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Angelology: S. Lewis Johnson’s ‘Systematic Theology’ Series

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “Systematic Theology” series, I’ve completed the first year of the course, material originally covered in weeknight lessons during one fall and spring class year.  The last several messages in that section looked at Angelology.  The following are some interesting points brought out in those lessons.

Demon Possession in the Old Testament. From this lesson (message 26 in the Believers Chapel list): while the New Testament has many examples of actual demon possession, the Old Testament is generally silent, though with a few hints and references.  1 Kings 18:28 describes Baal worshippers slashing themselves, something believed to be demonic activity.  Another hint comes in David’s behavior before Achish in 1 Samuel 21:13-15, acting like a madman.  Interestingly, both David and Achish were familiar with such behavior, as in Achish’s comment to his men, “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow.”

As to why we see in the gospel accounts such a great outbreak of demonic activity:  One of the reasons  for Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil.  The spirit world was especially disturbed at His arrival.

Demonic Possession in Modern Times: Here we note that some restraint exists over the demons’ activity, outwardly, in Christian lands: reference 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the restraint of sin today.  Some demonic possession and demonic activity does occur, among occultic and spiritualistic peoples; but as we all realize, in Christian lands, Satan sees it better to disguise himself as an angel of light.  Thus, demonic activity exists, but of a different kind.  As SLJ notes in lesson 28 (this transcript) :

 you must not for one moment think that the dangerous man to Christianity is the man who attacks it. … The man who is dangerous is the man who claims to be a Christian and who stands in the Christian pulpit and claims even to believe the Bible but who does not really believe it and who does not really proclaim the truths that are contained within it and particularly the essential doctrines that concern the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Guardian Angels?  (lesson 27 / Transcript message 51) Scripture does teach that the angels minister to the saints, collectively, and come to our aid as needed.  I’ve read a few other Bible teachers who completely disregard the idea of an individual guardian angel assigned to each person. One objection I’ve heard is that, after all, we humans are mortal, and if we each have a guardian angel assigned to us, what does that angel do before and after our lifetime?  As I think about it, that objection doesn’t necessarily negate the idea, since it could be a “one to many” relationship, one guardian angel with many individuals throughout the course of history.  S. Lewis Johnson here sticks to the known (scriptures), noting the incident in Acts 12, especially verse 15 – “and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” (singular reference). So, whether the idea is true or not, the early church at least believed in the idea of a guardian angel.

The Restraint of Satan.  From lesson 28 (transcript PDF here): This last message in the Angelology course also deals with eschatology, Satan’s future.  From this message especially come several good quotes and observations.

1) The type of restraint of Satan, quite different from when our Lord was in the tomb:

how different the restraint of Satan is from the restraint of our Lord Jesus. You’ll remember that they set a seal upon the sepulchre. But He tore the bars away on the third day and came forth from the grave.  Satan is in the abyss with a seal upon it for a thousand years, and he would still be there, were it not for the fact that he really is to be released, in the future, in order that he might have a little season of further rebellion.

2)  The Divine Irony in Revelation 20:1-3:

“And ‘an’ angel laid hold of Satan and bound him and put him in the bottomless pit.” Now, doesn’t that strike you as strange?  Well, it should, you know why? Because Satan was ‘big fellow, master too much’ who bossed the angels in ages past, remember. He was the anointed cherub that covereth. He was the chief of the angelic host. And this is the irony of God: that an angel, just one little angel, is enough now to lay hold of the dragon and bind him in the bottomless pit. I think there’s a great deal of drama and divine irony in that little word ‘an.’

3) Regarding Our Human Sinful Nature, the reason behind why Satan “must” be released after 1000 years:

The world can never be unified except once. (I could say twice if we said, under Jesus Christ.) But only once, for you see, the one thing that we all have in common, in which we are completely united, is the one thing that prevents us from ever being united; and that is our sin. That’s why Marx could never get along with his friends. That’s why Lenin could never get along with his friends. There can be no unity in the human race, except finally in the unity of all directed against the Lamb of God.

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

Shepherd’s Conference: Matt Weymeyer on Revelation 20

March 17, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been listening to some of the MP3 files from this year’s Shepherd’s Conference.  Matt Weymeyer’s “Thy Kingdom Come” is an especially helpful one, with great exegesis of Revelation 20.

Matt Weymeyer:

I think this is important, we need to be careful not to let the centrality of the gospel tempt us into a state of exegetical laziness or even what I like to think of as pious agnosticism when it comes to this issue of eschatology.  See, most people would readily agree that eschatology is one of the more difficult areas of systematic theology and, see what happens is, as a result of this, many Christians are self-proclaimed, sometimes even proud, agnostics when it comes to their view of the end times, and unfortunately, many of them seem to be content to remain in the dark when it comes to what God has revealed about the future… God has revealed too much about this issue for us to be content with being agnostic.

Following are some notes that follow his outline of five key questions concerning the passage Revelation 20:1-6.

1.  Is the timing of Satan’s binding present or future?

Revelation 20:1-3 describes Satan being completely cut off from having any influence; total removal from influence on earth

Satan is bound and locked into the abyss — prison for evil spirits; a real place in the spirit world — Luke 8; Revelation 9 and 11.

Charles Feinberg:  “One cannot have Satan bound and loose at the same time; the logic of language will not permit it.”

Response to amillennialists who claim Satan is only bound so that he will no longer deceive the nations:

1.  John’s use of the purpose clause (statement in verse 3)  does not preclude the possibility of other purposes or results of Satan’s imprisonment.   Example:  a prison warden has taken special care of a prisoner to put him in solitary confinement.  The warden issues a purpose statement concerning the prisoner’s safekeeping — the statement only mentions one thing, but that involves other restrictions as well.

2.  The New Testament teaches that Satan is active and involved in deceiving the nations in the present age.  See 2 Cor. 4:4, which contradicts Rev. 20:3.

2.  Is the nature of the first resurrection spiritual or physical?

Four reasons why the first resurrection does not refer to spiritual regeneration:

1.  The word translated resurrection is used 42 times in the NT and not once is it used to refer to regeneration; it is used to refer to physical resurrection. — the heavy burden of proof is on amillennialists here.

2.  The regeneration view requires that the Greek word azey-sun (spelling?) (verse 4) be understood in a completely different sense than the same Greek word in verse 5.

3.  The grammar of this passage indicates that the group in the first resurrection is raised at the beginning of the thousand years, and reign together with Christ for the entire period of time.  (This is not the same as the amillennial view of believers being regenerated throughout the thousand years and not reigning for the entire period of time.)

4.  According to amillennial and post-millennial view that the 1st resurrection = regeneration, the individuals described in verse 4 are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit until after they are martyred for their faith in Christ.

Most common objection from amills and postmills:  the premill view of 2 resurrections is a direct contradiction, they say, of biblical teaching of a single general resurrection of both righteous and wicked at the same time.  — John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:15

Response:  these passages do not preclude the possibility of two separate resurrections at different times.  These passages never state that these resurrections happen at the same time. The passages do refer to the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked, and always listed in that order.

My own note here:  See also Spurgeon’s sermon on this topic.

Also, later revelation gives more information.

The Old Testament did not explain a gap between the two comings of Christ.

Anthony Hoekema:  In the New Testament we find that what the Old Testament writers seemed to depict as one movement, must now be recognized as involving two.

The same is true concerning the resurrections of the righteous and wicked.

Wayne Grudem:  “all of these verses in the absence of Rev. 20 might or might not be speaking of a single future time of resurrection.  But with the explicit teaching of Revelation 20 about two resurrections, these verses must be understood to refer to the future certainty of a resurrection for each type of person without specifying that those resurrections will be separated in time.”

3.  Is the duration of the thousand years symbolic or literal?

Amillennialists:  the thousand years are symbolic of some large, undetermined amount of time; or, the thousand years is symbolic of completeness.

The truth concerning Revelation and numbers:  the vast majority (Weymeyer — about 95%) of the 254 numbers in the book of Revelation are intended to be understood literally.  Any time you find a number with a time indicator in Revelation, nothing in the context indicates that it’s symbolic.  Nowhere in scripture (even in 2 Peter 3) is a thousand years used as a symbolic designation.

Rules to follow concerning determination of symbolic language, general hermeneutical approach to take:

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.

The symbolic view of 1000 years in Rev. 20 fails these 3 questions.

Revelation 20 does NOT possess any degree of absurdity when taken literally — there is nothing difficult here.

Question 2 — look at all the literature, the differing ideas that amills/post-mills come up with when they try to take it symbolically.  Since they all have such different ideas of what it means, question 2 fails — a symbolic view of 1000 years does not possess a degree of clarity.

Question 3 — The symbolic use of 1000 years does not appear to fall into any clear category of symbolic language.

One post-mill answer:  compared the 1000 years to “hyperbole” as in “I’ve told you this a million times…”

Problem:  John’s use of 1000 years cannot possibly be understood as hyperbole, an exaggeration, of a time period now 2000+ years in length.

4.  Is the Location of the Millennial Reign Heaven or Earth?

1. An earthly reign of Christ is precisely what is promised throughout the Old Testament.

Numerous passages:  Jeremiah 23:5-6, among many others

2. Revelation 5:10 looks ahead to that time when saints will reign with Christ — they will reign upon the earth.

3. Revelation 20:9 — the saints who reign with Christ are said to be “on the broad plain of the earth.”

4.  Revelation 19 and 20 teach that Jesus will return to this Earth where He will then reign.

5.  Is the Chronology of Revelation 19 and 20 recapitulatory or sequential?

Compelling reasons to adopt the sequential view:

1.  Introduction to Chapter 20 — “and I saw”

2.  The overall context of Revelation 12 – 20 points to a chronological relationship between chapters 19 & 20.  Starting at Rev. 12:9, where Satan is cast down to the earth, chapters 12 – 18 describe the three members of the unholy trinity. They are defeated in chapters 19 and 20.  At the end of chapter 19, only two of the three have been defeated; Satan (third member) is defeated in Revelation 20; this again indicates a sequence:  Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet already were.

3.  Use of the words “any longer” in Rev. 20 verse 3 — “any longer” indicates interruption of something that had been taking place.  Follows sequentially from events previously described in chapters 12 through 19.

4.  Content of Rev. 20:1-6 — it’s impossible to reconcile the contents of these verses with the present age.  Satan is not currently bound; first resurrection is physical; thousand years are best understood literally.

5.  The absence of compelling objections.  No compelling reason to abandon the sequential view.  You have to provide evidence for recapitulation, and those must be valid and compelling reasons.

The two main objections to the sequential view:

1.  The existence of the unbelieving nations in the Millennial Kingdom.

If Rev. 19-20 presents a sequence of events, and all the nations are destroyed in Rev. 19, where do the unbelieving nations come from in chapter 20:8, at the end of the thousand years?

Response:  The nations will arise from the offspring of nonglorified saints who originally entered the Millennial Kingdom.  (pre-trib or mid-trib view).

Amillennials object to the idea of glorified and unglorified saints existing together — reference Luke 24 and John 21, Christ in a glorified body interacting with non-glorified sinful

Also consider that even in our world, angels co-exist alongside us in this physical realm.  Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

2.  Parallel between Rev. 12 and Rev. 20 — the casting down of Satan in Rev. 12:7-12 and casting down of Satan in Rev. 20:1-6.

recapitulation view:  clearly these must refer to the same event.

Problem:  amillennial view has focused on superficial points of continuity, to the virtual exclusion of specific points of discontinuity.

Three major, critical differences between the two passages, that are incompatible with each other.

1.  Rev. 12 — Satan is cast down from heaven to earth;

Rev. 20 — Satan is cast down from earth to the abyss.

amillennials neglect and don’t give enough attention to the study of the abyss in Rev. 20

2.  Expulsion of Satan from heaven (chapter 12) has exact opposite outcome from Rev. 20

Chapter 12 — Satan goes out and deceives the whole world.

Chapter 20 — opposite:  the casting down prevents him from deceiving the nations.

3.  Rev. 12 — “short time” — cast down to the earth for a short time

Rev. 20 — “short time” — Satan is first cast into the abyss for a long time, then he is released for a short time