Category Archives: eschatology

On Divisive Men

I think it’s pretty clear that I am not a fan of Dispensationalism.  I simply cannot arrive at ‘Dispensational’ conclusions when I read Scripture.  That said, there are many things I appreciate about Dispensationalism.  Here’s a list…

  1. Literal approach to Scripture.
  2. Emphasis on the Inspiration of Scripture.
  3. Godly lives of many Dispensationalists (produced by view of the imminence of Christ’s return).
  4. Mission-mindedness (produced by view of the imminence of Christ’s return).
  5. Distinction between Law and Gospel.

But probably the one point of Dispensationalism that I am most thankful for is the system’s approach to the Gospel of ‘grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone’ that saves.  And let me be unequivocalwhen I say this, most Dispensationalists believe and preach the true Gospel.  All of the Dispensationalists that I know have always believed right about Forgiveness of sins, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.  They have all believed that Christ’s work on the cross was God’s way of saving all who come to Him in faith and repentance.

Perhaps that’s why I get worked up when I read that a church feels the need to bar Dispensationalists from membership.  Or why another church feels to need to bar Covenant Theology guys from membership.  Or why both of those churches feels the need to bar New Covenant guys from membership.  These are matters of difference, yes, but which of them has rejected the Gospel?  Did MacArthur ever preach ‘another’ Gospel?  Did Sproul ever preach ‘another’ Gospel?  How about John Reisinger?  None of these men ever preached a Gospel that the other would condemn as ‘not the gospel’.  To be sure there are other things that would keep these men from being members in the same church.  MacArthur and Reisinger believe in believer’s baptism by immersion while Sproul does not.

But now take me and my fellow Elders at our church for example.  I lean more towards the New Covenant understanding of Scripture while another leans more towards a Dispensational understanding.  Another can’t really even be pinpointed to that degree.  But here is where we agree, the Bible is God’s Word, it should be preached as He inspired it, and we should take each word seriously.  So in the end our messages sound a lot alike in the sense that we are studying and preaching the same Bible.  And as long as we keep this expositional method of preaching we will become closer and closer in our understanding of Scripture.

Unity does not exist in conformity to one another’s particular views in this regard.  Unity exists in our conformity to Scripture as the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to mold us into the image of God’s Son.  Unity does not exist in our particular understandings of the Second Coming of Christ.  Unity exists in our belief that Scripture says that Christ is returning, that He will resurrect the dead, and that believer’s will have glorified bodies while unbeliever’s will be punished for their sins.  Unity does not exist in our views on Law, but in the Gospel of Christ.

If Jesus does not exclude Dispensationalists, or Covenantalists, or New Covenantalists from the Body of Christ, then neither should we exclude them from our local extension of the Body of Christ.  To do so is to divide the Body of Christ and to fall under the condemnation of Christ as His Word is revealed to us in Scripture through Paul when he says,

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:9-11

And this will blow your mind…You don’t even have to be a Calvinist to join our church (although you will get it preached to you whenever it comes up in Scripture).  Calvinists and Noncalvinists can worship God together in harmony.  And each will be united in the same way we all are, through the Gospel and the ministry of the Word.

So who can’t join our church?  Unbelievers because we believe in regenerate church membership, the unbaptized because we believe   immersion upon profession of faith is prerequisite to church membership, the unorthodox because we believe the Trinity matters, and the ungodly because we believe that all true Christians will be sanctified.

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Filed under eschatology, Gospel, Law, Legalism, unity

Still Amill (Updated)

NOTE:  Russell Moore is not Progressive Dispensationalist.  In reading his book I got that impression, but it turns out I was wrong.  Which probably explains why I agree with his view of the present realities of the Kingdom.  In any case, the post is still pretty accurate.

Just in case you were wondering, my endorsement of Russell Moore’s book on the Kingdom of Christ doesn’t mean that I’ve changed my views on the Millennium.  I’m still right.

There are many who make assumptions about Progressive Dispensationalism or Amillennialism that are incorrect.  As far as I am concerned, as far as the book deals with the Kingdom of Christ, Progressive Dispensationalists and Amillennialists are in harmony.

Of course, I think that the Progressive Dispensationalist holds that view of the Kingdom inconsistently, but he does in fact hold to it. 

The tension only begins to appear when we begin to discuss whether the thousand years are literally one thousand years to be fulfilled in the future, or a symbolic number representing the fullness of the Church age which has it’s future fulfillment in the eternal state.

From there the tension grows as the Progressive Dispensationalist seems content to receive his reward of a temporal Kingdom, while the Amillennialist receives his reward of a Kingdom that lasts forever.

But as for the right here, right now aspect of the Kingdom, Dr. Moore’s book is a must read…especially if you are a Progressive Dispensationalist.

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John Calvin’s Hermeneutic

These quotes by Calvin was recently listed on Pulpit Live Blog.

[The] error of allegory has been the source of many evils. Not only did it open the way for the adulteration of the natural meaning of Scripture but also set up boldness in allegorizing as the chief exegetical virtue.

[And in a different place]

Let us know that the true meaning of Scripture is the genuine and simple one, and let us embrace and hold it tightly. Let us . . . boldly set aside as deadly corruptions, those fictitious expositions which lead us away from the literal sense.   Online Source

Fact #1  Calvin was a Literalist.

Fact #2  Calvin was not an Allegorist.

Fact #3  Calvin was not a Premillennialist.

This means one of two things;

1. Calvin was an inconsistent Literalist, or,

2. Calvin’s Literal Hermeneutic did not make him a Premillennialist.

 Talk amongst yourselves.

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Book Review-The Man Of Sin by Kim Riddlebarger

In an age of uncertainty and an Apocalyptic warnings coming through the media, whether in fictional accounts produced by Hollywood, ‘documentaries’ and ‘evidence’ of global warming coming interestingly enough again from Hollywood, media accounts of the state of the war on terror, or mainstream Christian retailing of End Times novels, speculations, and conjecture, The Man Of Sin stands as a welcome resource for those who wish to look at what the Bible has to say about the Anti-christ.

Uncovering a truly biblical understanding of the Anti-christ is a daunting task when you begin to see all the presuppositions that have been attached to the person in all the fore-described media. But it is a task that Kim Riddlebarger faced head-on and, in my opinion, produced for us a Biblical picture of the Man of Sin.

The book begins with the immediate context of American culture as it relates to the Anti-christ. Dr. Riddlebarger draws a picture of the contemporary view of the Anti-christ and of the expectancies of what he will be and when he will appear and begins the task of separating fact from fiction.

He then provides an overview of the forerunners of the Anti-christ from the Old Testament. Riddlebarger’s discussion of the many ‘types’ and foretellings of the Anti-christ found in the Old Testament lays the necessary foundation for understanding all that the Anti-christ has been foretold to embody in Scripture. Tracing these types from the serpent in Paradise, through Cain, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, to Antiochus Epiphanes, and through the study of specific prophecies of the Anti-christ, Riddlebarger provides a comprehensive picture of the Anti-christ as expected by Jewish society before the time of Christ.

Moving then into a discussion of the doctrine of the Anti-christ in the New Testament, Riddlebarger lays another foundation for a more complete picture of the Anti-christ by discussing the interaction between Jesus and Satan in the Gospels, the “already/not yet” eschatological focus of the New Testament, and a look at prophetic perspective and fulfillment of prophecy in the New Testament.

The next section of the book begins a discussion of the ‘anti-christs’ (small ‘a’ and plural) that have already gone out into the world. Noting that the word ‘anti-christ’ only appears in the first two of John’s letters and never in the book of Revelation, he goes on to list some identifying traits of these anti-christs, the chief being a denial of the incarnation of the Son of God. Interacting with B. B. Warfield, he notes that Anti-christ is anyone who that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and that we should not import John’s description of these heretics into our view of the Man of Sin or the False Prophet who will arise at the end of time. He concludes, “…”the final manifestation of the beast and the false prophet…seems to indicate that John’s series of antichrists…will indeed give way to a final …persecutor of the people of God”.

The next chapter focuses on the doctrine of the Anti-christ in the book of Revelation. Once again, he lays the foundation from the Old Testament, showing how the forerunners of the Anti-christ shape the language used to describe the beast and the false prophet. Nero and the cultic emperor-worship of the Roman Empire is discussed while he shows the significance of the number ‘666’.

Chapter Six is a discussion of Paul’s doctrine of Anti-christ in II Thessalonians. Once again, Riddlebarger is careful to bring all the background information we need to interpret correctly Paul’s statements concerning the ‘Man of Lawlessness’. In this chapter Riddlebarger interacts with the various views from Dispensationalism, preterism, futurists, and historicists in their interpretations of the Man of Sin, the coming Apostasy, and the Restrainer. For those of you who are wondering, Riddlebarger concludes that Gospel preaching is the ‘restrainer’ Paul speaks of in this passage.

Riddlebarger continues forward with a look back at the various interpretations of the Anti-christ in Church history. Beginning with the Fathers and walking through history, he discusses the various views of the Anti-christ which were often colored by the world they lived in. There is also a helpful chart showing the differing beliefs of the Fathers, Dispensationalism, the Reformers, etc. at the beginning of the book, but I thought it would be better located here.
The final chapter of the book is a summary and compilation of the conclusions from preceding chapters. The final section is an admonition to trust in God and not spend time on useless speculations not consistent with Scripture, but to rather look for the glorious appearing of Christ. Satan is a defeated foe. Evil runs rampant because Satan and his minions know their time is short. Don’t fear them, but have faith in God.

Overall, this book is a good read even for those who disagree with the author’s conclusions because he will make you think about what you believe and why. His conclusions are based on a literal interpretation of the Scripture and not a fanciful imagination, as is evident in many other books of this genre.

To purchase The Man Of Sin click here.

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An Overview Of Various Eschatological Positions

Premillennialism

Within Premillennialism there are three or four different positions. There is the Pre-tribulational rapture of the Church, the Mid-tribulational rapture, the Pre-wrath rapture, and the Post-tribulational rapture.
It seems that the default position for most Premillenialists is the Pre-tribulational rapture position. Most everyone knows something about that view. The church is raptured at the beginning of the tribulation which lasts for seven years. At the end of the seven years a literal thousand years reign is initiated by Christ where he sits on David’s throne and rules from Jerusalem.
The Mid-trib view is basically the view that after three and a half years of the tribulation, at the midway point, the rapture occurs, then after the remaining period of time a literal thousand year reign begins.
The Pre-wrath view says that the rapture occurs before the wrath of God is poured out, whenever that may be during the tribulation. After the tribulation a literal thousand year reign commences.
The Post-trib view (historic Premillenialism) says that after the seven year tribulation period the rapture takes place and a literal thousand year reign is inaugurated.

Postmillennialism

Since I have never been Postmil, I thought I would do better to quote a Postmillennialist on the view in the interest of fairness. “Postmillennialism is that view of the last things which holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually will be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the Millennium.
This view is, of course, to be distinguished from that optimistic but false view of human betterment and progress held by Modernists and Liberals which teaches that the Kingdom of God on earth will be achieved through a natural process by which mankind will be improved and social institutions will be reformed and brought to a higher level of culture and efficiency. This latter view presents a spurious or pseudo Postmillennialism, and regards the Kingdom of God as the product of natural laws in an evolutionary process, whereas orthodox Postmillennialism regards the Kingdom of God as the product of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in connection with the preaching of the Gospel.”- Lorraine Boettner, Postmillennialism. You can also view some of the ‘myths’ about Postmillennialism here.

Amillennialism

Amillennialism is the view that the millennial reign of Christ has both a present and a future reality. So Amillennialists are really misnamed in the sense that they do believe in a millennial reign, but that the millennium is to be interpreted allegorically as the period beginning at the first coming of Christ and following the second coming of Christ. In other words, the ‘millennial’ reign has both a present manifestation in the Church and a future realization at the second coming of Christ. Neither period is a literal thousand years.

In Revelation 20 the binding of Satan is seen as a work that Christ accomplished during His first coming. The little while that the devil must be released is the tribulation.
Revelation 20 is the battleground. But we must remember also that all sides interpret Revelation 20 in the same way they interpret the rest of the Book of Revelation. So if there is any argument from any side, we have all got to remember how we got to Revelation 20.
This is my view.

For a more detailed exposition of Amillenialism see Anthony Hoekema’s online works on ‘Amillenialism’ here.

There are also some good articles here. Click the sidebar icon titled ‘Eschatology’ and read Riddlebarger, Vos, and Hendriksen if you are interested.

Kim Riddlebarger provides some helpful links here.

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Kim Riddlebarger Interview

This was originally posted a few months ago. It is re-posted here for your reading pleasure.

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, and visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also a co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, which is broadcast weekly on more than fifty radio stations. For a complete bio click here.

My questions are in black. Dr. Riddlebarger’s responses are in blue and blockquoted.

What is your religious background? (growing up, adulthood, denominational affiliations, etc.)

I was raised in independent Bible church fundamentalism-although we often attended local Southern Baptist and Evangelical Free churches. Raised by godly parents, I have always known Christ as my Savior. My parents owned a Christian bookstore, so I grew up smack dab in the middle of the Southern California “Jesus People” revival of the late 60’s-early 70’s. Once upon a time I had hair longer than Greg Laurie and I spent many a Monday night at his Bible study at Calvary Chapel. Now, the only thing we have in common is our hairline.

I became Reformed in the late 1970’s, left the EFCA where my wife and I had become members. Through a mutual friend, I met then Biola student Michael Horton in 1983 and we became fast friends. Along with Michael, I was originally ordained in the Reformed Episcopal Church, but eventually ended up in the CRC (thanks to Bob Godfrey). Our current congregation (Christ Reformed) left the CRC in 1998 and joined the URCNA along with a number of sister churches from our classis. I am still the pastor of Christ Reformed, which Michael and I co-founded in 1996.

When did you become interested in eschatology? What was the catalyst, so to speak?

I have been interested in eschatology as long as I can remember. My family regularly watched Howard C. Estep’s TV show-the “World Prophetic Ministry.” Some of you may remember this guy and his clear dry-erase board. The first serious theology book I read was Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, back when it first came out in 1969. I was fourteen at the time. When I became Reformed, the last things to go were my credo Baptist beliefs and my premillennialism.

The catalyst was a Lutheran minister who came into our bookstore and challenged me about all the dispensational books we were selling. He opened up his Bible and quickly tied me in a pretzel. His point about the first resurrection being the time of conversion (cf. John 5:24) and the presence of evil in the millennium really rattled me (Revelation 20:7-10). He also pressed me as to the location of the scene in Revelation 20:1-6 (in heaven, not on earth). These questions sowed the seeds of doubt about premillennialism in my mind. How could people exist in natural bodies after the Christ’s second coming? How could people somehow avoid being resurrected or condemned when Christ came back? Even worse, how could there still be sin on the earth after Christ’s return? Would people actually revolt against Christ’s rule? This really troubled me.

And then in seminary, I read Vos and Kline on the distinction between “this age” and the “age to come.” It was all over.

What is your eschatological background before Amillennialism?

My family has deep roots in the Grace Brethren tradition. So I was born and bred a dispensationalist. I became Reformed (as far as my soteriological views went) in my mid twenties and for a long time attempted to remain a dispensationalist. By the time I went to Westminster Seminary in California, I was historic premill, having been deeply influenced by George Ladd but still struggling with the questions mentioned above. Kline’s lectures on the kingdom, Strimple’s lectures on eschatology, and Bob Godfrey’s patience in answering my constant questions, along with assigned textbooks by Vos and Ridderbos, finally did me in. After briefly flirting with postmillennialism, I was amillennial by the time I graduated from Westminster in 1984.

Why did you decide to write the book, The Man Of Sin?

I have long been concerned that amillennial Christians have simply abandoned the field of eschatology to the dispensationalists, and now to the-preterists of various sorts. Hoekema’s book, The Bible and the Future, is great, as is Cornel Venema’s The Promise of the Future. But these were not accessible to many. I felt that it was time to write an accessible book which simply set forth an amillennial perspective on this subject, which I find absolutely fascinating-especially all of the Puritan speculation about the time of the end.

How important is the idea of the Antichrist to eschatology in general, and more specifically, to Amillennialism?

While the revelation of the Antichrist is one of the signs of the end, the presence of the spirit of antichrist throughout the course of this age is primary reason why the church must always be on guard against heresy (1 John 4:3).

When taken as a whole (Paul’s man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2; John’s teaching about antichrist in his first two epistles; and John’s vision about the dragon, beast and false prophet in Revelation 13), it seemed to me that based upon the biblical evidence, we must say that antichrist is a past, present and future phenomena, which culminates in an Antichrist at the time of the end.

Dispensationalists push this off into the future and mistakenly tie this to a seven-year tribulation and peace treaty with Israel. The recent resurgence of various forms of preterism is surely a counter-reaction to the over-reaching of dispensational prophecy pundits. But it is also incorrect to interpret all the biblical data to be speaking of events pre-A.D. 70. Thus, I wanted to address this in an exegetical manner and make my case as simply and clearly as I could.

This is just a question that comes from my own curiosity. In recent news we have seen the ‘re-re-re-release’ of The Gospel Of Judas to a prominent media role, as well as Dan Brown’s novel, now made into a movie, The Davinci Code. It seems as if there is a renewal of the heresy of Gnosticism that is addressed in John’s first letter. Many are seeking an alternate ‘truth’ or ‘history’ that denies either the deity or the humanity of Christ. How does this fit into the picture of antichrist drawn by John in First John? In light of the resurrection of these gnostic heresies, do you see this as a prophetic fulfillment pointing to the revelation of the Antichrist and the coming of Christ, or is this another revelation of the antichrists that are already in the world that we are to stand guard against?

My sense is that John is warning Christians of a proto-gnosticism (specifically docetism). There is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what John is warning us about in his epistles-men who go out from our midst who deny that Jesus is God in the flesh (John 2:18-22).

Do you think that Dispensationalism has actually created the common misconceptions regarding the Antichrist, or has simply provided a fertile ground where these misconceptions flourish? In other words, are Dispensationalists the cause, or are they victims because they are made more susceptible to these misconceptions through their end-times perspective?

There has been Antichrist speculation since the time of the church fathers. Dispensationalists cannot be blamed for being interested in the Antichrist, since it is a revealed doctrine. The reason why dispensationalists are so prone to so much weird speculation is that they see this through the lens of Middle-Eastern politics because of their misreading of Daniel 9:24-27. As I mentioned, this has led to a focus upon a seven-year tribulation and a peace treaty with Israel, when instead Scripture focuses upon Antichrist both as an internal threat (heresy) and as external persecution of Christians on the part of the state (i.e. the dragon-empowered beast).

In The Man Of Sin, you included a quote from Herman Ridderbos, which you summarize like this, “The prophet is not concerned with when certain things will come to pass but with the fact that they will come to pass.” (p. 69, emphasis yours) How important is this perspective in developing a Biblical understanding of prophecy?

The reason why dispensationalism makes sense to a dispensationalist is that it fits with his presuppositions, which are that the Bible is to be interpreted literally and that we are to take notice of God’s respective redemptive programs for Israel and the Gentiles.

In the rest of that quote, Ridderbos is making the point that the Old Testament prophet predicts future events which will indeed come to pass, but may not all come to pass at once (i.e., Christ’s first and second coming). The Old Testament prophet cannot see things from the perspective of New Testament fulfillment. This is why it is vital that we allow the writers of the New Testament to tell us what the Old Testament prophets actually predicted-i.e. from the perspective of fulfillment. Looking forward, the prophets saw that these things will come to pass, but they did not know when. Nor did they know that what seemed to be one event, may actually be two. Here, we must carefully observe how the writers of the New Testament apply these prophecies to Christ and follow their lead.

One aspect of Biblical prophecy that is often overlooked is ‘double fulfillment’. A fairly obvious example of this I think would be Isaiah’s prophecy of Emmanuel in Isaiah 7:14. This is clearly a prophetic sign given to Ahaz, and yet is said by Matthew to be fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Why has this aspect of prophecy been ignored, and how far should it be taken?

We need to be careful here because double fulfillment could become a kind of wax-nose, which we can twist any way we wish. But when Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in the Olivet Discourse, we see that Daniel’s prophecy of an abomination (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) was not only fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC, it was fulfilled again by Titus in AD 70. In turn, this might be a foreshadowing of a future world-wide desecration of the temple of God (the church) at the time of the end (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). But we will only know this when (or if) it happens. This is why Geerhardus Vos warns us that there is a certain sense in which the best interpreter of difficult prophecies is its fulfillment in history.

Progressive Dispensationalists have made some very important steps in the right direction in their understanding the nature of the Kingdom. In Russell Moore’s book, The Kingdom Of Christ, he gives a lot of weight to the already/not yet aspects of the Kingdom found in Scripture. My question is, can this view be held consistently outside of either a Post- or Amillennial framework?

I have found George Ladd’s book The Presence of the Future, helpful in this regard. He was historic premill, and yet took the already/not yet data of the NT quite seriously. But the major problem for all forms of millennialism is the discussion between this age and the age to come (which runs parallel to the discussion of the kingdom). This distinction between “this age” and the “age to come” not only supports the presence of the kingdom in the midst of this age (through word and sacrament), but anticipates its consummation in the age to come (the not yet). Whenever this age is mentioned in the NT, it is tied to things temporal. But whenever the age to come is mentioned, it is tied to things eternal. Thus when Christ comes back and consummates the present kingdom, there is no place for a half-way renewed earth (as in premillennialism) or a consummate kingdom (of some sort) before Christ’s return (as in postmillennialism).

Many times Amillenarians are accused of spiritualizing texts. Some of my dispensational friends in the blogosphere characterize the Amillennial position as a, “Yeah, OK, whatever,” approach to biblical prophecy. As an Amillennialist who has written books on biblical prophecy, what is your response to these accusations?

These characterizations usually stop after people actually read Reformed amillenniarians like Anthony Hoekema, Geerhardus Vos and Meredith Kline. While people may not agree with them, if you have taken the time to interact with these men you know that they are Christ-centered and taking biblical texts very seriously. You also need to refute their arguments from Scripture.

What about the allegation that Amillenarians do not read the Bible literally?

These allegations have great rhetorical effect (like the charge made by postmillennialists that amillennialism is inherently pessimistic), but have little or no basis in fact. I would argue that allowing the New Testament writers to interpret the Old Testament is to take the “plain sense” of the text, and that it is the dispensationalist who must take the text literalistically when they allow an Old Testament prophet to over-ride the clear teaching of the New Testament. Acts 15:15-18 is a great example of this where James quotes a passage from Amos which refers to Israel, and then applies this to the Gentiles. Is James not taking the Bible literally or “spiritualizing prophecy?”

You said that you are writing a new book on eschatology. Are you at liberty to discuss the contents of this new book? If so, what are the major themes addressed? Is this a book I need?

I am working on a book proposal for a book on the future, which answers the question, “OK, Mr. Amillennialist. What remains to be fulfilled? What has already been fulfilled?” I’ll keep you all posted as to its progress.

Thank you for your patience with me, and your willingness to serve Christ through your ministries of radio, writing, Pastoring, and (my favorite) blogging.

Happy to do it!

Dr. Riddlebarger’s blog, The Riddleblog, is a blog devoted to reformed theology and eschatology.
To ask Dr. Riddlebarger a question about eschatology, click here. Serious questions only, please.
For a ‘Listmania’ list of Dr. Riddlebarger’s various writings at Amazon.com, click here.

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The Kingdom Of Christ: Present And Future

Luke 17:20-37

Introduction: There are many opinions regarding the Kingdom of God today. On the one hand, some see the kingdom as a totally future reality, and relegate Christ’s kingship to the ‘sweet by and by’. On the other hand, others see the Kingdom as a merely internal enterprise, and work to bring forth a Utopian government where everyone simply co-exists. Our text quotes Jesus as saying, “The Kingdom is within you” (verse 21), is taken out of context and misinterpreted to mean that the Kingdom is in our hearts, which the whole rest of the Bible, nor this text support.We do not desire to be on either side of this debate, but rather, we desire to see the truth that Jesus teaches in these verses concerning the true nature of the Kingdom. This is not an easy task. The answers that we uncover lead to more questions, but as we shall see, these questions are sufficiently answered in this text.First, the Kingdom is already here. Second, it is not here yet. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The Kingdom is in your midst!”, speaking of it’s present reality. But He also tells the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one the days of the Son of Man, but you will not,” speaking of it’s future fulfillment. So we come to this text, recognizing that there is both a present reign of Christ from Heaven, and a future reign of Christ on the earth. This Kingdom of God has always been in power, but it has not always been obeyed. So it is in this sense that the Kingdom has already come, and yet is coming to reclaim it’s place on the earth.This raises some very interesting questions, doesn’t it? When we affirm that the Kingdom is present and yet future, we might ask, “When did the Kingdom come?”, “Where is the Kingdom?”, and “When will the fulfillment of the Kingdom take place?”These are some of the questions that Christ answers for us in our text.

I. When Did The Kingdom Come?
In the Old Testament the Kingdom is seen as constantly coming, yet never arriving. Or put better, the Kingdom of God arrives with creation, then again with the formation of Adam, then with the calling of Abraham, with the Exodus from Egypt, with the giving of the law, with the possession of the land, with the deliverance by the judges, with the reign of David, with Solomon, and with the return from captivity. Yet in all these ‘arrivals’, there is a sense of anticipation for the arrival of the Kingdom in the person of the Messiah. This arrival is anticipated because of the rebellion of mankind on the earth. We have rebelled against the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is here, but it is coming to exert it’s rule over us. As we read back into history, the specific place that we see the Kingdom of God arriving in judgment is in the Person of Christ.

A. The Kingdom arrives with the Christ.
The Messiah is prophesied to be the Son of David. In both Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels, Jesus’ genealogy is traced through the line of King David, pointing to Jesus as the rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom. While Jesus is still in the womb, an angel appears to Joseph telling him that Jesus would save ‘His people’, pointing to the fact that this baby would have subjects. An angel tells Mary that Jesus would sit on the throne of David and that His Kingdom would be without end. After His birth the wise men came looking for the one who had been born ‘King of the Jews’. Before Jesus was revealed in His public ministry John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, was preaching “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Jesus Himself begins His public ministry by announcing that “the Kingdom is at hand.”
In our text Jesus tells the Pharisees who come to Him mockingly asking when He would set up His Kingdom, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (20-21 ESV) Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Do you want to see the Kingdom? Here I am. I am standing among you now.” In a very real sense, Jesus is the Kingdom. Without Him there is no Kingdom. He is the Kingdom personified. Where Christ is, there is the Kingdom.

B. We also see in this text that the Kingdom does not come until Christ is crucified. (verse 25)
When Christ begins to tell His disciples about the coming Kingdom, He prefaces it by saying that first “He must suffer…and be rejected by this generation.” When John the Baptist and Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was near, they preached it as a reason to repent. In fact their messages involved little more at times it seems than the command to repent. This repentance was necessary because of the judgment that must take place at the coming of the Kingdom. So when Christ tells His disciples that He (the King) must suffer and be rejected, we are to understand that He is referring to the judgment that comes before the Kingdom arrives. Jesus takes this judgment at the cross! In an unprecedented move, Jesus inaugurates His kingdom on this earth by taking the judgment that sinners deserved in His own body, removing the need for judgment upon those who formerly had rebelled against the Kingdom reign but now have subjected themselves to Christ’s authority through repentance and faith!

C. This present Kingdom manifested itself in power on the day of Pentecost.
The promised Spirit descended and filled the Apostles, who preached the Gospel of the Kingdom from Psalm 16, a prophecy from King David. Acts 2:25-36

D. The Kingdom will arrive in full at Christ’s return.
There is yet a day when the Kingdom will come with all of it’s glory and power, the day when the Son of Man is revealed. this coming of Christ will be accompanied by judgment upon all those who did not press into His kingdom through faith and repentance. This is a secret day, when men and women are busy living their lives with no thought of a day of reckoning. Up until the day that the rains began, in spite of the preaching of Noah, everyone continued in their own ways. And Sodom and Gomorrah did not know that judgment was coming until it had fallen upon them. Even so in the days when the coming Kingdom is revealed with the appearing of Christ in the skies, people will be ill-prepared. They do not look for judgment because they have not believed the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom. they have not pressed into the Kingdom and so they are excluded from it as rebels and traitors to their rightful King.

II. Where is the Kingdom?, and, When will it’s fulfillment take place?
Properly speaking, the Kingdom of God is everywhere. More specifically, it is where Christ the King is.

A. Regarding it’s present status on earth, it is in the midst of the Church as John sees the risen Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks. Rev 1:13, 20
Daniel prophesied of the Kingdom that would come and expand on the earth until finally one day the whole earth would be filled with it’s glory. This is the location of the Kingdom today. And as the Church is in the midst of the world, Christ said that the “Kingdom is in the midst of you.” The Kingdom is now close by, and ready to accept those who surrender their own petty kingdoms built by hand. The Kingdom is where the Christ is, in Heaven, in the Church, and among believers. It is present now, waging battle against all those who do not believe the truth. It is seen when judgment falls on sinners. It is seen when sinners repent and believe the Gospel.

B. The fulfillment of the Kingdom is yet future.
It takes place at a time we do not know. There are signs that accompany the coming of the Kingdom. These signs are economic, political, and geographical upheaval. These are always taking place, making it difficult to discern when the Kingdom will come. Some continually see these signs over and over and wrongly say that the Kingdom is not coming…that it is a myth. But we do have the assurance that it will come. Christ has promised that He will return. Retail stores sell there greatest inventory around Christmastime. When Christmas draws near they will put up a sign that says, “Only 100 more shopping days till Christmas!” This is not how Christ has revealed His return. HE has not sent an angel every day, week, month, or year to announce how much time is left before His return. Instead, he has told us here that His return and the coming of His Kingdom is sudden. When we do not expect it, He will return. When he returns judgment follows Him, but after judgment, everlasting peace. We will reign with Him as kings and priests on the earth. We are given the counsel to be ready through the examples of the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. We are to watch for it, not continually gazing at the sky, or fitting pieces of the newspaper into our eschatological timetable, but living every moment in the light of Christ’s promise to establish His kingdom on the earth.
We also see that Christ’s return is universal. He tells His disciples, “Don’t follow those who would say they know the timing and place of the my return. Just like when lightning flashes across the skies and you can see it from far off, everyone will see me at my return.” We must be prepared for this moment in history. He will not return in phases giving ample time for warning of His arrival. When He arrives, He is here. No second chances. “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” Rev 22:11

Conclusion: The twin truths of God’s present Kingdom and the Kingdom to come must motivate us to Kingdom living now, so that we will be identified as true citizens then. How is it that we should live? The Kingdom is present, so live under the laws of the kingdom and under the Kingship of Christ.The Kingdom is coming, so watch for it and be found faithful to the King.The Kingdom is present, so live in the light of the Kingdom.The Kingdom is coming, so let your light shine in this present evil, dark age.The Kingdom is present, so live as in the presence of the reigning King. The Kingdom is coming, so hope in the fact that you will see the face of the King. The Kingdom is present, so live rejoicing in your inheritance.The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to possess your inheritance.The Kingdom is present, so worship the King.The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to worship the King in complete Holiness.The Kingdom is present, so partake of the Lord’s Supper. Matt 26:26-29The Kingdom is coming, so prepare for the feast of the Lamb.The Kingdom is present, so be sanctified.The Kingdom is coming, so prepare for glorification.The Kingdom is present, so repent and believe the Gospel.The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to meet your God.

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A Reminder…Stay Awake!

Here are some verses to think about as you finish out the last couple of days of the work week. In them we are reminded of the return of our Lord, to stay awake, and what it means to stay awake. (Hint: It’s not staring into the east.) That’s all the commentary needed.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mar 13:32-37)

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1Th 5:1-10)

“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom 13:11-14)

“Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” (1Co 15:34)

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” (Rev 3:1-6)

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Defining ‘Amillenialism’

Here’s a definition of Amillenialism I found in the glossary of my Baptist Study Bible.

Amillenialism. The initial “a” is a negative particle; therefore the term means “no millennium.” Adherents to this system of thought anticipate no future earthly manifestation of Christ’s kingdom. They view passages such as Rev. 20:1-6 as figurative and in some sense fulfilled through the reign of Christ (1) in the hearts of believers, and/or (2) in heaven, meaning that to them we are in the Millennium now.

I already know what I think, you tell me what you think about this definition.

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