses:
(Psalms 110:5-7 NKJVS)
5 The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.
ESCHATOLOGICAL CHATTER, OR IS THIS REALLY IMPORTANT?
So what is the big deal about whether the tough stuff is done, or has yet to occur?
(Luke 21:25-28 NKJVS)
25 “ And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
When the tough stuff, which will happen at the end of this age, does happen, the saints that have bought into the 70AD end-all-be-all-of-trying-events will be in huge jeopardy of failing hearts. Those verse 26 (above) men will likely be saints, since that is the group with the expectations of the return of Messiah. The rest of the world will be oblivious to it all, eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.
God has not called us to hunker down and do nothing, waiting for the tough stuff. At the same time, He has encouraged and admonished us to never deny the clarity and accuracy of every word of God. Every jot, every tittle. All must and will come to pass, in God’s time. It does not matter what anyone else tells you. Nor does it matter what might be the most popular doctrine of the day.
I might suggest one reads Ezekiel or Jeremiah or Isaiah. The popular prophets were typically those prophesying smooth things. These three great men of God were unpopular, yet their truthful writings, in obedience to the Spirit, have withstood every test of time, all scrutiny of man, every onslaught of religious, false, easy teaching.
WHAT? Suggesting a New Testament saint study Isaiah, or Ezekiel, or Jeremiah? (Hint: Jesus and the New Testament writers quoted those guys countless times).
A huge deception of our enemy is to drive the New Testament saints out of the Old Testament.
And yet here is what Peter tells us: The Old Testament was in fact prophetically written for the New Testament saint, and that being the case, Peter asks us what kind of people we ought to be:
(1 Peter 1:10-17 NKJVS)
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,
11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16 because it is written, “ Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
Peter then goes on to reveal more and also to ask us another question that remains vital:
(2 Peter 3:10-13 NKJVS)
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Dialing down what the scriptures tell us needs to happen, in order to either “inspire” church growth or offset any concerns to make our lives easier, is silly gospel, and in reality no gospel at all.
As the Lord said to His prophets of old: Eat the whole scroll.