William Branham and the future

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This article is a short summary of William Branham's view of the future...

The Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt

William Branham predicted that the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt and that the temple sacrifices would be reinstated. However,

First, the Book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which all of history attests happened in A.D. 70. Revelation makes it clear that the events described therein were to happen “shortly” (Rev. 1:1). In verse 3 Jesus states that “the time is near.” John is said to be a “fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (1:9). John is told to write “the things which he has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things” (1:19). The things which “shall take place” follow on the heels of “the things which are,” that is, events that were going on in John’s day.

William Branham and the dispensational teaching he plagiarized (Larkin) want to project “the things which shall take place” into the future. This is a bad interpretation because the text literally should read, “the things which are about to occur after these things.” Furthermore, the Book of Revelation ends with these words: “ ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place” (22:6). Again, the angel tells John that “the time is near” (22:10). Jesus says that He is “coming quickly” (3:11 and 22:20). The book begins and ends with statements that the time was near for those who first read the Revelation.

Second, when Revelation was written the temple was still standing. John is told to measure “the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it” (11:1). It is highly unlikely that this is a description of the future rebuilt temple that WMB predicted since the New Testament, including the Book of Revelation, says nothing about a rebuilt temple. The Old Testament describes plans to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:2–4; 3:7–13), and it also mentions its completion and dedication 515 B.C. (5:1–6:22). This temple was still operating when Herod gained control of Jerusalem in 37 B.C. Herod dismantled this rebuilt temple so he could build a new one that would be associated with his name and reign. Work began around 20 B.C., and while it was operating within a decade, it was not completed until A.D. 64, only six years before it was destroyed by the Romans.

The temple that John sees is not a heavenly temple because “the court which is outside the temple … has been given to the nations” (Rev. 11:2; see Luke 21:24). There is no temple in heaven (Rev. 21:22). Flesh and blood worshipers occupy the temple. The holy city “will be tread under foot … for forty-two months” (11:2), the precise time the Romans occupied Jerusalem. The “temple” resides in the “holy city.” The holy city is Jerusalem.

Third, the judgment visions of Revelation 4–19 apply to the historical turmoil which came to a head shortly after John wrote. The fulfillment of the majority of its prophecies would then apply to the very beginning of Christianity, rather than to its conclusion. This turmoil would include the first Roman persecution of Christianity (A.D. 64–68), the Jewish War with Rome (A.D. 67–70) as described in detail by the Jewish historian for the Romans, Flavius Josephus, the death of Christianity’s most infamous persecutor, Nero Caesar, in A.D. 68, the Roman Civil Wars (A.D. 68–69), and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70.

Who is the Beast?

The time parameters of Revelation limit who the Beast can be. Since the events of Revelation were “near” (Rev. 1:3) for those who first read the prophecy, the list of Beast candidates must also be near in time to the original audience. Revelation 13 describes two beasts: a sea beast (Rome) and a land beast (Israel).

A Political Candidate: Nero

The enigmatic 666 fits very well with the construction of Nero’s name, his beastly character, the time in which he ruled, and his anti-Christian edicts leveled against the church. Keep in mind that we need more than a plausible candidate; we need a relevant candidate. The first readers of Revelation were told to “calculate the number of the Beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (13:18). Since the Book of Revelation was written to a first-century audience, we should expect the first-century readers to be able to calculate the number with relative ease. They would have had few candidates from which to choose. The Roman emperor would have been their most likely political choice.

Ancient numbering systems use an alpha-numeric method. This is true of the Latin (Roman) system that we still use today: I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, M=1000. The same is true of Greek and Hebrew. Since the Book of Revelation is written in a Hebrew (Aramaic) context by a Jew with numerous allusions to the Old Testament, we should expect the solution to deciphering the meaning of 666 to be Hebraic. “The reason clearly is that, while he writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew, and the thought has naturally affected the vehicle of expression.”

Is there anything in the Bible, especially in Revelation, that hints at this use of both Greek and Hebrew? The “angel of the abyss” is described in two ways: “His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11). Something similar is done with “Har-Mageddon” (Hill of Megiddo) or “Ar-Mageddon” (City of Megiddo) (16:16). In John’s gospel, the place where Pilate sat down to judge Jesus was called “The Pavement.” John calls attention to its Hebrew name “Gabbatha” (John 19:13). In the same chapter, John writes how Pilate had an inscription placed on the cross above Jesus’ head written in “Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek” (19:20). Going from Greek to Hebrew was normal. Americans who try to find a contemporary solution to the 666 problem invariably use English.

When Nero Caesar’s name is transliterated into Hebrew, we get Neron Kesar (nrwn qsr: Hebrew has no letters to represent vowels). “It has been documented by archaeological finds that a first century Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name provides us with precisely the value of 666. Jastrow’s lexicon of the Talmud contains this very spelling.” When we take the letters of Nero’s name and spell them in Hebrew, we get the following numeric values: n=50, r=200, w=6, n=50, q=100, s=60, r=200 = 666. “Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the Beast was a symbol of Nero. And both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as also having close affinities with the serpent or dragon. … The Apostle writing as a Hebrew, was evidently thinking as a Hebrew.… Accordingly, the Jewish Christian would have tried the name as he thought of the name—that is in Hebrew letters. And the moment that he did this the secret stood revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as ‘Neron Kesar.’ ” Those who read John’s account of the Beast probably had come to this conclusion even before they made their calculation.

Subsequent Christian history supports the view that Nero was the Beast. “All the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorinus of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St. Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman Emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast.”

There is a curious variation on 666. Some manuscripts read 616. Why would a copyist make such a number change? “Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Neron Caesar written in Hebrew characters (nrwn qsr) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (nrw qsr) is equivalent to 616.” Keep in mind that there were no copy machines in the first century. If you wanted a copy of a book, you had to copy it by hand. No matter how carefully a scribe worked, mistakes were inevitable. Some mistakes occurred when a scribe was making a copy of a known copy. He might have thought the copy was mistaken and that it was up to him to correct it. A Greek or Latin copyist might have thought that 666 was an error because Nero Caesar did not add up to 666 when transliterated into Latin. He then changed 666 to 616 to conform to the Latin rendering since it was generally accepted that Nero was the Beast. In either case, a Hebrew transliteration nets 666, while a Latin spelling nets 616. Nero was the “man” and 666 was his number.

A Religious Candidate: Jewish Priesthood

Following the methodology of letting Scripture interpret Scripture, there is another possible solution in identifying the number “six hundred and sixtysix” (Rev. 13:18). The number is found in three places in the Old Testament: 1 Kings 10:14; 2 Chronicles 9:13; Ezra 2:13. For our purposes, the references in 1 Kings 10:14 and 2 Chronicles 9:13—parallel accounts—shed some light on the choice of 666 for the “beast coming up out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11). The land beast, Israel, promotes the efforts of the sea beast and can only operate under the direction and authority of the sea beast. We are told that the land beast “had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon” (13:11). The land beast is not the dragon, but he speaks “as a dragon.” We learn from Jesus that the religious leaders who opposed Him were in league with the devil, the dragon: “You are of your father the devil, and you meant to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The apostate Jews are described as a “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). The land beast is in league with the sea beast against the Christians of the first century. The land beast wants the sea beast to protect its corrupt religion against the religion of the lamb.

There is nothing new in this scenario since the apostate Jews turned to the Roman civil state to have Jesus put to death (John 18:31). In a final denouncement of their promised Messiah, the Jewish religious leaders cried out, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). Acts tells a similar story of Jewish collaboration with the Romans to persecute the Bride of Christ, the church (e.g., Acts 24:1–9).

Solomon’s Number

The Jews had seen six hundred and sixty-six before. Prior to Solomon’s slide into apostasy, a description of his reign is given. One of the things said about him is that “the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14). From the number of shields (300) to the price of a horse imported from Egypt (150 shekels), we find round numbers, except when the number of gold talents is mentioned.

From the point where 666 talents of gold is mentioned, we read of Solomon’s apostasy. First, Solomon violates the law regarding the accumulation of horses, chariots, wives, and gold (1 Kings 10:26; see Deut. 17:16–17).

The law of Deuteronomy 17 forbad the king to multiply gold, women, and horses, but here we see Solomon do all three. In Revelation, the religious rulers of the “land” are called kings, the “kings of the land.” The apostasy of the High Priest, and of the religious leaders of Israel, is thus linked to Solomon’s sin. As Solomon lost his kingdom when the northern tribes rebelled after his death, so the Land Beast will lose his kingdom permanently when Jerusalem is destroyed.

Second, Solomon sells himself to foreign interests. It is here that we see a parallel with Revelation 13. In their rejection of their Messiah, the Jews committed spiritual adultery with the nations (Rome) in the way that Solomon committed adultery with the nations surrounding him: “Now Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’ Solomon held fast to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away” (1 Kings 11:1–3). James Jordan sums up the connection between Solomon and the apostate character of the Church’s enemy in Revelation 13:

The number of the name (character) of the Sea Beast, then, means “apostate Solomon; apostate Jew.” It is Solomon, not free under Yahweh’s rule, but enslaved to Gentiles through illicit trade, the idol worshipping wiles of his women, and his lust for gold.

So which is it, Nero or Solomon? It’s possible that the number refers to both since the Sea Beast (Rome under Nero) and the Land Beast (Israel as the “synagogue of Satan”) cooperate in their desire to see the Church destroyed. Those Jews who rejected Jesus—the heir to David’s throne—embraced the apostasy of Solomon who did not follow after his father David.

While this interpretation does not answer all the questions we might have concerning this passage, it gets us started in terms of biblical theology rather than newspaper exegesis. The luxury that pre-tribulationalists have in their interpretive system is that the Beast and his mark do not appear until after the so-called rapture. They can speculate all they want as to the Beast’s identity since they can never be proven wrong because, according to their theory, we will not be here. Popular dispensational author John Hagee writes: “This information about how to identify the Antichrist [Beast] is of no practical value to the Church since we will be watching from the balconies of heaven by the time he is revealed.” This means that all dispensational prophecy books are pure speculation because they can never be tested against the events of history.

If an event does not transpire as predicted, these writers can always say that the prophecy will not be fulfilled until after the rapture, an event that is always near. While this is a convenient way to interpret the Bible, the approach in no way deals honestly with texts that clearly describe prophetic events as happening within the lifetime of those who first read the prophecy.

Those who believe certain prophecies have already been fulfilled because of the incidence of time indicators, must defend their position against the events of history. But dispensationalists, unless they predict a specific date or identify a specific person, can never be judged as false prophets with respect to prophecies that are to take place in the future. They usually mask their predictions with words like “could be” and “might take place.”

While turning to 1 Kings 10 may seem unusual in trying to derive the meaning of 666, it is no more unusual than those who assert that the Beast (Antichrist) is alive somewhere in the world today. At least 1 Kings 10 is God’s Word. Christians have more assurance of getting something right by appealing to the Bible than reading a daily newspaper.[1]

The End of the Christian Church on Earth

William Branham believed that he was born a prophet. And as a prophet, he prophesied harsh judgment on America and the Catholic Church. He prophesied that the Catholic Church will join hands with the World Council of Churches, and agree on the topic of the Eucharist, or communion [2]. He also prophesied that this new Federation of Churches would force all other Churches to join its association (and accept its universal doctrine), resulting in a boycott, closure, and persecution of all independent churches who refuse to join this union of systems.

William Branham taught that membership in the Federation of Churches would be the mark of the beast. According to the book of Revelation, anyone who has the mark of the beast or worships the image of the beast will be thrown into the lake of fire in the final judgment. William Branham explained that the beast is the Roman Catholic Church, and the World Council of Churches (or the new Federation of Churches) is the image onto the beast. After a short period of persecution by the Federation of Churches, the remaining Christians will be raptured (directly ascending into heaven without seeing death).

He also taught that the rapture marks the end of the dispensation of grace, and Jesus Christ will turn from his ministry as high priest, and will leave the mercy seat to ascend to the throne as King, crowned by the Saints. The baptism of the Holy Ghost will no longer be available for people on earth after this time, and those who are not raptured will ultimately stand on their own account before God.


The Antichrist and Israel

William Branham prophesied that the Catholic Church would strike an economic deal with the nation of Israel, and that the Federation of Churches would produce the antichrist. William Branham also prophesied that two prophets would arise in Israel with mighty miracles, but that the Catholic Church would break its deal with Israel and lead a persecution on Israel, killing these prophets in the process. William Branham also prophesied that at some point the Jews would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and restore temple worship. He also prophesied that a remnant of 144,000 Jews would be placed into their respective tribes by the words and direction of these prophets, and that Jesus Christ would reveal himself to this remnant. During the time of assault led by the Catholic Church, the bodies of the two prophets will be left on display in the streets of Jerusalem for three days, in a scene that will be visible around the world (probably via television or the internet). After three days, these prophets will be resurrected and will be seen alive by their enemies.


The Disturbance of Nature and the Third World War

William Branham prophesied that intense natural destruction will be unleashed on the earth, including the following catastrophes on U.S. soil:

  1. Los Angeles would slide into the ocean, [3]
  2. Florida would become submerged under the ocean,
  3. The United States would be turned into a heap of ashes from coast to coast, but would have time to unleash its own nuclear power in the minutes before this happened. [4]

William Branham also prophesied that the Vatican city would ultimately be destroyed by Communist Russia[5], possibly through a vodka-inspired nuclear attack.

He said that "based on divine inspiration" this would all happen by 1977.

The Millennium

William Branham taught that the Millennium is a period of one thousand years where the devil will be bound, and man will live free on the earth. The Millennium is a sign that the curse in the garden of Eden ("the day you eat, that day you die") is finally lifted. The Millennium is a type of "honeymoon" for King Jesus and his bride. After the Millennium is the Judgment, then time will melt into Eternity once more.

I just finished a series of services on the last seven seals. And finding, in this sixth seal, that there is a great interruption in--in nature. The moon, the stars, the earth belches forth. The church is purged, Israel is purged, and everything is purged under that seventh seal, so that the Millennium can start in. There has to be a cleansing, first.
Sermon: Look, Phoenix, AZ, April 28, 1963

The cleansing of the earth and the cleansing of the bride is so that they can serve God as vessels of honor. This is the future based on the dispensational teachings of William Branham.

Quotes of William Branham

And we do understand that that city which is now been a curse for two thousand years will be rebuilt and re-established again, and the temple worship will be set up just like it was in the beginning. That's right. Jerusalem will be. Now… And there'll be a sacrifice, daily oblation, offered again just like it was in the beginning. We're going to get into most of that, I guess, tonight, or a lot of it.[6]


But now watch. And set up, and set up to this—the daily worship—the sacrifice will come back into the city when the temple is rebuilt. And this prince that's to come in the middle of this week will break his covenant and do away with this sacrifice as I said, he'll scatter—scatter it, and what he'd do lasts on till the consummation.[7]

  Rev. William Marrion Branham
  http://table.branham.org


Footnotes

  1. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, Fourth revised edition (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), 257–261.
  2. World Council of Churches
  3. Destruction of Los Angeles
  4. America in Ashes
  5. Destruction of the Vatican
  6. William Branham, 61-0730E - The Sixfold Purpose Of Gabriel's Visit To Daniel, para.34
  7. William Branham, 61-0806 - The Seventieth Week Of Daniel, para. 177


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