Condensed Theology

A Primer in Systematic Theology

Eschatology
What does the Bible teach about last things?

Review

Review

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Redemption history is understood to unfold in two successive ages: this present age and the age to come. This present age, characterized by sin and death and that which is temporal and transient will come to an end. The Second Coming of Jesus to the earth will mark the end of the age. When he comes he will resurrect the just and unjust, judge the believing and unbelieving in righteousness, and glorify the creation.

Review

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In the time between his first and second comings, the church will continue to prosper even while it and the creation face trouble. The trouble of the time between his first and second comings will come to a climax immediately before his return. When the climax will occur is impossible to know. Whether we are in the midst of the climax is also impossible to know; it is only when Jesus returns that we will know that the climax has occurred.

Review

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Jesus’ Second Coming will usher in the age to come, an age characterized by righteousness and life and that which is permanent and everlasting. The age to come has been inaugurated by the person, ministry, and work of Jesus Christ in his life, death, burial, and ascension. We await the consummation of the age to come with the return of Jesus Christ. Through our relationship with Christ we experience the blessings of our future life now in the present time and await their consummation at the end of the age.

The Tribulation Period

The Tribulation Period
As you may have inferred from the previous lecture on the signs of the times,  Our contention is that this present age is marked by trouble and tribulation for the saints which will intensify at an unspecified time for an unspecified time before the return of Christ.

The Tribulation Period
The term “Tribulation Period,” however, does not refer to such an unspecified time;  Rather, the term is a quasi-technical term from Dispensationalism that describes a seven ordinary chronological year period of intense tribulation for the inhabitants of the earth left behind after the “Rapture” (the secret return of Jesus).

The Tribulation Period
This belief arises from a variety of theological commitments that I will not take time to address here.  Instead, check out the lecture series, “Systems of Theology,” available at www.solidfoodmedia.com.

The Tribulation Period

The key proof text used to substantiate the Dispensational belief that there will be a seven ordinary chronological year period of unprecedented tribulation on the earth is Dan 9:24-27:

The Tribulation Period

Dan 9:24-27: Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

The Tribulation Period

Two things should be said about this passage of Scripture:
It is very difficult to interpret; thus, there are a variety of approaches to it that are not easily dismissed.  From the Dispensationalist perspective, the their interpretation of this text is crucial to their eschatology. I mention this because it seems inadvisable to give so much theological weight to such a difficult passage.

The Tribulation Period

The Dispensational interpretation of this passage includes the following features:
 

The seventy weeks refers to seventy periods of seven ordinary chronological years. The “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem…with plaza and moat” (v 25) refers to the decree of Artaxerxes regarding Nehemiah’s rebuilding the temple in 445-444 BC. The death of Christ is predicted to take place after 69 X 7 (483 years) in v 26a: “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” The seventieth week, described in vv 26b-27, takes place at some point after the Messiah is “cut off.”

The Tribulation Period

The Dispensational interpretation of this passage includes the following features:
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Between weeks 69 and 70 is “the church age.” We live between weeks 69 & 70, and await the beginning of the seventieth week. The seventieth week (the last seven-year period) begins when the church age ends at the “Rapture” (the secret return of Jesus for his saints). The seventieth week is the time of “great tribulation” referred to by Jesus in Matt 24:21: “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” Since the church will be evacuated from the earth vis-à-vis the Rapture, the Tribulation is for those who are left behind. During the Tribulation Period, individuals may be saved through faith in Christ.

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27:

The Seventy weeks are metaphorical for sabbatical weeks.
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Nowhere in Daniel do we read that the “weeks” of Dan 9:24-27 are ordinary chronological years. When the word “week” is used without the qualifying word “year” it typically designates weeks of days. If the writer had to indicate years, he normally would have chosen the word “year” as in Dan 9:2. At the heart of the temporal language is a sabbatical and a jubilee pattern. As an OT symbolical pattern, it is not confined to weeks or years. There is a Sabbath day and even a Sabbath month (Lev 23:23-43). In principle, the word “week” might be used to designate a period of any length, as long as that period were related to the Sabbatical pattern.

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27:

The Seventy weeks are metaphorical for sabbatical weeks.

1 Enoch (several centuries after Daniel) also apocalyptic in nature employs this Sabbatical pattern, dividing the whole history of the world into ten “weeks,” with the weeks consisting of varying lengths when measured in terms of ordinary years. The time periods are broken up into definite lengths, 7, 62, and 1 in order to emphasize this Sabbatical pattern. The first period is a single jubilee (7x7=49). The whole cycle represents 10 jubilees, signifying the time leading to the final restoration. The end of the 69th week is just short of this final restoration, which suggests an inaugurated eschatology (already and not yet).

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27.

The suggestion that the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem came from Artaxerxes appeals to facts that the audience of Daniel would not have known (this is inconsistent with grammatico-historical interpretation). This is used by dispensationalists because the 444 BC date of Artaxerxes’ decree is almost exactly 69X7 (483) years before the death of Christ. The decree to which Daniel refers is the decree by Cyrus king of Persia from 538 BC; this, incidentally, is another argument for a sabbatical understanding of the seventy years because 538 BC plus 483 years lands us in 55 BC, 50-60 years before the time of Christ.

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27.

There is no indication in the teaching of Jesus or the apostles that the church will not undergo tribulation; to the contrary, what marks life in the church is tribulation and suffering for the gospel.

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27.

There is no indication anywhere in Scripture, including Daniel 9, that Jesus will return secretly for his saints to whisk them away prior to the intensification of the tribulation of the present age before his open return to the earth; to the contrary, Jesus’ return is always described as open and obvious.

The Tribulation Period
Event Matthew 24:30 24:30 24:31 24:31 1 Thessalonians 4:16 4:16 4:16 4:16

Here is an example from the New Testament that the Second Coming and the “Rapture” are referring to the same event.

Christ returns From heaven With angels To the sound of the trumpet of God To gather believers to himself In clouds At an unknown time Like a thief With unbelievers unaware Like labor pains Believers not deceived Believers to be watchful Warning against drunkenness

24:31, 4041 24:30 24:36 24:43 24:37-39 24:8 24:43 24:37-39 24:49

4:17 4:17 5:1-2 5:2, 4 5:3 5:3 5:4-5 5:6 5:7

The Tribulation Period

Objections to the Dispensational interpretation of Dan 9:24-27.

There is no indication anywhere in Scripture, including Daniel 9, that people have a chance to trust in Christ after his return; to the contrary, everything the Bible teaches about the Second Coming indicates that it is too late for repentance.

The Tribulation Period

A summary of the teaching of Dan 9:24-27:

The decree of Cyrus (538 BC) represents the beginning of the restoration of the people of God to their land (rest) which culminates at the end of history inaugurated by the work of Jesus Christ at his first advent. 69 weeks, being one shy of 70, indicates that the work of Jesus Christ in his first advent anticipates a future consummation (the tenth jubilee, the 70th week). The consummation is preceded by various desolations of the people of God (Antiochus IV Epiphanes [176 BC], Titus [70 AD], and through other antichrists and men of lawlessness until the Antichrist/the Man of Lawlessness is revealed immediately prior to Jesus’ return in power and glory.

The Millennium

The Millennium
Read Revelation 20:1-11

The Millennium

Four Takes on the Millennium
1.

2.

Premillennialism, Dispensational: Christ returns before the events of Revelation 20, which refer to the reign of Christ on the present earth for 1,000 ordinary chronological years. Premillennialism, Historic: Christ returns before the events of Revelation 20, which refer to the reign of Christ on the present earth for 1,000 ordinary chronological years.

The difference between Historic Premillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism is that Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that the millennium is Jewish in orientation; that is, it envisions the reinstitution of temple worship and its sacrifices and the reestablishment of the feasts of the Old Testament, including Passover, the Feast of Booths, et al. Historic Premillennialism teaches that the millennium is Christian in its orientation; that is, it understands the promises of the Old Testament for the restoration of Israel to be fulfilled in Christ and the church and therefore to make temple worship and liturgical feasts to be obsolete.

The Millennium

Four Takes on the Millennium
3.

4.

Postmillennialism: Christ returns after the events of Revelation 20, which refer to a golden age of Christianity on the present earth for a long period of time signified by the figure of 1,000 years. Amillennialism: Christ returns after the events of Revelation 20, which are a figurative depiction of life in this present age.

The Millennium
Dispensational Premillennialism

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism

The Dispensational Premillennial interpretation of Rev 20:1-11 includes the following features:
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Revelation 20 follows chronologically on the events of Revelation 19. Jesus therefore returns with his saints following the seven-year tribulation to rule on this earth in fulfillment of God’s promises to national Israel. The thousand years refer to ordinary chronological years. People can sin during the millennium.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism

The Dispensational Premillennial interpretation of Rev 20:1-11 includes the following features:
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Satan’s “binding” (v 2) refers to the absolute curtailing of all his deceptive and evil activity. Satan will be released so God can make a permanent end of sin before establishing the new heaven and the new earth. The first resurrection is a bodily resurrection from the dead, made up of believers from this present age (the church age) and believers who die during the seven-year tribulation. Those who become Christians during the Millennium and all unbelievers await the second resurrection at the Great White Throne Judgment; thus there are multiple resurrections.

The Millennium
Objections to Dispensational Premillennialism

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The use of parallelism in Revelation
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The battle of Rev 20:7-10 is a recapitulation of the final battle of 16:14, 16; 17:14; 19:11-21. These descriptions of the final battle all use language from Ezekiel 38-39. The judgment of Satan in 20:10 parallels the judgments of Babylon (Chapters 17-18) and of the Beast and the False Prophet (19:11-21). Further parallels exist between 12:7-11 and 20:1-6. Certain features in 20:11-15 correspond to earlier descriptions of the Second Coming in 6:14; 11:18.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

Even accepting a chronological reading of Revelation 19-20, the interpretation is flawed

All of Christ’s enemies are destroyed in 19:1121. If 20:1-6 describes events later than 19:11-21, there would be no one left for Satan to deceive in 20:3.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The non-absolute binding of Satan

The binding of Satan in v 2 is not absolute; Satan is not described as “out of the way”; rather, he is described as bound in the sense that he is curtailed from deceiving the nations (v 3).

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

Other clearer passages of Scripture regarding the Second Coming indicate that a Premillennial understanding of Revelation 20 is incorrect.

As we have seen, the rest of the NT teaches that when Jesus returns he will judge the world; therefore if Jesus returns at the end of Revelation 19 (chronologically prior to the events of Revelation 20), there can be no sin in the millennium. As we have seen, the rest of the NT teaches that when Jesus returns he will resurrect the living and the dead, the just and the unjust; therefore if Jesus returns at the end of Revelation 19 (chronologically prior to the events of Revelation 20), there can be no “unresurrected” saints in the millennium.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

The language of “first resurrection” in vv 5-6 in the context of Revelation does not necessarily imply that there will be a chronologically second resurrection.

Rev 21:1: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Notice that “first” is used here in the sense of “old”; thus, the language is used not to indicate chronology, but contrast.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

This is not to say that there is no “second” resurrection; it is simply to say that “second” does not necessarily imply “second in chronological sequence.”

Rev 20:5-6: The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

What is the “second death”? Eternal damnation in the fire of hell.
 Rev

20:14-15: Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Therefore the second death is spiritual death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

Now if there is a “second death,” the implication is that there is a “first death.”

Revelation 20:4: Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 21:4: …and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

The first death is clearly physical death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

So here is what we have:
 The

second death is spiritual death.  The first death is physical death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

Rev 20:5-6: The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. Now if there is a “first resurrection,” the implication is that there is a “second resurrection.”

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

Rev 20:5-6: The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Notice that the “first resurrection” is correlated with the “second death”: “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power.” This implies another correlation; namely, the second resurrection with the first death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths First (physical) death

First resurrection

Second resurrection

Second (spiritual) death

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths
What does this tell us about the natures of the resurrections?  It suggests the following:

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths
First (physical) death

First (spiritual) resurrection

Second (physical) resurrection

Second (spiritual) death

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

It is also important to note another relationship in this passage, one that is full of irony:
 Saints

who physically die are translated into the first spiritual resurrection,  While the second (physical) resurrection translates the wicked into the second spiritual death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths
First spiritual resurrection of saints

First physical death of saints

Second physical resurrection of wicked

Second (spiritual) death of wicked

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

The nature of the first and second resurrections and the first and second deaths

This understanding of Revelation 20 suits that thought of the passage since a first, eternal, spiritual resurrection is what prevents a person from suffering a second, eternal, spiritual death. And at the same time, we see that a bodily resurrection is not sufficient to protect a person from the second, eternal, spiritual death.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

“A thousand years” is a metaphor

Rev 1:1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John. Though I do not have time to develop it here; the genre of Revelation (apocalyptic) uses numbers metaphorically to convey various themes: (7 churches, 144,000 [multiples of 1,000 and 12], 666, etc.). In the case of 1,000 years, the idea is that of completeness, or fullness, to show that the saints who have suffered are ultimately victorious.

The Millennium: Dispensational Premillennialism: Objections

A minimizing of Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament hope:

Though not related directly to their interpretation of Revelation 20, a key component of the Dispensational Premillennial understanding of the Millennium is that it represents the fulfillment of God’s promises to restore the nation of Israel to the land and that therefore they believe that there will be a reinstitution of temple worship, the celebration of national religious feasts, etc. This idea minimizes the reality of Jesus’ fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament, especially as it is expressed in the book of Hebrews. In addition, it fails to account for the fact that the land promises were meant in the Old Testament to point God’s people toward a restored cosmos (the city with foundations whose builder and maker is God).

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