Prophetic Perspective is a tricky hermeneutical tool. And we have to realize that it is really just that, an interpretive tool. It is not an authority on itself and it typically requires the (more…)
In revisiting Revelation 20 recently I’m reminded of the hermeneutical cherry picking that Futurists and specifically Premillennarians take. I can’t believe how frequently I hear that my “problem” and the reason why I arrive at an Amillennarian conclusion of Revelation 20’s thousand years is that of “my” hermeneutic.
Basically meaning that I have abandoned the supposed “authoritative” hermeneutic that the Premillennarian holds to, which of course means, that hermeneutics and not Scripture become the ultimate, final, infallible authority instead of Scripture.
Really what this ends up meaning is that if you held to a “straightforward” reading of Revelation 20, taking the natural sense of the text, then you cannot arrive at a conclusion of a figurative, qualitative thousand years. Of course, the cherry-picking happens with the fact that Premillennarians would never take a “straightforward” reading or literal interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks. Nor would they do that with the “day of the Lord”. Nor would they do that with “when you see these things take place” or with “this generation”. All of the places that would refute their Futuristic, Premillennarian position.
But the other problem, as the specific point of this post is the fact that they can’t take the straightforward, literal reading of Revelation 20 — nor do they. If they did, they have a serious problem trying to interpret the “first resurrection”. Reason being is because a straightforward, literal, natural sense reading of Revelation means that the only people who share in the first resurrection are Great Tribulation saints.
Problems with Typical Literalism
Revelation 20:4 indicates that John saw thrones, and people sitting on them, but he also saw souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Christ and for the word of God and who had “not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (My emphasis)
The rest of the dead stay dead until after the thousand years are completed. So the only ones who can come to life and reign with Christ, if we allowed this text to be interpreted literally are those who come out of the Great Tribulation through martyrdom. The great and blessed hope of the Futuristic Premillennarian in a literal, earthly thousand year period, is dashed to pieces unless he or she partakes of the Great Tribulation. Furthermore, this also eliminates the Pretributionalist’s understanding, because you have to be present on the earth and martyred under the Antichrist in order to partake of the first resurrection and reign with Christ for a thousand years.
So much for all believers partaking of the first resurrection and only waiting to after the thousand years for the unbelievers to be resurrected — of course with those non-glorified people who get saved during the millennium who die also being resurrected. Which also flies in the face of that blessed hope that Paul gives where all believers of all time, including the alive ones, all come to life at the same time in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.
There’s a more viable option that doesn’t dismantle the text of Revelation 20. The fact is, that Nero is the Beast, these Christians were martyred under his terrible reign. They came to life with Christ in heaven and reigned with him there. These believers are with Christ in heaven as Revelation 7 certainly indicates,
“I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.”
— (Revelation 7:14–15 ESV)
There’s another specific indication as to what John is seeing. There are those who are sharers in the first resurrection, who currently are protected from the second death — as promised to a 1st-century church for conquering (Revelation 2:11) — which is Hell (Revelation 20:14, 21:8). Every believer alive or dead is already safe from Hell.
Furthermore, as Revelation 20:6 indicates for those who are blessed and holy, stating in the future tense another present reality, that all believers already experience, “they will be priests of God and of Christ.”
“And made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
— (Revelation 1:6, ESV)
“And you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
— (Revelation 5:10 ESV)
Believers already are a kingdom of priests to our God. This is also explicitly mentioned by Peter,
“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.”
— (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
“Royal” is a word synonymous with “kingdom”. Furthermore, for those in Evangelical eschatology who hold to one form or another of Christian Zionism, banking on a literal fulfillment of promises concerning Israel and a future, corporate, national restoration, believers are the fulfillment of those promises. Considering,
“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.””
— (Exodus 19:6 ESV)
1st Peter establishes who Peter was talking to, the elect of God. And clearly then applies the Old Testament promise of Israel as God’s chosen race and royal priesthood and a holy nation to the New Testament true Israel, the elect of God, believers.
Thousand Years in Context
But what about Revelation 20:6 stating that we will reign with Christ for a thousand years? Again, unless we recognize that the kingdom started already with the 1st-century fulfillment of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation period, then none of us will participate in the reign of Christ. Furthermore, if it isn’t salvific — the believer’s present experience of the realities of being safe from Hell, being priests of God and of Christ — both on earth and in heaven, then again, we all are without the hope of the millennium if we aren’t alive at the Great Tribulation.
It has to be the present reality of believer’s security from Hell, priesthood, and reign with Christ both on earth and in heaven. Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 7:14, 15 confirm that statement.
In addition to that, what about the fact that the rest of the dead don’t come to life till after the millennium?
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
— (Revelation 14:12–13 ESV)
What on earth — or in Heaven — is a voice doing saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on?”
Unless the dead, are those who are symbolized in death on earth who can die a physical death still who then after the millennium may be physically resurrected. But in their death from now on, i.e. during the Millennium, they may rest from their labors. The difference is those who rest in heaven in the Millennium and those who labor on earth.
This is why the “rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:6 “don’t come to life till after the Millennium”. It’s because they are symbolically compared to the souls who are alive in Heaven with Christ as those who are not alive in Heaven with Christ i.e. those of us who are conquering the world with our faith here on earth. But after the Millennium all will be resurrected because the New Heavens and the New Earth will be created.
Jesus predicted these concepts Himself, Personally.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”
— (John 5:25 ESV)
This is the first resurrection. Which Christ also describes in John 11,
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?””
— (John 11:25–26 ESV)
How can someone die, yet live? It’s because they live with Christ in Heaven. And how can someone never die though they die physically? It’s because the second death is impossible for them now.
“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
— (John 5:28–29 ESV)
There’s the second resurrection that Jesus taught, where the dead actually come out of the tombs.
Therefore, a straightforward reading of Revelation doesn’t fit the Futurist Premillennarian scheme. But an honest, contextual reading of the text fits the Biblical context of both the canon of Scripture and the immediate and remote contexts of Revelation itself.
Hope that clears some things up.
This is a rather peculiar subject matter for me. The Christian Zionist or Dispensationalist or many Futurist’s approaches to Old Testament can easily be reduced to three fundamental, salient arguments:
- A tool to combat racism against Jews
- Arguing a logical conclusion on Old Testament Prophecies spoken to Israel must still be valid
- Arguing for the literal fulfillment of prophecies concerning Jesus requiring literal fulfillment of Zionist proof texts
Not to say that these advocates don’t do exegesis, but their salient arguments are summarized above. I recall a debate with Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Gary DeMar where Dr. Brown had insisted the above while disclaiming that he was not insinuating that Dr. DeMar was a racist against Jews. While doing so, Dr. Brown affirmed that historically there has been an incredible amount of anti-Semitism, correlated with a covenantal mindset.
Paul Enns aptly summarizes the pro-Israel ideal:
The important element of the Abrahamic Covenant, however, demands a future fulfillment with Messiah’s kingdom rule. (1) Israel as a nation will possess the land in the future. Numerous Old Testament passages anticipate the future blessing of Israel and her possession of the land as promised to Abraham. Ezekiel envisions a future day when Israel is restored to the land (Ezek. 20:33–37, 40–42; 36:1–37:28). (2) Israel as a nation will be converted, forgiven, and restored (Rom. 11:25–27). (3) Israel will repent and receive the forgiveness of God in the future (Zech. 12:10–14). The Abrahamic Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in connection with the return of Messiah to rescue and bless His people Israel. It is through the nation Israel that God promised in Genesis 12:1–3 to bless the nations of the world. That ultimate blessing will issue in the forgiveness of sins and Messiah’s glorious kingdom reign on earth.
— Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 52.
J.C. Ryle, a giant of the Faith, has a peculiar diatribe in favor of a pro-Israel mindset. In his book, Are You Ready for the End Time? he puts forth several statements that imbibe the pro-Israel movement,
6. I believe that after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, nor millennium, and that not until after He comes, shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. (Acts 3: 21; Isaiah 25: 6–9; 1 Thessalonians 4: 14–18; Revelation 20: 1, etc.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 44–47). . Kindle Edition.
This is a capable summary of a Premillennial, pro-Israel movement, couched with presuppositions. Before Christ comes there won’t be a millennium, resurrection, judgment, etc. It still amazes me how much 2 Peter 3 is ignored or dismissed when it comes to eschatology. The reason why it is, of course, it because it explicitly sets forth a Post-Millennial eschatology. Why wouldn’t Ryle incorporate that here?
The facts of the Millennium affirming present realities and therefore demanding a present realization of the Millennium is treated at length here. The next point that Ryle makes is listed as follows:
7. I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ, after going through great tribulation. (Jeremiah 30: 10, 11; 31: 10; Romans 11: 25, 26; Daniel 12: 1; Zech. 13. 8, 9.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 47–49). . Kindle Edition.
This starts the peculiarities for me on the pro-Israel mentality. We see so much detail in the New Testament upon Jesus and Paul correcting misconceptions about Christ’s kingdom and Israel’s identity. Currently, there are no distinctions between Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 3:28). As the passage goes with no men or women either, we understand that Paul’s point is not to indicate that race goes away. But that race is not a factor, neither is biological sex when it comes to Christ saving His elect. Why do we then have to believe that there will be a distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the end time?
It’s really bizarre to me that certain concepts can be explicitly denied in the New Testament yet affirmed in Futurism. Such as Christ saying that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) but we must believe in the Premillennial scheme that at some point it will be, for a thousand years of this world. A rather insignificant period of time compared to how Christ views a thousand years. Why not an eternal kingdom?
The same is true with the emphasis on a separate economy for Jews in the future. It’s like this really convenient scapegoat to perpetuate first-century error, just repackage it and put it in the future, then you can maintain a particular error without it being considered an egregious error. Who could charge Ryle with such a claim? It’s all based upon his hermeneutical authority and futuristic expediency. Furthermore, Ryle appeals to the decency in humanity for the purpose of coating his rhetoric with honey to make it more palatable. That decency is appealing to the humanity of the reader on the basis of avoiding racism. Who wants to be a racist and yet maintain a solid profession of faith? Those are counterintuitive to each other and thus you have a convincing rhetoric for a pro-Judaic argument.
And to his seventh point again, no doubt that the Jews would have to go through tribulation before being restored, even referencing Zechariah 13:8, “In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.”
Two-thirds of the Jews must perish before being restored again to a separate nation. But I thought all Israel is supposed to be saved?
It’s striking that Ryle discusses the issues of Hermeneutics as it relates to anti-Semitism in Coming Events and Present Duties and yet in the above citations violates the context of Zechariah 13. That restoration isn’t thousands of years removed from the first coming of Christ, it’s literally in the exact same timeframe,
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.”
— (Zechariah 13:7 ESV)
This is literally cited by Christ as a fulfillment in His first advent,
“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”
— (Matthew 26:31 ESV)
The suffering and passion of Christ is what Jesus defines as “the striking of the Shepherd” and incorporates a specific scattering of the disciples to be regathered by Christ. This is even more ironic for Ryle because of the fact that in his book — Coming Events and Present Duties — he disingenuously charges the church for focusing too much on the first coming of Christ, when he just cited a passage that belongs to the first coming of Christ yet emphasized it as a second coming text,
If the Jew could see nothing in Old Testament prophecy but Christ’s exaltation and final power — has not the Gentile often seen nothing but Christ’s humiliation and the preaching of the Gospel? If the Jew dwelt too much on Christ’s second advent — has not the Gentile dwelt too exclusively on the first? If the Jew ignored the cross — has not the Gentile ignored the crown?
— Ryle, J. C. (2012–07–17). Coming Events and Present Duties (J. C. Ryle Collection Book 5) (Kindle Locations 2183–2188). Prisbrary Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Ryle just committed the very fallacy he espoused as a Jewish error, focusing too much on the Parousia, ignoring the cross form Zechariah 13 a prophecy about the cross, not the Parousia. Basically, we’ve just had it established by Ryle that when it comes to his tradition on pro-Judaism that we must adopt his proof-texting married with his tradition, rather than his exegesis. Elsewhere, he wouldn’t do this. He wouldn’t do this with the Holiness of God.
Who is Ryle even talking about, though? Even if he had a particular group of Gentiles in mind committing Ryle’s self-proclaiming error of focusing too much on the cross, the response then isn’t to affirm a pro-Judaic mentality. And just to clarify, by pro-Judaic I am not insinuating that we shouldn’t be pro-Judaic, but that by pro-Judaic I mean the over-insistence upon Israel as a future, separate, nationally restored state in the mindset of Dispensationalists and Zionists.
Returning back to Ryle’s creeds,
8. I believe that the literal sense of Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected by the Churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed its meaning. (Luke 24: 25, 26.)
— Ryle, J. C. (2014–08–29). Are You Ready For The End Of Time (Kindle Locations 49–51). . Kindle Edition.
This is where we have to take serious disagreement with Ryle and those who hold to similar rhetoric. This argument makes one’s hermeneutical methods and personal use of said methods the final authority. Rather than focusing on purely grammatical or contextual reasoning, Ryle has already set a standard that he intends to apply before even coming to a text of Scripture. Basically, “Interpret it this way and you will interpret it correctly”. This is juxtaposed to the Protestant way of interpreting Scriptures through Sola Scriptura. Letting the Scriptures interpret themselves and letting the Scriptures be their own best interpreter and final, infallible authority.
If the pro-Israel mentality was so convincing from the Scriptures, especially with just plain, straightforward readings, why must they attempt to convince others to first adopt their hermeneutic before even approaching the text?
Barry Horner attempting to placate my recent argument here in his book, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged states,
I have encountered numerous Christians who simply do not want to face this unsavory historic record. Certainly they have offered token acknowledgment of the problem while at the same time retaining a firm commitment to Augustinian eschatology in this regard. Further they have frequently retreated to the claim that Scripture alone is the basis of their eschatology, and as a consequence they have strenuously asserted a willingness to contend strictly according to the biblical text. (My emphasis)
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 577–580). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Horner further acknowledged the necessity of following Sola Scriptura but he does so after his aforementioned pejorative way of characterizing those on the other side of the aisle. How is it “retreating” to affirm that the Scriptures alone are the final, infallible authority on the matter of eschatology or the future of Israel? Clearly, Horner is nothing more than peeved by the notion that the Sola Scriptura is used against him and straining at a response.
Horner, however, follows the same exegetical fallacy of demanding hermeneutics as the cause of a Reformed anti-Semitism and hermeneutics on his side of the aisle as the solution,
I maintain that Augustine was grievously wrong in his exegesis at this point, and in so doing he bequeathed a hermeneutical legacy that has proved to result in dire consequences for the people of Israel. Furthermore, I suggest that the traditional Reformed exegesis at this point is likewise in error since it is grounded on the same Augustinian root and has resulted in similar Augustinian fruit.
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 4072–4075). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Those on the Augustinian side are not the only ones in the cross-hairs of Horner. Prominent Premillinnarian, George Ladd, is also criticized for focusing on Old Testament prophecy towards Gentiles,
For example, Ladd cites Rom 9: 24– 26 where Paul employs Hos 2: 23; 1: 10 to describe God’s call to the Gentiles. Yet the context of Hosea 1– 2 deals with the nation of Israel and the promised land. It is here that Ladd’s Gentile logic, rather than a Hebrew perspective represented by Paul, concludes that Hosea’s prophecy finds a broader, more inclusive fulfillment which nullifies a more narrow, national, eschatological interpretation of the prophet.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 4095–4099).
Further, in Horner’s take on Ladd, he signifies Ladd as believing in the Church as true Israel. Horner asserts that the context of Hosea 1–2 deals with the nation of Israel and even concludes that Ladd is purely using “Gentile logic”. Who can take Horner seriously on this? Ladd isn’t using “Gentile logic”, that’s an absolute straw man of this, prominent Premillennial scholar. Horner also gave zero substantiation for his assertion that Ladd was using Gentile logic or that Hosea 1–2 deals with the nation of Israel. Horner posited his own presupposition about the text whereas Ladd was doing exegesis. Horner’s problem, therefore, has nothing to do with Ladd specifically but with the Apostle Paul. Paul is the one who is employing Hosea. Paul is the one who applies Hosea to Gentiles,
…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?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.’ “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.’”
— (Romans 9:24–26 ESV)
I’m surprised Horner thought he could get away with this bare, baseless assertion that Hosea 1–2 is about Israel, rather than taking Apostolic, infallible interpretation from Paul that Hosea is, “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles”. Paul said, “As indeed…” as in what? As in the calling of God’s people, “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles”. Not to mention the quote from Hosea 2:23, “Those who were not my people….” How much clearer does it need to get to refer specifically to a group of people that are not God’s people as actually being God’s people i.e. those whom God calls?
Horner would have a point if his point was that Hosea has Israel in view within the context,
And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
— (Hosea 1:4–5 ESV)
Not to mention,
Hos. 1:6 ¶ She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.
Constantly in the context of Hosea, the Jews are specifically referred to as “Not God’s people” and that He is “not their God”.
Of course, Hosea 2:14 picks up a theme of restoration. But it picks up the theme of restoration in what sense?
“And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth,and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel,
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.’”
— (Hosea 2:21–23 ESV)
And it’s in these verses that Paul cites from Romans 9 after explicitly describing the calling of God upon Jews and Gentiles. That’s the theme of Hosea then. That’s the idea that Paul infallibly interprets is the fact that the specific restoration of “Not My People” is a restoration that incorporates Gentiles. Another way of putting is the fact that Jews on their own do not consistent the restoration of God’s people in Hosea. Again, as employing Sola Scriptura, allowing the Scriptures to interpret themselves, we are bound by Romans 9 to interpret Hosea as the uniting of those who are not God’s people with the remnant of those who are. Paul literally says this quoting from Isaiah 20:22, 23,
Rom. 9:27 ¶ 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,
This very concept of Isaiah is precisely the same context as Hosea,
Hos. 1:10 ¶ 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.”
Furthermore Hosea 1:10, 11 indicates the concept of the children of Israel being saved. This is absolutely crucial in terms of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, because the concept of gathering the children of Israel is picked up by Jesus,
Matt. 23:37 ¶ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Matt. 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
The leaders of Israel were unwilling to gather the children of Israel which Hosea describes as the restoration of Israel. Israel’s house is already left desolate as described in Matthew 23:38, the same terminology as what the Abomination of Desolation of the Olivet Discourse was supposed to do. Thus you have two specific themes, the gathering of the Children of Israel and the desolation of the House of Israel that are mentioned in Matthew 23:37, 38 and these events were prophesied by Christ in the Olivet Discourse as taking place within the lifetime of His generation (Matthew 23:34). Which means the gathering of God’s elect in Matthew 24:29–31 isn’t the rapture, but a first century fulfillment of the restoration of the children of Israel into being the people of God. The Abomination of Desolation isn’t a future, world-wide Antichrist but a first century Antichrist to officially cut of the two thirds of Israel as prophesied by Zechariah 13:8. Which corresponds to Daniel 9:24 which puts an end to Israel’s transgression of constant apostasy. Horner has clearly missed this reality, insisting upon a fulfillment in Israel contra-New Testament interpretation. That particular remnant is view irrespective a future, national restoration. Horner attempts to unite the concept of a remnant with that future, national restoration of Israel,
Nevertheless, an area in which I would agree with Robertson concerns his statement that “this new covenant people would be formed around the core of twelve Israelites who were chosen to constitute the ongoing Israel of God.” However, I would also maintain that those twelve apostles, in retaining their historic Jewishness, constituted “a [Jewish] remnant chosen by grace” (Rom 11: 5) that passionately anticipated the restoration and regeneration of national Israel.
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1444–1447). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
One of the immediate and specific issues that Horner attempts to raise in response to Robertson’s assertion is the land issue,
However, the promise of the land was according to the unconditional, everlasting terms of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15: 1– 21) that were revealed 430 years before the giving of the law, and thus cannot be annulled. (Gal 3: 17).
— Horner, Barry E. (2007–10–15). Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged: 3 (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 1469–1471). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Horner attempts also to deal specifically with the issues that people on my side of the aisle would raise. That is, that Abraham and many of the Patriarchs were focused on the heavenly city, that city that has foundations whose builder is God. In so doing, Horner violates his and Ryle’s Hermeneutical principle. That is, don’t spiritualize or over-spiritualize the text, but take a literal, straightforward reading. My biggest complained among Futurists and Premillennialists and especially Zionists and Dispensationalists are the cherry picking of this method with cherry-picked Scriptures. Notice the extreme lengths that Horner must go through — especially citing Delitzch who does exactly the same — to justify the the Patriarchs weren’t looking for a heavenly city,
It must be confessed that we nowhere read of the patriarchs, that they expressed a conscious desire for a home in heaven. The nearest approach to anything of the kind is in Jacob’s vision of the angel-ladder, and his wondering exclamation, “this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28: 17), but even there no desire is expressed for an entrance into the heavenly land, but the promise renewed of future possession of the earthly Canaan; “The land whereon thou sleepest will I give to thee.” 61 Then Delitzsch adds concerning Heb 11: 10, Here the heavenly Jerusalem is not contrasted with the earthly city, but with the frail and moveable dwellings of the patriarchs in their nomad life. 62
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5495–5501).
Abraham’s hope was eschatological, but not in the sense of heaven’s superiority to the earth, of the spiritual as superior to the material. Rather, his hope was of the future messianic age, the millennial kingdom in which heaven would be manifest on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy, permanent.
— Ibid (Kindle Locations 5502–5504).
But is this really the issue of Hebrews 11:16?
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
— (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)
Why not take this passage literally? The Patriarchs were desiring a κρείττων (better) country. The BDAG defines,
① pert[aining] to being of high status, more prominent, higher in rank, preferable, better
— 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), 566.
This better country is better, not because it’s still on earth, but because it’s a “heavenly country”. The BDAG continues,
① pert[aining] to being in the sky or heavens as an astronomical phenomenon, celestial, heavenly
② pert. to being associated with a locale for transcendent things and beings, heavenly, in heaven
The Greek refutes Horner’s understanding exclusively. It’s not a “spiritually better” concept as opposed to comparing spirituality with materialness. But I hope the reader can see the very fact that Horner spiritualized and dismissed Hebrews 11, not following the clear, grammatical and contextual interpretation. It’s obvious that Horner needed to have departed from his and Ryle’s Hermeneutical demands on the literalness of an interpretation because to do so in Hebrews 11 undermines the entirety of his pro-Judaic tradition.
What about the issue that Horner raised on the permanency of the land being a possession to Israel? The immediate response is the fact the Horner, as cited above, believes that that refers to the Millennial kingdom when Israel will be restored to the promised land in a state of permanent holiness. But that eliminates a forever dwelling place because that current land will be destroyed and the heavens and the earth recreated. Then the actual heavenly city, the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven. Why wouldn’t the permanent dwelling place of God’s people be the actual permanent dwelling place, the new heavens, and the new earth? Clearly, the heavenly city that Abraham and the Patriarchs were looking for was the actual heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. Furthermore, if we’re talking about the promised land,
“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.”
— (Hebrews 11:9 ESV)
Here, Abraham lived in the land of promise as in a foreign land. All those who died in faith died in the reality of being strangers and exiles, not in a foreign land, but strangers and exiles on the earth.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
(Hebrews 11:13 ESV)
We can absolutely affirm the fact that the promised land was of an eternal, unchangeable nature. However, that requires an exegesis of what that land is. The Old Testament certainly did have the land as a type or shadow of the better and more superior country, the heavenly one, in which in far grander scale is pictured than that of Horner’s physical location.
Another huge problem with Horner’s interpretive scheme is that it ends up proving too much. The big issue is that God literally promised to literal Israel a literal restoration in Horner’s view. The reason why this proves too much is that it’s both a broad assertion about how to interpret Old Testament prophecy that is made to physical Israel as well as a lack of information presented on how or when to specifically do that? What are the hermeneutical guidelines for distinguishing between Old Testament prophecies that either has an ultimate fulfillment or an exclusive fulfillment in the future, national restoration of Israel? And what do you do then with the Gentiles with respect to ultimate fulfillment?
Doesn’t an insistence upon the Old Testament’s literal promises given to Israel nullify Gentile inclusion? I’m sure the response would be “no” but that clearly creates an inconsistency in the argument, that we must interpret the Old Testament promises of Israel for Israel as an exclusion.
But clearly the New Testament has a greater emphasis upon two specific things:
Gal. 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
Here are the two specific issues that nullify a pro-Judaic approach to the Old Testament:
- It was always the plan of God through the Gospel to justify the “Gentiles” by faith.
- It was always the promise of God to bless all nations through Abraham.
This comes across in a way explicit death nail for the pro-Judaic approach. The word translated “Gentiles” is the same word translated “nations”. Furthermore, it was the Gospel, that we Gentiles share in full privileges in, that was preached to Abraham. If the Gospel is now, the promises given to Abraham must therefore also be now.
Thus Galatians 3:8 flows as is: “And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Nations by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all Nations be blessed”. Or, “God would justify the Gentiles… ‘In you shall all Gentiles be blessed’”.
The issue of how the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled in the New Testament is because of the righteous by law that Israel failed to obtain, demonstrating the fact that no one could be justified by law. Everyone who is God’s elect must be justified by faith. The Gospel is preached to Israel, they reject it, it goes out to the Nations, they receive it with joy, provoking true Israel, the elect remnant, to receive the Gospel also by faith.
Therefore, of course, the crux of the debate inevitably hinges on Romans 9–11. Horner devotes an entire chapter in his book to this controversial passage. Horner even starts his chapter by stating,
Romans 11 is, by common confession, the crucial passage with regard to the NT teaching concerning the present nature and destiny of national Israel.
—Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5649–5650).
Horner, who isn’t immune to caricature, begins to set forth a straw man in Romans 11,
If ever an opportunity presented itself for Paul to renounce unbelieving Israel once and for all, it would be here where the argument of chapter 10 has so conclusively demonstrated the accountability of the Jews for their blatant rebellion against the light of the gospel.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5689–5691).
No clue who Horner is specifically bucking against, but that’s certainly not the reality among those on my side of the aisle in Covenantal thinking. But certainly there’s an immediate problem, Paul definitely paints a bleak picture for current Jews even in Horner’s estimation. But Horner certainly ignores much of Romans 11, even the immediate context prior. Horner states,
So at the commencement of Romans 11 we find another passionate endorsement of the national descendents of Abraham.
Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5695–5696).
I don’t mind stating that Paul has a passion for his kinsmen. But to state a passionate endorsement of the national descendants after stating,
“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.” 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.” 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.”
(Romans 10:18–20 ESV)
Is a far cry from a long stretch. Not to mention the specific reason why Paul concludes, from the Old Testament, that God has not forsaken His people whom He foreknew. Romans 11:4, answer the specifics of how God has not forsaken, nor ever forsaken, His people. It’s on the basis of the remnant that God saved in Elijah’s day. 7,000 Jews were all the Biblical proof needed by Paul to justify God not forsaking His people. Romans 11:5 declares that at the present time, it’s the remnant of God still that are the focus of God’s salvation in Israel.
Before continuing through Romans 11, Horner’s exegesis of said chapter begs the question, were the Jews who were saved in the beginning chapters of Acts — who formed the majority almost exclusively the New Testament Church — fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy concerning Israel? If you say, “no” then you separate Jews from Jews, creating two classes of Israel and convolute the Old Testament prophecies concerning ethnic Jews. There are then prophecies concerning ethnic Jews of the first century and ethnic Jews of a later time. And somehow these Jews are distinct from another to the point where you really would have to classify first century Jews as parenthetical or even Gentile. If you say, “yes” then the whole pro-Judaic framework comes crashing down because it indicates that there is an already fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies within the Church which makes up Jews and Gentiles.
Romans 11:7 is another crucial passage that specifically defines the context. The elect obtained what Israel was seeking. And those who didn’t obtain it were hardened. And thus the “partial hardening” that happened on Israel is the difference between the remnant elect and those who fail to obtain what Israel was seeking. Romans 11:11 introduces the purpose of Israel’s rejection. It was for the Gentiles to be brought in. But remember Galatians 3:8? This was the plan all along, to bless all Nations within Abraham.
Furthermore, there are absolutely important considerations introduced in Romans 9. The first five verses demonstrate Paul’s ethnic concern and the privilege that the nation of Israel had down through the ages. This is a harsh consideration, however, because it demonstrates that even with all that genealogical and divine advantages plenty of them still rejected God, killed His prophets and ultimately put the sinless Son of God to death. That is the ultimate form of apostasy is to have the Son of God physically present in your midst, put Him to death, know that He rose from the dead and still persecute His Church. And still, reject Him.
Verse 6 of Romans 9 explains the specifics of why Israel could fail. It’s because not all are actually Israel who are from Israel. Even if one is a physical descendant of Israel one could still be not an Israelite. Even Romans 9:7 demonstrates that one could be Abraham’s offspring, as Horner would describe such a person as one who the Apostle Paul had a passionate endorsement of. Here in Romans 9, Paul does not endorse all the national descendants of Abraham. And Paul must prove that not everyone from Israel is Israel because there’s plenty of evidence demonstrating Israelite rejection of God. But God’s Word went out to Israel, so why are some Israelites not saved and eternally doomed already? It’s because not everyone who is descendant of Abraham is heirs of the promise.
There’s an absolutely important and essential concept presented in Romans 9:29. Remember earlier that I described the remnant of Israel in terms that were synonymous with the Children of Israel? Romans 9:29 describes Isaiah’s prophecy,
And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
— (Romans 9:29 ESV)
Paul then asserts on the basis of this passage,
Rom. 9:30 ¶ What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;
Pauls question is in effect a response to the passage from Isaiah. This basically incorporates what we already understood from Hosea, that the Children of Israel are those from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people. It is the all-inclusive designation of Israelites and Nations.
We’ve already documented the issues of Romans 10. Israel demonstrably rejected the Gospel throughout the ages. “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.’”(Romans 10:18 ESV) Thus far, in Romans 9 and 10 we’ve recognized some serious issues that Horner discounts or dismisses outright. Those issues are as follows:
- Israel rejected God’s Gospel
- The Word of God didn’t fail, because those who rejected it were not really Abraham’s descendants.
- Abraham’s descendants are those who have the same faith as Abraham (c.f. Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7)
- Descendancy depends on God’s choice and purpose of election.
Therefore, by the time we arrive at Romans 11, we have to have Paul’s theology of Israel fresh on our minds. He certainly is broken over his own kinsmen, but he hardly has a passionate endorsement of all of Abraham’s physical descendants.
When Paul starts Romans 11 his question is primarily concerned with the previous and preceding contexts that have to do with the elect. This is how God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Has he abandoned all ethnic national Jews? No. Why? Because there’s a remnant.
His question is a double-edged sword. It’s understood that the Jews were the people of God, so naturally, in recounting Israel’s failure throughout history, which was because they weren’t actually God’s people, anyone could ask if God was finally done with the Jews. But Paul’s response is to illustrate how the whole time Israel was being obstinate and disobedient there was always a remnant that constituted the actual people of God. Therefore, within the nation of Israel, there are still elect whom God has not abandoned. There are still, even in our day, Jews who are supposed to be saved through the exact same means as us Gentiles.
Horner tries to dodge the remnant issue of Romans 11 by indicating,
According to Num 15: 17– 21, the first loaf resulting from a lump of dough was to be an offering of firstfruits or a consecrated offering to the Lord (cp. Lev. 6: 14– 18). So the holiness of the first part extends to the full lump of dough. Hence the salvation blessing of the Jewish “remnant” (v. 5) extends to the salvation blessing of the “full number” (v. 12) of all Israel (v. 26). The next analogy will clarify this point.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5743–5745).
The problem is the fact that Horner doesn’t recognize from the context of Romans 11 that the “rest of the dough” is the rest of the remnant, not the rest of Israel.
Horner commits several other exegetical fallacies. Primary of which is the lack of consideration for how Paul has defined Israel. As Horner attempts to indicate from the πλήρωμα of Romans 11:12, he assumes that this means the inclusion of more than the remnant who are Israel. There can’t be an inclusion of those who are not Israel into the natural branches.
What Horner misses is aptly defined in Mounce’s definition of πλήρωμα,
complete attainment of entire belief, full acceptance, Rom. 11:12;
— Mounce’s Greek Dictionary
Thus, Mounce defines πλήρωμα not as the full inclusion of a number in Romans 11:12 but the full acceptance or the complete attainment of an entire belief. It’s the full salvation of the remnant, as each member of the remnant of Israel from Israel believes the Gospel. Which contextually makes sense as those who don’t continue in unbelief are grafting in.
Even if we accepted the concept of a “full number” it still has to be defined by the context. The “full number” isn’t the “full number” of every ethnic Jew. There are tons who are perishing right now who eliminate that possibility right now. The full number is the full number of the remnant. God counted off 7,000 in Elijah’s day.
And the salvation of this remnant is not a distant futuristic fulfillment but was started in the 1st century and on-going.
Horner continues on to the assertions regarding the “partial-hardening”
The present hardening of Israel will be “until” the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles within God’s saving purpose has run its course and attained its “full number” (see also Luke 21: 24).
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 5771–5772).
The issue with the pro-Judaic understanding of the hardening is context. Romans 11:7 defines the hardening. There’s the present salvation of the remnant, the past tense failing to obtain what Israel was seeking. They were seeking a righteousness that they thought was obtainable by works. They failed to obtain it. But as Romans 11:7 indicated the elect obtained it and then the rest were hardened. A partial hardening is hardening the non-elect. This was specifically defined in Romans 9:18.
But what of Romans 11:25? Would this then prove that there is currently a mixture of non-elect with the remnant in Israel and that at a future time it will simply be a full elect? No. The partial hardening happens to Israel, again as defined in the context, as the elect obtaining salvation and the rest are hardened. This happens until the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles. The full acceptance of the remnant of the Jews corresponds and in synchronous to the full acceptance of the nations.
ὅτι πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους τῷ Ἰσραὴλ γέγονεν ἄχρι οὗ τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν εἰσέλθῃ
Or literally, “That a hardening ἀπὸ — away from — the whole of Israel has happened until that which is of the full acceptance of the nations comes in.”
But this passage is connected to the next verse,
καὶ οὕτως πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται
“And in this manner, all Israel will be saved.”
In what manner will all Israel be saved? Pauls focus has been on the present salvation of the elect, the hardening of the nonelect, and the full acceptance of both Jew and Gentile of the Gospel i.e. the full number of the elect which is made up of both Jew and Gentile.
The manner in which all Israel will be saved is by the full acceptance of the righteousness by faith by the remnant and by the elect from all nations. The thing that I must point out is how inconsistent people like Horner handle the πλήρωμα. The πλήρωμα of the Jews means all Jews but the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles doesn’t mean all Gentiles, that would be universalism. Regardless, the hardening is upon the non-elect as defined by Romans 9. The πλήρωμα of the Jews is the remnant, the elect of the Jews and the πλήρωμα of the Gentiles is the elect of the Gentiles. A huge point of Romans 11 is the very fact the Gospel goes out from the Jews to save the Gentiles and synchronously with the Gospel going out it makes the Jews, the remnant, jealous and provokes them to salvation so that the people of God are all united and gathered into one people, one bride.
The issue of the partial hardening is even more intensified and confirms the fact the πλήρωμα is a word of understanding and acceptance not of corporate number in the context. πώρωσις is the word that is used to refer to “hardening”. The idea of “partial” is ἀπὸ μέρους. μέρους refers that which is a part out of a whole. The discontinuity of Horner is seen in the fact that he calls the partial hardening a temporary hardening, “Israel’s Temporary Hardening in Unbelief, vv. 25– 32” which is the heading designation on location 5763 in the Kindle edition. The idea of the temporary nature isn’t a hardening that is at some point lifted as Horner indicates. It’s a hardening that at some point ceases because all of God’s people of all time have been saved. There’s no point to continue the hardening when “all Israel is saved”.
This is the reason Paul cites Isaiah 59:20, 21. The Redeemer has come to Zion just like his people have come to Mount Zion,
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
— (Hebrews 12:22–24 ESV)
Of course the word, “assembly” is ἐκκλησία, normally translated as “church” but a primary word in the LXX for the assembly of Israel.
We have come to the city of the living God, mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem. You don’t have to wait for some fable, distant future, physical reign of Jesus Christ in a political earthly kingdom — the same error that the first century Jews thought about Jesus first coming — in order to be a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, or a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). God already has a chosen race a holy nation, a people for His own possession that He is currently in the process of gathering all God’s people into one. And once He finalizes the full number of those whom He has chosen to be saved, He ends this creation and initiates the new one (2 Peter 3).
This is the Biblical teaching. I’m certainly sorry that people like Barry Horner feel the need to compare that to historical racism, which is just as bad as saying that Trinitarianism is wrong because people put anti-Trinitarians to death in the 16th century. The historical racism of people who hate the image of God is the reason why there was historical anti-Semitism. If you really have a heart for the ethnic Jew, then let’s join in together to go preach the Gospel to them, their only hope of salvation.e
You always have to be wary of those who know enough Greek to be dangerous but not enough to make sense about what Greek grammar and syntax is saying in the New Testament. I’ve always wondered why very smart people make a serious blunder on passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8, saying that the middle voice, παύσονται, creates some kind of sequence of voices. Where παύσονται must mean that it ceases on its own and therefore ceases before the terminus ad quem of verse 10.
Such a concept is foreign to the grammar of the Greek text and is more concerned with doctrinal distinctives of cessationism rather than Greek grammar. Which is peculiar in this case, because it is my view that 1 Corinthians 13 teaches cessationism. Thus, there really is no reason to misrepresent the grammar there.
The same concept holds true to Full Preterism, which I wholeheartedly reject, on the concept of the resurrection. Not every Full Preterist has this problem, but there are plenty who hold to an unorthodox view of the resurrection. This view was never held to in any credal statement in the entirety of Church History and is nowhere confirmed in the Biblical text.
Collective Body Resurrection
The advocates of this view, however, do look to a particular passage of Scripture to justify this claim. Bear in mind, that Full Preterism does not need to mess with the resurrection in this way in order to be true or followed.
Again, I believe Full Preterism is wrong. But Full Preterists don’t need to subscribe to the collective body view of the resurrection e.g. Ed Stevens. Although Stevens doesn’t account for the orthodox view of the resurrection as he holds to the individual view, that you receive an immortal body upon your death and enter into heaven, fully glorified and resurrected.
The basic idea of this view is that the resurrection, that for 2000 years of Church History has been viewed as a future, physical bodily resurrection, is actually not what the Bible teaches. Collective body advocates hold that the resurrection is purely a spiritual transformation of a person. Those who experience this resurrection enjoy all the privileges that physical body resurrection has.
In other words, technically it’s the eradication of sin and dwelling in the New Heavens and New Earth. Varying degrees of preteristic beliefs hold to this concept but some have even classified it as a sort of “imperfect” experience of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
The collective body advocates hold to the concepts surrounding the resurrection of the dead but maintain that it’s not physical. To attempt to justify this, they look to 1 Corinthians 15:35:
“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?””
(1 Corinthians 15:35 ESV)
The specific phrase is, “With what kind of body do they come?” As compared with the word “dead” in the previous phrase. They point to the grammatical reality that the word “dead” is plural and the word “body” is singular. Therefore, it’s speaking of a collective resurrection into one body.
The Problems with the Collective Body View
There literally is not a single grammatical concept that confirms this. There is nothing in Greek grammar and syntax that says that if the word “dead” is plural and a noun that refers to it is singular that therefore it must be one body for all the dead.
So let’s think about the argument. It can’t be true with respect to the fact that the concept of a singular body can be applied to the living without necessitating that the living doesn’t have physical bodies. For example, if I said, “The living (plural) all have a human body”, then you can recognize that I’ve applied a singular noun, “body”, for the whole group collectively.
Why is this an important illustration? Because it’s the very type of illustration that Paul himself uses. Notice the context:
“And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.”
(1 Corinthians 15:37–40 ESV)
What a minute. There are multiple bodies (plural) in the context. Did you notice the phrase, “There are heavenly bodies (plural) and earthly bodies (plural)? But back to the point that I was making, Paul used the very same illustration that I used, referring to a body (singular) for humans. It’s a kind of body. And there is a body for animals i.e. another kind of body. Notice the pattern? Paul is referring to the physical bodies of creatures and humans. He says that “Not all flesh (physical) is the same”.
Don’t miss the fact that Paul’s proof for heavenly bodies is based on the fact that there are already multiple types of physical bodies. And also, don’t miss the fact that Paul’s use of the singular isn’t to prove that believers are all raised into a singular, spiritual body.
His point is that they are all raised with a specific kind of body. Which grammatically requires the use of the singular. It’s grammatically and even doctrinally incorrect to say that they all would have specific kinds of bodies (plural). Because that would mean that believers would be raised with all sorts of kinds of physical bodies.
How the collective body advocates can miss this is beyond me. The only possible conclusion is that they are definitely reading their doctrine into the text because they believe if this passage teaches physical resurrection or even individual resurrection that it undermines their Full Preteristic beliefs.
Thus, don’t be fooled by Full Preterists who attempt to use their limited knowledge of the Greek to influence those who may have less knowledge of the Greek into thinking that their views are supported by the text. Both the Greek and the context of 1 Corinthians 15 are against them.
My purpose in this post is to emphasize something very important in light of my desire to see Amillennialism and Partial-Preterism more widely accepted, and that is to make sure we don’t lose sight of very important considerations. These considerations are largely summarized by the title of this article. Don’t argue people away from your position. Don’t make people turned off to your position in Eschatology just because you’re passionate about your Eschatological views. More specifically, don’t use bad or subpar arguments and argumentations just to try to caricature the opposite side’s position in order to make yours more palatable.
My concern in discussing Eschatology is the fact that disagreements on this subject can largely get heated and can be largely difficult in general. The difficulty is seen in the fact that there’s so much written on Eschatology and prophecy that it’s hard to weed through all the information in order to get at the heart of what someone else believes and what, ultimately, the Bible says on the subject. Some Christians may have studied Eschatology almost exclusively and have read way too much information on the subject itself and have been convinced of their particular position. The heated attitudes come into play at this point, because people who have studied a position so intently and have become so convinced by it may have a hard time hearing dissents and disagreements from their position. Combined with the fact that people who disagree may not have read as much or may not be as convicted by Eschatology.
Furthermore, someone who has read their own position either exclusively or for the majority of the time may not be aware of other positions. As such those other positions might sound extremely bizarre. Rather than taking the time — on both sides — to see what the other side believes and why there are an immediate disagreement and debate that ensues. And due to the lack of knowledge on the subject and lack of understanding of the other sides outright, blatant misrepresentations can ensue. Combine this with people’s lack of desire to be logical in their argumentation there ends up being numerous fundamental logical fallacies that are often employed. A few of these are:
- Straw men and caricaturing the other’s position to make it easier to deal with.
- Drawing arguments to logical conclusions in order to attempt to disprove someone else’s assertions.
- Look at this scholar and all these people that agree with me.
- Let’s distract from the real issues that divide us and focus on unrelated things.
- Also, let’s chase rabbit trails in order to not have to deal with salient features of another’s argument.
These are recipes for disaster among Christians trying to discuss Eschatology with each other when there are definitive disagreements.
To demonstrate this tactic let’s imagine a conversation as follows between an Amillennialist and Premillennialist:
Doug: “Hey Philip, I believe you’re wrong on Amillennialism because we need to interpret the Bible literally and in a Straightforward manner”.
Philip: “How so?”
Doug: “Well, Revelation 20 says that the saints come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. If we just read Revelation 20 in a straightforward manner, then we would all be Premillennial and believe that we all reign with Christ for a literal one thousand years in Jerusalem.”
Philip: “But the Book of Revelation is Apocalyptic literature, there are symbols all over the place.”
Doug: “That’s true, but a thousand years means a literal thousand years. And you must interpret it that way.”
Philip: “The problem that I have with your assertion is that if I were to read 2 Peter 3 that way, then that passage puts the day of the Lord, the Parousia, after the Millennium because it says that the earth and the heavens will be destroyed on the day of the Lord”.
Doug: “2 Peter 3 doesn’t say that.”
Philip: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” — (2 Peter 3:10 ESV)
Doug: “Philip, you’re reading 2 Peter 3 wrong, the day of the Lord is not a literal, 24 hour period of time.”
Philip: “But, I thought you said that I must interpret the Bible literally? So how is a day not a 24 hour period of time?”
Doug: “Because the context of 2nd Peter says, ‘a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day’. So Peter defined a day as a thousand years.”
Philip: “But Peter said that to refute the scoffers who deny Christ’s Parousia. Peter said that the delay before the day of the Lord doesn’t mean He’s not coming. Christ isn’t slow to fulfill the promise of His coming because the waiting period before He comes isn’t significant to Christ, He could wait a day or He could wait a thousand years before coming. In other words, He will fulfill the promise of His coming, but He’s being patient towards the elect, waiting for them to come to repentance. Regardless, however, you said that we need to interpret the Bible literally, and yet you’re not interpreting a day as a literal day. Doug, are Daniels 70 weeks literally weeks?”
Doug: “Of course Daniels weeks are not literal, the 70 weeks are symbolic of 490 years. However, you also have to take into consideration the fact that the context of Daniel chapter 9 puts the last week, the seventieth week, at the end of history.”
Philip: “So the 70 weeks of Daniel are actually 483 years, then 2000+ years, then a last 7 years at the end of all time?”
Philip: “70 weeks are not literally 70 weeks?”
Philip: “But a thousand years are definitely a literal thousand years?”
Doug: “Right, we must interpret the Bible literally.”
Doug and Philip are at an impasse. Doug’s argument against Philip on the Millennium was raised on the basis of hermeneutics. Doug was criticizing Philip for thinking that Revelation 20’s Millennium was symbolic, not referring to a literal passage of time. Doug believes that we should interpret the Bible literally. Philip raised the issue, however, that Revelation is full of symbols. Philip then decided to turn to passages that were similar contexts. He went to a different genre of literature, even, with 2nd Peter 3 where Doug’s hermeneutical criteria are normally found, didactic literature.
Philip caught Doug in an inconsistency, Doug was demanding — even in the midst of symbolic literature — to interpret a period of time literally. But when Philip brought up other periods of time from other eschatological passages, Doug demanded that those passages of time be interpreted symbolically.
The Amillennialist has a very important, and the often neglected point here. There are several passages, including timeframe references, that no one interprets literally, Amillennialists and Premillennialists alike. John MacArthur emphasizes how Daniel’s 70 weeks are not actually weeks,
The “weeks” Daniel speaks of are actually seven-year periods. (The Hebrew word is literally “sevens.”) Notice that Daniel says sixty-nine (seven plus sixty-two) of these seven-year periods (or 483 years) would elapse “from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince.”
— MacArthur, John (2006–01–09). The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age (p. 77). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
MacArthur continues with the understanding that the seventieth week happens way, way after the other 69 weeks,
Remember, however, that Daniel’s prophecy covered seventy weeks (9: 24). When does the seventieth week occur? Daniel recounts all seventy weeks without mentioning any gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. In the sixty-ninth week, Messiah is “cut off” (v. 26). In the seventieth week, an evil “prince who is to come” makes a covenant, then interrupts the week with an act of abomination. This appears to be another instance where Old Testament prophecy juxtaposes near and far events. The sixty-nine weeks obviously began with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and continued uninterrupted until Messiah was “cut off.” But when we compare Daniel’s description of the seventieth week with Christ’s words in the Olivet Discourse, we discover that these passages actually refer to the same eschatalogical end-time period. In other words, Daniel’s seventieth week is the Tribulation period Christ referred to. It belongs to the end of the age.
—Ibid (p. 77–78).
The only point of disagreement that I have is separating the seventieth week from the other 69. Certainly, MacArthur is right that it is exactly what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse that His disciples would see the Abomination of Desolation, spoken of by Daniel, but the end of the age and the Abomination of Desolation would happen during His audience’s lifetime (c.f. Matt. 24:15, 34). Thus, there’s “literally” no reason to believe that the seventieth week happens thousands and thousands of years removed.
Dr. MacArthur attempts to avoid the obvious conclusion of having demanded literal interpretation creating an inconsistency elsewhere when he tries to merge his view with that of a symbolic interpretation in the Olivet Discourse,
Most would agree there is a degree of symbolism in Matthew 24: 29. Almost no one expects the stars to fall to earth literally. It’s possible, too, that the sun might not be extinguished literally; rather, the sun’s light could simply be partly or totally obscured from the earth (cf. Ezek. 32: 7). So I agree that wooden literalism is not necessary to get the right sense of Jesus’ words.
— Ibid (p. 114).
MacArthur doesn’t totally come out and say that the Day of the Lord isn’t a literal, twenty-four hour periods, but he certainly alludes to it in a footnote
8. I’m aware, of course, that Peter cited this very passage in his Pentecost sermon and implied that verse 28 (“ 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”) was fulfilled in some sense by the events at Pentecost. Looking at the broad context of Joel, it is clear that Joel is prophesying about the catastrophes associated with the Day of the Lord (2: 1). It is equally clear that the apostle Peter regarded the Day of the Lord as something yet future (2 Pet. 3: 10). So Peter could not have been declaring every aspect of Joel’s prophecy fulfilled. When he cited this passage at Pentecost, he was obviously making reference to the outpouring of the Spirit in particular, and he probably meant merely that Pentecost was a preview of the Day-of-the-Lord outpouring.
Ibid, (pp. 219–220).
The fact is, that if Joel’s “day of the Lord” wasn’t literally or totally fulfilled at Pentecost then the day of the Lord can’t be literally a day. Even if one asserts “prophetic perspective” it still lends credence to the notion that the day of the Lord isn’t literally a day.
MacArthur further precipitates the issue by railing against Preterism. In order to do this, MacArthur asserts that in Matthew 24:34, Jesus couldn’t be literally talking about the generation to whom He was actually talking to,
But the reasonable mind quickly sees the folly of having to allegorize so many passages of Scripture just for the sake of interpreting one verse (v. 34) with such rigid literalism. It is simply not necessary to insist that Christ meant that all the Olivet Discourse signs must be fulfilled in that current generation.
—Ibid, (p. 125).
Is it reasonably minded to suggest that the Millennium must be literal but a generation cannot be?
Matt Waymeyer, also, attempts to literally tackle the issue of the day of the Lord in his attempt to refute Amillennialism’s two-age model,
There are three primary ways that premillennialists have responded to this argument. The first and most common response is that the Day of the Lord is an extended period of time that includes the coming of Christ, His millennial reign, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.
— Waymeyer, Matt (2016–10–12). Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model (Kindle Locations 3348–3350). Kress Biblical Resources. Kindle Edition.
In the same section, he argues other views, one of which he states is very similar to this view. In other words, he holds to the fact that the “day of the Lord” isn’t really a day.
Waymeyer doesn’t realize the incongruousness of his level of argumentation in favor of a non-literal interpretation of the day of the Lord and literal interpretation of a thousand years,
In contrast, the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 meets none of the proposed criteria. First, there is nothing absurd or unintelligible about the literal interpretation of the thousand years that compels the interpreter to seek something other than the literal meaning. In fact, if God had wanted to communicate that the imprisonment of Satan and reign of Christ would last for a literal thousand years, how else could He have done it? What else could He have said? Using the number one thousand was the only option available.
— Ibid, (Kindle Locations 6713–6716).
This very same argument is self-refuting for Waymeyer. In other words, we could use it against him on the day of the Lord. Picture this, there is nothing absurd or unintelligible about the literal interpretation of a day that compels the interpreter to seek something other than the literal meaning. In fact, if God wanted to communicate the day of the Lord would last for a literal day, how else could He have done it? What else could he have said? Using the word “day” was the only option available.
Certainly, we can see the need to step up the argumentation. I hope to have more demonstrates the issues of Premillennial argumentation in future posts. But suffice it to say we need to supply our brothers and sisters with a challenge to grow in the way they interact with Amillennialism. Here are my proposed challenges to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the aisle:
- It must be proven that every timeframe reference in eschatological literature must be interpreted literally in order for the Amillennialist to reject the idea of a figurative Millennium.
- It must be proven that every use of numbers in the book of Revelation is always literal, in spite of the apocalyptic genre of the book.
- There must be a contextually defined marker or clue that indicates when a prophetic author switches between a literal timeframe reference or a figurative timeframe reference.
If one or more of the above criteria is proven true then Amillennialism crumbles. And the above criteria cannot prove true by mere assertions, “clearly it’s literal” or “it’s literal because I said you’re supposed to interpret it literally”. And we can’t understand literal use by, “clearly this event hasn’t been fulfilled”. Because the only thing that events within a prophecy prove is scope or fact of what is to be fulfilled or the limitations of the interpreter to comprehend when or how an event is to be fulfilled. There must a demonstration of timeframe references referring to specifically literal fulfillments always or there needs to be the absolute absence of explicitly stated timeframe references.