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, http://www.religioustolerance.org/growth_isl_chr.htm (accessed 06/10/2010).

Why Eschatology is Important Part Three

continued from Part 1 & Part 2 (make sure to hover the pointer over scripture references)

In this installment I get to the purpose of this series, “Why Eschatology is Important.” My motivation for writing this is that I have noticed that one’s eschatological persuasion influences almost every other element of theology. An errant eschatology is the root of numerous heresies from pluralism to “kingdom now” theology.  I am also writing this because I have had friends say to me, “We really can’t know anything about all of that, so it’s a waste of time.”  There are a number of problems with that view.

First, Jesus spoke on it at length in the kingdom parables, the two Olivet discourses, and in the book of Revelation. Some make the error of making it plural “Revelations”, yet verse one is explicit, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,” (Re 1:1). The revelation from Father to Son to angel to disciple to you and me, this is a great privilege! Not to mention, the book of Revelation is the only book of the bible that promises a special blessing to those who study it (Re 1:3). Furthermore,  Titus 2:12-13 infers that waiting for our blessed hope is an incentive to Godliness. Peter even speaks of “speeding its coming” (2 Pet. 3:12). Since the Lord and the disciples thought it was that important for us, shouldn’t we study it diligently?

Next, eschatology is a major theme of the Old Testament. God inspired the prophets and apostles to write a plethora of apocalyptic material. For instance, Isaiah 34:1–8 and Obadiah 15 describe a Day of the Lord when God will judge all nations of the world.  Joel 3:1–16 and Zechariah 14:1–3, Zec. 14:12–15 refer to a Day of the Lord that will involve God’s judgment of the armies of all the nations of the world, when those armies gather to wage war against Israel and the city of Jerusalem. The ramifications for world politics are enormous. Have you ever considered how your vote plays a part? God went to great lengths to deliver and preserve his word; we ought to take it seriously.

Another reason is that, as Isaac Newton observed, God held the first century Jews accountable for knowing prophecy. It is likely he will us as well. In fact, Jesus taught that we have a responsibility to know prophecy and keep watch. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt 25:13)  “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Lk 21:34) Paul confirms this in his letter to the Thessalonians, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Th 5:2-5)

My reason for walking through the visions in Daniel was to demonstrate that God has written the future in advance and that the Jewish Messianic expectation of a political kingdom was (is) justified. The Scriptures certainly teach that God created the universe for His own purposes (Rev. 4:11). As a result, the heavenly and earthly realms are owned and ultimately ruled by God (1 Chr. 29:11–12; 2 Chr. 20:6 Ps. 47:2; Ps. 103:19; Ps. 135:6; Isa. 40:12–26; Jer. 10:7, 10; Dan. 4:17, Dan. 4:34; Acts 17:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 5:13). Yet they are now under the rule of a usurper. Mankind was given dominion over the earth in Genesis 1:26, yet Satan took it away when he enticed Adam to disobey God.  Satan is god of this present world system. Jesus said it twice, (Jn 14:30; Jn 12:31) Paul taught it, (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph 2:2) and John,

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

The protoevangelium (first gospel) of Genesis 3:15 prophesied that the seed of the woman would one day crush his head. Like bookends, I believe this event is also prophesied in Revelation 20. Now we patiently await His return. He is coming!

Just before the ascension (Acts 1:6) the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Did Jesus say, “Sorry guys not going to happen, Israel forfeited?”


He says “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

It wasn’t for His disciples to know. Yet this infers a future time that God has fixed when He will restore the Kingdom to Israel. This time was prophesied by the prophets and Jesus reveals it explicitly in Revelation 20. In His word He told us to watch (Luke 21:34, Matt 25:14), he gave us signs to watch for (Matt 24:6-8, 2 Tim 3:13, 1 Tim 4:1-2, 2 Pet. 3:3-14, Jude 16-18, 2 Tim. 3:4-5). It is our blessed hope (Tit 2:13). We are told to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and to “speed its coming” (2 Pet. 3:12). The future Kingdom that bible believing Christians are eagerly anticipating also delineates a major division in biblical theology, millennial views.


Why Eschatology Matters Part Two

Flashback to Daniel

continued from Part 1

This begs the question,  “What were they expecting that made them so sure Jesus was not the Messiah?” They knew the scriptures better than anyone. After all, some of the Pharisees could even boast having memorized the entire Torah! To answer this question, I think it is important that we take a look at the foundation of all Biblical eschatology, Daniel. Daniel was written by a Hebrew captive while in exile to Babylon beginning in 605 BCE. Recall Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:1) of a great statue that predicted four kingdoms which were represented by the four metals composing the statue.  The most important feature is that at the end of the dream the statue is destroyed by a great stone (Dan. 2:44-45). This is what the Jews were expecting then (and now) and this is what Christians understand to be the promise of the Second Advent. Because of the mention of King Belshazzar, Nabonidus’ son and co-regent, we can determine that the book moves chronologically from chapters one to six and then at chapter seven backs up in time to a point somewhere before chapter five. What is important is that Daniel’s vision in chapter seven parallels the dream in chapter two albeit, as I will argue below, from the divine perspective rather than a human perspective.

In biblical prophecy a “vision” is frequently the vehicle employed by God to reveal the future to His prophets. Whether earthbound or through mystical ascension to heaven, apocalyptic visions serve as means to encourage God’s people that the kingdom of God will certainly come. Usually the symbolic images are interpreted to the visionary by an angel. The ancients recognized both dreams and visions but frequently used the terms interchangeably.[i] If one accepts the inspiration of scripture, an apocalyptic vision should be interpreted as what the prophet actually saw not merely a genre of literature. Daniel chapter seven begins with the prophet lying in bed and seeing “a dream and visions of his head” (v.1). Scholars universally agree that this vision parallels the four kingdoms from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two.[ii] However, between chapters two and seven there is a juxtaposition of imagery that speaks to a divine commentary on the vainglory of man.

Daniel saw four great beasts rise out of the sea that later we are told represent “four kingdoms that will rise from the earth” (Dan 7:17). Conservative scholars unanimously agree that the kingdoms are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.[iii] While there are alternate interpretations, postulating Babylon, Median, Persia, Greece, I believe that only those bent by anti-supernatural bias relegate the vision to the Maccabean era by late dating the text and ascribing pseudepigraphical status. They must violate the historical record by splitting Medo-Persia into two separate empires. They then proceed to violate holy inspiration by assigning the fourth beast to the Greek Empire. They make the book a clever forgery. Because Jesus himself authenticated Daniel as the author (Mat. 24:15) this is a non starter for true Christians.

Due to my own first principles, I dismiss such biased conjecture outright. However, I will demonstrate that the traditional view is coherent with prophetic symbolism and the historical record, while the liberal critic’s position appears ad hoc and disingenuous. I also agree with H.A. Ironside, who commenting on the parallel with the chapter two statue dream writes, “In what we have already gone over we have been chiefly occupied with prophetic history as viewed from man’s standpoint; but in the second half of the book we have the same scenes as viewed in God’s unsullied light.”[iv] Daniel’s vision is illustrative of God’s view of imperialism. Contemplate the kingdom values expressed by Christ in His sermon on the mount. Then consider Nebuchadnezzar when Daniel first encountered him: proud, fierce, and ambitious. How aggrandizing it was to be represented as a head of pure gold. And isn’t this the way of us all apart from the grace of God?

The first beast that looked like a ferocious lion and represents Babylon corresponds to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden head. However, in this second vision additional details make for an apt description of Nebuchadnezzar himself. In view of chapter four’s events, the tearing off of the beast’s wings seems to symbolize Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling. When the lion-like beast is given the heart of a man, his restoration and testimony about God come to mind. The parallel is compelling. On a more earthbound note, in Nebuchadnezzar’s time the Babylonian Ishtar Gate entrance was lined with yellow lions in relief on blue-glazed brick.[v] The winged lion of Babylon was a well established emblem. One would be hard pressed to find a more fitting symbol.

The second beast is a great blood-thirsty bear raised up on one side which represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The description is subtly appropriate for a federation in which one nation dominates the other. In fact, the historical record is clear that the Persian contingent did dominate the Median. The liberal view that this beast is Median singular fails in this regard. Furthermore, the bear is divinely commanded to devour three ribs, corresponding nicely with the major three conquests made by King Cyrus and his son Cambyses: the Lydian (546 BCE), Chaldean (539 BCE) and Egyptian (525 BCE).[vi] Chapter 6 of Daniel is very plain that the kingdom at that time was the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians” (vv. 8, 12, 15). Thus the book of Daniel itself states that this was the Medo-Persian Empire at this time.[vii] The Maccabean hypothesis is incoherent in light of the evidence. This level of correspondence with verifiable history authenticates the traditional interpretation and speaks to the prophetic veracity of the vision. Yet it is a ghastly bloody scene, far removed from the shining silver of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

The four-winged leopard with four heads represents the Greek empire won by Alexander the Great. Like a swift and agile leopard, Alexander was famous for his expeditious conquest of the known world. Of particular interest to the biblical perspective, Josephus records that Alexander had intended to destroy Jerusalem until he recognized the purple robed high priest from his own dream about conquering Asia. The priest handed him the scroll of Daniel,

And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; …He granted all they desired: and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired:[viii]

Leniency aside, Alexander died at the young age of thirty-two leaving his four generals Antipater, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy to squabble over the empire. The biblical writers used the term “head” as a symbol for leadership and ruling authority and this neatly explains the leopard’s four heads. [ix] Again the traditional interpretation is supported by the data and the liberal view fails. Also we get a glimpse from the heavenly perspective, a carnivorous monster rather than the cast bronze of man-centered majesty.

The fourth and final terrible beast of Daniel’s night visions is one unlike any known creature. It corresponds to the iron legs, feet, and toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and represents Rome. Several details tie the statue and dreadful beast together. The legs of the statue are iron like the teeth of the animal. The animal has ten horns paralleled in the ten toes of the statue, presumably representing ten kingdoms. However, a unique element not present in the dream of the statue is introduced in the vision of the four beasts: the appearance of “another horn, a little one,” which replaced three of the horns of the last and terrible beast. While the horns and toes seem to be kingdoms, this eleventh horn has eyes like a man and supplants three others. This appears to be the first biblical reference to the individual later described in the New Testament as the Antichrist. Daniel’s vision is still contemporaneously prophetic to the twenty-first century!

As a believer I take a high view of inspiration and I feel compelled to make much out of the sharp contrast between the vision given to the godly prophet and the impious king. It runs deeper than first appearance. In chapter two the interpreter is a man, Daniel. In chapter seven the interpreter is a holy angel from the divine council scene. World history from man’s perspective is triumphal idolatry, while from God’s perspective it is beastly carnage. Miller admits “there may be truth to it.” [x] Walvoord concurs, “…world history from God’s standpoint in its immorality, brutality, and depravity.” [xi] In the economy of Jesus Christ where the meek “shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5), it should not be dismissed as fanciful.

To be continued…

[i]Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998), 217.

[ii]Stephen R. Miller, vol. 18, Daniel, Includes Indexes., electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1994), 192.

[iii] Miller, Daniel, 196.

[iv]Henry Allan Ironside, Lectures on Daniel the Prophet., 2d ed. (New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1953), 117.

[v]Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Daniel” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 85.

[vi]Archer, “Daniel”, 86.

[vii]John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key To Prophetic Revelation (Galaxie Software, 2008; 2008), 148.

[viii]Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged, Includes Index. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1987), Ant 11.337-338.

[ix] Ryken, Wilhoit, Longman et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 368.

[x]Miller, Daniel, 218.

[xi]Walvoord, Daniel, 151.

Why Eschatology Matters Part One

Christianity is an Eschatological Worldview

Pop culture tells us that waiting is for losers, why not seize the day and have your best life right now? Admittedly, patience, persistence, perseverance are not my favorite words. They convey yearning, unsatisfied expectations and unrequited love.  While Augustine advised “Patience is the companion of wisdom”, waiting is always proportionately difficult to the object of one’s passion. Accordingly, a milestone of maturity is met when a child learns to delay gratification. Remember as a teen anticipating your driver’s license? The wait seemed interminable. Rites of passage creep ever so slowly. Yet one finally arrives at adulthood and then ponders, “Is this all there is?” Christianity answers this question with a profound negative. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

Despite the sentiments of those who relegate the book of Revelation to the first century, Christianity is a profoundly eschatological faith. It’s inescapably so. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes, “The theological framework of the entire New Testament is eschatological.”[1] The Greek word for the end is eschaton, in this context meaning when God brings our present age to consummation. There is a tension inherent in the Christian worldview that eclipses all the yearnings of adolescence. It is the groaning of creation itself (Rom 8:22). Skeptics of the bible err when they pose the problem of evil, even natural evil, as contradictory. For it is not as if God has ignored it. Evil was served notice at Calvary and we await it’s eviction at the eschaton. Revelation chapter twenty assures the believer it is imminent and given biblical prophecy’s unrivaled record of literal fulfillment our confidence is deserved. Evil will not stand long in God’s economy.

The Jews in Jesus’ generation had an eschatological worldview. They believed they lived on the very threshold of time, when God would miraculously intervene into history and bring peace and justice. The source of their hope was scriptural. The new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah will be realized (Jer 31:31–34; 32:38–40). Sin and disease will be vanquished (e.g., Zech 13:1; Isa 53:5). An era of prevailing righteousness (e.g., Isa 11:4–5), when humanity will peacefully coexist (e.g., Isa 2:2–4) and even the law of the jungle will be supplanted by love (e.g., Isa 11:6–9). They were justified in their hope but the majority missed the mark. I can certainly sympathize with their error. After all, the supreme God, creator of the universe, had exclusively entrusted them with his written revelation. Surely as His people they were first in line?

The Jewish Eschatological Hope

The Eschaton

This Age

(Satan’s Time)

The Age to Come

(The Messianic Kingdom)



Demon Possession

Evil triumphs



Holy Spirit

Peace and goodwill

The Son of Man will come with the clouds of heaven.  In the presence of the Ancient of Days, He will be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations, and men of every language will worship Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

God had in fact promised that a day was coming when “men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zec. 8:23). Their racial pride blinded them to the international aspect of that promise. But not merely pride, they were understandably frustrated. They had rebuilt the holy temple after subjection to the Babylonians and Persians only to suffer the supreme indignity by Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtering swine on the altar of God as an offering to Zeus. Thus a national myopia set in, the Jews saw themselves separate and supreme. Where this fails is in not seeing the underlying spiritual deception influencing these nations. We do not struggle against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. God wants to redeem people of all nations and races.

Eschatological tension reached fever pitch when John the Baptist announced “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John the Baptist was widely regarded as a true prophet and stands squarely in the prophetic tradition that the Day of the Lord points much more to darkness than to light for those who think they have no sin (Amos 2:4–8; 6:1–7).[ii] Imagine the horror of the Pharisees and Sadducees when John called them a “brood of vipers” (Mat 3:7) and admonished them not to presume their favored status. Later Jesus himself used the same language (Mt 23:33). The Prophet Isaiah had listed specific miracles that only the true Messiah would do. Jesus set about doing each one (e.g., Luke 11:20; Matt 11:2–6) much to the chagrin of the offended religious leaders.

Jesus had announced that the kingdom was at hand (e.g., Mark 1:14–15; Luke 17:20–21) and authenticated himself with the correct signs. The Jewish apostles that made up the early church of course recognized this. Jesus wanted it to be known, even reading from the prophet Isaiah to confirm his intention. Luke records in chapter four “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Lk. 4:17-19)

This was straight from Isaiah 61:1-2 and He also boldly proclaimed “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21). Yet it is quite telling that he stopped halfway through Isaiah 61:2 where “the year of the Lord’s favor” is followed by a comma then “and the day of vengeance of our God.” And there is the rub; the Jews wanted avenging yet Jesus stopped short. No one had understood that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and the political kingdom entailed two visits with an indefinite interlude reserved for the redemption of the heathen nations. This is where Judaism is still left hanging today, in fact, hardened until the fullness of the gentiles comes in (Rom 11:25). Sadly, they are still waiting “on him whom they have pierced” (Zec. 12:10) because they would not acknowledge His first appearance.

To be continued…

[1]Fee, Gordon D. ; Stuart, Douglas K.: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, S. 145

[ii]D. A. Carson, “Matthew” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 103.

Sir Isaac Newton on Prophecy & Discernment

I was perusing some of Isaac Newton’s writings on prophecy over at the Newton project and it dawned on me how similar his view was to mine. Keeping in mind my last post here, read Newton’s thoughts on the value of end time prophecy:

“If then the Prophesies which concerned the Apostolique age were given for the conversion of the men of that age to the truth & for the establishment of their faith, & if it was their duty to search diligently into those Prophesies: why should we not think that the Prophesies which concern the latter times into which we  are fallen were in like manner intended for our use that in the midst of Apostacies we might be able to discern the truth & be established in the faith thereof, & consequently that it is also our duty to search with all diligence into these Prophesies. And If God was so angry with the Jews for not searching more diligently into the Prophesies which he had given them to know Christ by: why should we think he will excuse us for not searching into the Prophesies which he hath given us to know Antichrist by? For certainly it must be as dangerous & as easy an error for Christians to adhere to Antichrist as it was for the Iews to reject Christ. And therefore it is as much our duty to  indeavour to  be able to know him that we may avoyd him, as it was theirs to know Christ that they might follow him.

Thou seest therefore that this is no idle speculation, no matters of indifferency but a duty of the greatest moment. Wherefore it concerns thee to look about thee narrowly least thou shouldest in so degenerate an age be dangerously seduced & not know it. Antichrist was to seduce the whole Christian world and therefore he may easily seduce thee if thou beest not well prepared to discern him. But if he should not be yet come into the world yet amidst so many religions of which there can be but one true & perhaps none of those that thou art acquainted with it is great odds but thou mayst be deceived & therefore it concerns thee to be very circumspect.” Source: The Newton Project

The point that Newton makes about God holding them accountable for understanding the prophecies is true.  Daniel had written the 70 weeks prophecy specifically enough that the Pharisees should have recognized when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey presenting himself as Messiah. Jesus certainly held them accountable for knowing the prophecies,

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”  (Luke 19:42–44, ESV)

Newton wrote  “Antichrist was to seduce the whole Christian world and therefore he may easily seduce thee if thou beest not well prepared to discern him.” Might Jesus hold you accountable as well?