Hebrews Lesson 101 September 20, 2007
NKJ Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
We have been going through Hebrews 7 and taken a little detour in terms of understanding the change that's taking place. Change indicates that there are some things that are different. Some things may stay the same, but some things are different. That is really a hallmark we might say of what is known as dispensationalism. So I've taken the last few lessons to go over dispensationalism and where dispensationalism comes from out of the Bible, what it means, and the basic ideas related to it. In the last lesson which was a couple of weeks ago, I looked at various things related to covenant theology to begin with and then at the end of the lesson (if memory serves me correctly) I was beginning to get into issues related to hermeneutics or interpretation which is so important today.
Many of you may not realize, but we live in a world today where it is very different from 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Thirty, forty, fifty years ago there was a strong movement among dispensationalists. It was a dominating position especially in popular theology among churches. I think in a lot of ways it still is. But, there is so much going on today in the study of prophecy that wasn't even around (whenever it was, 25-27 years ago) when I graduated from Dallas Seminary. We hardly gave 5 minutes notice to post-millennialism when I went through seminary. It was considered a dead theology – that nobody was post-millennial any more, nobody spent any time. In going through 4 years at Dallas Seminary I don't think I once heard the word preterist which refers to what is becoming more and more visible view of prophecy today that most of Matthew 24 and Revelation were fulfilled before 70 AD in the judgment on Israel that these are all based on allegorical and symbolic interpretations and that there is very little of biblical prophecy left to be fulfilled. If you don't listen to a lot of Christian radio or you don't listen to the Bible Answer Man on the radio, some of the other shows that are out there then you may be completely oblivious to this. But it is important to kind of understand where we are today and what's going on. I think that in the last - I guess it has been ten years or so since the first Tim LeHaye Jerry Jenkins Left Behind volume 1 came out that again really appealed to people in the pew. It has had a tremendous impact on a lot of people, but yet it is also just as its predecessor Late Great Planet Earth did in the 70's is come under a tremendous amount of attack from people who don't believe in a dispensational framework for understanding the Scriptures.
Today Tommy Ice and I joke about these guys that get up there and their basic testimony is sort of like, "Well, I was a teenage dispensationalist."
The implication of course is that "now that I studied the Bible a little bit and grown up and matured I no longer follow that sort of juvenile approach to Scripture". So there's a lot of that going on. This is why – it has been almost 20 years ago Tommy and I used to sit around in my living room in Irving and think about wouldn't it be great if we could establish some kind of dispensational think tank where scholars around the country who still held to traditional dispensationalism could come together and study, present papers, meet on a regular basis. At the time I wasn't able to get involved with the inception, but Tim LeHaye came along and got in touch with Tommy and he was in a position where he could help fund the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group and get that going. At that time Tommy was pastoring a church in Austin, Oak Hill Bible Church. He left that to go full time to develop the Pre-Trib Study Group. That is what that has become – a real think tank for dispensationalists.
Out of that have come a number of different books that were published in the 90's and up to the present time. In fact I just got an electronic copy of a book that is going to the publisher and is supposed to come out by early December in answer to a recent book that Hank Hanegraaff wrote attacking dispensationalism and the pre-trib rapture and everything else espousing the whole preterist position. So there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and if you are not aware of it that gives you a little bit of an idea that there are people who really wrestle with these things. I get questions from people now and then. People email me or send it into the staff at Dean Bible. I end up getting it and having to answer those questions. People wonder because they are not taught these things.
Then if they come out of certain backgrounds - if you come out of a charismatic or Pentecostal background for example, then you have another problem because in the Pentecostal tradition there was a lot of dispensational teaching. Some of you may not know it; but the Pentecostal movement didn't begin until January 1, 1901 so it is a relatively new movement. In the early years they were influenced to some degree by the Scofield Reference Bible as were many conservatives and many evangelicals. But they were also influenced by other things. So you get a lot of the popular charismatics that you see on TV from Pat Robertson to others have elements – sort of a mishmash, a real hodgepodge theology where they may be pre-millennial. They may have some elements of something positive towards Israel; then other times they don't. They are not consistent on the rapture. They sort of pick and choose terminology from other systems of theology so it gets all put in the blender of their theology. You get something totally different.
I want to go over some terminology that we have been using just to make sure you understand it. Covenant theology is a system of theology that really comes out of the reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation. When you think back to what happened after Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517 (not 1917) then subsequent to that you had the development of the Protestant Reformation. Traditionally when historians talk about the Protestant Reformation, they divide it into basically four branches.
- You have the Lutheran Branch which comes out of Germany and influences the Scandinavian countries as well.
- Then you have the French-Swiss aspect of the Protestant Reformation influenced by people like Henri Bollinger and Ulrich Zwingli and Calvin as well.
- They you have the English Reformation. The English Reformation is heavily influenced by Calvinism. So you have the English part of the Reformation and the French- Swiss part of the Reformation generally comes under the umbrella of reformed theology. If you didn't know what that means, that is where that comes from. It produced Congregational churches and Presbyterian churches. It heavily influenced a lot of the theology in the Anglican Church at that time. It was heavily reformed in its theology. So covenant theology comes out of that flow.
- Then the fourth branch - I said there were four branches of the Reformation. You had Lutheranism, French-Swiss Reformation, the British Reformation, and the Anabaptist. Anabaptist means second baptism. The prefix "ana" indicates a second baptism. Most of those people at the beginning had been baptized in the state church as infants. They came to convictions that baptism was for someone who was a professing believer in the Lord Jesus Christ – not for infants, but for adults who had trusted Christ.
There were two things that made a Baptist a Baptist. A lot of the people I know don't know this. And I am talking about pastors, Baptist pastors.
I used to stump Baptist pastors and say, "What makes a Baptist a Baptist?"
They would give me all kinds of answers about doctrine or about they believe in this thing or that thing. Most people don't know. I had one friend that is an unbelieving Jewish urologist here in Houston. He is the only one who knew the answer to the question.
There are two things that make a Baptist a Baptist.
- The first is that they believe in baptism by immersion as an adult – a post conversion baptism by immersion.
- The second is the separation of church and state.
That's it. Baptists are very proud and they will say that they are a non-creedal people. What that means if you are not familiar with the terminology is that they don't believe that there is a set doctrinal statement (i.e. a creed) that everybody has to believe - all Baptists have to believe in. You will talk about Southern Baptists and Northern Baptists. You will talk about conservative Baptists and all these different denominations, but even within the Southern Baptist Convention over the last 30 years (if you have paid attention) there has been a huge battle between the conservatives and the modern/liberals. This has affected all of their seminaries and unfortunately the conservatives have sort of won out. Part of the deal was that back in the 70's many Southern Baptist institutions – their mission organizations, their seminaries were throwing out the whole doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture and buying into a liberal view of the Bible. There was a judge here in Houston, Paul Pressler, and there was one of W A Chriswell's bulldogs up there in Dallas Paige Patterson who is now the president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Forth Worth really took the bull by the horns and created a huge battle within the Southern Baptist Convention to regain control which they did by the late 90's. Part of the issue there was that the liberals were saying we are not a creedal people. You can't make inerrancy and infallibility of something we have to subscribe to in order to be a Baptist. You only have to believe two things to be a Baptist – adult immersion and separation of church and state. You don't have to believe in Christ. You don't have to believe in anything else - just those two things. The Ana-Baptist movement came out and was the 4th branch of the Protestant Reformation.
So, covenant theology developed about 100 years after the start of the Reformation, about 100 years after Calvin. But, when certain areas of understanding of covenant theology just continued the same kind of understanding of prophecy and interpretation of Scripture that had dominated the church (I use that in a broad sense) that dominated Christendom since the 5th or 6th century AD. That was a less than literal interpretation of Scripture to the extreme of allegorical interpretation. Once you get into that approach to the interpretation of especially prophecy the first thing that goes is a distinction between Israel and the church. That is that they became part of a broader term that I used called replacement theology.
Replacement theology is any theological system that sees Israel as being replaced by the church because they reject Jesus as Messiah. God's promises to Israel end. All of His covenants to Israel end. The literal fulfillment is cut off completely. The analogy is that God gives them a bill of divorce and they're divorced and He takes a second wife as it were, the church. So Israel is completely replaced by the church. Literal promises that were given to Abraham in the Old Testament such as a promise to a literal piece of real estate - that becomes allegorized or spiritualized to heaven. So they would interpret Old Testament passages in non-literal ways.
Replacement theology covered a wide range of theologies. Lutherans were still a-millennial in replacement theology. All of your reformed branches Dutch Reformed, (You still had some state churches.) Swiss Reformed, your Huguenots (Most of them were all into some form of replacement theology.) Presbyterians, many of your Puritans. Now Puritans became kind of a mixed bag. Some were a-mill, but a lot of Puritans that came to America were pre-millennial. Many of them had a view of distinction between Israel and the church. They didn't go so far as to have a view of dispensationalism, but they were pre-millennial. That gets into a fuzzy area. Sometimes you'll read the historical pre-millenialists. Some historical pre-millenialists are not dispensational. But some were futurists; some were not. I am not going to get distracted by going through an analysis of that. Basically all a-millennial, post-millennial systems - Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Reformed, Wesleyans/Methodist, Anglican - all of these systems were replacement theology. The only system that is consistently non-replacement is dispensationalism, although you do have some non-dispensational pre-mills that aren't into replacement theology. They hold various forms and that is due to people's inconsistencies.
So we talked about covenant theology the last time that that is generally viewed as the polar opposite to dispensationalists. Even though that excludes some of these replacement theologies, that's primarily among evangelicals. It is either we are covenant theology or dispensationalism.
And as I pointed out last time, the covenants in covenant theology are not the biblical covenants that we think of when we talk about covenants. They are theologically inferred covenants - the Covenant of Works that God had with Adam until he sinned and then the Covenant of Grace. There are also some who believed and hold to a Covenant of Redemption. I gave a quote last time, Louis Burkoff that the Covenant of Redemption is the agreement between the Father and the Son giving the Son the head and the redeemer of the elect and the Son voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father given Him. Now not all covenant theologians hold to a Covenant of Redemption.
I also pointed out various problems with covenant theology. One that I am most interested in (in terms of what I am talking about tonight) is in the area of interpretation. They spiritualize a great deal of prophecy that speaks about the restoration of Israel; they constantly read the New Testament back into the Old Testament. What they end up saying basically is that you can't really determine what the meaning of the Old Testament was until you get the New Testament. Once you get the New Testament, then all of a sudden you can interpret these symbols and types, things of that nature in the Old Testament. It doesn't mean what it seems to mean in the original historical context in which these things were given.
This also affects their view of the church because Israel in the Old Testament is the church in formation. The church today – they would call that spiritual Israel. You can see elements of that in the history even of this country where people still held to Sabbath observance. Although I remember one Old Testament theologian used to teach up at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. They moved Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday and then he would observe the Sabbath by not watching football games. So, it's not quite the same, but that's part of it. The problem is once you start allegorizing, you lose your anchor to any kind of objectivity and things become relatively subjective.
Well, I backed up a little it and thought I would just introduce a couple of new slides on the whole concept of interpretation and hermeneutics. Hermeneutic comes from the Greek verb hermeneuo. This is derived from the Greek god Hermes who was the messenger of the gods. It was his responsibility to communicate and to interpret the messages from the gods to whomever. That's where this verb has its origin. It has the basic idea of bringing someone and helping them understand what something means, explaining something, making it clear or intelligible, to cipher, to interpret, to make something clear. So that's the idea behind this word hermeneutics. It is the science and art of interpretation. So that's what it is. It is both a science and art. Milton Terry who wrote a book a little over 100 years ago called Biblical Hermeneutics defines it this way. He said:
Hermeneutics, therefore, is both a science and an art. As a science, it enunciates principles, investigates the laws of thought and language, and classifies its facts and results. As an art, it teaches what application these principles should have, and establishes their soundness by showing their practical value in the elucidation of the more difficult Scriptures. The hermeneutical art thus cultivates and establishes a valid exegetical procedure.
Okay, let me break that down for you. "As a science" – that means there are clear objective principles that you use in order to understand and interpret any piece of literature - from the instructions to fill out your income tax to poetry to a novel to anything at all, to the Constitution of the Unites States. How do you interpret it? How should a judge interpret the Constitution and interpret law? Does he make it mean something new? Or, does he understand it in terms of the limitations set upon it by its historical context and the original intent of the authors? Hermeneutics covers a lot of areas, but we are just focusing on the area of its application in Scripture. So it involves certain principles. It analyzes thought, language, and logic. All of this is part of understanding hermeneutics and then classifies these results.
As an art, that's where the application comes in because as an interpreter as a pastor as the student of Scripture when you come to the text you have to take these objective rules and laws of interpretation and then apply those to a particular passage. Depending upon your experience and your education, background, frame of reference, years of study - all these kinds of things- depend on the soundness of your interpretation. So we talk about different kinds of principles that we will go through, but this precedes exegesis.
Hermeneutics doesn't come after you exegete a passage. These are the rules that you establish ahead of time that you bring to the process of exegesis. Last time I pointed out that the primary definition for literal interpretation is one of the best I have seen is put out by D. L. Cooper. He said:
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, make no other sense. Therefore take every word at is ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicates clearly otherwise.
So that means that you start with a passage reading it thinking, "Okay, how would I understand this if this was written on a note from my next door neighbor to me? How would I understand it in terms of the normal use of language, figures of speech, idioms, the colloquial language - how would I understand that?"
If it makes full sense in terms of reading it at face value, then what he says is, "Don't try to read something else into the text."
Don't try to make it mean something that sounds more spiritual or sounds like - sometimes I remember years ago when I first started studying how to study the Bible you would hear people say every passage talks about Christ. How does it talk about Christ? Okay not every passage – every passage in some sense points forward, but that can be a very lose sense.
If you go through the genealogies in Genesis 5 or Genesis 11 you might be reading those and ask, "How do I see Christ here?"
See if you dwell on that for awhile, who knows what you will hallucinate and what kind of hidden meanings you'll pull out of there. But if you understand it within the flow of biblical thought within Genesis is a as we saw, that you start with the seed of the woman in Genesis 3 and then there is this intense record keeping of who begets whom in Genesis 5, Geneses 11 and on through the Old Testament. That's tracing the line of the seed. So in that sense yes indeed it does eventually point to Christ. But, you have to understand it literally and not try to read some hidden meanings, try to read each name and figure out what is the spiritual meaning here.
How can I take the name of Methuselah and make that applicable to the decision making in my life today? But, that's what some people would do.
If it makes common sense, make no other sense. Therefore take every word at is ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless…
See there is a caveat here. We all do this every day in English. You hear somebody speak; you hear a newscaster; you hear people on a talk show; you'll hear idioms and you'll hear figures of speech in your mind. Because you know English and that's your native language and that's your first language, you automatically sort those things out. You don't even think bout it. You automatically know when someone is speaking literally or they're speaking hyperbolically. They are exaggerating. You can tell by the tone of their voice. You can tell if they are using colloquialisms or if they're using idioms. You figure that out. The difficulty when you come to Scripture is we are separated by two to four thousand years in time plus we are separated by a language barrier because you have languages that had nuances 2,000 – 3,000 years ago that we're not sure of today. So we have to spend a lot of time thinking about that.
One of the clues in Scripture is going to be the immediate context. So you automatically know that if you are looking at poetry… If you have a Shakespearean sonnet in front of you and you have a real estate contract in front of you, you automatically know that you are going to read them a little bit differently. The language in a real estate contract is going to be defined within a very narrow legal framework, but the language of metaphor and simile that you have in poetry is going to be broader. It's going to encompass a broader range of meaning. You have to understand these various comparisons. So you look at the context and you compare related passages. So you look at how words are used and a word may be used one way by Paul and another way by John and another way by Peter. So you compare and contrast these things.
You do word studies. And now with computers the thing you can do is you can do phrase studies. You couldn't do phrase studies 15 or 20 or more years ago. It would take you years to work out all the places where a particular phrase was used or just think in terms of two or three words. For example in I Corinthians 13:13 – these three abide, faith, hope and love. Well think about what it would take to study how many times you have faith, hope and love appear within ten words of each other in the New Testament. If all you are armed with is a concordance you have to do it manually. That may take you several days to work that out. Those are the kinds of things people used to write doctoral dissertations on. You can just think when you didn't have a concordance and it was 500 years ago and you had to read through the Greek text in order to find all of those places that it might take years to do that. Now you can do it in 30 seconds. The things that you derive from that is that sometimes phrases and clauses and certain idiomatic phrases like Kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven can have a meaning that goes beyond the sum of the parts. So if you do a word study on kingdom you're not going to get the same impact as you would if you do a phrase search on kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. So you have to take the context into account and compare it with other passages and their context. So that's the basic understanding of what we mean by a literal interpretation of Scripture.
I gave you quote last time from Lange on his Commentary on Revelation.
The literalist (the so called literalist) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language: as any other utterances are interpreted) – that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded.
He is saying basically the same thing as DL Cooper. Now when you break down study, we talk in other words about literal interpretation is that we use words like grammatical, historical, contextual study of Scripture. What do we mean by those terms? You have probably heard that a lot over the years. We believe in the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture. Well, what does that mean? Well, grammatical means that we take the Scriptures apart in terms of the grammar. Grammar means something. It communicates a level of meaning that is different from the words that are in the sentence. So you have to pay attention to the grammar, the grammatical structure, and how the phrases and clauses are put together. So you have to look at the grammar.
Then we also have to look at the meaning of the words. The meaning of the words involves doing word studies and how are the words used. How is a word such as hagios used in the New Testament? Well, hagios has a rich history. It is the word that's translated holy. You have this whole word group of hagios for holy, hagiazo to make holy, hagiosmas sanctification, hagiazomai – all these different words are used in this whole context. Sometimes they are translated consecrate, set apart, holy - all these different words and it has a rich history in Greek. So if you are trying to figure out the meaning of a Greek word used in the New Testament, do you go to a history of the Greek language going back to the 5th century BC and study how the word is used in classical Greek, in the various idioms of Greek that some 400-500 years earlier than the time of Christ or do you seek its meaning in how that concept was used in the Old Testament? You need to do both.
The primary reference, when Peter talks holiness or Paul talks about holiness, do you think they have in mind how Plato used the word "holy" or how Moses used the word "holy"? What do you think? It would be how Moses used the word "holy". You could figure out their frame of reference is not going to be the Greek philosophy from the 5th century BC or how it was used in Greek drama or anything like that. It's going to be how Moses used the word and how it is used and developed throughout the Old Testament.
When Paul talks about holiness in the New Testament he is going to have in his head Isaiah 6:3 when Isaiah falls on is face before God and the angels are singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty".
That is going to be the construct that is in the back of his head and not Greek. But you need to look at both. You would give more weight to the Old Testament. So you would look up - I remember I used to love doing this. You get into the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. You look up all the uses of the word hagios in the Old Testament and then you look at the Hebrew words that the Greek word group translated. That leads you to the Hebrew word kadash and the various forms of kadash. So then you have to do a word study through all that. Word studies are very involved, very technical. You have to look at all that to come out with the range of meaning for various words.
So you connect the meaning of the words to the parts of speech, the syntax and how the whole sentence is structured. Then you have to look at the historical framework.
Many of you have heard the principle articulated many times, that the Bible must be interpreted in the time in which it was written. Now I have actually heard that phrase ripped out of its context.
And, I've heard people try to say, "See you interpret the Bible in the time in which it was written. They were mythological. They believed in mental illness. They believed in demon possession. They were superstitious so you have to interpret the Bible in the light in which it was written. Those people were superstitious and all this."
Well, that's not what we mean by that phrase. What we mean is you have to understand the framework, the setting, the background, the history of what was going on at that particular time and how that applies to the passage. Then you have to look at it in terms of the context, not only the context in a passage and where you look at John 3:16-18 and it talks about believing in Christ. Twice you have the phrase pisteuo eis auton – believing in Him. So then you have to look at how that phrase is used in Gospel of John. That's looking context in terms of the literary context.
Then you have to look at what's going on in that passage when you have Nicodemus come to Jesus at night and you have to understand what is going on with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He was a Pharisee and the whole cultural context and what the Jews were expecting in terms of the Messiah. So you have to look at two different contexts – the literary context and then the historical context.
All of that is what comes together to interpret Scripture. So we have various phrases that are used by different people to describe this. I pointed out last time it is called normal interpretation, historical grammatical interpretation, a plain, simple interpretation.
How do we know that this is the right way to interpret Scripture? If you look over the history of Christianity, there is a lot of different ways people have interpreted Scripture. They have interpreted it literally. They have interpreted it allegorically. They have interpreted it mystically. They have interpreted it in terms of rationalism. There was a version of the Bible that Thomas Jefferson published. He went through with his razor blade and cut out every reference to every miracle or anything supernatural. It was a good deistic version of the Bible. So you have rationalistic interpretations – all kinds of different meanings that people come up with.
That's why you would often hear people at different times say, "Well you can prove anything from the King James Bible. Who cares if you are quoting the Bible? You can make it mean anything you want to."
That is a pretty cynical view of interpretation and it doesn't actually fly. But people who have weak minds gravitate to stuff like that.
So you have to look at the text itself. How do we know that we should interpret Scripture literally? I pointed these three reasons out last time.
- First of all, because the prophecy that is fulfilled is fulfilled literally. The prophecy that is fulfilled is fulfilled literally. When Micah 5:2 says that the Messiah is going to be born in Bethlehem, He is born in Bethlehem. He's not born in Nazareth. He's not born in Jerusalem. He's not born in up in Tiberias. He is born in Bethlehem. When it says that He will come from the line of David, Jesus comes from the line of David. He didn't come from a Levitical line or some other line. So the prophecy that we see that is fulfilled is fulfilled literally.
- The second thing I pointed out was in terms of language and the image of God that if we understand the nature of God as the creator totally distinct from His creation then God endowed man with an ability that could understand and comprehend what God was revealing. That was the thrust of this particular quote from Gordon C. Clark.
If God created man in His own rational image and endowed him with the power of speech, then a purpose of language, in fact the chief purpose of language would naturally be the communication of truth to man and the prayers of man to God.
So if we just start with Genesis we realize that it is embedded in the first three chapters of Genesis is a whole philosophy of language that tells us how we should understand these things. When God said, "Don't eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, how was that interpreted by Adam? Well, he wasn't avoiding other truths. He understands it literally. There was the one tree that was the issue. They didn't think that it was some other tree or they didn't think that it was – oh I have heard people tell me that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was sexual procreation and all these other things. They weren't interpreting that way; they were interpreting it in a literal normal fashion.
- Then the third reason I pointed out was that any other sort of hermeneutical system ultimately leads to some kind of subjectivity and uncertainty as to what the real meaning is.
That is where you get into all this theological discussion. That's why today the battlefield always goes back to hermeneutics. If you go to Dallas Seminary and you get involved or listen to any of the debates that have been going on for the last 15 years over progressive dispensationalism, it always boils down to hermeneutics. In fact the men who developed this whole new twist on progressive dispensationalism developed a totally new system of hermeneutics called complementary hermeneutics. It's not literal. It has a whole different twist to it, but they had to do that in order to substantiate and argue for their position.
By the way I don't think that ultimately if you push progressive dispensationalism to its ultimate, it's not dispensational at all. It is neither progressive nor dispensational. In fact Bruce Walkie who was a great Old Testament professor at Dallas Seminary for many years but was sort of a theological chameleon. It seemed like Dr. Walkie would – you know some men are great in language; but they just aren't good theologically. Whatever school he went to after he left Dallas, he sort of conformed to their theological framework. He eventually ended up a-millennial and covenant theology and teaches at Reformed Seminary in Florida.
But when he first read about progressive dispensationalism he said, "This isn't dispensationalism at all. They are virtually a-millennial."
So he saw right through this whereas many dispensationalists don't. What I am pointing out here is this whole issue of how you interpret Scripture is fundamental to understanding so many things but especially dispensationalism and millennialism.
I have a quote here from Floyd Hamilton who was a critic of dispensationalism. He is an a-millenialists, but he makes a frank admission.
Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthy reign of the messiah as the pre-millennialist pictures.
Hello! See that's what I am saying. When it comes to prophecy they shift from a literal interpretation to a non-literal interpretation. He goes on to say:
That was the kind of messianic kingdom that the Jews at the time of Christ were looking for on the basis of a literal kingdom interpretation of the Old Testament promises.
Another non-dispensationalist very vocal critic of dispensationalism is a-millennialist Vern Paythress. Paythress says:
I claim that there is sound, solid, grammatical-historical ground for interpreting eschatological fulfillments of prophecy
What that means is prophecy that's unfulfilled.
What he is going to say here is, "I contend that there is a way to interpret unfulfilled prophecy that's not the same as fulfilled prophecy."
Remember the point that I made a little while ago that we look at the precedent of the Old Testament and Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled literally. What we know it is fulfilled literally. So therefore what is not yet fulfilled must also be fulfilled literally. That's only logical and consistent.
But he said, "No, it doesn't have to be that way at all. We can interpret eschatological fulfillments of prophecy on a different basis than pre-eschatological fulfillments."
It is therefore a move away from grammatical-historical interpretation to insist that (say) the 'house of Israel' and the 'house of Judah' of Jeremiah 31:31…
We are ready to get into this whole quote dealing with the New Covenant in Hebrews 8.
…must with a dogmatic certainly be interpreted in the most prosaic biological sense, a sense that an Israelite might be likely to apply as a rule of thumb in short term prediction.
In other words what he is saying is just because it met house literal ethnic genetic house of Israel and house of Judah in Jeremiah doesn't mean that since it hasn't been fulfilled yet it can't mean something different today, like the church.
Here is another good quote from Oswald T. Allis. He was a reformed theologian early 20th century and he writes:
One of the most marked features of pre-millennialism in all its forms is the emphasis which it places on the literal interpretation of Scripture. It is the insistent claims of its advocates that only when interpreted literally is the Bible interpreted truly; and they denounce as "spiritualizers" or "allegorizers" those who do not interpret the Bible with the same degree of literalness as they do. None have made this charge more pointedly than the dispensationalists.
See, I don't make this stuff up. That is why I give you these quotes. He goes on to say:
The Old Testament prophecies if literally interpreted cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or as being capable fulfillment in this present age.
Duh! See what he is saying? If you interpret these prophecies literally, then pre-mills are right. You have got to have a future Second Coming and a literal millennium of 1,000 years. It's going to have a primarily Jewish emphasis. So this is their basic position.
Now in covenant theology they have an inconsistent literal hermeneutic. That's why I pointed out that the real issue is how consistent you are in interpreting Scripture. For example, let me give you a passage here.
NAS Isaiah 65:25 "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.
How do you understand that? Is it literal wolf or literal lamb? Or are we talking about a unbeliever and a believer? I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Well, taken literally we understand that to be talking about the fact that during the Millennial Kingdom there will be at least enough of a roll back of the curse to where there is no antagonism in the animal kingdom.
But covenant theologians will allegorize this and they'll say, "Well, this is an example of when the wolf Saul became converted (the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus became converted) and he became a lamb."
I just see those eyebrows up and "How did they get that out of there?"
See you just have to be locked away in a small room for a long time without food or nourishment and you'll come up with all kinds of things.
So that's just one example talking about believers and unbelievers. Or, Isaiah 65:11:
NAS Isaiah 65:11 "But you who forsake the LORD, Who forget My holy mountain, Who set a table for Fortune, And who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny
Now this is in the midst of a context of judgment being announced on Israel because they have forsaken God and they have gone into idolatry. But when it says that you forsake "You forsake My holy mountain" the literal interpretation would see the holy mountain to mean what? Those of you who have been to Israel, what's the holy mountain? It's the temple mount. It is forsaking the temple mount, would be what? Not worshipping Yahweh God of Israel at the temple. Forsaking it and going after other gods. So that's how you would interpret this that they have forsaken the Lord, they have forgotten that the true worship as defined in Exodus and in the Mosaic Law. They have basically cast themselves adrift on the sea of chance. So that's how a literalist would understand this. But see covenant theologians interpret "My holy mountain" as being a reference to the church. This is talking about unbelievers who have forsaken the church.
Okay, here is another one.
NAS Isaiah 65:18 "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, And her people for gladness.
Now this means that (literal interpretation) God has a plan for Israel, a plan for Jews, a plan for Jerusalem and that there will be a future time of rejoicing. But covenant theologians will interpret this that Jerusalem refers to the New Testament church.
"I will create the church for rejoicing and her people for gladness."
So it is interpreted to be a reference to the New Testament church. With allegory you can do whatever you want to and make anything mean whatever you want it to mean.
It's sort of like making it a living constitution, right? We have all the people like Al Gore and others talk about the US Constitution as a living document. Well, see that's what happens. We have a rich heritage of this. He's not just popping up out of nowhere. You have liberals today interpret the Constitution in this kind of manner. It didn't begin with them. There is a rich history going back to before the time of Christ.
So we have to understand a little bit about where all this comes from. So I want to go through a little bit on the history of interpretation. Now as I pointed out earlier over the history of Christianity, people have used all kinds of different ways to interpret the Bible from just a woodenly literal interpretation that tries to make every word significant in some sense to an allegorical interpretation where everything is symbolic, what appeals to tradition however the church fathers what it means, rationalistic where you get rid of all the supernatural, subjective what does it mean to me. (If you have been to a Southern Baptist or a Methodist Sunday school class, then you know what that's all about.) or mystical where you just have to contemplate your navel for awhile and think about it and not eat or whatever and eventually it will come to you. Now as I pointed out earlier we need to look at how the Bible interprets itself and let the Bible, let God reveal to us how to interpret what He said. So when we get into the Scripture- and I'm not going through a lot of these, I will just give you some examples most of them.
When God revealed the dimensions and the instructions on how to build the ark to Noah, Noah did not take those numbers and think that there was some hidden spiritual meaning that he needed to ascertain in order to unlock the code so he would know how to survive the flood. He took (all the numbers, all the instructions, the kind of wood to use) everything literally.
When Moses was given all the instructions as to what kind of fabric to use, what kind of wood to use, all the dimensions for the tabernacle, everything that was involved in that, he didn't allegorize, spiritualize, he didn't try to find hidden codes. Remember the book that came out about 10 years more, the Bible code book, Cracking the Bible Code. Everybody is always trying to come up with some hidden meanings that are far beyond the literal meanings of Scripture.
When we think about Joshua invading the Promised Land and God giving him instructions as to marching around Jericho - march around Jericho in silence one time each day until the last day. Then the last day march around 7 times blow the trumpets and shout. He didn't march around 3 days or 5 days. He didn't try to find some spiritualized meaning to those numbers and then go into the Ark of the Covenant and cast his dice to figure out what it meant. He took it all literally. So we have a lot of examples.
One that I think is from the Old Testament that I've gone to before is the prophecy in I Kings 13 when the unnamed prophet comes to Jeroboam I and destroys the altar and says that one day in the future there will be a priest, a king named Josiah who will destroy this altar and kill all priests and that is fulfilled some 200-300 years later in II Kings 23 literally. So we have all of this precedent in the Scriptures where the Bible shows us how to interpret the Bible. God doesn't leave us cast adrift on this sea of subjectivity to just figure out what it all means.
Another biblical example that gets us into the area of interpretation is when the Jews came back from the Babylonian captivity. When they returned in the late part of the early part of the 5th century BC around 460-440 when they were rebuilding the walls under Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 8 we have Ezra reading the law to the people. It is interesting. When he read the Law, everybody stood up. All day long he read the Law. We have trouble getting people to sit in a comfortable chair for 45 minutes to listen to Bible class. And when he read the Scripture to them, the Levites were scattered throughout the crowd and the Levites were then explaining and interpreting what he is reading to the people because they haven't hear the Law in a long time. Ezra is probably reading it in Hebrew, but many of them could no longer speak Hebrew. They had grown up in Babylon and they were probably fluent in Aramaic and maybe had a smattering of Hebrew. So the Levites were helping them translate and understand the text. It was done literally.
We know that example from what I pointed out in the previous examples. By the time of Christ though… see coming out of that return to Babylon you had this hyper-religiosity develop because it was such a traumatic thing for the Jews to have lost the temple and be kicked out of the land. But they went to the other extreme in terms of developing these rigid systems of obedience. That's where the pharisaical party developed. But they developed this hyper-literalism where every little thing had some kind of meaning. That led to a form of allegory. By the period before Christ you also had the Jews develop a system of allegorical interpretation.
Now it is interesting where this happens. It happens in Alexandria in northern Egypt. Now that's really important because you have a group of Jews that are living in Alexandria. It's in northern Egypt. It's Greek influenced culture at that time. That's before Cleopatra, but her ancestors the Ptolemy's were ruling. They were Greek. They weren't Egyptian. They were ruling in Egypt. So there is this tremendous influence of Greek philosophy and Greek thought. If you go back in Greek thought you have the great stories of Homer, the Iliad, the Odyssey all of these great stories and they were understood originally in a more literal fashion. As they talk about the gods and goddesses and the gods running around seeking vengeance on people and they have this blood lust and sex lust and everything else. By the time you get to the 5th century BC with the philosophers, they are a little embarrassed by these gods that are cavorting around like a bunch of out-of-control humans in heaven. So they wanted – this just didn't fit the model of higher philosophical thought of Socrates and Aristotle and Plato. So they began to develop an allegorical interpretation in order to make these things mean something else so that they could deal in a little more comfortable with the anthropomorphic antics of the Greek gods. So they develop an allegorical interpretation.
Later on this enabled Greek philosophers such as the Stoics and Epicureans to twist and change the writings of Plato and Aristotle to fit their philosophy so they could go back and say, "See what they really meant was…"
They would reinterpret using allegory to reinterpret earlier philosophers to try to make them say what they were saying.
The Jews in Alexandria picked up on that. This is evidenced in the Septuagint the way the Septuagint tries to translate several passages related to anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms of God in the Old Testament.
You have 2 influential people in this period before the New Testament time, Aristobulos and Philo. Now Philo lives from about 20 BC to 54 AD so he is roughly contemporary with the life of Christ on the earth. You also have the Essenes, the Jews that are living in the Qumran community and they have this whole allegorical interpretation. This comes out of where did I say? You are going to have to remember this next time because I can't finish this tonight - Alexandria in northern Egypt. Well guess where allegorical interpretation gets systematized when you get into the New Testament period. I mean in the post-New Testament period, the early Church Age. It's Alexandria with Origen and his predecessor Clement of Alexandria. They systematize this allegorical interpretation. So Origen comes along and says you have three levels of meaning in the text like you have man is made up of body, soul and spirit. You have the literal meaning and then you have a moral meaning that relates to the soul and then you have a spiritual meaning. But in allegorical interpretation, the allegorical or spiritual teaching of the passage doesn't have to have anything to do with the literal historical meaning of the text. So it is like you are looking for these hidden meanings.
There have been people who have come...I am thinking of a couple of pastors who came out of some doctrinal churches who were teaching a view that you didn't need to believe in the confession of sin. You really didn't need to confess your sin to be back in fellowship. Why?
"Well, if you read between the lines in I John 1:9, you will see it."
What's that? It is nothing more than trying to go back to some kind of allegorical spiritualized hidden meaning like Origen. Yet that was what dominates the church for the next 1,000 years or more. From Origen is about 250, Jerome and Augustine come in and they basically institutionalize allegorize interpretation. So out of that comes hostility to the Jews because they are no longer important. So all this ties together.
I will cover that briefly next time before we get in to some other important things. That gives you a little back ground.
Let's close in prayer.