PMT 2014-043 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is the third and final installment of a brief series defining key eschatology concepts. Hopefully it will be useful for earnest Christians endeavoring to study this field of systematic theology, a field so over-run with crackpots and untrained enthusiasts. So let’s begin where I left off in the preceding article.
Last Days. In the biblical scheme, the Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of history. His coming divides history into two parts. The Old Testament era served as the “former days” (Mal. 3:4) that gave way to the “last days,” the times initiated by Christ’s coming: “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). The last days are initiated by the appearance of the Son (Heb. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:20) to effect redemption (Heb. 9:26) and by His pouring out of the Spirit (Acts 2:16, 17, 24; cf. Isa. 32:15; Zech. 12:10). The “ends of the ages” comes during the apostolic era (1 Cor. 10:11). These will run until “the last day,” when the Resurrection and Final Judgment occur to end history (John 6:39; 11:24; 12:48). Because the last days have been with us since the first century coming of Christ, no days are to follow them except for “the last day.” Consequently, no Millennium will introduce another grand redemptive era in man’s history.
Thine Is the Kingdom (ed. by Ken Gentry)
Contributors lay the scriptural foundation for a biblically-based, hope-filled
postmillennial eschatology, while showing what it means
to be postmillennial in the real world.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Millennium. This term is derived from Revelation 20:1-6. The term is based on the combination of two Latin words mille (1000) and annus (year). Not only does the millennium (or 1000 years of Christ’s reign) appear in the most figurative book of Scripture but is found only in this highly symbolic book. Nowhere else is Christ’s reign associated with 1000 years. The figure serves as an image of the great expanse of Christ’s redemptive reign which began in the first century (Mark 1:14-15; Matt. 12:29-30) and continues until Christ returns at “the end” of history (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Mystery. In Scripture a “mystery” is a divine truth that cannot be ascertained except by special
revelation from God (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3). A mystery is “the hidden wisdom” of God (1 Cor. 2:7) requiring that it be “made known” by a voluntary condescension on God’s part (Eph. 1:9). It is not necessarily a divine truth that was wholly unknown in the Old Testament era. A “mystery” may be found in the “Scriptures of the prophets” in the Old Testament revelation (Rom. 16:25-26), but in the New Testament era it is finally revealed by the Apostles to “the nations” beyond Israel (Rom. 16:26) and to “the sons of men” (Eph. 3:5).
New Creation. The Scriptures speak of the New Creation in two senses. Currently Christians experience a now-but-not-yet manifestation of the New Creation in spiritual principle. The New Creation principle begins in the first century redemptive work of Christ and grows in influence as Christ’s salvific rule expands in history. Any man in Christ is, in fact, a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). At the Second Advent the current temporal order will end and the consummate New Creation will be established (2 Pet. 3:8-13) as the perfect and glorious manifestation of full redemption. The New Creation parallels in this respect the Resurrection: when sinners are converted, they are spiritually resurrected (Eph. 2:6; 1 John 3:14) with a view to their final bodily resurrection (John 5:24-28).
Olivet Discourse. One of the major prophetic discourses of Christ recorded in Scripture (see particularly Matt. 24-25). Christ launched into this discourse after weeping over Jerusalem’s refusal to accept him (Matt. 23:37) and declaring her Temple “desolate” (Matt. 23:38). When his disciples showed him the glorious Temple structure (Matt. 24:1) the Lord informed them that it would be destroyed (Matt. 24:2-3). The disciples are startled and ask him when this will occur, thinking that it punctuates the end of history. In the Discourse he distinguishes the era of the Temple’s destruction in “this generation” (Matt. 24:4-34) from “that day” when he will return to end history (Matt. 24:36-25:46). Thus, the first part of the discourse (up to 24:34) focuses on the first century, whereas the last part focuses on that which the Temple’s destruction typologically portends: the era of the Second Coming.
Parousia. The Greek term parousia was a common term that meant “presence.” It eventually came to apply particularly to the coming and/or presence of some noted dignitary. As with most biblical and theological terms it was taken into Christian parlance from common use and developed a technical meaning. However, even in Scripture we must sort out its various usages. The coming of Stephanus (1 Cor. 16:17), of Titus (2 Cor. 7:6), of Paul (Phil. 2:12), and of the “Man of Sin” (2 Thess. 2:9) are each called a parousia. The term can be used metaphorically of Christ’s historical judgment on Israel (Matt. 24:3, 27), for according to the Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon the term was used “as a sacred expression for the coming of a hidden divinity, who makes his presence felt by a revelation of his power” (cp. Isa. 19:1). It can also be employed literally of his incarnational first coming (2 Pet. 1:16) and his consummate Second Coming at the end of history to judge the world (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:15). The context of each use must determine the type of parousia in mind.
Postmillennialism. Postmillennialism is that prophetic school which teaches that the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament came in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ at his first coming (Mark 1:14-15). It expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of men to salvation in the present age (Matt. 12:18-20; John 3:17; 12:31-32). Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations (Matt. 13:31-33; Mark 4:26-32). After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all men (1 Cor. 15:20-27). It is post (after) millennial in that Christ returns after the glorious “millennial” conditions finally prevail in earth history.
Postmillennialism may be summarized: (1) The Church Age is the kingdom era prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. The people of God are expanded from Israel of the Old Testament to the universal Church of the New Testament, becoming the Israel of God. (2) Satan is bound during Christ’s earthly ministry at his first coming. His binding prevents him from totally hindering the proclamation of the gospel. (3) Christ now rules spiritually in the hearts of believers, who will gradually exercise a growing influence in human affairs. (4) History will gradually improve as the growth of Christian influence unfolds into the future. (5) Christ will return to end history, resurrect and judge all men, and establish the eternal order, the New Creation.
Pre-tribulationism. The dispensational view which teaches that Christ will return secretly and take his Church out of the world just before (hence, “pre”) the outbreak of the Great Tribulation. Dispensationalists believe that the Rapture must be pre-tribulational because the events of the Great Tribulation are not a part of the program for the Church but for Israel.
Premillennialism. Premillennialism is the prophetic school which teaches that the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament will be a literal, political kingdom effected by Christ at his Second Coming. The view is pre-millennial in that Christ returns before and in order to establish the Millennium. Premillennialism is today largely associated with Dispensationalism rather than the older, more simple form of Historic Premillennialism.
Dispensational premillennialism may be summarily summarized in the following points: (1) The Davidic Kingdom, an earthly, political kingdom, was offered by Christ in the first century. It was rejected by the Jews and thereby postponed until the future. (2) The Church Age is a wholly unforseen and distinct era in the plan of God. It was altogether unknown to and unexpected by the Old Testament prophets. It is called a “parenthesis.” (3) God has a separate and distinct program and plan for racial Israel, as distinguished from the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is a parenthetical aside in the original plan of God. (4) The Church may experience occasional small scale successes in history, but ultimately she will lose influence, fail in her mission, and become corrupted as worldwide evil intensifies toward the end of the Church Age. (5) Christ will return secretly in the sky to rapture living saints and resurrect the bodies of deceased saints (the first resurrection). These will be removed out of the world before the Great Tribulation. The judgment of the saints will be accomplished in Heaven during the seven-year Great Tribulation period before Christ’s bodily return to the earth. (6) At the conclusion of the seven-year Great Tribulation, Christ will return to the earth in order to establish and personally administer a Jewish political kingdom headquartered at Jerusalem for 1,000 years., the Millennium. During this time, Satan will be bound, and the temple and sacrificial system will be re-established in Jerusalem as memorials. (7) Toward the end of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will be loosed and Christ surrounded and attacked at Jerusalem. (8) Christ will call down fire from heaven to destroy His enemies. The Resurrection (the second resurrection) and judgment of the wicked will occur, initiating the eternal order.
Preterism. The term “preterism” is based on the Latin praeteritus, which means “passed by.” Preterism is that hermeneutic approach to Scripture which teaches that certain prophecies have already been fulfilled in history. Those passages are often (not always) identified by statements of temporal nearness, such as “at hand” (Mark 1:14-15; Rev. 1:3), “shortly” (Rev. 1:1), “this generation” (Matt. 24:34), and other such time delimiters. Orthodox preterists (as over against hyperpreterists) believe that many New Testament prophecies focus on the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see especially the Olivet Discourse, Matt. 24:1-3). That event is important in that God changes the course of redemptive history from an ethnic, land-based, temple-oriented system to a pan-ethnic, global, spiritual system of worship (cp. Matt. 10:6; 15:24 with Matt. 28:19; see also Heb. 8:13).
Rapture. A theological term based on the Latin word rapio which means “caught up.” It is not found in Scripture but the theological idea is strongly rooted in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, which speaks of the Lord’s Second Advent wherein deceased and living saints are “caught up” to be with the Lord forevermore. Dispensationalism proposes a “secret Rapture” which removes the Church from the earth which must endure a seven year Great Tribulation. This key passage, however, emphasizes its public character: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16).
Resurrection. The Greek word translated “resurrection” is anistimi, which means “to stand” (istemi) “again” (ana). It literally speaks of the reanimation of a corpse. Though the Bible records several bodily resurrections of the dead before Christ’s resurrection, (e.g., 1 Kgs. 17:20-24; 2 Kgs. 4:32-37; Mark 5:41-43; John 11:43-44), his is the first resurrection of the eschatological order (1 Cor. 15:20-56). All miraculous resurrections occurring prior to his Second Advent at the end of history bring deceased persons back to life. But since those resurrected do not receive their final, perfect, eternal bodies, they must suffer death once again. Christ’s resurrection serves as the unique, historical “first fruits” (1 Cor. 15:23) of the final, consummate, eschatological order which transforms the body of the redeemed from a state of weakness to power, from dishonor to glory, from perishability to imperishability (1 Cor. 15:42-43). At the resurrection our renewed bodies will be animated and restructured by the Holy Spirit rather than by simple biological power: we will no longer have psuchichos (“soulish, natural”) bodies, but pneumatikos (“spirit” driven) bodies (1 Cor. 15:44; Rom. 8:18-25). The Resurrection will be at the end of history (John 6:39_40, 44, 54; 11:24) and will involve all men simultaneously (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15), contrary to the popular teaching of Dispensationalism.
Restrainer. In 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul warns of a coming “man of lawlessness” whose presence is “restrained” by something preventing his appearing too early. The Man of Lawlessness appears to refer to Nero Caesar, who will become one of the most evil Roman emperors and who begins the first persecution of the Christian faith. The “restrainer” probably refers to the preceding emperor, his step-father Claudius Caesar. The name “Claudius” is derived from the Latin claudere which means to “restrain.” As long as Claudius is on the imperial throne, Nero cannot come to public evil influence. Contrary to Dispensationalism the “restrainer” does not lie in our distant future, but in Paul’s near future. Paul states that he will somehow involve the Jewish Temple then standing (2 Thess. 2:4), he is currently being restrained (2 Thess. 2:6), his restraint is known by Paul’s original audience (2 Thess. 2:6), and that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thess. 2:7).
Second Coming / Second Advent. The word “advent” is based on the Latin adventus, meaning “presence, arrival.” The Second Coming or the Second Advent of Christ is the physical, visible, glorious return of Christ from Heaven at the end of history (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:23-24). He comes in the air at that time to resurrect and transform believers (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) and to judge unbelievers (2 Thess. 1:6-10). In his first coming Christ came in bodily form in humiliation to suffer (Phil. 2:8); at his Second Coming he returns in his resurrected body (Rom. 6:9; Acts 1:11; Col. 2:9) in exaltation to judge (Phil. 2:10-11; Heb. 9:27-28). His Second Coming is not to be confused with his judgment “coming”against Jerusalem: the former is literal and visible, the latter is metaphorical and providential.
The Second Advent is necessary in that otherwise, we would have a creation (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3) without a consummation (Acts 3:20-21; Rev. 20:11), resulting in an open-ended Universe (1 Cor. 15:23-24; 2 Pet. 3:3-4). We would have a world eternally groaning (Rom. 8:22; 2 Cor. 5:1-4), without any glorious perfection (Rom. 8:21; 2 Pet. 3:12-13), leaving God enduring a Universe in eternal sin. We would have a Savior quietly departing (Luke 24:50-52; 1 Cor. 15:5-8), without any victorious demonstration (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11). We would have a redemption spiritually focused (Rom. 8:10; Eph.1:3), without a physical dimension (Rom. 8:11; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). We would have a Redeemer bodily ascended (Acts 1:8-11; Col. 2:9), without any physical family (1 Cor. 15:20–28; Phil. 3:20-21). We would have a gospel continually necessary (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8), without any final completion (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 15:24).
Christian Theistic Ethics (29 CDs)
Formal Christ College course on Christian Theistic Ethics.
Demonstrates theonomic underpinnings of Christian ethics.
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