Posts Tagged ‘premillennialism’

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.

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.

Three Things

It was an interesting morning doing Bible study. I’m using a chronological outline to read through the Bible in a year and right now I’m reading through Jeremiah. Today was two chapters of Jeremiah and a few Psalms. Three things struck me.

I. Ethiopian Eunuchs are Great Guys! In Jeremiah 38 Jeremiah’s enemies toss him in a muddy cistern because he keeps telling people that God has given Jerusalem into the hands of Babylon. Jeremiah’s enemies don’t believe him and they think he is convincing the troops to give up. So sure, a cistern seems a logical place to put him. I guess they were too chicken to kill him themselves. Now for some reason Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch, is living in besieged and surrounded Jerusalem. What is a foreigner doing in Judah while the country is under attack? He’s rescuing Jeremiah, that’s what he’s doing (Jeremiah 38:7-13). And here’s God’s response to Ebed-melech:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:15-18)

The next Ethiopian eunuch we meet in scripture is unnamed but likewise puts his trust in the Lord. In Acts 8 he’s riding along reading Isaiah 53 and wondering about the meaning. God sends Philip to him to explain and the eunuch gets baptized.

God blessed and worked through Israel and says that he’ll bless Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 19:23) but Ethiopia is never mentioned specifically as a country God would favor. And eunuchs are the wrong sort of people. They cannot be circumcised and they cannot enter the temple (Deuteronomy 23:1) and yet here are two of them putting their trust in God and being blessed. I’m so glad that God chooses the least likely, that his favor is not a matter of ethnicity or physical properties. That means a person like me can find God’s favor. A person like you can too.

II. Incorruptible Governors. This one is a bit more circumspect of a thought. In Jeremiah 40, Jerusalem has fallen, Zedekaih has been blinded and hauled to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar has set up rules to watch over Israel. In other words, the whole nation is now in exile. The poor are left to take care of the land and many who fled during the invasion have now returned to Israel. Word comes to Gedaliah, the Jewish governor, that one of the returnees has been sent to assassinate him but he doesn’t believe it.

For some reason this got me thinking of Jesus future reign on earth. He will return and the saints will be raised with him and rule with him (Revelation 3:21, 20:4) on this earth. This is fitting because how can you corrupt or intimidate a resurrected saint? What kind of bribe are you going to offer him or her? Can a threat of death be made that will sway them? What kind of material thing would they want to hoard for themselves? There could be no better vice-regents on earth than resurrected saints!

III. Heads. Psalm 74 was one of the Psalms I read this morning with Jeremiah 39-40. In it Asaph is lamenting that God has cast off his people and that God’s foes are scoffing. But Asaph has hope and he remembers God’s might. In verses 13-14 Asaph remembers that God “broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters” and also that he “crushed the heads of Leviathan” and “gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.” So multiple sea monsters have multiple heads, that makes sense. But what I didn’t know is that Leviathan, who is a single beast, had multiple heads and God crushed them. If you look up “Leviathan” throughout the scriptures, you’ll see that it is described as a large, dangerous sea creature and one that God is always powerful over it. But in Job 41 Leviathan has one tongue and in Isaiah 27 Leviathan is yet to be crushed. So perhaps “Leviathan” describes a sort of creature rather than a single living animal. And one of them had multiple heads. That just struck me as cool.

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.