Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eschatology Forum part 3

I believe Dr. Chad Brand gave this portion of the interaction. (Listen here). This is in response to Dr. Schreiner admitting A-Millennialism as being the simplest and straightforward understanding of the New Testament.
The simplest reading of the Old Testament is one coming of Christ. You know, when you read in Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." Jesus quotes this in Luke 4. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me and has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to bind the broken hearted, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the Day of vengeance of our God."

You realize sandwiched in Isaiah 61:2 is a favorable year of the Lord coming of Christ and the day of the vengeance of our God coming of Christ, and that is not His first coming. You know, John 3:17, God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.

So you realize boy, this was John the Baptist's problem wasn't it. He's in jail in prison, and he sends disciples to ask Herod, "Are you the anointed One or shall we look for another. " Why would he ask that? Well, he's read the Old Testament, and he knows what is going to happen when Messiah comes, and its not happening...
Now this argument at first glance is quite powerful. At one point Dr. Brand said that there will be several resurrections. Why? Because he is determined he isn't going to make the same mistake John the Baptist did. Let's look at a couple of problems with this idea. Before we do, it must be acknowledged that he is right in one sense. Old Testament prophecy often did put together multiple events, causing what some have called the flattened perspective.

To use an illustration (since I work for a utility company), we might be standing near a telephone pole. If we look down the road, we might only see the one pole. But if we move to a different perspective, we will see that there are many poles. Prophecy in the Bible does the same thing.

Here are a couple of problems with this idea. First, it is simplistic to say that in Jesus' day that everyone understood only one coming of Messiah. It is true, but look at John's Gospel at the end of chapter 1.
Joh 1:19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
Joh 1:20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
Joh 1:21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he *said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
Joh 1:22 Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"
Joh 1:23 He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
Joh 1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
Joh 1:25 They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
Joh 1:26 John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
Joh 1:27 "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."
Please notice the questions. Are you the Prophet? Are you Elijah? If you have ever read the Dead Sea Scrolls, you will find similar understandings of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Essenes were looking for multiple persons. Why? Because everyone saw the massive problems in the text. How could one person fulfill all of these roles and activities and events. Surely there is one coming of several people. But they had it backwards. It was not one coming with multiple persons. It was multiple comings (2) with one person.

So this oversimplification of the OT is really a false view of those in Jesus' day. Since the New Testament speaks about the next coming of Christ as bringing salvation and glorification to His people, since the Second Coming is described as bringing in the New Heavens and New Earth, since the Second Coming will bring the destruction of the wicked, should we now think that there will be multiple Second Comings?

If we break up the Second Coming of Christ, then we lose exactly what the Blessed Hope is for. Christians are constantly told throughout the NT that we are to await the Coming of our Lord. Yet this panel seems to admit that the Second Coming isn't the final hope of the Christian. That after the literal thousand years, we could become lost again. This is bad news, not the Good News of the Kingdom promised by Christ.

Another problem is John the Baptist's question, "Are you the One or do we look for another?" Two chapters later in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus answers this question with the parables of the Kingdom. Notice the interpretation of the Wheat and Tares.
Mat 13:37 And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,
Mat 13:38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;
Mat 13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
Mat 13:40 "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.
Mat 13:41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
Mat 13:42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 13:43 "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Here, Jesus offers us the explanation to the mystery of the Kingdom. The mystery is this. That after the Kingdom comes, evil men still exist side by side with the righteous. Jesus tells us that there are two phases of the Kingdom. But please notice the plain ending of the first phase. At the end of this age comes exactly what Pre-Millennialists say doesn't all happen at once or within a very short period of time.

1) The wicked are cast out. This appears final. Does it not? If so, how could there be another falling away. Will there be wicked men after the consummation of the Kingdom? Will the promise of Psalm 37 fail?
Psa 37:36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found.
Apparently, for the Pre-Millennialist, the wicked will continue on until another coming of Christ? Or will the Saints become lost again?

2) The righteous will shine. This is the Blessed Hope of the Christian, to be glorified and no longer live in sinful flesh.

Apparently, for the Pre-Millennialist, the righteous may shine forth only to have to live with evil men and struggle in another age in which men can fall away?

3) Peter also tells us that at the Second Coming, there will be a new heavens and new earth.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
2Pe 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
2Pe 3:13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Is this not a true fulfillment of OT promises? Apparently we are not looking for this new earth but instead we are looking forward to another great falling away after another after....

4) This position denies the clear view of Judgment Day. Dr. Brand cited John 3:17.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Surely Dr. Brand knows that the next Coming is to bring judgment?
Heb 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
Heb 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
The text is plain. There is only one more coming of Christ. At this coming is the Final Judgment of the wicked and salvation of those, who eagerly await Him.

5) The nature of the Kingdom is overthrown. Everyone, including this panel, believes in the "now and not yet" phases of the Kingdom. In other words, every Christian believes that there are two-phases of Christ's Kingdom. Yet Pre-Millennialists must disregard this view for at least 3 phases. The now, not yet and not yet yet. What is the 1000-year reign if not a middle coming aspect of the Kingdom? This is simply unworkable in the New Testament. I have never heard anyone offer an answer to this problem which may be the most difficult to answer.

In conclusion, all of this is because of one passage, Revelation 20. It is admitted that the New Testament is best read with the A-Millennial interpretation. But we just can't accept the simplicity of the NT because of our over-riding interpretation of Rev. 20.

In other words, we approach an apocalyptic passage, misunderstand it by reading into it an improper hermeneutic, then take that false understanding and force it on every other text in the New Testament such as 1 Thessalonians 4-5, where one major event is broken up into several.

So although Dr. Brand's observation about the nature of prophecy is correct, is he correct in its application with the New Testament? Isn't there a rule that says all things being equal, the simplest answer is often the best one.

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