Adam Maarschalk

Adam Maarschalk

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with outstanding prophecy student and blogger, Adam Maarschalk.  Adam has been actively researching biblical prophecy for more than a decade.  In 2009, he began regularly writing posts for his blog “Pursuing Truth” where he primarily discusses trends in the interpretation of biblical eschatology.  Most recently, he has been dedicating a large portion of his posts to some interesting research he’s done regarding the infamous beasts which are recorded in the book of Revelation. He spoke on this topic in March 2017 at the Blue Point Bible Conference in Long Island, New York.   He has also been invited to present three times on the monthly “Preterist Conference Calls” podcast with Jordan Hardgrave.  Many of these can be viewed at the YouTube channel which bears Adam’s name.

I’d encourage anyone to check out Adam’s research on any of these resources.  He has some really interesting ideas.

Not only is his research intriguing but even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, you’re sure to find encouragement in his infectious enthusiasm for fulfilled prophecy and his charitable demeanor.  Adam has been a true blessing to me.  I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to talk with someone who shares such a passion for eschatology and is also so willing to dialogue openly and honestly on the subject.

I was first introduced to Adam via some discussions I was involved with through theos.org, a forum hosted by bible teacher, Steve Gregg.  In response to one of my comments, someone had posted a link to Adam’s research.  After checking it out, I was immediately very impressed.  Not only with his research and presentation style, but also the overall spirit of his approach and his sincere dedication to seeking spiritual truth.

Following that, I posted a few comments on his blog and to my surprise he actually posted a genuine reply!  A prophecy pundit who actually takes the ramblings of total strangers seriously?  This was indeed a rare find.  I just knew I had to contact him for a more in depth discussion. And, wouldn’t you know it, he even graciously (and indiscriminately) agreed to that as well!

The following is the transcript of the riveting interview that ensued:


Carmine: Adam, thank you so much for joining me today.  It’s a real privilege to talk with you.

Adam: You’re welcome, and it’s also a privilege to talk with you. Thank you as well for having me with you and for hosting this discussion.

Carmine: Like yourself, I have many difficulties with how most Christians today understand biblical prophecy, especially as it relates directly to events of our present time.  This study is something that’s become kind of a consuming passion for us both.  Your studies, at least the ones that I’ve heard and read, seem to focus primarily on the book of Revelation.  Now, many individuals from within my sphere of influence who are reading this are probably only familiar with the idea that the book of Revelation describes some pretty disturbing events that are still in the future with respect to our present time.  It’s not uncommon at all for people to understand it in terms of events surrounding a future globally unified government and economy controlled by an evil, almost divinely charismatic Anti-Christ.  This figure is someone who is expected to cause all people to worship him as God and have them identify themselves with him and all for which he stands by receiving a mark on their forehead or right hand.  A decision that will ultimately condemn them to an eternity apart from the true God.  Of course, that’s an oversimplification but those are some core tenets that would be immediately recognizable by most I think.

However, shocking as it may sound, this popular view is being cast into serious doubt by many people today.  Is that correct?

Adam: Yes, it is. It sounds like you’re primarily describing the premillennialist framework which has become more popular during the last 200 years of church history than it was in earlier church history.  That framework has long been challenged by amillennialists and postmillennialists.  In recent years it’s also facing a more vigorous challenge by those who, like myself, hold to preterism, the belief that most or all prophecy has already been fulfilled.  We can trace preterist teachings all the way back to the late first century AD, but it’s a movement that has become more systematic in recent decades.

Carmine: And are these just uneducated laymen?  Are any serious and well respected biblical scholars adopting this view?

Adam: I’ve observed a wide spectrum when it comes to the education level of those who hold this view.  Among us are men and women with doctorate degrees and some who are considered scholars, like Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, Dr. Don K. Preston, Dr. Jonathan Welton, and others.  They have adopted either what is known as “partial preterism” or what is known as “full preterism.”

Carmine:  For the benefit of my readers who are unfamiliar with this alternative view of prophecy, could you please summarize this shift in trends and the reasons behind the movement?

Adam: Sure.  This movement takes seriously the time statements found throughout the New Testament.  Even many critics of this movement recognize that Jesus and the apostles believed and taught that the Great Tribulation and other events of “the last days” would take place in their own generation.  The preterist movement believes that they were not in any way wrong or mistaken for believing and teaching this way.  Instead, many in our own day hold faulty presuppositions about the nature of apocalyptic events foretold in the New Testament, and these presuppositions often don’t take into account how the Old Testament used similar language to describe apocalyptic events that were fulfilled centuries before the birth of Christ (e.g. the Medo-Persian takeover of Babylon predicted in Isaiah 13).

The preterist movement takes note of the clear statements made by Jesus about the judgment which was soon going to fall on His own adulterous generation, as well as His clear statements about the soon arrival of the kingdom of God.  It was because of these statements that [1] James could say the Judge was already standing at the door (James 5:8-9) [2] Peter could say “the end of all things” was at hand (I Peter 4:7) [3] John could say that it was “the last hour” (I John 2:18), etc.

Regarding reasons behind this movement, I believe this movement answers some notable individuals who have mocked not only popular eschatology, but even the New Testament itself. Besides the constant date setting we’ve all seen, which is embarrassing enough, there are those who have directly challenged Christians by saying that Jesus and the apostles gave false prophecies.

For example, in 1927 the British philosopher Bertrand Russell gave a speech which was later turned into a pamphlet titled, “Why I Am Not a Christian.”  One of his main arguments was that Jesus clearly promised to return within the lifetime of His disciples, but failed to do so.  Here is what Russell said:

“He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: ‘Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.’ Then He says: ‘There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom’; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching… In that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise” (Source).

Similarly, C. S. Lewis, a well-known Christian author, made this surprising statement about the words of Jesus and the expectation of the disciples:

“The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proven to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay: “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385.)

If Jesus and the apostles were wrong about eschatology, then what else were they wrong about?  Of course, I don’t believe they were wrong, and I believe that preterism makes more sense of their words than any other system of eschatology.

Carmine: Is this trend something you have always bought into?

Adam: No, not at all.

Carmine: Could you tell us a little bit about that journey?  What beliefs did you formerly hold, what caused you to question those beliefs, and how have they changed as a result?

Adam: I grew up in a church that taught dispensationalism and the pre-tribulation rapture view.  I personally adopted that view and I even told a few people at my high school that I was 100% sure the rapture and the Great Tribulation would begin by the year 2000.  I began to let go of that belief system sometime around 2005, but for a few years I simply shifted to the post-tribulation rapture view, which says that Christians will go through a future tribulation period lasting seven years.

Then in 2009 I was introduced to a study on Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy which pointed out that the “he” of Daniel 9:27 was Jesus, not an antichrist figure. Jesus made a covenant with many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28).  He brought an end to sacrifice and offering by Himself becoming the ultimate sacrifice (Heb. 10:10; I John 2:2).  With a new understanding of Daniel 9:24-27, I realized that there are no Scripture passages which predict a 7-year tribulation.  This launched me toward the fulfilled view of eschatology, also known as preterism.  I began to take seriously the many time statements concerning “last days” events, which were already at hand and prophesied to take place soon from the viewpoint of Jesus and the apostles.  There was a great tribulation predicted in Scripture, but it was to last 3.5 years, according to Daniel and John, and it took place during the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 – AD 73), leading up to the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Carmine: After becoming convinced of the preterist view of biblical prophecy, you then began to have some difficulties even with those interpretations too.   Could you tell us a little about that?

Adam: Well, I never have accepted the idea that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 began around AD 30 and ended by AD 70, as many preterists believe.  For one thing, according to Revelation 20:4, the ones who reigned for 1000 years were those who were beheaded for refusing to worship the beast.  Yet, as preterists say (and I agree), the 42 months of persecution and beheading (Rev. 13:5-8) took place at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 – 73).  So that’s when the 1000 years would begin, not end.  This is also confirmed when we see that Satan is later cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already were (Rev. 20:10).  Admittedly, Revelation 20 is a difficult chapter.  I do have ideas on what is represented by the 1000 years, but I’ll save that for another time.

Within the last year, I have abandoned the view I previously held, and which seems to be held by most preterists, concerning the beast of Revelation.  I used to believe that the beast was the Roman Empire, generally, and Nero, specifically.

Carmine: Specifically with regard to the beast of Revelation, could you summarize the main difficulties you see with identifying Rome as the beast which emerges from the sea?

Adam: Sure.  Just to begin with, here are a few reasons:

[1] The beast from the sea ends up being cast into the lake of fire, and the birds feed on the flesh of its followers (Rev. 19:20-21).  That didn’t happen to the Roman Empire, to the city of Rome, or to the Roman soldiers.
[2] According to Revelation 13:10, the saints were to take courage in the fact that, although the beast would take people captive, the beast himself would go into captivity.  This also didn’t happen to Rome.
[3] Revelation 13:11-17 describes a second beast, later called “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10) working closely with and on behalf of the first beast, and even performing signs and wonders.  Josephus repeatedly spoke of false prophets working closely with (and even hired by) a certain group of people and claiming to perform signs and wonders, but it wasn’t Rome that they worked with.
[4] In Revelation 17:16 John was told that the 10 horns of the beast would make the harlot desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.  The harlot was also called “the great city” and in Revelation 11:8 the great city was first identified as the place “where our Lord was crucified,” i.e. Jerusalem.  Well, in “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus, it’s very apparent that he repeatedly blamed a certain group of people for the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple.  That group of people was not the Romans.

Carmine: And you feel recorded history presents us with a better candidate than Rome, correct?  Could you talk a little about who you think that may have been?

Adam: Yes. I believe it was Israel, and the Zealot movement and leaders in particular.  It was Israel and Jerusalem that became like a bloody lake and a fiery inferno, fulfilling the picture of the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20 (and Daniel 7:11).  It was the Jewish Zealots who were taken captive after several years of taking others captive (Rev. 13:10).  It was the Zealots who Josephus repeatedly blamed for the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple (Rev. 17:16).
It was the Zealots who worked closely with the false prophets, killing anyone who wouldn’t go along with their war agenda (Rev. 13:11-17).  It was the Zealots who achieved a stunning and unexpected war victory at the outset of the war, being hailed as heroes and nearly invincible (Rev. 13:4), and who then brutally persecuted their opponents for the next 3.5 years (Rev. 13:5-8) before their ultimate defeat at the hands of Titus and the Romans.  It was Israel and the Zealots whose throne and kingdom was plunged into darkness with sores and great pain (Rev. 16:10).

Carmine: Interesting.  Now, your research seems to center predominantly on the study of the Book of Revelation.  But you do touch a little on the book of Daniel.  Could you talk a little about the role Daniel plays in your interpretation?

Adam: Sure. Daniel 2 details Nebuchadnezzar’s dream concerning four kingdoms and Daniel’s interpretation of that dream.  Similarly, Daniel 7 details Daniel’s dream about four beasts and what he learns about them, especially the fourth beast.  We see that at the time of the fourth kingdom, a stone would strike the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image and the entire image would be crushed (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).  This would happen at the time of the setting up of God’s kingdom (Dan. 2:35, 44).  Likewise, we see that the fourth beast would be destroyed and burned (Dan. 7:11).  This would happen at the time when God’s kingdom would be given into the hands of the saints (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27).

These visions parallel what Jesus said in Matthew 21:43-45 (the Parable of the Tenants) to the religious leaders of Israel about a stone falling on their nation and crushing them to powder, and about the kingdom being taken from them and given to a fruit-bearing nation.  They also seem to parallel the details in the book of Revelation about a beast persecuting God’s people for 3.5 years (Dan. 7:25; Rev. 13:5-8), the downfall of the beast (Rev. 19:20), and the establishment of God’s kingdom (Rev. 11:15).

Now in the book of Daniel we can easily see the transition from the first kingdom (Babylon) to the second kingdom (Medo-Persia), described in Daniel 5:30-31.  We can also see the transition from the second kingdom to the third kingdom (Greece) described in Daniel 8:1-7.  However, Daniel is only shown the destiny of the Greek kingdom up until the breaking of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8:25), and this also seems to be the case in Daniel 11 (note verse 32).  Many believe that the fourth kingdom was Rome.  Yet the perfect time to predict Rome’s conquest of Greece would have been in either Daniel 8 or Daniel 11, since Macedonia was established as a province of the Roman republic in 146 BC, but Daniel didn’t do that.

If Rome was the fourth kingdom foreseen in Daniel 2:40-43 and Daniel 7:7, then the book of Daniel never described the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom as it did for the previous kingdom transitions.  So my thought is this: What if the description of the Maccabees in Daniel 11:32-35 has everything to do with the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom?  What if Israel was about to be under no one’s dominion at all?

Carmine: I agree with you.  As I’ve studied prophecy myself, my confidence that the 4th kingdom of Daniel is Rome has also been seriously brought into question, although I think my path to gaining this understanding is quite different from yours.  I think my conclusions are somewhat different too.  This poses something of a dilemma for me.  As I’m sure you know, Daniel’s authenticity and historical reliability is seriously questioned by critical scholars, Christian and secular alike.  Much of my research has been in response to such criticisms.  I talk in great detail about this on my YouTube channel “Daniel Reloaded.”  As a result of these studies, I personally think I would interpret Daniel quite differently.

Among other things, while I would agree that Daniel’s 4th beast is not Rome, I’m not sure that I’m convinced that Daniel’s 4th kingdom and Revelation’s beast of the sea are to be seen as the same entity.  This is contrary to the view you present of Daniel.  Despite this, I do think you make some really good points regarding the beast of Revelation.

So, here’s the question this raises for me.  In your opinion, with regard to your understanding of Revelation, how critical is directly correlating its beast with Daniel’s 4th beast?  Is it possible to hold your view on Revelation while holding a different view on Daniel?

Adam: That’s a good question.  At this time I don’t see it as possible, but I want to keep an open mind.  There are certainly some sections in Daniel that I need to understand better, and when I (hopefully) do I’ll see what that reveals.  Earlier I noted parallels that I see between Daniel and Revelation (e.g. the timing of the establishment of God’s kingdom, and 3.5 years of persecution).  There’s also the parallel of 10 horns on the fourth beast (Dan. 7) and on the beast seen in John’s visions (Revelation 13 and 17).

However, there are also differences, or at least things which Daniel covers that John doesn’t cover and vice versa.  For example, Daniel 7 speaks of “a little horn” while John doesn’t.  Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 speaks of three of the 10 horns being plucked up while John doesn’t single out three horns at all.  John discusses seven heads on the beast (Rev. 13:1 and 17:9-11), but Daniel doesn’t mention seven heads.

Carmine: Are there any indicators in Daniel that stand independent from Revelation that would indicate to you that Daniel’s beast is not Rome.

Adam: As I mentioned earlier, the book of Daniel doesn’t speak of Rome conquering Greece (or anyone) the way that it depicts the Medo-Persian takeover of Babylon and Greece’s takeover of Medo-Persia.  That silence regarding Rome seems to speak volumes.  Also, Jesus drew on the language of Daniel 2 and 7 in the Parable of the Tenants, but He didn’t apply it to Rome.  (He applied it to Israel instead. See the beginning of this article for more details.)

Daniel 2:34-35, 44 Daniel 7:23, 27 Matthew 21:43-45
A.  “a kingdom” “the kingdom” “the kingdom”
B.  “given to the people, the saints of the Most High” “given to a nation bearing the fruits of it”
C.  “a stone”; “the stone” “this stone”
D.  “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces”; “crushed together” “ will grind him to powder”
E.  “a fourth kingdom on earth” “He was speaking of them”

Here’s even more on that same point.  This is taken from that same post:

In Matthew 21:43-45 Jesus stunned the religious leaders of Israel by telling them that the kingdom of God would be taken out of their hands and given to another nation.  His statement, however, didn’t come out of nowhere.  Compare the words of Jesus to what is said in Daniel 2 and 7, where we read about the transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of God.  I’ve letter-coded and highlighted the parallels (A, B, C, D, and E):

“Therefore I say to you, [A] the kingdom of God will be taken from you and [B] given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on [C] this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it [D] will grind him to powder.  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that [E] He was speaking of them” (Matt. 21:43-45).

 

“You watched while [C] a stone was cut out without hands, which [D] struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were [D] crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.  And [C] the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth… And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up [A] a kingdom which shall never be destroyed … The fourth beast shall be [E] a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces… Then [A] the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be [B] given to the people, the saints of the Most High.  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom…” (Dan. 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27).

Carmine: Do you feel that Rome has any role in the prophecies of Revelation or Daniel at all?  If so, what role would that be?

Adam: Yes.  I believe that Rome was the instrument of God’s judgment against unfaithful Israel.  For example, it was during the 5-month Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 that the Jewish Zealots and their followers tried to hide in the caves and rocks of the mountains (Rev. 6:15-17; Luke 23:27-30).  The first and second trumpet judgments, which were characterized by fire and blood (Rev. 8:7-9), were fulfilled when “Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood” (Wars 3.4.1; see also Wars 3.9.3 and 3.10.9) because of Rome’s response to Israel’s revolt.  The giant hailstones that fell during the seventh bowl judgment (Rev. 16:21) were the 75-100 pound white-colored stones that the Romans launched into the temple complex during the siege in AD 70 (Wars 5.6.3).

Carmine: Ok.  Wow.  This is all very interesting Adam.  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk today.  I think everyone who reads this will have a more than adequate taste of what they can expect from your research.  Again, I’d encourage anyone who finds this topic interesting to check out your work.  Could you tell people again where they can learn more about your research?

Adam: You’re welcome, and thank you again for hosting this discussion.  My website can be seen at www.adammaarschalk.com, and my ongoing study about the beast of Revelation can be seen at www.adammaarschalk.com/beast-of-revelation.

Carmine: Adam, again, thank you so much for chatting with us today.  It’s been a real pleasure.  I’d love to do this again some time.