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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
Christiaan T. asks (January 3, 2006):
Since Calvin was amillennial (using different terminology I guess) and since I'm amillennial, and since I learn a lot from Calvin, and since Calvin never wrote a commentary for the Book of Revelation I'm wondering what would come closest to reading Calvin's take on the Book of Revelation?

Kim Riddlebarger's Answer:
I would caution that we not try and put Calvin in any of the modern eschatological categories. As Richard Muller points out, Calvin’s eschatology is essentially pastoral and non-speculative [Richard Muller, The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of the Federal Tradition (New York: Oxford University press, 2000), 171]. Calvin is very difficult to pin down on a number of these points because he wrote before many of our modern categories were clearly defined.

Take for example, the millennial question, “A” “Pre” or “Post.” As Berkhof admits, amillennialism may be the historical position of the church since the days of the apostles, but the term itself was not used until early in the twentieth century (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 708). If we were to ask Calvin about his millennial views he would probably say millennarianism in any form is the view of fanatics. Calvin would have known only two options, non-millennarianism or chiliasm. Since amillennarians are technically postmillennial (Christ returns after the thousand years of Revelation 20), Calvin, I think would simply affirm he was a non-millennarian and argue something like an optimistic amillennial view, especially given his confidence in the spread of the gospel.

What can we say about Calvin’s eschatology?

1). He saw the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the key point in history (cf. Calvin’s commentaries on John 12:31 and Genesis 17:7).

2). Since he believed that God’s decree lies at the foundation of human history, therefore he held to a linear view of history and a final judgment.

3). Based on his comments on John 5:25 and Isaiah 26:19, he would have likely held that the first resurrection (cf. Revelation 20:4-5) was the conversion of the believer.

4). In his comments on Matthew 24:27, Calvin believes Christ’s coming as lightening is a reference to the spread of the gospel, which means that this prophecy is already fulfilled, and which in turn guarantees the second coming. Christ’s coming brings the fulfilled kingdom–and herein lies Calvin’s objection to the chiliasts (millennarians), who do not see this kingdom as come until after an earthly millennium has transpired after Christ’s return.

5). Along with the kingdom of God, comes the kingdom of Antichrist (cf. Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Calvin sees the continuing spread of the kingdom along with a protracted conflict upon the earth with the kingdom of Antichrist. One clear manifestation is found in the papacy, but can also be seen in antichristian forces such as Islam. In an important passage from the Institutes, Calvin writes,

However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them. Rather, we are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine, Daniel (Daniel 9:27) and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:4) foretold that Antichrist would sit in the Temple of God. With us, it is the Roman pontiff we make the leader and standard bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. The fact that his seat is placed in the Temple of God signifies that his reign was not to be such as to wipe out either the name of Christ or of the church (Institutes IV.ii.12).

This means Calvin was not postmillennial--in the sense of modern postmillennarians who believe that the earth will be effectively Christianized. Calvin’s confidence was in the gospel, not the transformation of culture.

6). Calvin wisely warns us not “to worry more than the Lord over details of time” (Commentary on Matthew 24:29, 36).
Christiaan T asks (January 3):
I mean a commentary not necessarily from the 16th century, but not from the 20th or 21st either. Is Matthew Henry a candidate (i.e. did he basically write what Calvin sort of would have written, minus Calvin's unique abilities and inspiration of course)? Some other Revelation commentary from the 18th or 17th or 16th century that is not as well known? Thoughts? Recommendations?

Kim Riddlebarger's Answer:
Most Reformation era commentaries are still not available in English (such as the commentary on Revelation by Heidelberg theologian Francis Junius–whose notes on Revelation were included in some editions of the Geneva Bible). I am told that one of the academic publishers (I forget which) is working on a biblical commentary drawn from the Reformers along the lines of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture published by IVP. This will be a real blessing.

Unlike Calvin, the Puritans were very speculative about eschatology, especially setting dates and interpreting Revelation in light of the English Civil War (see, for example, Christopher Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).
Andrew Alvarez asks (January 18):
I'm interested in your view on Matthew 24.  I find it a stretch to suggest that Jesus is switching back and forth from discussing the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.  However, some of the language seems to indicate he is speaking of the end.  Is he speaking of both events or is he speaking only of one?
Kim Riddlebarger's reply:
I have written on this matter in my book A Case for Amillennialism.  Here is a section which deals with your question (taken from pages 168-173)
In verse 15 of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus answers the disciple’s original question about the destruction of the temple, “when will these things happen?”  When will the temple be destroyed?  Jesus now speaks of a period of great tribulation unsurpassed throughout the history of Israel.  Dispensational writers argue that this passage must be interpreted in light of Daniel 9:27, which is assigned to a future seven-year tribulation period.  If true, Jesus is here speaking of some distant future event yet to come.  According to John Walvoord, “Christ was not talking here about fulfillment in the first century, but prophecy to be related to His actual second coming to the earth in the future.” 
But there are good reasons to think that Jesus is speaking about the events of A.D. 70.  Recall that the disciples’ questions are prompted by Jesus’ comments about Israel’s coming desolation and the destruction of the temple.  That this is Jesus’ answer to the disciple’s question about the destruction of the temple is clear from the parallel passage in Luke 21:20, where Luke writes “so when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you know that its desolation is near.”  Roman military action associated with the destruction of the city and the desolation of the temple are clearly linked.  Add to this the fact that Jesus switches subjects from the preaching of the gospel to all the nations to the frightening prophecy of an abomination which will render the temple “desolate.”  As D. A. Carson points out, the details of what follows are too limited “geographically and culturally” to extend this beyond A.D. 70.  It is very clear, therefore, that Jesus is describing what lies just ahead for Israel, desolation, and for the temple, its destruction.  And what he has to say is not good news.
In verse 15, Jesus now evokes a theme drawn directly from Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, which speaks of an idolatrous image which will be set up on the altar of the temple, at the time of the destruction of the city.  It is this abominable image which thereby renders the temple “desolate.” The abomination of desolation is a Greek transposition of a Hebrew word and conveys an idea of something being detestable to God.  It is frequently used in reference to pagan gods and the articles used in connection with the worship of them. As Cranfield points out,
The significance of the Hebrew participle is that the abominable thing causes the temple to be deserted, the pious avoiding the temple on its account.  Daniel 12:11 appears to be fulfilled in part when Antiochus Ephiphanes set up a heathen altar in the temple in 168 BC.  Jesus' use of the phrase implies that for Him the meaning of the prophecy was not exhausted by the events of Maccabean times; it still had a future reference.  The temple of God must yet suffer a fearful profanation by which its whole glory will perish.
Says Jesus, “so when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel,” not only is the desolation of the temple associated with the messianic prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 in view, but so is Israel’s not too distant past, when in 163 BC, Antiochus Ephiphanes profaned the temple during the Maccabean wars by erecting a pagan statue in the Holy of Holies.  Every Jew knew this story.  They also knew what such an abomination entailed:  the temple would be rendered “unclean.”  This is the image that Jesus evokes to characterize what will happen to the temple yet again, only this time so as to make the profanation of the temple by Antiochus pale by comparison.
When Jesus evokes images from the prophecies from Daniel 9, 11 and 12, in effect, he now claims to be the true interpreter of Daniel’s mysterious vision, and that the prophecies of Daniel about an abomination extend into the future, and were not fulfilled by the events of 163 BC.  When you see this abomination standing in the temple rendering it unclean, Jesus warns his disciples “let the reader understand.”  This is, no doubt a reference back to chapter 8 of Daniel’s prophecy, in which Daniel was struggling to understand the meaning of the vision about the time of the end. Therefore, by uttering these words, “let the reader understand,” Jesus is saying that he will explain the mysteries which Daniel struggled to explain, but was never able to fully comprehend.  This also means that the desolation of the temple by Antiochus is but a foreshadowing of another desolation yet to come which fulfills Daniel’s prophecy of the desolation of the temple, a desolation which will be far more horrific and which foreshadows the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem.  This was every pious Jew’s greatest fear–the temple would become desolate once again and the people of Israel would be hauled off into captivity, to suffer and die in a land not their own.  This is exactly what Jesus predicts.
But Jesus not only warns of a desecration of the temple, he warns of a great calamity to come upon the entire nation–a calamity which, by the way, comes to pass when the temple is desecrated.  When you see this happen, says Jesus in verse 16, “then,” that is, at the time you see the abomination in the temple, “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”  The moment the temple is profaned, it is time to go!  The apostolic church remembered these words of our Lord, and when it became clear that Rome was going to use great force to put down the ever-growing Jewish rebellion in the latter part of A. D. 66-67, those Christians remaining in Jerusalem did indeed begin to relocate to the hill country to the northeast in the Transjordan, the same place where the Jews hid safely during the Maccabean wars.
In fact, this crisis will come to pass so quickly and the consequences will be so great that Jesus warns his disciples, “let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.  Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.”  We hear the echo in these words of the warning given to Lot, when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed–don’t look back.  But there are cultural reasons for these words as well.  Jewish dwellings of the first century were often built so that they utilized the roof area as a kind of porch.  If the abomination occurs when you are on your roof relaxing, don’t go down into the house to pack.  Flee!  Don’t even stop to pick up clothing!  Things will be so dreadful that women who are pregnant, or who have small children, will have an especially difficult time.  The disciples are even exhorted to pray that this will not happen during bad weather–during the winter–or on the Sabbath, when the Sabbath observance of many Jewish Christians would make travel very difficult.
Charles Cranfield sees the intriguing possibility of a double fulfillment in these words, connecting this with Paul’s “man of lawlessness” in II Thessalonians 2:3-10, which he says, “strongly supports the identification of the `abomination of desolation’ with Anti-Christ.”  This means that neither an historical nor an exclusively eschatological explanation is satisfactory, and that we must allow for a double reference, for a mingling of historical and eschatological.  Therefore, the events associated with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, become a prophetic foreshadowing of an eschatological fulfillment at the end of the age, when in the midst of the great apostasy, the Antichrist (i.e., the beast and man of sin) demand worship for themselves, profaning God’s temple which is the church.  This is a possibility which awaits final confirmation when the end itself comes upon us.
One of the most problematic statements of Jesus is that which follows–“For then there will be great distress [literally, “great tribulation”], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”  The reason this is so problematic is that Jesus plainly speaks of the tribulation to come as so great that nothing has or will ever equal it, past or future.  This statement leads a number of commentators to argue that tribulation of this magnitude obviously hasn’t happened yet and cannot be referring to the events of A.D. 70.  But this ignores the fact that this prophetic warning given by Jesus is clearly referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, precisely because it is the very gravity of this tribulation yet to come, which explains why Jesus so forcefully warns people to flee from Jerusalem when they see the abomination in the temple! 
The reason people are to flee the city, is that the horrors to come upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70, are the worst that Jerusalem has ever, or will ever, experience.  It will be greater than the destruction of the temple in 583 BC.  It will be greater than the desolation of 163 BC at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes.  This will be national Israel’s darkest hour.  Desolation will fall upon the temple and the people, and as a result, they will be dispersed to the end of the earth.  Anyone who has ever read Josephus’ description of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, including the great famine and infant cannibalism, cannot help but be moved by the unspeakable horrors which the people endured while the Roman army crushed the revolt and then burned the temple to the ground.  In fact, once the temple burned–accidentally and against Titus’ orders–the soldiers were so eager to retrieve the gold which melted and which had flowed down into the cracks between the stones of which the temple was built, that they overturned the huge stones of the burned-out building to retrieve the gold.  As Jesus himself has just predicted, not one stone was left standing upon another.
Yet, Jesus goes on to speak not of final judgment, which comes at his coming at the end of the age, but of God’s grace in restraining the evil forces which fall upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Says Jesus in verse 22, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”  As God had mitigated and restrained his judgment on Sodom, because the presence of believers (i.e., the “righteous”), so too, even as Israel becomes desolate and as the temple is destroyed, God will shorten the days of judgment for the sake of his elect, a reference to Christians living in Jerusalem at the time of the city’s destruction, and whom God will deliver, even in the midst of the judgment to come upon Israel.  Israel will be cut off, the Jews dispersed.  God will preserve his people, even under the worst of circumstances.
And yet, the possibility of double fulfillment surfaces again.  Is this prophecy of horrible tribulation limited to the destruction of Jerusalem and the events of A.D. 70?  Indeed, it is possible that this prophecy has a double fulfillment, and that the events of A.D. 70 point beyond historical fulfillment to the period of great tribulation to be faced by God’s people during the great apostasy, which comes immediately before the end of the age.  As Cranfield notes,
The Divine judgments in history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgment, and the successive incarnations of anti-christ are foreshadowings of the last supreme concentration of the rebelliousness of the devil before the end.  So for us the fulfillment of these verses is past, present and future, and are rightly included under the heading “signs of the age” or “characteristics of the last times.”  The key to their understanding is the recognition that there is here a double reference.  The impending judgment on Jerusalem and the events connected with it are for Jesus as it were a transparent object in the foreground through which He foresees the last events before the end, which they indeed foreshadow.
If Cranfield is correct, Jesus is using “prophetic perspective,” by setting forth impending prophetic fulfillments as signs and pointers to a cataclysmic period of tribulation associated with the loosing of Satan at the end of the age (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 20:7-10).  If prophetic perspective is in view here–as we have seen, for example, pre-messianic Old Testament prophecies about Israel are fulfilled in the New Testament by a predominantly Gentile church–then the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Antichrist desecrating the temple presents us with the frightening image of an unprecedented period of tribulation and persecution of the people of God immediately before the return of the Lord, days which are likewise cut short by the coming of Jesus Christ for the sake of his elect.
In verse 23, Jesus now returns to the theme which he addressed earlier in verse 4, the inevitable appearance of false Christs and deceivers who will plague God’s people until the end of the age and final judgment.  By returning to this theme in connection with the judgment to come upon Israel, Jesus, in effect, makes the point that the destruction of the temple and the city is not the Parousia, nor the end of the age, for the presence of false Christs will be a threat to Christ’s church, even after the temple is destroyed.  Notes Jesus, “at that time,” that is, in the aftermath of the confusion generated by the great tribulation which will come upon Israel, “if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.”  The judgment upon Israel in A.D. 70 will be a breeding ground for messianic pretenders, and Christians are warned not to be taken in by them. And so Jesus warns his disciples one more time of the great danger posed by false Messiahs who suddenly pop up from out of nowhere, and who have the appearance of God’s blessing, but who do not, and who attempt to lead God’s people away from their Savior.  It is Jesus himself who warns us, “for false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.  See, I have told you ahead of time.  `So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.’”
There is much that needs to be said here.  Jesus once again warns his disciples of men who will come and perform amazing signs and wonders, all for the express purpose of leading God’s elect astray–those whom he will preserve from the great tribulation to come upon Israel.  But, Jesus says, it is not possible for God’s elect to be ultimately deceived, for God’s people will be able to discern such false teachers and deceivers.  If they claim to be “Christs,” the very manner of their coming, “out in the desert,” or in some private or secret place, betrays the fact that they are liars and we are commanded to have nothing whatsoever to do with them.
As Jesus puts it in verse 27, his coming will not be some secret or isolated event.  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”  This challenges the idea of a so-called secret Rapture since Christ’s coming is here depicted as a single, visible coming (not two comings with one being secret).  It also demonstrates the implausibility of preterism as well.  Jesus’ point is simply that his own Parousia at the end of the age “will happen in such a sudden and dramatic way [that it is] incapable of being missed.”  This point certainly mitigates the preterist notion that Jesus’ Parousia occurred in A.D. 70, and that his coming on the clouds was limited to God’s judgment upon Israel.  Indeed, the precise point Jesus is making is that we are not to listen to claims that Christ has already come, no matter how many miracles the claimants may perform, since his coming is not an isolated event, but will be witnessed by the entire world.  His coming is neither secret nor local.  Every eye will behold him.
The disciples have asked Jesus, what will be the sign of his coming.  And this is his answer.  “As lightening flashes from one end of the sky to another,” so Jesus says, shall his own coming be.  Our Lord’s coming is an unmistakable event, and like lightening flashing across the sky, impossible to miss.  In fact, in Luke’s account of this same event [Luke 17:37], we learn that the disciples asked Jesus at this point, “where will this happen?” obviously beginning to realize that our Lord’s coming cannot be limited to the destruction soon to come upon Jerusalem.  As in Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells them where his coming will take place: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”  The image of flesh-eating birds gorging upon the dead is an image drawn from the Old Testament, Habbakuk 1 and Job 39, and likely refers to the day of judgment yet to come at the end of the age when the Son of Man returns on the clouds with great glory and power.  By its very nature, the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, will not be something which can be missed.  This is why we must not listen to reports that the Christ has come in some distant corner, or in secret, or upon the clouds to judge Israel.  No one will miss it! 
Terry J asks (January 24):

One of the trickest passages to interpret from any eschatological viewpoint is Isaiah 65:17-25 - especially verse 20. What is your view on the meaning of this passage?

Wayne Rohde Asks (January 25):

I was glad to see Terry's question re: Isa. 65:17-25, particularly v. 20.

I remain convinced that the amil position easily does most justice to the whole counsel of God. It seems to me that there's nigh-well an avalanche of problems with the pre-mil (and post-mil) position(s), as well as a comparable avalanche of passages supportive of the amil (two age) scheme. Furthermore, regardless of the meaning of Isa. 65:20ff (and parallels), I see nothing in these verses that matches what's going on in Rev. 20:1-10. Just as the Isaiah passage says nothing about a millennium, so Rev. 20 says nothing about people bearing children, building houses, etc.

But the precise meaning of Isa. 65:20ff eludes me, in terms of what the best way of understanding Isaiah's point is. Is Isaiah conflating something in the present age with something in eternity? Or is he simply speaking non-literally so as to employ language in a way that accentuates the glorious conditions of the new heavens and earth? I anxiously await your response!


Kim Riddlebarger’s reply:

According to dispensationalists, Isaiah is referring to the millennial age on earth during the 1000 year reign of Christ after his return to earth (cf. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 487-490). For reasons we will soon explore this cannot be the case.

According to postmillennarians, this passage this passage refers to the latter day glory of the church on the earth. John Jefferson Davis writes, "the blessings of the church’s latter-day glory spoken of in Isaiah 11:6-9 are reiterated and expanded in Isaiah 65:17-25. The intensified period of spiritual blessing produces conditions in the world that are termed `new heavens and a new earth.’ (V. 17). This refers to the dramatic moral renovation of society rather than to the eternal state, since Isaiah speaks of a time when children are still being born (v. 20), when people are still building houses and planting vineyards (v. 21) and engaging in their earthly labors (v. 22). Paul uses similar language when he says that salvation in Christ is like a `new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17), or again in Gal. 6:15, `for neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.’ The conditions of health and temporal peace of which Isaiah speaks in 65:17-25 are not the essence of the gospel, but they are properly the consequences of the gospel when its impact is intensive and extensive in the world. The message of reconciliation with God also produces as its fruit reconciliation between man and man and even with the natural order itself. It should also be noted that 65:17-25 makes no reference to the Messiah’s physical presence on earth. In the latter days, God desires to create in Jerusalem (the church) a rejoicing (v. 18). But the realities of verses 18-25 refer neither exclusively to the eternal state nor to the time following the second advent, but rather to the messianic age when Christ still rules at the right hand of the Father in heaven." (Cf. John Jefferson Davis, The Victory of Christ’s Kingdom: An Introduction to Postmillennialism [Canon Press], 37-38).

For four important reasons, I think both the premil and postmil interpretations stumble badly.

First, as Motyer points out, Isaiah 65:1-66:24 is a chiasm, in terms of its structure. This simply means that the logic of the passage flows from the opening verse (Isaiah 65:1–A1) and the final verses (66:18-21-A2)–both of which deal with those who have not heard nor sought the Lord–toward the middle of the chiasm, i.e. A1 (65:1), B1 (vv. 2-7), C1 (vv. 8-10), D1 (vv.11-12) E (vv. 13-25), D2 (66:1-4), C2 (66:5-14), B2 (66:15-17), A2 (18-21). In this case, Isaiah 65:13-25-E is the middle of the chiasm, and is therefore the central theme of the entire prophecy and speaks of the joy of the Lord’s servants in the new creation. This means that the central truth (or high point) of this entire prophecy is found in the middle of the chiasm, not the end (vv. 66:22-24), which speaks of Jerusalem as the center of the world. (See J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary [IVP], 522-523).

The point is this. The key part of the whole passage is the section in question (vv. 17-25) which deals with the new creation with its Zion. Steps A1-D1 and A2-D2 must be fulfilled before the hoped-for reality (E) comes to pass. Given the structure of the prophecy as a whole, the climax of the passage is the eternal state (the new heavens and earth), not a half-way redeemed earth in which people experience life-extension, only to die later on.

Second, verses 17-20 of Isaiah 65 are composed of two poems. One is a poem of the new creation (vv. 17-18b), the other is a poem of the city and its people (vv. 18c-20). As Motyer points out, "throughout this passage Isaiah uses aspects of present life to create impressions of the life that is yet to come. It will be a life totally provided for (13), totally happy (19cd), totally secure (22-23) and totally at peace (24-25). Things we have no real capacity to understand can be expressed only through things we know and experience. So it is that in the present order of things death cuts off life before it has begun or before it has fully matured. But it will not be so then" (Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 530). In other words, metaphors are used of things neither we nor Isaiah can fully understand. The poetic structure surely points in this direction.

Third, as Meredith Kline points out, the language here reflects covenantal blessings now magnified in light of new heavens and earth. These blessings take us well beyond the natural order, but can only be understood in light of the natural order (Kline, Kingdom Prologue,152-153).

Fourth, is Isaiah telling us that as a result of the spread of the gospel ("moral renovation" in Jefferson’s terms), people will live longer, only to die? Where does the gospel promise long life? It promises eternal life! In fact, isn’t the whole point of prophecy clearly stated in verse 17. "I will create new heavens and a new earth?" This is a time subsequent to Revelation 20:1-10, which describes the binding of Satan and the reign of the saints in heaven after suffering upon the earth, only to end in a great apostasy before the final judgment. Both pre and post millennarians must assign this prophecy to the same period of time as Revelation 20. But given the chiastic structure and use of metaphor, isn’t it far better to see Isaiah 65:17-25 as describing the same time frame as Revelation 21, which is clearly describing the eternal state? I certainly think so.




Greg Smith asks (January 27, 2006):
My eschatological question concerns Luke 9:27. The standard interpretation of this points to the transfiguration. I find that difficult to believe since the parallel passage in Matthew 16:27-28 places this at the time of the return of Christ in judgement. This seems to fit best with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. I know the preterists love this verse for that reason but I can swallow their eschatology either. What is your viewpoint on these verses?

Kim Riddlebarger's Answer:

In Luke’s Gospel, the context for the saying, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God," is the cost of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. The same is true in the gospel parallels–Mark (8:34-9:1 and Matthew 16:24-28). In this saying, Jesus states that some (not all) of Jesus’ disciples would die before the kingdom of God comes (or as we read in Matthew 16:28, “his kingdom”). The point is that this group (the some) will see something (the kingdom coming in power) before they die. I’m not sure how much more we want to read into this.

While it is not incidental that this saying occurs immediately before the transfiguration, it cannot be fulfilled by the transfiguration, since Jesus speaks of the likelihood that some (but not all) of those to whom he is speaking would die before his words come pass. The transfiguration does not fit with this. That being said, the transfiguration is one of the first glimpses of what it means for the kingdom to come in power as Jesus appears in glory.

There can be no doubt then that Jesus is speaking of things yet to come, i.e., the resurrection and Pentecost, things which amount to his own vindication–i.e. as his own suffering will give way to his vindication, so too will the suffering of all those who follow him. Cf. I. Howard Marshall, Commentary on Luke: New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1983), 377-379.

As Carson points out, it is vital that we understand that the kingdom comes in stages–D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in Expositors Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 252. Thus the solution to the question raised by preterists may be a simple as the fact that the transfiguration is the first of a number of events which occur in the lifetime of the twelve which reveal the power of the kingdom and God’s judgment (in the form of covenant curses) upon disobedient Israel. This would include the cosmic signs which accompanied our Lord’s death (including the temple veil being torn from top to bottom), the resurrection, the ascension, and then Pentecost, along with the rapid growth of the church and the gospel spreading among the Gentiles (cf. Carson, Matthew, 382).

While the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 is surely an indication that a time of desolation has come upon Israel and is a manifestation of God’s glory and judgment, this event points ahead to the final judgment at the end of the age, just as Jesus follows his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, with cosmic signs which announce that just as it was in the days of Noah, judgment will come upon the whole world (Matthew 24:28-44).

Ronnie asks (February 7):

How would you distinguish between Christ being King over the church and Christ being King over the entire world? It seems most Postmil doesn't distinguish between His kingship, but Amil does.

Student asks (February 14):

Does Amillennialism (biblical eschatology) contradict "transformationalism" (say, a Kuyperian view of Christian cultural activity)? If one holds to Amillennialism and to the "spirituality of the church," is there yet a place for a view of Christian cultural engagement? Does the non-"holy" character of nonecclessial life necessitate that there can't be a distinct approach to cultural activity that is consciously informed by ones basic religious commitment? And if not, why? and what then is our view of culture? And if so, how is that connected to eschatology?


Kim Riddlebarger's answer:

Since these are related questions, let me answer them together.

In order to answer the first matter, "Christ’s kingship over the church versus his kingship over the entire world," Reformed Christians look to Christ’s three-fold office of prophet, priest and king. All of three of these offices were fulfilled by Christ during his messianic ministry, but once that messianic ministry was established, Christ’s exercise of these offices extends on into the present age through Christ’s session (that is, his ascension and rule from his exalted place at the right hand of the father).

As for the kingly office, Reformed Christians have often distinguished Christ’s rule according to the kingdom of grace (regnum gratiae) in which Christ rules his church, governs it, protects it, and blesses its missionary and evangelistic efforts, and his rule over the nations according to the kingdom of power (regnum potentiae). In the latter, Christ rules the world as providential Lord over all creation directing all things to the ends for which he has appointed them. In the former, the focus falls squarely upon the church and its mission (preaching the word, administering the sacraments, and exercising pastoral care and discipline over its members), while the latter refers to Christ’s providential rule over culture, politics and economics (see; Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Baker, 1985) s. v. "regnum gratiae," and Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1941, 406-412).

This differentiation in Christ’s kingly rule is the basis for the doctrine of the two kingdoms, in which both kingdoms must be kept distinct, while at the same time we must affirm the importance and the necessity of a Christian’s simultaneous involvement in both.

It could be said that amillenarians have tended to emphasize the former, while postmillennarians emphasize the latter. Indeed, the "optimistic v. pessimistic" rhetoric has often been used here, with Postmil’s claiming that Amil’s are too pessimistic by emphasizing the kingdom of grace, while amil’s have often accused postmils of denying the distinction between the two kingdoms altogether. Let me just say that as an amillennial Christian I am very optimistic about the kingdom of God (the regnum gratiae), and very confident that God’s providence will direct the city of man to its ultimate goal (the regnum potentiae). I do agree with Vos, however, that Jesus Christ will return to save the world and bring about the regnum gloriae (the kingdom of glory), and disagree with B. B. Warfield (as much as it pains me to do so) that Jesus Christ will return to a "saved earth."

As for the related question asked by "student," "does Amillennialism (biblical eschatology) contradict `transformationalism’ (say, a Kuyperian view of Christian cultural activity)?" the answer is "not necessarily." If we keep the two kingdoms distinct, it is very possible (and indeed biblical) to see the regnum potentiae as vital to the purposes of God, and a biblically mandated sphere of Christian involvement.

When "student" asks, "does the non-`holy’ character of nonecclessial life necessitate that there can't be a distinct approach to cultural activity that is consciously informed by ones basic religious commitment?" the answer is "no." While the two kingdoms must be kept distinct (the kingdom of grace is not the kingdom of power, just as the church is in the world, but not of the world), God calls the Christian to be citizens of both kingdoms. Since there is a cultural mandate throughout the opening chapters of Genesis, and as part of the creation covenant (of works) the law is written upon our hearts, and given the fact that Christ will redeem all of creation (Romans 8:18-25; 2 Peter 3), we simply cannot deny our dual citizenship in the name of the regnum gratiae. But our citizenship in the regnum gratiae, must inform everything we do in the city of man. We are Christian citizens of whatever culture into which we have been placed.

One last thing to remember is that because human sin is so pervasive, the city of man (which has become the temple humans have built to themselves) is not transformed into the city of God over time. Rather, Bablyon the Great is ultimately destroyed by those who built it and is replaced by a new Jerusalem, which even now is coming down out of heaven.


Jason asks (February 11, 2006):

What would be your interpretation of Daniel 12:12...concerning the 1,335 days, and how does this correspond with an amillennial eschatology?

Kim Riddlebarger's reply:

I would refer you to the very fine commentary by E. J. Young (Daniel, Banner of Truth).  Young (following Keil) argues that v. 12 is a divine commentary of sorts on v. 11 (pp. 263-264). According to Young, V. 11 mentions 1290 days of persecution and is probably a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes and his persecution of the Jews.  Daniel's use of "days" here is significant, since "times" has been used earlier.  The idea is that this persecution is of limited duration ("days").  Young also believes that this could by typological of the final persecution of God's people (under the final Antichrist) at the end of the age.  The point is that when the divinely appointed time of persecution has passed (the 1335 days), the promised blessing will come.


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