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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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Understanding Luke 21:22 and the Fulfillment of All Things

because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”

by Michael J. Vlach

With this post I comment on Jesus’ statement in Luke 21:22: “because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” My focus is on what Jesus meant when He declared the fulfillment of all things that are written.

This verse comes in the context of Luke 21:20-24 where Jesus predicted the coming A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the “times of the Gentiles” (21:24) in which Jerusalem will continue to be under Gentile power. With verses 20-21 Jesus says:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city.”

Then comes the statement that “these are days of vengeance so that all things which are written will be fulfilled” (21:22).

Jesus’ words here directly relate to the judgment of Israel involving Jerusalem and its temple because of Israel’s rejection of Jesus the Messiah. Earlier with Luke 19:41-44 Jesus predicted the coming destruction of Jerusalem because Israel missed the “time of your visitation.” In short, Israel would face “vengeance” for rejecting Jesus the Messiah. With Matthew 24:29-31 and Luke 21:27-28 Jesus will discuss a future rescue of Israel in connection with His second coming to earth at the end of the future Tribulation Period, but in Luke 21:20-24 the focus is on “wrath” for rejecting their Messiah.

Thus, the “fulfillment of all things that were written” in Luke 21:22 is related specifically to judgement for Israel, a judgment that occurred in A.D. 70. The view of some (usually full preterists) that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 goes way beyond the context here which is focused on “days of vengeance” for Israel in the first century.

But which Bible passages predicted this vengeance so they can be fulfilled? Many rightly mention passages like Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and Leviticus 26:14-39 where God’s judgment of Israel for national disobedience was predicted. Yet I think Jesus also had a more specific text in mind. Daniel 9:26 explicitly foretold the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem in connection with the killing of the Messiah. The verse reads:

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

While there is much to unpack with this verse and the broader context of Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel 9:26 predicted two events after the sixty-ninth week of Daniel (7+62) but before the seventieth week of 9:27—the cutting off (i.e. killing) of the Messiah, and the destroying of Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel 9:27 will discuss a later desolation of the Jerusalem temple in connection with the seventieth week of Daniel, but 9:26 is an explicit prediction of the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.

So I think Daniel 9:26 was primary in Jesus’ mind when He declared, “so that all things which are written will be fulfilled,” in Luke 21:22. Another reason for holding this view is that in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse Jesus explicitly referenced Daniel 9:27 when He said, “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). This affirms that Daniel 9:24-27 was on Jesus’ mind in the Olivet Discourse.

While my focus here has been on the connection between Luke 21:22 and Daniel 9:26 I want to make another observation. Luke 21:22 shows that Jesus expected the details of Old Testament prophecies to be fulfilled literally even after His first coming to earth. There is much talk today that Old Testament promises to Israel have been fulfilled with Jesus in such a way that the details of these prophecies do not need to be literally fulfilled. While all should agree that Jesus brings the Old Testament to fulfillment (see Matt. 5:17-18), we should not hold that the Old Testament promises were absorbed into Jesus in such a way that nullifies a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. On many occasions Jesus expected literal fulfillment of future events beyond His first coming (Matt. 23:39; 24:15, 29-31). And Luke 21:22 is one text that shows Jesus expected the details of Old Testament prophecies to happen just as predicted. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Does Revelation 20:4 Teach an Intermediate State Reign of the Saints in Heaven?

by Michael J. Vlach

Some who hold to amillennialism believe Revelation 20:4 is describing an intermediate state reign of the saints in heaven. Sam Storms, who holds this view, has even claimed that such a perspective of Revelation 20:4 is “obvious” (Kingdom Come, 457) and can be shown “beyond reasonable doubt” (458). Since “obvious” and “beyond reasonable doubt” are strong claims and if true, strongly tilt the evidence to an amillennial perspective, I want to address this issue of Revelation 20:4.

Here I examine the position that Revelation 20:4 refers to an intermediate state reign of the saints from heaven. I will argue that it does not and that there is doubt about this view. In order to do this we must first quote this passage:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4).

This great verse, which comes after discussion of the return of Jesus (Rev. 19:11ff.) and the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3), describes souls, who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus, coming to life and reigning for a thousand years.

For some adherents of amillennialism this reign of the saints for a thousand years is occurring in heaven now between the two comings of Jesus. Thus, Revelation 20:4 describes a heavenly intermediate state reign of Jesus’ saints now. This scene does not await a future fulfillment in an earthly kingdom as posited by premillennialists because it is occurring in the present.

Sam Storms makes a robust case for this heavenly intermediate state reign position in his book, Kingdom Come, relying on similarities between Revelation 20:4 and what came earlier in Revelation 6:9-11. Revelation 6:9-11 states:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

Storms points out that both Revelation 6:9 and Revelation 20:4 have striking similarities that indicate they are describing the same event:

--“And I saw” is found in both passages.
--“the souls of those who had been slain/beheaded” is found in both passages.
--“because of the word of God” is found in both passages.
-- “because of the testimony” for Jesus is found in both passages.

As a result of studying these similarities Storms states: “That John is talking about the intermediate state in Revelation 20:4-6 seems obvious once the parallel with Revelation 6:9-11 is noted.” (Storms, Kingdom Come, 457). G. K. Beale, who also holds the intermediate state view, says, “The parallel with 6:9 suggests strongly that the scene here is also picturing deceased saints reigning in heaven, not on earth.” (G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, 436). Storms is so confident of his view that he can deem it “beyond reasonable doubt”: “That John is describing the same scene, namely, that of the blessedness of the intermediate state, seems beyond reasonable doubt” (458). As these quotes show there is high confidence by some that Revelation 20:4 is describing a heavenly intermediate state scene.

Evaluating the Intermediate State View

As I examine this intermediate state view I think there are three beliefs that must be true for this understanding to be accurate. I will mention these three although my intent is to focus mostly on the third belief which deals with the connection between Revelation 20:4 and Revelation 6:9-11.

First, this intermediate state view must separate the timing of the reign of the saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4 from Jesus’ coming reign mentioned in Revelation 19:11ff. Most adherents of the various millennial views acknowledge that Revelation 19:11ff. describes Jesus’ second coming to earth. Yet Revelation 19:15a says that when Jesus returns He will rule the nations with a rod of iron at His second coming—“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.” Yet according to the intermediate state view, the reign of the saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4 must be operating in this age. If Revelation 19:15 is describing a reign of Jesus at His return then it seems odd that Jesus’ saints would be reigning in this age before His return.

Second, this intermediate state view must understand ezesan, translated, “came to life” in 20:4, in a way that does not involve physical resurrection. Storms says, “In spite of having lost their physical lives, they are raised to life together with Christ in the intermediate state (as disembodied souls) where they rule and reign with the Lord for the duration of the present church age” (Storms, 466). Yet ezesan refers to physical resurrection in Revelation 20:5, something almost universally acknowledged. But for the intermediate state view to be correct, the reference to “came to life” in 20:4 must not be physical resurrection since it allegedly describes the saints in heaven before the return of Jesus and physical resurrection. So for this view to be right the same term must be used in two different way in Revelation 20:4-5.

Third, for the intermediate state view to be correct Revelation 20:4 must be describing not only the same people as Revelation 6:9-11 does, but it must also describe similar circumstances in heaven. Storms rightly points out that all Christian scholars, including premillennialists, agree that Revelation 6:9-11 describes a heavenly, intermediate state scene, but in order for the intermediate state view to be correct, Revelation 20:4 must also be describing a heavenly scene.

Time and space does not allow a full discussion of the first two points above, which I think are difficult for advocates of the intermediate state view to prove. One can read how various scholars defend this view, but I think it is difficult to separate Jesus’ coming reign over the nations as a result of His second coming, as described in Revelation 19:15, from the reign of His saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4. The Bible presents the reign of the Messiah and the reign of the saints as occurring at the same time (see Matt. 19:28). Also, it is very difficult to maintain that ezesan (“came to life”) is used in two different ways in the same context—first life in the intermediate state in 20:4 and then physical resurrection in 20:5. So even before we get to the third point, the intermediate state view is in trouble in my opinion, and certainly not obvious.

But again my main focus is on the claim that the similarities of Revelation 6:9-11 and 20:4 show beyond reasonable doubt that Revelation 20:4 is describing the intermediate state in heaven.

To start, I agree with Storms that the people described in 20:4 are the same people spoken of in 6:9-11. Revelation 6:9 and Revelation 20:4a describe the same group—those who gave their lives for Jesus. This is not disputed and to establish this proves nothing for the intermediate state view.

But I dispute the idea that the existence of the same people (martyrs) in both passages means that these people are having the same experience at the same time. We cannot just look at how Revelation 20:4a and Revelation 6:9 compare. These clearly show the same group of martyrs. But we must also look at how Revelation 20:4b and Revelation 6:10-11 compare to each other. When we do this we see that there are major differences in the circumstances described:

Revelation 6:10-11: The saints in heaven are crying out for justice upon the earth.
Revelation 20:4b: The saints are experiencing justice because of thrones and reigning.

Revelation 6:10-11: Saints rest until full number of martyrs is completed.
Revelation 20:4b: Saints come to life and reign.

Revelation 6:10-11: Time period involves resting for a little while
Revelation 20:4b: Time period involves reigning for a thousand years.

So while there are similarities between Revelation 6:9 and Revelation 20:4a, there also are significant differences. There is a difference between saints in heaven crying out for justice upon the earth (6:9-11) and a satisfying reign of the saints taking place (20:4). Commenting on Storms’ listing of similarities between Revelation 20:4 and Revelation 6:9, Waymeyer states, “But the problem with this argument is that similarities listed by Storms merely prove that both visions refer to the same group of individuals, not that both visions describe the same experience of those individuals.” (Waymeyer, Amillennialism and the Age to Come, 241). Waymeyer is right. We must give equal justice to the people described and the experiences of these people in the two passages.

The key to understanding how Revelation 20:4 and 6:9-11 relate to each other is not by stopping with Revelation 20:4a and Revelation 6:9. The student should also compare Revelation 20:4b with Revelation 6:10-11 to get the fuller picture. To focus only on the former is to commit the fallacy of appealing to selective evidence which involves looking at part of the evidence and not all of the relevant evidence. In response to Storms’ argument Waymeyer observes, “If Storms wants to demonstrate that Revelation 6:9-11 and 20:4 describe the same experience of these martyrs in the intermediate state, he must show clear parallels between Revelation 6:10-11 and 20:4b. But these are the very parts of the passages he ignores in his comparison” (Waymeyer, 241).

As I harmonize the two passages I think a reasonable interpretation is that there is a group of martyrs in heaven in 6:9-11 who are longing for justice upon the earth. They want to know when this will occur and they were told to a wait for a while until other Christians are killed. Then with Revelation 20:4 these martyrs find satisfaction as they reign upon the earth, in the same realm in which they were persecuted.

Revelation 6:9-11 describes a longing hope, while Revelation 20:4 describes this hope satisfied. So we have the same people in 6:9-11 and 20:4 but the circumstances change. The scene of Revelation 6:9-11 anticipates the coming scene of Revelation 20:4. The key to this transition is the return and reign of Jesus the Messiah (Rev. 19:11ff.). This causes the saints to go from waiting for justice to reigning in the realm of their persecution.

Is the Earth in View in Revelation 20:4?

Perhaps at this point some might object, “But the earth is not mentioned in Revelation 20:4.” But there are several strong reasons to connect “earth” to Revelation 20:4.

First, Revelation 5:10 already stated that the destiny of the saints will involve a reign upon the “earth”: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” The people who were purchased with Jesus’ blood (5:9) are destined for reigning on the earth. Revelation 20:4 is the fulfillment of this expectation.

Second, the hope of the martyrs in Revelation 6:10-11 was for vengeance upon the “earth.” This connects the martyrs with the earth. When the saints cry out for vengeance they are told to wait, not reign. Also, they are not told to forget the earth because they are already reigning. Instead, their plea for justice upon the earth is satisfied when they reign upon the earth with the reigning Messiah (Rev. 19:15; 20:4). Also, if the reign of the saints is not on earth, according to 20:4, then the hope for vengeance upon the earth goes unanswered. This is so because if the saints remain in heaven, their enemies on earth are still acting wickedly with no retribution. Remember that in Revelation 6:10-11 the hope of the saints was vengeance on earth. But if the saints are reigning from heaven with Jesus now this means their hope for vengeance on the earth goes unanswered. The saints in 6:10-11 do not see vengeance happening at that time.

Third, Revelation 19:11ff. describes the return of Jesus to earth to rule the nations of the earth (19:15). So an earthly reign is found just a few verses before Revelation 20:4. I understand amillennialists don’t believe the events of Revelation 20 chronologically follow the second coming of Jesus in Revelation 19, but the near context speaks of Jesus’ return to earth to reign over the nations. The close connection between Revelation 19:15 and 20:4 is significant. The argument that Revelation 20:4 has nothing to do with the earth when a few verses earlier Jesus is said to rule the nations is not a good one in my opinion.

Fourth, Revelation 20:8-9 reveals that when the thousand-year reign is over, the “nations” “in the four corners of the earth” come against “the beloved city,” [i.e. Jerusalem]. Again, “earth” is in the context of Revelation 20.

In sum, to say that since the word “earth” is not found in Revelation 20:4 there is no earthly reign in 20:4 does not make much sense.

Summary of the Two Positions

Below is a summary of the two positions regarding Revelation 6:9-11 and 20:4 discussed above side by side:

Amillennial Intermediate State View
Subjects: Martyrs in both passages
Location: Heaven in both passages
Timing: The period between Jesus’ two comings
Experience: Rest and Reigning in heaven

Premillennial View
Subjects: Martyrs in both passages
Location: Heaven in Revelation 6:9-11; earth in Revelation 20:4
Timing: The Tribulation Period shortly before Jesus’s second coming in Revelation 6:9-11; after Jesus’ second coming in Revelation 20:4
Experience: Rest and waiting for justice on the earth from heaven in Revelation 6:9-11; reigning on the earth after Jesus’ second coming in Revelation 20:4.

Conclusion

Part of the reason I did this post was because I thought the confidence level of some for the intermediate state view of Revelation 20:4 was too high. I do not think the intermediate state position of Revelation 20:4 is “obvious” or has been proven “beyond reasonable doubt.” The view that Revelation 20:4 is describing a future reign of the saints on the earth is more likely in my opinion. 


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Update on New Book on Dispensationalism


by Michael J. Vlach

I have finished a revision and update of my 2008 book, Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths.  The ebook version is now out and a hard copy version should soon follow, hopefully within a week.  [UPDATE: Paperback is now available too]. The book has the same framework as the original. I have added updates to each chapter and three new chapters—(1) “Continuity and Discontinuity in Dispensationalism”; (2) “Key Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology”; and (3) “Recommended Resources on Dispensationalism.”

There are about 35 pages of new content. The original hardcopy version was 73 pages, while the revision and update is 112 pages. Although an update, the book is considered a new book with a new cover and ISBN number.

While adding some new information and chapters, the book is similar to the original in that it is a quick-hitting book that can be read in a short period of time. The book purposely functions much like a “fast facts” or primer on Dispensationalism. It is not a long detailed discussion of all aspects of Dispensationalism or the seven dispensations of Dispensationalism. For more on that one should consult books by Charles Ryrie, Robert Saucy, and Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock. 

In a succinct manner I try to present what is at the heart of dispensational theology. I also point out myths about Dispensationalism.

If you have any questions about the book let me know. I appreciate your interest and input. The ebook version can be found here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Updates on Coming Books and Conferences

If you follow this blog you probably know that my book on the kingdom of God called, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God, came out in February. But I have also been working on more. Here is an update.

First, at the time of this writing (March 20) I am close to releasing a revised and updated version of Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths. The first edition came out in 2008 and was mostly the result of a Ph.D. paper I wrote on this topic in 2003. Obviously, after fourteen years this work was in need of updating. So in the next two weeks this book will be out in ebook form to be sold on Amazon. I am also working on a hard copy version but am not quite sure yet when this will be available. This could be out in the next month, so not too long. The original hard copy version was 73 pages, but this revised and updated version will be 113 pages. In the Preface I note how the two compare:

The contents of this book are a revision and update to the original 2008 version. The basic structure and content remain yet additional information has been added to each of the chapters. Plus, there are three new chapters: (1) “Continuity and Discontinuity in Dispensationalism”; (2) “Key Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology”; and (3) “Recommended Sources on Dispensationalism.” This revised and updated version offers approximately thirty-five additional pages from the original version.

Second, I have started work on a short booklet that will be a summary of the various Christian positions on New Testament Use of the Old Testament. I survey about six different views of how the New Testament persons and authors used the Hebrew Scriptures. I’m writing this now and am not sure when it will be done, but it should be finished in 2017. This will not be a full blown book on NT use of the OT that I hope to write someday, but this will be an important step in the process. If I ever write a bigger book again, it will probably be on this subject.

Third, I will be teaching a conference on Bible prophecy this April 22, hosted by Anza Baptist Church and Pastor Brad Pixley in Torrance, California. This conference is called: “Jesus Shall Reign: Understanding the Kingship of Jesus and His Second Coming.” I will be teaching four sessions. For more details click here.

Fourth, I will be going to Washington (state) in late May to do a conference. Details are being put together and I will keep you updated.

Fifth, I will probably be going to South Korea this September for a pastor’s conference on Israel and the church. I will provide more details as they come. 

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Of course, as always, I could use your prayers for all of the above.

Thank you,

Mike

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Revelation 5:10 Relates to the Kingdom Program

by Michael J. Vlach

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;
and they will reign upon the earth (Rev. 5:10).

Revelation 5:10 is an important yet often-overlooked kingdom passage. Here we find an explicit reference to the kingdom, the saints’ role in the kingdom, and the sphere of the kingdom: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”  

Here I want to address the significance of Revelation 5:10. The background for this verse is the heavenly throne room scene of Revelation 4-5. The Father, who is on His throne in heaven, has a scroll in His hand. This scroll probably represents the title deed to the earth and the judgments needed ‘to take this planet back. The time has come for God’s Messiah to judge the world for its rebellion and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The only One found worthy to take the scroll and open the wrath judgments within it is Jesus the Lamb. Jesus takes the scroll from the Father (Rev. 5:7-8). Revelation 5:8-10 then reveals a song of praise:

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (emphasis mine).

This section reveals five key truths about the kingdom program:

First, there is distinction and relationship between God’s kingdom in heaven and the coming kingdom of the Messiah upon the earth. There is a heavenly throne room scene that anticipates a coming kingdom upon the earth. Jesus takes the scroll from the Father on His heavenly throne [Universal Kingdom] so that a “reign upon the earth” [Davidic/Millennial Kingdom] can occur.

That there is a kingdom of the Father in heaven is clear. Revelation 4:2 tells of “One sitting on the throne.” Also, the word “throne” is found at least seventeen times in Revelation 4-5. So there is a kingdom that exists in heaven (see also Psalms 2 and 110). This is the universal kingdom of the Father as He rules over all. But this heavenly kingdom is not all there is to the kingdom program. It anticipates a kingdom that must be established “upon the earth.” This is the kingdom of the Messiah, the Davidic kingdom predicted by Gabriel (see Luke 1:31-33) and Jesus (see Matt 19:28; 25:31). Jesus distinguishes the Father’s throne and Jesus’ throne in Revelation 3:21: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 

Second, the people Jesus purchased with His blood are said to be “a kingdom.” Believers in Jesus are positionally related to the kingdom and form the nucleus of it (see Rev. 1:6). This shows a present relationship of the kingdom to the present, not in the form of a present reign, but a growing group of followers who have believed in King Jesus and are qualified to enter His kingdom.

Third, the saints of God are destined to reign with Christ. When Jesus reigns, the saints will also reign. This shows that Jesus will share His kingdom authority with His followers. In Revelation 2:26-27, Jesus promised His followers that they would share in His reign over the nations. This was motivation for those currently facing difficult times. Because Jesus has authority as “ruler of the kings of the earth,” (Rev 1:5) the saints can know they will reign with Him. This concept of the saints reigning with the Messiah was also taught in Daniel 7:13–27.

Fourth, this kingdom reign is future.  Revelation 5:10 shows that the kingdom of Jesus is future.  This is found in the words—“they will reign.” Those who have been purchased by Jesus’ blood are positionally a kingdom, but their reign with Jesus is still future. At the time of the heavenly throne room scene in Revelation 4-5 the earthly kingdom reign of Revelation 5:10 had not started yet. We see later that this reign will occur after the second coming of Jesus (see Rev 19:11ff.) and is described in Revelation 20:4:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

So then, Revelation 5:10 and Revelation 20:4 are connected:

      Rev. 5:10:  “they will reign upon the earth.” (promise of reward)

      Rev. 20:4: “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (promise                     actualized)

Revelation 5:10 is the promise of a coming reign of the saints, while Rev 20:4 is the actualization of the kingdom reign. On the flip side, the condition of the saints before the return of Jesus is not that of reigning. It is persecution and trial (see Revelation 2-3; 6-19). Yet these conditions will give way to a kingdom reign in the future.

Fifth, this coming reign of the saints is “upon the earth.” The “earth” (not heaven) is the realm of the saints’ reign. This shows that the kingdom is based on earth and refutes the idea that Messiah’s millennial kingdom reign is currently from heaven. The idea of an earthly kingdom is an explicit doctrine in Scripture. The reign of the saints and Jesus must be in the realm of the original creation given to man in Genesis 1-2. It is not the case that Adam was tasked with ruling the earth while the Messianic/Davidic rule of Jesus and the saints is in heaven. Jesus will succeed in the realm where Adam failed.

In sum, Revelation 5:10 is an important kingdom verse and is powerful evidence for the view that Jesus’ millennial kingdom is future and earthly.