Author Archives: Bobby Grow

My Personal End-Times Timeline Per my Wife’s Request

This post is per my wife’s request. We both grew up as your typical Conservative Baptist, dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational Christians. I have already shared my “testimony” out of the dispensational/premil part of that, more than once; so, we won’t revisit that now. I persuaded my wife, about ten years ago, to the amillennial position; and it has stuck. We are both committed to that position, but I have done more work on thinking a way out of the dispy past. And so, my wife would like an eschatological ‘timeline’ per an amil understanding (a very dispy way to think 😉). So, for the remainder of this post that’s what I will attempt to do.

The amillennial timeline is quite straightforward, actually. In fact, this is one of its compelling features; i.e. I think it fits well with the spirit of what we find in Peter’s second epistle when he writes:

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. –II Peter 3:10-13

Peter’s timeline seems to suggest that the next event we should expect biblically-eschatologically is the second coming of Christ, at which time ‘all things will be dissolved,’ and the new heavens and earth will be realized. If we are looking for the simplest explanation (Occam’s Razor) about a timeline of such things, Peter’s seems to be the most compelling. In the interim, between the first and second advents of Christ, the amillennialist maintains that what Revelation 20 refers to—the “1000 years”—is figurative for that in-between time. There is an exegetical case for that, but we won’t attempt to make that here. Suffice it to say, what Revelation does refer to, as Richard Bauckham so persuasively argues, is the book itself should actually be understood as a circuit letter (epistle) to the seven churches. If so, it makes sense to think that all of its referents, while prophetic, have a local context in mind per the original reader’s milieu. Bauckham, in sum, shows how almost all of the prophecies in Revelation (barring chapters 19—22) make the most sense when in reference to the Neronic Roman Empire, and all of its attendant characteristics. While those prophecies have a nearer to the original audience fulfillment, what remains prophetic for us, is that the power of the Beast, and the AntiChrist, are typified by every other subsequent world empires that feature the same sort of attributes that we find shaping the Graeco-Roman empire. So, a power that seeks to enrich itself, at all costs, by military might, built upon the backs of slave labor and its necessary means: human trafficking.

Having noted the above, I still think there can be multiple referents in mind in regard to the book of Revelation. So, while there were literal fulfillments nearer to the original audience, those prophecies could also have a yet future fulfillment. In other words, I am not against the idea that a literal figure known as the AntiChrist (although not by a flashing sign hanging around his neck) could emerge and bring in world-peace, and a Utopian like actualization that meets all of the aspirations that people have to live a healthy and wealthy life. In fact, it seems almost likely that something like that could be upon the globe even now; but who knows, at the moment. I just know that at the first coming of Christ most people missed it. There was no perfectly charted timeline, but there were ‘signs’ that those with eyes to see and ears to hear could identify in relationship to the Messiah’s first coming; the New Testament identifies the few who had that type of insight.

As far as the so-called Great Tribulation (cf. Mt 24) I think, more than likely, we have been in that period ever since Christ ascended (see Keener’s thoughts below). I do believe, along with other amillennialists, that parts of what Jesus refers to in the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. That said, I don’t necessarily take the so-called partial-preterist position, per se. Just that the Great Tribulation that the ‘world had never seen’ was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. That said, I am still open to even this having a yet future fulfillment. In other words, just as I noted in regard to the book of Revelation, and its referents, I think it is possible that we could have a climaxing Great Tribulation just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. This time period, I would take it, won’t have a flashing sign saying: this is it! Just like the AntiChrist (whether that be a single messenger, or a federation of leaders with a figurehead who has the prominent speaking position), he or they won’t have a blinky light overhead; this will all be just as organic as the first coming of Christ. That said, as the Apostle Paul notes in I Thessalonians 5:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. –I Thessalonians 5:1-6

Verse 4 drives home the point that, like at the first coming, those with eyes to see and ears to hear (or in the light) shouldn’t be surprised at the coming of Christ. In other words, the Apostle Paul believes that there will be certain characteristics present that the Christian ought to be able to identify; to the point that we should be able to have a general knowledge about the timing of Christ’s second coming. We see Paul, in context, refer to the ‘labor pains’ analogy that Jesus Himself refers to in His teaching on the same topic. The defining feature that Paul tells the Christian to look for is a world that is characterized by the sensation of ‘peace and safety.’ This does seem to correlate to the idea that the AntiChrist, or in the Thessalonian context, the ‘Man of Lawlessness,’ will usher in a time of pseudo-peace wherein the globe believes something magnificent and even miraculous has happened.

Getting back to the Great Tribulation category, let me refer us to Craig Keener’s helpful index for attempting to think about how the Great Tribulation, and all the events referred to in Matthew 24 might play out. You’ll notice that the way I described the Tribulation above fits into the sweep of what Keener describes. And out of the options that Keener describes, I am in full agreement with his personal take:

In Matthew, the tribulation seems to begin with the sanctuary’s destruction in A.D. 66 and concludes with Jesus’ return (24:29). If, as I think most likely, Matthew writes some years after 70, this allows several interpretive options: in Matthew 24 Jesus (1) skips from this tribulation to the next eschatologically significant event, his return (Fuller 1966;  cf. Lk. 21:24; especially compare Mt 24:21, “nor ever shall,” with Dan 12:1; cf. Jos. War pref. 1); (2) regards the whole interim between the Temple’s demise and his return as an extended tribulation period (“immediately” — 24:29; e.g., Carson 1984b: 507); (3) prophetically blends the tribulation of 66-70 with the final one, which it prefigures (see Bock 1994: 332-33); (4) begins the tribulation in 66 but postpones the rest of it until the end time; (5) intends his “return” in 24:29-31 symbollically for the fall of Jerusalem.[1]

Further:

I currently favor (1) or (2) with elements of (3). (Against the view of a “spiritual” coming are the many emphatic statements  about a personal, visible coming in the context — 24:27; Gundry 1982: 491). The third option may in fact deserve more attention than my current inclination has given it: certainly the prophetic perspective naturally viewed nearer historical events as precursors of the final events. Early Jewish texts also telescope the generations of history with the final generation (Jub. 23:11-32). As in Mark, the tribulation of 66-70 remains somehow connected with the future parousia (Hare 1967: 179), if only as a final prerequisite. Further, the context may suggest that Jesus employs his description eschatologically, as in some Jewish end-time texts; in this case, the disasters of 66-73 could not have exhausted the point of his words (cf. Harrington 1982: 96). In any case, the view (circulated mainly in current popular circles) that Matthew 24 addresses only a tribulation that even readers after 70 assumed to be wholly future is not tenable; Matthew understands that “all these things” (probably referring to the question about the temple’s demise — 24:2; Mk 13:4) will happen within a generation (Mt 24:34), language throughout Jesus’ teachings in Matthew refers to the generation then living (e.g., 11:16; 12:39, 45; 16:4; 23:36; cf. 27:25). Further, Luke dispenses with much of the symbolism and lays the emphasis almost entirely on the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, in which Judean slaves were carried among the nations. For Luke, the “abomination” that brings about desolation becomes simply the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem, promising desolation (Lk 21:20; A. B. Bruce 1979: 292; Cole 1961: 202).[2]

Summary

Let me attempt a timeline based on all that I have hashed out above: I believe the next event the Christian should be ready for is the second coming of Jesus Christ. I think that Great Tribulation has been upon the world ever since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD; just ask most of the third and developing worlds about that. But I also believe that the Tribulation has been intensifying, like ‘labor pains,’ and at the very end there will be a climaxing intensification of that which will be the final iteration of the Great Tribulation Jesus referred to so long ago on the Temple Mount. In the midst of this there will be an emerging federation (the Beast), potentially with a Messianic-like figurehead, who, with the power of overwhelming military might, and the technological enrichment that entails, among other “riches,” will provide a peace the world has longed for since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden. In the midst of this ‘false’ sense of peace, Jesus will return. This federation, like the original “Babel”-lonyians, would like to think that they have finally reached the heavens and become God Himself. They will be deluded to believe (cf. Rev 20:7-10)[3] the “battle” has finally been won, but just in that moment, Jesus will return, and destroy all those with the ‘mark of the Beast’[4] (i.e. people without the ‘mark of the Lamb’) by the Sword of His mouth (cf. Rev. 19). At this moment, the Great White Throne judgment will occur; the new heavens and earth will come into full consummation; and we will be with Christ forevermore.

Personally, I think it is possible that what the world is currently experiencing, with all of the strange chaos and tumult, could be the time I just described. But we won’t know that, not really, till after the fact. That said, I think with the Apostle Paul, that we ought to imagine, as sons and daughters of the Light, that we might have the capacity to sense just when the second coming of Christ is upon us; such that that day does NOT take us as a ‘thief.’ If a global peace somehow comes out of the current global chaos we are experiencing; if a global federation, and maybe a particularly charismatic figurehead rises up out of that; I think it highly likely that Jesus’ second coming is just upon us at that point. Then again, it just might happen this very moment. We ought to WATCH!

[1] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew, 577-78.

[2] Ibid.

[3]Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

[4] I take the ‘Mark of the Beast’ to be in reference to those who were born in their sin, born into the kingdom of darkness, and never freely chose to take the ‘Mark of the Lamb’ (i.e. they never repented and came to Christ, being sealed with the Holy Spirit).

On the Second Coming of Christ, Q, and the Anti-Christ

Universal Judgment, 1303, Giotto

In my view this COVID – 19 is cover for something else. I certainly believe it is a real virus, but nowhere close to as deadly as the Imperial College model predicted; indeed, not even close to any numbers that were predicted. And now, the CDC has doctors faking the cause of death for many people out there. Most deaths, if not all, involve some other more prominent comorbidity, or even other unrelated causes of death, like accidents. I believe this is another attempt to thwart the Donald by the globalists, just like the Russia hoax, and impeachment attempt. But in this instance, I think Trump (or Q+), and his cohort are using it to their advantage; to ‘drain the global and domestic swamp,’ as it were. I have been skeptical of so-called Q, but I just watched something that I think has lots of credibility, and lays things out in a way that makes Q’s existence to seem undeniable. Then you couple that with the global shutdown, and it all seems that much more believable.

After watching a mini-series of videos on Q (you can watch here) my mind was blown. It isn’t that the researcher necessarily introduced me to anything greater than I had tacit knowledge of. But what she did is bring things together in such a way that many dots were connected for me. My mind was blown, not so much by Q’s plan to defeat what they call the “cabal,” but instead my mind was shaken by what this researcher believes the answer is after the cabal is dismantled (which is ostensibly happening now under cover of COVID – 19). This researcher believes that Q will usher in a new world order of peace and safety, and that a mystery person will be the one to usher this “re-set” world into being. This researcher, apparently, is unaware of what Christian eschatological teaching entails. But any Christian worth their eschatological salt will know that what she is describing is exactly what many Christians have been predicting (based on biblical prophecy) for years. This researcher made her videos, it appears, in 2019. My guess, is that she would believe that we are currently right in the middle of Q’s operation to undo the centuries old cabal and underbelly of evil that has been present in our “authority-centers,” the world over, for along time. She spends most of her time exposing just how evil this cabal is; and who the current players are (who we all know because of their public status; well the top players are not in the public eye, but their minions are). If what she has uncovered is true, the evil that is present is so much greater than people want to admit, that they’d do well to go back to their Bibles and read about Sodom and Gomorrah, and Moloch worship.

I believe we are very close to the bodily return of Jesus Christ. I believe that we very well could be at the very beginning of what has come to be called The Great Tribulation. I’m not totally sure what to think about that, per se, since I’ve identified myself as an amillennialist for the last decade. My amil perspective can still handle all of this, and indeed incorporate, from other systems, thinking about the Tribulation period. It isn’t that I have ever rejected the idea of their being a Tribulation period, it is just that I had become more reticent about maintaining that it would be as clear as some “chart-makers” from the past would have wanted us to believe. If what Q is doing is real; if Q is a real entity of people at the highest level of the US government; then it is starting to seem clear to me that the anti-Christ might very well be among us, and just around the corner from us (like just days and months away). It is risky for me to write these sorts of things (which is why I’m posting it on this defunct blog of mine that nobody reads, cause it has been inactive for so long) because I am more of an “academic” Christian. Most of the academics I know would think that what I am writing here, about Q, and even end times stuff in general, is rubbish and for tin-hat wearing fools. But I’ve never been able to escape the contrast that the Gospels make over and over again. The Gospels make clear that the audience who were open to hearing Jesus, were not the “academics” or theologians of His day (on earth), but it was the common people. The Gospels say, “that the common people heard Him gladly.” Therefore, I remain open to theories like we see being propounded by Q et al. I haven’t got used to or conditioned by the strangeness of what is happening to society as a result of coronavirus. It is totally shocking to my system. I cannot believe how quickly people have submitted to the political leaders and talking heads on the media. It only illustrates how ripe for the picking the masses are for the anti-Christ. The Apostle Paul writes the following, and in the context of the second coming of Jesus Christ:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. –I Thessalonians 5:1-11

The Q researcher I’ve been referring to in this post believes that Q will be ushering in a brand-new world where world peace is the hallmark. We hear and experience just the opposite right now. If the “Q plan” works, and unfolds according to plan, which it does appear is happening, this time of world peace, and its messenger, are just months away. As Paul notes, this is what will be characteristic of the world’s order and self-perception, at the very time that Jesus will ultimately come again. As Paul also says about the Christians: we shouldn’t be deceived by this world order of peace and safety; that we are sons and daughters of the light. As such, we need to be awake about the realities we are living through, not asleep.

Unfortunately, as I see it, many (most!) Christians seem unaware and aren’t watching whatsoever for the coming of Christ (cf. Mark 13:36-37: “lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”). Jesus said, that at this time the ‘love of many would grow cold,’ in reference to His purported followers. Elsewhere, Jesus also questions, ‘will I really find faith on the earth,’ at my coming? There is a lot of talk about being “woke” these days. Of course, those who ascribe to that ideology are so asleep they don’t realize their wokeness is only a reality in their dream-state. To be genuinely awake means that the Christian takes Jesus at His very simple word; remember, He is the Shepherd, and He speaks to the ‘sheep.’ Another irony that I think is occurring, is that those in the Church most alert to things surrounding the second coming of Christ, might well be the most deceived at first. I am referring to ‘Left Behind’ or Pre-Tribulational people (a view I held most of my life). They believe, without any exegetical warrant, that us Christians will be removed from the earth in a secret rapture just prior to the Tribulation. These folks are going to be confused quite a bit at first. They won’t realize or be able to identify that what they are parley to is in fact the Great Tribulation. I think most of them will quickly repent of their pre-trib viewpoint when they come to realize that this new world leader is in fact the anti-Christ. But it is going to be really shocking for them to realize just how wrong they were. The Thessalonians passage above, just at a prima facie level, indicates that we will in fact be here during the Tribulation period. That we shouldn’t be duped as if overtaken by a thief in the night. Just the opposite! As sons and daughters of the Light, we ought to be the most aware about the goings on at the coming of Christ. We ought to be able to identify the man of sin, immediately. Maranatha

PS. I’m open to being completely off about Q. But there are too many things that become really hard to deny when you actually look into them. It does require that you be willing to be ridiculed as a conspiracy theorist. But it is harder and harder to deny, I think, that we live in a very strange time that requires greater explanatory power than the mainstream narratives provide us with. So, I am actively in search of a theory, rather than simply sitting back passively, that will help explain the seemingly crazy actions world governments are engaging in as their response to a virus that only rises to a level that normally would give us “bad flu season” numbers.

 

Miscellanies on COVID – 19

It feels like we’re living under a brainwashing campaign in overdrive. When I drive down the freeway to work there are signs telling me to stay home. When I listen to YouTube videos, there are commercials telling me to stay home. When I read stories by CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even much of FoxNews, they are still making it seem like the apocalypse is upon us. I mean, they may well be right, the apocalypse might just be upon us; the unveiling of the ‘sons of God’ might well be about to happen (I pray so!). But Fake News is being piped in from all corners of our media apparatuses. If you want me to believe that the coronavirus is any worse than the flu, show me real numbers (not the padded ones, and even those are massively lower than the dire numbers used to shut the global economy down). This whole thing is being used for something else. I reject the explanation mainstream media, and mainstream politicos are giving us; its reality, that of the coronavirus, is completely disproportionate with the response. I don’t know exactly is going on; I mean there are a variety of so-called conspiracy theories out there. But I am in search of something that has greater explanatory power than what we are being fed. I am open to various theories. It seems like the sheeple have already been conditioned into forgetting that what is currently going on is of historic proportion. To shut the world economy down, create a global Great Depression, for a virus that would produce no more death than a very bad flu season, worldwide, is off the charts asinine.

People’s lives are being ravished, financially. Poverty produces more death than any virus can. Indeed, poverty and viruses, together, are a disastrous cocktail; just as that is showing up in the data even now. A much more responsible way to handle this would have been to have shelter in place and hard quarantine mandates for the populations at highest risk for being adversely affected by coronavirus. The rest of the 95% of society should have kept right along, developing herd immunity (even though I think that has already been established, in spite of the social distancing measures), and kept a vibrant global economy alive for those in greatest need. Instead (and who cares what the intentions are) we have gutted the economy. The damage is done. The fear has been instilled in the minds and the hearts of the masses. Business will not bounce back as Trump keeps asserting! People will be afraid to do business as usual, even after the government tells them it is okay. This is such an upsetting thing!

Thoughts on the Ethics and Politics of the Killing of Soleimani

This is a theology blog: Surprise! But I clearly have thoughts about other things, as we all do. So, as you have noticed over time, I will, here and there, post on current events; the most recent being Mark Galli’s Christianity Today editorial. This post will be one of those; a post on what just happened in Baghdad with the killing of Qasem Soleimani by order of Donald Trump. After reading this, just as after reading my posts on Galli, my political leanings will be revealed, and will clearly alienate me from some of you my readers (who would just prefer that I post on “theological” issues rather than political ones). Yet, this is what I want to get into a bit further on the occasion of the killing of Soleimani. I will briefly index why I think ‘taking him out’ was prudential, but then attempt to couch why I think so in the broader discussion of the current climate known as US politics.

Qasem Soleimani, according to a variety of news sources, no matter the ideological persuasion, all agree that he was a danger and menace to the greater peace of the world; not to mention the peace of the United States of America and her allies. All sources agree that he has been involved in the planning and execution of the murder of American troops, and then civilian non-combatants of many stripes, through many decades. In other words, the consensus is that Soleimani was a terrorist with global tentacles who actively sought to inject terror and death wherever and whenever the occasion might arise. His visit to Baghdad, based on the reports I’ve encountered, was his blatant act of engaging in the masterminding of more terror; particularly with the goal of destabilizing the emerging Iraqi government (which also means actively working against American interests in the region; which means more killing of Americans and those allied with them). Based on the ‘intelligence,’ Trump acted to put an end to the ‘shooter in the building’ (Soleimani), and lay one more major terrorist actor to rest (major in the sense that he had state coverage as a general in a supposed legitimate military branch of a supposed legitimate government in the state of Iran).

The push back from the democratic (and some independents) side has been: Well, well Trump doesn’t have an actual foreign policy and hasn’t thought about the consequences that might well follow as a result of his reckless choice to escalate things the way he has. Instead of being encouraging to the Trump administration to defend American lives from the direct murderous actions and plans of Soleimani (so the designation: “mastermind”), the “other side” continues to engage in character subterfuge of the most obvious sort. Let’s follow the bouncing ball: Iran, for decades, has been “escalating” things over and over again; with deathly results worldwide. Diplomacy, pay-offs (Obama), sanctions, military flexing (“exercises”) so on and so forth have been tried over again with Iran to no avail. We ostensibly had actionable intelligence that Soleimani was in the process of masterminding other attacks against Americans and her allies, and so Trump took the opportunity to take him out; along with Soleimani’s cohorts and minions. At a point in time action is required. Posturing ceases to obtain the desired effect and actual consequences must come. Some want to argue that this will only lead to WW3, or that this escalation will lead to reaction by Iran that will result in US deaths. All I can say to that is: what’s new? If anything, I would argue, this action by Trump will have a deterrent effect by making any and all regime members in Iran think twice before acting (like Soleimani has unabated for years upon years).

Ultimately, the ethic I follow when it comes to such issues is deontological rather than consequentialist. Soleimani was a mass murder planning more murders (unchecked), and he needed to be stopped. Any consequences resulting from this action will have to be dealt with as they come, and in advance insofar that there are resources to predict what those might be. But the so called “escalation” has already been clear and present for decades. Trump didn’t escalate anything, Iran has. Soleimani, at a personal level, was fortunate he was able to live as long as he did given the industry of death that occupied all the days of life. When it comes to making ethical decisions, as we know, there is often a “calculus” involved; i.e. the weighing of cost to benefit / benefit to cost ratios, so on and so forth. But what informs that calculus is a prior commitment to what determines what in fact is principially right / wrong and what isn’t. What or rather Who determines what is right / wrong, for the Christian, is the triune God. When attempting to know what is right / wrong the Christian, in principle, doesn’t look to the consequences, per se, but to God and what He requires (commands). Consequences are certainly an aspect of this equation, but only as those come from the principled reality of what God has declared as right and wrong. In other words, Divine Command Theory (an ethical theory), bases ethical reality upon obedience to God rather than obedience to a set of abstract consequences that may or may not obtain in whatever dilemma we are considering.  The ‘right’ consequences will ULTIMATELY obtain when we are obedient to God; this means that we must walk by faith rather than sight because the consequences don’t always look ‘right’ in the moment.

Put into practice, to follow the ethical theory I just described, when applied to Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani looks like this (to my lights): 1) Sanctity of human life takes precedence over all else; 2) Soleimani has demonstrated without question that he represents a clear and present threat to the sanctity of human life; 3) when those in authority have the resource and proper intelligence to put an end to this threat they are duty bound to act no matter what the consequences (or the fall-out) might be. This is the way I am approaching the decision to kill Soleimani. He could be likened to the shooter, in most recent American memory, in the church in Texas; a killer with a gun actively shooting people. The principle (divine command) of the sanctity of human life, as that is grounded in the humanity of Jesus Christ for us, required that the threatened human life be protected over against the life of the one attempting to undo what God deems as holy (human life). The actions of the shooter justified equal or greater force to put an immediate and sudden end to his activity. In the case of the shooter and Soleimani this meant lethal and decisive force. The consequence (the result of obeying God’s command[1]) is that many multitudes of human lives have now been spared by the elimination of the threat posed by the shooter and Soleimani.

All of the above opens a can-o-worms to a variety and complex lines of ethical consideration. But as I have detailed things I stand by them. My decision to stand with Trump’s decision does not make me a mindless Trump supporter. My decision to write against Galli does not make me a mindless Trump supporter. It is superficial to think in such binary terms; i.e. either support the opposition to Trump or support Trump, as if these are the only alternatives. In the case of Trump, and the current political climate in the United States of America (and the Western world in general at the moment), I am committed to greater or macro issues that Trump has only become a symbol of given his polarizing nature. But to be sure, the hatred for Trump and his agenda is so grand, that the rule of law and the Constitution itself are under threat of being thwarted in the name of higher-ground posturing. This is too great of a cost to pay simply to oppose someone because he has personal attributes that the minority in the country can’t stand. In other words, I am not a dyed in the wool Trump supporter (i.e. I didn’t vote for him), but I am a supporter of a democratic constitutional republic; and when that is being threatened by globalist forces in American dress  will repudiate that in the strongest of terms. When I see a propaganda machine taking over the American psyche (well less than half of it) in the name of “news,” I will put my heels in the ground and resist this sort of power-mongering.

More to say, but wanted to get some of this off my chest. Thanks for reading.

 

[1] This does not ultimately require that those acting to put an end to someone like Soleimani are consciously attempting to “obey God,” per se. It could be argued that they are operating under the Christian witness, that is latent in the world because of that witness, that life is holy, and should be defended at all costs (viz. per the means and ways provided for by a government framework instituted and ensured by God’s providential underwriting). In other words, what Trump decided to do in the case of Soleimani does not require that Trump be Christian, or even attempting to follow the p’s and q’s required by God for God’s people, per se.

How Did Our Protestant Forebears in the 16th and 17th Centuries Think of ‘The Last Day’ and End Times?

I thought it might be interesting for anyone who might come across this post to see how the Protestant Reformed orthodox Christians of the 16th and 17th centuries thought of ‘end times.’ I came across an interesting sketch of that provided by Richard Muller as I continue to work through his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology. The ‘eschatological sketch’ comes as Muller is providing a definition for the Latin term dies novissimus. He writes:

dies novissimus: the last day; viz., the inauguration of the heavenly kingdom of God consisting in the second visible coming of Christ (adventus Christi, q.v.), and the ordained ends of the elect in eternal blessedness (beatitude aeterna) and of the reprobate in eternal damnation (see damnatio). The scholastics also note the signa diei novissimi or signa temporis, signs of the last day or signs of the time. Although they decry the attempts of the crass or gross chiliasts (see chiliasmus) to predict the exact date of the end by means of the signs of the last days revealed in Scripture, the orthodox do allow the existence of the signs and permit their careful use for admonition, edification, and hope of the faithful. They therefore classify the signs into categories of signa remota, or remote signs; signa propinqua, near signs; signa propinquiora, nearer signs; and signa proxima, proximate signs. The signa remota are often identified as the events connected with the opening of the first six of the seven seals (Rev. 6:1–17): wars and conflict, famine and pestilence, persecution and earthquakes. The signa propinqua mark more clearly the approach of the end; chief among them are the great apostasy and the accompanying increase of worldliness and unbelief. These are followed by the signa propinquiora, which include the increased the lawlessness and indifference to religion resulting from the great apostasy, great political disturbances and the beginnings of the gathering together of Israel. The signa proxima, finally, include the completion of the mission to the Gentiles, the further increase of political disruption accompanying the manifestation of the “beast” of Revelation 13 and 17, the so-called “abomination of desolation” and the great tribulation that lead to the full development of the power of the Antichrist (antichristus, q.v.), and the last battle, Armageddon. These signa proxima immediately precede the adventus Christi and the dies novissimus.[1]

This was all couched within an amillennial framework, and articulated with that type of Augustinian viewpoint in mind. It is interesting to think about the fact that there was no such thing as pre-tribulational, premillennial, dispensational thinking on the scene at this point; that wouldn’t come on the radar until the 19th century through John Nelson Darby.

What I find more interesting, and this at the popular/pastoral level, there are some out there, especially among the ranks of particular Calvary Chapel pastors (like Jack Hibbs et al.) who straight out call the amillennial framework I just presented through Muller’s definition, heresy; even worse (according to Paul Wilkinson), blasphemy. Again, they maintain the synonymy between ‘replacement theology’ and ‘amillennialism proper.’ But we don’t see that when we actually dig into the history of amillennial thought; even here in Muller’s brief sketch we see him refer to national Israel’s re-gathering. We don’t see any sort of ‘replacement’ thought in the Protestant Reformed orthodox’s amillennialism, we simply see a perspective that stands at odds with the latterly developed system of interpretation known as Dispensationalism.

I think it behooves people making charges, particularly as they make those in and among church people who don’t have access to the critical material (at least not consciously in most cases), to be much more careful; to actually do your homework (Paul Wilkinson, Jack Hibbs, David Hocking, et al.) when it comes to this issue. Were there “amillennialists” in the history who were proponents of replacement theology (i.e. the idea that the church replaced the nation of Israel as God’s covenant people)? Yes. But, again, it is a sweeping generalization to sweep all amillenialists into that approach. Be careful.

[1] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985), 92.

A Response to Paul Wilkinson and Jack Hibbs in Regard to ‘Replacement Theology’

I have just recently watched a couple of videos/interviews done by Pastor Jack Hibbs with Paul Wilkinson (here and here). Paul Wilkinson has his PhD from the University of Manchester in the UK; in fact he is an Associate Pastor of a church in the UK, where Christian Zionism is a central part of the teaching, apparently. His PhD, based upon what he has communicated in his interviews, is on what he calls Christian Palestinianism. What he is referring to is the impact that he believes, what he calls, ‘replacement theology,’ has had upon many Western evangelical and Reformed churches. The result being, for Wilkinson’s view, these churches have placed the Palestinians into the historic role of the Jews—the oppressed and victimized—and the Jews into the place of the victimizer. His main focus is on the mainline denominations involved in the divestment movement, a move to not have any dealings with any Israeli businesses, with the hope of engaging in a type of economic terrorism on what these churches consider Israel to be; an apartheid state.

But the primary premise of Wilkinson’s critique is a theological hermeneutical one. He lays all of the blame for this at the feet of the Covenantal amillennial approach. He asserts that this interpretive lens requires that the adherents of this view believe that the church has replaced Israel; as such, and if this is so, he maintains that as a result of this belief it makes it easy to continue to elevate Israel as the enemy of Christ, and all those who fit into the oppressed category in the world. One might discern that Wilkinson sees replacement theology as a framework wherein ‘Israel’ becomes a symbol for what it means to be oppressed rather than an actual people who have been and are being oppressed and persecuted by the world.

I agree with Wilkinson, that any move to see Israel as an apartheid state, and consequently attempt to ‘divest’ from any engagement with the nation of Israel as a result of this is folly. What I don’t agree with Wilkinson on is that so called ‘replacement theology’ is the necessary culprit. In fact I would contend that most mainline churches don’t elevate scripture to this sort of authoritative level when it comes to constructing their ethical framework. In other words, so called ‘replacement theology’ is not even on the radar of most mainline thinkers; they have other theopolitical theories afloat in their universe, something more along the lines of a neo-Marxism or Democratic Socialism.

And the churches who are amillennial in approach (which Wilkinson maintains are churches that promote replacement theology) are typically quite evangelical and theologically conservative in every way. It’s just that they have found a hermeneutical framework—usually covenantal—that leads them to the eschatological belief that the church historical has held for millennia. This in itself does not speak to the veracity of the amillennial interpretive lens, but it does, at minimum suggest, or it should, that there is a greater more careful sobriety to this teaching than Wilkinson wants it to have. He can’t lay all the evils of the nations towards Israel at the feet of the amillennial interpretation; as if it is the church and Christendom against the nation of Israel. Indeed, historically, many, if not most amillennialists have not held to what Wilkinson et al. claim. Amillennialists are not ‘replacement theologians,’ this is a pejorative caricature, and sweeping generalization that does not withstand historical nor theological scrutiny.

Personally, I have moved back and forth between the amillennial and historic premillennial position over the last nine years (prior to that I was a card holding dispensationalist, of one stripe or another). At the moment I think the amil position makes the most sense. But I have never held to a ‘replacement theology’ in the midst of these views, nor is it incumbent upon me to do so. I do see Jesus as the reality of Israel, and all of scripture about Jesus, not Israel per se. But this is not so radical, at least not any more radical than what Jesus believed,

 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, – John 5:39

Jesus maintained that the Hebrew Bible (indeed the only scriptures Israel had at that point) wasn’t intended to terminate in the nation of Israel, but instead it was intended to point to God’s terminus and telos for all of creation in his dearly beloved Son. This is why I see Jesus as ‘Israel,’ indeed a national Jew, but the One for the many in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. He went to the Jews first, and then the Gentiles; as did the Apostle Paul. The basis of the New Covenant, and what we have as the Apostolic Depositum in the New Testament writings, is indeed a very Jewish ground; a ground not superseded by the church, but a ground nonetheless that was and is and always will be about Jesus, the man from Nazareth. Within this reality, the reality of expansion, the Jew and the Gentile have become one new human (Eph. 2:1-12) in the new creation of God in Christ. Within this reality the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 11:29) indeed are irrevocable, and so it will be. But this does not mean that there are two distinct people of God, as Wilkinson’s view maintains (classic Dispensationalism); at least not according to the Apostle Paul, and the implications of the Abrahamic Covenant itself. What it does entail is that, again, Israel’s purpose was always one; to mediate God’s salvation to the nations. As such, there are certain promises made to the nation of Israel that indeed have been and will be fulfilled; it’s just that those promises are no longer seen as exclusive to the nation of Israel, but instead as exclusive to the Son of Israel, Jesus Christ. As such, all those who are participants in his life, the Jew from Nazareth, will also be partakers, along with the ‘fathers’, of the promises made originally to Abraham. I think though that it’s important to note: in Romans 4, the Apostle Paul made it very clear, as part of his argument, that the promises made to Abraham were prior to the circumcision; in other words, the promises themselves were not exclusive to the nation of Israel, but instead to the ‘seed’ (Gen. 3:15; 49:10) that the nation of Israel would mediate to and for the nations.

I think Paul Wilkinson, Jack Hibbs, and all the others who claim that ‘replacement theology’ is the vice they maintain that it is, should reconsider. For one thing replacement theology is almost a straw man these days; for another it involves a serious sweeping generalization that does not withstand critical scrutiny. Unfortunately it is these types of representations that continue to be made in large swaths of American evangelicalism (and British, to a lesser degree). I do agree that we ought to be more sensitive to the Jewish background and reality of the Christian faith, but we ought to allow that to be tempered by the fact that the ‘flesh’ itself is not the end, instead the God-man, Jesus Christ is. We cannot think of Jesus as non-Jewish, but in that, we ought also not think that his Jewishness is the terminus of God’s program; instead what is the terminus is the salvation that God has brought, in his Son, to all the nations.

Addendum: I will write a follow up post to this one where I make a distinction that Wilkinson, Hibbs, et al. do not make. Indeed, Wilkinson engages not only in the fallacy known as ‘sweeping generalization,’ but he also engages in the fallacy known as ‘reductionism’ and ‘caricature.’ He equivocates on the term ‘replacement theology’ and presumes, by assertion, that replacement theology and amillennialism are the same things; but they are aren’t. More importantly, and this is the distinction I’ll make in a later forthcoming post, Wilkinson fails to identify that most amillennialists, at least contemporary ones, are not supersessionists, and thus definitionally cannot be ‘replacement theologians’ who claim that the church has replaced or superseded the nation of Israel in God’s economy; this is utter rubbish and non-sense.

A Reflection on the ‘Positives’ of Dispensationalism

Let me try not to be so negative about Dispensationalism. I can remember a time where I almost reveled in the themes of dispensationalism, I am sure like many others. Indeed, I will have to admit, that dispensationalism has not fully left me, nor do I think it ever really will. I am too much of the belief that various hermeneutical systems that claim to have a pigeon hole on the truth and reality of Scripture are over confident. And even though, and admittedly so, dispensationalism is quite idiosyncratic (but which system isn’t?), it still works from pretty standard and Evangelical hermeneutical assumptions; it just presses them in a kind of way that gets a little eccentric—to say the least.

But what is it that I can say that is positive about Dispensationalism?

  • It wants to take the Bible very seriously.
  • It wants to believe that God communicates clearly, and in a straightforward way.
  • It believes that God is still acting in history, ordering events toward their ultimate reality in the coming of Jesus Christ as the Son of David.
  • It has a strong emphasis upon the nation of Israel (this is positive because unlike some theologies, dispensationalism sees the nation of Israel as essential to the identity of God’s mediated work to the nations in the world).
  • It has an excitement about the second coming of Christ.
  • It is comprehensible to the common person.
  • It interprets Scripture through the grammatical-historical lens (even if that is through the LGH, or Literal Grammatical Historical lens).

None of the above is in any particular order of priority. But, having been trained, born and bred in this system, I do think there are some of these positive things consisting within the dispensational framework. I know, because I know many of its best scholars (my former professors), that these scholars are quite capable in the craft they ply; they have a strong handle of the biblical languages; and they have a desire to communicate that in a way that is literal (in a very straightforward way) and accessible for the masses of Christianity; and in a way that believes that God not only gave his Word back then, but that when He gave it back then, He gave it for now and the future as well. Indeed, this is a major underwriting theme for dispensationalists (one that I still hold; i.e. the theme); that is, that dispensationalists work from a futurist mode of operation. They believe that many of the biblical prophecies had a historical, typological referent, but that there is an ultimate eschatological anti-typological referent that will be realized in some time future, at the ‘end of time’ (as it were). So, attendant with this, then, the dispensationalist views biblical-prophetic history (as they would say) as very linear and progressive; as something that unfolds in stages, or even ‘dispensations’, if you will.

So there are still elements of dispensationalism that are present, deeply so, in my own approach to interpreting scripture; and in particular, the way I understand biblical prophecy. But I am of the opinion that what is called historic premillennialism is the better way, and that dispensationalism would do better to go that way, instead of the way they have. That said, as I opened this post up, I am not at all opposed to the idea that dispensationalism could be more correct, in the end, than it is not (I doubt that it is). But we will see.

 

A Reading Ethic: Syria and Dispensationalism

I don’t have time to write this post in the way it should be, but I still wanted to post something.

syriaIsaiah 17 says of the city of Damascus in Syria:

The oracle concerning Damascus.

“Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city
And will become a fallen ruin.
2 “The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks to lie down in,
And there will be no one to frighten them.
3 “The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
And sovereignty from Damascus
And the remnant of Aram;
They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,”
Declares the Lord of hosts.

Given the sine qua non of Dispensational hermeneutics, that the Bible ought to be interpreted in its most literal sense (meaning a kind of wooden, straightforward literalism), this particular prophecy of Damascus is still waiting to be fulfilled. And so given the precarious situation we find ourselves within; given the reality that the United States of America is most likely going to strike Damascus, militarily; many dispensationalist interpreters believe that this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Indeed, it would be a fulfillment of this passage that would further attest to the dispensationalist that Jesus’ rapture of the church is just about to happen. In order for God’s prophetic plan to be legitimate, this fulfillment must happen in a kind of end times scenario that sees Damascus fitting into the broader schema of dispensational understanding. The fall of Damascus might signal that things are about to get very real very fast.

So an ethic that gets pressed here, a reading ethic, is that geo-political concerns become the lens by which the scriptures become interpreted. It isn’t the suffering Servant who become the primary lens, it isn’t the widows and orphans who become the primary lens; it is the fulfillment of geo-political realities upon the ground. So even though many dispensational interpreters will recognize the terrible plight of the people in Damascus and elsewhere, their primary mode of consideration isn’t really the broken people; but instead, it is the fulfillment of abstract geo-political realities that fit into a tightly wound understanding of the end times.

I really would like to say more, with more substance (I mean quotes and more depth), but this will have to suffice for now.

Pretribulational Theology in Dispensationalism–Two People of God

You have probably been wondering for quite some time on what basis people hold to the Pre-Tribulational rapture theory, within Dispensational/Pre-millennial Theology; in fact I bet you lost sleep over this very question last night ;-). westernwallIn reality, I would suggest, that even though most doctrine is waning in North American Evangelical churches, that if pressed, what informs people’s views, hermeneutically, politically, and even ethically, is still informed by the method of biblical interpretation that funds Pre-Tribulational theology (by the way, if you are ‘Pre-Trib’ you will also be Dispensational and Pre-Mil). And so, I still find it highly relevant to engage with this issue, at least at the and for the popular level; which is where most Christians live on a day to day basis (I realize that Christian academics, by and large, completely repudiate all of this stuff, and so for them, and in their world, this stuff is boring and even beyond passé—and so just realize, scholar guy or gal, I am not writing this for you, but I hope you read along and contribute too 🙂 ). So without further lead in, let me quote one of the most well known classically oriented Pre-Tribulational thinkers from its formative Dallas Theological Seminary past, J. Dwight Pentecost; here, in a nutshell, he is giving a sketch of how a Pre-Tribulational adherent becomes an adherent, hermeneutically (or through the way they do biblical interpretation). He writes:

[P]retribulation rapturism rests essentially on one major premise—the literal method of interpretation of the Scriptures. As a necessary adjunct to this, the pretribulationist believes in a dispensational interpretation of the Word of God. The church and Israel are two distinct groups with whom God has a divine plan. The church is a mystery, unrevealed in the Old Testament. This present mystery age intervenes within the program of God for Israel because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah at His first advent. This mystery program must be completed before God can resume His program with Israel and bring it to completion. These considerations all arise from the literal method of interpretation. [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, 193.]

Obviously, when Pentecost says all of this ‘arise[s] from the literal method of interpretation,’ he obviously has something in mind; a certain way to be “literal,” in fact a wooden-literalness, that is literal right up until the point that being literal makes absolute non-sense (i.e. when Jesus says he is the ‘door’, he obviously does not mean a literal wooden door). One oversight with this, though, is that being “literal” in biblical interpretation (and in the way the NT authors are), does not cash out in the way that Pentecost and Pretribulationist presume that it does. But we will deal with this later.

So for the Pretribulation position, it becomes quickly apparent, that the ‘church age’ we currently inhabit, was more like an after-thought, or plan B for God; and the nation of Israel and her salvation as His covenant people have always been God’s plan A (and still are). Ironically, dispensationalism, in its classic and revised versions, sounds a lot like the ‘Open’ theology and theory of God (that God does not have determinative knowledge or causation of the future, that God’s knowledge and act is contingent upon the contingencies of creation and the world); but I digress. So in order for God to get back to His original plan A, He needs to finish up with His plan B (the church), get us out of here, and get back to His real business, with dealing with His earthly Covenant people, the Jews.

This is problematic, biblically, on many fronts. We will have to engage with this further at a later date.

Re-Opening Dispensatio

I am going to re-open this blog that I started quite awhile ago. I will be focusing on exactly what I said I would in the introduction to this blog. This stuff still intrigues me as a North American Evangelical, and I actually think it has interesting political and ethical implications for Christians. I won’t just be writing on dispensationalism, but also the alternative views, like the amil or historic premil position[s] I move back and forth between—it depends on what I have eaten that day ;-). So stay tuned. Will see if this blog lives or flops (like my other intended blogs of late) in the days to come.