“Your Kingdom Come” – Reflections on the Fifth Kingdom

There have indeed been many more than five kingdoms on this earth, however, Daniel is only concerned with those kingdoms which directly impact his own people, the nation of Israel, beginning with his own time.  The “fifth kingdom” is the kingdom that the God of heaven will set up.  We live in a time of much confusion about this subject.  Many people believe that “the church” is the kingdom.  Is that what the Scripture teaches?  Others throw up their hands in confusion and say that the subject is too complicated, confusing and divisive and there are just too many contradictory viewpoints.  However, we hope our comments on the subject will be helpful.  We’ll frame these comments as answers to questions or other comments on the subject.

It might be argued that this post has nothing to do with the exposition of Daniel.  Perhaps that is true, however, we believe it is essential to the understanding of Daniel.  We cannot isolate the book from the rest of Scripture or from our own understanding of what it teaches.  Books and movies sensationalize ideas about the future, many of which have little if anything to do with a Biblical view of the future.  What does the Scripture say?

Before we go any further, the main point of controversy about “the kingdom” centers around whether or not there will be an earthly kingdom, i.e., a “millennium,” during which the Lord Jesus will sit on an actual throne in the city of Jerusalem for 1000 years before the destruction of this present world and the introduction of new heavens and a new earth.  It’s this thought of the presence of an “earthly kingdom” that this post addresses, and not so much its length, which is clearly shown in Revelation 20.  The 1000 years is simply the introductory phase, if you will, of Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Because “the kingdom” is such an important subject in Scripture, we will have several posts on different aspects of it.

Didn’t the Lord say that His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36?

I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard this verse used at proof that Christ’s kingdom is not “earthly,” which seems to be the worst thing that can be said about it.  Now there was a time when the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king, but that was simply because He fed them, John 6:15. It does appear that they did have some understanding that He was the “Prophet which is to come into the world,” Deuteronomy 18:15, cf. Acts 3:22, but they didn’t understand the spiritual realities He taught later in John 6, at which time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more, v. 66.  His kingdom is indeed “not of this world” in that it won’t be established according to the selfish desires or mistaken ideas of fallen man.  It also ignores the fact that it wasn’t time for the setting up of the kingdom.  In Luke 17:25, Jesus himself taught that there was something that had to happen first: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

This “rejection” isn’t simply the fact that they gave Him over to be crucified; they also rejected the message of His resurrection, which was the “sign” He Himself gave them to show that He was who He said He was, John 2:18-22.  Before the kingdom could be “set up,” He had to “suffer….”  Though many deny any such restoration or kingdom at all, referring it to a generic “people of God,” or to “the Church,” an entity unknown in the Old Testament, the kingdom is not going to be set up over a renegade Israel, as Israel was then and still is; it will be set up over a ransomed, redeemed and restored Israel, cf. Isaiah 1:24-27; 4:4, as well as many others.

Does John 18:36 really only mean, as many claim, that our Lord was teaching that His kingdom was “spiritual” and not “earthly”?  This is the entire verse:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

A simple reading of this verse shows that the Lord was not talking about the sphere or location of His kingdom, but of its source.  In the same verse, He said, “My kingdom is not from here, emphasis added.  It isn’t going to be established by the usual conquests and stratagems of earthly kingdoms, like Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece or Rome, just to name the ones Daniel knew.  It isn’t going to be set up, as one has suggested the disciples believed it would be, by the Lord sending out troops here and there to fight against and overthrow the Romans.  It isn’t going to have the same philosophy of rule or conduct as most earthly kingdoms, which pay no attention at all to, or at best give merely formal acknowledgement of, the things of God.

Furthermore, if the Lord meant what the Reformed people claim He did, then what do they make of His statements that He Himself is not of this world, John 17:4?  Unless you’re going to be like one of those who deny that Jesus ever really existed or that He had an actual physical body, you have to admit that He lived “in the world” for about 33 years.  He ate, slept, walked, talked, ministered, got tired, got hungry and finally died, in this world.  He did everything everyone else in the world did, except get married or sin.  He was even born into this world.  It was His conception – the source, the origin of His humanity – that was unlike any other conception, including that of His mother.  Though indeed “born of woman,” the Son of God came into the world through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who conceived for Him in the womb of a young Jewish virgin named Mary, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38.  After this conception, however, He developed in the womb, and was born, like any other human being in this world.  Furthermore, His physical body was identical to every other human body, except for the capacity to sin.  “Sin” is not a essential or necessary element of being “human”.  Adam and Eve were fully human before their tragic fall in the Garden of Eden.  Simply stated, though living “in the world” as to location, He was not of the world as regards the origin of His human existence.

In addition, He made the same statement about His disciples, John 17:14, where He said that they, too, “are not of this world, just as I am not of this world.”  Yet they were most certainly born into this world and lived for many years after Jesus left it.  Clearly, to be “not of this world” has nothing to do with function, but everything to do with origin.

Likewise, His kingdom will not originate from, nor according to, this world.  Indeed, when He returns, so far from rejoicing at His coming, Matthew 24:30 says, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power.  This “mourning” will not be in repentance, as some have suggested, but in sorrow that their time is up, and they will no longer be able to live fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, Ephesians 2:3.  The inspired record tells us that all the tribes of the earth will see Him, not just what He does, as those who believe that the events listed in Matthew 24, 25 all happened at or before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD tell us.

The word translated “power” in Matthew 24:30 is the word we get the English words “dynamo,” “dynamite,” “dynamic.”  Loosely translated, it means power to get the job done.  Jesus will not come back as some nominal or ineffectual figurehead, a King in a realm nobody can see and to whom nobody pays any attention.  His “rule” will in no way be “invisible”!!  He will demonstrate the “exousia,” the jurisdiction, that He’s had all along, but which has generally been ignored or rejected.  However, there is coming a time when it will be impossible to deny that Jesus is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords.

There is a second question which goes along with this one:  Isn’t Jesus reigning right now at the right hand of the Father?  We’ll look at this question, Lord willing, in our next post.

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Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Revelation 20:1-6, It Can’t Possibly Mean That!

1] Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  2] He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3] and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.  The I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not receive his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  5] But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.  6] Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20 continues the events begun by the return of our Lord in ch. 19.  The events in this chapter conclude human history.  They include the binding of Satan, the 1000 year kingdom, the loosing of Satan for the final rebellion, and the Great White Throne judgment.  We’ll look at the first two in this post.

1. The binding of Satan.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this, just a couple of things.  Satan will be bound, not just “hindered,” as, say, by the preaching of the Gospel.  Some have the idea that he’s just going to be like a dog on a chain in the backyard, but still have a limited amount of freedom.  Scripture says he will be bound up and put away. Out of sight and out of mind.

Some object to the idea of a “chain” binding a spirit creature like Satan.  However one may choose to look at this, the teaching is plain:  Satan will literally be taken out of the picture, by whatever means God chooses to use.

2. The “1000 years”.

These verses are some of the most controversial in Scripture.  The very idea of “an earthly, carnal, kingdom” where the Lord sits on an actual throne in the actual city of Jerusalem is just too far beyond what some can accept.  According to this mindset, these verses can’t possible refer to an actual 1000 year period, but, as one writer put it, simply refer to our present Gospel dispensation of nearly 2000 years (!)

I think there’s a reason the Holy Spirit inspired John to use the phrase “1000 years” five times in six verses.  It’s to impress on us that He means 1000 years, not just some indeterminate amount of time!  Besides, isn’t it an insult to our Lord to describe any rule of His, regardless of where it is, as “carnal”?

Revelation doesn’t tell us a great deal of what will happen during these years, but other Scriptures give us some idea.

1. Satan will be bound.

We’ve already seen this.  The chief enemy of God and His people will be taken out of the picture.

2. Israel as a nation will be saved, Zechariah 12:9-14.  They will realize that this One whom they crucified is actually their Redeemer.  Some have objected that their sin shut them out of the possibility of being saved, but, in fact, it will be the means of their eventual conversion.

3. Israel as a nation will be judged, Ezekiel 20:33-38.  When our Lord come back, not every Jew will bow to Him as Lord.  Those refusing to do so will be purged out of the nation.

4. The living Gentile nations will be judged, Matthew 25:31-46, apparently on the basis of how they have treated the Jews.  This might have some reference to the invasion of Israel.

5. The curse will be removed from the earth, Isaiah 65:17-25.  This is the time Paul said that creation was looking forward to, Romans 8:19-21, where creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Some have take Isaiah’s reference in  65:17 to new heavens and a new earth to mean eternity.  Revelation 21:1 also describes such a creation.  However, I don’t think Isaiah and Revelation refer to the same thing.  I may be wrong, but Isaiah says there will still be death in his vision:

“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days’
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed, Isaiah 65:20.

In contrast, John describes a place where “there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

Considering the radical changes that will take place when the Lord comes back, I think it can safely be said that things will indeed be “new”.

The beast and his minions had killed those who refuse to bow down before him and receive his mark.  Here we find, though, that these same martyrs are resurrected and share in the millennial glory.  This isn’t simply “conversion,” as some teach, but an actual coming back to life of those who gave their lives for the Lord.

What about OT and church saints?  Paul taught that OT saints will come back with the Lord at His return and NT saints will be resurrected then.  These won’t be left out of the blessings.

Man longs for and dreams of a “utopia” in which everyone lives happily ever after.  That will not be realized in any real sense until our Lord comes back and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 2:19-29, The Church at Thyatira: Where Service is Not Sufficient

“I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.  Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.  Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.  But hold fast what you have till I come.  And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations –

‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed in pieces like the
potter’s vessels’ –

as I also received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.  
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘

As we’ve mentioned before, this is the longest of the seven letters.

– continued from the previous post –

3. Contents of the Epistle, 2:19-29.

Commendation, v. 19.

This is the warmest commendation of any, which perhaps emphasizes the severity of what follows.  Thyatira had so much, and yet fell so far short.  The Lord indicates there had been real spiritual progress.  “Works” are mentioned twice, “the last more (or, better) than the first.”  Jesus commended them for four practical aspects of their Christian life:

1. Love.  This is the first and chief of all Christian graces, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.  This is what Ephesus lacked.

2. Service, “diakonia,” voluntary service for our brethren, or those around us, by which they are benefited.  This is different from “doulos,” the word used by Paul and translated “bondservant,” whose only duty was to obey his master.  This is an apt word for our service to God.  What we do as God’s servants does not “benefit” Him!  Cf. Job 35:7.

3. Faith.  Cf. Hebrews 11:6.  Faith isn’t simply agreement with a set of teachings, a catechism, a statement of faith, as good as these may be.  It isn’t some sort of “feeling” or experience by which we enter a supposed “higher plane of Christian existence.”  According to Hebrews 11, faith is an obedient response to the Word of God.  We read over and over again in that chapter, “by faith,” so-and-so did this or that.  Noah built a huge boat, when it had never rained.  Abraham left a comfortable life in a metropolis of his time and everything he knew to follow a promise.  Enoch just disappeared one day.  These and many others didn’t simply “believe” God, they did what He said.  Some of what they did seems unreasonable, even wicked, to unbelievers,e.g., Abraham’s “sacrifice” of Isaac.  But they pleased God.  That’s all that matters.

4. Patience, endurance under hardship.  We see examples of this later in Hebrews 11, Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tested, were slain with the sword.  They wandered around in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, vs. 35b-38.

We’ve been spoiled in this country.  What we just read above is more likely to be the treatment of God’s people in this world, and it is in many countries even as I write these words.

Thyatira had much that was good, but they also had much that was bad.  This leads to:

Condemnation and Judgment, vs. 20-23.

1. Condemnation, v. 20.  Thyatira was very active in works, but they seem to have neglected the Word.  This is why all the things wrong with them happened.  They weren’t really guided by the Word of God.  Because of this,  –

– they permitted false teaching. Perhaps, like the church at Corinth, they thought it was an evidence of “Christian love” or some such thing, to tolerate this teaching.  I don’t really know.  Regardless, “tolerance” is not permitted in defiance of plain Scripture teaching.  “Gender fluidity,” unScriptural views of marriage, of the family, of morality in general, of the roles of men and woman, of the place of Scripture in society, to name just a few, have no place in a Biblical worldview, regardless of how popular or prevalent they, or any other social idea, might be, or how unpopular the Biblical view is.

What about the idea that a woman was responsible for this teaching?

We don’t know who this woman really was, or if this was even her real name.  So we have to ask, who is Jezebel in Scripture?  She’s first mentioned in 1 Kings 16:31-33, where she is married to Ahab, king of Israel, a king who followed in the idolatrous and rebellious practices of Jeroboam, the first ruler of the divided kingdom, see 1 Kings 12:25-33, who thereafter was known as  “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin,” and future kings of Israel are faulted for following him.

Ahab was a weak king and Scripture says of him, there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up, 1 Kings 21:25.  She did the same thing to her son, 1 Kings 22:52.

She was a “mixer,” mixing the true religion of Israel with the false religion of her homeland.  Whatever she was to the northern kingdom, that’s what this other “Jezebel” was to Thyatira, mixing the true and the false.  It doesn’t matter what she called herself, she was wrong, and the church got into trouble for following her.

At the same time, I think Christ has something to say to those who turn to mere human authority, rather than hearing what the Spirit says to the churches.  One of the Puritans used to say, “I want to hear but two things.  First, does God speak?  Second, what does He say?”  Unless we have this attitude, and aren’t content merely to follow some preacher, teacher or school of thought, we are in Thyatira.

As for the idea of a woman teaching men, the Scripture is quite clear on this, in spite of the rampant feminism, “Biblical” or otherwise, that has engulfed even our churches, 1 Corinthians 14:33-37; 1 Timothy 2:8-12.  Lest, as some have done, it is said these verses just show Paul’s “rabbinic prejudice,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:37, these things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

This in no way is intended to demean women.  Their value and contribution in this life cannot be overstated.  It’s just that the world has an entirely different definition of those ideas than Scripture.  This is not to say in any way that man is “superior,” or that women are “inferior.”  It is God Who is superior and He has set an order in the church, in the home and in society.  He has one set of rules; the world has chosen to reject those and go by their own set of rules, with the resulting chaos we see all around us.

– they tolerated idolatry and immorality.  Possibly this centered around the trade-guilds and the idolatry and immorality they fostered.  We don’t know how Jezebel might have reasoned about these things in the church, but it doesn’t really matter.  Regardless of why it happened, the Lord was having none of it.

2. Judgment, vs. 21-23.

With reference to the actual church in Thyatira, we don’t know what happened when the Lord judged this wickedness, just that it happened.

With reference to any typical teaching, we believe this church represents the Reformation and Rome’s response to the true gospel.

– grace before judgment, v. 21. The Lord said, “I gave her space to repent….”   Savonorala in Italy, Wickliffe in England, John Knox in Scotland, Martin Luther in Germany, Zwingli in Switzerland, Calvin in France – all men whom God raised up throughout their world to call Rome to repentance, but “she repented not,” and instead set up a “Counter Reformation” to strengthen her grip on the souls of men and to counteract the preaching of the truth.

– judgment on her and her followers, v. 22.

See above for remarks about the actual church situation in Thyatira.

– judgment on her “children,” v. 23.

Who are “her children”?  Are they not the Reformation churches?  Calvin and Luther and others never repudiated their Catholic ordination.  When Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to that door in Wittenburg, he wasn’t trying to start a new “church,” but was attempting to call the church that ordained him to repentance and a return to the truths of Scripture.

– “kill with death.”  We think this phrase contains a vital, but generally overlooked, truth.  What brought about the Reformation?  Wasn’t it largely due to the recovery of the Scriptural teaching of justification by grace through faith?  We’ve already noted Luther’s and Calvin’s views on preaching and interpretation.  The Reformers did preach the Word to a degree unheard of for centuries.  It’s sad that they brought so much with them when they left Rome.  But they did at least start with a foundation of Scripture.

What happened?

The Reformers themselves were men of the Spirit, but their doctrines of infant baptism and the state-church, whereby everyone who was a citizen of the nation was by virtue of that citizenship also a member of the state church, soon filled their churches with unsaved people, and their method of allegorical interpretation, in spite of the “literalism” they started with, soon reduced the Gospel to nothing more than a series of ethical maxims.

We think very little of this in our day, but Scripture says that the Word of God will inevitably have one of only two results:

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 3:6, emphasis added.

Apart from the ministry of the Spirit of God, the Word of God produces death, whether it’s preached in a Reformed church, a Baptist church, or someone just picks it up and reads it.  According to Paul, there is no middle ground.  Protestant churches have the Word, but, to a great degree, have reduced it to teachings on ethics and morality.  However, ethics, even biblical ones, do not give “life.”  So Rome’s children have been “killed with death” by the very Scriptures of which Protestant churches make their boast.

– “give to each one of you..,” v. 23.

Whatever may be said about “typical” teaching from these verses, the Lord is here addressing the actual church in Thyatira.  There is a judgment of persons as well as of systems, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  The believer’s sins aren’t in view in these verses; they were taken care of on Calvary.  His works will be put to the test – what he did with the life God gave him.  The word translated, “loss,” has two meanings: loss of what has been gained, the works of wood, hay and stubble, but it also means “to forfeit” – the reward that would have been received if the works had been gold, silver or precious stones.  Such a one faces a double loss:  all the works of his life, as well as any reward.  Paul put it like this:  he himself will be saved, yet as through fire, v. 15.  The picture is of a person who has gone through a disastrous fire, losing everything and escaping only with his life.

It’s a sobering thought.  20, 30, 40, 50 years of ministry, perhaps outwardly great and wonderful, gone up in smoke.  This is why John warned his readers – and us, Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward, 2 John 8 (ESV), emphasis added.

Closing remarks, vs. 24-29.

1. Responsibility, vs. 24, 25, “hold fast.”

The phrase means, to hold by strong hands, tugging for it, with those who would take it from them.  It indicates an ongoing and difficult struggle to retain what they still had.  The world has no use for the things of God, and even many in “the church” see no value in them, being content with ritual and routine.  In Thyatira, there were those who were actively opposed to the truth of God’s Word.  The believers weren’t to let them win.

2. Reassurance, vs. 26 – 28.

As difficult as it might have seemed to these Thyatiran believers, their struggles would come to an end and they would be richly rewarded.  They were promised power (authority) over the nations.

A Reformed writer had this to say, “One by one, as we reach the end here on earth, we shall pass into heaven and there sit with Christ on His throne and together with Him exercise kingly rule and authority over the nations until His Parousia. (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, p. 122.)

Sorry, but I must differ.  Where is there a single place on earth today that bears any evidence of Christ’s “kingly rule”?  Where He is honored and revered?  What kind of “rule” is that, where the King is ignored, even ridiculed and rejected?  This quote is a very shallow and irreverent view of “the kingdom.”

Our Lord Himself said that He is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne, 3:21.  He will not sit on His own throne as King until after His return to this earth, Matthew 25:31.  He isn’t referred to as “King” until then, either.  According to Zechariah 14:16-21, when our Lord is ruling this earth, there will be no question about it – and no escaping it.  He, and His people, will rule the nations “with a rod of iron,” because not everyone will be glad to see Him!  We see this graphically portrayed in Revelation 20:7, when Satan is released from his prison at the end of the 1000 year reign of our Lord (not just “hindered” by the preaching of the Gospel, but actually incarcerated), and he will have no trouble at all in gathering a world-wide rebellion against the King, a rebellion that will be quickly snuffed out.  Just in passing, if the Holy Spirit didn’t mean an actual 1000 years, why did He mention it six times in six verses?

“the morning star.”  2 Peter 1:19 refers to the morning star rising in our hearts.  There’s a lot of discussion about what this “star” is.  I confess I don’t know.  Whatever it is, is probably beyond the ability of words to convey.

 3. Reminder, v. 29.

These aren’t just the delusions of a tired old man in prison.  They are what the Spirit says to the churches.

Pay attention….

Revelation 1:9-11, The Kingdom and Patience of Jesus Christ

I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia:  to Ephesus, to Smyrna, the Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”  (NKJV)

John uses an interesting phrase in v. 9, where he mentions “the kingdom and patience” of our Lord.  I don’t know that I ever hear or read those four words together in any discussion of “the kingdom.”  In fact, when I first typed the verses to begin this post, I left out the words “and patience” myself.  We’re so used to hearing about just “the Kingdom.”

John isn’t the only one who mentioned “the patience of Christ.”  In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul also referred to it.

Why did John use the words “and patience”?  Why did the Spirit lead him to use them?

After the Lord’s resurrection, Scripture says that He was exalted to the right hand of God in heaven.  I don’t know that there’s much disagreement among Christians about that’s where He is right now.  The discussion centers around the idea of what He is doing there.  Perhaps most Christians believe that He’s ruling from there, in what’s called His “Heavenly Session.”  His Kingdom is now, in the church.  It has nothing to do, except perhaps providentially or incidentally, with the rest of the world.

What does the Scripture say?  Romans 4:3.

There are some eighteen references in the NT to our Lord at God’s right hand.

Matthew 26:64, Jesus said to him, “It is as you said.  Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Along with the next reference, this verse happened during one of the “trials” of our Lord before His crucifixion.  The high priest had just asked Him if He were the Messiah.  Among other things, Jesus answered that the High Priest would one day see Him sitting at the right hand of “the Power” and this would be irrefutable proof of who He was.  He didn’t say “God” because the Jews were very careful never to say that for fear of breaking the third commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain.

Mark 14:62, Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest and the others who heard the Lord were offended because they recognized that Jesus was claiming to be the One to referred to in Daniel 7:13.

Luke 20:41-44, And He said to them, “How can they say that Christ is the Son of David?  Now David himself said in the book of Psalms:  ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘  Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then His Son?”

Religious officials had been questioning Jesus about various Scriptures, trying to get Him to say something that they could use against Him.  When they finally quit talking, the Lord used their own Scriptures against them.  Quoting Psalm 110:1, He asked, in effect, “How could David’s God be David’s Son?”

Luke 22:59, Jesus said, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

Like the first two references, this is a detail from the questioning of our Lord. Regardless of what His enemies do to Him, they won’t have the final word about Him.

Acts 2:33, 34, in his sermon explaining what had just happened on the Day of , Pentecost, Peter said of that One whom his listeners had crucified, “therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  For David did not ascend into heavens, but he says himself:  ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand….”‘  Another reference to Psalm 110:1.

Acts 5:31, Peter, this time speaking to the Sanhedrin and referring to that One whom they had recently murdered, “Him God exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
Leaving aside the reference about “repentance to Israel,” Peter told the Sanhedrin that they might have crucified Jesus, but God has glorified Him.

Acts 7:55, 56, Here is the account of Stephen’s witness before the Sanhedrin.  It became evident that his message would be rejected and so Luke concludes his account, But he being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look!  I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  This is the only reference to Jesus standing at God’s right hand.  Some have suggested that He stood in order to welcome home this first martyr of the church.

Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

We’ll have more to say about this verse later.

Ephesians 1:20, In this discussion of the greatness of His power toward us who believe, v. 19, Paul goes on to tell us that this is the same power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.  The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that raises us from spiritual death.

Colossians 3:1, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

If we’ve been raised from spiritual death and made spiritually alive, then we should live like it.

Hebrews 1:3, Who [Christ] being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sin, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

That One who died on the Cross wasn’t just another criminal, but was God incarnate, and His death on the Cross was the only payment that could be made for sin, and that had to be made for sin.  Afterward, He sat down.  This is something the OT priest could never do; his work was never done.  Christ sits, because there is nothing more that needs to be done for our redemption as far as its being paid for.  There is still the work of the Spirit, applying the benefits of that death to us and bringing us to faith in the One who died for sinners.
Further, it seems to me, if the Lord is truly reigning as some believe He is, this verse should say something to the effect that “He sat down on the throne of the Majesty on high,” not that He sat down at its right hand.

Hebrews 1:13, But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?”

Here the writer asserts the superiority of the Lord Jesus over angels, because none of them has ever gotten the promise he quotes from Psalm 110.  This is in keeping with the writer’s desire in this chapter to show the superiority of the Lord over things in the OT that his readers would have held in high regard:  Moses, Aaron, the priesthood, etc.

Hebrews 8:1, Now this is the main point of the things we are saying:  We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

We have a High Priest who isn’t dependent on an earthly lineage or earthly service, one who never ceases to be High Priest because He lives forever, and One whose work in offering a sacrifice for sin is done.  Indeed, He Himself was that sacrifice, something no mere earthly priest would be or could be.

Hebrews 10:12, 13, OT priests had continual sacrifices to offer, sacrifices which could never take away sins.  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

 Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.

The Cross was no walk in the park for our Lord.  For all our learning, I don’t think we understand any more of what really happened on that implement of agonizing death than an infant has of the suffering of his mother in bringing him into this world.

1 Peter 3:22, where Peter tells us that, after His resurrection, who [Jesus] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and power having been made subject to Him.

With the possible exception of Peter’s statement, none of the verses we quoted speak of our Lord as sitting as King on the throne, and even here, His reign is over angels and other spiritual beings, cf. Ephesians 6:12.  Indeed, He is never called “King” except in reference to His Second Coming.

Jesus is called “King of Kings” or some similar title in four verses:  1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 1:5; 17:14 and 19:16.  Even in His own description of His judging the nations in Matthew 26, and sitting on the throne of His glory to do so, it is only after He has returned to this earth in His glory, v. 31.

Later in Revelation, we’ll see our Lord’s promise to faithful believers who are in an unfaithful church, To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throneRevelation 3:21.  He made the same promise to His disciples when He was still with them, So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you that in the regeneration when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” Matthew 19:28, see also Luke 22:30.
Here He makes a distinction between sitting on His own throne, and sitting with His Father on His, the Father’s, throne.
I really can’t see how this might be or is “fulfilled in the church”.

Well, if He’s not ruling, then what is He doing?

Ah.

Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us, emphasis added.

Paul says that Jesus is interceding for us.  I expect we keep Him busy.

When the High Priest had finished sacrificing on the Day of Atonement, he took some of the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat.  This foreshadowed both the sacrifice and the intercession of our Lord.  Hebrews 9:24 says, For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us, emphasis added.

The right hand of the throne is a place of honor.  We see this in Solomon’s life, when he had a throne placed at his right hand for his mother, 1 Kings 1:19.  He wasn’t making her co-regent or anything like that.  He was simply honoring her.  For her, it became a place of intercession for Adonijah, one of Solomon’s brothers.  So it is for our Lord.  This world rejected, and rejects, Him;  God honors him, cf. Philippians 2:5-11.

Our Lord is doing something else, as well.

Hebrews 10:12, 13 says that He is waiting:  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies be made His footstoolemphasis added.  The word translated “waiting” means “to expect from the hand of another.”

After the resurrection, the disciples asked Jesus, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.  It seems to me that this would have been an excellent time, if it were true, for the Lord to have explained to the disciples that God was done with Israel and there would be no kingdom for her.  But that’s not what He said:  “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority,” v. 7, emphasis added.

He simply told them that the time of the setting up of the kingdom was up to the Father.  That’s true for Him, as well.  It’s up to the Father.

Understanding The Revelation.

As I began this post, I intended to make it a two-post series.  With all the discussion of the Revelation, I knew that two posts wouldn’t be enough really to understand the book, if that’s even possible before it’s all over and done with.  I just wanted to lay a basic foundation. The first post was to be about the importance of the book and its interpretation.  The second post was to be an overview of the contents of the book.  The more I thought about it, though, and even wrote, the more I realized that I had two choices for the outline of the book.  I could just give a bare outline of the book, sort of like its skeleton, but I don’t know that that would really say much about the book.  In order to do any kind of justice to the subject, I needed more than that.  For me, that would probably wind up being several thousands of words.  For the time being, I’ve decided just to do the first post on how to interpret the book.  I have done a couple other posts on the first chapters of the book.  I am thinking tentatively of a series on the seven churches.  There’s a lot there.  For the rest, there’s really a lot there.  I may or may not jump in.

I.  The Importance of the Book.

A.  It’s the only prophetic book in the New Testament.  Nearly every other book in the New Testament has elements of prophecy, but Revelation is the only book called “a prophecy,” 1:3; 10:11; 22:7, 10, 18, 19, the climax of which will be the second coming of Christ, 1:7; 3:11; 16:15; 19:11; 22:7, 12, 20.

B.  It’s necessary to complete the revelation of Pauline eschatology.  Paul revealed many prophetic truths – the Revelation puts them all into perspective.  Indeed, Revelation is the capstone of all Biblical prophecy.

C. It fully reveals Christ’s present relationship to His churches and His prospective relationship to the world.  It’s the fulfillment of Philippians 2:9-11 and is the answer to the question in 1 Peter 4:17, 18.

D.  It’s the only NT book in which is given a blessing for the fulfilling of our responsibilities toward it, 1:3; 22:7.  This responsibility is three-fold:  to read, to hear, and to keep.  The Greek word translated, “keep,” doesn’t mean simply to possess, but in the words of Newell,

“Now the sense of the word ‘keep’ is its primary one of  ‘watching over,’ ‘guarding as a treasure,’ as well as its secondary one, ‘to give heed to.”  We cannot ‘keep’ a prophecy as men might ‘observe’ a law.  The prophecy will  be fulfilled whether we pay attention to it or not.  But there is divine blessing if we give heed to it and jealously guard its very words!”  (Revelation, p. 7, emphasis his.)

There are several Scriptures which build on the foundation of prophetic insight in their teachings as to is to be what our outlook on this present evil world, Galatians 1:4.  Two of the more notable ones are 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and 2 Peter 3:11-14.

1 Thessalonians tells us that the Christian life is to be one of activity and anticipation.  This “activity” is two-fold, to turn from idols and to serve the living and true God.  Many rejoice in the fact, at least to their own minds, that they have fulfilled the first of these, that is, they “don’t drink or chew or have friends who do,” but fail to realize that the other side of the coin, as it were, is “serving the living and true God.”  As Paul put it, presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord, Romans 12:1, 2..

The coupling of activity and anticipation also shows us what is to be our attitude toward the coming of the Lord.  We’re not, as some have, to quit our jobs, sell all our possessions, put on white sheets, and go to live on a mountaintop, waiting for the Lord to come and pick us up.  No, no, while waiting for Him, we’re to be productive in the things of God, leaving the fulfilling of His purpose to Him.  We’ll have more to say about this shortly.

2 Peter also tells us what is to be our attitude in this life.  It is to be, “as then, so now.”  In other words, many Christians seem to have the attitude that, since we’ll be perfect only in heaven, there’s little need to be concerned about it before we get there.  It is true that perfect and complete holiness won’t be ours until we get to heaven, but it is also true that God begins the work before we get there.  He begins it in this life, as soon as we’re converted.  Heaven will, as it were, reveal the unveiling of His masterpiece, but He begins the work in this life.  The things that happen to us now are His brushstrokes as He makes us into the likeness of His Son.

The eternal world is described by Peter as one in which righteousness dwells, 2 Peter 3:13.  There are two thoughts in this.  First, there is “permanence.”  Righteousness is very fleeting on this earth and is often covered up or done away with.  Not so in eternity.  Second, “dwells” carries the idea of “being at home.”  Sin and evil are at home in this world, righteousness is often viewed as an unwelcome intruder.  Not so in eternity.  Therefore, wrote Peter, we’re to strive to be holy in this life, 2 Peter 3:11, 14.  “Holiness” isn’t about some “experience,” or about belonging to a particular denomination or group.  True Biblical holiness is about conformity to the will of God.  It’s the demonstration of the character of God in the life of the believer.  Imperfectly, to be sure, but something longed for by those who know the true God.

In 2 Peter 3:12, Peter tells us we’re also to be hasting unto the coming of the day of God.  This doesn’t mean that we can do something to hasten it, or that we can delay it, for that matter, but rather that we’re eagerly to wait for it and to look forward to it, as a young child might to a promised treat, or on a long journey, wanting to know, “Are we there yet?”

This doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to set dates or anything foolish like that, but to realize, and to wish, that today might be the day when the Lord returns.

D.  It’s the only NT book which includes a curse against those who tamper with its contents!  For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book, Revelation 22:18, 19.

Regardless of what one thinks about what these verses mean, or even what the book itself means, it’s a serious thing to approach the book with anything but the utmost reverence and respect.  God will not have His Word to be meddled with, mocked, or misused!  It’s neither to be sensationalized nor minimized.

II. Interpretation of the Book

 It’s said that Satan especially hates three books of the Bible:  Genesis, because it records God’s denunciation of him, Deuteronomy, because the Lord Jesus defeated him with it during Satan’s testings of Him in the wilderness, and Revelation, because it reveals his ultimate defeat and eternal doom.

This may or may not be true, but it’s certain that he has caused a great deal of controversy over how to interpret the book.  Generally speaking, there are four main schools of thought about this.

A.  Preterist.

According to this view, all the Revelation was fulfilled, except possibly the last two chapters, during the early history of the church.  There are those who hold that even they have been fulfilled.  Preterists believe the book to be, “A Tract for Troubled Times,” instructing the early believers to hold fast during the troubles they were facing, and would face, and encouraging them that these troubles would not be permanent.

B.  Historicist.

This view teaches that all Revelation has a continuous fulfillment throughout the Christian era.  In other words, the various things in the book, such as seals, trumpets, bowls, etc., don’t refer to specific events or details, but “to principles that are operating throughout the new dispensation,” (Wm. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, p. 54.)  Thus we can understand the expression “a huge mountain all ablaze” that was “hurled into the sea,” as representing all maritime disasters happening during this age.

C.  Allegorical or Spiritualizing.

According to this view, Revelation portrays through symbol the conflict between good and evil.  John is said not to have expected a literal fulfillment of his words.  We’re not supposed to, either.  Wm. Ramsay states the following:

“In the figurative or symbolic language of the Apocalypse hardly anything is called by its ordinary and direct name, but things are indirectly alluded to under some other name, and words have to be understood as implying something else than their ordinary connotations….”  (The Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 111.)

Then he goes so far as to assert that “the most dangerous kind of error that can be made about the Apocalypse is to regard it as a literal statement and prediction of events,” p.112.

We want to deal with this view a little more than with the others because it has had such an impact on Church history and on current views of The Revelation.

The allegorical method had its roots in the ancient Greek culture of Alexandria.  It arose as the result of a dilemma the Alexandrian Greeks faced in reconciling the difference between their philosophical heritage and the often immoral and grotesque stories about their gods.  This dilemma was resolved by treating the religious stories allegorically, that is, as not literally true, but as merely illustrating the virtues or as describing the struggle between good and evil.

The Alexandrian Jew also had two traditions to reconcile.  His religion had come down from Moses and the prophets.  Yet, in Alexandria’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, he soon learned of the great Greek philosophical tradition.  How could he embrace both?  It’s true that we can say that he shouldn’t have.  He should have rejected Plato and clung to Moses, but we’re not talking about what should have happened, but about what did happen.  The Alexandrian Jew did as the Alexandrian Greek had done before him; he interpreted Plato literally and interpreted Moses allegorically, thus making Moses teach the philosophy of Plato.

Jewish allegorism arose about 160 B.C. and, though not originating with him, was popularized by a Jew named Philo, who believed in the divine origin of Greek philosophy.  He taught that every Scripture had both a literal and an allegorical meaning.  The literal meaning was for the weak-minded, while the allegorical meaning was for the advanced.

About 180, the allegorical method was advanced in Christian circles by Pantaneus, then by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen,

The allegorical method

“owes its origin to the Alexandrine Fathers Clement and Origen, who applied it generally in the interpretation of Scripture.  They applied it even more readily in this instance [the interpretation of The Revelation], as it furnished them with the possibility of denying the millennial reign of Christ, to which they were opposed.  By this method all the prophecies in the book are deprived of any prophetic meaning, thus becoming general spiritual principles for the aid and comfort of the Christian in his unceasing fight against evil.  This method was adopted by the rationalistic schools as being agreement with their aversion to the prophetic and, consequently, the supernatural character of the content of Scripture.”  (George A. Hadjiantoniou, New Testament Introduction, p. 340.)

With regard to Ramsey’s comment above, I don’t think there is any more “dangerous” way to interpret any Scriptures than to say that it has “to be understood as implying something else than [its] ordinary connotations”!  Certainly, there are difficulties in interpreting prophecy, but in the Scripture, prophecy is about predicting events, things which must…come to pass, not just laying down “principles.” And in the other Scriptures, if God didn’t mean what He said, why didn’t He say what He meant?  That can be applied to prophecy very often, as well, especially in the Old Testament.

Having said that, we understand that “prophecy” sometimes refers simply to the preaching of the Word, without any predictive element.  That’s not the case with The Revelation.

4.  The Futurist View.

This view holds that most of Revelation is yet future, even to our own time.  Futurists accept Revelation to employ language generally to be understood literally.  This doesn’t deny the use of symbols; it does deny that everything is symbolic.

Premillennialism, or the doctrine of the Millennium and an earthly kingdom of our Lord, which is what all this is really about, is accused of being of recent origin, the 18th or 19th centuries.  This isn’t true.  Under the name “chiliasm” (from chilias – “thousand,” Revelation 20), it was the belief of the early church, though there are some differences.  In his book, The Millennium, Loraine Boettner claims that this means nothing:

“As far as its presence in the early church is concerned, surely it can be argued with as much reason that it was one of those immature and unscriptural beliefs that flourished before the Church had time to work out the true system of Theology as that its presence at that time is an indication of purity of faith.  In any event, so thoroughly did Augustine do his work in refuting it that it practically disappeared for a thousand years as an organized system of thought, and was not seriously put forth again until the time of the Protestant Reformation.” (p. 366.)

There are some interesting things here.  The “thousand years” to which he refers from Augustine to the Reformation are known as “The Dark Ages,” a time in which the Scriptures themselves almost disappeared, let alone a difficult subject like prophecy.  I believe the adoption of the allegorical method led directly to this dismal time in church and human history.  I further believe that the Reformation itself would never have come, humanly speaking, if Luther and Calvin and others hadn’t restored a measure of literalism to their expositions of Scripture.

In his Bondage of the Will, written in 1525 to answer a volume written by the humanist scholar Erasmus on the subject of free-will, Luther had this to say:

 “…let this be our conviction:  that no “implication” or “figure” may be allowed to exist in any passage of Scripture unless such be required by some obvious feature of the words and the absurdity of their plain sense, as offending against an article of faith.  Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech that God has created among men; for if anyone may devise “implications” and “figures” at his own pleasure, what will all Scripture be but a reed shaken with the wind, and as a sort of chameleon?”  (p.192.)

In his commentary on Galatians, written about 1548,  explaining Galatians 4:22-31, (the “allegory” of Sarah and Hagar,)  Calvin had this to say:

“Again, as the history which he [Paul] quotes appeared to have no bearing on the question, he gives it an allegorical interpretation.  But as the apostle declares that these things are “allegorized “(‘allegoroumena’), Origen, and many others with him, have seized the occasion of torturing the Scriptures, in every possible manner, away from the true sense.  They concluded that the literal sense is too mean and poor, and that under the outer bark of the letter, there lurk deeper mysteries, which cannot be extracted but by beating out allegories.  And this they had no difficulty in accomplishing; for speculations which appear to be ingenious have always been preferred, and always will be preferred by the world to solid doctrine.” (p. 135.)

This doesn’t mean that the Reformers themselves had any use for or agreement with chiliasm.  They thought as little of it as had Augustine before them.  Calvin classed chiliasts with Origen, no compliment to them.  He never did a commentary on The Revelation.  And Luther said, “My spirit cannot adjust itself to this book.”

Reformed scholars today, though willing to expound The Revelation, have about the same attitude toward premillennialism as their ancestors had toward chiliasts.  I remember reading one author who sneered at such for having only a “Bible college” education, as opposed to those who had spent years studying in seminary.  No wonder.  If God doesn’t mean what He says, especially about the future, then, no doubt, it would take a considerable amount of “learning” to decipher what He does mean.

And I admit that many of those with whom I might otherwise agree have given them plenty of reason to dislike this viewpoint.  In spite of the fact that, even after centuries of trying and failing, no one ever successfully giving the date on which the Lord will return, people will still insist on “setting dates.”  History is littered with the wreckage of such attempts.

Nevertheless, we believe that the futurist interpretation is the only one which makes sense of the intent of God in giving us this book.  No doubt, for those who received it originally, it was “a tract for troubled times.”  But we believe that it is also a “testimony for terminal times.”  That is, when the end times do come, the Revelation will testify by the unmistakable fulfillment of its predictions as to the truthfulness and authority of the Word of God, both the written word, and that personified in the Son of God:  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, Revelation 19:10.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus, Revelation 22:20.

What’s Ahead for Israel?

The fighting in Gaza has captured a great deal of coverage in the world’s media.  I have no idea how the current fighting will be resolved, but I am interested in the fact that the “truces” are being “timed” – so many hours or days.  I don’t want to make any rash statements, but perhaps – perhaps – this is the beginning of what will culminate in a 7-year treaty between Israel and her enemies.

Daniel 9:27 speaks of an individual who will “confirm a covenant” with Israel for seven years.  The word “confirm” may mean the confirmation of an already existing treaty, or it may mean the making of a new one.  It’s uncertain.  But there is coming a definite treaty.  How do we know it’s Israel?  Because this whole message from Gabriel to Daniel is about “your people and your holy city,” that is, Israel and Jerusalem.  How do we know that “a week” refers to 7 years?  Because the first 69 weeks refer to years and to historical events (historical to us, that is.  They were still future to Daniel).  It makes no sense whatever to say that the first 69 weeks are actual years, but the last week is just some indeterminate period of time.  Finally, who is this individual?  Nobody knows.

Anyway, however the current situation in Israel plays out, it isn’t the final act of her history.  Zechariah 14 gives us details on that.

Zechariah 14:1, 2 refer to a terrible battle in which Jerusalem will be captured and looted and the women subjected to terrible atrocities.  Many of the inhabitants will be taken captive.

It seems to me that this will cover an extensive period of time, perhaps three and a half years, or the last half of the seven years.  It will be a terrible time.  The talking heads on TV will have a great deal to say about the fact that “the Jewish problem” has finally been solved.  Learned discussions will take place on how much better off the world is now that Israel has been defeated.  I’m sure there will be parades and wild celebration, if not world wide, then certainly in Arab countries.  The thorn in their side will finally have been pulled!  Of course, this is all speculation, but I’m sure these future events in the Middle East will generate as much coverage as the current ones are making.

However, whatever happens, this will not be the end of the story.  Vs. 3 and 4 tell of the sudden return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, where He will fight against those nations.  Now it could be that very little time elapses between the seeming final destruction of Jerusalem and Israel and the return of the Lord, though we have treated it otherwise.  It certainly is possible, though the preceding verses do seem to allow for a lapse of time.  Regardless, the Lord will return to Israel and that will be the end of the conflict.  Verses 12-15 describe the plague which will befall those fighting against Israel.  Some have thought this refers to the destruction of an atomic explosion.  Since God doesn’t tell us, we can’t know, just that it will happen.  Further, there will be great panic among these forces, so that they will begin to fight each other.

Accompanying the Lord’s return will be great geological changes.  We would call them catastrophes.  There will be an enormous earthquake, resulting in a very large valley, v. 4.  In addition, a very large portion of the land will be turned into a plain, v. 10.  This will make room for the things described in Ezekiel 40-48.  One of the arguments against a “literal” understanding of those chapters has been the fact that there’s not enough room in Israel for them.  The changes associated with the return of our Lord will take care of that.

Another such change will be living waters flowing from Jerusalem, half toward to Mediterranean and half toward the eastern sea, (the Red Sea?).  Ezekiel 47:1-6 adds to the description of these waters.

The geological changes from the earthquake will undoubtedly affect more than just Israel, though the immediate effects of it extend only to Azal, wherever that is.  The rift itself, which is seen in the Jordan valley, extends 3000 miles into Africa.  Whenever that goes, kind of like the San Andreas fault in California, there will undoubtedly be widespread effects.

But there will also be heavenly effects, which seem to continue beyond just the immediate return of the Lord, v. 6, 7.  We really have no idea what this will be, having nothing in our experience to compare with it.  Perhaps a similar thing happened in Joshua 10:12, 13.

There will be one thing with which we are familiar: there will still be summer and winter, v. 8.

Zechariah 16-21 describe what will happen when the LORD shall be King over all the earth, v. 9.  Mostly it describes worship, which will be mandatory, and refusal will be punished.  The Reformation Study Bible says that these verses refer to “the final state,” or eternity.  If that’s so, then why is there a need for “punishment” and “plague”?  There won’t be any rebellion in eternity.  Heaven will be filled with those who love and serve the Lord and Hell will be filled with those who don’t and won’t.

I know that there’s a lot of discussion about “the kingdom,” and what it is.  Many believe that it’s just the rule of the Lord Jesus in the hearts of His people.  While there is that part of it, Scripture says that “the Lord will King over all the earth,” v. 9.  This is more than the providential rule with which He governs this present world, or the “rule” over His people, which is imperfectly carried out,  at best.  “Imperfect,” not because of Him, but because of us.  When the Lord rules as Scripture says He must and will, there will be no doubt about it.

I just can’t understand why anyone would think it would be such a terrible thing for the Lord actually to “rule” from Jerusalem, or anywhere else on this planet.  Doesn’t the Scripture say that a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom, Psalm 45:5?  Isn’t it a great insult to Him to imply that His rule on this planet would be anything but “righteous”?

Zechariah isn’t the only one who mention the reign of our Lord.  Revelation 19:11-16 also describes His return.  V. 15 says, Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. 

Of course, part of the difficulty in interpreting Revelation is it’s use of symbols.  It’s obvious that there won’t really be a sword sticking out our Lord’s mouth, but, at the same time, the gist of the prophecy is plain.  He will come in victory and swift judgment against His enemies.  The interesting part is where “He Himself will rule them [the nations, not His people, not the Church, – the nations] with a rod of iron.”  The word translated “rule” is interesting.  It means “to shepherd,” and is also used in John 10 of our Lord’s care of His people.

He will “shepherd” the nations.  Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us something of that “shepherding.”  This is a far cry from the Reformed view that the Lord will come back, there will be the final judgment, and then He will usher in eternity.

There is one final statement in Zechariah 14:21, the last statement in the book:  In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. 

What in the world is that all about?

I’m afraid the answer will have to wait until our next post.