The Coming Kingdom 079

The Coming Kingdom 079
2 Peter 1:19 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 30, 2019 • The Coming Kingdom



The Coming Kingdom 079

Kingdom Now Theology &  It’s Rejection of Bible Prophecy

2 Peter 1:19

Dr. Andy M Woods

Open your Bibles to 2 Peter 1:19.  As you know, we have been doing this Bible study on the Kingdom.  Part 1 was ‘What does the Bible say about the Kingdom?’  That was a sort of intensive Bible study from Genesis to Revelation.  Part 2 was ‘Why do some believe that we are in the Kingdom now?’  That was also an intensive Bible study looking at the passages that some use to argue that we are in the Kingdom when we have been teaching here about the postponed model of the Kingdom.

Now we are in Part 3:  ‘Why does it matter?’  It is a little less focused on Bible study even though I will try to direct you to various biblical passages, but it is more focused on current trends in the Church, so I am using a lot of quotes to give you a kind of feel for what is going on out there.  Basically, here in Part 3, and we will probably, Lord willing, finish this up this quarter, the premise is that once the Church sees itself as the Kingdom, the Church starts to get very confused.  All of a sudden there is some very fertile soil in the ground for all kinds of false doctrines.  A series of false doctrines naturally grow up in a soil that is rich with the idea that the Church is the Kingdom.  What we are doing here in Part 3 is looking at nine such false doctrines; three of which we have covered.  In the remainder of this series, we will be covering numbers 4-9, and Lord willing, we will try to complete number 4 tonight.

As we have studied, the first problem with the Church seeing itself as the Kingdom is that the Church loses her identity as a pilgrim.  Our identity as a New Testament church is that we aren’t at home in the world; we are currently living in a very evil age and are passing through to a better terrain.  The church is never portrayed in the New Testament as being at home in the world.  I have already given you this quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer indicating that the church is what we would call a pilgrim passing through.  That entire concept is lost the moment the Church begins to see itself as the Kingdom because once the Church sees itself as the Kingdom, the Church begins to look at itself as at home in the world; we have talked about that.

The second false teaching that immediately takes hold in the Church when the Church sees itself as the Kingdom is the social gospel where the Church shifts on its shoulders, bringing to the earth, conditions that only Jesus or Yeshua can do when He comes back.  What starts to happen is a holistic social gospel  begins to invade the thinking of the Church.  We have discussed this issue, and the problem is that as I continue researching this, I keep running into fresh quotes to make the point.  Let me just share a few more quotes with you in addition to some I have already shared with you.  Here are a few others that came across my purview this past week.

Here is Tim Keller, very much a social gospel Kingdom Now type of guy:  “Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was an infinitely costly rescue operation to restore justice to the oppressed and marginalized, physical wholeness to the diseased and dying, community to the isolated and lonely, and spiritual joy and connection to those alienated from God.  To be a Christian today is to become part of that same operation, with the…the joyful assurance of eventual success.  The story of the gospel makes sense of moral obligation and our belief in the reality of justice, so Christians do restorative and redistributive justice wherever they can.” 

You can see in that quote a philosophy that says the Church is basically bringing all of these conditions to the earth, including what I think he is saying there at the end is the redistribution of wealth which is more akin to Marxism than it is Christianity.

Here is another quote where he defines something he calls the new gospel.  “A generation ago evangelicals agreed on the ‘the simple gospel’:  (1) God made you and wants to have a relationship with you, (2) but your sin separates you from God.  (3) Jesus took the punishment your sins deserved, (4) so if you repent from sins and trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by grace, and in dwelt with His Spirit until you die and go to heaven…” [Now, if I stopped reading right there, I’d say that he has it pretty much right, that is pretty much the Gospel we preach here at Sugar Land Bible Church, Amen?  Except for number 4, we don’t teach that a person has to repent of their sins to be saved.  We believe that when a person gets saved and the Holy Spirit comes inside of them, then the Holy Spirit will start to convict people of various sins.  So he has the cart before the horse, other than that little infraction, which isn’t such a little infraction, he is focused there on the Gospel.  But you will notice that he says this is the old Gospel, what people used to preach a generation ago.  So what is the new Gospel]? He says, …  “There are today at least two major criticisms of this simple formulation… [In other words, that formulation is too simplistic in his mind]…  “Many say that it is too individualistic, that Christ’s salvation is not so much to bring individual happiness as to bring peace, justice, and a new creation.

He goes on and says, “A second criticism is that there is no one ‘simple gospel’ because ‘everything is contextual’ and the Bible itself contains many gospel presentations that exist in tension with each other…John emphasizes the individual and inward spiritual aspects of being in the kingdom of God.  He is at pains to show that it is not basically an earthly social-political order (John 18:36).  On the other hand, when the Synoptics…” [Matthew, Mark and Luke ; ‘syn’ in Greek means ‘same’ and you recognize the word, ‘optic’ as in optometrist — optic means ‘look.’  So Synoptics means similar look, and when someone uses the word Synoptics, they are talking about Matthew, Mark, and Luke which all follow the same basic plot structure. John’s gospel doesn’t follow that same plot structure, so it is called a non-synoptic]… “talk of the kingdom, they lay out the real social and behavioral changes that the gospel brings.”  So he thinks that John’s Gospel is the individual Gospel and that the Synoptics is really about us bringing Kingdom conditions to earth; social justice, redistribution of wealth, etc.   You can see what starts to happen as the Church views itself as the Kingdom, then suddenly all of these social concerns become paramount.

Essentially what happens when the Church sees itself as the Kingdom, is that it loses its status as a pilgrim, it begins to flirt heavily with the social gospel, which is what some of those quotes that I introduced you to last week and the week before and some tonight all demonstrate.

The third thing that happens when the Church begins to see itself as the Kingdom is that it begins to get involved with ecumenical and interfaith alliances.  I have given you this quote from Clarence Larkin back in 1919 making that point [see slide on Clarence Larkin, Rightly Dividing the Word, 48.]  Essentially, the problem is that there aren’t enough people numerically on the earth in terms of Christians to bring in the Kingdom, so that if your goal is to bring in social change, etc., then the Church finds itself merging with groups that it may agree with on some socio-political area, but who also have vast disagreements with them on theological convictions.

Last time, I showed you some examples of ECT — Evangelicals and Catholics Together.  Let’s just forget the theological divide between us and get together and fight beasts —co-beligerents — and fight some kind of social evil.  I then showed you some examples of EMT, Evangelicals and Mormons Together.  Quotes from Jerry Falwell Jr on the Glenn Beck show, and then one more EMT — Evangelicals and Muslims Together, quotes from Rick Warren and others.  All of that is the out working of the Church seeing itself as the Kingdom, and I think it relates to the fact that ‘If we are really going to enact social change, we have to marginalize theological differences with other groups; we have to come together.’ That was the third major change that happens to the Church when the Church sees itself as the Kingdom.

Everything thus far is review, and I want to pick up here with #4:  A fourth thing that begins to happen when the Church begins to see itself as the Kingdom, which you can sense automatically when you are walking into a Kingdom Now-oriented church.  There is either a rejection, if not a rejection, at least a heavy marginalization of Bible Prophecy.  Bible Prophecy, to a large extent, is not something they want to  taught.  First of all, is Bible Prophecy important?  Take a look at 2 Peter 1:19, and what the apostle Peter says about Bible Prophecy, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure,…” [hold that thought: made more sure than what?  If you back up in the passage to 2 Peter 1:16-18, you will see that he is talking about eyewitness testimony.  How he and the disciples, Peter, James and John saw eyewitness testimony of the transfigured Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.  In other words, Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His glorified state, and you’ll find that in Matthew 17:1.  So Peter is talking here about eyewitness testimony:  ‘We were eyewitnesses to these things.’  In a court of law, the most powerful testimony that can be introduced is eyewitness testimony]…To reiterate, then Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure,…” [in other words, prophecy is even more powerful than eyewitness testimony — is his point]… “to which you do well to pay attention…” [he says here that you would do very well to pay attention to what the Scripture says concerning eyewitness testimony — why?  Because it is … “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”  In other words, prophecy, in the very dark world that we are living in functions as a lamp because it is a reminder that while the Kingdom is in postponement, that the Kingdom will come one day and that God is still very much in control.  If you cut out prophecy from the Church’s diet, then the light or the lamp goes out.

He says in 2 Peter 1:20, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  When you study Bible study, in the Scripture, you aren’t talking about someone’s private interpretation about how things will end; you are dealing with how the Holy Spirit took men of God and pulled them along through what we call inspiration, and they penned God’s message to lost man.  In fact, it is very interesting in 2 Peter 2:21, see where it says ‘men moved by the Holy Spirit.’  That is the Greek word, ‘pharaoh’ which is used in Acts 27:15,17 of wind that fills the sails in and propels a boat.  Just as wind propels a boat, the Holy Spirit came upon the writers of Scripture in a supernatural way, and they penned God’s message; it was not some kind of private message, and part of that message was prophecy, the future.  Peter says that we would do well to pay attention to it because it functions as a light shining in a dark place.

The Bible places a huge emphasis on prophecy; in fact, you may be startled to discover, as I was, that 27% of the Bible, over one-quarter of the Bible, was prophetic at the time it was written.  Some of those prophecies have come to pass, but at the time it was written, 27% of the Bible is predicting the future.  If you are in a church or around a pastor, and I have heard some of them say that they’ll never teach prophecy because of various excuses, ‘it is going to hurt church growth; it will confuse people; it is too divisive, etc.’  You must understand that you are around a ministry that is deliberately chopping out over a quarter of the Bible.  So Bible Prophecy is very important.

Here is a quote from my professor, J Dwight Pentecost, and he writes, “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to Mark each reference Old Testament the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming.  I was struck a new with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.”  What you will discover as you go through the New Testament and see references to the return of Christ, that it is always linked in some way to daily life:  patience, hope, prayer, something along those lines.

We are in 2 Peter, so go to 2 Peter 3:10, a prophetic statement, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” [Wow!  Would you say that this is a prophetic statement?]    …, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intensive heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”    Then look at 2 Peter 3:11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,…”  See how that tremendous prophetic statement about the destruction of this world by fire is linked in the next verse to holy conduct and godliness?  When you understand prophecy, you understand the things that will last and the priorities of God.  A knowledge of the future can shape and cause us to realign our priorities in the present.  That’s how prophecy is designed to function. It was never designed to just fill our heads with information, although that isn’t a bad thing; that was never the design by the Holy Spirit to be the end game.

If you go one book to the right, to 1 John 3:2,3 you will see it again: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” That is the Second Coming, right?  Then again, see the next verse, 1 John 3:3, “And everyone [not some, but everyone] who has this hope fixed on Him” [what hope — the hope of the return of Christ that is mentioned in the prior verse]…[everyone, not just some, but everyone who has this hope fixed on Him]…  “purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  See, the return of Christ communicates accountability. We as Christians will stand before God and will be held accountable in a judgment called, The Judgement Seat of Rewards — not to determine heaven or hell, but we are either rewarded, given rewards and additional authority, based on how we spent our lives in Christ.  If you think often of the return of Christ, you are thinking of that accountability, akin to your boss who will be away for a while, and then poke his/her head into the office to see how you’re doing.  As you think about your boss’s return, you recognize that communicates accountability, so that adjusts your work habit.  That is what prophecy is designed to do.  I think this is probably one of the reasons that satan is so busy trying to remove the subject from the evangelical diet — because he knows the natural stimulus that it gives to holy living.

So here is the thing that is very interesting to understand.  If the Church is the Kingdom, the study of  prophecy starts to wane because ‘why would I be all that concerned about Jesus coming back to make the world a better place, when we are already making the world a better place?’  Why would I be all that concerned about Jesus coming back to rescue me from this world if my home is in this world, and I am building His Kingdom in this world?

So, Kingdom Now Theology doesn’t comport well with the study of Bible Prophecy.  When you are in a social justice Kingdom Now environment, they’re always down on prophecy, they hardly ever talk about prophecy, and I have seen scenarios in churches where they have a prophecy class for the old people in the very back somewhere, but they’ll never bring up prophecy from the pulpit.  It is related to this Kingdom Now belief system.

So Clarence Larkin back in 1919 said this; that’s why I like to quote some of these sages from the past.  He says, “The ‘Kingdom Idea’ has robbed the Church of her ‘UPWARD LOOK,’ and of the ‘BLESSED HOPE.’  There cannot be any ‘Imminent Coming’”…[Imminent means that at any moment Jesus can come back — the rapture]… “to those who are seeking to “Set up the Kingdom.’”  In fact, if it is all about social change and social progress, Jesus coming back to set up His Kingdom is an irritation that you push away.

See John 14:1-3, this is a first reference in the Bible to what I think is the rapture of the Church and Jesus said, 1Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  3If I go and prepare a place for you… [His ascension], …I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  4And you know the way where I am going.”  This promise was held out in early Christianity throughout the age of the Church that at any moment Jesus could come back and rescue us from this present evil age.

It is very interesting to study how that passage was treated in church history.  Here is a quotation from my friend, George Gunn who is a Bible scholar and teacher at Shasta Bible College in northern California.  He did a study of church fathers interacting with the passage that we just read.  He says something very interesting, “Interestingly, references to John 14:1-3 virtually disappear when perusing the writings of the Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers [that would be the Church age beginning around AD 325 and forward].  This is a bit surprising, given the abundance of material in these later writers when compared with the Ante-Nicenes…” [the Ante-Nicenes were the first couple centuries of the Church; they didn’t do a lot of writing because they were being persecuted.  It is kind of hard to sit down and write a tome when Nero is trying to cut your head off. But the post-Nicenes, AD 325 and following, are voluminous writers, yet they hardly ever mention John 14:1-3, says Gunn]… “I would assume that with the rise of Augustinian amillennialism and its optimistic interpretation regarding the present arrival of the Kingdom of God, the kind of hope held out in John 14:1-3 ceased to hold relevance.”   

With that doctrine, in other words, and we have studied that, is when Kingdom Now Theology came to the surface in church history and beginning with Constantine, who legalized Christianity, and under Constantine, the Church went from being persecuted to being promoted.  Christianity was then elevated to the top, official religion of Rome, and it was within that environment that Kingdom Now Theology takes off because everyone thought that the Kingdom had come.

Gunn says, “I would assume that with the rise of Augustinian amillennialism and its optimistic interpretation regarding the present arrival of the Kingdom of God, the kind of hope held out in John 14:1-3 ceased to hold relevance.”  He is pointing out what I am trying to do:  that when the Church looks at itself as the Kingdom, it stops focusing on prophecy and how Jesus is coming back to rescue us.  What do we need to be rescued from?  We now have Constantine on the throne; a Republican in the White House and all is fine.  Then you stop looking for the any moment return of Christ.

What is happening today, in my opinion, is that an ancient heresy, Kingdom Now Theology, is being recycled.  That is why we get email after email here at Sugar Land Bible Church from people telling us that they can’t find a church that teaches Bible Prophecy.  I can’t tell you how often we receive that kind of email here.  They identify themselves as being from some part of the country and ask if we can direct them to a church that teaches Bible Prophecy.  And of course, since we aren’t omniscient and don’t know their area that well, we tell them that, but we do have YouTube and things that you can glean from our church until the Lord directs you to a fellowship.

So we are living in a time period where the study of Bible Prophecy is being ridiculed, and you don’t have to look any further for the ridicule than in Rick Warren’s best selling book, The Purpose-Drive Life.  This is a Christian best seller that just took off.  If you read pages 285-286 in that book, you will see what I think from within, is one of the most scathing attacks I have seen in a long time on those who want to devote themselves to Bible Prophecy.  Notice how many straw men arguments he creates in this paragraph.

Rick Warren says, “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. [ I cant find that verse in the Bible. I think that when the disciples asked a question about Bible Prophecy, Jesus spent two chapters disclosing the future — called the Oliver Discourse].  He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world.  He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business….[I can’t find that in the Bible either] …What is your business is the mission I have given you.  Focus on that!’  If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.  Speculating on the exact timing of Christ’s return is futile,…[now here comes the straw men because you’re being pigeon-holed if you love Bible Prophecy or you’re crazy, a fanatic, a date-setter.  I have been at this church since 2010.  Has anyone ever heard me give a specific date for the Lord’s return?  I remind people that it is imminent, it can happen at any time, but we never give a date because the Bible doesn’t give us a date.  So I don’t think I fit his caricature here of being a date setter because I am interested in studying and teaching Bible Prophecy]…  “because Jesus said, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’  Since Jesus said He didn’t know the day or hour, why should you try to figure it out?  What we do know for sure is this:  Jesus will not return until everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it.”   He is confusing there the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists after the rapture with what the Church is doing.  There are a lot of mission organizations who will tell you that they have to get the Gospel out or Jesus can’t come back.  That isn’t what the Bible says.  The Bible says that we are in the age of the Church, we are to do our best, be faithful and try to fulfill the Great Commission.  But what the Church leaves undone, will be completed by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. That is what Matthew 24:14 is talking about when it says that the Gospel will be preached unto the whole world, and then the end will come.  It isn’t a church-age passage; it is a post-rapture tribulation passage.  You don’t see him making that distinction here.

Rick Warren goes on, “Jesus said, ‘The good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation.  Then the end will come.’ [that is the verse I just spoke of].  If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.”… [What he is doing here in logic is called the either or fallacy.  In other words, it is what DA Carson called the fallacy of the excluded middle.  It isn’t either or it is both and.  He is saying that if you are into prophecy, you don’t care about daily life.  If you care about daily life, you aren’t into prophecy]…I have shown you, have I not, at least two verses, that demonstrate that the more you think about prophecy, the more it helps you in daily life.  So he is giving his readers here a logical fallacy:  it’s called the either or fallacy].  He goes on saying, “It is easy to get distracted and sidetracked”… [people into prophecy are distracted]… “ from your mission because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith”… [gosh, one of the incentives I have for sharing my faith is Bible Prophecy because I don’t want people left behind for the horrors of the Great Tribulation period]…  “He will let you do all kinds of good things as long as you don’t take anyone to heaven with you.  But the moment you become serious about your mission, expect the Devil to throw all kinds of diversions at you.  When that happens, remember the words of Jesus: ‘Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

So if you’re into prophecy, you are distracted, not serious about your mission, influenced by satan, and you aren’t fit for the Kingdom of God — this is a runaway best seller.

John Piper says this concerning Bible Prophecy:  “For two generations, perhaps, we have failed to study prophecy with anything like the rigor that it deserves.  We have been so afraid of being viewed as one of those Zionist, right-wing, antichrist-sniffing, culture-denying…” [if you are into prophecy, you arent into saving the culture is the critique here.  On the culture denying, hear this interesting fact:  you’ve heard of the moral majority? Jerry Falwell started the moral majority in the late 1970s, early 1980s, and it is largely responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan.  Most people don’t know this, but who gave Jerry Falwell the idea for the moral majority?  It was Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind series who planted the seed into Falwell’s mind to start the moral majority.  I bring that up because it demonstrates that just because you are into Bible Prophecy doesn’t mean that you don’t care about culture.  You will notice that prophecy people are called culture-denying.  Now that word, ‘denying’ is intentionally selected, and it kind of sounds like holocaust-denying, doesn’t it?  The global warming people do this a lot:  you’re climate denying; they’re trying to make a link between your beliefs and being a holocaust denier.  Words mean things.] … “alarmist leftovers from the Schofield prophecy conference era”…[I’m not totally convinced that he spelled Scofield right, but who is complaining] …”that we give hardly any energy to putting the prophetic pieces together—at least not in public.” 

So what you see here is derision; that’s what Rick Warren did in pages 285-286:  derision and ridicule cast upon people studying Bible Prophecy.  Why are they doing this?  They’re into building the Kingdom on the earth, so they’re trying to discredit, discard, reject and marginalize the systematic study of Bible Prophecy.

Having said all of that, take a look at 2 Peter 3:3-4, where Peter says, “1Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? [in other words, these mockers will come; they won’t attack the Trinity or the virgin birth, or the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible; now we know that they do all that, but Peter doesn’t draw our attention to those attacks.  He says specifically they will say this:  ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’  They’re declaring war on the doctrine of a literal interpretation of Bible Prophecy, and a literal return of Jesus just as literal as when He was here on the earth in His first coming]…  “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 

So this is a prophecy that Peter makes about mockers in the last days.   Thus, people who mock prophecy are actually fulfilling it.  Interesting?  I have to be honest, and it is wonderful to keep learning things from the Lord.  For years, I have misinterpreted this:  for most of my Christian life, I thought it meant attacks against the things of God coming from the unsaved, secular world.  But if you look at the language here, it talks about creation.  Isn’t that something a Christian would understand?  It speaks about the fathers falling asleep; I would understand that as the apostles or maybe going back further in the Bible, the patriarchs.  Isn’t that Christian language?  So I think that what this is saying is that people from inside Christianity, not the secularist, but people from within Christianity will start to denigrate the doctrine of the Second Coming.  I think that it is largely being fulfilled in our time period, it won’t get any better as long as the Church keeps flirting with the idea that it is the Kingdom.

Another mocker, Brian McLaren of the Emergent Church, says, “The book of Revelation is an example of popular literary genre of ancient Judaism, known today as Jewish apocalyptic.  Trying to read it without understanding its genre would be like watching Star Trek or some other science fiction show thinking is was a historical documentary…instead of being a book about the distant future,…” [I think that is the right understanding of the Book; that is how we teach it, it is a futuristic prophecy that is coming upon the earth]… “it becomes a way of talking about the challenges of the immediate present.” 

This is basically what they’re teaching in the seminaries.  I took a class in seminary on Apocalyptic Literature where they were trying to argue that the Book of Revelation is no different than the non-canoncical apocalyptic books such as the Book of Enoch, etc., that we don’t accept as canonical.  Just as those books are a jumbled mess that no one can make sense of, the Book of Revelation is the same thing.  This is the reason why people aren’t proclaiming Bible Prophecy from the pulpit — they’re taught in their seminaries that you cannot understand it.

The problem is that at the beginning of the Book of Revelation 1:3, God promises a blessing to the one who reads and heeds.  Now, why would God say that and also say, ‘Oh, by the way, you can’t understand it”?  Of course, you can understand it; that’s the title of the Book.  Revelation comes from the Greek noun, Apokalupsis, which means unveiling; disclosure.  This idea that is is non-decipherable is not what the book even means.  So, Bible Prophecy is something that God wants understood.  Granted, in the Book of Revelation, it is a little more difficult because there are more symbols to navigate, but as we’ve been working through Revelation on Sunday mornings, I have shown you ways that all of these symbols can be identified as symbols, then interpreted.  But people are saying that you can’t understand it and if you claim you understand it, you’re called arrogant.  Here is one particular pastor, Mark Dever, and he goes so far as to say that if you post- on your website your eschatological position as a Church — on our website you will see that our eschatological position is posted as pre-pre- pre-tribulational.  We believe that the rapture will occur before the Tribulation period, and we are premillennial. He says that if you post that on your website that it is a sin because it is disrupting; it is causing division.

So he writes, “I think that millennial views need not be among those doctrines that divide us…I am suggesting that what you believe about the millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order to have a congregation together.  The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. [Let me stop right there: that prayer has already been answered.  When Jesus said, ‘I pray that they be one,’ the prayer was answered on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  This is Christ’s prayer; not a command that all Christians have to get unified.  The prayer got answered on the day of Pentecost; it is called the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit where if someone believes in Christ, the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:13, identifies them with Christ’s body.  Almost nobody who quotes that verse today will tell you that.  They’ll turn it into an ecumenical appeal of oneness, and you know it is a false oneness when they tell you to play down certain parts of the Bible.  That is what he is doing here:  playing down the prophetic stuff because the prophetic stuff causes division in his mind, and it is a violation of John 17–not telling his readers that John 17 has already been answered]…  “Of course all true Christians are one is that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity.  But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us.  Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians …only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ for whose unity he’s prayed and given himself.  Therefore, I conclude that it is sin…” [What did the prophet Isaiah say in chapter 5 in the last days they’re going to call evil good and good evil, right?  That is what he is doing here; he is calling something good, the proclamation of prophecy, that is something that’s sinful]… “to divide the Body of Christ —to divide the body that he prayed would be united…” [Now, he doesn’t tell you that prayer already got answered, does he]?…  “Therefore, for us to conclude that we must agree upon a certain view of alcohol,…” [Wow, I didn’t know that prophecy could be compared to alcohol] … “or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols,…” [Then he throws into the mix a certain view of the millennium, so a certain view of the millennium is no different than meat sacrificed to idols eating it and alcohol.  That’s amazing.  In fact, I really didn’t read this quote very carefully when I got up here.  The more I read it, the more I want to stop and dissect it, so I wont do that] “…or a certain view of the millennium in order to have fellowship together is, I think, not only unnecessary for the Body of Christ, but it is therefore both unwarranted and therefore, condemned by scripture.  So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you’re in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view.  I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation.” 

Here’s the deal, folks:  we don’t set out to come out with a statement of faith to figure out how can we be unified with everybody out there on the spiritual spectrum.  We come out with a statement of faith because we think that’s what God said in His Book.  Whether other people agree or disagree with it, is God’s business.  And that, basically, is how the Protestant Reformation took off.  Luther, Calvin and all these guys that went back to the authority of Scripture and the great SOLAS, never sat around thinking about ‘Gosh, what is going to bridge the gap between us and Rome?’  What they said is, ‘Let’s stand on what the text says and whatever division of lack thereof occurs, is God’s business.  He  wants us to backwards—figure out what’s going to bring unity and then develop your statement of faith around that.

Compare Mark Dever’s statement to Justin Martyr who wrote this about AD 160 when the doctrine of pre-millennialism, or what is called chiliasm, was still in ascendancy.  Justin Martyr said, “But I and every other completely orthodox Christian feel certain [I love that word, ‘certain’ — we’re certain of this] … “that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, followed by a thousand years in the rebuilt, embellished, and enlarged city of Jerusalem as was announced by the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the others.”  Justin Martyr was saying ‘We’re certain this is going to happen.’  That is premillennialism, at that time called chiliasm, because the Greek word for thousand is chilia, so the early church fathers called themselves chiliasts.  They said, ‘We’re certain this is going to happen, and then they said, ‘This is a test to determine if you’re even an orthodox Christian.’  What everyone is telling me today is ‘Well, don’t make that stuff a test of orthodoxy; that is a non-essential’ — is what they keep saying to me.  So they’re trying to make a canon within a canon.  Here is the Bible, and we will be certain of this little circle here, but don’t go outside that circle, those are non-core issues; those are non-essentials. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that in my Christian life, and it is so refreshing to read Justin Martyr, who in AD 160, said that this is a test for orthodoxy.  In other words, if you don’t believe in this future Kingdom, you aren’t an orthodox Christian.

Darrell Bock, who I have mentioned several times has the same mindset.  He believes that Jesus is currently reigning on David’s throne — that’s what you call progressive dispensationalism — the already not yet form of the Kingdom.  Charles Ryrie offers the following critique of progressive dispensationalism in terms of how they are marginalizing key eschatological subjects. Ryrie says the progressive dispensationalists are “…ignoring the great prophecy of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27.”… [You know that prophecy; we spent a lot of time in Daniel 9:24-27]…  “Nowhere in the progressives’ writings to date have I found any discussion of the passage, only very brief and occasional citations of the reference itself…While not denying the pre-tribulation Rapture or the literal tribulation period, revisionists…” [another word for them is the progressive dispensationalists]… “do not give much attention to these aspects of eschatology.  Blaising and Bock…”[the progenitors of the already not yet view of the Kingdom] … “do not take obvious opportunities to mention the Rapture, and in one place (discussing 1 Thessalonians 5) they say only that the rapture ‘would appear to be pre-tribulational.’  They decry (as do many of us normative dispensationalists) the sensationalism of some interpreters of prophecy.  But abuse of a doctrine is no reason for playing down the truth of that doctrine.”  Rather, it ought to make us more zealous to present it accurately and in a balanced fashion.  Furthermore, there exists already in the writings of progressives a thrust towards positioning the Revelation [watch this, now]… “as a book that is ‘difficult’ to interpret.  Playing up the imagery in the book, as some revisionists do, seems to play down a plain interpretation of it.  The locusts in chapter 9 and Babylon [that we are studying on Sundays] in chapters 17 and 18 are examples of such ‘literal/symbolic difficulty’ in interpreting the book.”  So, history is repeating itself, see that?  The Book is too difficult to understand.

Here is a quote from David L Turner, a progressive dispensationalist, and this is in scholarly writings and I throw this at you just to demonstrate what passes for scholarship today.  What he is doing is playing down the ability to interpret Revelation 21 and 22, the eternal state and the the New Jerusalem, literally.  He says, “Perhaps the absence of oysters large enough to produce such pearls [Now around the gate of the city is a pearl, right?] in the absence of sufficient gold to pave such as city (do you just literally 1380 miles squared and high) is viewed as sufficient reason not to take these images as fully literal!…The preceding discussion serves to warn against a ‘hyper-literal’ approach to apocalyptic imagery…”   What he is saying here is you can’t take those pearls in Revelation 21 and 22 literally because there is not enough oysters to produce pearls of that size.  And then he says all that stuff about the city streets being made of pure gold — you can’t take that literally because there isn’t enough gold on planet earth to pave those streets.  As if God can’t speak things into existence when He wants to.  That is called ex nihilo creation, something out of nothing.  The whole statement here is ridiculous if you understand God can create something out of nothing, but what is happening is that he is casting an attitude of derision onto people who want to interpret that section of the Bible as literally as possible.  He is basically calling us hyper-literalists.  We aren’t hyper-literalists.  A hyper-literalist who does not accept any figures of speech in the Bible.  Jesus is the door, the light, the bread of life.  All of that is obviously metaphorical language.  A hyper-literalist would reject that category as metaphor.  What we are is literal whenever possible.  That is how you understand any part of the Bible, and it is also how you also understand Revelation 21 and 22.

So the wonderful prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel where Jesus showed up in Jerusalem on the exact day, remember we studied that?  The wonderful defense of Harold Hoehner of that position.  Here is what the NET Bible, when you enroll at Dallas seminary, is the first thing that shows up in the mail.  The NET Study Bible that the progressive dispensationalists have created. “ The NET Bible, by contrast, denies such an interpretation even so far as to say that the details of the text…” [that is Hoehner’s work showing Daniel 9:25 predicts the exact day that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to be the Messiah] …“make a messianic interpretation of the passage difficult, if not impossible.”   

So with a single statement, they do not even acknowledge in the NET Bible the work of Harold Hoehner, even though he hired most of those guys.  He sent them to Europe to be educated, brought them back, hired them.  When they got ascendancy, they took a key prophecy and acted like nobody ever thought about it or did anything with it in terms of it being a messianic prophecy in terms of scholarship.  In fact, that view is impossible anyway, and they never acknowledged any scholarship that preceded them.  The reality of the situation is that book right there in the bottom right hand corner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, and I hope that is in your library because that’s a classic.  That book was part of Harold Hoehner’s dissertation at Cambridge.  Harold Hoehner had two doctorates:  one from Dallas Seminary and one from Cambridge.  In that particular dissertation, he defended as part of his dissertation, the idea that Jesus had to show up in Jerusalem according to Daniel’s prophecy on an exact day.  He got all those highfalutin  European scholars to sign off on his dissertation.  So when I quote Harold Hoehner here, I’m not quoting Jack Van Impe or Benny Hinn, or someone like that.  I am quoting the real guy; now, not only does the NET Bible say that Hoehner’s interpretation is impossible, but it doesn’t even acknowledge that Hoehner’s scholarship even exists.  This is just more of many examples I can cite of how the study of prophecy always takes a hit in an environment where you’ve got people trying to advocate the idea that we’re currently in the Kingdom.

We will pick this up next time, but you get the drift of what I’m saying?  I am trying to reveal a trend in the Church that is happening negatively in the area of Bible Prophecy because of the ascendancy of Kingdom Now Theology.