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
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Appendix A – Reformed and Dispensational Theology
Lesson 164 – Fulfillment of Prophecy vs. Analogy
25 Jan 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Turn to Romans 8 again just. We’ve been going over some of these promissory passages and this particular area of Scripture in Romans 8 is one of those rich, rich passages that is filled with great promises, powerful promises. Last week we went to Romans 8 and we said you could go into any section, but we went into verse 32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” You’ll notice that that verse is bracketed, sandwiched between verses 31 and 33 and if you look at both 31 and 33 you’ll see the assurance of an enviable salvation, an incorruptible salvation.
Verse 31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” We’ve gone over this but it bears repeating, that in practice when you get involved with these promises, after you claim them, the big step, of course, is this one, I call it the prayer meeting of the soul where you develop a rationale and think about it. Otherwise it becomes a good luck charm and the Christian walk isn’t deeds and good luck charms; it’s understanding truth and the nature of our God.
So you have to have a sense of a positive rationale and that means to apply the Scripture and negatively it means to become convinced that anything unscriptural is hot air, it’s just vanity. In verse 31’s case, the only way you could substantiate the second half of verse 31 is go back to the Creator/creature distinction. Think about this. This is an example of thinking through something in a very simple way. Verse 31 says “What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Well if God is on the same plain with Satan and other gods, then lots of people can be against us. Verse 31 presupposes and is built out of the Creator/creature distinction.
In verse 33, the other side of the sandwich, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” That’s the finality of justification. That’s what we were talking about last week when we got into this business of faith, assurance, etc. This whole section of Romans presumes there’s a theological structure here going on. It presumes that history is shaped in a certain way; it presumes the Creator/creature distinction.
If you didn’t have that background, if we really weren’t sure of the Creator/creature distinction, if history wasn’t shaped by a sovereign plan of God, verse 31 is just air, verse 33 is just air. The way to think about it on the negative side of the thing, to think of it as air is that all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to solve a problem if it’s not real. It’s just psychological gimmicks and the world is full of psychological gimmicks.
I’m sad to say that many churches are full of psychological gimmicks. This is pedaled even in Christian circles. There’s no substitute for truth. That is where your soul rests, and only as you recognize truth do you ever get to the third step where you have a faith-rest. You can’t get there, no way can you get there if you’re not first convinced that there’s such a thing as truth and the Scriptures reflect that truth.
We’re going through the nature of Reformed Theology over against Dispensational Theology. I want to draw a diagram of what we’re doing to make it a little clearer than the notes make it about the relationship with these two areas. We’re not drawing an either/or here. Out of the Reformation came a movement to get back to the Scriptures as the authority over the church. Lots of things came out of the Reformation, a lot of trends.
Central in this trend is what we’ll call the mainstream Calvinistic stream. Within that stream there are sub trends and heavily identified with Calvinism are classic Reform creeds. Also in this trend there arose dispensationalism.
Don’t get the idea that dispensationalism arose outside of Calvinism, it didn’t. The dispensationalists were Calvinists. So it’s false, it’s just a factually false assertion that dispensationalism arose in opposition to the Protestant Reformation or the written reformed thought.
The proper way to view it is that dispensationalism is a later rethinking and digging in areas that the original Reformation didn’t have time to do. Back here the issues were salvation and in the notes we talk about that as soteriology. This was the center of the Reformation, that and the authority of Scripture.
But there are lots of other areas of doctrine. The Reformation really didn’t do too much with Christology; it didn’t have to because Christology had already been resolved in the mainstream Christendom by that time. But there are a lot of other things and one of the other things was eschatology or prophecy. This was not handled in the Reformation. Again, we said that the Reformation persisted Roman Catholic eschatology, amillennialism.
The man who promoted amillennialism was Augustine. Augustine was a very influential thinker and he left his shadow over the church in many, many different areas. One of the dangerous things about Augustine is that, first of all, the man didn’t know any Hebrew, so he couldn’t study the Old Testament in the original languages. He knew Latin, he knew a little Greek, and out of that he formulated his theology.
What he did was introduce into the church an idea of symbolic interpretation. Augustine was the guy that said the days in Genesis couldn’t be days. Augustine was the guy who said that any idea that the Kingdom of God being physical was just not spiritual. Augustine was the man who introduced all these things.
When the Reformers came and had to do battle over here, they liked some things that Augustine said. Augustine was very strong on the sovereignty of God and God was the Author of history, he had to be because he lived in the days of the fall of Rome and he was developing The City of God versus The City of Man. So he had a view, a strong view, a biblical view of history.
The Reformers were attracted by that and since Augustine was amillennial they just kind of went along with Augustine. I received an e-mail of a little Reformed paper, and I want to read sections of it, because if you’ve paid attention, what we’ve gone through, got the notes, pages 1–4, you should understand something; listen and observe carefully.
This guy is speaking; he’s a professor of Church History in New Testament at Protestant Reform Seminary. He’s describing why the Reformation repudiated what he called chiliasm. Chiliasm is belief in the thousand-year reign of Christ. It’s basically premillennialism. If you look carefully at the notes, page 3, you see where I list the problem of eschatology. There were three areas that I hit in the notes where Protestant Reformation didn’t have time … This is not criticizing the Reformers. If we were doing what they were doing, we wouldn’t have done any better than they did. They had all the battles that they could face, and we can’t expect of them to completely overhaul the whole house of theology.
There’s a statement on page 3 that says “In addition to continuing Roman Catholic practices of infant baptism and state sponsorship,” and I want you to think about what “state sponsorship” means, “Reformed Theology also perpetuated Roman Catholic amillennial eschatology. Included in this eschatological view was the idea of ‘Replacement Theology’ whereby the church replaced Israel in God’s plan. … A great variety of prophetic ideas which were not well developed from the Scripture arose within groups like the Anabaptists.” Notice, “not well developed.” “Eschatology is an exceedingly complex area of interpretation that takes much detailed study, something that was not possible during the post-Reformation era. …
“The departures from classical amillennialism were viewed with alarm by Lutherans and the Reformed Churches. Political radicalism came to be associated with such departures so that Lutherans, Reformed Churches, and Roman Catholics united against the so-called ‘radical Reformers’ who entertained,” and please notice fragmentary, “fragmentary versions of premillennialism and other more literal approaches to the prophetic Scriptures.”
Now listen to this professor of church history who is a classical Reformed person. He’s dealing with this and he’s trying to tell us why the Protestant Reformation turned aside. I’m spending a few minutes on this because if you go to the creeds of Reformed Theology today you will find they prohibit belief in premillennialism. It’s as though it’s a heresy. It’s that strongly implanted. They really went on record of amillennialism is the only way, and anybody else is wrong. Here’s what happened in history.
“At the end of 1533 the Anabaptist group at Munster in Westphalia under the leadership of a former Lutheran minister, Bernard Rothman, gained control of the city council. Early in 1534 a Dutch prophet and ex-inn keeper named John of Leiden appeared in Munster, believing that he was called to make the city a New Jerusalem.”
Let’s stop there. This is a famous incident in church history, the Munster revolt. This is the thing that colored, and why Reformed people just see livid red when they think of premillennialism and chiliasm, etc. This is the source of all that.
There was a historical incident that happened in this German city but I just read you a sentence that should tip you off about something. I’ll read it again and see if you catch it. You have these people floating around, they are confused, they really don’t know what they believe in eschatology, and along comes a prophet, believing that he was called to make the city of Munster a New Jerusalem. Is part of premillennial theology, we’re going to make Germany the New Jerusalem? I don’t think so!
Right away, what we’ve got here is not genuine premillennialism, it’s fragmentary. It’s chunks and pieces floating around the culture. Some weirdoes get a hold of it, just like today, and they run with this stuff. So “on 9 February, 1534 his party seized city hall. By the 2nd of March all who refused to be baptized were banished; it was proclaimed a city of refuge for the oppressed. Though the Bishop of Munster collected an army and began the siege of the city, an attempted coup within the walls was brutally suppressed, John of Leiden was proclaimed King of the New Zion,” hello! “… war vestments as his royal robes, and his court and throne in the market place. Laws and decrees to establish community of goods (communism) and the Old Testament was adduced to permit polygamy. Bernard Rothman, once a man of sin [can’t understand phrase].” I mean, they didn’t get tax deductions by doing that.
What happened here? This is not [can’t understand word] premillennialism, but this is the thing that all the Reformed people like to cite. See what happened in Munster. Now if anything this looks like postmillennialism to me, because what is postmillennialism? The church sets up the Kingdom and then after the church sets up the Kingdom Christ comes. Has Christ come to Munster? So an argument can be made that the Reformed people never even saw premillennialism, what they saw was postmillennialism, which some of them are today advocating.
And it goes on to describe the army and they had bloodshed and they had uprising and they had everything else, and then this professor goes on to say, “Thank God that the Reformed people put this in the creeds” to get rid of this stuff. In part IV when I dealt with premillennialism, I had an appendix and I quoted something when I went through amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism that says exactly what this says. I quoted the fact that amillennialism, because it replaces Israel and has no place for Israel, tends to be anti-Semitic, because when you have Hebrew Christians, i.e., Jewish people that know their Bible. Which testament do you think they’re interested in? The Old Testament.
That’s why Hebrew Christians give a tremendous theological balance to the Gentile church because they, of all people, are sensitive to their Old Testament roots, and it’s the exclusion of Jews from the church that let the church go into all these screwy theologies. If there had been Hebrew Christians down through the centuries, the church would never have been amillennial; nobody would have listened to Augustine. But because the church became anti-Semitic in its response, yes the Jews rejected, and yes they were vicious, and yes they were nasty many times, but hey, they were nasty to Jesus, so? It doesn’t mean you have to be nasty back to them.
Here’s what this guy says, he admits after talking about Munster and talking about all this eschatology, he says, “The main conflicts between the radicals and the Reformed was not over chiliasm, but often involved doctrines as infant baptism, church and covenant, interpretation of Scripture and purity of life.” Then he describes Calvin as the one who rejected the idea of an earthly kingdom in general.
Then he goes on to point out during this period when the creeds are developing, and chiliasm was excluded, he says “the issue of chiliasm was sufficiently important that not only individual theologians but also churches addressed and rejected it. Example: in 1530 the Lutheran churches adopted the Augsburg Confession, Article XVII” which I quote back in my notes in part IV, “Article XVII condemned” (quote), listen to this now, “those who scatter Jewish opinions that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed.” (end quote) That’s premillennialism.
Where do these Reformers know it came from? Jewish opinions, it also happens [can’t understand word/s]. Who wrote the New Testament? Jews, or Gentiles. Yeah, it’s Jewish opinion all right, John was a Jew. So here you have this emphasis, and clearly, these guys knew what they were talking about, that came out of the Jewish thought.
Listen to this. “This explicit rejection of chiliasm, and thus all forms of premillennialism, is the confession of all Reformed Churches.” Did you know that when you go into a Presbyterian Church? It is “the confession of all Reformed Churches to the present day.” Actually that’s not true, there is an entire seminary in St. Louis called Covenant Seminary that teaches premillennialism and they’re Reformed people; I wonder what they do about that. “… to the present day who are faithful to the Protestant Reformation.”
By the way, that’s the seminary Francis Schaeffer came out of. Apparently they’re not considered faithful to the Protestant tradition. “As Calvin affirmed, chiliasm” and listen to this sentence and see if you can’t think of where in Scripture you hear the opposite of this. “As Calvin affirmed, chiliasm insults Christ and His glorious Kingdom because it is unthinkable that The Christ, who redeemed His people by sustaining the infinite and eternal wrath of God, that that Christ would be rewarded with a Millennial Kingdom and then turn it over to His Father.” This guy says it’s unthinkable to think that.
He says it’s unthinkable to think that. Really! Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:23, “But each in his own order,” talking about the different resurrections, plural, “Christ, the first fruits,” that’s the first phase of the resurrection, “after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” there’s the Rapture of the church, “ then comes the end,” that’s the third phase of the resurrection.
By the way, notice how many centuries between “Christ the first fruits” and those “at His coming?” At least two millennia, and so between verses 23 and 24 there’s another millennia, there are gaps between these. “… then comes the end, when He delivers up the Kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.  For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted, who put all things in subjection to Him,” that is, the Father.
Verse 28, “And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to” whom? The Father. [“to the one who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.”] And this guy says, “It is unthinkable that The Christ, who redeemed His people … would be rewarded with a Millennial Kingdom and then turn it over to His Father.” Hello! What’s happening in 1 Corinthians 15? I’m just reading that to show you that I’m trying to be nice to the Reformed theologian and I think from this paper you’ve seen that I haven’t exaggerated what they’re saying.
We have gone through the TULIP acrostic, showing you that each one of those has an element of truth in it and we can agree, heartily and scripturally, with much of what’s in each of those acrostics. It’s just that they all have a twist to them, and that twist makes it very difficult to defend the Reformed ideas when you get into the text of the Scripture.
We concluded last time with “P: Perseverance of the Elect.” I want to go over that again because it’s going to catch up with us again in this section. The issue in the perseverance of the elect is how you think about faith. And it still is with us today. There are two ways of viewing faith. One way is favored by people who we’ll call the neo-Puritan tradition; they’re evangelicals, Bible-teaching people, and they are saying that faith is one thing, assurance is another, and that you can only be assured of your salvation if you do a fruit inspection and determine that you have the faith. In one sense it’s what I call second-order faith, it’s faith in faith. The basis of the assurance is the works of faith.
That goes back to the days immediately following the Protestant Reformation because Roman Catholic attacks that came from the Jesuits, they attacked the Protestants because they said Calvin and Luther’s idea of justification by faith justifies loose living. (You haven’t heard that one before?!) You can’t tell people they’re saved because if you tell them they’re saved and they’re assured they’re saved, then there’s no more incentive left to live a godly life. So in order for people to live godly lives, you’ve got to terrorize them by taking away their assurance.
You’ve got to kind of beat them a little bit and not let them get their hands all the way in the cookie jar, because if they do, they’ll be spoiled and they won’t live a godly life; they’ve got to live in fear of God’s wrath.
I think those of you who perhaps have Roman Catholic friends or you’ve come out of a Roman Catholic background, know what I’m talking about. There’s not a sense of assurance. No priest can tell you in Roman Catholicism that he is saved. That’s part and parcel of the issue of the Reformation. That was what drove Martin Luther to Romans and that’s what Luther said; I know I can be saved because that is assurance.
On the other side you have what we’ll call the first Reformers who believed that faith equals and is identical to assurance. Let me draw a time line to make this idea clearer. Here’s an unbeliever, now the person becomes a Christian. At this point you have assurance; you have assurance because the Bible says “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” “He that believes is not condemned, because he has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes should have everlasting life.” That’s the assurance.
On the other side the view is more like this. The person becomes a Christian, lives the Christian life, they think they became a Christian at this point; they might have had an experience, so they’re doing inspections to check to see if the faith is there or not. Therefore the assurance in that view is contingent upon good works.
Can anybody think of a comment Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount that might refute the idea of detecting faith by works? What does He say that will happen in the last days? In the last days many will say Lord, Lord, did we not … what does it say that they’ll say? “Did we not do good works?” So there are people that did good works and apparently through their good works they were unable to detect whether they were believers or not. Well, surely the Bible doesn’t leave things up in the air and so contingent as this.
People who are in this camp will often say things like James, “faith without works is dead,” that presupposes that the issue that James is dealing with in James 2 is faith at salvation and not faith later on in the Christian life. That presupposes that the epistle was written to a mixed group, believers and unbelievers, and James is just warning them, see if you’re in the faith … see if you’re in the faith!
The problem with that interpretation is that James, right in the first chapter, he unambiguously calls them “brethren” who have the implanted Word of God. So James is being addressed to believers and if you look up the word “salvation” there it’s talking about trials in the Christian life.
So that doesn’t quite sail! Enough said. There are the two views and the Reformed people will tend toward the one on the left, and by the way, some dispensationalists will, too. But it’s an issue that generally speaking, Calvin and Luther held to this position and most people who are pretty careful exegetes of the text will hold to that side.
Now we want to go on to page 7 to something else that occurs in Reformed Theology. This explains a vocabulary word that you’ll often hear, and that is the idea of a covenant. If you follow with me, I’m going to go through it. I apologize for having to go through this divorced from the text, but there’s so much stuff here that if we went through all the text we’d be spending weeks on one page. Look under, “The Organizing Principle of the Covenant.”
Here’s the idea. Remember the covenants in the Bible. What was the first one we covered? The Noahic Covenant. Who were the parties to the Noahic Covenant? Was it saved only? No, it was all men and animals. Remember, I make the covenant with animals and every living thing that breathes.
Go to the next covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant. Who was that made with? Abraham and his descendants. Next covenant in biblical history; after the Abrahamic, at the Exodus, what happened out in the desert? The Sinaitic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant. Who were the parties in the Mosaic Covenant? The nation of Israel and the Twelve Tribes.
What was the next covenant after the Mosaic Covenant? Then you have the Davidic Covenant. There are a few other covenants stuck in there, part of the Mosaic Covenant, it has the land covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, etc. Come to the Davidic Covenant—who’s that with? David and his descendants. Then there’s one other covenant in the Old Testament that we looked at in Jeremiah, the so-called New Covenant. Who was the party to whom the New Covenant was made? Israel. Was the church around in Jeremiah’s day? No, Israel was the contracting party. All those are biblical covenants made with assortedly different groups, for different purposes, but they all have a sort of covenant structure.
Here’s what happened. The Reformers noticed in Scripture that there are covenants; God always is a covenant-keeping God. So they thought to themselves, well gee, we could generalize all these covenants, we could inductively create a generic covenant above all the covenants. In other words, kind of like a common denominator of all those covenants, and that would be a wonderful tool to express God’s relationship with man and how God always works, He works through a covenant; He saves through a covenant. So they devised several covenants, two of which are important for us tonight, one of which is mentioned in the notes and I’ll mention another one.
They believed in a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. Neither of these covenants are explicitly stated in Scripture. Note that right off the bat. These are inductions, theological structures that have been deduced from speculating how God works. The covenant of works was this: it was made with Adam and Eve prior to the fall and guaranteed eternal life if they would perfectly obey. That’s the covenant of works.
But Adam and Eve couldn’t keep the covenant of works; the covenant of works was violated, so God came out with a covenant of grace, and the covenant of grace says I will save you, I’m only going to save, however, those who believe or the elect. So there’s the covenant of works, there’s the covenant of grace.
All those covenants that we just talked about, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, the New Covenant, we could throw in the Palestinian Covenant, the Levitical Covenant, I mean there are all kinds of covenants and sub covenants. We could just throw them all in a basket. The covenant of grace is a structure that supposedly lies behind all those covenants and emerges in history in different forms. That’s the idea of the covenant of grace. The problem with that, if you look at the first paragraph, follow with me:
“Reformed Theology soon began to be identified as ‘Covenant theology’ because it organized its doctrine using the concept of a covenant. Since the Bible expressed salvation through covenants, this form seemed to later Reformers like God’s archetypal” i.e., behind the scenes, generalized, “soteriological” that is saving “structure for managing all redemption. Reformed Theology used several such covenant structures to express itself, but the most prominent is the ‘covenant of grace.’
This covenant must not be confused with any of the biblical covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic, Palestinian, and New).” That’s not what they’re talking about. Now here’s an important sentence. “It is a theological structure that derives from an inductive generalization of biblical covenant material. It is the source of the frequent appearance of the word ‘covenant’ in titles of ministries based upon Reformed Theology.”
I’m not saying get all upset if you see the word “covenant,” I’m just identifying, that’s where that word came from. That’s why it’s identified with people that follow that theology. However, if you come to the next paragraph, “It is a hypothesized contract between God and the elect to completely redeem them.” Who are the parties in the Noahic Covenant? They were animals and men. Are animals going to be elect? No, so see it doesn’t quite fit the biblical material here. It’s an abstraction and a generalization from the biblical material, but can’t be identified with a particular biblical covenant.
“Its objective basis is the atonement of Christ. Its subjective requirement is belief on the Son which results from irresistible grace. It implies a unity of content amidst all the biblical covenants. And it guarantees and applies all the blessings God has ordained for His elect. Logically, it is developed primarily from New Testament terminology which is seen to be the final interpretation of earlier Old Testament texts.”
The bottom of page 7 through pages 8 and 9 I want to point out, if you’ll mark in the margins of your notes, here is what this does to the study of Scripture. Thinking with this covenant idea shades how you interpret Scripture. Now we’re going to do:
“Effects of the Covenant Structure Upon Biblical Interpretation. This covenant structure with its soteriological orientation has a number of important effects upon how Reformed adherents must interpret Scripture. The primary effect …” here’s number one “… occurs in minimizing the differences among the biblical covenants in order to emphasize the one Covenant of Grace that allegedly underlies them. Since the Covenant of Grace always involves the elect and only the elect and always centers upon eternal salvation, texts that speak of temporal historical details that concern both believers and unbelievers tend to be neglected. Whatever the biblical covenants’ ‘fine print’ says, in this view must always be interpreted in the light of eternal redemption.”
“Thus by emphasizing this one underlying covenant …” here’s the end result of this first point, “with the elect conceived of as a homogeneous group” of people. That’s why the difference between Jewish Old Testament saints and Gentile Old Testament saints and Christians who belong to the body of Christ, three groups here: Jewish believers, Gentile believers like Job, New Testament whether you’re Jew or Gentile, one in Christ. So we’ve got three groups.
But in Covenant Theology the differences between those three are trivial. They’re all of the elect, one homogenous body because it’s the thinking behind this abstract contract, they’re not looking at a contract made with Israel or how the church shares that blessing or something else. They’re looking at one homogeneous group of elect people. Do you see how this plays out? That’s point one.
“Reformed theologians insist that there can be only ‘one people of God.’ Distinctions among God’s working with the Gentile nations, Israel, and the church are suppressed. ‘Replacement theology’ results whereby the church replaces chronologically Israel in God’s plan. With the crucifixion of Christ,” see how easily anti-Semitism gets started here? Watch, it’s a slippery slope, “with the crucifixion of Christ Israel’s role in history is finished in the perspective of this covenant theology. Terminology in the Abrahamic and other biblical covenants regarding Israel, the land, the Temple, and a theocratic political reign from Jerusalem is usually reinterpreted in ‘spiritual terms’ that understand the ‘deeper meaning’ to refer to the church.”
I’ll give you an example. Ever read the book of Ezekiel? It’s not a favorite devotional, but if you read Ezekiel there’s some weird stuff going on. It’s talking about there’s going to be a mountain in the latter days in Jerusalem and there’s going to be a Temple, the dimensions of the Temple are given in the book of Ezekiel. It talks about water coming out on the top of the hill, running down to the Dead Sea, another one running out to the Mediterranean.
It hasn’t happened, so how, if you’re a Reformed person, do you interpret that one? Oh, that’s the church; the high mountain, that’s everybody’s looking up to the church. What do you do with the dimensions of the Temple in the text? Oh, that’s just literalism, we don’t bother with literalism, we just get the big idea, it’s just the temple of God. See what we’re doing with the text; notice where this starts to lead.
Number one, if you put “the elect are conceived of as one homogeneous group,” that’s one thing to notice. The next thing to notice is Israel’s role in history is finished; that’s number two. If Israel is finished and we can’t interpret the book of Ezekiel literally anymore, and we can’t interpret the Davidic Covenant as literal anymore, and we’ve got to spiritualize it, what does the interpreter now have to do to the Old Testament text? He has to correct it.
You’ll notice the footnote there, number 7. If you look at the footnote you’ll see what they say themselves. It’s not Charles Clough trying to slam these people; this is what they’re saying. Here’s a paper written at Westminster Theological Journal. “‘The Reformed exegete approaches the [OT] prophets from the perspective of the unity of the covenant.’ He clearly says that the New Testament ‘sets aside’ and ‘corrects’ ” and notice I have quotes around it I’m quoting the man, “ ‘sets aside’ and ‘corrects’ literal interpretation of Old Testament prophets.”
So now we’ve got a situation where because we can’t seem to get the New Testament text to agree to the Old Testament text, now we’re going to force the Old Testament into conformity with the New Testament text, because we’ve got to have everything fulfilled in the New Testament. When it’s not future, it’s already fulfilled.
You can’t get the fulfillment to fit in the New Testament, so you ram it, jam it, and cram it, and you do it by changing the meaning of the Old Testament lexicon. So it’s tampering with the lexicon of the Old Testament covenants. This is why you often hear it said that dispensationalists are literal interpreters. Yes we are, and for good reason, because we feel very, very uncomfortable giving up literal interpretation of the Old Testament text, for no apparent reason other than this satisfying this abstraction that we’ve got, this one covenant thing that’s going on.
“By downplaying differences in the various programs of God throughout history, Covenant Theology” now here’s the practical, you say well so far it’s all theory. Now watch this sentence, “Covenant Theology must attribute to Old Testament saints an advanced understanding of the gospel that rivals that of New Testament saints.” One covenant, see everybody kind of new the same thing, Abraham believed in the Lord Jesus Christ like we do. Well, I’m sorry, he believed on what he knew of the Son revealed in his era two millennia before Jesus, but if you asked Abraham [blank spot]
…because that was two thousand years before Jesus, so we can’t read back into the Old Testament what the New Testament does. When you start doing that you’ve got a problem, as we’ll get into.
So far this year what have we done? One event, the session of Christ. What’s the next one we’re going to deal with? Pentecost. Now Pentecost begins a new thing. We lose the uniqueness of the Church Age if we smear it back into the Old Testament.
Now we don’t appreciate what it is that New Testament saints had that Old Testament saints didn’t have. Both are believers, both are saved, both in eternity, but they don’t live by the same modus vivendi. The way of living in the Old Testament is not the same as the way of living in the New Testament. Things are different. So this paragraph points to the practical differences between living a life unto God in the Old Testament versus living a life unto God in the New Testament. It’s different.
“So, for example, if an Old Testament exhortation says ‘bring a sacrifice into the Temple’, the meaning in this view, is that there is a clear consciousness of Messiah as the coming Lamb of God. Historical progression in biblical revelation is not fully appreciated. Biblical texts are interpreted theologically rather than placed in their historical context. This method of interpretation finds itself unable to distinguish between the features of an Old Testament saint’s walk with God and a New Testament saint’s walk with Him. Features unique to the Church Age are left unappreciated.” That’s the practical effect of what’s going on here.
“Another effect of Covenant Theology upon biblical interpretation is how New Testament passages” now this is a hot topic, so I want to spend just a little time as we conclude, we’re going to conclude with this and I want to spend some time here. Turn to Acts 2 and see an example of this.
he issue that we’re now looking at, X fulfills Y, in other words, X being some New Testament thing is said to fulfill Y, which is said to be an Old Testament promise. In Acts 2:14, when Pentecost happened, “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them:” now Peter is going to give an interpretation of what’s going on here, “and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words.”
Verse 15, “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day,  but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:  And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall dream dreams;  Even upon my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.  And I will grant wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the mood into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come,  and it shall be, that every one who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Apparently Peter is saying that that passage in Joel is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, so X would be Pentecost, in this case, and Y would be the prophecy of Joel 2. The problem with this is that if you read the context of Joel, it’s addressed to the nation Israel, not the church; it speaks of geological and astrophysical catastrophes and says this is going to happen prior to the Kingdom of God and the end of history.
The Reformed person interprets, every time the New Testament mentions the verb “fulfill” in the formula X fulfills Y, that this is the literal fulfillment of that Old Testament passage, in a legal sense. So they attribute a meaning to the word “fulfill” in all cases it is a legal treaty or covenant fulfillment, such that if Joel’s passage is fulfilled, and it’s past, we have that event not to look forward to. If it’s fulfilled at Pentecost it’s not out there in the future anymore. Now what happens to the Second Advent of Christ? I’ll show you what happens.
“If a passage from the Old Testament prophet Joel, for example, is said in the New Testament to be ‘fulfilled’ on the day of Pentecost, that must mean that Pentecost fulfills the whole complex of Second Advent prophecy in Joel. Old Testament textual details of geophysical catastrophism must be reinterpreted metaphorically.” Here we go again, if we can’t get the Old Testament to be literally fulfilled in the New Testament we’re going to ram it, cram it, and jam it until we make it fulfilled and we’re going to do it if we have to shift the meaning of the Old Testament lexicon of word meanings.
“Recent developments in Reformed Theology, in fact, have taken this tendency to its logical conclusion: there will be no physical Second Advent of Christ. This event has already happened, presumably at AD 70 when Jerusalem fell. Other more moderate Reformed theologians such as R. C. Sproul and Kenneth L. Gentry save a future advent but strip away most of Old Testament prophecy (and the book of Revelation) as already fulfilled. This position is known as ‘preterism’ and is becoming popular” in evangelical circles.
So it’s not like preterism just burst forth on the scene. It’s the result of thinking this way. You say well it looks like to me like that’s what Peter says, he says this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel. We’d better be careful that we understand things.
Turn to Matthew 2, the Christmas story. We’re still looking at X fulfills Y. Remember that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Herod was afraid that Jesus was the Messiah, he didn’t have any problem interpreting the Bible, he’s an unbeliever and he knew what the prophecies meant.
So Jesus is born and Herod’s got a problem, he wants to eliminate the Messiah and what does he do? Genocide, every baby two years and younger … can you imagine this happening? Mothers, think of it, a Roman soldier comes into your house, takes your kid and chops his head off right in front of you. How do you like that? That’s the cruelty that’s going on here; that was genocide. If you haven’t had kids you don’t know what a shock that would be to you, to see that happen in front of your face. That’s the cruelty of the Herods; they were always doing some stupid thing like that. Now the politicians just steal things out of the White House, they don’t chop baby’s heads off.
In Matthew 2 we have a prophecy, apparently fulfilled. In verse 16, the genocide passage, the babies are getting killed, he “slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under,” I wonder how many thousand that was. Verse 17, watch it, “Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,” ooh, there’s that verb “fulfilled,” and if you look in a study Bible you’ll see it’s a citation from Jeremiah 31. Verse 18, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” The problem is if we go back to Jeremiah 31 and we draw a map, here’s the city of Jerusalem, here’s Bethlehem, and here’s Ramah.
What was going on in Jeremiah 31? Remember, the fall of the kingdom, and what was happening in the town of Ramah? It was a rendezvous point for all the people that were being taken out of the land, going all the way over into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley to be settled in the Assyrian-Babylonian area. These are prisoners of war, hundreds and hundreds of men, young women, and young men particularly, the old people they didn’t care about, they didn’t want to worry about nursing homes. They’d take the people that they know they can work.
This is Daniel and his crowd. So here they go, going through this village. The picture is these women weeping as they watched their sons, they watched their husbands, in chains, going into captivity, never to come back in the land; on the road from Jerusalem, over through into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
Now let’s think about Rachel in verse 18, why is Rachel mentioned? Rachel wasn’t living then. Well, it turns out that this is in an area where the Jewish tribe that descended from Rachel lived. You can study prophets and that’s the way they did. But some observations about that verse that’s quoted in verse 18.
This is the X, we’re looking at X. Number one, it doesn’t fit Jeremiah 31 as a legal covenant fulfillment. First of all, right off the bat, the Jeremiah passage isn’t a prophecy, it’s a description of history, so there’s nothing to be fulfilled, it’s just a description of an event that’s happening as a nation is falling, it’s not a prophecy. It’s not a vision.
Number two, it’s the wrong town—it’s Ramah. It’s north of Jerusalem—it’s not south of Jerusalem. Number three, nobody is getting killed here, people are going away alive, that’s why people are crying about it. So, there are all kinds of conflicts.
By making this verb, X fulfills Y, doesn’t fit what Matthew is doing. Certainly Matthew knew what he was doing, Matthew is not stupid. Matthew knew Jeremiah 31 or he never would have cited Jeremiah 31. Why did Matthew cite Jeremiah 31 with a formula X fulfills Y? That’s the question the exegete has to answer and you have to study the text carefully to understand Matthew’s use.
Stop trying to ram, cram, and jam our meanings into how the synoptic Gospel writers are writing. Maybe they didn’t use the word “fulfill” like we do. Oh, and how are we going to find out? By repeatedly looking at passage after passage after passage, getting a concordance, studying fulfill, putting it here, here, here, here, how do these guys use it? And you will find that they use it many ways. One way they use it is to point to analogies. They aren’t even looking at historical fulfillments, they’re looking for pattern analogies.
So that the pattern of things that happened in Y, New Testament times, is an analogue of what happened in Old Testament times. Why do they argue by analogy? Because it’s the same God who controls history. God has a finesse; He has a repeated protocol in which He operates. And you identify the hand of God by parallelism.
You say well that sounds like you’re trying to escape the text. No you’re not, how do we today identify God’s work in our lives? We argue by analogy don’t we? How do you apply a promise? By analogy. Do you have an experience, like Isaiah says “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee,” that was addressed to people going into exile, are we going into exile? We might, but are we going into an exile? No. Well then how come we’re quoting Isaiah 26:3? Because analogously, the situation has parallels. It’s not a fulfillment, it has parallels.
So this is why, we believe … there are many ways, we can go through this, scholars have done this, this is not new with me. You can go through this and it turns out there are about five or six different ways the verb “fulfill” is used, only one of them means fulfillment of a covenant promise, literally. The New Testament people are not citing the Old Testament in a mechanical fulfillment thing in the sense of fulfilled prophecy. They’re not doing that and you can check it out for yourself by just taking a concordance and watching the context.
“So to sum up” the problem here, “Reformed Theology utilizing the concept of a covenant structure ‘behind’ history not only has frozen the 16th and 17th century level of theology into permanent creeds, but has also established its own unique rules of Bible interpretation. It therefore centers upon soteriology, the doctrine that was central to the Reformation era, and a very close relationship between the state and the church. It views with deep suspicion any further extension of the sola Scriptura principle in reforming theology.” It doesn’t want to reform theology any more, it did it all, it’s all done, it’s all over.
So this is why, next week when we get into the rise of Dispensational Theology we’re going to see that’s what dispensationalism does, it starts with the same principle the Reformers had, sola Scriptura, and says now wait a minute, whoa, let’s look at the text and let’s see if this really means what got thrown into these creeds pretty fast. Let’s re-look this thing about prophecy, let’s study the word pleroo and how it’s fulfilled in the New Testament.
Were the New Testament authors really looking at this as the final fulfillment or are they simply saying by analogy do you know where it occurs a lot? Matthew is good at this. Think of the analogy between Jesus and Israel. Can you think of some?
Do you know another case where the word “fulfill” is? After the genocide …. By the way, how did Jesus avoid the genocide? Where did His parents take off to? Egypt. Where did they get the money for the trip? The wise men brought it. So the parents got their fare and they got some money for a trip to hide for two years. They go down there, and when Matthew announces that Jesus comes back, he quotes Hosea and he says “And it is fulfilled that out of Egypt I will call My Son.”
Now the passage in Hosea is not a prophecy either. It’s describing the coming out of the Israelites from Egypt at the Exodus; it’s not a prophecy, it’s a statement of a historical fact. Well then why does Matthew use “fulfill?” Because he’s saying as goes Israel, so goes Jesus. There’s an analogy between the nation and the Messiah. How many years in the desert? Forty. How many days of temptation in Jesus life? Forty. You can pile up one analogy on top of another and Matthew does that. Is that saying there’s a fulfillment in the sense of a fulfillment of a particular prophecy? Absolutely not, he’s talking about analogies. Well study this further as we go on.
Question asked: Clough replies: The problem is the basis of unity, and it’s always been a struggle in Christendom about the unity of the body, but for our own encouragement, the disciples aren’t very unified either. They had differences, they had arguments, Peter versus Paul in the leadership of the church which you get into in Acts, they had quite a falling out. But in most cases when you look at it, the way to look at that is that the Lord is teaching the church as a body, and the training of the church to maturity hasn’t been finished yet.
So there’s a conflict, yes, but it seems if you look at church history that progress is made because … one thing that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened for 1,400 to 1,600 years in church history is no orthodox Christian has ever argued about the Person of Christ, that was all settled. But if you go back and you read the church fathers in the first, second, third century, man alive, they were going at it, and you could have argued back then, oh, where’s our unity? Well the unity would come; it was just that it took four or five centuries to get there. For some reason God seems to use that as a teaching tool. That’s the way He’s worked in history.
The other, kind of insulting thing to us all in that how He works in the church’s life is that in most cases, progress has not been made until heresy arose. It’s pretty amazing to think about that, that it always takes severe heresy to get the church to define what says the Scripture.
In our own century the heresies that have come to us from the outside, even to threaten orthodoxy, or conservative Christianity, have been largely in the area of language and the nature of language philosophically. Those of you who studied that, it’s [can’t understand word] and these guys at the beginning of this century and so forth, and that came into the church and believe it or not that caused a controversy in the 70s, and it really got a lot of Christians bent out of shape, and today, of course, very few Christians read anymore, because it’s part of our culture not to, and the result is that we’ve forgotten what happened in the 70s.
We had a severe fight in the 70s. Do you know what it was over? Inerrancy of Scripture. We had evangelical seminaries and professors and faculty saying well I believe the Bible is authoritative but not inerrant. Excuse me, but how do you have the Bible as an authority if it’s not inerrant, because how do I decide what’s error and what’s not error?
Well, then whatever it is that decides between error and truth, that’s the authority. So now if you don’t have an inerrant Bible you’ve got to have an inerrant something else to judge the errors in the Scripture. And the something else now becomes a new authority.
That went on, so I don’t get discouraged by it, that’s why we have to be gracious and not get into a shouting match, but I think thought leads in directions, and God has given us the ability to reason through, and He’s also given us the Scripture, and He’s given us so many tools to study the Scripture with that Reformers never had.
Think about it. You can go in any Christian bookstore now and buy powerful tools that Calvin and Luther never had. You have multiple translations; they didn’t, in many cases they had to translate the thing out of a scholarly language themselves to get it into their own language and vernacular. They didn’t have complete concordances like we do; they didn’t have Bible dictionaries like we do. They didn’t have the results of archeology; they had no Dead Sea Scrolls.
So in spite of the fact we live in an era of conflict, the Lord has graciously supplied us with tools that they never had. That’s why I’m just saying, that’s why I’m trying to walk a delicate road here, I don’t want you to walk out of this class thinking that Reform Theology is a big danger, because it really isn’t.
Those people did some wonderful things in church history and we can be thankful for them. It’s just that in certain areas of the text, it doesn’t fit, and I’m sorry but 1 John 2:2 is still 1 John 2:2. You can spout off all you want to about limited atonement, but whatever you say in the final analysis it’s got to fit 1 John 2:2, and “world” can’t mean just the world of the elect, there’s something said there, and yes it doesn’t quite fit the theology structure, but let’s see if we can maybe modify the theology structure, that’s all.
Question asked: Clough replies: The problem in a lot of evangelical Bible-teaching churches frankly is that they don’t have a structured theology at all, and they have a church creed and the only time people ever think of a church creed is when they have to write a new church constitution. They never read it any other time, and the result is that the teaching is fragmentary, and when you get out there and have to take on the world system…
This is why I believe Reform Theology is so popular in this area. People have commented to me that it’s the middle Atlantic area of the United States where Reformed Theology seems to be coming in strong. What is culturally going on in the mid-Atlantic? You’ve got Washington D.C., this is the center of the culture movers of our nation. And this is the place where you get whacked with big heavy anti-biblical worldviews. You don’t get whacked with them out in Kansas some place. It’s here, this is the place where the head-butting occurs.
So that being the case, then people gravitate to a structure, and Reform Theology, frankly, gives very strong structure, makes you feel ah, I can rest and the structure will defend me. And in some cases it will, yes, because doctrine is interrelated. One doctrine helps another doctrine.
So you’re right when you point out that yes, we can learn lots of things from R. C. Sproul, I’m not saying you can’t, I’m just saying when R. C. Sproul tells me that the Garden of Eden is symbolic, I say huh? Excuse me R.C, I don’t think so! On what basis? Well, because it’s not here today. Well if there was a Noahic flood why would the Garden of Eden still be around? So that’s the thing I’m saying. It behooves us as Christians to just understand where people are coming from. Like she said, the guy’s great on church history, soak in it, it’s great.
Question asked, something about being discerning, I can’t trust this guy here, I can’t trust him here, I can’t trust him here, can I trust him in something that I don’t yet know, therefore can I really learn from him? Clough replies: The problem we have in this is that nowhere in our public school education, and most of us have gone to public schools, have we ever been taught to think on the large scale picture, and so we come very ill equipped to deal with the very question you asked. Because the question of Augustine is one in which he adopted subtle premises from the philosophical world and the only way he could smoke them out … you don’t detect them right away, the only way you detect them is that finally this strand of thought says something, boom!
And it’s in direct collision with Scripture, and then you say well, gee, there’s something going on here. Then you have to kind of walk back that line of thinking until you see what got him off there, and then oh, okay, he’s off here. It’s going back and checking the evidences and the source material.
You could go out here in the street and if you went to a hundred people who believed in evolution, I will guarantee you that 95 of them have never read Darwin’s Origin of the Species. I will guarantee that they have never, ever done field work in geology. So why do 95 out of 100 believe it? Because what does Paul say in Colossians? “Following the traditions of men.”
Most thought is traditional thought, even ours, and that’s why the church has tried to have creeds and why if you get a good creed it’s a powerful tool because it’s sanctified tradition, and that’s why you have to look at the creeds. You can’t generate you own theology in your own generation, no one can do that. You can’t start at zero and create your own theological system. You can’t do that. No one can do that. The only people that profess to do that are the cults. Somebody has a vision in New York State and starts the Mormon Church or something. That’s how cults get started, because one guy does try to do it all. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.
So in the final analysis the “Bereans were more noble” because they tested it by the Scripture, and that’s the only test I know of. If it doesn’t fit, something here doesn’t fit right. That’s why this Book is so tremendously important and we can thank the Reform people, because who made this Book emerge historically? Where was it before Calvin and Luther? Inside, in Latin, that nobody could read, only a few copies
I think it was marvelous that simultaneous with the Reformation was what great technological invention? The printing press. I thank God. So it goes back to check the source material. If R. C. Sproul says something about church history, he’s well read in church history, if you don’t think he’s right, go back and check the sources. Gosh, with the Internet and the libraries we have today, it’s not that far away. But you do have to be careful; you really have to be careful about things. So there’s no substitute for a constant diet of Scripture.
When you’re a pastor what happens to you, among other things, is that you get these series of these crises happen, and you feel like man, I’ve got this hot potato over here, I’ve got a hot potato over here, another one over here, so you’re tempted to stop what you’re doing and deal with this thing, stop what you’re going and go deal with that one. I apprenticed under a guy who had been in the pastorate for many decades and he had a congregation of close to a thousand people, so you can imagine how many crises he had in a week, and he says I just get up there and I teach the Word of God verse by verse, text by text, and I spray the whole congregation with it. That’s how I put out the fires, I don’t go chase fires I just spray everybody with it.
That’s the way you have to be, because you can’t compromise that teaching ministry because if you are faithful to God to teach through verse by verse, you’ll eventually get into a text that helps people. But you’ll never get to the text if you’re going to flit from one place to another place, and the worst part about that is people who stay under that kind of a ministry can’t think any more because all they’ve got is little pieces here and there, a piece here, a piece there, they can’t get it together. But the world’s got it together.
The world, Satan has got a very slick coherent worldview … well I won’t say that, he’s got a thing that appears to be coherent. That’s what we’re up against, a powerful spirit of this world, and [can’t understand word/s] we’re going to be rolled over like a steam roller rolling over us unless we have the tools and it’s the Scripture that gives us the tools. We’re out of time.