Interpreting prophecies

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by Rexlion, Aug 24, 2020.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Many people have been led to believe that end-time Scripture prophecies should always be interpreted by an allegorical method or by 'spiritualizing' them. I do not think this is proper.

    Consider, for example, the following passage in Scripture:
    Zec 14:1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
    Zec 14:2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
    Zec 14:3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
    Zec 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
    Zec 14:5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
    Zec 14:6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark:
    Zec 14:7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
    Zec 14:8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
    Zec 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
    Zec 14:10 All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses.
    Zec 14:11 And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
    Zec 14:12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
    Zec 14:13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.
    Zec 14:14 And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.
    Zec 14:15 And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague.
    Zec 14:16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
    Zec 14:17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.


    This prophecy in Zechariah tells of a time when an army gathers against Jerusalem and God Himself will set foot on the Mount of Olives, cleaving it into two halves, and will then fight on behalf of Jerusalem (v. 3) by consuming the very flesh of all in the enemy's camp (v. 12). Afterward, God will reign over the earth (v. 9) and people from all over the world will travel to Jerusalem to worship Him there (v. 16). Jerusalem will never again face utter destruction (v. 11). Clearly, this event has not yet occurred.

    Zechariah also prophesied of events which have come to pass. For example:
    Zec 11:12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.
    Zec 11:13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

    And also:
    Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
    Obviously, these passages foretell of the coming of Jesus our Messiah, and they have quite literally been fulfilled. The proper way to interpret these verses is to take them literally, as is very evident since we have the benefit of hindsight.

    Why would we pick and choose between the literal interpretive method and an allegorical method, based simply upon whether the scripture has (to our knowledge) been fulfilled or not? Especially when the same prophet has prophesied all of the above, isn't it arbitrary to assign a method of interpretation according to whether we can see a past fulfillment?

    Since we know that Zechariah accurately foretold of literal events which have come to pass, and we know that Zechariah was a true prophet of God, can't we expect Zechariah to have accurately foretold of literal events even when we haven't yet seen their fulfillment?
     
  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Generally I agree with you, that there is no need to spiritualize prophecies, especially these ones.

    However how do you know they're end-time?
     
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  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Heb 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
    Heb 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

    We are in the last days. That puts us close to the end of this age. So it seems fair to use the phrase 'end-time prophecy' when examining a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled.
     
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Ok yeah I agree with you that we’re in the last days. But that can be thousands of years more. It’s just an eschatological category. Usually by end times or end of days people refer to the Apocalypse and the end of the world though, so that was my confusion.
     
  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Another example can be found in the prophecies of Isaiah. Most of us will be very familiar with Chapter 53:

    Isa 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
    Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
    Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
    Isa 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
    Isa 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

    We interpret this literally and we have no doubt that this prophecy foretold the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

    But how many of us are as familiar with Chapter 2?
    Isa 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
    Isa 2:3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
    Isa 2:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.


    This passage foretells of a time on earth when God establishes His "house" at Jerusalem. What is a house, but a habitation? People will travel to Jerusalem to hear God's (Jesus') words at His house. It is earth, a physical place, and the people living in some nations will need to be rebuked by the Lord. We know this is not yet fulfilled, not some time in our past, because it also says that in this time there will be no war. In fact, peace will endure long enough that the weapons of war are disposed of.
    (Side note: When it says, "in the top of the mountains," we should take not of the topography of Israel; Jerusalem is high up, at 2400 feet (600m) elevation, yet it is less than 30 miles from the Mediterranean Sea (sea level) to its east and less than 25 miles from the Dead Sea to the west. Also, recall that people were not well-traveled in Isaiah's day (most lived their entire lives within a short radius of their birthplace); to the Israelites, Jerusalem was situated at the top of a mountain.)

    Isaiah 9:6 is easily recognizable as a prophecy concerning Jesus' First Advent:
    Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

    But the very next verse foretells of a time after Jesus' Second Advent:
    Isa 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
    How do we know this is a time after Jesus returns to earth? We know because it is a time of peace (which has been conspicuously absent throughout the church age). And we know because it agrees and harmonizes with Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11:6 (even the animals will be at peace!), Isaiah 35:1-10, Isaiah 65:25, Zechariah 14, and other scriptures in various books of the Bible.

    In each case, the context of the scriptures shows us that they are not figurative, but rather literal. We certainly would not alter the mode of interpretation from one verse to the next just because one falls in the past and the other in the future. Instead, we interpret literally both the past and the future prophecies.

    What do I mean when I say that the context of the scripture will show us how to interpret? An easy example should suffice: Jesus said, "I am the door" (John 10:9). Since we know that Jesus is not a literal door, we can see that he was speaking in some manner other than literally, such as allegorically or figuratively.
     
  6. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    In the above posts, I laid some groundwork for the proposition that a literal interpretation of prophecies can be a valid interpretation, where the context points in that direction.

    Now, consider this passage from Revelation:
    Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
    Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
    Rev 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
    Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
    Rev 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
    Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
    Rev 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
    Rev 20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
    Rev 20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
    Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

    It is possible to allegorize this "thousand years" as an indication of 'a very long (but non-specific) period of time.' It is also possible to take it to mean a literal one-thousand-year time period.

    Those who strictly allegorize the passage (the amillennialist position) tend to believe that we are now in the midst of this long time period, and that the "thousand years" is the present spiritual reign of Christ through His church. This necessitates a belief that Satan is currently bound from interfering in human affairs (v. 2), despite the evident presence in this world during the past 2,000 years of demons and demonic activity (consider Mark 16:17), Peter's statement that the devil is still prowling the earth (1 Peter 5:8-9) and James' exhortation to "resist the devil" (James 4:7).

    Among the literalists, there exists a group (the postmillenialists) who think that the church now reigns spiritually, that the church's job is to gain dominion within (or over?) the world, and that Jesus won't return until the world has been essentially 'won' for Christ (either through aggressive witnessing or, in the modern iteration of postmillenialism, through the 'social gospel' and the meeting of everyone's temporal needs). Some postmillenialists don't even believe that Christ will return physically to earth! The postmillenial view supposes that mankind is capable of doing something it hasn't been able to do in 2,000 years so far; it is a rather humanist view to suppose that a man-made institution or a community of sinners-saved-by-grace could transform the world into a fair, peaceful, and just place. I don't think this view has much support in scripture.

    Most Christians who believe in a literal thousand-year period are 'historic premillenialists': they believe that the millenium is an actual, future period during which Christ will physically be present (having returned in the clouds, Matt. 24:30; Matt. 26:64; 1 Thess. 4:16-17) and will reign from Jerusalem, assisted by the martyrs reigning with him (Rev. 20:6), for a thousand years. This interpretation holds that Satan is not currently bound, but that he will be bound for a specific 1,000 year period, after which he will be allowed to stir up trouble one last time (presumably among those who have been born during this millenial period, to reveal who will be the redeemed 'sheep' and who are the unrepentant 'goats').

    It is worthy of note that in the 2nd Century church, records reflect that Irenaeus and Justin both believed that a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth would occur. Moreover, Augustine held the premillenial view for some years, although later in life (5th Century) he switched to amillenialism.

    Does it make a difference to us whether the millenium is literal or allegorical? In many respects, it won't. Christians certainly can hold one to one interpretation or another and can "agree to disagree." Whatever will happen, will happen... regardless of how we might have expected the future to play out. And 'having the correct interpretation' about the millenium isn't critical to our salvation or anything like that. On the other hand, if we can accept the possibility that Rev. 20 might refer to a literal millenium to come, then we can also accept the possibility that some other noteworthy things in the Book of Revelation may have a literal component to them. We should not reject the literal interpretation 'out of hand' simply because we've been taught at some time or other to handle Revelation allegorically.

    Why, after all, did God inspire John to pen this vision if not to warn a future generation of some future events? Prophetic messages recorded in the O.T. often (perhaps most often?) were given as warnings of things to come, warnings to be heeded. When God fulfills those prophecies and man finally perceives (in hindsight) the true significance of the 'advance notice,' God is glorified.

    Rev. Rodney Whitacre of Trinity School of Ministry points out in his video series on Revelation that God often places multiple meanings, layers upon layers of significance, in the prophecies. Prophetic scriptures can have both literal and spiritual/allegorical components; they can refer to multiple things both obliquely and directly, or simultaneously to things past, things present, and things yet to come. (Scripture is like a rich, intricate tapestry, prophetic scriptures included, with interwoven threads leading in multiple directions.)

    When we look at passages concerning the nature of the two "beasts" (Rev. 13), the meaning of the harlot (Rev. 17 & 18), and the imperative against accepting the mark of the beast, it is best to avoid preconceptions based upon one interpretive method alone. Although a long tradition of allegorizing Revelation springs out of the Roman church and this tradition has certain merits, we should consider that allegorizing may not be the only, or even the best, method to apply in all cases. (Some early fathers would have begged to differ!) While context seems to demand that some portions of Revelation be spiritualized because we see no literal context that makes sense to us, other portions' contextual analysis reveals literal applications which do make sense.
     
  7. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Revelation was certainly written primarily with the Roman Empire in it's prophetic sights. The churches it is specifically and literally addressed to were all part of that Empire at a time when that Empire was in full control of them and all their citizens. The nature of apocalyptic literature though does not preclude application of its possible relevance to very far future events and geographically far wider contexts. The Roman Catholic Church of course did not exist as an entity when the writer of Revelation put his quill or stylus to the papyrus though.

    Allegorisation of just about all and every passage of scripture became fashionable at certain periods of church history and certainly not all of what came out of that was valuable or even sensible and some of it even profoundly misleading, there are a good many texts in the bible which are obviously either primarily or absolutely intended to be read literally and in no way as 'figures of speech', 'parables' or 'fables, containing hidden spiritual truths'.

    The fact is that Revelation contains passages that cannot be taken literally, mixed with passages, which are quite intentionally literal in meaning and the categorising of both kinds of text is not always obvious. Even context does not always help; though it is a very good guide in most cases.

    What this text might have meant to the people it was originally written for is a very good guide to its primary meaning. This however by no means precludes the possibility that the text's inclusion in the canon has extended its possible meaning to generations far beyond that one it was originally addressed to. My own view is that this may have extended its allegorical and mythical applications rather than reduced them and some of those allegorical applications may even turn out to be quite literally 'true' historically.

    We shall have to wait and see.
     
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Why would God the Son initiate a thousand-year reign, during which He would physically rule on earth? What reason could He have for doing such a thing? I have an idea why God might have such a plan.

    Consider how God allowed Adam and Eve to have 'free reign' over the garden, with only one single rule: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it... (Gen. 2:17). Adam and Eve probably could fellowship freely with God in the garden, and they could have asked Him any question they wished. Other than that one requirement, they were pretty much 'their own bosses' (self-governance). It would have been so easy for them to comply with God's rule and to trust Him. But they failed.

    We don't know if there was any sort of governance system before the flood, but whatever system man used to govern themselves, it failed miserably. Man was sinful and disobedient. Only Noah and his family survived out of all the early inhabitants.

    God's people lived in bondage to slave-masters in Egypt, and again later on in Babylon. They were governed through force by captors. On neither occasion could man live righteously before God.

    When the Israelites were led by God into the Promised Land, they were not content; they begged God for a king. So God gave them a string of earthly rulers; some were relatively good and some were relatively bad, but all were fallen sinners. And through all these times, the people failed to live righteous lives. The monarchic governance system did not help mankind to stay out of sin.

    Since then, humankind has seen nearly every governance system possible, from more monarchies to brutal dictatorships to democratic republics. Each time, man has failed to redeem himself. Each time, humans wallow in sin.

    However, someone might possibly someday say, "Oh, but if only God would have come to earth and Himself ruled mankind personally! If only men could see God for themselves whenever they had a doubt, and entreat Him face to face when they had a need or a concern! Surely man would be able to live righteously if he knew for a certainty that God is real and that God will provide!"

    And so, I believe, God the Son will come to earth in the last days. The God/Man who knows our infirmities and whose compassion is all-encompassing will live among men and be seen by all. All will know to worship and obey Him. His reign will be marked by extraordinary peace, well-being, and provision: the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock (Isaiah 65:25); the lifespans of humans will be greatly lengthened (Isaiah 65:20); people will not have to suffer injustices (verse 22); and wars will be a thing of the past (Isaiah 2:4). With what result? After a thousand years of nearly idyllic existence personally provided by Jesus Christ, at their very first chance to 'blow it,' mankind will once again listen to the old deceiver, Satan, and will attempt to rid themselves of Almighty God.
    And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Rev. 20:7-10).

    You see, in-person theocratic rule (with Jesus the God/Man physically present and reigning on earth) is the one type of governance that mankind has not yet experienced. If humans don't experience it, someone (perhaps Satan or the fallen, condemned souls) could protest that if only God had actually, physically 'been there' for mankind, they would not have failed... man could have lived self-righteously. And so, I think that God will give mankind a shot at this for an entire millennium, just to prove once and for all that we humans have "no health in us." Even with God Himself right there in the flesh, providing for the people, meeting the needs of all who call upon Him, and creating a situation in which no one need doubt that He is real, humanity will turn their backs on their Provider the moment they hear the honey-tongued deceits of that fallen angel, Lucifer.

    That's why a literal millennial reign of Christ on earth makes sense to me, personally.
     
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  9. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    And apart from the rather literalist and inflexible interpretations of some passages from Genesis it is a well thought through and plausible theory. I find myself very much in agreement with its implications.

    If the human race were capable of 'straightening up and flying right', sufficiently to live according to the pattern originally intended by its creator, by obedience to a code of ethics or a set of rules, however benignly applied, it would have done so long, long ago by seeing the obvious advantages to itself of such behaviours.

    Genesis chapters two to ten are a very honest, truthful and insightful view into human nature and group dynamics, showing its predisposition to irrational and self destructive courses of action in the mistaken assumption that we are simply free to 'just do it', without considering all the possible consequences.

    It is the natural consequence of us imagining that WE know the difference between good and evil and can therefore always infallibly decide wisely. History proves our imagination, imaginary.

    I think you rightly discern the human race's natural tendency to rebel against anything which impinges upon their own natural selfishness.

    If Jesus Christ himself was ruling from Jerusalem from the throne of David and issued an edict that everyone must wear face masks until a dangerous viral epidemic was over there would still be millions of people who would see such as an infringement upon their 'freedom', an imposition, and adamantly oppose it. Thus openly demonstrating their opposition to the Christ and selfish carelessness of other's safety.

    Can you imagine then the opposition there would immediately be to an order to melt down swords into plowshares and hand guns and AK47s into cooking pots, tanks into tractors and missiles into corrugated iron mission huts.

    My guess is that is exactly why God gave up ever hoping the human race could ever be fixed while any of them remain alive. It is only through death that we can be resurrected into a life compatible with the rule of Christ.

    The only question for the human individual then is whether we get it over with right now and die to our selfish 'free will' and live for Christ in resurrection mode thereafter, thus avoiding the judgement of a second death, or whether we 'soldier on' in our 'self life' until we have no choice but to succumb to death of the body and reluctantly face our redeemer in resurrection life, with a whole lot of rebellion to answer for.
    .
     
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  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Recently I've found another good reason (probably a superior one) why our Lord would wish to conduct a millennial reign on earth. It's in Irenaeus' "Against Heresies," Ch. 32:

    1. Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God’s dispensations, and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just, and of the [earthly] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behoves (sic) the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated, and that the judgment should take place afterwards. For it is just that in that very creation in which they toiled or were afflicted, being proved in every way by suffering, they should receive the reward of their suffering; and that in the creation in which they were slain because of their love to God, in that they should be revived again; and that in the creation in which they endured servitude, in that they should reign.

    Irenaeus postulates that the redeemed of the Lord will be granted a period of time to enjoy this earth and Jesus' reign in a peace-filled land of abundance. (Take note of what Revelation 21:1 says: after this time is up, God will annihilate this earth and sky (and probably the entire universe) and create a new earth, perfect and unsullied by any spot of past sin.)

    2Timothy 2:12 begins, If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; this will be the time when believers will reign at the side of our wonderful Redeemer and experience His perfect governance. Rev. 5:10 says He has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. What an honor!

    It seems that the final enemy, death, will not yet be done away with at this time. Isaiah 65:20 suggests that someone 100 years old would be considered a child, and any who died at age 100 would be considered an accursed sinner (thus there could be survivors of the Tribulation who enter the millennial period as mortals, to be ruled.
    1Co 15:23-25 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
    Christ will reign during this time, after which He will turn it all over to the Father.

    It will be a time of plenty. Joel 3:17-18 foretells, So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.

    Irenaeus states that this will be the time when we receive temporal, earthly rewards for sincere acts of service:
    2. And for this reason the Lord declared, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, do not call thy friends, nor thy neighbours, nor thy kinsfolk, lest they ask thee in return, and so repay thee. But call the lame, the blind, and the poor, and thou shall be blessed, since they cannot recompense thee, but a recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just.” (Luk_14:12, Luk_14:13) And again He says, “Whosoever shall have left lands, or houses, or parents, or brethren, or children because of Me, he shall receive in this world an hundred-fold, and in that to come he shall inherit eternal life.” (Mat_19:29; Luk_18:29, Luk_18:30) For what are the hundred-fold [rewards] in this world, the entertainments given to the poor, and the suppers for which a return is made? These are [to take place] in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, which they shall not be engaged in any earthly occupation; but shall have a table at hand prepared for them by God, supplying them with all sorts of dishes.​

    Isaiah 11:10 says, his rest shall be glorious. It certainly sounds glorious, doesn't it? This "Sabbath rest" mentioned by Irenaeus is believed by many to be the 7th "day," or the seventh thousand-year period of mankind on this earth.

    Revelation specifies this "thousand years" six times in Chapter 20.
    Rev 19:11-14 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
    Rev 20:1-7 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison...

    Peter penned this important clue about "a thousand years":
    But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night... (2 Peter 3:7-10)
    Notice that Peter writes this, "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years," explicitly in the context of the Second Advent of Christ and the very last days. Jesus will return suddenly and unexpectedly.

    Irenaeus continues by pointing out that this will be a time for all the righteous, faithful patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, etc.) to receive fulfillment of promises that were given by God to them. Here Irenaeus names some of those promises:
    3. The blessing of Isaac with which he blessed his younger son Jacob has the same meaning, when he says, “Behold, the smell of my son is as the smell of a full field which the Lord has blessed.” (Gen_27:27, etc.) But “the field is the world.” (Mat_13:38) And therefore he added, “God give to thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, plenty of corn and wine. And let the nations serve thee, and kings bow down to thee; and be thou lord over thy brother, and thy father’s sons shall bow down to thee: cursed shall be he who shall curse thee, and blessed shall be he who shall bless thee.” (Gen_27:28, Gen_27:29) If any one, then, does not accept these things as referring to the appointed kingdom, he must fall into much contradiction and contrariety, as is the case with the Jews, who are involved in absolute perplexity. For not only did not the nations in this life serve this Jacob; but even after he had received the blessing, he himself going forth [from his home], served his uncle Laban the Syrian for twenty years; (Gen_31:41) and not only was he not made lord of his brother, but he did himself bow down before his brother Esau, upon his return from Mesopotamia to his father, and offered many gifts to him. (Gen_33:3) Moreover, in what way did he inherit much corn and wine here, he who emigrated to Egypt because of the famine which possessed the land in which he was dwelling, and became Subject to Pharaoh, who was then ruling over Egypt? The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead; when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with an abundance of all kinds of food, from the dew of heaven, and from the fertility of the earth...

    Irenaeus listened to Polycarp, who in turn learned from the author of the book, John. If Irenaeus is correct in his understanding that God will want to give His faithful children time to enjoy an idyllic life under Jesus' reign on this earth, then it best fits the concept of a thousand-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem. That's because the absolutely-new-from-scratch heavens and earth won't be this earth. In fact, we won't even remember this old, run-down place any longer, according to Isaiah.

    Isa 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

    2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    Rev 21:1-2 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    Could this somehow be a misunderstanding? Might there be no millennial reign yet to come? Yes, we have to allow for that possibility. However, it is the most evident and straightforward way to understand the scriptures. But, frankly, it won't hurt anybody one bit if, when we reach that time, we discover that we roll straight into the new earth and heavens. After all, like I said before, we won't miss this old place one little bit when we get to the new earth!
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to add something here that I wrote in another thread, because it really belongs in this one.

    The 'literal' hermeneutic method accepts the concept that God communicated His words to the writers for the express purpose of conveying His message to people and of making things known and understood. Therefore we should expect God to have used the languages He created in a manner that is clear and understandable to the readers. The vast majority of Bible words should be assumed to have their normal, usual meaning. Thus, a plain, straightforward interpretation should be applied by default. Symbols, figures of speech, and types present themselves plainly via context and thus can also be interpreted plainly in most cases. When the plain, surface meaning yields nothing sensible, nor does anything symbolic or figurative present itself on the surface, then of course the hidden, more esoteric meanings should be sought.

    The so-called literalist does not deny figurative language or symbols or spiritual truths, but he does apply this interpretive method consistently and does not make the automatic, false assumption that it should automatically be different for prophecies.

    For example, look at all the O.T. prophecies of the coming Messiah which came true, but which would be missed by anyone who refused to apply the literal hermeneutic to those prophecies. As a matter of fact, having two rules of interpretation (literal readings of most verses but spiritualizing all prophetic verses) opens the door for the unbeliever to point out our inconsistency and the advantage it gives us, for who can say which spiritual interpretation is the correct one? It is subjective, and competing interpretations abound with this method.

    When looking for treasure, doesn't it seem reasonable to first see what is lying on the surface (either treasure itself or clues as to its location) prior to spading up the dirt and digging a deep hole? That is what a consistent, literal interpretive method seeks to do.

    Incidentally, as you read the above post containing the writings from "Against Heresies," I hope you will notice that Irenaeus obviously employs this literalist hermeneutic method in his own understanding of scripture. Perhaps having lived only one generation removed from John contributed to this mindset in him.

    In theory at least, there should be no barrier preventing an amillennialist or postmillennialist from considering adoption of this method; after all, those dreaded premillennialists don't have a patent on it. :laugh: And we now know that it was used by at least one (very early) Ante-Nicene father.
     
  12. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Today I completed a survey of the 9 volumes containing the works of the Ante Nicene fathers, which I've downloaded to eSword. What I found was revealing. Using the search term, "thousand years," I found 8 writers who referred to this portion of the Apocalypse or a millennial reign of Christ on earth. Of those eight, six used a literal hermeneutic and 2 did not. In addition to Irenaeus (who didn't mention the 'thousand years' per se but who describes the reign at some length), those who taught a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, followed by the general judgment and then the dissolution of the old earth/creation of a new earth, include:
    Justin Martyr
    Tertullian
    Commodian (aka Commodianus)
    Methodius
    Lactantius

    What of the two who did not apply literalism to this portion of the Apocalypse? We have:
    Caius (early 3rd Century) recognized the belief, and ridiculed it without giving any proofs from Scripture or rationale for his position.

    Victorinus of Pettau (late 3rd-early 4th Century). In “On the Apocalypse of John 2,” he states his belief that we are already in the millenial reign and that those who died in Christ have already received the first resurrection. O_o Thus, Victorinus wrote: “Therefore they are not to be heard who assure themselves that there is to be an earthly reign of a thousand years; who think, that is to say, with the heretic Cerinthus. For the kingdom of Christ is now eternal in the saints, although the glory of the saints shall be manifested after the resurrection.” Like Caius, Victorinus does not give a rational explanation in his text. No supporting scriptures, no reasoning.

    When one cannot win an argument with honest proofs, one can always resort to ridiculing one's opposition and telling people to ignore whatever the opposing clergy say. Apparently "cancel culture" existed in the 3rd. Century as well as in our own. :rolleyes:

    It appears that consistent literalism was considered a valid, and probably the favored, hermeneutic method in the early church. Irenaeus went so far as to explicitly reject the allegorical bias at least three times in Against Heresies; he says the method led to the erroneous teaching that people rise from the dead only allegorically.
     
  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately millenarian ideas were common among some of the early Fathers. You might find this article from the old Catholic Encyclopedia to be helpful to your study.
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Yes, that was a bit helpful. I'd forgotten to include Tertullian among the proponents of the literal method and of the teaching on the millennium. :thumbsup:

    It's interesting that, right off, the author of that page misunderstands the nature of eternity for the believers. Rather than going to "heaven" as stated, the Bible says we are to live on the new earth which God will create when (or immediately after) He disintegrates the old one.
    2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Do those RCs on NewAdvent suppose Peter was wrong about that? Out of the mouths of two or three witnesses... let's go for four, shall we?

    Isa 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

    Rev 21:1-2 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    Isa 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.

    Right out of the gate, NewAdvent is blowing smoke in the form of bad doctrine. But I digress...

    As Anglicans, we claim to keep the Bible in first place, and to help interpret it we resort to the first 4 Councils and first 500 years of the Church. I hope we aren't going to reject what six... strike that, now it's seven respected early fathers taught. We wouldn't resort to such picking-and-choosing to suit ourselves, would we? Irenaeus' Against Heresies was very early in the Church, around 180 A.D., and his goal in writing it was to preserve orthodoxy in the Church. We don't want to assume that Irenaeus actually torpedoed orthodoxy in his plentiful writings concerning the very last days and the end of time, do we? If so, upon what basis? Just because it doesn't suit the narrative we've been conditioned to accept, conditioned by people who find hidden meanings in every number and every statement (even when there's an obvious 'face value' meaning staring them in the face).

    To understand the Roman position (which is the amillennial position, like it or lump it), we have to know a bit of history. NewAdvent says,
    "The roots of the belief in a glorious kingdom, partly natural, partly supernatural, are found in the hopes of the Jews for a temporal Messiah and in the Jewish apocalyptic."
    Oh. It's alleged to be Jewish. (Blech! Back then,) it must be wrong! (Guilt by association.) As a matter of fact, the church based in Rome has a long historical track record of virulent anti-Semitism. (Francis pushes back against anti-Semitism, to his credit.)
    306 CE: The church Synod of Elvira banned marriages, sexual intercourse and community contacts between Christians and Jews.
    315: Constantine's Edict of Milan terminated many Jewish rights.
    325: The Council of Nicea decided to separate the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover. They stated: "let us have nothing in common with this odious people..."
    337: The marriage of a Jewish man to a Christian woman ecame punishable by death.
    339: Conversion to Judaism became a criminal offense.
    367 - 376: St. Hilary of Poitiers referred to Jews as a perverse people who God has cursed forever. St. Ephroem referred to synagogues as brothels.
    379-395: Emperor Theodosius the Great permitted the destruction of synagogues if it served a religious purpose.
    380: The Bishop of Milan initiated the destruction of a synagogue, which he referred to as "an act pleasing to God."
    1555: A Roman Catholic Papal bull, "Cum nimis absurdum," required Jews in Vatican controlled lands to wear badges, and be confined to ghettos. Over 3,000 people were crammed into about 8 acres of land. The public health problems were horrendous.
    1205: Pope Innocent III wrote to the archbishops of Sens and Paris that "the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord...As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ's death set free..." i.e. they would be slaves of Christians.
    1227: The Synod of Narbonne required Jews to wear an oval badge -- reminiscent of the Star of David that the Nazis required Jews to wear.
    1478: The Spanish Inquisition was organized by the Church in order to detect insincere conversions of Jews to Christianity.
    1516: Venice forced Jews to live only in one parish, called the "Ghetto Novo."
    1648-9: Massacres of Jews occurred in Nemirov, Polonnoye, Tulchin, Volhynia, Bar, Lvov, and other cities in Ukraine. About 100,000 Jews were murdered and 300 communities destroyed.

    This pattern continued into the Middle Ages, and that's where Martin Luther learned it... from his teachers, the Romans. I have quoted him in a different thread; no need to repeat it here.

    The teaching of a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on this earth was unacceptable to the Romans because part of the idea included Jesus gathering the 'remnant' and 'outcasts' of ethnic Israel so as to fulfill the land covenant. But out of hate the Romans wanted everyone to think God was finished with His (allegedly "former") people, and their motivation was decidedly un-Christian. In other words, the Romans pushed literalism out the door and adopted allegorism and amillennialism. They chose to discount or ignore the many scripture verses in which ethnic Israel is promised a fulfillment of the land promises.

    Before we continue let me say that, yes, the NT believers in Christ are heirs to the promise made to Abraham, the promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands on the shore. Yes, Jesus is that seed. However, there were other promises made, not just to Abraham but to national, ethnic Israel, and these included territorial promises. This land from Egypt to the Euphrates River, will belong to ethnic Israel in the millennial period out of God's abundant grace even though Israel never deserved it. And we of the Church, who likewise never deserved anything good, will be in that land with them! We will assist Jesus as "kings and priests" during His earthly reign, teaching truth to those descendants of Jacob who remain alive at His Second Advent, and to their descendants born during this reign.

    Isa 11:10-12 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Notice that He does not gather these people back until "that day" of "His rest.")

    Zec 8:3-8 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness. (Again, this restoration takes place when the Lord returns to the land of Zion, to dwell in Jerusalem.)

    Deut 30:1-10 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

    Irenaeus taught this same doctrine, and in Chapter 34 of Against Heresies he refers to still more scriptures:
    1. Then, too, Isaiah himself has plainly declared that there shall be joy of this nature at the resurrection of the just, when he says: “The dead shall rise again; those, too, who are in the tombs shall arise, and those who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew from Thee is health to them.” (Isa_26:19) And this again Ezekiel also says: “Behold, I will open your tombs, and will bring you forth out of your graves; when I will draw my people from the sepulchres, and I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you on your own land, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (Eze_37:12, etc.) And again the same speaks thus: “These things saith the Lord, I will gather Israel from all nations whither they have been driven, and I shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the sons of the nations: and they shall dwell in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell in it in peace; and they shall build houses, and plant vineyards, and dwell in hope, when I shall cause judgment to fall among all who have dishonoured them, among those who encircle them round about; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and the God of their fathers.” (Eze_28:25, Eze_28:26) Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” (Mat_3:9) is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.” (Jer_23:6-7)

    THE MIGHTY KING WILL GLORIFY HIMSELF! He will show mercy to those whom He will show mercy. :)
    Isa 49:26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

    Jesus our Redeemer is also "the Mighty One of Jacob," and He can (with great ease) juggle Israel and the Church simultaneously.​
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2021
  15. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The problem with citing Tertullian is that he wasn’t technically a Church Father. He ended up a Montanist.
     
  16. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    True. :) Just an early 'writer,' who believed he could speak prophetically and in other tongues.
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    One more example. This is from Justin: Dialogue with Trypho, end of LXXX plus LXXXI:

    But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

    “For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: ‘For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My I people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound.

    Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be a seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent [shall eat] earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, saith the Lord.’ (Isa_65:17 to end) Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, ‘According to the days of the tree [of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound’ obscurely predicts a thousand years.
    For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, ‘The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,’ (Psa_90:4; 2Pe_3:8) is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, ‘They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.’ (Luk_20:35)​


    I could reproduce quotes from the others, to demonstrate how they understood the thousand-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem to be a literal event to come, but the point has been made. A literalist hermeneutic was being applied to prophecies by the church fathers of the Second and Third Century.

    Therefore, with regard to dispensationalism I can think of only two possibilities, and (logically) one or the other must be true.
    Possibility #1: Literalism stands on its own merits apart from dispensationalism; or
    Possibility #2: Dispensationalism existed in the Second Century of the Church.

    Personally, I think #1 deserves fair consideration.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Possibility #3: Neither.
     
  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Revelation contains many things that, plainly upon their face, cannot to be taken literally. It would be erroneous to assume, for example that the "horse riders" in Rev. 6:2-8 are literal horsemen. Even the literalist (a better term is "futurist") readily accepts that these images are emblematic of things which will come upon the earth: wars, malnutrition, diseases, and death.

    At the same time, it would be equally erroneous to assume that nothing in Revelation may be taken at its plain meaning. For example, we have ample evidence that the time of great tribulation spoken of in Rev. 7:14 will be actual and will take place shortly before Christ's return.

    Should we expect a period of exceedingly great tribulation as a future event? Let’s ask Jesus; He would know!

    Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
    Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
    Mat 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
    Mat 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
    Mat 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
    Mat 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
    Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
    Mat 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
    Mat 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
    Mat 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
    Mat 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
    Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
    Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
    Mat 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
    Mat 24:17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
    Mat 24:18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
    Mat 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
    Mat 24:20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
    Mat 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (megas thlipsis)
    Mat 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
    Mat 24:23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
    Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
    Mat 24:25 Behold, I have told you before.
    Mat 24:26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
    Mat 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    Mat 24:28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
    Mat 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
    Mat 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
    Mat 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
    Mat 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
    Mat 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.


    Why did Jesus consider it important for us know these things and to be able to recognize the signs of His soon return? He wanted us to be ready, see v. 44.

    This discourse is also recorded in Mark’s Gospel.

    Mar 13:4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
    Mar 13:5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:
    Mar 13:6 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
    Mar 13:7 And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
    Mar 13:8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
    Mar 13:9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
    Mar 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.
    Mar 13:11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
    Mar 13:12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.
    Mar 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
    Mar 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:
    Mar 13:15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:
    Mar 13:16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
    Mar 13:17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
    Mar 13:18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
    Mar 13:19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be
    . (affliction = thlipsis. The ESV translates it as "tribulation".)
    Mar 13:20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
    Mar 13:21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:
    Mar 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
    Mar 13:23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
    Mar 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
    Mar 13:25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
    Mar 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
    Mar 13:27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
    Mar 13:28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
    Mar 13:29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.


    Jesus told these things so we would be watchful for His coming; see verses 33, 35, and 37.

    Where else do we read of this great tribulation? We see it in Revelation.

    Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
    Rev 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
    Rev 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
    Rev 7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
    Rev 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
    Rev 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
    Rev 7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.


    Where else do we read of events which match up with Jesus’ description of the great tribulation? Jesus talked about signs involving the sun, moon and stars. So did the prophet Joel: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. (Joel 2:31) Isaiah mentions it, too.

    Likewise, we see this in Revelation.
    Rev 6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
    Rev 6:13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

    How are these signs of Revelation interpreted by many of the religious “scholars”? Some (such as David Clark) have said that the sun, moon and stars represent the downfall of earthly dignitaries, political authorities, and distinguished religious leaders. Others take it as a portent of the division of the empire in 395 A.D. between East and West. Albert Barnes saw it as the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Goths and Vandals between 376 and 418. Preterists maintain that this foretold of the end of the Jewish state and the fall of its leaders, circa 70 A.D. As for the mention of a great tribulation in Rev. 7:14, those scholars have little or nothing to say. (Source: Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary.)

    Jesus, however, tells us that the signs in the heavens are actual, future events that take place shortly before His physical return to earth. Jesus warns that those events include a great tribulation. This coincides with the interpretation given to this passage of Revelation by the futurists, who do not unnecessarily allegorize or spiritualize what has been written for us as a warning and an admonition to watch expectantly for our Savior’s return.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Here is another passage in Revelation that talks about stars falling.

    Rev 8:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
    Rev 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
    Rev 8:8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
    Rev 8:9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
    Rev 8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
    Rev 8:11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
    Rev 8:12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.


    How do the “scholars” interpret this portion of Revelation? According to the Parallel Commentary, the historicists say that these trumpets speak of a series of invasions against the Roman Empire (Vandals, Huns, Saracens, and Turks). The preterists say these trumpets correspond to disasters inflicted by the Romans on the Jews, A.D. 66-70. The spiritualists believe that these represent general catastrophes that befall sinful humanity many times throughout history. As one may readily observe, these interpretive methods yield wildly varying results, and consequently we can see that the methods effectively set up the interpreter as an arbiter over scripture. The interpreter may presume to impress upon the verses whatever fanciful meaning seems right to him.

    Of all the “scholars” of Revelation, only the futurists interpret these signs as actual future events during the time of great tribulation which Jesus foretold. Only the futurist endeavors to submit to the scriptures themselves and seeks to draw out the most plainly intended, objective meaning rather than setting himself up as the arbiter and forcing subjective meanings upon the scriptures. Futurists may well conjecture as to the exact way in which massive portions of earth’s vegetation and ocean life will be destroyed in the fulfillment of the trumpets (will it be an asteroid? or nuclear bombs? etc.), but they are faithful to the plain message of God’s word that these horrific events will yet take place. It will be a time of mega tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be afterward.

    What is the general effect upon average Christians of the historicists’, preterists’, and spiritualists’ interpretations of Revelation? Their views cause Christians to feel that Jesus’ return is probably a long, long way off, and that His return will come totally “out of the blue” (without warning). They cause people to discount any signs of great tribulation which may someday occur as mere “happenstance,” or as events of nature, having no supernatural cause or portent. They mislead people into thinking that the book of Revelation contains more of past history than of future warning, which makes it appear largely irrelevant to us. But with every day that passes, we march one day nearer to the Second Advent, an event for which Jesus wanted us to watch and keep ourselves ready.

    In stark contrast, the general effect of the futurists’ understanding of Revelation is one of alertness. Awareness of difficult times ahead, and understanding of the warning signs, tends to impel Christians to be mindful of their daily walk with Christ. Believers are encouraged, not to be fearful of what lies ahead, but to live with the expectation that Jesus could come for them at any time, any day. This attitude not only helps Christians maintain a strong prayer life and encourages them to avoid sin, but it also heightens their awareness of the vast mission field filled with unsaved souls in eternal peril and spurs them toward loving acts of Christian witness to the Gospel of Christ.

    Can there be any doubt that we live in the days of the (predominantly) Gentile church? Not really. We must be mindful of the fact that someday these times of the Gentile church will be finished and fulfilled:
    Luk 21:24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
    Luk 21:25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
    Luk 21:26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
    Luk 21:27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
    Luk 21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


    What are we supposed to do with this knowledge?
    Luk 21:34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
    Luk 21:35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
    Luk 21:36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

    Are you awake? :)