20 September 2010

ATK Part 4 Supplement- The Issue of Imminency

As a follow up to some of the comments I made in the last post….

I would also point out the problems Dispensationalism and Postmillennialism both have with the doctrine of the Imminency of the Second Coming. This is the teaching that Christ could have come at any moment in the past, including the present moment. Some may find it surprising that some systems deny this teaching.

Post-millennialism denies this doctrine, viewing it as impossible that Christ could come right now, tomorrow, or at any time in the past up to the present. Why? Unfulfilled prophecy. We're still waiting for the Golden Age, the period of Millennial maturation. Isaiah 2 and Psalm 2 have not been fulfilled according to their reading of the Old Testament.Until this happens, Christ cannot come.

Dispensationalism divides the Second Coming into two segments, a secret Rapture, wherein Christ returns, but not visibly, merely to 'catch up' the Church. Then He comes physically seven years later at the end of the Tribulation.

First, His Second Coming has to be at least seven years away, even if the Rapture happened right now.

Second, the Rapture could not happen until Israel was in the land or else the tribulation scenario wouldn't be possible. This is based off a very erroneous reading of Daniel 9. So in this schema, the Rapture has only been possible since May 1948. Prior to this anyone who thought Christ could come at any moment was surely mistaken, not only in regard to the Rapture, but indeed the Second Coming. They reluctantly admit to this or at least have in the past.

Only historic Pre-millennialism and Amillennialism allow for the possibility of Christ's Imminent Return…Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

Historic Pre-millennialism is an expression of Chiliasm. Admittedly very popular in the early Church, this teaching denies Christ's Kingship at present, defining the Kingdom in physical geo-political terms it places it yet future, after His return.

Amillennialism insists on the basic hermeneutical rule that the clear and explicit, the perspicuous passages are looked to in order to define basic terms. Following the Apostolic hermeneutic in dealing with Old Testament prophecy, this system then applies this same method to the interpretation of the Apocalyptic symbolism in Revelation. Just as Daniel exhibited a series of repeating visions, each from a different vantage point and dealing with different themes, Amillennialism in most cases sees Revelation as a series of repeating visions demonstrating for us the full scope of this present age, also identified as the Last Days.

Revelation 20 is but one of the several visions which lays out the full scope from Pentecost to the Second Coming. The thousand years is to be interpreted symbolically along with the other numerological types throughout Apocalyptic writings. We find the same type of language employed in Daniel, Joel, Micah and Isaiah. It is literal, but cast in poetic symbolism.

Amillennialism in recognizing the book of Revelation as appealing to not just the past as with Preterism nor just the future as with Futurism is able to find application in every period throughout Church history and also is able to interpret the Kingdom vision and message in a way that harmonizes with the clear teaching of Christ that the Kingdom was established during His earthly ministry. Many stumble over the binding of Satan, viewing that as in impossibility in light of our present world situation. The problem is the nature of the binding which is defined for us in Revelation 20 and exemplified in Matthew 12. The binding refers to the fact that the Gospel will no longer be restricted to the single nation of Israel. The gospel is now universal, extending to all the nations and though Satan can persecute playing the role of roaring lion, he cannot stop the progress of the Gospel. Remember before Christ, an Edomite or Babylonian had to become a Jew, and worship at the central shrine, the Temple in Jerusalem. It involved geography and culture…clothing, food, etc…

In the New Covenant, the Gospel is free to function in any context. In this sense Satan is indeed bound. Matthew shows us this demonic grip has been broken by the power of Christ. Is Christ at present fully exercising this power and dominion? Yes and no. It must be understood in terms of the already and not yet. The spiritual Kingdom is a present reality, we see the power of the Holy Spirit at work here on the earth, but the Judgment that comes with full expression, the consummation of the Kingdom is not yet. We are seated with Him in the heavens, reigning with Him…but not yet. We're still waiting.

The question is…are we looking for another age between this age and the age to come? Do the Scriptures teach another intermediate period between Christ's coming (the end of this age) and the age to come (the new heavens and new earth)?

This is where the Pre-millennial Kingdom would have to be placed. It's not found in Paul's Two-Age structure. It is only found in what I believe to be a misreading of Revelation 20.

Elsewhere I have argued largely for a non-synthesis of Scripture. But I need to make it clear that when we're dealing with clear doctrinal passages in say, the Epistles, we need to make sure we don't allow one Epistle to trump another. Clear didactic or doctrinal text shouldn't cancel out doctrinal text. But I would place the Epistles in hermeneutical priority over Prophecy. Why? Because when we see how Paul or Peter read and interpret the Old Testament we learn something of how they view the text. We must employ the Apostolic hermeneutic when it comes to interpreting the Old Testament, or the one New Testament book written in the Old Testament Apocalyptic mode.

My two favourite examples actually come from Acts. Look at Peter's interpretation of Joel in Acts 2, and James' interpretation of Amos 9 in Acts 15. If you started with Joel or Amos you would not come up with the same interpretations and concepts of fulfillment we find with the Apostles. We also find like comparisons all through the writings of Paul. We need to start with the Apostles, don't cancel them out when they interact with each other…and then turn to less clear prophetic and apocalyptic passages with our foundations already laid. The are other issues concerning the relation between narrative and epistolary doctrinal passages, but that's for another post.

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