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The Millennial Psalms (Andrew Bonar)

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment

At a local church doing a series through the Psalms, for Psalm 150 the preacher casually remarked that this psalm has association with postmillennialism — though without further explanation.

It is true that quite a few psalms – and the 150th could be included as well – describe the millennial age, a time of nations rejoicing and praising the Lord and the Lord reigning (and a reign that is more than the present age “universal kingdom” overall sovereignty). Yet the descriptions of the millennial age say nothing regarding the “timing” of this millennial age related to Christ’s return – other than against the a-millennial idea which denies any millennial age other than our current age. Therefore such psalms could be understood as describing a future kingdom / millennial age – an idea that fits with both premillennialism and postmillennialism, since both views at least recognize a future state unlike the present one.

A book on my list to read is classic premillennialist Andrew Bonar’s “Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms” (available here), a much more thorough look at each of the Psalms.  I have heard good things about Andrew Bonar’s work, as well as Charles Spurgeon’s much lengthier “Treasury of David,” and look forward to reading through Bonar’s book.  Meanwhile, searching through the Google play edition reveals the following interesting commentary on several of the Psalms, concerning the future millennial age:

Psalm 22

The essence of the feast is indicated at verse 28, as consisting in knowing and feeding upon Him who is our Paschal Lamb ; even as in Isaiah xxv. 8, the feast of fat things is Christ Himself, seen and known, eye to eye. The people of that millennial time are ” the seed” of ver. 30. If men do not at present serve Him, yet their seed shall- — there is a generation to rise who shall so do.”

 

Psalm 45

This tells of the Glorified Church, the Lamb’s Wife; ruling over a subdued world, in the millennial days. “Tyre” is taken as a sample of Gentile nations, and is elsewhere referred to as acting a part in these happy times. … The Glorified Church, reigning with Christ, is to see her prayers answered and her labours crowned, in the blessings which shall be poured on Earth in those glad millennial days.

 

Psalm 85

The time of millennial blessedness has come. The time for displaying grace to the full has come. Jew and Gentile shall meet, like David and Araunah, at the altar on Moriah.

 

Psalm 102

For now his saints enter on the possession of Earth, and the millennial race of Israelites inherit their Land, reigned over by the Lord and his glorified saints. And thus we understand this Psalm, beginning in woe, ending in gladness.

 

Psalm 144

he does not fail also to lead him forward to a future day, when earth shall witness its millennial scenes, among which not the least wonderful and refreshing shall be Israel in all the restored plenty of his last times, with the favour of Jehovah over all. In all this, David was the type of Christ.

Classic Premillennial Views: Ezekiel’s Temple (Nathaniel West)

December 2, 2014 1 comment

Occasionally the question comes up, what does historic premillennialism believe regarding Ezekiel’s Temple and the Sacrifices? It must first be noted that this is really a secondary issue, not an essential of any form of premillennialism – and further, that even dispensationalists have differing views. H.A. Ironside and a few others have taken the Scofield Bible’s “secondary” explanation of a literal temple with symbolic language for the sacrifices.  Another good, basic reference is an article regarding Charles Spurgeon’s eschatology, which notes Spurgeon’s speculation regarding the future millennial temple:

  1. During the millennial kingdom there may be a temple or “Christian Structure” built on the Temple Mount for worship of God.
  2. During the millennium there may be some forms of Old Testament ceremonial adherence (Sabbaths, News Moon, etc.), but that those forms will be modified to be appropriate for the church.

Nathaniel West’s classic work “The Thousand Year Reign of Christ” (1899) supplemental material includes a full essay, “The 1000 years in Ezekiel,” on the question of where Ezekiel 40-48 fit within the premillennial timeline. After establishing that this temple exists during the 1000 year intermediate state — and not any time in the past, and also not as something purely idealistic (with no reference to any time, and not during the Eternal State – Nathaniel West shares some interesting points regarding the idea of the temple itself as well as its “bloody sacrifices,” including how the text can be understood to follow the literal hermeneutic and as typical language, in a way that does not violate the principle of literal language yet not contradicting other biblical teachings that conflict with “bloody sacrifices.”

Following are some excerpts from this material, which is not available online, but only in existing used print copies.  (Note: emphasis is in the original text.)

It is enough, for our present purpose, to state where we fully believe these Chapters belong, and their connection with the “first resurrection,” even as (apostle) John has briefly stated the connection of the 1000 years, in the same way. …

The locus of the whole scene of the New Israel, in their New Land, redistributed and transfigured, their New Temple, New City, and New Cult, is between the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment at the end of Ezekiel’s “Many Days,” 38:8, Isaiah’s “Multitude of Days” Isaiah 24:22, Hosea’s “Third Day” 6:2, and John’s “1000 years,” 20:1-7. That is the region where they belong. That bloody sacrifices seem a stumbling block, never can avail to dislodge the section from its place in prophecy or history. The picture is a picture of restored Israel from an Exile-point of view, when the Temple was destroyed, the City laid waste by the king of Babylon, Israel’s instituted worship wrecked, and the prophet-priest, Ezekiel, was moved by “the hand of God” to comfort the exiles of Gola!” (noted in the footnote, the prophecy in Ezekiel 40-48 was written in October 572 B.C.)

 

It covers, perspectively, the whole temporal future of the people, and bleeds the Restoration, the non-Restoration, the Abolition, the future Restitution, all in one. Isaiah had chiefly dwelt upon the prophetic side of the kingdom, in thrilling terms, Daniel dwells upon the kingly side and, to Ezekiel it is given to paint the priestly side of it. … And, as all the rest speak, so does he, in Old Testament terms, and paints in Old Testament colors, yet not without the most startling modifications of the Mosaic worship;–not legislating the “rudiments of the Pentateuchal priest-code,” but amending, abolishing, and adding to it, changing it,–a sign of fading, not advancing, Mosaism.

One thing we know, beyond dispute, viz., that “Israel” of the Millennial Age is a converted people, “serving God in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” How much of Ezekiel’s typical picture will fade in the fulfillment, how much brighten to intenser glory, we may not decide. Nor does this impinge on the doctrine of “exact accomplishment.” It neither asserts nor denies. It leaves to the future, problems the future only can solve. It refuses to reconcile apparent contradictions by the adoption of a principle of interpretation which, if logically carried out, would end in the denial of Christianity itself. It waits. The early Jewish Christians adhered to their Jewish rites long after their conversion on the day of Pentecost. They worshiped still in the Temple. At any rate, the future will bring the solution. … We can agree and with Kahle, feel sure, that “it is not for us to determine how much of these closing predictions of Ezekiel will be literally fulfilled, how much not, when Israel has turned to the Lord with all their heart.” We may not go to the length of Baumgarten and Hess who, perhaps, press the literal, in some respect, to the quick, but we may follow men of scholarship and greatness in the knowledge of God’s word, like Crusius, Delitzch, Nagelsbach, Hofmann, Neumann, and agree, even with Kuenen and Graf, in this, that “it is vain, either to idealize, or seek to spiritualize, the many of minute details of these Chapters.”

Further:

The relations described are too perfect to allow us to see in this picture a representation, beforehand, of the restored Church of Zerubbabel and Joshua, of Ezra and Nehemiah, such as was afterward related historically. Or, is it the consummated Jerusalem, the Eternal City of God? For this again, the relations are too limited, too specifically Jewish. And yet there are elements, even in the oracles of Ezekiel, that do not find expression in the architectural plan framed after the Mosaic pattern. The Temple is seen standing on a high mountain. This feature, and the Temple-River swelling as it goes, show that the whole is more than a new architectonic for the building of God’s house, or a new revision of the Law, or the Restoration of the State. It is a prophetic vision in which the Church of God and the Temple, are presented in glorified form. And yet the detailed descriptions are of such a kind, the walls, the chambers, and the doors, that they yield a real architectonic of which a plan may be drawn, complete as that of the temple of Herod or Solomon. The Mosaic cultus here, is typical prophecy.

and

Attempts have been made to crane up this picture, and its separate features, by artificial means, to the height of the New Testament revelation, by putting a spiritual meaning into everything, or an outward fulfilment has been claimed by which even the bloody sacrifices must be logically ascribed to converted Israel. Really neither the one nor the other view accords with New Testament teaching.

Saving Faith Includes Those Who Believe Because They Do See (John 20:29)

November 19, 2013 3 comments

A recent conversation briefly addressed the question of how, from the post-trib premillennial perspective, the millennial kingdom will be populated with living saints.  The answer includes what the scriptures say related to the Second Advent; many people (having experienced the Great Tribulation and seeing His return at the end), during the time interval between Christ’s return and the establishment of the kingdom, will repent and turn to the Lord.  We see this mentioned in the scriptures in reference to the people of Israel, as for instance Zechariah 12:7-10, that they will see Him and “mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child” plus other indications regarding the Gentiles alive at the Second Coming.

One person considering this answer, responded “how can such people have faith?” when they can see Christ in His glory and vengeance —  surely that would be similar to the people at the Great White Throne judgment seeing Christ in His judgment and their own condemnation.

But consider the following in the details:   one obvious difference is that the people at the Great White Throne have already died, their eternal condition made permanent, and then resurrected — while the people who see Christ at His Return (before the millennial period) are still living.  We can also consider other scriptures, though, regarding the question of people who came to belief after seeing the risen Christ, and here we see several such examples.

“Doubting” Thomas did not believe until he saw the resurrected Christ.  The same was true of all the apostles; the others had seen the Lord the week before, but even they were rebuked by Christ for their hardness in unbelief and refusing to believe what other witnesses had told them. The account of Christ with Thomas includes a special blessing for the rest of us:  “you believe because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Jesus’ human brothers (later children of Joseph and Mary) likewise did not believe until after they saw the resurrected Christ.

The Apostle Paul is an even clearer case: one who was actively working against the Lord and persecuting His saints, who yet believed on the Lord Jesus when he saw Him on the Damascus Road.

The point here is that saving faith is not restricted to only those people who believe without having seen (though that is how most people, including every believer since the generation that experience the First Coming, has experienced it).  The early Old Testament believers (those who saw the ‘Angel of the Lord’ the pre-incarnate Christ)  in Old Testament times, as well as those who saw the Risen, Glorified Christ before they believed, did come to believe at a point in their lives, with the added experience of actually seeing Him.  We have an extra blessing given to us, as those who have not seen and yet believe.  But God has also brought into the one people of God some who did see and believe – and He will again do so at His Second Coming.

Hermeneutics: On Being “More Spiritual Than God”

January 21, 2013 9 comments

Recently in the comments at Fred Butler’s blog, an amillennialist expressed many thoughts including this one:

if the passages that speak of Israel in a kingdom in which they dwell in a land in which everyone “sits under a fig tree” for example is the real meaning of the Bible then I see that as a problem. If bearing fruit that glorifies Christ is reduced to having a fruit garden then I have missed the gist of the Bible. Far better for such passages to be illustrating the fruitful spiritual kingdom of the Spirit filled age in which through Christ we have been enabled to bear real fruit then to see the culmination of the ages as living over in Palestine.

The phrase referenced here is found in Micah 4:4, with a similar thought in Zechariah 3:10.  The first thing to note here, of course, is that we already have many scriptures that talk about our bearing spiritual fruit for God, as for instance Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5, Colossians 1, and Philippians 1:10-11.

The Old Testament as well addresses this subject, especially in the book of Proverbs (in numerous places in that book alone), but even in places such as 2 Kings 19:30.  So the suggestion that a literal interpretation of Micah 4:4 and related Old Testament passages requires that “bearing fruit that glorifies Christ is reduced to having a fruit garden” is foolish.  Of course we recognize the truth revealed in the scripture, all of the scriptures including the importance and greatness of bearing spiritual fruit that glorifies Christ. A literal interpretation of “sits under a fig tree” in NO WAY takes away from that truth, but gives us additional revelation about another topic (since spiritual fruit-bearing has already been addressed in numerous other scriptures).  Our hermeneutics are not driven by an either/or but a Both/And — both the bearing fruit that glorifies Christ, and Israel having their kingdom and literal peace.  A further question to ask would be: what is the purpose of even having those Old Testament prophecies with descriptions about a wonderful time of peace, if all they have to tell us is the same thing we’ve already been told, in unmistakably clear language in many texts elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments?

Such a comment reminds me of Dan Phillips’ classic post (25 Stupid Reasons for Dissing Dispensationalism), reason #9: “It isn’t a spiritual hermeneutic.”  When God said Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), He knew it meant “house of bread” — but He meant the city anyway.  

Dan gives an example of what a spiritualizing hermeneutic would have done to the prophecies regarding Christ’s First Coming – and indeed we have the advantage of looking back, that we realize that all of the prophecies concerning Christ’s First Coming were fulfilled literally. (So why should anyone think that the prophecies of the Second Coming will NOT be fulfilled literally?) Christ really was born in Bethlehem, and He really did ride on a donkey, etc.  But to take the same symbolic hermeneutic applied to the Second Coming prophecies, to the First Coming prophecies, would come up with something like Dan well described: “What God is really saying would have been perfectly clear to the Jews. It was symbolic. Messiah would come from ‘the house for bread,’ from the storehouse of God’s spiritual nourishment, and He would give life, as bread does. Those wooden literalists who look for fulfillment in an actual city are perverting the Word to their carnal imaginations.’”

Why does God’s word include so many passages that seem to us very “unspiritual” (and even boring), such as the many sections in the Old Testament (and a few in the gospels) with nothing but genealogies and lists of names?  Could it be that God is actually interested in us human beings, even in our “carnal” lives, and He thinks these things are important and part of His revealed word to us?  Of course the Bible does not include only that which is strictly “spiritual” and non-physical, and we are not to twist the literal meaning of God’s word simply because we think a certain passage is too “carnal” and ordinary, insisting that that passage must have some greater, deeper, “spiritual” meaning instead.  Trying to be more spiritual than God is indeed a foolish thing to do.

Premillenialism: Not A One-Text Revelation 20 Doctrine

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment

A common claim of amillennialists is that the millennial kingdom is only mentioned in one passage, and a highly symbolic one at that—therefore we can disregard it.  In my early years in a Reformed church (when I knew nothing about any kind of millennialism) I specifically heard that claim from the teachers there.  At a friend’s church, the amillennial pastor apparently reasons thus in his rejection of premillennialism, even as he claimed that “many premillennial people” now admit that Revelation is not sequential—a claim neither I nor any of my premillennial friends is aware of; I don’t know where he got that idea—as though the idea of Revelation being non-sequential disproves premillennialism. George Ladd, mentioned in this recent post, was a one-text premillennialist.  His approach was similar to amillennialism, interpreting and spiritualizing the Old Testament prophecies as about the church; yet he felt compelled to acknowledge the literal meaning of Revelation 20.

But those who are honest (and more familiar with the word of God) recognize that the idea of a future kingdom of God upon the Earth is taught throughout the Old Testament.  Revelation 20 is the only passage to tell us the length of that kingdom, but many other passages convey the fact of that kingdom.  Even noted amillennialists and postmillennialists have admitted as much, as for instance in these quotes from Floyd Hamilton, O.T. Allis, and Loraine Boettner:

Hamilton:  “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an early reign of the Messiah as the pre-millennists pictures. That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament promises.”

Allis: the Old Testament prophecies if literally interpreted cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or as being capable of fulfillment in this present age.

 Boettner:  “It’s generally agreed that if the prophesies are to be taken literally they do foretell a restoration of the nation of Israel with Palestine with the Jews having a prominent place in the kingdom and ruling over the other nations.”

A quick perusal of the Old Testament brings to mind many passages (including, though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 60; Isaiah 65; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:21-27; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:1-8; Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 14; plus many of the Psalms) which describe the Lord God ruling over the people, reigning from Jerusalem, the nations coming to worship and bringing their treasures to Jerusalem, and Israel having a prominent position.  Old Testament passages describe conditions that do not exist in this age – a renewed Earth which is characterized by unusual life spans only previously found in the antediluvian age, animals at peace (the Edenic curse reversed), and yet people who still sin and thus are in need of government, including the rod of iron mentioned in Psalm 2; “with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:4).

The New Testament also references such a kingdom, as for example in Luke 1:31-33, Acts 3:19-21, and Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew 19:28 and 2 Timothy 2:12 mention the apostles and the saints sharing in that reign with the Lord.

S. Lewis Johnson often summed up the truth of the matter, as for instance in this lesson:

the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth does not depend upon one text of Scripture.  The length of the kingdom as one thousand years does depend upon that statement made in Revelation chapter 20.  But I also commented upon the fact that there were six references to the term “one thousand years” in that one chapter.  So it is not fair, not correct to say, that there is only one mention of the length of the time of the kingdom.  And it is gross ignorance to claim that the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth depends upon one passage, Revelation chapter 20.  That passage has to do with the length of the kingdom, but it’s not the only passage that has to do with the fact of the kingdom.  There are many passages throughout the Old Testament that let us know that there is going to be a kingdom of God upon the earth… the idea of a kingdom of God upon the earth is taught from the book of Genesis all the way through the Old Testament, and then is picked up by our Lord in the New Testament.

And finally, from Charles Feinberg in his Millennialism:

“To claim that the ‘strongest’ objection to millennialism is that it is found in a single passage of Scripture is incredible. How many passages of Scripture are required before a doctrine can claim biblical ground? What Ladd, and all amillennialists, try to say is that the duration of the Millennium is stated in one passage. What of the crucial passage in 1 Corinthians 15:23-26, which demolishes completely their contention? Would they say Armageddon is found only in Revelation 16:12-16, because it is the only place where the war is named? Then what of Revelation 19:17-19?”

Nations in the Eternal State: The New Creation Model

May 2, 2012 3 comments

From Vlach’s “Has the Church Replaced Israel?” (see my review here), chapter 15 brings out some further thoughts concerning the biblical understanding of the Eternal State and God’s purpose for nations.

Last year I blogged (this post) about the New Creation model of eternity, as contrasted with the Spiritual Vision model which has dominated the Christian church, after reading Vlach’s blog series (see the last one, part 7 here). The Christoplatonism that Randy Alcorn describes has come about from the Greek philosophical influences upon Christianity during the Augustinian era (4th and 5th centuries A.D.), along with other negative effects of allegory on the Christian church.  Yet a closer look at the Bible’s descriptions of the Eternal state, especially in Revelation 21-22, show a very different concept of eternity:  a world with nations and kings, people traveling in and out of gates, and engaging in activities similar to our present experience.

When I first studied premillennialism, I recognized the idea of nations during the 1000 year millennial kingdom.  Now I see more clearly, from what is said in God’s word, that the role of nations (as well as the concept of time) extends beyond that period, into the New Heavens and New Earth.  For one thing, the Abrahamic covenant promises dealing with the land do not stipulate a time limitation (i.e., 1000 years), but “forever.”  Reference Genesis 13:15, Genesis 17:8, and 48:4.

If the land promise is “forever,” that suggests that the people the promise (a group of people, a nation) is made to will also exist forever, which goes beyond phase 1 of the Millennial Kingdom.

Revelation 21 and 22, along with parallel statements in Isaiah 60, specifically mention the nations and their rulers.

  •  Revelation 21:24-26:   By its lightwill the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, andits gates will never be shut by day-andthere will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
  • Revelation 22:2:  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Isaiah 60 verses 5 and 11 speak of the nations coming and bringing their wealth, and the gates being open, and “their kings led in procession.”  Isaiah 60 may refer to the Millennial Kingdom, but not exclusively, and the parallel to Revelation 21 certainly suggests that the Eternal State, New Heavens and New Earth, is also in mind.

Many other texts throughout the Bible speak of nations:  the Psalms often speak of the nations giving praise (which has never been the case in this world).  God has used nations to deal out his vengeance upon erring Israel, and also punished nations by supernatural action.  Isaiah 19 describes “in that day” the existence of three nations that will be blessed: Israel, Egypt and Assyria.

Chapter 15 of Vlach’s book addresses in more detail the issues mentioned above – the New Creation model and what the scriptures have to say about the nations — and then takes the matter to its next logical step.  If nations exist in eternity, and people in the New Earth have identity with nations, then why not have Israel as a nation as well?  The biblical case for nations, both in the Millennial Kingdom as well as in the New Creation Eternal State, is abundantly clear, so why would God’s purposes for the nations exclude the nation Israel?

The Kingdom of God: David and Solomon as Types of Christ

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

I continue to appreciate Horner-style genre Bible reading, for the repetition and increasing overall familiarity with scripture.  Often I notice particular verses and parallels that I might not have picked up on from separate single-passage reading.

One day in my reading, for instance, I noted the following similar passages:

  • Romans 16:20  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
  • 1 Kings 5:3 “You know that David … because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet.

The interesting point I noted here is the David-Solomon pair as a type of Christ in His future reign upon the Earth.  Romans 16:20 references the fulfillment, what Christ will actually do in the future.

As I’ve been reading again through the books of Kings and Chronicles, and thinking more about the Kingdom (see this recent post), I’ve noticed even more clearly the typology of the David-Solomon set and the functions and actions of each.  Together, David and Solomon represent aspects of Christ’s future work:  first the warfare against His enemies and putting them down (King David), immediately followed by the wonderful time of peace and prosperity as pictured in the Kingdom of Solomon.

As pointed out in this previous post, true types (examples or pictures) can be defined by three characteristics:

  • correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events
  • historicity: not allegory of things that did not historically happen
  • predictiveness:  God works according to the patterns that are revealed in the Old Testament; the types of the Old Testament point forward to the ultimate fulfillment.

1 and 2 Chronicles especially point out the distinction between the two, with several statements about the fact that David was a man of war and could not build the temple, and Solomon would be the man of peace (1 Chronicles 22:7-10, and 1 Chronicles 28:3-6).  1 Kings 5:3 (above) directly shows David as the type of Christ: who had enemies, and warfare, until the Lord put them under his (David’s) feet.

It is so true, as Richard Mayhue said, that the doctrine of the Kingdom of God is the most neglected and misunderstood theme in the Bible.  So much of the Old Testament includes the kingdom theme, including the many passages showing the Kingdom type as played out in Israel’s kings, plus the parallel scriptures written centuries later, by the prophets, describing a future kingdom so much like the one depicted in type by King Solomon.

The first several chapters in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles provide some great descriptions of some of what we can look forward to when Christ has put all His enemies under His feet and begins to reign:  wealth (1 Kings 4:20-28, 1 Kings 10:14-23, 2 Chronicles 9:13-22), peace (1 Kings 4:24-25; reference Micah 4:4), a king who reigns with wisdom (1 Kings 3), and people from the other nations coming to Jerusalem, bringing tribute and seeking his wisdom (1 Kings 4:21, 1 Kings 10: 23-25), and praising the true God, Solomon’s God and ours (1 Kings 10:1-10;  Matthew 12:42 ) the King and Lord Jesus Christ, the “greater than Solomon.”

The following is just a sampling, a table showing several of these parallels between the Old Testament type and the future fulfillment.

Scripture Teaching OT Type Future Fulfillment
Enemies Under Feet 1 Kings 5:3 1 Corinthians 15:25-27;
Romans 16:20
A Kingdom of Peace 1 Kings 4:24-25 Micah 4:4
Nations Coming to Bring
Tribute
1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings
10:23-25
Zechariah 14:16; Haggai 2:7;
Isaiah 60:3-7
Fleet of Ships at Tarshish,
bringing silver and gold
1 Kings 10:22 Isaiah 60:9
The House Filled With Glory 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 Haggai 2:7

Ezekiel’s Temple: The Animal Sacrifices

October 31, 2011 4 comments

I recently learned of another approach to understanding Ezekiel 40-48.  Well known is the idea of amillennialists and postmillennialists, that those chapters do not have any specific meaning other than great spiritual ideas of what the Jewish worship might have been.  By contrast, dispensational premillennialists view the temple and the sacrifices as literal, a package deal.

However, a few within this group actually take an inconsistent approach:  the temple itself is a literal structure that will exist during the Millennial Kingdom.  But what is described about the sacrifices and priestly system is symbolic of the worship that the Israelites in that age will experience.  The Jews of Ezekiel’s day could not have understood our church age, and so Ezekiel described it in a way they would understand.  Dan Duncan at Believers Chapel (where the late S. Lewis Johnson taught), for instance, expresses this view in his Ezekiel series, again because of the supposed conflict with New Testament revelation, that Christ finished the OT priestly system.  This view is listed as the second (not primary) explanation in the Scofield Bible, and dispensationalist H.A. Ironside also took this view.

I found this explanation rather unsatisfying, for obvious hermeneutical reasons.  Why would Ezekiel 43 contain such very detailed, precise descriptions for something that is only symbolic of something else?  How can we say that the physical description of the temple itself is the Millennial temple, but that the description of the services held there (animal sacrifices) is not literal and really means something else?  At this point I also refer back to Matt Weymeyer’s list of rules for determining if a passage is literal or not.

1.  Does it possess a degree of absurdity when taken literally?  Example: Isaiah 55:12 “the trees of the fields will clap their hands.”

2.  Does it possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically?  Symbolic language effectively communicates what it symbolizes.
Isaiah 55:12 does possess a degree of clarity when taken symbolically.

3.  Does it fall into an established category of symbolic language?  — figures of speech, etc.  You have to be able to identify what kind of symbol you’re dealing with.  Isaiah 55:12 is a  Personification type of symbol.

Matt Weymeyer applied this test to Revelation 20, but the same can be done for the Ezekiel passage about animal sacrifices.  We can easily understand that Ezekiel 43 does not appear “absurd” when taken literally.  Yes, it may be a difficult question to answer, but the passage itself is not absurd such as the idea of trees clapping their hands.  If Ezekiel 43 is symbolic, is that symbolic view clear?  Just as theologians have come up with many different “interpretations” of Revelation 20, same here, many different “interpretations” have been suggested:  that it’s symbolic for the future worship during the Mill. Kingdom, or that it’s describing the actual sacrifices of the post-exilic period; or that the whole temple structure itself isn’t real since there is no future Millennial Kingdom.  So again, Ezekiel 43 fails the second test; we do not see a clear meaning if Ezekiel 43 is symbolic.  Then the third test:  what category of symbolic language is Ezekiel 43?  Is it a figure of speech, a metaphor, a personification? Of course the Ezekiel passages about animal sacrifices are not a type of symbolic language.

Once we establish, on hermeneutical grounds, that there will be sacrifices during the Kingdom, we move on and address the issue more honestly, looking at the meaning of those sacrifices.

Here are a few links for further information concerning Ezekiel’s Temple sacrifices:

WHY LITERAL SACRIFICES IN THE MILLENNIUM  (Thomas Ice)

Animal Sacrifices in Israel — Past & Future  (John Whitcomb)

Ezekiel’s Temple: Premillennial Achilles’ Heel?  (Paul Henebury)

A Study In Malachi: God’s Name Will Be Great Among The Nations

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Malachi series, a few thoughts from study of Malachi chapter 1.

Looking specifically at verses 11 and 14:

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.

and

For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

The King James Version puts it in the present tense.  Modern translations render it more accurately, as pointing to a future time.  Certainly the text itself does not describe the time of Malachi: at that time there were no offerings being offered among the Gentiles that were pure.  Only offerings made in Jerusalem, at the temple, were pure.

Some commentators apply it to the church age, by broadening the scope of the words (spiritualizing), as for example from John Gill concerning “a pure offering”:

meaning either the Gentiles themselves, their souls and bodies,  Isa 66:20 or their sacrifices of praise, good works, and alms deeds  Heb 13:15 which, though imperfect, and not free from sin, may be said to be “pure”, proceeding from a pure heart, sprinkled by the blood of Christ, and offered in a pure and spiritual manner, and through the pure incense of Christ’s mediation.

However, the overall text describes a time when God’s “name will be great among the nations.”  Similar to the idea of Satan now being bound, to suggest that God’s name is now regarded as great among the nations is very wrongheaded, a view that rejects both the NT writers description of this age as well as observed reality.

Malachi was addressing the remnant returned from the Babylonian exile, a group that had already gone astray, thinking more about themselves than of God, as evidenced by their polluted offerings.  God addressed the people in Malachi, this last word from God before the NT age, with rebukes to the priests (Malachi 1:1-2:9) as well as to the people (Malachi 2:10-16).

Malachi 1:11-14 is telling the people of that time:  I am a great God.  The time is coming when the whole of the earth will be worshipping me.  They will bring pure offerings.  Your attitude now is entirely contrary to the future.

In the words of Dr. Ironside, commentary on Malachi 1:

But it is blessed to know that, whatever the present failure, God shall yet be fully glorified; so we read, “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great among the nations; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the nations, saith the Lord of hosts” (ver. 11). It is hardly the present work of grace among the Gentiles that is here contemplated, but rather that wonderful era of blessing which is still in the future-the times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the ages began. Then shall Jehovah’s name be honored and His word obeyed throughout the whole earth, when all nations shall bask in the sunshine of His favor.

The Theocratic Kingdom: What The Jews Believed About the Kingdom

June 4, 2011 Leave a comment

From “The Theocratic Kingdom,” by George N.H. Peters, Proposition 20

It is universally admitted by writers of prominence (e.g. Nean­der, Ilagenbach, Schaff, Kurtz, etc.), whatever their respective views con­cerning the Kingdom itself, that the Jews, including the pious, held to a personal coming of the Messiah, the literal restoration of the Davidic throne and kingdom, the personal reign of Messiah on David’s throne, the resultant exaltation of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, and the fulfilment of the Millennial descriptions in that reign. It is also acknowledged that the utterances of Luke 1:71; Acts 1:6; Luke 2:26, 30, etc., include the above belief, and that down, at least to the day of Pentecost, the Jews, the disciples, and even the apostles held to such a view. It is not denied, by able Protestant or Romanist, Christian or Unbeliever, that they regarded the prophecies and covenanted promises as literal (i.e. in their naked grammatical sense) ; and, believing in their fulfilment, looked for such a restoration of the Davidic Kingdom under the Messiah, with an increased power and glory befitting the majesty of the predicted King; and also that the pious of former ages would be raised up from the dead to enjoy the same.

It is noticeable, that in all the rebukes given to the Jews by John the Baptist, by Jesus and the apostles, not one refers to their belief and expectations concerning the Kingdom. The rebukes pertain to their superstition, traditions, bigotry, hypocrisy, pride, ostentation, violation of duty, etc., but nothing is alleged that they misapprehended the King­dom of the prophets in its fundamental aspects. This is indeed abun­dantly taken for granted by theologians, but without the least proof to sus­tain it. The student will see, as the argument proceeds, that such sup­posed ignorance would reflect severely upon the covenants, prophecies, and preaching of the first preachers of “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

(emphasis in original)