Andy Woods The Protestant Reformation 003
We’re going to open in a word of prayer. Father, we thank You for this morning and thank You for Your truth in Your Word. We thank You that You love Your church and You’ve worked in history to protect and preserve Your church. And I pray You’ll be with us in the Sunday School class as we try to gain a better appreciation for the events leading to the Protestant Reformation and what it means and that kind of thing. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.
Open your Bibles to Matthew 2:21 and Happy Father’s Day. If you need a handout just put your hand up and we’ll get the handout to you. I’ve been getting a lot of questions, are these notes the ones from last week and refresh those every week so sometimes I keep some of the slides from last week and add new ones so we’re not just handing out last week stuff. It should say Part 3 on it.
We started a series of studies on the events leading to and then covering the Protestant Reformation and the reason we’re doing this is we’re coming up now on the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and most Christians really don’t know much about it. They know it’s some kind of blimp in history or footnote in history and they really don’t know what God did. So we’re trying to fill in the gaps and talk about it. A study like this involves leaving the Scripture. The canon of Scripture closed in the first century with the writing of the Book of Revelation. And so what in the world happened for the last 2,000 years after the canon of Scripture shut. Well, the Bible doesn’t tell you but church history tells you. So I’m trying to kind of move us into church history to help us sort of understand and explain this time period a little bit better.
So here’s the outline that we’re following, we’ve already covered the early church and we’ve seen what the early church, that would be the church of the apostles, handed off to the first generation of Christians and I tried to explain that the first Christians following the generation of the apostles established a school in Antioch, that would be that circle up north. And that’s the exact area that Paul launched his three missionary journeys from, you’ll recall, from the Book of Acts. And at Antioch they developed a school of thought that took the Bible literally, including the study of prophecy. So they were what we call chiliasts or premillennialists. And in this study you’ll notice I keep focusing on Bible prophecy because what you do with Bible prophecy is sort of a bellwether regarding how you’re going to treat the rest of the Bible. So if you start spiritualizing away Bible prophecy it’s just a matter of time before you start doing that in other areas of Christian thought.
So the school of Antioch we would say, basically, were literalists, they took the Bible literally from Genesis to Revelation. Here’s another map that might be a little clearer showing you Antioch and the mentality of the school of Antioch reigned supreme in the church for two centuries. And so if you are an orthodox Christian, according to the statement I gave you from Justin Martyr, you agreed with what they were teaching there at the school of Antioch. So the first couple centuries of the church, although the church was under persecution, I would say doctrinally speaking it was in pretty good shape, not perfect shape but the ship was moving in the right direction.
However, everything began to change in Alexandria, Egypt, which is the circle down south, at the bottom of the map. Here’s another map that shows you where Alexandria, Egypt is relative to Antioch. And in Alexandria, Egypt they developed a rival school and these folks began to introduce what we would call the allegorical method of interpretation. And as I’m going to show you today the allegorical method of interpretation begins to dominate the church for about a thousand years and this is what Martin Luther and the Reformers in the 16th century are largely pulling us out of. So unless you understand this background you really can’t understand why God raised up the Reformers and what their fight was.
So the allegorical method of interpretation actually started before Christianity came on the scene, in Judaism, largely through a man named Philo. And in Alexandria, Egypt they would say well, what’s in the text is really not what’s important; you have to use the text as a vehicle to bring in a higher spiritual meaning. So Philo, as I’ve tried to explain, said the four rivers in Eden, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates and the Tigris, he would say oh, you can’t take that literally, those are just four parts of the soul. And when you go to Nehemiah 3 you see the various gates around the walls of the city of Jerusalem and I’ve shown you how allegorists would basically say well, that’s really not the point, to describe a boring gate; there’s a higher spiritual meaning here. So each gate was assigned some kind of spiritual significance, even though when you read Nehemiah 3 it just says there’s a wall and gates in the wall.
So is the method of allegorical interpretation the proper method? And last time I gave you four reasons why it is not a valid or good method to follow. Probably the most important reason here is authority transfers from the text to the mind of the interpreter because the allegorist is really the only one that has the subjective meaning. And there’s really no way to test the allegorist because he’s using the Bible in a way that’s going outside of what the Bible says. So I took you through those four reasons why we at Sugar Land Bible Church don’t embrace allegorical interpretation.
And what in the world caused the church to shift from the time and tested method of interpretation established in Antioch, which was handed to Antioch by the apostles, which reigned in the church for two centuries, why in the world would the church shift from that method to this wildly speculative allegorical method of interpretation? And you might remember from last time I gave you five reasons for the shift. Any of this ringing a bell? Okay.
Last time I gave you five but I thought on the way home I should have given you six, so can I give you my sixth one? The sixth one is right down here at the bottom, it’s the events of A.D. 70. So what happened in A.D. 70? Well, A.D. 70 is when Rome came, about forty years after the time of Christ, and they pushed the Jews out of their homeland, the land of Israel. They destroyed, under Titus, the temple; the temple was burned, the temple was torn apart brick by brick. You recall in the Gospels, particularly Matthew 24, almost forty years before this happened Christ predicted this as discipline for the nation because they rejected their King.
So A.D. 70 is a seminal event. That’s where the Jews are thrown out of the land and they went into worldwide dispersion and they didn’t return to the land until modern times, 1948. So as long as there was a functioning temple in the land of Israel, as long as there were Jews in the land of Israel the allegorist who would explain away Bible prophecy really couldn’t get very far because it looked like those prophecies in the Scripture related to the Jews in the Old Testament were very literal, because the kingdom, as it’s portrayed in the Old Testament, predicts the nation of Israel with a functioning temple in the millennial kingdom, Ezekiel even says with animal sacrifices. And it talks about the nation of Israel being the head over the nations, and as long as Israel is in that land it doesn’t take a lot of speculation to see, well, my gosh, these prophecies are literal and God is setting the stage.
Well, everything changes in A.D. 70 because now there’s no Jews in the land and there’s no temple and there’s no land of Israel. And so that creates the right environment or it creates the right climate for someone to come along and say you know, you guys in Antioch are taking these prophecies too literally related to the nation of Israel. We all know that these aren’t literal prophecies, they refer to something else and we know that because there’s no Israel any more.
So A.D. 70 kind of creates the right intellectual climate, if you will, for the allegorical method of interpretation to take off. And it was the Roman Emperor Hadrian who ruled for about twenty years, A.D. 117-138. This was, you’ll notice, several decades after A.D. 70. He goes into the land of Israel and he renames it, not Israel but what? Palestine. Now why in the world would he name it Palestine? Because he was trying to de-Judaize the land and he was trying to act as if the Jews were never in that land, the Jews have no historical claim to that land and he deliberately picked the name Palestine because it’s a derivation linguistically from the word Philistine. The Philistines were ancient enemies of the land of Israel, ancient enemies of the Jewish people. So he deliberately picked this name to mock the Jewish people, to humiliate the Jewish people, to pretend like the Jews have no historic claim to that land. And that’s the significance of Hadrian and Palestine.
And most people don’t understand this, they use the word Palestine all the time, even Christians today use the word Palestine when they’re referring to the land of Israel. Even in some of the dispensational material, like Dwight Pentecost refers to the covenant made with the nation of Israel as the Palestinian Covenant. The Ryrie Study Bible (these are all my heroes, Pentecost, Ryrie) uses the word Palestine. The MacArthur Study Bible uses the word Palestine.
But you need to understand something—words mean things! And when you use the word “Palestine” you are essentially using a Jewish slur because that’s how that word was originally intended by Hadrian. The Bible itself never uses the word Palestine. It referred to the land of Israel as the what? The land of Israel. And that’s why I had you open to Matthew 2:21, it says, “So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.” “The land of Israel” is the proper designation for that land. When you use the word Palestine you’re using terminology developed by Hadrian who had an anti-Jewish mindset and philosophy and was trying to rewrite history or revise history.
So A.D. 70 happens, the land starts becoming known as Palestine, in other words, the Jewish claims to the land are almost erased unless you are a Bible reader you would never know the Jews were once in there. And so now the right intellectual climate is in place for an allegorist to come along and say look, all of these prophecies in Isaiah, Ezekiel, about Jesus reigning from Jerusalem, first over Israel then over the world, those are just figures of speech, those are allegorical. So you put these six reasons together and you begin to see why the church shifted away from a literal approach to Bible prophecy into more of an allegorical approach.
And I want to introduce you, if I could, to two major allegorists coming out of the school of Alexandria, Egypt, who exercised a huge influence over the thinking of the church in the subsequent millennium. The first one was named Origen and let me give you the dates for Origen’s life; Origen lived about A.D. 185 to A.D. 254. So he’s fairly early in church history; he’s influenced not by Antioch but by Alexandria, Egypt. And Ronald Diprose, in his excellent book, I recommend it to you, called Israel in the Development of Christian Thought says this about Origen. “Origen was also influenced by the example of Philo,” see, Origen picked up this allegorical approach from Philo who promoted that idea earlier, Philo lived just a little before the time of Christ and he was already allegorizing Scriptures related to Judaism and Origen just brought it into Christian thought. “Origen was also influenced by the example of Philo, a first-century Alexandrian Jew who had interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures allegorically in order to make them harmonize with his Platonism.”
Now backing up for just a minute on this list of six one of the things I said last week is what gave rise to the allegorical interpretation is the desire to mix human philosophy with biblical thought. And when you start mixing human philosophy with biblical though you’re eventually going to hit a contradiction between the Bible and your philosophy. And at that point you have to figure out what’s more important to you. If your human philosophy is more important than what the Biblical text says then you will gravitate naturally towards allegorization because that gives you the intellectual tool to, in essence, rewrite the Bible. So this is the kind of thing that Origen was enmeshed in.
And it says here, “Allegorism played an important part in Origen’s theory of interpretation and, as he was the first biblical scholar to work out ‘a complete hermeneutical theory,’” see, Origen took the ideas of Philo and he brought them into Christian thought and he just developed them further intellectually. So “Allegorism played an important part in Origen’s theory of interpretation and, as he was the first biblical scholar to work out ‘a complete hermeneutical theory’, his work” Diprose says, “was destined to exert great influence on the Christian approach to the Hebrew Scriptures, for centuries to come….” And that’s not an overstatement there; Origen had a huge effect on the way people began to think. “Origen is remembered for his philosophical speculation as the allegorist par excellence among Biblical interpreters.” [Ronald Diprose, Israel in the Development of Christian Thought (Rome: IBEI, 2000), 86-87.]
So I’ve explained to you what they were doing in Alexandria, Egypt. I want to highlight a couple of people that are very significant. One of them is Origen. Now with these guys I’m mentioning here they always do something good. Origen contributed other things that were very helpful to Christian thought and people have a tendency to think that if they do one good thing then everything they do is good. People are like that today sort of with their favorite Bible teacher that they listen to or hear or read and they think that person blessed them in an area that therefore you let your defenses down and you let your guard down and you think everything the person says is right, because Paul confronted and I follow Paulus, I follow Cephas mentality, didn’t he? In Corinth.
And we’re sort of like that, we kind of follow people that have blessed us not understanding that because they blessed us in an area doesn’t mean they can’t have false teaching elsewhere. So Origen does some good things, no doubt about it, but he also brings into Christianity this allegorical approach, which as I’ll be showing you is very, very negative.
So Origen would be one interpreter and the only other one I want to call your attention to is Augustine. Some people refer to him as Saint Augustine. After seeing what this guy was all about I don’t refer to him as Saint Augustine anymore, because Augustine… and you might want to go over to Revelation 20:1-4 just for a second, Augustine was probably the most influential theologian in church history. He has exerted more influence on how Christians have thought over the last 2,000 years than any other single figure. So Origen has some influence but Augustine, also influenced by the Alexandrian method of interpretation, had the most influence.
Let me give you the dates for his life. Augustine lived from 354 to 430 A.D. and his contribution is a book entitled The City of God. The City of God is probably the most influential Christian book that’s ever been written and here I’m not talking about influence for good, I believe that his influence was negative. But that doesn’t discount the fact that it’s a true statement that Augustine is probably the most influential theologian.
In The City of God Augustine intellectually develops, you see, Origen had given Augustine the hermeneutic; Augustine started to apply the hermeneutic, or method of interpretation, to all kinds of areas of the Bible, particularly eschatology. And he is the one that really took what we would call today the doctrine of amillennialism, “a” is a negation, an amillennialist means no millennium; there is no future reign of Jesus Christ on planet earth. Well, what do you do with all the prophecies in the Old Testament, particularly that say there will be a reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.
Well, what method of interpretation did Augustine embrace? The allegorical method. So the Dead Sea coming back to live as is predicted in Ezekiel 47, coming back to life biologically, it talks about the river flowing from the temple and into the Dead Sea and we call it the Dead Sea because everything in the sea is what? Dead, because of its high salt content. In fact, you can go to Israel today and float in the Dead Sea. I’ve done it twice, it really works. The salt content just buoys you right up. So in my retirement years, when I’m looking for an easy job I think I’m going to apply to be a lifeguard there on the Dead Sea, because they have lifeguards and I was thinking about this, well what do these guys do? I mean, no one ever drowns or anything, so it’s a pretty cushy job, you just sit there all day in the sun and read a magazine or look at Facebook of whatever you want to do.
But anyway, Ezekiel 47 talks about this Dead Sea coming back to life biologically. Now when I read I think what does it mean? Well, it means the Dead Sea is going to come back to life biologically. But Origen and Augustine, they would take that prophecy and say well, that doesn’t mean that! You don’t really believe that, do you? What that means is it’s the unbeliever becoming a believer and your soul goes from death to life, which we’ll preach, right. I mean, that’s an interesting application and interpretation. The problem is that’s not what the text says. So Augustine develops the amillennial system in The City of God he gravitates towards the allegorical method of interpretation, handed to him like a gift from Origen and Alexandria, Egypt, and that becomes his intellectual tool to explain away all of the earthly kingdom promises and tell everybody that we’re in the kingdom now.
So how did Augustine, in The City of God, interpret Revelation 20:1-4. [Revelation 20:1-4, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;  and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.  Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”]
As you look at the end of that verse, verse 4, it says, “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” So Augustine said the thousand years is not a literal period of time, it just means an age. And coming to life is not actually talking about someone being resurrected and under Christ’s delegated authority ruling over the earth; what it’s really talking about is regeneration. The Christian believes in Christ then the Holy Spirit comes inside of him and the Christian is regenerated. So that’s how Augustine, in The City of God allegorized away Revelation 20:4.
This passage also goes on earlier and it says “the devil and Satan,” God took “the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” And Augustine said well, you know what, Satan is already bound; isn’t that nice, to know that Satan is bound. As one interpreter said, well, if he’s bound he must be on a pretty long chain, or a pretty long leash because he’s wreaking a lot of havoc in the world. So Augustine found some passages in Matthew 12 and things where Jesus talked about the binding of the strong man and those kind of things and he said Satan is bound now. You have to ignore vast quantities of divine truth to believe that because Paul in his writings tells us that Satan is the god of this age.
And by the way, just off the topic here, this is why believers should not be binding Satan in their personal prayer life because the Bible is very clear that Satan is not going to be bound until the operation of the millennial kingdom. I hear believers all of the time saying Satan, I bind you and all of these kinds of things and that is well intentioned but it’s just a not a biblically informed prayer. The New Testament tells us to “resist the devil and he will flee” and to “put on the full armor of God” because we’re living in his earth, on his territory, so we’re basically in defensive postures. So we’re not binding Satan. [James 4:7, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”] And for people that think they bind Satan I always ask them, well, how did he get loose again if you just bound him.
But anyway, Augustine basically argued, using the allegorical method of interpretation, that Satan is already bound, the resurrection unto life is regeneration. Now that creates huge problems because in Revelation 20, I think it’s verse 4 and verse 5 what God is doing there is called “the first resurrection.” [Revelation 20:4-5, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They 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 a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.”
And the Greek word for resurrection there is anastasis, if I’m pronouncing that right, and as you do a word study on that particular word you’ll discover it never refers to regeneration…ever! It always refers to a physical resurrection. So what Revelation 20 is really talking about is the physical resurrection of Tribulational martyrs and Old Testament saints ruling and reigning under delegated authority alongside Jesus Christ for a thousand years. But if you don’t care about literal interpretation the way Antioch taught it and you’re interested in promoting a philosophy then you gravitate towards an allegorical interpretation and you ascribe to all of these things some kind of higher spiritual meaning.
And when it says there they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years what you have to understand is Augustine taught that the church is the reigning kingdom of God on the earth right now. Augustine, his belief system, gave way to what we call Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism teaches the exact same thing, that the church is the reigning kingdom of God on the earth right now. That’s why they have a Vatican city and when the Pope travels he’s got a virtual army that surrounds him. I mean, why would you have a capital city and an army and these kind of things. Why is it that the Roman Catholic Church wants a seat at the United Nations and all these kinds of different things? Because of their theology; they view themselves as the kingdom of God on the earth now. That is what you call amillennialism. That is totally contrary to what the church taught for 200 years but it becomes a dominant thought… thank you Origin, than, you Alexandria, Egypt and thank you Augustine who took these ideas and formalized them in an academic treatment called The City of God.
So Augustine, in The City of God, and I give you the chapter and verse where you can look this up and I like the fact that we’re in the age of the internet because you can just go read it for yourself online and see if these things be so. Augustine writes the following: “the saints reign with Christ during the same thousand years, understood in the same way, that is, of the time of His” what? “first coming”’ see the thousand year kingdom we teach is part of his what? Second coming. Well, why do we teach it’s part of his second coming? Because we’re following the Antiochian literal method of interpretation. But if you move into an allegorical method of interpretation and the Bible kind of becomes silly putty in the hands of the interpreter, you can make it however you want it to be. And so he said the thousand years is related to Christ’s first coming and coming to life is not a physical resurrection, but it’s regeneration.
I didn’t mention this but if you go to Revelation 20:4-5 you see a huge conundrum in amillennialism. John says, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They 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 a thousand years.  (The rest of the dead did not” what? “come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.” Now resurrection, as I indicated before, is the word anastasis, which never means regeneration, anywhere in the Bible. It’s always talking about a physical resurrection.
Beyond that you see how there’s two resurrections here? There’s a resurrection unto life for the believer at the beginning of the millennial kingdom, and then a thousand years pass and there’s a resurrection unto damnation for the who? Unbeliever. Now the same Greek verb, zaō, describes both resurrections. The amillennialist will look you straight in the eye and say well the first resurrection is regeneration; the second resurrection is what? that’s literal. This is what happens with the allegorical method of interpretation; it allows you to be very inconsistent and if you watch amillennialists in action they will switch their method of interpretation right here in the middle of these verses. Zaō means regeneration in one verse and one verse later it means something physical.
And this is something that needs to be brought to the attention of people that are under the spell of amillennialism. And they’re also interpreting the word “resurrection” in a way that’s never interpreted anywhere else in the Bible. And so this is what you get with allegorization; you can interpret parts of the Bible that fit your pre-made philosophy one way and parts of the Bible that you like to keep around another way. And this is what Augustine promoted in the book, The City of God, and this is where you get this idea that the church is the reigning kingdom of Christ. He writes, “Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even” what? “now His saints reign with Him.”
That continues to be taught today in Roman Catholicism and very sadly this is a problem that the Protestant Reformers never corrected. They corrected allegorization in a lot of different areas related to the doctrine of salvation; they never corrected it though, in this area. And I’ll be explaining to you why they didn’t correct it as we get into this series. But the problem with the churches that they founded subsequent to the Protestant Reformation is they took the progress that they had made in the 16th century and froze them into creeds, and they assumed in freezing their progress into creeds and confessions, like The Westminster Confession that there’s no further progress to be made.
And this is why you can go into a Reformed church today and it will be Protestant soteriologically but it will still be Augustinian or Roman Catholic or Alexandrian or Origenistic eschatologically. You say well Andy, why don’t you like Reformed Theology? Well, it depends what part of Reformed Theology you’re talking about. Reformed theology is a hybrid, it’s a mixture of Protestantism using the Antiochian hermeneutic in certain areas but it largely remains Roman Catholic today and Augustinian today in other areas, particularly eschatology.
So this idea that the church is the reigning kingdom of God on the earth, you might look at this and say well who cares about that, this is just an academic discussion, whether I’m an amillennialist or a postmillennialist or a premillennialist can’t I just be a panmillennialist, everything is going to pan out in the end. I mean, why should we care about this? Here’s the reality of the situation; watch this very carefully. Your eschatology controls your philosophy of what? Ecclesiology. What is ecclesiology? The doctrine of the church. Churches today are totally confused as to what their missions is because many of them are acting as if they’re in the kingdom of God now. John Calvin, as I’ll be showing you in this series, a man who did a lot of good in certain areas, politically took over a… do you realize this, that John Calvin took over a city politically in Geneva and started in the case of Michael Servetus… the Calvinists don’t want to hear this at all, they just bend over backwards making excuses for this. But the reality of the situation is John Calvin took over a city politically and put people to death that disagreed with him. Now as a pastor who gets criticized all the time I’ve been tempted to try to do that… [laughter] But you see, the reality is my ecclesiology won’t allow me to even try to do that. I don’t think I could succeed anyway, I have a hard time getting my own family… besides myself in line.
But the reality of the situation is Calvin did what he did in that area… now people don’t want to hear this because we’ve got Calvin on a pedestal. Why is that? Because if someone does something good in one area we assume they’re good everywhere. Well, Calvin is a mixed bag; you’re a mixed bag, I’m a mixed bag. Peter, was not Peter a mixed bag? Peter opened his mouth one time and was praised by the Lord for making a statement about Christ, identifying Christ, but he opens his mouth the next moment and Jesus says “Get behind me” what? “Satan.” So in our fallen state we’re very mixed. This is the danger of idolizing people. People are always going to let you down. I love a lot of the things John Calvin said and did but there’s other things I’m like wow, hold the phone. And he did what he did because of his model of ecclesiology which never got corrected and Augustinian lives to some extent in Calvinistic Reformed thought today. So that’s what Augustine contributed to the church is the kingdom of God on the earth.
So what began to happen in this climate now, going back to the fourth century, with the arrival with The City of God is chiliasm, the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, began to be looked at as a relic; that’s something for the less enlightened. And this is a statement from Eusebius, let me give you the dates of Eusebius. Eusebius is a well-known church historian; he wrote a very important lengthy book on the history of the church called Ecclesiastical (or church) History. Eusebius lived from about 260-340 so Origen, Alexandria, Egypt, allegorical interpretation is already taking off and people are looking back on the old fogies of Antioch as that’s your grandfather’s grandfather’s system, that’s not new thought today, is what they would say. And they would look at chiliasm, which is the belief in a literal thousand year kingdom yet future as something archaic.
So I quote this because Eusebius is quoting, referring to Papias who was a literalist and a chiliast and a premillennialist coming from Antioch. And look at what Eusebius… let me give you the dates for Papias, Eusebius is looking back on the works of Papias. Papias lived very early in the church history, that’s why he was a chiliast, a literalist. He lived from about A.D. 60 to 130.
And notice what Eusebius, living later, says about Papias. “Papias . . . says that there will be a millennium after the resurrections of the dead, when the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this earth.” Now I’ll sign on to that theology, that sounds like good theology. But Eusebius goes on and he says, “I suppose that he got these notions by a perverse reading of the apostolic accounts, not realizing that they had spoken mystically and symbolically.” What a flat-earther Papias is to interpret these prophecies literally; everybody knows, thank you Alexandria, Egypt or Origen, Augustine and so forth, that these prophecies are not literal. And look at what Eusebius says about Papias; notice the pride and total condescension. Eusebius says about Papias, and I have the relevant part underlined, “For he was a man of very little intelligence, as is clear from his books. But he is responsible for the fact that so many Christian writers after him held the same opinion, relying on his antiquity, for instance Irenaeus and whoever else appears to have held the same views.”
So if you are a literalist the allegorist always looks at you as if you’re intelligence can be questioned. Why is that? Because you don’t see what the “enlightened” see. What do the enlightened see? They see some kind of mystical symbolic thing that sounds more spiritual and draws a bigger audience and if you have the audacity to sit there and read the Word of God, Genesis 2, and say these don’t have anything to do with the four parts of the soul, they’re just four rivers, you’re looked at as if you’re intelligence itself is lower.
Now those of you that follow politics, do you see that going on today? One of my favorite Supreme Court justices is Clarence Thomas. I like Clarence Thomas; do you know why I like Clarence Thomas? Because when you read his judicial opinions they’re text-based. He doesn’t just make things up like many of them do; he argues his point from the Constitution and its original intent.
But you see, if you’re in the legal community today, particularly having risen to the highest court in the land and you’re still following that approach your intelligence is questioned because everybody knows that the Constitution is a what? “A living document…” which is another way of saying there is no Constitution other than what comes out of the mind of the judge in any particular day. Because in law schools you’re taught, with Constitutional law, allegorical interpretation. Now they don’t teach that relative to contract law; that’s literal. And when I was reading the syllabus regarding what to do and what not do and how much reading I had to do and what kind of tests I had to take the professors demanded that you read the syllabus literally. I couldn’t say well, professor, I didn’t want to take the test today because my allegorical interpretation means April 3 doesn’t mean April3. That’s not going to fly. But when it comes to the Constitution all the rules are set aside. Then how do you get this allegorical interpretation? You have to graduate from Alexandria of the Ivy League and sit under the smartest people in the world to get this new insight. And if you’ve never bought into this new insight you’re looked at as kind of stupid.
So this is just a blog I found on someone commenting on Clarence Thomas and they say this: “He is the dumbest Justice to ever sit on the bench…He waits to see how Scalia votes, and he votes the same. He rarely issues comments or engages in questions during any Supreme Court hearing…He rarely grants media interviews (because he knows he will look stupid). He rarely writes opinions.” Now why is his intelligence questioned? Now we’re getting to the bottom line. “He believes in a narrow interpretation of the Constitution.” Therefore” he is a what? “Therefore he is an idiot.” [http://juneauempire.com/opinion/2011-09-22/outside-editorial-law-and-clarence-thomas#.Tn5rqNSo1_p]
I’m just trying to give you a modern day example of how the allegorist looks at the literalist and you find that same pride, condescension, ridicule, in the writings of Eusebius as he looks back on Papias. What begins to happen in church history is chiliasm, which dominated for 200 years, is now looked at as just kind of your grandfathers grandfather’s theology that no one believes any more.
And here’s a statement from Jerome, I’m quoting here Tertullian, who was quoting Jerome, let me give you the dates for Jerome’s life. Jerome now has been heavily influenced by Augustinian thought; he lives from 347-420 and look at what Jerome said about chiliasm. He says, “How must we understand what the Saviour says in Matthew:” quoting Matthew 26:29, “‘But I say to you, I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of my Father’? (Matthew. 26. 29). This passage is the origin of a certain fable of a thousand years, in which they say that Christ will reign in the flesh and will drink that wine which He has not drunk since that time until the end of the world…For the kingdom of God isn’t food and drink, but justice, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit” quoting, I believe, incorrectly abusing Romans 14:17. [http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_letter_120.htm. [Rom. 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.]
So dominant has Augustinian thought become that they now look at the former chiliasm taught by Antioch as progenitors of a certain fable that died away a long time ago. And those folks back then and there really weren’t that bright anyway; we’re going to question their intelligence because they didn’t understand this higher meaning. You know, this chiliasm, this idea that Israel is going to be head over the nations, we all know that the Jews have been out of that land for centuries.
Now my friend, David Regan who has his TV show, I like what he says about this. He says: “D-day for amillennialism was the restoration of the Jews to the land in 1948.” That just freaked them out because for centuries, over a thousand years they had been telling everybody that those prophecies aren’t literal, and then God moves His little finger in history and the Jews go right back into the same land that they’ve been out of for 2,000 years, speaking Hebrew, having their religion intact, which is a sociological miracle, going to the Temple Mount Institute, which I’ve been there twice, where they have a desire to rebuild the temple and all of a sudden you start saying wait a minute, all of this allegorical symbolic interpretation, I think it kind of looks literal to me. I mean, it’s not the end game, but certainly its reasonable, isn’t it, to take these prophecies literally.
So that was almost D-day for them and that’s why they’re so hysterical, that’s why they’re… see, what you have to understand is that’s why Christian denominations of the Reformed tradition, I could name certain Reformed traditions that you all know, if I called the name out you would know exactly who I’m talking about, they are taking up formal economic boycotts against the Jewish people as I speak. Do we realize that? Do we realize that there’s a huge segment of Christendom which is involved in not blessing the nation of Israel but engaging in a formal economic boycott against Israel. Why would they do that? Because they are still Augustinian or amillennial in their theology and their theology is just logically naturally working its way out.
See folks, this is why theology matters. Theology, what you believe about certain things, controls your behavior in the present. Calvin did what he did in Geneva because of his theology. Economic boycotts amongst Christians denominations against the land of Israel are a logical outworking of an amillennial Augustinian Roman Catholic system which the Protestant Reformers would all be showing you never corrected. So this background that I’m giving you transitions us into a period of time called The Dark Ages. The Dark Ages, another name for the Dark Ages is the Middle Ages and I want to… I’m just going to talk about four or five more minutes and then I want to open it up for some questions.
But just a couple of points on the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages last from the fourth century, roughly the time of Augustine all the way to the 16th century. The Dark Ages are reigning for how long? Over a thousand years. And this is why God starts touching the hearts of the Protestant Reformers, because God loves His church. Right? And He begins to touch these men as a rescue operation of a mindset that was literally controlling Christendom for over a thousand years. You think how long a thousand years is, I mean, that’s the millennial kingdom right there, isn’t it. America has only been here for 230-240 years; think about a mentality reigning in Christian thought over a thousand years. And now with this background you can start to understand what God is doing with these Protestant Reformers. And it’s during this period of time that the study of prophecy is totally obsolete and what dominates during this time period is Augustinian amillennialism.
Renald Showers puts it this way: “Augustine’s allegorical amillennialism became the official doctrine of the church, and Premillennialism” or chiliasm, what the church believed for the first two centuries “went underground. Some aspects of Premillennialism were even branded as heretical. The Roman Catholic Church strongly advocated and maintained Augustine’s amillennial view throughout the Middle Ages. During that span of time occasionally” not the norm but little blips on the radar screen, “occasionally pre-millennial groups formed to challenge the doctrine and political power of the major part of organized Christendom, but they were not able to restore Premillennialism to its original position as the accepted, orthodox view of the Church.” [John Ankerberg and Renald Showers, The Most Asked Prophecy Questions (Chattanooga, TN: ATRI, 2000), 327-28.]
According to what I quoted a few sessions ago with Justin Martyr, Justin Martyr said if you don’t believe in what we today call premillennialism or chiliasm, if you don’t believe these prophecies, that there’s going to be a literal kingdom on the earth yet future you’re not even an orthodox Christian. That’s what the church believed to a man for 200 years, but with the influence of Alexandria and the allegorical method and they really kicked into high gear, they tried to explain with Augustine that that reigning sentiment almost disappears from Christian thought. And what did Jesus say? “I say to you that you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of” what “Hades will not overpower it.”
God always has a remnant in every generation. In Elijah’s day there were how many that hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal? I think 7,000. Every generation has got a remnant and you can look back in the Dark Ages and you can find people, little blips of light on the radar screen, that stood for the truth. But they are few and far between! And they have virtually no position of influence and they do not represent the way organized Christendom thought or the sentiment of organized Christendom. One such individual is someone called Pseudo Ephraem, a Syrian; they use that name Pseudo in front of Ephraem because we’re not sure if this was the actual Ephraim that wrote this or someone using the pen name Ephraem to escape persecution. And this is a fragment that has been discovered between the 4th to the 6th century A.D. and you read what it says here and it expresses, basically, the doctrinal system of Sugar Land Bible Church.
Ephraem in this sermon says: “Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that He may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world…” Gosh, sounds like he’s talking about a seven year tribulation period, doesn’t it. “For all the saints and the elect of God are gathered, prior to the” what? “tribulation” now if I were to cover the name up and I asked you who said that you would say well, our pastor said that, or going up the food chain a little bit, Charles Ryrie said that, John Walvoord said that. No, this is a guy who was just reading the Bible and taking it literally and he really didn’t care what everybody else in Christendom thought, he was just taking it literally. And it looks to me like it’s a pre-trib rapture statement. “…elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.” [Pseudo Ephraem (4th-6th century A.D.)]
So we have always a remnant there but that remnant is just that, it’s a remnant, it doesn’t represent a reigning sentiment the way it reigned from Antioch for two centuries. And there is, during this time period, you have to understand this because in Houston we have 4,000 churches; if I don’t like First Baptist I’ll go to Second Baptist, and if the pastor over there parts his hair the wrong way I’ll go to Third Baptist, or 500th Baptist because we have a “Thirty-one flavors” mindset, right. We have churches on every corner.
You don’t have that during the Dark Ages; you don’t have Protestantism. You have one church and that is the Roman Catholic Church which had bought into Augustinian allegorization, watch this, which had the effect of removing the Bible from the people. All over Europe, prior to the Protestant Reformation the Bible is not accessible. In fact, the Bible in your typical cathedral is literally chained (I’m talking physically now) to the pulpit because your average person is told they can’t understand the Bible for themselves. Well why can’t they understand it for themselves. Well, we all believe in allegorical interpretation and I have the training because I went to the Ivey League to understand your constitution. You can’t understand it, I have the training to understand the allegorization and how to interpret it. You can’t understand it so you don’t read the Bible on your own. The Bible is always given to you through the lens of a priesthood. So you see the priests way up here, and you see the laity way down here. You have this laity/clergy distinction which means that the people are gullible for manipulation.
Think about this for a minute. If I’m the interpreter of the Bible and I have the only Bible in the church, you don’t have one and you’re told you can’t interpret it, I can get you to do anything I want, can’t I? Even pray your relatives out of purgatory because you don’t want grandpa to stay in purgatory do you? Well Mr. Priest, how do I get him out of purgatory? When the coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory springs. That’s Johann Tetzel, I’ll be showing you one of his sermons where he terrorized people by telling them this: Well, why don’t you just get out your Bible and validate that purgatory is an unbiblical doctrine. Well how do you do that if you don’t have a Bible? How do you do that when the Bible hasn’t even been translated into your language?
So it puts the people in a place of total gullibility and manipulation and you see, this is what really is ticking Luther off. The poor people, the working class love Luther because they saw Luther, here’s a guy on our side. And what really upset him was what’s called the sale of indulgences in manipulation of the people. That’s what really set his soul on fire. It’s how you feel when you’re channel surfing and you see some televangelist misrepresenting God, doesn’t that make you angry? Think of that emotion multiplied a hundred times and that’s what Luther is experiencing.
So this is all the background that you need to grasp the Reformation that’s on the horizon. So we’ll finish the Dark Ages when we’re together next time and we’ll finally getting to the Reformation. Well, I interpreted the clock allegorically [laughter] so I’m going to close in prayer.
Father, thank You for this morning, thank You for church history. I pray You’ll bless our worship service that follows and I pray that as we continue through this people will get their questions answered and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.