Archive for the ‘eschatology’ Category

Who’s building the kingdom? (a few quotes)

Our survey of Jesus’ teaching concerning the kingdom reveals that it was announced as “near” at the opening of his ministry. In the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom and the supernatural power displayed in miraculous signs, the kingdom actually invaded human history. The salvation blessings prophesied of the kingdom age were now present. But the idea of a present “reign” of Christ over His kingdom on earth, whether seen in the church or in the total world, is never taught. Nor did Jesus teach that we are to be building the kingdom during this time (Robert Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, 101).

The actualisation of the rule of God is future. And this future determines man in his present. The call for conversion comes to the man who is set before God and His rule. Where man responds to this call in faith, i.e., in obedience, he is in touch with the kingdom of God which comes without his co-operation, and the Gospel is glad tidings for him (Karl Ludwig Schmidt, TDNT, 1:586-87).

The fact is that we as human beings are not going to be able to bring about the establishment and consummation of God’s kingdom. Despite all our best–and genuinely good–efforts to make the world a better place, the kingdom promised in the Bible will only come about when King Jesus himself returns to make it happen (Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 92).

Dispensational Straw Man #137

I’ve come across countless misrepresentations of dispensationalism through the years, but here’s one I’ve never heard before. According to a recent comment over at the Riddleblog: “The dispensationalists teach that God actually had seven plans of redemption, because He had failed in the previous six!” I suppose if I were given a choice between Covenant Theology and a god who’s batting 1 for 7 when it comes to formulating a plan of redemption, I just might opt for Covenant Theology as well.

If you want to understand what dispensationalism actually teaches, I would recommend Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths by Michael Vlach. See here for an overview of Vlach’s book.

Wayne Grudem responds to Justin Taylor and Sam Storms (almost)

Justin Taylor posted a brief comment this moring following the Desiring God Conference’s round table on eschatology. Taylor stated that premillenialism is weakened by the fact that sin and death remain after the parousia. Taylor reasons:

I don’t want to be insensitive to my Premillennial friends, but it struck me a few years ago that the Premillennial position seems relatively depressing: Christ returns–but death and sin and rebellion continue. Now I know that our feelings can’t determine our exegesis (i.e., Premillennialism seems depressing, therefore it can’t be true)–and yet at the same time I think I feel that way precisely because the consistent testimony of the NT leads one to confidently expect that judgment, resurrection, and the death of sin and physical death will all happen at the blessed and glorious return of Christ.

Could it be that the reason for this feature of premillennialism is that exegesis of texts like Isaiah 65 and Revelation 20 might warrant such a conclusion? Jim Hamilton who was a part of the round table has responded to Taylor/Storms here. Writing in his well-known Systematic Theology (1994: pg. 1127), Wayne Gruden said the following:

Several Old Testament passages seem to fit neither in the present age nor in the eternal state. These passages indicate some future stage in the history of redemption which is far greater than the present church age but which still does not see the removal of all sin and rebellion and death from the earth.

As a footnote to this discussion I would highly recommend Michael Vlach’s paper, “Is Revelation 20 the Only Supporting Text for Premillennialism?” which is where I was reminded of the Grudem quote. See here.

The End is Coming Soon

I’m not the kind of guy who predicts that the end is right around the corner, but this right here pretty well seals it.

Say it ain’t so, Paul. Say it ain’t so.

The New Earth (Rev 21:1)

. . . in order to get a picture of Heaven–which will one day be centered on the New Earth–you don’t need to look up at the clouds; you simply need to look around you and imagine what all this would be like without sin and death and suffering and corruption.

[Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 17]

My response to Dever’s BIG statement

Mark Dever makes some very helpful points in this sermon but he also draws a very strange application lesson out of the John 17 text.  I say “Amen” to the first paragraph below but don’t follow the logic of paragraph two. 

 “Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture.

 So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.”

 “You are in SIN if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view.”  WOW!  On the basis of John 17 you make that strong of a statement?  Really?  Dr. Dever is not one to make reckless statements.  This is clearly something he has thought about for some time before saying it ever so boldly.

 I know a very mature Christian couple that use to attend Dever’s church (they were church members at CHBC).  One of the reasons why they felt led to leave this congregation was over this very issue.  Not every church member or local church pastor has the same (strong) doctrinal convictions over the same areas of Christian theology.  It is probably one of the reasons why we have so many denominations & churches in America.  For example, many believers could not attend a church that doesn’t practice “believer’s baptism” even though they would never condemn a gospel preaching infant-baptizing church as heretical.  Some believers have spent many hours studying the text of Scripture and have developed strong convictions with regards to eschatology, pneumatology, church polity, etc.  What may be a “third order” doctrine to some may be a “second order” doctrine to someone else.  I think that is ok.  It is never ok when a fundamental doctrine is wrongly understood.  

 On this topic I would suggest reading the many posts Phil Johnson has written on this topic like “What do common sense and Scripture tell us about the relative weight of different truths?” or “Why is the distinction between essential and peripheral doctrines so crucial?”; or for my favorite article on this topic, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” by Dr. Al Mohler (posted July 12, 2005).

 In Mohler’s article he writes, “God’s truth is to be defended at every point and in every detail, but responsible Christians must determine which issues deserve first-rank attention in a time of theological crisis.”  A recent trip to the Emergency Room helped Mohler come up with the triage concept.  He goes on to say this, “First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christ faith…The set of second order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on second-order issues though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers…Third-order issues are doctrines which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.”  Later Mohler notes, “A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness.  We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in Scripture.  There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.”

 So back to Mark Dever’s BIG statement.  I think what Dever said recently does not take into account the reality that not all “statement of faith” documents are applied the same way.  I also don’t think he takes into account the point that not everyone agrees on what second-level matters are and what third-level matters are.  For Pastor Dever’s church family, eschatology is a “Third-order issue” therefore CHBC has chosen not to include a specific millennial position in their statement of faith.  Fine, but if another pastor or local assembly decides this is a second-level matter for their particular church body don’t call it “sin” brother.  To be continued.

Dever’s BIG statement

Between Two World’s has posted the following article at http://theologica.blogspot.com/.  I think Pastor Mark Dever said some things that he should not have said in this sermon but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this?  Please remember to include your first and last name if you decide to comment here at Expository Thoughts.   I hope to share my thoughts on this topic later.  I would like to recommend the following book/website for your reading pleasure, http://www.futureisraelministries.org/

Justin Taylor writes, “As more than one blogger has pointed out, both Tom Schreiner andMark Deverhave been recently preaching through the book of Revelation. Dever is amillennial. So was Schreiner–until he prepared to preach through Revelation 20 and became historic pre-mill! (I have hope that Schreiner will come back, though! Full disclosure: I’m a-mill; for a helpful article on the problems with pre-mill, see Sam Storms’s Problems with Premillennialism.)

But…in Dever’s sermon yesterday on Rev. 20, he made a provocative but helpful statement regarding millennial views and church unity. The transcript and the added emphasis comes from A.J. Gibson:

I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us. . . . I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21that we Christians might be one. Of course all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us. Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians (whether near-ly in a congregation, or more at length in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united. Therefore for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol, or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore condemned by scripture. So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.

Notice that Dever also includes views of alcohol in this list. (Many do not know that though John Piper is a teetotaler and thinks this is the wisest course for all Christians, he put his ministry on the line at Bethlehem in his second year at Bethlehem in order to have an abstinence-only clause removed from the church covenant.)

Feel free to weigh in with your comments, but if you do, let’s keep the discussion focused on the issues here (i.e., this is not a debate about whether it’s wrong to divide fellowship based on views of baptism).”

HT: Andy Naselli

A Question for Postmillennialists:

According to postmillennialism, the gospel will continue to advance with great success, and most of the world’s population will be regenerate by the end of the present age. As postmillennialist Loraine Boettner explains:

Postmillennialism is that view of the last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the millennium.

In a similar way, postmillennialist Kenneth Gentry writes:

Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind.

So my question is this: Since postmillennialists view the thousand-year millennial kingdom of Revelation 20 as coming to an end at the conclusion of the present age—to then be followed by the second coming of Christ—how do they explain the rebellion in Revelation 20:7-9?

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 (Rev 20:7-9).

Do you see the problem? If postmillennialists believe that the world will be “Christianized” in such a way that “a vast majority of human beings” will be saved by the end of the thousand years, how do they account for this massive rebellion prior to the return of Christ? How is it possible that a mass of unbelievers numbering like the sand of the seashore could arise in a world that is almost entirely regenerate?

Premillennialism and Revelation 20:7-9

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.

Top 40 Dispensational Resources

 

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.

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