Christ’s Prediction of Victory

Dr. Sam Waldron writes, “… one of the great things about the Optimistic Amillennialism which I defend and teach is that it is not mere theory and speculation about the distant future. The focus of optimistic amillennialism is not a Jewish Millennium by and by, but the Christian church here and now. It is, therefore, practical and can be preached with great blessing for the encouragement of God’s people. I attempted to do this recently, and I hope God gave some help and blessing. My text was Matthew 16:18 and Christ’s great promises to the church there.”

Sermon on audio here.

PDF notes

The 144,000

Article by Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. (original source here)

The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4) represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.

First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones.

Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9, where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God, not who among the Jewish remnant worships God.

Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If you are a servant of the living God, you are one of the 144,000 mentioned here. In Revelation, the phrase “servants of God” always refers to all of God’s redeemed people, not just an ethnic Jewish remnant (see 1:1; 2:20; 19:2; 19:5; 22:3).

Fourth, the 144,000 mentioned later in chapter 14 are those who have been “redeemed from the earth” and those who were “purchased from among men.” This is generic, everybody kind of language. The 144,000 is a symbolic number of redeemed drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews. Besides, if the number is not symbolic, then what do we do with Revelation 14:4, which describes the 144,000 as those “who have not defiled themselves with women”? Are we to think that the 144,000 refers to a chosen group of celibate Jewish men? It makes more sense to realize that 144,000 is a symbolic number that is described as celibate men to highlight the group’s moral purity and set-apartness for spiritual battle.

Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8. The number itself is stylized. It’s not to be taken literally. It’s 12 x 12 x 1,000: 12 being the number of completion for God’s people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb) and 1,000 being a generic number suggesting a great multitude. So 144,000 is a way of saying all of God’s people under the old and new covenant.

And then look at the list of the tribes. There are more than a dozen different arrangements of the 12 tribes in the Bible. This one is unique among all of those. Judah is listed first, because Jesus was from there as a lion of the tribe of Judah. All 12 of Jacob’s sons are listed—including Levi, who usually wasn’t because he didn’t inherit any land—except for one. Manasseh, Joseph’s son (Jacob’s grandson), is listed in place of Dan. So why not Dan? Dan was probably left out in order to point to the purity of the redeemed church. From early in Israel’s history, Dan was the center of idolatry for the kingdom (Judges 18:30-31). During the days of the divided kingdom, Dan was one of two centers for idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). And there is recorded in some non-biblical Jewish writings that the Jews thought the anti-Christ would come out of Dan based on Genesis 49:17.

The bottom line is that the number and the list and the order of the tribes are all stylized to depict the totality of God’s pure and perfectly redeemed servants from all time over all the earth. That’s what Revelation means by the 144,000.

Ten Things You Should Know About The Post-Millennial View Of The Kingdom Of God

In terms of eschatology, it is so important to accurately portray an opposing position before engaging with it. So often, this is not the case and the result is a complete failure of any kind of productive dialog. As far as I understand the issues involved, I think Dr. Storms does a fine job of accurately representing the post-millennial view in this article below: (original source here)

stormsBefore I delineate the 10 things all of us should know, let’s look at a definition of postmillennialism by one of its advocates, Lorainne Boettner. He describes postmillennialism as,

“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.’ . . . The Millennium to which the Postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church age, and is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. It is an indefinitely long period of time, perhaps much longer than a literal one thousand years. The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. . . . This does not mean that there ever will be a time on this earth when every person will be a Christian, or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world” (The Millennium, 14; emphasis mine).

(1) According to postmillennialism, the Kingdom of God is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in and over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the Church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever people believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord.

(2) The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly by means of some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the Second Coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POST-millennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness. The “arrival” of the kingdom, therefore, is gradual or by degrees. There may well be extended seasons in the life of the church where little visible and tangible progress is detected, indeed, even times when the church appears to regress in terms of its global influence. But postmillennialists are quick to remind us that we must take the long view and not succumb to the pessimism that easily grows in the soil of short-term setbacks. Whereas Satan’s kingdom may appear at times to experience a growth parallel to, if not greater than, that of Christ, the latter will most assuredly overcome all opposition in every sphere of life until the nations are brought into submission to him.

(3) The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, 66).

As Doug Wilson explains: “the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come” (Heaven Misplaced, 10). Continue reading

An Amillennialist Challenge to Historic Premillennialism

orion-nebula-new-image-from-hubbleArticle: An Amillennialist Challenge to Historic Premillennialism by J. Brandon Burks (original source I would like to consider what an Amillennialist might say to a Historic Premillennialist. That is, Wayne Grudem, Craig Blomberg, Douglas Moo, Jim Hamilton, Albert Mohler, John Piper, Randy Alcorn, or Thomas Schreiner (note: Schreiner has since returned to Amillenialism)? Perhaps in another post we can pose this question in reverse.

In good Van Tillian fashion, this post will use the insights of Sam Storms to deconstruct the Premillennialist position, and then G.K. Beale and others to offer an alternative understanding of Revelation 20:4.

Sam Storms gives six problematic beliefs that must necessarily accompany a Premillennialist view of end times. [For some back and forth on this, see Justin Taylor vs. Jim hamilton]. According to Storms, a Historic Premillennialist must necessarily believe:

1. That physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming (Rev. 20:7-10).

2. That the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subject to the curse imposed by the fall of man.

3. That the New Heavens and New Earth will not be introduced until 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ [not at His return].

4. That unbelieving men and women will still have the opportunity to come to saving faith in Christ for at least 1,000 years subsequent to his return.

5. That unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ [though Scripture speaks of only one resurrection]

6. That unbelievers will not be finally judged and cast into eternal punishment until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.[1]

Storm concludes: “’So what is wrong with believing these things’, asks the premillennialist? What’s wrong is that these many things that premillennialists must believe (because of the way they interpret Scripture), the New Testament explicitly denies.”[2]

Having seen some of the potential problems with holding to a Historic Premillennialist position, G.K. Beale and others will offer an alternative position.

Revelation opens with these words: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” The phrase “make known” is the aorist form of the Greek word ???????, and it comes in a context that makes allusions to Daniel 2:28-30, 45.[3] This is significant because the only places in the Bible where the clause “’revelation… God showed… what must come to pass… and he made known (???????)’ occur together is in Daniel 2 [LXX] and Revelation 1:1.”[4] Continue reading

Every Chapter Better Than The One Before

aslan11Dan Phillips: For some reason, for days I’ve been thinking again and again of the ending of Lewis’ The Last Battle:

“And as He [Aslan] spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Can’t read it without tears.

A Present or Future Millennium?

“Eschatology.”

Most American Evangelicals are firmly committed to the idea that an earthly millennial age will begin immediately after our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Advent. Since premillennialism is so dominant in American church circles, many who encounter historic Protestantism for the first time are quite surprised when they discover that all of the Protestant Reformers and the entire Reformed and Lutheran traditions are amillennial. Amillennialism is that understanding of eschatology which sees the millennium not as a future golden age as does premillennialism (the age of the church triumphant), but instead as the present course of history between the First and Second Advents of our Lord (the age of the church militant). Indeed, there are many readers who will express shock and disappointment upon learning of my own amillennial convictions. But I am convinced, however, that many readers simply do not understand the basic end-times scenario found in the New Testament.

Part of the problem is that dispensational premillennial writers have completely dominated Christian media and publishing. There are literally hundreds of books, churches, and parachurch ministries all devoted to taking premillennialism and the “pretribulation” rapture idea to the masses. And so, I can only lament the fact that my own tradition has done so little to produce popular books introducing and defending amillennialism. It is my guess that many who read this article will have never heard the case for the classical position held by the church regarding the return of Christ and the millennial age.

Another problem encountered when examining this subject is that discussions of it often generate a great deal of heat but not very much light. One local prophecy pundit has quipped that the people in heaven with the lowest IQs will be amillennial. Hal Lindsey goes so far as to label amillennialism as anti-Semitic, demonic and heretical. (Hal Lindsey, The Rapture – New York: Bantam Books, 1983, 30.)

It is not uncommon to hear prophecyteachers label amillennial Christians as “liberal” or to accuse them of not taking the Bible literally. The result of such diatribes is that American Christians cannot help but be prejudiced by such unfortunate comments, and many simply reject outright (without due consideration of the other side) the eschatology of the Reformers and classical Protestantism–an eschatology that is amazingly simple, biblical, and Christ centered. And so, if you should be in that camp, instead of simply turning me off at this point, please bear with me, hear my case, and then decide for yourself on the basis of Scripture.

Unfortunately, it is all too fashionable to interpret the Bible in light of the morning newspaper and CNN. Yes, it is fun to read the Bible through the filter of every geopolitical crisis that arises in our modern world. This adds relevance to the Bible, we are told. It most assuredly sells thousands and thousands of books and provides for slick programs on Christian TV and radio documenting every move by the European Union, and every possible technological breakthrough that may prepare the way for the coming mark of the beast. These sensational end-times dramas heighten the sense of urgency regarding the coming of our Lord. They supposedly give the church missionary zeal. However fascinating these schemes may be, I do not believe that they accurately reflect the Biblical data.

There is, in addition, a quite serious side effect produced by this approach to Bible prophecy: The Bible no longer speaks for itself because it is twisted into a pretzel by each of its interpreters, who do their best to show that the upheaval of the nations described in the Book of Revelation has nothing whatsoever to do with the original reader in the first century struggling under Roman persecution, but is instead somehow related to the morning headlines. How many times can we tell our hearers that Jesus is coming back soon (No, we really mean it this time!) and then tie that message to a passing despot like Saddam Hussein or a tenuous political figure like Mikhail Gorbachev? How do we keep those who need to hear about Christ’s Second Advent the most from becoming increasingly cynical about the message of his coming? But then again this too is a sign of the end, for scoffers will come and say “where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” (2 Pt 3:3-4).

How tragic that prophecy speculators actually contribute to the very skepticism they themselves acknowledge as a key sign of the end. The classical Protestant tradition has helpful answers to these problems, as it does to many other crises facing the modern church that, by and large, have been forgotten by today’s Evangelicals.

All of the Protestant Reformers, were they to come back to give us counsel in these areas, would insist that we must start with the notion that the Bible itself must be read with the analogia fidei (the analogy of faith), meaning that Holy Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. In other words, we must inductively develop a biblical model of eschatology by utilizing all of the passages that relate to the return of Christ, the resurrection, the judgement, the millennium, and so on. We should never study eschatology merely by finding Bible verses (often out of context) that we think describe current events. And so, by utilizing the analogy of faith, we begin with the clear declarations of Scripture regarding the coming of our Lord and use them to shed light on passages that are less clear. Continue reading