Eight Christian Scholars Defend the Faith/Program 6

By: Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr. , Dave Hunt, Dr. Anis Shorrosh, Dr. Robert

Morey, Dr. John Weldon, Bill Cetnar, Joan Cetnar, Dr. Gleason Archer; ©1996

Is the topic of prophecy important? Should Christians bother, first of all, to look at it and to read it and to try and figure it out? Is it possible that Christ could come back even right now?

Contents

Introduction

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re here with eight professors and teachers, experts on the Bible. And we’re asking them the questions, the hard questions that skeptics ask Christians about certain topics in the Bible. And we’re going to come to a very interesting and timely topic right now and that’s the one about prophecy. Dave Hunt, let me come to you to start with. Do you think, first of all, that the topic of prophecy is important? Should Christians bother, first of all, to look at it and to read it and to try and figure it out? And then, secondly, let me ask you this right off the top of my head: Is it possible that Christ could come back even right now?
Hunt: Well, if we’re going to take how God views prophecy, He devoted about 25% of the Bible to it. So I think that in itself says it’s pretty important. Jesus talked about it. He talked about the last days. He gave signs. He said He was coming again. And He warned us to be ready. And in fact, He said, “In such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh.” [Matt. 24:24]
The signs are given, in my opinion, and we might have some differences and probably don’t have time to straighten all those out among the panelists here, but in my opinion we have to distinguish between Israel and the Church. Christ is coming for His Bride to take His Bride to Heaven, for the saints. And He is coming with His saints at the Second Coming to rescue Israel at Armageddon. I don’t believe that in the Bible there are any signs for the Rapture. There are signs about the Second Coming. So the Rapture could take place at any time.
In fact, the Christians ought to be expecting Him to come at any time. And the early Christians did. For example, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul says, “I know that you’re Christians” – we’ve already had it quoted – “because you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” and what? “and to wait for His Son from heaven.” You don’t go down to the airport and wait for Aunt Jane if she wrote to you saying she’s coming six months from now. You would only go and wait for somebody if you expected them right at that moment. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “As it is appointed unto man once to die [no reincarnation], and after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” I don’t believe that that means a partial rapture – only those who happen to be looking in the sky when Jesus returns are going to be taken – but I believe that it means that it is characteristic of Christians to be anticipating, expecting, longing and looking for our Savior. Because Philippians 3:20-21 says that, “Our citizenship [our conversation, our way of life] is in heaven, from whence also we look for our Savior, the Lord Jesus, who will change this vile body,” and so forth.
So, yes, He could come at any time. And I think, John, it really is important because the hope of the imminent return of Christ is intended to have a powerful moral impact on our lives. It’s very significant that Jesus likened a thought that He would delay His coming to evil. He said, “What and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, ‘My Lord delayeth His coming.’” [Matt. 24:48] I don’t want to upset some of my brothers who may disagree with me, but I would say if anything stands between you and the return of Christ, you have lost that moral impact that purifies our lives, John says, in 1 John 3:3, if we have this hope it purifies our lives.
People say, “Oh, isn’t it an escape theory? You’re sittin’ on your hands and sittin’ around waitin’ for Jesus to come!” No, if you expect Him to come at any moment, you’re going to be living for Him, witnessing for Him, working for Him. You don’t have seven years of the Great Tribulation to do this. You don’t have any time. You don’t know when He might come. W had better shape up right now and look for Him.
Ankerberg: Dr. Walter Kaiser, a guy studies all of his life. He learns the original languages. Writes big, big, big thick scholarly books that he makes his poor students read. And then, one of his students asks him to come on the television program and gives him three minutes to condense a lifetime of study. And I recognize that that’s really unfair. But I’m still going to do it to you right now. With all of your knowledge about the Old Testament, there is so much talk. There was even an article in, I think, Time or Newsweek about the temple in Jerusalem being rebuilt. When we were there not too long ago, Darlene and I were escorted into a spot and we were shown the utensils that they’ve actually made for the temple. We have talked with a man who was the owner of a diamond factory right there in Jerusalem. And he had taken his conception of what the temple would actually look like and he took out an ad in El Al magazine and put modern day Jerusalem, but he just cleared off the Dome of the Rock and put the temple right in there, which caused quite a stir. We’ll get a reaction from Anis Shorrosh over here in a moment, a Palestinian Arab. But I would like for you to see if you can give us some idea of what you believe the Bible is saying about the rebuilding of the temple. Do you think it’s going to take place?
Kaiser: Well, John, with that lead in I’m dying to hear what I have to say. But to put it in the simplest terms, “Yes. There is going to be a temple. And there is a large teaching block of text, nine whole chapters: Ezekiel 40-48. So you’ve got an enormous amount of material. And if it be said that is some temple that already has been built, the problem is, it won’t work. The dimensions are wrong. The description is different, and Ezekiel specifically sets it in a final day. So I think, yes, we are to look forward to it. Yes, it will occupy the center.
But the most important thing, John, that is, the King Himself will be here present. The Shekinah glory is here. As a matter of fact, that whole description ends with one of the great names for our Lord which is Yahweh Shema, “the Lord Is There.” It is no longer that it is just the glory and the effulgence, that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Christ Himself resides there in Jerusalem. Now, there is some debate as to location. Some in the millennial geography of Ezekiel will put it more towards the heart of the land in a different location. Some locate it slightly north of the Dome of the Rock. Others locate it right on the Dome of the Rock. As you can see, there is a little bit of a problem there. I have no special insight at this point. I’m not a prophet. My father wasn’t. He was a farmer. So I’m not a son of a prophet and I work for a non-prophet organization.
Ankerberg: Dr. Gleason Archer, do you agree with Dr. Kaiser.
Archer: Most of the time. He’s my boss. But I do have a comment to make in regard to the temporary temple which is going to be erected during the Tribulation, which I gather, from 2 Thessalonians 2. And here he says,
Now we request you brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [he’s talking to the New Testament church at this point] that you may not quickly be shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as from us to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first. [That sounds like a sign to me.] And the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so called god or object of worship so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. [2 Thess. 2:1-4]
And then I notice that in the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24 Jesus answers His disciples concerning the grandeur of the temple which Herod had built and He says,
Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another which will not be torn down…. See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ’ and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened for these things must take place first. [Matt. 24:2-6]
And then He gives many other signs that are going to be fulfilled, including persecution and tribulation, and then He says, “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, then let them flee to the mountains, those who are in Judea,” [Matt. 24:15-16] and hurry up about it. And then He says, “If anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is Christ’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe him, for false Christs will come.” [Matt. 24:23-24] And then at last He says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. And then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” [Matt. 24:29-30]
Now, the thing that impresses me is He’s talking to New Testament Christians there and so I cannot quite make up my mind to accept the proposition, “Oh, this is not really meant for the apostles. This is meant for a future generation of Jewish people during the time of the Tribulation and therefore they don’t have to expect signs.” The thing that intrigues me is that so many people who say these days, “Jesus may come today,” they add, “And look at all the signs that have been fulfilled.”
Hunt: I think the important thing of what he said was, that I would agree with him on, Jesus said, a) the temple will be destroyed, which it was. 2 Thessalonians 2 says there’s a man of sin coming and he’s going to sit in the temple and declare that he’s God. Therefore, it has to be rebuilt. Okay?
Ankerberg: If you heard, Dr. Archer, that they were going to start rebuilding the temple next week, according to your Bible chronology, what would that say to you?
Archer: I’d say that the Tribulation is very near.
Ankerberg: Now, let me get into a real touchy subject because we’ve got an Arab Palestinian sitting right on the end here.
Shorrosh: But he is a Christian Arab Palestinian!
Ankerberg: That’s right. Let me ask you the question, okay? I’d like you to answer with the fact of there’s two things going on here. Number one, obviously, when that starts to take place, if it’s right on the place of the Dome of the Rock, we have a major explosion that’s going to take place in the Middle East. Now, you were telling me before that there might be another option to that. Would you explain that to us?
Shorrosh: Right. Before I go into that, my dear sir, as a pastor who lived in Jerusalem, who observed things firsthand, I need to tell you that we are convinced that the existence of the nation of Israel there is no less than the fulfillment of prophecy, no matter what anybody says. You cannot explain it militarily, geographically, economically, whatever. It is there because God’s Word says that one of the greatest signs would be the return of the Jews to the land of Palestine, which is Israel. And it’s my conviction that Arabs and Jews can live in the same land.
Number two, we believe that in the year 1979 Professor Kaufman, who was a tremendous scholar taking his sabbatical, decided to find where the temple used to be. It took him not one year but ten years. Came out with the conclusion that the temple proper of Solomon, as well as Zerubbabel, as well as Herod, was somewhere north of where the Dome of the Rock is. In fact, there is a Dome sitting there called the “Dome of the Spirits” in deference to the Spirit of God that dwelt where the Ark of the Covenant was. It’s about 100 meters north of where the Dome of the Rock is.
Thirdly, I believe that the temple that was dedicated in 1982, on August the 4th, which is called in the heart of the modern city of Jerusalem “The Jerusalem Great Synagogue,” is very likely the Tribulation temple which cost over $18 million, the most expensive temple they have ever built. But they cannot call it a temple. You see, some people don’t realize that a temple has to have the utensils and the articles of the temple and the missing link, which brings us to another topic of great excitement, the Ark.
Where is the Ark? I wrote a book, Prophecy and the Middle East, explaining these things and a new book called just simply The Exciting Discovery of the Ark of the Covenant. And we believe among the seven different theories that it was indeed discovered in Mount Nebo hidden there until the proper time when it would be brought to Jerusalem. And there and then whoever brings it may indeed get the title of the Antichrist, because he would be Christ to the Jews. He’s the savior of the bringing of the huge tremendous desire of worshipping the true and living God in that temple, it is possible, which will be destroyed.
Finally, I believe that the real temple that our brethren have been talking about which will last a thousand years during the Millennium will indeed be the one that will be built where the original temple was. And the descriptions that we see in Ezekiel 40 to the end has never been fulfilled at all.
Finally, I need to remind everybody that it is not the temple that we’re concerned about, it is what the Word of God says: that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor. 6:19] Are You Born Again? Are you saved? And if you are, then that is the most important thing. Do you know Jesus? He’s coming again and the last thing He said was – this is the last sign as far as I’m concerned, the greatest sign – “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all nations and then the end shall come.” [Matt. 24:14] And it is my conviction that in this decade we have seen more desire in the hearts of Christians over the world to proclaim the gospel, and I see the crumbling of the wall in the city of Berlin where I have been, in Russia where I was last year, and the last wall that is crumbling before your eyes, my dear brother, is the wall of Islam, the most impregnable wall. And millions are coming to Jesus in Indonesia. I was last year in Kenya. Do you know how many people were saved? There were 600 of us under which over 60,000 people were saved, and a number of them are Muslims. Because they’re coming to know the joy of discovering a God who loves, a God who cares; Jesus, the Christ, our coming Lord and King. Amen.
Ankerberg: Dave, if the temple was rebuilt next to the Dome of the Rock, what would you think about that?
Hunt: Well, I think you’re going to have to have a Catholic Church up there, too. We’re heading for real ecumenism. And wouldn’t that make Jerusalem the international city that the Catholic Church wants it to be? And wouldn’t that show the unity of religions and so forth? I’m not the Islamic scholar, and maybe these gentlemen will correct me, but it’s my understanding that the Dome of the Rock, which is supposedly al Aqsa where Muhammad made his mystical journey, you know, isn’t really al Aqsa, because that is quoted in Sura 17:1 and among all the verses from the Qur’an in the Dome of the Rock Sura 17:1 is missing. Is that right? I don’t think they originally thought that was it. I think this was an idea that came up later and possibly they could be even disabused of this idea.
Shorrosh: Actually what it is, sir, is called the Night of the Journey, the journey to heaven.
Hunt: Right.
Shorrosh: And the idea is that Muhammad, to qualify himself as a prophet, he felt he had to go into the presence of God. So he asked his wife Aishah, did he really go. She says, “But he was next to me.” It was his spirit who went, alright. So in order to qualify himself as a prophet, since all the prophets came from the Jerusalem area and the Holy Land, he had to go by there and go to heaven. Now, when you go to that Dome of the Rock, it is not the Aqsa Mosque. The Aqsa Mosque is just a few hundred yards down that way. It was built in the 11th century as a church by the Crusaders in the shape of a cross, alright. The Dome of the Rock itself was dedicated in the year 691 AD, so it was several years after Muhammad. What is so fascinating about this in the context of the story in the Qur’an is how in the world could he go by that so called temple, use the word temple, the distant temple, when there was no temple? It was destroyed by Titus. There was nothing there, you see. It was later that his people, after they conquered Jerusalem in 632 and Omar came and took the key of the city of Jerusalem from the bishop, it was after that they began to built it, you see, and it took a number of years to build it.
Ankerberg: Alright, if, Dr. Shorrosh, if Muslim scholars will say that that is the case, then it wouldn’t be so hard to give up that Dome, would it?
Shorrosh: Right.
Ankerberg: Do you think that’ll happen?
Shorrosh: No. What I foresee, sir, is the 14th chapter of Zechariah, what it states, “And I will gather all nations against Jerusalem for battle,” could be really the result of the Jews trying to build the temple right there and although the land belongs to the Muslim High Council, it will be defying the whole Muslim world with nearly a billion people, and they could muster enough force to say, “Well, we’re tired of this business. We’re going to get Israel once for all,” you see. And Armageddon is right there before your eyes.
Ankerberg: For those that are thinking about the fact of prophecy, both that which has already been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, Dr. Kaiser, and looking forward to Christ’s next coming, His Second Coming, and they’re not ready tonight, how does a person get ready? If that disturbs them to think about Jesus coming right now and they’re not ready to meet Him, how could they get ready?
Kaiser: John, they need to do just something very, very simple. But on the other hand, it’s the toughest thing in the world. I think they need to come to the evidence: Is Jesus this One who claims to be God? Did He come back again from the dead? If He did, then I need to trust Him. I need to ask Him for the forgiveness of my sins. And it’s not a special formula, it’s not a ritual, it’s just being authentic, honest, in coming before God and saying, “I not only goofed, I sinned against you. Please forgive me.” And then, “I accept everything you did for me. I’m an American. I hate to depend upon anyone else, but in this case I’ve got to. You’re the only Way to the Father. Please accept me. I come by faith.” And the biblical text says that person shall be a new creature in Christ. I recommend that they do it.

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