Archive for category Prophecy

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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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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Dr. Kaiser, Barndollar Lectures, and the Future of Israel

Last week we combined the college students with the seminary students at Baptist Bible College and Seminary to have the Barndollar Lectures with Dr. Walt Kaiser, a premier evangelical Old Testament scholar.  In spite of the fact that he was 79 years old, he connected quite well to the 18-year olds in the audience as well as the seminary students and area pastors who had come to listen to him.  Let me comment upon my encounter with Dr. Kaiser, whom I had met previously through the Evangelical Theological Society.

First, he was a humorous and down to earth fellow, in person at meals, meeting with faculty, or in the pulpit.  He was a regular guy who did not treat others in a condescending way.  He treated all of us graciously.  Second, he affirmed what our seminary believes concerning hermeneutics and Israel, namely, literal interpretation of the Bible and a distinction between Israel and the Church.  Third, as a result of these convictions, he strongly presented the future of national Israel.  In harmony with this is the affirmation of the land promises throughout Scripture.  The title of the lecture series, held Sept. 10-13, was “God’s Future for Israel and the Near East.”  The first lecture was an overview of the great promises concerning Messiah including the giving of land to Israel.

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Apologetics and the Book of Revelation

Often overlooked is the role that the book of Revelation can play in apologetics.  One can start with the idea that Revelation provides many of the harsh things of Christianity:  a coming Tribulation of great catastrophe poured out on all the earth (6-19), the judgments upon unbelievers when Jesus returns to earth at the Tribulation (19), and the final and ultimate judgment of the Great White Throne judgment (20).  This of course includes the unending torment of a place called the lake of fire (20:10-15).  A reasonable soul might ask the question, “What gives God the right to pour out all of this judgment in this life and the next?”

God gives clear responses to such questions in Revelation itself.  First, men receive the judgments during the tribulation because they deserve it.  Several texts in the book declare God’s ways are just and true (15:3, 16:5, 19:2).  Added to this description of God’s ways in 16:5 is the understanding that the wicked deserve such judgment because “they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink” (16:6).

Revelation also reminds us that God has the right to pour out such horrible judgments because He is the Creator: “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created” (4:11).

In perhaps the strongest answer given in the book, the question is asked who is worthy to open the scroll to unleash the judgments written on it (5:2-4).  The only One worthy to open the scroll and pour out judgment is the Lamb of God who is God the Savior (5:5-8). Why?  He is worthy because he was slain for our sins and purchased our salvation for God with his blood (5:9-10).

In this way, Revelation is not simply about worship and judgment.  It is a theodicy which vindicates the way God’s end time judgments occur understanding that people deserve the judgments and that God is the Creator and Redeemer.  In this way, Revelation has a purpose in apologetics that goes beyond knowing the end time events.

The picture above is my all time favorite Bible illustration.  It is from the Revelation Illustrated series — Artwork by Pat Marvenko Smith, c1982, 1992;  I purchased the set of pictures and have found them helpful in my teaching ministry in school and church.



The Second Coming, Israel, and the Parable of the Ten Virgins

In the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus gives the Parable of the Ten Virgins which highlights the necessity for those people alive during the tribulation to be ready for the Second Coming of Christ.  Certainly there would be the same need to be ready before the rapture of the church in a pretrib scheme, although that is not the focus of this chapter in my judgment.  One of the interesting questions is whether the Ten Virgins represent Israel.  This is argued in the Bible Knowledge Commentary.  To be sure, Jesus speaks to the apostles in the Olivet Discourse as representatives of a future generation of Jews (those in the tribulation period) – note the symmetry provided by the end of Matthew 23 which points back and Matthew 24-25 which points forward.  Furthermore, we know that Matthew’s Gospel is the most Jewish of the Gospels and deals with Jewish interests more than other Gospel authors.  In addition, the Jewish custom of marriage feasts is highlighted in the parable.  The groom picks up his bride and takes her to his house for a wedding feast where there will be many guests.  This marriage feast represents God’s coming kingdom when Jesus returns.  Not all will be ready.  Five virgins make it in to the feast (kingdom) but five do not.

However, in spite of these seemingly good reasons, it is probably best not to see Israel represented in a symbolic way by the Ten Virgins.  Instead, what Jesus is saying is probably simpler.  He is basically using a cultural illustration that reminds the hearers and readers that not all will be ready for the Second Coming and the kingdom.  More than Jews should be in view.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that many Gentiles will come to Christ during the tribulation (see the 5th seal in Rev. 6) and that the time of bitter distress will come upon the whole world and not just Israel (see Isa. 13:11, Rev 3:10, etc.).  The judgment of the nations that follows later in Matthew 25 certainly involves Israel but highlights the judgment of Gentiles.  In this light it is best to see Jesus warning all people of all ethnic groups to be ready for His coming.

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The “Apostasia” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3

At the Pre-Trib Study Group last December, Dr. Wayne House presented a paper on the meaning of apostasia in 2 Thess 2:3.  He had earlier made a presentation at the same conference study group back in the mid-1990s, but had done some more work on it and decided to present the main idea again.

The debate over apostasia in this passage stems from the two major options:  a departure from the faith or a departure from the earth as in rapture of the Church.  Of course, if the latter is true, then the debate about the timing of the rapture of the church is over — pre-trib wins.  However, the issue is far from clear as Dr. House shows.  Most dispenstionalists have probably held that it refers to departure from the faith or rebellion or declension.   Some have taught that the great decline of the Christian faith in the West (and in the Western Church) during the 20th century is a fulfilllment of this prophecy.  Both of the two options, if I remember correctly, are listed in the notes of the Old Scofield Reference Bible (1909).

The translation of apostasia as rebellion as found in the NIV was rejected by House.  He suggested that this thought has existed only as a translation of the word in English translations since the King James Version but earlier English versions had favored the simpler idea of departure.  House argued that the word meant departure and that the issue of what the departure was from or what the nature of the departure consisted of was something that only the context of a passage could deliver.  Grammatically, the word does not automatically carry the idea of rebellion by the simple use of the word.   House points to contextual ideas (the general focus of 2 Thess 1-2 on end-time issues and 2 Thess 2:1 talking about the rapture itself.  Thus, he argues the following:  “What makes the most sense in the context, that the Day of the Lord had not come because a rebellion against government or a defection from the faith had not occurred, or that the departure to be with Christ had not occurred? Remember, in 1 Thessalonians 1, the encouragement was that the coming of Christ would rescue believers from the coming wrath”  (page 5 of House paper).”

In my own commentary, First and Second Thessalonians: Looking for Christ’s Return (2009), I respectfully discuss House’s position using his earlier paper that ended up published in When the Trumpet Sounds (1995).  However, I gravitate to the position that the word means apostasy, rebellion, or declension and that it is associated in some way with what follows — the appearance of the man of lawlessness (the anti-Christ figure).  However, I respect the argumentation of Dr. House and must remain open to the possibility that he is right.  Why do I go to the later connection of the man of lawlessness instead of linking to the immediate context given earlier along with the general theme of the book?  In this matter, I cannot be dogmatic.

Embarrassment and Prophecy

Last year with the failed predictions of Harold Camping (once again…and again), we have been reminded by many of the failed prophecies of the past.  Many come from the cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists/Millerites).  Y2K was extremely revealing and financially profitable for some video makers.  There were both Christian and secular alarmists on that one.  I have been especially curious about the rise of non-Christian doomsday prophecies that seem to proliferate in our culture — all of them NOT coming from a dispensational premillennial outlook on the rapture of the church. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Pre-trib Rapturists No Good for this World? Part 4

In earlier posts, I mentioned Tom Krattenmaker’s article “What if the end isn’t near?”  (USA Today in August 2010).  It is largely a criticism of the pretrib view of the rapture and the alleged motivation such a view is toward inaction on the part of the Christian in the world to engage social problems, etc.  In my first post, I listed some concerns which I began to flesh out briefly in other posts.  I have provided them below.  In this post, I want to finalize my initial analysis.

 1.  How many pre-trib Christians hold different views of nuclear weapons and environmentalism from the author’s because of factors other than biblical views of the end times;
2.  The generous use of overstatement throughout the article;
3.  Unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are sometimes given (why are there only two futures?  why not 3 or 4? are we really dealing with all the possibilities?);
4.  The false charge of fatalism in light of the true nature of the doctrine of imminency;
5.  The use of fringe views or minority views instead of scholarly and thoughtful presentations of the pre-trib perspective;
6.  As a corollary to # 5, the futurism of the pre-trib view which does not allow for predictions of the future in a true pre-trib perspective.  In other words, the article seems to be unaware that it is being critical of historicist misrepresentations of the pre-trib perspective rather than the pre-trib perspective itself.
7.  As a corollary to # 1, the idea that the article (may) assume that current political environmentalism is what the Bible teaches about care for the created order.

To begin, I want to make some remarks about unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are given in Krattenmaker’s article.  This is demonstrated at the very outset of the article.  Citing Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (favorably), Krattenmaker says “he sees two futures.  In one, the world has rid itself of nuclear weapons.  In the other, the world has been destroyed by them.”  These two options appear to be the thrust of the title of Wigg-Stevenson’s organization the Two Futures Project.  It is quite appropriate for someone to voice his view of the dangers of nuclear weapons.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  All wars are to be avoided if at all possible, not just nuclear ones.  However, is the opinion that these are the only two options (world-wide destruction or no nukes exist) a wise one to possess on such a critical issue? Is there no middle position that is possible?  Why craft the issue in these stark terms?  One must live in reality not in a dream world.  It is not at all a sure conclusion that the world will destroy itself with nuclear weapons if they are allowed to exist.  It is certainly a theoretical possibility.  However, it is not an inevitable one.  One cannot assume the world-wide catastrophic end when the next nuke is used (although some pretribs do hold this view).   Of course, this view could be seen as playing it safe to prevent the catastrophe.  Unfortunately, in a fallen world this may not be appropriate.  If evangelicals rose up to be against nuclear weapons and helped lead America to unilaterally destroy all their nuclear weapons, it is not at all assured that the same would be true of other parts of the world.  A wise use of nuclear weapons as deterrents has been quite effective for decades in preventing catastrophe and/or servitude.

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Egypt, Prophecy, and Caution

Yannis Behrakis -- Reuters

The unrest in the country of Egypt is a concern for all of us.  It has the potential of altering our lives if gas prices are somehow affected.  It could also veer off in an anti-Israeli direction which will not help the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.  This humanly speaking can have disastrous impact on the world at large.

Egypt also has a role in Bible prophecy at several points.  The king of the south in Daniel 11 for example may well be the leader of Egypt as some interpreters hold.   Usually, however, when current events like this occur, there are those who will overstate the implications for prophecy.  We won’t know the ultimate implications for prophecy until the end-time events (rapture, tribulation, Second Coming, kingdom) begin to occur.  So, please refrain from overstatement in this area and stick to biblical teaching about Egypt in the latter times.