Most have heard the saying: “What goes around comes around.”
This has, for example, been the philosophizing mantra for those on the losing end of sporting events and political contests. The notice is given to let the winning side know they shouldn’t gloat. They might soon be the losers rather than the winners in a subsequent contest, so they shouldn’t be too boastful lest they suffer obloquy equal to that which they are dishing out to their defeated foes.
Another application of this saying is to give a stern heads-up that if you treat someone badly, the same thing will come around to you in the same manner.
In Bible prophecy, this saying might also well be applicable–but with a different nuance of meaning. What goes around comes around can be said of some specific, recurring prophecies I would like for us to consider. For our purposes in this commentary, I want to mention one particular area in the matter of Bible prophecy that has stirred controversy on a number of occasions.
Some who are adamantly–even angrily—against the notion of the pre-trib rapture have often thrown fiery darts my way. The darts are laced with reasons that the pre-trib view cannot be correct. The dart throwers usually add that I’m leading someone to Hell by telling them about a pretribulation rapture.
These angry flame-throwers’ accusations–saying that we who hold that God’s Word put forth that the Church will be taken out of this rebellious world before God’s wrath must fall—utilize Scripture in ways that confuse the reader. This confusion, however, is the fault of the under-studied reader-student–never the fault of God’s Holy, Inerrant Word.
(I’ve never figured out what, exactly, teaching the pre-trib rapture could have to do with “leading” someone to Hell, but the charge is often there, nonetheless. And, they sometimes include that I, too, am going to Hell for teaching false doctrine.)
The example of this “confusion” I will address is Jesus’ words given in the Olivet Discourse, about the time He terms “great tribulation” (KJV). The following is the Lord expounding on this prophecy.
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand 🙂 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:15-21)
This is one of the primary cases in Bible prophecy in which the principle of dual reference is employed. Dual reference, as I define it, is when a prophecy has an immediate–and sometimes a later–future application.
Those flame-throwers I mentioned very often use the above prophecy to point out that we “pre-tribbers” are totally mistaken in our dispensational view of things. This prophecy, they say, was fulfilled in AD 70 when Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son, General Titus, to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. It does not, they proclaim, indicate that there will be a time at the midpoint of the Tribulation when the forces of Antichrist will attack the city and sanctuary and make the Jews flee for their lives. We are full of prunes, they charge, because this is a prophecy long ago fulfilled.
Jesus did indeed predict and describe a time that would come within thirty something years when the Jews would have to flee for their lives. We don’t deny that in any way whatsoever. However, the dual-reference principle employed by the Holy Spirit-guided writers of the Bible–in this case, His disciple, Matthew–to look down through the ages and dispensations to prophetically offer an end-time fulfillment of Jesus’ words through this account.
The prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD. The second application of this dual-reference prophecy will also be fulfilled in the middle of the seven-year era we know as Daniel’s seventieth week, the last of the prophesied seventy weeks of Israel’s playing out its divine destiny (Daniel 9:24). Each week within the seventy weeks equals seven years in prophetic terms, for a total of 490 years. When Jesus was crucified, the 490-year prophecy for Israel’s destiny to be fulfilled was interrupted at the sixty-ninth week (at the 483rd year). The seventieth week will begin to complete the last seven years of the 490 years when Antichrist confirms the covenant with Israel and her enemies.
Daniel the prophet foretold this end-time application of this midpoint-of-the-Tribulation assault by Antichrist as recorded in the following passage:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9: 27)
The principle of dual reference is easily discernable by the consideration of history. Just a couple of instances come to mind where this principle can be ascertained.
John wrote as recorded in Revelation 13:16-18 that there would be a mark on the hand or forehead as part of an economic system of buying and selling that will, during Antichrist’s regime, enslave most if not all the people of the world. Such a system was in place at the very time John was writing the Revelation while imprisoned on Patmos.
The ancient Roman Empire economic model was to stamp the hand and the forehead of people interacting within the marketplaces of commerce. When the shoppers had their hands full, the mark plainly showed on their foreheads that they were approved for transacting business. When they exchanged coinage with the merchants, the mark was visible on the hand as the exchange of coinage for goods was made.
The Holy Spirit obviously inspired John to note that what goes around comes around. The revived Roman Empire of Daniel chapters 2, 9, and other prophetic places in God’s Word will have characteristics of the ancient form of that would-be world order. The principle of dual reference can be sensed in such historical detail.
The final thing I would like to mention in regard to this principle that flows throughout Scripture is the matter that has long been a point of interest. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached into the whole world before the end comes–meaning the time just before His Second Advent (Revelation 19:11). There are arguments amongst the great academicians–the seminary scholars—and even among laypersons about the meaning of the Lord’s prophecy. That foretelling is as follows:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)
The word “kingdom” in this prophecy constitutes, in my view, a matter the more erudite among us have squeezed into an overly examined term. These seemingly want to define the term “kingdom” very narrowly so as to exclude the Church Age or Age of Grace.
I don’t believe this is the case. I see here the principle of dual reference at work yet again.
We of the pre-trib camp sometimes mention that the gospel has literally been preached to the whole world. Thus, in that electronic means from short-wave radio to the most sophisticated satellite technologies have been beamed to every place on the globe, the gospel being part of the information disseminated.
We say that, therefore, Jesus’ words have been fulfilled. The academic purists say that this isn’t what Jesus meant, and use Greek and Hebrew to dazzle us to prove we are wrong.
However, it is clear to a plain ol’ layperson such as myself: This is yet another case of something akin to dual reference. The prophecy, in my opinion, is for this dispensation–the Church Age. It is also for the time of Tribulation–Daniel’s seventieth week.
We have the satellite technologies and other means. The Tribulation-era people will have an even more sophisticated mode of getting the Gospel. It is God’s supernatural technology that will reach every nook and cranny of that devastated world.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6-7)