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Andrew Bonar: Leviticus, Covenantal Premillennialism, and Ezekiel

April 3, 2017 1 comment

As part of the 2017 Challies Reading Challenge, for the commentary I’m currently reading Andrew Bonar’s classic and highly-recommended commentary on Leviticus (1846).  I’m a little over halfway through, and greatly appreciate it, as a verse by verse, chapter by chapter commentary that is straightforward reading for the layperson, with many good devotional thoughts.

I have read other works by Andrew Bonar, including his Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms, and (earlier this year) his biography of Robert Murray McCheyne, which I especially enjoyed.  I like reading his perspective as a covenantal premillennialist, a view not often seen today, due to the over-reaction by many Reformed against the errors of dispensationalism–to the point of rejecting even what has historically been affirmed by Reformed / covenantal theologians.  For Bonar, in the Reformed tradition, saw the unity of scripture (Old and New Testament), and noted in Leviticus many types (figures, allegories) of Christ—yet also affirmed what the scriptures say regarding Israel’s future and how the scriptures describe the future millennial age.

Here, from Bonar’s commentary – published in 1846, years before dispensationalism had taken hold of much of evangelical Christianity – come some interesting thoughts regarding Leviticus and the last chapters of Ezekiel, regarding the future millennial temple.  He notes (as did the later dispensational writers) the differences in this temple as compared to the previous tabernacle and temple, and relates the types and shadows of Leviticus to their educational, instructional purpose:

Is it not possible that some such end as this may be answered by the temple which Ezekiel foretells as yet to be built (chap. Xl., &c.)  Believing nations may frequent that temple in order to get understanding in these types and shadows.  They may go up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, to be there taught his ways (Isaiah 2:3).  In that temple they may learn how not one tittle of the law has failed.  … Indeed, the very fact that the order of arrangement in Ezekiel entirely differs from the order observed in either tabernacle or temple, and that the edifice itself is reared on a plan varying from every former sanctuary, is sufficient to suggest the idea that it is meant to cast light on former types and shadows.  … As it is said of the rigid features of a marble statue, that they may be made to move and vary their expression so as even to smile, when a skillful hand knows how to move a bright light before it; so may it be with these apparently lifeless figures, in the light of that bright millennial day.  At all events, it is probably then that this much-neglected book of Leviticus shall be fully appreciated.  Israel—the good olive-tree—shall again yield its fatness to the nations round (Romans 11:17).  Their ancient ritual may then be more fully understood, and blessed truth found beaming forth from long obscurity.”

The commentary itself includes many references to New Testament passages as well as the Psalms, to give a complete picture of the Levitical worship and what various texts in Leviticus symbolized or paralleled elsewhere.  As for instance, the concluding remarks on Leviticus 1 relate the sacrifices found here to the original sacrifices and features of Eden, explaining these details of God’s progressive revelation from earlier to later Old Testament revelation:

Let us briefly notice that the rudimental sketch of these offerings, and the mode of their presentation, will be found at the gate of Eden.  …  Just as we believe the Hiddekel and Euphrates of Genesis 2 are the same as the Hiddekel and Euphrates of later history; and the cherubim of Genesis 3 the same as those in the tabernacle; and the “sweet savour” of Genesis 8:21 the same as that in Leviticus 1:9 and Ephesians 5:2; so do we regard the intention of sacrifice as always the same throughout Scripture.

In Mosaic rites, the telescope was drawn out farther than at Eden, and the focus at which the ground object could be best seen was more nearly found.  But the gate of Eden presents us with the same truths in a more rudimental form.

… opposite to this sword [at the gate of Eden], at some distance, we see an altar where our first parents shed the blood of sacrifice—showing in type how the barred-up way of access to the Tree of Life was to be opened by the blood of the woman’s bruised seed.  …when we find clean and unclean noticed (Gen. 8:20), and in Abraham’s case (Genesis 15:9,10), the heifer and goat, the turtle and the pigeon, and also “commandments, statutes, and laws” (parallel to Lev. 26:46), we cannot but believe that these fuller institutions in Leviticus are just the expansion of what Adam first received.  The Levitical dispensation is the acorn of Eden grown to a full oak.  If so, then may we say, that the child Jesus, wrapped in his swaddling-clothes, was, in these ceremonies, laid down at the gate of Eden!

H.A. Ironside’s Ministry Stories (And S. Lewis Johnson’s Observations)

August 2, 2013 3 comments

H.A. Ironside and his stories often come up in S. Lewis Johnson’s sermons.  Now going through SLJ’s 1 Corinthians series, he mentions a book from Ironside, Random Reminiscences from Fifty Years of Ministry, while telling a story found in Ironside’s commentary from 1 Corinthians 15, specifically concerning verse 29, “those who are baptized for the dead.”

Ironside’s small book is available online here, a short read with some interesting evangelism stories, of which I‘ve now read a few.  The story in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:29 is actually found in Ironside’s commentary on 1 Corinthians (this section):

The view held by these Mormons and a few others is based on the belief that baptism in itself is a saving ordinance, that apart from it none will ever be saved. It would follow that since a great many people have died without having had the opportunity of being baptized, someone else must be baptized for them if they are going to be saved. Therefore the Mormons say that the apostle was referring to—and approving of—living Christians being baptized vicariously on behalf of people who have died unbaptized. This is a common practice among the Latter Day Saints. In fact they have temples in which they carry out the ceremony of baptism for the dead, and people are urged to be baptized, some over and over and over again, for the dead who were never baptized in this life.

When I was in Salt Lake City some years ago, a young Mormon elder told me about a wealthy lady who had been baptized over thirty thousand times. Every time she was baptized she paid a sum of money to the Mormon church, so you can see that baptism for the dead is a rather good thing from the financial standpoint! She had spent her entire fortune redeeming people, so she thought, from death and destruction. She had been baptized for all her deceased friends and relatives; then she had taken thousands of names from history and literature and had been baptized for every one of them. Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Cleopatra were among those for whom she wanted to be the means of salvation. The youthful elder said to me with a very solemn face, “I believe that in the day of judgment it will be proven that this lady, through being baptized for the dead, has saved more souls than Jesus Christ ever saved through dying on Calvary’s cross.” That ridiculous and blasphemous theory of course finds no support whatever in the Word of God.

A rather sad story, actually, showing the depths of deception within the cults and the financial ruin it drives some people to.  S. Lewis Johnson, relating the story, also states his opinion regarding one of the famous people, a view in agreement with what I’ve heard elsewhere and also understand from Daniel 4:

According to Dr. Ironside, she was baptized for Alexander the Great.  Will we see him in heaven?  She was baptized for Nebuchadnezzar.  Well, that was unnecessary I think.  Nebuchcadnezzar, as far as I can see from the Old Testament, probably was a believer, and we will see him.

Parallels Between Israel’s Exodus and Christ’s Second Coming

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Ezekiel 20:35-36 — And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36 As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the Lord God.

As has often been observed by Bible teachers, and I’ve noticed in my own Bible readings, the similarities between the book of Revelation end-times judgments, and the past judgment plagues on Egypt, are striking.  Both accounts involve descriptions of ruined water, famine and pestilence, locusts, and frogs, for instance.  As a biblical response to naturalist-minded believers, this parallel is a strong argument for the very supernatural power behind the future judgments.  These events will not be the result of man’s technological innovation, nuclear war fallout or any other disaster that man can inflict on this planet — any more than the plagues in Egypt were of man’s doing.  The fact that the people in Revelation 6 cry out for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of God, from the wrath of the Lamb, ought to be obvious enough proof that the people there realize just Who is responsible for their plight:  not mankind in some global nuclear warfare.

All of the above texts show implicit similarities and parallels — we can see the similarities, but nothing explicit in the texts to link Egypt with the future.  In my recent Bible readings (in a modified Horner Bible Reading), though, I noticed a direct mention of the similarities between the two events.  I especially noticed Ezekiel 20:36 — which makes an explicit comparison between the Exodus from Egypt and the Second Coming judgment.  Where Exodus and Revelation describe actual plagues on the land and people, and the rest of the Pentateuch describes the wilderness wanderings, Ezekiel 20 tells us that Israel will face judgment, at the Second Coming, similar to that previous one.  So here we even see a parallel sequence between the two events:

Past (Exodus) Event Future (Second Coming) Event
1. Great plagues of judgment on the Egyptians Great plagues of judgment on the whole world
2. Israel removed from its land of sojourning Israel removed from its land where it was gathered in unbelief
(Daniel 9:27, 2 Thess. 2:4, Matt. 24:15-21, Rev. 11:2)
3. Israel tested and tried in the wilderness Israel regathered (ref. Matt. 24:31) and tried/judged in the wilderness
(Ezekiel 20:35-36)

It’s an interesting parallel, if I read and understand the scripture correctly.  However, I checked a few commentaries, such as the MacArthur Bible Commentary and Thomas Constable’s online commentary, and these both see verse 35 as referring to the Jewish dispersion of the present age. Yet Constable’s commentary, citing Scofield, does see verses 36 to 38 as referring to the future Great Tribulation:

“The passage is a prophecy of future judgment upon Israel, regathered from all nations . . . The issue of this judgment determines who of Israel in that day will enter kingdom blessing (Ps. 50:1-7; Ezek. 20:33-44; Mal. 3:2-5; 4:1-2).”  (The New Scofield.)

When taken as a whole, I don’t see how verse 35 is referring to the present day scattering, when the previous verse (20:34) clearly begins a section describing a gathering of the people who had been previously scattered:  I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.  In verse 35 they have already been regathered, so the commentary notes for verse 35 in the MBC and Constable don’t make sense of the narrative sequence.  Instead, it seems that verse 34 begins with the current situation (the countries where you are scattered) and takes us into the future, when they are brought out and gathered — a yet future event.  It even could be said that all of this is future, since some biblical texts indicate a scattering of the Jews during the tribulation:  a first gathering in unbelief (begun in 1948) to allow the building of the tribulation-era temple and the seven year covenant with antiChrist, then a scattering at the mid-point of that 7 year covenant, followed by a regathering (in belief) during the Great Tribulation / Day of the Lord and preparation to enter into the Millennial Kingdom.  Such is my original understanding, as shown above, and so I still find this an interesting sequence, especially considering the parallel to the Exodus from Egypt and its sequence.

Practical Bible Study Tips

July 2, 2010 Leave a comment

In the spirit of J.C. Ryle’s exhortations concerning Bible reading and study, I continually seek ways to improve my reading and study habits.

From J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion (chapter 5):

Let us resolve to “read the Bible more and more” every year we live. Let us try to get it rooted in our memories, and engraved into our hearts. Let us be thoroughly well provisioned with it against the voyage of death. Who knows but we may have a very stormy passage? Sight and hearing may fail us, and we may be in deep waters. Oh, to have the Word “hid in our hearts” in such an hour as that! (Psalm 119:11).

Let us resolve to be “more watchful over our Bible-reading” every year that we live. Let us be jealously careful about the time we give to it, and the manner that time is spent. Let us beware of omitting our daily reading without sufficient cause. Let us not be gaping, and yawning and dozing over our book, while we read. Let us read like a London merchant studying the city article in the Times—or like a wife reading a husband’s letter from a distant land. Let us be very careful that we never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend above the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel, which creeps in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes! Once more I say, let us be very watchful. The moment we open the Bible the devil sits down by our side. Oh, to read with a hungry spirit, and a simple desire for edification!

So here are some practical thoughts, from new study techniques I’ve tried recently:

  • Keep all study notes in a (portable) hardbound notebook.

Previously I only kept my notes on the computer, type-written form, at a computer I often use during the week. For a long time I simply added notes to a basic Wordpad text file, and more recently tried an electronic journal program, “Red Notebook.” But of course the computer isn’t always available at the moment I have the thought or study note — and this loses the immediacy. Writing notes down in multiple locations is also problematic — one notebook works, regardless of where I am.

So I’m finding that, just as the print copy (portable) Bible works better for reading than online Bible software, the hardbound notebook offers the same advantages.

  • During daily Bible reading, jot down verse references for interesting Bible passages

I’ve mentioned this before, but again find it helpful, especially when put in one location instead of various scraps of paper which I may or may not later transfer to a computer text file.

  • Go back and re-read previous notes. Follow-up with the specific verses and look up more information in commentaries.

With a notebook always available, it’s easy to glance back through the last few days of notes, when I have time to do further look-up, and to get blog ideas. My main study references now include the overall notes in the MacArthur Bible Commentary, as well as a complete online Bible commentary (all 66 books) from Thomas Constable — a great resource.