03 July 2013

The Already and the Not Yet (2/2)

David Jeremiah tried to vindicate these prophetic chronology-breaks by appealing to Jesus' use of Isaiah 61.  In Luke 4 Jesus reads the passage and applies it to Himself.

David Jeremiah tries to argue that he specifically stops at the beginning of verse 2 because the rest of the Isaiah passage applies to the 2nd coming.

Look at the passage:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
And the sons of the foreigner
Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But you shall be named the priests of the Lord,
They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
And in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery for burnt offering;
I will direct their work in truth,
And will make with them an everlasting covenant.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles,
And their offspring among the people.
All who see them shall acknowledge them,
That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.”

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,
As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

I am unwilling to restrict portions of the passage to either the first or second Coming. The passage applies universally to the presence of Christ. All these things were fulfilled when Christ said:

It is finished.

If not, I would ask what has yet to be fulfilled?

They would answer all kinds of things concerning Israel, the Middle East etc...

As I've pointed out elsewhere, for this doctrine to be true you cannot believe in the imminence of the 2nd Coming. If Israel is removed from the land, then I guess we should quit looking up (so to speak). He's not coming. In fact under their schema Christ could not come before 1948.

The Biblical eschatology is actually quite simple. The Kingdom is a present reality in its spiritual form. Eschatologically (in heaven) it's as real as the keyboard I'm typing on. In Christ, it's real for us too. We can see it while others cannot.

The wheat and tares will grow together. Evil will continue to grow and a remnant will survive and continue to preach the gospel. The witness of the Church will be small and persecuted and at times seem to be slain. The world will rejoice at this. Christ will return. There will be resurrection. For some this will be unto life and for others unto death. Some will be in eternal torment and others will go on to eternal life.[i]

The Dispensational scheme is clouded by a myriad of events, strange impossibly complicated and technical Scripture readings. The chronology alone defies description. Perhaps some readers who grew up in those circles will remember the big wall charts? I do. They have multiple resurrections, judgments...even the 2nd Coming of Christ is divided into a two-fold event...the popular pre-Tribulational Rapture (a partial invisible coming) and the actual 2nd Coming.

David Jeremiah thought his problems were solved by appealing to Luke and Isaiah. The passages don't support his reading of Daniel. The New Testament doesn't support his entire theological structure.

It wouldn't be that big of a deal except that it affects voters, policy, geo-politics and has helped at times to foment war. Sacralist Evangelicals think in terms of America and Israel (You and me) against the world.[ii]

I will grant the early Church was largely Pre-millennial, but that's a far cry from the Dispensational system! In terms of praxis, practical Christian living the Historic Pre-millennial system approaches my own views. I would argue the early Church still retained certain Judaistic tendencies. Though a golden age compared to what followed in the 4th century it was far from pure. Something to keep in mind as we look around us.

The Dispensational system born in the 19th century is rooted in a distinction between the Jew and Gentile. God has a separate plan for the Jews. In fact it's His primary plan and as soon as the Rapture occurs plan ‘A’ is re-implemented. The Jews will be in the land, the temple rebuilt and the sacrificial system reinstated.

Without this foundational doctrine of two people of God (A Jewish covenant and the New Covenant for the Gentile Church Age) and the concept of the pre-Tribulational Rapture...the system quickly implodes.

Amillennialism I would argue is the teaching of the New Testament. I would also argue it can be found latently in some of the early Church fathers. I will also admit that it came into its own with Augustine of Hippo. As I've indicated elsewhere Augustine (to borrow from Dallek's biography of LBJ) was a ‘flawed giant’. His mind was profound and he opened the Scriptures in many ways that far excelled his contemporaries and often his predecessors. Certainly those who came after him. Yet despite that he also planted some terrible seeds. It has rightly been said that both the Medieval Roman Church and the Protestant Reformation were birthed by Augustine. For the most part I wish to reject both...but at the same time not entirely either.

It is rare to find real 'bad' guys in history. Or to put it another way it's a mistake to categorize history in terms of good guys and bad guys. From a Christian perspective everyone who isn't a believer is evil. Some are simply more evil than others. Not everyone is a Stalin, but that doesn't make Woodrow Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt good.

Most people display a mixture of motivations and actions and this is true of even some of the largest names looming over the history of the Church. Bernard of Clairvaux was not a hero or someone I wish to praise. And yet not all he said or wrote was bad. This can even be true of some of the popes. This can even be true of some Evangelical leaders today. Not all they say is bad and in some cases they have very good things to say. And yet even when they say some ‘good’…that doesn’t necessarily mean I expect to see popes, Bernard or many Evangelical leaders in the Kingdom.

In Reformed circles it is some of the Theonomists who I believe have best grasped certain aspects of what the Scripture teaches about salvation, covenant and the Church. Aside from that they've completely misunderstood the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and in many ways have failed to grasp what the Bible is all about. I oppose them but not every single thing they say.

There are aspects of the Mennonite understanding of the Kingdom that I believe to be quite correct and reflect the teaching of the New Testament. At the same time I think they've misunderstood many theological aspects of the New Testament and in many of their circles the legalism they bind on themselves and others is nothing less than poison.

Is Augustine a villain? In some ways he is as are many characters in Church History. In the end he was a person who sought to please God and was profound both in his insight and his error. I'm sure not a few readers would say the same with regard to my own ideas though no one would dare to categorize someone like me with Augustine of Hippo and rightly so.

In the end, what do the Scriptures say? How do we understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments? Is there almost total unity, total discontinuity or a bit of both? Does the New Testament help us to understand the Old? If so, then our hermeneutical, our interpretive foundations must begin in the clear didactic passages of the New Testament. This is not to suggest that the Old Testament is somehow less than Scripture. But it does suggest the New Testament is given the place of supremacy and that we need it in order to rightly understand the Old. At that point portions of the Old Testament open up for us and deepen our understanding of the totality of the Scriptures.

In the end we see Christ present on every page. The book is about our Lord and Risen King.

How many cares and concerns are exposed as distractions and fall by the wayside?

[i] I would argue 'eternal' perhaps doesn't mean what many think it means. I don't think of it as endless time but as timelessness. There are arguments for and against both positions and it’s not something I would fall out over.
[ii] Try not to think of the Helen Reddy song (You and Me Against the World) although if you listen to the lyrics, it's rather appropriate. If you look it up on YouTube be sure to catch the duet with Kermit. It brings back some fond memories from simpler days.

1 comment:

Cal said...

I've heard and seen how what is called "historic Pre-mill" is very similar to amill in almost every way. The former would probably take Scripture and try to explain a more ordered movement of events where the amil would relegate it to a swirl of prophetic colors that are no less true, but explain a reality deeper than explanation. I'm with you on the Amil, though its something still to puzzle through. Not earth shattering either way, but the primary take away is that Christ is victor and His kingdom is here.

I heard part of the David Jeremiah talks on Daniel. I was baffled, only people raised on this system, or convinced what they do is the only "biblical" approach, will accept this teaching. To a skeptic, or a stranger, they'll be at a loss. Its almost a sort of gnosticism. Pay me 5 "gifts" of 20 dollars and you can have my 22 part dvd collection explaining you the knowledge to unlock the Bible. I don't think David Jeremiah is one to scam, but he's rare in that regard.

Back to Augustine!

I think the major problem is that he is not so inflexible as people ascribe. His thoughts changed over the years, and I think, as a symbol, Alaric's sack of Rome initiated a cynicism of politiking that grew with the years. How many times did Rome waffle, or even back, the Donatists? How many times was Augustine frustrated by stupid church-politics in trying to take down Pelagius? He was dismayed by waves of obfuscations.

As gross as the West became, I think we are so disgusted because it is our own history. The West still had the red blooded Africans to cause "problems", the East was so swallowed up by the Court that you only see a real resistance in Chrysostom. That's my amateur reading however. It is funny to see a collision of attitudes when Augustine punched, so to speak, Jerome in the nose for implying that studying Scripture was a game. Augustine gets a star in my book for that.

Anyway, you're right that Augustine is a flawed giant. I think much of his legacy, especially the worst of the worst, was selective reading.

I can't believe that Charlemagne ever read City of God, as Einhardt claimed. One can trace Medieval Sacral Christendom to Augustine, but how one gets there is how one pieces the puzzle of Augustine's mind together. I'm glad for the Renaissance. Scholastic 'sentences' give a false sense of knowledge, and I'm glad that sort of education was mostly overturned.

But that's what Wikipedia is anymore? Ha, I'm guilty. Yet, I guess it's what you do with it. Does the cursory glance lead you to the sources? Or do you put on your philosopher's cloak and start cracking skulls with your half-baked understanding? Again, guilty of both.

Ultimately, I think Augustine left the possible legacy of Inquisition and the horrors of Western Europe but also the key to undoing it all. Like the standard scifi plot: scientist unleashes alien-monster accidentally, but creates a weapon capable of destroying it.

Food for 2 Cents,

PS. Slightly off-topic question: You mention a swipe at Bernard and some Popes that you don't expect to see them in the Kingdom. When you make a statement (carefully, I'm sure) what is it based upon?

(Exempla Gratia) Someone like Tolstoy: he clearly understood what it meant to follow Christ, but he had some "unorthodox" understandings elsewhere.

Where do you draw a line? Walking the Talk (By your fruits they will know you)?