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Is Your Eschatology Political Or Biblical?

Posted by Job on March 12, 2011

Sorry for the disproportionate emphasis on the endtimes lately. Rest assured, I am not reverting back to my “Heal The Land With Spiritual Warfare” angry Pentecostal days when I was given to much speculation concerning anti-Christ new world order conspiracies. It is merely that I have finally gotten around to reading an excellent book recommended by the Irish Anglican, which is “Interpreting Revelation: A Reasonable Guide to Understanding the Last Book in the Bible” by the late Merrill Tenney, an evangelical theologian who at one point was under the employ of Wheaton College. Now this Tenney was not nearly objective; rather it was quite easy from reading the book to discern that his beliefs tended towards premillennial dispensationalism/pre-tribulation rapture. Fortunately (for me anyways) Tenney pays little attention to his rapture beliefs beyond “gently” mentioning it as a possibility now and then, and instead deals with other issues using my own preferred methodology, which is literal-historical-redemptive interpretation of Bible texts (a hermeneutic that relies mostly on literal interpretation but allows for symbolic and figurative interpretation where appropriate) supported by responsible prooftexting (interpreting scripture with scripture without using verses out of context in order to support some agenda or bias) and appeals to church history. This makes it possible for me to (mostly) agree with Tenney’s scholarship in “Interpreting Revelation” in spite of my disagreement with his belief in (and in this book advocacy of, however mildly) a pretribulation rapture.
Of particular interest are chapters 8 and 9 of his text, which are “The Chronological Approach” and “The Eschatological Method.” In those, Tenney makes the case – though oddly enough this case was not his intention to make – that premillennialism was the eschatological view adopted based on the Biblical (and extrabiblical) text, and that other systems, particularly preterism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism, were developed for political reasons. (Regrettably, Tenney fails to distinguish between his own modern premillennialism – which includes dispensationalism – and historic premillennialism, or chiliasm. His case would have been much stronger, and dare I say more honest, had he done so. That, and his shocking failure to deal with the objections to premillennialism – his own view – as thoroughly as he did with the systems with which he disagrees actually constitute a greater shortcoming than his occasional stumping for the pretribulation rapture.)
First, preterism. Tenney convincingly credits its development with Alcazar, a Roman Catholic Jesuit friar. This Alcazar was a counter-Reformer, which was a duty of The Society of Jesus in general. He developed preterism in order to refute Protestant attacks on the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church, as the Reformers polemically used Revelation to refer to this church and its pope as “Babylon” and “anti-Christ.” His method: claiming that Revelation was written in reference to the early church’s struggle with the Jews (chapters 1-12) and paganism (13-19) and had no contemporary or future application whatsoever. Thus, Alcazar followed after a long line that began at the very latest with Eusebius in marginalizing Revelation for political purposes. What is amazing is that Protestant theologians soon began to adopt for themselves a Roman Catholic system created for the very purpose of opposing – and attempting to destroy – the Protestant Reformation, and many have used it ever since despite knowing its original origin and purpose! Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
Next, Tenney deals with the political origins of postmillennialism: Augustine’s need to defend the declining Roman Empire (and the ecclesiastical arm of the church-state) along with it. The idea at the time – first proposed by Eusebius in his “official theology” created to support the political aims of Constantine, to whom Eusebius served as an “advisor” – was essentially that the Roman Empire through its making Christianity the state religion, was the earthly fulfilment of the kingdom of God, and that the empire and its church would grow (whether by conversion or coercion) to fill the earth and thereby fulfil the prophecies concerning the global reign of Jesus Christ. Of course, this doctrine JUST HAPPENED to provide a religious justification for the need/desire of the Roman Empire to wage war, conquer territory and subdue/repress people. When the Roman Empire began to crumble, Augustine had to rework his doctrines somewhat in order to arrive at the position that even though the present political order – the Roman Empire – might collapse, the visible church destined to gain global dominion (and domination) would continue by attaching itself to whatever political, social and economic order that existed (whether the Roman Empire of Constantine’s time, the feudalism of the Dark and Middle Ages, or our current political hegemony) and adapting to fit it.
To pull this off, Augustine had to use an allegorical/spiritual method of interpreting Revelation (and other texts) that allowed him to strip the text of its intended meaning and assign the meaning that suited his purposes, which of course were the purposes of the empire and its state church. In that regards, we can consider Augustine to be a postmodern reader-response deconstructionist sort whom the Marxist scholar Jacques Derrida merely followed after 1500 years later! One of the things that Augustine had to do was deny a literal first resurrection, that of the martyrs spoken of in Revelation 20:4-6, by making the amazing claim that this passage referred to Christian regeneration! Now while Augustine was technically not Roman Catholic (but rather “proto-Catholic”) it is still amazing that so many Protestants followed his eschatological groundwork when it so blatantly involved willfully denying the meaning of scripture in order to contrive an interpretation that suited his political needs. Now, the Reformers were motivated to remain basically loyal to Augustine’s eschatology because of their commitment to his soteriology. The problem is that where Augustine’s soteriology is easily confirmed by a plain reading of the Bible, one has to reject that plain reading in order to adopt his eschatology. The Reformers erred in not being consistent in their hermeneutics, and with regard to the magisterial Reformers in general, were not free of their own political needs in maintaining their own church-states.
Amillennialism, at least according to Tenney, is little more than an improved or more sophisticated and “realistic” postmillennialism. Thus, it follows the same Eusebius-Augustine theological lineage, and ultimately comes to the same conclusions, even if – again according to Tenney – it makes better use of scripture in arriving at them. For instance, amillennialism also generally denies a literal first resurrection. Which is understandable: if the church and the political/economic/military/religious/cultural systems (the world) are one and the same, then who is martyring the Christians that will be resurrected? However, it should be pointed out that amillennialists do generally acknowledge that evil will increase before the return of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ does return to overthrow and judge a wicked worldly system, a wicked ungodly antiChrist system (as opposed to a personal antiChrist). At best, this system is an attempt to reconcile political eschatology with what the Bible actually says. As stated earlier, this was likely done because these doctrines came as part of a larger packaged doctrinal system (i.e. covenant theology).
Then, there is premillennialism. Tenney does acknowledge that premillennialism was not the consensus view of the early church, though he does regretfully understate this fact. However, Tenney does effectively make the case that premillennialism was a doctrine of many Christians from the earliest times in recorded church history, and naming such people as Papias and Justin Martyr (who wrote mere decades after the canon was completed, as early as 115 AD) as well as Irenaeus. Tenney uses the uncanny similarity between the millenarian teachings in Revelation and those in such apocryphal books as Baruch and Esdras IV as evidence of the existence of chiliast beliefs in the first century church. Of course, many throughout church history have used this fact against premillennialism, claiming that it is Jewish propaganda and misinterpretations of prophecy, but that principle is not used against apocryphal and extrabiblical references that appear in other Bible books (i.e. the book of Jasher and the book of the wars of the Lord in the Old Testament; the book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses in Jude).
Of course, embrace of premillennialism was far from universal in the early church. However, some of that can be attributed to anti-Jewish bias among Gentile Christians (which scripture tells us was developing as far back as when Paul composed the epistle to the Romans), and more still to a lack of a normative canon, and in particular the fact that Revelation appears to have been among the last books to gain widespread circulation and acceptance. However, it is known that vigorous opposition to chiliasm – and in many cases to Revelation itself, including many who wanted to either explain away its meaning and application or keep it out of the canon altogether – did not arise until Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, and that this opposition was motivated by the need to depict the Roman Empire as the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Tenney’s assertion of this point is by no means unique, but is repeated in any number of books on church history, and in particular those that deal with the debate over Revelation’s inclusion in the canon.
A final positive contribution by Tenney is his debunking the common claim that premillennialism received its modern revival thanks to the works of such spurious characters as Cyrus Scofield. The effects of this contribution is somewhat diminished by Tenney’s failure to acknowledge that at least some of the Christians who began investigating premillennialism had social and political motivations. This was true of certain radical Anabaptists in their violent upheavals in the 16th and 17th centuries, and also of Christians operating in the political, economic and social upheavals in the United States and England in the 19th century. Still, Tenney does identify a list of more reputable scholars who contributed to the revival of premillennialism (including historic premillennialism, which again Tenney regrettably does not distinguish) including Johann Albrecht Bengel, Hermann Olshausen, Heny Alford (definitely a chiliast), Johann Peter Lange (somewhat questionable because of his tendencies towards neo-orthodoxy), Andrew Fausset (another chiliast), Joseph Seiss, Franz Delitzsch and Charles Ellicott. Unfortunately, Tenney does the credibility of his effort in compiling that list great harm by including Plymouth Brethren hyperdispensationalist (a position that challenges the unity of the New Testament by setting Paul’s teachings over against those of the gospels and Acts) John Nelson Darby on his list of “reputable scholars”! (Why Darby and not Scofield, who in some respects is actually LESS problematic?)
So, Tenney’s book, despite its problems, helps one arrive at the conclusion is that premillennialism is the eschatological position that, despite is shortcomings, reflects the Biblical text according to a consistent hermeneutic and early church doctrines, and not the political need to assert that a church-state serves as the kingdom of heaven until the return of Jesus Christ. The former view integrates Revelation into a consistent schema of Old and New Testament thought – and not merely thought related to the apocalyptic/eschatological/prophetic – while the latter makes one wonder why Revelation is in the canon in the first place, and especially its application to contemporary Christians.

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Romans 11:26 – When Will All Israel Be Saved? See Zechariah 12

Posted by Job on March 11, 2011

Romans 11:26-27 reads “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” Now John Calvin, despite his being right on so many other matters, erred when he claimed that this passage refers to spiritual Israel, the church. This cannot be the case, because Sha’ul the Benjamite Jew (more commonly known as Saul, or Paul) had already made the distinction between Israel and the church, between natural Israel and spiritual Israel, earlier in Romans (such as Romans 2:28-29 and Romans 9:3-4), and furthermore declares himself to be a member of both natural and spiritual Israel. Also, “when I shall take away their sins” cannot in any sense refer to the church, because Paul is referring to a prophecy that is as yet unfulfilled with respect to national Israel. For we all know that spiritual Israel, the church, has already had its sins taken away.

So, Romans 11:26-27 refers not to the past/present church, but a future event when national Israel is saved and joins spiritual Israel; when natural Israel becomes a member of both groups just like Paul and the other apostles. John Calvin was unable to acknowledge the plain meaning of that text because of his theological bias; the covenant theology framework that refuses to acknowledge a distinction between Israel and the church, claims that Israel was the church of the Old Testament, and that (among other things) where infant circumcision was the covenantal inclusion ritual of the Old Testament church, infant baptism is the covenantal inclusion sacrament of the New Testament church.

So, allowing Romans 11:26-27 to stand as written, when will this event happen? When will Israel’s national salvation occur? The hint occurs in Revelation 1:7, which reads “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” That text points directly to Zechariah 12:10, which reads “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Now the spirit of grace and supplications (see Romans 8:26-27) is the Holy Spirit. The One who sents the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (see John 14:16-26), is Jesus Christ. So, Jesus Christ is the “me” whom “they” have pierced, and “they” in this specific context are the Jews, who bear the national responsibility for killing Jesus Christ through the actions of their religious and political leaders in the time of Jesus Christ, Caiaphas the high priest and the Sanhedrin.

So, when this prophecy is fulfilled, the same Holy Spirit that currently indwells the church, spiritual Israel, will also indwell the Jews, natural Israel. And if this prophecy is to be interpreted literally, this will not be the result of individual conversion by way of preaching the gospel as happens with the church, be its members (Messianic?) Jewish or Gentile, but instead an act of national salvation akin to God’s delivering Israel from Egypt and making the covenant with the Jewish nation at Sinai as recorded in Exodus. (It is obvious – to me anyway – that this precludes any notion of “free will salvation.” Just as Israel had no choice in the matter at Sinai, but instead God imposed the Sinai terms on His vassal nation as its Suzerain Lord) they will have no choice to choose or reject Jesus Christ when He comes to fulfill Romans 11:26-27 with respect to the Jewish nation.

And when will this event happen? As Zechariah 12 is obviously linked to Revelation, which deals with the fate of the church (and please recall my position that there will be no “pretribulation rapture”, or even if there is one, it will be a partial one that will leave the vast majority of the church to endure the great tribulation), Israel and the world, this event will happen at some point during the great tribulation. More specifically, as Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 1:7 obviously describe the second advent of Jesus Christ, the best Biblical evidence (again, according to my opinion) is that this blessed event will occur at the time described in Revelation 19:11-21, which is Jesus Christ returning from heaven with His saints and angels to defeat the armies of the beast (or anti-Christ) and – according to those of us with premillennialist leanings – set up His 1000 year kingdom.

It is impossible to claim that Zechariah 12:10, or more accurately the much longer prophecy block that includes much of Zechariah 12-14, has been fulfilled already. It cannot refer to the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem or the Babylonian destruction of the same, as those had already occurred when Zechariah – who lived in the time of King Darius – wrote his book. It also cannot refer to 70 A.D., because of Zechariah 12:7-8, which reads “The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify [themselves] against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David [shall be] as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.” The fact that God did not defend Jerusalem in 70 A.D precludes any preterist interpretations of Zechariah 12:10, particularly since preterism holds that Jesus Christ came to punish the Jews in 70 A.D., not to fight and overcome their enemies for them.

Still more evidence? Zechariah 12:2-3 reads “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah [and] against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” This is a reference to how during the endtimes, the Gentile nations will attempt to destroy Israel and Jerusalem. It will be at that time that Jesus Christ makes His return. Where will this return be? The Mount of Olives according to Zechariah 14:1-4. “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which [is] before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, [and there shall be] a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

Before you stumble at “and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished, and half of the city shall go forth into captivity” and consider that this may refer to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians or some other event, please recall Revelation 13:7, which speaks of the beast “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” Now the Jews at this point are not “the saints”, but it is rather logical to conclude from that verse that the evil forces will inflict no small damage against Jerusalem and its inhabitants before Jesus Christ comes to save them, just as many Christians will perish at the hands of the anti-Christ before the days of the great tribulation are cut short for the elect’s sake (see Mark 13:20 and Matthew 24:22). Further, please recall that Romans 11:28 refers to the Jewish nation as being God’s elect also, thus Jesus Christ will return to ensure that some of both natural and spiritual Israel will survive the great tribulation. From these passages, it appears that natural and spiritual Israel will be combined into one elect church at the second advent of Jesus Christ.

Finally, consider Zechariah 14:6-9. “And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the light shall not be clear, [nor] dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, [that] at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, [that] living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” Does this not correlate strongly to the description of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22? Revelation 21:23 reads “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [is] the light thereof.” Revelation 22:5 also says “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:2 reads “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Zechariah 14:11 reads “And [men] shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.” Revelation 21:4? “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

It is simply inexcusable to ignore all this evidence unless one relies on a symbolic interpretation of not only Revelation, but the prophetic Old Testament material of Zechariah and elsewhere, not to mention New Testament prophecy outside of Revelation such as the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24-25, Luke 21 and Mark 13). The reason for such interpretation is the commitment to a theological construct that demands it (with the covenant theologian John Calvin mentioned at the beginning of this piece being an example). The fact that these texts have regrettably abused by many premillennial dispensationalists provides no justification for denying their plain meaning and application. At the very least, in order to be consistent, one must adopt a symbolic or “spiritual” interpretation of such Messianic prophecy texts as Isaiah 7:14 (yes, almah does mean “virgin” in that verse and not “young woman”, otherwise almah would not have been translated as parthenos, which can only mean “virgin”, in the Septuagint by Jewish scholars who lived over a hundred years before Jesus Christ!) and Isaiah 9:6.

Though the date of Israel’s national salvation will be the second advent of Jesus Christ, the question is the date of your salvation. This is so even if you are Jewish, for A) we do not know the day or the hour of Jesus Christ’s second advent and B) tomorrow is promised to no man. The Bible is clear: whether one is Jewish or Gentile, salvation is of the Lord, and there is only one Name by which men will be saved, and that Name is Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, with the common English transliteration being Jesus Christ. If you have not already been saved through Jesus Christ, I urge and entreat you to make your time of salvation right now.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan Today!

Posted in anti - Christ, anti - Semitism, antichrist, Bible, Christianity, covenant theology, election, endtimes, eschatology, great tribulation, Holy Spirit, Israel, Jesus Christ, man of sin, mark of the beast, Messianic Judaism, prophecy, religion, replacement theology, Ruach Hakadosh, the anti-christ, the beast, the false prophet, Y'shua Hamashiach, Y'shua Hamashiach Moshiach, Yeshua Hamashiach | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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