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Evangelism and ‘Revival’: God’s Divine Purpose

December 10, 2014 4 comments

From my recent readings, including George Mueller and the recent newsletter of the SGAT (Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony), comes a point often overlooked in our day, regarding God’s purpose in evangelism and missionary work. There is a difference between the salvation of individuals and “praying for revival,” and we understand this issue based on our interpretation of scripture including overall eschatology and the prophetic word.

George Mueller’s autobiography notes his establishment of the “Scriptural Knowledge Institute” in the early 1830s. He provided several scriptural-based reasons for this decision, to establish this new organization instead of working with existing missionary organizations. The first reason involved scriptural understanding of God’s purposes, as Mueller noted that the other missionary organizations referenced scriptures such as Habakkuk 2:14 and Isaiah 11:9 in support of their idea that the whole world will eventually be converted to Christianity. As Mueller well observed:

These passages have no reference to the present dispensation but to the one which will begin when the Lord returns.  In the present time, things will not become spiritually better, but worse.  Only people gathered out from among the Gentiles for the Lord will be converted. (Ref. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; Acts 15:14.) A hearty desire and earnest prayer for the conversion of sinners is quite scriptural. But it is unscriptural to expect the conversion of the whole world.

From the latest issue (Jan-Mar 2015) of the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony newsletter, “Watching and Waiting” comes an article on a similar topic: “Did Noah Pray for Revival?” A look at several scriptures, including the time of Noah as well as Jeremiah’s day, shows indeed that it is not (always, or even usually)  God’s purpose to bring revival and save the majority of people at any given point in time. Select individuals were saved even in times of judgment, such as wicked King Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:12-20) and King Josiah, yet the nation as a whole faced judgment. There was undoubtedly a great measure of blessing, of revival and reformation, but the judgment brought on by the wickedness of Manasseh and his generation remained and was still going to be judged after the death of Josiah. The scriptures tell us similar for the future, of ever increasing apostasy within the church.

I was made to think of Noah and his circumstances as I listened to a Christian friend pray for the United Kingdom that God would send a mighty revival that would turn the whole land back to Him. Thinking upon this request, I pondered the fact that we are surrounded by an ever-increasing tide of apostasy. What are called the ‘main’ churches have abandoned all semblance to Bible religion and have embraced wicked doctrines to a degree never before witnessed in the history of Christendom. Furthermore, the remnant of true believers has never been smaller or weaker. This being so, it does seem likely that we cannot be far removed from the days of that last generation and the manifestation of the antichrist and the Savior’s return to earth to destroy him and establish His own Millennial Kingdom. That raises the question then: Is it the will of God for God’s people in the close of this age to pray for revival?

These facts serve to bring home to us that it is so necessary for God’s people to rightly divide the Word of God and so understand the signs of the times in which we live. It is through God’s Word that the final generation of believers in this age will know of the approach of the end and what it is we should be praying for and expecting the Lord to do. It is only by studying the prophetic scriptures and being informed of God’s will that we will be saved from praying and hoping vainly for revival when it is clearly the purpose and mind of God to bring down man’s rebellion and apostasy by judgment.

The Trinity In the Old Testament: Daniel 9?

January 17, 2014 4 comments

I’ve recently listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy” series, including a three-part section that exposits Daniel 9:24-27, considering the details of the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy.

Dr. Johnson gets interesting in the details, as always in his exposition of Old Testament texts.  While noting that the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly taught, is not spelled out, in the Old Testament, in various expository lessons he notes specific texts that give some indication of “plurality in the Godhead,” as for instance the Genesis 1 creation text (the Hebrew plural word Elohim) and Isaiah 48. Here S. Lewis Johnson presents another such indirect possible reference to the Trinity,  concerning Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 — a text I had never thought of as containing such; but other commentators, even John Calvin, have noticed this.

Here he (Daniel) says, “Now, therefore, our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary for the Lord’s sake.”  Now, I’m not the first one, of course, who has ever noticed this.  As a matter of fact, Calvin himself noticed it.  “This verse contains the name of the Lord twice” he pointed out.  And many other expositors with him thought that this was an allusion to the second person of the Trinity, but the details are not spelled in, and so we have to leave it at that, as an anticipation of what would come to full understanding with the New Testament times.  Now, read on, verse 18.

“O my God, incline your ear and hear, open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city (Notice how large the city looms in Daniel’s thought) which is called by your name, for we do not present our supplication before you because of our righteous deeds but because of your great mercies.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act.”

Now, what would you think if I were to read this:  “O Lord Father, hear; O Lord Son, forgive; O Lord Spirit, listen and act.”  Three times the term “Lord” is on the lips of Daniel.  Again, I’m not the first person who has noticed this in connection with the doctrine of the Trinity. … many exegetes and some dogmaticians have suggested that there is an allusion to the mystery of the Holy Trinity even in this verse as well.

Spurgeon’s Sermons in the Book of Job

May 9, 2013 3 comments

Common teaching through the book of Job, at churches with superficial teaching, may include pointing out the general and obvious teaching in Job: the legalism of Job’s three friends, assuming that Job is suffering because of his wickedness, along with general observations about how Job at the end intercedes for his friends, like how Christ intercedes for us.

But for real depth and meat in the book of Job, I have recently been finding many great treasures there, from a handful of Spurgeon sermons.  As mentioned here previously, Spurgeon was a textual preacher, who preached more in some books than others.  Spurgeongems.org reveals that Spurgeon preached 99 messages from texts in Job, and from 34 of the 42 chapters.  Three of these I have read recently, in Spurgeon’s volume 7 of sermons (#352, #404  and #406).  The book of Job, and sermons from it, provides such variety and material for our lives: the proper times of celebration, suffering, hope, God’s Divine Purpose, and prayer.

See this previous post for Spurgeon’s interesting “Merry Christmas” sermon from Job 1.  Sermon #404, from Job 42 (Job’s prayer for his friends) is a convicting one about intercessory prayer and its importance in our lives as well as in those we pray for:

 You and I may be naturally hard, and harsh, and unlovely of spirit, but much praying for others will remind us we have, indeed, a relationship to the saints, that their interests are ours, that we are jointly concerned with them in all the privileges of Grace. I do not know anything which, through the Grace of God, may be a better means of uniting us, the one to the other, than constant prayer for each other. You cannot harbor enmity in your soul against your Brother after you have learned to pray for him!

Sermon #406 is another excellent one, this time looking at God’s Divine Purpose: Job 23:13 — But He is of one mind, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. Here Spurgeon considers God’s great sovereign purposes, from the little details and our individual lives, to the big picture, even including His divine purpose for the nations:

 To enlarge our thoughts a moment, have you ever noticed, in reading history, how nations suddenly decay? When their civilization has advanced so far that we thought it would produce men of the highest mold, suddenly old age begins to wrinkle its brow, its arm grows weak, the scepter falls, and the crown drops from the head, and we have to say, “Is not the world gone back again?” The barbarian has sacked the city, and where once everything was beauty, now there is nothing but ruthless bloodshed and destruction! But, my Brothers and Sisters, all those things were but the carrying out of the Divine Plan! …

And so has it been with the race of men—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome have crumbled, each and all—when their hour had come, to be succeeded by a better. And if this race of ours should ever be eclipsed, if the Anglo Saxons’ boasted pride should yet be stained, even then it will prove to be a link in the Divine purpose. Still, in the end His one mind shall be carried out; His one great result shall be thereby achieved. Not only the decay of nations, but the apparent degeneration of some races of men—and even the total extinction of others—forms a part of the fixed purpose of God!

The “Covenant of Redemption” and the Historical Covenants

March 14, 2013 5 comments

The 2013 Shepherds Conference included this instructive message from Dr. Mayhue, When God Gives His Word: a good overview lecture concerning the six historical covenants.  Mayhue’s list includes the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly (Numbers 25:13), Davidic and New Covenants — but not the “Edenic” aka “Adamic” covenant or the “Palestinian covenant.”  Looking at the explicitly named covenants, Mayhue’s inductive study through the Bible finds these six that are “very obvious, diverse and unmistakeable.” As we all know (or should know), only one of these, the Old / Mosaic covenant, is conditional, very unlike the other five.

Mayhue approaches the issue from the standpoint of the word “covenant” explicitly used in scripture, which is certainly true for these six covenants.  Some on both sides of the theological issue (CT and dispensationalism) have seen an implied “Adamic/Edenic” covenant — also called the Covenant of Works, one of the three theological covenants.  As to the Palestinian covenant (Deuteronomy 27-29), some see a separate covenant or a “renewing of a covenant”; but as Mayhue points out, no new information is given there that is not included elsewhere.

More details regarding the specific Abrahamic and Davidic covenants can be found in these previous posts (AbrahamicDavidic, and also here), from S. Lewis Johnson’s Eschatology series which included separate messages on each of the covenants. SLJ’s Divine Purpose series also went into more detail regarding each of the theological and historical covenants.

One other item to note. In keeping with a precise definition, that only explicitly named covenants are actually covenants, Mayhue gives his opinion regarding the theological “Covenant of Redemption.”  Yes, there was some “intra-trinitarian” deal going on there, as John MacArthur has termed it, as to the cooperation between the three persons in the Godhead and their agreement, before time began, concerning the election and salvation of God’s people, the elect.  MacArthur apparently also, like Mayhue, never calls this a covenant.  I understand that distinction, that the historical covenants are quite different from the implied, theological ideas described in scripture, which some have also labeled as “covenants.”  Yet I also understand S. Lewis Johnson’s way of describing it, making the distinction between the theological covenant of Redemption and the historical covenants, as he related in this message:

my basic contention has been that there is one great eternal covenant of redemption which is unfolded in a series of historical covenants.

and here:

I do not see myself that the covenant of grace is really a Scriptural covenant, but the covenant of redemption is a biblical covenant in my opinion, and the covenant of works is a fair representation of the arrangement that God made with Adam in the garden of Eden.  It has also been called the Edenic Covenant or the Adamic Covenant, as it is in the Scofield Bible.

As described in the Divine Purpose series:

Christ’s ministry is a condition of the Covenant of Redemption made between the persons of the Trinity.  In other words, each of the persons of the Trinity covenant to do certain things, and our Lord’s part of that Covenant is a condition for the accomplishment of the Covenant of Redemption.  That Covenant is a conditional covenant.  Now, because it’s a conditional covenant between the divine persons, there is a certainty of accomplishment of the terms of the Covenant bound up in the nature and being of the divine persons of the Trinity.  So what the Trinity, and what the persons of the Trinity take upon themselves to do, they are able to do, and they do do, because they are sovereign persons.  The sovereign Father.  The sovereign Son.  The sovereign Spirit.  And so they are fully able to accomplish all of the conditions, and they accomplish all of the conditions that they set upon themselves.

In the final analysis, I’m not convinced that the particular terminology used matters all that much. Some, such as John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, want to say that only the explicitly named covenants can be called actual covenants, and yet they understand the “intra-trinitarian” working — a doctrinal understanding that others see as an (implicit) theological “Covenant of Redemption” describing the same aspect of the Triune Godhead’s work.  The classic case of the word “trinity” comes to mind: we use the term to describe the doctrine, fully recognizing that the term “trinity” is never actually stated in the Bible.  Similarly, I don’t see a real problem with some teachers, S. Lewis Johnson in this case, describing the “intra-trinitarian” working as a covenant, a theological covenant among the Godhead “which is unfolded in a series of historical covenants.”  The overall issue is that we understand the purpose and importance of the explicitly stated  historical covenants that God made with man, along with the understanding of the Triune redemptive purpose of God from before the foundation of the world.

God’s Providence Through History And The “What Ifs”

February 11, 2013 5 comments

I’ve always enjoyed time-travel and “what if” stories, especially since the topic so relates to God’s Providence and Sovereignty over history.  For obvious reasons actual time travel is something God has decreed not possible, but it is fun to speculate about such things.  Turning to scripture, though, we have assurance of God’s full control, not only over what is, but even over the alternate possibilities.  I think of the classic examples often cited, as in this Pyro blog discussion with Dan Phillips a few years ago: 1 Samuel 23:11-12 and Matthew 11:21-23.  God knew what the people of Keilah would do in a given situation, and God also knew that the people of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom would have repented if they had seen the mighty miracles in Jesus’ day.

Actual history also reveals the amazing detailed planning all being done in the background by God.  The book of Esther is one very obvious example here.  Another one from Old Testament history:  in 1 Kings 11:14-21 we learn of an adversary raised up for Solomon, as divine judgment for Solomon’s unfaithfulness.  Yet the story with that particular individual began decades earlier, when David was on the throne, in actions taken by David and his army  years before Solomon’s disobedience became apparent.

Considering post-biblical history, a recent Acts & Facts issue looks at Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence of God, noting some rather interesting historical “coincidences” regarding the 11th century ancestors of later great men who influenced history.  While it is true that God would still have accomplished his purposes without those particular men (such as George Washington), raising up others instead, yet the article brings out some interesting details concerning events hundreds of years earlier, all part of how God directed history through certain individuals both in the 11th century and in their descendants many hundreds of years later.

We can all think of many such amazing incidents of God’s providence in history.  What are some other interesting events, either in the Bible or post-biblical history, to share?

Will More People Be Saved Than Lost?

May 25, 2012 26 comments

In the “About Me” comments section a while ago, a reader mentioned hearing a statement from S. Lewis Johnson that seemed odd to him (that more people will be in heaven than not).  I had not yet come across that particular comment from SLJ before, but referenced something from a Spurgeon sermon as a good answer, noting that SLJ often referenced Spurgeon.

Going through SLJ’s Romans series, I have now come across (at least one place) where S. Lewis Johnson expressed that idea: in the exposition of Romans 11:15.

Sometimes — because we preach the sovereign grace of God and the fact that He is not frustrated in accomplishing his purposes, He always does his will — people get the impression that what He is saying is, talking about the elect, that there are just going to be a few people in heaven.  We know all those stories that men talk about, the few people in heaven.  The apostle did not have such a doctrine.  He preached that the sovereign grace of God was directed toward a definite group of people; but that group of people shall be ultimately so numerous that you cannot number them.  Our great God of sovereign grace has included a multitude which no man can number of every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation.  It may well be that there shall be far more people saved than are lost.  Even though in the present day, God’s company, as our Lord said in his day, was relatively a little flock.  But God’s great purposes encompass the reconciliation of the world, such a thing as life from the dead.

Spurgeon gives more detailed commentary, but as SLJ indicates, Romans 11:15 also suggests the  wonder of God’s great redemptive purposes: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”

Here is Spurgeon’s observation  (“Law and Grace,” #37, delivered August 26, 1855):

Grace excels sin in the numbers it brings beneath its sway. It is my firm belief that the number of the saved will be far greater than that of the damned. It is written that in all things Jesus shall have the pre-eminence. And why is this to be left out? Can we think that Satan will have more followers than Jesus? Oh, no! For while it is written that the redeemed are a number that no man can number, it is not recorded that the lost are beyond numeration! True, we know that the visible elect are always a remnant, but then there are others to be added. Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in Heaven. These all fell in Adam, but being all elect, were all redeemed and all regenerated and were privileged to fly straight from the mother’s breasts to Glory! Happy lot, which we who are spared, might well envy!  Nor let it be forgotten that the multitudes of converts in the millennial age will very much turn the scale. For then the world will be exceedingly populous and a thousand years of a reign of Grace might easily suffice to overcome the majority accumulated by sin during 6,000 years of its tyranny. In that peaceful period, when all shall know Him, from the least even unto the greatest, the sons of God shall fly as doves to their windows and the Redeemer’s family shall be exceedingly multiplied!

What though those who have been deluded by superstition and destroyed by lust must be counted by thousands—Grace has still the pre-eminence. Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands. We admit that the number of the damned will be immense, but we do think that the two states of infancy and millennial glory will furnish so great a reserve of saints that Christ shall win the day. The procession of the lost may be long—there must be thousands and thousands of thousands—of those who have perished. But the greater procession of the King of kings shall be composed of larger hosts than even these. “Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.” The trophies of Free Grace will be far more than the trophies of sin!

The Key to Understanding the Bible: The Cross and the Crown

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

J.C. Ryle well expressed what the “key” is to understanding the Bible:

Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast, if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties.

He then gave several examples of how we see aspects of Christ in various Old Testament texts.  Many of these are in types, examples that prefigure Christ either in His cross or His crown.  Of his ten references, in fact, four of these highlighted Christ’s First Coming  (Hebrews 11:4; Galatians 3:24; 1 Cor. 10:4 and John 3:14;  and four His Second Coming (Jude 14-15; John 8:56; Genesis 49:10; and the judges and kings of Israel); and two others, David’s life and the overall theme of the prophets, that equally reference both Advents.

S. Lewis Johnson often made a similar point, that God’s Divine Purpose, and all of Old Testament Prophecy, focuses on the two events of Christ’s First Coming and His Second Coming.  In the OT types, too, he notes that David and Solomon represent different aspects of the true king:  David represents Christ as the “man of war,” while David’s son Solomon represents the King of peace.

I now notice this “key” in my own Bible reading, especially as regards the many “kingdom” references.  For example, a recent day’s Bible readings included the following:  Luke 14:16-24 , Psalms 97 and 98 (see this article), 1 Kings 10 (Solomon as the type of Christ ruling in His kingdom), and Ezekiel 34 (especially verses 23-31).

As I’ve said before, understanding the Bible in terms of the importance of both comings — rather than emphasizing the First Coming to the exclusion of the one yet to come — greatly assists in the daily ups and downs of life, to understand why the world is the way it is.  A right understanding sets the focus where it should be, for believers to eagerly await His imminent return to set things right while truly praying “Thy kingdom come.”  Amillennialism and Church Replacement Theology simply do not do justice to the language of the wonderful Old Testament prophecies, and instead give the false impression that this church age is a wonderful time in which Satan is bound and so many people are coming to Christ, which makes this world so much better.  Yes, technically amillennialism is not so optimistic as post-millennialism, yet I find it difficult to distinguish the two in practice–the amillennialist preacher optimistically proclaims that the prophets spoke of our age (while reading the wonderful texts such as found in Isaiah or Jeremiah, etc.) and that Satan is bound now while the gospel goes forth unhindered.  Aside from the fact that such an idea denies the vivid and clear words of scripture concerning both the persecuted church and Satan’s activity in this age, it simply has no answer to what we actually observe: a world in which the believers are scattered (like salt) among a majority of unbelievers, a church never extinguished yet  oppressed and persecuted, and riddled with worldly believers as well as outright unbelievers.  That view also cannot make any sense of actual history and the hard questions that many people ask, such as “why the Holocaust?” and “why such hatred of the Jews?”

More to the point, the amillennialist scheme, with its excessive focus on only the First Coming, promises great things (that cannot be delivered in this age) and encourages believers to live only for this life and forget that Christ will return to setup His kingdom.  That mindset is focused on the past and what Christ has done (past tense) for us, yet lulls the believer to sleep in regards to the future — I’ll live a full life now, and someday go to be with Jesus in heaven.  Since the “first resurrection” is only the spiritual rebirth of believers, and emphasis is on a non-material “heaven,” the resurrection itself is downplayed.  J.C. Ryle spoke truly for his age, as well as ours, that the majority of believers, like the virgins waiting for the king in Matthew 25, are asleep and not looking for Christ’s imminent return:

We have adapted and accommodated to the Church of Christ the promises that were spoken by God to Israel and Zion. I do not mean to say that this accommodation is in no sense allowable. But I do mean to say that the primary sense of every prophecy and promise in Old Testament prophecy was intended to have a literal fulfillment, and that this literal fulfillment has been far too much put aside and thrust into a corner.  And by so doing I think we have exactly fulfilled our Lord’s words in the parable of the ten virgins, we have proved that we are slumbering and sleeping about the second advent of Christ.

Exegeting through Revelation 20 with S. Lewis Johnson

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m now finishing the MP3 files for S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Divine Purpose” series, a 37-part series he taught in 1985 and 1986.  The last several messages (messages 31 through 36) are a subset that exegete the content of Revelation 19 through 21.  Here are some of the highlights:

It is said that the test of orthodoxy is our view concerning Christ’s First Coming.  But the test of spirituality is our view concerning the Second Coming.  From S. Lewis Johnson, in message 31 of the series:

… the test of orthodoxy is a person’s belief concerning the First Coming of the Lord Jesus.  Was the Son of God incarnate?  Did He go to the cross?  Did He offer an atoning sacrifice?  Was He buried?  Was He raised from the dead, in bodily form, on the 3rd day?  Those great events do have a great deal to do with our orthodoxy.  But the test of spirituality is our views concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

Now, the apostles, whether they would have agreed with that precise statement or not, would have agreed with the sense of it, because in 1 John chapter 3 in verse 3, the Apostle John writes concerning the appearance of our Lord, he says, “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”  So the thought of the Second Coming, the belief in the Second Coming, is a purifying hope.  So we don’t apologize for speaking about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

In Revelation 20:4, the words “came to life” (in reference to the saints who came to life for the thousand years) are the same Greek words and grammar as used in Revelation 2:8, where these words are spoken of Jesus “who died and came to life.”  If amillennialists want to maintain that Revelation 20:4 doesn’t really mean physical resurrection (but only spiritual rebirth), here is one problem (among many others).  If these saints are not physically resurrected, then how can it be said that Christ was physically resurrected?  These are the same words used by the same author — the apostle John — in the same book of Revelation — yet we are supposed to throw out the normal meaning and usage of words, to fit a preconceived scheme (amillennialism) first thought up several hundred years after Christ?

Revelation 20:6 is an interpretive beatitude:  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. A common feature in apocalyptic literature — such as Daniel and Revelation — is that a vision (often symbolic) is given, followed by the interpretation.  Here is one such case of this pattern:  the vision in Revelation 20:4-5, and the interpretation in Revelation 20:6.  Yet in both the vision and its interpretation, the phrase “a thousand years” is found.  Anybody think the apostle John is trying to make a point, that it really means a thousand years?

From message 35 in the series, concerning Revelation 20:7-10, the “fifth last thing” (the final rebellion):   the words “Gog and Magog” are well-known from Ezekiel 38-39, and often a look back is helpful in understanding the many Old Testament allusions John provides in Revelation.  However, in this case we find that the term “Gog and Magog” is used in a different way.

In the Ezekiel passage, Gog is a person/ruler, and Magog is a land.  In Revelation 20, Gog and Magog are used as a reference to “the nations in the four corners of the earth.”  In Jewish literature, the expression “Gog and Magog” is used to refer to the forces of evil — just as we use certain expressions, such as “Waterloo,” to refer to something other than the actual word Waterloo itself.  This usage from the Jewish literature, which the apostle John was familiar with, certainly fits within the context of Revelation 20:7-10.

S. Lewis Johnson also speculates — on something the text itself doesn’t state — as to a possible reason for how Satan is able to deceive the nations.  We do know from other passages that during the kingdom Israel will have the preeminence and special favor, so a likely reason for the uprising at the end of the thousand years could well be their jealousy of Israel.  Psalm 66:3 and Psalm 110:2 are additional Old Testament texts that may suggest that men feign obedience during the kingdom.

We also can learn, from Revelation 20:7-10, that our God is a non-frustratable deity.  Even Satan’s rebellion, and all of our sins and man’s sins, bring glory to God and accomplish His purposes.

A Lesson in Hermeneutics: Zechariah Interpreting Isaiah

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson has mentioned that the apostle Paul in his epistles would often string together many Old Testament quotes, as part of his flow of thought.  The apostle John did likewise in Revelation, in which many passages contain allusions to Old Testament texts.  Often in Revelation, many different OT allusions are likewise strung together within the same sentence.  See Johnson’s exposition of Revelation 19:15, for example, which contains references to Isaiah 42, Isaiah 49 , and Psalm 2 in its references to a sharp sword and ruling the nations with a rod of iron.  I’ve observed a similar quality also in Spurgeon’s sermons, wherein he quotes various scriptures as part of his normal sentence structure.

Another principle of interpretation:  not only are we to interpret the Old Testament by New Testament, but also we should interpret the Old Testament (earlier texts) by later Old Testament texts that reference the earlier texts.  For example, Isaiah 53 describes the same event as Zechariah 12:10.  From these texts we can observe that Zechariah (a later prophet) was a student of the earlier prophet Isaiah.  Zechariah 3 also relates to similar content in Isaiah’s servant passages.  An excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson:

when you read the prophecy of Isaiah, some of the greatest of those chapters are the chapters I’ve referred to a number of times in this series.  Isaiah 42, Isaiah 49, Isaiah 50, Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12, and perhaps, chapter 16.  But all students of Isaiah agree that those four great sections are sections that have to do with “The servant of Jehovah,” a reference, ultimately, to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  But here, we have the same kind of thing referred to by Zechariah.  He refers to the Lord as the “servant.”  Now, we know Zechariah was a student of Isaiah.  Anyone who reads these two discovers that.  And if you read Zechariah, after having read Isaiah, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

…  And, in fact, we can learn a great deal about the interpretive principles of the prophets, by the way in which they handle earlier Scripture.  And it’s obvious that this Book of Zechariah is one that we can learn a lot about hermeneutics from.  And, I think, we will see that when Zechariah interpreted previous Scripture, he interpreted it according to the grammatical, historical, theological method of interpretation.  That is, he did not give it spiritualized force. He interpreted it generally in the grammatical, historical fashion.  And here, he is using a term given to him, of course, in this vision by the Lord, which Isaiah had used and clearly a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Amillennial “Binding of Satan”: A Conundrum Like Ezekiel’s Temple

August 11, 2010 2 comments

In his “The Divine Purpose” series, S. Lewis Johnson makes yet another interesting point concerning the amillennial view of Revelation 20 and the binding of Satan.

In light of what the book of Hebrews points out concerning the finished work of Christ on the cross, amillennialists frequently criticize the premillennial view of Ezekiel 40-48.  How can there still be animal sacrifices, and a return to the Mosaic system, after the work of Christ has been completed?  Some premillennialists respond that Ezekiel 40-48 must be talking about a memorial only.  S. Lewis Johnson believed that Ezekiel 40-48 is something more than a memorial, and he believes a better explanation exists.

However, amillennialists themselves have a similar inconsistency when they link the binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3) to that same finished work on the cross.  For if, as amillennialists claim, the binding of Satan began at the time of the cross, and Satan is now bound — then what is the answer to Revelation 20 verses 7-8?

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.”

For if the binding of Satan is a binding that came about at Calvary, then surely Satan being released at a future point contradicts their whole stance concerning Hebrews and the completed sacrifice — the same conundrum as the matter of animal sacrifices during the Millennial Kingdom in Ezekiel 40-48.  Furthermore, the amillenial binding is one that limits Satan in that he can no longer deceive the nations, because now the gospel is unhindered and can go freely about the world in the great missionary activity of the church.  Again, Revelation 20:7-8 clearly tells us that Satan will be allowed to go out and deceive the nations — the very “limitation” that Satan supposedly has now, and a limitation brought about by that finished work of Christ.

For further study concerning the binding of Satan, see “Is Satan Bound Today?” by Michael Vlach, which gives many additional scriptural reasons why this binding of Satan is yet future.

See also:  article concerning Ezekiel’s Temple