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Posts Tagged ‘Premillennialism’

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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Practical Theology: I Am Too Fat To Survive The Great Tribulation!

Posted by Job on September 17, 2009

Recently I abandoned my belief in the secret rapture, instead taking the view that the church will be present for the seven years of great tribulation. My belief is that such will be a very difficult time of the church similar to that of Israel (or more specifically Judah) during the time of Jeremiah. Christians will be in constant physical danger, often having to relocate or flee, and providing for even the bare necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) will be difficult. We will have to rely totally on God to supply all our needs instead of any country, government, economic system etc. Instead, the nations, governments, militaries, political and economic systems etc. will be united against us. It will be completely the opposite of the easy, decadent living that western Christians have known and enjoyed for hundreds of years … the very same which many Christians are apparently willing to torture and kill other people in order to preserve.

And I regret to say that if these horrible difficult times for the church were to occur any time soon, I have no idea how I would stand a chance! I would be one of the very first to be captured trying to run away! Why? Because like a heavily disproportionate number of evangelical or fundamentalist Christians from the deep south, my health is in terrible shape. Now a few short years ago God miraculously preserved my health by instantly healing my worsening asthma as well as damage to my kidneys caused by my longtime overuse of over the counter asthma medicine. But this is the thing: the need to manage my asthma was my primary motivation for at least trying to keep my weight down. With that sole restraint out of the way, I have now ballooned to about 75 pounds more than I was when I was unloading trucks for a living!

For the longest, I have been deluding myself as to the true seriousness of my physical condition, brought on by the sins of gluttony and sloth (as well as my love for red meat, eggs, cheese, and soft drinks!) but now my eyes are opened. It happened just recently, as my frustration with the messages in my children’s television shows reached the tipping point (specifically the homosexual pagan lemur character in “Penguins of Madagascar” … the person who originally did the voice for this character in the movie versions was Jesus Christ hating Sacha Baron Cohen of the movie “Bruno” … need I say more?) and I decided that the entertainment for my children was going to (as much as possible) be “the great outdoors” as opposed to Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney. Hiking, fishing, exploring … I was even considering challenging my long-held aversion to (fear of!) camping and swimming. And no, I am not ashamed to acknowledge that the idea that Christians JUST MAY NEED SURVIVAL SKILLS motivated me just a little.

Then I was confronted with cold, hard reality. My very first trip to a local park with this nice little mountain trail, made very easy and accessible for THE ELDERLY left me huffing, puffing and sweating (but thank God no wheezing or any other asthma symptoms whatsoever … again the asthma is gone praise be to Jesus Christ, and no I didn’t “grow out of it” but it was the worst that it had ever been right up to the home prayer session that me and my family had!) after 20 minutes. My kids and I had gone MAYBE a quarter of a mile. They were having a great time looking at birds, trees, and the mountain (which is actually a hill, but don’t tell the locals that!) but they had to leave because their old man couldn’t keep up with them! Now I continued lying to myself, thinking “this is nothing that a few trips on the treadmill won’t fix” while driving myself to yet another fast food restaurant. But the very next trip, to a park with a small waterfall, their excellent time was cut short by my physical limitations. So, three thoughts popped into my head.

A) I was actually in much better shape when I had asthma. Even if I did have to take a few puffs of my inhaler from time to time, I was actually capable of walking all day. Now, I can barely walk for 30 minutes! For my to practically reject God’s gracious and merciful healing of my body by allowing myself to get in such poor physical condition that I cannot realize the benefits of the blessing is a terrible commentary on my spiritual (not physical but spiritual!) condition. I recall the man that Jesus Christ healed to whom Christ said “stop sinning or else something worse will come upon you.” Well, anyone needing evidence that gluttony (both eating too much and eating the wrong things) and sloth are sins only need to look at my person, for again I am actually in worse condition than I was when I had asthma. Paul Washer regularly mentions how so many Christians are killing themselves with our eating and exercise habits, and it appears that he was talking directly to me!
B) I was thinking “wow, if U.N. secretary general/global leader were to give the ’round up all Bible believing Christians’ order, I wouldn’t even be able to grab my kids and make it to the car, let alone run up the side of some mountain!” Begging the indulgence of all amillennialists and preterists, remember Matthew 24 when Jesus Christ said “escape to the mountains!” when the time of sorrows comes? I am too fat and out of shape to comply with that commandment!
C) Also, without even needing some endtimes scenario, I realized that it would have merely taken our being pursued by some desperate criminal or some rabid raccoon (or any emergency which would have required my grabbing my children and carrying them while outrunning something or someone somewhere) to expose how reckless and irresponsible I have been with my health and in this way would not be able to fulfill the physical requirements of being the steward, the head of my family as the Bible requires.

And yes, I also recall having read this book on evangelism whose author stated that overweight evangelists, missionaries, pastors etc. are often not taken seriously, especially in areas of the country and world where physical fitness, by the people that they are attempting to minister to. So, I am immediately going to start incorporating diet and exercise as part of my personal approach to Christian living. If nothing else, it would exhibit wisdom and self-control, and against such things there is no law!

P.S. No, this is not an endorsement of the “health” portion of the prosperity doctrine. Nor do I endorse the increasingly common practice of churches calling themselves “family life” or “whole person” centers and building fitness centers and doing things like offering dance aerobics (to gospel music of course!). Just as 1 Corinthians 11:34 says “if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation” then it follows that we should do our EXERCISING at home (or at least at someplace other than church!) also. After all, if going to go to church to lose weight, who is going to evangelize the overweight people that go to the gyms?

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Amillennialist Admits Premillennialism Was The Position Of The Jews And Of The Early Church

Posted by Job on February 26, 2009

The History of Chiliasm

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Posted by Job on February 26, 2009

Key early quote: “The apologists who looked forward to the thousand year reign of Christ not only were

godly men and scholars in their own rite, but also were contemporaries of those who studied

under the Apostle John. One would think that men like Polycarp and Papias had a fairly accurate

understanding of what their teacher was conveying in Revelation chapter 20!”


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Does Israel Have The Right To Exist?

Posted by Job on January 7, 2009

That was the question posed to the Jerusalem Post columnist and Jewish intellectual David Forman by a liberal Christian group. As Forman is also liberal, they were expecting the usual apologies, defensive postures, and equivocations that the modern left makes regarding Israel. This is in contrast with, say, 60 years ago, when the position of the left was to defend a much more liberal – indeed socialist – Israel government from amillennial conservative mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics (this was before the rise of the religious right and its alliance with the conservatives that now in large part control Israel, even when the Labor Party is in power … the modern Israeli Labor Party is not the Labor Party of Golda Meir).

Well these liberal Christians were shocked when Forman launched into a vigorous stance on Israel that could have just as easily come from the conservative Jews (and Christians) that these liberal Christians obviously do not dialogue with. Forman’s strongest argument was that modern Israel has as much right to exist as any other nation, including the United States, and furthermore that Israel was created by the United Nations (the only nation that I am aware of that has that designation). Unfortunately, Forman went on to use some much weaker arguments, including some that amount to little more than Jewish propaganda.

This is my personal answer to the question that was posed to Forman and is often asked, especially in times such as this when Israel finds itself using military action. Iin a true or absolute sense, what we mean when we use the term “rights” is something that only comes from God. In that context, the only nation (and by that I mean nation – state, a sovereign political entity  associated with a general area of land) that ever had the right to exist was Old Testament Israel.

As for other nations in other places and times, well we know from Romans 13 and 14 that they are good things, gifts to humankind from God’s common place. We also know that other nations have been used by God to accomplish His purposes. God used Egypt, for instance, to make Israel into a people. He used Babylon and Assyria to judge Judah and Israel. The Roman Empire’s vast network of roads, political stability, and common Greek language facilitated the speedy spread of the gospel and the preservation of the New Testament. (God also used the Roman Empire to judge the Jewish people for their rejection of Jesus Christ: read Matthew 24 and then consider the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem and scattering of the Jews in 132 AD). And our current nation, America, has been very important in A) strengthening the vital free church tradition, B) global missions, and C) protecting Jews, including but not limited to taking in refugees and supporting the modern state of Israel.

But the much good that many nations have done before the eyes of the Lord throughout history does not mean that any particular one had or a right to exist. That would imply that A) such a nation was created by an act of God as was Old Testament Israel and B) that God mediated either through prophets or His Son Jesus Christ a covenant with that nation. In other words, such a nation would have been a function of special grace and not common grace. It is my contention that only Old Testament Israel met either the conditions A) or B), let alone both of them. As such, no other nation has had a “right'” to exist.

As I have stated earlier, it is my proposal that Old Testament Israel’s right to exist as a unique sovereign political entity tied to the land that was formerly Canaan ended by virtue of their breaking the Sinai covenant, and such happened just as the book of Deuteronomy and the classical prophets that warned Israel’s kings and people largely based on Deuteronomy said that it would, first in 721 BC and then in 586 BC. For this nation – state to be re – established with a similar right to exist, whether in Canaan or anywhere else, would have required A) another miraculous act of God, B) another covenant of God, C) another prophet to mediate this covenant, and D) another purpose. Those who assert that this is the case, well the burden is on them to provide evidence of A, B, C, and D. Or failing that, Biblical evidence predicting that such a thing would happen.

I am aware of the many Bible passages that predict that the Jews would return to Israel. But none of those passages to my knowledge predicted that Israel would be re – established to the position that it held before, as a special nation with a special status by virtue of God’s special grace, and in particular with a specific role in human redemption or salvation history. As a matter of fact, the idea that Israel would be re – established in something closely resembling the form or character of the Sinai covenant nation – state caused the Jews much confusion and consternation, and was the cause of the belief that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus Christ’s refusal to even aspire to such a thing was a key reason why He was rejected, and is still rejected by all but Messianic Jews to this day. But my reading of the Bible, especially Hebrews 1:1-4, would seem to preclude the idea that God would have created or had a use for a covenant nation in the last days, a period or dispensation that the New Testament made clear began with the ending of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to the right Hand of the Father.

That said, as I mentioned earlier, nations are clearly intended by God as a good thing. It is not a bad thing when nations are created, and it is a very bad thing when nations that are basically decent and moral fall. As all nations are certainly imperfect, claiming that Israel is anything but an orderly, decent and moral nation is a lie. So, Israel’s existence is a good thing that restrains evil. And yes, I do consider Israel’s existence as a work of God’s providence – if not an act of God’s special creation like Old Testament Israel and the church – because Bible passages speak of a gathering of Jews in the land of Israel having great endtimes significance. (Keep in mind, I am a millennialist, even if it is postmillennial.) I merely reject the notion that those prophecies require a sovereign Israel – especially one run by a constitutional democratic republic form of government that is the product of human paganism and philosophy – to be carried out. After all, when Jews returned to Israel the first time – a precondition for the birth of Jesus Christ – they were under Medo – Persian domination, and Jesus Christ Himself was born to an Israeli people under Roman domination. So, the fulfillment of the revelant eschatological passages, including the famous ones in Ezekiel that are so popular with dispensational premillennialists, do not require that Jews have a sovereign state in Israel. It merely requires that a large number of Jews live in Israel.

Still, this does not make Israel’s formation or existence illegitimate. Realize that nations do not have a “legitimate” way of forming in the first place. They simply exist. The idea that Israel was formed on stolen land … well name the nation that exists today on land that did not belong to some other people group or political entity in times past. Also, Israel’s existence in some form has been endorsed by the United Nations, which let us face it is the highest human authority on the planet today, and likely will be until the beast, the anti – Christ takes power. (Being millennialist, I reject amillennial notions that the anti – Christ will be an institution or body like the Roman Catholic Church, but rather that the beast will be as Daniel, Revelation, and 2 Thessalonians states: a literal human being.)

What makes a nation’s continued existence legitimate? The ability and willingness to govern and defend itself. A nation that cannot or will not govern or defend itself … well that nation will fall and either be dominated by another nation or just descend into general anarchy and with it end any question of its legitimacy. So Israel must govern and defend itself even if it means defying the international community. Governing itself means capturing, imprisoning, and killing the Palestinian criminals that are murdering its citizens. Defending itself means taking definite action against Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and other nations that are funding and arming the Palestinian criminals. Is there such a thing as being excessive, cruel, or unwise in governing and defending itself? Of course, and Israel has been at times. In my opinion, the primary cause of this is relying on air strikes, knowing full well that it will both endanger innocent civilians while accomplishing relatively little, rather than ground troops and soldiers. Do not be deceived: Israel does this only because of politics and public relations. But Israel’s mistakes and unwise policies in the couse of governing and defending itself does not remove the fact that Israel has the responsibility to do so. Israel is not committing a sin against God’s common grace by governing and defending itself. Rather, it is doing so if they refuse.

So, should Christians support the state of Israel? Of course. Romans 13:1-4a reads “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” So Christians should support every stable, functional, basically moral government, and also support the establishment of the same where it does not exist. (Please note: this does not mean that we should be in the business of going to war with sovereign nations and occupying them in the interests of establishing a government that is more to our liking, or support such endeavors.) Israel is a stable, functional, basically decent government, and we should support it in being so and support its continuing to be so. However, this is not necessarily special with regards to Israel (the Biblical imperative to pray for the peace of Jerusalem notwithstanding) but with all nations, including our own. Which means that we should resist our own nation’s slide into corruption and lawlessness.

So in absolute terms with respect to a special position before God, Israel has no special right to exist that any Christian need respect as was the case with Old Testament Israel. But in relative terms with respect to every other nation that has ever existed, Israel does have rights that Christians should respect, and rights that Christians have an interest in seeing Israel stand up and defend. The fact that I have declared their conflict with the Palestinian population that resides within their borders to be intractable based on very legitimate considerations on the part of both the Palestinians and Israelis does not in any way alter this. Quite the contrary, living in this creation that has fallen into sin due to the sin of Adam means that just these sorts of issues will occur whether they are within nations, within families and marriages, or within an individual (please see Romans 7:7-25 for the individual conflict). I only hope and pray that Palestinians and Israelis handle this inevitable and intractable conflict with justice and dignity, and that more and more individual members of those respective populations accept salvation through Jesus Christ to aid them through their trials.

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Amillennialism Was Invented By PAGANIZED Origen! Postmillennialism Was Invented By UNITARIAN George Whitby!

Posted by Job on June 11, 2008

Millennial and Rapture Positions

End Time Charts: Rapture Positions Compared

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Rapture Timing Virtual Debate: Pretribulation Versus Post Tribulation

Posted by Job on November 7, 2007

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Why Calvinism Necessitates Premillennialism

Posted by Job on October 27, 2007

From John MacArthur:

Why Calvinism Necessitates Premillennialism

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