Jews Come Home to Jesus

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Nearly sixty thousand Jewish people live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area I call home. More than five million live in the United States, and over fourteen million in the world. The vast majority do not embrace Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. In fact, they believe that to do so would mean the end to their true Jewishness.

Even though thousands of Jewish people embraced Jesus in the early days of the Christian church (three thousand in Acts 2:41; at least another two thousand in Acts 4:4), some also claimed that Christians aimed to “destroy [the temple] and change the customs that Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14).

Nevertheless, the first and greatest Christian missionary, a Jew himself and former Pharisee, the apostle Paul, protested that he was “saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Messiah must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23).

Great Sorrow, Unceasing Anguish

“Most Jewish people still turn away from Jesus as the one who fulfills God’s promises in the Jewish Scriptures.”

There have always been Jewish people in every generation who have believed this — that Jesus did not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” but “to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). But the great sadness of true Christians — along with humiliation and grief at the way Jews have been treated through the centuries — is that most Jewish people still turn away from Jesus as the one who fulfills the promises of God in the Jewish Scriptures.

This rejection brought anguish to that great Jewish missionary and apostle. The most poignant words Paul ever wrote concerned his Jewish kinsmen:

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1–3)

Great sorrow and unceasing anguish. This is simply astonishing. “Great” and “unceasing.” Nothing else burdened Paul like this. I have often wondered how he kept on going. He had evidently learned a rare secret: that it is possible to be profoundly restful and content at the same time as being profoundly sorrowful (Philippians 4:11–12). In fact, he said he lived “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Reject Jesus, Reject God

Out of this mysterious mingling of joy and sorrow, his prayers overflowed for his Jewish people: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Which means that his sorrow and his prayers were moved by the heart-wrenching reality that they were not “saved” — that Jews who reject Jesus reject eternal life. When Paul’s message about Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders in Antioch of Pisidia, he said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

This is the heart of the matter. The good news of Jesus, coming and dying for sinners and rising again, was for Israel first. But that privilege did not mean Jewish people would escape judgment if they rejected the good news of Jesus.

To the Jew First

“Jesus did not come as one among many ways to God. He came as the true and only Jewish Messiah.”

A priority is given to the Jewish people in the Christian mission. Jesus himself came first “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24), not to the Gentiles. Only later did the good news for Israel spill over for all the nations (Matthew 8:11; 21:43; 28:19–20). The first missionaries of the Christian church preserved that priority for Jewish people in evangelism. “[The gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This was God’s design: “God, having raised up his servant [Jesus], sent him to you [Israel] first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).

But neither Jesus nor his apostles taught that this priority meant Israel would be rescued from judgment in spite of turning away from Jesus. Jesus did not come as one among many ways to God. He came as the true and only Jewish Messiah and Mediator between God and man. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And he taught plainly that to reject him was to reject God. Accepting him was the litmus test of whether anyone’s claim to know God was real. For example, he said,

  • “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19)
  • “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23)
  • “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:42–43)
  • “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” (John 8:42)
  • “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)
  • “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)

So, it is not only the apostle Paul who says that the Jewish people who reject Jesus as the Messiah also reject eternal life, but Jesus himself said the same thing: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Great Hope for Israel

“The New Testament holds out spectacular hope for the people of Israel.”

But in spite of these weighty warnings, the New Testament holds out spectacular hope for the people of Israel. The apostle Peter calls Israel to “repent . . . that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19–20).

Then, more fully than anyone in the New Testament, Paul unfolds the hope of the gospel for Israel. Not only is there a “remnant, chosen by grace” in every generation who will believe on Jesus (Romans 11:5), but also the day is coming when the “full inclusion” of Israel will turn to Jesus and be saved (Romans 11:12).

As a Gentile, I am, so to speak, a wild olive branch, not a natural one. The “olive tree” of the Abrahamic covenant is not “naturally” mine. But because Jesus is the Messiah for all peoples, I am grafted in “contrary to nature.” I owe my salvation to inclusion in the Jewish tree. With this analogy, Paul argues, “If you [Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural [Jewish] branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree” (Romans 11:23–24). Then, stunningly, he says, “In this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Tragic Present, Glorious Future

This New Testament picture of the glorious future of Israel in relationship to Jesus, together with the picture of the tragic present of Israel out of relationship to Jesus, is what makes my heart ache for ethnic Jews today. Perhaps you have Jewish friends who fear that faith in Jesus would be an end to their Jewishness.

Consider the words of Jewish Christian Avi Snyder:

“Let’s not give up on praying for a great ingathering of ethnic Jews for Jesus in our day.”

Faith in Yeshua is not a threat to our Jewish existence. Rather, faith in Yeshua is an affirmation of our identity as Jews. The God who saved us through our faith in Jesus is the very God who deepens our Jewish identity through that very same faith. More often than not, Jewish people who believe in Yeshua experience a heightened commitment to their Jewish heritage and roots. By coming to Jesus, we discover that we’ve come home.

Let’s not give up on praying for a great ingathering of ethnic Jews for Jesus in our day, and let’s heed Snyder’s plea that we Gentile Christians not give up on getting the Messiah’s gospel to his kinsmen:

Silence about the gospel is not love. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of my people. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of any people.

The Charge of Replacement Theology is a Cover for Fuzzy Theology

Joseph Farah of WND (WorldNetDaily) has written the following in an article titled “To those Israel-rejecting Christians. . .”:

“[A]n evil doctrine known as Replacement Theology, every bit as ugly as Liberation Theology, has taken root in the church. I’m sorry to say it, but you’ve got to discard or allegorize much of the Bible to adopt either one of these views and still call yourself a Christian.”

Here’s a challenge, Joseph. Set up a debate with Joel Rosenberg and me on the meaning of Ezekiel 38 and 39 to see who “allegorizes.” Like the “Replacement Theology” straw man, someone who does not agree with the modern-day, end-time approach to Bible prophecy is labelled an “allegorizer.”

Replacement Theology is defined as the belief that the Church has replaced Israel and that God is finished with the Jews. Joseph Farah leaves the impression that there is a causal relationship between his straw man version of Replacement Theology and the rise of anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews. The next sentence that follows his “evil doctrine” claim above is this gem:

Meanwhile, Jewish children are being executed in cold blood on videotape in France. Some of the most well-known “Christians” in America are trying to find common ground with Muslims, who they claim worship the same god.

Because of my work on this topic, I was asked by WND Commentary Editor Ron Strom if I had “any interest in writing a response” to Joseph’s article. In fact, I had been working on a response before I received Ron’s email. There is so much I would like to say about what Joseph has written, but I’m going to restrain myself and deal with the theological heart of the issue: why the charge of Replacement Theology is a cover for fuzzy theology and for hiding the fact that modern-day prophetic speculation has distorted the Bible, not only on the topic of Bible prophecy, but on its impact on culture as well.

This article can’t begin to do with all that needs to be discussed. If you are truly interested in this topic, take a look at my books Last Days Madness, Is Jesus Coming Soon?, The Early Church and the End of the WorldLeft Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction, and 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered (among others).

The charge of Replacement Theology is a cheap way to end any discussion on the relationship between Israel and Christianity. Notice I did not say “Israel and the Church.” It’s like calling someone a “racist” in a discussion about race, or a “homophobe” in a discussion about homosexuality. “Replacement Theology” is a more discreet way of calling someone an anti-Semite without ever sitting down to discuss the real issues. Here’s a typical definition:

[A] theological perspective that teaches that the Jews have been rejected by God and are no longer God’s Chosen People. Those who hold to this view disavow any ethnic future for the Jewish people in connection with the biblical covenants, believing that their spiritual destiny is either to perish or become a part of the new religion that superseded Judaism (whether Christianity or Islam).1

As anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Christianity does not “supersede Judaism” and Christianity is not a “new religion.” Messiah-anity is about Jesus as the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Did Jesus fulfill His mission, or didn’t He? Did He “redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21) or didn’t He?:

And [Jesus] said to [His disciples], “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. . . .

Then [Jesus] told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures  (Luke 24:25–27, 44–45).

The genealogies found in Matthew and Luke clearly show that Jesus is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). The first New Covenant believers were from the nation of Israel (Luke 1–2) with hints of a later expanded redemptive role for Samaritans (John 4:7–45), Greeks (John 12:20–22), the nations (Luke 2:32), and the world (John 3:16; 4:42; 1 Tim. 3:16). At Pentecost, we see that the gospel was preached to “Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). This was no new thing; it was Jesus’ mission. It’s why He was born and predestined to die (Acts 2:23).

Gentile believers were grafted into the Jewish assembly (ekklēsia) of believers (Rom. 11:17–24) and were given “the same gift,” the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:38). There’s one olive tree, not two; one Spirit, not two; “one new man” in Christ, not two (Eph. 2:15). Pentecost was not the beginning of the “church” since Peter declares that the events of that day were a fulfillment of a prophecy given to Joel, an Old Testament prophet: “this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28–32). Peter’s message was to “all the house of Israel” (Acts 2:36). When these Israelites asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (2:37), Peter replied: “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord God shall call to Himself” (2:39).

Israel’s spiritual destiny is the same as it is for non-Israelites: Repent and believe in Jesus as the Messiah! No one said anything about a postponement in the promises that had been made to Israel. In fact, Peter clearly told his fellow-countrymen that the promises were for them and their children right then and there (2:38). They didn’t have to wait 2000 years for God to renew His covenant for a later remnant. Jesus said as much when He met His disciples on the road to Emmaus.

The Church could not replace Israel because the Greek word ekklēsia translated “church” is not something new to the New Testament. Ekklēsia was used many times in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX) for the Hebrew word qāhāl. Both qāhāl and ekklēsia are best translated as “congregation” or “assembly.”2 Earl D. Radmacher writes, “[T]his Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures was the Bible of the early church. . . . Thus, when the writers of the New Testament, whose Bible was the Septuagint, used ekklēsia, they were not inventing a new term.3 They found the term in common use and simply employed what was at hand.”4

William Tyndale’s translation makes this point, and it got him in big trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. The Tyndale New Testament, the first English translation to use the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, did not use the word “church.” Tyndale (1494–1536) chose the words “assembly” and “congregation”5 to translate ekklēsia. Here is how Tyndale’s translation handled the first two appearances of ekklēsia in the New Testament (spelling modernized):

  • “And upon this rock I will build my congregation: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
  • “If he hear not them, tell it unto the congregation: if he hear not the congregation, take him as an heathen man, and as a publican” (Matt. 18:17).

Stephen describes Israel as the “ekklēsia in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). Most translations get it right by translating ekklēsia  as “congregation.” Ekklēsia appears again in the next chapter: “And on that day a great persecution began against the church [ekklēsia] in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (8:1).

Thomas More protested Tyndale’s use of “congregation” as the proper translation of ekklēsia because it called into question the entire ecclesiastical structure of the church’s hierarchy. For his efforts, Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536 for defying church authority, opposing the Church by promoting doctrines such as sola Scriptura, justification by faith alone, the denial of purgatory, questioning the number of sacraments, and translating particular words that could lead the laity to believe that the Church’s authority was limited. That included his more accurate translation of ekklēsia as “congregation” and not “church.”

One of the Rules to be Observed in the Translation of the [King James] Bible required the following: “The old Ecclesiastical Words to be kept, viz. the Word Church not to be translated Congregation &c.”6 This time “the Anglican establishment,”7 wanted to impose on ekklēsia a contemporary “ecclesiastical” understanding of the word rather than its biblically contextual definition. Because of Rule 3, the hands of the translators were tied since they were in the employ of the king.

This means that the argument that there is a distinction between Israel and the church is false. The first believers in Jesus were Jews and they made up the first members of the New Testament ekklēsia which was an extension of the Old Testament ekklēsia. There is redemptive continuity between the testaments. Jesus didn’t come to start something new. We know from the book of Acts that probably tens of thousands of Jews came to Jesus as the Messiah. Remember, the gospel was to be preached throughout the cities of Israel before the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 10:23). We also know that the gospel was preached throughout the Roman Empire where probably a million or more Jews embraced Jesus as the promised Messiah (Rom. 1:8; 10:11–21; 16:25–26; Col. 1:6, 23).

The way Joseph Farah and other prophecy writers tell the story, the promises made to Israel have been postponed until a future time when God will once again deal with Israel as a separate redemptive people. We were told that this happened in 1948 and the “rapture” would take place within 40 years. You can read about the math in Hal Lindsey’s 1970 bestseller the Late Great Planet Earth and in the prophecy writings of Chuck Smith and others. For nearly 2000 years, so the theory goes, God has being dealing with His “church,” but one day He will get back to Israel. The Bible does not teach anything like this. God does not postpone His covenants.

Consider God’s covenant with Noah. He promised never to flood the Earth again like He did in Noah’s day. But what if God decided to postpone the covenant, to put it on hold for a time, so he could work with another group of people? During the time of the postponement, God sent another flood. Would God have been a covenant breaker? Not if we follow the logic of those who argue that we are living in a time when God is dealing with His “church” and not Israel.

Dispensationalists claim that their particular brand of eschatology is the only prophetic system that gives Israel her proper place in redemptive history. This is an odd thing to argue since in the dispensational view of the Great Tribulation, two-thirds of the Jews will be slaughtered (Zech. 13:8). Charles Ryrie writes in his book The Best is Yet to Come (except if you’re a Jew) that during this post-rapture period Israel will undergo “the worst bloodbath in Jewish history.”8

Dispensationalists don’t interpret “all Israel” (Rom. 11:26) to mean every Israelite who has ever lived. They don’t even understand “all Israel” to mean every Jew alive during the post-rapture great tribulation period since they believe that two-thirds of them will be slaughtered (Zech. 13:8). They mean by “all Israel” the remnant, what’s left of Israel after the antichrist has his way with the newly constituted nation. To get this remnant, two-thirds of the Jews have to be killed in another holocaust.

Joseph, you might want to see how this view of the end times affected the way some prophecy writers took a “hands off” approach when they heard how Jews were being persecuted. Like you, they argued that it was “predicted.” I tell the story in my book Last Days Madness.

John Walvoord follows a similar line of argument:

“Israel is destined to have a particular time of suffering which will eclipse any thing that it has known in the past. . . . [T]he people of Israel . . . are placing themselves within the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the land of Palestine.”9

Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that during the Great Tribulation “Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 12:1–17). As a result of this persecution of the Jewish people, two-thirds are going to be killed.”10 Since Joseph Farah is concerned about the Jewish people, as I am, he needs to deal with those who are predicting a new holocaust. The problem is, Joseph writes, “In fact, it is predicted.” If it’s predicted, then there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

According to the view espoused by Joseph and others, Israel has waited thousands of years for the promises finally to be fulfilled, and before it happens, two-thirds of them are wiped out. Those who are falsely charged with holding to “Replacement Theology” believe in no such inevitable future Jewish bloodbath. In fact, we believe that the Jews will inevitably embrace Jesus as the Messiah this side of the Second Coming. The fulfillment of Zechariah 13:8 is a past event (Matt. 3:7; 21:42–46; 22:1–14; 24:15–22). Those who believed Jesus’ words of warning at the impending destruction of Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70 were delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).

Conclusion

In Jeremiah 31:35–36, God promised the following to Israel: “Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,’” declares the Lord, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever. Jeremiah 31:7 continues: “Thus says the Lord, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah’s prophecy was given more than 2500 years ago. Prior to 1948 and after A.D. 70, Israel had not been a nation. So we have a few interpretive choices regarding the Jeremiah passage: (1) God lied (impossible); (2) the promise was conditional (not likely); the promise was postponed (always the dispensationalist answer and untenable); (4) or the fulfillment was fulfilled in the new nation that grew out of the New Covenant made up of Jews and non-Jews(most likely). Consider what Jesus tells the religious leaders of His day:

“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them” (Matt. 21:43–45).

Peter, quoting portions of the Old Testament related to Israel, raises the nation issue as it pertain to “the sons of Israel” (Ex. 19:6): “But you are ‘a chosen race,’ a royal ‘priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,’ so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were ‘not a people,’ but now you are ‘the people of God; you had ‘had not received mercy,’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10). Does this not fulfill what is promised to Jeremiah? There is no need of a parenthesis, a postponement of covenant promises, for a future fulfillment. Peter is clear that a new nation of believers in Jesus Christ has been founded made up of Israelites and non-Israelites.

We need to stop teaching the two-people of God gospel, which is no gospel at all. There is one gospel and one people of God if they are in Jesus Christ: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17)

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  1. Randall Price, Unholy War: America, Israel and Radical Islam (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001), 412. []
  2. Even modern-day Hebrew translations of the Greek New Testament translate the Greek ekklēsia as the Hebrew qāhāl. []
  3. Following the LXX, the sacred assembly of Israel was the “ekklēsia of the LORD” (Deut. 23:1). “The people of God” are “in the ekklēsia” (Judges 20:2). Solomon took “all the ekklēsia” to Gibeon where the ark was (2 Chron. 1:3). There the ekklēsia inquired of the Lord (2 Chron. 1:5). When the temple was completed, Solomon blessed “all the ekklēsia of Israel” (1 Kings 8:14; cp. 8:22, 55; 2 Chron. 6:3). If this verse were in the NT, it would read “all the church of Israel.” When Solomon stands before the altar and prays, he is “before all the ekklēsia of Israel” (2 Chron. 6:12). The “ekklēsia of the LORD” was the covenantal assembly of Israel (Deut. 4:10). []
  4. Earl D. Radmacher, What the Church is All About: A Biblical and Historical Study (Chicago: Moody Press, [1972] 1978), 121, 132. Radmacher argues that “although the etymological associations of ekklesia have their unquestionable bearing upon the significance of the term, the deciding evidence must be drawn from the exhaustive investigation of its actual use in the New Testament. While it is true that historical continuity seems to demand that the early appearance of the word ekklesia in any new literature should simply suggest ‘assembly,’ it is also true that the Holy Spirit frequently lifts words from their current usages to a higher plane of meaning and packs into them such vast new content as their etymologies will scarcely account for. Whitney states: ‘Philologists agree that the final authority of any word does not lie in its etymological or historical connotation but in its actual use’” (132). That is the question. What is its actual use and meaning in the New Testament? []
  5. William Tyndale, “Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue” in The Works of William Tyndale, 2 volume work (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1849–1850), 2:13–16. []
  6. Quoted in David Daniell, The Bible in English: It’s History and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 439. []
  7. Alister McGrath, In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 172. []
  8. Charles C. Ryrie, The Best is Yet to Come (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 86. []
  9. John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 107, 113. Emphasis added. []
  10. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262. []

Augustine, Pilate, and the Kingdom of God

January 06, 2017

by William Edgar

Augustine is rightly regarded as the greatest theologian of the ancient church. On so many matters, his views have shaped Christian thought in a God-centered way. But in his approach to culture, there are some defects, in my opinion. In his remarkable study of paganism, City of God, Augustine compares two great realms, the City of God and the City of Man. A great deal can be said about Augustine’s philosophy of history and the contrast between these two dominions. He is not always consistent in his descriptions of the differences. But here is what can be said. While not entirely separate in this present world, the two cities (which are not urban centers, but spheres of life) are ordered by opposing principles. Here is how he describes our relationship to them:

We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God. The Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self. In fact, the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord. (Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans, 14.28)

The contrast is sharp. The so-called wise people of the earthly city live by men’s standards, and pursue the “goods of the body or of their own mind, or both.” In the heavenly city humankind’s only wisdom is “the devotion which rightly worships the true God.”

We who are from the heavenly city lead “what we may call a life of captivity in this earthly city as in a foreign land.”

The question Augustine raises for us is whether Christians should have anything to do with the City of Man. He does argue further that though the earthly city is temporal, Christians need to live alongside others and to join them in the pursuit of peace and other earthly necessities. Yet they do so with different motives: “Thus both kinds of men and both kinds of households alike make use of the things essential for this mortal life; but each has his own very different end in making use of them.” But still the differences in the cities themselves are great. We who are from the heavenly city lead “what we may call a life of captivity in this earthly city as in a foreign land.”

Though we should tremble to disagree with Augustine, what emerges here, corresponding no doubt to his stage in church history, is the absence of a proper grounding in the doctrine of creation. Still in part influenced by Plato, what Augustine calls the earthly city is quite different from God’s good creation infected by sin. The difference is crucial. If all we share with the earthly city is the quest for peace and “things essential for mortal life,” we are far short of a fully biblical position on the dynamics of creation-fall-redemption, are we not?

Facing Pilate 

We must now ask, what does Jesus mean when he tells Pilate his kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36)? Does this statement somehow support Augustine’s position? Does it mean his kingdom has nothing to do with this world at all? That would be odd, since he spent so much time with people and their worldly needs, helping the poor, healing the disabled, blessing a wedding, and so on. Remember that Jesus is here on trial because the Jews resented his claims to be God, which they saw as the capital crime of blasphemy. As they were not allowed to enact the death penalty, they brought him to Pilate and tried to convince him that Jesus was a threat to Roman supremacy. According to Roman law, only Caesar was god, or at least a demigod, the denial of which was a treasonable offense. The Roman government was empowered to deliver the death penalty.

At the Roman trial, to Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus might, once again, have fallen into a great trap. If he answered yes, then the prefect could legitimately have put him to death, since such a kingship might be a threat to Caesar’s regime. If he answered no, then Pilate could have returned him to the Jews, something he had hoped he could do from the beginning, but which would not have been quite true, for Jesus was and is a king. As we know, Jesus answered neither yes nor no, but, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He added that were it so his servants would have fought against the Jews. Jesus did not come to establish a Jewish theocracy on earth. Yet he was a king, and as such came to inaugurate a radically different kingdom, the kingdom of God. This is the truth to which he came to witness (Jn 18:36–38).

Thus Jesus’s kingdom is not of this corrupt, sin-infested world, even though he rules all things. But his kingdom has everything to do with the world he was redeeming, wherein truth and righteousness would reign.

Such a kingship is not unrelated to this world, nor to its institutions. Note the significant conversation that occurs in the next episode. To Pilate’s threat, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” he answered, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (Jn 19:10–11). Here Jesus acknowledges the legitimacy of the civil government, much in the way implicit in the episode about the coin. Whereas Pilate no doubt believed there was no higher authority than Caesar, Jesus, while not denying the legitimate authority of the Roman government, at the same time saw all of creation, including provincial government, as functioning under God’s authority.

If Jesus had meant that his kingdom had nothing at all to do with the present world or with government, then presumably neither the Jewish Sanhedrin nor the Roman proconsul would have felt so threatened by him. But the Jews knew perfectly well that his claim to be “of the truth” was a challenge to their religious system, wherein they had vested an exaggerated authority in the scribes and Pharisees. And the Romans knew that his claim that their authority derived not from Caesar but from God was a challenge to their hegemony. Yet to properly understand God’s supremacy over all things is not to degrade, but rather to uphold human institutions.

If we understand the claims of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven in this way [as a threat to both Roman and Jewish authority], we can see how relevant those claims are to every kind of human responsibility on earth, including human government. Jesus did not teach that his shepherding was “spiritual” and unrelated to life in this world. He did not say that his authority to teach disciples touched only theological matters. He did not say teach that the brotherly, sisterly love he was urging his disciples to practice was sacred in contrast to their “secular” family relationships. To the contrary, the mission of Jesus in announcing the fulfillment of God’s purposes with creation was to reconcile and redeem all that is human. (James Skillen, The Good of Politics, 9–12)

Thus Jesus’s kingdom is not of this corrupt, sin-infested world, even though he rules all things. But his kingdom has everything to do with the world he was redeeming, wherein truth and righteousness would reign.

Taken from Created and Creating: A Biblical Theology of Creation by William Edgar. Copyright (c) 2017 by William Edgar. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

A true theological account of the Birth of Christ – VIII. The Kingly Office

As the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son, Christ naturally shares the dominion of God over all His creatures. His throne is established in the heavens and His Kingdom ruleth over all, Ps. 103:19. This kingship differs from the mediatorial kingship of Christ, which is a conferred and economical kingship, exercised by Christ, not merely in His divine nature, but as Theanthropos (the God-man). The latter is not a kingship that was Christ’s by original right, but one with which He is invested. It does not pertain to a new realm, one that was not already under His control as Son of God, for such a realm can nowhere be found. It is rather, to speak in the words of Dick, His original kingship, “invested with a new form, wearing a new aspect, administered for a new end.” In general we may define the mediatorial kingship of Christ as His official power to rule all things in heaven and on earth, for the glory of God, and for the execution of God’s purpose of salvation. We must distinguish, however, between a regnum gratiae and a regnum potentiae.

A. THE SPIRITUAL KINGSHIP OF CHRIST.

1. THE NATURE OF THIS KINGSHIP. The spiritual kingship of Christ is His royal rule over the regnum gratiae, that is over His people or the Church. It is a spiritual kingship, because it relates to a spiritual realm. It is the mediatorial rule as it is established in the hearts and lives of believers. Moreover, it is spiritual, because it bears directly and immediately on a spiritual end, the salvation of His people. And, finally, it is spiritual, because it is administered, not by force or external means, but by the Word and the Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth and wisdom, of justice and holiness, of grace and mercy. This kingship reveals itself in the gathering of the Church, and in its government, protection, and perfection. The Bible speaks of it in many places, such as, Ps. 2:6; 45:6,7 (cf. Heb. 1:8,9); 132:11; Isa. 9:6,7; Jer. 23:5,6; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 6:13; Luke 1:33; 19:27,38; 22:29; John 18:36,37; Acts 2:30-36, and other places. The spiritual nature of this kingship is indicated, among others, by the fact that Christ is repeatedly called the Head of the Church, Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19. This term, as applied to Christ, is in some cases practically equivalent to “King” (Head in a figurative sense, one clothed with authority), as in I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22; 5:23; in other cases, however, it is used in a literal and organic sense, Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:18; 2:19, and in part also Eph. 1:22. The word is never used (except it be in I Cor. 11:3) without the implication of this organic conception. The two ideas are most intimately connected. It is just because Christ is the Head of the Church that He can rule it as King in an organic and spiritual way. The relation between the two may be indicated as follows: (1) The headship of Christ points to the mystical union between Christ and His body, the Church, and therefore belongs to the sphere of being. His kingship, however, implies that He is clothed with authority, and belongs to the judicial sphere. (2) The headship of Christ is subservient to His kingship. The Spirit which Christ, as the Head of the Church, imparts to it, is also the means by which He exercises His royal power in and over the Church. Present day Premillenarians strongly insist that Christ is the Head of the Church, but as a rule deny that He is its King. This is tantamount to saying that He is not the authoritative Ruler of the Church, and that the officers of the Church do not represent Him in the government of the Church. They not only refuse to admit that He is the King of the Church, but deny His present kingship altogether, except, perhaps, as a kingship de jure, a kingship which is His by right but has not yet become effective. At the same time their practice is better than their theory, for in practical life they do, rather inconsistently, recognize the authority of Jesus Christ.

2. THE KINGDOM OVER WHICH IT EXTENDS. This kingdom has the following characteristics:

a. It is grounded in the work of redemption. The regnum gratiae did not originate in the creative work of God but, as the name itself indicates, in His redeeming grace. No one is a citizen of this kingdom in virtue of his humanity. Only the redeemed have that honour and privilege. Christ paid the ransom for those that are His, and by His Spirit applies to them the merits of His perfect sacrifice. Consequently, they now belong to Him and recognize Him as their Lord and King.

b. It is a spiritual Kingdom. In the Old Testament dispensation this kingdom was adumbrated in the theocratic kingdom of Israel. Even in the old dispensation the reality of this kingdom was found only in the inner life of believers. The national kingdom of Israel, in which God was King, Lawgiver, and Judge, and the earthly king was only the vicegerent of Jehovah, appointed to represent the King, to carry out His will, and to execute His judgments, was only a symbol, and a shadow and type of that glorious reality, especially as it was destined to appear in the days of the New Testament. With the coming of the new dispensation all the Old Testament shadows passed away, and among them also the theocratic kingdom. Out of the womb of Israel the spiritual reality of the kingdom came forth and assumed an existence independent of the Old Testament theocracy. Hence the spiritual character of the kingdom stands forth far more clearly in the New Testament than it does in the Old. The regnum gratiae of Christ is identical with what the New Testament calls the kingdom of God or of heaven. Christ is its mediatorial King. Premillenarians mistakenly teach that the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven,” as they are used in the Gospels, refer to two different realities, namely, to the universal kingdom of God and the future mediatorial kingdom of Christ. It is perfectly evident, as some of their own leaders feel constrained to admit, that the two terms are used interchangeably in the Gospels. This appears from the fact that, while Matthew and Luke often report the same statements of Jesus, the former represents Him as using the term “kingdom of heaven,” and the latter substitutes for it the term “kingdom of God,” compare Matt. 13 with Mark 4; Luke 8:1-10, and many other passages. The spiritual nature of the kingdom is brought out in several ways. Negatively, it is clearly indicated that the kingdom is not an external and natural kingdom of the Jews, Matt. 8:11,12; 21:43; Luke 17:21; John 18:36. Positively, we are taught that it can be entered only by regeneration, John 3:3,5; that it is like a seed cast into the earth, Mark 4:26-29, like a mustard seed, Mark 4:30, and like a leaven, Matt. 13:33. It is in the hearts of people, Luke 17:21, “is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” Rom. 14:17, and is not of this world, but a kingdom of the truth, John 18:36,37. The citizens of the kingdom are described as the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure in heart, and those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. The spiritual nature of the Kingdom should be stressed over against all those who deny the present reality of the mediatorial kingdom of God and hold that it will take the form of a re-established theocracy at the return of Jesus Christ.

In connection with the present day tendency to regard the kingdom of God simply as a new social condition, an ethical kingdom of ends, to be established by human endeavors, such as education, legal enactments, and social reforms, it is well to bear in mind that the term “kingdom of God” is not always used in the same sense. Fundamentally, the term denotes an abstract rather than a concrete idea, namely, the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners. If this is clearly understood, the futility of all human efforts and of all mere externals is at once apparent. By no mere human endeavors can the rule of God be established in the heart of a single man, nor can any man be brought to a recognition of that rule. In the measure in which God establishes His rule in the hearts of sinners, He creates for Himself a realm in which He rules and in which He dispenses the greatest privileges and the choicest blessings. And, again, in the proportion in which man responds to the rule of God and obeys the laws of the kingdom, a new condition of things will naturally result. In fact, if all those who are now citizens of the Kingdom would actually obey its laws in every domain of life, the world would be so different that it would hardly be recognized. In view of all that has been said, it causes no surprise that the term “kingdom of God” is used in various senses in Scripture, as, for instance, to denote the kingship of God or of the Messiah, Matt. 6:10; the realm over which this rule extends and the condition of things to which it gives rise, Matt. 7:21; 19:23,24; 8:12; the totality of the blessings and privileges that flow from the reign of God or of the Messiah, Matt. 13:44, 45; and the condition of things that marks the triumphant culmination of the reign of God in Christ, Matt. 22:2-14; Luke 14:16-24; 13:29.

c. It is a kingdom that is both present and future. It is on the one hand a present, ever developing, spiritual reality in the hearts and lives of men, and as such exercises influence in a constantly widening sphere. Jesus and the apostles clearly refer to the kingdom as already present in their time, Matt. 12:28; Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13. This must be maintained over against the great majority of present day Premillenarians. On the other hand it is also a future hope, an eschatological reality; in fact, the eschatological aspect of the kingdom is the more prominent of the two, Matt. 7:21,22; 19:23; 22:2-14; 25:1-13,34; Luke 22:29, 30; I Cor. 6:9; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; I Thess. 2:12; II Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; II Pet. 1:11. Essentially the future kingdom will consist, like that of the present, in the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of men. But at the glorious coming of Jesus Christ this establishment and acknowledgment will be perfected, the hidden forces of the kingdom will stand revealed, and the spiritual rule of Christ will find its consummation in a visible and majestic reign. It is a mistake, however, to assume that the present kingdom will develop almost imperceptibly into the kingdom of the future. The Bible clearly teaches us that the future kingdom will be ushered in by great cataclysmic changes, Matt. 24:21-44; Luke 17:22-37; 21:5-33; I Thess. 5:2,3; II Pet. 3:10-12.

d. It is closely related to the Church, though not altogether identical with it. The citizenship of the kingdom is co-extensive with the membership in the invisible Church. Its field of operation, however, is wider than that of the Church, since it aims at the control of life in all its manifestations. The visible Church is the most important, and the only divinely instituted, external organization of the kingdom. At the same time it is also the God-given means par excellence for the extension of the kingdom of God on earth. It is well to note that the term “kingdom of God” is sometimes employed in a sense which makes it practically equivalent to the visible Church, Matt. 8:12; 13:24-30, 47-50. While the Church and the kingdom must be distinguished, the distinction should not be sought along the lines indicated by Premillennialism, which regards the kingdom as essentially a kingdom of Israel, and the Church as the body of Christ, gathered in the present dispensation out of Jews and Gentiles. Israel was the Church of the Old Testament and in its spiritual essence constitutes a unity with the Church of the New Testament, Acts 7:38; Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:7-9,29; Eph. 2:11-22.

3. THE DURATION OF THIS KINGSHIP.

a. Its beginning. Opinions differ on this point. Consistent Premillenarians deny the present mediatorial kingship of Christ, and believe that He will not be seated upon the throne as Mediator until He ushers in the millennium at the time of His second advent. And the Socinians claim that Christ was neither priest nor king before His ascension. The generally accepted position of the Church is that Christ received His appointment as mediatorial King in the depths of eternity, and that He began to function as such immediately after the fall, Prov. 8:23; Ps. 2:6. During the old dispensation He carried on His work as King partly through the judges of Israel, and partly through the typical kings. But though He was permitted to rule as Mediator even before His incarnation, He did not publicly and formally assume His throne and inaugurate His spiritual kingdom until the time of His ascension and elevation at the right hand of God, Acts 2:29-36; Phil. 2:5-11.

b. Its termination (?). The prevailing opinion is that the spiritual kingship of Christ over His Church will, as to its essential character, continue eternally, though it will undergo important changes in its mode of operation at the consummation of the world. The eternal duration of the spiritual kingship of Christ would seem to be explicitly taught in the following passages: Ps. 45:6 (comp. Heb. 1:8); 72:17; 89:36,37; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44; II Sam. 7:13,16; Luke 1:33; II Pet. 1:11. The Heidelberg Catechism also speaks of Christ as “our eternal king.” Similarly the Belgic Confession in article XXVII. Moreover, the kingship and the headship of Christ are inextricably bound up together. The latter is subservient to the former, and is sometimes clearly represented as including the former, Eph. 1:21,22; 5:22-24. But, surely, Christ will never cease to be the Head of His Church, leaving the Church as a body without a Head. Finally, the fact that Christ is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, would also seem to argue in favor of the eternal duration of the spiritual kingship of Christ, since His mediatorial office is after all a unit. Dick and Kuyper, however, argue that this kingship of Christ will cease when He has accomplished the salvation of His people. The only passage of Scripture to which they appeal is I Cor. 15:24-28, but this passage evidently does not refer to Christ’s spiritual kingship, but to His kingship over the universe.

B. THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST OVER THE UNIVERSE.

1. THE NATURE OF THIS KINGSHIP. By the regnum potentiae we mean the dominion of the God-man, Jesus Christ, over the universe, His providential and judicial administration of all things in the interest of the Church. As King of the universe the Mediator so guides the destinies of individuals, of social groups, and of nations, as to promote the growth, the gradual purification, and the final perfection of the people which He has redeemed by His blood. In that capacity He also protects His own against the dangers to which they are exposed in the world, and vindicates His righteousness by the subjection and destruction of all His enemies. In this kingship of Christ we find the initial restoration of the original kingship of man. The idea that Christ now rules the destinies of individuals and nations in the interest of His blood-bought Church, is a far more comforting thought than the notion that He is now “a refugee on the throne of heaven.”

2. THE RELATION OF THE REGNUM POTENTIAE TO THE REGNUM GRATIAE. The Kingship of Christ over the universe is subservient to His spiritual kingship. It is incumbent on Christ, as the anointed King, to establish the spiritual kingdom of God, to govern it, and to protect it against all hostile forces. He must do this in a world which is under the power of sin and is bent on thwarting all spiritual endeavors. If that world were beyond His control, it might easily frustrate all His efforts. Therefore God invested Him with authority over it, so that He is able to control all powers and forces and movements in the world, and can thus secure a safe footing for His people in the world, and protect His own against all the powers of darkness. These cannot defeat His purposes, but are even constrained to serve them. Under the beneficent rule of Christ even the wrath of man is made to praise God.

3. THE DURATION OF THIS KINGSHIP. Christ was formally invested with this kingship over the universe when He was exalted at the right hand of God. It was a promised reward of His labors, Ps. 2:8,9; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11. This investiture was part of the exaltation of the God-man. It did not give Him any power or authority which He did not already possess as the Son of God; neither did it increase His territory. But the God-man, the Mediator, was now made the possessor of this authority, and His human nature was made to share in the glory of this royal dominion. Moreover, the government of the world was now made subservient to the interests of the Church of Jesus Christ. And this kingship of Christ will last until the victory over the enemies is complete and even death has been abolished, I Cor. 15:24-28. At the consummation of all things the God-man will give up the authority conferred on Him for a special purpose, since it will no more be needed. He will return His commission to God, that God may be all in all. The purpose is accomplished; mankind is redeemed; and thereby the original kingship of man is restored.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY: In whom was Christ typified as prophet in the Old Testament? How were the true prophets distinguished from the false? How did prophets and priests differ as teachers? What was characteristic of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek? Were the sacrifices of Cain and Abel piacular? On what grounds do Jowett, Maurice, Young, and Bushnell deny the vicarious and typico-prophetical character of the Mosaic sacrifices? What is the difference between atonement, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption? What accounts for the widespread aversion to the objective character of the atonement? What arguments are advanced to disprove the necessity of the atonement? Why is penal substitution practically impossible among men? Does the universal offer of salvation necessarily imply a universal atonement? What becomes of the doctrine of the atonement in modern liberal theology? What two parakletoi have we according to Scripture, and how does their work differ? What is the nature of the intercessory work of Christ? Are our intercessory prayers like those of Christ? Is Christ ever called “King of the Jews”? Do Premillenarians deny only the present spiritual kingship of Christ or also His Kingship over the universe?

LITERATURE: Bavinck, Geref. Dogm. III, pp. 394-455, 538-550; Kuyper, Dict. Dogm., De Christo, III, pp. 3-196; Vos, Geref. Dogm. III, pp. 93-197; Hodge, Syst. Theol. II, pp. 455-609; Shedd, Dogm. Theol. II, pp. 353-489; Dabney, Syst. and Polemic Theol., pp. 483-553; Dorner, Syst. of Chr. Doct. III, pp. 381-429; IV, pp. 1-154; Valentine, Chr. Theol. II, pp. 96-185; Pope, Chr. Theol. II, pp. 196-316; Calvin, Institutes, Bk. II, chaps. XV-XVII: Watson, Institutes II, pp. 265-496; Schmid, Doct. Theol. of the Ev. Luth. Church, pp. 344-382; Micklem, What Is the Faith?, pp. 188-205; Brunner, The Mediator, pp. 399-590; Stevenson, The Offices of Christ; Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord; Meeter, The Heavenly HighPriesthood of Christ; A. Cave, The Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice; Faber, The Origin of Expiatory Sacrifice; Davison, The Origin and Intent of Primitive Sacrifice; Symington, Atonement and Intercession; Stevens, The Christian Doctrine of Salvation; Franks, History of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ (2 vols.); D. Smith, The Atonement in the Light of History and the Modern Spirit; Mackintosh, Historic Theories of the Atonement; McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; Bushnell, Vicarious Sacrifice; Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation; Kuyper, Dat de Genade Particulier Is; Bouma, Geen Algemeene Verzoening; De Jong, De Leer der Verzoening in de Amerikaansche Theologie; S. Cave, The Doctrine of the Work of Christ; Smeaton, Our Lord’s Doctrine of the Atonement; ibid., The ApostlesDoctrine of the Atonement; Cunningham, Historical Theology II, pp. 237-370; Creighton, Law and the Cross; Armour, Atonement and Law; Mathews, The Atonement and the Social Process; and further works on the Atonement by Martin, A. A. Hodge, Crawford, Dale, Dabney, Miley, Mozley, and Berkhof.

The Risen Star of Jacob

 December 12, 2016

by Iain Duguid

In Balaam’s final oracle he announced that a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel, a great king who would definitively crush all of her enemies (Numbers 24:17–19). In that day, pride of place would not be sufficient to keep Israel’s adversaries safe: the Amalekites, who were “first among the nations,” would come to ruin (24:20). A secure location would be no defense either: the Kenites would be flushed out of their rocky lair (24:21). Even those whom God used to destroy those nations would themselves ultimately go down in defeat at the hands of others—the Assyrians who would overcome and enslave the Kenites would themselves be subdued in due time by a warlike power from across the sea (24:24). Meanwhile, those who brought low the Assyrians would themselves come to ruin in the end (24:24). Who can endure this great day of the Lord’s wrath (24:23)?

This final oracle thus spans the entire sweep of human history. Nation after nation will rise to world domination and then fall to defeat. But when the messianic King arrives on the scene, no people other than Israel, the nation set apart, will survive the final day of destruction. At the end of all things, when all of human history has played out its course of changing fortunes, the Lord’s people will be the only ones left standing.

If it is true that Israel as God’s people has a unique relationship with the Lord that means both their present blessing and final security, then they are indeed to be envied. If the Lord has chosen Israel to be his own and has promised to be with them in the past, the present, and the future, then Balaam’s wish is understandable: “Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!” (23:10). When you even out the merely temporary fluctuations in the fortunes of people and nations, there are ultimately only two fates offered in this world. There is the Lord’s blessing leading to a flourishing life and an enviable death or the Lord’s curse leading to defeat and ultimate destruction.

Yet the coming of the star that Balaam foresaw wasn’t entirely what you might have predicted. At the birth of Jesus, a heavenly star indeed rose over Israel to mark where the infant King lay. Yet the baby King lay in a manger, not in a palace, and those drawn by the star were not Israelites but foreign Magi, students of signs and portents as was Balaam, who came from the east, Balaam’s former home (Matthew 2:1–12). King Herod, an Edomite by descent, was not instantly crushed by the coming of this new King but continued his rule, slaughtering scores of innocent children in Bethlehem. The rising of this star in Christ’s first coming did not yet bring about the total destruction of the nations, for Jesus had come first to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to . . . Israel” (Luke 2:32). Yet in another way, his coming was exactly what Balaam anticipated: those who, like the Magi, blessed the new Israel, Jesus, and submitted to him found a blessing for themselves. Meanwhile, those who cursed this new Israel found themselves under a curse, just as the Lord had promised Abraham (24:9; see Genesis 12:3). What is more, the day is yet coming when God’s final judgment will be delivered on Herod and on all those who stand against him and his anointed.

Israel’s Blessing Fulfilled in Christ

What that means, then, is that these oracles for Israel are precious promises for us. Some Christians believe that Old Testament promises that speak of “Israel” are only intended for ethnic Israel and not for the church. For them, Balaam’s prophecies speak of a glorious future for the physical descendants of Israel, but they would call any attempt to apply these promises to the church “replacement theology.” I would suggest that this is a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach about Israel. It is not that the church has replaced Israel in the New Testament so much as that Old Testament Israel—ethnic Israel—finds its true goal and fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is himself the star of Jacob, the Israel of God.

In Jesus, the star of Jacob has risen for us and for our salvation.

In the person of Jesus, therefore, the true Israel has arrived, and all those who come to God by faith in him—Jews and Gentiles alike—become God’s children and are thereby incorporated into this new people of God (John 1:11, 12). In Christ, Jews and Gentiles together become the true heirs of the promise given to Abraham, his spiritual descendants (Galatians 3:29). Outside of Christ, on the other hand, there is no longer any true Israel. It is those who are in Christ who are the true chosen people: a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). We have been chosen by God for exactly the same special relationship that he had with his Old Testament people. In his incredible grace and mercy, God chose us before the foundation of the world, so that we might be blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3, 4). He has rescued us from the final judgment that awaits all those who remain outside his people and has given us the glorious inheritance of a relationship with himself. In Jesus, the star of Jacob has risen for us and for our salvation.

If this is so, then we may have the assurance of the Lord’s settled purpose to bless us in Jesus Christ. No one can rob us of that blessing, and nothing can prevent us from inheriting its promises. All those who trust in Christ and are united to him by faith will die the death of the righteous, for Christ’s righteousness is credited to them, exactly as if it were their own. Whatever life throws at each of us, it must therefore always be “well with my soul,” for Christ has died in our place and is now risen from the dead. If we keep our eyes on that reality, then none of the traumatic rises and falls in our temporal fortunes that are an inevitable part of life in this fallen world can ever completely shake us. We will be settled on a solid rock, established on a firm foundation. People may come and go: some will let us down and hurt us, while others, no matter how faithful, will ultimately die and leave us on our own. But God will still be there. Fortunes may be made and lost, houses may burn, stock markets may crash, and cars will inevitably rust. Yet in Christ, we have an inheritance that no misfortune can touch. At the end of the day, only God remains, and those upon whom his blessing rests.

Balaam’s Curse 

Ironically, though, Balaam never found that blessing. Even though he declared that he wanted to “die the death of the righteous” (23:10, NIV), once again his life didn’t match up to his words. If Balaam truly wanted to die the death of the righteous, the way to do so was to join the righteous during his lifetime. The Magi of Jesus’s day showed the way: he should have come to Israel’s God and laid his treasures at his feet. Had Balaam been willing to say goodbye to Balak and (more pertinently) to abandon his passion for Balak’s silver and gold, he could have received what he desired. The doors in Israel were open to aliens and strangers who wanted to abandon their old religions and join themselves to Israel and to her God. Sadly, though, money was more important to Balaam than achieving the death of the righteous. As a result, he stayed among the Midianites who opposed Israel and Israel’s God, and he died by the sword in their midst (31:8).

Come to Christ now, as the Magi did at his incarnation, and submit your life to his lordship.

It is a sobering reality to think that many people say they want to die at peace with God but are not willing to pursue peace with God while they live. Being reconciled to the Lord is not something we can put off until a more convenient time, for in all probability such a time will never come and we will die still in our sins, rebels against the Lord of Heaven and earth. A day is coming when the Star of Jacob will come to crush all such rebels and enemies. When Jesus returns to this earth, it will be as a warrior riding out for the final battle in which he will crush all of his enemies (Revelation 19:11). If we want to spend eternity under God’s blessing as part of his people, today is the day to enter into his favor. Come to Christ now, as the Magi did at his incarnation, and submit your life to his lordship. Ask for his forgiveness to cover your sins; receive his righteousness to clothe your spiritual nakedness. The door is open today for everyone who will come in and bow the knee willingly to the Lord to receive his blessing. So come, enter into his people. As you do so, you will receive his blessing, find peace in the midst of a tumultuous world, and be able look forward with joy to the day when his final victory will be accomplished.

This piece is adapted from Iain Duguid, Numbers: God’s Presence in the Wilderness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 286–289. Used with permission of the publisher.

Iain Duguid

Dr. Duguid (PhD, Cambridge) is professor of Old Testament at WTS.

Rebuttal to Classic Premillennialism

By Jay Rogers
Published April 2008

In rebutting classic premillennialism, it should first be noted that there is a great area of agreement between classic premillennialists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists.

All Christians agree that the church, called “the Bride” and “the New Jerusalem” in Revelation 20, exists both in heaven and on earth prior to the Second Coming. We agree that Revelation 20 describes the final attack of Satan’s forces against Christ and the church. All Christians agree that Christ will return in bodily form at the end of history to judge the living and the dead.

We should agree that the events that are to precede the Second Coming are as follows:

  • The universal diffusion of the Gospel will occur in history; or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect; this is the primary calling and purpose of the church.
  • The conversion of the Jews is to be national. (As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion will be national, although some may remain hardened.)
  • After the Great Commission is fulfilled, there will be a general apostasy, which will occur for a brief time prior to the Second Coming of the Lord.

We should agree that the events of the Second Coming are as follows:

  • The resurrection of the dead, of the just and of the unjust.
  • The final judgment.
  • The end of the world.
  • The consummation of Christ’s kingdom.

This is called the “common church doctrine,” because it has been the prevalent idea among all Christians for 2000 years. For the first few hundred years of church history, the common doctrine did not even have a name. There was no elaborate differentiation of millennial theories such as is found among today’s Bible scholars. It was simply the broad statement of faith of the Apostle’s Creed and the teachings of the church fathers.

The Rift in the Common Eschatology of the Church

At face value, there is no great contradiction between premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism in light of the common church doctrine. The common church doctrine is that there is to be a personal, visible, and glorious advent of the Son of God. The main debate between premillennialists, amillennialists and postmillennialists is over the exact chronology of end-times events, and more importantly, the exact nature of the millennium. Is Christ’s rule during the millennium heavenly or earthly? Is there a thousand year gap between the Second Coming and the final judgment? Are certain biblical passages to be understood as end-times events or as already fulfilled prophecy? Is Revelation to be interpreted literally or figuratively?

Two of the most common objections to postmillennialists are that we spiritualize too much of the book of Revelation and that we postmillennialists are people who want to establish Christ’s kingdom on earth by “taking over the world using the arm of the flesh.”

Earthly Rule vs. Heavenly Rule

The debate between earthly rule vs. heavenly rule is not new. Classic Premillennialism has been a view of the church since the early centuries. At that time, the idea was called chiliasm (also known as millennarianism). Chiliasm is derived from Greek word for “thousand,” kilo. A chiliast is a person who teaches that the “thousand year” reign of Christ depicted by John in Revelation 20, is an earthly, immanent kingdom.

Yet if Revelation 20:9 is read through a premillennial filter (with Christ ruling from an earthly Jerusalem during a future 1000 year period), then Christ will rule from an earthly Jerusalem in Palestine. Even more problematic is the teaching that Christ’s kingdom is postponed until the Second Coming.

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

“Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (Mt. 28:18).

“The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your foot- stool’” (Acts 2:34-35).

“Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15).

“[God] raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21).

“Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

“For here [on earth] we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:13-14).

“But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country … for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16).

Postmillennialsits try to be as consistent as possible with the whole Bible’s teaching on the kingdom of God. According to Jesus, the kingdom of God is not earthly but heavenly, yet Christ rules over the nations from heaven now. Christ does not have to wait to be given earthly authority, because it has already been given.

Throughout history, premillennialists have often made predictions as to the exact date of the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. The year 1000 A.D. was thought to be the time off Jesus’ Second Coming by chiliasts of that era. So too, the year 2000 is thought to be somewhere near the “end-times.” The Bible teaches that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); nor does it consist of earthly things (Rom. 14:17). Jesus said to His disciples concerning His Second Coming: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His authority” (Acts 1:7).

The Second Coming and the Final Judgment

Premillennialism teaches that there is a 1000-year gap between the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment. The resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of the wicked are also separated by a thousand years. (The dispensational premillennialist view separates these two events by 1007 years.) Both the postmillennialist and amillennialist view maintain that these events are virtually simultaneous. Which view does the Bible support?

“… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe” (2 Th. 1:7-10).

“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death…. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:23-25, 50-54).

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Pet. 3: -12).

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John. 5:28-29).

Through a careful examination of these scriptures and others describing the Second Coming, I found no evidence for a premillennial advent. In fact, I came to believe that the Bible explicitly teaches a simultaneous Second Coming and final judgment.

What then can be the meaning of the millennium in Revelation 20? Many Christians throughout history have assumed that the millennium cannot be here now, because of “all the evil things that are going on in the world.” As evidence of this, the scripture is given that Satan is still the “prince of this world” (John 16:11) and therefore Christ’s rule has not yet come.

As supposed proof that the millennium is a future, earthly kingdom, Stortz quotes Revelation 20:3: “He threw Him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nation anymore until the thousand years were ended.” Stortz thus argues, “This is not the Millennium, because Satan is still deceiving the nations.”

While it is true that Satan is not bound in every respect, it is still true that Satan is bound in respect to having dominion over the heathen nations. Until Christ came, the Satan was not bound in this manner. But ever since the Gospel of the kingdom was preached, this power of hell has been vanquished. Jesus states in John 16:11 that although Satan is the “prince of this world,” that he is already judged by God. In fact, Jesus demonstrated his dominion over demons as a sign that the kingdom had indeed come. “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

Postmillennialists view the millennium as the metaphor to describe the reign of Christ’s kingdom in history. Although the kingdom won’t come in its fullness until Christ returns, the kingdom has already come through the ministry of Christ. Although it is a heavenly kingdom with the seat of authority in heaven, it is also manifest in the earth.

Futurism vs. Preterism

Since premillennialists interpret the millennium to be a future earthly kingdom, they also assign nearly every biblical prophecy in Daniel, Matthew 25 (the Mount Olivet Discourse) and Revelation (as well as many other “apocalyptic” passages in scripture) to the future and usually the not-too-distant future.

My interpretation of most of the book of Revelation is preterist. That is, most of the book of Revelation (and the Mount of Olivet Discourse) deals with first century events. Daniel deals mainly with events leading up to the first coming of Chris, not his Second Coming. These are not primarily eschatological books, although the Second Coming comes into view in these prophecies.

Daniel Interpreted

I agree with Storz’s critique of the popular dispensational approach to Daniel. There is no break in the 70 years of Daniel that leads us to the time of Christ and picks up again during a future “end-times” tribulation. I see this seventy years as continuous. My main disagreement with Storz is that although he correctly sees Daniel as fulfilled prophecy, he still places the book of Revelation in the far off future. Daniel is, in fact, the back drop to Revelation. This is an interpretive approach little understood in our day. This situation underscores my contention that the main issues between postmillennialists and other vew, arise not just from our different interpretation of Revelation 20, but from a vastly different hermeneutical approach to the entire Bible.

Many Bible interpreters, especially premillennialists, have sought to apply a futurist interpretation placing at least some of the events described in chapters 2, 7-12 as yet to take place. The best possible explanation of Daniel is preterist interpretation. The events described in Daniel were fulfilled at or before the time of Christ. This position creates the least amount of problems from an interpretive standpoint. Only a fair knowledge of ancient history is needed to do this. Nevertheless, there are few commentaries on the bookshelves today fully describing the preterist point of view.

From our perspective today, an understanding of Daniel is paramount to understanding the Mount of Olives Discourse in Matthew 24, Luke 20 and Mark 13. In two of these passages, Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation refereed to in the prophecy of Daniel.” In Mark 13:14, the author inserts the aside: (“let the reader understand”).

“Understand what exactly?” one might ask.

Obviously, from the context, we must understand this passage of Daniel. And unless we have the correct interpretation of Daniel, we will not be able to understand the Mount of Olives Discourse. Therefore, a historical approach to Daniel is necessary for understanding the purpose of the book of Daniel. Daniel was a prophecy given so that the restored Jews would know the times and events surrounding the coming of the Messiah. That is the main purpose of Daniel chapters 2, 7-12.

I cannot in so short a space, include my entire interpretation of Daniel from a preterist approach. However, I will present a short preterist interpretation of Daniel chapters 2, 7, 9-12. I will conclude by showing the flaws in futurist approaches. What follows is not meant to be a complete commentary on the entire book of Daniel or even an exhaustive treatment of the passages quoted here. I am here merely interpreting the language and symbols of the predictive passages by applying them to known historical events.

Daniel 2 — In this chapter, Daniel interprets a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar. It’s important to note that Daniel had apparently had the same dream or vision, because he first tells the king the contents of the dream he had. Daniel then interprets the dream.

36. This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
39. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.

Another kingdom inferior to thee — This refers to the Medes and the Persians.

Another third kingdom of brass — This refers to the conquest of the world by Alexander the Great.

40. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.

The fourth kingdom — The successors of Alexander, the kings of Syria and Egypt, arose after Alexander’s untimely death. This includes the entire Greco-Roman period including the Roman Empire. Up until the time of the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire was plagued by numerous civil wars. Although some commentators disagree here, the fourth kingdom is thought to include the entire time from Alexander until the rule of the ten kings, the Roman Emperors, who brought Pax Romana (“peace”) to the Empire.

41. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
42. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

Iron mixed with miry clay — This refers to the military might of the Roman Empire which brought a forced union of all the nations of the world including the nations of Judea and Samaria. Thus the seed of men are the Jews at the time of the Roman Empire who were mixed with the iron military might of the Empire, but did not come fully under the dominion of Caesar.

44. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

And in the days of these kings — Simply put, in the days of the Roman Empire. At that time, the kingdom of God will be brought to earth by Jesus Christ shall never be destroyed but it shall war against the kingdoms of this world and they shall become part of the kingdom of God and of His Christ (Rev 11:15).

45. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

The stone made without hands — This does not refer to Jesus the Messiah himself as many futurists have imagined. But it is stated plainly that the stone is the kingdom of God. This kingdom appeared in the days of the Roman Empire at the coming of Christ.

Daniel was rewarded for telling the dream and giving the interpretation. The king made Daniel the ruler over Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego became rulers over the provinces of Babylon.

Daniel 7 — Another king arose in Babylon. Daniel now has great authority in the kingdom. In this chapter, it is Daniel himself who relates a vision and its interpretation.

1. In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
2. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
3. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
4 . The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
5. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
6. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

Four great beasts — These again are the four great kingdoms, the Chaldean, Medio-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. This is the same vision as in chapter two, but with different symbolism. While some choose to understand the fourth beast as the successors of Alexander, especially the kings who ruled in Asia and Syria, the thrust of the whole prophecy of Daniel indicates that it is the Roman Empire at the time of the coming of Christ.

Ten horns — These are the ten kings also mentioned in Revelation 17:12. These ten kings are the ten Emperors of the Roman Empire to 70 AD. The Roman Emperors were greater than all the other world rulers before him. Including Julius Caesar, there are ten Emperors until the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. They are Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian. The reign of these kings parallel the period of the ministry of the Messiah and of the Apostles.

8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Another little horn — Some have applied this to the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes shorrtly after the time of Alexander. Antiochus’ desecration of the Temple in 336 BC is prophesied in Daniel 8:9. But keeping with the consistent application of this passage to the Roman Empire, I must conclude that this speaks of Nero Caesar. He is the little horn “among them” the sixth of the ten Emperors. Thus he is “another little horn.”

Three of the first horns plucked up by the roots — Three Emperors, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius were assassinated to make way for Nero, who was not in the line of succession.

9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

The Ancient of days — This passage speaks of God the Father. This is one of the Old Testament passages in which we see the three persons Trinity. Some interpret the “fiery stream” a symbolizing the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

The beast was slain — This speaks of the destruction of the Roman Empire and especially of Nero who committed suicide by slaying himself with a military sword used to kill many people.

12. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.

As concerning the rest of the beasts — After Nero, the power of the Roman Emperors was greatly diminished, yet they continued.

13. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

The Son of Man — This speaks of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is fully God and fully man. In the Gospels, Jesus identities himself as the “Son of man” in order to identify himself as the Messiah.

14 . And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Dominion, and glory, and a kingdom — Christ was given the keys of the kingdom by God the Father when he sat down at the right hand of God after His resurrection and ascension. This kingdom is not a future kingdom. It began in the days of the Roman Empire. It overcame Rome and will overcome all the kingdoms of this world. It will last forever.

15. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
16. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
17. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
18. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.

The saints of the most High shall take the kingdom — Here is a dominion mandate given not only to Christ, but to the saints. We are to possess the whole kingdom the whole world for the dominion of Jesus Christ. This commission was given at the time of Christ.

19. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
20. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.

Before whom three fell — During the life-time of Nero three Caesars were assassinated in order to make way for him. These were Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius.

21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;

The same horn made war with the saints — Nero began a persecution of the saints which began in 63 AD and lasted until his death.

22. Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

Another shall rise after them — Nero was born one year after the death of the first Caesar Augustus. Nero was not in the direct line of succession, but three Emperors were assassinated to make way for him.

25. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

Until a time and times and the dividing of time — Literally, “time, times, half a time.” If we understand a time to mean a year, then it is three and a half years. Nero’s persecution of the church lasted exactly 42 months or three and a half years.

26. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
28. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

An everlasting kingdom — The purpose of this passage, and the entire prophecy of Daniel, is to give the Jews a correct understanding of the time when the Messiah would come and to declare when the kingdom of heaven would come on earth.

Daniel 9 — When Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, he alluded to Daniel stating that He was the Messiah, the Son of man spoken of by Daniel. In this chapter, the exact timing of the coming of the Messiah is given.

24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Seventy weeks of years, i.e., 490 years, are determined until the time of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.

25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

From the going forth of the commandment, etc.: i.e., from the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, when by his commandment Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2). From this time, according to the best chronology, there were just 69 weeks of years (483 years) to the baptism of Jesus Christ, when he first began to preach and execute the office of the Messiah.

Even in troublous times — This refers to the difficulties and obstacles Nehemiah met in building, and to the shortness of time in which they finished the wall, i.e., fifty-two days.

26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

And the people of the prince — The Roman legions under their general, Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian, who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.

27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

In the midst of the week, or, in the middle of the week — Christ preached for three-and a-half years and then by His sacrifice on the cross abolished all the sacrifices of the law.

The overspreading of abominations — This most likely refers to the “abomination of desolation” the bringing of ensigns and standards of the pagan Romans in to the Temple. Antiochus Epiphanes of the Assyrians profaned the Temple restored in the time of Ezra. Titus, Roman destructor of Herod’s Temple, profaned the Temple in 70 AD. This could also refer to the profanation of the Temple by the Jews who rejected the Messiah.

Daniel 10 — Beginning in Daniel 10 and throughout the rest of the visions, Daniel is given a list of kings who will drive most of world history until the time of the Messiah. Futurists will apply an interpretation to these chapters that puts all of these rulers in the future. However, a preterist approach is a great testimony to the power of the scriptures as God’s Word. It is amazing that these prophecies have been fulfilled to the minutest detail. here we have an accurate outline of history, prophesied even before any of the events took place, which point to the exact time of the coming of the Messiah. So that we should not miss the Messiah, the major world rulers of the fourth kingdom, Greece and Rome, leading up to the time of Christ are depicted. In Daniel 10, an angel appears to the prophet and gives an interpretation of a vision. This prophecy occurs during the reign of Cyrus, king of the Persians.

Daniel 11 — The angel shows Daniel the wars and succession of kings in the Persian and Grecian empires. The kings of Egypt and Syria are noted. Judea was between their dominions, and affected by their wars. The remainder of this chapter is controversial. Commentators differ much respecting it. Many commentators have interpreted these verses to pertain to a future antichrist, however, the context points us to Antiochus Epiphanes, the cruel and violent persecutor of the Jews. The end of chapter 11 brings us to the beginning of the Roman Empire, to “the days of those kings” (Daniel 2:44).

Daniel 12 — The end of the book of Daniel speaks to us about the events of the first century.

1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

There shall be a time of trouble — Refers to the great tribulation from 68 to 70 AD.

2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake — This refers to the gospel being preached. Many who sleep in the dust, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be awakened by it out of their heathenism of Judaism. And in the end the multitude that sleep in the dust shall awake; many shall arise to life, and many to shame.

3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

They that be wise shall shine — There is glory reserved for all the saints in the future state, for all that are wise, wise for their souls and eternity. Those who turn many to righteousness, who turn sinners from the errors of their ways, and help to save their souls from death (James 5:20) will share in the glory of those they have helped to heaven, which will add to their own glory.

4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

The time of the end — The time when these prophecies shall be fulfilled. This is not a reference to the “end-times.”

8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

Thousand two hundred and ninety days — This refers to the siege of Jerusalem from Spring 67 AD to the fall of the Temple in Sept. 70. Vespasian enters the Land in Spring 67, but Jerusalem does not fall until 70.

12 Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.

Thousand three hundred and five and thirty days — This is another 45 days beyond the time of trouble. Those who were forewarned and survived the holocaust were Christians living in Jerusalem who had been forewarned by Jesus’ prophecy to flee the city to the hills of Judea in order to wait out the siege.

13 But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.

The end of the days — The end of the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. This does not refer to the “end times” in an eschatological sense as many have supposed.

The Futurist and “Dual Fulfillment” Dilemma

After understanding the strong argument in favor of the preterist interpretation, many will readily admit that what I have described here is, more or less, the correct interpretation. Some scholars and Bible students, still wanting to cling to a futurist interpretation, then propose what is termed the “Dual Fulfillment Theory.”

It is obvious that most of Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled. Most futurists readily admit this, but do not make the historical applications to all of the kingdoms and rulers of ancient history as I have done here. What they do instead is to take some of the obscure passages and apply them to future events.

Could it be that prophecies work on a number of different levels? That it was, on one level, speaking about some things that were about to happen but that it could be speaking to us today about things that are about to take place? Is there such a thing as a “dual fulfillment” of the prophecies in Revelation?

Are we to believe that all of the details of Daniel , the Mount Olivet Discourse, and Revelation occur twice? Two six-sealed scrolls? Two beasts? Two groups of 144,000? Two Armageddons? Two Millenniums? On and on we could go. If you adopt a dual-fulfillment view, you are doing so on the basis of theological prejudice, not sound methods of interpretation.

Literal vs. Figurative

Postmillennialists are criticized when we understand “thousand” as a figurative term meaning a “very long time.” Ironically, premillennialists take very little of chapter 20 literally. Do premillennialists teach that armies in the future will be riding horses and using wooden weapons? Are there literally going to be two countries named Gog and Magog? It is impossible for premillennialists to be perfectly consistent in this approach.

When premillennialists insist that every “thousand” in the Bible be taken literally, I point them to the following passage.

“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9).

If a generation is at least forty years, and a “thousand generations” is taken literally here, then the Second Coming cannot occur until at least 40,000 years after Abraham still a long way off! So whether you must always take a “thousand” literally or not, postmillennialism is true in the respect that we still have a long way to go before Christ’s Second Coming.

For many, that will seem incredible. It cuts across the grain of the most recent popular teachings on the end-times. For years, Christians have been taught to expect defeat and a quick deliverance from tribulation. Yet postmillennial optimism is not a new idea. In fact, most Christians throughout history held to a hopeful eschatology. Most regarded the eschatology of defeat to be a tertiary heresy.

The Bible gives us the eschatology of victory. This is not blind optimism. There will be tribulation. But before the Second Coming of Christ, the Gospel will be preached and Christianity will take root, grow, and bear fruit throughout the world.


The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

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All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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Chapel speaker terms Calvinism ‘Trojan Horse’

A Southern Baptist seminary president said Nov. 29 that Baptists who adopt Calvinistic theology and practice ought to consider joining another denomination.

“I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the close of Tuesday’s chapel service. “It’s called Presbyterian.”

“I have great respect for them,” Patterson said. “Many of them, the vast majority of them, are brothers in Christ, and I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different.”

Rick Patrick

Rick Patrick

Patterson, co-engineer of the so-called conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention in the final two decades of the 20th century, commented immediately after chapel speaker Rick Patrick finished the morning sermon.

Patrick, executive director of Connect316 — a group formed in the summer of 2013 to counterbalance a number of new organizations promoting the New Calvinist perspective — argued that debate in the Southern Baptist Convention over Calvinism isn’t about just the single issue of how people are saved.

“Because Calvin’s Institutes address a broad spectrum of theological categories, we are actually debating much more than just the single issue of salvation,” said Patrick, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala. “If we are not careful a myriad of related beliefs and practices will enter our camp, hidden within the Trojan Horse of Calvinism.”

Patrick said the New Calvinism and the “traditionalist” position advocated in the past by former SBC leaders such as Herschel Hobbs and Adrian Rogers are “two competing systematic theologies” with disagreements as basic as whether the heavenly Father is a God of love.

“If God has chosen, actively or passively, before the foundation of the world to place the reprobate unconditionally into a category from which they can never possibly escape, then this is, as even Calvin admitted, a dreadful decree,” Patrick said. “I will never forget the first time a Calvinist looked me straight in the eye and said God does not love everybody. I was speechless, and frankly, that doesn’t happen much.”

Patrick said the Baptist Faith and Message endorses congregational church polity, “where decisions are pastor-led, deacon-served, committee-worked and congregation-approved.” Calvinists “are so fond of elder-led and sometimes even elder-ruled forms of polity,” he said, that one Calvinist made the claim that Congregational Government is from Satan.

“I was not so much troubled that he preferred Presbyterian polity to Southern Baptist polity, but I was troubled that he attributed to Satan a polity I believe comes from God,” Patrick said.

Patrick said Calvinists and Traditionalists differ over the question of whether man — made in the image of God – is able to freely respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the preaching of the gospel.

“I say yes, but many Calvinists would say no,” Patrick said. “I agree that I am unable to save myself, but I disagree that I am unable, humbly, to make the decision to accept Jesus’ offer to save me.”

While there appears to be no direct logical connection, Patrick said “almost every observer of New Calvinism points to the surprising partnership between New Calvinism and the charismatic movement.”

There’s also a correlation, he said, between New Calvinists and post-millennialism — or at the very least John Piper’s “optimistic premillennialism,” a hybrid view drawing from various end-times theologies but furthest away from dispensationalism, a view popularized by Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind novel series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

Patrick said Calvinism influences thinking on philosophy of missions and worship practices like altar calls and use of the “Sinner’s Prayer,” and on matters of private morality like drinking or smoking.

“Some New Calvinists, even pastors, very openly smoke pipes and cigars, just as they drink beer, wine,” Patrick said. “They may even home brew the beer themselves, attempting to use it as an outreach to identify with other smokers and drinkers.”

“Sin is not a form of outreach,” Patrick commented.

Patrick said some Calvinists even compromise on the bedrock of Baptist identity – believer’s baptism by immersion upon a profession of faith.

”Would you believe that some Southern Baptist churches today are receiving as members those who have merely been sprinkled but have never been immersed?” Patrick marveled. “Immersion is the only mode of baptism recognized in the Baptist Faith and Message. This creates an entire class of non-baptized Baptists, and this is prevalent especially among our Calvinistic churches, as they receive Presbyterians, for example, into their membership.”

“Southern Baptists cannot help but wonder what is happening as we increasingly embrace the Presbyterian view of salvation doctrine, church government, the mode of baptism, avoidance of the altar call, the use of beverage alcohol, the approval of societal missions funding and so on,” Patrick said.

“It is naïve to think that we can gradually reform our beliefs without simultaneously reforming our practices, and the question we must ask is whether or not these Reformed practices are making things better or worse,” he concluded.

Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2003, is one of more than 1,100 signers of A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation countering the New Calvinism posted on the Connect316 website.

Differences over Calvinism run deep enough to prompt formation of a Calvinism Advisory Committee aimed at diverting partisan division in Southern Baptist life which reported in 2013.