Have any of you used these tools before “Exegetical Summaries Series”? Are they worth the money?
Archive for May, 2009
What are you reading? This question has opened many doors for me to explore topics and issues that I may have never studied. Let us hear from you what you are reading outside of your regular preaching resources. Currently, I’m working through the following:
- God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger
- The Book of Torah: The Narrative Integrity of the Pentateuch by Thomas Mann
- The Art of Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays by Wendell Berry
- Baptism in the Early Church by Everett Ferguson
- Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon
- Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology by Arnold Fruchtenbaum
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster
In the final chapter of his book A Case for Amillennialism, Kim Riddlebarger sets forth a number of problems he sees with the premillennial view. One of them concerns the deception of the nations in Revelation 20:7-9. According to Riddlebarger:
If premillenarians are correct about their reading of Revelation 20, Jesus rules upon the earth over people in resurrected and unresurrected bodies during the millennial age. Our Lord’s millennial rule will end with a massive satanic deception of the nations and a revolt against Christ and his church after they have reigned on the earth for a thousand years. If true, this millennial apostasy is tantamount to a second fall. Not even resurrected and glorified saints are safe from the future wrath of Satan and the unbelieving nations (p. 233).
Although it’s not exactly clear to me why Riddlebarger believes that a millennial apostasy would be tantamount some kind of “second fall,” the bigger question in my mind involves the threat of Satan’s wrath toward the saints. According to Riddlebarger, if the premillennial interpretation of Revelation 20 is true, then “not even resurrected and glorified saints are safe from the future wrath of Satan and the unbelieving nations.” This, I assume, is supposed to persuade people to reject the premillennial view because of how ridiculous it is to say that glorified believers could be in this kind of danger.
So what about this? Is Riddlebarger correct? Does the premillennial view of Revelation 20 require this idea that even resurrected and glorified saints will not be safe from the future wrath of Satan and the apostate nations? Frankly, it’s difficult for me to determine exactly how he even came up with this idea. As a premillennialist, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying Revelation 20, and it has never even crossed my mind that the saints could be in this kind of danger. After all, these glorified believers will not be subject to either physical death (1 Cor 15:42-57) or spiritual death (Rev 20:6), and Jesus Himself will be right there with them! Furthermore, Revelation 20:7-10 describes exactly what will happen when Satan gathers the nations for battle against the saints:
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:7-10).
So where exactly is this idea that glorified believers will not be safe from the future wrath of Satan and the unbelieving nations? Where is the possibility of an actual threat even entertained? It seems to me that this is yet another example of an attempt to discredit premillennialism by misrepresenting it.
The source of escalating conflicts between believers can often be traced to the arrogance of heart which manifests itself in a simple failure to listen. Proverbs 18:13 says: “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” The next time you’re involved in some kind of tension-filled back-and-forth with another individual—and it gets to the point where it’s dishonoring to the Lord—ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you interrupt the other person?
- Did you listen to him carefully when he was speaking to you?
- Did you let your emotions drown out what he was trying to say to you?
- Did you often think about what you would say next while he was talking to you (in a way that adversely affected your ability to really hear and think about what he was saying)?
- Did you zero in on one aspect of what he said (perhaps something you took issue with) but then fail to listen carefully to the other things he was communicating?
- Did you neglect to ask for additional information that was needed before you could give an informed response to something he said?
If so, the folly and shame is yours, and the path of repentance is before you: “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
“Our quest for objectivity in interpretation resembles our quest for Christian sanctification. Rather than expending all our energies explaining why we cannot attain absolute holiness, let us set our sights on the target of being holy as he is holy (1 Pet 1:16). The fact that we cannot attain unblemished holiness does not excuse us from continuing to pursue it without becoming preoccupied with reasons why we must fail. So it is in hermeneutics and exegesis. Our goal is the objective meaning of Scripture. Let us not become distracted from pursuing it. It is within the capability of the Spirit-illumined believer to arrive at objective meaning—that is, the meaning God intended to transmit through his human authors” (Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, p. 57).
Michael Vlach’s latest contribution to the issue of dispensational premillennialism comes in the form of a reading list—“40 Recommended Resources for Understanding Dispensationalism.” In his introduction to the list, Vlach explains:
Sometimes I am asked about which books and articles have influenced me the most in regard to my understanding of Dispensationalism. My first answer is the Bible, but after that I have decided to list those works that have helped me the most in regard to such topics as Hermeneutics, Law, Kingdom, People of God, and other issues. I list 40 such works…that have really helped my understanding of God’s Word on important theological issues. There are many more books, articles, and commentaries that have helped me but I consider these 40 below to be the best of the best.
In reading through the list, I was interested to find that most of the resources he listed were the very ones that have been most helpful in my own thinking on this issue. Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of continuity vs. discontinuity, these resources will prove to be extremely valuable if you are serious about understanding dispensationalism. And if a list of 40 resources feels a bit overwhelming, I would highly recommend that you start with Vlach’s own book, Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths.
Two of my modern-day spiritual heroes are my good friends, Josh and Marda Mack. The Macks, who are preaching the Gospel and caring for orphans in South Africa, recently started 1Hope Ministries International, which is dedicated to helping orphans and refugees in that part of the world. Their website is here—check it out.