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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Studies in Eschatology [3]

Out with the Old, in with the New

The key factor separating the main eschatological systems is the hermeneutics employed to interpret scripture. Hermeneutics is a fancy way to describe the principles or rules a person uses to study the Bible so as to determine and understand what it says.

Now, one would think every Christian would be in agreement as to the hermeneutics we use when studying the Bible. For the most part Christians are. Yet, when it comes to certain aspects of church polity and eschatology, however, there is an obvious disagreement. What makes understanding these disagreements even more difficult is when the disagreeing groups all acknowledge the authority of God's Word and sincerely seek to utilize similar hermeneutics to defend their conclusions.

For example, all groups pretty much affirm the need to approach scripture with the historic-grammatical method of exegesis. That being, in order to properly understand a biblical text it must first be considered in the historic context in which the original author wrote it. Moreover, the student seeks to accurately handle the grammatical nuances of the original language in which the text was written so as to capture the meaning the author was attempting to convey to his readers. By using these two principles we draw the meaning out from the text, or what we call exegesis.

The disagreements regarding eschatology, then, is really not so much with how accurate or inaccurate one may be with his exegesis, but how he applies the exegetical data to the relevant eschatological passages. In this case, a person's denominational traditions, as well as chosen theological presuppositions, often shape the application of those hermeneutics when applied to eschatological scripture. The late theologian, Carl B. Hoch, notes, "The real culprit is theological systems that come into play and cause the exegesis of individual passages to differ" [Hoch, 267].

For instance, Sam Waldron is a Reformed Baptist who adheres to an amillennial view of eschatology. He complains bitterly against premillennialist John MacArthur's definition of "literal" when applied to the prophetic portions of Scripture. Sam is insistent the word "literal" is "not so easy to define" and that John must "qualify the meaning of 'literal interpretation'" to explain prophetic texts like Revelation [Waldron, 73, 74]. Both Waldron and MacArthur believe we need to understand the Bible "literally," but both have a differing definition of "literal." That difference is formed by theological presuppositions brought to the exegetical data.

I am endeavoring to interact with those disagreeing principles. As I noted in my last post, I believe there are at least three major theological presuppositions fueling the areas of disagreement.

The priority of the NT over the OT

A typological approach to understanding prophecy and fulfillment

No distinction between Israel and the NT Church

Let me begin with the first: The priority of the NT over the OT.

Those who hold to the Reformed view of eschatology believe there is a logical priority of the New Testament over the Old Testament [Wells & Zaspel, 13]. So much so that the OT can be, and in some cases, should be re-read and re-interpreted through the lens of the NT. There is reason for this logical priority: The NT is considered the greatest revelation; the apex or final revelation superseding the OT [Lehrer, 176]. Thus, because the NT is the final revelation of Jesus Christ, and the entire OT anticipates the coming of Christ, the only proper way to understand the OT is with the Christ of the NT directing us.

This interpretive principle attempts to answer the question as to whether the OT should be interpreted literally or spiritually [Feinberg, 110]. That is important to consider because a literal or spiritual interpretation plays heavily upon how we understand the OT promises and prophecies and how they are fulfilled in the NT. For example, will the promises by God to restore Israel to the land be fulfilled literally in a future millennium where Christ reigns in Jerusalem, or are they understood "literally" in a spiritual sense as being fulfilled in Christ establishing His Church in the whole world?

Note how this illustrates the distinction between Waldron's view of "literal" and MacArthur's view of "literal." MacArthur's view of "literal" means those OT promises given to the nation of Israel will be fulfilled "literally" with Israel being established as an ethnic geo-political kingdom in the city of Jerusalem with Christ reigning over all the world. Waldron's view, however, also believes the promises to Israel are "literally" fulfilled, but "literally" fulfilled in the coming of Christ to establish the NT Church. That is because the NT writers seem to take those OT promises given by God to Israel where He tells them they will be established as a physical kingdom which will reign over all the earth, and re-interpret them so as to apply to the gospel work of the Church. As the gospel goes throughout the world by the Church's evangelistic efforts, new converts are brought into the "Kingdom of God." But it is apparent that this "kingdom" isn't a geo-political kingdom, but a spiritual one made up of people from all over the world.

Theologian, Gary Long, represents the Reformed perspective of how Hebrews 11:9-16 is a clear example of the fuller, NT revelation reinterpreting the promises of the OT. He lists 5 NT maxims needful for guiding the interpretation of biblical prophecy [Long, 5]. The second maxim he says is necessary for interpreting prophecy states, "The NT teaches that Abraham looked for a heavenly country, which God promised him, not a future interim earthly country," and then he cites Hebrews 11:9-10 [Long, 8]. I will consider the Reformed perspective of Hebrews 11:9-16 in a later post, but suffice it to say, Long believes this passage is a clear NT reinterpretation of the OT land promises given to Abraham in Genesis. It is so clear, according to Long, that he makes it a key hermeneutical maxim for interpreting prophecy in general.

Those who hold to Reformed eschatology believe this principle of the NT priority over the OT because they are convinced Jesus Christ and the apostles utilized this principle in their teaching and writing. It is called the Christological and apostolic hermeneutic. If Peter, for example, took OT titles once applied to the nation of Israel and transferred those titles so as to describe the new relationship the NT Church has with God on account of Christ's work on the cross (1 Peter 2:9, 10), then it is only reasonable to conclude this principle should be used to interpret all the OT prophecies and promises to Israel. This is particularly true with regards to eschatological passages in the OT and how we understand their fulfillment in the NT.

This hermeneutical approach to understanding the OT does have a compelling appeal to it. However, I believe this Christological/apostolic hermeneutic that gives "logical" priority of the NT to re-interpret the OT is fraught with at least four problems.

1) Consistency. First of all, the NT writers are not always consistent with their interpretation of the OT. S. Lewis Johnson's study of the NT use of the OT shows there is not a consistent pattern of OT interpretation in the manner a Reformed eschatology requires. New Testament authors appeal to passages from the OT in a literal sense (the "MacArthur" understanding of "literal"), sometimes in a typological sense, and also in a direct fulfillment sense. Certainly as God progressively revealed His divine purposes from one generation to the next through the ministries of the prophets, His revelation came into sharper focus with the coming of Christ. We see NT writers drawing out unique application from the OT on account of Christ's coming, but they are not totally re-reading the OT with a new hermeneutic so as to strip it of all of what the original author's intended to convey. Hence, the idea there is an over-arching historic redemptive hermeneutic or some Christological/apostolic hermeneutic which re-interprets OT passages really is not found.

2) Perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity has the idea of clarity of understanding. If it is true OT passages have a deeper, hidden meaning that isn't correctly understood UNTIL the NT came along to interpret the passages correctly, how could the people of Israel who originally read the passage possibly have understood any significant portion of the OT? How would they have known if they were understanding the prophecy of a prophet clearly as it states, or if the prophecy was really irrelevant to them because they are only a shadow of a greater reality yet to come some 600 years later, or whatever? Old Testament prophecies would be meaningless to them.

But, a lack of perspicuity leads to a couple of other problems,

3) The Integrity of Scripture. The idea that the NT can re-interpret OT passages so as to reveal a correct meaning of a passage can shatter the integrity of scripture. Consider the typical Reformed understanding of the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31. The entire passage from Jeremiah 31:31-40 makes it clear this new covenant promised by God through the prophet is made with Israel and Judah. The Reformed perspective, however, points to how the book of Hebrews applies this passage to the Church and even though the original prophecy has the people of Israel and Judah as the recipients of the new covenant, the NT tells us the prophet Jeremiah was really speaking to a picture of the People of God. The prophecy was fulfilled with the real people of God, the Church, the Body of Christ [Lehrer, 174]. Swanson observes in response to this view of the new covenant that even though Israel may have thought the promises of Jeremiah applied to their nation, it wasn't true [Swanson, 161]. This places God's promises in the realm of dishonesty.

and then,

4) Authorial Intent. Adding a bit more to the previous point about textual integrity, when we read passages like Jeremiah 31, the true intent of the author is clear in that he is stating God will do such and such a thing with the nation of Israel. Adding a foreign meaning to the passage by re-interpreting it from an outside source, not only jeopardizes the text's integrity, it changes the author's original intent for writing what he did.

Now, does that mean the NT doesn't provide us with any insight on how to understand the OT? Of course not. The NT does offer commentary on the OT, as well as add additional applications that may not have been completely revealed during the OT [Vlach, 18, 19]. We just don't make the NT the starting point for understanding the OT passages. The OT is not dependent upon the NT to re-interpret it according to an apostolic hermeneutic. The foundational starting point for understanding the OT passages are the OT passages themselves. A faithful student of God's Word will seek to determine the meaning of the OT passages in question first, then see how the NT may utilize those passages with fuller revelation. Thus, the progress of revelation from lesser to the greater does not "nullify or transfer the meaning of Old Testament passages in a way that goes against what the Old Testament writers intended" [Vlach, 19].

I'll take up the point of typology in the next post.

*******
Sources

William Barrick, "New Covenant Theology and the Old Testament Covenants,"
The Master's Seminary Journal, Fall 2007. Online here.

Paul Feinberg, "Hermeneutics of Discontinuity," Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Crossway Books: Westchester IL, 1988).

Carl B. Hoch, All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1995).

S. Lewis Johnson,
The Old Testament in the New: An argument for Biblical Inspiration (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, 1980).

Steve Lehrer,
New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered (self-published, 2006).

Gary Long,
Context! Evangelical Views of the Millennium Examined (Great Unpublished, Charleston SC, 2001, 2nd ed. 2002)

Dennis Swanson, "Introduction to New Covenant Theology,"
The Master's Seminary Journal, Fall 2007. Online here.

David L. Turner, "The Continuity of Scripture and Eschatology: Key Hermeneutical Issues,"
Grace Theological Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1985).

Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response (Reformed Baptist Academic Press: Owensboro KY, 2008). See a fuller review HERE.

Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel,
New Covenant Theology (New Covenant Media, Fredrick MD, 2002).

Michael J. Vlach,
Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths (Theological Studies Press, Los Angeles CA, 2008).

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17 Comments:

Blogger Jeremy Weaver said...

These are good arguments. I disagree with you, but this is a lot fairer treatment than most that I have read.

I'm going to pick one point and challenge you.

If it is true OT passages have a deeper, hidden meaning that isn't correctly understood UNTIL the NT came along to interpret the passages correctly, how could the people of Israel who originally read the passage possibly have understood any significant portion of the OT?

First, I think the primary meaning of most OT prophetic texts is essentially Christocentric, and therefore not a 'hidden meaning'. When you and I both read Isaiah 53 we're both pretty confident what the primary meaning of that text is. When Isaiah wrote it, did he understand it as clearly as we do?

Second, I think this is exactly what Peter has in mind when he writes 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Third, I don't think it is a matter of perspicuity, as much as it is a matter of blindness. Before you became a believer did you understand the Scriptures as clearly as you did soon after? If not, was your clearer understanding a function of a deeper desire to understand, the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, or both? My point is that in our own experience, until Christ 'came', we did not even have the will or the ability to understand much of what the Bible says. Why would we hold OT Israel to a higher standard of understanding?

Finally, many times there is a 'double fulfillment' of prophecy. Since we are in Isaiah mode already, Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy that has an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah's own lifetime, but later Matthew says that Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Which is the 'most correct' interpretation? They are both correct interpretations, and neither render the other meaningless for the believer today, or in OT times.

Word of warning to others reading who might be tempted to run with the 'double fulfillment' thing. This is not a license to twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say. It is simply a statement of fact that sometimes OT passages have an immediate and future aspect to them. Not all of them, not most of them, but some of them.

2:32 PM, March 18, 2009  
Blogger Joshua & Amanda said...

Will you be showing wehre you fall in the eschatological discussion?

3:04 PM, March 18, 2009  
Blogger The Vegas Art Guy said...

Wow, literary theory applied to the Bible, my professor would be most impressed. Very interesting read.

10:12 PM, March 18, 2009  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Fred,

Remarkably clear and exceedingly helpful. Particularly for someone who can't read the Bible in the original languages (among many other deficiencies).

Thanks Fred. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

6:24 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Jeremy,
Thanks for stopping by and for the challenge. I think we are probably in closer agreement than you think.

You write, First, I think the primary meaning of most OT prophetic texts is essentially Christocentric, and therefore not a 'hidden meaning'. When you and I both read Isaiah 53 we're both pretty confident what the primary meaning of that text is. When Isaiah wrote it, did he understand it as clearly as we do?

(Fred) I think you under estimate Isaiah, along with a lot of the prophets who wrote of Christ's coming. Isaiah, I believe, certainly had an understanding of a coming, suffering Messiah when he gave that prophecy. Perhaps it wasn't as clear as you and I know today, because we are on the other side of the cross. But Isaiah, along with generations of Jews like Anna and Simion, anticipated a coming Messiah who would be both a humble servant and a victorious king.

Moreover, when I speak against the notion of "hidden" meanings, I am speaking of OT texts who have a primary referent clearly identified as one thing, but later Christians strip the original referent out of the text and place with in it the Church or something NT, when such is not the case. Again (and I plan to get into this in later posts) the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. That covenant was originally given to Israel and Judah. Later, we learn by progressive revelation that it also will encompass the gentile world in a salvific manner, but that addition of the gentiles to salvation does not cancel or transfer the promises of that New Covenant only to the church with the exclusion of the promises of restoration for the Jewish people as a nation as Jeremiah originally prophesied (Jer. 31:35 - 38).

Second, I think this is exactly what Peter has in mind when he writes 1 Peter 1:10-12.

(Fred) Matt Weymeyer was kind of enough to email me a post he wrote addressing this exact passage. It’s a study by Walt Kaiser.
In sum, the prophets understood of a coming salvific savior of the world. Where they were lacking understanding is at what time this savior was to appear.

Third, I don't think it is a matter of perspicuity, as much as it is a matter of blindness. Before you became a believer did you understand the Scriptures as clearly as you did soon after? If not, was your clearer understanding a function of a deeper desire to understand, the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, or both? My point is that in our own experience, until Christ 'came', we did not even have the will or the ability to understand much of what the Bible says. Why would we hold OT Israel to a higher standard of understanding?

(Fred) But not all the Jews in the OT were blind. Obviously we all agree they were regenerated just like us after the cross. We also trust that we can give the message of the gospel to an unbeliever and trust the contents of that message is clear for them to understand it. Whether or not they submit to the gospel of Christ is a work of the spirit in their hearts, not so much that they didn't understand the message. The same is with the OT Jews. I think they understood the contents of much of the things the prophets told them, but chose not the believe it due to their sin.

Finally, many times there is a 'double fulfillment' of prophecy. Since we are in Isaiah mode already, Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy that has an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah's own lifetime, but later Matthew says that Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy. Which is the 'most correct' interpretation? They are both correct interpretations, and neither render the other meaningless for the believer today, or in OT times.

(Fred) I basically agree with you. But the greater fulfillment is told to us by Matthew and Matthew didn't totally change the meaning of the original prophecy. My complaint is against those who tell me all the prophetic promises given to the OT nation of Israel of restoring them in the land and giving them a world kingdom with their Messiah as the head no longer apply to them in any fashion but are all transferred in a spiritual sense to the Church. That hermeneutic goes beyond the idea of double fulfillment to a total re-interpretation of the OT text. That I reject.

7:08 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger DJP said...

Very good, Fred. I look forward to these posts.

You could actually double-down on numbers 2 and 3. "Reformed" re-interpretation demands that we take passage after passage in ways that the original recipients could not possibly have taken them. In fact, it demands that we assign to them a meaning the exact opposite of any honest reading of the words in their original setting.

So far from being in any sense Christocentric, it is Christo-slanderous. It makes God into a big Bill Clinton, wagging his finger and smirking over what the meaning of "is[rael]" is.

Which is AS TO OUTCOME in no way to the glory of such a huckster god, though I do not doubt for a minute the intent.

7:12 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Joshua,
I hold to a premillennialism. I almost converted to amillennialism, but was rescued from that fate. =-)

I also have some dispensational tendencies, but I tend to stay away from the "term" dispensationalism and instead speak of holding to discontinuity between the testaments. The reason being is the term dispensationalism has erroneous ideas poured into it by those who are non-dispensationalists.

That is not to say some dispensationalists deserve the criticism, but that such is not reflective of my perspective of the Bible and God's historic purposes as they are revealed through out the Scripture.

7:14 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

This is really helpful stuff Fred. I haven't gone very in depth into millennial views, because my early exposure to dispensationalism was quite unpleasant (people who tended to think like Hal Lindsey on the subject). I don't think I've ever really given premil eschatology a fair amount of time since then, but it's been my goal for the year to do so.

8:33 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Steve Lamm said...

Fred,

Good stuff!

I am taking our adult Sunday School class through eschatology and I have a couple of young men in our church who are amil. One has a dispensational background but attends Westminister Seminary in Escondido, CA.

Many covenant theologians will bring up Galatians 3:16:

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ." (ESV)

They believe that this text clearly says that the Abrahamic Covenant was both intended for and fulfilled by Christ. Therefore, no person (Jew or Gentile) will be able to receive any portion of the promise outside of Christ.

So, as to Dan's point, they would claim that God was not being duplcitous at all since the promise was not made to the physical offspring of Abraham, but to Christ.

I have some serious problems with their interpretation, but I'd like your take on this (and Dan's as well)!

Blessings,
Steve

8:54 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Greg,
My experience is similar to yours. That is what I mean by non-dispensationalist folks pouring erroneous ideas into the term.

It seems as though the reasons many of the new Calvinists have for rejecting premill and embracing amill/postmill views has to do with bad experiences with the Hal Lindsey brand of premillennial dispensationalism.

8:57 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Jeremy Weaver said...

Fred,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think that any way we go now we will end up circling back around to both of our presuppositions.

My presupposition is simple, the OT (law, promises, prophecies, etc) is fulfilled in Christ already with a future fulfillment.

Am I right to think your presupposition is that the OT is fulfilled in Christ already with a future fulfillment?

(Forgive the oversimplifications of both of our views.)

1. For what it's worth, I'm probably with you on the relationship of OT Israel and the Church, or at least closer to your view than I am to most of the 'reformed'.

However, we probably disagree as to the timing of the 'replanting' in the land. I see this as the times leading up to Christ since when He came, Israel was in the land, and before he ascended He did in fact, make a New Covenant with Israel, by His death. In other words, the New Covenant is not future for Israel, but a present reality which still has a greater fulfillment later.

I also think that Paul's exposition of the mystery is an example of one thing that previous generations did not understand.

2. Kaiser's right.

3. I'm wondering what your view of the Holy Spirit in the OT is? I'm assuming a giving of the Holy Spirit in a greater measure on Pentecost.

Also, I too beieve the Gospel is clear, but I'm also assuming that apart from this work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration that we cannot and will not believe. I have no different expectation of the OT believers.

4. I'm saying that Israel already has the Kingdom in Christ when they accept Him as Lord, but that Kingdom does not exclude the Church, and will one day be more fully realized. To be clear, I do believe in a future ingathering of Jews into the Kingdom, but if I read Paul right, they don't get anything more than I get because;
Christ has torn down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile,
we are united in Christ by faith,
we have been grafted into the same tree, and
by faith in Christ we inherit the promises made to Abraham. (Galatians 3-4, Romans 9-11, and Ephesians 2)

11:37 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger donsands said...

"The Reformed perspective, however, points to how the book of Hebrews applies this passage to the Church and even though the original prophecy has the people of Israel and Judah as the recipients of the new covenant.."

And how does Hebrews 8:7-13 speak of a New Covenant?

Seems this was spoken to Israel, and even Judah, but this was written in the NT for the Gentiles as well, which would be the Church.

One other quick question: In Malachi, (the Italian prophet), 4:5-6, is the dreadful day of the Lord referring to the Cross?

I hope I'm not jumping the eschalogical gun here. Actually I'm looking forward to simply studying the series, and perhaps learn a bit more about Christ's return, and so i will want to be more pure for Him.
Thanks Fred.

11:54 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

You people ask way too many good questions. But I can't answer because today is my busiest day of the week. Check back tomorrow.

=-)

12:06 PM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Steve,

You write,

Many covenant theologians will bring up Galatians 3:16:

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ." (ESV)

They believe that this text clearly says that the Abrahamic Covenant was both intended for and fulfilled by Christ. Therefore, no person (Jew or Gentile) will be able to receive any portion of the promise outside of Christ.


(Fred) Let me offer a few points.

As I am reading the passage (not just one verse), Paul begins his thought in 3:15 and it runs down to 3:18. His thought is to contrast the Abrahamic covenant with the Mosaic covenant and he says that the law does not add to or annul the covenant with Abraham.

Secondly, I guess I fail to see how the salvific aspects of the Abrahamic covenant eliminates all the promises God made to Abraham or only transfers them spiritually to the NT Church. In fact, in verses 17 and 18 Paul basically says that Abraham's covenant is more sure because of what Christ did, which tells me all the promises given to Abraham, including making his offspring a great nation and the promise of a physical land still have a fulfillment awaiting them.

Third, I also do not see how this provides for us an example of how we as Bible students have the freedom to re-interpret the original intent and meaning of the various OT prophetic passages.

If anything, the argument from your covenant friend demonstrates what I was saying about theological presuppositions driving the conclusions we draw from our textual exegesis. That is not to say I don't have any myself, but we need to figure that into the discussion.

Fred

9:38 AM, March 20, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Jeremy,
I am glad to be thoughtful,
I will try to respond to the salient stuff.

My presupposition is simple, the OT (law, promises, prophecies, etc) is fulfilled in Christ already with a future fulfillment.

Am I right to think your presupposition is that the OT is fulfilled in Christ already with a future fulfillment?


(Fred) I could probably agree with that assessment. I believe a future fulfillment because when I read dozens of OT prophecies they demand such a conclusion. I don't see them fulfilled already and completely as I guess you do. Or am I wrong about that?

However, we probably disagree as to the timing of the 'replanting' in the land. I see this as the times leading up to Christ since when He came, Israel was in the land, and before he ascended He did in fact, make a New Covenant with Israel, by His death. In other words, the New Covenant is not future for Israel, but a present reality which still has a greater fulfillment later.

I could partially agree with this too. Where I would add a clarification or two is with the idea of a greater fulfillment later. The prophecy in Jeremiah 31 about the NC promises states emphatically God will never allow the nation of Israel to cease to exist (31:36) and the city, being Jerusalem, will not be plucked up or thrown down anymore. I don't see that as a "spiritual" fulfillment only in a heavenly sense. I believe that will be fulfilled here on this earth in a future kingdom.

I also think that Paul's exposition of the mystery is an example of one thing that previous generations did not understand.

(Fred) I understand the mystery as something that was not previously revealed rather than something not understood. It involves more than a lack of understanding, they lacked the information because God had veiled it.

3. I'm wondering what your view of the Holy Spirit in the OT is? I'm assuming a giving of the Holy Spirit in a greater measure on Pentecost.

(Fred) I believe the Holy Spirit had to regenerate sinners in the OT just like he does now in the NT if that helps. As for Pentecost, there was a new dynamic started with the spirit. It involved much more than being given in a greater measure. Two books that have helped to shape my thinking on the spirit have been Larry Pettigrew's "The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit" and James Hamilton's "God's Indwelling Presence." Anything specific you need to know about?

Also, I too believe the Gospel is clear, but I'm also assuming that apart from this work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration that we cannot and will not believe. I have no different expectation of the OT believers.

(Fred) And neither do I have any different expectation for the OT believers. My point is that a person can understand the content of a biblical text, it is quite another thing to willingly submit to its authority. I have read a few bitter atheists articulate Christianity accurately, but their belief in the gospel they criticize is obviously a heart work by the spirit.

I'm saying that Israel already has the Kingdom in Christ when they accept Him as Lord, but that Kingdom does not exclude the Church, and will one day be more fully realized. To be clear, I do believe in a future ingathering of Jews into the Kingdom, but if I read Paul right, they don't get anything more than I get because;
Christ has torn down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile,
we are united in Christ by faith,
we have been grafted into the same tree, and
by faith in Christ we inherit the promises made to Abraham. (Galatians 3-4, Romans 9-11, and Ephesians 2)


(Fred) And here we are clearly disagreed. I don't take the Church = the eschatological Kingdom. This was a concept Augustine introduced to us and with disastrous results. I believe the kingdom has been inaugurated by the coming of Christ, but even the apostles anticipated a still coming kingdom Acts 1:6,7. I hope to take up this discussion of the kingdom in a future post in this series.

12:44 PM, March 20, 2009  
Blogger Jeremy Weaver said...

Fred,

Sorry about taking so long to get back over here. I took half a day off to spend with the family since this was the last day of the boys' Spring Break, and my Saturdays are normally filled with Sermon prep.

Concerning the mystery, I would argue that Paul uses the OT in his explanation of the the mystery, and therefore it had been revealed. But I would also agree with you about the 'veiling', with the qualification that the 'veiling' has more to do with blinding than with lack of information, if that makes any sense.

I think we are agreed on the Holy Spirit, but I guess what I'm trying to point to is more of His illuminating work than His regenerating work, as much as it is possible to distinguish the two.

Concerning the Church/the Eschatological Kingdom...Yes, we are pretty much disagreed, here. For the record, I don't think the Church is the Kingdom by itself. I think the Church is that part of the Kingdom that we have here right now, as the "place" where God meets with His people in Christ.

I understand the Kingdom to be,"God's people in God's place under God's rule", (as defined by Graeme Goldsworthy in Gospel and Kingdom). If that definition is accurate, and I think it is, then yes, the Church is the Kingdom here and now.

However, the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom will be when all of God's redeemed people, past, present, future, and universal, (along with the angels) are in God's immediate presence and surrounded by His glory, and live without sin in incorruptible bodies under His righteous rule.(Hebrews 12:18-29)

Anyway, thanks for the good, thoughtful and civil discussion.

5:35 PM, March 20, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Jeremy,
Sorry to sort of leave you hanging. I have a bunch of other stuff happening occupying my time, including constructing my next article on the subject of eschatology. I plan to address the kingdom/church aspect in a separate future article, so maybe we can pick up our comment interchange then.

12:01 PM, March 25, 2009  

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