Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ok, Let's Review the Evidence

A couple articles ago, I mentioned that I read Ellis Skolfield’s book The False Prophet on my vacation. I found the book thoroughly challenged what I’ve been taught about the end times. I fully subscribed to the theory of a final 7-year tribulation period as being Daniel’s final 70th week, and I fully supported the idea that the anti-Christ will make a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians/Muslims/Arabs which he will break in the middle of the final 7 years, and at the same time he’ll stop resumed, temple sacrifices in a rebuilt, third Jewish temple. Whew! That, in a nutshell, is the most prevalent evangelical church version of how end times will occur. I was ok with all that until I read Skolfield’s book. Skolfield makes some very good, biblically supported points that should be considered. I should note that ultimately nobody on earth knows with detailed certainty how or when this world will end, however Skolfield does an excellent job of searching God’s Word to develop an alternate, possibly more plausible, theory. I think we have to at least listen to anyone who provides biblically based teaching that may differ from what we have been taught, when what we’ve been taught does not have equal-weighted support in the Bible. Christ said that he would not return until after a falling away from Christian faith (2 Thessalonians 2:3 ; Luke 18:8); and the bible states that Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9), so if someone is challenging our beliefs with numerous examples of in-context scripture, we need to pay attention and test and approve (Romans 12:2) whether we have been deceived about certain aspects of our belief. I’m not encouraging the wild adoption of all and any alternative beliefs, but only that we become intimately familiar with the contents of the Bible. We live in an incredibly apostate and deceptive time, so it is absolutely crucial that we:

“take [up] the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Ephesians 6:17].

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” [1 Thessalonians 5:21-22]

You may be asking: is searching for a better understanding of the end times even that important? I would answer with an emphatic “yes”! If you are truly a born again Christian - praise God you are saved, but our minds should also be focused on Christ’s command that we stay alert and watch for his coming. We must live in obedience and do what He says (James 1:22-25). Christ gave us this instruction:

Luke 21:34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." [NIV; emphasis mine]

Getting back to Skolfield, here’s a brief summary of a couple things I’ve been challenged with in his writing. I would highly recommend that you visit http://www.ellisskolfield.com and read his papers and judge for yourselves (look under the web site’s menu). You may not agree with all of his conclusions (I don’t agree with them 100%) but I think Skolfield is much closer to the true interpretation of Daniel and Revelation than the traditional version being taught (or avoided) in our churches today. Especially relevant to today, is Skolfield’s interpretation of who the anti-Christ is. Here’s a shocker - the anti-Christ is already in our midst [1 John 4:3]. This may sound surreal, flaky, and plain outrageous, but examine the evidence and then decide. This brief summary is entirely based on Skolfield’s book The False Prophet [TFP], which is free to download on his web site.

One day is equal to one year [The False Prophet, page 36]:

In order to have any chance of understanding the time periods mentioned in Daniel, you have to first determine what the “days” signify in Daniel 9:24-25 and Daniel 12:11. Of course the best way to interpret these days is to look at other scripture to see if they are defined. Skolfield finds support that a prophetic day is equal to one 360 day Hebraic year in Numbers14:34 and Ezekiel 4:5-6:

"After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year."[Numbers14:34]

"5 I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel.
6 "After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. "
[ Ezekiel 4:5-6]

As additional support for counting prophetic days as years, we can look at the sum of the first two time periods in Daniel 9:25 which count the time period up to Christ’s crucifixion – the “69 weeks” [see The False Prophet (TFP) page 34]. In calculating the time from the decree to rebuild the temple until the time that the Messiah is cut off (i.e. crucified), it is necessary to incorporate this prophetic day = one Hebrew 360-day year conversion. This same counting of prophetic days (one prophetic day = to one 360 day Hebraic year) should also be followed for the prophesy in Daniel 12:11 because it is established as reliable in Daniel 9. As well, the Old Testament doesn’t give any other method of converting prophetic days. [Note: I once again recommend that you read TFP in conjunction with your Bible, because my summary only touches on the very “mountain tops” of the details. My purpose here is just to bring your attention to the issues that Skolfield presents]

The abomination of desolation:

After providing some support that a prophetic day is equal to a Hebrew, 360-day year, Skolfield looks at the prophesy in Daniel 12:11 to test his day-counting theory to see if it fits here as it does in Daniel 9. Looking at Daniel 12:11:

From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. [Daniel 12:11]

On page 42 of TFP, Skolfield comes to the conclusion that the time when the daily sacrifice was abolished is in the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, namely 583BC. Now whether this is the correct time when the sacrifice was abolished – I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone can say with absolute certainty. There were 3 times when sacrifices were stopped on the temple mount in Jerusalem in the Old Testament. The traditional theory holds that this ceasing of sacrifices is yet to come in the future, in the middle of the 7-year tribulation. This is also plausible. However 583BC is a scripturally supportable time where sacrifices were abolished. What I find interesting, and highly relevant to our day, is Skolfield’s next calculation.

Using the date of 583 BC as the date sacrifices are abolished and adding the 1,290 prophetical days we get our Gregorian calendar year equivalent:

583BC + 1,290 Hebrew years x 360/365.25 = 688.5 AD

Looking at the year 688AD and the only geographical location where temple sacrifices were performed by the Israelites, you have to look at the temple mount in Jerusalem. It is around this time that the 9th Caliph, Abd al-Malik built the Muslim Dome of the Rock at the center of the temple mount. According to my encyclopedia, the Dome of the Rock was built between 687 and 691AD. The Dome of the Rock is at the site on the temple mount where Muslims claim Abraham was to have sacrificed Ishmael (instead of Isaac, as per Genesis 22).

So is the Abomination of Desolation the Dome of the Rock? The Jews Can’t offer sacrifices to the Lord on His holy mountain while that structure, devoted to Allah, remains there, and it’s been there for over thirteen hundred years. Consider some of the Islamic inscriptions that are written on the dome:

The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God
So believe in God and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease!
God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son.
Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him.

(Source: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Inscriptions/DoTR.html)

Are these inscriptions not an abomination to the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel? The Muslim Dome of the Rock fits the 1,290 days of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 12:11 perfectly. Is there a religion in the world more opposed to Christianity (or Judaism) than Islam? Ask the Christians suffering persecution in Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, etc.

Lord, give us eyes to see and a mind full of wisdom. May we develop a firm grip on Your Holy Word, a loose grip on biblical commentaries, and fill us with the Holy Spirit – the author of the only trustworthy commentary. Amen.