Jesus, the Greater Solomon

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The Bible is a profound book. In the Old Testament, we find God establishing multi-layered covenants through which he will bless the nations in and through Christ. In the New Testament, we find all these covenants coming to a head and being fully established in the life, death, resurrection, and final (future) reign of Christ.

I am always astonished at the (seemingly) prophetic stories found in the Old Testament that have almost direct reference to Christ (gives a lot credence to inerrency, no?).

I’ve been reading about God’s covenant given to David in 1-2 Samuel, and now into 1 Kings. God made a covenant with David (2 Samuel 7) in which he promised that through David’s family dynasty, God would establish a kingdom that would bless the world. This is ultimately a reiteration of what God promised to Abraham (Genesis 12), that he would give Abraham a people, a land, and make them a blessing to the nations. The only difference between the two is that God hones his promise to David, saying that his promise to Abraham will be realized through David’s dynasty. In other words, God will use a king from David’s lineage to establish his kingdom first promised to Abraham, and through that kingdom, blessings will flow to the nations (ultimately culminating in Christ as King over the nations).

And we begin to see glimpses of this promise come to their fulfillment (in part) through David’s son Solomon. 1 Kings 1-4 paint Solomon as taking his father’s place in the Davidic line. By chapter 4, we find Solomon rising to even greater power than his father before him. And some amazing verses are found in 4:20-34 that clearly paint God’s covenantal faithfulness to Abraham and David:

20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they were eating, drinking, and rejoicing. 21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines and as far as the border of Egypt. They offered tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life…24 he had dominion over everything west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza and over all the kings west of the Euphrates. He had peace on all his surrounding borders (HCSB)

Astonishing verses. Judah and Israel, Abraham’s descendants, were as numerous as the sand by the sea, they were dwelling securely in the land, and the nations were being blessed through Solomon. These are explicit (they couldn’t be more explicit if you ask me) references to Genesis 12:1-3 and 15. God promised to Abraham that his descendants would be numerous, would dwell securely in the land, and would bless the nations. The author of Kings was clearly reminiscing on the Abrahamic promises, and making sure to communicate that they were coming to their fulfillment through the Davidic dynasty (as God had already promised in 2 Samuel 7). And if we missed it, he reiterates it once more at the end of chapter 4, but gives a different light to his understand of the Davidic role in the Abrahamic promise:

29 God gave Solomon wisdom, very great insight, and understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East,greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone—wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, sons of Mahol. His reputation extended to all the surrounding nations. (HCSB)

Incredible! He reiterates what he said before, but (metaphorically) encapsulates the Abrahamic promises in Solomon. Instead of the people being numerous, it is Solomon’s wisdom that is numerous. And the blessing given to the nations is found in Solomon’s great reign as the Davidic king. What is meant to be conveyed here is that in the Davidic king will the Abrahamic promises be realized. This really could be the end of the story: Solomon as the blessed Davidic king, and through him blessings flow to the nations!…but unfortunately Solomon forfeited his right to this title by his gross sin (1 Kings 11), and the kingdom of Israel became divided, and ultimately captured by pagan nations (1 Kings 12). However, we got a glimpse, even if just for a moment, of what God promised through Abraham and David–that through David’s dynasty will come a king, and in and through him will the nations be blessed. This of course is realized in Christ.

And, we can be assured that one day, Christ will rest on David’s throne as the true and final Davidic king, and finally and fully establish the kingdom God had promised, in which his numerous people will rest secure in their land, and bless the nations.

We find this in Isaiah 2, an incredible parallel to 1 Kings 4:

The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established
at the top of the mountains
and will be raised above the hills.
All nations will stream to it,
and many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us about His ways
so that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction will go out of Zion
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will settle disputes among the nations
and provide arbitration for many peoples.
They will turn their swords into plows
and their spears into pruning knives.
Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,
and they will never again train for war. (HCSB)

One day, our Davidic King Jesus will return, and his kingdom will be fully established (it has already been initiated, but not yet here in its fulness), and final peace will come to earth and among the nations.

Maranatha, King Jesus!

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What is the central focus of the Book of Revelation?

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When we think of this book called the Revelation of Jesus Christ, what most likely comes to mind is end times schemes, anti-christ persecution, strange visions and ethereal prophecies. And while these topics are contained in Revelation, what is the center of this great and mysterious biblical book? What is the primarily focus and hope of Revelation?

Horatius Bonar, a 19th century pastor and writer says that Jesus himself is the center and focus of the entire book. He says, “the ‘Lamb as it had been slain’ (Rev 5:6) [is] the theme”.

Bonar continues to say:

“It is the Lamb who stands in the midst of the elders (Rev 5:6), and before whom they fall. ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ is the theme of the celestial song. It is the Lamb who opens the seals (6:1). It is before the Lamb that the great multitude stand clothed in white (7:14). It is by the blood of the Lamb that the victory is won (12:11). The book of life belongs to the Lamb slain (13:8). It was the Lamb that stood on the glorious Mount Zion (14:1). It is the Lamb that the redeemed multitude are seen following (14:4); and that multitude is the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb (14:4). It is the song of the Lamb that is sung in heaven (15:3). It is the Lamb that wars and overcomes (17:14). It is to the marriage-super of the Lamb that we are called (19:7, 9). The church is the Lamb’s wife (21:9). On the foundations of the heavenly city are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (21:14). Of this city the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (21:23). Of that city the Lamb is the light (21:23). The book of the life of the Lamb, and the throne of the Lamb (21:27; 22:1, 3), sum up this wondrous list of honours and dignities belonging to the Lord Jesus as the crucified Son of God.

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…The Lamb is one of [Jesus’] special and eternal titles, and the name by which He is best known in heaven. As such, we obey and honour and worship Him, never being allowed to lose sight of the cross amid all the glories of the kingdom” (from The Everlasting Righteousness).

Indeed, the ending of Revelation sums the theme of this book (and the entire Bible) up well:

“He (Jesus) who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 20:22)

Why Understanding Eschatology is Important, Part 2

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I wrote a blog recently on the importance and relevance of eschatology; that was meant to precede and be a foundation for this blog. You can read that at this link here. I purposefully put the picture above, because when people usually think of eschatology, what comes to mind are fanciful visions contained in Revelation, and many wonder about the practical relevance of this topic.

In this second part, I want to address the differing stances on eschatology, weigh out the truths in each one, and give a few reasons for the view I believe (and why I believe it’s more than practical and relevant today).

As I said in the first post, eschatology is by its very nature, a gospel issue. It is the final outworking of our salvation in Christ. If you have been rescued and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, Paul says that we await our final redemption when our bodies, and the world, will be glorified, without sin and death (Rom 8:30, 1 Cor 15). Eschatology is an out branching of what Christ has already accomplished on the cross. Every eschatological position centers around the concept of this principle.

There are three main eschatological positions–premillennialism, a-millennialism, and post-millennialism. As you may guess, each position centers around the word: Millennium. This word, when translated, means one-thousand. And the word itself comes from a key text found in Revelation 20:1-10. This text describes the return of Christ. It describes Christ returning, binding Satan, resurrecting his saints with him, and reigning as King for one-thousand years over the earth. This is the hope of any Christian, no matter how you interpret this text. We long not only that we would be redeemed from our sin, but that the reign of God would be restored over the earth. We want God to be king. And Jesus secured an eternal kingdom by his death on the cross.

God first established his reign over the earth through his chosen leader, Adam (Gen 1:26-31). But, instead of obeying God and furthering God’s reign, he disobeyed and sinned against God (Gen 3:1-15). Because of this, Adam and all humanity plummeted into sin, and became enslaved to sin and Satan. Instead of being under the reign of God, all humanity fell into the dominion of Satan (2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:1-3)

God then began to establish a new kingdom through the nation of Israel as the means by which He would reign over the earth once again (Gen 12-17); but because of their sin, their kingdom, like Adam, was trampled by pagan nations and left desolate (Lk 13:35). The Prophets, however, looked to a time when someone else would come and restore the kingdom that both Adam and Israel lost (Ezek 36, Jer 31-32, Is 2).

This is Jesus, who came to restore the reign of God over the earth, and to regain an eternal kingdom that would thwart and crush Satan’s (Gen 3:15, Rom 16:20).

The question of the three eschatological positions brings up the question: when and how will Jesus finally and fully establish this kingdom, and what will it look like?

Again, they all center around this millennium, or the thousand year reign of Christ, found in Revelation 20. Let’s look at a brief summary of how each position sees this text, and sees how and when Jesus will return to accomplish this kingdom.

1) Premillenialism

The first position is called pre-millennialism, and simply means, before (pre) the thousand year reign. This position says that Christ will return in history before the kingdom is established. He will return into history, and establish this kingdom on this earth for 1,000 years. During this thousand year reign, Christ will bind any and all activity of Satan, and will reign over the nations as the final Adam and King of Israel. After this 1,000 year reign is finished, Satan will be unbound to attempt one final attack against God and his reign, and be destroyed. Christ will then remove sin and death from the earth, and enter into the eternal state with his saints.

Involved in this position is the thought that the kingdom must be established on this present earth, and not in the eternal state. Also involved in this mindset is the thought that the kingdom, while having spiritual ramifications, also has earthly and national purposes. Christ will reign over a redeemed Israel (Ezek 36), and will restore what Adam lost through his disobedience (1 Cor 15).

2) Amillennialism

The amillennial position means, no (“a” means no in latin) millennium. This term is less than helpful. The proponents of this position believe in a kingdom, but believe that the kingdom is spiritual in nature rather than material as in the premillennial position. They interpret Revelation 20 less literally, and understand Christ’s return and this “binding” of Satan in light of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Because Christ dealt with sin and death on the cross, Satan is bound in his ability to condemn people, because they can now be securely saved in Jesus. Satan’s activity has been hindered.

In amillennialism, the thought is that Christ’s purpose was not to restore Israel’s earthly kingdom, but rather to set up a new and superior spiritual kingdom. And all those who believe in Jesus have already entered into the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:18). So, in a way, we are in the kingdom now. Yet the kingdom will be fully consummated when Jesus returns and enters into the eternal state.

Unlike premillennialism, amillennialism denies an earthly reign in this present world, and instead sees the kingdom as heavenly and spiritual, being consummated when we are in heaven with Jesus.

3) Postmillennialism

This position is much like premillennialism in that it expects an earthly kingdom in this present age, in which the saints are victorious with Jesus. There is however, a large difference. Jesus returns after he, through the activity of the church, establishes a world-wide time of peace and prosperity.

This position believes that, since the church is the body of Christ, and an extension of his very person, Christ will establish his kingdom through the evangelistic efforts of the church (Mt 13). Christ himself illustrates the church like leaven spreading through a loaf of bread in Matthew 13–so, through the activity of the Christ’s body, the entire world will slowly be Christianized and experience a thousand-year period of peace and prosperity. After this time is accomplished, then Christ will return and usher in the new heavens and new earth.

What do I believe?

I am a premillennialist. I appreciate the other positions, but I believe that the premillennial position presents a holistic view of the purpose and nature of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has both spiritual and earthly ramifications. There are great truths found in each of these position. I can appreciate the amillennial stress toward the spiritual realm of the kingdom. Texts like Colossians 1:18 do tell us that we experience the reign of Christ even now. But amillennialism falls short in looking at the earthly, and even political realm of the kingdom of God. Also, I can appreciate the positive view of postmillennialism that envisions the church’s efforts as victorious and meaningful. And certainly, when we share the gospel, we should rest assured that God is not unable to accomplish what he promised he will. However, in the ultimate scheme of history, I see the Bible presenting a grim and hard future for the church before Christ returns.

With that said, what are some of the main reasons I am premillennial? While I could write a multitude of reasons why I am premillennial, I will give a brief five reasons.

(1) The first reason is because the passage in Revelation 20 says plainly that when Christ comes back, he will reign for a thousand years on this earth with his saints, and only after this thousand years, he will establish the new heavens and earth. The new heavens and new earth, while being the final culmination of and finish to all of God’s purposes, does not seem to constitute the kingdom in Revelation 20. The kingdom seems to be rooted in Christ’s victorious reign over this present earth.

(2) A second reason that I am premillennial is because of the Prophetic books. When read literally, I believe it is hard to take any other position. There are clear prophetic texts that point to a time when Christ will reign on this present earth: Isaiah 24-25 speaks of a time when Jesus returns and sets up a kingdom in Israel, and after this kingdom, he destroys sin and death. Zechariah 13-14 talks about a time when Jesus is reigning over the nations, and that if the nations refuse to worship him, he will curse them. This clearly implies that there are unbelievers present during this reign. What this tells me is that the eternal state is not identical to Christ’s kingdom!

(3) This brings us to the third conclusion, that the amillennial position and postmillennial position must reinterpret very clear prophetic texts that speak about an earthly, political kingdom. The amillennial position reinterprets these texts to mean spiritual truths about the church. However, if we are to take scripture seriously, I can’t do that. I do want to affirm that we can and do experience the reign of Christ now as believers. But Christ’s reign will not be full until he fulfills clear biblical prophecy. Also, there are clear texts that negate postmillennialism. While I do agree that the church is the body of Christ, I don’t think the world will get better until Jesus himself comes back.

(4) A fourth theological proof for premillenialism is the prophetic promises of the restoration of Israel’s kingdom. The prophets look forward to a time when a Messiah King will reinstitute and reestablish the present kingdom that Israel lost. In the prophets’ minds, the kingdom of God is not merely a heavenly etherial one, but a restored, redeemed and fulfilled version of what Israel experienced in the Promise Land. Ezekiel 36 talks about the restoration of Israel to their land during a time when God would save them and give them a new heart, that they might experience the kingdom as they never could have. Romans 11 talks about the return of Jesus centering around the salvation and reconstitution of the capitol of Israel. Zechariah 12 talks the return of Christ being centered around the punishment, salvation, and restoration of Israel as well.

The Bible seems to communicate that God is still not done with the nation and capitol of Israel, and that although Israel may have failed to establish God’s kingdom, Jesus will restore them and establish the kingdom for them and through them. This means that part of the nature and goal of the kingdom of God is for the Messiah to reign over the earth in and through the present earthly Jerusalem, through a restored and redeemed national Israel.

(5) A fifth reason I believe in premillenialism is because Jesus is the last Adam (1 Cor 15). What this means is that Jesus not only came to save Israel, but also to redeem all humanity and clean up the mess that Adam created. This means that Jesus must return on this present earth to clean up and restore humanity to its original purpose. Where Adam failed to have dominion and rule as God’s King, Jesus will succeed. He will reign for a thousand years on this sin-stained earth, cleaning up and restoring what Adam lost through his sin. And during this time, the prophets say that men will live for hundreds of years (Is 65:20), that there will be world-wide peace among the nations (Is 2:1-4), and that even animals will have peace and prosperity (Is 11:6). This will be an unprecedented time, not during the eternal state, in which the world will experience universal peace. Jesus needs to come to the same arena that Adam destroyed in order to accomplish this.

In my view then, the millennium is a special time period when Jesus will reign as the final King over the earth, and only after this will we enter into eternity. It is a time when all the lose ends of Adam, Israel, prophecy, and the like will be tied together. And God will be glorified through Jesus’ reign.

I hope that this post helps clarify what each position is, and why I believe premillenialism is correct. As I said in my last post, I hope that whichever position you take, you make it central to the gospel. I believe premillennialism ultimately because I see Jesus being glorified and fulfilling his actions on the cross through it.

Which position do you believe?

Why Understanding Eschatology is Important

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Whenever I talk to people about theology, there seems to be two reactions to the subject of eschatology (end times), more specifically about when and how Jesus will return. The first reaction is one of indifference; these people see no practical relevance to eschatology. A common response I hear is: “how does eschatology really inform how I live now?” While I disagree with such indifference, I can nontheless understand the thought behind the statement. They want to focus on the now of the Christian life, which is important. While I want to focus on the now, we must also have a mind for the not yet, to which the Bible seems to give a lot of attention.

The other reaction I commonly get is from those who fixate and glorify eschatology. They love to series’ like Left Behind et al. They fixate (and some become obsessed) on the reality of the antichrist, who he might be, the mark of the beast, the timing of the rapture (at least if you hold to a pre-tribulational rapture), and things like this . And while I can appreciate being specific and detailed in one’s view of eschatology, being fixated on one thing will leave you spiritual unbalanced. Christians need to be holistic in their approach to theology, and while this includes eschatology, this does not mean we only study eschatology.

With that said, I think that the first group is who I talk to most. And this is what prompted me to write this two-part post, because eschatology is important (obviously, it doesn’t have central importance, as I said earlier).

This first post will be concerned with the relevance of eschatology, while the second will cover the different eschatological positions, the one I hold, and why I hold it.

With that said, why is the study of theology important? What is the relevance of this topic in theology?

(1) First, eschatology is important because of the weight of biblical writing that is given to this subject:

Much of the Bible is eschatological (or, concerned with future and end-time events). Most of the New Testament epistles address it to some degree, and even Jesus himself gave much of his teaching to it (Mk 13, Mt 24, Lk 19). As a Christian, I want to be biblical; because of this, I must give myself to the study of eschatology. It is simply not enough to be what some call a panmillennialist, thinking that eventually it will all “pan out”. The reason is because the Bible gives us details about what will happen in history in the future. Shouldn’t we do well to pay attention to the Bible’s focus on eschatology? Shouldn’t we study the Bible for what it says? Of course. And if the Bible covers eschatology, we should study it.

(2) Second, our eschatology affects the way we live right now:

You may disagree with this. You may think that eschatology only informs our future–logically, this is simply untrue; and scripturally, this is absolutely untrue. If I told you that a package was going to arrive at your door step at 5pm today, and that you needed to be there to receive it, does this information not inform how you should live now? This information means that you need to plan (presently) as to how to get to your house by 5pm. If you have something planned at 5pm, you would need to cancel it. If you were away and didn’t have transportation, you’d need to get a ride. What happens in the future affects the way we live presently.

What does the Bible say about how the future affects our present, though?

Paul tells the Thessalonians in 1 Thesselonians 5 that,

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Apparently, for Paul, the future coming of Jesus Christ should cause us to be aware, and act as children of light. Paul tells the Thessalonians that Jesus’ coming will be a frightening surprise for the ungodly, but for those who are awake, being holy as God is holy, the day will be one of hope and salvation. And, as Paul says, we are to encourage one another and build one another up in hope of Christ’s coming. Eschatology is intensely practical for Paul, is it not?

in 1 John 3, the beloved disciple says that,

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Wow. Intensely practical. John simply says that Jesus will return one day–and, when he does return, he will transform us into his own image. John then says that those who have this hope purify themselves, and ready themselves for the Lord’s appearance. He then spends the rest of chapter 3 talking about sin, and that those who sin don’t understand why Christ came, and why he will come again.

Again, I want to stress that those who believe that eschatology has no present affect on our lives must deal with these types of passages. And there are several others that I could examine (Titus 2:11-15, Mark 13:32-37, Rom 11:11-36).

(3) Lastly, when eschatology is done rightly, it is fixated on Jesus and the cross:

All eschatology, whatever position it may be, is fixated on Jesus’ past, present, and future work on the cross. The gospel is not just an event that happened 2,000 years ago–it is an explosive act that happened in the past, is at work in all believers now, and will be completed when Jesus returns. The gospel, by its very nature, is eschatological.

Paul says in Romans 8:30 that, “those whom [God] predestined he also called,and those whom called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified“. While the gospel is a seed that is blossoming and producing fruit in our lives now, it will flower when Christ comes back and glorifies his people. So, when we study eschatology, we are truly studying the final fruit of Christ’s work on the cross.

I want to be gospel-centered, and so I must give myself to the study of eschatology, right? This means that eschatology is relevant, biblical, and concerned with the gospel.

I hope this helps you get a small grasp of the importance of eschatology. In my second post, I will overview the 3 common eschatological positions, and argue for the position I take, and why.

How God Overthrew the Demonic Powers

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“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:8-11 ESV)

God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation, and in the gospel of Christ, is to glorify himself. In the gospel we see a God who is not afraid to stoop low, even to die, that he might bring many to himself–and it is in that that we see glory. It is glory for the God who created all things, and who deserves all praise and honor from his creation, to respond to our sin and rebellion by giving up his right to honor and praise and dying in our place (Phil 2:5-11). This is a God who gives up all things to gain sinners to himself. He is a God who brings himself low that he might bring us up.

And it is through this action of great humiliation and death that God not only glorifies himself, but also shows his great wisdom and strategic victory over the demonic powers. Paul says in Ephesians 3:11-12 that through this great death of Jesus, God made known his wisdom to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. When Paul speaks of rulers and authorities here, he is speaking of demonic powers (Eph 6:12). In other words, through our salvation, God has made known his ultimate and wise strategy in overthrowing the powers of evil.

But how did his act in the cross overthrow the powers of evil? Think of it: While Satan has spent all of history trying to exalt himself over every power and ruler, God spent 33 years humbling himself. And while Satan schemed to destroy God’s people and exalt himself, God’s plan all along was to destroy himself that he might exalt his people. And so when Satan saw the Son of God broken on a tree, he made no attempt to stop it, because he thought in his own delusion that Jesus’ death was a sign of defeat and loss. But God the Son hung on that tree, knowing that death was the very way to saving a group of undeserving sinners. God, in his great and wise mind, made an intricate plan to trick Satan into thinking that he had won. Yet, 3 days later, Christ rose to new life, saving a multitude to himself. And it is in this that we find God making known to the demonic powers his wisdom–that by dying, not through self-exaltation, he has won. And this is how God overthrew the demonic powers.