Of Making Many Books: Writing on the Second Coming of Christ

A few days ago, I received an email from Paul M. Kingery, PhD, MPH, in which he sent me a link to his web page inviting me to read his book, which is available free on his web site.  I visited Mr. Kingery’s web site and read the first chapter of his book.  Here are my comments.

The premise of his book is that God has made three covenants and is about to make a fourth.  The four covenants were made with righteous men, with a physical nation, with Christians scattered in churches, and with gathered Christians in the kingdom.

These covenants were made in three separate dispensations.  The first dispensation was from Adam to Abraham and lasted 2000 years.  The second dispensation was from Abraham to Christ and lasted 2000 years and the third dispensation was from Christ to the present and lasted another 2000 years.  The final dispensation, the dispensation of the kingdom, will last 1000 years.

According to Mr. Kingery, the seventh millennium is the dispensation of the kingdom.  According to him, at his second coming, Christ will establish a “multi-racial kingdom in the land of Canaan.”  He said: “The promised land, the land beyond Jordan, is reserved for the children of God from every nation. Jerusalem is the capitol [sic] of the coming kingdom of Christ, the footstool of his throne.”

Mr. Kingery sees the number seven in the Old and New Testaments to be related to the seventh millennium.  He has an extensive list of the occurrences of the number seven in the Bible and relates each one of them to the actions of God in the seventh millennium (I wonder what he would do with 1 Samuel 2:5?).

The premise of Mr. Kingery’s book is very shaky; it is like a house built without a solid foundation (Luke 6:49).  The chapter I read is mostly an allegorization and spiritualization of the biblical text.  It is impossible for me to make a detailed criticism of what I read, but the comments below demonstrate the shaky premises the book.

1.  The spiritualization of the Old Testament takes away the historical integrity of the text.  One basic issue of interpretation is that the biblical text has a message for the people who lived in a very specific historical period.  To say that Jacob’s bowing seven times before Esau means that “God’s people will endure seven millennia on earth with the people of the world who do not value Christ before the judgment” is to say much, much more than what is intended by the text.

2.  To divide human history into three periods of 2000 years each is to reject the historical reality that the world is much older than 6000 years.  As John Bright has demonstrated in his book, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000), p. 24, the earliest settlement in Jericho can easily be dated to 8000 B.C.

The division of human history into periods goes back to Jewish Apocalyptic.  Jewish tradition teaches that from Adam to Abraham there were 2000 years of chaos and anguish.  Then, Abraham brings about 2000 years of Torah which is then followed with 2000 years of preparation for the coming of the Messiah, who will come to establish his kingdom for the Jewish people and for the nations of the world.

The early Christian church took a similar approach.  The Epistle of Barnabas says: “In six thousand years the Lord will make an end of all things, for a day is with him as a thousand years. And he himself beareth witness unto me, saying: Behold this day a day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, my children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, shall all things be brought to an end” (Epistle of Barnabas 15:4).

Out of these words of Barnabas there has come the popular saying found in so many millenarian books: “As there had been 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, and 2,000 from Abraham to Christ, so there will be 2,000 years for the Christian era and then would come the Millennium.”

The classical exposition of the view that human history is 6000 years old was developed by Bishop James Ussher, whose chronology was placed on the top of the pages of many of the old editions of the King James Bible.  Calculating the years back from the birth of Christ, Ussher concluded that the world was created on October 23, 4004 B. C. at 6:00 a.m.

3.  Another fallacy with Mr. Kingery’s premise is that by his account, the millennium kingdom should have begun in 2000 (even though the seventh millennium begins in 2001), which means, that the beginning of the kingdom is six years late, or using Ussher’s chronology, which conforms better with the biblical text, the kingdom is almost ten years late already.

Ussher himself estimated that the second coming of Christ would occur exactly 6000 years after the creation of the world, that is, in the fall of 1996. His conclusion is based of the view that each day of creation represents a thousand years.  This view is called the “millennial week.”  Thus, according to Ussher, on the seventh millennial day, October 23, 1996, Jesus Christ would return to earth and life as we know today would cease.

Many people have established dates for the coming of Christ.  Based on an incorrect interpretation of Daniel 9:24-25, a passage which I hope to study sometime in the future, and based on the dispensational teachings of C. I. Schofield, many people believed that, since the millennium would begin in 2000, the rapture would occur in 1993.

For instance, Benny Hinn, the famous TV evangelist, predicted that the rapture of believers would occur in 1993.  A millenarian religious movement in the Ukraine predicted that the coming of Christ and the end of the world would happen on November 7, 1993.

Lee Jang Rim, a pastor in Korea, wrote a book in which he said God revealed to him that the rapture of the church would occur on October 27, 1993, which it did not.  Many of his followers committed suicide in order to avoid the tribulations of the last days.

I waited until October 28 (just to be sure) and then wrote a letter to the Chicago branch of the Korean church, telling the pastor there that the reason the so-called rapture of the church did not occur was because his church’s interpretation of Daniel was incorrect.  Many religious people, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seven-Day Adventists, have set dates for the coming of Christ, only to be proven wrong.

I know that Mr. Kingery means well, but his book, Land of Canaan, is based on a very shaky foundation.  The Lord is coming but of the day and hour, of the month or year, “no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

After reading the first chapter of the book, I realized there was no reason to read the rest of the book.  You do not have to read the book either, but if you insist, then, go ahead and click here.

The writer of Ecclesiastes was right: “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV).  Or, as the New Living Translation puts it: “There is no end of opinions ready to be expressed. Studying them can go on forever and become very exhausting.”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Bishop Ussher, Book of Daniel, Daniel, Hebrew Bible, Old Testament and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Of Making Many Books: Writing on the Second Coming of Christ

  1. >Christians spend too much time preparing for Christ’s return by trying to determine when it will happen. Instead, they should prepare for his coming by seeking to be more like him.I hope that dispensationalism will soon be relegated to the dustbin of bad theology where it belongs. But with the recent popularity of the “Left Behind” series, I won’t hold my breath.Thanks for pointing out some of the inherent flaws in these systems of eschatology.

  2. >Dear Jeff,The problem with the different systems of eschatology is that those who propose them have to force the Bible into their systems. Instead of interpreting the Bible by allowing Scriptures to speak on their own, they force Scriptures to say and teach what is not there.Thank you for visiting my web page and for your comments.Claude Mariottini

  3. >People do not know how to classify me because I refuse to force a system on my reading of Revelation.

  4. >Alan,I agree with you. No one should force a system into the book of Revelation. What we need is to allow the author of the book to speak on his own term. Then, we listen and understand his message, first to the people of the first century, and then to us.Best wishes on writing your dissertation on Revelation.Claude Mariottini

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Why does everyone calculate from the birth of Christ rather than the more significant events 33 years later?The beginning of the Church Age was on the Day of Pentecost, 33 years after Jesus was born. Therefore, even under their own thinking, we shouldn’t be expecting the Rapture until 2026 (give or take a few years due to the innacuracy of the dating of Christ’s birth).Rather than spending endless days speculating about the timing and conditions around the second coming, we should be concentrating on making disciples.Don in Phoenix

  6. >Don,The answer to your question is that the author calculated 2000 years from Abraham to Christ and 2000 years from Christ to the end. There was no effort to calculate the date from the birth of the church. This is not what this theory proposes.I agree with you. Rathar than worring about the date of the Second Coming, let us worry about the millions who are lost and without Christ. Thank you for visiting my web page.Claude Mariottini

  7. Joseph Matos says:

    >Dr. Mariottini,I am entering this response late in the game I understand, but I wanted to comment on your blog about the second coming and how many misunderstand it.I too have become frustrated with all the date setting. One would think that after repeated failed attempts to guess right, people would exercise more caution and humility.Such problems led me to do my own study. The result is a different appreciation for the aims of eschatological teaching in the Bible. I am not seeking to solve the riddles but to bring to light the texts’ own function in the Bible. That is, who is the audience of these teachings, and what are the reasons for and intended outcomes of the biblical authors’inclusion of this material in their writings?My initial findings show that the biblical writers were concerned not to give readers data for date setting, but directives for living. There appears to be the recurrent theme of “this is going to happen, therefore, live this way.” Even Jesus’ parables of preparedness speak to moral/ethical preparedness, not correctly calculating the date.The major text for me is 2 Peter 3:10-12. Peter affirms that the Lord will consummate the age. But then he calls his readers to a particular lifestyle: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . !” (ESV). Interestingly, in the previous verses, Peter affirms the teaching that “one day is as a thousand years,” which is the basis of much speculation. Unfortunately for many as they use this passage, they fail to read the next clause: “and a thousand years as one day.” Clearly, Peter’s intent is not to create some kind of algebraic formula, but to employ an idiomatic expression to show that God is not bound by our method of reckoning time.Jesus, Paul, and here Peter, speak of his coming as a “thief,” the point of which is to call readers/hearers to live a life that demonstrates preparedness. Being prepared is defined as living out daily our covenant relationship with Christ, not getting the date correct.One final note, though I believe we should be about the business of searching the scriptures to understand all that teaches, including the second coming of Christ, if such a study leads only to date setting and not toward a call to right living, it is futile. What is the point of trying to determine the date of Christ’s return if it does not lead to the proper lifestyle in anticipation of it?Jesus will reward us on the basis of our ethical preparedness for his coming, not for rightly calculating the time of his coming.

  8. Pingback: Fairbairn v. Fairbairn | Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

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