Throughout the history of the Bible, men have sought ways to avoid the force of Bible evidence which condemns their superstitions as impossible. Superstitions pertaining to kingdoms in heaven are made void by a correct understanding of Bible prophesy which centers on the earth as the area of God's kingdom.
There are three methods of Scriptural interpretation which have been used to explain prophesy. The most common method of the churches is the futuristic method, which applies all prophesy to the future, and "spiritualizes" the many prophesies to give them some different meaning than what is said.
This verse plainly states that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and that he would rule in Israel. The futuristic method would admit to his being born in Bethlehem, but insists that we must "spiritualize" Israel. "Spiritual Israel" means heaven, we are told.
By refusing literal applications to this, and countless other verses, the futuristic method places most prophesy at a time yet future, and relate events relevant to literal Israel, Jerusalem, and the earth itself, to heaven.
It is the futuristic method of interpretation which is responsible for the popular "Rapture" doctrine. By giving a futuristic interpretation to various prophesies, and by denying that these prophesies mean what they say, (that they are prophesies concerning literal Jerusalem and Israel) a doctrine is developed which is preparing the world to resist Jesus Christ when he returns, and to serve "anti-Christ."
The "Rapture" doctrine teaches that anti-Christ will be a Jew. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is a Jew, a descendant of Abraham and David. (Mat. 1). The "Rapture" doctrine teaches that anti-Christ will surround himself with Jews. The Bible teaches that the disciples, who are Jews, will reign with Christ at his return. (Mat. 19:28). The "Rapture" doctrine teaches that anti-Christ will be the king of Israel. Jesus told Pilate he was the King of the Jews. The "Rapture" doctrine predicts that anti-Christ will defeat Russia on the mountains of Israel. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ will defeat Russia on the mountains of Israel. (Eze. 38). In fact, almost everything that the "Rapture" doctrine predicts anti-Christ will do, the Bible prophesies that Jesus Christ will do. Therefore, as we said, false methods of prophetic interpretation are preparing a people to resist Jesus Christ at his return.
Another false prophetic method is called the "preterist" method of interpretation. This is a method which is designed to deny God's plan of salvation for the earth. Exactly opposite of the futuristic method which tends to place all prophesy in the future, this method places all prophesy in the past. In so doing, it tends to deny that God has much to do anymore with the earth.
All Christadelphians believe the third method, called the "Continuous Historical" method of prophetic interpretation. With this method of understanding, we believe that the prophets must be understood to be describing, (sometimes in figurative language,) literal events which begin in their lifetimes, and which continue throughout history, ultimating in the return of Christ to the earth and the establishing of his kingdom over the whole world. These prophesies all relate to one central theme, the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Christ.