Monday, August 31, 2009
When in Europe...
Sweden Outlaws Home Schooling
Education officials in both the state and federal government in the United States are increasingly becoming hostile to the concept of homeschooling. There is perhaps a variety of reasons for this, but primarily the homeschooling philosophy cuts against the secular mindset of a state controlled educational system. It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens here in the U.S. as it has in Germany and Sweden, though a tougher battle will be fought to stop it than what was in those two countries.
I personally believe one of the talking points that will be used to argue against homeschooling will be the science curriculum. Where as the majority of home schooling is religious based teaching origins science from the perspective of creation and intelligent design, Darwinian proponents will attempt to argue such teaching is abusive and destructive for the child because it isn't teaching "reality." The "religious" angle to education is rigid and limited and doesn't "expose" a child to different ways of thinking, so only for the good of a child's education will they be removed from parents or parents prevented from homeschooling.
This is already taking place in more liberal, nanny style states. See here for example:
Homeschooled Girl Ordered to Attend Public School Over Her "Rigid Faith."
Friday, August 28, 2009
8 Bit Trip
After the last lego was snapped into place, the last scene shot, and the last frame edited, did the creator of this video come to his senses and realize he just wasted 3 months or more of his life just to make a cool, 3 minute video about 80s video games?
The Moog synthesizer sound track is a tad annoying, but the visuals are awesome.
HT Dan the Man
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Length of Israel's Sojourn in Egypt
[See my more extended entries on this subject: Part I, Part II, Part III
and this addendum].
My regular readers more than likely keep track of James White's goings on. They know that late in July he had a radio "debate" with Harold Camping, who has not met a biblical number he can't use to predict the second coming of Jesus. In an attempt to debunk the ridiculous numerology Camping uses, Turretinfan, who blogs with the Amazing Alpha&Omega Apologetic team, wrote a couple of posts (see HERE and HERE) demonstrating Camping's use of numbers is woefully in error and that in turn places significant doubt upon his chronological dating scheme he uses to calculate the date of Christ's second coming in 2011.
The two articles by Turretinfan address how long Camping says the nation of Israel sojourned in Egypt from the time Jacob went there in Genesis 46 until the nation came out in Exodus 12. Camping's argument is based upon genealogical information, along with Exodus 12:40, 41 which specifically states Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. However, Turretinfan, in an effort to debunk Camping's numerology, argues that Israel was only in Egypt for 215 years or so.
He main appeal is to Paul's words in Galatians 3:16, 17 where he states Israel's sojourn started 430 years before the giving of the law. Thus, rather than seeing the 430 years beginning at the point when Jacob went into Egypt with his family, the sojourn really began at the giving of the promise to Abraham, 215 years before Jacob went into Egypt. The remainder of the 215 years was Israel's time of slavery under the Egyptians.
Turretinfan then supplies some additional comments from John Gill, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry, who also argue for the 215 year theory being the length of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. Gill specifically cites a Septuagint (LXX) reading, along with the Samaritan version, that adds to Exodus 12:40 the phrase, and in the land of Canaan, implying that the 430 years not only includes Israel's time in Egypt, but also takes into account the generations following the giving of the promise to Abraham when Isaac and Jacob still lived in the land of Canaan.
At first glance, this seems like a clever solution; plus, major biblical commentators like Gill, Calvin, and Henry, add significant weight to the argument. However, as much as I appreciate TF's attempt to expose Camping as the theological crank he is, saying Israel sojourned in Egypt for only 215 years serves to create more difficulties.
[One interesting side note: Simcha Jacobivici, the sensationalist documentarian who gave us The Lost Tomb of Jesus, also appeals to the 215 year theory for his views he presented in his Exodus Decoded documentary].
This article from the Associates for Biblical Research sums up well the major difficulties for a 215 year sojourn:
1) There are other editions of the LXX which do not contain the phrase "and in the Land of Canaan," particularly, A, F, and M.
2) All of the Hebrew texts of Exodus 12:40 do not contain the additional phrase.
And 3) Well established extra-biblical evidence also supports the 430 year sojourn, not the 215.
There are other points the article raises, but I think those three are the most solid evidence against a 215 year theory.
But let me back up and expand upon them a bit.
First, there is absolutely no other way to read Exodus 12:40 but that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years. In fact, the Exodus record even places the termination of Israel's sojourn in Egypt at the 430th year (vs. 41).
Next, Galatians 3:16, 17 should not be made the controlling passage over Exodus 12:40, 41. Thus, Paul may have had something else in mind when he spoke about the 430 years before the giving of the law, quite possibly the last promise of the covenant made to Jacob in Genesis 46:3, 4 before he went down into Egypt to live.
Third, we need to keep in mind that the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew text. Applying the normal rules of textual criticism, the shorter reading of the original language text should be preferred over the longer reading of a translated text that wasn't published until some 1300 years or so later. Moreover, the fact that the additional phrase "and in the land of Canaan" is just found in a few editions of the LXX and not others makes this even more of a questionable reading in my mind.
Fourth, as much as I appreciate the writing ministry of Gill, Calvin, and Henry, and the great treasure of their commentaries they have left to the Church at large, let's be honest, they are seriously dated with regards to current archaeological information. Our understanding of Egyptian history, the sojourn of Israel, and the Exodus has advanced dramatically since those men wrote.
Those things being stated, there are a handful of academic articles available on line that go into greater depth concerning the problems with the 215 year theory.
The Duration of the Egyptian Bondage by Harold Hoehner
The Length of Israel's Sojourn in Egypt by Jack Riggs
The Duration of the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt by Paul J. Ray
Though I commend TF's efforts to stick with scripture, I think consideration of further historical information helps to illuminate more of what the biblical text is saying, and in my mind, the 215 year theory is extremely problematic. Even for debunking a false teacher like Camping.
Labels: Biblical Studies
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
What gets me is the robotic, Westworld like woman doing the demonstration. Totally expressionless, like a female Commander Data or something.
I can't imagine being expressionless when pouring water in my nose. I mean, I can remember when Scotty Bedwell did this in the 5th grade, he spewed milk out all over the place. There wasn't an expressionless face in the entire cafeteria.
Being an allergy sinus sufferer, I am tempted to try it.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I present them here only slightly modified:
As a presuppositionalist in my approach to apologetics and evangelism, I think the employment of evidence is sometimes a good thing. My presuppositional brethren should not be afraid to use evidence, and regrettably, in my opinion some believe they should avoid the use of evidence all together. That in my mind is disarming yourself of a potential “weapon” in our warfare (2 Cor. 10:1-5).
In order to utilize evidence appropriately, it may be helpful to examine where I think evidentialists fail in their use during an apologetic encounter. There are three broad misconceptions concerning evidence:
First, it is wrongly assumed evidence is self-defining and authoritative within itself apart from special revelation informing us. Evidentialists operate from the notion that all men, believer or non-believer, will look at the same evidence and draw the same conclusions. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason often raises this issue about evidence when he objects to a presuppositional approach. Yet he assumes evidence is self-defining so that any one can evaluate it in the same fashion.
Second, it is wrongly assumed all men, believer and non-believer, will all interpret and draw the same conclusions about the evidence in pretty much the same way. If the evidence is already self-defining and authoritative in and of itself, then all men must have the same ability to understand it. To suggest men must have special revelation to perceive the world correctly is just irrational argues the evidentialist, because it is saying no one would be able to function anywhere in the world without the special knowledge of God, and we know people have functioned with out that special knowledge for generations.
Then third, there is an overall failure to take into consideration the impact man’s fallen sin nature has on his ability to rationalize and interpret evidence in the world, along with a misunderstanding concerning the necessity of divine regeneration to free man’s mind to think rightly. The evidentialist assumes all men, regardless if whether or not they are unregenerate, will look at all the evidence objectively and draw similar conclusions. However, the Bible tells us unregenerate men look at the evidence, but the conclusions they draw are designed to justify his rebellion against God’s sovereign authority.
A recent example is atheist Anthony Flew who became a “theist” with a little “t” a few years back (or so he says). He finds the advancement of DNA research to be a compelling argument against evolutionary descent with modification, and has allegedly abandoned his total commitment to atheism and is warm to ID arguments. The various Christian evidentialists like Flew’s friend, Gary Habermas, see his philosophical move as a wonderful example of open mindedness that follows the evidence where ever it leads. Yet, Flew is still very much opposed to God, especially as He is revealed in scripture and in Christ. In reality, Flew is in more danger now because he will be held accountable and judged for rejecting greater knowledge about God.
Now, with that stated, evidence, in spite of its short comings, if utilized correctly by the Christian through the means of a divinely inspired world view, can be an effective tool. This is particularly true when we press the unbeliever to justify his interpretation of the evidence according to the constructs of his chosen world view rooted in unbelief and rebellion against God. So for instance, the atheist, as with all atheists, has to provide a cogent, logic explanation as to how complex, self replicating biological lifeforms can come to even exist all on their own in what the atheist claims is a purely natural, materialistic world. Because, let’s be honest, the evidence does not justify such a view of reality.
Labels: Apologetics and Evangelism
Monday, August 24, 2009
As I get the week started, how about a brief pearl of wisdom from Dr. House.
Sorry, I can't embed the video, but it's worth the click of the link.
Do I look Like An Idiot?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field
In the vastness of the visible universe we see those incommunicable, eternal attributes of God put on display. You know, all those "omni" attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, omnisapiant, omnipresent. Nothing can demonstrate eternal like a universe with billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars; and even with that, we have yet to even glimpse the eternality of God.
Fallen men sadly see the insignificance of men. If you go to the youtube page where this video is posted, many of the comments are dismissive blasphemies against the Lord. "It's humbling to see this video," on girl laments, "but it is so ridiculous people bring God and religion into it." Such is the expressions of a heart in rebellion against its creator who seeks only to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20).
Where as the self-righteous sinner sees a pale, insignificant blue dot, to borrow an illustration from atheist Carl Sagan, I see a world particularly and meticulously cared for by the hands of an awesome God.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
New Atheists, Bad
Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster
Monday, August 17, 2009
Studies in Eschatology 
Let me begin by providing a brief overview of millennalism within Church history.
I think many Christians are unaware of how the millennium has been a source of strife, curiosity and sensationalism throughout the 2,000 years of the Church. Millennialism, or millennarianism, is the belief that there will be an earthly reign of the messiah before the end of time [Danielou, 377]. This reign of the messiah was understood by the Jews to be the Kingdom of God coming upon the earth in which all the nations opposed to YHWH were brought under the subjection of His messiah and the world witnessed the triumph of God's chosen people.
The early Jewish Christians developed this messianic concept further by building their millennarianism more precisely around John's Book of Revelation and other non-canonical apocalyptic literature like 1 Enoch and the Ascension of Isaiah. They refined the details of their perspective with the rise of the anti-Christ before the coming of Jesus, and the Kingdom to come would be a thousand years in length. This primitive form of premillennialism was known as chiliasm, after the Greek word chilia meaning 1,000. The chiliasts held to a more literal understanding of biblical prophecy concerning the apocalypse, and their beliefs persisted among many groups of orthodox and unorthodox Christians for a least the first three centuries of the early Church.
However, it was Origen of Alexandria, along with Clement, who first employed an allegorical method of interpreting the Bible which eventually challenged the chiliasm of early Christians. Origen's hermeneutic was developed from a mixture of Christianity and the popular neo-Platonism of his day. His study of scripture was a form of syncretism, combining elements of biblical Christianity, pagan mysticism, and Greek philosophy [Erdmann, 159]. Origen considered all prophecy to be mysterious and unintelligible, and he was the first to express a real aversion to the literalistic approach to reading prophecy utilized by the chiliasts because he thought an earthly Kingdom of God for a thousand years to be carnal. Origen's allegorical hermeneutic was a means to condemn chiliastic teaching, spiritualizing instead the passages of scripture that if read literally would support a millennium [Erdmann, 161].
But, it was the North African church father, Aurelius Augustine, who had a lasting influence against chiliastic interpretations of prophecy. In his magnum opus, De Civitate Dei (The City of God), Augustine took the allegorical hermeneutic of Origen, and others from the Alexandrian school, and laid the foundation for the two eschatologies of amillennialism and postmillennialism. He saw the thousand years of Revelation 20 as symbolic of the church age. The first resurrection, he believed, was the spiritual re-birth of Christians into the Church. The second resurrection he took as literal, however, when all the righteous and wicked will be raised and judged at the Great White Throne.
Augustine thought the thousand years could possible by understood in a couple of ways. First is the idea of a "1,000" being symbolic of the fullness of time of some perfect era. He reasoned that the number 100 is sometimes used as being equivalent of totality. A thousand is 100 cubed, meaning perfect totality or completeness. A second way Augustine said we could understand the thousand years was the whole period of time from Christ's ascension to the end of time. Utilizing the creation week analogy in which the 6 days of creation in Genesis 1 equals 6 thousand years of human history, the church age would be the last day, as it were, of God's calendar before the 7th day of eternal rest. Though Augustine favored the 6 days of world history view of the millennium, most of his supporters following in the centuries after he wrote who believed his scheme merely see the 1,000 years as symbolic of the indefinite time for the church age. Still, the build up to the turn of the millennium in the late 990s A.D. saw many groups of sensationalists basing their predictions upon Augustine's work claiming the end of the world after the year 999 A.D.
Millennarianism as a concept has always had its sensational supporters. The Crusaders, for example, originally a reaction against encroaching Moslem armies pushing into Europe, saw their sworn duty to free Jerusalem, the city of Christ and the capitol of the Kingdom of God, from infidels who had overtaken it.
One of the most notorious incidents involving millennial fervor was the Munster rebellion. In Feburary 1534, a group of radical Anabaptist led by a baker named John Matthys, and a tailor named Jan Bockelson of Leiden, successfully took over Munster, Germany and claimed the city was the "New Jerusalem." For 18 months the Anabaptist radicals held the city. They implemented polygamy among the citizens and enacted a form of communism in which everyone shared each others' possessions. Matthys was killed during an attack led by the expelled bishop, Franz Waldeck. That left Jan Bockelson in charge and he installed himself as king and declared himself the successor to king David. In June of 1535, the city fell after being besieged and Bockelson and his more prominent followers were tortured and executed. Their bodies hung in cages for several centuries from the steeple of St. Lambert's Church.
Date setters have also been a prominent feature of millenniarianism. William Miller, a Baptist preacher in the early 1800s of America, was convinced Christ would return on October 22, 1843. He based this conviction upon his reading of Daniel 8:14, but rather than seeing Daniel's 2,300 days as just normal days of 24-hours, he believed they represented calendar years. Those "days" would be accomplished in the year 1843. Of course the year 1843 came and went with out anything happening, and Miller was exposed as a false teacher. His prophetic views, though, heavily influenced a young Ellen G. White, the founder of Seventh Day Adventism, whose family had followed Miller and his predictions.
Along with the Millerites, there are the Jehovah's Witnesses who have made at least three major predictions of Christ's return, 1914, 1925, and 1975, and even Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, claimed he would live until his 85th birthday before Christ returned. Smith died at age 38 in a shoot out at a jail in Illinois.
The main feature with the good number of these millennial groups is their literal hermeneutic when interpreting Revelation 20. In fact, many who reject a literal understanding of Revelation 20 cite these examples of excessive sensationalism as one of the reasons a literal approach to interpreting the millennium should be rejected. Added to that is the fact many of the millennial groups who have sprung up during various points in Church history are wildly unorthodox and in many cases, heretical and pseudo-Christian in their theology.
But a literal interpretation of Revelation 20 must not be rejected because eccentric cults have utilized a literal hermeneutic to promote their eschatological heresies. What needs to be determined is whether prophecy itself should be understood with a literal hermeneutic and if that hermeneutic best handles the exegesis of Revelation 20 specifically. I say it does and will hope to demonstrate that in my posts to come.
Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. (Christian Focus: Great Britain, 2005).
Jean Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, ed. and trans. by John A. Baker. (Westminster Press, 1977).
Martin Erdmann, The Millennial Controversy in the Early Church. (Wipf & Stock: Eugene, OR, 2005).
Labels: Studies in Eschatology
Friday, August 14, 2009
JM on JC not being PC in WaPo
When Bad Exegesis and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories Come Together
It probably wasn't within a day after president Barry had been elected that I had some dear saint ask me if I thought he was the anti-Christ. Well, he is certainly against Christ, particularly with his murderous opinion regarding abortion, but I do not think he is "the anti-Christ" of biblical prophecy.
So yesterday, I received a video link from someone on an email discussion group.
Go give a watch; it's only 4 minutes or so, and then come back for my analysis.
Did Jesus Give Us the Name of the Anti-Christ
Leftist moonbats have their cranks and kooks; so do right-wingers. Notice the occasional references to World Nut Daily during the video. Where as leftist cranks sit in trees, throw pies at Ann Coulter, and carry around giant papiermache' effigies of president Bush, right-wing cranks see black helicopters, spin elaborate conspiracies about political elections being suspended and their guns confiscated, and see hidden codes in the Bible.
Allow me to briefly offer some thoughts to place the passage in his proper context and interact with the claims of the video:
= Note that Luke 10 is the telling of Jesus sending out the 70 as ambassadors to proclaim the coming kingdom. Nothing suggests Jesus is providing us the name of the anti-Christ.
= Also note how when the 70 returned they reported to Jesus in verse 17 that, "even the demons are subject to us in Your name." Jesus then pronounces how He saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven. In other words, Jesus Christ holds the ultimate authority over the power of demonic beings and their influence.
= Thus, there are two possible understandings of Christ's words here: Either He is speaking to the actual time when Satan fell from his place of prominence in the spiritual realm during some undisclosed moment in time, or Jesus is meaning to say how His arrival into redemptive history has brought Satan's dominion over men to an end. I happen to believe the second understanding.
= Appealing to Aramaic translations of the Greek text is not how one studies the Bible. We need to determine what the original author meant to convey in the language in which he wrote, and in this case of Luke, that would be Greek, not Aramaic.
= Moreover, we don't go running to passages way outside the immediate context in order to proof-text an already fabricated opinion about what the author is saying. Thus, it is utterly against the rules of hermeneutics for this guy to run to Isaiah 14 and pronounce it provides an interpretation of how we are to translate the word "heaven" in Luke 10:18.
= There are varying opinions as to whether or not Isaiah 14:12ff. is speaking to Satan's original fall from heaven or if it is a prophetic announcement of judgment against Bablyon the nation. My take on Isaiah 14 is that the prophetic oracle is against the earthly realm of Babylon and has nothing to do whatsoever with Satan.
= According to Daniel's little horn prophecy in chapter 7 of his book, the little horn, which signifies some great end-times blasphemous anti-christ, comes from the remnants of the Roman empire, the 4th great beast to come out of the sea/earth. Barry is the president of the U.S., and is in no way related to the nations once associated with the area of the Roman empire.
= As is typical of those who hold to novel views of the Bible, the author leaves himself an out by claiming that he isn't saying that Barak Obama is the anti-Christ, just that the material is interesting.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Cool Website of the Day
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
And if Bush had done this...
Ride on a U2 Spy Plane
By the way, check out some of the related videos as well. There are some fun documentaries on the SR-71.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The sinful premillennialists
Kevin Bauder weighs in with this appropriate smack down:
Those Sinful Premillennialists?
Monday, August 10, 2009
The Day of 285 Atheists
Dr. Warren Allmon, curator of the Museum of the Earth in New York state, put together a brief guide (see my review HERE) in order to properly arm docents against the onslaught of creationists who dare come to museums and re-interpret the exhibits according to a biblical worldview.
Now, with that in mind, fast forward to just last week, when 285 atheists from the Secular Student Alliance made a trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky.
The staff at the museum was prepared for them to arrive because there were a few people involved with making the arrangements to get tickets for a group rate. Additionally, a few weeks leading up to the "atheist day," web chatter on various atheist websites affiliated with this group boasted of going to the museum to "set them straight" and "giving them what for" to put it mildly. You will note if you take the time to read through the report that many in the group were disruptive, obnoxious, and loud talking and they think that because security told them to get quiet and mind their manners this was indication the creationists couldn't withstand their scrutiny and they won some intellectual battle against creationism.
Think about it: Imagine a group of 285 fundamentalist Christians going to the Field museum in Chicago. Many of them are wearing "Darwin Sucks" tee-shirts, and others have digital cameras for the purposes of attempting to make "ambush" style videos with the museum staff so they can post them on You Tube. Throughout the day, groups of them obnoxiously mock books and other items in the gift store, along with various exhibits on the museum floor. Does anyone seriously think the staff at the Field museum would tolerate such behavior? I would want them removed, and I probably largely agree with their views of origins.
One interesting side note. Many of the atheists attended Jason Lisle's lecture on the "Ultimate Proof of Creation," which is the title of a new book he wrote. The main purpose of the book is to introduce Christians to presuppositional apologetics and evangelism. In fact, I would argue that the creation/evolution debate is one of the most illustrative of the effective use of presuppositionalism. Lisle stated in his summary of the day that he suspected a good portion of them had never heard this type of apologetic presentation before. That's usually the case from my experience as well. So who knows, maybe some of them left challenged as to the irrationality of their worldview.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Friday, August 07, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
The Lost World
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Reexamination of T. rex Verifies Disputed Biochemical Remains
Whether or not the remains of a tyrannosaurus found in Montana a number of years ago contained the remnants of red blood cells and soft tissue has been an on-going dispute among teams of paleontologists for awhile now. Reputations were squarely on the line as charges of mishandling the material were leveled against the group who made the discovery. How could blood cells and soft tissue be recovered from a fossilized bone 70 million years old?
Well, in spite of the naysayers and cruel mockery by academics, the disputed remains have been verified to contain what the researchers originally claimed: red blood cells and soft tissue. So much so that they have been able to examine protein from the samples, and a full article will be available in the Journal of Proteome Research.
Dr. Mary Schweitzer, whose team originally identified the samples in the T. rex, thought sandstone was the likely preservative to keep soft tissue from fossilizing over millions of years. So, with that hypothesis in mind, and working with Jack Horner's Museum of the Rockies field crews, a hadrosaur was located in sandstone. Lo and behold, when they began to examine the remains what should be found but the remnants of soft tissue and red blood cells.
Now, the evolutionary, long age conventional wisdom refuses to acknowledge the fact, that just maybe, these animals aren't millions of years old. That just maybe they lived in the past just thousands of years ago and were wiped out by fast, catastrophic burial by a flood. No. Rather, the conventional wisdom embraces what would otherwise be the improbably, that soft tissue can be preserved over millions and millions of years in sandstone.
One interesting footnote. When Schweitzer first published her findings and her and her team were under heavy scrutiny and mockery from the academic peer reviewers, creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International, noted how the discovery confirms what is to be expected if we believe an earth that is young as scripture teaches. Long agers, particularly Hugh Ross's "apologetic" team at Reasons to Believe, ridiculed the creationists as reading way too much into the discovery and in some cases implied they were making stuff up about what was originally reported by Schweitzer and her team. I wonder now if they have re-thought their conclusions about all of this?
I never cease to be amused when Bible critics have to eat a big plate of crow, or I guess in this case, fried dinosaur.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Studies in Eschatology 
The prefix "pre" provides the central conviction of premillennialism: Christ will return prior to the millennial kingdom. Additionally, rather than saying the "millennium" is a spiritual understanding of the present church age, premillennialists believe the 1,000 years that define the millennium are real, chronological years. In other words, when Jesus Christ returns, He will establish a Messianic kingdom in which He will rule for 10 consecutive centuries. Or, if we break it down further, 365,000 days.
Premillennialism is the oldest eschatological system. This historical fact has been lost due in part to the dominance of Augustine's amillennial scheme he outlined in his book, The City of God. In the few centuries prior to Augustine's influence, however, the good number of Christian writers held to a primitive premillennialism, or what was called chiliasm, taken from the Greek phrase in Revelation 20 chilia ete, meaning "1,000 years."
The chiliasts believed at least four fixed elements that defined their convictions:
1) The notion that a last, terrible battle with the enemies of God was pending.
2) The faith in a speedy return of Christ
3) The conviction that Christ will judge all men.
4) Upon His return, Christ will set up a kingdom of glory on the earth in which the risen saints will reign with Him for 1,000 years [Adolph Harnach, cited in Culver 2005, 1139].
Among the earliest writers advocating premillennial ideas were Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertellian, Methodius, Lactantius, and Hippolytus. A number of chiliast groups came to be known for their "sensual excesses" or what was perceived by Christians who were heavily influenced by the increasingly popular asceticism of platonic philosophy as "evil worldliness." These chiliasts taught about an earthly millennium in which there would be much sensual banqueting and many earthly delights to indulge our pleasures. As Augustine's eschatology became the dominant position of the Roman Catholic Church, the chiliastic beliefs began to wane among Christians for several centuries. It wasn't until the time of the Reformation, when the Reformers returned the church to the authority of scripture and the importance of exegetical preaching, that the premillennial perspective began once again to see popularity among Christians.
Though it is safe to say all the adherents of the three main eschatological system affirm the authority of scripture, premillennialists approach the interpretation of the relevant passages with an entirely different perspective than their amillennial and postmillennial counterparts:
The first difference is a significant distinction: premillennialists handle the interpretation of biblical prophecy differently. Rather than approaching prophecy with a hermeneutic that leans heavily toward spiritualizing the exegesis of eschatological passages, premillennialists interpret those passages in a more literal fashion. Yet, this is not an extreme wooden literalism in which symbolic and figurative language is discounted. Instead, premillennialists recognize the use of symbolic and figurative language to illustrate eschatological realities, but do not believe the presence of such language authorizes the wholesale spiritualization of prophectic literature.
Secondly, premillennialists will approach the interpretation of Revelation differently as well. This is particularly noticeable in how they understand Revelation 20 where the millennium is specifically taught. Premillennialists do not read Revelation as a series of recapitulated visions of the church age. They understand the book should be read more in a chronological fashion. So, when they come to Revelation 20, they do not take the amillennial perspective of seeing the chapter as a vision returning the reader back to the beginning of the church age. Instead, they believe the events of chapter 20 follow those in chapter 19 in sequence, thus implying Christ vanquishes his enemies and then establishes His kingdom for a 1,000 years.
This chronological approach to the whole book of Revelation, particularly chapter 20, provides foundational characteristics defining premillennialism (These points are a summary of the first section from Robert Culver's masterful work, Daniel and the Latter-days.):
The millennium begins with the visible return of Christ in glory to judge and rule the nations. Revelation 19 describes Christ's return in which He judges the anti-Christ and false prophet by casting them immediately into the lake of fire. The events of Revelation 20, then, follow chronologically.
The millennium will be when Satan is imprisoned. Contrasted to non-premillennialists who believe Satan's binding in Revelation 20:1-3 is a limitation of his activities, premillennialists believe his "imprisonment" means that Satan will be caused to cease entirely for 1,000 years from his rebellious activities on the earth.
The resurrection of the just happens at the beginning of the millennium. The righteous will experience the first resurrection during which they will reign with Christ on the earth. This resurrection is a physical resurrection, not a spiritual "rebirth" or "regeneration" as non-premillennialists argue.
The conversion of Israel to their rightful Messiah and the restoration to the land. The millennium is the fulfillment of the long awaited Messianic kingdom promised by God to Israel in the OT, for example Hosea 3:4,5 and Micah 4.
Premillennialism has developed within two distinct varieties: Dispensational premillennialism and historic premillennialism.
Dispensational premillennialism is derived from the word "dispensation," as found in the King James Bible in Ephesians 1:10, 3:2 and Colossians 1:25, translated from the Greek word oikinomos that can mean "stewardship" or "administration." Dispensationalists divide salvation history into a series of eras or epochs in which God tested humanity in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God [Grenz, 94]. Each epoch entails the revelation of what God requires of human beings as the stewards of that revelation. Humanity is suppose to live obediently to the terms of the dispensation, yet fails to do so. Thus, each epoch ends with the judgment of God.
Earlier dispensationalists identified up to seven dispensations, with the premillennial kingdom being the final one. As the theology has matured and developed, how one understands the number of dispensations and their purposes, has been refined. Still, the one distinguishing factor of dispensational premillennialism is the distinction between national Israel and the NT Church, and a distinct future for national Israel. The millennium, then, is the fulfillment of the kingdom promises God made to OT Israel, with those promises being expanded to include the NT Church.
Historic premillennialism also holds to a future millennial kingdom; however, the system is different from dispensational premillennialism in that it sees the millennium being a golden age, not for a future regathered nation of Israel, but for the Church. Thus, the NT Church is considered to be the "spiritual Israel" that has replaced, or fulfilled, the OT Israel. Those promises of restoration to Israel in the OT, then, are fulfilled in the Church reigning with Christ during the millennium.
Additionally, historic premillennialism also shares much in common with non-premillennial eschatology, especially with how they interpret the prophetic passages. Just like amillennialists, the historic premillennialist believes the coming of Jesus Christ allows for the employment of a "Christological hermeneutic" that reinterprets the OT prophetic literature in light of the NT. This makes their approach to eschatology not as strictly literal as dispensationalism. In fact some historic premillennialists would not believe the millennium is strictly 1,000 calendar years, but are symbolic for an undetermined amount of time.
Having provide a brief sketch of each of the major eschatological systems, I want to turn my attention to the text of Revelation 20 itself. What I would like to do in future posts is to engage the major talking points each eschatological system appeals to in defense of their position. Along with considering the exetical data of the chapter, I want to show why I believe a proper understanding of the exegesis will yield a premillennial perspective.
Robert Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter-Days. (Revell: New York NY, 1954)
_______________ , Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. (Christian Focus, Great Britain, 2005).
Stanly J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze: Sorting out Evangelical Options. (Inter Varsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1992).
Michael J. Vlach, What is Dispensationalism?. (On-line paper).
Labels: Studies in Eschatology