Eschatology Outlines: No. 7D Interpreting Rev 20:4-6

Posted by R. Fowler White

In an earlier post, I indicated that my aim here is to point the way to an interpretation of Rev 20:1-6 that takes full account of what we know from Scripture about God’s combat with beasts and His building work. While appreciating the work of many others, my approach at this moment is to apply the biblical themes of “victory over the dragon followed by house building” to the interpretation of this controversial passage. Since I’ve applied the combat theme to help in understanding Rev 20:1-3, we’ll turn to Rev 20:4-6 in this post.

I. The overall context of 20:1–21:8—Recall what we said before: the sequence of visions in this passage twice repeats the pattern of “victory followed by house [temple] building.”

A. 20:1-3, capture of the serpent = victory over the serpent

B. 20:4-6, first resurrection = temple building

C. 20:7-10, death of the serpent = victory over the serpent

D. 20:11–21:8, resurrection = temple building

Having applied the victory theme to the interpretation of Rev 20:1-3, we can turn to Rev 20:4-6 and the theme of temple (house) building.

II. Rev 20:4—Here we find a vision of that session of the Divine Council in which the heavenly court is authorized to avenge the blood of the martyred saints who, with the living saints (see Rev 20:9), had been built into God’s kingdom-city-encampment of priests through their participation in the first resurrection.

III. Rev 20:5—In this verse John distinguishes the first resurrection from the (second) resurrection in Rev 20:12-13. He makes the distinction by identifying the non-Christian dead as participants only in the (second) resurrection and the Christian dead as the only participants in the first resurrection. In other words, Rev 20:5 is profoundly important: it instructs us readers not to confuse the first resurrection, in which Christians are the only participants, with the (second) resurrection, in which non-Christians and Christians are both participants.

Some interpreters claim that Christians have no part in the resurrection of the dead in Rev 20:13, but they must then explain what Rev 20:5 contributes to this context where two resurrections are presented. We cannot say that because only Christians take part in the first resurrection, they have no part in the second. Nor can we say that because non-Christians take part only in the (second) resurrection, Christians do not take part in it. For either of these statements to be true, we must establish that both resurrections deliver from physical death—and the evidence for such a claim is lacking.

IV. Rev 20:6—A beatitude for the Christian dead. Here we notice that the blessings that belong to those who take part in the first resurrection are described elsewhere as the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work applied to believers before they die.

A. The first phrase of the beatitude: “the second death has no power over them.” According to Rev 20:12-15; 21:8, 27; and 22:15, the second death has power over the resurrected dead who died in bondage to their sins. To say, then, that “the second death has no power” over those who take part in the first resurrection is simply to say that Christ has freed them from their sins by His blood (1:5). In other words, such freedom is a benefit of redemption indisputably applied to believers before they die. To put this truth in the words of Rev 20:4, we say that God’s heavenly court will avenge those who had come to life in the first resurrection and had thereby been freed from the second death’s power, for Christ had freed them from their sins by His blood.

B. The second and third phrases of the beatitude—“they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years”—also reaffirm benefits of Christ’s work applied elsewhere to believers before they die.

1. The beatitude affirms truths that are the equivalent of “he has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” in Rev 1:6 and of “you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” in Rev 5:10. The beatitude, together with the new song of 5:10, doesn’t merely view the kingdom as future from the vantage point of the believer’s death. Nor does it view the kingdom’s reign as future from standpoint of the believer’s resurrection from the dead. Rather, the beatitude views the kingdom’s reign as certain from the standpoint of its establishment with Christ’s redemption of many from their sins and from the second death (5:9; 1:5).

2. Because the kingdom is established by Christ’s redemptive work, we may say both that the redeemed will reign in glory on the new earth (Rev 22:5) and that they will reign now on this earth and in heaven, even as Christ Himself has been doing (Heb 2:10, 13a). Still, it is fair to ask, how do the redeemed reign now? They reign now on earth by persevering in faith despite suffering and death. They also reign after death in heaven as they rest in glory from their earthly labors. Again, to put these things in the words of Rev 20:4, we affirm that Heaven’s court will avenge those who had come to life had reigned with Christ for a thousand years, for He had made them a kingdom of priests to His God and Father.

V. Death, resurrection, and temple in the Gospel of John

It is instructive to see the harmony between the Revelation to John and the Gospel of John as it relates the topics of death, resurrection, and temple.

A. John 2:13-22: In this text, John the Evangelist, who is author of the Revelation, portrays Jesus’ death and resurrection as the destruction and construction of the true temple. The death and resurrection of those united with Jesus should be interpreted similarly. That is, the death and resurrection of those in Jesus is the destruction and construction of a temple. In the resurrection of Jesus and the first resurrection (from the second death) and the resurrection (from death) of those in Him, something better than the temple is here.

B. John 5:24-29: Notice here that Jesus speaks of two resurrections, not one. First comes the spiritual resurrection, then the physical resurrection.

1. There is a resurrection in an hour that now is, 5:24-25: it is now ongoing and is seeing the Son’s own raised from spiritual death to spiritual life.

2. There is another resurrection at the last day (6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:54), in an hour that is to come, 5:28-29. That resurrection will, in the future, raise “all who are in the tombs” from physical death: some to everlasting life, others to everlasting death.

3. Relevance of this point to the two resurrections of Rev 20:4–21:8

a. Participation in the first resurrection from the second death (20:4-6) is the building of the church as the spiritual temple.

b. Participation in the resurrection from death (20:12-13) is the building of the church as the physical temple-city (21:2-3, 9-27).

c. Note: Whether we interpret the first resurrection as spiritual or physical, the concept of resurrection as a divine building project in John’s theology should tell us that the first resurrection marks the building of a holy place.

Certainly, much more could be said. Not least we could show how the victory and house building themes appear in Ezekiel 36–48 and are used by John to help us understand the reimagined depiction of Christ’s work between His two comings and at His second coming and beyond in the visions of Rev 20:4–21:8. All this works together to inspire our confidence in our Lord Christ’s purpose and power to triumph over His enemies and ours as He works invincibly to finish His redemptive mission and to establish His righteous rule. For now, we’ll settle for noticing that when it comes time for the Heavenly Court of God to avenge the saints, martyred or living, those saints will have been built into God’s temple-kingdom-city-encampment through their participation in the first resurrection.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 7C The Dragon’s Imprisonment in Rev 20:1-3

Posted by R. Fowler White

We have said in a previous post that the best approach to Rev 20:1-6 sees it as a series of visions related to Christ’s first coming and the interadvent age, while Rev 20:7–21:8 is a series of visions related to Christ’s second coming, the general resurrection and judgment, and the new world to come. If our approach is correct, then we need to consider this question: if the text says that Satan the serpentine Dragon is cut off from the earth during the confinement envisioned in Rev 20:1-3, how can we harmonize this vision of his imprisonment during the interadvent age with the clear NT evidence that he is active in the same period (e.g., 1 Thess 2:18; 1 Pet 5:8)? Can we still confess our commitment to a consistent method of historical-grammatical-theological interpretation?

The force of this question is well taken. Yet that force is blunted when we consider Jesus’ saying about the binding of the strong man (Matt 12:29), His vision of Satan’s fall (Luke 10:17-18), and His teaching that His death/exaltation means the judgment of the world, the deposing of the ruler of this world, the exaltation of the Son of Man, and the drawing of all peoples to Himself (John 12:31-32). All those passages give us light on the question before us. We get even more light if we recognize John’s tactical use of the themes of God’s victory and house building. So, back to our question: to what extent should we expect the events in the vision of Rev 20:1-3 to translate into events in history?

I. The fates of God’s enemies in the Bible outside Rev 20:1-3—The answer to our question about the dragon’s imprisonment comes when we examine the relationship between historical events and their reimagined depictions as God’s combat and construction in the Bible. When we study those depictions, we find that the fate of dragons is analogous, not identical to the fate of those characters or entities in history to which the images are applied. To put it differently, while the dragon (serpent, sea beast) may be captured or slain in the reimagined depiction, the enemy depicted in the beastly image is neither captured nor slain in history. We can see this fact in the way biblical writers apply the imagery to the events of creation and release from exile.

A. In Job 26:10-13, we’re told that the creation process involved God smiting Rahab the anti-creation monster and running the fleeing serpent through (presumably with a sword). We read a similar reimagining of the creation plot in Ps 89:9-13. And yet, when compared to the creation account of Gen 1, we find that the deep and darkness, to which Rahab and the serpent correspond, were neither smitten nor run through: they were restrained or compartmentalized.

B. 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 by God; rather Babylon, in the person of King Cyrus, was stirred to act on the exiles’ behalf according to the Lord’s good pleasure (2 Chron 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Isa 44:28).

C. For any who might think the distinction between historical events and their reimagined depictions is isolated to the texts just cited, I can only invite them to consider the other texts where biblical authors apply the anti-creative/anti-redemptive animal images to a character or entity in history. In each and every case, they will find that the beast’s fate in the depictions and its fate in history are analogous, not identical. This will be so whether they find the evil animal to have been captured or slain. In all such cases, the beast’s fate represents the truth that the effort of God’s enemies to resist His creative and redemptive work is itself invincibly resisted by God, whether the means He uses is temporary or final.

II. The fate of God’s enemy in Rev 20:1-3

A. Against the background above, we go back to Rev 20:1-3 where the Dragon named “the Devil and Satan” is captured and confined in the abyss. How should we interpret this captivity? We should remember the way biblical authors reimagine historical events using the images of God in battle and God building. We should recall that, both in Revelation as a whole and in the immediately preceding and following contexts of Rev 20:1-3, John, following his biblical forebears, has already adapted those images to interpret the historical events linked with Christ’s death and exaltation.

B. In that light, we’re bound to conclude that the Dragon’s fate in Rev 20:1-3 is analogous but not identical to Satan’s fate in history. Stated differently, while the Dragon is captured and confined in John’s vision, Satan is, like Babylon and the darkness and deep, restrained and even compartmentalized in history, specifically, deprived of his role as deceiver of the world’s nations.

C. The Dragon’s capture in 20:1-3, then, means that Christ’s exaltation has postponed Satan’s age-ending deception of the nations, his corruption of the world into an abomination of desolation, and, most importantly, his final attempt to destroy the church being built by Christ. As we’ll see even more fully from our study of the vision in 20:4-6, the vision of the Dragon’s capture signals to us readers that, despite appearances to the contrary, the exalted Christ is taking the necessary steps to defeat His enemies and to build His kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 15:24-25), even now rescuing His chosen kingdom-citizens from all the nations (5:9-10) while He keeps the wannabe-deceiver of those nations incarcerated until His rescue work is done.

Conclusion: If we desire to practice and protect a valid and consistent method of interpretation, then there is no better place to press the point than right here in Rev 20:1-3. We should recognize that in Rev 20:1-3 and its context, John has adapted the theme of God’s victory over the Dragon to reimagine and thus to illuminate the significance of Christ’s exaltation as it relates to Satan. To recognize John’s reimagining is to appreciate how much of a debt he owed to the heritage of the OT authors. To overlook or ignore that heritage is arguably to be inconsistent in our practice of responsible biblical interpretation, particularly when it comes to a difficult text.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 7B Interpreting Rev 20:1-3

Posted by R. Fowler White

All Bible interpreters want to be consistent when they interpret the literature in the Bible, whether it’s apocalyptic material or not. The same applies to Rev 20:1-6 in particular. We all must stick as faithfully as we can to the rules of grammar, to the facts of history, and to sound biblical, historical, and systematic theology. Nobody wants to be uninformed, misinformed, incomplete, or inconsistent. So the aim here is to point the way to an interpretation of Rev 20:1-3 (and later 20:4-6) that takes full account of what we know from the canon of Scripture about God’s combat with beasts and about His building work. As a prelude to what follows, I’m more than happy to recommend the studies of others (Hoekema, Poythress, Beale, Venema, Storms) who have used other good approaches. Yet my own approach is to make use of the biblical themes of “victory over the dragon followed by house building” as the fundamental paradigm for interpreting Rev 20:1-6. We’ll begin by summarizing several main points related to how those themes help us to understand Rev 20:1-3.

I. Overall context of 20:1–21:8—The sequence of visions in this passage twice repeats the pattern of “victory followed by house [temple] building.” N.B. Interestingly, this sequence reflects the gospel of Gen 3:15: “rule the beast and fill the earth.”

A. 20:1-3  capture of the serpent = victory over the serpent

B. 20:4-6  first resurrection = house (temple) building

C. 20:7-10  death of the serpent = victory over the serpent

D. 20:11–21:8  resurrection = house (temple) building

II. The “victory and house building” themes in the Bible: an overview

Consider the following survey of the evidence from the OT and the NT.

A. In the OT—OT researchers have discerned the themes of divine victory and/or house building in both poetic and narrative descriptions of the world’s creation (e.g., Job 26:10-13; Psa 89:9-13), the world’s deliverance in Noah’s day (e.g., Psa 29:9-10; 74:12-17; 104:5-9) and in the Day of the Lord (Isa 27:1), and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (the book of Exodus, especially chap. 15), from David’s enemies (2 Sam 7), from Babylon (Isa 51:9-11), and from Gog-Magog (Ezek 36-48).

B. In the NT—While studies of God’s combat and construction in the OT has been extensive, research on the NT use of those themes has yielded still more fruit. These themes show up in descriptions of the church’s redemption at Christ’s first advent (Eph 2:14-22 [cf. 4:8]; Col 2:15; 1 Pet 2:4-10) and at His second advent (1 Cor 15:53-57; 2 Cor 5:1-4).

C. In the book of Revelation—Before turning specifically to Rev 20:1-3, take a look at Rev 1:5-6; 5:5, 9-10; 12:11; and 20:7–21:8. Notice how John describes the church’s redemption as Christ’s “battle and building” work.

1. In Rev 1:5-6 and 5:9-10, John compares the Lamb’s redemptive work for the church to God’s victory over Egypt and His constitution of the nation and the tabernacle as His kingdom-dwelling place. Then, in the Divine Warrior victory song of 12:10-12, saints are described as those who have obtained victory over their accuser, the dragon, on account of the blood of the true Lamb (12:11): it is His blood that secures the release of God’s people from their sins. Finally, in 5:5, the victory of the new Lamb is also the victory of the new David. From the context of 1:5-6, we are justified to infer that, like the old David, He turns His attention to building God’s temple-house after His victory. So, when in chaps. 1, 5, and 12 John invokes God’s redemptions of Israel under Moses and David to describe the church’s experience, the point we should not miss is that John employs the “victory and house building” paradigm to explain the significance of the church’s redemption through Christ’s work.

2. Briefly, regarding Rev 20:7–21:8, the combat and construction themes really help our understanding of Christ’s age-ending defeat of the dragon and the nations in 20:7-10 and also our understanding of the resurrection and judgment of the dead in 20:11–21:8. In their application to 20:7-10, the victory theme enables us to see the events depicted there as the Divine Warrior’s final victory over the serpentine dragon who by deception had made a final, failed attempt to destroy God’s kingdom-city. Turning to the visions of 20:11–21:8, the victory theme helps us see the resurrection in 20:12-15 as the Divine Warrior’s victory over His last enemy, death. The resurrection of the dead and the creation’s subequent renovation exhibit the traits of God’s rebuilding project that follows His final victory. This is made all the more interesting by the fact that the saints are portrayed as the holy city (cf. 3:12), while the new heavens and earth appear as the eternal dwelling place of God and man.

From these several examples in Revelation, it seems clear enough that John expects us to understand the significance of the church’s redemption through Christ’s work as both battle and building.

For polemical as well as pastoral purposes, the OT and NT authors depict God in combat with beasts (and other foes), followed by His construction of a holy dwelling place. The point is that these writers adapt ancient battle and building imagery to help us understand certain historical events. This fact should have our attention as we turn to Rev 20:1ff. This should be the case especially when we realize that 20:1-3 is preceded in 19:11-21 by victory over anti-redemption beasts and is followed in 20:4-6 by the establishment of a kingdom-city of saints. What’s more, 20:1-6 is then followed again in 20:7–21:8 by another sequence of victory (20:7-15) and the establishment of an eternal dwelling place for God and man (21:1–22:5).

In our next post, we plan to examine the Bible’s depiction of God’s combat and construction to see how the actions in those images are related to events in history.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 7A How Rev 19:11-21 Relates to Rev 20:1ff.

Posted by R. Fowler White

Bible-believing theologians have long recognized that before they can agree on the theological significance of Rev 20:1–21:8, they will have to agree on an answer to the question, Is the relationship between Rev 19:11-21 and Rev 20:1ff. one of historical sequence or historical repetition? In other words, should we read 19:11–21:8 as if the order of the visions represents the actual progress of events in history? Or does 20:7-10 retell the events of 19:11-21, while 20:1-6 tells of events that preceded 19:11-21 and 20:7–21:8?

In another place, I have argued in great detail that Rev 20:1-10 records a series of visions whose contents are related to Christ’s first advent and the interadvent age in 20:1-6 and to His second advent in 20:7-10. I’ll summarize here the three lines of argument that I believe establish this interpretation as the one that is best overall.

1. If the order of the events presented in Rev 19:11-21 and Rev 20:1-3 is interpreted as the actual progress of historical events, it makes no sense to speak of protecting the nations from deception by Satan in 20:1–3 after they have just been destroyed by Christ at His return in 19:11-21 (cf. 16:15a, 19).

2. To encourage the church militant, Rev 20:7-10 retells the story of Christ’s second coming already told in Rev 19:11-21. We know this for four reasons. First, John underlines the historical repetition in 19:17–21 and 20:7–10 by describing both the Armageddon revolt (19:17-21; 16:17-21) and the Gog-Magog revolt (20:7-10) in terms from the same prophetic passage, Ezekiel 38–39. Second, the repeated references to the battle in 19:11-21 and 20:7-10 (not to mention 16:12-16) direct us to understand 19:11–21 and 20:7–10 as parallel accounts of Christ’s second coming. Third, God’s wrath against the Gog-Magog rebels in 20:7–10 and His wrath against Babylon and the Armageddon rebels in 19:11-21 (and 16:17-21) must both fall within the timeframe that Rev 15:1 establishes for the end of His wrath against the unbelieving world in history. Fourth, according to Heb 12:26-27, there is only one remaining instance of future cosmic destruction. Consequently, the scenes of cosmic destruction narrated in Rev 20:9-11; 19:11–21; 16:17–21; and 6:12-17 must all refer to that one event at Christ’s return. All of this tells us John recounts the story of Christ’s second coming in Rev 19:11-21 and 20:7-10.

3. Consistent with the function of angels ascending and descending in Rev 7:2; 10:1; and 18:1, the angel’s descent in 20:1 initiates a sequence of visions that has its ending (20:7–10) in the same setting as Christ’s return in 19:11–21 and its beginning (20:1–6) in a setting before that event.

While these arguments point to the correctness of associating both the Gog-Magog revolt in 20:7-10 and the Armageddon revolt in 19:11-21 with Christ’s second coming, they also perform another service: they constitute substantial evidence that 20:1–6 is a vision sequence, not chronicling events after the second coming, but recapitulating events before it. For more on Rev 20:1-6, stay tuned.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 6B Israel and the Church (conc.)

Posted by R. Fowler White

The Typological Significance of Israel:
Hebrews 3-12

I. Doubtless the clearest example of how God’s covenants testify to Christ is Moses, Israel, and the old covenant. In summary, God fashioned Moses and Israel as a shadow and type of Christ and the church (1 Cor 10:1-11; Heb 3:1-6; 8:1-6; 10:1). According to Heb 3:1-6, God has one house (not two or more) in history, and that one house was once in the care of Moses the servant of God, but now is in the care of Jesus the Son of God. Hebrews also tells us that Moses was a testimony of the things to come in Christ. Later, in Heb 7–10, we’re told that the entire old covenant arrangement—from its covenant to its sanctuary, to its priests, to its sacrifices—was a shadow and type of the new covenant arrangement with its sanctuary, priest, and sacrifice. The following points will allow us to elaborate on this summary.

II. Periodization of history—The author of Hebrew divides history into two periods: the time before reformation and the time of reformation, 9:10. He also divides history into the time before the last days and the time of the last days, 1:1-2. In the context of his epistle, the time before reformation (i.e., before the last days) is the time of the old covenant; the time of reformation (i.e., of the last days) is the time of the new covenant.

A. God’s house: Israel and the church are presented as two covenantal administrations of one and the same house of God. Jesus the faithful Son over God’s house is greater than Moses the faithful servant in God’s house, 3:1-6.

B. God’s promise and warning: Israel and the church are the one house of God to whom He addresses His promise of rest and His warning against wrath. God’s people under Moses forfeited the promise of God’s rest preached to them, 3:7-19. We’re to heed, therefore, the warning in Ps 95: don’t be like the exodus generation, 3:7-11. The promise of rest and the warning of wrath still apply, 3:12-19. God’s people under Jesus have had God’s promise of rest reaffirmed to us, 4:1-13. Therefore, we’re to respond in faith to the promise of rest (in the New Canaan-earth), 4:1-2. The promise of God’s rest, issued at creation and reissued by David after Joshua, remains, 4:3-10. Therefore, we should remain diligent to enter the rest God still promises in the New Canaan-earth, 4:11-13.

III. The Levites’ priesthood, covenant, sanctuary, sacrifices, and ministry were all copies, types, and shadows of Jesus’ Melchizedekal priesthood, covenant, sanctuary, sacrifice, and ministry; the antitypical reality is better than the types, Heb 7:1–10:18.

Key: As God moves His house through the history of His revelation and redemption, He shifts our attention from earthly, temporary copies and shadows (pictures, models, patterns, types) of heavenly, eternal realities (archetypes, antitypes) to the heavenly, eternal realities themselves. The shadows are not simply replaced by the realities; they are fulfilled in them. The earthly was patterned after the heavenly. That is, the heavenly was the pattern for the earthly. The temporary was changeable and transitory; it pointed above and ahead to the unchangeable and permanent.

A. Jesus the Melchizedekal priest has replaced the Levitical priests, 7:1-28. As we should have anticipated from Ps 110 and Gen 14, the Levitical priesthood was not permanent. Melchizedek’s powerful and effective priestly order preceded (Gen 14) and has now replaced Levi’s weak and ineffective priestly order. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, the father of Levi, 7:1-10. Melchizedek’s priestly order has therefore replaced Levi’s priestly order: Melchizedek’s order is a priesthood ministering with God’s oath; it has replaced a priesthood ministering without God’s oath, 7:11-28.

B. The new, better covenant has been enacted; the old covenant is now obsolete, 8:1-13. (Note: the old covenant was temporary, provisional, 9:8-10.)—Jesus is now ministering as a high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, 8:1-3. He cannot minister as a priest on earth, 8:4-5. He has obtained a better, heavenly ministry than the earthly ministry of the Levites, 8:6.—The new covenant is better than the old covenant, 8:7-13. The introduction of a second covenant shows that the first is “faulty,” 8:7. The new covenant is not like the old, in which the people did not continue, 8:8-9. The new covenant creates a new people, 8:10-12. The announcement of the new covenant shows that the old was to come to an end, 8:13.

C. The old sanctuary, sacrifices, and service were not fully and finally powerful to purify, 9:1-10. The old sanctuary—the tabernacle—was prepared, 9:1-5, and the old sacrificial ministry (liturgy) was performed, 9:6-10, to show that before Christ there was no direct access to God.

D. The new sanctuary, sacrifice, and ministry are fully and finally powerful to purify, 9:11-28. The new sacrifice and ministry of Christ our High Priest are powerful to purify, 9:11-14. The new sacrifice of Christ was necessary to put the new covenant into effect, 9:15-28.

E. The new sacrifice is fully and finally powerful to purify; the old sacrifices were not, 10:1-18. The Law’s sacrifices were powerless to purify sinners to meet God, 10:1-4. Christ’s sacrifice has replaced the sacrifices made according to the Law, 10:5-10. The finished work of Christ has superseded the endless work of the Levites, 10:11-14. As Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy told us, “forgiveness granted” means “sacrifice has ceased,” 10:15-18.

A New Baggins

I am delighted to announce that the GB has a new Baggins. Maybe we ought to call him a Took or a Brandybuck. Nah. In here we’re all Bagginses. The Rev. Steve Carr has agreed to become a Baggins, and I look forward to seeing his posts on here.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 6A Israel and the Church

Posted by R. Fowler White

The Typological Significance of Israel:
From Having a Temple to Being a Temple

Summary: God has one program in the history of redemption, and its unity and focus are found in Christ and the church, the Last Adam and His bride (Gen 3:15; Eph 1:10; 3:11). God does not have two (or more) programs, one for Israel, one for the Church (nor does he have a third program for the nations). In other words, the Bible is Christ-centered, not Israel-centered, and Israel, not the church, is God’s “parenthesis” in history.

I. In the beginning, God gave Adam and his bride Eve the commission to rule and fill the earth under God’s blessing, to God’s glory, and according to God’s word (Gen 1:28; 2:15-17). Since the first Adam failed (Gen 3), God in His grace promised to send a second man—the Last Adam—to succeed where the first Adam had failed (Gen 3:15; 1 Cor 15:21-28, 45-49). God promised, in effect, that Christ and His bride would succeed where Adam and his bride had failed. God has carried out His promise in history through a succession of covenants.

II. 1 Cor 10:6, 11—Now these things took place as examples for [i.e., types of] us, that we might not desire evil as they did. … Now these things happened to them as an example [i.e., a type], but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Certain parallels between Israel and the church get our attention.

A. Exodus, first and new: Israel under Moses offered the Passover Lamb, a lamb without physical spot or blemish, for their deliverance from Egypt. Christ is the greater and true Passover Lamb sacrificed for His people, Heb 2:10-13, a lamb without moral spot or blemish, 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; John 1:29; Rev 5:6-9. His death brings about the New Exodus, Luke 9:31.

B. Baptism into Moses and into Christ, Meal with Moses and with Christ: Israel was baptized into Moses; the church has been baptized into Christ. Israel fed on the manna from heaven and drank the water from the Rock in the wilderness. Likewise, the church feeds on Christ the true bread of life (the true manna) and drinks the true water of life, the Holy Spirit, from Christ the living Rock.

C. Warning of wrath, past and present: Israel’s exodus generation in the wilderness set a bad example for the church. They fell away from the living God into unbelief, and God denied them entry into Canaan (Heb 3:10-19; 1 Cor 10:5-6). The church, now also in the wilderness, should therefore take a warning that, if any in the church should fall away as Israel did, God will also deny them entry into New Canaan.

D. Faith and apostasy, past and present: It was said of Israel’s exodus generation that they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses (Exod 14:31). Moreover, to them Moses preached God’s promise of rest in earthly Canaan. Nevertheless, the faith of most of them (1 Cor 10:5; aka all those whose bodies fell in the wilderness, Heb 3:16-17) failed when temptation and trial came in the wilderness. The promise of rest preached to them did not profit them (Heb 4:2, 6). The faith they expressed at the beginning of the exodus proved to be temporary. Despite the faith they confessed at first and the blessings they had in common with all who belonged to that community, most proved in the end to have an evil, unbelieving heart when they fell away from the living God in the wilderness.

E. Rest promised in the first Canaan and in the New Canaan: Israel’s exodus generation had God’s promise of rest in earthly Canaan preached to them. So the church has had God’s promise of rest in the New Canaan (new earth) preached to them. See Heb 4:1-13; 12:26-28.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation (conc.)

Posted by R. Fowler White

Gentile Christians should understand the mystery at work in God’s salvation of Israel, Rom 11:25-27. In this context, the term mystery means something known and understood only by divine revelation.

I. A part of Israel, not all of Israel, has been hardened, Rom 11:25.

A. Note well: Paul says in 11:25 what he has already said in 11:5, 7: “a partial hardening has happened” = “the rest were hardened.” The hardening in Israel is not total; it is only partial. There is an elect remnant in Israel. Thus, “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.”

B. Note well: Paul does not say, “a temporary hardening has happened.” Paul is not thinking of events that happen sequentially; rather he is thinking of events that happen concurrently (contemporaneously), 11:30-31: “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.” There is both obtaining and hardening at the present time.

C. How long does this partial hardening last? When does this partial hardening end? It lasts until—it ends when—“the fullness of [= the full number of the elect remnant from among] the Gentiles has come in.”

II. What follows the end (completion) of Israel’s partial hardening? Will the hardening be lifted so that there is no longer just a remnant, but rather a total—or at least a vast-majority—restoration/conversion of the Israelite nation? Is Paul’s point in 11:12 that, after the fullness of Israel comes in, there will be blessing for the Gentiles even greater than during the period of Israel’s apostasy? The context must decide. Note: if all the Gentile elect are saved with Israel in a state of partial hardening, then there will be no more Gentiles left to save if that condition is ever remedied. This can only mean that the full number of the Israelite elect is saved while, not after the full number of Gentiles is saved. This means that the “resurrection” in 11:15, which follows the salvation of the fullness of Israel, cannot be a massive Gentile revival, but is best taken as a reference to the general resurrection of the dead.

III. And thus all Israel will be saved, Rom 11:26.

A. And thus tells us not when (= “And then, after the full number of Gentiles comes in, … “), but how—“in such a manner; by such a process; by this means”—all Israel will be saved. Paul’s point is not the fact that the totality of Israel (head for head) will be saved, but the fashion in which all the elect remnant of Israel will be saved. In the preceding verses, Paul has looked to the past and the present to understand the fashion in which God brings salvation to Israel.

B. all Israel: who are they?

1. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham”? No, that’s a form of ethnic universalism, at least in a given generation; in the past and the present God has saved according to the principle of particularism (remnant).

2. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? No, this too is contrary to the historical principles of election and reprobation. Moreover, Israel was never defined purely in ethnic terms: circumcised Gentiles were counted as Israelites; similarly, covenant-breaking descendants of Abraham were counted as non-Israelites, Gen 17:14. Israel was defined covenantally, not ethnically.

3. Are they “most ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? There is no basis in biblical history on which to quantify the percentage that God will save most of those in any given generation of ethnic descendants. What we know is that historically God has consistently applied the principle of election. We must also keep in mind that God defines Israel covenantally, not ethnically.

4. Are they “all the elect of ethnic Israel, the full number of elect from Israel throughout the ages”? This interpretation yields a good sense of the text. It is consistent with the parallel term the fullness of the Gentiles = the full number of elect from the Gentiles throughout the ages. Its weakness is that it neglects the union of Jew and Gentile by ingrafting into the one olive tree in Rom 11:16-24.

5. The most satisfying answer: all Israel refers to the full number of elect from Israel together with the full number of the elect ingrafted from the Gentiles.

IV. Summary: God works the disobedience and obedience of Jews and Gentiles to the gospel together according to His purpose in election and mercy. Jewish disobedience leads to Gentile obedience; Gentile obedience anticipates Jewish obedience. From the Gospel perspective, Israel is a nation hostile to the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles. From the Election perspective, Israel is a nation beloved for the sake of the fathers. In other words, there is a remnant among the children of the flesh as there is among all the Gentile nations. God has not rejected Israel completely, but He has done so partially. Israel’s stumbling served God’s purposes beyond their fall, namely, the purposes of Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. We are not to think, however, that the provocation of the Jews to jealousy is a phenomenon only at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Rather, the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the Gentiles are both coming in (i.e., being saved) throughout the interadvent age. When the fulness of the remnant from all the nations on earth comes in, then, Christ’s evangelistic mission will have come to an end, bringing about the resurrection and final judgment of the righteous and the wicked.

Sodom’s Destruction Discovered? The Archeological Evidence, and Chronological Quandry.

by David Gadbois

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

Genesis 19:24-28


Genesis describes an astounding, apocalyptic destruction of a region near the Dead Sea, where Abraham’s nephew Lot resided. What phenomenon could have been responsible for the sort of destruction described here? And is there good external evidence for it occurring? Especially the sort of evidence that would allow us to date the event.

In September of 2021, the archeological team responsible for excavating the ancient site of Tall el-Hammam (in present-day Jordan, East of the Jordan River and NE of the Dead Sea) published their findings in a mainstream, peer-reviewed journal, arguing that a meteor impact was responsible for the destruction observed at the site, around the 17th Century B.C. This would have been a particular sort of impact, where the meteor explodes in earth’s atmosphere before reaching the ground intact (sometimes called a bolide or an airburst meteor). While these types don’t leave behind craters, the amount of energy released in terms of heat and pressure are comparable to megaton-class nuclear bomb detonations.

While these events are rare, we do know of a similar impact known as the Tunguska impact in 1908 in Siberia. This flattened millions of trees over an area of hundreds of square miles. A much smaller meteor airburst was caught by many video cameras over a region further west in Russia in 2013.

The excavation of the site began in 2005, and these findings of the destruction layer are not exactly brand new. See this 2018 paper by Phillip Silvia, a principle member of the excavation team, along with this Times of Israel news article from the same year. But it is significant that this more comprehensive article has now been published in Scientific Reports (part of the Nature Portfolio, that also publishes Nature). The article is quite long and, at points, very technical, but one can simply read the abstract if the content is too overwhelming. In addition, one can consult this Christianity Today article (Sept. 2021) for a compact overview, this brief blog announcement from Dr. David Graves, or view this well-produced video from apologist/blogger Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy.

The excavators paint a vivid picture in their conclusion:

We conclude that the only plausible formation mechanism that can account for the entire range of evidence in Table 3 is a crater-forming impact or a cosmic airburst, most likely somewhat larger than the 22-megaton airburst at Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. The data also suggest an airburst occurred a few kilometers SW of Tall el-Hammam causing, in rapid succession, a high- temperature thermal pulse from the fireball that melted exposed materials, including roofing clay, mudbricks, and pottery. This was followed by a high-temperature, hypervelocity blast wave that demolished and pulverized mudbrick walls across the city, leveling the city, and causing extensive human mortality. An important observation is that although local sediment can melt at ~ 1300 °C, that is a minimum temperature but not a maximum one, a conclusion that is supported by the presence of embedded minerals that melted at temperatures of up to ~ 2500 °C. In addition, anomalously high salt content in the debris matrix is consistent with an aerial detonation above high-salinity sediments near the Jordan River or above the hypersaline Dead Sea. This event, in turn, distributed salt across the region, severely limiting regional agricultural development for up to ~ 600 years.

Should Christians consider this to be a good and, perhaps, even strong archeological and scientific confirmation of the Genesis account of Abraham, Lot, and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain? My answer is: if the technical merits regarding the nature of the destruction at Tall el-Hammam withstand scrutiny, YES! It would be very difficult indeed, to believe that such a rare and spectacular bolide destruction would happen to wipe out a region of cities near the Dead Sea, of precisely the destructive nature and description we find in the Genesis account, if it were unrelated to the biblical Sodom & Gomorrah.

This thesis, however, does not come without some controversy, even amongst theologically-conservative Christian scholars. The more-traditional of these scholars locate Abraham’s life primarily in the late third millennium B.C., not during the Middle Bronze Age of the second millennium B.C. as the work of the Tall el-Hammam excavators would suggest. For instance, Andrew Steinmann writes “…the events of Abraham’s life took place from 2166 to 1991 BC” (From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology, 2011, p.71). That’s still centuries before the earliest feasible date of ~1750 B.C. that was found for Tall el-Hammam’s destruction according to carbon-14, pottery, and artifact dating.

But other scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen, place Abraham later than the traditional date: “The first and by far the biggest section…can offer almost a score of very varied lines of evidence that tie Abraham/Isaac/Jacob/Joseph to the overall period circa 1900-1600 (2000-1500 at the outermost limits)” (On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 2003, p.358).

That would seem to dovetail nicely with the Tall el-Hammam destruction. This issue however, is wrapped up with a variety of other hairy, complex chronological and interpretive issues: the Long vs. Short Sojourn in Egypt, the possible use of stylistic/honorific numbers in lifespans in the Pentateuch, gaps in the genealogies, textual variants between the Masoretic, LXX, and Samaritan manuscripts, and to some extent the always-controversial debate concerning the dating of Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt. It is impossible to go in to all of that, and disentangle such a web in this short blog article.

I’ll mention only briefly that the location of Sodom is disputed. Tall el-Hammam is on the north-east end of the Dead Sea and thus fits northern geographical theories. Other scholars, such as Bryant Wood, have argued for a location on the southern side of the Dead Sea. I haven’t studied the matter in detail, but I haven’t yet seen a slam-dunk argument on either side. It may be that the biblical data is ambiguous (to us distant, modern readers, anyway) or simply under-determines the issue.

It can certainly be apologetically-hazardous to hang one’s hat on a single archeological finding. We don’t have dash cam footage of the Tall el-Hammam meteor, nor did anyone find a sign in the ruins saying “welcome to Sodom!” But I think we should consider the evidence that we do have to be, at minimum, promising. It is the only reasonable candidate we know of, at this time, for the sort of heavenly destruction we find in the Genesis account. As such, it is a worthy plank in an inductive case for the veracity of the Old Testament.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5A Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation

Posted by R. Fowler White

In my view, the best overall treatments of this subject are found in O. P. Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2001), ch. 6, and Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus, 2013), ch. 10.

I. Context of Romans—Condemnation of sinners: the need for righteousness by Jews as well as Gentiles, 1:18-3:20. Justification of sinners: the imputation of righteousness by grace through faith in Christ, 3:21–5:11. Sanctification and glorification of the justified: union with and final conformation to Christ, 5:12–8:39. Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. Application: God’s righteousness at work in His people, 12:1–15:13.

II. Overview of Romans 9–11—Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. God’s rejection of Israel according to the principle of election, 9:1-29. God’s rejection of Israel explained: their refusal of God’s gift of righteousness, 9:30–10:21. God’s rejection of Israel qualified: neither complete nor without purpose, 11:1-32. Doxology 11:33-36.

A. God has not rejected Israel completely, but has done so partially, 11:1-10. The remnant of the present is Paul’s proof that God has not rejected His people (i.e., that God is faithful to His word). The living proof of Paul himself, 11:b-2a; the proof from the past: the parallel case of Elijah, 11:2b-6. The point: general apostasy does not mean that there is no remnant. The condition of Israel is twofold: blessing to the elect, blindness of the rest, 11:7-10. Note: Paul does not prove his point by citing a restoration in the future, but by citing the presence of a remnant in the present. God is dealing with Israel now as He has always dealt with Israel.

B. Israel’s stumbling served two purposes: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. Israel did not stumble merely for the purpose that they should fall, but for the purpose that Gentiles should be saved and they (Israel) should be made jealous by Gentile salvation, 11:11-15. God’s purposes included a good beyond the tragedy of Israel’s unbelief: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy and salvation. Paul argues from the lesser to the greater, 11:11-12, 15: the lesser (trespass, failure, rejection) brings riches to the Gentiles, the greater (fullness, acceptance) means “resurrection.”

1. Note well: by magnifying his ministry to the Gentiles, Paul intends to make the Jews jealous now, in the present age, 11:13-14, 30-31.

2. The provocation of the Jews to jealousy, then, is not a phenomenon only, if at all, at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. It is a reality coming to pass in Paul’s 1st C. ministry and in the course of the present age.

C. Gentiles should not boast/gloat over the condition of Israel, 11:16-24. The lesson, 11:22-24, applied to Gentiles: warning of being cut off for those who don’t continue in faith; applied to Jews: promise of regrafting for those who believe.

1. The patriarchal root that supports Gentiles is the same root that supports Jews. Gen 12:3 (cf. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Jer 4:2; Acts 3:25), In you [the patriarchs through Christ], all the families of the earth—Gentiles and Jews—will be blessed. Abraham is reckoned the father of all who believe, Jews as well as Gentiles.

2. It is not that Gentiles replace Jews; it is that Gentiles are ingrafted to the same root.

3. God broke off the Israelite nation from His visible church through the ministry of Jesus, Matt 21:43, as prophesied by John the Baptist, Matt 3:11-12.

4. God re-grafts the elect Israelite remnant now by making them jealous. This is the merciful complement to His judgment on the nation. Acts gives us examples: the Pentecost conversions; Paul; Crispus; Apollos. In judgment God remembers mercy.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Salvation and Rejection (conc.)

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