Good Friday and the Victory of Jesus

In the moments leading up to Good Friday in Jesus’ day, Jesus utters a very profound reality.

A reality that anyone outside the Amillennial system would have a very difficult time explaining. Jesus Christ, Himself tells us a victory that He has already accomplished.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

The Greek for, “overcome” in this verse is νικάω. This is of course the verb form of the noun that we are all familiar with, nikē. Nike. The well known sports brand. Or more specifically to our context, the Greek word for, “victory”.

The word in the verb form is probably more accurately, “conquer”. Jesus is saying take heart, even in the midst of tribulation that you will have in the world. And why should you take heart? Because Jesus has conquered the world.

This is a perfect tense verb. Jesus has completed His conquering and the word stands conquered.

The objection that a non-Amillennarian would say, is look around the world, does it look conquered to you? And the answer can only come from the Biblical text in which we can say, “yes”. Simply because Christ told us He conquered it.

The big issue is in what way did He conquer the world. Well in the way that Amillennialists understand it. That Christ is seated on His throne, ruling and reigning. And that the last enemy that Jesus needs to deal with is death.

The idea that there can still be sin and rebellion in the world isn’t an objection to the words of Jesus in John 16:33. That type of redemption takes place in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

The spiritual reign of Jesus Christ now is a reality. And that reign commences with Christ’s first-coming-victory. Good Friday is good because Christ dealt once-and-for-all with our sins. But it’s also Good because it was the necessary victory for Jesus Christ to conquer the world and to reign on His throne, even as we speak.

Praise be to Christ for His successful conquests and reigning sovereignty.

All The Nations and the Whole Earth

It’s clear that Futurists’ presuppositions are in play with eschatology. One such issue that we see this in is the idea of the scope of fulfillment of certain prophecies. 

A constant argument that I hear to refute Partial Preterism is the scope of fulfillment of certain prophecies. 

If we take Zechariah 14:2 as an example we can see what I’m talking about. It states, 

“For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”

(Zechariah 14:2 ESV)

As evidence that this passage has not been fulfilled, some Futurists have asserted that the term “all nations” cannot refer to the first century. 

I won’t lie, this is just silly. A similar passage is found in the Olivet Discourse, 

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

(Matthew 24:14 ESV)

The argument is widened with the use of the term “whole world”. This, according to the futurist, couldn’t possibly have happened because the whole world couldn’t have experienced the events of the 1st century. 

The idea of “all nations” requiring a future fulfillment is self-evidently wrong. “All nations” can easily come up against Jerusalem. 

As evidence of this fact, the phrase doesn’t exclude the interpretation of “all known nations”. Which is also the understanding of “whole world”. In other words, it’s the known world. 

The idea of the Gospel being preached to the whole world is understood as fulfilled in Paul’s lifetime, 

“Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”

(Colossians 1:5–6 ESV)

Paul goes further, 

“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

(Colossians 1:23 ESV)

What are the chances that if Jesus mentioned that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed in the whole world and Paul says that the Gospel was proclaimed in the whole world, that the Gospel was proclaimed in the whole world?

Those chances are pretty high. And it indicates that Paul believed that what Jesus said was fulfilled even in his lifetime. 

Furthermore, we recognize that the phrases, “whole world” or “all nations” don’t refer to the future. These don’t prove when these things will be fulfilled, they merely prove the scope of their fulfillment.

Present Realities That Prove a Present Millennium, I

Present Realities and Thousand Years

The fact of the matter is: there must a reconciliation between one’s understanding of the thousand years and present realities. What do I mean by that? There are two concepts in the Bible that relate to eschatology.

The first is that there are experiences that the Bible mentions take place during the millennium. Secondly, the Bible presents in one chapter in all of Scripture that the millennium is a thousand years.

Thirdly, those experiences that happen during the millennium also happen during the first century. The Bible uses present tense language to talk about the experiences of the millennium.

What is the Solution for this Dilemma?

The solution for the present experiences during the thousand years is simple. If the millennial experiences are also present experiences then the millennium is also a present experience.

This doesn’t automatically mean that the millennium is spiritual. However, it does heavily demand the present nature of the millennium. It also highly suggests that the chiliast’s understanding of the millennium is flawed. The chiliast believes the millennial experiences are earthly, centered in Palestine, and focused on an earthly reign of Jesus.

Therefore, if the experiences are in fact present then the above understandings are flawed.

So What are Examples of these Present Experiences?

I’ve mentioned several present experiences in Revelation 20 already here. The context of Revelation 20 shows experiences like being a kingdom of priests, safe from the second death, and reigning with Christ as present realities. Concepts that Revelation 20 says happen in the Millennium.

There is another, very important concept that relates to the Millennium that the Bible explicitly says is a present reality. Revelation 12:7 states that Michael rises up, war breaks out in heaven, and Satan and his demons are thrown out.

This is important, as Luke 10:17-20 teaches that this very thing happened during the ministry of the seventy-two. Notice specific key elements of the two accounts:

1). Revelation says that Satan is thrown out of Heaven and to the earth. Luke says that Satan fell from Heaven like lightning.

2). Revelation 12:10 indicates that the authority of Jesus came. Luke 10:19 teaches that Jesus gave authority to the seventy-two and Luke 10:17 proves the seventy-two used that authority successfully.

3). The seventy-two are sent out because of the kingdom of God is near (Luke 10:9, 11), Revelation 12 teaches that it has come.

If we expand our survey of the present realities to John 12:31 we see the same language.

4). John 12:31 indicates that the ruler of the world is cast out. And the casting of the ruler of the world happens in the lifting up of the Son of Man. Revelation 12 teaches that the blood of the lamb is the power by which God’s people defeat Satan.

The similarities are too striking to ignore. I’m well aware that there are differences in terminology in Revelation and in the Gospels. This doesn’t prove that the accounts refer to different concepts. In fact, the different terminologies strengthen what I’m saying.

The Benefit of Different Terms

The fact that accounts of present realities would use different terms is a strength to my position. It is also a strength to the differences as we have two different authors.

These authors share the same doctrine relating to the fall of Satan and yet are capable of using different terms to express the same event. And can provide additional information and different perspectives on what happened.

We would expect that John would have more information in both his Gospel and the Revelation. Simply because he was granted a far more full picture than Luke was. And this is exactly what we see in the above accounts.

Present Realities Prove a Present Millennium

The Millennium starts with the defeat and binding of Satan. Actually, that’s a huge point for Revelation 20. Therefore, when we see Satan taken down in highly similar terminology in the Gospels saying that it actually happened during the first century and that this event triggers the Millennium then we are forced to conclude that the Millennium has already started.

As this is the case, the only logical conclusions regarding the nature of the Millennium is that either it is over or that it is still going in a realized, spiritual sense. As the end of the Millennium results in the resurrection of the dead and the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth, it’s safe to conclude that the Millennium is not over yet.

Therefore, Amillennialism holds the only consistent, Biblical representation of what the Bible teaches.

Numbers in Revelation

I would like to emphasize the fact that when Premillennialists argue that non-Premils use the wrong hermeneutical principles for interpreting Revelation that this is just simply not true.

The inverse is equally not true for any Amillennarians who think that Premils are making the same hermeneutical mistakes. And I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments. Amillennarians use too much symbolic or even allegorical interpretations in Revelation. And in response, Premils are too literalistic.

The Thousand Year Reign

As you can imagine how this relates to the subject of Revelation 20, both sides are considered to have implemented the wrong hermeneutic. Amillennarians emphasize that the book of Revelation itself is highly symbolic, therefore, a thousand years can easily be interpreted symbolically.

Premils demand that a thousand years cannot mean anything other than a thousand years. Both would recognize that context is most likely the determining factor.

Having said that, it’s not enough for the Premillennialist to simply demand that a thousand years means, literally a thousand. The Amillennarian’s claim is a valid one. If you’re in a book of prophecy that already utilizes a highly consistent amount of symbolism, what are the chances that a thousand years can be used to represent something other than a literal passage of time?

There are numerous other arguments that both the Amillennarian and the Premillennialist takes, but suffice it to say, the probability of interpretation favors the Amillennarian.

Numbers in the Book of Revelation

The closest to a viable response to the logic mentioned above from the Premil side has to be the use of numbers in the book of Revelation. It has been pointed out that numbers can be used symbolically but not always in Revelation. For example, there were literally seven churches and literally two witnesses.

The obvious response that both sides are forced to conclude is that there would be differences in literal vs. symbolic interpretations of numbers based on context. But clearly, that would result in both sides demanding that the context of Revelation 20 is in their favor.

Instead, what would be a viable criterion for examining how to handle numbers in the book of Revelation? Think it about it in terms of the 144,000.

I’ve noticed that Premils of all flavors either concede that this is symbolic or stick to this as being literal. John MacArthur, for example, still holds to it being a literal number. Those like MacArthur who hold to this kind of strict literalism are the ones who are extremely hard pressed to interpret numbers appropriately in their context.

How Do We Interpret the 144,000?

It’s possible that this is a literal number of actual ethnic Jews. As a Partial Preterist, it would make sense to me that this number is a number of actual Jews from the 1st century who survive the horrors of 70 AD. Other literal interpretations like MacArthur’s contend that this is a literal number of ethnic Jews in the future, corresponding to a restoration of Israel.

The interesting thing to note is that even if one holds to either literal interpretation, there still is a problem. This is pointed out by Dr. Thomas Ice. In his article, he mentions the fact that the 144,000 is number representing the men. He introduces this fact by stating, “Below are reasons why this passage means what it says and refers to exactly 144,000 Jewish guys (no gals or Gentiles included), and 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel”.

With that in mind, it’s clear that the number 144,000 isn’t meant to be taken to mean that 144,000 is the sum total of all this group of sealed individuals. But that it is representative of a much larger number. This is a literary device that is used throughout Scripture. There were tons more who left Egypt than 600,000 (Exodus 12:37) and there were far more than 5,000 that Jesus fed (Matthew 14:21).

It’s fascinating to see Dr. Thomas Ice noting the exclusion of “gals and Gentiles” in the number, but failing to take into account the fact that that means the number is used just like it is throughout the rest of Scripture, to indicate a much larger number of those sealed.

The Categories of Numbers

With this concept in mind, there is a basic criterion that we can establish for handling numbers in the book of Revelation. Simply put, small numbers should probably be interpreted literally and large numbers should probably be interpreted as representative of much larger quantities or representative of something else other than the number expressed.

Thus, it’s irrelevant for those who are honest enough to admit that numbers are used both literally and symbolically in the book of Revelation. As we can recognize that small numbers are literal whereas large numbers are not.

 

 

Parallel Partial Preterism

This is the first in an installment of posts related to a partial or orthodox, preteristic harmony of the Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse.

This an attempt to recognize an exceptionally important hermeneutical approach to the Gospels. That is, recognizing that although each Gospel has a different perspective, they don’t have a different message. Each perspective can and should be taken in light of the others. This is something that will become clearer when approaching the Olivet Discourse from the perspective of allowing all three accounts to speak for themselves.

All three accounts of Christ’s lengthy presentation begin the same way. There’s an examination of the Temple and a promise and prophecy by Christ of its destruction. What is specifically interesting is how much information is contained in one account and how little information is contained in the other two.

The reason for the interesting differences in the amount of information is because of the typical assumption by both futurists and full-preterists of the discourse relating to, almost entirely, the actual event of the Parousia of Christ. Christ does refer to and concludes His discourse with a presentation of the Parousia, for example, after Matthew 24:34. However, the beginning content that holds as the primary material for responding to the disciples happens to include everything but the actual event of the final coming or Parousia of Christ.

Christ basically initiates the discourse the same way in all three accounts. That is, the Temple is going to be destroyed, and there are going to be certain events that surround its destruction.

But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

— Matthew 24:2 ESV

And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

— Mark 13:2 ESV

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

— Luke 21:6 ESV

It really is quite remarkable to point out the fact that this discourse was introduced by the specifics of Christ pointing out merely the destruction of the Temple.

He didn’t introduce His final coming. He introduced the Temple’s destruction. Beyond that, all Christ had introduced before this point is the fact that the promised Kingdom of God was at hand (of course never referring to it as a thousand years).

That kingdom that Christ said was not of this world (John 18:36). That same kingdom that Christ indicated He inaugurates within the lifetime of some of His contemporaries, and that He Himself would come to bring into effect (Matthew 16:28).

This is further underscored by the fact that the Greek word παρουσία referring to the Second or Final Coming of Christ isn’t used in Matthew’s Gospel prior to Matthew 24. It isn’t used at all in Luke’s Gospel nor in Marks.

Which means, in the parallel accounts of Mark and Luke, there are absolutely no mentions of the parousia by name. They only mentioned the Parousia by inference, recognizing the specifics of events that coincide with the Parousia (Mark 13:32). Interestingly enough, it appears from Luke’s account that Luke really does not discuss the Parousia at all.

This means that in Luke’s and Mark’s account it is incumbent upon the interpreter to actually spot and recognize the Parousia. Which would logically conclude that there is a margin of error that may feasible on all sides of the eschatology debate. If there is nothing intrinsic in the text itself, then it requires us to think critically about the text its context to determine if a text is Parousia or not.

Moving on to the actual question of the disciples themselves. This brings us back to one of the original assertions, namely, harmonizing each Gospel account together. The fact is, that we must interpret all three accounts in a symbiotic way. The fact that one account has less information than another requires us to apply the same understanding to both. The Gospel with more information must be used to define the Gospel with less information and vice versa. Each Gospel can say more or less but no Gospel can something different.

We cannot assume that because a Gospel has less information than another that the Gospel with less information recorded the account incorrectly and the Gospel with more recorded information either “fixed” or “got it right”.

The lack of information supplied, therefore, must serve as a sufficient amount of information to essentially be saying the same thing as the account with more information. And the account with more information must be capable of providing further clarity, understanding, and insight to the account with less information.

Furthermore, each account must be capable of standing on its own and, therefore, the interpreter must be able to arrive at the same conclusion about the meaning of the discourse in one account as would be the case in any of the others. This is necessarily the case. Another way of stating is, is that even with looking at, for example, Luke’s account which states less that Matthew, we should still be able to arrive at an accurate conclusion of Luke’s message that is similar to and in harmony with Matthew’s account without needing Matthew’s account to correct, expand, or fix our interpretation.

If we interpret Luke, we should expect to find consistency with our understanding of Luke’s account when we open up Mark. The only thing that should happen is that we would find greater clarity and insight into the discourse itself, not a difference of information.

Mark and Luke record the Disciples’ question as asking for less than Matthew’s account does. Both Mark and Luke only ask for when the Temple will be destroyed. Whereas Matthew records the Disciples asking for the destruction of the Temple, the sign of Christ’s παρουσία, and the end of the age.

So here’s the point. Mark and Luke’s Gospels are actually not asking for different information than Matthew’s Gospel, they are asking for the same thing.

In other words, what Matthew records as the destruction of the Temple, the sign of Christ’s final coming, and the end of the age are all simultaneously the same event and can be spoken of with the simpler, summary form of purely asking about the destruction of the Temple.

The only clarification is to point out that the disciples were most likely asking for the end of history and the end of the world. They did, in fact, ask for συντέλεια i.e. the consummation or the total, final end of everything. This word is a compound Greek word, combining τέλεια, meaning “end” with συν meaning “with”.

In other words, it would be totally accurate to state that this would refer to all things that should be ending together. Whereas τέλεια would simply refer to a singular end of some particular thing. In this case, it’s a specific reference to the age.

However, there is a misunderstanding then on the part of the Disciples. Because they were using the word συντέλεια, with the singular word for “age”, αἰών, they weren’t asking for the consummation of the end of the ages but were thinking that the end of the world would then be synonymous with the end of the age they were currently living in. Thus conflating the idea of the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world.

This is essential if were are to understand the discourse correctly. As the Temple was the center of Jewish religion and life, for it to cease was certainly devastating. Therefore, the disciples were primarily interested in the destruction of the Temple and were confusing the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world.

But what about the portion of their question that deals with the Parousia? Certainly, the order of events as recorded by Matthew in 24:3 would indicate they thought there would be the final coming of Christ as well that would happen after the Temple’s destruction but before the end of their age.

The problem though, for futurists and full-preterist is that they didn’t ask for His Parousia, they asked for the sign of His Parousia. And considering how frequently the Jews of Jesus age were asking for a sign, we can recognize that Jews were very interested in signs as proof of something. The BDAG confirms this definition:

a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication.

William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 920.

Why would this be an important definition? Because they’re specifically asking for proof that Christ will have another Advent before their age ends. They’re asking for proof that there will be another Advent of Christ. They also asked for the timeframe. When will these things be, and how will know whether or not Christ will visit another time?

Before we conclude it’s important to introduce the definition of Parousia. It differs from “come” in the sense that “come” only involves the action of moving from one place to another whereas “Parousia” means coming and staying, just like a visit. We can distinguish between Grandma’s coming to visit and when Grandma is actually here.

The two events are linked, but they are not the same. As we continue through our harmonization as well as continuing to discuss eschatology, we will constantly need to recognize when “coming” is discussed verses when “arrival” or “visit” is discussed.

This is a good starting point for recognizing the harmony between the three accounts. Even though the disciples may have conflated the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world, their entire focus was still on the destruction itself. And the specific reason why Luke and Mark don’t record that would have to solidify the understanding that the entire focus of the question was centered on the Temple’s destruction.

And Jesus answer didn’t quite deviate from that understanding as well. We will continue this series of posts to attempt to further harmonize these accounts.

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