Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Appendix: The Millennial Issue
Lesson 103 – Millennial Issues: Justification of Premillennialism
05 Nov 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Last week we worked with postmillennialism and we introduced it and I think we just about finished it but I want to reveal a few things with that viewpoint. Postmillennialism sees that history has to come to some sort of climax prior to the eternal state, and so therefore it’s a view that is progressive, i.e., it holds that history is progressing and getting better and better until the return of Christ. And because history is getting better and better before the return of Christ, it along with premillennialism, places the Kingdom inside history so that the Kingdom comes this side of the final end. So in that sense post-millennialism shares with premillennialism the idea of this pre-eternal state Kingdom.
What it doesn’t share with premillennialism is the fact that this future Kingdom comes because Christ comes to set it up. So the postmillennial view of the Kingdom and the premillennial view of the Kingdom have some similarities: they involve mortal people and they involve the Kingdom of God inside present history.
But, as we’ll see tonight these two Kingdoms differ remarkably. The Kingdom of premillennialism is something brought in catastrophically, not gradually. It’s something that depends upon whatever it is that Christ is going to do when He comes back. This Kingdom is something that is continuous with present history, it will almost imperceptibly glide into it and postmillennialism shares with amillennialism the idea that the Kingdom really has to do with the church primarily and the Old Testament images of that Kingdom are pretty much figurative.
Amillennialism and postmillennialism, one is sort of neutral or pessimistic, the postmillenialist is optimistic. Now in the notes, if you look on page 11 you’ll see something that they do to the gospel that is quite significant. If we place the gospel ahead of the Kingdom, and if we say that the Kingdom of God can be brought in in this age, then the gospel itself is the tool to bring in the Kingdom, and therefore the gospel itself is addressed not just to individuals who will be saved, but also to the nations; it’s addressed to institutions.
This is why on page 11 I have that quote in the second paragraph, “To postmillenialists the Great Commission of Matthew 28 is not a command to preach the gospel merely, but to conquer world culture for Christ.” Then in there it cites another postmillenialist who says, “To reduce this Great Commission to the premillenarian program of preaching the gospel as a witness to a world that is to grow worse and worse until it plunges into doom and destruction is to emasculate the Gospel of Christ and wither it into pitiful impotency.” See their view, see what’s different here? I want you to see these nuances and things. This won’t be lost because when we get into the gospel of Christ you’ll see that these issues will come up.
Something to remember about debates in church history, particularly within the camp of the saints, is that the debate is usually because of some sort of imbalance that is going on and it’s like the Holy Spirit has to rattle our cage and bounce us around a little to make us think things through better. What do you observe about what postmillennialism is doing here to the gospel? Does anybody have observations? If you were to think consistently this way, what do you notice that they’re doing to the gospel message?
It’s oriented towards works; oriented toward reformation of society at large directly. It’s looking for victory and it will not be satisfied unless it has a message of victory and it defines victory by history terminating in God’s Kingdom. They refer to this thing right here in this diagram of premillennialism as a block to progress in the sense that as long as we exist on this side of the return of Christ; in premillennialism; before the coming of Christ; we are blocked off from that Kingdom, and therefore we can talk all we want to about the gospel, but we know deep down in our hearts that the gospel we talk about will not bring in the Kingdom. So therefore they claim that we are rendering the gospel impotent.
What is it that they’re concerned with in premillennialism? Let’s look at premillennialism from their viewpoint. Why are they concerned? What do they see about premillennialism that bothers them? They feel that premillennialism is just talking about saving individuals. It’s not looking at the environment; it’s not looking at society. Our fixation is over here looking at the Kingdom yet to come, and our efforts are, so to speak, recruiting out for history the future inhabitants of that Kingdom, and since we’re exiting people out of the world we’re really not concerned with the world as such. We’re negligent, so to speak, of their viewpoint.
Historically they have emphasized the conversion of the nations and this leads to a problem. You can’t convert nations until you do what? Convert individuals. What happens if you try to convert nations before you convert individuals? What’s the only way you can do that? Church states; totalitarian imposition; imperialism in the name of Christianity, and this is what has terrified some of the liberals in our society right now because there are a few, not the majority, but there are people within the postmillennialist camp today who say that we should elect people to public office and forcibly impose the Mosaic Law on everyone, including stoning.
This sounds like the Ayatollah; this is what the Moslems did in Iran; you can see the reaction. So if you push the more thoughtful postmillennialist they will agree, they’ll back off of this thing and say, “Oh yeah, that’s right.” You’ve got to win people to Christ first and then when you get a concentration of those people then you want them to influence society. But then once you’ve reduced it to this isn’t it okay for premillennialists to do? I mean after all, if you win 110 people to Christ out of a community of 130 there ought to be some influence going on.
Premillennialism is not blocked from that kind of thing and what I want to show you tonight before we leave the different views and how we reconcile them is that out of these viewpoints come ideas about our place in society at large. They are big pictures, sort of like big roadmaps that show where we’re going.
In the premillennial picture, because our idea of the Kingdom is off into the future having to be brought in by the return physically of the Lord Jesus Christ, what does that do for us as far as thinking about how societies are to be converted, or shall we say negatively, what does it say about evil in our present society? We live in a sinful, evil world.
Now, if we are going to say that the Kingdom of God can’t come until Christ returns, what does that imply about social evil and its power? It implies that evil has so entrenched itself into the very structures of society that the only way it is going to be rooted out is by the return of Christ.
So we have a deep respect for a powerful evil and if you can map it out like this in a graph you can always say that in premillennialism during the period before Christ, if this is righteousness, righteousness has a certain theoretical upper bound on it; it hits the ceiling; it can’t go any further. Even if all people, millions of people in a country, are won to Jesus Christ, in a premillennial view that would not be the Kingdom of God.
So you see the thing is that premillennialism has a very high view of what it takes to create this Kingdom, the Kingdom is not just a society of one hundred percent believers, it’s more than that. It’s a society where Christ personally returns and reigns in His physical presence. It’s a society, as we’ll see, that has all kinds of other things happening physiologically to the human body, e.g., disease; the environment.
So in premillennialism before Christ returns, we have a high ceiling here, we’re not to be pessimists in the sense that …we are in no danger of reaching the ceiling as far as righteousness reigns in our society, but on the other hand, we also, because Jesus Christ promises the church will always prevail, and because we are pretribulational, which is something else we’ll get into, the idea basically being as long as the church is here there’s a restraint on evil going on, we can draw another line on this graph, like this, and that is that righteousness always has a lower bound also.
Things will not get totally negative because who is the Restrainer? He’s still restraining. So there will always be places in the world that will be safe for believers, that’s one way of seeing that. Not all places of the world will be safe for believers but in the Tribulation when the Antichrist reigns there will be no place safe on earth for believers. But at least throughout the Church Age there will be sacred free zones where there’s enough righteousness to preserve freedom. God has always allowed that to happen.
In the days of the Middle Ages people fled to Switzerland, that’s where the Waldensians were. That’s how they survived Romanism for centuries; they went up and hid in the Swiss Alps and they had their farms there, they had their cottage industries, and that’s how these people lived, and they passed on premillennialism; the Word of God; Bible teaching; for years and years and years; all up in the Swiss Alps because the Catholic Church and the people that dominated wouldn’t bothered to climb all the mountains. So it was a place where they could be safe.
America, this country, was a place one time where people could come because of the persecution in Europe; they felt free. It was a place, in other words, where you could just rest, you could raise your families, you could do your business, and you don’t have to keep fighting the system all the time. There’s a place you can live in other words, peacefully.
So within the Church Age the tempo, the spiritual pulse of a society can drift. It can go up and it can go down like this, drifting around between these upper and lower boundaries. Premillennialism is not necessarily pessimistic; it’s just saying to get to the Kingdom as the Bible conceives it with a total ecological transformation, a physiological transformation; a supernatural kingdom where mortals will coexist with immortals; that sort of kingdom cannot come without some catastrophic, miraculous intervention. That’s what premillennialism is saying.
On the other hand, postmillennialism doesn’t see the Kingdom in those terms. Postmillennialism just sees the Kingdom as we would see a sort of souped-up spiritualized society, that’s their view of the Kingdom. So see the Kingdom views are different.
Now we want to come to how we resolve the issue and tonight we want to go through two of the four criteria and then we’ll finish it up next week and get on with the first set of notes on the Lord Jesus Christ. As I say in the notes, the issue ultimately in all this is: how do we interpret the Old Testament prophecies that look forward to the Kingdom?
There are three views of the Kingdom, right? Amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism. Let’s review just a minute. Amillennial view of the Kingdom: There is none. “A” means “no”; i.e., no Millennium. So what do they believe? They say that either the Kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament should be figuratively applied to the church at the present time or there are some amillennialists that are saying that all the Old Testament prophecies should be applied to the eternal state. Amillennialism = no Kingdom.
Postmillennialism we said is a souped-up version of a regenerate society. The premillennial version is a catastrophic geophysical change as well as a social change in the Kingdom. So on the bottom of page 12 I cite one of the textbooks on interpreting Scripture, and he points out that the issue is not one of figurative language of the prophets. The ultimate end of that quote is that the real issue in prophetic interpretation among evangelicals is this: Can prophetic literature be interpreted by the general method of grammatical exegesis or is some special principle necessary? What he means by that is that the rest of the Scriptures we interpret literally unless were forced and driven to symbolic interpretation.
When you read the Song of Solomon and you read about the lover looking at his beloved and he says to her that, “Your neck is like a high tower,” that just doesn’t quite send a romantic image. So now let’s back up; do we really understand what this is talking about? There’s figurative imagery in that; it’s a Wisdom book, so you have to kind of back up and figure out what does that mean and so forth and so on, but everybody recognizes figurative language. The issue however, is whether the main thrust of the prophecies; are we talking about what we observe to be the Kingdom in the Old Testament?
So what I’m going to show you now is I’m going to take you through four criteria that I believe show that you take these prophecies literally; that the picture we get of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament, the supernatural Kingdom of God in a physical this-history-type-thing, that this is why we believe that.
The first one is that we start off in Genesis 1 with the creationist’s view of nature. Let’s start by looking at Isaiah 65; we’re going to be looking at some of these Old Testament prophecies.
One other political thing I might mention here and it’s very contemporary; looking back at the postmillennialist. Does anybody realize what one of the prophecies of the Kingdom era is with respect to international relations? Isaiah says they shall turn their swords into plowshares. Military armaments will not be necessary so that money and resources can be expended on plowshares; meaning productive things; so one of the prophecies very practically is world peace.
Now how increasingly do you notice from reading the papers and watching the commentators; watching the leaders of the world. What is it looking like is happening as far they are thinking about how to bring in world peace? What do we increasingly see our own military doing? We’re international policemen and the idea is that all the nations have this kind of superstructure that they’re going to work through; this world government, and that is going to bring in peace.
Well now it’s kind of wrong and it’s right. It’s right in the fact that it is probably the only way peace is going to work. It’s wrong in the fact that whatever this world power is going to be it’s going to be humanly based with sinful man at the helm, because if it’s based with sinful man at the helm, what is that a recapitulation of that we have already studied in history? It happened once all the way back in Genesis, does anybody remember?
The Tower of Babel; so the idea of a world government, a world kingdom to bring in peace was already tried once and you get God’s opinion of it. What did He do? He broke it up, so God isn’t favorably disposed to create another Tower of Babel. This influences us politically when we get into discussions, “Well aren’t you for world peace?” “Yeah, we are.” “Well then why are you always these extreme right-wing religious people. Come on join the crowd, what is your problem?” “Our problem is that we believe in evil. My problem is that I believe that I’m depraved and so are you. You don’t want me telling you what to do and I don’t want you telling me what to do.”
It’s very simple; we’re depraved, fallen creatures going to hell apart from the redemption of Christ. Now how do you get a group that is going to hell to live peaceably together? That’s the problem, so we’ve analyzed the whole problem completely differently. But the naïve sentimentalist who wants peace, we all want peace, because they have a defaulting view of human nature they think this is possible by human beings honestly getting together and talking it out and everything is going to be cool.
We’re not against negotiations; we’re not against peace treaties, we’ve had them all down through the centuries, but we don’t share, if we’re premillennialists, a one-world view in the modern liberal political sense; that’s totally incompatible philosophically with the Scriptural viewpoint; absolutely in collision with it.
What I’m trying to show you by introducing these things is that these ideas, while we can draw diagrams and give six-letter theological words, the point is, it does have political overtones and it does influence the way you think, politically and economically, and people that are all around us that might never characterize themselves as believers, certainly biblically illiterate, yet they have an eschatology.
Everybody has some eschatology, don’t you think that it’s just Bible-believing people going into storefront churches that are talking about future events. Communism had a fantastic eschatology, stolen from Daniel, and they didn’t know it but they were trafficking in stolen goods. But in fact communism and Nazism; the Third Reich; all those are eschatologies and today the liberal professor or the liberal politician who thinks that world peace is going to come in with some one-world-conglomerate-type government, they too have an eschatology.
There’s a collision out there of eschatologies and the eschatologies are based on the depravity of man, what God is doing in history and so on. So immediately you get into God, you get into Word of God, you get into the revelation of God, and so forth and so on; nobody’s neutral.
But here in Isaiah 65 is one of the classic locations. Poets down through the years have cited this passage and it’s almost become a byword. It’s sort of like their swords shall be beaten into plowshares, that’s one verse. I’m not sure of this, but I think Isaiah 2, where that section of world peace is, I think if you go to New York City by the UN building you’ll see that on the outside of the building.
It’s interesting; the Scripture they quote; you know when it’s convenient they quote it. In Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb graze together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in My Holy Mountain” … one of the conditions in the future Kingdom. Now that’s a condition involving animals.
It’s a condition today, what would we call that? An ecological thing, so you see the conditions in the Bible that operate during this Kingdom of God thing are greater than just “everybody’s a believer.” It’s not just “everybody’s a believer.” It is that the environment of all the believers itself has been geophysically changed. That’s involved in these prophecies and that’s the debate.
Do you take passages like Isaiah 65:25 and say that that’s literally going to happen? If you do then you hold to the Kingdom as a premillennialist would hold to it. If you don’t and it’s just figurative, everybody’s cozy, it’s just a general kind of figurative image meaning a peaceful condition, then you could be a postmillennialist, an amillennialist, or anything. So see it’s the literalness of this.
Now if you look at the bottom of page 13 in the notes, at that big paragraph, follow me as I go through this because there’s a point of logic to this. To decide the question the interpreter must rely on the creationist view of nature given in the Noahic Bible. This very foundation, which we covered years ago, establishes the worldview within which later Scripture was written.
Let me review that again. Notice the language. It establishes the worldview within which later Scripture was written. The authors of the Scripture: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, what was their view of the world, not the 20th century guy that studies them; they didn’t hear about Darwin, they didn’t hear about Big Bang [Theory]. What was their view of nature do you suppose? What they read out of Genesis; these guys were the prophets. So they wrote out of a worldview of Genesis 1 to 11.
In that section, we ask, given then the creationist worldview, the next question is whether such a biological change would appear as a literal possibility? Were there ever changes in the zoological world of such a magnitude previously? He finds there were. Not only were there great morphological changes introduced into the zoological world by the curse; Genesis 3:14; Romans 8; but the very same change between herbivores and carnivores in the opposite direction occurred after the Flood.
Remember we went through that and I said when we go through that and when we talk about meat eating and herb eating and vegetarianism and all that; that change that happened and I said we’re going to revisit that someday? Well this is the someday. Let’s look at something. Remember back in those days when we were studying that, we had the Creation; had the Fall; had the Flood, and we had that diagram of the Ages of Man and the graph looked like this and then it came down like this and we said that something profound happened here. I mean come on, this is 930 [years]; this is 70 [years] over here. What caused that? I don’t know what caused that. I just know that the scriptural data tells me that it happened.
I mean if you were an insurance company you’d love it back here. So the whole point was that something physiologically changed and I mean changed radically. Think of the bodily functions; most of our parts are wearing out and we’ve only lived 60 or 70 years—a guy reaches 70 years he’s lucky to have all his original parts. The point is that in 930 years these guys were hitting on all cylinders.
What was it in their bodies that enabled this to take place? We don’t know, but I daresay there was some ecological stuff going on and we know from Genesis 9 the diet changed from one of vegetarianism to one of meat eating. We know that the weather changed, the implication being the rainbow, so there were geophysical changes.
Now you see here is where we trap ourselves. What is the modern person doing with all this stuff? What do they do with Genesis? They kiss it off. So you get this average evangelical person that gets barely into the Kingdom through some sort of a truncated version of the gospel and they get accidentally born again and then they never read the Bible and they’ve grown up with the skepticism about Genesis, somehow they believe in Jesus but a content-less Jesus because Jesus is defined by God and God is defined by Genesis. This is the church today. So we have a lot of people even in our own camp who have a very fuzzy and uneasy view of this whole Genesis thing to start with.
Well, given that then they walk into a passage like Isaiah 65 and what do you suppose happens? If they figuratively interpreted all this Genesis stuff what are they going to do with all the Kingdom stuff? What they do at the beginning of history they do at the end of history, it’s the same thing that’s working here.
So the Kingdom of God, as it is seen in premillennialism, is a supernatural kingdom and when we hit a passage like Isaiah 65:25 we ask ourselves, can this take place? From what we know of past Scripture is there a past precedent for this kind of thing happening? Yes, there is, if you take Genesis literally. And if this is so, what does this suggest about evil and the environment, with all due respect to Greenpeace? That the environment is in sympathy with fallen man; the environment has fallen.
God cursed what? The ground. The biological and zoological world bears the curse of Adam. You see we have a lot more profound view of ecology than the most radical ecologists. Greenpeace is worrying about somebody dropping cigarette butts out of a yacht. We’re talking about Adam and Eve who fell and destroyed the very DNA in the biological realm. You talk about destructive efforts and fallout. This isn’t beer cans and papers on the edge of the road here, this is a twisting and turning of the complete molecular structure of the environment because God cursed it; because man rebelled against Him so the ground rebelled against man.
Now you talk about ecology, so if you are going to reverse this, what do you suppose happens? Why is it that Jesus Christ has to return? What is He going to do? This is not a government program here, this is the miraculous intervention by Jesus Christ to redeem the environment geophysically and biologically as well as set up His Kingdom.
Okay let’s go on, the bottom page 13. Another interpretive problem is resolved in the same manner by going back to the creationist worldview. Kingdom prophecies make reference to heightened human health and longevity. Sickness and death, except for discipline against overt sin, will be unknown in this Kingdom. Turn to Isaiah 33:24 and let’s look at some of those verses. Look at some of these verses and put yourself in the 95th percentile in biblical knowledge among believers.
Isaiah 33:24 is a prophecy of the Kingdom. What do you do with a verse like this one? No resident in the Kingdom will say, I am sick; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity. All these verses say basically the same thing. Turn back to Isaiah 29:18, there’s a good one. “And on that day the deaf person shall hear the words of the book.” Isn’t that a neat sentence? They’ll hear the words of the book. The deaf shall hear the words of the book and out of the gloom and the darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. They shall read the book and they shall see. Now what is that saying? It’s saying that genetic and birth defects are gone; the handicaps are gone.
In modern medical terminology what do you think this implies? Let’s think about this: you have a blind person, and we’re not talking in terms of an accidentally blind person, but say a genetically blind person. What’s happened? Something has happened to their genes; something is destroyed in there, but it’s fixed in the Kingdom of God. You see part of that cursing in Genesis has been gradually diminished.
It’s not that these people live forever but they live long and you can look at those verses. Death hasn’t been eliminated, but it’s as if though in this future Kingdom, just like here, I mean Adam and Eve theoretically could have lived for infinity in their natural body, and then they dropped from infinity to 930 years after the Fall, and after the Fall they dropped from 930 down to 70.
The Millennial Kingdom is only thousand years long and these people live up to that limit so it almost looks like it recapitulates this earlier period. That’s why if you mythologize Genesis 1–11 you will always allegorize the Kingdom. If you go literal with Genesis 1–11, usually, though there are some who don’t, usually you will find yourself going literal with the Kingdom.
Years and years ago, I found this picture and I did a pen and ink of it because I couldn’t find a copy machine that worked right [page 104 of notes]. This is many years ago and I cut this thing out of a document that I had, but here’s a case, when I was interested in this many decades ago about this Kingdom issue. I ran across this book by a Seventh Day Adventist and it was a whole story about this lioness cub who grew up on this farm in Washington and her name was Little Tyke. This Seventh Day Adventist raised this lioness cub, it had been rejected by the mother, and gave it a diet of cooked cereal, raw eggs, and milk and in this picture that I was looking at she was four years old and weighed 252 pounds, so she didn’t have any problem with developing muscles on a vegetarian diet, and she ate field grasses.
Now I’m not trying to make a point of this, that you can force carnivores to this, what I’m saying though is the zoological kingdom has a lot of flexibility in it even now. Add to that the supernatural things Christ can do when He returns and what’s so unbelievable about the prophecies here.
I think that the first point on our criteria that we worked on tonight is a creationist view of nature implies that you can take the Kingdom prophecies literally and straightforwardly, and it also tells us that God’s Kingdom is to be viewed in Genesis terms; that when God planted a garden in Eden and He put man there, it was an environment, a special environment for man.
So the environment does count; I mean we all like beauty; people have different ideas of beauty and so on, but I think we all appreciate a comforting, restful environment. I think we all can intuitively know that downtown Baltimore at 5 PM is not quite the restful, peaceful environment that we just relish to be in; we all know that. So you can’t say you’re going to have an ideal society unless something happens to the environment and that’s why the Kingdom of God in the Scriptures is both nature and man.
We talked about the nature side, the creationist view of nature; so now at the bottom of page 14 we come to the creationist view of man. The second criteria, so now this gets a little extensive and if you’ll note the underlying sections on the bottom of page 14, the middle of page 15, the middle of page 16, and lower on 16; there are subsections of this unit.
I’m going to deal now with the implications of a biblical view of man; man’s purpose, his creation, his characteristics, what he does. Let’s turn back to Genesis 1:26 again. Man was given a purpose when he was created. Now people who are critics of the Christian faith love to paint us with a brush that makes us look like we’re anti-man, that we’re always putting people down, and maybe we aren’t wise sometimes we create this bad image ourselves.
But it’s not that the Bible puts man down; if you look at this passage this is anything but putting man down. Look at it; this is the creative purpose of man. Verse 26, the Trinity is there, present; “Let Us”, plural, “make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”, and do what with him? “Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing.” It doesn’t mean eating them, that’s Genesis 9.
At this point it was: you work with them. It’s like a relationship between you and your pet, there’s a relationship there, and that’s the idea here “ruling over the fish.” God created man, verse 28. He blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air; over every living thing.
Remember we said back when we covered this: the modern ecologists, the theoretical modern ecologists, know very well this Scripture: verses 26, 27, and 28, and you read articles, they’ve been writing these articles for 20 or 30 years now, a guy by the name of White started it. Professor White wrote this article and he said, “See, you know what that shows? It shows that biblical Christianity is by definition anti-environment. It produces a crass attitude toward caring for the environment. Look at that, ‘rule over,’ who do we think we are to rule over, we can’t even rule ourselves?”
So besides the fact that Professor White is taking the post-Fall image of man for his norm, this is the pre-Fall image of man and it’s to be interpreted in a totally different way than Professor White does for 20 or 30 pages. The idea is that man is destined to rule and subdue the earth; bring it under created order.
Remember God created a garden, a garden, it had boundaries. That meant that the man had to go outside the garden and farm that land and then go outside that garden and farm that land, and farm more and more and more. The earth was not farmed until man did it. That’s why remember we went into the conflict so-called between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the plants that are there are the cultivated plants, and the idea was that God put all cultivated plants here and He said, “Okay, go for it!” Now that’s what I want you to do, I want you to plant gardens all over this planet. I want you to beautify this planet. I created it for you now you take care of it and really make it produce.
Well now it’s interesting that when you come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we’re going to see this as we go into His career, He is going to be called by a name that’s sort of odd. It’s kind of a new name; it only occurs once or twice the Old Testament; Luke uses it a lot. The name is the Son of Man, and we hear that.
You know we read in the New Testament about the Son of Man and we don’t give it a moment’s thought, do you suppose that we could get little bit more by thinking about this verse? When Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man He is literally saying, “I am the Son of Adam.” What do you suppose that image of Jesus carries with it? Genesis 1:26, 27, and 28: “I am going to be the Second Adam.”
Paul brings this out in 1 Corinthians 15. What does it mean for Christ to be the Second Adam? What was Adam supposed to do that he screwed up on? Subdue the earth. What do you suppose Jesus is going to do? Subdue the earth. That’s why He is going to be called the Son of Man. He fulfills man’s destiny. So the idea on the bottom of page 14, according to Genesis, man’s purpose is to subdue the earth for God.
Will mankind in mortal history ever subdue nature for God? Will the human race ever really reach its theological purpose before eternity begins? Both premillennialists and postmillennialists concur there must be a triumph for the Kingdom of God before eternity begins. The Genesis mandate was given to man for mortal history when he was created lower than the angels; not for eternity when he is to rule over angels, see the difference? The Bible knows this.
Moreover, since Christ is true humanity He too will fail unless He carries out Genesis 1:26–28 before eternity. The New Testament points to that victory in terms of Christ and it quotes Genesis 1:26–27 when it describes the Lord Jesus Christ’s work. Why is that? Because Christ’s salvation is more than dying on a cross for our sins. It is that, but after person a person is saved now what’s next? We’ve got to do something; man’s got a function.
Christ restores us to the functionality that we had in Adam so we subdue all things. This is what sanctification is all about. We’re learning in our little pathetic way to subdue first the section of the earth that is closest to us, which is what? This thing; and the lusts of the flesh, and that’s what we talk about in the Christian life; subduing the lusts of the flesh. We’re not talking about society; we can’t even subdue our lusts of the flesh here.
So we’re dealing with our own little bucket of worms; subduing it. But Christ, He was victorious, and we see all the struggles Jesus had in His life. He was tried and He was tested and He was found victorious. He did triumph. He said, “It is finished,” and now He is going to lead the rest of humanity under Him on to this goal of Genesis.
Now the next paragraph: watch what this does to our concept of the Kingdom. The difference between the premillennialist and the postmillennialist is one of degree. How far, now this is essential, you want to underline this, how far will man subdue the earth? That’s the issue now between the premillennialist and the postmillennialist. The postmillennialist argues that the golden era which the church is supposed to bring into existence, quote, and this is their quote not mine, [blank spot] … is an optimist in a sort of mundane way. We’re an optimist in a theologically powerful way.
The postmillennialist, therefore, sees mankind subduing some of their social problems, some of its technological difficulties or mankind would not subdue nature under his feet in the sense that the geophysical environment itself—human longevity and zoological transformation—would be included.
Do you see now the concepts of the Kingdom that are involved here? The Kingdom of God is a mighty powerful thing in the Word of God. It’s not something lightly to be thought of. It’s something deeply and profoundly glorifying to the purpose of the human race. The human race will not be said to triumph until the damage that was caused at the Fall is undone to some degree here.
The premillennialist foresees a far greater degree of submission. He sees mankind through Christ as subduing the animal realm so effectively that a child will be able to lead a young lion according to Isaiah 11:6. To bring about this degree of subjugation, Christ executes a complex strategy involving a hard-to-imagine removal of evil spirits from historical influence as well as the co-mingling of resurrected saints with millennial humans not yet resurrected. The precedent of course for such co-mingling of divine and human beings is already established in the same era that we talked about because who coexisted throughout the human race during this period of time when man lived 930 years? It was the angels.
So angels and men coexisted during this era. It’s a strange society; not much is told about it. The Bible passes right over it. There are four whole verses devoted to it. But something strange was going on and capital punishment was administered by angels. They are the ones that had the swords and then right here capital punishment was given to man—transfer. And then a bunch of these angels go down to a place called Tartarus, which is explained in the book of Jude. There is all kinds of hairy stuff.
When the Millennial Kingdom comes Christ comes back for 1,000 years until eternity, and during this period of time the human longevity curve goes up again to where it is now. It’s elevated up. There are people here prior to Christ’s return. And this by the way, Glen asked this question last week, about where does the Rapture and all the rest of it occur? Here is why, remember I said in the Q&A one evening here, I said that theology has certain stability points and you can park in any place but it’s kind of like a ramp and you will find yourself kind of being pushed down into one position or you’ll find yourself being pushed down into another position? These are settled, stable zones, and this is why once you assume a premillennial position you are driven to a pre-Trib position.
The reason is because to get to the Millennial Kingdom you’ve got to have people occupying it with natural bodies. What happens if you’re a post-Trib, and you have the Rapture of the church simultaneously happening with the Second Advent of Christ? How many believers with natural bodies are left? None. They’ve all been transformed into resurrection bodies. So how do you ever get a Kingdom started then? So this is why the Rapture and the Second Advent are two separate and distinct things: because there’s a whole nucleus of the world population that enters this Kingdom in natural bodies.
There’s longevity; they’re healthy, but their natural bodies are not resurrected. The Kingdom of God in this 1,000 years is made up of natural human beings ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ who comes back to earth, but He’s walking around in a resurrected body; presumably the church with Him in some way, perhaps. It’s not definitely stated but there’s a ruling going on and it’s from the resurrected, and by the way, what’s true of resurrected people that’s not true of unresurrected people? Once you’re resurrected, go back to that good-evil diagram; what did we show? That once we’re resurrected, good and evil have been separated permanently. There is no more repentance; no more gracious bridge.
Once we are resurrected there’s no danger of us falling back into evil and that’s what makes, probably, this is speculation on my part, that’s what makes the Kingdom of God run halfway smoothly because who is the administration that runs it? See it’s not fallen man anymore; it’s resurrected victorious people. They rule, and by the way, they rule with force. There is force in the Millennial Kingdom. The military has been disbanded—they shall beat their swords into plowshares—but what does the prophecy say about Christ? He shall rule with a rod of iron. So there’s physical power, but it’s centered not in the hands of the human race anymore, but it’s centered in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He exercises it, and people will be shocked to see that He also believes in capital punishment.
Let’s continue. The next thing that man has is his language. I bring this up because obviously interpretation of Scripture gets into this figurative thing and I won’t make a big issue of that because of our time tonight, but if you’ll notice, I quote Psalm 33:9; what did God do with His language? His language is so powerful, what does it do that our language doesn’t do? Psalm 33 says that He spoke and what? He created the world.
The Lord Jesus was on the Sea of Galilee one day. There was a storm and the gospel, see this is where you want the Old Testament to really zip you up here on the New Testament. Do you see that little word? The disciples just were blown away. This is a storm in the Sea of Galilee. These guys made their business fishing here. They’re not strangers as to what goes on in the Sea of Galilee.
I visited there and people, to this day the Israelis have patrol boats all over Lake Kinneret as now it’s called, and they have patrol boats there because every time there’s a storm, they make everybody get off the lake. And if you don’t, you get arrested because people get drowned out there. It’s a small lake and the wind currents from the Golan Heights and everywhere else cause some real problems. So they have boats with blue lights on them and they look like our Bay police here and they’re all over the place when there’s going to be a storm.
Here Jesus is out in the middle of this thing and He says, “Be still.” It takes Him about a second and a half to say it and all of a sudden the environment is still. And they say, “What kind of a man is this that even the waves and the wind listen to him?” Can you imagine being in a situation like that? That’s a small picture of what it must’ve been like in Psalm 33:9 when God, if we were there in a time machine or something, and He says, “I want to create a son,” and He doesn’t have to get tools out. He doesn’t have to massage the molecules. He just thinks it, speaks it, and it happens. Amazing; this is the Word of God.
So language, His language, is that powerful. Now our language is a very mundane, weak, finite version of His language, but the point is that figurative use of language is legitimate and that’s why I wanted you to see that quote there by Dr. Pilkey. He taught English Literature for many years; I went to school with John and he is the guy who spent probably 30 years of his life studying Genesis 11. I don’t know anybody that’s ever spent so much time studying the Table of Nations. But anyway, he’s an English professor and he’s worked a lot with figurative language, and he’s talking here about Ezekiel’s passage which for those of you don’t know, that’s the passage where Satan is spoken to as though he’s the king of Tyre; it’s a very famous passage.
“The cornerstone of prophetic vision is the power to reason synthetically. Poetry subordinates differences to similarities and Ezekiel’s passage tacitly fuses the king of Tyre with a prelapsarian Satan. Tacit identifications of this kind are the bedrock of poetry, but they’re as objectively real as anything we know. They seem dreamlike or unreal to us because of our instinct to plod from one reality to another without perceiving ideal symbolic connections. The poetic mind realizes that the king of Tyre and Satan were entirely distinct persons, but that Ezekiel reveals a compelling identity between them.”
What is he saying in a nutshell? He’s saying that figurative language was never intended to deny the literal source of it. In the Song of Songs the lover says something about a golden apple I remember. That’s one of the metaphors there. Now what is a golden apple? Something that’s very valuable in this case. Is that to deny that the guy who said that didn’t believe in golden apples? No, he believes in the literalness. That’s why he is using it figuratively. Why does he have to use it figuratively though?
Why do we have to use, have to use, figures of speech? In our everyday language we use figures of speech. Why? Why are we forced to do that whether we’re poets or not? How do you talk about qualities: good, right, wrong, beauty? Those are all abstractions. You can point to something but you’re saying like you would a child, “That’s beautiful,” but what you’re trying to do is teach the child that beauty is that quality that you find in different things but you can’t ever point to it and say, “There is 3.8 inches of beauty,” because it’s something that can’t be grasped literally.
So language always has a figurative component to it. That’s not its weakness though. That’s my point. It’s not weakness, nor is it a denial of the literal.
If you turn to page 15: when you talk about Elijah and John the Baptist, which is another thing like the king of Tyre and Sidon, the postmillennialist and the amillennialist try to say that John the Baptist, on the basis of Jesus’ statement, was Elijah, and they try to argue that that’s a figurative thing because down at the bottom of page 15 Jesus speaks of John the Baptist fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah so they say that that fulfillment means that John the Baptist was Elijah.
The problem with that is John 1:21denies that he is Elijah. Now you’ve got a conflict of Scripture or Jesus was talking figuratively at that point about a similarity between John and Elijah. He wasn’t denying it either.
Okay and that’s why the quote again from John Pilkey, “The existence of a harmonious spiritual world in which the distinction told between John the Baptist and Elijah takes place second to the identity of the divine vocation common to both men.” And then he talks about Christian typology. Following this in that same paragraph down at the bottom, the last sentence: a prophetic text can carry both meanings and require both for complete fulfillment; that’s the gist of what I’m trying to get at.
Very quickly, the next point is man’s corporate structure, the complaints against literal interpretation. One of them, you already saw it in the notes four or five pages prior, was the Bible prophesies about nations that no longer exist. How can you have literal fulfillment about the Assyrians? Where are the Assyrians today? Nobody knows where the Assyrians today are. The Bible has prophecies about the Assyrians, so how do you handle that pre-mills?
Very simple. We go back to the fact that the Bible has a genealogical structure. The Bible looks at history in a genealogical fashion rather than a chronological or geographical way. The Assyrians sprang from Asher—Genesis 10:22—so regardless of the international labels, whether today they’re called Iraqis, Iranians, or Saudis, regardless of the labels, genetically are they the sons of Asher? “Well we can’t track that.” I know we can’t track that. When God says that the people who are the genetic sons of Asher, wherever their descendants are living today, under whatever political conditions, certain things are going to happen to them because God looks down and He sees us as who we are related to genealogically.
All of us; most of us are probably related to Japheth, and He sees us as the sons and daughters of Japheth. That’s the way He sees us. He tells us this in Genesis 10 and 11.
Now if you want to see a good example, and we’ve already covered this in previous Thursday nights, but that’s where I bring up the tribe and one modern evidence is the Hebrew tribe of Levi. Over 34 centuries ago, God promised the Levitical priesthood under Aaron would be everlasting. Interestingly today there is only one Hebrew tribe which still has retained its distinctive identity before men; the tribe of Levi. Jewish people with the names Levi, Levin, Levine, or Cohen, or Kohane; Cohen is the Hebrew word for “priest” and you see it appear in the English because it’s phonetic. When we see Levi or Levine or Cohen or Kohane, those are transliterations of the Hebrew words; they’re not English words. They’re English transliterations of the Hebrew names. If one tribe can retain its identity before men for many centuries then it is not inherently impossible for other tribes of men to remain identifiable to God for many centuries? That’s the view of history; that’s the answer to the invisible nations.
Now the last one I don’t have time because we’ve run out of time tonight, but it is the responsibility to its Creator. We want to pause and spend time in that next week because next week we’re going to cover items three and four of the criteria.
Again, four criteria and what are we trying to do? Decide literal or figurative interpretation. What did we say the number one criterion was? We said the implications of the creationists’ view of nature. What does that do for us? It tells us that when you see radical transformations in the environment they are not without biblical precedent, are they, if you take Genesis literally. So there’s no reason to take these things figuratively. We’re talking about lions and lambs and wolves and children. Why not literally? It happened once before? The second criterion is the purpose of man. Man is to subdue the earth. Is that all over or is that yet to take place?
Now next week we’re going to want to do items three and four, but this thing about the responsibly to his Creator, that has to do with the thing we just got through studying. Remember Daniel’s prayer? The last event; Scripture; we said. What happened in that prayer was that he was going to Jeremiah’s prophecy and Jeremiah said, “Gee, the whole thing’s going to be over in 70 years.” Remember God said back to Daniel, “Well, it’s 70 sevens.” That’s a time stretching and we’re going to deal with that next week because that too has implications and that sets us up to understand something about the New Testament itself. So we want to take time and I don’t want to rush through this so we’ll stop here.