Archive for category Dispensationalism

More on the binding of Satan in Revelation 20

Below is a section from my upcoming paper at the Pre-Trib Study Group.  My paper analyzes Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come.  In particular, this section talks about 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 and how its interpretation should be integrated with the teaching of Revelation 20 about the binding of Satan.  I think this is a difficult passage for amillennialism to address.  I know I have my problem passages, but I would prefer my problem passages to their problem passages.

“The case is more problematic for the amillennialist when Pauline teaching on the matter is examined. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 states the issue rather clearly: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” On the face of things following literal interpretation, this passage seems to suggest that the god of this world (Satan) is currently deceiving individuals within the nations. In fact, the Apostle seems to suggest that all lost individuals among the nations of the world are being blinded by Satan. To diminish the direct import of the passage, Storms makes some assumptions. First, he assumes that good angels may actually aid in hindering Satan: “we may rest assured that in some way they [good angels] are present to strengthen, guard, and encourage those who proclaim the gospel and perhaps even to restrain the adverse influence of the demonic who would seek to undermine the reception of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4).”[1] This almost sounds as an admission that Satan’s dominion is actually deceiving individuals within the people groups of the world, something he has denied in his discussion in Revelation 20.

Second, Storms relativizes the deceiving ministry of Satan. In another place in the book, he comments: “In other words, it is the influence of the Church, as a result of the universal preaching of the gospel, which inhibits the activity of Satan in this particular regard. Though Satan still blinds the minds of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4), he is providentially restricted from hindering the pervasive expansion of the gospel throughout the world. Satan may win an occasional battle, but the war belongs to Christ!” The premillennialist looks at such a comment and interprets Storms’ words as teaching a partial deceiving of the nations. Blinding means deceiving. Revelation 20:3 teaches that for one thousand years, Satan will do no deceiving of the nations. Storms is attempting to have his cake and eat it too. However, such partial deception by Satan is not consistent with the binding of Satan taught in the Bible for the millennium.

In the end, the premillennialist remains confident that his approach to the structure of the book of Revelation, especially chapters 19-20, is correct. Satan will be bound in a future time that begins at the second coming of Christ. The premillennialist will continue to believe the amillennialists have not made their case.”

[1] Storms, Kingdom Come, 271. Storms is discussing the meaning of “messengers” in Matthew 24:31 when he makes this statement.

The Binding of Satan

The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 has always been a major issue of debate between premillennialists and amillennialists.  Premillennialists, like me, insist on the chronological nature of chapters 19-20. So the second coming of Christ in Revelation 19 precedes the 1000 years of Revelation 20.  Amillennialists, many of them following the Augustinian recapitulation view of the literary structure of the book of Revelation, argue that Revelation 20 begins over again with a discussion of the present age.  Hence, the 1000 years (as an indefinite period of time) describes the present or Church age.  This means that the binding of Satan described in Revelation 20 is happening now at the present time.

Consequently, there is a debate between premillennialists and amillennialists over the activity of Satan during the present time.  For example, in the excellent book (in my view) Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams, he honestly affirms that, because he is an amillennialist, he does not recognize demon possession when he counsels people.  Now, his views as well as others, always get qualified in later writings or expressions, but the sentiment is generally a limitation of Satan’s activity in the present age.

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Israel, the Church, and the Kingdom

I have been working through some dispensational commentaries on the book of Revelation, especially in chapters 20-22, to see how the distinction between Israel and the Church plays out in the minds of various dispensationalists.  I am looking at both recent writers as well as older ones going back to John Nelson Darby.  I need to review this issue for the sake of my paper for the upcoming Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics and for my commentary for the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.

One issue that intrigues me is the interpretation that the New Jerusalem, the holy city, of  Revelation 21:2 is part of the millennium and not the eternal state beginning at the end of the millennium.  This is not my view, but I have heard it and read it in the literature.  Many prominent men have held to it.  Darby seems to be one of them.  In his Synopsis of the Books of the Bible 5:560, when he gets to that point in the book of Revelation, he comments, “What follows is the description of the heavenly city, as before we had that of Babylon.  Its heavenly character and millennial connection with the earth is revealed” (emphasis mine).  I hope to eventually write an article on this topic showing the history of interpretation of this passage within modern dispensationalism.  I think it is something that is needed.

Distinction Between Israel and the Church as an Argument for the Pre-Trib Rapture

I am going to try to pick up my blogging again and perhaps speed it up, Lord willing.  I plan to do more personal things on Facebook (where my activity has picked up) but more academic/technical things on  I have been asked to speak at the Pre-Trib Study Group this coming December giving an analysis of Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come which I blogged about a few times.  I hope to finish my string of blogs in response to Sam’s points which I had started to do.  My paper at the Pre-Trib Study Group will be an expansion of the paper I delivered at the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics last year.  I want to be constructive in my criticism and not bombastic in my disagreements.  Please pray for me on this.

For this blog post, however, my main thought goes ahead to the upcoming Council meeting in September which I advertised in my last blog.   My presentation is entitled “What Do Israel and the Church Share from a Traditional Dispensational Viewpoint?”  I want to help traditional dispensationalists do a full-blown theology and not just hammer the distinction between Israel and the Church (which I firmly accept) as a matter of polemics in our debate with replacement theology.  In doing this, one area that gives me pause is the constant use by dispensationalists of the distinction between Israel and the Church as a theological switch that provides proof for the pre-trib rapture.  This argument would be more plausible if the distinction has been proven to be absolute on other grounds before we get to the rapture question.  To be sure, some dispensationalists in the tradition have argued for a pretty absolute distinction by keeping the Church out of the future earthly kingdom.  In addition, Lewis Sperry Chafer’s view of two distinct new covenants was at least partly caused by his desire to make the Israel-Church dichotomy more absolute.  As to the idea that the Church as a heavenly elect will have no part in the future earthly kingdom, this seems to be countered by Luke 19:11-27 and like passages.  As to the idea of two new covenants, very few dispensationalists today hold such a view.  The book I edited entitled “Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant” shows three views defended, none of which are the two new covenants view.  No one showed up to defend this view at the Council when we discussed it.

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Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium — # 2

# 2

In two earlier posts, I gave some introductory remarks responding to Sam Storms’ blog entry entitled “Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium” along with my initial response to his first reason why he can’t hold to the premillennial position – the idea that death in the kingdom, from Storm’s point of view, can’t be harmonized with the alleged truth that Jesus ends death at the Second Coming.  I will deal here with his second reason.  It is somewhat helpful that Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come has recently been released.  Although a more complete analysis will come later, it will prove helpful here at filling in more detail than his outline given in the blog at the website of the Gospel Coalition.

The second reason that Storms gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the Fall of man.”  He goes on to affirm that, in conjunction with this idea, “the natural creation is set free from its bondage at the parousia.”

The basic idea is that premillennialism cannot be right since it teaches that Christ’s Second Coming does not end the curse on the natural created order.  This particular argument is actually a variation of the one I responded to in my last post about the end of death since death is the primary result of the curse.

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Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium — # 1

# 1

In an earlier post I started this series responding to Sam Storms’ Gospel Coalition post on why he changed his mind about the millennium (from premillennial to amillennial).  In that post, I dealt with some introductory things.  Starting with this post, I will make one post each for the six reasons he gives to allegedly prove that premillennialism is untenable.  Hopefully in a friendly way I can make some assertions that help to defend the premillennial understanding of the end times.

The first reason that Sam gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.”  He goes on to couple that statement with the words “death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the parousia.”  Sam’s post is just giving general statements and not the detailed arguments that will naturally be present when his book Kingdom Come is released soon.  However, I would like to take a stab at responding to the general statement here.

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Another Homegoing of a Great Christian Man

Roy ZuckMany blogs started to go up over the weekend when word was received that Dr. Roy Zuck went home to be with the Lord late Saturday.  He was Academic Dean at Dallas Theological Seminary for most of the time I was a student at DTS.  I thought it was appropriate for me also to share my memories of a man of such character as Dr. Zuck.  He is greatly loved and respected, especially by those in the DTS family, but also by many evangelicals outside the seminary family who appreciated his contribution to teaching, theology, and publishing.

I was a New Testament major in my STM at Dallas.  Having obtained an M.Div. at Liberty Baptist Seminary, I did not have as many opportunities to have contact with Dr. Zuck as did the DTS Th.M. students.  In fact, I never had a formal for credit class with him (which is disappointing).   

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Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium

IntroductionDTS Stearns Arches

With this post I am beginning a series of seven posts giving response to the testimony and basic argumentation of amillennialist Sam Storm.  Storm, whom I have never met to my knowledge, took advantage of the opportunity that the Gospel Coalition website gave to post testimonies of evangelicals who had changed their minds about some doctrine.  His well written summary gave some testimonial information about his experience as a student at Dallas Seminary 1973-77,  his wrestling with tenets of dispensational premillennialism (especially the pre-trib rapture), and six essential arguments showing biblical information that he insists cannot be handled within a dispensational framework.  I had intended to respond when I first saw the article by Storm a couple of months ago, but I came down with an illness and then my heavy travel schedule for Baptist Bible Seminary in February moved it off my table for a while.  It is spring break now, so I am picking it back up.  In doing so, I want to treat Storm with respect and hope he will do the same for me.  I have no basis by which to judge him as something other than a fine brother in Christ, who simply disagrees with the position that I hold.  However, our differences do matter for theology and ministry in the churches.  I will use his first name below to highlight friendship in Christ in spite of our differences.

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Homegoing of a Good Friend

Couch MalOn February 12, 2013, my good friend Dr. Mal Couch went home to be with his Lord and Savior after a long battle with cancer.  I had done an audio interview with him not long ago that has been distributed on CD.  Apparently, he was busy for the Lord’s work until the very end of his life on earth.

I met Mal and his wife Lacy in the early 1990s.  I was the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas and was looking for a good female biblical counselor to whom I could refer the women of my church.  The women in my church were not sufficiently mature to do such counseling except perhaps for one or two, but none were trained in biblical counseling.  I did not like to do a lot of counseling of women.  I don’t remember how I found the BACA Counseling Center which Lacy Couch was running, but it was located over in Ft. Worth only a few miles from my church in Arlington.  When I went over there to meet her and talk to her I found something I did not know existed! — Tyndale Theological Seminary.  Mal had started the seminary in light of a perceived decline in theological education in his view.  He was a graduate of “Old Dallas” (Dallas Theological Seminary).  He was not in favor of changes that were bringing about a “New Dallas.”   I was a Ph.D. student at Dallas when I met Mal.  So our conversation was an interesting one.

Perhaps my fondest memory of Mal was his generosity.  For several years in a row he paid my way to the Dallas–Ft. Worth area to speak at the Conservative Theological Society annual meeting which he had started.  This is where I presented some of my first exegetical papers in a conference setting and where I explored some issues related to traditional dispensationalism, something that Mal and I agreed on in the general sweep of things.  To be sure we had some specific differences.  For years he would introduce me at his conference as his good friend but a congregational Baptist and used the moment to teach elder rule at my expense!  I once told him and the conference attenders I could follow elder rule as long as I was the elder!  We had some fun with our differences but I will remember Mal’s generosity which allowed me to fly half way across the country to Texas and participate in these times of theological discussions.  I will always remember him also as a man who loved the Word of God.  I will miss Mal. But because of the truth that both of us believe, I will see him again at the resurrection.

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics

This year a group of traditional dispensational professors from several different schools will descend upon the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, Texas for meetings on October 3-4.  They will be joined by pastors, students, and other observers, especially from the Houston metropolitan area.  This will be the fifth annual meeting of the Council.  However, it will be the first not held at Baptist Bible Seminary.  The decision has been made to meet in a different part of North America every other year.  The goal is to network more broadly with traditional dispensationalists, both professors and pastors.  Next year (2013) we will be back on the beautiful campus of Baptist Bible College & Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.

The theme for this year’s 2012 Council is “Dispensationalism and Biblical Preaching.”  Although we are sometimes accused of a theology based upon “simple Bible readings” mixed with “presupposed theological systems,” we are not embarrassed by a focus on inductive Bible study and expository preaching.  Not all traditional dispensationalists, however, preach consistently with what they believe biblically and theologically.  There is too much application without exposition.  One can find strange typology popping out at certain points.  The development of themes sometimes sloganizes the Bible instead of providing genuine exposition of the sacred text.  This ought not to be so.  If anyone should practice biblical expository preaching, it is traditional dispensationalists!

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