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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Psalm 8 in the New Testament

by Michael J. Vlach

Written by David, Psalm 8 extols the majesty of the Lord and reaffirms that man is expected to rule over God’s creation.

The first and last verse of the psalm both declare the greatness of God—“Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1, 9). So God’s glory is at the forefront. But this psalm also declares the exalted position mankind has in God’s purposes concerning the earth. Psalm 8:4-8 states:

What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Psalm 8 draws upon the truth of Genesis 1:26-28 that God created man to “rule” and “subdue” the world. In fact Psalm 8 functions much like a commentary on Genesis 1:26-28. Even in a fallen world man’s right to rule over creation has not been revoked, even though man in his sinful state is not able to fulfill it as he should (see Genesis 3).

Psalm 8 in the New Testament

Matthew 21:16

Psalm 8 is explicitly quoted four times in the New Testament—Matthew 21:16; Hebrews 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:27; and Ephesians 1:22. Thus, to understand the Bible’s storyline, accurately comprehending Psalm 8 and how the New Testament writers use this psalm are important.

The first reference to Psalm 8 occurs in Matthew 21:16. After Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem days before His death, the Pharisees were upset that some children in the temple were proclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matt. 21:15). Verse 16 then says:

and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” 

Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 to draw upon the principle that God will use the words of babies to speak truth and confound those who think they are wise. With Matthew 21 young children speak wisely against the skepticism of the religious leaders. So the use of Psalm 8 in Matthew 21:16 is contextual since Matthew 21:16 reaffirms a principle evident in Psalm 8:2.

Hebrews 2:5-8

The three other quotations of Psalm 8 in the New Testament focus upon Psalm 8:6.

We start with Hebrews 2 since this chapter involves the most significant quotation of Psalm 8. The writer of Hebrews quotes three verses of Psalm 8 (vv. 4-6), and offers commentary on when the conditions of Hebrews 8 will be fulfilled. Hebrews 2:5-8 reads:

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,
What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
You have made him for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

This Hebrews’ passage is consistent with the message of Psalm 8, namely that man possesses an exalted position that involves ruling over the creation. Yet the writer of Hebrews also offers inspired commentary concerning when Psalm 8 will be fulfilled. He makes clear that man’s rule over the world will occur in the future. It is not happening now. This is evident by the words “world to come” (Heb. 2:5), and by the fact that at the end of verse 8 he says, “We do not yet see all things subjected to him.” Even though man still possesses the right to rule creation, we do not yet see the successful rule of man over it. Man’s successful rule over creation awaits the future.

Hebrews 2:9 then brings up Jesus who suffered and is now exalted:

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

Man’s successful reign over the earth cannot occur while he is estranged from God. But Jesus, the ultimate representative of mankind, suffered and “taste[d] death for everyone” so that the successful reign of man over the earth can occur. This shows that the cross is related to the coming kingdom. Without the cross there would be no kingdom.

In sum, the message of Hebrews 2:5-8 and its quotation of Psalm 8:4-6 is that mankind is still destined to rule the earth but this has not happened yet. But it will occur in the “world to come.” This fulfillment is tied to Jesus who tasted death for everyone so that man can one day fulfill his mandate to rule the earth successfully. The following two verses below show further how this relates to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:27

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Paul explained God’s three-stage resurrection program and how this relates to the kingdom of God. First, there is Jesus’ resurrection. Second there will be a resurrection of believers with Jesus’ second coming. Then, third, there will be a resurrection associated with “the end” which comes after Jesus’ has reigned and defeated all His enemies (see Rev. 20:5). In verses 27-28 Paul focuses on the issue of “subjection.” He quotes Psalm 8:6:

For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

Paul points out that Psalm 8:6 teaches that God “put all things in subjection” to man. The only exception to this “subjection” is God the Father. The Father is not subject to the Son but the Son is to the Father. And when the Son has ruled successfully He will hand His kingdom over to the Father “so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24, 28).

But there is an interesting development in verses 27-28. Whereas Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2:5-8 focus mostly on mankind’s right to rule, Paul ties Psalm 8:6 specifically to Jesus. So why does Paul take a passage about mankind in general and say it will be fulfilled with the individual person of Jesus? Did Paul misinterpret Psalm 8?

No. Paul is not using Psalm 8 in a non-contextual manner. The key here is understanding the biblical concept of “corporate headship” or “corporate representation” in which a single representative can act on behalf of the many. Back in Genesis 3:15 when the first man sinned, God said there would be a battle between the seed of the woman (righteous mankind) and the seed of the evil power behind the serpent (unrighteous mankind). Yet from the seed of the woman would come a “He” who would reverse the curse and defeat the power behind the serpent (Satan) one day. So Genesis 3:15 involves both mankind in general and a coming single deliverer from mankind. This deliverer is Jesus, the Last Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:45).

Since Jesus is the sinless and perfect representative who is able to restore mankind, Paul views Jesus as the one who will fulfill the Psalm 8 (and Genesis 1:26-28) expectation of a successful rule of man from and over the earth. Yet this does not leave out mankind. Other verses indicate that saved people in Jesus will also participate in Jesus’ rule upon the earth. For example, Revelation 5:10 states: “You have made them [believers in Jesus] to be a kingdom and they will reign upon the earth.” Revelation 2:26-27 and 3:21 also teach this idea of believers sharing in Jesus’ coming kingdom reign on the earth.

So does the fulfillment of Psalm 8 apply to mankind in general or Jesus? The answer is both. Jesus as the Last Adam and federal head of mankind will fulfill Psalm 8 and Genesis 1:26-28 and share His reign with those in union with Him.

Ephesians 1:22

In Ephesians 1:19 Paul says Christians have the power of God working in their lives, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. He then said Jesus is now at the right hand of God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (1:21). Then in verse 22, he says, “And He [God] put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.” This draws upon Psalm 8:6.

Paul, with Ephesians 1:22, links Psalm 8:6 to Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate man who has been granted all authority at the right hand of the Father and will one day exercise this authority over the world (see Rev. 19:15; Matt. 19:28; 25:31). So like Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 2:5-9, Jesus is linked with the fulfillment of the Psalm 8 expectation, even though the fulfillment of Psalm 8 awaits the future.

Summary

Psalm 8 is quoted four times in the New Testament showing that its message is important for understanding the Bible’s storyline. All uses of Psalm 8 in the New Testament are contextual and consistent with the meaning of this psalm. Jesus in Matthew 21:16 draws upon the Psalm 8:2 principle that God will use babies to speak the truth and confound the wise. The other three focus on Psalm 8:6. Hebrews 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:27; and Ephesians 1:22 quote Psalm 8:6 contextually to affirm that mankind is destined for a successful reign upon the earth. Hebrews 2:5-8 declares that Psalm 8 has not been fulfilled yet, but it will be in “the world to come.” Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22 connects Psalm 8 with Jesus and in doing so reveals that the fulfillment of the Psalm 8 expectation will occur because of Jesus. Because of sin and the fall, man cannot fulfill the Psalm 8 expectation on his own. But mankind’s rule over creation will occur because of the ultimate man, the Last Adam—Jesus.


(Michael Vlach is Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary and is Editor of The Master’s Seminary Journal. For more on Psalm 8 and the kingdom of God see Michael’s new book, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God.)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

4 Eschatological Truths from Matthew 19:28

by Michael Vlach

One verse that is often overlooked but carries great theological significance, particularly for eschatology, is Matthew 19:28:

And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The context of Jesus’ words here is His encounter with the Rich Young Ruler (19:16-26) and Peter’s question concerning what rewards the apostles would have for following Jesus (19:27). The Rich Young Ruler loved his possessions more than he desired Jesus so he would not part with his wealth. But the disciples were willing to give up everything for Jesus. So Peter asked what reward there would be for himself and the apostles who did forsake all to follow Him (Matt. 19:27). Jesus reveals great rewards including relationships and dwelling places (19:28-30). But Jesus’ answer in 19:28 also reveals four key truths concerning events to come. It is these we highlight:

First, there is a coming renewal of planet earth. This is made clear by Jesus’ use of the term “regeneration,” which is the Greek word, palingenesia. This term refers to “re-creation” or “renewal, or literally “genesis again.” In this context it refers to the recreation or renewal of the earth and parallels the glorified creation that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:18-23. It is also closely related to the “restoration of all things” that Peter refers to in Acts 3:21. Thus, Jesus sees a restored planet earth in the future in connection with the restoration of national Israel. Commenting on this term J. I. Packer states, “it denotes the eschatological ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21) under the Messiah for which Israel was waiting” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 925). The future involves a real tangible earth, not a wispy existence on a cloud. This truth refutes any Platonic elevation of the spiritual over the physical. The physical earth matters in God’s plans and His kingdom includes it.

Second, the Davidic throne of Jesus is future. With Luke 1:32-33, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would one day sit upon the throne of David. With Matthew 19:28, Jesus explicitly links His assumption of the throne of David with the future renewal of creation—“in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.” Since the “regeneration” of the earth is future, we can know that Jesus’ assumption of the Davidic throne is future. Matthew 25:31 supports this when Jesus links His Davidic throne reign with the second coming: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”

Third, the nation Israel will be restored. Jesus also mentions the “twelve tribes of Israel” which refers to the literal twelve tribes of Israel. On several occasions, the Old Testament prophets predicted a restored Israel with a unification of the twelve tribes (see Ezekiel 36-37). The mention of the “twelve tribes of Israel” in Matthew 19:28 shows that Jesus expects a future restoration of the nation Israel with the twelve tribes present. There is no reason here to spiritualize the twelve tribes here especially since every other reference to the “twelve tribes” of Israel in the New Testament refers to literal Israel (see Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; James 1:1; Rev. 7:4-8; 21:12). Plus all references to “Israel” in the New Testament refer to ethnic/national Israel. Thus, Matthew 19:28 is New Testament evidence for a restored and unified Israel.

Fourth, the apostles will rule over a restored national Israel. For their willingness to forsake all and follow Jesus the apostles will “sit[ting] upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Revelation 19:15 reveals that when Jesus returns to earth He will rule the nations of the earth. With Matthew 19:28 we also see that Jesus’ apostles will share His coming reign by judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This is a literal rule over the literal tribes of Israel when the kingdom comes. So not only will Israel be united and restored, the nation will be ruled over by the twelve apostles.

Jesus’ words in Matt. 19:28 show incredible blessings to come with Jesus’ return. The planet earth will be restored, Jesus will reign as King, Israel will be restored and united, and the apostles will have ruling functions over Israel. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Significance of the Five Quotations of Isaiah 6:9-10 in the New Testament

by Michael Vlach

All quotations of the Old Testament (OT) in the New Testament (NT) are significant. Yet when a particular OT passage is cited multiple times, we do well to study why the NT persons and writers viewed this text as so important. Such is the case with Isaiah 6:9-10, a text quoted in the NT five times in connection with national Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

The context of Isaiah 6:9-10 is the prophet Isaiah’s commission to disobedient Israel around 740 B.C. Isaiah’s message to Israel would not result in the nation’s repentance but would result in their being further hardened:

He [the Lord] said, “Go, and tell this people:
“Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.”
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted once each by the four gospel writers—Matt. 13:14-15; Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40—and once by Paul in Acts 28:26-27.

All quotations of Isaiah 6:9-10 in the NT occur in the context of national Israel’s unbelief in Jesus as Messiah and the kingdom of God He presented as “near” (Matt. 4:17). This passage is applied to Israel as a corporate entity even though some individual Jews were believing in Jesus.

In Matthew 13:14-15 Jesus applied Isaiah 6:9-10 to unbelieving Israel:

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,                           
You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

The context of this statement is important. According to Matthew 3:2; 4:17; and 10:5-7 the nearness of the kingdom was being presented to Israel. Matthew 10:5-7 reveals that the kingdom message at this time was only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The cities of Israel were the focus here. Yet according to Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus rebuked the cities of Israel for their unbelief: “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent” (Matt. 11:20).

Then with Matthew 12 the religious leaders of Israel expressed their rejection of Jesus as Messiah when they attributed His miracles to Satan and thus committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:25-32). A national rejection of Jesus was occurring.

So when Jesus quotes Isaiah 6 in Matthew 13 and says “the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled,” He connects Isaiah 6 with the unbelief of Israel during His earthly ministry. One might ask, “How can a prophecy of Isaiah centuries earlier be fulfilled during Jesus’ day?” The answer is that Israel is a corporate national entity with trans-generational implications. Israel’s unbelief in Isaiah’s day can be heightened or fulfilled by the unbelief of Israel during the time of Jesus’ first coming. Both in Isaiah’s day and in Jesus’ day, national Israel evidenced a hardened unbelief.

Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 6:9-10 in connection with national Israel’s unbelief and Jesus’ giving of parables is found also in Mark and Luke:

Mark 4:11-12:
And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”

Luke 8:9-10:
His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

With John 12 the apostle John also quoted Isaiah 6:10 with some commentary:

For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue (John 12:39-42).

Three factors are noteworthy here. First, Jesus directed the words of Isaiah 6 to Israel’s unbelief.

Second, John says that Isaiah understood his words in connection with Jesus—“These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.” This reveals that Isaiah had a specific messianic hope.

And third, we are told that “many” of “the rulers” of Israel “believed in Him [Jesus].” This shows that Isaiah’s words apply primarily to Israel as a corporate entity and not just to individual Jews. Even though many rulers in Israel believed in Jesus the leadership as a whole did not, even to the point of intimidating others Jewish leaders who believed. Thus, Israel’s national rejection of Jesus, even in spite of the belief of “many. . . rulers” of Israel, is cause for the application of Isaiah 6:10 to the corporate entity of Israel in Jesus’ day.

Acts 28:17-29
This last chapter of Acts describes an important encounter between Paul and “leading men of the Jews” in Rome (Acts 28:17). This gathering of Jewish leaders offers a formality to this encounter and indicates more than just a happenstance gathering of individual Jews.

Even though these Jewish leaders do not believe in Jesus Paul calls them “Brethren,” and he identifies with them by referring to “our people” and “our fathers” (28:17). He also told them, “I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel” (28:20). Thus there is a heavy Israelite context to this encounter and Paul takes the Jewish element of this encounter very seriously. There certainly is no idea that the church has replaced the traditional concept of “Israel.”

Then we are told that these Jewish leaders came to Paul at his lodging “in large numbers” (28:23). Paul then testified about the kingdom of God and tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from the Law and the Prophets (i.e. Hebrew scriptures) from morning until evening.

The result of this all-day encounter is described in verse 24: “Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.” Thus, some Jewish leaders were persuaded by Paul and believed, yet others did not believe. We are not told which of these two groups was larger but there seems to be a significant number who believed. This should not be overlooked. Some Jewish leaders believed in Jesus the Messiah.

Certainly, Paul must have been pleased with these Jewish believers but his strong words indicated that he was hoping for more. Verse 25 indicates that the two groups could not agree and this hindered a unified belief in Jesus as Messiah by Israel as a corporate entity. This led to a stinging rebuke of corporate Israel by using the words of Isaiah 6:9-10 in Acts 28:25-27:

And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying,
“Go to this people and say,
‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes;
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.”’

The disagreement between the believing and unbelieving Jews led Paul to quote Isaiah 6:9-10 with its message of judgment for unbelieving corporate Israel. But why would Paul do this when some of the Jewish leaders in Rome did believe in Jesus? Should this not be considered a successful encounter since “some” Jewish leaders had believed? Kinzer asks an appropriate question:

Why does Paul respond so negatively to what Christians today might consider a rather successful evangelistic encounter? His fierce reaction appears disproportionate to the mixed attitudes of his audience.

But for Paul this was not a successful encounter. While probably encouraged by the remnant of Jewish men who believed (Rom. 11:1-6), this meeting did not result in a corporate acceptance of Jesus as Messiah by the Jewish leadership. That was what Paul was seeking—belief in Jesus as Messiah by Israel as represented by its leadership.

Concerning the encounter in Acts 28 Kinzer notes, “This scene makes little sense if we view Paul’s audience as a collection of Jewish individuals and Paul’s aim in addressing them as the ‘salvation’ of as many of them as possible.”[1] Instead what Paul was after was a communal decision of belief in Jesus as the Messiah as Tannehill points out:

The presence of disagreement among the Jews is enough to show that Paul has not achieved what he sought. He was seeking a communal decision, a recognition by the Jewish community as a whole that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish hope. The presence of significant opposition shows that this is not going to happen.[2]

This encounter in Acts 28 parallels John 12 when Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 even though “many” of the Jewish leadership had believed. But in both John 12 and Acts 28 the leadership as a whole as representatives of national Israel did not believe. Thus, the condemnation of Isaiah 6:9-10 again applied.

Significance of Isaiah 6:9-10 in the New Testament
The five references to Isaiah 6:9-10 concern national Israel’s unbelief in Jesus the Messiah and a rejection of the kingdom of God. Even though some Israelites believed in Jesus and thus comprised the remnant of Israel (see Rom. 11:1-6), the lack of corporate belief by Israel brings a stinging rebuke in which both Jesus and Paul draw upon the words of Isaiah 6:9-10 for their current Jewish audiences. This situation will be reversed one day when national Israel believes in Jesus as Messiah as passages like Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:26 indicate.



[1] Mark S. Kinzer, “Zionism is Luke-Acts,” in The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel & the Land (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 160.
[2] Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts, vol. 2, The Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 347.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Revelation 19:15 and the Coming Reign of Jesus over the Nations

by Michael J. Vlach

I often have been drawn to Revelation 19:15. This verse comes in the middle of Revelation 19:11–21, a dramatic section describing Jesus’ second coming from heaven to earth. Concerning Jesus the verse reads:

From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

4 Messianic Passages and Revelation 19:15
Note that the wording of Revelation 19:15 is closely connected to four Old Testament [OT] messianic passages:

Isaiah 49:2a: “And He [God] has made My [Servant’s] mouth like a sharp sword.”

Isaiah 11:4b:  “And He [Messiah] will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”

Psalm 2:9a: “You [Messiah] shall break them with a rod of iron,”

Isaiah 63:2-3: “Why is Your [the Lord’s] apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? ‘I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment.’”

Putting it together, the connection of these OT verses to Revelation 19:15 can be seen with the following:

From His mouth comes a sharp sword (Isa. 49:2), so that with it He may strike down the nations (Isa. 11:4b); and He will rule them with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9); and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty (Isa. 63:2-3).

Yet even with this strong connection to four OT messianic passages, I do not think John is “quoting” the OT in Revelation 19:15. John is seeing a vision. He is writing down what he saw (see Rev. 1:11). As John writes what he saw this coincides with what the OT prophets earlier predicted since God inspired both the OT passages and John’s vision. It is no surprise that what Johns sees for the future is consistent with what the OT prophets wrote centuries earlier. John’s knowledge of the OT probably combined with what He saw, resulting in the inspired words of Revelation 19:15. Addressing how John could see real visions that coincided with OT wording, Beale and McDonough state, “Perhaps one of the reasons for the high degree of OT influence in Revelation is that John could think of no better way to describe some of his visions, which were difficult to explain, than with the language already used by the OT prophets to describe similar visions.” (“Revelation,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1087)

The Main Point
Revelation 19:15 describes a devastating show of force as Jesus comes from heaven to earth to defeat His enemies and rule the nations. This is a violent and dramatic event evidenced by the verbs “strike,” “rule,” and “tread,” and the words “the fierce wrath of God.” His first coming primarily involved Jesus’ role as Lamb and Suffering Servant (see Acts 3:18). But the second coming emphasizes Jesus’ role as the conquering Warrior-King and Judge. The Lamb is also the Lion from the Tribe of Judah (see Rev. 5:5-6).

A Future Rule
Revelation 19:15a indicates that Jesus will “strike down the nations.” The term patasso means to “strike” or “beat” and reveals a decisive defeat of God’s enemies. Since the nations of the earth are still in rebellion against God this statement awaits future fulfillment.

Then the words “He will rule them” reveal a coming rule of Jesus over the nations. The word poimaino means to “rule” or “shepherd.” Including its use in 19:15, the term is found eleven times in the New Testament. It is used most often in an authoritative sense such as in Revelation 2:27 and 12:5. A softer shepherding sense is found in Revelation 7:17 and 1 Peter 5:2. Psalm 2:9, which is alluded to in Revelation 19:15, predicted a strong coercive defeat and reign of the Messiah over the nations. The use of Psalm 2:9 in Revelation 2:26–27 and Revelation 12:5 with their wording of ruling with “a rod of iron” also points to an authoritative rule in Revelation 19:15.

The verb poimanei (“will rule”) in 19:15 is future active indicative and reveals that Jesus’ rule over the nations is future at the time of His second coming from heaven. Jesus is not coming to consummate an already kingdom reign. His second coming brings His rule over the nations. This truth is consistent with Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:28 and 25:31-32 where He stated that His Davidic throne reign awaits His second coming to earth.

 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).

The Matthew 25:31 reference is particularly significant since again we see that the second coming of Jesus arrives before the judgment of the nations. Some millennial positions have Jesus’ Davidic/mediatorial/millennial reign coming to a culmination with His second coming, but this is not accurate. The second coming brings Jesus’ rule over the nations.

Currently Jesus is rightly “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5), and with the events of Revelation 19 we see this truth actualized. The Second Coming ushers in the Davidic/mediatorial/millennial reign of Jesus; it does not end it. This reign is described in the ensuing passage of Revelation 20:1-6.

Revelation 19:15 shows that Jesus smites the nations and then rules over the nations. This scenario is described in Zechariah 14 where the returning Lord (Jesus) defeats the nations trying to destroy Jerusalem but then reigns over the nations on earth, including Egypt (see Zech. 14:2-3, 9, 16-19). To limit what Jesus is doing in Revelation 19:15 to merely destroying the nations with no subsequent reign does not do justice to Zechariah 14, Revelation 19:15, or the Bible’s storyline as a whole. Jesus defeats His enemies at His second coming and rules over the nations from this point onward. This scenario strongly supports the premillennial position which posits that Jesus’s second coming brings an earthly kingdom reign.

The Sharp Sword from Jesus’ Mouth
Some have questioned adopting a more literal understanding of the book of Revelation. One alleged absurdity of such a literal approach is the mention of a sharp sword coming from Jesus’ mouth—“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations” (19:15a). Some think that if you take Revelation literally you must believe that a literal sword comes out of Jesus’ mouth.

This type of argument, though, is silly. As mentioned earlier, this language was found in the messianic passages of Isaiah 49:2 and Isaiah 11:4 where the Messiah speaks with such authority and power that his mouth can be likened to a sword. Since a literal and grammatical-historical hermeneutic allows for metaphors, similes, and figures of speech there is no problem with understanding Revelation 19:15a (and 19:21) in a way similar to Isaiah 49:2 and Isaiah 11:4. The dramatic metaphor of a sword coming from Jesus’ mouth indicates the awesome authority and power of Jesus’ words and commands to defeat His enemies. A similar idea is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 which says Jesus will slay the man of lawlessness (i.e. Antichrist) with His words: “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” The mention of a sword coming from Jesus’ mouth in no way defeats a literal understanding of the book of Revelation.

Conclusion
Revelation 19:15 reveals that the second coming of Jesus brings a devastating defeat and rule over the nations. This event is future from our current standpoint in history and ushers in Jesus’ Davidic/millennial kingdom. The premillennial position that the second coming brings Jesus’ earthly kingdom rule over the nations is supported by Revelation 19:15.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My New Booklet on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament


I recently released a new ebook called, How Does the New Testament Use the Old Testament?: A Survey of theMajor Views. It is published by Theological Studies Press.

This 20,000-word booklet (about 70 pages) is a summary and critique of the seven major Christian views concerning how the New Testament uses and quotes the Old Testament. Each position is explained with extensive documentation. There are about 160 endnotes.

Also, questions and objections for each view are offered. There are also four test cases where I show how the various positions address hard cases of NT use of the OT, including Matthew 2:15’s use of Hosea 11:1 and Peter’s use of Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28.

This booklet does not solve the NT use of the OT problem and issue, but it does offer a unique summary of the major Christian approaches as a basis for further study of this issue. It also interacts with the writings of Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Greg K. Beale, Darrell L. Bock, Robert L. Thomas, Richard N. Longenecker, Peter Enns, Douglas Moo, J. I. Packer, S. Lewis Johnson Jr., and others.

The origin of this booklet was a paper I presented at an annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society a few years ago. The interest level in this topic of differing views of NT use of the OT was very evident at the conference. I normally have 10-15 people attend papers I do at ETS, but this presentation had to be close to 200 people with overflow out the doors. This made me think that there could be an audience for a booklet on this topic. I also have had several requests to make this research available.

The original paper was 7,500 words while this booklet has been expanded to 20,000 words. I also have a short section near the end of the book that highlights how this issue intersects with Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. This discussion might surprise you.

This booklet is for those interested in the NT use of the OT issue. It is slightly more technical than some of my other works but I hope this will be beneficial for those interested in this topic.

I hope to offer more information on the NT use of the OT issue in the future, so stay posted!



--Mike