The Coming Kingdom 080Deuteronomy 11:12 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 6, 2019 • The Coming Kingdom
THE COMING KINGDOM #80
Why Does It Matter?
Marginalization of Bible Eschatology
Dr. Andy M Woods
Open your Bibles to Deuteronomy 11:12; the nice thing about this kind of study is that it takes you into every book of the Bible. We are on the final part of our journey on the subject of the Kingdom, basically trying to refute Kingdom Now Theology in this study, but we are there in Part 3, “Why Does It Matter? The premise that we are taking here in this final section is that if the Church is the Kingdom, and we are currently in the Kingdom, then that becomes fertile soil for nine false doctrines to emerge. So many times, we shoot at the false doctrine, but we don’t really recognize the foundation from which these false doctrines grow.
The first of nine that we’ve talked about is that the Church, when seeing itself as the Kingdom, stops seeing itself as a pilgrim in the world. I have given you this quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer where he talks about how the church loses its pilgrim character and nature. If we are in the Kingdom or setting it up, then we are no longer passing through this world to a better place, but this world actually becomes our home. The church becomes at home in the devil’s world.
The second false doctrine is social gospel because if the Church is the Kingdom, then the Church places upon its shoulders the responsibility for changing the structures of society. The alteration of the structures of society is something that only Jesus Himself can fully accomplish when He comes back, but if we are in the Kingdom now, then all of these social responsibilities rest totally upon our shoulders, so you start hearing more about social causes: social justice, gaps between the rich and poor, structural bias, structural racism, etc. — these kind of things become our focus. What starts to slip is the actual message that God gave us — the gospel of individual salvation. If the Church begins to see itself as the Kingdom wanting to bring in Kingdom conditions, the reality of the situation is that there are really not enough Christians on the earth to bring in the Kingdom politically or voting-wise. The church then must merge with groups that are counter to her core theological convictions. This is what is called ecumenism, or interfaith alliances (third false doctrine). The church starts to merge with the Mormons, Catholics, Muslims — if they agree with us on a particular cause.
Number 4, where we were last time, if the Church begins to see itself as the kingdom then what you start to see with the Church is either a rejection of Bible prophecy, or if you don’t reject the teaching of Bible Prophecy, there is a marginalization of Bible prophecy. As we saw last time, that is not something that should be done because 27% of the Bible at the time it was written was prophetic. That is over one- quarter of the Bible, so obviously, Bible prophecy is extremely important to God. 2 Peter 1:19 says that prophecy is a light shining in a dark place that we would do well to pay attention to. If you don’t have prophecy, there is no light in the midst of a dark world. If you don’t have Bible prophecy, per the quote from J. Dwight Pentecost, you lose a natural stimulus for holy living, because, as he says in this quote that I think I shared with you last week, every time you see a reference to the Second Advent in the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, it is always linked somehow to daily behavior somehow: prayer, patience under trial, or something of that nature. Don’t think that Bible prophecy is there to just fill out a chart and get your chronology down or to fill your head with information. By the way, there is nothing wrong with having a chart and having your chronology down and filling your head with information, but that isn’t the end game of prophecy; it is designed to move from knowledge to wisdom, and it has to impact how we live, or it really hasn’t accomplished the purpose for which God gave it to us.
I don’t think I gave you this quote last time, though I have given it to you before from Justin Martyr, and he wrote this around AD 160; he summed up how important the subject of Bible prophecy was to Christianity for its first two centuries. He says, “But I and every other completely orthodox Christian feel certain 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.” Notice here in this quote that he took prophecy literally to such an extent that he believed that the center of the world was going to revolve one day, or rotate back, to the city of Jerusalem. Then he basically said that it is going to be the headquarters of the Millennial Kingdom for 1,000 years. He says that this was believed to a man, and if you didn’t believe this, your orthodoxy as a Christian was suspect. I like to use this quote because everybody today tells me not to make prophecy a test of orthodoxy. That is exactly what they did for the first two centuries of the Church. It shows what a high value they placed on prophecy.
The problem though is if the Church sees itself as the Kingdom, one of the first areas of theology to take a hit is the subject of Bible prophecy. Clarence Larkin back in 1920, “The ‘Kingdom Idea’ [that is Kingdom Now Theology] has robbed the Church of her ‘UPWARD LOOK,’ and of the ‘BLESSED HOPE.’ There cannot be any ‘Imminent Coming’ to those who are seeking to ‘Set up the Kingdom.’” There is no sense in praying, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ if we are already in the Kingdom. There is no sense in believing that Jesus is coming back to rescue us out of this world via the rapture if the Church is the Kingdom because what is there to rescue us from? We are at home in the world because we are no longer pilgrims.
One of the things I was developing with you last time was how Kingdom Now Theology, becoming more prevalent in our time period, is leading to an assault or attack or a chipping away or a marginalization of Bible prophecy. I was trying to show you how tracing Clarence Larkin’s prediction of how Kingdom Now Theology leads to a marginalization of the study of Bible prophecy, the more the Church sees itself as the Kingdom. I would say this: it is sort of an epidemic today; I get email after email from people all over the country and all over the world essentially saying, ‘I can’t find a church that teaches Bible prophecy.’ Has anyone here experienced that besides here at Sugar Land Bible Church? That is something that people perpetually complain about, and my point is that there is a reason for that. If the Church is at home in the world and sees itself as the Kingdom, then why preach about a Kingdom that is coming? Why preach about Jesus’ coming back to rescue us from this world if we are at home here in the world? In my opinion, there is almost a direct correlation between the advent of Kingdom Now Theology and the decline of Bible prophecy. I gave you a lot of information on that last time, so I want to pick up right in the middle of that.
One of the things you see today at Dallas Seminary (DTS0 is the belief that Jesus is currently reigning on David’s throne; they call this the ‘already not yet’ view of the Kingdom. I have given you a lot of quotes from Darrell Bock during the course of this study demonstrating that; he says that “…Jesus sits here as David’s promised Son on David’s promised throne… as the Davidic heir, Jesus sits in and rules from heaven.”
This new movement that they’re now pushing amongst the younger scholars, called progressive dispensationalism, is a very deceptive title because it is very different than the dispensationalism promoted by the previous generations and the founder of the school, Lewis Sperry Chafer. Nobody, and it is reflected very clearly in the doctrinal statement, believed that Jesus’ present position was one of Davidic king. What they believed is that Jesus is functioning now as high priest after the order of Melchizedek from the Father’s right hand. That is what Jesus is doing now. But progressive dispensationalism is shifting that and making it sound as if Jesus is actually reigning over phase I of the Davidic Kingdom. What starts to happen, and what I noticed as a student when I was there, is that a lot of the prior interpretations of Bible prophecy that the founders held to, are now being significantly marginalized at that particular school. I use this, not to pick on my Alma mater, but to demonstrate what Clarence Larkin said: ‘Kingdom Now Theology will lead to a marginalization of Bible prophecy.’ You don’t have to look far to see this. The very first thing you should ask when trying to figure out what they believe about Bible prophecy is Ezekiel’s Temple in Ezekiel 40:48. In Ezekiel 40-48, is a picture that is described in so much detail that there is no way that you would spiritualize or allegorize that away. It has more detail than Noah’s ark, than the Tabernacle in Moses’ day, than the Temple in Solomon’s day. Everybody takes Noah’s ark, the Tabernacle and the Solomonic temple literally. The only difference is that this time we are talking about a temple that is yet to come to the earth during the Millennial Kingdom. If you want to know where people stand on Bible prophecy and how seriously they take it, the first thing to look at is how they view Ezekiel’s temple because that will tell you an awful lot. Nine times out of ten today, scholars will tell you that what the Bible says about that temple is really not what will happen during the Millennial Kingdom—if they even believe in a Millennial Kingdom. It is almost like they get White Out and begin to cross things out in Ezekiel 40-48 that, to them, appears to be too literal. I’m here to tell you that you can’t do that to the Book of Ezekiel without damaging that book for this simple reason: if you step back and view the whole Book of Ezekiel, per this slide on symmetry, is what we call a synthetic look, where you’re not so much straining at the leaves on the tree, but you are looking at the entire forest, you will see that the Book of is Ezekiel is symmetrical. In other words, what happens at the beginning of the book is repeated at the end of the book. (See Slide on Symmetry — from Charles Dyer from whom I got permission to use this diagram. You’ll notice that chapters 1-24 of Ezekiel is symmetrical to chapters 33-48 — only in reverse. So in Ezekiel 1-3, Ezekiel is commissioned to preach judgment; in Ezekiel 33, he is commissioned to preach restoration. In Ezekiel 1-3, his mouth is closed so that he can’t talk unless God allows it in his oracles of judgment; in chapter 33, his mouth is opened. In Ezekiel 1-24, he is basically preaching judgment on Judah; in Ezekiel 33-48, he is preaching the restoration that will come to Judah or the nation of Israel one day. In the first part of the book, Ezekiel 8-11, there is a description of the temple that Solomon built; it had been in existence from 966 BC per 1 Kings 6:1 to 586 BC . That was the temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed on the Eve of the Babylonian captivity. Everyone takes that temple literally; there is no doubt that it is a literal temple; it even has sacrifices inside, and that temple is juxtaposed against the Millennial Temple that will come to the earth during the Millennial Kingdom. It is a literal temple and it has sacrifices in it as well.
In the first part of the Book of Ezekiel, the Shekinah glory of God in chapters 8-11, leaves the Solomonic temple just prior to Nebuchadnezzar destroying it. You get to the second part of the book or the final section, and the same Shekinah glory of God returns to the temple. What balances those two parts is chapters 25-32, which is God’s judgment on the nations. So the whole thing is kind of held up there by a pivot, and the book is held in perfect symmetry. My point is simply that if you start to play games with the last part of the book, that affects what is going on in the first part of the book. If the temple in Ezekiel 8-11 is literal, and everyone says it is, with sacrifices, then why wouldn’t the temple in Ezekiel 40-48 be literal as well and also with sacrifices? So if you say, ‘Well, you know, the 40-48 Temple is not literal,’ and as Darrell Bock says, he believes in a future temple but the walls are too big, he changes the dimensions. He takes White Out and starts to erase different parts of the Bible. I will show you a quote who says, ‘Yeah, it is a literal temple, but there can’t be sacrifices in it.’ What is happening is they’re shifting their method of interpretation right in the middle of the book and treating prophecy differently than they would treat any historical section of the Bible. See that? So, here is a quote from Mark Rooker, and I just draw these quotes to your attention to show you what’s happening in the area of Bible prophecy as these people are starting to marginalize Ezekiel’s temple. Mark Rooker, a progressive dispensationalist who believes in the ‘already not yet’ view of the Kingdom, “…does not take the sacrifices in a literal sense but views Ezekiel writing in the 6th century BC describing worship from his unique perspective….Ezekiel in referring to the literal worship of Yahweh in the Millennium, would be forced to use terms and concepts with which his audience was familiar.” And then I added these words explaining what Rooker is saying here: Because Ezekiel’s audience would understand restoration in terms of the restoration of sacrifices, Ezekiel merely described a restoration in these terms. Thus, Ezekiel’s vision must not be understood as predicting the literal restoration of sacrifices in the Millennium. So, what he is saying is, ‘Well, the first temple, the Solomonic temple, is literal with sacrifices, and Ezekiel’s temple, described the exact same way, is not literal with sacrifices, and what Ezekiel is actually doing is describing restoration in a way that those in Ezekiel’s 6th century would understand it. They would understand restoration in terms of a new temple with sacrifices and God had to come down to their level to give them that explanation, but God has absolutely no intention of bringing back a literal temple with sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom.’ That is what is called ‘stylized’ in scholarly circles, or ‘contextualized language.’ Rooker would never do that in chapters 8-11 to the historical temple, but he has no problem doing that in Ezekiel 40-48.
My professor, Robert Chisholm, in his handbook on the prophets, goes the exact same direction on this. Notice that this is not some strange teaching I overheard in class; it is what he says in his published and printed book. Get it and read it for yourself. I wanted to see what he had to say about Ezekiel’s Millennial temple because, in class, he was always maligning the idea that there would be a Millennial temple that Ezekiel describes that will literally come to the earth. Robert Chisholm says, “Ezekiel’s vision of a Temple and a restored nation was not fulfilled in the postexilic period. How then should we expect the vision to be fulfilled? Scholars have answered this question in a variety of ways. On one end of the interpretive spectrum are those who see the vision as purely symbolic and as fulfilled in the New Testament church…” [that is the amillennial position—the Temple is happening right now. To make that work, you have to completely rewrite the prophecy. He doesn’t want to be an amillennialist, yet at the same time, which is so common with progressive dispensationalists, he wants to find a middle ground between traditional dispensationalism that the school was founded on, for example, and amillennialism. So he isnt full-blown amillennial. So he says that on one end of the stick, he distances himself from the amillennialist, then]”…. “On the opposite end are the hyper-literalists [that would be us,Dr. Walvoord, Dr Ryrie, Dr. Chafer, — he is suddenly calling them hyper-literalists, John Whitcomb, another example], … who contend that the vision will be fulfilled exactly as described during the millennial age.” [So if you look at Ezekiel’s prophecy and say that God is going to fulfill it exactly as He said, on the earth, because God cannot lie, you’ll notice the derogatory term he ascribes to you — a hyper-literalist, and in the process, he changes the definition of what a hyper-literalist is. A hyper-literalist is not someone who takes God’s Word at face value whenever possible. A hyper-literalist is someone who doesn’t recognize figures of speech in the Bible when they are conspicuous — similes, metaphors, ‘the mountains clap’ is obviously a personification or a metaphor. A hyper-literalist is someone who doesn’t recognize figures of speech, and he is misrepresenting what literal interpretation is. Literal interpretation has always recognized figures of speech. He is basically turning literalists into hyper-literalists and changing the meaning of the word because when you study Ezekiel 40-48, there are no figures of speech at all; in fact, that temple is described in absolutely mind-numbing detail. Look at it, and you see that it is meant to be understood literally. Taking God at His word is not being a hyper-literalist, yet he makes it sound that if you want to take God at His Word, you are a hyper-literalist]. … “in attempting to answer the question one must first recognize that Ezekiel’s vision is contextualized for his sixth-century BC audience. He describes the reconciliation of God and his people in terms that would be meaningful to his audience.” How would they understand restoration? That is how the prophecy was given to them, but God has absolutely no intention of bringing back a literal millennium and a literal temple. All God was trying to communicate to His audience in a contextualized form, is that there will be a restoration one day.
He goes on and says, “They [Ezekiel’s audience] would naturally conceive of such reconciliation as involving the rebuilding of the temple, the re-institution of the sacrificial system, the renewal of the Davidic dynasty, and the return and reunification of the twelve exiled tribes. Since the fulfillment of the vision transcends these culturally conditioned boundaries, we should probably view it as idealized to some extent and look for an essential rather than an exact fulfillment of many of its features…[These are all fancy words for saying get out the White Out. The language here is idealized; essential rather than exact, and it is contextualized]… “The inclusion of so many minute details suggests that the temple described here will be a literal reality in the Jerusalem of the future…[So he just distanced himself from being an amillennialist]. “However, [here is the middle ground]…the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made the Levitical system obsolete…to return to this system with its sin offerings and such, would be a serious retrogression.”
So he looks at Ezekiel’s temple and says that some of it is literal but some of it isn’t. The amillennialist says that none of it is literal. Chisholm, trying to find this middle ground, is essentially saying that the Temple structure itself is literal, but that there won’t be any sacrifices in the temple. Then he goes so far as to say to bring back sacrifices would be to bring back the Levitical system. No, it would not, for this simple reason: according to the writings of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and I would encourage you to get his book, Footsteps of the Messiah, he points out that there are at least 20 differences between this Temple and the Law of Moses. In other words, when this Temple comes to the earth one day, it won’t be a re-institution of the Mosaic Law nor of the Levitical system; this is why so many of the rabbis had a very difficult time early on accepting Ezekiel as a canonical book; they had great debates about this because they saw these differences between the Law of Moses and Ezekiel’s temple. By the way, the animal sacrifices that will come back in the millennium do not chip away at the finished work of Jesus Christ for the simple reason that there isn’t anybody on planet earth who talked more in the Bible about the finished work of Christ than the apostle Paul. Yet Paul himself in Acts 21:26 submitted himself to an animal sacrifice for purposes of not being an offense to the Jews. That shows me that there can be animal sacrifices in some sense that don’t chip away at the finished work of Jesus Christ. These are all things that Chisholm is not bringing up, or surfacing.
Think for a minute about what the Millennial Kingdom will be — there won’t be any death except for in very narrow circumstances. Don’t you think that the human race would forget that the death of Jesus Christ is all about in that kind of environment? You’re living in a world with practically no death at all, so it stands to reason that animal sacrifices would take place in this Temple in the Millennial Kingdom, to remind us of death, to remind us of what Jesus did for us. You have the same situation in early Genesis when early humanity was not carnivorous, they were herbivorous; not meat eaters, so when Adam and Eve sinned against God, they had no real concept of what they had done and the sacrifice that would be needed to redeem them back to God. So God took garments of skin and clothed Adam and Eve. Where did those garments of skin come from? Obviously, God had to kill an innocent animal on the spot to clothe Adam and Eve for their sin, and He is giving them a tangible demonstration of the cost of sin and what must be done to fix the problem. So, death itself then and there in Genesis 3, is an object lesson and in the Millennial Kingdom for a thousand years, with the prospect of death being a thing of the past, for the most part, animal sacrifices make perfect sense. Not to chisel away at the finished work of Jesus Christ, but they’re a memorial looking back at what Jesus did for us. It is the exact same reason we take Communion as we did on Sunday. Why do we do that? The bread represents His body sacrificed for us; the cup represents His blood that was spilled for us so that we have a tangible and pictorial reminder of the price paid to procure our salvation. We will have that same sort of reality in the Millennial Kingdom. So there are ways to put this together without taking out an eraser to say that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, and that God was speaking in a contextualized way to a sixth century audience to communicate restoration in a way they could understand, but He has no intention of bringing back a temple with sacrifices.
So Chisholm is treating Ezekiel’s temple differently than he treated the Solomonic temple earlier in the book, and in the process switches his method of interpretation right in the middle of the book. John Walvoord never did this, nor did Charles Ryrie, John Whitcomb, and I can go down the list — Dwight Pentecost never did that, but this is what is currently in style, and how the subject of Bible prophecy starts to erode in a Kingdom Now climate.
Chisholm goes on to say, “Ezekiel’s audience would have found it impossible to conceive of a restored covenant community apart from the sacrificial system. Now that the fulfillment of the vision transcends that cultural context, we can expect it to be essentially fulfilled when the Israel of the future celebrates the redemptive work of their savior in their new temple [‘essentially fulfilled’ is another way of saying that it’s not going to be filled exactly like God says, but sort of like God says, and if you wont buy into this, then you’re a hyper-literalist. Well, I wont buy into it, because: (1) God can’t lie, and (2) I would have to inconsistently treat the Book of Ezekiel] “…Ezekiel’s audience would have found this portrayal quite natural. However, Jesus, the one who fulfills the vision, will have no need to offer such sacrifices, nor will he institute a dynasty.” I don’t think that last sentence is true at all; I have given you reasons why continuing animal sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom are not at all any assault on the completed, finished work of Christ on the cross.
Most people , when they hear this kind of thing, ‘essentially fulfilled; idealized language,’ all of these kids of things, your average student listens to that and says, ‘Wow, that is scholarly; that is novel stuff.’ When I first heard it, I was sort of impressed by it, too. Until I started to research it, and what I discovered in the writings of John Calvin, amillennialist, replacement theologian, 16th century — he used the same language to rewrite prophecy after prophecy after prophecy in the Bible.
So Isaiah 35:1 says, “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad” a prophecy about the Millennium. Here is what John Calvin says about that passage, and tell me if it doesn’t sound like Rooker and Chisholm. “This passage is explained in various ways. I pass by the dreams of the Jews [the Jews who want to take this literally; it is just a fantasy in their minds, says Calvin], who apply all passages of this kind to the temporal reign of the Messiah, which they have contrived by their own imagination…I willingly view this passage as referring to Judaea, and afterwards to other parts of the world [the problem is that isn’t what the verse says]…. “Let us now see when this prophecy was fulfilled, or shall be fulfilled. The Lord began some kind of restoration when he brought his people out of Babylon: but that was only a foretaste, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that this passage, as well as others of a similar kind, must refer to the kingdom of Christ; … [In other words, don’t look for the ‘wilderness and the solitary places being glad’ in the Millennial Kingdom even though Judea was a barren waste place when Calvin wrote these words. Calvin essentially believed that the passage is happening today in a spiritual sense] … “and in no other light could it be viewed, if we compare it with other prophecies.”
Notice Amos 9:13 — “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.” This is talking about economic prosperity in the Millennial Kingdom. Notice what Calvin does with this passage. “Here the Prophet describes the felicity which shall be under the reign of Christ: and we know that whenever the Prophets set forth promises of a happy and prosperous state to God’s people, they adopt metaphorical expressions,…[in other words, he isn’t talking literally what the Bible says is literal, he is making it a metaphor] … “and say, that abundance of all good things shall flow, that there shall be the most fruitful produce, that provisions shall be bountifully supplied;… [watch this now, this is exactly what Chisholm says] … “for they accommodated their mode of speaking to the notions of that ancient people; it is therefore no wonder if they sometimes speak to them as to children. … [that is how they would have understood restoration, so God kind of got down in the sand as they were playing in the sandpit with their little plastic shovels and building sand castles, and God got down in the sand to explain things to them in language they would understand. But you have to be naïve hyper-literalists, to believe that God will actually fulfill these prophecies literally]. … “At the same time, the Spirit under these figurative expressions declares, that the kingdom of Christ shall in every way be happy and blessed, or that the Church of God which means the same thing, shall be blessed, when Christ shall begin to reign.” [In other words, these things are happening now even though the text says that they’re happening on the earth in the future].
Notice Zechariah 14:4, you know that passage. Jesus is going to return to the Mount of Olives one day, Second Advent, and what will happen to the Mount of Olives? It will split per Zechariah 14:4 (NKJV)—
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west,…” What this means is that Jesus will come back at the end of the Tribulation period, His feet will touch the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives will split in half. There is no reason why I can’t take that passage for what it says. Notice what John Calvin, Kingdom Now theologian says, “For as we are dull and entangled in earthly thoughts, our minds can hardly rise up to heaven, though the Lord with a clear voice invites us to himself. The Prophet then, in order to aid our weakness, adds a vivid representation, …[so he is speaking to weak people, to mere children, and rather than to communicate to them some higher spiritual truth, he explains to them in their sandboxes, words that they would understand. But God has no intention of returning to the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives splitting in half. The language is stylized, exaggerated, per John Calvin. He goes on, “as though God stood before their eyes. Stand, he says, shall his feet on the Mount of Olives. He does not here promise a miracle, such as even the ignorant might conceive to be literal; …[see the tone here? Take that literally, and you are ignorant because you don’t understand the higher spiritual meaning. It reminds me of Chisholm calling people who take Ezekiel’s temple literally — hyper-literalists. It is the same type of derisive tone and spirit]. … nor does he do this in what follows, when he says, The mount shall be rent…half…to the east and half to the west. This has never happened, that mount has never been rent: but as the Prophet could not, under those grievous trials, which might have overwhelmed the minds of the godly a hundred times, have extolled the power of God…without employing a highly figurative language, he therefore accommodates himself, as I have said, to the capacity of our flesh.” He is explaining things to children knowing that children can’t handle the adult language. ‘I know that your Bible says He is going to come back and the Mount of Olives will split, but that isn’t what will happen. I know that your Bible says that there will be a functioning temple in the Millennial Kingdom but that isn’t what is going to happen.’ That is the mindset out there. I have noticed that people who believe that we are in the Kingdom now have no problem doing this.
How about the prophecies related to Babylon? We have been studying those on Sunday? (See slides on Isaiah 13-14 and Jeremiah 50-51). I have tried to explain, and here is a quote from John Walvoord to that effect, but those prophecies have never been fulfilled for the simple reason that there was no war, no battle, no cataclysm when Babylon fell to the Persians in Daniel 5 in 539 BC. That is why so much of the prophecies of Jeremiah show up in the book of Revelation 17-18 (see slide on Parallels Between Jeremiah 50-51 & Revelation 17-18). As we are going through that material verse-by-verse on Sunday, I’m making an effort to show you every time that one of Jeremiah’s prophecies is being fulfilled.
That leads us to the conclusion that if Jeremiah’s and Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon have never been fulfilled literally, there must be a resurgence of Babylon in the last days so she can be destroyed exactly as God said, which is what the whole seventh bowl judgment is about. That is why Revelation 17 and 18 are in your Bible.
How am I reaching this conclusion? I’m taking God’s Word at face value. You see, that school of thought is so passé today, because the language that is being used by Chisholm and Homer Heater, et al., is called the destruction genre. The language is stylized and exaggerated; the prophecies concerning the destruction of Babylon were essentially fulfilled. So, there wasn’t a war, a cataclysm, not even a battle, when the Persians got the upper hand over the Babylonians in Daniel 5 in 539 BC , and by the way, the writings of Herodotus et al very clearly show us that there was no cataclysm and no battle when Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 BC.
But these guys come along and say, ‘Even though Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesy total destruction, Babylon being so severely destroyed that no one would use her building materials again, and her destruction would be like Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s,… what they’re saying is… ‘that those prophecies were essentially fulfilled through a destruction genre or a hyperbolic method of interpretation; they’re just hyperboles,’ see that?’ When you move into the area of scholarship, this is how scholars, even in our own schools and in our camp, are taking Bible prophecy. I have this quote from John Walvoord, and he certainly didn’t take the prophecies that way. But Chisholm and Homer Heater, et al., have no problem doing this. That is how prophecy is taking a hit over and over again in our circles.
(See slide on Prophecy Panorama). How long will the thousand year kingdom be? What do you think? I think it will last a thousand years. In this class, I have given you four reasons why a thousand means a thousand. Robert Thomas who wrote a great commentary on Revelation says, “no number in Revelation is verifiably a symbolic number.”
Darrell Bock, the progenitor of progressive dispensationalism is in print, and I have it in my book [The Coming Kingdom] in one of the footnotes providing the source and page number. He says that a thousand doesn’t mean a thousand. It just means a long period of time. You will notice that Darrell Bock is not an amillennialist; he still believes in a future kingdom of some sort. He just doesn’t think a thousand means a thousand. Again, he is trying to find this middle ground between traditional dispensationalism and full blown amillennialism.
How about the land promises in the Book of Genesis where God promised Abraham a track of real estate from modern-day Egypt to modern-day Iraq from the Nile to the Euphrates? How do you think God will fulfill that promise? I think it will be fulfilled exactly like God said, but these guys come along and start arguing for essential fulfillment, ‘Oh yeah, there will be some kind of earthly kingdom; Israel will kind of be there, but there is no talk about her being head over the nations’ [as the Bible says; there is no talk about the land promises being fulfilled exactly like God said]. That is the way Pentecost, Walvoord, Ryrie, John Whitcomb all talked, but none of these guys talk that way; they use a lot of fancy language, I think, largely borrowed from John Calvin, not telling their students the source from which they got this language. Your average twenty-something listening to that says, ‘Wooo, that is really academic,’ and all they’re doing is regurgitating John Calvin. So they’re starting to argue that it is just ‘essential fulfillment,’ not exact fulfillment.
Darrell Bock was interviewed in Christianity Today in 1992, see quote in my book. He says that his version of progressive dispensationalism “…is less land-centered and less future-centered.” Those are exact quotes from the article. What does less land-centered and less future-centered mean? ‘Well, the land promises aren’t going to be exactly fulfilled like God said. And Ezekiel 47, which goes into all this detail about which tribe gets which chunk of land and that tribe will get that chunk of land in the Kingdom, and that tribe will get that chunk of land — is not going to be fulfilled exactly that way either.’ Gee, do you take the Book of Joshua that way where the nation went into the land under the days of Joshua and they partitioned out the land amongst the 12 tribes? Do you take that book that way? ‘Oh that was all exactly fulfilled?’ Why then, can’t God do the same thing in Ezekiel 47 in the Millennial Kingdom and divide the land up specifically among the 12 tribes? ‘Ohh, that’s a different genre; we’re no longer dealing with historical narrative; now we’re re dealing with prophetic narrative. So that allows me to switch my hermeneutic right in the middle of reading the Bible.’ It is the same reason that they’re saying Ezekiel 8-11 is a literal Solomonic temple, but not Ezekiel 40-48 even though the two temples are held in juxtaposition to each other.
Kenneth Gentry, who is an amillennialist, says, “The proper understanding of the thousand-year time frame in Revelation 20 is that it is representative of a long and glorious era and is not limited to a literal 365,000 days. The figure represents [he gets an A for creativity here]… “a perfect cube of 10, which is the humber of quantitative perfection.” [See how slippery it is like slippery when wet? I thought seven was the number of perfection in the Bible, by the way. Well, Gentry says today it is 10] … ‘because I need 10-cubed to explain a thousand years. So, a thousand doesn’t mean a thousand, it just means a long and glorious era.’ Why does he say that? Because he thinks that we are in the kingdom now; the kingdom exists between the two advents of Christ. The last time I checked, how long of a distance is there between the two advents of Christ? Two thousand years, doggone it, the Bible says a thousand years. ‘Oh, I know what I‘ll do, I‘ll just make it a silly putty number. You guys following this? This is what is happening repeatedly by people in this area of Bible prophecy. They would never ever treat any other part of the Bible this way; if they did, they’d be full-fledged liberals. You can’t come to the Bible and where it says ‘Jesus had twelve apostles,’ and then say, ‘Well that really means 11 or 10 or 9.’ Jesus was tempted 40 days in the wilderness — well, that really means 72 days. If you do that to any other part of the Bible, then you are a liberal, but these guys will be literal in the first coming historical passages, but they adopt a whole different method of interpretation in the second coming passages.
What makes our position at Sugar Land Bible Church unique, is not just literal interpretation; it is consistent literal interpretation. The word ‘consistent’ is very important. We take God at His Word whenever we can unless there is an obvious figure of speech, and we don’t just do that in the gospels, we do it in the Book of Revelation and in the Book of Genesis. Consistent literal interpretation.
That question should be asked of every ministerial candidate: Do you believe in not just literal interpretation but consistent literal interpretation? In fact, I am looking at Greg Lattrell out there; maybe we should put add that to one of our 40-50 questions that we have already on our missionary questionnaire.
Now where is, and I’m getting close to closing—where is Gentry getting all of this from because it looks so academic and scholarly? Again, he is channeling John Calvin who was good in a lot of areas of theology, but not prophecy. He hauled into the Reformation all of the bad amillennial thinking that dominated the Middle Ages, and Calvin never corrected it. So what does Calvin say about the thousand years? “But Satan [notice this, if you believe in a literal thousand years, you’re being influenced by satan]… “has not only befuddled [talk about poisoning the well, and he says this right in his book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, his most famous book when he wrote when he was 26 years old. If I started a movement based on things I said when I was 26, I would be scared to death. Calvin was a brilliant guy, but let’s pretend that he was saved; a lot of people think that he wasn’t saved at all because he gives no testimony of salvation. Brilliant guy, an attorney, but don’t you think you need some time for maturity before you rush into print with your key piece of literature at age 26? Don’t you think that people ought to sort of temper his comments when they read some of the things he said, particularly about prophecy? Because a lot of people, when you talk to them, they think Calvin is the height of truth. So Calvin makes a comment here about the thousand years,] … “men’s senses to make them bury with the corpses the memory of resurrection; he has also attempted to corrupt this part of the doctrine with various falsifications…Now their fiction is too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation. And the Apocalypse, from which they undoubtedly drew a pretext for their error, does not support them. For the number ‘one thousand’ [Rev 20:4] does not apply to the eternal blessedness of the church but but only to the various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth…” [the thousand years are being fulfilled right now, he said, therefore, he is doing what these guys typically do — they trash and deliteralize Bible prophecy, and they begin to allegorize Bible prophecy]… “Those who assign the children of God a thousand years in which to enjoy the inheritance of the life to come do not realize”… [let me stop right there — what he is critiquing there is the first two centuries of the Church as represented by Justin Martyr who said ‘belief in a future thousand year kingdom with an enlarged city of Jerusalem and a temple as spoken by Ezekiel and Isaiah, taking that literally is a test of orthodoxy.’ They were called chiliasts, meaning a thousand — the Greek word for a thousand is chilia. So he is critiquing those guys way back in church history, who I think, had it right. ] … “how much reproach they are casting upon Christ and his Kingdom.” Why does he say, ‘Christ and his Kingdom?’ Because we are in the Kingdom now! Therefore, a thousand has to become a kind of silly putty number. That’s John Calvin.
‘Well Andy, you seem sort of exercised about this, you probably got your blood pressure up a little bit, why does this bother you?’ I am going to close — I told you I’m closing with Calvin, but I’m actually closing with this here — Paul Lee Tan, who wrote a wonderful book, The Interpretation of Bible Prophecy. His sister, Christine, was a classmate of mine at DTS. I’m sorry, his daughter, Christine was a classmate of mine at DTS. “Evangelicals who spiritualize Bible Prophecy cannot logically forbid liberals and modernists from spiritualizing selected areas of Christology and Soteriology… [I mean, how can you tell liberals that you can’t take the Bible that way when we already do it with some parts of the Bible? You just throw out your whole defense of liberalism when you move this direction.] “If evangelicals can spiritualize Christ’s earthly kingdom, may not liberals spiritualize the earthly ministry of Christ, including His miracles and resurrection?” [If the resurrection in Revelation 20:4-5 is not a literal resurrection unto life, then maybe Christ’s resurrection 2,000 years ago is not a literal resurrection either. This is a slippery slope that we are on with all of this stuff]… “The same hermeneutical principles used to spiritualize Bible Prophecy can be used to spiritualize Christ’s first advent. Christians who spiritualize parts of the Scriptures, such as its prophetic portions… [and I’ve given you a lot of examples, tonight, of people doing that], … “have forfeited a major element of their defense against liberalism.”
You mess around with prophecy and it is just a matter of time before that same mentality works its way into what people today are calling the ‘essentials of Christianity’ — Trinity, virgin birth, salvation by faith alone, deity of Christ. The only reason we know anything about those doctrines is literal interpretation. The reason that we have our eschatological position at Sugar Land Bible Church the way we have it is because of the consistent literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. But if I toss out literal interpretation in prophecy, it is just a matter of time before I can do that anywhere else in the Bible. Eventually, you won’t even have Christianity. ‘Oh, you’re exaggerating.’ Really? Take a look at Europe some time. I have traveled to Europe several times, and it is a tragic thing to see the very place where the cradle of the Protestant Reformation took place, and building after building after building built in that vein, beautiful stained glass windows, beautiful architecture, beautiful chapels and cathedrals, but go into one of those churches on a Sunday morning and see how many people are there worshiping the Lord? The places are empty, and other than the guy that sweeps up, maybe he and his family are there, but that is about it. The fasting growing religion in Europe is Islam, and probably less than 1% of the population today would consider themselves as Christian in Europe in any sense. That was the trend in Europe to start spiritualizing certain parts of the Bible. As God as my witness, the exact same thing can and will happen even here in the late, great United States of America if we go down this road of inconsistency in our hermeneutical approach.
So what is another problem with Kingdom Now Theology is that it rejects or marginalizes Bible prophecy. Speaking of literal interpretation, I’m six minutes over so I’m stopping.