Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.

By Cris D. Putnam

Marian Osher "Tree of Life"

Everyone, believer or non-believer, is naturally born once and will die naturally once. This is apparent to all and is noncontroversial. But the biblical worldview includes a supernatural component which is not seen by the natural man. There are two additional possibilities, one of which will occur, depending on one’s spiritual status relating to Jesus Christ. These two conditional supernatural events are difficult to accept.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.(1 Co 2:14)

It wasn’t always this way. God created man in a state of spiritual communion which entailed an intimate connection to him.  Adam’s fall into disobedience ruined that intimacy and put mankind under a curse (Gen 3:14-19).  But notice neither Adam nor Eve were struck dead instantly when God pronounced the curse upon them and the creation. It seems that the physical nature of death was always a logical possibility because God had put two trees in the garden. One was the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the other was the tree of life. Adam and Eve were not immortal beings; it was the tree of life that sustained them.  This can be deduced from the account that God saw physical death as a merciful release from their fallen state.

“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.(Ge 3:22–24)

In this way, natural death is a blessing but only if you are in the book of life (Phil 1:21). When one is moved on by the Holy Spirit, repents of their sins and convinced by the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, one is “born again” and released from the second death. Jesus explains this to Nicodemus in John 3:

“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(Jn 3:5–8)

When one believes the good news of Jesus resurrection, one’s name is written in the book of life:

“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”(Re 20:6)

If one rejects this good news and chooses not to accept Jesus resurrection, one gains a second death.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.(Re 20:12–15)

So whether you are believer or an unbeliever you are going gain a supernatural element: a second birth or a second death. If you earnestly seek God, he will reward your faith (Heb 11:6).

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

(Ro 10:9)

Why Eschatology Matters Part IV: Premillennialism

continued from Why Eschatology Matters Part IV

I. Pre-millennial View: This is the view that the parousia (second coming) occurs at the conclusion of the Church age and Christ rules from Jerusalem for a literal millennium.[1] Adherents, myself included, argue that a consistent literal interpretation of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, predictions by the prophets and the announcement of the kingdom of heaven by John the Baptist and Jesus unavoidably lead to premillennialism.[2] It was the accepted view of the early church fathers up to early Augustine, who later erroneously discarded the view due to a personal prejudice against a particular belief (cited under amillennial).[3] Later post reformation teachers of the Lutheran, Reformed, and Puritan traditions like Jonathan Edwards, John Gill and Charles Spurgeon rediscovered premillennialism.[4] Today it is widely held by protestant evangelicals.

A. Basic Premises:

i. Millennium: A straight forward one thousand years as the text in Revelation chapter 20:1-6 says. The idea of a thousand year reign may also be supported by passages such as Acts 3:19–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:23–26, which speak of a future restoration and reign of Christ.[5]

ii. Resurrection: There are two resurrections the first are believers at the beginning of the millennium and the second at its conclusion for the great white throne judgment.[6]

iii. The Binding of Satan: Jesus Christ binds Satan upon his return. Dr. John Walvoord comments, “The passage makes clear that Satan is not simply restricted, as some would teach, but he is totally inactive in the Millennium.”[7] This point is simply not explained by any other view.

iv. The reign of Christ: While Christ is spiritually active in the lives of believers today his literally earthly reign will commence upon his arrival. He will rule from Jerusalem on the throne of David as promised in the New (Lk. 1:32) and Old Testaments (Zech. 14:9).

v. The Kingdom of God: The kingdom is here and also not yet. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus instituted a spiritual kingdom until His second coming, when He will initiate the anticipated messianic kingdom.[8]

vi. Israel: God will restore national Israel and fulfill all of His unconditional promises. At the end of the Tribulation, before the beginning of the Millennium, when Jesus is finally accepted by Israel, “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26).[9]

vii. Hermeneutic: A ‘literal’ interpretation means the understanding which any normal person would conclude. Premillennialism is rooted in a historical-grammatical interpretation of prophecy. The historical-grammatical method involves giving each word the same meaning it would have in normal usage.[10] (i.e. Israel means national Israel and thousand means 1,000).

B. Points of Strength:

i. The early church was indisputably premillennial, including: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Lactantius and Irenaeus. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who had direct contact with John, the author of the Apocalypse.[11] Their familiarity with the Apostle makes it hard to imagine why anyone would diverge from their understanding. Irenaeus wrote extensively on the literal future Messianic kingdom, a brief excerpt being, “The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead.”[12]

ii. Stated as a weakness in the opposing views, the fact that the New Testament explicitly teaches that Satan is alive and well on planet earth (1 Jn. 5:19, 2 Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor.4:3-4, Eph. 2:2, 2 Cor. 11:14, 1 Pet. 5:8). The argument seems overwhelming that Satan’s current imprisonment is absurd. Anyone who tries to advance the Gospel knows that Satanic opposition is very real.

iii. In the New Testament, the Angel Gabriel promised Mary that Jesus would sit upon the throne of David (Lk. 1:32-33). At that time there was no Israelite throne to sit on, even Herod was a vassal and this promised event has not yet occurred. Because God always keeps his promises it follows that this will be actualized.

iv. In Romans 9, 10, and 11 Paul’s purpose was to explain Israel’s future. If you simply read that sequence of chapters, replacement theology is absurd. The gentile church is clearly described as “grafted into” not replacing Israel.  Paul makes it abundantly clear in Rom. 11:29 that their election is irrevocable.

C. Points of Weakness:

i. The final releasing of Satan at the end of the millennium and subsequent apostasy after the millennium kingdom is difficult to explain. Yet Revelation 20 clearly predicts it.

ii. The millennium population of humans in a non-translated state must be rationalized by believers that come to faith during the tribulation.

iii. Satan was defeated at the cross. Why does he still have dominion on earth?

iv. The ambiguity about the timing of the rapture is problematic.


Premillennial eschatology not only offers a real hope for the world’s future through its anticipation of the personal earthly reign of Jesus Christ  for one thousand years, it also provides for the literal fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to Israel and Mary in the New Testament. Concerning the kingdom Missler argues,

There are at least 318 references in 216 chapters of the New Testament. And 23 of its 27 books give prominence to the event. The early church looked longingly for His promised return as their “Blessed Hope” to rid a desperate world of its evil rulers.[13]

In contrast, those promises are given only a vague fulfillment in amillennial and postmillennial eschatology, a psuedo-fulfillment that only weakens our faith in the promises of the Bible. God promised a real space time kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem. God does not lie. It is dangerous when one’s theological constructs impute the character of God.  It’s fascinating how contrary supersessionism is to God’s sovereign election. If it is true, it means that God’s elect nation lost their election. That sounds suspiciously like Arminiainism. Isn’t it ironic that most reformed denominations embrace it? They need not. Jesus in Luke 19:42 and Paul in Romans 11:25 explain that Israel is blinded nationally for the church age. Temporarily blinded not replaced. We are grafted in. National Israel has a future as the spiritual leadership of the world (Zech 8:23).

I find the amillennial and postmillennial views both to be incoherent. They are inconsistent with reality and the biblical text. I can evidence both points in that Satan’s deceptions have not been restrained. The numerous biblical proof texts have been cited throughout this series and the nations are demonstrably being deceived. The U.S. Center for World Missions estimates that Christianity’s is growing at about 2.3% annually, approximately equal to the growth rate of the world’s population. Islam is growing faster: about 2.9% and is thus Islam will surpass Christianity as the world’s main religion by 2023.[14] Whether this is completely accurate is immaterial to the point that the world is full of false religion and unbelief. Jesus warned of widespread deception and we certainly do see it today.

I sincerely cannot believe a person can read the bible without outside influence and come to a conclusion other than premillennialism. Just read Revelation 20, that is clear and literal 1000 year kingdom. The alternate views are imposed on the text for external reasons. Of course sincere Christians maintain these views but I just do not find their rationale compelling. To embrace allegory over literal meaning requires a more persuasive theological and exegetical basis than the arguments offered. I have demonstrated that Augustine’s basis was quite shallow and had nothing to do with exegesis. I think those views stand on mere stubborn tradition. While the reformers did a great service in the areas of soteriology and ecclesiology they were duly occupied and failed to correct eschatology back to the apostolic intention. The early church, which had intimate contact with John the author of the Apocalypse were verifiably premillennial. I find that decisive. Finally, no matter what one’s millennial position, true Christians all look forward to the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

θά, μαράνα θά

[1] Ed Hindson, Revelation, 89.

[2]Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 553.

[3] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 567.

[4]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 572.

[5]Elwell and Comfort, 896.

[6] Edward Hindson. Revelation: Unlocking the Future, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 203.

[7] John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 625.

[8] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 556.

[9] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 556.

[10] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 416.

[11] David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 3:457.

[12] Quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 569.

[13] Chuck and Nancy Missler. The Kingdom, Power and Glory: The Overcomer’s Handbook. Coeur d’Alene, ID: The King’s Highway Ministries. 2009. 100.

[14] Unattributed. “Growth Rate of Christianity & Islam” Religious Tolerance ORG, (accessed 06/10/2010).

Why Eschatology Matters Part IV: Postmillennialism

continued from Why Eschatology Matters Part IV

II. Post-millennial View: The belief that Christ will physically return to the earth only after a non-literal millennium is completed. Postmillennialism is quite optimistic about the end times in that he essential idea is that the church will exercise a transformational positive social influence in history.[1] Thus, the world is allegedly improving morally and spiritually every year. This may have seemed to be so historically, as many of the reformers, early-American colonists and puritans shared this view. Most theologians have abandoned it in the twentieth century after the two world wars and subsequent nuclear age anxiety. Today this view has been appropriated by the charismatic movement and provides the impetus for dominion or “kingdom now” theology. Dominionists believe they have a mandate to impose the kingdom by earthly means. They even believe it is their responsibility to initiate the second coming of Christ.[2]

A. Basic Premises:

i. Millennium: Literally “after the thousand years.” Some suppose the era of peace is still in the future but the majority holds that it began with the first advent of Christ and is continuing until the gospel conquers the world. The word thousand is considered symbolic of a long period of time.

ii. Resurrection: This view also maintains that there is only one resurrection much like their amillennial counterparts. They employ the same strategy of spiritualization to Revelation 20:4-5.

iii. The Binding of Satan: Satan is currently bound by the power of gospel and cannot deceive the nations.[3]

iv. The Reign of Christ: Christ reigns now in the hearts of believers. Yet, Christians are to conquer the unbelieving world through the spread of the gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit. However, there is a disturbing trend leaning toward the emphasis of nonspiritual means.

v. The Kingdom of God: The Kingdom is manifested now in the church and increasing in its positive influence over the earth. There is a popular movement today to reclaim the “seven mountains of culture” that is derivative of this idea.[4] Even more strident, Dominionists think they are to accomplish this by military or legal force if necessary.

vi. Israel: They argue that the New Testament church became the “Israel of God” of which Paul speaks in Galatians 6:16.[5] They use the same arguments for supersessionism as the amillennialist in that God’s Old Testament covenants were conditional and no longer binding. See Micah 4:8 vs. Replacement Theology.

vii. Hermeneutic: A very similar approach to the amillennialist is used. Prophecy is understood to be preponderantly symbolic and open to allegorical interpretation. For example, “Israel” now means the church and the word “thousand” simply means an indeterminate long period of time.

B. Points of Strength:

i. Postmillennialism’s greatest strength is its optimism regarding the kingdom of God and its ability to transform the nations of the earth before Christ returns.[6]

ii. The bible promises universal gospel proclamation (Matt. 28:18–20).

iii. They also argue that the word “thousand” is used symbolically in scripture (cf. 1 Chron. 16:15; Ps. 50:10).

C. Points of Weakness:

i. Again a simple reading of the biblical text does not lead to this conclusion. The postmillennial interpretation of Rev. 19-20 seems arbitrarily imposed upon the text.

ii. Jesus clearly taught that “many will fall away”, “lawlessness will be increased” and that “the love of many will grow cold” at the time world evangelization is completed (Matt 24:10-14). In the parable of the Tares in Mt. 13:36-43, Jesus taught that evil people will continue to exist alongside of God’s redeemed people until the time of harvest. The clear implication of this parable is that Satan’s kingdom will continue to exist and expand as long as God’s kingdom grows, until Christ returns.

iii. The Apostles taught increasing apostasy toward the end of the age (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 1 Tim. 4:1,2 Tim. 3:1-5, 2 Tim 4:3-4, 2 Pet. 3:3).

iv. As explained under amillennial weakness ii, the two resurrections of Rev. 20:5 and Rev. 20:13 are described as are bodily and distinct.

v. As stated under amillennialism, the word “thousand” is used literally in the vast majority of its occurrences in the biblical text. The fact that it is repeated 5 times in Revelation 20:1-6 should give pause.

vi. History and current events do not support the idea that things are getting better for Christians. In fact, quite the opposite is true. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied basic human rights solely because of their faith. David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing in their 2009 report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1: 32) estimate that if current trends continue, by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually.[7]

vii. Postmillennialism undermines the NT emphasis on the church’s imminent expectation of Christ’s return.  It undermines the essential element of watchfulness to the NT church. See 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Jas. 5:8; 1 Pt. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:3; 22:20.

viii. The OT identifies the “golden age” with the New Heavens and New Earth which come only after the millennium of Rev. 20 (Rev. 21-22).

ix. Scripture never teaches the progressive and eventual wholesale reconstruction of society (i.e. 7 mountains of culture) according to Christian principles prior to Christ’s return.

x. The Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, he is at war. The idea that he returns to receive a kingdom accomplished by the church is simply incoherent.  “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” (1 Co 15:24, Zec. 14:3, 2 Thes. 2:8, Rev. 19:15)

xi. Postmillennialism minimizes one of the primary experiences that will characterize the church and all Christians throughout this present age, suffering with Christ (2 Tim 2:3, 1 Pet. 4:13, 2 Thes.1:5, Rev.6:10). For instance, Romans 8:18-25 speaks of creation groaning for redemption, and that we “wait for it with patience” not take it by political means or force. To the contrary, much like Christ at His first coming, the church actually wins by losing…

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Ro 8:36-39)

Next up Premillennialism

[1]Sproul, The Last Days, 9.
[2]Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.
[3] Hindson, Revelation, 86.
[4] Os Hillman. Reclaiming the 7 Mountains of Culture. 2010. (accessed 06 11, 2010).
[5]Sproul, The Last Days, 9.
[6]Geisler, Systematic Theology, 550.
[7]Unattributed. How Many Christians Killed for their Faith Every Year. (accessed 06/10/2010).

Why Eschatology Matters Part Four


continued from Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Christians of all denominations routinely implore “thy kingdom come” without giving it a second thought. It follows that if one is still asking for something to come, then it cannot be fully present. Even so, the expectation for a literal millennial reign of Christ on earth is perhaps the most controversial subject in eschatology. It is inescapable that the bible plainly proclaims it. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of a one thousand year period when believers reign with the Lord Jesus after his return.

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

This plain sense view is also called “chiliasm” from the Greek word chilioi for thousand. Although the word “thousand” is used six times in Revelation chapter 20, the duration is a major point of contention. There is an acknowledged history of allegorical interpretation deeply entrenched in ecclesiastic tradition. Because of this, the majority of the denominational church denies a literal millennium.[1] There are three principle views concerning the millennium promised by God in Revelation chapter twenty: Premillennial (divided into pre & post tribulational positions on the chart below), Postmillennial, and Amillennial.

My next post will outline the Amillennial view and its theological implications.

[1]John F. Walvoord, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, Includes Indexes. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1990), 624.

Chasing the Amber Witch

Bestsellers like “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Erhman and “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens are presented with all the fanfare of revolutionary new scholarship.  These antichristian polemics are hawked as “revealing the hidden contradictions of the Bible” and “how religion poisons everything” yet the issues expressed are neither concealed nor venomous. While sensational titles and viral marketing may reap revenues the vast majority of their contentions are the long discredited canards of 19th century German higher criticism being recycled to a new generation.

Erhman’s brand of criticism is derivative of German writer David Friedrich Strauss (1808 – 1874) who scandalized Europe with his interpretation of the “historical Jesus”. Strauss had been trained in Hegel’s dialectic philosophy (thesis + antithesis = synthesis) not only denied the deity of Christ, he asserted that the Gospels were “myths,” a synthesis between the facts of Jesus’ life (thesis) and the disciples’ faith (antithesis). Ehrman is basically following suit in the 21st century.

Like Erhman’s best sellers Strauss’ “The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined” was a sensation. One reviewer called it “the Iscariotism of our days” and another “the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell.”   When Strauss was elected to a chair of theology in the University of Zürich, his selection provoked such a hullabaloo that the school retired him before he began his duties. In contrast, today Erhman chairs the department of religious studies at the University of North Carolina deep in the Bible belt.

Liberal higher criticism treats the Bible as a flawed piece of religious propaganda created for various human motives. A major presupposition of higher critics is that they can confidently determine authorship and authenticity.  For instance, the scholars of the Jesus Seminar have determined that only twenty percent of what the Gospels attribute to Jesus was actually said by him[i].  Are they really that good?

A Dusty Old Manuscript

While digging around in the church basement, Johannes Wilhelm Meinhold (1797-1851)  claimed to have discovered the long lost manuscript of a 17th century minister, Abraham Schweidler. The manuscript spins an enticing yarn.  The Reverend almost loses his only child Maria to a plot by a unrequited suitor accusing her of witchcraft. Under the threat of torture Maria, entirely innocent, confesses to being a witch. While on the way to her doom, she is rescued at the last minute by a young hero who reveals the evil plot against her. Described as “the most interesting trial for witchcraft ever known”, church leaders had apparently urged Meinhold publish the story for its instructional value.[ii]

The Amber Witch is a Gothic novel written in 1839 by Meinhold. Because the old manuscript was incomplete, Meinhold allegedly supplied details in the style of author and finished the story for dramatic purposes.  In a direct challenge to the “modern documentary critics” Meinhold wrote in the preface to the novel:

I have therefore attempted, not indeed to supply what is missing at the beginning and end, but to restore those leaves which have been torn out of the middle, imitating, as accurately as I was able, the language and manner of the old biographer, in order that the difference between the original narrative and my own interpolations might not be too evident. This I have done with much trouble, and after many ineffectual attempts; but I refrain from pointing out the particular passages which I have supplied, so as not to disturb the historical interest of the greater part of my readers. For modern criticism, which has now attained to a degree of acuteness never before equalled, such a confession would be entirely superfluous, as critics will easily distinguish the passages where Pastor Schweidler speaks from those written by Pastor Meinhold.[iii]

The Critics Love It

When it first appeared the German critics believed it to have been an authentic historical document. The work then attracted critical notice, not only for the dramatic nature of the narrative, but also for the arguments as to which parts of it were original and which ones were Meinhold’s own reconstructions of the original 17th-century style. Sound familiar?

It was a hoax! Meinhold had indeed written the whole thing. The forgery was done with great skill and detail using the language and expressions that would be common to the period it is set in.  The author’s intention had been to set a deliberate “trap for the disciples of David Strauss and his school who pronounced the scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be a collection of legends from historical research assisted by internal evidence”. Even when he admitted that it was a deliberate hoax the critics argued against him for its authenticity!  It soon became obvious that The Amber Witch was a hoax. As the popular press reported in the late 1840s:

“Meinhold did not spare them [Strauss and his disciples] when they fell into his snare and made merry with the historical knowledge and critical acumen that could not detect the contemporary romancer under the mask of two centuries ago, while they decide so positively as to the authorities of the most ancient writings in the world.”[iv]

He made a brilliant example out of Strauss and his school of criticism. This begs the question:  if these critics could not accurately detect a very recent text, why should we trust atheist scholars’ opinions over those of the disciples and early church fathers? Perhaps when Jesus refers to one Isaiah as having written the book of Isaiah and Moses as the author of the Torah, we should simply take him at His word.  Can the Jesus Seminar or Bart Ehrman really determine what Jesus did and did not say?

Not at all, they are only chasing the Amber Witch.

[i]Wilkins, Michael J., and J P Moreland. Jesus Under Fire. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.p.12

[ii]Laurita, Paula. The Amber Witch Hoax. (accessed 04 22, 2010).

[iii] Meinhold, W. The Amber Witch: The most Interesting Trial for Witchcraft Ever Known. London: H.G. Clarke and Co., 1844.

[iv] Agnew, John Holmes, and W H Bidwell, “The Author of the Amber Witch.” Eclectic Magazine: Foreign Literature Science ad Art Vol 21, September 1850: 419.