Illumination #14

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

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4 Responses to Illumination #14

  1. Jim says:

    Orange–
     
    What do you mean by, "God\’s Word comes to pass literally"? Take Genesis ch. 3 for example: God promises the serpant that Eve\’s seed will be (a) bruised/struck in the heel by the serpent, and (b) her seed will crush the serpent\’s head. Does this promise from God involve a literal serpant, a literal brusing/striking of a heel, and a literal crushing of the serpent\’s head?
     
    I\’m just curious what you mean by literal.
     
    –Jim

  2. Darrin says:

    Hey Jim-
     
    Yeah, maybe I should clarify that.  Scripture uses symbolism, but the symbolism comes to pass literally.  What I\’m striving against is spiritualizing things to include non-literal fulfillment for plain literal language.  For instance, it was prophesied that after a cataclysmic judgement, that formerly desert wastelands would bring forth flowers and fruit abundantly in Isaiah 35.  There has never been a literal fulfillment of this and there is no symbology in scripture to suggest that this refers to anything else.  But there are some who would spiritualize this and say that it is being fulfilled in the church.  The church is spiritually bringing forth fruit in formerly spiritually desert wastelands.
     
    I\’m probably going to do a series on the Seed Promise.  There was a literal serpent in the garden.  But there was also a literal power which was inherently evil in the garden as well.  There was a literal promise to crush the head of this evil power.  There would be a literal seed or offspring of the woman referred to in the male gender.  There is obvious symbolism used, but there will be an "as-written" fulfillment.
     
    Does that answer what I mean by "literal"???
     
    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
     
    -The Orange Mailman

  3. Jim says:

    After your clarification, I completely agree with your understanding of literal fulfillment (and your other 3 points). Now, the fun part: what literal fulfillment is all of this symbolism representing? I think the Gen. 3 passage I used in my example is an easy one (that\’s part of the reason I used it). I think others … well … they\’re not so easy, and that\’s why we have so many differing views.
     
    If my understanding of amillenialism is correct, it would more or less hold to the same definition of literal interpretation. The issue occurs when we attempt to determine what literal events fulfill the symbolic language. I have yet to understand what makes one persons "literal fulfillment" more valid than anothers (assuming both have a Biblically based argument). Again, if I understand amillenialism correctly, it would affirm the four points you make in your post (once you clarified the meaning of literal fulfillment), yet you would come to very different interpretations.
     
    And … just to keep the discussion going:
     
    Why is the 1,000 year reign of Christ a literal 1,000 years. It would be in the only place in all of Scripture that the word "thousand" meant a literal and exact 1,000. Again, no amillenialist takes issue with whether Christ will reign (or, i guess, is reigning). The issue is with the literal 1,000 years.
     
    Why–after Scripture reveals that ethnicity has nothing to do with salvation (and never has) and that true Israel is the elect of God from all nations and all eons–are we forced into a hermeneutic that requires a return to ethnic Israel? I know how a dispensationalist would answer that question, but I have no clue how you would (hopefully, will) answer it.
     
    –Jim

  4. Darrin says:

    Hey Jim-
     
    I haven\’t really gotten a chance to debate an A-Millennialist (as you are aware).  You are not truly an A-Millennialist so your heart is not going to be in this.  But let\’s keep the discussion going just the same.
     
    One person\’s literal fulfillment may differ greatly with another person\’s literal fulfillment.  The issue for me is having the correct foundation.  Since I view Genesis 3:15 as the cornerstone for all the covenants, the restoration of what was lost in the Garden of Eden is at the center of God\’s modus operandi throughout scripture.  He plans on fulfilling His intention as stated – literally.  He plans on walking with mankind in a paradise where there is access to the tree of life in an unbroken fellowship.  Scripture progressively reveals how God will bring this about.  So the hope of mankind is not to ascend into heaven, but for God to descend to earth.
     
    I will switch the terminology to Covenant Theology at this point.  Covenant Theology would not agree with my four points.  Covenant Theology believes that newer oracles override previous oracles.  They believe that the church is the New Israel and therefore any terminology with the word "Israel" is now referring to the church.  The second exodus is not for Israel, though the plain language affirms it, but it is for the church being gathered in a spiritual way.  The original declaration concerning the nation of Israel has been altered in their view to accomodate a spiritual people instead of an ethnic people which was the focus of the original oracle.
     
    The issue with A-Millennialism is much greater than whether the 1000 years is literal or not.  A-Millennialists have such a huge chasm to leap at the end of Revelation.  A-Mill\’s believe in a future tribulation but they place the first resurrection at Christ\’s resurrection even though the language states that those who were beheaded for not worshipping the beast are included in the first resurrection.  The second resurrection for them is a general resurrection whereby both righteous and unrighteous will be physically resurrected at the same time even though the language in I Cor. 15 states that only those who are Christ\’s are resurrected at His coming.  Further, they believe Satan to be bound right now, not able to deceive those who have been saved by Christ although the plain language stands in opposition to the deception in leading nations astray at Armageddon, (which Armageddon they somehow believe to be future).  They also believe the thousand year reign accompanied by the saints to be occurring now instead of in the future.  This stands in opposition to Daniel 7 which places the reign of the saints after the destruction of the governmental world system, which of course happens at Armageddon.  The thousand years being symbolic is a by-product of the above reasoning.  So the issues are much greater than just literal versus symbolic for the 1000 years.
     
    As far as ethnic Israel, I\’m not a dispensationalist.  At least I hope I\’m not a dispensationalist.  Your question is framed from the standpoint of one who is taking issue with dispensationalism.  You ask why we must have "a return to ethnic Israel".  I don\’t believe that the issue is a return to ethnic Israel, but salvation for ethnic Israel.  One issue of contention between all parties involved (which so far is you, me, A-Millennialists, Dispensationalists, Covenant Theologians, Zionists, and Republicans) is how in the world will God fulfill Romans 11:25-27 which quotes Isaiah 59:20-21.  I have avoided blogging on this particular passage, but it was at the forefront of my mind when I wrote my post.  The Isaiah passage\’s future fulfillment was what drove me as I wrote that entire blogpost, especially the two steps in my personal journey in Bible study.  I will eventually blog on how Paul say Isaiah\’s prophecy being fulfilled, but not yet.
     
    I have a study that I did a while back.  Every time I post it somewhere, it gets no response.  In order to understand my theology, I challenge you to read this post.
     
    http://theorangemailman.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!FD6CC4005A27EADA!435.entry
     
    My terminology has changed over the past couple of years, so I\’m not sure if I would write this article in the exact same way or not, but I stand by its main premise.
     
    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
     
    -The Orange Mailman

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