Contending For The Faith

September 9, 2009

Great Spurgeon Preaching

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon — Lynda O @ 11:52 am
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I continually am amazed and in wonder at Spurgeon’s words, still with us 150 years later.  I also find in Spurgeon great words of comfort, no matter what I’m feeling in my daily walk with God and my experiences.

Here are some excerpts from a Spurgeon sermon I read this week, Sermon number 50: The Holy Ghost–The Great Teacher:

And, verily, the Christian man feels an intense longing to bury his ignorance and receive wisdom. If he, when in his natural estate panted for terrestrial knowledge, how much more ardent is the wish to unravel, if possible, the sacred mysteries of God’s Word! A true Christian is always intently reading and searching the Scripture that he may be able to certify himself as to its main and cardinal truths. I do not think much of that man who does not wish to understand doctrines; I cannot conceive him to be in a right position when he thinks it is no matter whether he believes a lie or truth, whether he is heretic or orthodox, whether he received the Word of God as it is written, or as it is diluted and misconstrued by man. God’s Word will ever be to a Christian a source of great anxiety; a sacred instinct within will lead him to pry into it; he will seek to understand it.
. . .
Curiosity is strong; if you tell them they must not pluck the truth, they will be sure to do it; but if you give it to them as you find it in God’s Word, they will not seek to “wrest” it. Enlightened men will have the truth, and if they see election in Scripture they will say, “it is there, and I will find it out. If I cannot get it in one place, I will get it in another.” The true Christian has an inward longing and anxiety after it; he is hungry and thirsty after the word of righteousness, and he must and will feed on this bread of heaven, or at all hazards he will leave the husks which unsound divines would offer him.

. . .
The true child of God will not be led into some truth but into all truth. When first he starts he will not know half the truth, he will believe it but not understand it; he will have the germ of it but not the sum total in all its breadth and length. There is nothing like learning by experience. A man cannot set up for a theologian in a week. Certain doctrines take years to develop themselves. Like the aloe that taketh a hundred years to be dressed, there be some truths that must lie long in the heart before they really come out and make themselves appear so that we can speak of them as that we do know; and testify of that which we have seen. The Spirit will gradually lead us into all truth. For instance if it be true that Jesus Christ is to reign upon the earth personally for a thousand years, as I am inclined to believe it is, if I be under the Spirit, that will be more and more opened to me, until I with confidence declare it. Some men begin very timidly. A man says, at first, “I know we are justified by faith, and have peace with God, but so many have cried out against eternal justification, that I am afraid of it.” But he is gradually enlightened, and led to see that in the same hour when all his debts were paid, a full discharge was given; that in the moment when its sin was cancelled, every elect soul was justified in God’s mind, though they were not; justified in their own minds till afterwards. The Spirit shall lead you into all truth.

Now, what are the practical inferences from this great doctrine? . . .
Another inference is this whenever any of our brethren do not understand the truth let us take a hint as to the best way of dealing with them. Do not let us controvert with them. I have heard many controversies, but never heard of any good from one of them. We have had controversies with certain men called Secularists, and very strong arguments have been brought against them; but I believe that the day of judgment shall declare that a very small amount of good was ever done by contending with these men. Better let them alone, where no fuel is the fire goeth out; and he that debateth with them puts wood upon the fire. So with regard to Baptism. It is of no avail to quarrel with our Paedo-baptist friends. If we simply pray for them that the God of truth may lead them to see the true doctrine, they will come to it far more easily than by discussions. Few men are taught by controversy, for

“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”

Pray for them that the Spirit of truth may lead them “into all truth.” Do not be angry with your brother, but pray for him; cry, “Lord! open thou his eyes that he may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”

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August 11, 2009

The Salvation of Babies Who Die

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,doctrine,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 7:08 am
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I’ve been following the recent blog discussion, started at Challies.com, regarding the salvation of infants who die.  The faithbyhearing blog article includes a link to John MacArthur’s two-part message regarding this topic. I have now finished listening to these two messages, which were very helpful and very solid in reference to what the Bible has to say on the matter, which is more than I had realized.

For me this topic is more academic: I’ve not personally experienced the loss of an infant or young child. I’ve known a few cases, such as a friend who 15 years ago gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and that Christian woman still regrets the loss though accepts that this child is with the Lord. I recall a pastor years ago who was uncertain, but held hope based on God’s character, that our God is merciful. My more recent reference point is a pastor with many other errors (Hugh Ross creation, amillennialism, preterism, heavy emphasis on spiritualizing and allegorizing texts and skimming the details), who on this issue has not openly stated it, but tends toward the Tim Challies viewpoint of damnation for infants who die. In a conversation regarding the matter, his main point was the guilt of the young children, to compare them to snakes and even baby snakes. The baby human is sinful and will manifest its sinfulness if given time to grow up, just as surely as the young snake will manifest its deadliness. As I now reflect further on the matter, and considering this pastor’s other errors, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. It’s the same heartless attitude that allows him to compare human sinners to disgusting roaches– and true, human sinfulness is a very vile thing, but I’ve never heard MacArthur or other biblically grounded teachers describe sin in such terms (such a description instead, I suspect, relates more to his old-earth attitude of animal death and suffering for billions of years) — and to declare that people’s young children really “are just brats.”

In my recent general readings, I’ve noted Spurgeon’s clear view that all babies who die are with the Lord; and now MacArthur’s view, and really it does make a lot of sense and with good biblical reference. (My only exception to what MacArthur said was his reference to C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle.” That story has nothing to do with the salvation of babies; those who die in the train crash are those who were school-age children in the earlier books, and in “The Last Battle” are grown, in their late teens.) As Todd at FaithByHearing noted, the real issue isn’t the young child’s sin and guilt before God; we all are in that condition, and we all are saved completely by God’s grace, and even our salvation does not involve us in any way. The real issue is God’s grace and mercy, that which He extends to those who die while in a condition of being unable to comprehend, unable to rebel against God.  As MacArthur points out in reference to Romans 1, the lost are “without excuse.” Dead infants are “with excuse.” Likewise, at the Great White Throne judgment of the damned, the lost are judged by their works, their deeds. Infants (though guilty sinners with the curse of original sin) do not have any deeds to be damned for. If an infant were in hell, it may realize that it is suffering and in torment, but it would not understand why it is suffering. All the lost, at the final judgement, do understand why they are suffering.

I now offer the following theory, for what it’s worth. Admittedly it is based on an extremely small sample, and so I’m not being completely serious here, perhaps a little facetious, yet I still see some truth in the following. Those who reject the idea of salvation for infants who die, tend to also be those who like to spiritualize and allegorize much of the Bible, those who tend to skim over the scriptural details, and end up as amillenialists and preterists. The same group (again I speak generally) that would deny a future salvation for Israel, that would deny God’s promises and electing grace to Israel, who say that the Jews lost their salvation on the basis of works and thus inherit the curses while the Church receives salvation on the basis of election and now inherits the blessings — are the same people who would deny God’s grace and salvation to infants, to those incapable of consciously accepting or rejecting God.

  • C. H. Spurgeon: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • John MacArthur, and like-minded bloggers: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • Tim Challies, and like-minded bloggers: amillenialist, no future for Israel — damnation for infants
  • The nameless local pastor: amillenialist, no future for Israel — uncertainty and likely damnation for infants
  • John Calvin: amillenialist;  partial infant salvation: elect infants and non-elect infants
  • Martin Luther: amillenialist;  partial salvation: only for those infants who are baptized before death

August 5, 2009

“Whenever You’re Speaking To Me”

The title here is from a Don Francisco song, with the following joyous lyrics:

There’s nothing I’ve heard that compares with your word,
the strength in it can set me so free.
There’s joy deep inside, that can’t be denied,
Whenever you’re speakin’ to me.

Every day as I spend time in God’s word (which nowadays means reading a set of 12 different chapters, about 40 minutes each day) I continue to find great encouragement to keep pressing on in the Christian walk. When so often I feel discouraged, and long for the rapture to be away from this wicked world, I find the strength to carry on. When on Sunday afternoon I was especially bothered about the local pastor’s disparaging remarks regarding premillennial eschatology (such as a passing comment that, oh, the book of Revelation contains a lot of symbols, it can’t be taken too seriously), the reading time again refreshed my spirit, to continue on with hope in God’s final deliverance.

The following are specific examples from recent readings (day 142). I read, as in today’s reading from Luke 8, of the Gadarene demoniac freed from demons, longing to go with Jesus; Jesus did not let him, but instead told him to go and tell others what God had done for him. In the same chapter I read of the fearful disciples on the boat, while Jesus slept in the storm, and then Jesus calmed the storm. I read in Hebrews 11 and 12 of the great saints of old, and the example they give to us, for holy living. The holy living theme continues in Titus 1, a place of wickedness much like today’s world, and yet Titus had to remain in that situation to put it in order, to do the work of God in a dark world. I read in the historical books (Joshua 8, 2 Kings 3) of mighty ways in which God delivered His people and brought victory against Israel’s enemies. Isaiah 6 shows the full awesomeness and glory of God, a scene similar to that of many others in the Bible who reacted with great fear at seeing a glimpse of the holy God. Amos 9 tells of judgement to come, as well as great deliverance for God’s people Israel in the final days after the great tribulation. Then (list 12) Revelation 7 tells of the vast number of peoples who will be saved in that last day, the 144,000 Israelites and the uncounted multitude from every nation, who come out of the great tribulation.

Spurgeon spoke of the great blessings that come from knowing God and how through that we grow in our faith:

“Every believer understands that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his faith. Believers are constantly referred to in the Bible as people who are enlightened and taught by the Lord; they are said to “have been anointed by the Holy One,”1 and it is the Spirit’s peculiar office to lead them into all truth, so that they might grow in their faith. Knowledge strengthens love as well as faith. … Knowledge also strengthens hope. … Knowledge supplies us with reason for patience.

Like Don Francisco, I can sing:

‘Cause like the rain from the sky on a thirsty land,
Your word brought life to a dying man.
From desert to garden,
condemnation to pardon,
and all of the praise goes to You!

and

With Your spirit inside and Your Word as my guide,
I’ve got a sense of direction so strong.

June 18, 2009

Great Christian Influences

This is a common topic on Internet blogs and message boards: list your favorite Bible teachers, or list the ones you’re most influenced by / learned from, etc.

Over time I find this list changes, and it’s always interesting to see the lists from others. Many of the names are unfamiliar, though over time I begin to hear more about those individuals. My own list is much smaller than others, those who obviously have been studying from many Christian teachers over many years.

Here is my own list of those great influences:

  • John MacArthur
  • Phil Johnson
  • Charles Spurgeon
  • S. Lewis Johnson

I’ve studied some from a few other names during the last 12 months– R.C. Sproul, Jim McClarty–but these are the important ones, and really more than I have enough time for in any given week. Unlike the Cal.vini.st  blogger, I don’t have an iPod to do podcasts, so I’m sticking with the “old” technology of MP3 files played on my computer, or burned to CDs and CD-RWs to play on the home DVD player or the car stereo.

My typical week includes:

  • listening to at least two John MacArthur sermons in my car, CD-RW discs with WAV files — currently listening to his Revelation series, up to chapter 16.
  • reading Charles Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s “Truth for Life” daily devotional emails), and reading a few sermons from the 1855 New Park Street volume
  • reading some of Pulpit magazine  and Teampyro blogs
  • listening to S. Lewis Johnson MP3s: half a sermon (about 23 – 25 minutes) each weekday morning before going to work.  I just started his series through Genesis.  Also, listening to MP3s of SLJ’s eschatology series, usually one message each weekday, on my PC at work (currently finished up through number 20 out of 37)

I’ve especially come to appreciate S. Lewis Johnson recently — a name I had often heard in the last several months, as being of like theological views to John MacArthur and Grace Community Church (baptist, Calvinist, dispensational). He really was a great teacher as well, with great depth of teaching (what I also appreciate about John MacArthur), and now I hope to listen to all of his messages, available on the Believer’s Chapel website (link here), and I’ll start by going through from Genesis to Revelation, all of his scripture-book messages.

May 21, 2009

Great Words From Spurgeon

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 11:21 am
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Only within the last year have I really begun to appreciate, and seek out, the sermons of great Christian teachers– what a treasure I missed, all those years content with reading the Bible through once a year, glancing through my NIV Study Bible notes, and weekly sermons from the local church pastor. It was actually my discontent with that local pastor (which is another story) that God used to lead me to the good material, the solid preaching and teaching. First I started reading and listening to John MacArthur, and what a difference that has made in my life, to go deeper into the Word, to correct and increase my biblical understanding and faith.

Since then I have found a few other good teachers I enjoy listening to, including Phil Johnson and Jim McClarty. I’ve only begun to read the “dead Christian teachers” including two books from A.W. Pink, and now, especially, C.H. Spurgeon. I’ve started with my church library’s Spurgeon sermon collection, about halfway through the first volume, sermons from 1855.

Now I also enjoy the daily Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s website), and a new blog called “The Daily Spurgeon.”  So much of Spurgeon’s words are “spot on,” timeless observations of God and man, and still as true in today’s Christian world as then– and special to me personally as well.

For example, the following quote, from his 1855 sermon “The Necessity of Increased Faith,” describes where I am now at:

From C.H. Spurgeon, sermon #32, “The Necessity of Increased Faith” (1855)

I know I can say I have had an increase of faith in one or two respects within the last few months. I could not, for a long time, see anything like the Millenium in the Scriptures; I could not much rejoice in the Second Coming of Christ, though I did believe it; but gradually my faith began to open to that subject, and I find it now a part of my meat and drink, to be looking for, as well as hastening unto, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe I have only just begun to learn the A B C of the Scriptures yet, and will constantly cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith,” that I may know more and believe more, and understand thy Word far better.

Spurgeon was only 21 then, an age now a little over half a lifetime ago; I wasn’t even yet saved at that age–God would work on my heart just three years later. But just at the point when I had become content, and thought I knew all that the Bible had to say, God has seen fit to reveal this too, and like Spurgeon I cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith.”

May 14, 2009

Thoughts on Spurgeon

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon — Lynda O @ 7:18 am
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In the last few months I have begun to appreciate C.H. Spurgeon, through reading his sermons, daily devotionals, and the Teampyro blog’s “Dose of Spurgeon” posts. His sermons are an invaluable treasure, with thoughts on so many different Christian topics.

Every once in a while, though, we all find something wrong, something to disagree with, even in a much-revered man like Spurgeon, moments that remind us that yes, even Spurgeon was human and fallible. A few days ago, while reading through sermons in the first volume of Spurgeon’s sermons (1855), I read the following:

Can any man tell me when the beginning was? Years ago we thought the beginning of this world was when Adam came upon it; but we have discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvelous skill, before he tried his hand on man.

He then changed the subject, went on to other matters without elaborating. As far as I know, he never said anything further regarding the matter. Answers in Genesis mentions the above quote in this article that tells the history of 19th century Christians who compromised and accepted the claims of science without challenge.

Today I read the latest from Teampyro’s Weekly Dose of Spurgeon, on Spurgeon’s comments (1890) against evolution and other man-made philosophy:

If any of you shall live fifty years, you will see that the philosophy of today will be a football of contempt for the philosophy of that period. They will speak, amidst roars of laughter, of evolution; and the day will come, when there will not be a child but will look upon it as being the most foolish notion that ever crossed the human mind. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I know what has befallen many of the grand discoveries of the great philosophers of the past; and I expect that the same thing will happen again.

Alas, his prediction about evolution has yet to be fulfilled — though as one blogger commented, the specifics of “evolution” have changed since Spurgeon’s time. Yet Spurgeon’s own error concerning the long ages of time — the very thing necessary to support the man-made evolutionary theory — has been so oft-repeated down through the years, a lie that so permeates our culture today that most continue to accept it without question.

So Spurgeon too is fallible, a good reminder to always subject man’s words, even those of godly, Christian leaders, to the word of God. Some preachers come closer to the mark, the standard of God’s word, than others, and this too requires great discernment, a gift from God through the Holy Spirit and our study of the Bible.

In Spurgeon’s defense, I can recognize that his shortcoming on this matter was far less than the same error in present-day preachers — due to the amount of light and knowledge. Scientific discoveries of the last 150 years since Spurgeon have pointed out the many problems with the claims of evolutionists, the flaws and inconsistencies found in the supposed geologic column and dating techniques. The modern-day preacher, who has full access to so much information regarding the issue, and yet insists on the old-earth ideas and rejects the overwhelming body of evidence, simply has no excuse for his unbelief.

From that point of variation, too, we can apply the Bible’s teachings and discern how far astray the preacher goes, in other doctrinal matters. Does the preacher honor the word of God in all matters, exegeting the text rather than imposing his own ideas onto it?
Here Spurgeon comes up much stronger than the modern-day “old-earth” professors. For on the same day when I read the above 1855 sermon, I also read one from the same year in which he preached on a verse from Ezekiel 34 and correctly taught what the passage says regarding Israel, both past and future. Though Spurgeon denounced the dispensationalists of his day, his views of Historic Premillennialism are actually very similar to that of my own “progressive dispensationalism,” agreeing that the Bible does teach a future regathering of Israel to the nation, and that some type of structure, whether a temple or other Church structure, will exist in the millennial period (in reference to Ezekiel’s prophecy). The only area of disagreement regards the timing of the rapture. As I’ve read elsewhere, Spurgeon was of the post-trib view, that the Church and believers would go through the tribulation. I’m not 100% sure of the pre-trib view yet (though I understand and agree with the pre-trib reasoning), mainly because I realize that the rapture timing is not something taught explicitly in the Bible, but that can only be inferred and implied based on several other assumptions. Clearly it was not something God wanted us to know with positive certainty.

So, even with Spurgeon’s error regarding the age of the creation, I can still evaluate his overall teachings and recognize a solid Christian teacher who can generally be trusted as faithful to the Bible. I have far less problems with Spurgeon’s ideas concerning the earth’s age and the rapture timing, than with the one who altogether rejects the basic futurist teaching of the Bible, with the modern-day “old-earth” preacher who shows (time and again) his unfaithfulness to God’s word in so many other doctrinal matters.

May 13, 2009

Great Quotes About God’s Faithfulness and Goodness

Filed under: quotes — Lynda O @ 11:40 am
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A.W. Pink, from The Attributes of God, on God’s faithfulness:

There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a profest brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely-tried fellow-pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
. . .
God is faithful in disciplining His people. He is faithful in what He withholds, no less than in what He gives. He is faithful in sending sorrow as well as in giving joy. The faithfulness of God is a truth to be confessed by us not only when we are at ease, but also when we are smarting under the sharpest rebuke. Nor must this confession be merely of our mouths, but of our hearts, too. When God smites us with the rod of chastisement, it is faithfulness which wields it. To acknowledge this means that we humble ourselves before Him, own that we fully deserve His correction, and instead of murmuring, thank Him for it. God never afflicts without reason. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you” (1 Cor. 11:30), says Paul, illustrating this principle. When His rod falls upon us let us say with Daniel, “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces’ (9:7)

From C.H. Spurgeon, on God’s Goodness:

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same.

November 1, 2008

Why I am premillennial

Filed under: eschatology — Lynda O @ 9:18 pm
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Short answer: it’s what the Bible teaches.

It all comes down to proper hermeneutics and Biblical interpretation. The literal hermeneutic simply means that the interpreter reads the passage for what it says, within its proper genre of writing. To counter the scoffers: of course the literal hermeneutic recognizes different types of literature, such as poetry versus narrative. The same hermeneutic applies when we are reading prophetic literature. To quote from the Contend Earnestly blog, “Why I Am Not A Preterist“:

“One of the standard authors on biblical interpretation, Bernard Ramm, says, “The interpreter should take the literal meaning of a prophetic passage as his limiting or controlling guide.” Without denying the presence of figures of speech or symbols, Ramm emphasizes that the literal meaning of words cannot be abandoned simply because the interpreter is handling prophetic literature. “

The early church fathers, for the first three centuries, understood this concept and saw no need to allegorize and add man’s ideas into a text. Allegory, and its close cousin amillennialism, crept into the church during the 4th and 5th centuries, a time which also formed the basis for the next thousand years of Roman Catholicism. Augustine, for all the great work he did in forming the Reformed Doctrine of justification by faith (the cry of the reformation) was also responsible for introducing faulty ecclesiology and eschatology that still pervades today’s church. His reasons for doing so were not all that pure and high-minded, either. The “church age” was coming into its own, acceptance into Constantine’s Roman Empire, and significant political pressure influenced Augustine’s ideas concerning church and government. Society of that time was also increasingly anti-semitic, and with a church no longer persecuted but reigning in political power, the biblical message that the hated Jews would one day be the ones in control just had to go — thus, the church became the new “Israel,” inheriting all of Israel’s blessings (but not its curses). Then there was also the problem of the Donatists, which personally repulsed Augustine — yet in so doing he threw out the baby with the bathwater. Because the Donatists — who had taken a hard, firm line against those who had previously apostasized in time of persecution yet had been restored in Constantines’ church — went to excesses with their bacchannalian love feasts, and yet were also premillennialist, Augustine rejected both their human excesses and their theology.

Thus when today’s amillennialists confidently support their position by appeal to history — claiming that premillennialism is something of recent development, and that, for over a thousand years, from the fifth century to the sixteenth century, amillennialism dominated — they do themselves no favor except that they want to agree with Catholicism. The same goes when Kim Riddlebarger appeals to the authority of the “classic protestant tradition” — that very “protestant tradition” of amillennialism came straight from the Medieval era Catholic Church.

The Reformation was not about reforming other doctrines, such as ecclesiology and eschatology. As John MacArthur has said, the reformers had enough on their plate to deal with, to rescue the Christian soteriology, the salvation plan, so they didn’t get around to reforming other teachings of scripture. The reformers were still steeped in many other areas of Catholicism, and so they didn’t bother with reforming those aspects. Christians today are quick to criticize John Calvin for his sacralism, his disastrous project of a Christian church-state society in Geneva — but it was the only thing he understood, from the Catholic system of his day. The Reformers acquired some power of their own, and then roundly persecuted the anabaptists who challenged for further reform, including in eschatology (they too were premillennial, from reading what the Bible says).

Now to some of the actual Bible text, a look at the book of Revelation. Amillennialists will make several large, sweeping claims, such as: numbers are always used symbolically and never literally; and Revelation is not meant to be in sequence but several re-tellings of the same story of church history, a “progressive parallelism.” But are these claims valid? The apostle John used many different numbers throughout Revelation, and sometimes he even used the Greek word for “myriads” to indicate an indefinite, large number, showing that he knew perfectly well how to use the numbers. The text gives no reason, of itself, to just arbitrarily say that all the numbers are symbolic. As to the division of Revelation into different re-tellings, the divisions the text itself will not allow for that. For instance, amills say that Chapter 20 begins a new re-telling of events in previous chapters — but Chapter 20 verse 1 begins with a Greek conjunctive word translated “then” or “and,” and this same word is found repeatedly throughout other chapters of Revelation, to confound any parallelism.

Just because a text can also have a spiritual fulfillment or a spiritual application, does not negate a future literal fulfillment. Case in point: in Matthew 17:11-12, Jesus’ words to Peter, James and John after the mount of transfiguration, in answer to their question about Elijah coming first, Jesus says: “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.” then in verse 12: “But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished.” Yes, John the Baptist did spiritually fulfill the prophecy in one aspect, but Jesus also clearly says that Elijah will come (future tense). The original text in Malachi speaks of Elijah coming before the great and terrible day of the Lord, referring to the future time of the end and judgement. The book of Revelation gives us further insight, when it describes the two prophets coming down — one of whom is clearly Elijah, and thus the full literal fulfillment of the original prophecy. Much of prophecy indeed works this way, with a near-term spiritual fulfillment and a future complete, literal fulfillment. Joel 2 and Acts 2 reference another similar treatment of prophecy: the full passage in Joel 2 describes first the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, followed by language describing the great and terrible day of the Lord. Peter quotes this full passage in Acts 2, as in fulfillment of what happened at Pentecost. Clearly the first part was fulfilled, but we cannot say that the other apocalyptic events described in Joel happened. Peter, like other Jews of his day (and earlier, including the prophet Joel) did not clearly understand the prophecies. Old Testament Jews were completely befuddled by the prophecies concerning Christ’s coming, and had even come up with a two-Messiah system: a Messiah ben-Joseph who would suffer and die, and a Messiah ben David who would reign as king. They could not foresee the now 2,000+ years gap between a first and second coming of the Messiah. Even the apostles, just before Christ ascended into the clouds, were asking about the second part: “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The apostles are now thinking, okay, the first part has happened, now what about the rest? Notice, too, that Christ didn’t tell them — oh, you don’t understand, the kingdom is really spiritual and it’s here now; he simply said that it wasn’t any of their business to know the appointed times and dates set by the Lord. In Acts 2 when Peter witnessed the events of Pentecost and their fulfillment, very likely understood that, well, now the first part has come, so the second part must be coming soon. True, Peter was speaking by the Holy Spirit, but Joel in the Old Testament also spoke by the Holy Spirit inspiration, and yet neither man had perfect, complete knowledge of how the prophecy would unfold in human history.

When amillennialists get to their sticking point, that “a thousand years” in Revelation 20 (the number is used six times in the chapter) doesn’t really mean a thousand years but some vague, indefinite large period of time, they really are sounding exactly like the liberal theologians who reject Genesis 1-2 because “it can’t mean what it says” based on fallen man’s ideas of evolution and long, undetermined periods of evolution or “progressive creation.” Yet the exegesis of Genesis is equally solid, a narrative text with real numbers, and only someone coming to the text with pre-conceived notions from modern so-called science would come up with any idea other than what the text says. Though we have more certainty concerning the past than the future, when it comes to properly interpreting God’s word we understand our rational God and can apply the same hermeneutic principle to all scripture, including prophecy.

The late Anthony Hoekema admitted that a literal, straightforward reading of Revelation would indicate a sequence from chapter 19 to 20, and that Christ returns before the millennium — and then he rejects it for his own reasons. John Reisinger, likewise, admits that amillennialism isn’t in the Bible but that it is “a rebellion against the other two views.” His problem is that he can’t admit that God has any future purpose for national Israel. I don’t fully understand that, either, but God’s purposes and understanding are far greater than ours. One’s attitude towards God’s holy scripture truly reveals the inner heart attitude. When something in the Bible contradicts an individual’s pre-conceived ideas, which idea is rejected — God’s or man’s? If someone has to come up with great-sounding and high-minded allegorical ideas, which puff up the person with some higher knowledge (and gives great “job security” since ordinary laypeople can’t understand this allegorical scheme and must come to the person to be properly taught), to support their own beliefs, rather than seeking to understand the text for its own sake and in its proper context, that really reveals the person’s own spiritual problem and a weak view of scripture.

Now for a closing thought, consider this text from Spurgeon, posted on the TeamPyro blog. An excerpt:

“Dear friends, we may sometimes refresh our minds with a prospect of the kingdom which is soon to cover all lands, and make the sun and moon ashamed by its superior glory. We are not to indulge in prophesyings as some do, making them our spiritual food, our meat and drink; but still we may take them as choice morsels, and special delicacies set upon the table; they are condiments which may often give a sweeter taste, or, if you will, a greater pungency and savor to other doctrines; prophetic views light up the crown of Jesus with a superior splendor; they make his manhood appear illustrious as we see him still in connection with the earth: to have a kingdom here as well as there; to sit upon a throne here as well as in yonder skies; to subdue his adversaries even upon this Aceldama, as in the realm of spirits; to make even this poor earth upon which the trail of the serpent is so manifest, a place where the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

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