Friday, September 11, 2009

Should Premillennialists Accuse Non-Premillennialists of Rejecting Literal Interpretation?

In recent weeks I've heard a few assertions that non-premillennialists reject a literal hermeneutic. Here's just one example from a well-known pastor:
Amil has to discount the literal hermeneutical approach to the entire definition of the [Kingdom of God] in the major and minor prophets.
B.B. Warfield, in The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, expounded and defended the biblical basis for the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). But he also attempted to demonstrate how the Confession merely summarized the theology of the Continental Reformers. Though, as a Baptist, I don't agree with every point of the Confession or Warfield's defense, a paragraph from his discussion of Chapter 1, "Of the Holy Scripture" caught my eye.

In this chapter, Warfield quotes extensively and in broad affirmation of Heinrich Heppe's summary of the theology of the Continental Reformers, Dogmatics of the Evangelical Reformed Church (1861). Heppe argues (see the long quote below) that the literal meaning of Scripture is the one meaning the author intended. Though the author may or may not employ figurative language, the literal meaning is how the author intended that language (whether figurative or normal/non-figurative) to be understood.

In other words, both Premillennialists and non-Premillennialists* may employ a literal hermeneutic. (Individuals in either group may or may not, or at least not consistently.) Though they disagree on the interpretation of numerous texts, their disagreement is not over whether the normal ("literal") sense ought to be our default position. Rather, the disagreement is over certain texts—whether they were intended by the author/Author to be interpreted normally or figuratively.

And that's where the debate ought to take place. Premillennialists ought to argue with non-Premillennialists on how prophetic texts should be interpreted. Premillennialists ought to make the point that when we can point to biblical prophecies that we know have been fulfilled, they've been fulfilled in a "literal"/normal sense. But once and for all we ought to stop suggesting that non-Premillennialists reject a literal hermeneutic. By the standards of Premillennialists, Premillennialists often reject a literal hermeneutic too. By the definition Warfield advances via Heppe, both groups can be literalists. We can and should wrestle exegetically over the debated texts, but we need to avoid the strawmen and the canards.

Here's that long passage in which Warfield quotes Heppe:
The true sense of Scripture, which interpretation has established, can always be only single, and, in general, only the real, literal sense, the sensus literalis, which is either sensus literalis simplex or sensus literalis compositus. The former is to be firmly held as a rule; the latter, on the other hand, is to be recognized wherever Scripture presents anything typically; and only when the sensus literalis would contradict the articuli fidei or the praeceptis caritatis, where therefore Scripture itself demands another interpretation of its words, is the figurative meaning of them, the sensus figuratus, to be sought. Besides this, the allegorical interpretation has its right in the application of the language of Scripture to the manifold relations of life in the accommod. ad usum. (p. 168)



*Warfield was a Postmillennialist, a position now largely out of favor that was different in its interpretations from Amillennialism, but possessing some of the same tendencies to differ with the Premillennial "literal" interpretations.

37 comments:

Matthew Black said...

Fantastic article. Thanks Ben!

James Kime said...

Ben, what exactly are you getting at? Amills are amills because they do not use a literal hermeneutic. Warfield's definition of literal demonstrates that they do not use that as their means of interpretation.

Israel = church
Land = heaven
Throne of David = Throne of God
and on and on

They are guilty of not using a literal method.

Maybe I missed something here.

Anonymous said...

James,

You missed the fact that Ben is introducing a stipulated definition of "literal" -- one stipulated by Heppe.

Of course you and the dispensationalists are more than free to stipulate your own definition of "literal".

Then, by your definition, of course, it will be impossible for amils to employ a "literal" hermeneutic.

Of course, Heppes definition is actually pulling from the Latin origins of the word and historical theology.

The dispensationalists' definition often seems to be merely: "Here's how we interpret things, and we use a literal hermeneutic, so this is a literal interpretation."

Here's how amils actually treat the equations you mention:
1) "Israel" INCLUDES the gentile church
2) "Land" ICLUDES the entire new heavens and new EARTH.
3) "Throne of David" TODAY is the throne of Christ -- the decendant of David.

All of this is totally literal according to Heppes definition. It is the sensus literalis compositus.

Now in what literal sense is the "Great Bear of the North" the Soviet Union? Just kidding, I know that nobody says that (anymore).

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith, I am aware of the stipulated meaning. It is the same tired "literal" meaning amills claim to hold to. Actually, it isn't amills only, it is all supersessionists. Historic premills do it to but manage to not destroy Revelation 20.

Here is the bottom line: do the words God inspired actually communicate something or is it the job of the interpreter to also be mind readers? Amills don't explicitly say that but that is what their position is. They take the "literal" meaning of the author's intent. In other words, their theology is used as the literal interpretation instead of taking the scripture at face value and then formulating their theology.

This is Covenant theology 101.

"Here's how amils actually treat the equations you mention:
1) "Israel" INCLUDES the gentile church
2) "Land" ICLUDES the entire new heavens and new EARTH.
3) "Throne of David" TODAY is the throne of Christ -- the decendant of David."

I should have stated that some amills do what I said, and some do what you said.

The issue does not change though. God's word cannot be trusted or taken at face value for the amill. No matter how good they are on anything else, God is a master bait and switch artist who made promises he never was going to fulfill.

Anonymous said...

I don't know any amils who mean what you allege by your equations.

No one has to read anyone's mind. However, everyone has to interpret the Word of God -- as an entirety made up of pieces that fit together in an orderly meaningful way (compositus). Everyone (who accepts the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture) must apply the analogy of Scripture to properly interpret Scripture. This is not mind reading.

Covenant Theology was developed from studying Scripture in this way -- it was not developed a priori and then imposed on the Scripture as you claim.

God's word can absolutely be trusted at "face value" -- of course the face value of a huge book which displays the progressive revelation of an infinite God probably shouldn't be expected to be as simple, in its totality, as "put in the microwave for 3 minutes."

And for that matter, if the dispensational scheme is so "face value" literal, then why did generations of folks need so many "prophecy" conferences with gargantuan charts and graphs to understand it?

Furthermore, every amil I know firmly believes that God was going to, is currently, and will ultimately fulfill his promises -- beyond what anyone from the past or the present can fully understand. His people won't just get canaan, they'll get canaan and the whole world.

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith, they may mask the terms, but supersessionism is supersessionism. Catholics, covenantalists, and amills all embrace it to one degree or another.

By the way, no one is arguing for dispensationalism. Ben brought up premill versus amill. Like I said, even historic premills have the sense not to destroy Revelation 20.

"Covenant Theology was developed from studying Scripture in this way"

It absolutely was not. There is no scripture for the 2 or 3 or whatever number of covenants supposedly form the underlying basis of the entire Bible. It was a theological system imposed upon scripture. When the first CTer can show any nonCTer where the covenant of works is, then you can claim otherwise. To date, it hasn't been done. CT has been around a few hundred years.

As to the specific point of amills, you should do more study on the issue. The alexandrian school of interpretation specifically rejected a normal or "literal" reading of the scripture as something basic to the nonscholarly christians. They opted for a deeper, mystical, or spiritual meaning of a text. Call it what you want, or Heppe can call it what he wants with Warfield giving approval, but the amill approach specifically rejected and rejects the actual, normal, literal meaning of the text.

"Furthermore, every amil I know firmly believes that God was going to, is currently, and will ultimately fulfill his promises"

Yes, with their mouth they claim this but in their heart they do not believe it.

God made specific, unconditional promises to ethnic jews. These promises were even specifically tied to the New Covenant. If God was always going to fulfill those promises with a different people, a different environment, and under different circumstances, WHY DID HE EVER MAKE THOSE SPECIFIC PROMISES? You can't have it both ways Keith. Either he didn't mean what he originally said, or he doesn't/can't keep his word. And since either option is nonsense for the Christian to actually think, so the amill position is nonsense and should be left behind as the neoplatonic, gnostic system that it is.

I am all for debating specific texts with amills. I am all for showing how they bastardize practically every prophetic passage because it disrupts their system. But they speak another language, a language of nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"supersessionism is supersessionism" -- this is like saying "premil is premil." It just isn't true. Of course there are similarities but all the different forms are not identical.

"even historic premills have the sense not to destroy Revelation 20" -- not sure why you think covenantal amils destroy Revelation 20, so I can't respond.

"There is no scripture for the 2 or 3 or whatever number of covenants supposedly form the underlying basis of the entire Bible." -- Just like there is no Scripture for the 7 dispensations or whatevever number. The fact that neither of these terms, as terms, is used by the Bible does not prove that the concept referred to by the term is not revealed in the Bible.

"The alexandrian school of interpretation specifically rejected a normal or "literal" reading of the scripture as something basic to the nonscholarly christians." -- Who's talking about the alexandrian school? I think Ben is talking about Warfield -- Princetonian Covenantal Amillenialism. The two aren't the same.

"God made specific, unconditional promises to ethnic jews." -- this is what is traditionally called petitio principii or begging the question. You are assuming the point you are trying to prove by stating that the promises were made to ethnic jews (alone). A promise was made to Abraham and his descendants. One must establish from Scripture who will be his true descendants.

"If God was always going to fulfill those promises with a different people . . ." -- He fulfilled them with Abraham's "ethnic" decendant (Jesus) AND extended them to an even greater number than Abraham could imagine.

"Yes, with their mouth they claim this but in their heart they do not believe it." -- Well, if you can read their hearts, then I guess there's not much else to talk about.

Peace

Keith

James Kime said...

""supersessionism is supersessionism" -- this is like saying "premil is premil." It just isn't true. Of course there are similarities but all the different forms are not identical."

I did not claim they were identical, just that they all do the same thing, replace the recipients of specific promises with a different group.

"not sure why you think covenantal amils destroy Revelation 20, so I can't respond."

Keith, if you thought I was singling out covenant amills as destroying Revelation 20 you read me wrong. I meant to condemn all amills for destroying Revelation 20 with their bastard interpretation of it.

Here is something for you to consider: In Revelation 20:4-5, John speaks of "the rest of the dead". Using any kind of interpretation standard you want, can you tell me who "the rest of the dead" refers to? Let us start there.

"Just like there is no Scripture for the 7 dispensations or whatevever number."

Keith, stay with the discussion. This is about premill vs amill. Since you brought it up though, the bible actually does speak of different dispensations. Even CTers believe in at least 2 of them. Besides, I am willing to hear about the concept of the Covenant of Works sometime. Email me. Include all the scripture you can please.

"Who's talking about the alexandrian school? I think Ben is talking about Warfield -- Princetonian Covenantal Amillenialism. The two aren't the same."

Keith, the alexandrian school is where amillenialism was born. It is where the nonliteral method of interpretation comes from. The theory behind Heppe, Warfield, and their ilk is the same as the alexandrian school. If you didn't know that so couldn't make the connection that is fine. I just assumed you knew that.

"this is what is traditionally called petitio principii or begging the question. You are assuming the point you are trying to prove by stating that the promises were made to ethnic jews (alone). A promise was made to Abraham and his descendants. One must establish from Scripture who will be his true descendants."

Keith (shaking my head), you mean that when you read the entire old testament you walk away with "a" promise to Abraham?

Jeremiah 31:35-40
35 Thus says the Lord,who gives the sun for light by dayand the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,who stirs up the sea so that its waves roarĂ¢€”the Lord of hosts is his name: 36 If this fixed order departsfrom before me, declares the Lord,then shall the offspring of Israel ceasefrom being a nation before me forever. 37 Thus says the Lord:If the heavens above can be measured,and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,then I will cast off all the offspring of Israelfor all that they have done,declares the Lord. 38 Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lordfrom the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.

Now, this passage follows immediately on the heals of the New covenant and yet God not only repeats a reference to land, but gives specific landmarks. For this to never happen, God has to lose control of nature itself. Tell me Keith, when will God stop being sovereign over nature? If God fails at this promise, then you have no legitimate hope behind Romans 8 either.

"Well, if you can read their hearts, then I guess there's not much else to talk about."

Their actions and words when it comes to the actual interpretation betrays their claim Keith. Maybe their aren't dishonest, maybe they are confused or inept.

Anonymous said...

"they all do the same thing, replace the recipients of specific promises with a different group." -- No they don't. Covenant Amils do not "replace" anyone with anyone. Grafting gentile believers into the olive tree of Jewish believers is not replacing.

"I meant to condemn all amills for destroying Revelation 20 with their bastard interpretation of it." -- Dude, why so harsh. Of course both interpretations can't be right at the same time and in the same way, but what's wrong with just saying "mistaken interpretation" or something?

"can you tell me who 'the rest of the dead' refers to? Let us start there." -- Um, is this a trick question? I'll say it's those who weren't beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus.

"the bible actually does speak of different dispensations" -- And it does speak of covenants. So, we haven't gotten anywhere.

"I am willing to hear about the concept of the Covenant of Works sometime. Email me. Include all the scripture you can please." -- It's right next to the scripture which mentions the "dispensation of innocence." Again, this doesn't get us anywhere.

"the alexandrian school is where amillenialism was born. It is where the nonliteral method of interpretation comes from." -- That is a textbook illustration of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

"when you read the entire old testament you walk away with "a" promise to Abraham?" -- Well I couldn't very well copy the entire Old Testament in a blog reply. But, is there really something wrong with summarizing? How's this for the whole Bible: God creates, man messes up everything, God promises to redeem, God does redeem.

"[Re: Jer. 31] For this to never happen, God has to lose control of nature itself." -- Who said that this will never happen? Maybe you can answer a question for me? Who is the "offspring of Israel"?

"Maybe their aren't dishonest, maybe they are confused or inept." -- Thanks. I can handle being accused of confusion or ineptitude.

Keith

Ben said...

James,

My time around Amillennialists has done several things:

1) It's given me a better understanding of Amillennialism (the first thorough, fair exposure I've had).

2) It's made me more convinced of Premillennialism.

3) It's caused me to lose a great deal of respect for Premillennialists who grossly misrepresent Amillennialism. I don't know of a single living Amillennialist who believes what they are incessantly accused of believing, some of which are the things you've suggested here that they believe.

James Kime said...

Such as what Ben? If you can tell me what you mean I will try to get you current primary source info.

d4v34x said...

"Yes, with their mouth they claim this but in their heart they do not believe it."


Wouldn't purporting to tell other people what is in their hearts be a bit mystical itself?


Ben,

Thanks for this thoughtful and thought provoking post.

David

Ben said...

James,

1. I'm sure you can find some Amil who says what you say they say. That's not the point. The point is that you, like so many Premils, consistently mischaracterize large swaths of Amils, Keith being the most available representative.

2. You seem to have little interest, in either hearing opinions that differ from your own or even in acknowledging that they exist. In light of that, I doubt that ongoing conversation about what Amils believe would be productive.

James Kime said...

d4v34x,

no it isn't. When amills say they believe one thing but interpret the relevant passages in a way that contradicts their claim, it isn't mystical.

Ben,

If I have primary source material from amills and base my views of them on that, then it is not misrepresenting them. It is taking them at their word.

I did not misrepresent Keith on anything.

"You seem to have little interest, in either hearing opinions that differ from your own or even in acknowledging that they exist."

Honestly you could not be more wrong. I not only study this issue from the modern writers, but also do historical study on this from the reformers back to the fathers. I am fully aware of the different viewpoint. At the same time though, I do not accept their view as a valid Christian view. It is a view Christians hold, but that does not make the view a valid Christian view.

Seriously, you want the debate to take place on the interpretation level of specific texts. My point is that it will not happen as long as words lose their meaning in favor of a theological construct.

Israel means Israel, always. Descendants of Jacob, ethnic jews. When prophecy is about Israel and the amills change Israel to mean something the prophets didn't, then only imagination is the limit to what a passage can mean.

James Kime said...

"No they don't. Covenant Amils do not "replace" anyone with anyone. Grafting gentile believers into the olive tree of Jewish believers is not replacing."

Keith, Israel is cut off. Gentile believers are grafted in. If you think the church fulfills all the promises, then you have replaced Israel with gentile believers.

"Dude, why so harsh. Of course both interpretations can't be right at the same time and in the same way, but what's wrong with just saying "mistaken interpretation" or something?"

Consider the words of Martin Luther:

He argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but were "the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth."

The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine." He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time."

He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing "We are at fault in not slaying them."

cited from Luther's "On the Jews and Their Lies" written in 1543, 3 years prior to his death. They were not his views as an unregenerate catholic. They were his views as a good, typical, reformed, amillenial, replacement theology advocate, supercessionist.

I wonder if Luther's writings, which affected the entire nation of Germany, were ever seized by an opportunistic socialist party.

If you want to condemn Luther's amillenialism, tell me where his interpretation method is wrong? Supercessionism is supercessionism. While I recognize that his covenantalism ideas about the church and state play a role in this, his eschatology was so far off base that such actions did not seem wrong to him.

James Kime said...

I found this just for reference. It is a review of Sam Storm's book that was written after John MacArthur's notorious premillenial sermon at the shepherd's conference.

http://hipandthigh.blogspot.com/2008/08/macarthurs-millennial-manifesto.html

Before Sam wrote his response, I engaged him personally on several of the points I have brought up here. It was enlightening and nice to hear a modern day champion of sorts for amill theology answer my questions. No, I have not misrepresenting them at all.

Anonymous said...

Ben,
Don't worry. James can misrepresent me any time. Having someone argue against your own position the way James does (I mean petitio principii, post hoc, and ad hominem in one argument) actually helps the position.

James,
Really, Luther was "reformed"? He was "covenantal"? You have really studied carefully man.

I have no animosity towards you, as I do not toward the premillenial position. It is possible to disagree without disdain.

That's all for now.

Peace,

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith,

I have no animosity toward you either. My disdain is not toward the people who hold to amill theology, but to the theology itself.

James Kime said...

Alright Keith, everything else aside, let us stick to the interpretation. Since it is about premill vs amill and not dispensationalism vs covenantalism, let us consider "the rest of the dead" in Rev 20:4-5.

When I asked who they were, you said, "Um, is this a trick question? I'll say it's those who weren't beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus."

Are "the rest of the dead" believers or unbelievers?

Anonymous said...

Well,

Using a literal hermeneutic it would be everyone who wasn't beheaded for their witness.

Don't know what else I can tell ya.

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith it isn't a trick question. John separates the resurrection between the first group and "the rest of the dead" by 1000 years. If you take the 1000 years to be symbolic of the present agent, then who makes up the company of "the rest of the dead"? Are they believers or unbelievers?

Anonymous said...

It's clear from the text that "the rest of the dead" are all those who did not die with their faith in Christ.

If you are really wanting to begin developing an understanding of the amillenial position on this text (as opposed to just catching out one of those dastardly -- or bastardly as you might say -- amillenialists), you could read http://www.the-highway.com/amila_Hoekema.html

Keith

James Kime said...

Alright Keith. Now, the first group did have their faith in Christ.

According to the amill position, the first resurrection is a spiritual one. A view pushed by Augustine specifically to counter the chiliasts (premills).

The rest of the dead did not come to life though till after the 1000 years.

If the first group are saved because they came to life, then the "rest of the dead" (unbelievers), come to life after the 1000 years. This means that in the end, ALL people are redeemed, even those who rejected Christ.

Not coincidently, this is the exact position of Origen, the primary proponent of the allegorical method of interpretation. He even took it to include satan and the demons. From the text, he was a universalist.

You cannot in the middle of a passage just change the meanings of words with no warrant. That is what Augustine did though since he was not a universalist.

The reformers and their slavish following of Augustine also adopted this meaning of Revelation 20.

Your view is exactly what I thought you would say Keith. While you may think I misrepresented your particular stripe of amill theology, I did not misrepresent the general amill position.

The amill position will either produce theological liberalism from the tradition of of Origen and thus be universalists, or it will produce a method of interpretation that randomly changes meanings of words even in the same context to fit its predetermined view like Augustine.

Anonymous said...

More in a bit, but first, did you read the article I linked?

I don't mean did you look to see if it confirmed your suspicions. Did you actually engage and follow the argument?

Keith

Anonymous said...

James,

You say: "If the first group are saved because they came to life,"

However, neither Hoekema nor I would say that the first group was saved BECAUSE they came to life. They were saved and came to life first BECAUSE of their faith.

Now, it is true that, because of their faith, they "came to life" first -- in the first resurrection -- as opposed to after the thousand years. While those who did not have faith had to wait to come to life for the thousand years.

You then say: "then the 'rest of the dead' (unbelievers), come to life after the 1000 years. This means that in the end, ALL people are redeemed, even those who rejected Christ."

But it doesn't mean anything like that at all. It is clear from the text that only those who are part of the "first resurrection," the first coming to life, will escape the "second death" (Rev 20:6). Those who do not "come to life" until after the thousand years will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death (Rev 20:14). Which means, those who are not part of the first coming to life are not redeemed. There is nothing of universalism here at all.

No one is inappropriately changing any word meaning within the same context here. You are focusing on "come to life" and ignoring "first" and "second". If I were to say, "My first meal today was breakfast and my second meal was lunch," we would all find it ridiculous should someone protest, "Now which is it, does meal mean breakfast or does meal mean lunch?"

Keith

Anonymous said...

So, James,

Now that I've shown that amillennialism does not require universalism or capricious interpretation of words. I will concede that amillennialists maintain that "the first resurrection" (and the first only) is exlusively "spiritual" -- as long as we're clear about what "spiritual" means here. Spiritual in this case does NOT mean untrue or unreal. It does not mean allegorical or metaphorical. It means incorporeal or "non-physical". The soul, not the body will be with Christ. Following the resurrection described in vv. 11-15, believers will be with Christ in soul AND body. There is no need to abandon a "literal" hermeneutic (in Heppe's sense) to arrive at this understanding of the text. If the first resurrection is of both soul and body, then how are the bodies raised again in vv. 11-15?

Also, Hoekema gives further evidence for my claim that amillenialists do not "REPLACE" Israel with the Church, Land with Heaven, or Throne of David with Throne of God, etc.

He writes (all caps my emphasis): "In the light of biblical teaching about the new earth, many Old Testament prophecies about the land of Canaan and about the future of the people of God fall into place. From the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews we learn that Canaan was a type of the Sabbath-rest of the people of God in the life to come. From Paul’s letter to the Galatians we learn that ALL those who are in Christ are INCLUDED in the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29). When we read Genesis 17:8 (“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” [ASV]) with this understanding of the New Testament broadening of these concepts, we see in it a promise of the NEW EARTH as the everlasting possession of ALL the people of God, NOT JUST of the physical descendants of Abraham. And when, in the light of this New Testament teaching, we now read Amos 9:15 (“And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which 1 have given them, saith Jehovah thy God” [ASV]), we do not feel compelled to restrict the meaning of these words to national Israel and the land of Palestine. We understand them to be a prediction of the eternal dwelling of ALL God’s people, Gentiles AS WELL AS JEWS, on the NEW EARTH of which Canaan was a type. Amillennialists therefore feel no need for positing an earthly millennium to provide for the fulfillment of prophecies of this sort; they see such prophecies as pointing to the glorious eternal future which awaits ALL the people of God.

When premillennialists therefore charge amillennialists with teaching a future kingdom which is only spiritual and which has nothing to do with the earth, they are not representing the amillennial view correctly. Amillennialists believe that Old Testament prophecies which predict that the land of promise shall be the everlasting possession of the people of God, that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and that the earth shall be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, shall be fulfilled not just for a thousand-year period but for all eternity! This interpretation, we believe, gives us a richer, wider and more relevant understanding of those prophecies than that which restricts their meaning to a description of an earthly millennium which shall precede the final state."

Enough (actually way too much, thanks for the space Ben) for now.

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith, you asked me: If the first resurrection is of both soul and body, then how are the bodies raised again in vv. 11-15?

The first resurrection is for believers only. The second resurrection is for unbelievers only. Verses 11-15 refers to what happens to the unbelievers.

As for the first resurrection, Augustine and many amills alive today specifically taught that the first resurrection was referring to being born again, a spiritual resurrection as in being brought to life spiritually. Neither Augustine nor the many amills I know who agree with him teach the "spiritual" resurrection idea that you brought up.

Then, Augustine broke free from Origen on the "rest of the dead" and the second resurrection. Origen taught that the "rest of the dead" who come to life receive eternal life after their purgatory-type punishment.

Origen was at least a consistent applier of the allegorical position. He might have been all over the place, but at least he didn't change the same words in the same passages to mean different things.

Augustine on the other hand, with the modern amills in line, did not teach that the second resurrection was the same as the first in that no one in the second is born again.

If the first resurrection is being born again, when is the resurrection of their bodies? Is it at the same time as "the rest of the dead" who are unbelievers?

Further, the amill position is that there is ONE general resurrection. Why on earth does John divide the first resurrection from the second by 1000 years if it is supposedly at one time?

Anonymous said...

You say: "Neither Augustine nor the many amills I know who agree with him teach the 'spiritual' resurrection idea that you brought up."

Just curious, how many amills do you know? I don't mean how many have you read, but how many do you really, personally know? How many have you spent time with, in honest discussion, trying sincerely to understand their position?

I am obviously not putting forward a unique or idiosyncratic understanding of "spiritual" resurrection since Hoekema lays out the same understanding. And, while I'm not an expert on Hoekema, I think he's a fairly regular, run of the mil amil.

I'm not sure you're right about Augustine either, but for discussion, let's say you are. Well, then Hoekema and I (who am not worthy to clean his or Augustine's shoes), prove that the descendants of the reformers do not follow Augustine slavishly (even though he is worthy of great respect) as you allege.

In addition to your ongoing post hoc assertions, you seem to be committing anachronism in your argument too. One example, Origen may have been wrong about quite a bit, but it would be quite a feat for him to be a "liberal". Liberal theology, strictly speaking, didn't come about until the 20th century.

You ask: "If the first resurrection is being born again, when is the resurrection of their bodies? Is it at the same time as "the rest of the dead" who are unbelievers?"

Well the first resurrection is not identical with "being born again", nevertheless, YES the resurrection of the bodies of the believers is at the same time as the resurrection of the bodies of the unbelievers. There is one resurrection of bodies.

Here's how Hoekema explains it: "Since the Scriptures elsewhere clearly teach only one bodily resurrection which will include both believers and unbelievers (see Jn. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15), what is described in the last clause of verse 4 must be something other than the physical or bodily resurrection which is yet to come."

You ask: "Why on earth does John divide the first resurrection from the second by 1000 years if it is supposedly at one time?"

I think that I've explained that. The first is spiritual the second is spiritual and physical. There is one bodily resurrection.

What you need to explain is how your understanding of Rev 20 does not contradict John 5:28-29 and Acts 24:15 (for starters).

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith, regarding Origen and Augustine, you should do a bit more study. I don't know if it is my failure to explain or your failure to grasp it.

Rev 20:4
"...and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years"

The greek word "zao" translated "they came to life" was taught to mean spiritual life, born again, spiritual regeneration by Augustine and Origin.

Where the two parted ways was on the second use of the same word in verse 5.

Origen maintained that "the rest of the dead (unbelievers)" came to life after the 1000 years. So according to him, everyone in the end was saved. So Origen consistently used the same meaning both times. He was a universalist. That is error and liberal theology.Yes, theological liberalism was around in Paul's day also.

Augustine on the other hand changed the meaning of the word in the middle of the text, something I said several posts ago. Augustine has spiritual regeneration in mind in verse 4 and bodily resurrection in mind in verse 5.

So yes, either you get theological liberalism (what universalism is) or you get an unjustified change in meaning to the same word in the same passage.

James Kime said...

Keith, you said:

What you need to explain is how your understanding of Rev 20 does not contradict John 5:28-29 and Acts 24:15 (for starters).
_________________

Acts 24:14-15
14. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
15. having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

How does this verse teach a general resurrection? It simply says that there is a resurrection for the just and the unjust. You could put the resurrection of the two parties either at the same time or a million years apart. Either way, there is still a resurrection of the just and unjust.
___________________

John 5:28-29
28. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
29. and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

In the same way as Acts, Jesus did not say that the resurrection happens at the same time for both. It might or might not mean that.

Here is an example:

I have said to my wife before that the day will come when all of our kids will be out of our house. Either I mean that they all leave our house on the same day or I mean that when a certain day comes, all our kids will be out of the house. My oldest could leave 5 years before the youngest and the statement be true.

So, when you have either possible meaning, I compare that with Revelation 20. The same author of the John 5 passage writes that the just will be raised 1000 years prior to the resurrection of the lost (the rest of the dead).

Not only does that harmonize with every single passage about the resurrection, it doesn't force feed a preconcieved idea about anything. The text is allowed to naturally mean what John meant for it to mean.

Hoekema on the other hand selects his meaning of John 5 and Acts 24 and concludes that Revelation 20 cannot be read any other way. You even quoted him admitting to reading his preconceived idea into Revelation 20. I have made that case time and again that amills do that. You have provided yet another quote for me that proves me right about them.

Anonymous said...

I'll get back when I have more time, but for now, if you are going to continue telling me to study more, you should perhaps heed your own advice.

You continue to confuse categories in the most blatant way: Universalism is an error but it IS NOT synonymous with Liberalism. You are welcome to stipulate that meaning if you'd like, but it is not historically acurate or normal parlance.

It's also interesting that someone who insits on literal reading of a text can just blatantly ignore tenses. I think the passage says, "a resurrection" not "resurrections" of both the just and the unjust. If you want to allegorize "a resurrection" fine let's discuss that.

Keith

Anonymous said...

Ben, if this discussion is going on too long just let me know and I'll gladly stop. In the mean time . . .

James,

Here goes one more try.

1) Again, if "meal" can literally mean breakfast or lunch or supper, then why cannot "first resurrection" mean spiritual and "second resurrection" mean physical -- especially when every other passage dealing with bodily resurrection appears (within their own contexts)to indicate that there is only one bodily resurrection?

2) I understand that you disagree with Augustine. I also am aware that Augustine maintains that the first coming to life refers to spiritual regeneration. When I said, "I'm not sure you're right about Augustine," I meant that I'm not sure that you have understood his position fully. I did not mean to deny that Augustine thought the first "coming to life" includes spiritual regeneration. He did think that. Furthermore, most contemporary amillennarians would agree that spiritual regeneration is included in what is going on in Rev 20:4-6. "Regenerate" means to come to life again. "Born again" means to come to life again. "Resurrect" also means to come to life again. So, how is it outside normal language use to think that a reference to "souls" that "came to life" includes spiritual regeneration?

3) Contemporary amillennarians, however, also emphasize that the Rev. 20:4-6 passage is discussing what happens AS A RESULT OF the first coming to life and resurrection. The passage states that the SOULS of those who came to life in the first resurrection REIGNED with Christ a thousand years. Many amills would say that the souls of the Church on earth share in this spiritual reign, but they note that the emphasis in the Rev 20 passage is on the SOULS sitting on thrones in HEAVEN. This comes, literally, right out of the text. If you are not aware of this emphasis of contemporary amills, then you have not read very widely among its leading scholars and you must not know very many real, live amills -- you could start by reading Hoekema, Berkhof, and Poythress.

3) What Augustine or Origen did or did not believe is very interesting, and worth studying, but it doesn't really establish anything about the totallity of what real, live amills believe today.

4) I have shown you with quotes from one leading amil (and I could give you more from other amil scholars) that today, amills do not REPLACE Israel with the Church, etc. They INCLUDE the gentile church in Israel. You have misrepresented contemporary amills here -- regardless of what Luther may have written in the past.

5) You complain that Hoekema and the amils select their interpretation of John 5 and Acts 24 and then force it on to Rev 20. However, it looks to me like you selected your interpretation of Rev 20 and then forced it onto John 5 and Acts 24. It also looks like you've decided not to use a literal understanding of various words in John and Acts. I've already mentioned that Acts 24 says "a resurrection" (singular). John 5 likewise says "an hour (singular) is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out." There is absolutely nothing in either of these texts which suggests multiple resurrections or time between resurrections. On the contrary, what we see in the text is the singular tense. You are, of course, welcome to allegorize "a resurrection" to mean two resurrections and "an hour" to mean two hours (as in the example you provided about your kids leaving home), but on what basis do you do so? It is not in the text itself. On the other hand,looking at these passages literally and then reading Revelation -- which does differentiate between more than one coming to life and more than one death -- it seems reasonable to conclude that "the first resurrection" of "souls" is not the bodily resurrection which immediately precedes the final judgement.

Keith

James Kime said...

Keith,

I will get back to the first 3 points when I am feeling better, but here goes with 4 and 5.

4. Amill theology isn't limited to one particular group. Supersessionism is quite broad. Your particular stripe of amill theology may or may not do some of what I have said. That is a point I have already made.

5. Apparently you didn't read what I said about this. John 5 and Acts 24 may or may not teach one general resurrection for the saved and unsaved. The language used is general and not specific. I even gave an example of it to help you understand that.

Please do not miss this Keith, I accept that John 5 and Acts 24 MAY teach a general resurrection.

However, when you compare those texts with Rev 20, you only get one possibility: the resurrection of the righteous prior to the resurrection of the wicked. Whether you think the 1000 years is literal or not makes no difference to the fact that the same author of John 5 separated the resurrection of each group by a span of time.

Therefore, the possibility that John 5 and Acts 24 teach a general resurrection is eliminated. Hoekema admitted that his view of John 5 and Acts 24 was read into Rev 20 instead of letting the text speak for itself.

There is no allegory on my part Keith. It is letting the text speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

"4. Amill theology isn't limited to one particular group. Supersessionism is quite broad. Your particular stripe of amill theology may or may not do some of what I have said. That is a point I have already made."

I have not been presenting some quircky, off beat, side stream of amillenialism. What I have been presenting, however weak my presentation of it may be, is pretty much in the mainstream. And it does not do quite a bit of what you have said.

"5. Apparently you didn't read what I said about this."

Yes, I read what you said. But, just because you said it doesn't make it so. There is no textual basis in John 5 or Acts 24 themselves for multiple bodily resurrections -- none.

"John 5 and Acts 24 may or may not teach one general resurrection for the saved and unsaved. The language used is general and not specific."

The language used says nothing about multiple resurrections. There is nothing in the context of either passage to even hint at multiple resurrections. The thought of reading these passages and finding anything other than one bodily resurrection would not occur reading only these passages. It has to be brought in from somewhere else.

"I even gave an example of it to help you understand that."

And I heartily and enthusiastically agree that language can be used as you describe in your example. "A day" can mean an era. "Sons of" can mean sons and daughters. "A thousand years" can mean a long time. Language is used like this all the time. What I am saying is that there is nothing in the context of John 5 or Acts 24 to suggest that is how language is being used in these passages.

"Please do not miss this Keith, I accept that John 5 and Acts 24 MAY teach a general resurrection."

Great.

"However, when you compare those texts with Rev 20, you only get one possibility: the resurrection of the righteous prior to the resurrection of the wicked."

What Rev 20 describes is the "coming to life" of "souls" prior to the sea, death, and Hades giving up their dead. Souls come to life and reign in heaven prior to bodies rising. That's what the passage literally says. There is time between these two events.

"Hoekema admitted that his view of John 5 and Acts 24 was read into Rev 20 instead of letting the text speak for itself."

That is not what he admitted. He would say that he is interpreting each text on its own terms and harmonizing the teaching.

"There is no allegory on my part Keith."

IF it is allegorizing to say that "a" thousand years can mean several thousand years, then it is allegorizing to say that "a" resurrection can mean two resurrections.

"It is letting the text speak for itself."

Which text?

Keith

James Kime said...

"The language used says nothing about multiple resurrections."

Keith, at the same times it doesn't say anything about the resurrections happening at the same time. They are both general statements that both believers and unbelievers will be raised.

The wicked will not be annihilated. The righteous will receive reward.

This is my point. The statements by themselves do not prove either position. It is the reading of Rev 20 that settles it.

James Kime said...

I am feeling better so I will now go back to your 3 points a few posts back.

1. It cannot mean that because the separation of the 2 groups make it obvious. The "rest of the dead" is what comes to life in the second resurrection. You have already admitted that they are without Christ. I agree. John does not say that everyone gets raised in the second resurrection, just the "rest of the dead". The just have already been raised in the first resurrection. The only people left, ie "the rest of the dead", are unbelievers.

Read through Rev 20 again for the order of events.

Those who died for their testimony of Christ have been raised. A thousand years later everyone else gets raised.

The first resurrection cannot mean spiritual regeneration (born again) because it would mean that those who died for their testimony of Christ are then born again. It makes it sound like being born again follows dying in Christ. That is a complete reversal from the rest of the NT. Spiritual regeneration is first, then a person's life followed by their death.

The natural reading of the text would mean that those who died in Christ being raised means bodily resurrection since he literally just said bodily death.

1. Christians die
2. Christians get raised
3. Time span (1000 years)
4. The rest (unbelievers) get raised

Does this idea fit with everything else about the resurrection? Yes. The general statements in John 5 and Acts 24 are still true though not specific. Rev 20 is so specific that it helps us understand John 5 and Acts 24.

This is actually a combination of your 1 and 2 points. Sorry.

I noticed you have two number 3 points. So this is for the second one.

I have been fascinated by my own study of church history, specifically the interpretation of various theological issues. My suggestion that you study augustine and origen was never meant to be insulting if you took it that way. I meant it as an encouragement.

In my own pursuit of truth, I compare my own interpretation with that of not only the modern writers but also the ancients.

I believe that the influence of Origen and Augustine has been huge on this particular issue in a negative way. Much of the rationale behind their views is still used by the modern amills.

At any rate, I am on some meds that have me pretty nausious (sp?) at the moment. Feel free to respond but it may be awhile before I can again.

I actually think Ben might have had in mind what we are doing in the exegetical aspects.

Anonymous said...

"John does not say that everyone gets raised in the second resurrection, just the "rest of the dead"."

All John says about "the rest of the dead" is that they do not come to life until after the 1000 years. I've already explained how I (and many) see that regeneration, resurrection, and born again can be used interchangeably for spiritual and physical occurances and that the actual meaning depends on the context. In this very context itself, there are things that suggest viewing the first resurrection as of the SOUL only -- that's what this very text actually says -- and the second resurrection as of the body -- based on teaching elswhere we all believe in a bodily resurrection at some point too. We also both probably believe that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." What do you call that first going to be with the Lord? Might we call it a resurrection?

"The just have already been raised in the first resurrection."

All that the text says is that their SOULS have come to life. The actual language of the text only makes sense if this really means souls.

Here's how Hoekema explains that: Sometimes, to be sure, the word here rendered “souls,” psuchai, may be used to describe people who are still living on the earth — as, for example, in Acts 2:41: “And there were added that day about three thousand souls.” But in Revelation 20:4 this meaning of the word psuchai will not work. One cannot translate tas psuchas ton pepelekismenon as “the people of those who had been beheaded,” or as “the men of those who had been beheaded.” Here the word psuchai must denote the souls of people who had died. This text is, in fact, a kind of parallel to an earlier passage in Revelation 6:9: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.”

"Rev 20 is so specific that it helps us understand John 5 and Acts 24."

Yes, that is true. I think that Rev 20 may be more specific that even you are considering.

"My suggestion that you study augustine and origen was never meant to be insulting if you took it that way. I meant it as an encouragement."

I wasn't insulted. My point is that Augustine and Origen are beside the point in this discussion. You had continued to argue that if Augstine or Origen did something then the amils that came after them must be doing the same thing. This is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and it invalidates your argument.

Sorry you are not feeling well. I hope you recover quickly. However, I probably will drop out of the discussion at this point anyway. We've spilled enough ink.

It is fine with me if you still disagree with the position I've tried to articulate. I still disagree with yours. But, when the end comes, if you turn out to be right, that will be just fine by me.

All I hope I have accomplished is to show that amils don't just take the Bible carelessly and try to make it say whatever they want. You may disagree with their conclusions, but they are the conclusions of people who take the Bible seriously.

Keith