Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Animal Sacrifice in the Millennial Kingdom

There is an interesting debate among dispensational premillennialists as to whether or not animal sacrifice is resumed during the millennial kingdom.

Uber-dispensationalist John Walvoord contends that it is,20which I gather is the majority opinion of at least the classic school.

In a nutshell, the argument is quite simple:

  1. The millennial temple is described in Ezekiel 40:1-46:24. It is identified as the millennial temple because the detailed specifications do not match either Solomon's temple or the post-exile temple. That is, since this temple has obviously never been built, it is taken to be a prophesy of the millennial temple.

  2. The same passage that describes the temple also gives details related to ritual sacrifice:

    39In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. 40 By the outside wall of the portico of the gateway, near the steps at the entrance to the north gateway were two tables, and on the other side of the steps were two tables. 41 So there were four tables on one side of the gateway and four on the other-eight tables in all-on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. (Ezek. 40:39-41)

If the temple prophesy must be taken literally, then so, it would seem, must the descriptions of sacrifice. (Further details are found in Ezekiel 43:18-46:24).

We non-dispensationalists view this "trap" as the dispensation of being hoisted with one's petard.

According to Walvoord, additional support for this future sacrificial system (and for observance of the Sabbath in the millennium) is found in Isa. 56:7, Isa. 66:20-23, Jer. 33:18, and Zech. 14:16-21.

Resumption of animal sacrifices is not affirmed by all premillennialists, but it seems to me to be a logical conclusion derived from their literal hermeneutic. One wonders if its rejection by some premillennialists is an inconsistency stemming in part from the knowledge of the revulsion the very idea of a reinstitution of sacrifices causes in amillennialists and postmillennialists.

Walvoord correctly anticipates the objections raised by the opposition, including pretty much the entire book of Hebrews. In particular the familiar passages:

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Heb 7:27)

Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26)

The explanation of the dispensationalists is somewhat ingenious. Just as the sacrifices under Mosaic law looked forward to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, the millennial sacrifices look backward, memorializing the same event. The sacrament/ordinance of the Lord's supper is gone, having vanished with the raptured church. The resumption of animal sacrifices, it is taught, is the new old way to memorialize Christ.

According to dispensationalist A. C. Gaebeleinas quoted by Walvood:
What a meaning these sacrifices will have! They will bring to a living remembrance everything of the past. The retrospect will produce the greatest scene of worship, of praise and adoration this earth has ever seen. All the Cross meant and all the Cross has accomplished will be recalled and a mighty 'Hallelujah Chorus' will fill the earth and the heavens.

Note that dispensationalists do not claim the sacrifices are any more expiatory than the Mosaic practice. They are retrospective in the same way that the sacrifices of antiquity were prospective.

20 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, Zondervan, 1959.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Yet more on "Preach Only to the Elect?"

My previous post caused a bit of an uproar, both in its comment section and over at Josh S’s I need a stiff drink (Sept. 26).

I have been anathematized by Christopher Jones and labeled a heretic by Karl Thienes (get in line guys, behind the Roman Catholics and various Protestant fundamentalists, such as those who have elevated to a test of orthodoxy the KJV, a young-earth view, and/or dispensational premillennialism).

I have also been "accused" of being an intellectual. I do not think that is a bad thing, but that is not the point; the title does not apply to me. I am a reductionist, not an intellectual. That is almost the opposite. My physics background demands it. The charge of over simplifying may apply to me, but not over intellectualizing.

Anyway, let us reexamine the post and then I will address some of the comments.

First of all, the debate is really an internal debate among Calvinists. If you do not believe in unconditional election, for example as described by the Westminster divines:
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

then Gerstner’s hypothetical encounter would of course just seem like more foolishness.

The interesting question is why do some Calvinists get so upset by it?

So to my Arminian friends, try to ratchet up the argument one abstraction level: I know you would find the encounter foolish, but that is a different debate. Try this instead: taking, for the sake of argument, the doctrine of unconditional election as a presupposition, is Gerster's hypothetical encounter self-consistent?

The Westminster Confession also adds:

Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved

Many times Calvinists will say that there is an inward and an outward call, or an effectual and an outward call. The effectual call is heard only by the elect while the outward call goes to everyone (or "many", as in Matt. 22:14).

Gerstner is objecting to this construction, basically along the following lines as I understand him.

The outward call, or the "call by the ministry of the Word" that is both heard and understood by many are commands: repent, believe, follow. All men are so commanded; all will be judged according to their response. This establishes the unforgivable sin: unbelief.

Only the elect will respond to the gospel, it will be foolishness to anyone else, and the elect respond to it only because they have been given a new heart, i.e., only because they have been regenerated.

The bible teaches what we call evangelism thusly: go forth and preach the gospel, making disciples of all the nations.

Gerstner connects the dots:
  1. Evangelism means to preach the gospel
  2. Only the regenerate elect will respond to the gospel
  3. Therefore evangelism is to reach (and make disciples of) only the regenerate

Gerstner would not argue against the truth that everyone should be told that they must believe or they will perish. He would argue against telling everyone that Christ died for them.

Did Christ die for those in hell? If the person standing before you is not of the elect, doesn't your Calvinism tell you he is forever spiritually dead and will never be saved? If so, how can you tell him truthfully that you know Christ died for him? Isn't that rather cruel, like handing a deaf person a Mozart CD?

How is this position inconsistent with unconditional election? How is it inconsistent with Particular Atonement? (Remember, this is an internal or a self-consistency debate, Arminians do not need to state their obvious displeasure.)

Gerstner is not alone in this position, as some have suggested. Many, many others have said and written essentially the same thing. Spurgeon famously addressed a question as to why he doesn’t preach just to his precious "elect" with a response along the lines that he would, if they could be identified.

Let me address some of the comments.

Joel Garver wrote:
Blech. This whole approach to things would be pretty close to anathema to quite the swath of Calvinists too.

I am underwhelmed by the scripture Joel employs to negate Gerstner’s position. It seems to be a scorecard argument. I already know that I travel in different Calvinistic wings than Joel. He asserts without proof that his camp holds the majority view (the swath). In the past he has directed me to seventeenth century French theologians whom I have never read. And the Calvinists I tend to read (such as Gerstner or Sproul or Spurgeon or Packer or Edwards) tend to, I suspect, cause Joel to roll his eyes: Oh "those" Calvinists. The crazy aunts in the attic. (Although, for what it is worth, which is very little, they are as a group as credentialed as any other.) I am reminded of the anecdotal response of the Long Island socialite upon learning that Nixon was elected: How could that happen? Everyone I know voted for McGovern!

Evan Donavan made several comments:
OK. This is just bizarre. Gerstnerism is a very small subset of Calvinism, last time I checked.

This is unsubstantiated and essentially the same argument as Garver's. I'll add that even if Calvin disagreed with Gerstner, it is irrelevant. Calvinism is a doctrine, not a cult. It happens to be named after the great John Calvin, but that does not mean that Calvin would agree with everything that, for example, is summarized by the Westminster Confession.

And over on Josh S’s blog Evan added:

"Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price"
Gerstner would not object to using this passage when witnessing, any more than he would object to using John 3:16. How could he? He is saying, and I agree with him, that in response to a direct question of Did Christ die for me? The truthful response is I don’t know. If you come to Him, then yes He died for you. Is this response too brutal? Will it drive an elect away from Christ? Surely no Calvinist could believe such a thing.

Evan also wrote
Everyone is spiritually thristy. Only those whom the Spirit quickens will recognize that thrist. And yet all could come if they were willing.

It depends on what you mean by spiritually thirsty. If you mean everyone seeks the true God then you are wrong. If you mean everyone is spiritual in some new-age sense, then I suppose the statement is correct. And the all could come if they were willing is hiding the fact that God does not choose to make everyone willing. So again, I think you have put God in the position of offering Mozart to the deaf. You say God offers it, but they won't accept because He doesn't quicken them. Gerstner would say that God is not cruel. God commands all men, but doesn’t call those who have no chance to respond.

Over at Josh S’s, Steve P wrote, quoting my post:
" This made my day: [when Heddle wrote]

Of course this is anathema to Arminians (and Catholics, which are a subset thereof)"

…isn't it wonderful that smart people can say such ludicrously stupid things?
The statement is tautological. It cannot be "ludicrously stupid". Surely I say and write and say many ludicrously stupid things, but if write that everyone is either A or not A I think I am on firm ground. There are only Calvinists and Arminians among Christians. Everyone falls into one of these categories. The labels are not meant to be pejorative, simply descriptive. Catholics and many (most) Protestants are not Calvinistic, therefore they are Arminian. A fairly succinct way to put it is that you either agree or disagree with this elegant statement from the Council of Trent:
If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

(You may not agree with the anathema part, but Arminians would agree that the position argued is the correct one; Calvinists would not.)

Another way to say the same thing is that Arminians would argue that Christ did die for those in hell, because His death made them savable, but they failed to respond. Calvinists disagree. To us, Christ's death did not make everyone savable; it actually accomplished salvation for some.

Mark Horne wrote
Odd conclusion to an entry that began with the great commission. Say a prayer? What's wrong with "Repent and be baptized" ?
He didn’t write why it was odd. And neither I (nor Gerstner, I suspect) find anything wrong with "Repent and be baptized".

MarcV had a long comment which is consistent with his theology, which (correct me Marc if I am wrong) is not Calvinistic. I would not expect him to agree with Gerstner.

Christopher Jones anathematized me for preaching a different gospel. I commend him, for we are told to do exactly that. That is why the Catholic Church was correct in anathematizing the Reformers: indeed they preached a different gospel.

Over on his blog, Josh S. ranted quite a bit. Some of his points included:
Does not the very grammar of Luke 5:32 indicate that Christ came to call sinners to repentance

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32).

You have made Gerstner's point. Christ has not come to call everyone. The very verse you chose indicates exclusion. Unless the righteous (which presumably means the self-righteous) are the empty set, Christ's own words indicate that he didn't come to call them. Christ calls sinners, not the righteous—who do not see their need for His blood. Who sees their need for Christ? Not the unregenerate who are incapable of seeking Him (Rom 3:9-18), but the regenerate.
How are people regenerated if not by the Word? Does not Paul say "how can they believe if they have not heard, and how can they hear if a preacher is not sent?"

Here Josh is confusing "regeneration" with "believing". The first logically precedes the second. An unregenerate man will never believe. Therefore preaching the gospel to someone who is unregenerate is like speaking to a corpse. The words fall quite literally on deaf ears. However a regenerate person must, at least normatively, hear the gospel—at which point he is capable of and hopefully will, at that time, freely accept it. That is why we evangelize. That is why we send forth preachers.

Like MarcV, Josh S. is consistent with his own theology, but has not demonstrated how Gerstner is inconsistent with Calvinism, which is what this is really about.

Craig accuses me of being anti-sacremental:
David Heddle's views are anti-sacramental because he follows the Calvinist line that sacraments are not themselves the work of justification and/or sanctification, but adjuncts to the real event that does or does not take place elsewhere.

In Calvinland, there is no correlation between baptism and regeneration.

In Calvinland there most assuredly is a correlation between baptism and regeneration, just as there is a correlation (a perfect one, at that) between regeneration and faith, regeneration and good works, etc.) I do not believe that the sacraments are "purely" symbolic. So how am I anti-sacremental?

Finally, Karl Thienes wrote:
There are some heresies that are so hideous and devoid of beauty and paradox that *only* the intellecual will be impressed by them.

Again, I am not an intellectual, but maybe Karl is directing this at Gerstner, who was.

I am sure I’ll be updating as more kudos are added to the comments.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Preach Only to the Elect?

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20)

This, you no doubt recognize, is the Great Commission.

All but postmillennialists view it as either as a fool's errand or of being relatively modest in intent. That is, it is either a command from Christ at which the church will fail miserably or it has already been achieved on a scale that hardly warrants the adjective "Great". Postmillennialists are alone in looking for its success on a grand scale prior to the return of Christ.

However, that is not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is that it specifically says: make disciples of all nations.

Notice too, how evangelizing is always described as preaching the gospel. The number of passages is vast.

In contrast, while New Testament believers are described as converts, but we are not instructed to go forth and make converts.

Most evangelism is wrongheaded. It seeks the impossible and the uncalled for: to convince an unbeliever to believe, to aid and abet regeneration. That is not what we are instructed to do. We are supposed to glorify God by preaching the gospel, and to teach (make disciples).

One cannot make a disciple of an unregenerate person. And therein lies the kicker:

Evangelism is intended only for the regenerate, those already saved but still infants in their rebirth. They may appear to be unbelievers, but if God has not already quickened them from their spiritual death then they are corpses, and corpses will not respond to the gospel.

Of course, there is no way to tell if a person has been made alive. So the bottom line is still to preach the gospel (not push for a recital of the sinner's prayer) to everyone and anyone.

Of course this is anathema to Arminians (and Catholics, which are a subset thereof)—the very thought that evangelism is intended for the saved not the unsaved might send them writhing in paroxysms of agony.

What is surprising, however, is that is also appears to make many Calvinist's minds reel. And yet it is an obvious conclusion.

Sheep listen to His voice, not goats.

The gospel is for sinners, not the self righteous. Sinners are called, not the (self) righteous. Repentance is a gift that is granted; like faith it cannot be self-mustered, therefore those who recognize themselves as having sinned against God will respond, because they have already been made alive. The "righteous" will not listen and will not respond.

In Gerstner’s book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth he describes a hypothetical encounter between a Christian and an inquirer. It goes something like this:

Inquirer: Did Christ die for me?

Christian: Truly, I do not know. But I do know that if you will believe on Him, His blood will wash away your sins.

Inquirer: But may I come now?

Christian: Of course.

Inquirer: But can I come?

Christian: What is stopping you?

Inquirer: I am. I do not find it in my heart.

Christian: Whose fault is that? Do you think God put unbelief in your heat? Whose unbelief is it?

Inquirer: Is it not His fault for not giving me faith?

Christian: I was not aware that God was indebted to you. If He is, then salvation is not by grace but by law and justice.

This may not be the way you choose to witness, but there is nothing wrong with it. Everything he says is supportable. Contrast this with the pervasive and presumptuous easy-beliefism offer of salvation by challenging someone to pray the sinner's prayer "sincerely".

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Church Unforeseen

Today let's take a quick look at one of the primary dispensationalist doctrines of the church:

The church age is a mystery unforeseen by the Old Testament Prophets.

To emphasize that I am not putting these words into the mouths of some of the most learned and respected classic dispensationalists, here are are some direct quotes:

"The first prediction relative to the true Church was uttered by Christ, being recorded in Matthew 16:18." 1

"The founding and success of the church during the Time of the Gentiles was a mystery, not explained until New Testament times." 2

"Dispensationalists have regarded the present age as a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament." 3

"It has been illustrated how this whole age existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament." 4

"The church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament." 5

"The Church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament." 6

Is that what the bible teaches? Well, no it is not. To quote just two passages:

And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days (Acts 3:24, NASB)

These words from Peter come after Pentecost, which is considered by dispensationalists as the beginning of the unforeseen church age. So Peter says that "these days", which are by the dispensationalists own definition in the unforeseen church age, were spoken of not by "no prophet" but by all the prophets.

Also, from the prophet Joel:

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28, NASB)

This prophesy was fulfilled at Pentecost, again the very day the church age is said to have begun.

1 L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 4:374.
2 J. F. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis, p. 50.
3 J. F. Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, p. 227)
4 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 137.
5 Ibid., p. 193.
6 Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), p. 136.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Slandering Dispensationalism

I am getting ready to discuss dispensationalism in my Sunday School on the end-times. What will actually be in my notes is an objective-as-possible view of classic Dallas dispensationalism insomuch as that, not progressive variations, is what is relevant for the topic at hand.

By the way, I didn’t complete Lesson 3 last Sunday, and next Sunday I will be away, so I probably will not teach on dispensationalism until October 11.

To me, the fascinating questions regarding dispensationalism, about which I will be posting in the next few weeks, are:

  • Does its literalist hermeneutic drive its theology as its adherents claim, or is the logical order the reverse? Was literalism adopted to help explain a structure that has been unnaturally imposed on scripture?

  • Are dispensationalists who also claim to be Calvinistic, such as John MacArthur, really Calvinistic, or are they Arminians (who perhaps are loath to admit it)?

Other related questions include:
  • Is a literalist hermeneutic is a good idea in the first place?

  • Can dispensationalists be consistently literalistic, even in terms of prophecy?

  • Is Revelation entirely futurist, or has some (or even all) of its prophecy already been fulfilled?

  • Can you be a four point Calvinist?

  • Is a foreknowledge view of predestination compatible with historic Calvinism?

But those questions are for later. What I want to talk about today is my hope to avoid slandering dispensationalism. It is not because I have a fondness for the doctrine, I don’t. It is because it serves no purpose. It is like dismissing Catholicism because it teaches "Mary worship". It doesn’t. It teaches Marian fiction, some of it not just absent from but actually inconsistent with scripture. But nowhere in the Catholic Catechism is there a proclamation of Mary’s deity and a command to worship her. Essentially, it teaches that Mary was more like Adam and Eve before the fall. They (prefall Adam and Eve, and, according to Catholicism, Mary) aren’t the same as us, but they were human, not gods.

Simple inaccurate straw-man criticisms just make the speaker or writer appear foolish.

It grieves me that I read such a slander in Philip Mauro’s otherwise splendid book The Gospel of the Kingdom. When addressing the question if the Jews accepted the offer of the Davidic Kingdom, (an offer which dispensationalism asserts was genuinely made by Christ but summarily rejected by the Jews), what would have become of the crucifixion? Mauro writes:
And particularly, when we press the vital question, what, in case the offer had been accepted, would have become of the Cross of Calvary, and the atonement for the sin of the World, the best answer we get is that in that event, "atonement would have been made some other way." Think of it! "Some other way" than by the Cross!
Mauro offers no citation for this damning quote. If anyone has an attribution for this quote, please do let me know. I would like to be wrong about this.

Dispensationalism does not teach that the cross would have been unnecessary. The onset of the Davidic Kingdom, had the offer been accepted, would have been after the resurrection. (Mauro is correct, however, that neither the offer nor its rejection is recorded in scripture.) What would have been rendered unnecessary is the present church age. The Apostle Paul, in particular, would presumably have remained an unknown tentmaker. Since the church age might not have happened, then the church age had better not be prophesied in the Old Testament, for had the Jews accepted they would have instantly rendered any such prophet as a false prophet, not to mention the scriptures as unreliable.

In due course, we shall see that the Old Testament is not silent about the church.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I was wrong on Free Will

I have been reading John Gerstner’s book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth—A critique of dispensationalism. It is truly amazing, and has modified my thinking on several fronts, most notably on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, a doctrine that I realize I didn't fully understand and have shortchanged.

I intend to write about that very soon, probably this week.

Gerstner is often blasted by Arminians on one front, the hoisted-with-their-own-petard Reformed academic elite on another, and the Reformed Baptists on a third, who at times label him a "hyper-Calvinist." (In truth, Gerstner is a true Calvinist, while his critics are something else altogether, especially those who proclaim the cognitively dissonant "four point Calvinist" mantle. One of his "problems" is his old-school call-a-spade-a-spade bluntness. I absolutely love the way he thought and the way he wrote.

He also reminded me that others used to speak just as bluntly before tolerance and political correctness infected us all. For example, Spurgeon wrote "Calvinism is just another name for Christianity". And if you think Gerstner is acerbic, read Philip Mauro's cogent but brutal attack on dispensationalism The Gospel of the Kingdom, (Gospel Press, 1927), which is available online. In the good old days, people certainly made it clear where they stood.

Anyway, at one point Gerstner writes emphatically that it is an misrepresentation of Reformed theology to say that God violates man's will. I have been saying exactly that (God violates man's will) all along (and people like Joel Garver have been telling me I was wrong). However, it was not until I saw it in black and white in Gerstner's book (without any explanation, he just wrote that it is wrong) that I reconsidered my position.

My argument was always:
  • Before regeneration, man has a free will, but his problem is that he will never choose what he doesn't want, and what he doesn’t want is God.
  • After regeneration, he now wants God and, of his own will, he chooses God.
All this is true, but then I sloppily concluded that God "violates" the will when He regenerates.

I was guilty of, at the least, imprecision.

Man is endowed with a free will that is the same before or after regeneration. It will be the same free will that he carries with him to heaven or hell. That will is not violated.

The will however, is like an engine. The input, or the fuel, is man's heart. The output is man's actions and deeds. It is not the will that is changed, but the heart. Same engine, but different inputs— which then results in different outputs.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezek. 36.26).

So there you have it—I felt the need to clean up some of my terminology.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Comparative Views of the End Times (Lesson 2)

Overview of the Four Views

Today, in preparation for in-depth studies, we will give a final overview of the four views we have been discussing. Our goal is to understand the basic rudimentary positions and chronologies of the four views before we begin investigating underlying theology, scriptural support, and scriptural weaknesses.

Recall that, of the four views, two are premillennial, meaning that Christ returns before the millennium of Revelation 20. These two are dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism. Two views are postmillennial, teaching that Christ will return after the millennium. These are amillennialism and postmillennialism.


Postmillennialism teaches that Christ will return after the millennium, and that the millennium is a future golden age on earth where the church will reign victorious.

I’m not dead yet

Postmillennialism reached its apex in the American church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its optimistic outlook fit nicely in the "Age of Reason (and science)", but it suffered two near fatal blows in the twentieth century:

  1. Overall optimism with man’s ability to affect beneficial change through education and science was replaced with pessimism born of two world wars, genocide, and the advent of weapons of mass destruction.

  2. Postmillennialism became "guilty by association" with other optimistic perspectives, including secular progressivism (man can improve the world on his own) and religious liberalism (man is basically good and can improve the world if he gives occasional credit to the big grandpa in the sky.)

In The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), Hal Lindsey wrote:
No self-respecting scholar who looks at world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a postmillennialist.

Dispensationalist J. Dwight Pentecost put it this way:

Postmillennialism is no longer an issue in theology. World War II brought about the demise of this system.

Actually, I’m feeling better

Nevertheless, postmillennialism has fought back, and is once again on the increase. The first criticism is answered by pointing out that things might already be getting better, especially if one views long term trends, and also if one takes into account the non-Western, non-white Christian church. In addition, it is not what is happening now that is relevant, but what scripture promises will occur before the Second Coming. The second criticism is rebutted by stating clearly that, unlike the secular progressives and religious liberals, postmillennialism does not suggest that the golden age is achieved by man’s efforts through better government, increased education, etc., but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Basic Features

The basic features of postmillennialism are: 11, 12

  • The Messianic Kingdom was founded on earth during the earthly ministry of Christ in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The New Testament church is the transformation of Israel, the Israel of God about which Paul writes:

    Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16)

  • As the gospel spreads throughout the earth and brings its divinely intended and Spirit-energized results, evil (and perhaps an antichrist) is routed and the millennium arrives.

  • During this era, Satan is bound and the nations live in peace. The great commission will succeed. The kingdom of Christ will gradually expand.

  • After the millennium ends, Satan is loosed to lead a final, short-termed (and doomed) rebellion.

  • Satan’s rebellion is ended by the triumphal return of Jesus. Only in postmillennialism does Jesus return to a church victorious (a victory achieved through His power, not man’s). In all other views, Christ returns to a church on the run.

  • The Second Coming is followed by the general resurrection, the judgment, and the eternal state—heaven and hell.

Smooth Transition

Another feature of postmillennialism is there is no discontinuity. The church age gradually transits into the millennium, perhaps even imperceptibly. As more are regenerated through the Holy Spirit, there will be a diminishing of evil in human affairs, but this will occur slowly. The changes that occur will be changes in extent, not content. 13

Postmillennialism’s dominance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is reflected in some of the great hymns of that era. For example Lead On O King Eternal (#483 in our hymnals) contains these postmillennial lines:

For not with swords loud clashing, Nor roll of stirring drums; With deeds of love and mercy, The heav’nly kingdom comes.

The hymn Joy to the World! Which we sing as a Christmas carol, is actually proclaiming Christ’s Sceond Coming (not His first) from a postmillennial perspective.

Dispensational Premillennialism

During the twentieth century, dispensational premillennialism replaced postmillennialism as the dominant viewpoint among American evangelicals. At its apex, it was so pervasive as to become a test of orthodoxy, like the doctrine of the Trinity or The Incarnation. Theologian Clarence Bass wrote of his encountering this position (that dispensational premillennialism is an essential of Christianity):
Even today some of my dearest friends are convinced that I have departed from the evangelical faith. No affirmation of my belief in the cardinal doctrines of the faith—the virgin birth, the efficaciousness of Christ’s death, the historicity of the resurrection, the necessity of the new birth, even the fervent expectancy of the personal, literal, actual, bodily return of the Lord to earth will convince them because I have ceased to rightly divide the word of truth. 14

Dispensational Premillennialism has two aspects that make it very appealing:

  1. It employs a literal hermeneutic of interpreting biblical prophesy.

  2. It seems to fit very well and even "foresaw" the current state of the world, especially in regards to the Middle East. The creation of Israel in 1948 was a spectacular boost to dispensational premillennialism. The break-up of the Soviet Union, the secularization of Israel, and the over-expansion of the European Union has restrained some of its excessive prophetic boasting.

Basic Features

Dispensational Premillennialism has the most complex feature set and chronology of all the views: 15

  • God offered the Davidic Kingdom to the Jews. They rejected it, and it was postponed to the future.

  • The current church is a "parenthesis", unknown to the Old Testament Prophets.

  • God has separate programs for the church and Israel.

  • The church will continue to lose influence, ultimately becoming apostate at the end of the church age.

  • Christ returns secretly to rapture the church before the tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel). The church is taken to heaven to stand before the "judgment seat of Christ" and celebrate “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19)

  • On earth, the appearance of the antichrist marks the beginning of the tribulation.

  • After the tribulation, Christ will return to fight the battle of Armageddon. Israel acknowledges Christ as the long awaited Messiah. Christ establishes and administers a Jewish political kingdom based in Jerusalem for 1000 years. Satan will be bound, the temple will be rebuilt, and animal sacrifice will be re-instituted.

  • Those who are converted during the tribulation, including the 144,000 Jews, go on to repopulate earth.

  • Near the end of the millennium, Satan will be released and Christ will be attacked at Jerusalem.

  • Christ will call down judgment from heaven and destroy His enemies. The (second) resurrection and the (Great White Throne) judgment of the wicked will occur, initiating the eternal order.

Historic Premillennialism

In the modern era, historic postmillennialism is increasing. Some scholars believe that as classic dispensationalism wanes, its former proponents, desirous to hold on to a premillennial view, are turning to the older variant. Grenz writes:

Many of the evangelical thinkers who rejected classical dispensationalism remained staunchly premillennial. Consequently, for guidance in the constructive theological task they took another look at the history of doctrine. To their delight they discovered that a tradition of non-dispensational premillennialism has been present in the church at least since the patristic era.
Basic Features

The basic features of historic premillennialism are: 17
  • The New Testament church is the initial phase of Christ’s Kingdom, as prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. 18

  • The church may win occasional victories in history, but ultimately she will fail in her mission, lose influence, and become corrupted as worldwide evil increases toward the end of the church age.

  • The church will pass through a future, worldwide, unprecedented time of travail (the Great Tribulation), which will punctuate the end of contemporary history.

  • Christ will return at the end of the tribulation to rapture the church, resurrect dead saints, and conduct the judgment of the righteous.

  • Christ will then descend to earth with His glorified saints, fight the battle of Armageddon, defeat the antichrist, bind Satan, and establish a worldwide political kingdom which will be personally administered by him in Jerusalem for 1000 years.

  • At the end of 1000 years, Satan will be loosed and a fierce rebellion will ensue. God will intervene with fiery judgments to rescue Christ and the saints. The resurrection and judgment of the wicked will occur and the eternal state will begin.

The main feature distinguishing historic premillennialism from dispensational premillennialism is the post-tribulation rapture. The blessed hope of the church, according to historic premillennialists, is not the rapture but the Second Coming.

However, the main theological underpinning that distinguishes the two premillennial views is that historic premillennialists believe that the church is indeed the new Israel, and that covenantal relations between the God and the Jews have passed over to the church.

Unlike postmillennialism, the millennium is not inaugurated gradually, but suddenly through the appearance of Christ at the end of the tribulation. Also unlike postmillennialism, historic premillennialism anticipates a gradual deterioration of conditions. Christ returns to “rescue” a church in retreat, not to be welcomed by a church victorious.

Historic premillennialists anticipate worldwide peace and harmony during the millennium. They also look for the effects of the fall on nature to be removed or greatly mitigated during the millennium. The age will enjoy a cessation of hostility among the animals and man:

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:8-9)


Amillennialism sounds of if it teaches no millennium. In fact, what is holds is that the millennium is now. Proponents prefer to be called present or realized millennialists.

Basic Features:

  • The present church age is the millennium; it is also the Kingdom era prophesied in the Old Testament.

  • The New Testament church is the "spiritual" Israel. However, some amillennialists hold that, for example, the phrase "all Israel" (as found, for example in Rom. 11:26: and so all Israel will be saved ) might indeed refer to ethnic Jews, but unlike dispensationalist view they are not the Jews of an eschatological nation of Israel but the elect among the Jews, i.e. the remnant.

  • Satan was bound, or more accurately restrained, during Christ’s ministry, particularly when he was defeated on the cross and in the initiation of the great commission. Consider Luke 10:18:

    And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. (Luke 10:18).

    Given that this is spoken to the 70 returning disciples, an amill might view it as referring not to Satan's original fall but to the reduction of his power concurrent with Christ’s ministry.

  • Christ is ruling now through the hearts of believers. The Kingdom of God is now. Thus amillennialists are delighted with verses that read "The Kingdom of God (or Heaven) is at hand”, which they say implies a near term fulfillment.

  • Toward the end of the age, evil’s growth will accelerate (Satan’s is unleashed, for a short while, as described in Rev. 20) culminating in the tribulation and (possibly) the appearance of the antichrist.

  • Christ will return to end history and judge all men. The same glorious consummation described in all views.

Unlike postmillennialism which has a gradual or evolutionary aspect to it, amillennialists actually proclaim the biggest discontinuity of all the millennial views. The present church age, is the Kingdom of God. Satan is already bound although not completely powerless (hence the paucity of demonic possession?). Throughout this age, a diminished (but strengthening) kingdom of evil will coexist with the Kingdom of God. Both will be replaced virtually instantly (in the twinkling of an eye) with the eternal dispensation. There is no 1000 year buffer between this age and the ultimate age. This age, and indeed history itself, will end abruptly with the Second Advent, which will occur in the midst of a final intense persecution of the church.

General Chronology

The main feature of the amillennialist end-times chronology is its simplicity and suddenness. The present age, which is the millennium, ends. The eternal state begins. This is evident in the following summary of William E. Cox, as quoted by Grenz: 19
When the trumpet sounds, things will take place simultaneously. Our Lord will begin his descent to the earth, the brightness of this event will put down Satan, and all the graves will be opened…All the saints will go together to meet the Lord and to escort Him to the earth. …The unsaved … will be forced to bow the knee and acknowledge that this is of a certainty the Christ… They will see the suffering Servant reigning now as Judge of the quick and the dead, and they will seek a place of hiding but will find none:

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Rev. 1:7)

Reasons to be Pessimistic

While postmillennialism is criticized for being unrealistically optimistic, amillennialism is charged with being too pessimistic. There is no rapture to spare believers from the tribulation. Nor is the tribulation reserved for unconverted Jews. The church itself will endure the tribulation (and may be doing so right now) as things gradually get worse, perhaps culminating with the appearance of the antichrist. The is no danger in this view being co-opted by utopian liberal progressives, as was the case with postmillennialism.

The different eschatological views also result in different anticipations in terms of the numbers of people saved. Postmillennialists, who look forward to the ultimate success of the great commission in converting many nations, generally expect a much more "populated" heaven than do the amillennialists.

11 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, pp. 72.
12 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 200-201.
13 Grenz, pp. 71.
14 The rightly divide is a reference to classic dispensationalism, which its proponents claim “rightly divides” God’s plan into (usually) seven distinct dispensations.
15 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 197-198.
16 Grenz, pp.127-128.
17 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 199-200.
18 This is in vivid conflict with dispensationalism, which holds that the present church age was unforeseen by the Old Testament prophets.
19 Grenz, 152-153.

Monday, September 15, 2003

On travel

Work calls -- off to the left coast this week, probably no posting.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The End is Near?

In The LeHaye and Jenkins book Are we living in the End Times? there is a tortured exegesis of Daniel 12:4.

It is used by the authors in an argument that can be summarized as:
  1. Yes many have said that we were in the end times, and they all have been wrong.

  2. This time, however, we are right.
They write:

"Christians have more reason than any generation before us to believe that Christ will return to take us [this generation] to His Father’s house." (pp. ix)

All the past generations failed, the authors tell us, for Daniel was instructed to hide the knowledge until the tribulation:
"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Dan. 12:4, NKJV)
Here is a critical piece of their exegesis:

"Hardly anyone doubts that ours is a day when people are running to and from and knowledge has increased." (pp. x)

They go on to write

"That others before us were wrong about the nearness of the Lord’s return should not deter us from searching, now that some of the end-time prophecies are being unsealed." (pp. xi emphasis mine)

They have snuck in a presupposition that "end time prophesies are being unsealed." Then, ipso facto, from Dan. 12:4, given the astute observation that we are running to and fro and knowledge is increasing, it follows that we have entered "the time of the end", which they take to mean not the tribulation but an unspecified extremely short time preceding it.

They give lip service to passages that suggest we cannot know the timing of His return. Very minor lip service:

"…we wish to state categorically that we refuse to predict that Christ will come in our lifetime, for He may delay His coming another fifty years or more. Still, we believe the evidence is to the contrary. We will quote secular scientists and others who see no possibility for the continued existence of the world." (pp. 23-24, emphasis mine)

A cynic will note that they have in effect put an upper limit (fifty years) on Christ's return that extends just slightly beyond their life expectancy. They will not live to see the day where someone can tell them that they were wrong. This at least means they are cleverer than some of their predecessors who set a date they lived to regret.

I also wonder if they defer to those same secular scientists when they tell them the earth is billions of years old, or is it only when they tell them something that fits, namely that the earth can’t last much longer (a far less sound conclusion, scientifically).

Thursday, September 11, 2003

A few verses to ponder

2.216: Fighting is enjoined on you, and is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.

5.33: The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,

8.12-13: When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. This is because they acted adversely to Allah and His Apostle; and whoever acts adversely to Allah and His Apostle -- then surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).

9.29: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

(Emphasis added—probably unnecessarily)

You can see if these are taken out of context by reading more with this online Koran.

Note there is no analogy between these verses and the difficult passages in the Old Testament, such as in Joshua, where entire cities are laid to waste at God's command. Those were specific this-place this-time one time only commands that, while they hard for us to understand, are far different from the open-ended license to kill and mutilate found in the Koran.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Comparative Views of the End Times (Lesson 2)

Timelines and Other Parameters

It is useful to, in a purely (well, mostly) objective sense, to understand the relevant timelines and other parameters that characterize eschatology.

Before we start, let us remind ourselves of the very basic differences among the different views. We have not formally looked at any of them yet, but keeping in mind their simple definitions will help you to make more sense of the discussion. Soon enough we will be looking at them in detail.


Premillennialists anticipate Christ’s return, following which He will establish on earth a literal, physical and political kingdom. This kingdom will last for a 1000 years (the millennium) during which Satan is bound. To premillennialists, Satan is not presently bound. There are two major flavors of premillennialism, with (among other things) the following timeline difference:
  • Dispensational Premillennialism: Looks for the church to be ruptured, followed by a seven year tribulation (pre-trib rapture), followed by the visible return of Christ to initiate the millennial kingdom.

  • Historic Premillennialism: The tribulation will include the church, followed by Christ’s return to rapture the church (post-trib rapture) and initiate the millennial kingdom.


Amillennialists (many of whom prefer the term present or realized millennialist) do not believe in a literal earthly physical/political kingdom. They believe the kingdom is spiritual, and the millennium is now. It consists of the reign of deceased saints with Christ in heaven. To amillennialists, Satan is presently bound (restrained). They anticipate the end of this age to include a period of increased apostasy and (possibly) the appearance of the antichrist, followed by the return of Christ, resurrection and final judgment, and the onset of the eternal state. Note that amillennialists, while they differ from postmillennialists in many ways, are nevertheless postmillennial—they see the Second Coming as occurring after the millennium. Factoid: Amillennialism has been the dominant view throughout the history of Christianity.


Postmillennials view the millennium as a glorious era of increased righteousness, gospel vitality, and world-wide domination of the church. This leads to an outlook that is unique to postmillennialism: things are going to get better on earth, not worse. Postmillennials look for Christ’s return after this golden age, preceded by a short period of increased apostasy. Christ’s return will herald the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the onset of the eternal state. Postmillennialists are divided over many issues, such as when the millennium begins (or even if it has already begun) and whether the world gradually and almost imperceptibly enters into it, or whether its beginning is a more dramatic event, for example with a readily identifiable defeat of the antichrist and binding of Satan, and a distinct difference between before and after. In many ways an amillennialist is a sort of pessimistic postmillennialist who views the millennium as having started when Satan was defeated on the cross and ending with the Second Coming.

Parameters of the Discussion

With these mini sketches in mind, it is useful to break out some of the points over which the views differ. Some of these differences will not be addressed until we examine the views in greater detail.

The Millennium

The questions regarding the millennium of Rev. 20 include:
  1. Is it literally 1000 years?
  2. Does it refer to the present age or a future golden age?
  3. Will Christ rule from heaven or (physically and literally) from earth?
It is interesting and instructive to look once again at Rev. 20, the only passage in the bible that mentions 1000 years, and ask, stand-alone, which end-times view does it support? That is not critical—we should interpret scripture with scripture, but it is not insignificant either. In particular, what it does not say includes: 5
  • Anything whatsoever about the Second Coming

  • Anything about bodies, resurrected or otherwise (it talks about the souls of those who died)

  • Anything about an earthly kingdom or throne

  • Anything about a rebuilt temple or animal sacrifices

  • Anything about Jerusalem, or Palestine, or Israel

  • Anything about Jewish conversion

  • Anything about righteousness prevailing on the earth

  • Anything about worldwide conversion

  • Anything about Christianization of the nations
In short, this famous passage, taken by itself supports neither the premillennial or postmillennial positions, but (somewhat ironically) the amillennial view. That is because none of the missing elements, each critical for the pre or post millennial view, is relevant for the amillennialists.

The timing of the (visible) Second Coming

Perhaps the most significant question that highlights the differences among the viewpoints is: When will Christ return relative to the millennium? Of the four viewpoints we will examine two (dispensational and historic premillennialism) hold that Christ will return before the millennium. The other two (postmillennialism and amillennialism) teach that Christ will return after the millennium.

Is there one resurrection or two?

Premillennialism anticipates two resurrections, one at the rapture which occurs at the onset of the millennium (give or take seven years), and another at the end of the millennium. Amillennialism and postmillennialism looks for one general resurrection at the end of the millennium, coincident with the Second Coming. It is interesting to not that the historic creeds of the church are not premillennial in a couple of important ways. For example the Nicene Creed includes: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. It would appear to teach a single, coincident judgment of all men, with no intervening gap of 1000 years. It also mentions nothing of an earthly kingdom, and in fact the only kingdom mentioned is the eternal one. Whether the creeds favor the amillennial or postmillennial position can not really be determined.

The Nature of the Kingdom

This is an important topic and when to which we will return often. Basically there are four broad categories of views:
  1. The kingdom is physical and political (chiliasm). Christ is ruling the nations (and an Israel restored to world-wide prominence) on earth.

  2. The kingdom began with Christ’s first advent, but is incomplete. It will be consummated with a physical and political kingdom with Christ ruling on earth.

  3. The kingdom is now. It is spiritual and consists of (un-resurrected) dead saints ruling with Christ in heaven.

  4. The kingdom began at the cross. It is both spiritual and redemptive and will continue to grow as the New Testament church flourishes.

What is God’s plan for the Jews?

The views differ on their view of the future role of national Israel. The different positions can be broken down into three distinct outlooks:
  1. National Israel and ethnic Jews play no further "special" role in God’s redemptive plan. We hope for a massive conversion of Jews to Christianity, but all God’s promises to the Jews were either (a) fulfilled, (b) void because they were conditional promises and the Jews, through apostasy, did not need meet the conditions, or (c) are fulfilled or will be fulfilled in the new Israel, the New Testament church.

  2. A second view, very similar to the first, except that it views a massive conversion of Jews to Christianity as promise. It can be anticipated with certainty, not just hope. This view also holds that the church is the new Israel.

  3. God will fulfill all promises to the Jews with the ethnic Jews. The church is not the new Israel. God has major redemptive work left with the Jews distinct from His dealings with the Gentile church.

The Rapture

All views agree that there will be a rapture, where living believers are caught up in the air with our returning Lord. Most see it as occurring coincident with the visible Second Coming. One view (dispensational premillennialism) anticipates the rapture seven years before the visible Second Coming in what has been described (by opponents and proponents to the view) as a secret second coming that precedes the Second Coming.

Imminence of Christ’s Return

Views differ on whether they believe that Christ's return is immanent, completely unpredictable, or most likely quite far off. Belief in the imminent return of Christ is nothing new. Every generation has had groups of devout Christians (including such luminaries as Martin Luther) that looked around at political and social conditions (and at contemporary antichrist candidates such as the Pope, the Papacy itself, the Turkish Empire, Hitler, etc.) and declared that the end is near. Many today believe the end is near. I don’t, but I hope they are right. 6 Still, it is a fair question to ponder for those who hold that view: Why do you suppose every generation was wrong, but this one is right?

What is to be taken literally?

No consistent view of the end-times has ever been developed that takes all relevant scripture literally. It is a question of which passages are taken literally and which are viewed as symbolic. Dispensationalism prides itself on viewing all prophetic text literally. For example, consider this snippet from the Olivet discourse: "Immediately after the distress of those days " 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' (Matt. 24:29) Dispensationalists take this passage literally, and look for the tribulation to include the astronomical calamities as described. Other views hold that such apocalyptic writing is never meant to be taken literally, and is merely symbolic of the unleashing of God’s wrath. On the other hand, the same Olivet discourse includes timeline references, such as: I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matt. 24:34). Dispensationalists (and others) view "this generation" as meaning something other that its literal interpretation, since they believe the events described have yet to occur some two thousand years after Christ made this prophetic utterance. Others take the "this generation" literally. (You’ll have to wait to see how that works out.)

Outlook for human history

In short, one view is optimistic about the future of human history (postmillennialism) while the other views vary from very to moderately pessimistic. Also under this heading is the question of the extent of human involvement in the advent of the millennium. How much will God employ human efforts? A view that expects a sudden, catastrophic rapture has a very different answer to this question from one that looks for a gradual strengthening of the Church leading to a golden age of Christian world domination. And within the latter view, there is a question of whether humans should push for political change—kind of bringing in the millennium through the ballot box (theonomy and reconstructionism) or just concentrate on evangelistic activities.

The Antichrist

Views will differ as to whether there is or will be a single person identifiable as the antichrist who has yet to appear on the scene, or whether the antichrist is an institution (the papacy has been a favorite candidate). Finally there is the view that the antichrist has already come and gone (usually, in this view, identified as Nero.) Somewhat related is the question of whether Satan is presently bound (restricted from deceiving the nations), will be bound before the Second Coming, or not bound until the Second Coming. All views agree that at the end of the millennium there will be an increased apostasy and Satan will be loosed for a while.

The Seventieth Week of Daniel

We have talked about this a little already. Views differ on the literality of the prophecy, and whether the seventieth week (c.f. Dan 9:27) is contiguous with the first 69 weeks and, more dramatically, whether it is a Messianic prophesy or a portent of the antichrist.

The Day of the Lord

Questions of the meaning of this phrase will arise. In the Old Testament, the phrase "the day of the Lord" is always associated with the terrible appearance of God’s wrath: Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. (Is. 13:6) For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near- a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. (Ezek. 30:3) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD . (Joel 2:31) "The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. (Obadiah 1:15) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD ! Why do you long for the day of the LORD ? That day will be darkness, not light. (Amos 5:18) "The great day of the LORD is near- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. (Zeph 1:14) "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. (Mal 4:5) And in the New Testament: The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. (Acts 2:20) for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Th. 5:2) not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (2 Th. 2:2) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Pet. 3:10) The question that we face is what, especially (but not exclusively) in terms of New Testament prophecy, is the Day of the Lord? Is it the rapture? The Second Coming? The final judgment? the destruction of Jerusalem? Armageddon? Or does it refer to different events.
5 This argument is based on a self-published tract called The Millennium by Pastor John L. Bray. 6 Okay, here is a confession. Last year when I taught Calvinism vs. Arminianism, I believed I was right (after all, who doesn't believe they are right?) and I hoped I was right, for I see nothing but hopelessness and despair in the Arminian view. However, for this class while I still think I am right, I hope I am wrong, because I would welcome an immanent rapture that instantly ended our earthly struggles.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The Day of the Lord

In 1 Th. 4, we read of the Second Coming:
13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Th. 4:13-18)

It is beyond dispute that this passage refers to the Second Coming and the rapture. It speaks of the coming of the Lord, not the day of the Lord. It also answers the concern as to the fate of those that have already died. There is some issue of "tense" in verse 14, but I believe it means that those who have died are already in heaven, just not with a resurrected body. Others believe they are sleeping until the bodily resurrection. No matter, they are/will be with Christ (if they were saved by faith). If we look at another passage:
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:8)
We see that Paul seems to teach that there is a way to be with the Lord while without a body, which argues that the dead saints are not sleeping but in heaven. For at the end of the age, all the saints will have resurrected bodies, and so if the dead saints are presently "sleeping" until the final judgment, that would imply at no time would they be "away from the body and at home with the Lord."

That is a secondary issue. Most importantly, there is not much contention among the different eschatologies (except for full preterism, which we are not addressing) that Paul's is writing in 1 Th. 4 of the Second Coming. When we look into the next chapter of 1 Thessalonians, things get dicey.

1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. (1 Th. 5:1-4)
Hmm. This is tough. The common evangelical interpretation is that the rapture (with or without the visible Second Coming) comes like a thief in the night, that is, without warning. That may be a correct interpretation. It is a natural one in the sense that everyone agrees 1 Th. 4 is about the Second Coming, so it is reasonable to assume that 1 Th. 5 is speaking of the same event.

But maybe not. There are some issues. They are:

• Paul writes of the day of the Lord coming like a thief in the night. Is the day of the Lord synonymous with the Second Coming? Hold that thought for now.

• Dispensational Premillennialists who interpret this as speaking of the rapture, also argue that the signs of the times (especially the establishment of Israel) indicate the end is near. How can pinpointing Christ’s return to this generation be consistent with a "thief in the night" metaphor?

• Is Paul misleading them? He writes "this day should [not] surprise you like a thief." He did not write: "Should it occur in our lifetime, and I don' know that it will, it should not surprise you like a thief." His writing seems to go beyond hoping for the event to prophetic certainty.

The key to this is in the meaning of the day of the Lord. It is a theme that we will come back to again and again throughout this course.

Let us now turn to 2 Thessalonians:
1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Th. 2: 1-12).
I would suggest that there are two self-consistent exegeses:

If 1 Th. 4 and 5 refer to the Second Coming, and 1 Th. 5 uses the phrase day of the Lord, then it would seem that 2 Th. 2, which uses the same phrase, also refers to the second Coming. This is the common evangelical position.

Alternatively, if 1 Th. 4 refers to the Second Coming, and 1 Th. 5 refers to something else, then 2 Th. 2 would also refer to that "something else", the so-called day of the Lord.

So in the first view, 2 Th. 2 also refers to the Second Coming. Mathison in his book on Postmillennialism points out but a few of the problems with this interpretation. I will paraphrase his points:

• If it is referring to the Second Coming, how could the Thessalonians be worried that it had already occurred? Given that Paul taught them in 1 Thessalonians that it was associated with the rapture and resurrection. Did they think that everyone in their entire community was "left behind?" Did they think Paul was left behind? Or were they thinking of some other event, and wondering if it had occurred? (As had apparently been reported in a counterfeit epistle.)

• If Paul is trying to reassure them that the Second Coming has not yet occurred, why would he do so by telling them "the man of lawlessness has not been revealed and is being held back?" Such a scenario is not consistent with any view of what the earth would be like had the Second Coming occurred. Would he not appeal to more obvious rebuttals, such as: hey I’m still here, and all of you are still here, let's get real people.

• All of this passage refers to something that has not yet happened, but is categorically about to happen. It is not "hoped" that it will happen, as in we hope Christ returns today, but Paul is talking about something that definitely will happen soon. He spoke of the man of lawlessness (a man, not Satan) who was being restrained now, and about the power already at work. So it is hard to imagine that he is speaking of the Second Coming, unless once again we assume he misled the Thessalonians.

The second view suffers none of these problems. It does have the following presupposition:

In the first epistle, Paul is answering two concerns from the Thessalonians. The first is what will happen to those who have already died? This is answered in 1 Th. 4. The second concern is: When is the day of the Lord? This unspecified event is addressed in 1 Th. 5 and later in 2 Th. 2, when there is another question raised, one of a false report that it had already occurred.

For many of us, the answer seems obvious (although that doesn't make it right.) The day of the Lord refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., an event we will talk about more. This is an event that is underestimated in terms of its awfulness, it significance, and its role in redemptive history. The man of lawlessness (he doesn't have to be identified as the antichrist, although he might be, if there is such a man) who was already alive at the time would then be Caesar Nero.

Monday, September 08, 2003

What is missing in Revelation 20?

It is interesting and instructive to look once again at the only passage in the bible that mentions "1000 years" and ask, stand alone, which end-times view does it support? This is not critical—we should interpret scripture with scripture, but it is not insignificant either.

So, once again, here is the millennium passage:
1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. 7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
(Rev 20:1-10, NIV).

Now let us look at, not what this passage says, but what it doesn't say. 1

In particular, what it does not say includes:
  • Anything whatsoever about the Second Coming

  • Anything about bodies, resurrected or otherwise (it talks about the souls of those who died)

  • Anything about an earthly kingdom or throne

  • Anything about a rebuilt temple or animal sacrifices

  • Anything about Jerusalem, or Palestine, or Israel

  • Anything about Jewish conversion

  • Anything about righteousness prevailing on the earth

  • Anything about worldwide conversion

  • Anything about Christianization of the nations

In short, this famous passage, taken by itself supports neither the premillennial or postmillennial positions, but (somewhat ironically) the amillennial view. That is because none of the missing elements, each critical for the pre or post millennial view, is relevant for the amillennialists.

Just some food for thought.

1 This argument is based on a self-published tract called The Millennium by Pastor John L. Bray

Friday, September 05, 2003

The Troublesome "reasonableness" of symbolic interpretation

In studying eschatology, we are often confronted with difficult apocalyptic writings, for example in Daniel, Revelation, and the synoptic gospels. While they cannot be avoided, they will never serve as satisfactory "proof texts" for a position, for they can be twisted to support any view.

The apocalyptic and symbolic passages become more "plausibility arguments" than direct support. My favorite example is from Daniel:
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Dan. 9:27)
Premillennialists interpret the "he (who) will put a stop to sacrifice" as the antichrist. Other views interpret as Christ. The antichrist in some views, Christ in others, and in all cases "reasonable" given their presuppositions.

Another example is in Revelation. In chapter 19 we read of the rider of the white horse:
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
(Rev 19: 11-16)

This is followed in Revelation 20, by the (only) description of a 1000 year millennium.

In one of the stronger arguments in favor of premillennialism, its proponents view the rider of the white horse in Rev. 19 as Christ, and the event symbolized in Rev. 19 as the second coming. Then the two chapters, reasonably assumed to be chronological, place the second coming before the millennium. Bad da bing, you proved premillenniealism.

Not so fast. The postmillennialists also acknowledge the rider as Christ. They also agree that the two chapters are chronological. However, they differ on what Rev. 19 is describing. Their view is that it is not symbolic of the second coming. Rather it is symbolic of the triumph of the gospel throughout the church age and the means by which the nations are Christianized. They view the sword and the Word being used to "strike down the nations" as another promise of the success of the Great Commission. They also point out the similarity with this verse in Hebrews:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

This is the parallel evangelical version, with the same elements, the word and the sword. Striking down the nations refers, in this view, to invading and liberating them through evangelism. Also sounds reasonable.

And then there are the preterists and amillennialists, who have different (reasonable) interpretations.

Therein lies the problem, for obviously at most only one view can be correct. That is why we should turn first, when possible, to non apocalyptic writings.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

616 or 666?

Just a mini-post today. A small reminder of something most of you probably know.

We all are familiar with this verse from Revelation:
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Rev. 13:18)
The problem is, some very early manuscripts contain not 666 but 616! Think of all the Herculean efforts that have gone to waste in symbology and numerology.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

New Comment System

I have switced comment systems. Alas, all old comments are lost. Hopefully this system will be more stable.

Rail number 3: The role of women.

The third rail of the modern Christian church is the issue of the role of women.

When a pastor is courageous enough to mention a controversial man-woman-differences passage, for example about women being weaker vessels, the standard practice is to hit the passage quickly, almost in passing, and then spend the rest of the sermon beating up on the men regarding their considerable and neglected responsibilities to their wives. The theory seems to be that we can placate the women if we don't dwell on such passages too much, and if we spend considerably more time on the roles of husbands and on what jerks men are.

Who can blame them? Virtually nothing can cause deeper and more rapid divisions in a church. Not many people, pastors included, have an overwhelming desire to lean into a left hook.

Possibly no issue is more vexing or more contentious.

Still, there are those pesky passages.

And danger abounds. The history of Israel, Christ's treatment of the Pharisees, and the letters in Revelation teach us that:
  1. God will treat gently the church that errs despite an honest attempt to discern His intent from scripture and prayer.
  2. He will deal much less gently with churches that flagrantly and willfully ignore unambiguous instruction. Liberalism is not God honoring.
  3. He will also deal forcefully with those that impose rules and regulations that he never intended. Legalism is not God honoring.

The Gut Instinct Rule

Personally, I like the gut instinct rule, which is more biblically based than it sounds. And it is not really a rule, but more of a gut instinct guideline. We must employ a hermeneutic when interpreting these passages, and I think this is a proper one. It involves the technical subject of wiggle room.

Wiggle Room

Wiggle room is imprecise, but we know when it is exceeded. Wiggle room means that reasonable people, with the intent of interpreting scripture properly and not just to fit their agenda, can disagree. Views on eschatology fall into that category. Tolerating unrepentant homosexual activity does not.

Wiggle room does not mean that you can stretch the words in a passage to their most inclusive possible meaning and then drive through. Scripture is not written with the precision of a legal contract. Violation of the clear spirit of the words is as bad as violating the letter.

Since the bible is (a) inspired and (b) at times difficult, it then follows that God purposely made his word, in places, hard to understand. Why? I don't know. My guess is that it is more glorifying for us to dig into scripture and submit ourselves in prayer seeking discernment than just to follow a crystal clear set of rules.

With a scientific appreciation for wiggle room, we are ready for the gut instinct guideline:

On areas where there is no wiggle room, the church must hold firm. Prohibition on women pastors and elders is such an area.

The above is an example of a corporate regulation on church conduct and government. The worship service and leadership structure should reflect such clear biblical teachings in no uncertain terms.

There are also personal rules with no wiggle room, for example, the prohibition against adultery. Violations of such rules must not be tolerated by the church, either by policy or by ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. They must be addressed proactively.

Where there is wiggle room we must again distinguish between the corporate and the personal. If it is a personal issue, then we must be tolerant, despite the negative connotations of that word.

It is when there is wiggle room and the issue is corporate that we find the thorny problems. What to do if reasonable God-fearing people disagree on an issue that affects the whole body, for example an issue of church order. You cannot accommodate both a belief that women should be silent and a belief that women are permitted to pray in front of the body. A decision has to be made.

Here we must, under the guidance of the elders and with input from the body, establish a tradition for the local church. They (the leadership) must do so after struggling mightily to discern God's instruction. They must cast aside bias and concern for role counts. The body must pray for wisdom for its leadership. And then, that leadership must announce and explain its conclusions unambiguously. Traditions are always subject to a periodic revisit, but for the next period, of whatever duration, the church's stance must be clear. Those who in good conscience disagree might leave. If they do, both they and the church should handle the separation with love, sadness, hope, and prayer.

With the gut instinct guideline in mind, let's look at a few troublesome passages. One of the more puzzling is from 1 Corinthians:

2I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
3Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved. 6If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
11In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice--nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:2-16)

One of the arguments brought to bear on this discussion is that the passage is (a) highly cultural and (b) possibly directed to a particular obnoxious group of disruptive and contentious Corinthian women.

There may be some truth to that. Some aspects, namely those that address personal appearance, appear to be so specific as to be arguably aimed at a particular group at a particular place and time. It is a red herring, however, to argue that if part of the passage has a cultural explantion then all of the passage does.

The wearing of head coverings is a personal issue. The possible cultural aspects provide enough wiggle room when it comes to head coverings in church, the relevant tolerance clause in invoked. No rule should be made regarding head coverings. We are simply saying God we are unable to unambiguously discern your instruction, so on this matter we are leaving it to each individual's conscience with the recommendation that they seek your will.

Verse 3 is clearly universal, not personal. And no matter how one interprets "head" it establishes a comparison:

God::Christ as Christ::man as man::woman

Here we must be speaking of Christ incarnate who voluntarily became "a little lower than the angels." And man cannot mean humankind, for its substitution renders the verse nonsensical.

I don't know what this verse means in detail, but it is clear that (a) it is universal and so cannot be ignored and (b) its only reasonable general interpretation is that a difference exists in the roles of men and women and (c) the difference between men and women is one that includes an aspect of authority, since that is evident in the God to Christ (incarnate) and Christ to man relationships to which the man to woman relationship is compared.

Verse 5 is also significant. It possibly repudiates those who would use other verses to say that women should be utterly silent in church, for it clearly indicates that there are times when a woman is vocal. The key is whether the entire passage, especially in the context of the complete epistle, must be taken as instruction on church order, not private behavior in the home. If this passage describes church order, then if there is a proper way for women to pray, then it is clear that woman may pray. However, one can also argue, reasonably, that in chapter 10 Paul is speaking of basic Christian behavior, At the beginning of chapter 11 he is writing not of church order but generically on men and women, and around verse 16 of chapter 11 he segues into church order.

I am of the former persuasion, that Chapter 11 is applicable in toto to church order. Thus I believe that it demonstrates that utter silence is not demanded of women in church. Other passages do place restrictions, I believe, on the manner in which a woman can pray aloud before the body.

However, I see this as a wiggle room issue. I can understand someone who comes to the latter conclusion, that this applies to women in private and therefore does not repudiate the view that women should be silent in church. A tradition is in order here. I would not join a church in which the women had to remain utterly silent. On the other hand, I could not say that they were categorically wrong or had crossed over into pharisaic legalism.

Note also that wiggle room should not accommodate inconsistency. It seems to me, for example, an interpretation of this passage that (a) demands women wear head coverings in church and (b) does not refute utter female silence is inconsistent because in reaches the first conclusion by interpreting the passage as applying to the worship service and the second conclusion by interpreting the same passage (indeed the same verse) as applying to private conduct.

So, to summarize my understanding of this difficult passage:
  1. We are unambiguously told that men and women have different roles, although those differences are not spelled out. Furthermore, v8 and v9 demonstrate that this difference was built into creation; it is not a result of the fall. The fall exacerbated the differences, and also made them contentious.
  2. The question of head coverings, hair length, etc. is difficult to understand because of possible cultural specificity. It is therefore best left to the conscience of the individual.
  3. Reasonable people might differ on whether v5 repudiates a regulation on utter and total silence for women in church. I think it does, with stipulations to be found elsewhere.

Another relevant passage is found in 1 Timothy:
11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Tim. 2:11-15)

Verse 11 certainly subject to some interpretation. One way to look at it suggests that women should be good students: they should pay attention (no talking in class) and be submissive to the instructor. Looked at this way, Paul must have had experience with women who were disruptive, for he clearly addresses women in particular, even though it is obvious that men should be good students as well. (Kind of like when I got married, the pastor, aware of rampant divorce in my family, said "David, marriage is a life-long bond." The specificity was not because the rule applied only to me, but based on history.) Another way to look at it is that Paul is providing additional restrictions on the freedom of women in a situation of public instruction. Be extra quiet. Do not be argumentative. Be in submission.

To me the latter interpretation "smells" right.

Verse 12 is totally unambiguous. No wiggle room. Women should not teach men, nor have authority over them. In this regard, she must be silent. Nothing can change the plain meaning of this passage, so there are no possible debates among reasonable people.

Alas, nothing is ever so easy. There is still the difficult question of when does a boy becomes a man? We are going to need a church tradition here, for the bible does not specify a precise age, although a compelling argument based on Jewish tradition can be made that 13 is a reasonable though imperfect cutoff.

I tend to agree. At 13, most boys have entered or are about to enter puberty. Some women argue that this is when they most need instruction from women, especially on how to treat girls and women. I could not disagree more. They know in theory how to treat girls and women. The problem is that culture and their male buddies (even in Christian schools) are telling them something different: Nod your head when a woman says you should treat us with respect. Go along with it. But we know the truth is that they are toys for us to play with. To me it is clear that boys need a strong man, one that they respect, to tell them how to treat women properly. To hear from a man the implications of the fact that both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons while distinct in their manhood and womanhood.

But those are just common sense reasons. I have no biblical support. My input would be that women should not teach boys (in a formal Sunday school setting) above the age of 13. I believe exceptions occur (we hold back our older son who is autistic, because he is not ready for advanced high school instruction.) I would not leave the church if the elders stated that, after careful biblical consideration, our policy is that it is acceptable for women to teach junior high. I probably wouldn't leave if the church said it was acceptable for women to teach high school, although I would pull my boys out and put them in the adult Sunday school. I would leave if the church had female teachers in the adult class. All I can do, like everyone else, is to try my best to discern God's truth and then draw my line in the sand.

I have no confidence that I understand the application of verses 13-15. However, that is not relevant for this discussion. For even if I don't know what they mean, in this context, it is clear that they affirm that differences, traceable to creation, exist between men and women. More telling, those differences are used to justify the role distinctions of verses 11 and 12. In what manner they justify is not obvious, but the intent is clear, for Paul begins v13 with the word For. That clearly implies that what follows is a justification for what was just asserted.

Enough said. Go forth and argue.