A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

A right eschatology does not liberate us from the present; it liberates us for the present.

An Aside: Apocalyptic language and metaphor

As Matthew Malcolm4 shares,

If you’ve encountered the opinion that unless we interpret the Bible “literally” we are not doing justice to it, this could be a useful resource:

The Charge of Replacement Theology

What I’m finding is that those who charge Amillennialists as “Replacement Theologians” are establishing a straw man argument. The non-Amillennialist does not rebut the actual arguments of the Amillennialist, chiefly, the remnant of Israel is One, namely Jesus. He is the True Remnant of Israel, the True Israelite: read this post for details.

Because Jesus is the True Israelite (the True Remnant of Israel), everyone who believes in Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) becomes one (i.e. there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift).

This means that both Jew and Gentile are joint-heirs with Christ. This is not replacement theology. This is exactly the way it was meant to be in the first place.

Another way to look at it: Because Jesus is the True Remnant of One of Israel, Israel is expanded to include both Jew and Gentile, hence, this is Expansion Theology.

OR if you would like to keep pressing the point, Jesus replaces Israel (the unfaithful son) as the Faithful Son, the True Israel and then all who are joined in Him by faith becomes the New Israel — the two becoming one new man in Jesus:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. ~

The BIG Question

The big question non-Amillennialists need to answer is,

How is Jesus not the True Remnant of Israel– a Remnant of One?

This is not a liberal / Conservative Discussion

Charles Spurgeon5 (a Premillennialist but not a Dispensationalist) explains,

Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ so not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way—they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.

Promises / Fulfillment

I have never read a persuasive argument for why we should have such a hard distinction between Israel and the Church. Because of the documentation I have presented, I am more convinced than ever that just as Israel is used in different ways (due to context – i.e. Israel as nation, Israel as true Spiritual Israel), the Church is used in different senses (i.e. physical representation of God’s people, the Church universal aka Spiritual Israel.

I do not see how we can get around this when there are promises made to Israel yet applied to the church.

Promises Made to Israel Fulfilled in the Church

Promise to Israel

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God. –

Fulfillment in the church

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.’ ‘And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God. –

Promise to Israel

Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ –

Fulfillment in the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. –

Promise to Israel

On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; –

Fulfillment in the church

Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. ‘And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ ‘Known to God from eternity are all His works. –

Spoken to Israel, Applied to the Church
Spoken to Israel

And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. ‘And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. –

Applied to the church

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…’But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. –

Spoken to Israel

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. –

Applied to the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; –

Spoken to Israel

My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. –

Applied to the church

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. –

Spoken to Israel

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. –

Applied to the church

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ –

Spoken to Israel

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– –

Applied to the church

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’ –

Self-Condemnation of Dispensationalism

Charles Ryrie, in his early writings, makes this significant statement:

If the church does not have a new covenant, then she is fulfilling Israel’s promises, for it has been clearly shown that the Old Testament teaching on the new covenant is that it is for Israel. If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned. One might well ask why there are not two aspects to the one new covenant. This is the position held by many premillennialists, but we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the church.

This is why I am not a Dispensationalist. This is why I am Amillennialist because everything I see revolves around Christ and the Amillennial position expresses that most clearly.

References

1See more about a Christological Focus in An Amillennial Rebuttal to Dispensationalism 2.
2The Greatest Challenge and Privilege of OT Preaching by Mike Bullmore Senior Pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin.
3Dispensationalists should “Re-interpret” by Bobby Grow and here is the article Bobby links to: « Sign this petitionMilbank on Gay Marriage »
Fundamentalist hermeneutics serves a secular, atheistic agenda
by Matthew Malcolm
4Apocalyptic language and metaphor by Matthew Malcolm
5Spurgeon, “Jesus Christ Immutable,” MTP, 15:8. via Charles H. Spurgeon and the Nation of Israel: A Non-Dispensational Perspective on a Literal National Restoration by by Dennis Swanson

See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part One
See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 2
SEe A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

10  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” (ESV)

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (ESV)

23 and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (ESV)

11 “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old, (ESV)

14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ (ESV)

28  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (ESV)

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Acts 2:16-21

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (ESV)

and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)

27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (ESV)

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (ESV)

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. (ESV)

15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV)

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (ESV)

20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (ESV)

What about Acts 2?

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. ~

According to Peter in , Jesus is sitting on David’s throne.

Here is the main point Peter makes,

Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ

I do not know how to read this statement any other way than how it is plainly written. Peter is proclaiming that Jesus is, in fact, sitting on David’s throne by (and because of) His resurrection.

How do you understand this passage?

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (ESV)

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

Another Look at 1 Corinthians 15

In last week’s article in this Eschatology series, we linked to an article discussing 1 Corinthians 15 and the Rapture. Today, we look at a rebuttal of the Dispensational Premillennial Rapture.

If it weren’t for , I probably would have never begun to question premillennialism. I find in this verse an explicit denial of one of the essential tenets of all premillennial theories. Premillennialism must have people entering the future kingdom in their natural, unglorified bodies. This is due to the fact that a lot of people are said to rebel against God and Christ at the end of the millennium ().

But where do these folk come from if premillennialism is true? The only explanation is that these rebels are the children of those who originally entered Christ’s millennial kingdom. Since, however, people who experience resurrection cannot procreate (), then there must be saints who somehow enter the kingdom without having experienced glorification. Everyone agrees that,

If there are no people who enter the premillennium unglorified, then premillennialism is untenable and simply cannot be correct

Well, I find clear and irrefutable evidence that such is the teaching of , “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” All commentators are agreed that Paul is speaking here of glorification, the transformation of one’s physical body into a body like Christ’s. The only real point of contention is, what exactly does Paul mean when he refers to “the kingdom of God”?

The context makes it clear that the “kingdom” in view is the one which is established directly after Christ’s return. Paul amplifies by saying: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (vs. 51-53).

I find it curious that most people start quoting these verses as if Paul’s logic begins in

But it is clear that through 53 do not form a complete thought in themselves. Instead, they serve to explain why “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 50). As such, the “kingdom” which is in view is the rule and reign of Christ directly after He returns to earth. If so, then premillennialism is ruled out as an option.

The only way out of this is for premillennialists to claim that refers to the New Heavens and New Earth. This is a strange maneuver because in to 49 Paul discusses the resurrection of the righteous dead. And he does so again in to 57. Thus, these verses refer to events that occur in connection with the return of Christ.

Are we really to believe that stands alone in its context, so that it looks 1000 years beyond the events of its surrounding discussion?

This strains the principles of interpretation too much. It is much more natural to believe that is intimately connected to the verses that precede and follow it. The only reason why we would believe that its claims are out of place is if our system doesn’t let it stand in its context. Here is clear example of where premillennialists are doing what they accuse amills and postmills of:

Letting a system interpret the Scripture instead of the Scripture interpreting the system

Charles Hodge comments on this verse:

“The common millenarian [i.e. premillennial] doctrine is, that there is to be a literal resurrection when Christ shall come to reign in person upon the earth, a thousand years before the end of the world, and that the risen saints are to dwell here and share with Christ in the glories of his reign. But this seems to be inconsistent with what is taught in I Corinthians xv. 50. … It is here expressly asserted that our bodies as now constituted are not adapted to the state of things which shall exist when the kingdom of God is inaugurated. We must all be changed. From this it follows that the spiritual body is not adapted to our present mode of existence; that is, it is not suited or designed for an earthly kingdom” (Systematic Theology, Vol III, 843).

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And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (ESV)

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)


Listen

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (ESV)


Listen

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. (ESV)


Listen

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

Dispensationalism 2

Charles C. Ryrie explains the dispensational emphasis on consistently literal interpretation as follows:

The distinction between Israel and the Church is born out of a system of hermeneutics which is usually called literal interpretation. … The word literal is perhaps not as good as either the word normal or plain, but in any case it is interpretation that does not spiritualize or allegorize as nondispensational interpretation does. … Consistently literal or plain interpretation is indicative of a dispensational approach to the interpretation of Scripture. And it is this very consistency — the strength of dispensational interpretation — that irks the nondispensationalist and becomes the object of his ridicule.1

If plain or normal interpretation is the only valid hermeneutical principle, and if it is consistently applied, it will cause one to be a dispensationalist. As basic as one believes normal interpretation to be, to that extent he will of necessity become a dispensationalist.2

Dr. Walvoord captures the spirit of dispensational literalism in his dramatic statements:
“History is history, not allegory. Facts are facts. Prophesied future events are just what they are prophesied. Israel means Israel, earth means earth, heaven means heaven.”3

“A literal promise spiritualized is exegetical fraud.”4

Bark River Bible Church expresses Dispensationalism this way:

Dispensationalism – We believe that the Scriptures interpreted in their natural, literal sense reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life which define man’s responsibilities in successive ages. These dispensations are not ways of salvation, but rather divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to his purpose. Three of these – the age of law, the age of the Church, and the age of the millennial kingdom – are the subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture (; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ).5

References

1 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), pages 45-46.

2 Ibid., page 21.

3 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, pages 129-130.

4 Ibid., page 200.

5 Bark River Bible Church – What We Believe

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (ESV)


Listen

17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (ESV)


Listen

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (ESV)

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)

assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (ESV)

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, (ESV)

19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (ESV)

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (ESV)

Eschatology 101: A Christian and a Jew discuss Dispensationalism

Bill Moyers (on PBS) does an interview with a Christian (Timothy Weber, author of On the Road to Armageddon) and Jew (Michael Lerner) about the dangers of dispensationalism (video).

Transcript

BILL MOYERS: How many people belong to Christians United for Israel? Well, they say they have the support of 50,000 pastors and their congregations. And that would be no mean number. Let’s talk further now with two men who follow closely relations between American Christians and Israel.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of the widely read and quoted TIKKUN magazine, which he founded in 1986 as a journal of liberal and progressive Jewish thought. He holds doctorates in both philosophy and clinical psychology and has written 11 books, including JEWISH RENEWAL, SPIRIT MATTERS, and his most recent, THE LEFT HAND OF GOD.

Dr. Timothy Weber is himself an evangelical Christian. Once a Baptist now a Presbyterian, a teacher and historian of religion, he taught at Denver Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, among other schools. He’s known as an innovator in graduate theological education and the author of LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE SECOND COMING and this one, On the ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON: HOW EVANGELICALS BECAME ISRAEL’S BEST FRIEND. Welcome to you both.

These people seem to be on a roll. They look as if they believe the future belongs to them. Right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: This is one group in a long line of similar groups that– began to organize in the late ’70s and early ’80s which combined a firm belief of Bible prophecy and a particular political agenda that has gained more and more power as the years have gone on.

BILL MOYERS: How do you account for the fact, rabbi, that there were more political actors among them than there were preachers?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think that that movement has three different parts to it. And one part is those people whose primary agenda is conservative politics in America and are using the issue of Israel as another part of their support for conservative politics. And if the United States moved away from Israel, they might move away from it. The second part are people who are dispensationalists, who believe that getting Israel into a huge battle with the Arab states is going to be good for bringing Jesus back onto our planet. And-

BILL MOYERS: Dispensationalist is a theological concept.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. It’s a theological concept. Then there are an awful lot of people who genuinely care about Jews; decent good people in this movement who, unfortunately, are being manipulated for a political agenda that is very, very different and, in my view, not at all in the best interests of the Jewish people or in the best interest of Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Before we go any further, give me a shorthand definition of dispensationalism.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Dispensationalism is a particular way of reading Bible prophecy which divides the Bible into two stories. There’s a story about God’s earthly people, Israel. And then a story about God’s heavenly people, the Church. And the basic premise of dispensationalism is that all Bible prophecies concerning earthly events applies to the Jews. And all of those events will be fulfilled literally in the End Times. So, Israel must be returned to the land. They must stay in the land. Without Israel in the land, there can be none of the other events prophesied in the Bible. There can be no rise of Anti-Christ. There can be no rebuilding of the Temple. There can be no Battle of Armageddon. And there can be no second coming of Jesus Christ. So everything is riding on the Jews, getting them there and keeping them there in the Holy Land.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: But I think– but what you have to add in there is that when this is a step in the process that they see towards the end of end times in which the Jews will be cast down into eternal damnation and to the fires of hell. And only those Jews who convert to Christianity will be okay. And everyone — all the rest of us so they’re welcoming us now — with open arms and saying, “Oh, we love the Jewish people” But they love the Jewish people literally to death because they they want see those of us who stay Jews burn in hell but not– not right away. They don’t imagine it will happen right away. So there’s a staged process. And this is the first stage in the process that will eventually lead either to us converting totally to Christianity or burning in hell. So it’s not a really great future for the Jews that those theological people have in mind.

BILL MOYERS: If what you say is so, and I think you probably agree with it, I read your book.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Why does this play in Israel?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, there’s– this is the other–

BILL MOYERS: They are being used, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yes. This is the other terrible part about the role that Christian Zionists play. Because they’ve been aligned with the most right-wing elements in Israel and the most right-wing elements in the American Jewish community– that have gathered together in the Israel lobby. And the Israel lobby includes AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and many other of the Israel-is-always-right organizations in the Jewish world have played the role of supporting the most reactionary policies in Israel. And that–

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t this an act of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, they think it’s survival. But, in fact, for a very large number of Jews today, both in Israel and in the United States, recognize that the policies that Israel has been following has actually been destructive for the long-range survival of Israel. And so they are an element, the Christian Zionists are really an important element in the Israel lobby today, pushing the United States towards support of the most conservative and unloving policies.

BILL MOYERS: As you watched the film, were you concerned that the thread that seemed to run throughout it, that connected the political wing of the movement and the theological wing of the movement, was the belief that a confrontation with Iran is not only inevitable but desirable? Did that hit you?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: It’s easy to make that connection and to see that. As an historian, I’m struck by the fact that in previous attempts to understand Bible prophecy Iran did not show up on anybody’s radar screen. As history takes these unexpected turns the Bible teachers, the preachers, the dispensational theologians, they adjust the scenario to fit. In some ways, Iran is playing the role that the former Soviet Union used to play as the great evil empire in the world. In short, dispensationalists know how to change the subject, when it’s necessary.

BILL MOYERS: But to them — to the religious folks, Iran is an agency for war. To the political folks, Iran is a threat to Israel for its national security reasons. Isn’t this a combustible combination?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Absolutely.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: It’s bad for the world. It’s bad for the Jews. It’s bad for Israel. And it’s bad for the United States.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This kind of a world view — as either they dominate us or we dominate them — has led us into this terrible– quagmire in Iraq. And most Americans now believe that we made a terrible mistake going into that war. Now the president believes that he can do a different kind of war in Iran. But I think that he’s not going to be successful in containing that war either, just as he failed in the Iraq War. So it’s bad for the United States. It’s bad for Israel because this will further enflame the Islamic world against Israel. Because the primary reason being given by Christian Zionists, by the Israel lobby for the need to take out Iran is protect Israel. So–

BILL MOYERS: Ahmadinejad himself has enflamed the, as you say, the worst instincts in the Muslim world, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yeah, he claims they’re the best allies. Ahmadinejad is really one of the best allies of the Christian Right and and of the Jewish Right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, Islam has its own view of prophecy of the end days. And the president of Iran certainly speaks to that and speaks the language of Koranic prophecy to his own followers. Many people in this country, many political analysts don’t get it yet.

BILL MOYERS: Don’t get what?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: The fact that he is operating out of a particular view of what the future will be like and what role he can play in bringing about the return of the Mahdi, a kind of messianic figure who will turn the world Islamic.

BILL MOYERS: So you’ve got two apocalyptic world views heading toward a collision.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And how do you negotiate two apocalyptic world views? How do you compromise? This is the danger that we’re in.

BILL MOYERS: When both believe that they speak for God or God speaks through them.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. The alternative is to create a different world view. And this is the problem that the United States and those of us who are liberals or progressives in the United States and in the Western world have not been able to articulate an alternative world view, in part because we’re so largely secular and because we don’t understand that there is some spiritual foundation to the yearnings of people all over the world for something other than global capitalism, for something other than the globalization of selfishness. And that is seen as what America has to offer the world, each one for herself or himself. We need an alternative. We need an alternative that can speak to the hunger that people have for a framework of meaning and purpose to their lives and the hunger that they have for loving relationships that are not based solely on looking out for number one.

BILL MOYERS: The hunger I don’t deny. But as Dr. Weber just said how does a progressive world view, a more loving world view, compete with two apocalyptic faiths that believe God has set them on a course which can only be consummated in violence?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, this is why I emphasize the fact that there are a lot of good Christian Zionists and a lot of good people in the religious right who are not primarily committed to the conservative agenda and to the support of global military interests of either the United States or Israel, but are actually coming from a different place. Their base can be split from their top if there is a reaffirmation of a loving world view.

BILL MOYERS: But there is no evidence, I mean, there are evangelicals who have actually signed statements to the president saying “we don’t agree with these people. We believe in a two state solution in Israel. We have empathy and sympathy for the Palestinians.” But they don’t have the clout that the–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. They’re not organized. And when you’re not organized in this kind of an environment, you end up bringing up the caboose. I mean, you’re at the end of the train. It’s important to recognize that only about a third of American evangelicals would identify with a dispensational world view. This is–

BILL MOYERS: The end times theology.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: A third–

BILL MOYERS: –what? Twenty–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Maybe 20 million, 25 million. That leaves an awful lot of other evangelicals who are Bible believers, who have a very warm spot in their heart for Israel. Let’s face it. Evangelicals grew up with maps of Israel on their Sunday school wall.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, exactly. I did, too.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And the whole–

BILL MOYERS: You love the Bible, you love Israel.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And the whole story of Jesus and the whole story of his ancestors were in the Holy Land. This is sacred space. And evangelicals know that. And they tend to love Israel because of it. In other words, evangelicals love Israel not just because of a specific prophetic scenario but for all kinds of other reasons.

BILL MOYERS: That’s a very important point to remember.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: So growing numbers of evangelicals are recognizing that very thing. Bill referred to a letter sent to the president this summer signed by 30 evangelical heavyweights, presidents of seminaries and leaders of denominations and very well-known authors and spiritual leaders. And their point was we don’t want you to believe that groups like Hagee’s speak for the vast majority of us. We recognize that sometimes the best friend, the best advice that friends of Israel can give is to cooperate, is not to just endorse everything that happens but to encourage justice and peacekeeping and so on. And so you have this one group of evangelical leaders who are speaking for, I think, a much larger group that is encouraging a different approach.

BILL MOYERS: I can’t see that they are having any impact.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Not yet.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Not yet.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: No.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: History isn’t over. And —

BILL MOYERS: It may be sooner than you think.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well– I’m hoping we have a few more years here. And I think in the 21st Century the growing wisdom of the American people and of all people is that our well being depends on the well being of everyone else on the planet, and I think that the Israeli population increasingly are coming to understand that their well being depends on the well being of Palestinians and of the Arab world. That there’s that fundamental interdependence.

BILL MOYERS: But if you lived in Israel and none of the governments around you recognized your right to exist, and if, in fact, you heard Ahmadinejad– proclaiming the apocalyptic consummation of history on his terms, wouldn’t you welcome the support of John Hagee and these people no matter what ultimately they think happens to the Jews? Wouldn’t it be an immediate factor of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, I think it’s a mistaken view of survival. In other words, yeah, they’re —

BILL MOYERS: From your standpoint over here.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They’re coming in there and they’re saying, “Right on, Israel, when you cut off food for the people in the Gaza Strip right now. Cut off water, cut off electricity, and just starve them out of their Hamas.” But anybody with understanding of human dynamics knows that that’s not going to lead to reconciliation. It’s just going to lead to further anger and further willingness of people to give their lives in murderous assaults on Israel. So it’s not really being helpful.

Now, yeah, there are a fair number of opportunists in Israel who say, “You know, we’ll deal with the second coming of Jesus and being burnt in hell when that happens. Right now we’re glad to have their support on the politics.” But what I’m saying is the politics is the wrong politics. It’s not helping Israel. It’s actually pushing the most reactionary elements in Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Dr. Weber, there was a CNN/Time poll that said only 36 percent of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word. Only one third of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word and should be taken literally. But 59 percent say they believe that events predicted in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament, will come to pass. How do you explain that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Paul Boyer, who is a now-retired historian from the University of Wisconsin, wrote a book called WHEN TIME SHALL BE NO MORE. And he studied this phenomenon, called prophecy belief in America. And he explained that the influence of this group, of this perspective, of dispensational perspective goes way beyond the confines of its own boundaries. He said if you view America in terms of this issue in concentric circles, you have this core maybe 20 million of really dedicated dispensationalists who give you chapter and verse, who can give you– draw the battle maps of the future and everything.

Then outside that core is another group of evangelicals, many millions more who believe in the Bible, who believe that it has something to say about the future. They’re just not exactly sure what it is. And therefore, they defer to the Bible teachers who seem to know. They listen to them. And a lot of the dispensational vocabulary filters out to that broader evangelical world of Armageddon and Rapture and the like.

And then more significantly, beyond that, you have a group of mainly secular people who don’t give the Bible much mind at all but who, during times of apocalyptic threat will give the Bible teachers a listen. Because of the fear that is so — I mean, this movement would not be strong if the newspapers every morning didn’t seem to support their world view.

BILL MOYERS: You mean with all the news of calamity and–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Calamity and disaster, threats, potential disasters, war. This is how they said it would look and this is how most people see the world today.

BILL MOYERS: It seems to be on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES playing out what they’ve read in the Bible.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think the dispensationalists are onto something. They have a sense, they just have the wrong analysis of why it’s all going to end.

BILL MOYERS: But what do you mean they’re onto something?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They are onto the growing depression that people are feeling, a deep emotional depression in the United States — a lack of any hopeful picture of what the world could be. And that failure is not a failure of dispensationalists, it’s a failure of the mainstream political framework in this country that– to address the major questions facing the world in the 21st century.

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t that why John Hagee is providing political leadership? I mean, the fact is John Hagee is providing not only theological guidance, he’s providing political leadership to these people, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes, yes, he is. But if you listen carefully to his message, it is a message, in many ways, at war with itself. Because on the one hand, as you just pointed out, evangelicals at the core of evangelical religion is the belief that change is possible. Evangelicals believe in conversion. They think–

BILL MOYERS: Born again.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: They think that enemies can be made friends and that bad people can be made good through the grace of God. And so they preach that. And you hear in some of the language of Haggee’s followers that we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Then in the next– in the next breath they say, “But we don’t think it’ll do any good.”

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: No, and that we’re going to make– support those who want to make war for Jerusalem. And that–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. So how does that fit?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: — But they also are very questionable from my standpoint in the way that they read the Bible. Because they’re literalists when it comes to some issues and very much ignoring other issues. For example, they say that the Jewish people were promised the holy land from God through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They neglect to mention that the Arabs descended from, or believe they descended from one of the children of Abraham, Ishmael. And that that land was twice promised. It was promised to Jews and promised to Arabs. Why to two? So that we could become a model of how to reconcile. But we haven’t done that yet and we need to do that.

BILL MOYERS: So is there a different way in your judgment these conservative Christians could help the people of Israel whom historically and biblically they were taught to love and to appreciate without supporting the right-wing elements in Israel that want to crush the Palestinians?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, many evangelicals are calling for exactly that. They’re looking for another way. And I-

BILL MOYERS: And they’re not all like John Hagee. So many people think that all evangelicals are alike in the same way they think all Muslims are alike, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And there are variations within the evangelical community. What I hear on the one hand, we have certain fellow believers who view the future in very well-defined ways and who or absolutely convinced that there’s nothing that anybody or anything can do about it. And yet we also have the clear teachings of Jesus about being peacemakers, about caring for the world, about loving your enemy. How do those two things go together? So there’s that deep biblical tradition that evangelicals can draw on to find another way.

BILL MOYERS: Here it seems to me is the fundamental issue. You heard all of the talk in the film about Islamofascism. People are genuinely concerned about terrorism and terrorist states. So how do we make a distinction between fighting terrorists and terrorist states without enflaming the religious passions? How do we do that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that dispensationalists are not the only ones who are worried about these issues. When you have the president of France and leaders in Germany who are warning Iran that there will be war if they do not stop what they’re doing, these are not dispensationalist-inspired people. I mean, the world is–

BILL MOYERS: Neither is Norman Podhoretz and Bill Kristol and people like the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And so the wind is blowing in a particular direction and it’s very hard to redirect it. There is an evangelical past that is much more positive, much more world changing, much more embracing diversity and even tolerance in some ways than seems to be in the public eye today. And many evangelicals are beginning to rediscover who they are in that in their past. They’re saying we can be about our father’s business only if we take concern for people who are poor. The world that God has made is getting destroyed. We need to take care along those lines. And-

BILL MOYERS: But these people you heard had no sympathy for the Palestinians.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: No, absolutely not.

BILL MOYERS: They see the Palestinians as part of the problem, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yes. It– it-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This very week the WASHINGTON POST revealed a poll that it had done that shows that a majority of Americans now favor cutting favor for the war in Iraq. That’s a very big shift from where the majority of Americans were only five years ago in relationship to this war. Change is possible. Fundamental changes in world views are possible. And it is possible to create a different understanding of the Islamic world, one that doesn’t put them all together in one evil category just as it’s possible to understand that there are evangelicals who are very hurtful in their world view. And there are evangelicals who are very loving in their world view.

BILL MOYERS: So Timothy Weber, are evangelicals still Israel’s best friend when you saw what you saw?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, they certainly think they are Israel’s best friend. But I think evangelicals are realizing that there’s more than one way to be a friend to Israel. Whether in the long run the kind of support that– groups like Hagee’s group really brings to Israel, I tend to agree with the rabbi here, that this kind of support could really backfire. But when American evangelicals support those who want to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem by tearing down the Dome of the Rock-

BILL MOYERS: That’s because the Bible seems to indicate that when the Jews come back to Israel, they will rebuild the destroyed temple-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –and it will be built upon the– on the very place that-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –in the meantime the Muslims have built a sacred mosque.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: There this is not a friendly act, according to anybody.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: And they forget the Isaiah prophecy that “my house will be a house of prayer for all people.”

BILL MOYERS: But this is combustible, isn’t it? I mean, when both tenants want the same property.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. And say that God gave that property to them. And that their own — the ultimate vindication of their religion depends on that piece of ground, then compromise is very hard.

BILL MOYERS: And both of you seem to be saying that politics truly enflames religious passions when they become so intertwined, as we’ve seen, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That and the other way around as well. Religion enflames politics and politics enflames religion.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Politics was never separate from religion in the Bible. And I don’t believe that there needs to be a separation between our highest ideals that come from the religious world and our commitment to implement them in the political world. It’s only when we try to implement them in an exclusivist way that says, “You have to believe in my religion and my particular vision of God”– that we run into deep trouble.

BILL MOYERS: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Dr. Timothy Weber, thank you both for being with me for this discussion on THE JOURNAL.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Thank you for having us.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Thank You.

Eschatology 101 – Hermeneutics

The discussion of Eschatology isn’t so much about Eschatology as it is hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is essentially how you read Scripture. For example, the person who is a Premillennialist views Scripture through one lens, while the Amillennialist views Scripture through another lens.

These lenses through which we view Scripture are established by which presuppositions we bring to Scripture. These presuppositions establish each view as mutually exclusive.

Presuppositions are the assumptions you make before you arrive at the text. For instance, a Dispensationalist presupposes the Old Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the New Testament, while the Amillennialist presupposes the New Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the Old Testament.

However, all views see a certain amount of continuity (what’s the same) between the Old and New Testaments, and all views see a certain amount of discontinuity (what’s different) between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, we do not offer sacrifices as was done in the Old Testament (discontinuity), yet we believe in one God that is represented in both the Old and New Testaments (continuity).

The difficulty is answering the question, “to what extent is there continuity and to what extent is there discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments?”

Due to the mutually exclusive nature of these views, if one view is true, the others cannot be true. Further if, for example, the Premillenial view is true, then the way the Premillennialist reads Scripture is the correct method of interpretation. This is, in my opinion, why Eschatology can be such a volatile subject. To discredit a particular Eschatological view essentially discredits the method or way someone reads Scripture.

Great effort and due diligence must be the key because this study is not for the faint of heart.

When you dive into Eschatology, you will be forced to seriously evaluate your hermeneutics (the way you read Scripture). This is why many folks do not go too deeply into this discussion, nor do I blame them.

With all this said, we will be explaining the what, why and how these different Millennial views read various passages of Scripture the way they do.

Eschatology 101 – Timelines

To help you continue in your understanding of the four major views of the End Times, here are the timelines for the four major views of Eschatology presented by David Murray of http://headhearthand.posterous.com. These are excellent.

Dispensationalism

Eschatology 101 – Overview

Eschatology is the study of the Last Days, also known as the End Times or Last Days. Eschatology revolves around the Day on which Jesus Christ returns to earth to gather up His people, and each view within the study of Last Days centers upon what is called the Millennium and when Christ’s Second Return, also known as the Day of the Lord, will happen in relation to the Millennium.

The Millennium is solely mentioned in six (6) times as “a thousand years”. A single reading of the passage seems to provide one meaning, but the issue is not so simple.

The issue of the Millennium has to deal with the nature of the Millennium. In other words, the goal of Eschatology is to figure out the characteristics of the Millennium:

Is the Millennium centered around the nation of Israel?
Is the Millennium “physical” in characteristic?
Is the nature of the Millennium “spiritual” but nonetheless real?
Will the Millennium be characterized by peace and “Christian-ized” living?
Will things grow worse and worse as the Millennium progresses?

These, and other, questions need to be answered, hence the study of Eschatology is vital. Each view of the Millennium (listed below) is simply based upon presuppositions one holds about Scripture, Christ’s Kingdom, and the Promises and People of God. Yet, the discussion of Eschatology is not as easy as one would think.

  • Dispensational Premillennialism
    • Pretribulational
    • Hard distinction between Israel and the Church
    • Strictly literalistic reading of Scripture
    • Physical earthly reign of Christ
    • 1000 literal year millennium
  • Historic Premillennialism
    • Soft distinction between Israel and the Church
    • Semi-literalistic reading of Scripture
    • Physical earthly reign of Christ
    • 1000 literal year millennium
    • Posttribulational
  • Amillennialism
    • Posttribulational
    • PostMillennial
    • Sees Scripture expressing symbols of reality in Scripture
    • Spiritual reign of Christ in believers’ hearts
    • 1000 (indefinite) amount of time for the millennium
    • Allows for the inclusion of ethnic Israelites ala
  • PostMillennialism
    • Posttribulational
    • 1000 (indefinite) amount of time for the millennium
    • Physical reign of Christ at the end of the millenium
    • Semi-literalistic reading of Scripture

We will continue this discussion in a future article.

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (ESV)

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)