** I realize that what I have written below is against the grain of how most people think about “prophecy.” But I appeal to you to ask the Lord to show you His mind in Christ by the Holy Spirit. It appears to me that what many folks think about the future is bogus, and they are being misled by what J.N. Darby and C.I. Scofield foisted on Bible-believers years ago. Some of what I say may be totally new to you, but please hang in there and see if it doesn’t help bring clarity to the Lord’s purpose in Christ.  Jon Zens, March, 2022


Rethinking Some Assumptions

Jon Zens

In light of all the turmoil going on in the world right now, I keep hearing believers talking very dogmatically about the “rapture,” the “millennial reign,” and other “end time” events. My walk with Jesus began in 1965 in a church that constantly pushed these “last days” views.

In 1968 these doctrines were questioned and challenged in a Bible study given by Bob Morey, while I was a student at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. While in a Philadelphia seminary in 1972, I wrote a Biblical-Historical paper on the “rapture,” etc. This work became my first published book in 1976, entitled Dispensationalism: An Inquiry into Its Leading Figures & Features.

I would like to ask some questions, and appeal to you to consider if perhaps your assumptions need to be revisited. These questions relate to what brought me to move away from the teachings popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible, which was the first Bible I owned.

Where did the ideas of the rapture and the millennial reign originate?

Many people will quickly affirm their view of the rapture and all, but they have no clue when and where these teachings came from. Such notions began with Irishman John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) around 1830. While laid up with a broken leg, his reading of the Old Testament led him to believe that the Lord had two separate purposes – an earthly one for Israel and a heavenly one for the church. His entire prophetic scheme was based on this two-purpose premise. It is vital to underscore the fact that no one in the history of the church had ever suggested such an earthly/heavenly distinction in God’s purposes as Darby did.

As the years rolled on, Darby’s novel theories were pretty much rejected by believers in the UK. However, Darby made seven trips to America and his prophetic system began to take hold. Prophetic conferences began to appear, and Darby spoke in D.L. Moody’s  Chicago church. In the period of 1860 – 1960 Darby’s two-purpose theory became solidly rooted in Bible-believing churches, Bible schools and seminaries across America.

The vehicle that spread Darby’s doctrine far and wide was the Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909, and revised by the author in 1917. Scofield’s notes are built on the assumption that God has an earthly purpose for Israel and a heavenly purpose for the church.

Is the Darby-Scofield two-fold purpose of God correct?

To suggest that the Lord has two separate purposes, one for Israel and another for the church, is flatly contrary to His revelation in the New Testament that centers in His Son. “That through the ekklesia the many-sided wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:10-11). The seal of God is on His Son, not Israel. Psalm 2 tells everyone to “kiss the Son,” not Israel. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets” Jesus “interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). “Moses wrote about Me . . . . search the scriptures, for they testify of Me.”

An Israel-centered outlook is the result of building a prophetic infrastructure on the two-purposes assumption. This is illustrated graphically in Charles Feinberg’s 1980 book, Israel at the Center of History and Revelation. Really? From our Father’s vantage point, it is clear that His Son is the center of all His purposes in history and revelation.

It is crucial to understand that the two-purposes theory is the linchpin in the Darby-Scofield view of the future. Why does the church have to be removed by the rapture? Because, they say, God cannot resume His earthly purpose with Israel until the church is taken out of history. After the rapture, they posit, then the Millennium will be ushered in, the Temple will be rebuilt, and the animal sacrifices will be resumed.

But notice that in 2 Thess. 1: 6-10 there is nothing about Israel and a millennium in the “end.” Paul is comforting suffering saints and he draws their attention to events that surround the Lord’s coming.

Since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at by all who have believed.

When this day occurs, judgment comes on the unbelievers and believers are glorified. History is over. How can there be an Israel-centered millennium after these events, especially since Paul says in 2 Thess. 2:8, “and then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him by His appearing and His coming”? If Jesus has destroyed the devil, how can there then be a millennium where he is bound and later released?

To be sure, Israel was an earthly economy, but her calling and development were never an end in themselves, not a separate purpose. Everything going on in her history and activities pointed to the coming of Jesus who would fulfill all the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. One key example of this fulfillment is found in the Sabbath commandment. Colossians 2:16-17 gives the New Covenant perspective on the Sabbath in light of Christ’s work on the cross.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in  questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the reality is Christ.

The Sabbath is very different from the other nine commandments. It was a shadow of the rest to be found in Christ. “Come to Me, and I will give you Sabbath rest . . . . In Me you will find Sabbath rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). Historically, a huge error and distraction has occurred by focusing on a day. In the New Covenant, the Sabbath is a person, not a day. We find Sabbath only by ceasing from our own works and resting in Christ. If a day of rest is commanded by the Lord, then how could Paul say in Romans 14 that in Christ a person can esteem every day as the same?

Another point of contention is Darby-Scofield’s view that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt in the future. Jesus made it clear that the Temple was a type fulfilled in His resurrection.

Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But He spoke of the temple of His body.

Jesus is the Temple of the Lord. His people are being built into a holy temple (Eph. 2:21). The bodies of His  people are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). In the age to come, John “saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22). To conceive of a physical Temple being built again is to completely deny its fulfillment by Christ and in His body.

Likewise, to believe that animal sacrifices will be started up again the millennium is to deny Christ’s fulfillment of them. Once a type/shadow is fulfilled by a reality, it is shameful to continue killing animals. The Darby-Scofield system is guilty of carrying on with earthly pictures that were long ago fulfilled and discarded, creating untold confusion and error.

What Is the “Millennium”?

In the Darby-Scofield scheme of things, the church must first be raptured out in order that God can resume His earthly purpose with Israel. This earthly purpose will take the shape of seven years of great tribulation, a millennium, a rebuilt Temple, animal sacrifices, and other features. But can this viewpoint be squared with the New Testament?

First of all, the NT only knows of two ages – “this age and the age to come.” “This age” is tainted with sin; “the age to come” is without curse and sin. “This age” will be followed by a New Heaven and New Earth. Since satan is present yet in the millennium mentioned in Revelation 20, this would give strong indication that the millennium takes places “in this present evil age.”

Secondly, notice that in Revelation 20:1-10 Israel and her institutions are never mentioned. An Israel-centered millennium is simply not present in the text. Rather, followers of Jesus who are martyred dominate the scene.

In this millennium, the devil is bound for a long period of time and then released for a little season. Take note that the evil one is not bound absolutely. He is bound with reference to one key dimension – he can no longer deceive the nations. Based on this important fact, perhaps the pieces can begin to fall together.

** Thus, we can see the beginning of the millennium in the death of Christ, where satan was bound. “Now is the prince of this world cast out” (John 12:31).

** The duration of the millennium is the whole gospel era, until Jesus returns at the end of this age. After His resurrection, Jesus tells His disciples to go into all the nations. Before the Spirit comes on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus sees the gospel going out from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and to the farthest parts of the earth. Because the devil is bound with reference to deceiving the nations, the gospel can now go out far and wide. Keep in mind that all of this is coming to pass because of God’s ancient promise to Abraham, “in you all nations will be blessed.”

** At the end of the gospel age, satan will be loosed for a little season. What all this entails is hard to say, but we do know that there will be lying signs and wonders and many, many people being deceived.

No interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10 will be airtight, but the outlook I have presented appears to do justice to the elements of the passage, and comports with the rest of Jesus’ revelation. The millennium of Revelation 20 is not an Israel-centered period in the future. We are in the millennium now. The binding of the devil ensures that the gospel will go out to the nations.

What Are We to Make of the Book of Revelation?

More than most Scripture, the Book of Revelation becomes a wax nose in the hands of most would-be interpreters – they shape the words to mean whatever they want. I’ve been looking at Revelation since 1965, and it was not until 2003 that significant light appeared. In my search, I asked the Lord to show pieces of the puzzle that I could hang my hat on. I believe He has answered that long-term prayer. I still have a whole lot of questions about the details of Revelation, but here are some perspectives I can sink my teeth into.

** Many approach Revelation as if it is all about God’s earthly purpose for Israel. Many see the first three chapters as referring to the church, but the suggest that in the words “come up here” (4:1) the church is raptured away in order that God’s earthly purpose for Israel can resume. But this is a mistake of horrendous proportions. John’s opening statement is that this book is “a revelation of Jesus Christ.” What John saw and wrote focused on Jesus Christ.

** Multitudes assume that Revelation has in view events 2000+ years down the road. Certainly chapters 21-22 have to do with the “age to come” where there is no sin or curse, but the bulk of the book has to do with First Century events, specifically the destruction of Jerusalem. John immediately noted that the revelation would show “what must soon take place . . . . for the time is at hand.” These words mean imminent, on the horizon, and not far away. To suggest that 2000+ years are in view is ludicrous. John was writing about things that were to happen soon.

** The contents of Revelation 11 were a turning point for me. John was told to measure part of the Temple of God. This means that Herod’s Temple was standing when John wrote Revelation. It also means that this book was written before 70 AD. John is told not to measure the outside court. Why? “It is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for three and a half years.” This is exactly what happened. Roman armies sacked Jerusalem for forty-two months, leaving it leveled beyond belief, as Josephus reported. So this is the crucial event that John had in view when he said “soon.”

Jesus had said to His disciples, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near” (Luke 21:20). He also warned them, “How miserable those days will be for pregnant and nursing mothers! Pray that your fleeing will not occur in the winter or on the Sabbath” (Matt. 24:20). Jesus is talking about matters that will happen in their lifetime, not 2000 years off in the distance.

While addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus made this shocking prediction:

So you are witnesses and you approve of the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill, and some they will persecute,  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation’ (Luke 11:48-51). 

This is a very massive and comprehensive judgment. Yet, have you ever heard a preacher or Bible teacher open up the implications of this intense punishment on Israel in 70 AD? Jesus is telling these Jewish leaders that punishment for the blood of all the prophets since Abel will fall on them. Again, Jesus is not talking about some generation 2000 years away. He is speaking of what happened in 70 AD to “this generation.”

This opens up a theme in Revelation: God will avenge the blood of His prophets, “for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve” (see Rev. 6:10-11, 16:6, 17:6-7, 18:20). John’s book gives considerable space to the revelation of Jesus in the utter destruction of Jerusalem and its old covenant institutions.

Notice what well-known writer Anne Rice concluded after much study: “When Jewish & Christian scholars begin to take this war [70 AD] seriously, when they begin to really study what happened during the terrible years of the siege of Jerusalem . . . When they focus upon the civil war in Rome in the 60s which Kenneth L. Gentry so well describes in his work ‘Before Jerusalem Fell‘ . . . in sum, when all of this dark era is brought into the light of examination — Bible studies will change . . . . But I am convinced that they key to understanding the Gospels is that they were written before all this ever happened” (Anne Rice, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, a novel. Knopf, 2005, p.316).  

** Revelation 11 is also very important because it links Jerusalem to ungodly pagan places. “Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” This is significant because the “great city” Jerusalem was designated as “Babylon” in Revelation 17-18 (Rev. 17:18, 18:16, 18), and what was her calling card? “In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and all who have been slain on earth” (18:24).

For hundreds of years people have been identifying “Babylon” as various places, including Rome and America. But John identified “Babylon” as the great city Jerusalem where Jesus was killed, the city also connected spiritually to Sodom and Egypt. The burning destruction of the whore “Babylon” refers to the leveling of Jerusalem in 70 AD, thus avenging the blood of all the prophets since Abel, as Jesus foretold in Luke 11:48-51.

A very great tragedy has occurred since 1830. The Darby-Scofield false teaching that God has two separate purposes, an earthly for Israel and a heavenly for the church, has permeated Fundamentalism-Evangelicalism. As a result, multitudes of people confidently assume that the church must be “raptured” out of history so that God can resume His earthly purpose in an alleged Israel-centered millennium. The two-purposes theory is the underlying assumption in most sermons, podcasts, Christian movies, prophecy books and Christian conferences.

My hope is that enough Scriptural perspective has been given in this essay to help you question the prophetic assumptions most of us have inherited from books and sermons. This can occur only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who takes the truth as it is in Jesus and reveals it to us. The two-purposes notion ultimately pushes attention away from Christ and brings people to focus on a humanly contrived outlook on Israel. The Lord has one eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. He commands us to “kiss the Son” and listen to Moses, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like me – Him you must hear, or be cut off from the people” (Deut. 18:15-19).

I strongly encourage you to read James Perloff’s articles at

For further reflection:

Jay Adams, The Time Is At Hand: Prophecy & the Book of Revelation.

Clarence Bass, Backgrounds to Dispensationalism: Its Historical Genesis & Ecclesiastical Implications.

Joseph Canfield, The Incredible Scofield & His Book.

Anthony Hoekema, The Bible & the Future.

Arthur H. Lewis, The Dark Side of the Millennium: The Problem of Evil in Revelation 20:1-10, 1980.

Dave McPherson, The Incredible Cover-Up: Exploring the Origins of Rapture Theories, 1975.

James Perloff,

John Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds.

Ernest Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British & American Millenarianism, 1800-1930.

Jon Zens, Dispensationalism: An Inquiry into Its Leading Figures & Features, 1976. (Available from the author, $5)

John on Patmos by Gaspar de Crayer