Saturday, January 31, 2004

Some answers to comments on my previous creation post...

  1. Tim, Your "not necessarily a valid test of orthodoxy" (a belief in a literal six day creation and, by extension, a young earth) is not very precise. It either is or it isn't.

  2. I like MacArthur, but he is dispensational, so I understand why he takes Genesis literally. That said, I never understand "don't believe (a) because it might lead to (b)" arguments. Like "don’t believe postmillennialism because it might lead to liberalism". These are essentially "you can't handle the truth" arguments. If the earth is old, should we still teach a literal six days creation because it is "safer"? (Actually I have wondered about this--should I just keep quiet about this question lest I endanger the faith of others? Then the Calvinist within reminds me how foolish that notion is.)

  3. As I put in a footnote, lexicographic ambiguities regarding yôm open the door for some old-earther's to claim literality--given that they affirm the chronology of Genesis (sea life before mammals, historicity of Adam and Eve, etc.) To me this argument (over the correct translation for yôm) is not critical (affirming the historicity of Adam and Eve is critical), but it is oft-heard in the Christian wing of the intelligent-design community.

  4. Regarding the literality of Genesis: Perhaps the most important verse in Genesis is the first Messianic prophecy of Gen. 3:15. That critical verse, as we all know, was not fulfilled literally. Christ defeated Satan on the cross, but He did not literally crush Satan's head nor did Satan strike His heel.

  5. I have very poor opinion of creation scientists, answersingenesis, etc. In some sense I hope my worst suspicions are not valid, that many have latched on to a niche cottage industry, not unlike the writers of countless prophecy books. They talk the talk of science, but they use a combination of bad science, quotes from scientist-atheists—especially those with their own niche economic concerns (the late ungreat Sagan) that demand outrageous statements, and anecdotes from isolated scientific blunders, all to weave a fiction. Nobody, for example, has credibly explained how different radiometric methods produce consistent (i.e., within their error bars) dates in the billions of years, geological evidence that is consistent with various and unrelated cosmological dating methods. And how the same physics (quantum mechanics) that supposedly conspires to give wrong (but consistent) answers works so flawlessly in the semi-conducting chips inside the computers they use to post their silliness.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Inexplicable Insistence in Reformed Camps on a Literal Six Days.

More and more I see it. Where I don't expect to find it. Insistence on the cardinality of a literal six days of creation in Reformed, Covenantal schools of thought.

It is almost ubiquitous. It is found in mainline Reformed denominations like the PCA, which are becoming more liberal, and in more conservative antagonists, off-shoots, and internal fringe groups like the pharisaical "Biblical Patriarchy" movement that claims, among other things, that even sending your kids to Christian school is non-biblical, they must be home schooled, and no youth groups or children's Sunday School. (But they are blog fodder for another day.)

I can understand such a view in dispensational thinking. Dispensationalists take just about everything literal, except obvious metaphors (and the atoning sacrifices in the millennial temple). They are at least self-consistent when they demand a literal six days interpretation of creation.

The Reformed, on the other hand, consider the literal hermeneutic decidedly low-brow. Ezekiel's Temple is not to be taken literally. Descriptions of astronomical calamities are not to be taken literally. The thousand years of Revelation 20 are not to be taken literally. Many things are not taken literally. But the six days, those must be taken literally.

Otherwise intelligent scholars are as brazen in their dogma as they are light in their reasoning.

Gentry writes, dogmatically, not exegetically, in an otherwise excellent book:

Each of the six days in creation was a literal twenty-four hour day: (1) Day is qualified by "evening and morning", which specifically limits the time frame. (2) The very same word day is used on the fourth day to define a time period that is governed by the sun, which must be a regular day…1

One would like to ask: You call yourself Reformed, because you view the church as having been reformed in the sixteenth century so as to get back in line with the early church. Do you recognize the irony of your position? Many of those revered church fathers (not to mention modern titans such as Francis Schaeffer) would not be eligible to be a deacon in your churches because they did not affirm a literal six day creation.

Augustine? Forget about him. To Gentry, Augustine is apostate, at least in this matter. For Augustine "was evidently inclined to think God created all things in a moment of time, and that the thought of days was simply introduced to aid the finite intelligence."2 Augustine’s "instantaneous" creation is as non-literal as an old earth view, 3 and by one mathematical measure far more radical: 14 billion years is a finite multiple of six days, but six days is infinitely (times) larger than nothing.

The evidence is strong that many church fathers, including Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, thought creation took six thousand days, a la 2Pet. 3:8. One reason is that Adam did not die (literally) when he ate the fruit, even though God told him in that day he would die (Gen 2:17—see NASB). How to reconcile? Adam lived less than one thousand years, so he did die in that day, as long as a day is a thousand years, ergo all the Genesis days are a thousand years. Jump forward a couple thousand years and we are telling Justin Martyr and other fathers, that if they listen to their elders and stop all this foolishness some day they might be eligible to be a church officer. That's in the tolerant churches. In some, they'd be booted.

Now many big shots throughout church history did believe in a literal six day creation, including John Calvin. But what they did not demand was elevating the interpretation to a litmus test of orthodoxy. No, that plank of legalism is relatively modern. It was invented as a misguided attempt to combat evolution. Evolution requires lots and lots of time. If the earth is young, the theory is deprived of the necessary time.4 So dogma was created in the hope that it would prevent the faithful from being seduced by science.

Madness. Anti-science madness. Propagated by the ignorant. By people like Douglas Wilson and, it grieves me to say, Kenneth Gentry.

1 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, footnote on p. 102.
2 Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 4.33-34, 52-53.
3 Actually, many proponents of the old earth "day-age" view claim their interpretation is literal, and only the English translation of the Hebrew yôm into day renders the view apparently non-literal. The same word, when translated into day elsewhere, does not seem to demand among young-earthers a literal 24 hour interpretation. Not many would claim, for example, the day of God's Wrath has to last exactly 24 hours.
4 There are very strong model-based arguments that the "old earth" is already way too young for evolution to have occurred as postulated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 10)

Things Are Not Getting Better

Postmillennialism must always address the seemingly obvious criticism that things are not getting better.

This criticism actually requires no response, because if the Bible teaches that things will get better, then they will get better regardless of the present world conditions. And if, as postmillennialists assert, the Bible teaches of the success of the great commission, then Christians who deny that eventuality are in fact guilty of not believing what God has revealed. To disbelieve God's promise, because it seems impossible, is to make the same mistake Sarah did:

10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master] is old, will I now have this pleasure?" 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh." But he said, "Yes, you did laugh." (Gen. 18:10-15)

(Isn't that a priceless exchange between God and Sarah?)

Nevertheless it is amusing to address the criticism non-biblically.

There are many quotes from pre- and amillennialists, that pronounce a death sentence of postmillennialism. A typical one (from a Reformed scholar!):

The advent of two World Wars not only transformed yesterday's optimistic modernism into today's pessimistic Neo-orthodoxy, but virtually rang the death knell upon conservative postmillennialism as well…. Currently, postmillennialism is considered all but a dead issue. It is spurned as highly unrealistic because it predicts a golden age around the corner in a day in which the world nervously anticipates momentary destruction by nuclear warfare. 186

But nobody does it better than Hal Lindsey:

There used to be a group called "postmillennialists." They believed that the Christians would root out all the evil in the world, abolish godless rulers, and convert the world through ever-increasing evangelism until they brought about the Kingdom of God through their own efforts. Then after 1000 years of the institutional church reigning on earth with peace, equality and righteousness, Christ would return and time would end. These people rejected much of the Scripture as being literal and believed in the inherent goodness of man. World War I greatly disheartened this group and World War II virtually wiped out this viewpoint. No self-respecting scholar who looks at the world conditions and the accelerating decline of Christian influence today is a "postmillennialist." 187

Now, by either ignorance or malice aforethought (I don’t know which would be worse) Hal Lindsey slanders the postmillennial position. Postmillennialism dos not teach that the Kingdom of God is brought about through man’s efforts (but through the power of the Holy Spirit) nor does it proclaim "the inherent goodness of man."

As we see, the world wars were prominent reasons for declaring the end of postmillennialism. Gentry answers this rhetoric with some of his own:

Who won World Wars I and II? Did the anti-Christian forces of evil overwhelm those nations wherein resided the greatest missionary forces for Christianity in the world? Was the world made a more dangerous place for Christianity because of the defeat of Japan and Germany? 188

Looking at the overall trend, there is no doubt that the church has grown dramatically over the centuries, and if there has been a recent decline (not at all clear unless one focuses solely on the western world) it has not wiped out the gains of two thousand years. The postmillennialist believes the hope implied in the promise that God’s word "shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). The irony, as Gentry notes, is that "we sit in a free land, in a comfortable bible believing church, dressed in our 'Sunday best', holding one of our many personal Bibles (the world’s largest selling book) debating on whether there has been any advance in Christianity since its persecuted inception 2,000 years ago!"189

Turning the Tables

Presently, the geopolitical argument, so popular in the 20th century among dispensationalists, can now actually be turned around. Up until 1990, dispensationalists scoffed at the notion of Communism's collapse.

What peace of mind it brings to Christians as the end times approaches. What a cause for rejoicing that righteousness, not Russia, shall ultimately triumph. The triumph of Christ over Communism [at His imminent return] emphasizes the folly of getting side-tracked in spending our time primarily in opposing Communism rather than in an all-out proclamation of the gospel of Grace. 190

What we have instead, with the fall of Communism (with God’s grace, but not requiring the Second Advent) are headlines like

  • Religion Gains Momentum in Soviet Union191
  • Prayers and Bible Welcomed in the Kremlin192
  • Albania Awakes from Atheism193
  • Churches gain favor with Castro, see Spiritual Awakening194
  • New Law extends Religious Freedom195
  • Evangelism finds place on new Soviet Agenda196
  • Scholars are detecting a growing interest in spiritual matters in France and throughout Europe197

No postmillennialists would argue that these headlines prove their doctrine. They would only point out how silly is to use the newspaper rather than the bible to form an opinion on the correctness of an eschatology. As Gentry writes:

Nothing in the postmillennial definition requires either relentless forward progress or a reaching of the height of postmillennial advance by any particular date, [only that] before the end—whenever that might be (Matt 24:36) the kingdom of God will have reached world dominating proportions. 198

Furthermore, Gentry asks, why has dispensationalism not been discredited by its constant cry that the end is at hand? Recall LeHaye’s quote: "The fact that we are the generation that will be on earth when the Lord comes certainly should not depress ... [I]f you are a Christian, after reading this book you ought to know that the end is near!"199 Oh, and then there is:

The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (Hal Lindsey), 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988 and The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 (E. C. Whisenant), Sword Over America (R. Ruhling, M.D.) Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny (G. Jeffrey) which brings us up to the year 2000, and titles such as: Planet Earth—2000; WILL Mankind Survive; I Predict 2000; Prophecy 2000: Rushing to Armageddon; How Close Are We?; Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ; ….

Recently I read the following on dispensational website (from memory)

As you know, we have been asserting since the end of the first Gulf war that Saddam Hussein was the agent of evil who would rebuild Babylon according to prophecy. We were wrong. However, the defeat and capture of Saddam actually makes it more likely that Babylon will be rebuilt, as the necessary monies begin to flow into Iraq from the west as part of the rebuilding.

Another common dispensational and amillennial complaint is that postmillennialism undermines watchfulness. Best selling dispensational author David Hunt said: "There is [in postmillennialism] an increasing antagonism against eagerly watching and waiting for Christ’s return." Typical postmillennial responses are along these lines:

  • To expect the Lord in out lifetime is not a prerequisite for true piety—this would be to base the Christian life, in most generations, upon a falsehood. 200

  • This argument has been stated in various ways, all of which assume that men cannot expect and watch for the coming of Christ and be stimulated and safeguarded by the thought of it unless they can believe that it may take place ‘at any moment.’ This argument is not valid. A mother may live in the constant, ever-present hope of seeing her absent boy, even when she knows that he is on the other side of the globe. Intensity of affection disregards time and distance. Seven years was a long time for Jacob to serve for Rachel; and he had made a contract with Laban and knew that he would be held to the letter of it. Yet the years seemed to him 'like a few days' for the love he had for her. (Gen 29:20) 201

Next we will look at some Biblical arguments against Postmillennialism.

186 Jay E. Adams, The Time is at Hand, 1966, p. 2.
187 Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth, 1970, p. 176.
188 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 441.
189 Ibid.
190 Aldan A Gannet, "Will Christ or Communism Rule the World?" Prophecy in the Seventies, Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. (Moody Press) 1971, pp. 64-64.
191 New York Times release, Greenville Piedmont, Oct. 7, 1991, A-1.
192 Christianity Today, Oct. 7, 1991, pp. 42-43
193 Christianity Today, May 27, 1991, pp. 52-54
194 Christianity Today, Jan. 14, 1991, pp. 46ff.
195 Christianity Today, Nov. 5, 1991, pp. 76ff.
196 Christianity Today, Dec 17, 1990, pp. 39ff.
197 World Magazine, Nov 29, 2003, p. 30.
198 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 444.
199 Tim LeHaye, The Beginning of the End, 1972, p. 172.
200 Macleod, "The Second Coming of Christ", Banner of Truth, Nos. 82-83, July/Aug 1970, 20.
201 O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p.169.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 9)

Ezekiel's Temple

Ezekiel's extensive vision of a restored temple (Ezek. 40-48) is a source of great confusion. It has been described as the "Achilles heel" for dispensationalism, because self consistency is seemingly impossible, viz.

  • The explicit details given by Ezekiel argue for a literal interpretation. The temple will be rebuilt, according to Ezekiel's exacting specifications, in the millennium. This is the strongest part of the dispensationalist's argument.

  • The details, however, turn out to be a two-edged sword that gets the dispensationalist into trouble quickly. As we will see (and have seen) Ezekiel's description would seem geographically impossible.181 Since one could always ague, without possibility of refutation, that God will simply, even though scripture is silent on the event, alter the geography (placing large mountains and mighty rivers where presently there are none) this problem can be swept under the rug. The more serious problem comes from the detailaded description of atoning animal sacrifices. Dispensationalists disagree on how to handle this (while fairly pointing out that non-dispensationalists cannot agree on a figurative interpretation of Ezekiel's temple). The two common dispensational interpretations are:

    1) Yes there will be animal sacrifices, but they are commemorative, not atoning, and are necessary because the heightened spirituality and paucity of sin in the millennial kingdom will put its inhabitants at risk of forgetting that a blood sacrifice was required for their ransom.

    2) The reference to sacrifices is not to be taken literally. 182

The second view is a candid admission of a deviation from literalism. However, the first view also deviates from literalism, for while it acknowledges that there must be sacrifices, since Ezekiel describes them, it ignores the fact that he describes them not as commemorative but as atoning, e.g: you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord GOD, a bull from the herd for a sin offering. (Ezek. 43:19)

Postmillennial Interpretation

The postmillennial position is part negative, part positive. The negative part is to demonstrate how the vision cannot be taken literally. Here are some of the reasons:

  • The temple site is on a very high mountain (Ezek 40:2) . There are no high mountains in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

  • There is a river so vast that its fresh water desalinates the Dead Sea and leaves it teeming with life (Ezek 47:6-12). This requires a flow rate far beyond any known river, and clearly there is nothing resembling this source in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

  • There are many references to atoning sacrifices and ceremonial laws (Ezek. 40:39; 43:19; 43:21; 43:22; 43:25; 44:27; 44:29; 45:15; 45:17; 45:22; 45:23; 45:25; 46:20) that have been disestablished by the New Testament, e.g. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Heb. 10:18). See also Heb. 7:27; 0:26; 10:1-14.

  • Circumcision would be re-instituted: "Thus says the Lord GOD: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary. (Ezek: 44:9) This also contradicts New Testament teaching (Acts 15; Rom. 2:26-29; 4:9-12; 1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:2-6; 6:12-15; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11; 3:11).

The last two bullets show the literal-temple view to be retrogressive. "Such a position is guilty of Judiazing our Christianity, instead of Christianizing the adherents of Judaism."183

What do postmillennialist say?

They say that the description of the temple as a vision of the present church age. For example, take the description of the great river:

1Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.
3Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through
8And he said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.
(Ezek: 47:1, 3-5, 8-9)

The argument that this is a figurative description of the New Testament church is bolstered by comparison to New Testament passages. Mathison writes: 184

The New Testament provides the keys necessary to understand the references to water in this prophecy. In John 7, Jesus declares that from the innermost being of those who believe in Him "shall flow rivers of living water" (7:38; cf.3:5; 4:13-14). In the next verse, John explains that this water is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Earlier in John's gospel, Jesus declares Himself to be the true temple (2:19-21). Jesus, then, is the true fulfillment of the temple prophecy of Ezekiel. And He is the One who, after His ascension to the right hand of God, sends forth the Spirit as the river of living water (cf. Acts 2:33). The river in Ezekiel begins as an ankle-deep trickle and gradually deepens until it reaches the depth of a large river. This is an astounding representation of the [postmillennial teaching of] gradual increase of the Spirit's work in the present age.

And Gentry would add: 185

John 4:21 anticipates the removal of the temple order: Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Various other Old Testament prophecies are found to transcend the Mosaic pattern of worship in the temple environs. (Isa. 19:19; Jer. 3:16; Zech 14:21; Mal. 1:11) Which shall we follow? References that transcend temple worship or those that reintroduce it?

In short, the postmillennial view is that Ezekiel's visionary temple represents the church or, more accurately, Christ Himself. The temple represented the presence of God, or at least the covenantal relationship with God. Christ is the presence of God. This is what Ezekiel meant when he wrote: And the name of the city from that time on will be: The LORD is There . (Ezek. 48:35)

Christ acknowledges that He is indeed a temple when he declares:

18Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" (John 2:18-20)

"We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' (Mark 14:58)

The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. (Matt 21:42)

Everything that was approximated by the temple was realized in Christ, the perfect temple. There simply is no need for a third temple, and Ezekiel's detailed vision foresaw, in terms the Jews could understand, a temple that far exceeded either of those built by man.

181 Not unlike John's vision of a New Jerusalem in Revelation 21: And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. (~1380 miles) Its length and width and height are equal. (Rev. 21:16) Thus the city is a perfect cube with a base about 2/3 of the continental U.S. and a height 4-5 times higher than the space shuttle's orbit
182 The New Scofield Reference Bible, note on Ezek 43:19 suggests the non-literal possibility
183 David Brown, Christ's Second Coming: Will it be Premillennial?, (Still Waters Revival), [1880] 1990, p. 352.
184 Mathison, Postmillennialism, an Eschatology of Hope, pp. 91-92.
185 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p 368.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 8)

It is interesting to look at some common postmillennial interpretations of Old Testament prophecy, keeping in mind the dispensational view already covered.

The Seventy Weeks of Daniel

24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. " (Dan. 9:24-27)

The seventy week prophecy of Daniel 9 is one of the most difficult passages in all of scripture. Consistent with their tendency to hang their hats on the more obscure passages, dispensationalists (according to postmillennial critics) alone attach make-or-break significance to this passage (along with other difficult passages from Revelation and Ezekiel).

Interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationalism…it is the "key" [to prophecy and] one of the most important prophecies of the Bible. As Allis wrote, "the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated." 177

We will not spend a great deal of time on this, because there is general agreement that the first sixty nine weeks-of-years takes us up to the ministry of Christ.

Recall that dispensationalist view. It places the end of the sixty-ninth week at the point where Christ allegedly offers the kingdom (Palm Sunday). As a result of the Jewish rejection, the kingdom was postponed and Christ was crucified. There is an indeterminate gap between week sixty-nine and seventy. At the start of the seventieth week, the rapture occurs. The seventieth week proper includes the tribulation and the rise of the antichrist.

The postmillennial (and amillennial) interpretation is quite different. Verse 26 states that after the sixty two weeks, which follows after the first seven weeks (v. 25), and hence means after sixty nine weeks of the prophecy (and so we are somewhere in the seventieth week) the Messiah is "cut off", i.e., He is crucified.178 This is elaborated upon in verse 27, where we read the he (the Messiah) will put and end to sacrifice (by His own atoning work) in the middle of the seventieth week, i.e., after his roughly 3½ years of public ministry. Verse 27 then concludes that, at an unspecified time later, "and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate…" This is taken to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Dispensationalists accuse their critics of having a "mini-gap theory" of their own, since more than 3½ years (but not more than a generation!) passed from the Crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, a careful reading shows that while an event (the end of sacrifice) marks the middle of the seventieth week, no event marks the terminus of seventieth week. The events of the second part of verse 27 are the consequence of murdering Jesus, and the text does not demand that the abomination that it promises "will come", will necessarily happen within or at the end of the seventieth week. It only states that it will come. It does, however, have to come within a generation, as is identified with the tribulation described in the Olivet Discourse and hence with the destruction of Jerusalem.

If pressed to explain the remaining half of the seventieth week, many argue that the first 3½ years of apostolic work following the Resurrection and Pentecost focused on the Jews, and this provides a logical terminus to the seventy weeks, which is more-or-less a prophecy concerning Jews. This explanation, which may be correct, is not demanded by the scripture.

Apart from the gap that dispensationalists place between week sixty nine and week seventy, you will note one other huge difference. Postmillennialists and amillennialists take the “he” in verse 27 to refer to the Messiah, and that the covenant he makes is the New Covenant. Dispensationalists take “he” to refer to the antichrist, and the covenant to be a covenant of treachery he establishes with the post-rapture left-behind Jews.

Note the use in verse 27 of "confirm" a covenant is better understood with the non-dispensational view, in which the Christ confirms the New Covenant, already prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34. See also Rom. 15:8). The dispensational view is that a heretofore unknown covenant is between the antichrist and Israel.

Mathison argues that the antecedent of "he" in verse 27 is the Messiah of verse 26, and not the "ruler" [prince] of verse 26 is confirmed in several ways: 179
  1. The word "ruler" [prince] is not the subject of the sentence in verse 26, the Messiah is.

  2. The "end" in verse 26 is the end of destruction, not his end.

  3. The Messiah is the focus of the entire passage.

Gentry draws similar conclusions: 180

Although the event that serves as the terminus of the sixty-ninth week is clearly specified, such is not the case with the terminus of the seventieth. Thus the exact event that ends the seventieth is not so significant for us to know. Apparently at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, the covenantal proclamation began to be turned toward the Gentiles.

The indefinite pronoun "he" does not refer back to the prince [ruler] who is to come of verse 26. That "prince" [ruler] is a subordinate noun; "the people" is the dominant noun. Thus the "he" refers back to the last dominant individual mentioned: the Messiah.

Of course, another interpretation renders the whole question of the antecedent of "he" moot. To wit, the prince [ruler] of verse 26 is the Messiah. The "ruler who will come" (verse 26) is in fact "the Anointed One, the ruler" (verse 25). All ambiguity is vanquished. This is consistent with the preterist view that Christ returned in A.D. 70 in judgment and that is was His armies, more so that Titus', that destroyed Jerusalem:

2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' 5"But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matt. 22:2-7)

177 Walvoord, The Rapture Question, p. 24. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, pp. 201, 206. O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p.111.
178 The Hebrew word translated as "cut off" is karath, used to denote the death penalty.
179 Mathison, Postmillennialism, an Eschatology of Hope, pp. 221-222.
180 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p 329, 334.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

On a Vital Christian Doctrine, many Christians agree with Dr. Dean

I try to stay away from discussing politics. There are others such as Joshua Claybourn and Mark Byron who are infinitely more knowledgeable than I, and they also write from a Christian viewpoint. However, a recent comment by presidential candidate Howard Dean caught my eye. In regards to his decision as Governor of Vermont to sign a bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples, Dean said "The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial genetic component [to homosexuality]. From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality was a sin, he would not have created gay people."

This is a favorite topic of mine, in as much that it has aspects of both theology and science. Long time readers will anticipate where I am going with this. I have blogged about it before.

I expect that there will a flurry of writings, some on Christian blogs, about how Dean is wrong regarding his position, which is in effect: God, being just, would not punish homosexuals for being born that way.

In my estimation a majority of Christians would argue that homosexuals were not born that way.

So on the issue of whether (at least some) homosexuals are born genetically predisposed to be gay:
  • Dean (and the supporters of homosexual rights) say yes.
  • The majority of Christians say no.
  • I agree with Dr. Dean. At least qualitatively. Evidence does suggest a genetic factor.

Now, on to what gives this post its title. As to the more important question of whether or not this is theologically relevant :
  • Dean (and the supporters of homosexual rights) say yes.
  • On this point, the majority of Christians agree with Dr. Dean.
  • I disagree. The issue has no theological significance.

It is one of those places where many Christians dig in their heels against scientific evidence, wrong-headedly thinking that an important article of faith is at stake (although in this case, for the life of me, I don't know what it is.)

I will make a bold, inflammatory statement: Any Christian who thinks it is vital to affirm that homosexuals are not born that way is severely deficient in his or her understanding of a vital Christian doctrine: Original Sin.

Question for those who argue that homosexuals are never born that way: Do you presume they were born innocent? Do you know what original sin means? Do you know in paedobaptism what the water signifies?

Because of original sin, we all are natural born sinners. And each of us is responsible for the consequences of his own sins, in spite of the fact that we are predisposed to commit them. Tough rules, but this is the only game in town. Of course, the gospel is the good news that shows the way out of the pit into which we enter the world.

The scientific question is really just a secondary-cause issue. God uses gravity to move the planets around. No doubt He could use our genes to encode original sin.

Christians who argue, in the face of evidence, that no homosexual is born that way display exactly the same ignorance regarding this basic doctrine of the faith (original sin) as does Dr. Dean.

God, being just, would not punish homosexuals for being born that way.

Yes he would. And He would also punish adulterers, coveters, liars, thieves, idolaters—in fact everyone on the planet for being born a sinner. There is only one way out: a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 7)

Postmillennialism and Creation

Postmillennial optimism begins with the creation account. In the biblical account of creation, we immediately see that God has a purpose for creation. He created man in His own image (Gen 1:26) and man's purpose is to glorify God by subduing the earth and having dominion over it. (Gen. 1:26-30). When creation was completed, God proclaimed that it was very good (Gen 1:31).

Old Testament Considerations

Postmillennialists argue that the common thread of Old Testament prophecy is victory. For example, there are numerous passage that speak of the glory of the Lord filling the earth and all the nations worshipping Yahweh (e.g., Num 14:21, Ps 86:9, 97:5,; Is 2:2-3, Zech 9:10). Charles Hodge looks at:

22 "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (Is. 45:22-23)

and argues that "the true religion shall prevail over the whole earth. Jehovah shall everywhere be recognized a worshipped as the only true God" 174

In Isaiah’s vision of the new heavens and new earth:

22 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD , "so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD. (Is. 67:22-23)

we see a vast difference in interpretation. Premillennialists view this as a description of a new material order of the universe inaugurated at Christ’s return. Post-millennialists see it as a moral and spiritual revolution in human affairs fostered by the gospel through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. 175

The Psalms

The Psalms contain some of the most important passages postmillennialists look to for support.

7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD : He said to me, "You are my Son ; today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will rule them with an iron scepter ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Ps. 2:7-9 )

This psalm of victory is often used in the New Testament in reference to Christ at His baptism (Matt. 3:17), transfiguration (Matt. 17:5), and resurrection (Acts 13:33).

Time does not permit us to examine all the promises of victory found in the Psalms. See, for example, Ps. 22:27-28; 47:6-9; 67:1-7; 72:8-11; 72:17; 86:9-10.

We will, however, take a moment to look at one the most eschatologically important passages in the bible:

1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." 2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. 3 Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. 7 He will drink from a brook beside the way ; therefore he will lift up his head. (Ps. 110:1-7 )

In the New Testament, Psalm 110 is cited or alluded to more than any other Old Testament text (e.g. Matt. 22:41-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:33-35; 1 Cor. 5 15-25; Heb 1:13; 5:6; 7:17; 7:21; 10:13).

Psalm 110 is clearly a prophecy about Jesus, not a reference to David, who was never a priest. It leaves no doubt about the outcome of the battle, indicating a complete subjugation of the enemies of Christ.

The Psalm emphatically demonstrates that it is not necessary, as premillennialists would have it, for Christ to be physically present on earth in order to conquer His enemies. The Lord is sitting (indicating his sacrificial work is complete) at the right hand of God (in heaven) until His enemies are defeated, indicating a work in progress. The fact that the Psalm is now in effect is indicated by its numerous New Testament references and in its teaching (affirmed in Hebrews 7) of Christ as the antitype to Melchizadek, who was identified as both king and priest (Gen. 14:18), who blessed Abram after he defeated the four kings.

He is perfectly able to accomplish this from the right hand of God. Verse 2 illustrates the oneness of the Lord and the King. In verse 3, we see a poetic description of Christ leading a volunteer army into battle. Verses 5-7 describe the enthroned King achieving world conquest. 176

To postmillennialists, Psalm 110, like Revelation 20 to premillennialists, is a determinative passage. It teaches, when combined with its New Testament counterparts, of Christ's present reign in heaven where he will remain until His church, through His power, has achieved a total victory.

More OT promises and NT anticipation to come...

174 Charles Hodges, Systematic Theology, 1872, 3:800.
175 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, p. 78.
176 Mathison, Postmillennialism an Eschatology of Hope, pp. 80-81.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 6)

Basic Features of Postmillennialism

The basic features of postmillennialism, which we studied before, are: 161,162

  • 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)

  • The kingdom is spiritual and redemptive, not physical and political.

  • As the gospel spreads throughout the earth and brings its divinely intended and Spirit-energized results, evil 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-lived rebellion.

  • Satan’s rebellion is ended by the triumphal return of Jesus. Postmillennialism alone teaches of 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.

Eminent postmillennialists include Athansius, Agustine162 , Greg Bahnsen, Lorraine Boetnner, John Calvin, Robert Lewis Dabney, John Jefferson Davis, Jonathan Edwards, Eusebius, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, J, Marcellus Kik, Gary North, R. J. Rushdoony, R. C. Sproul, Augustus H. Strong, and B.B. Warfield.

Revelation 19 and 20

Postmillennialists view Rev. 19, and specifically the rider of the white horse (Rev. 19:11-21) as representing Christ victorious over His enemies through the preaching of the gospel throughout the church age. Revelation 20 describes the millennial age and then the Second Coming. Thus postmillennialists agree with premillennialists that Revelation 19 and 20 are chronological, but they disagree on they mean. Ultimately, Revelation 20 is simply not a determinative passage for postmillennialism, which is rooted more in Old Testament prophetic promises of a victorious church, and New Testament indications that those promises are being fulfilled in this age.

In postmillennialism, the transition from the present age to the millennium is gradual and results from forces already at work on the earth. The onset of the millennium is not catastrophic and perhaps not even discernible. If there is a discontinuity at all, it will be of extent, not content. Life in the millennium will be much like life in the time just preceding it. Grenz writes: "Marriage and the natural process of birth will continue. Most importantly, the church [not Israel] will keep its place in the program of God as the outward visible expression of the inward presence of God’s spirit."163

The gradualism of postmillennialism is always in tension with man’s impatience. Gentry writes, "Abram was old and childless when the Lord promised him an innumerable seed (Gen. 15:5). He died with only one legitimate son. Yet he believed God would perform the work promised. Could not righteous Simeon have been mocked for awaiting the consolation of Israel, since God’s voice had been silent for four hundred years (Luke 2:25)"?164 Speaking of this gradualism, Warfield writes:

The redemption of the world is similarly a process. It, too, has its stages: it, too, advances only gradually to its completion. But it, too, will ultimately he complete; and then we shall see a wholly saved world. Of course it follows, that at any stage of the process, short of completeness, the world, as the individual, must present itself to observation as incompletely saved. We can no more object the incompleteness of the salvation of the world today to the completeness of the salvation of the world, than we can object the incompleteness of our personal salvation today (the remainders of sin in us, the weakness and death of our bodies) to the completeness of our personal salvation. Every thing in its own order: first the seed, then the blade, then the full corn in the ear. And as, when Christ comes, we shall each of us be like him, when we shall see him as he is, so also, when Christ comes, it will be to a fully saved world, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, in which dwells righteousness.165

In what can only be described as fitting, one of the best postmillennial summary statements comes from the renowned Baptist theologian A. H. Strong:

Through the preaching of the gospel in all the world, the kingdom of Christ is steadily to enlarge its boundaries, until Jews and Gentiles alike become possessed of its blessings, and a millennial period is introduced in which Christianity generally prevails throughout the earth (Dan 2:44-45; Mt 13:31, 32; 24:14; Col 1:23)166

Another good summary is from the Presbyterian scholar J. M. Kik:

The post-mil looks for a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a glorious age of the church upon earth through the preaching of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit. He looks forward to all nations becoming Christian and living in peace one with another. He relates all prophecies to history and time. After the triumph of Christianity throughout the earth he looks for the second coming of the Lord." 16

But perhaps the most succinct summary statement is this: God made man for His own glory. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Biblical Support for Postmillennialism

The biblical support for postmillennialism comes from the optimistic prophecies of the Old Testament and the victorious reign of Christ depicted in the New Testament.

A micro lesson on Covenant Theology

The flavor of premillennialism that so dominates American evangelism cannot be fully comprehended without a basic knowledge of its theological groundwork: dispensationalism. Likewise, although not quite so critically, it is helpful in understanding postmillennialism to have a working knowledge of covenant theology.

Covenant theology holds that God has structured His redemptive plan around progressively developed and revealed covenants, the unified purpose for which is that: God, for His own pleasure, has decided to redeem a people for Himself. Unlike negotiated covenants (contracts) among men, Biblical covenants are sovereignly and unilaterally imposed by God. Adam didn't have a choice, he was not free to say "I'll have my people get back to you."

What is a Covenant?

As Mathison reports168, Douglas Jones has described four elements of a covenant:

  1. A mutually binding agreement between God and man
  2. Sovereign administration
  3. Conditions (commandments, sanctions)
  4. Promises

In broad terms, there are two major covenants between God and man: The covenant of works, or the Adamic covenant, and The covenant of grace, or the redemptive covenant. The latter covenant is revealed progressively through the patriarchs, and these elaborations are also usually called covenants, such as the Abrahamic covenant, but they are properly viewed as falling within the umbrella of the covenant of grace. God’s part of the covenant, at least the redemptive aspect, is perfectly fulfilled with the finished work of Christ.

Even before there existed covenants between God and man, there was a covenant among the persons of the Godhead, or the Trinitarian covenant. In this "agreement", God the Father chose a people for Himself, God the Son performed the redemptive work, and God the Spirit applied the redemption and would serve as a helper—to assist men in keeping their part of the covenant that they would eventually enter into with God. There is no single passage “proving” this covenant, it is essentially the same thing as proving the Trinity—it requires splicing together a number of passages. Mathison refers us to169 Ps. 2:8, Matt. 28:18, Luke 22:29, John 10:17-18; 14:31; 15:10; 17:5-6, 21-24; Rom. 5:19, Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:4; Phil. 2:8-9; Heb. 1:5; 4:15; 12:2; Rev. 13:8; 17:8.

The Covenant of Works (The Adamic Covenant)
In this covenant, God promised life and intimate fellowship with Adam and his descendants upon the condition of Adam’s perfect obedience. Adam failed and, since the (conditional) promise was made to all of his descendents, that is he was our representative, we all have suffered the consequence of Adam’s sin.

The Covenant of Grace (The Redemptive Covenant)

Immediately upon man's fall, God laid the groundwork for the covenant of Grace (Gen. 3:15). This covenant would be revealed to the patriarchs, appealed to in times of distress by the prophets, and reach its zenith (and conclusion) on the Cross.

The Noahaic Covenant

With Noah, God added a prohibition against murder and a promise not to destroy the earth by flood ever again:

6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. 7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it." 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." (Gen. 9:6-11)

"The Adamic and Noahaic covenants set the stage for the dominion of Godly man and the victory of the gospel of God’s saving grace in history. The Abrahamic covenant [next] promises the spread of salvation to 'all the families of the earth.'"170

The Abrahamic Covenant

Here God reveals an additional promise:

2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Gen. 12:2-3)

This is a very important part of the covenant, eschatologically speaking, for it promises, unconditionally, (if there was a condition it was that Abraham leave his home, which he did) that all peoples on earth will be blessed.

Postmillennialists would make four points about this promise to Abraham:

  1. This is an unconditional (or effectively unconditional) promise from God.
  2. This sounds like a world-wide blessing—not universalism but certainly a promise that people from all over the world would be saved.
  3. The dismal state of the world makes one pessimistic regarding whether this promise has been yet fulfilled.
  4. If it is a promise, and it has not been fulfilled, then it will be at some point in the future, because God never breaks a promise. Ergo, we have reason to be optimistic about the future and to look forward to the success of the great commission.

Now postmillennialism is not based on this interpretation of this one passage. Rather this gives some of the flavor of the comprehensive answer to the criticism of postmillennialism’s optimism: It is not misplaced optimism, but merely the certainty that God will keep His promises.

There is an amazing feature of the Abrahamic covenant. In ancient times two parties in a contract would pass through the carcasses of dead animals. This signified that if either broke the agreement, then their blood should be shed, just like the animal’s blood was shed. In Genisis 15 Abram arranged the carcasses, and God alone passed through them (Gen. 15:17), without requiring Abram to do likewise. The ramification is staggering: God did not require Abram to accept a death sentence if he didn't keep his part of the covenant perfectly, but God imposed a death sentence on Himself should He fail to keep the covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant

Here the law in its fullness was revealed to the Jews, and the practice of tabernacle fellowship with God was instituted.

The Davidic Covenant

Here God promises an eternal kingship to David, to be delivered in his blood line. In other words, the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

The New Covenant

In the new covenant, the final revelation in the progression of the covenant of grace, all God’s promises relating to redemption are fulfilled. And for the first time, God has provided a helper to man to assist him in keeping his part of the contract, this too being a promise from God:

And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezek. 36:27)

This is an important part of the postmillennialist's optimism. As mentioned earlier, the formal reason for optimism is that God appears to have promised that evangelism will succeed (more about that later). The instrumental reason for optimism is that God has sent the Spirit to assist us. We are not relying on man’s efforts—no cause for optimism there—but on the power of God Himself to accomplish His will.

Covenant Theology reflects a continuous process where God reveals and implements His redemptive plan. Viewed this way, redemptive history takes on an inevitable, inexorable, march toward victory. We know look at but a few of the many passages that foretell this victory.

The Parables of the Kingdom

The gradualism taught by postmillennialism is seen by its proponents in the four New Testament parables that compare the kingdom of heaven to growth.

The parables of the Mustard seed and the yeast:

31He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
33He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
(Matt. 13:31-33)

teach, according to Grenz171: "the gospel influence begins small, but spreads progressively until it is found throughout the world". 171

The parables of the weeds and the net:

24Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied. “The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' " (Matt 13:24-30)

47"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 13:47-50)

teach that evil will always be present, but will progressively constitute a smaller part of the whole. These four parables, according to postmillennialism, have a common thread: progress of the gospel. The power does not stem from man, although men are often the instruments, but in Jesus Christ as best described in His own words when He issued the Great Commission:

18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt, 28:18-20)

For postmillennialists, Christ did not give a task that was doomed to fail. Indeed, because of the pledge of His authority we can be certain of the success of the Great Commission. In the words of James Snowden, "All authority includes all power of every kind that is applicable to the task. Jesus Christ can never have any more power than He has now, because He has all there is." 172

Millard Erickson, a premillennialist, states the difference between the pre and postmillennial views of the Great Commission this way: "Premillennialists assert that Christ the King is absent and will do great things when He returns; postmillennialists assert, however, that according to this passage Christ is present and will be to the end of the age. Thus that power to conquer and reign is available to us in the present." 173

Postmillennialism and Creation

Postmillennial optimism begins with the creation account. In the biblical account of creation, we immediately see that God has a purpose for creation. He created man in His own image (Gen 1:26) and man’s purpose is to glorify God by subduing the earth and having dominion over it. (Gen. 1:26-30). When creation was completed, God proclaimed that it was very good (Gen 1:31).

Next we look at more Old Testament promises.

160 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, p. 72.
161 Kenneth Gentry, as quoted in Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 200-201.
162 Amillennialists also claim Augustine. Not all these proponents advocated precisely the same features, but all looked for Christ to return after a period of extreme gospel prosperity and success.
163 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, p. 71.
164 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, pp. 446-447.
165 B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, pp. 101-102.
166 Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, 1909, 3:1008
167 J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory, 1974, p. 4.
168 Mathison, Postmillennialism, An Eschatology of Hope, p. 13
169 Ibid., p.14.
170 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 513.
171 Grenz, The Millennial Maze, p. 75.
172 James Snowden, Coming of the Lord, p. 68.
173 Millard J. Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology, A Study of the Millennium, p. 64.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Back in the Saddle (sort of)

Well, I meant to get back into blogging full force today but events have conspired against me. My prime blogging time (early morning) was taken up by snow shoveling. We got about two inches, but it was supposed to be rain. Instead, it was super saturated wet snow, the type that clogs the auger on snow blowers, so I had to do most by hand. The good news is I am going skiing this afternoon, and the higher elevations got some good new coverage.

So I'll save the first formal post from my Sunday School on post-millennialism for tomorrow.

Speaking of school, I'm to be a professor again, although this time will be as an adjunct rather than a tenured prof. I am delighted about this, and by God's grace I can afford to do it, because one does not adjunct for the money, which on an hourly basis (when you add in the lecture preps) earns you less than entry-level at a burger joint. I'll be teaching a class at Daniel Webster College, a small (550 students) private college (very beautiful and New England-ish) close enough to my house that I could jog or bike, weather permitting. I’ll find out what I am teaching today, looks like either Engineering Dynamics or Computational Linear Algebra. Hopefully I will get aphysics course next semester.

I did want to answer one question that came up in the comments, which is what does preterism make of Luke 21:24, They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Clearly the problematic part for preterists is the word until, which indeed implies that there is a terminus of the Gentile trampling of Jerusalem. I am not an expert on preterist apologetics, being somewhat of a neophyte, but from what I have read there seems to be no consensus. Some argue that the "times of the Gentiles" are fulfilled at the Second Coming, i.e. it coincides with the end of history.

Another view is that it corresponds to the three and a half years of the Roman response to the Jewish revolt, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem. I tend to agree with this position, although at the moment must confess ambivalence. The latter view, that the "times of the gentiles" was short-lived (and differs from the "fullness of the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:25) weakens, at least at first glance, (but by no means precludes) the use of Luke 21:24 as part of the preterist argument that the age of the Jews ended in A.D. 70. The complete argument that the Jewish age ended, preterists would say, is based on a critical mass of supporting scripture rather than any single passage.