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What’s the Point of the Millennium?

Mike Wittmer, a fellow premillennialist, once asked me what the millennium does. Why is it there?

As I was pondering the Big Story of the Bible in preparation to preach an overview kind of sermon recently, the thought began to take shape in my head that the millennium provides another point of contact–a typological point of contact–between Adam and Jesus. Consider the parallels:

Adam was in the undefiled garden, living before God in Eden. The garden was invaded and defiled by Satan. Adam and Eve did not withstand the temptation but sinned and were expelled from God’s presence.

In Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 Paul discusses the way that Adam was a type of the one to come, Jesus, whose obedience would match and overcome Adam’s disobedience. Paul also makes clear that whereas in Adam all die, in Christ all shall be made alive.

In his first coming, Jesus obeyed where Adam disobeyed and gave life where Adam gave death.

At his second coming (Rev 19), Jesus will cleanse the land of the serpent and his seed, restoring creation to an Eden-like state. The thousand year reign of Christ in Revelation 20:4–6 matches the thousand year life-spans of Adam and other pre-flood figures (cf. Gen 5).

Having reigned for a thousand years in an undefiled, cleansed creation, Jesus gets another chance to succeed where Adam failed. Adam lived in undefiled purity and innocence but sinned at Satan’s instigation. Having established a millennial kingdom, a golden age of undefiled innocence, Jesus has subdued the earth, filling and ruling over it as God commanded Adam to do, when Satan is released from the pit (Rev 20:7).

We are not told where Cain got his wife at the beginning, and we are not told where Satan got his followers at the end. But we can see a clear contrast between Adam and Jesus:

Adam in Eden failed to stand before the Satanic revolt. He sinned and was exiled from God’s presence.
Christ at the end of the millennium will stand fast against the Satanic revolt. He will conquer and bring about the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem, the new and better Eden.

It seems, then, that the point of the millennium is to begin the renewal of creation that will be completed once Christ has triumphed in circumstances similar to those under which Adam was conquered. Adam sinned in Eden, but Jesus will overcome Satan at the end of the edenic millennium. Whereas Adam was driven from the garden, the conquest of Christ opens the way for the edening of all creation, in fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose.

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:3–5). 

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George Eldon Ladd’s Response to Postmillennialism

One of the early “four views” books was edited by Robert G. Clouse and titled The Meaning of the Millennium.

George Eldon Ladd represented the historic premil position, Herman A. Hoyt dispensational premillennialism, Loraine Boettner postmillennialism, and Anthony A. Hoekema amillennialism. Each contributor responds to the presentations made by each of the others, and typically the responses are 3-4 pages. The exception is Ladd’s reply to Boettner’s argument for postmillennialism, which is a mere two paragraphs and 147 words. The first sentence is telling, but I here reproduce the whole of Ladd’s response:

‘There is so little appeal to Scripture that I have little to criticize. The argument that the world is getting better is a two-edged sword. One can equally well argue from empirical observation that the world is getting worse. In New Testament times, civilization enjoyed the great Pax Romana—two centuries when the Mediterranean world was at peace. This has never been repeated. Our lifetime has seen two worldwide wars and an unending series of lesser wars—in Korea, Vietnam, the Near East, Ireland, Lebanon. We have witnessed the rise of Nazism with its slaughter of six million Jews, the rise and fall of fascism, the rise and stabilization of Communist governments. The world today is literally an armed camp.

Boettner makes the mistake of defining premillennialism in terms of dispensationalism. As my chapter shows, I do not pursue the literalistic hermeneutic attributed to ‘premillennialists’ by Boettner.’

That’s all Ladd has to say about it!

I submit that any advance postmillennialism may be making today is attributable entirely to the florid prose of Douglas Wilson. There is no biblical warrant for it.

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Why I’m Not a Dispensationalist and Why Darrell Bock Is

Lindsay Kennedy interviewed three folks on questions related to dispensationalism and the millennium. The Dispensationalist is Paul Henebury (part 1 and part 2). Darrell Bock represents Progressive Dispensationalism, and I answered questions from the perspective of Historic Pre-Millennialism.

We all answered similar questions. Here are the ones I answered:

  1. When and how did you first become interested in eschatology?
  2. You studied at Dallas, which has a strong history of dispensationalism. How influential was Dallas on your theology? Did you ever hold to dispensationalism?
  3. In brief, why you are not a dispensationalist today?
  4. What would you see as some distinctive aspect(s) of your view (Historic Premillennialism)?
  5. What do you believe about the rapture and its timing in relation to the second coming of Christ?
  6. What (if any) future role does the nation of Israel have to play in God’s plan?
  7. What is the purpose of the future Millennium?
  8. Other than the Bible, were there any influential authors/books in developing your current eschatological views?
  9. Do you have any publications that best represent your position more fully than this interview allows?
  10. How important should eschatology be to the Christian?
  11. What encouragement would you give to someone who sees eschatology as unimportant?

Replies here.

I found it interesting that just as Lindsay asked me why I’m not a dispensationalist, he asked Bock to differentiate his view from the others and to explain why he stuck with dispensationalism. Here’s the exchange:

What are the differences between your view, Progressive dispensationalism (PD), and traditional dispensationalism? Why do these differences matter?

These are catalogued in the book Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism. The key one is the continuity PD (Progressive Dispensationalism) sees in the Covenants and that all three are inaugurated in Jesus’ first coming. For example, Jesus’ seating and activity at God’s right hand is seen as the execution of messianic activity that is tied to the New Covenant (as his seating is a part of the Davidic covenant).

This also has meant the Gospels and prophets become more important for contemporary ethics than they were in some older forms of dispensationalism (I say older forms because there is not just one brand of traditional dispensationalism but several). So that is why the difference matters.

If you see problems with traditional dispensationalism, why seek to adapt it rather than simply adopting Historic Premillennialism as others have done?

Because there is a distinction between Israel and the church in God’s program that Historic Premillennialism equivocates about. PD is also clearer on a future for national Israel.

I don’t think of myself as equivocating in the way I understand the relationship between the church and Israel, but I think I can see how it might look like it from Bock’s perspective. Anyway, here are a couple related questions Lindsay asked me:

In brief, why you are not a dispensationalist today?

Because as I read G. E. Ladd’s New Testament Theology, it made sense to me when he said that Jesus chose twelve Apostles to reconstitute a new Israel around himself. That undermined the hard and fast distinction between Israel and the Church that dispensationalism maintains. Further overturning this distinction is the pervasive way in which the New Testament authors present what Jesus has done and is doing in the church as the typological fulfillment of the Old Testament, which means that the church is a typological fulfillment of Israel (this does not nullify a future for ethnic Israel). I think Dispensationalism puts blinders on people and keeps them from seeing the typological interpretations of earlier Scripture pursued by the biblical authors in the Old and New Testaments.

Then I studied Revelation as I preached through it, and I didn’t see a pre-trib rapture. Then I studied Daniel as I preached through it, and I didn’t see a pre-trib rapture. Then I studied through and preached Revelation again as I wrote Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, and I became convinced that dispensationalists are not interpreting Daniel’s seventieth week the way that John does in Revelation. The emphasis on literal fulfillment fails to account for the typological and symbolic ways later biblical authors interpret earlier Scripture.

People (not just dispensationalists) make rules about how to interpret the Bible, but the biblical authors don’t follow those rules. So I don’t hold to or teach those rules. I want to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. That’s what I’m seeking as I pursue the task of biblical theology. I’m not claiming that I’ve exhaustively mapped this new world, but what a privilege to explore it and try to help others find their way in it!

What (if any) future role does the nation of Israel have to play in God’s plan?

I think Romans 11:25–27 indicates that on the day that Christ returns there will be a mass conversion of ethnic Jews.

That reference to mapping and exploring a new world comes out of my view of biblical theology as a bridge, or a rocket, into another kind of world, the world as conceived by the biblical authors. On which, see further What Is Biblical Theology?

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A Revelation Symposium in Reno

Banner-01Sierra Bible Church in Reno, NV is hosting a Revelation Symposium on Saturday, February 23, 2013. I’m looking forward to interacting with Sam Waldron and Gary DeMar. Details here.

Then Lord willing, Sunday, February 24, 2013, it will be my privilege to preach the word at Sierra Bible. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there.

If you’re not in the area, you can get my take on the book of Revelation here.

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How Revelation 19:20 Supports Historic Premillennialism

Is there a chronological progression that unfolds in the book of Revelation? Amillennialists basically say No, there’s an ongoing recapitulation, a retelling of the same story over and over. So they would say that the millennium is happening now, at the same time as Satan is pursuing his war on the church (described, for instance, in Revelation 13).

Does this do justice to the actual details of the texts in question? I don’t think so. Consider Revelation 19:20,

“And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”

What John says about the beast and the false prophet here is intended to identify the beast and the false prophet as the characters we know from Revelation 13:13–18. Let’s take it phrase by phrase:

Rev 19:20a, “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs”
Rev 13:13a, 14a, “It [the false prophet] performs great signs . . . and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast”

Rev 19:20b, “by which he deceived”
Rev 13:14b, “it deceives those who dwell on earth”

Rev 19:20c, “those who had received the mark of the beast”
Rev 13:16–18, “…it causes all…to be marked on the right hand or the forehead…the mark…the name of the beast or the number of its name”

Rev 19:20d, “and those who worshiped its image”
Rev 13:14b, 15a, c, “telling them to make an image for the beast . . . allowed to give breath to the image . . . cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain”

John has piled up these phrases from Revelation 13 to identify the beast and the false prophet captured in Revelation 19:20. These phrases from Revelation 13 that are reused in 19:20 refer back to the persecution of Christians seen in chapter 13, and in my view, that persecution refers to the satanic persecution of Christians in all of church history. Jesus ascended into heaven in Revelation 12:5, Satan was cast out of heaven because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Rev 12:7–12), and he went off to make war on the woman and the rest of her seed, Christians (12:13–17).

Satan went about making war on Christians by summoning a fake christ from the sea in Revelation 13:1. God has a Lamb standing as though slain, Christ (Rev 5:6). Satan twists this with his knock-off many-headed beast that has a head that seemed to have a mortal wound, but the mortal wound was healed (13:1–3). Satan has faked the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus with his un-lamb-like beast. The world responds to Satan’s parody the way it should respond to Jesus–all but the elect worship Satan and his beast (13:4, 8). Then the beast uses his authority to kill Christians (13:7, 15).

Note that John expressly says that Satan, the beast, and the false prophet (the satanic parody of the holy Trinity, cf. Rev 16:13) deceive those who dwell on earth. In other words, they’re doing throughout church history what they’re not able to do during the millennium.

Jesus comes and puts a stop to that deception by casting the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20, and the angel puts the dragon, Satan, into the pit for a thousand years “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer” in 20:1–3.

So it seems that John has referred back to the persecutions of Revelation 13 in Revelation 19:20 to show how all that has come to an end with the coming of Christ. Then Christ reigns for the thousand years in Revelation 20:1–6.

Some amillennialists think that the end of Satan’s ability to deceive in Revelation 20:3 means that the gospel can now go to the gentiles. That is, they think we’re in the thousand years now, and that Satan’s ability to deceive the nations has been stopped in the sense that he can no longer keep the true knowledge of God from the nations now that Christ has come, done his work, and sent his disciples to make disciples of all nations.

I submit that this explanation does not fit the narrative of the book of Revelation. I’m not imposing this narrative on the book. John himself highlights it by means of the kinds of details I’m pointing out: in the reuse of phrases from Revelation 13 in Revelation 19:20.

How does the narrative go? Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are deceiving the nations to worship the beast, and they’re killing Christians throughout church history (Rev 11–17). Christ comes and ends their deception of the nations (19:20; 20:3), raises the Christians they’ve killed from the dead (20:4–6), and reigns for a thousand years. Then Satan is loosed for the final rebellion (20:7–10) before the great white throne judgment (20:11–15) which is followed by the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21–22).

Note that it is only after the thousand years that Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet already were. Revelation 20:10 states,

and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Beast and false prophet thrown into the lake of fire at the second coming of Christ (Rev 19:20). Satan bound for a thousand years (20:1–6), released to deceive a last time (20:7–9), then he too is thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet already were (20:10).

There is a chronological progression that unfolds here, and Revelation 19:20 contributes to it. It’s a symbolic chronology, but it is a chronology.

See further Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, Preaching the Word. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

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Congratulations to Eckhard Schnabel on his 40 Questions about the End Times

I’m glad to see Eckhard Schnabel’s 40 Questions about The End Times appear, not least because it puts me in good company!

His book appeared in 2011, my book Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches appeared in 2012. I had turned my manuscript into Crossway before Schnabel’s work appeared, and I didn’t know he held these views.

I’m thrilled to see that, independently of one another, we’ve arrived at similar conclusions on the relationship between the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 and the “signs of the end” in the Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels (compare his chart on p. 70 of 40 Questions and mine on p. 167 of Revelation).

Schnabel’s interpretation of the “abomination of desolation” would support Peter Gentry’s interpretation of relevant passages in Daniel (see esp. p. 156 in 40 Questions about The End Times).

I’ve paged through Schnabel’s book, reading selectively in sections that interested me, reading chapter titles and subtitles and chapter summaries. Each chapter title asks a question, and the question is typically answered in the subtitles. Here’s my favorite chapter title question and subtitle answer from page 247:

Chapter Title: Why Will Jesus Return?

First Subtitle: Jesus Will Return Because the Bible Says So

Amen!

It’s also good to see this resource providing a fresh take on a question often asked of those who hold the historic pre-mil view.

If I’m reading him correctly, Schnabel thinks that Gog and Magog and the nations who are deceived by Satan at the end of the millennium for the final rebellion in Revelation 20:7–10 are the wicked resurrected in the “second resurrection” (Rev 20:11–15, p. 276, 278).

That’s an interesting suggestion, but I’m more inclined to say that not all the wicked were slain at the second coming and that there will be those who submit to Jesus in the millennium though they do not belong to him. As soon as they get the chance to join Satan and rebel, they will do so. I don’t think the wicked dead are raised for the final rebellion.

This book asks and answers questions many have about the End, and I commend it for your consideration of these topics. Hearty thanks and congratulations to Prof. Dr. Eckhard Schnabel on 40 Questions about The End Times.

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@DennyBurk Interview on Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches

My dear friend and fellow pastor Denny Burk blessed me with a blog interview on Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Here are the questions:

 

What is the main point of Revelation? What is the genre?

 

If much of the prophecy in Revelation symbolizes early Christian conflict with Rome, then why not take a Preterist reading of the book?

 

Did John write Revelation, or did some other John write it? Is that relevant to our interpretation of the book?

 

Is rapture doctrine taught in Revelation?

 

What about the interpretation of Revelation 4:1 that says “come up here” is a reference to the rapture?

 

Does revelation teach that there will be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth?

Here I list seven reasons to be pre-mil

What’s your millennial position, and how does Revelation inform your view?

 

What do you say to pastors who do not preach Revelation because it is either too difficult or too divisive?

 

Did you split your church when you preached it?

 

Check out the interview here. Amazon should have the book soon, and it’s available now from Crossway.

I assume that anyone who looks at this blog is already subscribed to Denny’s, but just in case there’s someone who isn’t, I highly recommend it. Don’t miss him on twitter, either.

Thanks for the opportunity, Denny!

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Another Reason To Be Premillennial

So I’m sitting in church on New Year’s Day and my friend C. T. Eldridge gets up to do the New Testament reading. The reading is Revelation 15, and these words jumped out at me:

“Then I saw another sign in heaven . . . And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire–and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass . . .” (Rev 15:1–2).

Why is this another reason to be pre-mil? Because of the way it fits with everything else in Revelation, but before I go into that, consider how the amillennial interpretations won’t work. The amil explanations I have in mind are what is sometimes said of Revelation 20:4,

“Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

Amillers will say that this is a reference to these people coming to life in the presence of God. That view fails because back in Revelation 15:1–2 they’re already alive in the presence of God. Another amil attempt to explain this is that it refers to regeneration, which won’t work because we’re dealing with people who have been “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus,” which means that they were already born again believers before they got beheaded.

Some amillers will say that Satan’s inability to deceive the nations in Revelation 20:3 just means that the gospel can go to the nations, but that fails to fit everything in the book together. What I mean is this:

Satan is deceiving the nations in Revelation 13:14, which is when this “image of the beast” and the mark “on the right hand or the forehead” with “the number of its name” first became an issue (Rev 13:15–18). It’s here, too, that the beast is killing Christians (Rev 13:7), and it’s here that the Christians are “conquering” the beast by not loving “their lives even unto death” (Rev 12:11). Revelation 13, 15, and 20 all mention the beast, the mark, and the number of the beast’s name.

So the beast is deceiving the nations in Revelation 13 when the Christians who come to life in Revelation 20:4 were being put to death. Moreover, those same Christians are already alive in heaven with God in Revelation 15:1–2 (note how they are “in heaven” and “standing beside the sea of glass”).

Thus, the depiction of the saints there in Revelation 15:1–2 is one more reason to be premillennial.

—-

Related:

An Evening of Eschatology

Response to JT on What Premillennialists Must Believe

Did You See What He’s Doing in Revelation 13:14?

The Millennium

Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches

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Available for Pre-Order: Revelation (Preaching the Word)

An ancient dragon.
A vulnerable bride holding fast to a promise.
An immoral temptress and her consorts.
And the King, coming on a white horse.

John writes to small, scattered churches with little worldly influence, urging them to hold fast to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Sexual immorality lures them toward destruction.
False teaching threatens to undermine their standing before God.
An ancient dragon wages war on their souls.
But the King is coming on a white horse.

Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches in the Preaching the Word series is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Be on Guard: The Point of Mark 13, with some thoughts on ‘this generation’

Mark 13 is not in the Bible to provoke debates about when all things will be consummated – what Jesus meant by “this generation.” Mark 13 is in the Bible to prepare disciples of Jesus against deception, fear, sleepy inattention, persecution, and uncertainty.

In Mark 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt to cries of Hosanna. He then cursed the fig tree and cleansed the temple. In Mark 12 he gave a narrative interpretation of Israel’s history in the parable of the wicked tenants, which culminated in the murder of the son of the owner of the vineyard. He escaped the traps set by Pharisees and Sadducees, answered an honest question about the greatest commandment, and then taught on the Christ, hypocrites, and sacrificial giving.

In Mark 13 Jesus teaches his disciples about the end of the world.

Jesus warns his disciples not to be deceived by those who will come claiming to be him (Mark 13:5–6).

All false religions and all mythological accountings for the world—from materialistic evolutionary darwinistic atheism to moralistic therapeutic deism—all of them—from the ancient Near Eastern fertility cults to the Greco Roman Pantheon, all forms of animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam—all are Satanic imitations of Christianity. All offer some other path to some other heaven under some other god.

As Paul says in 1 Tim 2:5, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Do not be deceived by gurus offering some snake-oil remedy for your problems. Do not deceived by politicians promising Utopia.

Jesus will bring in the Kingdom. He’s the only one who can. Hold out for him.

He tells his disciples that they will be persecuted in Mark 13:9.

Jesus spoke these things to those who follow him so that they would be able to tell the difference between the real gospel and satanic false promises made by those who want to “change the world” into a Utopia where Jesus is not Lord—a dream world where the good news is not that Jesus died and rose to bring us to God, but that people are now healthy because the messiahs have fixed the health care system, differences reconciled because the thought police enforce correct speech; peace in our time, world hunger ended, and third world debt relief accomplished: kingdom come without Jesus.

To all these false hopes Jesus says: don’t be deceived. These people are going to go on starting wars with each other; don’t be surprised when that happens (Mark 13:7). Further, the fact that you don’t worship the false messiahs is going to prompt them to persecute you. Be prepared for that (Mark 13:9).

Mark then presents what Jesus says about the rise of the antichrist and his own coming (Mark 13:14–27).

What does the coming of Jesus mean?

Here is the consummation of all pomp and circumstance. Here the realization of everything anticipated by armies marching in formation on the parade ground. Here the true arrival. Here the moment when all will rise to honor the one who comes, when the one to whom every knee will bow will make his entrance.

Every attempt at greatness eclipsed. Every notion of the meaning of the words conqueror, hero, deliverer, savior, messiah, king, lord enacted—all these words will then be understood.

Have you heard the word “doomsday”? Have you heard that the generals and the kings and the slaves and the captains will call for the mountains and rocks to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb? Have you heard that there’s a glory to which our sufferings are not worth being compared?

Consider what we will feel on that day: we will wish we had loved more, given more, studied the Bible more closely, spoken more earnestly to those who will face the wrath. We will wish that we had thought of the glory of Christ when we were tempted. We will regret the cheap baubles that we took to please ourselves as we betrayed him. We will rue the harsh words we spoke, the days we gave up, quit, stopped hoping, believing, watching.

O lift up your eyes, church, your redemption draws nigh. O bride pledged to thine husband, he will come. With power and great glory he comes. He will gather all his own.

Mark 13:28–37 shows Jesus applying these things to his disciples lives, telling them how they should live.

Jesus says everything he has described will take place before “this generation” passes away. What does that mean?

Some take “this generation” to refer to the historical generation of people alive at the time of Jesus, and those who take this view are forced to one of two conclusions. One conclusion is that Jesus was wrong. He didn’t return during the lifetime of that generation. The other conclusion is to see the fulfillment of what Jesus describes in AD 70.

I think there’s a better solution. I think “this generation” should not be taken to refer to the historical generation alive at the time of Jesus. Rather, “this generation” refers to the generation of the end. Both the generation of the flood (Gen 7:1) and the generation of the wilderness (Num 32:13) are types of the end time generation on which God’s wrath will fall. And the biblical authors can also speak of “the generation of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob” (Ps 24:6).

So there is an evil end time generation that will face judgment, and there is a righteous generation that seeks God’s face. I take this statement of Jesus, then, to be typological. It does not deal with the next 20–40 years of a historical generation.

On Sunday, June 12, it was my privilege to preach Mark 13, “Be on Guard,” at Kenwood Baptist Church.

The whole block lost power near the end of my sermon, so the recording ends in the middle of my comments on “this generation.” Basically what I’m arguing is that Jesus is talking about the “end time generation” the same way that there’s a flood generation and a wilderness generation. There is a typological relationship between these earlier generations on which judgment fell, and the generation that will experience the typological fulfillment of those earlier judgments. Jesus means that the generation from which Peter urges people to be saved (Acts 2:40), “on whom the ends of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11), the “crooked and twisted generation” in which his followers will “shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15) is the one that will not pass away before all that he has prophesied comes to pass.

I learned this view from the excellent book by Evald Loevestam, Jesus and ‘this Generation’: A New Testament Study.

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The Messianic Woes in the Old and New Testaments: Limited Time Offer

As noted earlier, Crossway is allowing me to post some Tables from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology.

This is the third of the five that will be posted here, and it seeks to provide background for statements like the one in Colossians 1:24,

“Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church . . .”

In what sense is Paul “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? Well, there are passages in the OT that indicate that the Messiah will suffer and that before his kingdom is realized his people will suffer, too. On the basis of this strand of OT prophecy, there are many texts in the NT that point toward afflictions for God’s people before they receive the kingdom. Acts 14:22, for instance: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

This Table seeks to gather the texts in the Old and New Testaments that speak of the affliction and tribulation that the Messiah and his people will fulfill before kingdom come.

This is being posted on Thursday, April 21, 2011, and it will be removed at the end of the day Saturday, April 23, 2011. Here it is: “The Messianic Woes in the Old and New Testaments.” [Link Removed]

This table gives the relevant language from the passages it cites rather than simply the references. I think it would make for a healthy time of meditation as we approach the celebration of the resurrection this Easter Sunday. The statements in these passages will also explain to us the persecution that Christians are facing around the world and that may be heating up here in our culture.

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Revelation 9-12, Four Recent Sermons

It has been my privilege to be preaching through the book of Revelation, and here are my four most recent sermons at Kenwood Baptist Church:

10-11-2009 – Revelation 12:1-17 The Seed of the Woman Versus the Seed of the Serpent

09-20-2009 – Revelation 11:1-19 Bearing Witness til Kingdom Come

09-13-2009 – Revelation 10:1-11 Eat This Scroll (and prophesy the history of the future)

09-06-2009 – Revelation 9:1-21 Trumpeting the End of the World

May the Lord bless his word!

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Did You See What He’s Doing in Revelation 13:14?

Sorry to keep piling on here, but I’m studying to preach Revelation 12 this Sunday and keep seeing things worth noting.

The claim has been made that the sense in which Satan is bound during the millennium is that he cannot deceive the nations. If that’s the case, I submit that Revelation 12 and 13 cannot be describing the same period of time that Revelation 20 describes, because in Revelation 12 and 13 Satan is deceiving the nations. I’ve noted some indications of this in the previous post, and here’s another:

Revelation 13:14, “and by the signs that it was allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived” (italics mine for emphasis; that word is in the text).

So Revelation 13:14 says that the dragon, beast, and false prophet (cf. 13:1-4; 16:13) are being allowed to do exactly what Satan is not allowed to do during the millennium according to Revelation 20:3.

I maintain that the amillennial position flattens out the imagery by claiming that different symbols all symbolize the same thing.

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He Doesn’t Do This in the Millenium

Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown out, the ancient serpent, the one called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, he was thrown to the ground, and his angels were thrown out with him” (emphasis mine).

Revelation 12:11 explains that Satan’s being cast out of heaven relates to the conquest that came by the blood of the Lamb, Christ’s death on the cross. Revelation 12:10 explains that “the one who accuses the brothers” is the one who has been cast out. It seems, then, that the result of Satan being “cast out” in Revelation 12:9 is that his accusations against believers are rejected because of the blood of the Lamb.

Having been cast out, Satan’s time is short (Rev 12:12), and he uses that time to make war on the rest of the woman’s seed (i.e., believers) and to deceive the nations (13:3-8). Satan gives his authority to the beast (13:3), the beast exercises authority for forty-two months (13:5), “and authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation” (13:7). Satan’s deceptive power in the beast is so strong that it persuades everyone except the elect (13:8).

Revelation 20:1-3 says that there will be a thousand year period in which he no longer deceives the nations.

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A Brief Response to Sam’s “Thrones” Argument

Sam’s arguments seem to go like this: since this text (or this word) means x, this other text (or word) can’t mean y. I’m not finding x and y to be mutually exclusive.

Justin has presented another of Sam’s arguments, which Sam concludes as follows:

In summary, when we look at all other relevant occurrences of thronos, whether inside or outside the book of Revelation, they are without exception heavenly. There is nothing to suggest that they pertain to a millennial earth, either in location or character.

Again I have a brief and simple response. The end of Revelation 20:6 reads, “they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Compare this with Revelation 5:10, “and you made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.” Could “they will reign upon the earth” in Revelation 5:10 “pertain to a millennial earth . . . in location and character” (Sam’s words) when we read in Revelation 20:6 that these resurrected people “will be priests” and “they will reign for a thousand years“?

In Revelation 20:4-5 people who have been beheaded–physically killed–experience “resurrection,” which, in the words of N. T. Wright, refers to physical life after life after death. If it doesn’t mean that, Wright says the usage of the word is strained to the breaking point. Then these resurrected people are made priests and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev 20:6) which looks like the realization of what was predicted in Revelation 5:10, where those Christ redeemed from all nations (5:9) are a kingdom and priests and reign on earth (5:10).

I quickly glanced through the uses of “throne/s” in Revelation, and here’s what I would say: you have the throne of God in heaven, the thrones of the 24 elders, and the throne of Satan and the beast. So the throne of God and the thrones of the elders are in heaven. Fine, but the church in Pergamum lives “where Satan’s throne is” (Rev 2:13), and in Revelation 13:2 the dragon gives his throne to the beast. Let’s grant, too, that the throne of Satan that he gives to the dragon is a symbol of his authority. Even as a symbol, it refers to authority Satan exercises where that church in Pergamum dwells, which is on earth (2:13). The same holds when Satan gives his authority to the beast (13:2). Note, too, that Satan uses the beast to deceive the nations with his faked crucifixion and resurrection (the healing of the mortal wound to one of his heads) in Revelation 13:1-8, and compare that with the way that Revelation 20:3 says Satan will not deceive the nations during the thousand years (see esp. Rev 13:7 and 20:3).

Is it that hard to imagine Satan’s authority being taken away from him (Rev 20:1-3) and that authority, symbolized by thrones, being exercised by Christ and the resurrected saints on earth for a thousand years?

I don’t see how the use of the word “thrones” argues against the premillennial position.

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Response to JT on What Premillennialists Must Believe

Justin Taylor writes:

when Christ returns, the NT is clear that a number of things will end at that time (sin, corruption, death) and a number of things will begin at that time (our physical resurrection, final judgment, new heavens and new earth). In other words, when Christ returns, it’s “curtains” on sin and death. But in Premillennialism, there are still a thousand years of sin and death and corruption. I don’t want to be insensitive to my Premillennial friends, but it struck me a few years ago that the Premillennial position seems relatively depressing: Christ returns–but death and sin and rebellion continue. Now I know that our feelings can’t determine our exegesis (i.e., Premillennialism seems depressing, therefore it can’t be true)–and yet at the same time I think I feel that way precisely because the consistent testimony of the NT leads one to confidently expect that judgment, resurrection, and the death of sin and physical death will all happen at the blessed and glorious return of Christ. I know others will disagree, but this strikes me as a fatal weakness of Premillennialism.

My response to this is simple: at many points in the Old Testament, it looks as though when the Messiah comes everything is going to be consummated. As Justin nicely puts it, “‘curtains’ on sin and death.” Surprisingly, the Messiah came, and not everything in Isaiah 11 or 61 was realized all at once. What looked like one coming in the Old Testament was split into two comings, with a lot of time in between. From the eagerness of the disciples to reject the idea that Jesus was going to suffer in Jerusalem, and from their desire to see the kingdom restored to Israel in Acts 1, they seem to agree with Justin that the continuation of sin and death is depressing.

Now that Jesus has come, of course, we can look back on the OT and see statements that fit with a first and second coming.

So you can see where I’m going: as I said in the panel discussion, our task is to understand how everything the Bible says fits together. Obviously he wouldn’t argue that the OT indications that the coming of the Messiah will be accompanied by the reverse of the curse are a “fatal weakness” for what the NT says about Jesus having come once and promising that he will come again. Nor would he argue that the Gospels saying that Judas hung himself is a “fatal weakness” for the testimony in Acts that Judas fell headlong and his insides burst out. Nor, in my judgment, do the things Paul says about the second coming in 1 Corinthians 15 preclude what John says about the Millennium in Revelation 20.

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Audio and Video from “An Evening of Eschatology”

It was my privilege and honor to participate in “An Evening of Eschatology” at Bethlehem Baptist Church, hosted by the Bethlehem College and Seminary, with John Piper, Sam Storms, and Doug Wilson.

The Audio and Video of the event are available, with an introduction from John Piper, here.

May the Lord be glorified and his word understood.

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