Posts Tagged ‘literal hermeneutic’

Prophecy and Application: Principle (Alva McClain) In Practice (Spurgeon)

March 20, 2013 2 comments

From my recent readings — Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom and sequential reading through Charles Spurgeon sermons — comes a rather interesting parallel: a stated principle from McClain, followed by a good example of that principle in the same day’s Spurgeon sermon reading.

In McClain’s chapter concerning “The Nature and Interpretation of Prophecy,” (p. 141), comes this great point:

just as in any proper interpretation of Old Testament history Joseph is always Joseph and not Christ, even so in prophecy Israel is always Israel and never the Church. This does not mean that the preacher may never take a prophecy concerning Israel and apply it to the Church.  But he should always know what he is talking about, and make certain that his hearers know, so that there can be no possible confusion between the history and its typical application, or between a prophecy and any so-called “typical interpretation.” (emphasis in original)

Next came Spurgeon sermon #399, “A Peal of Bells.”
I’m not sure that Spurgeon necessarily made application specifically to the Church, but clearly he made application to our everyday lives in this age (and a very good and convicting sermon, too).  But before expanding on his application in his textual style of preaching, Spurgeon first explained the primary meaning and focus of his text, Zechariah 14:20:

There are days yet to come for whose advent we may well be eager!  There is the day when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim—for all the Church of Christ shall be one in spirit. There is the day when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. There is the day, too, when Israel shall be restored to its own land—when its country shall be called no more desolate, but Beulah; and no more forsaken, but Hephzibah shall its name be—for the Lord delights in it. There is specially the day of the Second Advent —that day of days for which I think all other days that went before were made, that day which shall be the summing up, the total of all ages—for the fullness of time shall come—and Christ, in the fullness of His Glory shall reign among the sons of men.

Yes, Spurgeon, as a covenantal premillennialist, described some things in different terms than I would use, such as the statement “for all the Church of Christ shall be one in spirit” at the end of the second sentence.  Still, though, he explained and expressed his understanding that these events are “days yet to come,” as contrasted with the now past events of the First Advent (in the sentences preceding the above quote).  The primary meaning and the application are thus both clearly presented.  Also I consider that if Spurgeon had immediately launched into his application part without first explaining the literal meaning of the passage, such approach would have greatly distracted me from appreciating the application, burdened with the though, “that’s not what the text is about.”

Spurgeon here further revealed his literal approach to the word of God, avoiding the time-compression error so well described by McClain a few pages earlier:

we shall find in Old Testament prophecy no absolutely continuous and unbroken chronology of the future.  The prophets often saw together on the screen of revelation certain events which in their fulfillment would be greatly separated by centuries of time. This characteristic, so strange to Western minds, was in perfect harmony with the Oriental mind which was not greatly concerned with continuous chronology.  And the Bible, humanly speaking, is an Oriental book.

The unyielding determination of numerous commentators to pour the events of Old Testament prophecy into a rigid mould of unbroken time, has led to disastrous results. … it has led directly to a scheme of interpretations which is the main foundation of highly erroneous eschatological systems.
(Concerning Isaiah 9:6-7):  now consider what happens if an unbroken mould of continuous time is clamped on the prophecy. Because the regal Child did not immediately take the literal throne of David to rule the world, it is argued that such a thing will never come to pass. And then, to preserve the assumption of unbroken time-sequence which cannot allow room for any literal fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy at some future time, the throne of David on earth is changed into the throne of God in heaven, and Messiah’s reign is reduced to the “influence of the Gospel or the rule of God in the “hearts of men.” (emphasis in original)

Straw Men Arguments and Last Days Topography

November 3, 2010 Comments off

One of the ways in which liberal, professing Christians like to ridicule the Bible, and what it literally means, is to take a part of what the Bible says, and then add that idea to their knowledge of how the world is today, and say “well, that’s ridiculous, it can’t mean that, so it must mean …. “.  Since they really don’t know the complete picture —  the full biblical teaching and all the verses related to that idea — they only show their own ignorance, and the truth of the laziness of human nature.  It’s always easier to just take a cursory look at what one Bible verse says, and then extrapolate something ridiculous that the Bible never said, to prove their own “straw man” that we can’t take the Bible literally.

One recent example I’ve heard is a preacher (discussing Psalm 48) who casually remarked that to take the Bible literally would mean that Mount Zion is going to be elevated up really high, above Mt. Everest.  Of course, he said, that’s ridiculous, so we should take this to be symbolic of the gospel going forth in this New Testament age.

Yes, the Bible does talk about Mount Zion being elevated higher than everything else — along with other great  physical changes to the planet at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent.  A comparison of Mount Zion to Mt. Everest simply betrays the speaker’s naturalistic, uniformitarian worldview, that the world will always continue the same as it is now, without any changes.  Such an idea is similar to that of secular, unbelieving scientists who declare that Noah’s flood could not have happened, because all the water available on the planet (the moisture in the skies, the rainfall, etc.) would only cover the world in about two inches of rain.  The apostle Peter denounced such philosophy over 1900 years ago — 2 Peter 3:4-6 .

While the Psalms make reference to Mount Zion being higher than everything around it, Zechariah 14 and Revelation 16 provide more of the details:

Zechariah 14: 4, 10  (ESV)

4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.  …
10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.

and  Revelation 16:18-20

And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.  The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.  And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.

The literal understanding of the Bible is simply that this planet will experience many catastrophic changes at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent — earthquakes and other unusual phenomena to reshape the current landscape, to flatten most of the land while raising up the mount Zion — much like the great topographical and climatic changes that took place at the time of Noah’s flood.

Interestingly enough, scientists have found a major fault system, the Great Rift Valley (see this webpage, which also gives some geographic details concerning the statements in Zechariah 14:10), which could do some interesting things to the landscape of the whole Mediterranean region in the event of such catastrophes as described in the Bible.

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