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Amillennialism and The “Future” Kingdom of God

February 16, 2015 6 comments

Compiled by Aaron Orendorff

A common misunderstanding about amillennialism is that “covenant theologians regard the kingdom of God as a wholly invisible and wholly present reality with no future, earthly fulfillment.” It is argued that because amillennialists have no place in their eschatological scheme for Jesus reigning upon a earthly throne in Jerusalem, they therefore by necessity have no place for an earthly, consummated kingdom. Far to the contrary, the amillennial position on the nature of God’s kingdom is that it is both a present and future reality – i.e., that it is both already-and-not-yet, inaugurated but not consummated – and that both these present and future elements of the kingdom include spiritual as well as earthly dimensions. This fulfillment, however, will not take place during a future millennial period but rather at the end of the age when Christ returns and heaven and earth are renewed. To say that because amillennialists do not affirm Christ’s earthly reign “from a throne in Jerusalem” then they cannot affirm an earthly future for God’s kingdom is to confuse a particular (premillennial) understanding of what Christ’s reign will look like with the broader category of God’s kingdom. Such an assertion would be similar to an amillennialist saying that because premillennialists do not affirm that Satan is currently bound so they cannot affirm the current, spiritual presence of God’s kingdom.

The follow excepts conclusively show that the above position is the amillennial position.

 

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

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A Redemptive-Historical, Modified Idealist Approach to the Book of Revelation

June 30, 2014 1 comment

I was recently involved in symposium on the Book of Revelation sponsored by several churches in Reno, Nevada and held at Sierra Bible Church. Gary Demar defended a preterist, Jim Hamilton a futurist, and I an Idealist approach to the Book. The symposium consisted of three major presentations 55 minutes in length in the morning and three 20 minute responses and question and answer time in the afternoon. Here from my major presentation is my introduction a modified idealist approach to the Book of Revelation.

When I read Wikipedia’s description of the position I am supposed to be defending at this conference, I have to admit that it made me think twice. Here is a portion of Wikipedia’s description of Idealism:

Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols…. It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.1

Now I know that Wikipedia is not the final authority about anything, but this still made me wonder what I had let Brian get me into!

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Dispensationalism and the Anti-Christ

August 26, 2013 1 comment

Dispensationalists hold that the appearance and reign of the Anti-Christ takes place during the seven year period after the Rapture. At the end of the seven years Christ returns with His saints, defeats and destroys the Anti-Christ and his armies in the battle of Armaggedon, and sets up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem over which He rules in person for 1000 years. The reign of Christ on earth at that time according to Scofield, will be a sitting on the throne of David, as King of the Jews, literally, strictly and politically understood.

This Futuristic theory of the Anti-Christ propagated by Dr. Scofield is the Popish view. “Alarmed by the fact that the Reformers were pointing to the Pope as the Anti-Christ, the Jesuit Ribera at the end of the sixteenth century, invented or at least propagated futuristic views of the Anti-Christ, and pointed to a solitary Infidel Anti-Christ who would appear in the dim future. Ribera’s view soon infected the High Church party. J. N. Darby caught the contagion, and finally Dr. D. L. Scofield swallowed the Jesuit’s pill. Thus Ribera succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, for the attention of thousands of Protestants became deflected from the Papacy, a future Infidel Anti-Christ was looked for, and the historic Protestant view handed down by the Reformers was despised by many. These are the hard facts of history. A Protestantism saturated with Ribera’s Futurism is not the Protestantism of the Reformers, nor is it feared by the Papacy.” (The Roman Anti-Christ by Rev. F. S. Leahy).

In the days of the Apostle John there were many antichrists, heretics who denied either the divinity of Christ or His actual incarnation. “Even now” he writes “are there many antichrists.” He also says, “Little children, it is the last time: and ye have heard that Antichrist shall come.” (1 John 2:18). According to Matthew Henry the generality of Christians had been informed of the coming of the Antichrist. Paul’s 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians Ch. 2:8-10 made it clear to them. He is called the Antichrist as though there were none but he, because he was so eminently above all others. He is, therefore, called “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” and the system of which he is the head “the mystery of iniquity.”

The Meaning of Anti-Christ

All the Reformers and all the Churches of the Reformation and the great body of Protestant interpreters hold that the Pope of Rome or the Papacy is the Anti-Christ, the word anti-christos being composed of kristos meaning anointed (Christ) and the prefix anti. “Anti” means against also instead of or in the place of. “When prefixed to the name of an individual it indicates an agent who assumes that individual’s place, and at the same time acts in opposition to him. Thus Rome herself speaks of Anti-popes. Anti-Christ therefore means one who pretends to be a vicar of Christ, and assumes to act in His name, but who is at the same time His rival and greatest enemy.” (The Roman Anti-Christ by Leahy).

In the Smalcald Articles Martin Luther singles out one particular statement of the Apostle Paul which beyond all doubt labels the Pope as the Anti-Christ “- – – the Pope raised his head above all. This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Anti-Christ, who has exalted himself above and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power. This is properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God, as Paul said, (2 Thess. 2:4) (Smalcald Art 11, art. 4:9-10).

“No one else has ever and will never be able to exalt himself above all that is called God more than the Pope of Rome, who holds millions of people at his command and over four thousand priests as agents of his ambition. He dares to oppose and rejects even the central truth of the Scriptures. He condemns justification by faith, which is fundamental to all, the heart of the Gospel. He puts himself against Christ, he damns, curses this cardinal truth given by Christ.” (Who is the Antichrist? by J. Zacehello, D.D.).

“To submit to the Roman Pontiff, we declare, say, define and pronounce to be absolutely necessary to every human creature to salvation.” (Bull Unam Sanctam of Pope Boniface VIII).

“If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ’s sake; or that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be accursed.” (Council of Trent Can. 9.12).

The late Pope John XXIII was no sooner inaugurated in November 1958 than in his coronation address said: “Into this fold of Jesus Christ no one can enter it if not under the guidance of the Sovereign Pontiff; and men can securely reach salvation only when they are united with him, since the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and represents His person on earth.”

The Babylon of the Apocalypse

As the Pope is the Anti-Christ, Babylon in the Book of the Revelation is the Church of Rome. Babylon cannot be the literal Babylon for it was not built on seven hills, nor was it the Queen of the earth in John’s time. Even the great Roman Catholic controversialists have been driven to admit that Rome fits the description of Babylon in the Revelation. ” St. John in the Apocalypse” says Cardinal Bellarmine, “calls Rome Babylon, for no other city besides Rome reigned in his age over the kings of the earth, and it is well known that Rome was seated upon Seven Hills.”

“It is confessed by all” says Cardinal Baronius, “that Rome is signified in the Apocalypse by the name of Babylon.” And the language of the celebrated French Prelate Bousset, in his Exposition of the Book of the Revelation is: “The features (in the Apocalypse) are so marked, that it is easy to decipher Rome under the figure Babylon.”

The above quotations from Bellarmine, Baronius and Bousset are taken from “Is the Church of Rome the Babylon of the Apocalypse?” a classic by Charles Wordsworth, D.D., Canon of Westminster and later Bishop of Lincoln, who died in 1885.

“These Apocalyptic prophecies, which describe the Woman who is called Babylon and is seated on the Beast with seven heads and ten horns do not concern the older, literal, Assyrian Babylon. The inscription on the woman’s forehead is Mystery, indicating a spiritual meaning. This word had been used by the Apostle Paul in his description of the Mystery of Iniquity opposed to the Mystery of Godliness; and St. John adopts the word from St. Paul, and applies it to the same object as that which had been portrayed by that Apostle.

“Again, the Babylon of the Apocalypse is described as a city existing and reigning in St. John’s age; but the literal, or Assyrian Babylon had long ceased to be a reigning city when St. John wrote. Therefore the Babylon of the Apocalypse cannot be the literal or Assyrian Babylon.”

In the conclusion Canon Wordsworth writes: “We have been contemplating the TWO MYSTERIES of the Apocalypse. The word Mystery signifies something spiritual; it here describes a church. The first Mystery is explained to us by Christ Himself. “The Mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest – – – The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20). The second Mystery is explained also: “I will tell thee the Mystery of the Woman.” The Beast that carrieth her, which bath the seven heads, is described, and the seven heads are expounded to be seven mountains on which the woman sitteth. (Rev. 17:7.9).

      1. The first Mystery is the Mystery of the seven stars.

      2. The second Mystery is the Mystery of the seven hills.

The first mystery represents the universal church in its sevenfold fulness, containing within it all particular churches.

The second mystery represents a particular church, the church on the seven hills, the Church of Rome, claiming to be the church universal.

The first mystery represents the universal church, liable to defects, but not imposing errors as terms of communion; and therefore, by virtue of the Word and the sacraments, held together in Apostolic communion with St. John and Christ, who walketh in the midst of it, and governed by an apostolic ministry, shining like a glorious constellation in the hand of Christ.

2. The second mystery represents the particular Church of Rome, holding the cup of her false doctrines in her hand, and making all nations to drink thereof. And the voice from heaven cries, “Come out of her, my people that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not her plagues.”

      The first mystery is a “Mystery of Godliness.”

      The second is a “Mystery of Iniquity.”

Such is the interpretation of the two Mysteries of the Apocalypse.

“If any minister or member of the Church of Rome can disprove this conclusion, he is hereby invited to do so. If he can, doubtless he will; and if none attempt it, it may be presumed that they cannot; and if they cannot, then as they love their salvation, they ought to embrace the truth, which is preached to them by the mouth of St. John, and by the voice of Christ.”

“This appeal was just made in a sermon preached by the Canon on Sunday, April 28th, 1850, in Westminster Abbey, and reiterated in Westminster Abbey on Sunday, February 16th, 1851. As far as the writer is aware, no reply has yet been made to it by any member of the Church of Rome. It is therefore repeated here.”

With reference to Paul’s description of the Anti-Christ in 2 Thess. 2:3-8, Dr. Charles Hodge of theological fame says, “This portrait suits the Papacy so exactly that Protestants have rarely doubted that it is the Anti-Christ which the apostle intended to describe.”

“So strikingly” says Richard Baxter, “does the Church of Rome resemble Anti-Christ that any one is justified in mistaking the similarity for sameness.”

“And the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth” (Rev. 17:9). “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH AND I SAW THE WOMAN DRUNKEN WITH THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS OF JESUS.” (Rev. 17: 5,6).

The Doom of the Papacy

“As sure as the Papacy has had its glory, so surely shall its doom come. Paul before closing his prophecy pauses, and in solemn and awful words foretells the night of horrors in which its career is to end. “That wicked — whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (2 Thess. 2:8). This day of wrath will be unspeakably great and will mark as one of the greatest days of vengeance since the foundation of the world. Paul despatches it in a single sentence; John expands it into a whole chapter. And in what other chapter of the Bible or of human history is there such another spectacle of judgement — such another picture of horrors of awestruck consternation, of loud and bitter wailings and cries of woe as in the eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse? The kings of the earth shall bewail her and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas! Alas! That great city Babylon, the mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. (Rev. 18: 9,10).

But this dark scene has one relieving feature. It is a scene that will not be repeated for it will close earth’s evil days and begin the hallelujahs of the nations. “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down and shall be found no more at all. Rejoice over her, thou heavens, and holy apostles and prophets: for God hath avenged you on her – – – and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all that were slain upon the earth.” (Rev. 18: 20, 21, 24). (The Papacy is the Anti-Christ — p. 128 by Rev. J. A. Wylie).

An excerpt from an article entitled “The Scofield Bible and Dispensationalism” found at http://www.theologue.org

Interpreting the Book of Revelation

February 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Book_of_Revelation016How many debates have you been in concerning the last book of the Bible? I imagine if you are compassionate about what you believe, then you may not be able to remember how many it has been. This is not necessarily bad. Christians ought to be passionate about God, his word, and things that accompany salvation. Nevertheless, Christians are also called to be good stewards of the word of God and to rightly divide the word of God 2 Timothy 2:15. Therefore we are going to take a look at the different schools of interpretation concerning the Book of Revelation.

There are generally four main approaches to the book of Revelation that most Bible students use when studying this book. In other words, most consider themselves as falling into one of these four main camps of interpretation as a student of this book. These four main interpretational approaches are as follows:

Preterism

Historicism

Futurism

Idealism

We shall discuss each theological view of the Book of Revelation in the order that I listed them.

 

The preterist: that it describes in veiled language events of John’s own time, and until the end of the Roman Empire or at least the conversion of Constantine. This has the disadvantage in that it is only meaningful then but to us it is not as relevant. The beast is seen as only the Roman empire and Babylon is Rome, however there are clear references to the Rome of John’s time and it is helpful to know the circumstances of John’s time in interpreting the book. In Rev 1: 11 John is told “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” hence in some ways it is similar to Paul’s letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, Ephesians and Thessalonians. In both John’s and Paul’s letters God has chosen these to be preserved for His church throughout the centuries. Just as the letter to the Corinthians addresses specific problems they had then it also deals with these problems for future centuries. In the same way Revelation deals with the problems faced by the seven churches in Asia, but it also has a great deal to say to future generations. Because John uses symbolic imagery Revelation is not tied down to only the Roman Empire but may also be used to describe successive persecuting tyrannies down through the centuries. Examples of the preterist view are Morris, Hailey and Barclay. Chilton identifies the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as the main focus of Revelation.(1)

Historicism: that it is a chart of the whole of history from Christ’s first coming to his second, and beyond. In this method people will try to make sections of Revelation fit in with specific historical events. The beast is seen as the current manifestation of the beast such as the papacy in the time of the reformation. This position is untenable because there will be a wide variation of interpretations through the ages. But because the principles are valid to all generations, as the idealist would suggest, each generation should be able to identify the characters portrayed by Revelation. Therefore the historicist’s view should not be disparaged, it has provided comfort in times of persecution throughout church history. The most important of the historical interpretation from the 12th century to reformation times makes the papacy the beast and Rome or the Roman church is Babylon. However to make Revelation a chart of the whole of human history and therefore to use it to predict when the end will come is wrong and is not how John intended Revelation to be read, but to use it to strengthen God’s people undergoing particular trials is a valid use.(2)

The idealist: that between messages for the first century and prophecies of the far future it deals chiefly with principles that are always valid in Christian experience. The beast is the Roman Empire of John’s day but also a succession of ungodly empires leading to the last empire from which the antichrist will come. Because Christians have been persecuted throughout the generations, each generation should be able to identify who their beast is. The main example is Hendriksen, see also Beale and Wilcock.(3)

The futurist: that it is largely a prophecy of events still to come, especially just prior to the return of Christ. This is the normal interpretation of someone reading the book for the first time because its imagery looks so fantastic. It means that the book will be especially relevant for those in the last generation. The beast is seen as the antichrist who emerges from a revived Roman empire. It is clear that the Second Coming features prominently throughout the book and therefore there is truth in the futurist view, but this view tends to overlook spiritual truth that is of value today. However note that John is told not to seal up the book (Rev 22:10) because the time is near, although Daniel was told to seal up the vision until the end times (Dan 12:4), this means that the book is about to start its fulfilment. The book of Revelation was written initially to the seven churches in Asia, and hence the preterist view. However the book will reach it final fulfilment when the last antichrist appears and Christ returns this is the futurist view.

Ladd divides the futurist views into two kinds, the moderate and the extreme view known as dispensationalism. The latter makes a sharp distinction between Israel and the church. The letters to the seven churches deal with seven ages of church history. Chapter 7 onwards concerns Israel because the church has been raptured by this point so that it does not suffer in the great tribulation, which occurs during the last 3 and a half years of history. This view is widely held in America, the best exponent of this view is Walvoord.”(4)

 

The only view that does justice to this book is the view held by the Idealists. This is because those holding this view allow the book to speak to the entire Church throughout the whole church age. All the other views tend to restrict this book to only a certain group or generation of peoples.

There is another method that not many employ when studying this book. Though it leans towards the Idealist camp, nevertheless it seeks to exegete the book in the historical context of which it was written and then makes it applicable to the entire Church age. In other words, this view approaches the study of the book by exegeting it in the historical context in which it was written, while recognizing that the entire Church age will always be dealing with the Beast and Christians will aways suffer persecution and martyrdom. This is called the Inductive method.

This view also sees the book as seven visions that use a ‘progressive parallelism’ grid as the visions build upon one another. This method is quite common throughout the Bible. God gives a general account of the creation in Genesis 1 and then recounts the creation in chapter 2, while adding greater detail.

Here is a brief outline of the progressive “parallelism method:”

 

“The system of interpretation of the book of Revelation which seems most satisfactory to me (though it is not without its difficulties) is that known as progressive parallelism, ably defended by William Hendriksen in More Than Conquerors, his commentary on Revelation.(5) According to this view, the book of Revelation consists of seven sections which run parallel to each other, each of which depicts the church and the world from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of his second. The first of these seven sections is found in chapters 1-3.

John sees the risen and glorified Christ walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands. In obedience to Christ’s command John now proceeds to write letters to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor. The vision of the glorified Christ together with the letters to the seven churches obviously form a unit. As we read these letters we are impressed with two things.

First, there are references to events, people and places of the time when the book of Revelation was written. Second, the principles, commendations and warnings contained in these letters have value for the church of all time. These two observations, in fact, provide a clue for the interpretation of the entire book. Since the book of Revelation was addressed to the church of the first century A.D., its message had reference to events occurring at that time and was therefore meaningful for the Christians of that day. But since the book was also intended for the church through the ages, its message is still relevant for us today.

The second of these seven sections is the vision of the seven seals found in chapters 4-7. John is caught up to heaven and sees God sitting on his radiant throne. He then sees the Lamb that had been slain taking the scroll sealed with seven seals from the hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. The various seals are broken, and various divine judgments on the world are described. In this vision we see the church suffering trial and persecution against the background of the victory of Christ.

The third section, found in chapters 8-11, describes the seven trumpets of judgment. In this vision we see the church avenged, protected and victorious.

The fourth section, chapters 12-14, begins with the vision of the woman giving birth to a son while the dragon waits to devour him as soon as he is born—an obvious reference to the birth of Christ. The rest of the section describes the continued opposition of the dragon (who stands for Satan) to the church. This section also introduces us to the two beasts who are the dragon’s helpers: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth.

The fifth section is found in chapters 15-16. It describes the seven bowls of wrath, thus depicting in a very graphic way the final visitation of God’s wrath on those who remain impenitent.

The sixth section, chapters 17-19, describes the fall of Babylon and of the beasts. Babylon stands for the worldly city — the forces of secularism and godlessness which are in opposition to the kingdom of God. The end of chapter 19 depicts the fall and final punishment of the dragon’s two helpers: the beast out of the sea, and the false prophet, who appears to be identified with the beast out of the earth (see 16:13).

The seventh section, chapters 20-22, narrates the doom of the dragon, thus completing the description of the overthrow of the enemies of Christ. In addition, it describes the final judgment, the final triumph of Christ and his church, and the renewed universe, here called the new heaven and the new earth.(6)

It is here that I point you to an entire sermon series that uses this method and it consists of 81 lectures or sermons on this book. This sermon series is taught by Arturo G. Azurdia and can be found right here.

1. Taylor, R. A., (Copyright 2000) pg. 14 (online-at: http://www.thefishersofmenministries.com/revelatn.pdf)

2. ibid., pg. 15

3. ibid., pg. 15

4. ibid., pg. 15

5. William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1939). An exposition and defense of this method of interpretation, summarized in nine propositions, can be found on pp. 11-64.

6. Amillennialism: Part I – Introduction by Anthony Hoekema (online-at: http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/eschatology/amillennialism-part-i-introduction-by-anthony-hoekema/ )

Interpreting Revelation

February 24, 2012 2 comments

Interpreting Revelation by Cornelis P. Venema

Reblogged from Ligonier Ministries

The interpretation of the book of Revelation has often proven difficult throughout the history of the Christian church. Though it is little more than a piece of scholarly gossip, some have even suggested that the Reformer John Calvin, one of the best interpreters of the Scriptures the church has known, shied away from writing a commentary on the book of Revelation for this very reason. There is no evidence to support this claim, and we do have Calvin’s commentary on the book of Daniel, which gives a fairly clear picture as to how Calvin would have interpreted the book of Revelation had he written a commentary on it. But the tenacious hold this Calvin legend has on the popular imagination bears witness to a broad consensus that the book of Revelation remains an impenetrable mystery even to the ablest of interpreters.

There is only one approach to Revelation that has strengths, but no weaknesses and this is the “Idealist” approach. It is the only view that sees the book as relevant to the whole church from Pentecost till Christ coming.