The “until” Verses

Sometimes the most ordinary words carry a most extraordinary meaning, such as the word until in the Bible. In Matthew 1:25 we see it used concerning Mary, who did not consummate her marriage with Joseph “until” after Jesus was born.

“But he did not consummate their marriage UNTIL she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matt 1:25 (NIV)

The Greek word translated “until” in this verse is ἕως which simply means till or until.  It is used to help determine the timing of when a matter occurs.  A perfect example is that of Christ’s command to his three main disciples on the mountain of transfiguration, where he said, “Tell the vision to no one UNTIL the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” Matt 17:17 (NIV)  So even the other nine disciples did not know about that until later.

The point is that ‘until’ is an ordinary word, and should be understood in the ordinary way, and that is what gives it extraordinary meaning in so many places in the New Testament.  

Consider this verse:

“The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand UNTIL I put your enemies under your feet.’” Matthew 22:44 (NIV) Quoting Psalm 110:1

Many Christians think the world is going to get worse and worse and then Jesus will return in person, and after that he will subdue every enemy.  The above verse is the most quoted old testament scripture in the new testament, being referenced (depending on how it is counted) about 24 times.  Rather than agreeing with the idea that the world will get worse, it would appear to be saying that Christ is going to remain in Heaven UNTIL all the enemies are defeated.

1 Corinthians 15:25 (NIV) is another ‘until verse’ that agrees, saying: “For He must reign UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet.” 

That idea puts a cat among the pigeons of many end-times theories.  

Or consider this verse:

“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine UNTIL that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25 (NIV)  The weird thing about this ‘until,’ is that it was only the very next day that Jesus drank wine-vinegar while dying on the cross.  While I’m not dogmatic about it, I have often pondered the question, “Is that an indicator that Christ’s kingdom began with the atonement?”  

Or consider this set of three verses:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up UNTIL we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

The debate about the church having or needing apostles seems to be settled by the ‘until’ here, because Christ gives them to His people to perfect them until they measure up to God’s ultimate standard… which of course hasn’t happened yet.

The ‘until verses’ are among some of the most interesting in the New Testament because they demonstrate that the original apostles thought differently to us on a few points.  So it’s a reason to go to the Bible and get to know it all the more. 

The Number 1000 in Scripture

Source: Aaron Lee on Unsplash

There’s something to know about the interesting number, one thousand in the Bible.

In the Koine Greek language the word used is χιλιάς (kilias) which is where we get the word ‘kilo’ in English, as used in kilometre (a thousand metres) or kilogram. (a thousand grams)  And, in the Hebrew language, which is written mostly using the Aramaic square script, the word for thousand is אֶלֶף (elep).

The word for thousand can be used either literally or figuratively, and is used both ways in both languages in both the Old and the New Testament.  

For example, here is the word a thousand used specifically in the Old Testament, and specifically (that is literally) in the New Testament:

“To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.” (Gen 20:16)  Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.

“Those who ate were about five thousand men, in addition to women and children.” (Matt 14:21)  Literal – New Testament Greek.

When we read passages like these, the number a ‘thousand’ reads normally.  However at other times the word is non-literal and comes to represent something else, such as in these examples from both the Old and New Testaments.

“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the livestock on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)  Non-Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.  


“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)  Non-Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.

To read the above two Psalms literally would mean that God only owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but the parallelism of the verse shows us that God is using the word “thousand’ to refer to “everything.”  So he owns the cattle not just on a thousand hills, but on all of the hills.  And in the second psalm, a day in the Lord’s courts is better than all of the days of time anywhere else.  

So when we encounter the word ‘thousand’ in scripture, how do we know if it is literal or non-literal in its usage.  The passage is often the clue.  For example the psalms are poetry, and thus we have poetic language, including the use of many non-literal terms.  Other passages in the Bible like the story of Isaac obtaining a wife in Genesis 20 are narrative, so we have a story with the actual price paid for his wife’s dowry, being a thousand pieces of silver.  

How about the millennium passages from Revelation twenty?

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:1-2) 

Many people have interpreted the word thousand here literally, but there is a clue that it is in fact non-literal.  Consider the other things in this verse:

  • The Abyss is not a literal abyss.
  • The chain is not a literal chain… 
  • The dragon is not a literal dragon.

If the other elements in these two verses are non-literal, what about the word thousand?  I suggest the word thousand is also non-literal.  

When the book of Revelation says that Christ is going to reign for a thousand years, and the devil is going to be bound for a thousand years, perhaps that is a non-literal expression for a very very long time.  In other words, the Lord will be King of the Earth, not just for a thousand years, but…

The Seven Israels

Today as I write this, it is remembrance day.  104 years ago to the day, the guns stopped firing in World War 1, and nations laid down their weapons for peace.  While the peace didn’t last and was temporary, it reminds us of a peace that does last, and the gospel that brings us eternal peace.  

One of the biggest misunderstandings that hindered believers in the past, and still hinders some today, from finding peace with their fellow believers is the issue of Israel.  There was a gulf between the Jew and the Gentile which only the gospel was able to span.  Paul called that revelation a “mystery” which doesn’t mean something mysterious we don’t understand, but rather something that was hidden or a secret, but later revealed.  

The idea of Israel begins with one man in scripture, and develops to be many things, but it ends up including all the Gentiles.  Nobody would have seen that coming, hence why it was a ‘mystery’, a secret.  Today we sit on the other side of that revealing.  We know that there are many ways the word Israel can be used, and its always important to be clear about what you mean, when you use the word Israel.  

Here are seven ways Israel is used in language.

  1. Israel was a person.  Jacob wrestled with God because he was distressed over his future and his family’s future, and he would not let God go until he was blessed.  God changed his name to Israel, one who wrestles with God.  All of us are called to wrestle with God too.  See Genesis 32:28
  1. Next, the biological descendants of Jacob began to be called the “children of Israel” or Israel for short.  This included all his twelve sons, their wives, an all those with them, slave and free.  So Israel came to be the descendants of Jacob as a people.  They came to be called Israelites.  A great example is Pharoah’s statement… “I will not let Israel go.”  See Exodus 5:2
  1. As Israel entered the land of Canaan a nation was established, this became the biblical undivided nation of Israel.  This nation was initially a theocracy – ruled by God, and that was how the Lord intended it.  Later they wanted a king and it became a monarchy, with Saul as the first king, but he failed them badly.  In 1 Samuel 24:19-21, Saul admits to David that he knows the Lord has delivered to him the nation of Israel, and asks him to promise to be kind to his descendants after him, which David does.  The third usage of Israel refers to a biblical nation.
  1. Later the nation was divided in civil war during the time of King Rehoboam.  Two of the tribes went on to be called Judah, from where we get the name Jews, and the word Jewish.  The other ten of the twelve tribes were called Israel, but were not representing all of Israel, but a majority of it.  The nation of Israel now turned away from God.  A number of kings of Judah were described as evil, like Ahaz for example who walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.  He wasn’t counted as Israel, but he was copying Israel.  See 2 Kings 16:2-4
  1. It gets much more interesting in the New Testament where we see that Christ is Israel.  Straight away in Matthew’s gospel Jesus is being compared to Israel.  Matthew 2 quotes Hosea 11 where it says “out of Egypt I called my son.”  Israel initially came out of Egypt as a nation, but now it is Christ who comes out of Egypt as a baby.  Back in Exodus 4:23 God told Pharaoh to “let my son go.”  So we see this example of how Jesus is the true Israel of God.
  1. Then just as the descendants of Jacob became Israel, so we the believers in Jesus have also become included in Israel.  And we find out that there was never a separation between Jew and Gentile in God’s mind.  HIs plan was for one flock all along. (John 10:16)  Paul saw it and wrote about it most clearly saying that the church is the “true Israel” and that includes true jews of faith, and true gentiles of faith, it is not a rejection of either, but an inclusion of both in Christ.  In his letter to the Galaatians (6:16) Paul writing to non Jewish believers says that all who walk in Christ are the Israel of God.  
  1. And finally…. we have the modern political nation of Israel today which occupies more or less the same historic land that the historic nation of Israel did.  The historic nation was a theocracy based on the law, and later after the civil war a divided nation, but still with a temple, priesthood and sacrifices.  The modern nation of Israel is a democracy with a prime minister, and mostly secular, but with rabbinic Judaism practised by some.  Mosaic Judaism (temple/sacrifices/priests) is no longer a reality.

In summary, it’s good to be clear that the word Israel is used in many different ways.  When we see an Old Testament prophecy referring to “Israel”… don’t assume it must be speaking of the modern democratic political and mostly secular nation labelled Israel.  It makes much more sense that it speaks of Christ and the Church, as the majority of prophecies do.  

On this remembrance day, let us quote Paul in concluding, and remember that Christ “is our peace, who has made the two groups one (Jews & Gentiles) and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Eph 2:14) 

Why the Date of the Book of Revelation is Important

It turns out that the dating of Revelation has a HUGE impact on the potential interpretation of it, and the behaviour of its readers, and even entire countries.

If you believe that Revelation was written before 70AD, then it was written before the destruction of the second Jewish temple, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Knowing that, everytime the temple is referred to in the book, it is assumed to be probably talking about that actual temple that was standing at the time. It lends to a more “back then in history at the time of the early readers” type of intepretation. People who intepret it that way are sometimes called “preterists” or “partial preterists. They are not clamoring for a third temple to be rebuilt, and not thinking that Israel in the world today is God’s special country. This interpretation, leads to a less complicated outlook of the future, and they are not constantly watching the nation of Israel for everything it does, believing our future is tied to what happens there.

If however you think the book is written after 70AD when there was no temple, then people will conclude there is going to be a third physical temple built, and the believe that our future is somehow tied up with the present nation of Israel. Some are even donating money to the Temple Institute to build it as soon as the opportunity arises. Hundreds of thousands of people support Israel, and all it does, including the blockade of Palesinians in Gaza, and the clear human rights abuses that happen day after day against Palestinians, some of whom are even Christians or Jews. Christians support many terrible things like this believing it is God’s will to do so, and “whoever blesses Israel, will be blessed.” Then you have things like 9/11 that happen in retaliation against this apparent Christian support of Israel, because Al Qaeda understood it as a type of Christian persecution against Muslims. You can see this in the speeches of Osama Bin Laden. (just google for that)

There are some very real world decisions and actions taken based on assumptions made about Israel and the End Times, but a lot of this would be different, if a different date for Revelation was clear.

The Temple/Israel issue is just one thing that is important, that the dating of Revelation impacts.

Here is something on the date:

In recent times a large group of acaemics, and hence pastors who are taught by them at Seminary, have believed that Revelation was written later than other books in the NT – maybe around 90AD in the time of the Emporer Domitian. (From 81–96 AD). This late date is based on one half-reference by an early church father called Irenaeus.

Here is the quote:

“Had there been any need for his name to be openly announced at the present time, it would have been stated by the one (John) who saw the actual revelation. For it was seen not a long time back, but almost in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.” (Against Heresies, 5.30.3)

It sounds like John saw the Revelation in the time of Domitian’s reign. However if you know a little Greek, the grammar is completely unlike English, and it could equally have been translated something like this.

“Had there been any need for his name to be openly announced at the present time, it would be been stated by the one (John) who saw the actual revelation. He was seen not a long time ago, in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.”

Ireaneus was not clear with his words because they could mean that John saw the revelation later, or that John himself was seen by them later. And apart from that semi-clear reference, there is not much else to suggest a later date, but a LOT that suggests an earlier date.

The book which outlines it all is “Before Jerusalem Fell” by Dr Kenneth Gentry, which is roughly speaking a rehash into his PHD Thesis on the topic.

In recent times more and more experts are concluding that there is strong evidence that John wrote his revelation during the reign of Nero – around about 60AD. Then the events in Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple fit very nicely the things that were “soon to take place.” (Rev 1:1)

Interestingly, a nickname for Nero back then was “the beast.”