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APPENDIX TO CHAPTER 1,
DEPARTMENT OF BIBLE
AND SPIRITUAL AFFAIRS, VOLUME 2
ESCAPADES WITH THE WORD OF GOD
ARE NOT ESCAPES FROM ITS RULE
BUT ECCENTRICITIES AT BEST
AND WOE AT WORST
See also Department of Bible ... Vol. 2, Ch. 1, Ch. 10, and Vol. 3. Ch. 10
A few points may help some to gain
an historical perspective allied to a biblical constraint concerning the
millenium, and efforts either to negate it or short-change it.
In fact, there are 13.
The crucial point is simple: What does the Bible teach ? Beyond literalism, allegoricism, imaginative excursions and irrelevant prognostications build on this or that philosophy of nature, or culture or other ventures of human thought, what does it say ? Various excuses are often made by twiddling the dials on various terms, that it must not be this or that; but the point remains, What does it say!
In this 225 volume series, to use Paul's phrase, to move to "the defence and confirmation of the Gospel," as in Philippians 1:7, its proclamation, identification, showing the unique verification and validation of the Gospel, and in this also, its vindication, as well as its application, indeed that of the whole word of God as one is enabled, there is a phrase relevant here. It is this: TEXTUAL FIDELITY.
What is given, as in all normal and serious speech, and more precisely in sound speech, means what it says, moves to imagery for effect*1, gives evidence of what is of this kind and what is not, brings in nuances of many kinds and supports these with surrounds, overall or immediate, to allow their discernment. When the DISCERNER among the sinners of mankind, that is the one reading, for any reason, becomes crucially important, then there is error. What is written is what is to be crucially important (cf. Matthew 4 in the temptation), and the evidence must lie within this; and when it is a matter of life and death, as the Gospel is, and indeed the word of God, of the One who made us and is to judge mankind, then certainly, just as it claims, so it is. It is all clear to the one who understands (Proverbs 8:8). None of us is perfect, but the word of God is, and to elicit what it is saying is not beyond all, but available to due assiduity and willingness, minus wilfulness.
According, no one can BE the interpreter but Christ (Matthew 23:8-10), but we to whom this word is left must act objectively, taking the evidence with confidence as it comes. The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, we read in John 16:13), but "whatever He hears, that He speaks." The Spirit of Truth moves and His aid helps people find what is written, that itself its own criterion.
It is not necessary to be perfect to perform a successful operation, or anything like it; and it is necessary to realise the need for due care in interpreting the Bible; and yet, God having the uttermost power to express, it is no tease, but the truth lies there for the taking, not only in the Gospel, which is like milk in Paul's designation, but in matters of 'meat' too. Chewing may be taxing at times, but then when the carver is the Lord, one has good confidence to address issues for Him.
The traditional approach is often used; and it can be valuable, but not as a resting point. It is of interest, and often many ideas flow in and out, in harder cases, and can over time become like a whirl-pool, not only rough, but perilous in its own way. Many may be be active to illustrate a point, create a point already in the mind of the reader, to sustain a position, or even to find the truth of what is intended to be conveyed. One must avoid the trick of expecting a given verse, theme or area in the Bible to give what one might vagrantly or personally wish. No author is bound to do that for one; but when it is the divine Author, what is needed is assuredly given, but not a tailor-made response to a question (or answer in waiting) that may be on one's mind. That is an opportunity for what cricketer's call a golden duck, if one responds with that in view!
In the current point, concerning the millenium, some want it cut to this or that dimension, including zero; some want it to institute a new gospel contrary to Galatians 1, or to elevate their crew or the Jew or the desires for this or that sort of earth and rule, as if to use Christ for some alien purpose, to qualify or obliterate Him, or mix Him with various additives. You can do that, but it has nothing whatever to do with Him: simply a misuse of His name. What is written is the sole criterion.
That being said, it is useful to cite one approach relatively recently met. It was that of a traditionalist. Now Rome has its traditions, famous for them, Canon Law, and the like, irrespective of whether they constitute in part a reel of opposites or composites or requisites for this or that imperial purpose; and one of these with Augustine, in his second opinion phase, is not in favour of the millenium. Some for that matter, were not in favour of the virgin birth, though it was clearly written, and basic to the entirety of Christianity. So some want out, or roundabout, for the millenium.
One can understand in principle how that might be: if on this earth, one Teacher (not as in Matthew 23:8-10, the Lord Jesus Christ HIMSELF - born of a virgin, without sin, crucified and bodily risen, easy to designate clearly) is to speak, and that is deemed to be the pope, then if you have a millenium where this is not so (as it is required now also, but not in this, done), then this makes for an unpleasant exposure for Christ direct on this earth, for some. It is removed readily and imperiously: there is no to be millenium, as biblically defined (cf. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 of 8, p. 614-621). Say that, again in contravention of the Bible, and the difficulty of the striving pope is removed from exposure!
The step taken may not as such cancel the millenium, but it does cancel the biblical depiction of it, and the timing. Thus the concept from Augustine which held many for long. "The apocalyptic millenium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ's reign. It was consistent with this theory that towards the close of the first millenium of the Christian era there was a wide-spread expectation in Western Europe that the final judgment was at hand."
"From the time of Constantine and Augustin chiliasm took its place among the heresies,
and was rejected subsequently even by the Protestant reformers a a Jewish dream,
but it was revived from time to time as an article of faith and hope by pious individuals."
"In a free spiritual sense, however, millennarianism will always survive
as the hope of a golden age of the church on earth,
and of a great sabbath of history after its many centuries of labor and strife."
The idea, however, in terms of what is written, of something daring to be used of the millenium, co-existing with the martyrs, murders, slashings, obliterations of thousands and millions on earth, deceit, squalls, upsets, devilish empowerments, heartlessness, regions and realms of utter violence, is so delusive that one wonders at whatever propelled people so to move. It is far from the biblical depiction, appearing rather spawn of some kind of philosophy, held in mind, for them even to think of applying the unique features of depictions such as Isaiah 65, 11, 32, Habakkuk 2:14, Psalm 73, or a devil-ridded earth of Revelation 20, to the current situation.
Variation from the text in type ? into allegory, new qualities ? The contrast is more than that; it is violent contradiction. Never to this hour in this world has there been a binding of the devil IN the world (He is bound, for faith, and not in general by any means, being active like a roaring lion -I Peter 5:8). Going about as a roaring lion, he is statedly ready to devour (as in the day of Peter, the apostle), being neither shut up nor bound; for from his are the nations given rest (Revelation 20:2-4). Just as Israel was to come back, and did, in the Lord's own time (as was equally true of the incarnation - cf. Galatians 4:4), so is the Lord and His ruling kingdom with Him.
Not hurting or destroying on all the Lord's holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9), is not the same as being slaughtered by Romanism, Communism, or any of the other great scaffold builders, ignoring alike Christ's strictures of John 18:36 and Matthew 26. Peter was humbled IMMEDIATELY he began to act in a papal manner (Matthew 16:22-23). Philosophy is quite apt to glorify - or vilify - the Church - as it tends to do to much else; but the former is as far as possible from Paul in I Corinthians 4 and II Corinthians 4. That time is not yet, and it will be when it comes to what the Lord God states of His mind (cf. Isaiah 14:27), when He comes. Cutting out Christ in the flesh from a millenial rule is not an option of interpretation, but a chasm for confrontation. It is deep but the bottom is hard.
Rule is not imagery; earth is not a figment; what happens in it throughout is not a febrile assessment laughably at odds with the depiction of His rule in Psalm 72, for example. It is that which will in fact be done, as in concert will what is done on earth in parallel depictions, concerning this globe. Heaven and earth are quite dissimilar, as are so many of its occupants and ways. Confusing them is not found in the words of Christ, but even a severely ironic alerting to the difference (Matthew 23).
This is a time of test, not rest (Revelation 2-3); and there is need for great watchfulness while evil workers abound, even infecting churches as there shown, and foretold (II Peter 2). While it is true that there is an inward and spiritual rest in Jesus Christ right now (Matthew 11:27ff.), it is not similarly true that this relates to this world as an entity, which COULD not well be more restive, driven, smitten, surrendered to many evils with various master concepts afoot for the coming slavery sought by evil power (II Thessalonians 2, Revelation 13, 17).
This is not that of which Isaiah and David speak, nor of which Revelation makes depiction. It could not well be further from it. If you can twist that to this, then you have gone further than allegory: you have come to an inventor of information which is not to be found, of a world not to be seen, and of a situation a weird medley of things present and hoped for, not a purveyor of what is written, not even to the point of being similar IN KIND. In kind, it is contrary.
The Christians in this present time are manifestly "strangers and pilgrims" in the earth (I Peter 2:11), indeed in modern terminology, the terms "transients" or "sojourners" can be used instead of "strangers", and thus the reference is to those not even in a settled place at all here, far less rulers in any kingdom; and as the spiritual song rightly gives it, "This world is not my home." Love of it has misled Rome in its physical wars against Christians, such as the much persecuted Waldensians; and the servant is assuredly not greater than his master, who was bent on assuring us that if they did it (contempt, persecution, death) to Him, then they would do it to us also.
But for those interested in what various people have said, such as a strange category, the Reformed Traditionalists, who want to make the relative refrain from millenialism on the part of prominent Reformers in the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, the criterion on the matter, there is another element to consider. To be sure such traditionalism is not biblically admissible (Mark 7:7), and it appears an unfortunate run-off from Rome and its ilk. But even if it were, there is a flagrantly interesting point made by Schaff in the same place. Before sketching the views here on the part of a number of very famous early Christian teachers, he makes an overall assessment of the chialastic situation shortly after the time of the apostles, and as it then moved on. it is this (bold added) .
"The most striking point in the ante-Nicene ages is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustin opposed it."
This illustrates the uselessness of trying to make a common denominator on difficult points from consulting statistics; but it DOES show the early preponderance, in times nearer to those of the apostles, of millennarianism, to use Schaff's spelling.
The tendency to move from the preponderant view in the early Church teaching away to various contrivances contrary to millennial definition from the Bible, coincided well with that towards gnosticism, which made huge efforts to capture the Church. That was a secret society of the heart, that is, special knowledge was taken to have been given to or found by them; and in this they could rest beyond what was deemed the relatively superficial preoccupations of the non-glitterati, mere literati, who struggled more in Primary School. Now to be sure there is meat and milk (I Corinthians 3:2); there are things for entering the path, finding the faith, knowing the Lord in the first place, and becoming secure in Him; but there are also matters for growth, what Paul calls "solid food" which he contrasts. However, this is not BEYOND the word given (I Cor. 2:9-13), but FROM IT!
The gnostic plague did not hesitate, ensconced in the mellow pastures of imagination, to be reckless in scope, restless in assertion and divisive in thrust. That is one of the features of the millennial mutancy militia. What the text and general context REQUIRES is not enough. Even what contradicts it in principial respects, must stand because it is so sophisticated, or so neat, or this or that person or tradition holds to it. But to TEXTUAL FIDELITY we return. If is for this that one is to dwell on His word, day and night, meditate on it, seek it as treasure, regard its data to the jot and tittle (which will, on Christ's assurance be wrought in its time) as precious. As in mathematics, or voyages of discovery, there is a place for precision with humility, not might, carried away in its arms.
This, to be avoided in many things, as it was, is also to be avoided in other applications of what is so close to it as to be almost incapable of differentiation, such as met here.
Accordingly, just as desperate affairs are deemed by many to require desperate actions, there has been a movement away from the simplicity and fidelity so common at first, in the millenial field, to strange pastures, where there is no rest for this world, but the word is still applied; or strange omissions, where the imagination removes part of Christ's tour of triumph (as in Colossians 1), to abort elements for some reason or other; but it is one matrix, one vision, one Lord, one teaching, and to add or subtract is becoming a co-author with Him who very decidedly does not invite this (cf. Jeremiah 23)!
However, this is in the first place, NOT a desperate situation; and even if it were, this would not be justified. II Peter 3:9 has already given a medicine for impatience, in advance of our time by some 2000 years. What did He say ? It was this. The heavens and the earth that now are, are to be destroyed by fire. But this is not that. It is not that the Lord is slack, but has His own dimensions in fulfilling promises. Instead of 6 days, evening and morning, moving into normal history, as we turn from the generations of the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1-2, with the generations of Adam or Noah, here we have a question of application to PEOPLE. That was for people; this is TO people.
They are not always angels, nor quick, and the Lord in inventing freedom for man, by Whom alone it even COULD be, he has invented a complexity of psyche, a myriad of pretences, not BY the creation but in its own preferred use of liberty. Vast are the domains to be exposed, whether in Tyre or other tyrants; in philosophy, in politics, in wisdoms ephemeral and in notions absurd. All have their time (cf. SMR Chs. 3, 4, 4 Extension). Intelligence and desire, dream and its voidance, truth and its avoidance, all come and go their various or several ways, severing from God, seething within.
In this category, one day is as a thousand years. God is not slack but active; but the tend is not yet; and so consider the implication. If on those terms, it was just TWO days to the end, that would be 2000 years. Peter is hardly telling us to hold our breaths; but he IS telling us to be alert and lovingly watchful, in the love of God, who is seeking where love reaches and truth resounds, as from the first, before this world was, when God knew man before He even made Him. If this astounds, what does on expect ? that the infinite should be limited like the finite! Then one is thinking of a creation; the topic, however here is the Creator. Has man become so used to worshipping other bits of 'nature' that he has forgotten to worship God! Largely, it appears so. The time waits. The miraculous regenerations gather, now here, now there, now in this epic, now in that epoch.
God is not impatient. Let us seek to resemble Him in this, however difficult. It is a test of our faith, and if like me, you find it sometimes testing, yet underneath, one finds it a privilege, whether as with my own case, to write books (now 225 on His glorious affairs and their application to man, according to the Bible) or anything else, to suffer shame from cowards or chameleons, or to groom new saved souls. In the end, it is NEVER too much; and it is always a privilege to have communion with the living God on covenantal and assured terms! To serve Him is precious, as He is, and it is because He is.
One way of being impatient is to cut the millenium out, remove the vindication in laboratory reality on this earth which the Bible repeatedly describes, tell God where to get off (nothing resembling the biblical millenium needed, thank you, is the air of the aria), and to get on with it.
It is an option. But it has nothing whatsover to do with interpreting the Bible. It is rather like a sailor who, called to work as a rating in a ship, blows off the bow, since it seemed too pretentious!
Just as a student tends to daydream, when not intent on the work in hand, so some daydream of other things, who are not intent on what is written, but on this desire, that plan of approach to the Bible, this sharing of one's own thoughts with those of God, this master concept and that, and so on. Inventing other worlds or climes or times or ages or phases, or removing them, or remodelling them, it may or may not be fun, but from Jeremiah's day to this, it has received the royal condemnation with vehemence. Do you indeed have a dream, not derivable in its parts from the Bible, then dreamer you are if you attempt to put this INTO what is written, as a third element, in addition to both the Old and the New Testament. This is the sort of things dreamers do, and it is forbidden in terms so hostile, so categorical that one would tremble before even considering listening to their contents, past seeing the clash, or new work, relative to the Bible. These are biblical categories, and they are to be avoided.
If the air is not there, don't breathe. See Jeremiah 23:16-22 in particular, and the implied pomposity of those who talk knowingly of things revealed, and prattle without reverence for the infinite difference in authority between what GOD says and man says. Failure to see that difference is what led directly to man's fall at the first, in Genesis. You are free to interpret IN VIEW of some philosophical position (has God - really - said ... ? He only wants to do this or that, or only wants you to understand this or that: it is all so subtle and unsublime; and repetitive (cf. Genesis 3:3-5). If you then have influenza, don't blame the doctor, but get rid of it.
Here it is as if some say, The master delays! and so they change the running of the household, puffed up until He returns, saying perhaps such words as these, Who commissioned this! A season is added or subtracted. They will indeed seek to change times and law (Daniel 7:25); but this is no time to do it. Indeed, on that theme, the entire secession from physical reality in the realm of sexual and procreative action is just one illustration of what was predicted, and is now coming to pass. Such things are to be avoided like cobras. They have a job; they do it; it is not good to share it. The theme has many applications.
In general then, there is not a rush to return, but a fulfilment of the wise words of Christ, and the inspired ones of Peter, so that indeed the prophecies of the Old and New Testament through Christ are needed as a light in a dark place; and how dark it is! Not only fiascos of self-important prelates trying to take over the helm in power and push, has had to be faced, but the parallel power of emperors and kings, who have found it useful to have a hand-made religion ready for dignifying their regality, characterising their nation or being butt for their vulgarity.
Fiddling and philosophy also, as above, have joined the ranks of what to do on a rainy day, when the day becomes a few centuries, and all this has come and most of it gone (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5), as the characteristics of the time before Christ's return, the legitimate methods of estimating nearness, indeed the APPOINTED ones (Luke 21:24-28, Matthew 24).
Pleasant as games may be for children, for adults in this setting what is required is patient application to what is required as in Matthew 24:36-44; and that also is as appointed! In other words, multiple are the indications that time would be required, and patience, as in Revelation 6:7-8, so that international squalls and wars could assemble and disassemble themselves in the interim. God did not make the universe for a few years, but for several thousand; and there are many trials and tasks, exposures and experiences awaiting man yet!
Accordingly, WHEN the time for the return DOES arrive, then it will be spectacular as in Matthew 24:29-30. It will FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY (Matthew 24:29) after severe tribulation and deception in a disturbed and vexed world (not after a period of peace or plenty or pleasantness or regal rule by Christians), as His people are called out from this world, as a prelude to Revelation 1, when the tribes of this world mourn at Christ's appearing, since there is gall in store for many (cf. Matthew 25), and judgment, that great fear of the ungodly when their self-assurance is tried by events, has ranges to cover before the finale of assizes meets an earth not shy to clash with godless clangour with the Lord, till it simply meets the appointment time, the end (cf. Matthew 24:8,14).
Just as the Gospel had first to be preached to all nations, so the judgment comes to all notions, including those of false prophets, whether at the national, religious or ecclesiastical kind, in their sinuous fantasising, and to all nations as well. The events are not secret, clandestine, but as real as the incarnation (Micah 5), the crucifixion, the blood, the predicted death mode (Psalm 22, Zechariah 12:10), date*1A , sale price (Zechariah 11) and reason (Isaiah 53), for the Messiah, and the day and fact of the resurrection (Psalm 16, Matthew 16:21 cf. SMR Ch. 6). Man is forever toning up or down what God says, but none of the options to His return and rule are to be found in the Bible, which counters them at every point.
One of the errors, the extreme distortion of the millenial characteristics in the Romanist view with Augustine, is matched by another, an extremist dispensational view, that would have Israel not only prominent, but in some sense, dominant, more than one among many AS A NATION. In this case, not only is there no biblically specified millenium for Christ, but there is one NOT biblically specified for a variety of modes, either Old Testament covenant, or Israeli rule with the Church in heaven, or various mists and figures invented at will. In fact, the Old Covenant, at the spiritual level, though a useful mode of speaking in some settings of coming events, is certainly long gone with the murder of Christ. In Isaiah 65:13-15, there is not blessing but cursing, not additive renewal but loathing for what has abounded in breach, as in 66:3, there is irrelevance.
Spiritually (one of the two dimensions given to Abraham at the outset - Genesis 12), nothing could be further from the truth. There may indeed be, as in Isaiah 2, a concentration on Jerusalem, site of the sacrificial death and bodily resurrection instituting the great opportunity for man not only to live for ever, but this in the presence of his God and Maker.
On this error, see Department of Bible and Spiritual Affairs Vol. 2, Ch. 1. See also Biblical Blessings Ch. 3, Deliver us from Dispensationalism. As in Bay of Islands, the tendency is repetitive in Church history, for each of two opposing extremes to be the illegitimate territory of agile contenders, who bypass the Bible in their zeal, each containing some one aspect, the other the diminution of this and extension of some divergent option. In the clatter, the simple, biblical reality is often lost. Some creeds show admirable discretion in treating these things, others do not. However, here is one of the examples of extremes, not in idea, so much as in 'handling' the Bible, to make it read what it refuses to yield. Bypass in part or whole routinely breeds mutants, and leaves the word of God nullified, as Christ pointed out (Mark 7:7ff.). Textual Fidelity leaves both and all such partial presentations equipped with varied additives or subtractions where they belong, in the imagination of God. Not that, but the word of God being the issue, it is necessary not to dally, wander or dream. Precision is the point, and warrant.
For others see Bay of Retractable Islands, Mission for the Mainland.
Biblically, there is vast emphasis on Jerusalem in the millenium*2, not on Israel per se, which is stripped of its spiritual leadership, the only Leader being the Lord; and the congenial congregation of all is given access to a perfection of peace in the whole. No wonder, then, there is such a prohibition of adding to these things, or subtracting from these words, as in Revelation 22; and such an insistence from the word that Christ spoke, as shown in Matthew 5:17-20, on the precision and point of the pronouncements of God, to the uttermost. You see the same insistence in Psalm 12 and of course, 119.
How clear are the characteristics of that one period in earth history when the Lord shows His intention to stop the rule of sin, the thrust of evil, the dominance and prominence of spiritual and moral pollution, and show the personal wonder of His Christ as the Ruler to whom rule is due as in Ezekiel 21, the Lord who severs and overcomes the aspirations and damages of evil, with conquest over all comers for recognition. It ends in overthrow of the impenetrably impenitent as in Revelation 20.
Look at Isaiah 11, where the Messiah of divine qualities is seen in operation, free from prejudice, filled with wisdom and might, providing for the poor with mercy, for the meek with equity, for the rebellious with His directed power, and exterminative of the wicked as the case requires. Formerly antagonised forces will be quietened, rank areas of disaster stilled, and "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," for the "earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea," the Messiah a banner of truth for the Gentiles as for the Jew, providing a glorious resting place. At this time, not for the first, but for the second time, Israel will be brought back to its land, and geographical changes will be made.
This is not only internal, but external, not only gracious but glorious, not only tendential, but total, not only Messianic, but with the whole earth under His visible control.
Consider Isaiah 32 in which an entire change is to occur because the foolish person will no more gull assessors as if he were generous, the miser gain a reputation for bounty. Indeed the very heart of the rash will understand knowledge. There is to be an entire change of cast, of gulling, of appearance into an awareness of reality, as in Isaiah 11; there is here that culmination of wisdom, expression of power and provision of rule for which the heart seeks, but in any outward form, the eyes have scarcely seen. It is made clear that the NATURAL course of things is quite the contrary, but this is how it will be. In things both practical and spiritual, there will be a categorical displacement of the norm, in reform, of the visibility of the hypocrite, and sight will replace deception.
Ponder Isaiah 65 whose criteria include the fact that there are of course still sinners in this glorious situation - the sinner aged 100 will still die, and age is no guarantee of redemption. Stability will be found and violence quashed, and indeed this is to be seen in sight of the fact that a new heaven and a new earth are to be recreated. Once again, the ferocious will no more attack the tender, and "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," the Lord tells us. Gone are the days when ruffians ruin hard work, and present is the domain of the elect having long tenure in peace. In particular, Jerusalem will be "created as a rejoicing" and "I will rejoice in Jerusalem," and in her no more comes the noise of weeping. The devil will be quieted in this period (65:25)
Indeed, the nation will be born in one day (66:8), and it is Jerusalem in which there was weeping, where there will be weeping no more. If then "Jerusalem"*2 were used in some sense different from the well-known norm, as if it 'meant' the Church, then the Church would have been weeping, but not now, and it would have been rendered destroyed, but now restored. It is the Church however which has been and continues to be rejoicing, and cannot be destroyed. THIS Jerusalem was in the midst of weeping for it was proverbial and gross (cf. Jeremiah 31:15); and in ITS OWN midst AS Jerusalem was their grave persecution, at the integral level, of Jews by Jews; a phenomenon now to cease in the millenial time of absolute transition, the centurion sinner, still present, as also the Lord, following overthrow of earthly powers.
This has no parallel in history. It is to come. Jerusalem, like the corpse of Christ, like the sale for 30 pieces of silver, like the cross, is part of a scenario which, in itself, may not be so amazing; but it has ... portent, intent and place, and speaks still, and will speak from the Lord for whom these things are not trifles, but trials leading on to triumph, the particular nature of which is not going to be lost in the time of fulfilment, victory and total triumph in this earth. Vagueness and oscillatory definitions is not to the point here. When imagery is used, fine; but here there is consistent substance that no appeal to imagery can cloud, but can lead only to contradiction of the text.
These ramifications are confused and if adopted, only confusing. It is Jerusalem itself, a holy city, as such, which wept, and which on receiving the Gospel, does so no longer; as called Jerusalem it was sound, then unsound, then destroyed, then restored, then given joy precisely as in Ezekiel 36-39, and as there, the violent are met with divine judgment, as also in Isaiah 66:14ff.. The whole heaven and earth are to be replaced, and the Gentiles to join with Israel, not for its extermination this time, but with amity in the Lord as in Isaiah 66:20.
In fact, ALL FLESH will then worship the Lord, free from the horror of hell (66:23).
These are characteristics, and they are to happen like the others, whether imagery be used, as it sometimes is, or not: the characteristics are indisputable for those who do not re-write the Bible, in part or whole, or make holes in it, large or small. Jot and tittle will be fulfilled; and how much more whole, repeated, thematic expositions.
What the early Church concentrated on distinctively, as Schaff pointed out, was chilasm, not obliteration or removal of the same. It is not that this determines the matter, but it annuls chatter about the Reformers, as if any doctrine they chose was to be taken as correct, because they made such inroads on the follies of Rome. They did far better than that, but are not to be conceived of as perfected in doctrine, in this or that emphasis, in which at times they were divided in any case. A Reformation traditionalism is still that - a traditionalism. Their victory was great; the folly of following the victors in all things is manifest; as only ONE is the Teacher, whether in the race of Rome or any other authority. Where the Bible is in view, let it be in vogue, not some subsidiary, whether like Rome, powerful, rich and with a long history of gross persecution, or in any other quarter.
Now let us turn to the Psalm. Rejoice in Psalm 72, where the Messiah is seen on this earth with praise on all sides, to last as the moon or sun (72:5): the thing is terrestrial and yet celestial on this earth; indeed, it is millenial. The Messiah will "save the children of the needy" and the whole globe, mountains included, will be a place of peace. Oppressors will not be merely disapproved; they will as a category, be broken in pieces (72:4). From oppression He will redeem, in personal intervention, and "His enemies will lick the dust," which does not entirely suggest, that they will operate as normal but with some concession extracted! It is necessary not to read so much between the lines that you do not observe what is written on them.
Now, in HIS DAYS, the characteristic is this: the righteous will flourish (not be ground by the grinders), and "all kings will fall down before Him." Never has anything like this been observed before, but rather endless kings have arisen to contest, dismiss, mar, gnarl His ways, dismiss His dignity and defile His people as far as possible, with propaganda, polluted judgments and cavalier unconcern. Indeed, now "all nations will call Him blessed."
In Zechariah 12, we see Jerusalem back in Jewish habitation, and it is to be made "a cup of drunkenness" to those round about, whose attentions to her, certainly not lacking, will face heavy troubles. The Lord is going to create a huge overthrow of the aggressive surrounding peoples, involving vast physical losses, while He will make "the governors of Judah" a power to overthrow, establishing Jerusalem amid their military action, by triumphant confrontation.
Thus HE will do two things. First, as He so acts to empower those of Judah, so they will be established in their city. The Lord emphasises that He means precisely what He has been saying: "they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place - Jerusalem." Not only does the Church NOT become established in the face of surrounding nations by physical force and military intervention, but it is difficult to see how it could have its leaders called "the governors of Judah," as if confusion were to have its masterpiece right here.
Only Jerusalem itself fits here, and it fits so precisely that attempts to suffocate the contrary evidence can only be characterised as misled. It is almost amusing, and certainly striking, how the Lord emphasises past all trifling of gnostics and allies, that Jerusalem by these prodigiously empowered, military means, is to be in its place AGAIN - the Church NOT having been removed from this earth, its place - but in this return, predicted for Jerusalem by Christ in Luke 21:44, as happening at a time so distinct as to constitute a major pointer to the fact that THEN His OWN return will be near, He makes additional emphasis.
Firstly, it is returned to its
place. What it comes to here, it had before; and then it had lost this place.
Only the city qualifies for this. Secondly, it is returned to its OWN place, one
of a prior and recognised occupancy. Thirdly, that place is in terms which some
might regard as otiose, restated: "its own place - even Jerusalem." It is
distinguished; it is contra-distinguished; it is uniquely distinguished; it is
repetitively announced, its tribal terminology is distinctively used, and the
means of its establishment are wholly contrary to those which established the
Church (John 18:36, Matthew 26).
As to the careful depiction of physical entities in their historical settings, with distinctively named components, Zechariah 14:5 is not a symbolic ceremony, or fringe dwellers' special, but solemn history about the one sold for precisely 30 pieces of silver, and precisely hung up, hands pierced. He is precisely to come down to the place where so much of His anguished entreaties before crucifixion took place, where so much prayer was made, the anteroom for the appointment that made history palatable once and for all. They come, His feet, to the Mount of Olives. He has individual bodily integrity; He is not some innovation, though He be glorified.
Some view this as babyish rambles (written by whom ?), and not fit for serious theological consideration. In these contexts, on what basis ? Why force your imagination into the mouth of God, and spit out what comes out of it.
This has nothing at all to do with modes of interpretation that are rational. Imagery in good writing has its grounds; and so does non-imagery; and in prediction the one is the one and the other itself likewise. God is not talking a psychic prep for psychiatric patients, but informing men and women, yes and children too. There is a body, much focussed in the resurrection; it has been removed from this earth in a specially highlighted fashion. Here in Zechariah 14:5 we learn something more about it, in the context of military battles. It is going to return to the mount of His humiliation, with regality.
If now MacArthur had said, on leaving the Philippines, I WILL RETURN, and added, "by air," would you imagine he meant that he would travel to New York in a speed-boat ? There are reasons of consistency and of context, are there not ? That would be a gross and outrageous twisting, as if you had in advance acknowledged that OF COURSE he could not do any such thing!
MacArthur was MacArthur and God is God, and God is far more able to act than the General; and His words take hold of those who gainsay, however 'orthodoxly' might differ (Matthew 23), though this is itself a variation from the early Church stress.
The geological effects department likewise is not for some hysterical or histrionic purpose, to impress: the word of God is truth, and needs no psychic tricks. The words of Zechariah 14:4, thus, are not participants in some vision, as IS the case in Ezekiel 47 (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 5). Just as there was darkness in the time of the cross of Jesus Christ, in its dread operation to increase the dead (Matthew 27:45), so there are in historical context amid historical happenings such atmospherics as the God who made 'nature' organises. The Mount indeed will split, a small matter for Him - or is your God too small - who sent His only begotten Son incarnate, and re-sends Him to rule. This is better than a 21 gun salute (some might have laughed at that if hearing of it, a few centuries ago): it is a geological commotion right where action had occurred and is about to occur; and again, is reminiscent of the scences and awesomeness on Mount Sinai in the day of Moses.
We are not film directors saying, Cut, remove that; let's do that scene alone.
Who is man to change the repeated counsel of God in its own narrative setting, displaying what is to be; .to determine which sound effects, which music, which setting, which scenery, which data will be 'allowable' and which not! If I say that I am going for a walk, having discussed lunch beforehand, are you going to imagine that just possibly I REALLY meant that I was going into some kind of spiritual hibernation. This is nothing short of adding to the word of God, which such tricks are played with the Bible, and with that the Lord declares Himself not at all pleased, and for that kind of thing He gives due warning (Proverbs 30:6).
TEXTUAL FIDELITY remains the
biblical way of addressing the issues.Imagination can well make suggestions;
only the text can make grounds for conclusion, and only God knows how to protect
it, and does so. He may challenge, but not be arbitrary, for He imparts a good
understanding and has it.
II Peter 1:19 has been mentioned before, but again one must ask, When God speaks (I Peter 1:10ff.), who is man to blight, blot or selectively remove from what is to be, what God directly declares. If prophecy is to be a light in a dark place, a leading amid confusion and difficulty, is this word itself to be subject to fabrication, rebuilding, remodelling, philosophical criteria to allow this and disallow that, bu those so being led in such dire circumstances ? Arbitrary acts without warrant in interpretation are just as dangerous as other arbitrary acts; but here when an axe may be involved, they are even more serious. This is the light, but if the light dwell in darkness to be enlightened by the human mind in its permissions and non-permissions, what a travesty of truth that is!
This point is relevant to the whole arena of revisionism, some taking it through sheer unbelief, some through the perspective invented by certain theologians, whether most 'orthodox' or most 'liberal' or most confused as well. In such cases, liberty becomes licence, unlicensed licence, as God makes so very clear in Jeremiah 23:16-21. "I have not sent these prophets," He says, "yet they ran."
This leads us back to a papal consideration, as noted in Section 1 above. It was, as time passed, convenient for the slowly mounting effort of the Bishop of Rome to secure superiority over other bishops, like a high priest in imperial Roman days, to have no millenium where Christ actually rules ON THIS EARTH. Then two will not be present one by self-appointment, and other by divine appointment, over the same earth at the same time, making the pope look as ridiculous as His counter-claims to the word of God cited in Matthew, shows.
There was however an allied reason for popularity in this inventive and counter-scriptural concept concerning the millenium, which then as far as this earth is concerned (its stated site), could not be further from that divinely stated. That other reason ? there was during the Reformation, a tendency for some to declare the kingdom come, to set up a city or party for the purpose, and this could become a social, or conceivably even a military matter. It was 'no good at all'! Hence the millenarian approach had a strong practical negative at that time, because of people trying to make it happen their way, in their time, instead of waiting for the LORD TO DO IT, with power and impact as He stated.
Current reaction to some of the Jehovah's Witness claims might not be dissimilar. In fact, neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:19), indeed even "the times or the seasons" (Acts 1:7), concerning the restoration of Israel would be given to them, "which the Father has set in His own authority." When HE comes like lightning from East to West, it is not as if there were some doubts about its obviousness! or speed!
Yet some lingering fear of being duped may persist; for all that, it is one without biblical warrant, so long as the biblical specifications are kept, which many have failed to do. It is like an atomic power house, fine if kept in check!
Finally in the sphere noted at the first in this Chapter, there is the matter of vindication of the Lord, and His way and in His day, the expression of true holiness, and not of its awful substitutes. Then comes the terminus for the hypocritical, the really self-serving righteousness: it is then time for what only God has in complete purity, to be directly on display, as in the ways shown above in Sections 7 and 8. The millenium is the multi-exhibited place for this on the earth.
You see this divine determination to vindicate the One whom the Lord has indicated, to grant manifest victory. It His Messiah sent, and this triumph is provided in the most direct and confrontational manner. The setting is clear: overwhelming power is to be deployed against those who in the very end, after all the Gospel through the Messiah has come, His chief and first function, when the time for judgment after much patience, comes due.
The right has always been right, but now it will be seen directly, in manifest sight. Therefore those appallingly self-satisfied judges who think to overthrow the word and work of God, to make their own ideas of justice in all their wounding and grating enormity stick, are warned (Psalm 2:10).
God is going to vindicate His Son on this earth, leaving residue like brick-bats, and when His love is fulfilled to the uttermost in His free offers of pardon, grace and place in His kingdom (cf. Matthew 21:33-41), so will be His own righteousness in its own terms.
Never wise is it to short-circuit - if it were possible - the wisdom and way of God, whether by introduced knowledgeable substitutes from politics, or from philosophic arrogance, alliance or allegiance. This manifestation of His power and majesty, wisdom and understanding, concern and grace has waited long; and to remove it as extraneous or undesirable or whatever else may appeal to the disordered perceptions of man, contesting with God, one might almost say, for the use of God's mouth, is not merely unwise. It is close to treacherous, although presumably not always so in intent. Alas for our race, we must be most careful not to fall into the pit of culture and fashion, even in taking SOME of the evils and errors of the ungodly without our realising this. Rather we must move with acute awareness of and praise for the grace of God.
Mercifully, the taints of human cultural collusion with sin can be avoided! Culture has many captives; but the people of God have both an obligation and an opportunity to avoid being so captured, in whole or in part (cf. II Corinthians 5:10, I Corinthians 7:31).
Power belongs to God (Psalm 57, Revelation 19:1, Psalm 62:11), and whether there be created a new universe, no place being found for the old one when God in His perfection judges at the end (Revelation 20:11-14), or a new heart, there is no scarcity of capacity with Him (Luke 14:22). The ways of men love to have themselves instituted, glorified, touted, made for re-routing of almost anything, whether in humanism or naturalism or tyrannies or philosophies; but they are but so many phases of spiritual fornication, as the Bible expresses it in Ezekiel 16 and Hosea, where it has practical application as well.
Faithfulness to the Lord and His word has always been the only workable way for the worked premises called mankind; for there they belong. He Himself is faithful and true, and how simply horrid if He were not! What makes life so wonderful is not only the reconciliation with God through God the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, but the fact that that is what He is LIKE, faithful and true.
That He is also loving and kind, sacrificial and a sovereign of enormous grace, makes the marvel all the more wonderful and the place of all who belong to Him through faith in the Saviour, Jesus Christ, so much more a matter of wonder and joy inexpressible and full of glory.
For a 14th case, see Vol. 3 of this series, at Ch. 15.
See The Bright Light ... Ch. 5 with The Impregnable Tower Ch. 8. The 'key' concept in the latter does not mean that what is given is ad lib, for it is all controlled in terms of impact and meaning (I Corinthians 2:9-13), rational grounds made visible and emphasised (Proverbs 8:8), and the systematic removal of alternative meaning enables secure liberty. There is nothing free for all and for any, in any of this: if imagery is used, then not only is their ground for it, shown in text or in context, but there is ground for the impact and meaning of that imagery, when it IS used. This provides a good illustration from Zechariah 14:16. Some meat requires a little chewing; but the knife is provided to cut it up.
On the predicted death date for the Christ see:
Christ the Citadel ... Ch. 2,
The Christian Prescription Ch. 2,
Highway of Holiness Chs. 4, 7,
Mini-Messages with Maxi-Point for the Call of Christ Ch. 10,
SMR pp. 886-900, pp. 943-946, pp. 959ff..
cf. SMR Ch. 9, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 2,
A Spiritual Potpourri 18.
See Department of Bible ... Vol. 2, Ch. 10 and Vol. 3, Ch. 10.