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Thinking about the new Gnostic Origins article


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#1 Joel

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 01:15 AM

Hi Tim!

I just read the latest article on the Gnostic roots of Amillennialism and Dispensationalism:

http://www.oasischri...ostic_roots.pdf

Long read but rewarding. I do have a minor quibble however. The broad use of the term "dispensationalism" seems a touch problematic to me as in a broad sense Chiliasts are also dispensationalists in the sense that both hold that God has a plan which consists of a series of phases (or ages).Chilasm to my understanding is not that different from Progressive Dispensationalism with a Post-Trib eschatology. In fact you wrote a GREAT summary of Progressive Dispensationalism that unlike Blaising's work is actually understandable by lay persons.

Plus I would add that given current trends in Christian demographics that Dispensationalists of one stripe or another either already are or will soon be the majority of Protestant Christnans. This has to do with all of the fast growing Protestant groups being Dispensationalists (including the Assemblies of God which is the main source of Pentecostal growth) and the plummeting adherence in the mainline Protestant denominations (Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans et al).

Long story short, perhaps some more precision in the dispensationalism language may be in order? In fact, in my area we have dispensationalist churches that are starting to move away from heavenly destiny. A causative element seems to be a book titled "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn that has been making the rounds amongst Pastors. Alcorn has some sections that are a little odd but his thrust is similar to yours - the eternal destiny of believers is not "heaven" but rather right here in the restored creation. He even makes a similar case to yours in the corruption of Christianity by Platonic elements (in his book he calls it "christoplatonism").

#2 Tim

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 03:52 PM

Joel,

There is a lot of disagreement over what a "dispensationalist" actually is. You are correct that at one time I did defend "progressive dispensationalism" as being a form of dispensationalism. But, of course traditional "dispensationalists" strongly disagree, stating emphatically that "progressives" are not "dispensationalists" at all, because the crux of dispensationalism is the dichotomy between "Israel" and the "Church," with the promises given to "Israel" being completely unrelated to the "Church," with the "Church" being completely unknown in OT prophecy. True, even Irenaeus referred to a series of "dispensations," and this is indeed a biblical term. Yet, the technical terms "dispensationalism" and "dispensationalist" as used today go far beyond the fact that God's program can be divided into several periods. Virtually ALL Christians agree with that, so such a criterion is virtually meaningless if we referred to everyone who agreed with that one point a "dispensationalist." Even most amillennialists would be "dispensationalists."

The term "dispensationalist" only came about since the 1830s to describe Darbyism, which has as its inherent presupposition this dichotomy. I now think that it is somewhat deceptive and dishonest for us to use the term, since PDers do not define the term the way traditional dispensationalists do. Yes, it gives them cover in some "dispensationalist" seminaries and churches. But, I gave up a long time ago seeking cover. I believe we should call a spade a spade, and call Gnosticism Gnosticism, and let the chips fall where they may.

When I use the term, "dispensationalism" now I mean Darbyism, with its dichotomy between Israel and the Church. And that dichotomy is driven by imposing the "heavenly destiny" concept on to the NT Scriptures, while interpreting OT prophecy in a more grammatical - historical way. The heavenly destiny concept in dispensationalism is simply a carry over from amillennialism. Darby was an historicist - amillennialist before 1830. And in the prophecy conferences at Powerscourt House, Darby struggled for quite some time to reconcile the "literal" interpretation of the prophets and futurism (which he had recently been convinced of through Edward Irving's book) with his former historicist amillennial views (retaining the "heavenly destiny" concept). He decided to segregate God's people and God's program to solve his delemma. And this became known as "dispensationalism." IMO, any view that sees only one group of redeemed people, and an eternal destiny on earth in fulfillment of the prophets, is NOT "dispensationalism."

I realize that abandoning the term "PD" and putting "dispensationalism" in the cross-hairs along with amillennialism (because of their common "heavenly destiny" error) may make it more difficult for you and others who wish to continue to mingle within dispensationalist circles, and influence from within. Yet, from where I am standing, continuing to use the term "Progressive Dispensationalism" is not only deceptive, but also unnecessarily complicates my interaction with amillennialists. For example, as Chuck Doughty's comments in the debate clearly show, he does not even know how to distinguish between a "dispensationalist" and a "premillennialist." Imagine what calling myself a "progressive dispensationalist" would do in such a situation!

In case you havn't noticed, most of the material that has been added to AiR over the last couple of years (and the whole Heirs of the Promise website) has mainly targeted the amillennial point of view in general, and the "heavenly destiny" presupposition in particular. When it comes to the heavenly destiny error, I see no reason to differentiate between "dispensationalism" and "amillennialism" in confronting the ghost of Gnosticism in both systems. The source is the same, and the result is the same.

Tim

#3 Joel

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 11:55 PM

Hi Tim!

I do concur with much of your reply, although I am not sure how closely it matches to what I was requesting.

I was suggesting some more precision with the use of the term "dispensationalism". And in fact you did that in your reply when you specified Darbyism and later identified the specific elements you had in mind (Church-Israel dichotomy and heavenly destiny). Why needlessly antagonize people who in many places are already much closer to the truth than any Amillennialist simply because they do profess and mostly adhere to Grammatical-Historical interpretation?

Progressive Dispensationalists have already corrected the error of the excessive dichotomy of Church-Israel. And as I had mentioned I in my area am seeing Dispensationalist pastors and individuals moving away from heavenly destiny. I would contend they are actually more persuadable in these because they already profess adherence fo Grammatical-Historical so when shown that the consistent use of that "literal" method yields an eternal destiny in the restored creation and also shows a much less extreme dichotomy between Chruch and Israel they are more likely to accept it (or at least consider it seriously).

Related note: I had noticed the focus on Amillennial rebuttals on AiR and the other sites. And in the environment you are operating in (the militantly Amillennial Churches of Christ) it makes sense, especially because as you had noted before they profess the Restoration Movement credo but do not act it. And between Amillennialism and Dispensationalism it is Amillennialism that is the bigger error, as it is much further down the path to Gnosticism . Dispensationalism is an incomplete effort at walking back the Amillennial errors which did not go as far as it needed to because of Darby not being willing to fully discard his Church of England background.

#4 Micha6:8

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 11:19 AM

Along the lines of the same...The new article on Heavenly Hope Was very helpful. I have studied with you before where you spoke on this issue before in your Hebrews class. I questioned you before on 1 Cor 15 when I was having trouble with it. Today your explanation in this article has settled the issue in my heart. I now see why I was having trouble understanding it. It cleared some other things up for me from the debate as well. I will passing this article in hard copy to my local pastors hands.
Michael

#5 Joel

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 12:01 AM

After reading the two new AiR articles on the Gnostic connections to both Amillennialism and Dispensationalism I thought it might be good to revisit this topic.

The question would specifically be, in the case of both Amillennialism and Dispensationalism how would you say that Gnostic "creep-in" has affected the Gospel?

My theory on the Dispensationalism side is that the "heavenly destiny" falsehood led to Darby and his peers creating an unbiblically excessive distinction between Chruch and Israel to the point where large portions of the Gospels are set aside as "for Israel". Including, unfortunately, the Sermon on the Mount which is the single largest and most coherent treatise on Christian living.

#6 Tim

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 03:09 PM

Joel,

Part of the Gospel message is the hope of the believer. When speaking of the restoration of the creation and resurrection as our inheritance, Paul specifically said "we were saved in THIS hope." I realize that within dispensationalism, there are varying degrees in which Gnosticism has penetrated. At the one end, you have hyper-dispensationalists who claim that only Paul's epistles are for the church (just like Marcion the Gnostic), they deny that water baptism is for the Church, and deny that Christians will even be on earth during the millennium! At the other end, you have PDers, who acknowledge only one people of God, yet (to my knowledge), even PDers have not abandoned completely the "heavenly destiny" concept after the millennium.

Within amill, there is also a similar spectrum. Many amills (like Doughty) are heavily influenced by Gnosticism, seeing only a "heavenly destiny." Other amills actually believe in an eternal inheritance on earth, and deny the heavenly destiny concept. In my view, any system that holds to a "heavenly destiny" hope is at least partly influenced by Gnosticism. But, gnostic thinking also shows up in Calvinism and other areas of theology, including the nature of man, the nature of Jesus Christ, the nature of the atonement, etc.

Tim

#7 manuel

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 03:23 PM

hi, I'm new to this forum, and I don't know if this is the right place to post this, but I recently read this article about the gnostic origins of amillenialism and dispensationalism; and even though I am not a premillenialist and I don't agree with much of what is said in that article, I have always wondered when and how the idea of Heaven as the eternal destiny of man after death started, and it makes sense that gnostic influence and greek phylosophy had a lot to do with it. so, thanks for the article, it was an interesting reading.

#8 henrydmilligan

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 03:52 PM

So you are not pre-millenial, but you don't believe in heavenly destiny? Please elaborate. Unless i missunderstand you.

#9 manuel

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 05:33 PM

I am not pre-millennnial, I don't see Biblical support for pre-millennial doctrine, but the idea of Heaven being the final destination of redeemed people is not found in the Bible either. I hear people saying: "in heaven this...or in Heaven that.." and I try to find in my mind at least one instance when either the Lord or the Apostles used such expressions and I can't find any. The hope presented by Jesus and the apostles was the resurrection and the Kingdom of Heaven that is going to be established on the earth. Now some say, and i have used this expression in the past, that Heaven is simply the place where God dwells and, since He has promised this:

Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.


then it is not wrong to call it Heaven in this sense, but understanding that is going to take place on the renewed earth. I don't think it is strictly wrong to say that but that is not the Biblical usage of the term Heaven; as a matter of fact, in the passage it says that there was a voice "out of heaven", and in other places in Revelaton we are told that the New Jerusalem descends "from heaven", so the eternal destiny of the redeemed is not heaven properly, the way I see it. But most of the time when I read about Heaven and listen to people talking about it, there is that gnostic idea described in the article.

Is it as clear as mud? :D

#10 henrydmilligan

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 07:45 PM

Yes, the way heaven is thought of by the majority of professing American Christians is closer to the gnostic hope than the ancient Christian hope.

No disagreements there, i share your view. But i'm still curious about how that fits in other than in pre-milenialism? Please elaborate. I wouldn't classify you as an amilenialist because you clearly see the kingdom as primarily future.

What do you think Revelation 20 is talking about? It seems to me that John clearly sees two ressurections, one immediately after the tribulation, and another when "the thousand years are complete".

Also why were the early church fathers (Iraneus, Justin, Tertulian, Papias, Polycarp etc) all strongly premillenial if it wasn't a biblical doctrine?

I'm just curious.

#11 Joel

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 02:02 PM

Basically if one holds to the teaching of the future physical Kingdom of God on earth and that this Kingdom in its full sense is inaugurated with the Second Coming of Christ then one is Premillennial. And this is in fact the only biblical eschatology as both of these points are clearly presented in Scripture, and not just in Revelation 20.

#12 henrydmilligan

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 07:40 PM

The reason i cited Rev 20 is because it is the clearest teaching of the literal thousand year reign of Christ over the nations.

I presume Manuel, that you see an eternal kingdom of Christ on earth?

#13 manuel

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:58 AM

Thanks for your replies and your interest. I am an amillenialist in the sense that I see Reveleation 20:1-10 as describing the age of the NT church or the time between the first and the second coming instead of a future millenial kingdom of Christ on the earth. I am amillennialist also in the sense that I see the kingdom as a present reality that will have a future consummation when Christ returns (the already and the not yet). THe difference that I have with amillennialists, I think by what I read in the article and from what I have read and heard from others, is that I don't see an eternal HEAVENLY destiny for the Christian, but an earthly one and I walways wonder where do they get that idea from. When I talk to amillenialist people they usually tell me that I sound like a premillenialist; but premillenialists classify me as amillennialist. I used to be a premillennialist in the past but I abandoned it because I didn't see scriptural support for it (personal opinion).

However, I have read and listened to amillenialists authors and pastors, who believe in an eternal EARTHLY destiny (Hoekema, Hendriksen, Waldron, Storms, Riddlebarger, to mention just a few). so, i don't know if I can be classified within a specific group. I usually say that I believe in "eschatology made simple" (I know, I know, I'm implying that other systems are difficult or complicated....)

#14 henrydmilligan

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 06:09 AM

I personally as well as many others on this forum, also see the kingdom of God present in this age (although limited to the lives of those who are submited to him) with a future eternal earthly literal kingdom of Christ.

Unless I'm wrong the only major disagreement is about the time periods in the earthly kingdom.

I would still like to ask you though, if Rev 20 is talking about the current age,
1. How is the first ressurection already past? Paul seems to place that ressurection at the end of the age in I & II Thessalonians and first corinthians. Also I don't think anyone currently(except Christ of course) has a ressurected body.

2. How are we being kings and priests with Christ currently (It doesn't seem like the world is submiting to Christians to me.)



Feel free to challenge my view also.

I'm always willing to persuaded, if its from the scriptures.

Henry

#15 manuel

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 10:39 AM

Regarding question 1:
Paul places the resurrection at the end of the age, but this resurrection is the general bodily resurrection of both the wicked and the just:

Romans 2:6-7
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,


On the same day: the day of the wrath, the day when Christ will return, both the righteous and the unrighteous are going to be raised from the dead to be judged.

this is what I read in all the New Testament.


12 Thes 1: 6-10
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe.


In that day, when He will return to be glorified in his saints, those who troubled the Thessalonians will be punished with everlasting destruction. What passage in the New Testament does not present this same scenario? Jesus returns to the earth, judges the righteous and the unrighteous, and then the eternal kingdom of God is established on the earth. Why do I have to change that to fit Revelation 20? shouldn't Revelation 20 fit what is taught in the rest of the New Testament? It does when you see it from the right perspective. I ahve no time right now to elaborate fully on this but consider the following:


John 5:28-29
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Here the Lord speaks of an hour when there is going to be a general resurrection of both the saints and the wicked, this is the bodily resurrection that will take place at the end of the age when Christ returns; however right before this passage he says:

John 5:25
Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.


Now He is talking about a spiritual resurrection, that obviously takes place during the entire church age. Could it be that this is what John is referring to in Rev 20? Again, there are other considerations, but right now I don't have the time.

thanks again, I appreciate your interest.

#16 Ben

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 02:31 PM

Hey Manuel,
Before you submit to spiritualizing the first resurrection spoken of in Rev 20 as a resurrection that takes place in this supposed "church age" I recommend that you read Tim's acticle here on 1 or 2 resurrections. If you find places where you believe Tim's interpretation is in error I would be interested in hearing your reasons why.
Ben



http://www.oasischri...surrections.pdf
Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God.

#17 manuel

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:00 PM

Sure, Ben, I am going to read it, but I don't think that I am spiritualizing anything simply because I interpret the first resurrection as happening in this age. It's just another interpretation which I think fits better with the rest of the biblical teaching.

#18 Joel

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:02 PM

Hi Manuel!

I just looked at John, and I do not see your understanding there at all. John 5:25 is in no way speaking about a spiritual resurrection. The words used are simply "dead" and "live". The phrase "the hour is coming and now is" provides context to what Jesus means by dead and live. So does the action part - what will cause "those who hear" to live? What fits this?

I would say Jesus is speaking figuratively here. The "dead" are those he is speaking his message to who at present are "dead" in their sins. Those who hear are those who listen and heed the message, and thus "live" because they are no longer "dead" in their sins.

Going on to John 5:28:

I did a study on usage of the Greek word we see rendered as Resurrection. I will link it later as it is in this forum. Suffice it to say it NEVER references anything non-physical and also never speaks of anything other than the Resurrections that occur at/after the return of our Lord. Tim says a lot of this in his paper but I will do cliff notes:

a) The Greek word we see as "the hour" is partly mistranslated. The word "the" should not be there and "hour" is better translated as "time" (more or less). It is not a precise pinpointing in chronological terms here. An example of the Greek worrd used like this is 1 John 2:18 where the entire period of time from Christ's ascension to his return is called "hour".

B) Christ specifically identifies two separate resurrections. The Resurrection of Life and the Resurrection of Condemnation. So we have two resurrections here that are in no way required in the passage to occur simultaneously. Thus John harmonizes with Revelation 20.

Paul also speaks of two resurrections:

1 Cor. 15:22-26
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But
each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.


The italicized parts above are critical because they show that these are separate events. We see first Christ, then those who are his at his coming. That leaves those who are not his which occurs at "the end". Again Tim explains it more fully.

As to 2 Thess 1:6-10, it has nothing to do with the final judgement. It is saying that the persecution of believers will end when Christ returns, and that said return will include his taking vengeance with flaming fire on those persecutors and on the ungodly (lines up well with Revelation 19). The next part is simply stating what will ultimately happen to them, not the time when it will happen. So they get flamed then at the end of the Millennium are part of the resurrection of comdemnation. Again harmonizes perfectly with Revelation 20.

And Romans 2 is in context not trying to give any sort of prophetic timeline. Paul is simply warning judgmental people about storing up wrath against themselves and giving a high level description of the TYPES of judgment.

I could go on and on but the ONLY eschatological scenario that fits all of the Biblical data correctly is Historic Premillennialism. The moment you start spiritualizing either of Revelation 20's resurrections you start down a slope that ends up in a bad place.

Here is my study on the word Resurrection:

http://www.bereancou...?showtopic=1100

#19 manuel

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 04:20 AM

I read the article about the resurrections; the first problem that I have with it is basically the main problem that I see in premilennial eschatology: I must assume a certain position as a dogma, and then, based on those presuppositions, interpret everything that the Bible tells me so it fits those presuppositions. I think it is better to let the BIble speak for itself. Of course, I'm not saying that the author is intentionally trying to be dogmatic, but the purity of his intentions does not cancel out the effect of what is being said. This is what is stated at the article's introduction:

Amillennialists deny that “the first resurrection” is a resurrection of the body. Aside from the obvious literal interpretation of this passage, there are other obstacles to their attempt at allegorizing “the first resurrection.”


I say this is statement is dogmatic and attempts to arbitrarily impose a certain opinion without even trying to explain it; I say this because of the use of the term "allegorizing". Why am I allegorizing? simply because I don't agree with the premillenialist interpretation? That is not called allegorizing, it's called having a different opinion. Allow me to illustrate what I mean with an example. Let's say that somebody is reading the pilgrim's progress and he is at the part where Christian is being held at the doubting castle by the giant despair, now this man comments out loud that the castle is not a real castle, that it means something else; and that the giant is not a real giant, those elements have a symbolic meaning. Can I say that this man is "allegorizing" this portion of the Pilgrim's progress because he is not interpreting what he is reading literally? Of course not! To say something like that would be ridiculous. When John Bunyan wrote those words he did not intend them to be interpreted literally, therefore, to say that they are not literal is not allegorizing.

What's my point with this illustration? very simple: you can only allegorize something that is meant to be interpreted literally. So when somebody says that I am allegorizing the first resurrection what he is sayin is this: That John meant that statement to be interpreted literally and that is the only interpretation possible. Really? Why is it so obvious that it is literal? Did somebody speak to the apostle John? Is Revelation a book that is so obviously literal? Is the passage so obviously literal? We are talking about a book that is loaded with symbols everywhere: there are dragons, seven-headed monsters, a lion-lamb that is marrying a 1,500 cubic miles city... just to mention a few. When the Lord Jesus appeared to John at the beginning of the book, the first thing that he does is to tell him the meaning of the vision that he had. He didn't even say: "hey John, don't think that those lampstands are literal, they are not, they are symbolic" He wasn't even expecting that John was going to interpret the vision literally, he just told him the meaning. Can we really say that a vision of souls coming to life in the middle of a book like this one MUST necessarily mean a physical resurrection and if I don't interpret it like this I am allegorizing? I don't think so.

I think that "allegorizing" in this context is a dogmatic and pejorative term; that may not be the intention, I don't think it is, but that is the effect nonetheless. Does the so called literal interpretation of this particular portion of the book fit with the rest of the Bible? only if I accept the premillennial presuppositions a priori; if I don't then it simply doesn't. It seems like circular reasoning to me, I must accept premillenialism to prove that premillenialism is true.

I will continue later, thanks for reading my rant, I hope I didn't make anybody mad.

#20 manuel

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 08:08 AM

The second problem that I have with the article is the very existence of the article. When I read the Bible and I go through the different eschatological passages in the New Testament, they all paint the same scenario: Christ is coming at the end of the age, there will be a judgment, in this judgment the unjust will be condemned eternally and the just will enter the kingdom of Heaven and live and reign with Christ forever on the earth. No passage of the New Testament presents a different scenario. No passage of the New Testament even suggest what premillenialists teach. These are clear passages written in the gospels and the epistles, the majority of those passages are written in a plain language and the purpose of them is to instruct in a plain language about the coming events and the hope of the Christian. I don't think there is anything obscure in them.

Now I come to Revelation 20, after 19 chapters of symbols and figurative language, and I must assume that certain portions are strictly literal (no reason is given); I must assume that what is described there happens after Christ's return (the text doesn't say that); I must assume that the kingdom described takes place on the earth (the text doesn't say that); I must assume that this text is the fulfillment of a number of Old Testament prophecies concerning the earthly kingdom of the Lord Jesus (the text doesn't say that and there is nothing in the text that even suggest a link to any Old Testament Prophecy about the kingdom); I must overlook the fact that an interpretation based on those assumptions does not fit what is taught elsewhere in the New Testament; and I must overlook all the theological problems that arise from such interpretation.

Then, I have to take all those assumptions and go back to all those instructive passages written in plain language, to make them fit the interpretation from a book loaded with symbols and figures and that is based on assumptions that are not in the text. Now, this becomes the key to interpret everything else. Everything must fit this interpretation and now I need a 9-page document to tell me why certain passages on the NT don't mean what the plainly say.

I prefer to go the other way around, I prefer to accept and believe all the other NT passages at face value, and when I come to the symbolic book proceed with caution: "Is this literal or symbolic and why? How does it fit with everything taught elsewhere? When is this taking place, does it resemble a future or a present reality, etc" with all those considerations I think that my approach (let's call it "modified ammillennial") is more conservative and more literal when the whole is considered.

have to go now, but I'll try to come back later today and go through some of the arguments presented in the article.




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