Why can’t we talk?
This will be my final post on the series titled “Illumination”. This series stemmed from my attempt to dialogue with some A-Millennialists about the issues between their position and my position which is Historical Pre-Millennialism. Dr. Waldron was writing a series on Barry Horner’s book in which he asserts that A-Millennialists are anti-semitic. I can certainly understand why Dr. Waldron would want to refute this view. Where I came in was on a post which focused exclusively on Pre-Millennialism, specifically Ezekiel’s temple. There were some back and forth comments, but I felt that there was no real dialogue. While I attempted to address each scripture that they cited and explain how I saw things, there was no attempt on their part to respond in kind.
One big reason why I feel that there hasn’t been dialogue up to this point is the question of overall paradigm. A-Millennialists have determined how they will read the entire Bible before they even examine a certain passage. They believe that the church is the New Israel. So whenever the term Israel is used in a national sense in the Old Testament, they feel they have scriptural authority to read the word “church” in the place of the word “Israel” in those cases. I remember commenting on another A-Mil blog explaining Isaiah 42 and the salvation of the Gentiles. The blogger responded that I wasn’t interpreting the passage correctly. I asked where in Isaiah 42 that I had went astray from the text. He responded that I missed the point that the church is now the New Israel. But here’s the question that I need to ask myself: Do I have a paradigm through which I see things which I have predetermined before I even look at the scripture? If so, is it rooted in scripture? Does my paradigm need to be challenged?
I was surprised to find out that I am actually Christocentric. Let me qualify, though. I believe that everything in the entire Bible has been written to point to Christ. But that does not mean that Christ is in everything in the entire Bible. There are clear instances where man has chosen to leave God out of his decisions. Christ will ultimately receive glory regardless. (Insert Judas Iscariot for application). The issue that seems to have everyone debating with each other is how to view Israel. Jesus is the true Israel, but does that mean that every instance of the word “Israel” is to be spiritually interpreted as “Christ”? Context must determine whether scripture is speaking of the man Israel (formerly Jacob), Israel’s offspring, Israel as a nation, Israel as a nation following the LORD, Israel as a blinded nation who has broken the covenant, the present elect remnant within the nation of Israel, future Israel, future Israel in covenant relationship with the LORD, or the elect of Israel from all ages which is the true Israel to be wedded to Jesus (the true Israel).
Before delving into my paradigm, I want to share two steps on my personal journey through Bible study that has led me to the place where I am today. The first was about 10 years ago if I’m not mistaken. I received a Bible as a gift which highlighted New Testament passages which were quotes of Old Testament passages. As I read through the New Testament, I took the time to study each Old Testament passage that was being quoted in its original context. After coming to conclusions based solely on studying the passage in its original context, I studied to see how the New Testament authors were applying the text. This study opened my eyes to the tension between prophetic anticipation and prophetic fulfillment. While there were many truths that I began to understand for the first time, there were still more questions that sprang to my mind at that time than God was providing me answers for.
The next step I just completed about a month ago. I wanted to read a book by BW Newton which focuses on the book of Isaiah. I realized that I had not studied Isaiah in depth for myself. I had read through it many times, but never stopping to take the time to soak it in. I remembered that many NT authors quoted Isaiah in places which didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to read Newton’s book without studying Isaiah for myself first. If Newton has additional insights for me, fine, but I want to come to my own conclusions before reading his. So about 2 years ago, I began studying Isaiah in depth. Downstairs in my study, on my knees, it was just me and God, 3 versions of the Bible, and a Strong’s concordance. Many of the questions that entered my mind during my study 10 years back were answered in ways that I hadn’t expected. But now, there are new questions that have been raised.
For all my studies, you would think that I have this great paradigm which has a three part thesis, or something like that. Remember that I’m just a mailman. I’m not a scholar, a seminary student, or a pastor. I’m just a mailman with a Bible in front of me. I don’t write in fancy language, so if you’re looking for that, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, this is what I have. Here’s my paradigm.
The Bible is progressively written. To understand the chronological sequence is critical. The events of the flood can only be understood against the backdrop of creation and the fall. The history of the nation of Israel can only be understood against the background of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. The New Covenant can only be understood in contrast to the Old Covenant. These are just a few examples.
God does not contradict Himself. God’s Word is eternal. If He has decreed that something will come to pass, it will come to pass regardless of how impossible we might think it is. Newer oracles will never change the validity of older oracles. God may progressively reveal that additional things will happen along with something which He has previously declared will occur, but He will not change His mind concerning the original declaration.
God’s Word comes to pass literally. This is the test of a true prophet. If the prophecy came true literally, then the prophet was of the LORD. But many events were fulfilled literally, while some events remained unfulfilled. Destruction came to specific cities, countries, and empires as prophets predicted; yet the earth was not restored to paradise conditions, God was not dwelling in the midst of a nation, and death was not abolished. The literal fulfillment was important because it validated the prophet’s ministry, but the unfulfilled portion remains just as much a part of God’s unchanging Word even though it is yet future. The partial fulfillment acts as a down payment that the rest will be just as literally fulfilled.
Context must determine whether prophecy remains unfulfilled. It is up to us as students of the Word to examine the prophecies to see if there has been a literal fulfillment already. Instead of broad statements which Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology are both guilty of, we should be willing and able to go to each individual passage, see the passage in its original context (which includes against its original background), and be able to debate our interpretation beginning at that passage and reading forward through the progressive revelation of God on those merits alone.
So, does anybody want to debate? I tried to have a conversation. It didn’t work. I feel the above paradigm is a better paradigm than to read New Testament revelation back into the Old Testament. Remember that God does not change His mind. He reveals additional details, but does not contradict Himself. Let’s go back and read Isaiah again with that in mind. That would be … Illuminating.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman