Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why the Sheep/Goat Judgment and Great White Throne Judgment Are not the Same Event

Amillennialists, Postmillennialists, and even some Premillennialists view the Sheep/Goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 and the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 as being the same event. But a close examination reveals that these two judgments are not the same judgment.

1.      The timing of the Sheep/Goat judgment happens in connection with the second coming of Christ (see Matt 25:31-32). Jesus comes in glory with His angels, sits on His glorious throne and all the nations are gathered before Him.  The Great White Throne judgment takes place after the return of Christ (Rev 19) and the thousand year reign of Christ with the saints (Rev 20:4-7). After the thousand years are completed (20:7) the Great White Throne judgment takes place (20:11-15).

2.      The purpose of the Sheep/Goat judgment is to see who will inherit the kingdom (Matt 25:34) and who will not (Matt 25:41). The purpose of the Great White Throne judgment is to see who will be sent to the lake of fire (Rev 20:15)

3.      The subjects of the Sheep/Goat judgment are both believers and non-believers—sheep and goats (Matt 25:32). The subjects of the Great White Throne appear to be unbelievers. While Rev 20:11-15 does not exclude the presence of believers at this judgment believers are not mentioned as being at this judgment. But unbelievers who are sentenced to the lake of fire at the Great White Throne judgment are mentioned (Rev. 20:15).

4.      The basis of judgment at the Sheep/Goat judgment is how the nations treated the “brothers” of Christ (Matt 25:40). The basis of the Great White Throne judgment is works (Rev 20:13).

5.      The subjects of the Sheep/Goat judgment appear to be those alive at the time of the second coming of Jesus. There is no mention of a resurrection of the saved and unsaved dead. The Great White Throne judgment says it is the dead who are raised for this judgment (Rev 20:13). The sea and Hades give up their dead for this judgment.

6.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not mention a “Great White Throne” being present while the Great White Throne judgment does (Rev 20:11).

7.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not mention the “book of life” being present while the Great White Throne judgment does (Rev 20:12).

8.      The Sheep/Goat judgment does not indicate that death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire while the Great White Throne judgment does (20:14).

9.      The fact that there are two resurrections separated by a thousand years (see Rev 20:4b-5) strongly suggests that there can be two judgments separated by a thousand years.

(NOTE: Some also argue that the setting of the two judgments is distinct with the Sheep/Goat judgment being on earth while the Great White Throne judgment is in space since heaven and earth have fled away. While this argument is possible my view is that the Great White Throne judgment is also on earth since Rev 20:13 makes reference to the “sea” which still exists. In my estimation, heaven and earth flee away in the sense that they provide no hiding place for the wicked from God.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Man Created to Rule Over God's Creation

It may surprise some to know that God’s kingdom program for this earth goes back to the first chapter of the Bible—Genesis 1. God created man to represent God on Earth and rule over His wonderful creation. Genesis 1:26-28 states:
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." The Hebrew word for "rule," which is used twice in the above passage is radah. This term will be used later in reference to the Messiah’s future reign in Psalm 110:2: "The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule [radah] in the midst of Your enemies."

Man’s right to rule over God’s creation is linked with Adam being made in the image of God. Being in the "image of God" means that man is created to represent God over the creation. He is to rule over God’s creation for the glory of God. This truth is discussed in Psalm 8:4-8:
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.
Thus, in relation to the creation, man is a mediator. God’s universal kingdom reign over all things continues, but in relation to planet earth, God wants man to represent Him. So even from the very beginning, God’s kingdom program included this earth and it included man ruling over the earth.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

God's Universal Kingdom

Any discussion of God’s kingdom and kingdom purposes must take into account what can be called God’s universal kingdom. On several occasions the Old Testament affirms God’s eternal sovereign rule over all things. For example, Psalm 145:13 states:
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Psalm 103:19 also declares:
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.
David affirmed God’s universal kingdom with his prayer in 1 Chron 29:11-12:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.Even the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, eventually affirmed the truth that God is sovereign overall and does what He wishes over His creation with no one telling Him otherwise:
"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’" (Dan 4:34-35)
While most passages in the Bible will focus on God’s kingdom that will be established on the earth (Dan 2:44; Matt 6:10; Acts 1:6), we must not forget that God’s universal kingdom is always in operation. He is always in control and His ways will prevail.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"NT Use of OT" Course Wrapup

Recently I finished leading a class of 5 students in a class called, “NT Use of the OT.” We read the works of Darrell Bock, Walter Kaiser, Peter Enns, Greg K. Beale, Robert Thomas, John Walton, Rynold Dean, Douglas Moo, and Charles Dyer.  Over a period of 14 days we met to discuss the writings of these men. We learned a lot from these men and appreciate their hard work on this issue. Below are some conclusions that our class agreed upon:

1.       Since the NT quotes the OT around 300 times, pastors and Christians must do serious thinking on this issue. How the NT writers use the OT is a topic that cannot be ignored and must be addressed in a serious manner. How can a pastor teach his people the Word of God if he has not thought through this issue?

2.        Scholars, including Evangelical scholars, have offered varied and often confusing answers to the topic. There is a great need for accurate and clear explanations of this issue. At times, scholars are using the same terms with different meanings (i.e. sensus plenior, meaning, application, etc.). This leads to confusion

3.       It is concerning how many Evangelical scholars are willing to concede that the NT writers often used the OT non-contextually. We appreciated Greg Beale’s assertion that the vast majority of NT uses of the OT are clearly contextual and that good answers have been offered for the few cases where non-contextual uses are allegedly taking place.

4.        It is often assumed that the NT uses the OT non-contextually but this is not proven very well.  Many of the examples given are weak or non-conclusive. Time and time again we found scholars offering examples of alleged non-contextual uses but upon review we found the NT writers to be using the OT contextually.

5.       Understanding the concept of antecedent theology is crucial for understanding the NT use of the OT issue. Later writers of Scripture often wrote in light of theological truths found in earlier portions of Scripture (Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, seed concept, etc.).  Later writers of Scripture are not writing in a vacuum but are often building upon and relying upon earlier parts of Scripture. We concluded that lack of understanding of antecedent theology is probably the main reason why so many scholars think the NT writers are using the OT non-contextually.

6.       Scholars often give up too early on a contextual link with the OT passages.

7.       Assumptions and presuppositions greatly affect how one views NT uses of the OT.

8.       We appreciated most of the writers we read and their commitment to a high view of Scripture. But we found ourselves in strong agreement with Walter Kaiser’s approach that the NT writers quote the OT contextually and do not resort to sensus plenior. We also affirmed his understanding of antecedent theology which we believe is the key concept for understanding how the NT writers use the OT. 

9.       We do not believe that Kaiser always writes and defends his view as clearly as he could but we found ourselves in essential agreement with his position. We would like to see a Kaiser-like approach that is refined and promoted in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

10.   We also found that Kaiser is often misrepresented by others who critique his view. This has contributed to why many dismiss his view as insufficient. There is a myth being promoted that Kaiser teaches that the writers of the OT actually saw all the stages of fulfillment of what they spoke about.

11.   We agreed that types exist in the Bible but that types are primarily prospective (forward looking) and not retrospective. When NT writers make typological connections they are not abandoning historical-grammatical hermeneutics.

12.   We concluded that it is important to understand the difference between “meaning” and “significance” or “application.” If a NT writer applies a meaning from the OT( i.e. a moral principle) this application is not “new meaning” but an application of what the original author meant.

13.   Discussion of this issue means addressing the question, “What is the nature of language?” We believe that authorial intent and historical-grammatical hermeneutics is embedded in the image of God and how we use language.   

14.   We are concerned that some scholars are using “inspiration” as a trump card for whenever they believe the NT writers are using the OT non-contextually.  The impression at times is given that, “The NT writers use the OT completely out of context, but that’s okay because they were ‘inspired.’” We don’t believe inspiration works this way. Inspiration is not primarily divine dictation We believe that God guided the writers of Scripture but they also used good hermeneutics as part of their process of understanding.