Posts Tagged ‘Eschatology’

Laughing at Raging and Plotting

The heavens declare the glory of the LORD and they do so with a constellation of ideas, a sea of words, and thoughts piled mountain high. Memes from social media and sound bites from the 24-hour news cycle can never capture the expansive truth of the glory God has revealed in creation therefore don’t trust them. God is doing many things in the world that we can’t see or understand. When the talking heads on TV have to find something to have an opinion on every night, they can, at best only scratch the surface of the complex events taking place in the world and a scratched surface is a marred one. Not very attractive.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision. (Psa. 2:1,4)

The nations rage, the people plot in vain, yet our Father in heaven laughs. Maybe we should join him in that. After all, he knows the end from the beginning so if he finds all this raging and plotting funny, perhaps it truly is. Not that what the nations and people do is not real, that it will not have repercussions, for it surely is and will. People will lose jobs or gain them. They will lose health insurance or finally get some. They will pay more taxes or less taxes or continue to not pay taxes at all. Freedoms will be expanded and curtailed. Lives will be saved and taken. But the laughing Lord ridicules them for all their efforts to control all of these possible outcomes.

Our problem from our perspective is that the talking heads act as if all this plotting and raging were of eternal import and try to persuade us it is. Perhaps they don’t care to persuade, maybe they’re content to anger us or thrill us or intrigue us over things that will, more often than not, not have any direct impact on us personally or, even for those things that will, we have actually little control over. Is it worth getting angry or should we laugh with heaven knowing that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will? Can we trust that God does according to his will in the heavens and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand? Rage on! Plot in vain! With these sure promises, you may discomfort us, you may dispossess us, you may even kill us but you, O nations, O peoples, you cannot disquiet us. Our God rules in the affairs of men. Whether you believe or acknowledge it or not.

This fixed faith in Christ’s current reign means that we are free to be better citizens of the earth. Our fortunes are not tied to the success of any one party, person, or ideology so we can applaud when any of them get something right and critique when they most often don’t. Just don’t take it personally.

Who Shatters What When?

 Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

Revelation 2:25–27

Not Now

What an amazing promise. Jesus will extend to us the blessing promised to him in Psalm 2. It doesn’t seem like we’re currently experiencing it; the church is not ruling the nations “with a rod of iron” nor are we dashing them like earthen pots. We are making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) through preaching, baptizing, and teaching. While we do that, we’re commanded to submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1, Titus 3:1, 1 Pet. 2:13), not hit them with iron sticks. And as we submit, we’re also persecuted and oppressed. Daniel prophesied that this would be how things would go back when he was in Babylon thousands of years ago (Dan. 7:21, 25, 8:24). No, we haven’t received this promise yet (1 Cor. 4:8). If you want an example of what ruling as dashing earthen pots looks like, look at Jeremiah 19:1-13. To say we’re currently participating in that sort of rule would gut the metaphor of its most potent imagery.

When we do get to rule this way, we’ll rule with Jesus not instead of him (see 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21, 20:4, 6). If Jesus is currently reigning with a rod of iron, his rule doesn’t look very different than it did before his ascension. Nebuchadnezzar learned that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32, 5:21). The way God is ruling the nations today looks very much like how he’s always done it, but the “rod of iron” metaphor seems to be something different, something more strident.

So when will we rule with Jesus in this manner? The answer is in the verses quoted above. Jesus’ command is to “hold fast till I come” and the promise of ruling is given to the one “who keeps my works until the end.” If that rule started at Jesus’ ascension, then his words here don’t make that much sense. Rather, that rule begins when Jesus comes. Daniel was shown that the saints would be persecuted and oppressed (as the church has been) till one like a son of man comes in the clouds (Dan. 7:13) to judge their foes and give them the kingdom (Dan. 7:27).1Jesus’ allusion to Daniel 7:13 in Matthew 24:30 could be seen as fulfilling Daniel’s vision. In a way it does but it does not exhaust it. What Jesus is immediately referring to in Matthew is the judgement and destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus began this prophecy with the statement “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matt. 24:28) The word for ‘vulture’ can also mean ‘eagle’ and I think Jesus intended the double meaning. The Roman standards that the armies carried as they surrounded Jerusalem in 70 A.D. had an eagle on top of them. The eagles did gather. But the destruction of Jerusalem can’t be the total fulfillment of Daniel’s vision. There are other things Daniel sees that haven’t taken place yet and in Jesus’ description of those days he blends the destruction of Jerusalem with end times prophecies. So, the rule didn’t begin when Jesus’ ascended to his Father’s right side, it will begin when he returns.

Not Then Either

“The end” that we’re to keep Jesus’ works till can’t be the inauguration of the new heavens and new earth. The “rod of iron” type of rule that follows can’t take place then because the wicked will have been judged and condemned to hell (Rev. 20:13-14); there’ll be no one in need of being ruled that way.

Between the Two

So, if it isn’t happening now and it has no place then, perhaps there’s a time in between the two when it would be appropriate for Jesus to rule with a rod of iron, dashing earthenware pots and us with him. And there is. We will receive this promise during Jesus’ millennial reign promised in Revelation 20:4. In the first resurrection, those who died in Christ “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Believers who are still alive at the time of Jesus’ return “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). There will still be nations on the earth and Jesus will rule them with perfect justice and we will rule with him until the general resurrection (Rev. 20:5). Only hold fast till he comes.

1 Jesus’ allusion to Daniel 7:13 in Matthew 24:30 could be seen as fulfilling Daniel’s vision. In a way it does but it does not exhaust it. What Jesus is immediately referring to in Matthew is the judgement and destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus began this prophecy with the statement “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matt. 24:28) The word for ‘vulture’ can also mean ‘eagle’ and I think Jesus intended the double meaning. The Roman standards that the armies carried as they surrounded Jerusalem in 70 A.D. had an eagle on top of them. The eagles did gather. But the destruction of Jerusalem can’t be the total fulfillment of Daniel’s vision. There are other things Daniel sees that haven’t taken place yet and in Jesus’ description of those days he blends the destruction of Jerusalem with end times prophecies.

The Building God Builds

When is a building not a building and a detailed plan of a building not a desire to have it built? Answer: When God gave Ezekiel a detailed plan for a temple in chapters 40-48. Yeah, I don’t much like riddles either and obviously I’m not good at them but Ezekiel’s temple feels like a riddle. Some people believe that Ezekiel was given the plans for a temple that the Jews will build just before Jesus returns and that it will be the place from which he’ll reign during the Millennium. I’d previously explained why I didn’t believe that was the case.

My reasoning was that later revelation, in this case the book of Revelation, shows that Ezekiel’s vision was not supposed to be a physical building but something else. In chapter 21 of the book of Revelation, John is shown “the bride of the Lamb” yet all he describes is a city. Not one single person is mentioned therefore the “city” must represent the bride, or the Church. I then showed that the city John described is very similar to the temple that Ezekiel described. What I’d missed when I first worked on all this is that God explained it all himself:

As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. – Ezek. 43:10-11

His reasons are: 1) that Israel may be ashamed of their apostasy and 2) that they may turn and observe all its laws and statutes. God does not say to Ezekiel, “that they may build this building according to the plan I have shown you” as he had with Moses (Exo. 25:40).

The purpose God gave Ezekiel is consistent with Ezekiel’s entire ministry. His prophecies are largely aimed at Israel’s unfaithfulness and the promise that God would restore to himself a people who will be righteous.

In his vision of the temple, Ezekiel was shown a depiction of God’s faithful people. The difference between the Church and national Israel is that the Church is the assembly of the regenerate (Ezek. 37, Eph. 2:1-10). The Church, unlike national Israel, are given new hearts with the law inscribed on them (Jer. 31:31, 33; Heb. 8:10). Israel continually broke God’s covenant with their uncircumcised hearts (Ezek. 44:7) but the promise of the New Covenant is that all it’s members will have circumcised hearts (Deut. 30:6, Col. 2:11).

This is why God said that his purpose in showing them the temple was that they may be ashamed and that they might obey. Israel repeatedly turned away and when God himself came to them, they crucified him and yelled, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). The Church will never do that, can never do that since it is built on the announcement that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3) so any church that did would no longer be a church.

God turned to the Gentiles to make the Jews jealous (Rom. 11:11) and that is what God told Ezekiel this vision of the temple would do. A building built by the Jews wouldn’t make the Jews ashamed or jealous, it would make them proud.1In Ezra 3:12 “old men who had seen the first house [i.e. temple], wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” but that weeping was probably tears of joy at the temple being rebuilt. Their shame, according to Ezekiel 43, comes from their disobedience. God made a new people who would out shine the Jews. But at the same time, the Church is not really a “new people” since Romans 11:25-26 shows that the Gentiles are brought into the real Israel and that in that way, by the elect Jews and Gentiles being brought together, all Israel, the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16), will be saved. So God did what he’d wanted and what he’d promised: he made a people for himself who would love him.

So the shocker is that Ezekiel’s temple isn’t a temple yet it is prophetic. The word “prophetic” is problematic in itself and so I need to take a moment to deal with that. When we hear the word “prophetic” we usually think of a prediction of the future. In the Bible, that is part of prophecy but not the heart of it. God most often sent his prophets to his people to call them to himself, not just to tell them the future. Ezekiel’s prophecy is like that. Yes, it does contain visions of the future but it is mostly telling Israel how rotten they’ve been. That’s what you should think of when you hear the word “prophetic” using in conjunction with the Bible.

Back to the main point: Ezekiel’s temple is not a building but it is prophetic in its condemnation of Israel’s faithlessness and in how it looks forward to God gathering a faithful people to himself. What I’d previously said about John’s vision of the new Jerusalem and Ezekiel’s vision of the temple was:

The similarities seem to indicate that when John was shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” (Rev 21:9) he saw the same thing as what Ezekiel saw in his vision, that is, the Church.

1 In Ezra 3:12 “old men who had seen the first house [i.e. temple], wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” but that weeping was probably tears of joy at the temple being rebuilt.

Peace, out.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. – Rev. 6:3-4

RedHorseSin and human death are foreigners in this world. They weren’t supposed to be here, they came because of the fall. And now since the fall, peace is a alien because the other two strangers chased it off. Peace is not a normal function of the fallen order. God grants it and God removes it.

World War II was a shock to the world. Everyone assumed that World War I, the Great War was the War to End All Wars. The enlightenment of evolution that swept the West at the turn of the twentieth century was supposed to banish such barbarism as war and poverty and human suffering. Education would deliver us. Eugenics would cleanse us. Science would give us light. World War I was supposed to be the last vestiges of humanity’s past. That’s why World War II was such a shock; when it became apparent what Germany was really up to with that whole “Master Race” thing, the world’s optimism began to sag.

So here we are today, in the twenty-teens, and the Cold War is dead and, well, cold. The West won and freedom’s greatest enemy is dead(ish) so where is the peace and prosperity we were promised? Right there with the jetpacks, flying cars, and a silver jumpsuits with transparent rings on the shoulders I guess.

Today’s horrific violence, events too numerous and gruesome to list, is not the stranger. Tragically, it is the norm. The nuclear-backed calm of the Cold War wasn’t really peace anyway.

This all sounds horribly pessimistic but it really isn’t. There is a day coming when the lamb and the lion will lay down together. When a child can safely play around a viper’s hole. Jesus, this world’s real king, is going to return and whistle for that red horse so he can take peace out of her saddle bags and secure it in place. The government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Left Behind Too

Previously, I’d cited this verse to explain why it is best to be left behind:

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – Matthew 13:41-42

This is what Jesus meant about one being take and one begin left behind in Luke 17:

I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left. – Luke 17:34-35

The context for the Luke quote is that Jesus is comparing the day when Jerusalem will be sacked in 70 A.D. with the days of Noah (see verse 26) or the days of Lot (see verse 28). The judgement will fall swiftly on that unrighteous city and when it does, the wicked will be swept away but the righteous will be spared.

Another verse comes to mind as well that gets at this point and gives it some historical context:

Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged…” – Jeremiah 6:11

Jeremiah is warning Jerusalem that just as Israel had been carried away in exile, the same is coming upon Judah. Armies from the north would soon sweep down and carry away the rebellious nation. Likewise, Jesus and the Apostles preached and taught the Jews that the generation Jesus faced had never actually gone into exile, that is, they had never learned what God intended them to learn when he sent them into exile in the first place. There may have been Jews in that day who taught that that they were technically still in exile till the Davidic king, the Messiah, would come and that’s why there was a lot of expectation about the coming of the Messiah in and before Jesus’ day.

But Jesus repeatedly compared the Jews of his day to their fathers who killed the prophets (cf. Matthew 23:29-39). The point is made most strongly when they kill Jesus himself, God incarnate, and yell, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15) Jesus never compared them to the chastened Jews who waited in exile for their deliverance such as Daniel or Ezekiel. This is why Jesus used the same turn of phrase as Jeremiah. Jeremiah was condemning the god-hating, prophet-killing sinners of his day and Jesus is doing the same. I think Jesus intended that his hearers would make that same connection.

So how do you avoid being “left behind”? You reject Jesus and kill those he sends. That’s how to make sure you are taken but it is to be taken in judgement.

Camping on the Fringe

So this is how he got there:

[Harold] Camping says that because Jesus was crucified on Friday, April 1, 33 AD, and that it takes exactly 365.2422 days for the earth to complete one orbit of the sun, we can conclude that, on April 1, 2011, Jesus was crucified exactly 722,449.07 days ago. Add 51 days to this to get to May 1, and you get a figure of 722,500.07.

Round that down to the nearest integer, and you get 722,500, which is an important number because it is the square of 5 x 17 x 10 . The number five, says Camping, represents atonement. Ten represents completeness, and 17 represents heaven. Multiply all these together – twice – and you get 722,500. Therefore the apocalypse kicks off on Saturday, May 21.

Don’t know why I didn’t see it. Oh, because I don’t read my Bible that way. I take it as a piece of literature that can be read and understood for what it says. Like:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,but the Father only. – Matthew 24:36

I take that to mean that no one but God the Father knows the date. But please notice that there IS a date. People laugh and scoff at Camping, and rightfully so, but don’t laugh and scoff at Jesus’ return. Camping is wrong even if Jesus shows up tomorrow but don’t miss the fact that he is returning.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”- 2 Peter 3:1-4

Problems with Amillennialism

I kind of hate to post this but a list was posted of Sam Storms’ problems with Premillennialism so I thought I should say something. I read Storms’ list of “problems” and am fine with all of them from the context of my understanding of the millennium. I might respond to his list at some point.

In another setting, I’d said, “Eschatology is a tough nut to crack. It is like an ill-fitting jacket. Okay overall, pinches in a spot or two. You just have to decide which places you’re okay being pinched.” I believe this is essentially true. From my perspective Dispensational Premillennialism pinched in far too many places. Amillennialism seemed to fit pretty well till I’d worn the jacket for a while then I noticed the pinches and they became uncomfortable. Postmillennialism always seemed like a jacket with three arms or something. I could never get that one to fit though I do appreciate its optimism. What I’ve found is that Historic Premillennialism embraces all the strengths of these other perspectives and pinches in a few spots that I’m currently OK with.

Anyway, here goes with my list of some of the problems. If you are amillennialist there are some important things you must reckon with:

You must necessarily read New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming the same way Jews read Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ First Coming. This thought came from George Eldon Ladd:

From the Old Testament perspective, the church age is not seen…There are indeed prophecies which describe the coming of a Messianic personage in suffering and humility such as Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 9:9-10, other prophecies which describe the victorious King of the Davidic Line (Isaiah 9, 10), as well as a prophecy of the coming of a heavenly Son of Man in Daniel 7. But the Old Testament does not relate these several prophecies to one another, either theologically or chronologically. God will finally act to redeem his people, and different prophets describe this eschatological redemption in different terms. The Old Testament makes no effort to synthesize the prophecies; and the effort to decide which prophecies apply to the church age, which apply to the millennial era, and which belong to The Age to Come ignores this basic fact of the prophetic perspective. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

What Ladd is saying is that in the Old Testament, the prophets and the prophetic message didn’t clearly articulate a space between the events of Jesus First Coming (the Suffering Servant) and those of his Second Coming (reigning Davidic King). The perspective of the Old Testament prophets was that those events appeared to happen at once. That is why the Apostles expected Jesus to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6) before his ascension. They did not yet understand that there would be a time period between Christ’s two comings.

Non-millennialists do the same thing with the New Testament explanations of the events of Jesus Second Coming and the ushering in of the New Heavens and New Earth. Ladd again:

One would never discover this fact [of the millennial reign of Christ] from most of the New Testament because it sees the future like a two-dimension canvas in terms of length and breadth without depth. The transition between the two ages is viewed as though it were one simple event, even as the Old Testament prophets looked forward to a single Day of the Lord. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 38


From the New Testament perspective, the eschatological act of God is usually viewed as a single day which will introduce The Age to Come. However, the Revelation of John, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, indicates that there are yet to be two eschatological stages in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

You must conflate two separate resurrections into one. In Revelation 20:4 John says that he saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus…came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” In verse 13 the sea and Death and Hades give up the dead and they are judged. The amillennialist must deal with these two resurrections (separated by “a thousand” years) in such a way that there is only one resurrection at Christ’s return. Some amillennialists have said that the first resurrection is speaking of regeneration, the new birth. After all, regeneration is passing from spiritual death to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5). The immediate problem with that is that anastasis, which is translated ‘resurrection’ in Revelation 20:5, always refers to physical resurrection, never regeneration. And the resurrection mentioned in verse 5 is “the first resurrection,” that is, the resurrection of the beheaded martyrs. Their resurrection is described as a pysical one, not strictly spiritual.

Also consider how those who were raised in Revelation 20 are described. They are those “who had been beheaded” who “had not worshiped the beast” or “received its mark”. They were not brought to life, i.e. regenerated or born again, before they did these things in order that they might be able to do them, but after they had done them. In any other discussion we would say that regeneration is the only way we are able to resist such things, otherwise we’re slaves to sin. The implication that those who were raised can do it before they are regenerate is problematic. No, it was after they had done these things that they were brought to life. In other words, as John describes it, they behaved like born-again Christians, were killed for that, and then were brought back to life. The only way that makes sense is if they were physically resurrected after their martyrdom.

If instead the amillennialist says that this resurrection actually happens at the same time as the one in verse 13, then what does their reigning with Christ mean? They were raised and then reigned with Jesus. If they are raised at the time of the final judgment in what sense did they reign with Jesus? And why would John mention a specific interval of their reign if they are raised, judged and brought in to the New Heavens and New Earth in one event?

A potential answer to this is that at our spiritual resurrection we reign with Christ. This sounds good because as Ephesians 2:6 says, God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” As glorious as that truth is, it doesn’t mean that we’re currently reigning with Jesus. New Testament discussion of our reigning with Christ always puts it in the future:

The saying is trustworthy, for:
if we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11–13)


Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! (1 Corinthians 4:8)

You must reconcile the current binding of Satan with verses in the New Testament that indicate he is still actively deceiving people. One of the verses that bothered me enough to move me out of  amillennialism was 2 Corinthians 4:4: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” If Satan is currently bound as described in Revelation 20:1-3, “that he might not deceive the nations any longer,” then he should not be able to “blind the minds of unbelievers.”

That is not to say that at the cross Jesus didn’t in some sense bind Satan. Matthew 12:28-29 indicates that Jesus’ and his disciples’ ministry of casting out demons was in essence binding the strong man and plundering his house. But that appears to be different than Satan’s binding more fully so that his deceptive powers over humanity are removed. The non-millennialist usually equates the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 with the binding of the strong man in Matthew 12 and exegetically that appears to require stronger justification that has been offered.

Perhaps “so that he might not deceive the nations” in Revelation 20:3 is not describing the extent of Satan’s binding but rather the reason for it. But that doesn’t solve the problem because if his being bound doesn’t prevent him from blinding the eyes of the unbelievers, then Jesus did not achieve his purpose in binding him.

You must believe that the present earth will never be set free from its bondage under sin but will only be destroyed and recreated. Under a non-millennial view, Jesus returns to earth, judges the living and the dead then ushers in the final state in one cataclysmic event. According to 2 Peter 3:10-12 on the Day of the Lord the creation will be dissolved and judgment will come. There is no deliverance of creation, only a day when it is replaced. But Romans 8 indicts that creation is waiting a day when it will be delivered from the futility it was subjected to at the fall. If there is not a time when peace reigns on the earth but there is only recreation, creation is not waiting for deliverance but destruction. It would be like a hostage waiting for friendly forces to come and shoot her rather than liberate her.

We experience rebirth before resurrection. There is a period for us when we are born again but are not yet glorified. We have redeemed hearts but un-redeemed bodies. The non-millennialist must believe that this “now and not yet” does not apply to the rest of creation even though verses like those in Isaiah 11 describe a time when the earth is at peace with itself, not yet burned up and replaced, death is weakened but not removed.

You must see the reign of the promised Davidic King as only ever partial on this earth. The non-millennialist sees Jesus currently reigning from heaven, as he truly is, and must accept that as the full extent of it. Though he is promised to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Isaiah 11:4, Psalm 2, Revelation 2:25-27), he actually will only rule his church on this earth. We do not see Jesus rule this way yet (Hebrews 2:6-9) but there is a day coming when he will (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

We do not see Jesus rule the nations in this manner now and in the non-millennial view, he never will. The nations rage under God’s sovereign control as they have all along (Danial 7). But what seems to be pictured in many verses is the significant, earthly reign of the Davidic King over the nations of the earth. As I mentioned above, the Apostles still had this hope when Jesus ascended to heaven. His answer to them did not sound particularly amillennial; “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 2:7) An amillennial answer might have been more along the lines of “Yes I shall as you receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Instead Jesus tells them to not worry about when that will happen but that they will first be his witnesses to the nations under the hope of that coming day when Jesus will rule in that fashion.

Also, I did a follow up post on the binding of Satan here.

Ezekiel’s Temple

The issue came up in Sunday school last week whether the temple in Ezekiel’s vision in chapters 40-48 is a literal, physical building or a visionary representation of something else. The amount of physical detail given to the temple seems to indicate that it is intended to be a real, physical construction.

I believe the best way to read it is to recognize that Ezekiel is seeing a physical representation of another reality, not a physical building. In chapter 47 Ezekiel describes a river flowing from the temple. The further the river flows, the deeper the water gets. This is not something that we would expect to see in an actual temple build in Jerusalem. There are wells on the temple mount but they are deep underground so it is improbable that a river would well up from under the temple.

There are indications that the river is meant to picture something else. Not only does the water desalinate the ocean and the swamps and marshes, it multiplies animal life wherever it goes. The banks of this river team with trees that never drop their leaves and produce fruit monthly. Real trees don’t do that. The river is described in concrete terms just as the temple is yet the river is figurative so it seems consistent with the vision to understand the temple as figurative as well.

Since scripture helps us understand scripture, if the New Testament treats this vision as figurative then it is figurative.  While there isn’t an exact citation of this vision in the New Testament, there are some tremendous similarities between Ezekiel’s temple and the city that John saw in Revelation 21. Consider: 1The Ezekiel/Revelation chart modified from The Road to Emmaus

Ezekiel’s Temple John’s City
Set on a high mountain (40:1-2; cf., 8:3) Carried up to a high mountain (21:10)
One with a measuring rod (40:3) Angel with a measuring rod (21:15; cf., 11:1)
The temple is measured (40:5-42:20) The city is measured (21:16-17)
The temple is a square (48:30-35; cf., 41:4) The city is a cube (21:16)
There shall be sacrifices; worship is central (43:13-27; cf., 46:1-21) The nations shall bring their glory and honor; worship is central (22:26)
No abomination in the temple (44:4-14) Nothing unclean in the city (21:27; cf., 21:8)
Priests will minister before the Lord (44:15-31) Priests unto God (21:18-20; cf., 20:6)
Twelve gates for the sons of Israel (48:30-34) Twelve gates for the sons of Israel (21:12-13)
Water flows from the temple (47:1-5) Water flows from the throne of God (22:1;cf., 21:6)
Trees bear fruit and provide healing (47:6-12) Tree of Life bears fruit and provides healing (21:2)
God will have a place for his people (47:13-48:29) The people’s place is the Lord (22:5; cf., 21:3-4, 7)
The Lord will be there (48:35; cf., 43:1-12; 45:1-25) The Lord will illumine them (21:22-23;22:3-5)
There is no city described. The city has no temple (21:22)

The similarities seem to indicate that when John was shown “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” (Rev 21:9) he saw the same thing as what Ezekiel saw in his vision, that is, the Church.

Ezekiel’s imagery of God’s people as a temple with priests and sacrifices is consistent with the New Testament description of the Church. The Church is a temple (1Co 3:16-17, 6:19; Eph 2:19-22, 1Pt 2:5). We’re told to offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God. (Rom 12:1) Paul’s life of service is a drink offering poured out on the church’s faith. (Phil 2:17) His work gathering in the gentiles is an offering. (Rom 15:16, 2Ti 4:6) Our tithes and worship are sacrifices. (Phil 4:18, Heb 13:15) Likewise, Paul was acting as a priest in relationship to the gospel (Rom 15:16) and we are a priesthood (1Pt 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).

Ezekiel’s vision of a temple represents something real through figurative language. I believe the reason Ezekiel spends so much time walking through and measuring the temple is impress us with the majesty of what the temple will be, not to lay out blueprints for it. That kind of writing is the best way he had to demonstrate the grandeur of what God will do when he restores his people. It is like the vision of the dry bones coming to life (37) and the stony heart of his people being replaced with a fleshly one (36:26-27) and washing them with clean water (36:24-25). If we understand Ezekiel’s temple in the context of this section of his writing, it is speaking of the restoration and purification of his people and that is exactly how we see the New Testament speak of the Church.

1 The Ezekiel/Revelation chart modified from The Road to Emmaus

Between Change and . . .

I’ve just been reading the second draft of the proposed change to the EFCA Statement of Faith. I love the new organization and some of the theological changes. But one bit stood out to me:

The question arises: Has what was assumed to be held by “all believers” and was considered a “major issue” at the time of the merger changed such that these are no longer viewed in that way today? We believe that these things have changed. One’s position on the millennial kingdom of Christ no longer seems to be a point of doctrine that ought to divide believers and which ought to preclude people from full fellowship in our churches. As a result, removing “premillennialism” from our statement would better express the spirit of our founding principles. This is a case in which, in affirming this principle of evangelical unity in the gospel, the Statement of Faith must change to remain the same.

I agree with this statement. Change was needed. In the 1940s and 50s when the EFCA was formed, the options were pretty much dispensational premillennialism and liberal postmillennialism. The other orthodox eschatological positions had been pretty much pushed to the edges and these two dominated evangelicalism. But that isn’t the case today. Dispensationalism has matured and Reformed theology has made a comeback amongst evangelicals. Other orthodox eschatologies are more widely held today. When the EFCA Statement of Faith was written, the Premillennialist statement would have excluded Liberals from the denomonation. That was its intent.

So I welcome the change and yet, my personal statement of faith is the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Aside from the statement that the pope is the antichrist, 1Much like the EFCA Statement of Faith, I think the framers erred by including this eschatological speculation in a statement of faith. It is possible to disagree on this issue and still remain in harmony with the beliefs expressed in the document. I don’t want that one to change! There were subsequent changes to the confessions after it was written and I don’t hold to those changes. The truths expressed in the Baptist Confession are not fluid and should not be changed. Though Dispensationalism gained great popularity in the church, especially amongst Baptists, the 1689 didn’t get rewritten because Baptistic Covenantal Theology waned in favor. Other groups were formed around different statements of faith.

So I find it interesting that on the one hand, I want my church’s Statement of Faith to change to reflect the more contemporary theological landscape within evangelicalism. But on the other hand, I do not want my personal confession of faith to change. No, the Church didn’t begin in 1689 but I find in that statement the clearest, best theology the church has produced in one body since the closing of the New Testament canon.

Could it be that a Statement of Faith is not to be equated with a Confession of Faith? That a Confession should stand the test of time but a Statement might be more fluid and react to the theological situation it finds itself in? Or am I splitting hairs?

At any rate, I welcome the proposed changes to the EFCA Statement of Faith. Well, one change is still giving me pause: God’s gospel calls for a response which determines the eternal destiny of every person. Is that what determines a persons eternal destiny, or does it reveal it? Since the EFCA is not a Reformed denomination, I’m not expecting a clear expression of Calvinism in the Statement of Faith. But at the same time, I am not expecting a clear denial of it either. This would seem to deny foreordination and election in favor of a more Arminian understanding of God’s call. There doesn’t seem to be much of a debate on this article at the moment, perhaps it is simply being overlooked because of the exclusion of premillennialism, but I hope it does get discussed.

1 Much like the EFCA Statement of Faith, I think the framers erred by including this eschatological speculation in a statement of faith. It is possible to disagree on this issue and still remain in harmony with the beliefs expressed in the document.

Millennial Comfort

The other day I was walking across the parking lot at work when the bell in the large, classical Presbyterian church rang. For a moment I thought about what it would be like to live in a country where church and state are united and the church is not compromised. I felt at ease for a second thinking of Christians, real Christians running the nation. I felt like I had nothing to fear.

After a brief moment the feeling passed. The Presbyterian church the bell rang from is part of a liberal denomination and so it is very likely that it teaches a hollowed out Christianity. The unity of Church and state has never left Church unscathed, she soon becomes polluted by men seeking power not Christ. Sin has so corrupted man that we can never achieve peace like that while man rules (sorry, no post-millennialism). Peace on earth like that can only come when Christ rules the nations with a rod of iron. What I got a fleeting glimpse of was the New Heavens and New Earth. No man-made institution.