A Problem With Premillenialism

I have been reading Sam Storms’s outstanding book on Amillenialism. He poses a number of questions which I believe are insuperable problems to the premillenial view. The most significant has to do with death in the millenial age. The premillenial position requires that there be death during the millenial kingdom, since there will be great battles towards the end of it. The premil position also holds that the second coming of Christ comes at the beginning of that millenial reign. The problem is that the annihilation of death is not tied to the end of the millenial period in biblical revelation, but rather to the second coming of Christ. In Revelation 19, the wedding supper of the Lamb is followed by a description of the second coming of Christ, in which the beast and his followers are all cast into the lake of fire. The destruction is total and complete (see in particular verses 19-21). This makes chapter 20 a recapitulation of chapter 19, not a temporally subsequent chapter. The rest of the New Testament bears out this simple fact: it is when Christ comes back that the judgment happens, the annihilation of all the enemies, and the double resurrection (not first one group and then the next) occurs (see Storms’s book for an outstanding treatment not only of the passages involved, but also of the hermeneutical issues). This means that the millenial reign happens before Christ’s second coming, not after. Amillenialism and Post-Millenialism are the only viewpoints on the millenial kingdom that can account for these particular data.

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41 Comments

  1. tominaz said,

    March 12, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Thanks for this encouragement to take the book off the “to read” pile and get reading!

  2. Travis Hughey said,

    March 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Can you tell me then what this means?

    Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
    Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
    Rev 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
    Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
    Rev 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

    Seems like a pretty solid timeline. But then again, all prophecy isn’t really understood until after it happens. Kinda hard to get around the “and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years”. There’s no doubt that Revelation is not a strictly chronological book (as are any prophetic books). It’s basically a condensed version of all the prophets both major and minor which had a lot to say of what’s to come. They all repeated a bit differently the same scenario’s. Kinda like the Father saying, “If you don’t understand it said like this, maybe you’ll understand I say it like that”. One only has to understand the Feast Day schedule to get what’s going on. Spring Feasts have already been fulfilled). Yom Teruah – the signal that the release is about to happen (think of it as the call ” The Bridegroom’s coming so wake up and freshen up” in the parable of 10 virgins). Yom Kippur – people really should look into that one (Leviticus 32:27-32) – it says anyone caught working that day will be destroyed, kinda serious. Think of it as Passover 2.0 with the Lamb doing the killing (Zechariah says your flesh melts off and your eyes melt in their sockets, can anyone say Raiders of the Lost Ark on a grand scale?). You do want to be inside fasting and praying and not go outdoors. Do not plan a vacation at this time!! After this, Sukkot (Marriage supper of the Lamb). Notice there is a period of time between Atonement and Sukkot. Maybe “a Millennium”? Maybe a good look at Zechariah 14 (among others) might be in order?

  3. Pete Rambo said,

    March 12, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    So, do you see the beast of Rev. 19 and the dragon of Rev. 20 as the same entity?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 12, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Travis, in a book where numbers carry symbolic weight (see my post http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/revelation-11-and-the-interpretation-of-revelation/ for an argument about the overall hermeneutics of Revelation), it is no stretch to see the number one thousand in chapter 20 as having also a symbolic value meaning the entire segment of time between Christ’s first and second coming. The rest of Scripture also has examples of 1,000 being symbolic (the cattle on a thousand hills is surely a reference to all cattle everywhere, not to the cattle on one thousand countable hills!). Verses 1-4 would then be describing the same event as Jesus’ parable about the strong man being bound. Sam Storms brings up an issue of paramount importance here: there are very clear passages in the rest of the New Testament that connect resurrection, judgment, etc. with the second coming of Christ as a relatively coherent single event, not a long-drawn out affair lasting over a thousand years. Those clearer passages are actually the place to start, not Revelation 20, which is highly disputed as to its interpretation.

    Pete, I have not done all the research yet that I wish to do on it, but at the moment I hold (somewhat tentatively) that they are the same. If the Lord wills, I plan on preaching on Revelation after I do a short series on the Lord’s Supper.

  5. Pete Rambo said,

    March 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Rev. 13 seems to indicate they are different, explaining how one can be cast in the lake of fire and the other bound for a thousand years…

    And, allows for the King to rule from Zion as prophesied. Isaiah 2:1-5; Ez. 37:24-28, while still having the presence of death. I just think Scripture indicates another phase before the final completion is here… Messiah as King on this side of Judgment as prophesied.

    In terms of 1000 being symbolic, I could see that with one or two mentions, but six times in seven verses and zero metaphorical language? Doesn’t work for me…

  6. March 12, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Are you implying that maybe the resurrection that occurred according to Matthew 27:52,53 might be the 1st (part of the time between the 1st and 2nd coming)? It is interesting to note that Revelation (according to the 1st chapter) is concerning future events. This is (according to many) from a book written as late as 96AD. I’ve read your piece on understanding Revelation and I totally agree that one cannot even begin to understand what’s being said without a firm handle on the prophets (I eluded to that in my post). It’s a fruitless endeavor to try to understand it without the clear alignment with Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others. Hab. 2:3 even makes a specific note that what he was seeing was for a time at the end. I’m kind of wondering if the perspective you are embracing is preterism? Not sure if you’re familiar with that position but some of the things you’re saying sound a bit similar. Preterists hold that the “Millennium” was fulfilled and we have been handed the Kingdom. Also, If the notion that death is no more when Yahshua rules and reigns then how does one rectify passages like Zechariah 14th chapter where during that reign there are specific (deadly, Zech. 14:18) consequences for not observing Sukkot?

  7. greenbaggins said,

    March 12, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Pete, what does frequency of mention have to do with whether something is symbolic or not? I wasn’t aware that they were related. In fact, it can actually go the other way: symbols can be actually strengthened and confirmed by repetition. Surely the numbers 3 (Trinity), 4 (the corners of the earth), 7 (completeness), 10 (another number of completeness), 12 (Israel’s tribes and the number of the apostles, and 1,000 (the perfectly completed amount of time) have particular significance in Revelation, and the MORE so as they are repeated over and over again. Why exactly does being mentioned multiple times lessen the chance of its being symbolic? Read the earlier post I made about Revelation 1:1. It is linked in one of the earlier comments. This is especially important because you seem to think that literal means more true. This would be tantamount to saying that poetry, because it uses metaphors, is less true than historical narrative. They both communicate truth (or falsehood!) not depending on the form in which that communication takes, but on whether the substance of what they say conforms to reality. I could say “my wife is a beautiful woman,” or I could say “She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies.” Which is more true? And which is more likely to earn me brownie points on February 14 (a rather symbolic date in this context, don’t you think?)

    Is there no metaphorical language in chapter 20 whatsoever? You believe in a literal chain, then (how does that exactly bind a non-physical being?) in verse 1? How about a literal key to the abyss? How does one lock the abyss with a literal key? Do you believe it is a literal dragon in verse 2? Or does John actually tell us explicitly that he is using a metaphor when he says, “the dragon, that ancient serpent (don’t tell me that has no OT symbolic resonances!) who is the Devil and Satan.” John explicitly tells us there that the word “dragon” is a metaphorical description of Satan. Do you believe in a literal seal in verse 3? Not sure how you can claim that there is no metaphorical language in these verses. Seems to me that the passage practically teems with metaphor and symbol.

    As to chapter 13, the Amil position is that they are different stages. Of course, there is also a counterfeit trinity to consider (everything Satan does is a counterfeit of the real thing that God does). Satan is bound in the current age, and thrown into the lake of fire at the end of the millenium (the current age).

  8. greenbaggins said,

    March 12, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Travis, I am not a preterist. I hold that the descriptions in Revelation are multivalent in their application. They have a reference to events unfolding in the first century. They have a reference to all people who read them. They have a reference to the end time. God gave this book to the whole church, not to just part of it. God works in similar (though usually escalating) ways all throughout history. This is a modified form of idealism that I hold.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 12, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    As to Matthew 27, my belief is that those people were raised to new physical life again as an illustration of God’s power in the cross, that it brings new life. I don’t think that is the first resurrection that Revelation is talking about. Meredith Kline’s article on the two resurrections is the most sensible treatment of it I have found, though I can’t remember the particulars at the moment.

  10. Reed Here said,

    March 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Lane: ch. 20 is maybe a recapitulation of more than ch. 19? E.g., if the 1,000 years is symbolic for the period between Christ’s first and second comings, then maybe a bit more than 19?

    Also, when do you temporally locate the wedding in 19, ascension, 2d coming, complex of events immediately associated with/prior to 2d coming?

    Finally, how do you distinguish between the completeness symbolism of 7 and 10? I think 7 is perfection in completeness (e.g., 7 days of Creation week). Might 10 (and multiples such as 1,000) be fullness in completeness?

    I am working (for about the umpteenth time) through Rev. right now. A few weeks back I was blessed by the folks at a homeless shelter where I get to minister, to begin preaching through Rev. At 2 sermons a month, I’ve got plenty of time to figure stuff out ;-)

  11. Jack Bradley said,

    March 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Lane to Pete: “you seem to think that literal means more true. This would be tantamount to saying that poetry, because it uses metaphors, is less true than historical narrative.”

    Well said, Lane. This is so crucial when we try to understand the book of Revelation. Some people think that preterists like myself don’t take metaphor/symbolism seriously. I do think the idealist position generally takes symbolism too far. More on that later.

    E. J. Young (Thy Word is Truth, p. 138):

    “Those who constantly talk about the necessity for a literal interpretation of Scripture give the impression that all Scripture must be interpreted literally.” Young disagrees: “The Bible is to be interpreted in the sense, and only in the sense that was intended by its authors. . . In other words. . . When the Bible presents prose, we must interpret as prose, where poetry, as poetry. The language of prophecy has its own canons of interpretation.”

    If we don’t recognize those canons, we will not understand this book.
    In other words, the original audience was accustomed to this highly figurative apocalyptic language—because they knew the Old Testament. They knew the apocalyptic literature / apocalyptic language of the Old Testament. Apocalyptic language is highly figurative, deeply symbolic imagery.

    B. B. Warfield captures the essence of it Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. II, p. 89): “There is such a thing as a grammar of apocalyptical symbolism. . . The source and explanation of this symbolism are found in the prophets of the Old Testament and our Lord’s eschatological discourses.”

    (Selected Shorter Writings Vol. II, p. 651): “John did not strike out a totally new form of composition in this book. The Holy Spirit simply adopted for it the most popular literary vehicle of the age when it was written.”

  12. Jack Bradley said,

    March 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Lane, coming back to the Idealist view, the primary exegetical question of all textual interpretation applies especially to this view of Revelation: what ideas did the biblical writer intend to impart to his *original* readers in their historical time and context?

    We know that the original audience was going through living hell, whether you attribute that to the Neronic persecution (preterist view) or the Domitianic persecution. John’s first concern was to convey comfort and courage, not *primarily* to saints who would be suffering hundreds or thousands of years later, but to those who were suffering then and there.

    Certainly it was also written for us, and for all Christians in all times—to convey comfort and courage. Of course. But first and foremost, it was written to that first-century audience.

    I think the first thing to see in this regard is what Warfield saw (Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. II, p. 653): “He who can understand our Lord’s discourse concerning the last things cannot fail to understand the Apocalypse, which is founded on that discourse and scarcely advances beyond it.”

    Matthew 24:34: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

    R. C. Sproul (Ligonier audio tape): “‘This generation’ means, without exception, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.” (He supports this fully in his book, and on-line series of the same name: “The Last Days according the Jesus.”):

    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/last_days_according_to_jesus/crisis-in-eschatology/

    Sproul points out that it has been the biblical conservatives, who believe in the infallible inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God, who have spiritualized “this generation” away, giving the liberals one of their foundational footholds for destroying the authority of God’s Word.

    Sproul points out that at least the liberals understand that no one can say, with any exegetical integrity, that “this generation” means “this race” (as the Dispensational Premillennialists) or “the entire interadvental age” (as the Amillennialists). That is the standard Amil view: the entire inter-advental period between the incarnation and the Second Coming constitutes “this generation” and “the end of the age.”

    But the obvious question which demonstrates the obvious fallacy is this: How can the end of an age be longer than the age of which it is the end?

    In other words, centuries more time have already elapsed in the New Covenant age—between the incarnation of Christ to the present time, than had elapsed from the giving of the Mosaic law to the incarnation, the Old Covenant age. And of course this New Covenant age may have centuries more to go until the Second Coming.

    So, again, if words mean anything, how can the end of a period be longer than the period of which it is the end?

    [Revelation 1:1, 3; 22: 6-7, 10] Here we have definitive time-text bookends: “. . . the things that must soon take place. . . The time is near. . . I am coming soon. . . Do not seal. . . For the time is near.”

    Here is the obvious question for futurists and Amil Idealists: if Jesus actually had wanted to express literal “nearness” and literal “soon-ness” and literal “at-handness“ and literal “generation”—how else would He have done it? Were there other words that He could have used to make Himself clearer?

    This is the biggest problem with the Amil Idealist view. It spiritualizes/symbolizes these concrete time-texts. And so it takes “this generation” and and “the end of the age” and “the Great Tribulation” to mean: thousands of years since the first advent of Christ.

    I have to say that I actually have greater respect for the literalistic futurist Dispensational Premillennial understanding of these particular words, “the Great Tribulation”, (Mt 24:21; Rev. 7:13-14) than I do for the Amil view, which attempts to spiritualize these words away into the general persecution and suffering of Christians over the millenia.

    The Dispensational Premillennial view, while it is terribly amiss in its futurist view of the great tribulation, at least recognizes that it can only be understood from this text (Rev. 7:14) as a definite period of time. The Greek in this verse is literally: “the tribulation, the great one.” It doesn’t take a Greek scholar to see that it doesn’t get any more definite than two definite articles. (By the way, it is disappointing that the KJV completely misses both of these definite articles: “They which came out of great tribulation.”)

    Besides textual integrity, it also comes down to an overarching theological question (especially for the futurist view): What crime could possibly deserve a greater punishment, a greater tribulation, than the crime that brought the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70? What crime could some future generation commit that could be worse than actually physically crucifying the Messiah, the Son of God, which would then bring on a greater tribulation?

    Eschatology is ultimately Christology. There can be no greater conceivable crime “from the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:21) than crucifying the Christ. To conceive of a greater Great Tribulation than that one, the one that fell upon that generation, is to conceive of something of greater worth than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. There is simply no way around that implication.

    Of course, the standard futurist response remains: “But, Nazi Germany: six million! But, Communist China: 50 Million! But, Stalinist Russia: 60 million! But, future thermonuclear warfare: untold millions! How can you say that 1.1 million in the destruction of Jerusalem, another quarter of a million in the countryside. . . How can the destruction of Jerusalem be the Great Tribulation?!”

    Matthew 24:21: . . . “From the beginning of the world.” Kenneth Gentry (He Shall Have Dominion, p. 347):

    “The Noahic flood. . . actually did destroy the entire world, except for one family. Even the futurists see their Great Tribulation as stopping far short of leaving only one family alive. The issue was therefore the magnitude of the covenantal transformation, not the magnitude of the death toll.”

    The “Great Tribulation” has to do with qualitative covenantal issues, not quantitative body counts. Even a supposedly future Great Tribulation, as horrific as it is sometimes described, could never exceed the Flood, if you’re going by percentage of the global population. But the Great Tribulation is about qualitative, covenantal issues, covenantal catastrophe.

    N. T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 407): “[The] tamid (‘continual’) sacrifice was symbolic. . . of the deity’s presence among the people. No greater. . . calamity could be imagined than the loss of this sacrifice, since it symbolized the severing of the divine-human relationship.”

    “This is like the unmaking of creation itself.” (N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p. 299)

    So, contra the Idealist, and the futurist, views, *The* Great Tribulation happened in that generation.

  13. Jack Bradley said,

    March 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Lane, in case it needs to be said, let me say that I am not in the least representing the heretical hyper-preterist position, which says that all prophecy, including the Second Coming (!) was fulfilled in the first century.

  14. rfwhite said,

    March 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    9 greenbaggins: Kline has the goods on the two resurrections in Rev 20? Oh, man, Augustine had the goods. Stick with the Older Guy. Heh.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    March 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Dr. White, having read the article you sent me, I realize that somehow I got Kline’s position mixed up with Augustine’s. I understand the first resurrection to be regeneration along with Augustine. Not quite sure how I did that! I must have combined the first death-second resurrection/first resurrection-second death pairing with Augustine’s reading. I think the first resurrection saves us from the second death, while the second resurrection saves us from the first death.

    Jack, I think of my view as a modified idealist. As a matter of fact, I think most of the positions (preterist, futurist, and idealist) have something to offer. I have the least sympathy with the historicist position, as do most other commentators, it seems, simply because it is so arbitrary. I combine the application to the first century that the preterists have so strongly with the application throughout history (in the idealist form) with the view that the future has a climactic expression of most things in Revelation. This is the approach of Poythress, and I believe it does the best justice to Revelation being relevant to every generation.

  16. Jack Bradley said,

    March 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    “the future has a climactic expression of most things in Revelation.”

    Could you elaborate a little bit more than that, Lane? I’m just trying to understand what you mean.

  17. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 13, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    “Sam Storms brings up an issue of paramount importance here: there are very clear passages in the rest of the New Testament that connect resurrection, judgment, etc. with the second coming of Christ as a relatively coherent single event, not a long-drawn out affair lasting over a thousand years.”

    Why can’t a long-drawn out affair lasting over a thousand years be a coherent single event?

    In 2 Peter 3, the Day of the Lord is like a thousand years. Notice that they are preparing for a wedding at beginning of Rev 19, and then are interrupted by the Rider on the White Horse. Wedding talk then resumes in Rev 21. Could this 1000 years be the Day of the Lord and the Great Wedding Feast? Notice that a few times in OT “1000″ is connected to idea of marriage union – Abimelech giving 1000 shekels of silver to Abraham because of Sarah; Solomon with a 1000 wives and concubines; the beloved in SoS saying the 1000 shekels of silver are for Solomon, but her vineyard is her own.

    Notice also that Rev 19:11-20:15, which most scholars rightfully see as a single literary unit, is about judgment, beginning, middle, and end. The rider comes judging, the resurrected are judging on thrones, and the Great White Throne is a throne of Judgment. It seems like one of the main purposes of the Millennium is judgment. Maybe it takes a 1000 years to complete.

    Now notice the marriage feast in Matt 22. It is this very strange mixture of Wedding celebration and Judgment. Very Strange. I am sure none of you sent out people to kill those who declined your wedding invitation. The Millennium seem to be this strange mixture of wedding and judgment – The Day of the Lord.

    One thing that I don’t see people consider is that the Millennium could be pre-mill and the 1000 years symbolic. So the 1000 years is just that whole period of time for everything in the Millennium to take place, whether a much shorter amount of time or longer. It seems nothing in history or prophecy takes place instantaneously except when we are changed in the twinkling of an eye.

    One last thing. I truly appreciate reformed theology and one reason is because its Biblical interpretations and exegesis seem so much better than other groups. They come across much more faithful to the text. But when it comes to Rev 20:1-3, the amillennialist interpretation is absolutely tortured, whether taken symbolicly or not. Eisegesis all the way on Rev 20:1-3 for the amillennialist.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    March 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Jack, I see God working in patterns that repeat over the course of history, usually escalating in scope each time. The old type-antitype relationship can, I think, be extended to include things that happen in the first century as a type of things that will occur at the end as antitype. I think there are some things that make better sense as having a primary reference to the first century (a lot of Matthew 23-24 goes in this direction, I think). However, those events can still have a forward arrow attached to them.

    Craig, as Sam Storms points out, one of the fundamental questions here is which texts are clearer: the gospels and Paul, or Revelation 20? That is, do we start the question of the millenium from Revelation 20 (which I would argue is not as clear as other texts in Paul and the gospels)? Or do we start from literal interpretation of Revelation 20 and back-interpret everything in Paul and the Gospels to fit it? I would agree with Sam Storms that the former procedure is much more faithful to the analogy of faith than the latter approach. If you haven’t read Storms’s outstanding book, you need to do so.

  19. rfwhite said,

    March 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    17 Craig H Robinson: with regard to Rev 20:1-3, you make the pointed assertion that “the amillennial interpretaion is absolutely tortured.” As you probably know, there are references in the Bible to the capture or killing of dragons and serpents, and they are used to describe the defeat of the enemies of God and His people. Have you found a place in the Bible where the capture or killing of those dragons and serpents corresponds directly and identically to what happens in history to the enemies they represent?

  20. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    greenbaggins,

    Thanks for the follow up, though I would have liked some interaction on the observations I made. I have not read Storms, but have read Beale and others. I believe I have a good handle on the amil position. I appreciate what Storms is saying, and in general I would agree, but the problem is that no where else in the Bible does it talk about a millennial reign. There is a lot more going on than just resurrection in this passage. So we do need to look closely at the passage. Both amils and Dispys import way too much into this passage imo.

    So what I was trying to point out is that there are clues that may indicate that it should be looked at as one event, with duration symbolically represented by 1000 years. One could theoretically hold to a pre-mil position and view the 1000 years as symbolic (though I know no one who does). If it is one event covering some duration of time, then there is no reason that it has to be in conflict with the gospels and Paul. The gospels and Paul are looking at a non-instantaneous event. We know it is non-instantaneous because God and the people he is judging are talking back and forth. So the gospels and Paul are dealing with an event that has some time duration. Rev 20 is dealing with an event that has some time duration. They all have time duration and two resurrections (though in Rev the 2nd rez becomes the 2nd death). What becomes clarified in Rev 20 is that there are 1000 years, symbolic or otherwise, that separate the two resurrections within that one single event.

    So the whole point of my previous post was to suggest that just because something is 1000 years, does not mean it cannot be viewed as a singular event.

  21. Jack Bradley said,

    March 13, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Lane wrote: “The old type-antitype relationship can, I think, be extended to include things that happen in the first century as a type of things that will occur at the end as antitype.”

    Yes. type-antitype. That’s legitimate, exegetically. As Milton Terry put it (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 495):

    “The judgment of Babylon, or Nineveh, or Jerusalem, may, indeed, be a type of every other similar judgment, and is a warning to all nations and ages; but this is very different from saying that the language in which that judgment was predicted was fulfilled only partially when Babylon, or Ninevah, or Jerusalem fell, and is yet awaiting its complete fulfilment.”

    I appreciate the way you express it, Lane: “I think there are some things that make better sense as having a primary reference to the first century.”

    You are appreciative of the type / antitype, without falling into a characteristic feature of the futurist hermeneutic that Terry is referring to: the Double Sense method of interpretation. The Double Sense method of interpretation means that a passage of Scripture may have more than one *sense*, more than one *meaning*.

    This double sense method is especially applied by the dispensationalists to Olivet Discourse. So, you’ve got one partial fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and all that surrounded that. But the Double Sense hermeneutic maintains that the Olivet Discourse awaits a truer, more complete fulfillment in the future.

    Other religions can get away with that kind of hermeneutic. Christianity is the one religion which cannot—because it is the one religion that firmly ties itself to historical events to confirm its truth, its trustworthiness—particularly fulfilled prophecy: “Assuredly, truly, truly, verily, verily, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Jesus was not a false prophet.

    N. T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 362): “As a prophet, Jesus staked his reputation on his prediction of the Temple’s fall within a generation.”

    “Jesus would not be vindicated as a true prophet until it was destroyed by enemy action.” (The New Testament and the People of God, p. 459)

    Wright recognizes that these are the only two options: Jesus was a false prophet or it actually happened—within that generation.

    “It should be clear that texts which speak of the ‘coming of the son of man on a cloud’ have as their obvious first-century meaning the prediction of vindication for the true Israel. . . the early Christians believed that Jesus was taking the place of the true Israel. . . so the early church awaited the destruction of Jerusalem. . . The church expected certain events to happen within a generation, and happen they did. . . Jerusalem fell. . . They would suffer and suffer horribly, but God would vindicate them.” (Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, p. 49)

    Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 338):

    “. . . when the great tribulation came on Israel, those who had followed Jesus would be delivered; and that would be the sign that Jesus had been in the right, and that in consequence they had been in the right in following him. The destruction of Jerusalem on the one hand, and the rescue of the disciples on the other, would be the vindication of what Jesus had been saying throughout his ministry.”

  22. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 13, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    rfwhite,

    Thanks for response. I am not sure the exact question you are asking. Yes I am aware that the sea creation (tannin) and the serpent (naphesh) become symbols throughout the Bible of Leviathan and dragons and Rahab, etc. And yes I do believe that what is happening in Rev 20:1-3 is a continuation of that.

    If anything, I am suggesting that part of what is tortured by the amil position is that they do not allow for the full import of these verses. They weaken the defeat in these verses. The Dragon, the person of Satan is himself bound and thrown into the Abyss, which is symbolic of a very real spiritual place. The Bible refers to the Abyss in a very consistent manner. So Satan himself is locked away. His whole person and everything about him. Amils have “tortured” these verses to only say that he cannot completely hinder the gospel going out to all the nations.

  23. Ron said,

    March 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Craig,

    Why is the so-called “weakening” too weakening? At the very least, the gospel in the last 2,000 years has been going out to every tribe and nation, which corroborates the promised fulfillment of the Great Commission. It seems to me that this correlates nicely to the exegesis that you find so objectionable. It seems to me that what you think is has to be the full import of these verses is driven by what you think must be the full import of these verses. Why is it too weak that the binding of the Satan result in the gospel reaching every tongue that will be represented in Heaven? Certainly I’m missing something obvious.

  24. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Ron,

    Thanks for replying. The weakening is this. The passage says that Satan is bound and locked up in a prison. That means he can’t do anything. The amils say that it only means he is limited. If someone is bound and locked up, they can’t do anything. So I am saying that amils weaken the text from a person who can’t do anything to a person who is just merely limited.

    Now clearly Satan is active in the NT, so this is why amils must somehow only limit his activity in Rev 20:1-3. But that is bringing something into the text. It is clearly not what the text is saying on a surface reading. Therefore eisagesis. Even if you read it symbolically, it still is not saying what you want it to say.

    Here is my problem. I would like to be an amillennialist, but I can’t get there because of these few verses. They are certainly the Achilles heel of amillennialism. No one has a satisfying interpretation for the millennium that I’ve read. There are just too many problems of interpretation on all sides. Somewhere, someone has to eventually “torture” some verses to make them fit with everything else. For the amillennialist, it is Rev 20:1-3.

    But really, I have no desire to go over well trodden ground. I just wanted to make a few points about how the millennium could be viewed as one event. I have had three responses and no of them have actually addressed the point I was making. Instead it is rehashing tired arguments. Disappointing.

  25. Ron said,

    March 14, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Hi Craig,

    I appreciate that you don’t want to go over well trodden ground. I just don’t see how those three verses are an Achilles heel with respect to the binding of the evil one.

    My interpretation of your problem passage is pretty simple. Didn’t Jesus teach that one cannot enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods lest he binds the strong man? As you know, the context is the casting out of demons, which was accomplished at the first advent.. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the binding used in Matthew’s passage the same word used in Revelation 20 to describe the binding of Satan? And when the seventy returned they said to Jesus that even the demons submit to the disciples in the name of Jesus; to which Jesus spoke those familiar words about Satan falling like lightening from Heaven. That to say, the binding of Satan seems to relate to the missionary work of the church. (I don’t see that as torturous given the analogy of Scripture.) Finally, when Jesus spoke of the prince of this world being driven out it’s in the context of Him being lifted up on the cross and drawing all men to Himself, which, again, indexes the driving out of Satan to the spread of the gospel in this NT church age. Check me on this too, but the “driving out” I believe correlates to throwing Satan into the abyss.

    May God be pleased to bless your navigation through the millennial maze.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Craig, I haven’t specifically addressed your concerns, primarily because I’ve never heard a premil argue that it’s all one event. That seems a bit of a stretch to me, given the other NT passages that connect BOTH resurrections immediately with the second coming of Christ, as well as the judgment and everything else. It is also definitely not the standard premil litany of a series of events. In one respect, of course, we agree: I hold that the first and second coming of Christ are really two stages of one event, separated so that there is a window of grace for God to draw people to Himself. I don’t think my arguments against your position depend on this point, though.

    In addition to Ron’s comments, I would point out that the actions of Rev. 20:3 are an explication not only of the binding itself, but also of its scope. The binding is not a binding in every respect such that Satan can do absolutely nothing. The purpose clause of verse 3 bears this out: “so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed.” That is what the binding accomplishes. There is nothing there about Satan being bound so that he can do practically nothing. That is a premil eisegesis that seems to be invented for the purposes of excluding the amil interpretation. But you can’t get that from the text. It is a “no-longer-deceiving-the-nations” binding, not a “can’t-do-anything-at-all” binding. Besides, even on the premil reading, given the fact that there is rebellion of some people during the millenial reign, how can you say that Satan is therefore completely inactive during the millenium? It doesn’t work even on your own schema.

  27. rfwhite said,

    March 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

    22 CHR — thanks for your interaction. What I’m asking is just whether there is any other reference to this imagery where you find an identical correspondence between what happens in the imagery and what happens to the referent of the imagery in history?

    Two examples of what I mean may help. In Job 26:10-13, the creation process is described as God smiting Rahab and running the fleeing serpent through (vv 12, 13). Yet in Gen 1, the deep and darkness, to which Rahab and the serpent correspond, are neither smitten or run through; rather, they are restrained or compartmentalized. Similarly, in Isa 51:9-11, the exiles’ release from Babylon is compared to God dismembering Rahab and (again) running the dragon through. Yet in history Babylon, to whom Rahab and the dragon correspond, was neither dismembered nor run through; instead Babylon, in the person of King Cyrus, was moved to act on the exiles’ behalf according to the Lord’s good pleasure (Isa 44:28; 2 Chron 36:22; Ezra 1:1). There are other passages too, as you know.

    My point is that wherever in Scripture the anti-creation or anti-salvation animal imagery is applied to an entity in history, in each and every case, the beast’s fate in the symbolic imagery is only analogous, not identical to its fate in history. This is the case whether the evil animal(s) is captured or killed. In each case, the fate of the beast represents the truth that the effort of God’s enemies to resist His work of creation and redemption in heaven and earth is itself effectually resisted by God. Moreover, in any case, I have to look to other texts to determine what the historical referent of the imagery is. In this light, I have to ask myself, who’s exegesis is tortured from the standpoint of historical-grammatical interpretation? Who’s exegesis is eisegesis? As far as I can tell, it is the premillennial interpretation that is tortured and eisegetical.

  28. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    “Bound” and “Cast” and “Locked” and “Sealed.” You guys are fixated on the bound, but ignore the cast, locked, and seal. He is in the Abyss (prison). This is why he can’t do anything. He is in prison.

    But let me be clear here. I lean toward pre-mil, would prefer to be amil, but can’t reconcile either one. Pre-mils, especially dispensationalists also torture verses. That’s the problem, everyone needs to force some verse to day something it isn’t saying. If this chapter didn’t exist, everyone would almost certainly be amillennial (although of course that word wouldn’t exist in that case). So because of this chapter, everyone, but amils especially in my opinion, need to do some textual gymnastics.

    Again, the thing you won’t deal with or acknowledge is that Satan is in prison, and is locked up, and the prison is sealed, and you need a key to get out. You aren’t dealing with that. If I send a rapist to jail, he is in jail. He can’t do anything outside the jail. He can’t rape, but he also can’t murder or steal. Just because he was put into jail for rape, doesn’t mean he can leave the jail to murder or steal. All his activities are behind bars, because he the person is behind bars. Stating the reason why Satan is in prison does not negate that he is wholly, and completely, and totally in prison. Therefore he can’t do anything outside that prison, because he can’t get out. That is very simple imagery.

    I believe Amillennialists weaken the imagery in three ways:
    1) They ignore the prison imagery of being completely locked up.
    2) They ignore that the nations are still very deceived, thus ignoring “cannot deceive,” which to me implies cannot deceive even a little bit.
    3) They ignore the nature of the Abyss as a real spiritual place where demons are kept and need a key to get in and out (especially in Rev).

    GreenBaggins,

    In terms of the millennium as one event, it seems to me that you yourself also view it as one long event, where basically the same activity is taking place from beginning to end. But maybe I am mistaken on that.

    I am not saying that any other pre-mil has argued that the millennium is one event. I am suggesting that myself. And only as a possibility, as an idea to think about. I am a nobody from nowhere, but we are all bright students of the Bible, and we have the ability to interact with the text regardless of whether anyone has made such an argument previously.

    So, I am making a few observations and drawing some conclusions based on the context of the surrounding text, the wedding feast in Matthew 22, and the Day of the Lord in 2 Pet 3, and the theme of judgment throughout the passage.

    Regarding the immediate context:
    A. Rev 19:1-10 – preparing for the wedding supper of lamb and his bride
    X. Rev 19:11-20:15 – Rider on White Horse and Millennium
    A.’ Rev 21:1ff – New Jerusalem presented as the wife of the Lamb

    So this troublesome passage seems to be an interruption of a wedding. What I am wondering is if it is not meant to be view as the wedding feast itself and in Rev 21ff the bride is now already the wife?

    Notice that at the beginning, the rider on white horse is “judging” in righteousness. In the middle, the resurrected are “judging” on thrones. And at the end is the great white throne “judgment.” So for this section of scripture, which almost all scholars take as one literary unit, judgment is taking place from beginning to end. Now if we look at the wedding in Matt 22, judgment is also taking place. Very Strange! Since when do weddings and judgments occur concurrently?

    Now the other thing I pointed out was that “1000″ is used a few places in the OT in association with marriage. Abimelech giving Abraham 1000 pieces of silver because of Sarah. Solomon having a 1000 wives and concubines. The beloved in Song of Solomon saying the 1000 pieces of silver are for Solomon, but her vineyard is her own.

    If we look at 2 Pet 3, we see a connection between the Day of the Lord and 1000 years. So certainly we can think of the Day of the Lord as one event, even if many things are happening in it. So does the marriage of the Lamb also happen on the Day of the Lord? not sure, but seems to fit to me.

    Now just because no pre-mil views “1000″ symbolically doesn’t mean it can’t be viewed that way for a pre-mil also as long as “1000″ can be viewed symbolically. So, even for a pre-mil, the 1000 years could be a much shorter (or longer) period of time, although no one considers that possibility.

    So putting it all together, I see one possibility that may allow for two resurrections at two different times is to view Rev 19:11-20:15 as one singular event – aka The Day of the Lord, aka The Millennium. aka the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. If it is all one event, then the two resurrections are both occurring in that one event, just that the righteous are raised at the beginning of the event, and the dead at the end of the event. I don’t believe that even in a traditional amil interpretation that the two resurrections must occur instantaneously without any time lapse. But maybe I am wrong on that.

    rfwhite,

    Again I agree that the beast imagery throughout the Bible helps inform Rev, but I don’t believe that it favors an amil interpretation over any other interpretation in Rev 20:1-3.

    An also, while we agree with the overall imagery of the beasts and serpents throughout the Bible, I disagree with you on Gen 1. I believe you are importing ANE ideas into the passage. It is not there in the text. There is no battle. God speaks, and the creation obeys.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Craig, very interesting reply. You are certainly a very stimulating debate partner, and for that I thank you. You are definitely sharpening me.

    Now, as to the language of “laid hold,” “bound,” “cast,” “shut up,” and “sealed,” I would ask a question of you in turn. If these terms are as all-inclusive as you say, then why would the sentence “so that he should deceive the nations no more” need to be added? If Satan couldn’t do anything at all, then why add this “scope” delimiter and purpose clause? It would seem quite redundant, then.

    Let’s ask another question: what would be the benefit of adding those verbs for the listeners? Would it not be to overcome their very real fears that Satan could thwart their evangelism and their other work for God? I am reminded of the scene in Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian has to walk between the lions, and the owner of the house tells him they are chained, and firmly, and that he has to walk right in between the lions on the straight and narrow path. Maybe the addition of verbs here indicates how certainly God has him bound. Maybe the reference is not actually to how *thoroughly* Satan is bound, but rather to how *certainly* he is bound.

    As to the history, it seems very clear indeed that the nations were living in absolute and complete darkness before the coming of Christ. After Christ’s death and resurrection, the gospel went forth into every land, thus bringing light. The nations were no longer deceived, in the sense that they were no longer living without the light of special revelation concerning Jesus’ saving work.

  30. Ron said,

    March 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Craig,

    I think your objections indeed have been dealt with in my previous post. Scripture is our interpreter of Scripture. Accordingly, we look to Scripture for the meaning of words like “bound.” The Lord Himself told us that the strongman was bound, which is why the Lord could cast out demons. Therefore, “bound” is not as limiting as you think it is, but what we think “bound” should mean might not be all that relevant to the analogy of Scripture. Jesus also said that the prince of this word was driven out, which I believe employs the same root word as Revelation when it speaks of Satan being thrown into the abyss. These objections are weighty but you consider them frothy for some reason. In a word, you are basing your objection on three verses and defining words as you think they should be defined rather than consulting Scripture’s use of them. Seems a hopeless case.

  31. Ron said,

    March 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Craig,

    Please don’t take any insult in this but could it be that you think Satan was bound when Jesus was casting out demons but then became loosed and will late be bound? What I’m not grasping is that Scripture is clear that Jesus in the days of His humiliation bound Satan. So, either Satan is bound now or else he somehow got loosed.

  32. Martin said,

    March 14, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Craig, if I may…

    We know from regular old life lived under the sun that “cast,” “locked” and “sealed” away in a prison does not mean the prisoner can’t do anything. Of course he can, whether he’s Guido the mob boss conducting business from behind bars, or Paul the Apostle confined in Rome. There are ways of getting things done.

    The purpose clause is important. Scripture tells us why Satan is bound so we don’t have to speculate: his former task of deceiving the nations, or ability to deceive the nations, is taken away. Are the nations still deceived? Yes – of course. Romans tells us they deceive themselves, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. The point of the passage isn’t that deceit ends, it’s that Satan’s role in deceit ends.

    To argue that imprisonment ends all ability to do things (Satan is still an enemy) or ends all deceit is, to me, reading way more into the text than what is there.

    We won’t solve this in a blog discussion, but I do appreciate the various insights here!

    Martin

  33. Ron said,

    March 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Nice, Martin.

  34. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Martin,

    Yes, Satan can do anything and everything he wants IN THE ABYSS. To get out of the Abyss he needs a key. You aren’t suggesting that God is an ineffectual Warden are you? You aren’t suggesting that the angel with the key is taking bribes are you? I think that you are taking the Guido the mob boss imagery way beyond what is there. Satan is in the Abyss and it is sealed. There is no passing notes in and out.

    “Romans tells us they deceive themselves, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. The point of the passage isn’t that deceit ends, it’s that Satan’s role in deceit ends.”

    Yes, but if this is the case then there is no problem with Satan being completely locked up in the Abyss with the ability to do nothing in our world. Romans here is probably a better direction to go than to keep on insisting that locked up and sealed in an Abyss, doesn’t really mean locked up and sealed in an Abyss. Notice that in Rev 12 the angels are cast down with Satan. Here Satan is cast down alone. One possible way to argue it is that Satan’s angels are active (and without direction or direct contact from Satan), but Satan isn’t. Although I don’t really think this works either because there are too many verses in the NT that seem to indicate that Satan, the devil, himself is active in this world.

  35. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 14, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    greenbaggins,

    We give reasons for the things we do all the time. Some people are sent to prison for theft, some for rape, some for murder. The purpose clause/phrase certainly does not negate the rest of the sentence. And the problem is that the purpose statement fits quite nicely with a pre-mil interpretation. They don’t see Satan deceiving the nations for the next 1000 years.

    Notice in Rev 12 Satan is described as an accuser and a deceiver. In Rev 12 he is cast down so he can no longer accuse. In Rev 20 he is cast down so he can no longer deceive. In Rev 12 he is cast down from heaven where he is accusing. In Rev 20, he is cast down from the earth where he is deceiving. In Rev 12 when the male child (Christ) is caught up to heaven, Satan is cast down from heaven. In Rev 20, when the Rider (Christ) comes down to earth, Satan is cast down from earth. There is no room for Christ and Satan in the same place. Rev 12 is clearly stating that the accuser is cast down, Rev 20 is clearly stating that the deceiver is cast down. That’s the reason for the delimiter. (Btw, take a close look at Rev 12. There is a chiasm built around the word “cast.” Slightly lopsided as the last “cast” is repeated, but it is there nonetheless.)

    Regarding history, I don’t see the problem as the nations being deceived. I see the problem as that there wasn’t any gospel going out to begin with. And even within history, we do see gentiles responding to the “gospel” – Ruth, Rahab, Caleb the Kenizzite, Ninevah, etc.

    But again, what do you think about Rev 19:11-20:15 being sandwiched between two wedding passages? What do you think about any connection to the Day of the Lord? Why is there judgment in the wedding feast of Matt 22? Do you think it has any connection to this passage?

  36. Ron said,

    March 14, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Craig,

    Your apparent pre-commitment to a premillennial eschatology not only keeps you from interpreting Scripture with Scripture, it also brings into question your claim that you “would like to be an amillennialist.” To put in plainly, you will not allow God’s Word define the meaning of words.

  37. Reed Here said,

    March 15, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Craig: does this help?

    Eph 4:27; 6:11; 2Co 2:11; Jas 4:7; all 1Pe 5:8-9 discuss Satan’s activity with reference to Christians?

    When are we to date this activity?

    To follow your interpretation of Satan’s binding/imprisonment (b/i) we must insist that these activities of Satan must occur at some other time than during the time of his b/i. If we maintain your interpretation, don’t we end up with some untenable positions?

    > these verses only applied to the original audience alive prior to Satan’s b/i. They no longer apply to us. In this scenario, seems like you also have to conclude that the rest of these letters are not intended for us (i.e., simple consistency in applying your interpretation to the rest of the context of these verses).

    > If Satan’s b/i is future then you’re back to a classic premillennialism position, no? If so, what do you do with the arguments that have already been presented?

    Thanks for interacting.

  38. Craig H Robinson said,

    March 15, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    This does not support one position or another, but thought you may enjoy it. A Chiasm for your consideration:

    A. having the “key”
    B. to the “Abyss”
    C. and a great “chain” in his hand
    X. And he laid hold of the dragon/serpent/devil/Satan
    C’. And “bound” him a 1000 years
    B’. and cast him into the “Abyss”
    A’. and shut and “locked” it over him

    “Chain” here would probably be modern day equivalent of handcuffs.

  39. rfwhite said,

    March 17, 2014 at 11:16 am

    28 CRH – You said, “while we agree with the overall imagery of the beasts and serpents throughout the Bible, I disagree with you on Gen 1.” You misread my comment in 27: I did not say there was a battle in Gen 1. That was exactly my point: the imagery and history are not identical. The imagery is not history. If we are consistent in our hermeneutics, the same is true in Rev 20.1-3.

  40. Reed Here said,

    March 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Dr. White, ooohhhh, good one.

  41. March 17, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Reblogged this on The Sovereign Logos.


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