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Category Archives: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Dr. Walter Kaiser on Can We Believe in Bible Miracles?

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Without Miracles, Biblical Faith is Meaningless – by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

In the New Testament we read about numerous miracles. Did these really happen, or are they simply legends or perhaps the way ancient people described what they could not explain?

First we need to look at what is at stake in this question. Both Old Testament and New Testament belief are based on miracles. In the Old Testament the basic event is that of the exodus, including the miracles of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea. These were miracles of deliverance for Israel and judgment for her enemies. Without them the faith of the Old Testament has little meaning. In the New Testament the resurrection of Jesus is the basic miracle. Every author in the New Testament believed that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified and on the third day had returned to life. Without this miracle there is no Christian faith; as Paul points out, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Thus in both Old and New Testaments, without miracles, biblical faith is meaningless.

The fact that miracles are at the root of biblical faith, however, does not mean that they happened. Thus we need to ask if it is possible that they did occur. Some people take a philosophical position that miracles cannot happen in that the “laws of nature” are fixed and that God, if he exists, either cannot or will not “violate” them. While this is an honestly held position, it is also outdated. The idea of firmly fixed “laws of nature” belongs to Newtonian physics, not the world of relativity, which views laws as generalities covering observations to date. The issue for us, then, is whether there is evidence that there is a force (a spiritual force) which creates those irregularities in our observations of events that we term miracles.

The response of the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular is that there is. The basic spiritual force is that of God. He, Scripture asserts, is the only fully adequate explanation for the existence of the world. His personality is the only adequate explanation for the existence of personality in human beings. What is more, because he is personal he has remained engaged with this world. Some of his engagement we see in the regular events of “nature” (Col 1:16–17; Heb 1:3), while at other times he reveals his presence by doing something differently. It is those events that we call miracles.

A miracle has two parts: event and explanation. The event is an unusual occurrence, often one which cannot be explained by the normally occurring forces which we know of. Sometimes the event itself is not unique, but its timing is, as is the case in the Old Testament with the parting of the Jordan River and at least some of the plagues of Egypt. At other times, as in the resurrection of the dead, the event itself is unique.

The explanation part of the miracle points out who stands behind the event and why he did it. If a sick person suddenly recovers, we might say, “Boy, that was odd. I wonder what happened?” Or we might say, “Since I’ve never seen such a thing happen, perhaps he or she was not really sick.” We might even say, “This is witchcraft, the operation of a negative spiritual power.” Yet if the event happens when a person is praying to God the Father in the name of Jesus, the context explains the event. So we correctly say, “God worked a miracle.” Thus in the New Testament we discover that the resurrection of Jesus is explained as an act of God vindicating the claims of Jesus and exalting him to God’s throne.

How do we know that such a miracle happened? It is clear that we cannot ever know for certain. On the one hand, I cannot be totally sure even of what I experience. I could be hallucinating that I am now typing this chapter on this computer keyboard. I certainly have had dreams about doing such things. Yet generally I trust (or have faith in) my senses, even though I cannot be 100 percent sure of their accuracy. On the other hand, we did not directly experience biblical miracles, although it is not unknown for Christians (including us) to have analogous experiences now, including experiences of meeting the resurrected Jesus. Still, none of us were present when the biblical events happened. Therefore we cannot believe on the basis of direct observation; we have to trust credible witnesses.

When it comes to the resurrection, we have more documents from closer to the time of the event than we have for virtually any other ancient event. The witnesses in those New Testament documents subscribe to the highest standards of truthfulness. Furthermore, most of them died on behalf of their witness, hardly the actions of people who were lying. They claim to have had multiple personal experiences that convinced them that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead (see 1 Cor 15:1–11). None of this absolutely proves that this central miracle happened. There could have been some type of a grand illusion. Yet it makes the resurrection believable enough for it to be a credible basis for faith. We see enough evidence for us to commit ourselves to, which is something that we do in everyday life constantly when we commit ourselves to something that someone has told us.

If the central miracle of the New Testament actually happened, then we have much less of a problem with any of the other miracles. Some of those same witnesses are claiming to have observed them, or to have known others who did. After the resurrection of a dead person, a healing or even the calming of a storm appear to be relatively minor. After all, if God is showing himself in one way, it would not be surprising for him to show himself in many other ways.

Miracles in the Bible have several functions. First, they accredit the messengers God sends, whether that person be Moses or a prophet or Jesus or an apostle or an ordinary Christian. Miracles are how God gives evidence that this person who claims to be from him really is from him. He “backs up their act” with his spiritual power.

Second, miracles show the nature of God and his reign. They may work God’s justice, but more often they show his character as full of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come. The people might rightly ask what that rule of God looked like. Jesus worked miracles which showed the nature of that reign. The blind see, the lame walk, the outcasts are brought into community, and the wild forces of nature are tamed. That is what the kingdom of God is like.

Third, miracles actually do the work of the kingdom. When one reads Luke 18, he or she discovers that it is impossible for a rich person to be saved, although with God all things are possible. Then in Luke 19:1–10 Zacchaeus, a rich man, is parted from his wealth and is saved. Clearly a miracle has happened, and the kingdom of God has come even to a rich man. The same is true of the demons being driven out, for each time this happens the borders of Satan’s kingdom are driven back. Similarly, many other miracles also have this function.

So, did miracles really happen? The answer is that, yes, a historical case can be made for their happening. Furthermore, we have seen that it is important to establish that they happened. A miracle is central to Christian belief. And miracles serve important functions in certifying, explaining and doing the work of the kingdom of God.

Miracles are not simply nice stories for Sunday school. They are a demonstration of the character of God, not only in the past but also in the present.

In the New Testament we read about numerous miracles. Did these really happen, or are they simply legends or perhaps the way ancient people described what they could not explain?

First we need to look at what is at stake in this question. Both Old Testament and New Testament belief are based on miracles. In the Old Testament the basic event is that of the exodus, including the miracles of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea. These were miracles of deliverance for Israel and judgment for her enemies. Without them the faith of the Old Testament has little meaning. In the New Testament the resurrection of Jesus is the basic miracle. Every author in the New Testament believed that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified and on the third day had returned to life. Without this miracle there is no Christian faith; as Paul points out, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Thus in both Old and New Testaments, without miracles, biblical faith is meaningless.

The fact that miracles are at the root of biblical faith, however, does not mean that they happened. Thus we need to ask if it is possible that they did occur. Some people take a philosophical position that miracles cannot happen in that the “laws of nature” are fixed and that God, if he exists, either cannot or will not “violate” them. While this is an honestly held position, it is also outdated. The idea of firmly fixed “laws of nature” belongs to Newtonian physics, not the world of relativity, which views laws as generalities covering observations to date. The issue for us, then, is whether there is evidence that there is a force (a spiritual force) which creates those irregularities in our observations of events that we term miracles.

The response of the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular is that there is. The basic spiritual force is that of God. He, Scripture asserts, is the only fully adequate explanation for the existence of the world. His personality is the only adequate explanation for the existence of personality in human beings. What is more, because he is personal he has remained engaged with this world. Some of his engagement we see in the regular events of “nature” (Col 1:16–17; Heb 1:3), while at other times he reveals his presence by doing something differently. It is those events that we call miracles.

A miracle has two parts: event and explanation. The event is an unusual occurrence, often one which cannot be explained by the normally occurring forces which we know of. Sometimes the event itself is not unique, but its timing is, as is the case in the Old Testament with the parting of the Jordan River and at least some of the plagues of Egypt. At other times, as in the resurrection of the dead, the event itself is unique.

The explanation part of the miracle points out who stands behind the event and why he did it. If a sick person suddenly recovers, we might say, “Boy, that was odd. I wonder what happened?” Or we might say, “Since I’ve never seen such a thing happen, perhaps he or she was not really sick.” We might even say, “This is witchcraft, the operation of a negative spiritual power.” Yet if the event happens when a person is praying to God the Father in the name of Jesus, the context explains the event. So we correctly say, “God worked a miracle.” Thus in the New Testament we discover that the resurrection of Jesus is explained as an act of God vindicating the claims of Jesus and exalting him to God’s throne.

How do we know that such a miracle happened? It is clear that we cannot ever know for certain. On the one hand, I cannot be totally sure even of what I experience. I could be hallucinating that I am now typing this chapter on this computer keyboard. I certainly have had dreams about doing such things. Yet generally I trust (or have faith in) my senses, even though I cannot be 100 percent sure of their accuracy. On the other hand, we did not directly experience biblical miracles, although it is not unknown for Christians (including us) to have analogous experiences now, including experiences of meeting the resurrected Jesus. Still, none of us were present when the biblical events happened. Therefore we cannot believe on the basis of direct observation; we have to trust credible witnesses.

When it comes to the resurrection, we have more documents from closer to the time of the event than we have for virtually any other ancient event. The witnesses in those New Testament documents subscribe to the highest standards of truthfulness. Furthermore, most of them died on behalf of their witness, hardly the actions of people who were lying. They claim to have had multiple personal experiences that convinced them that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead (see 1 Cor 15:1–11). None of this absolutely proves that this central miracle happened. There could have been some type of a grand illusion. Yet it makes the resurrection believable enough for it to be a credible basis for faith. We see enough evidence for us to commit ourselves to, which is something that we do in everyday life constantly when we commit ourselves to something that someone has told us.

If the central miracle of the New Testament actually happened, then we have much less of a problem with any of the other miracles. Some of those same witnesses are claiming to have observed them, or to have known others who did. After the resurrection of a dead person, a healing or even the calming of a storm appear to be relatively minor. After all, if God is showing himself in one way, it would not be surprising for him to show himself in many other ways.

Miracles in the Bible have several functions. First, they accredit the messengers God sends, whether that person be Moses or a prophet or Jesus or an apostle or an ordinary Christian. Miracles are how God gives evidence that this person who claims to be from him really is from him. He “backs up their act” with his spiritual power.

Second, miracles show the nature of God and his reign. They may work God’s justice, but more often they show his character as full of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come. The people might rightly ask what that rule of God looked like. Jesus worked miracles which showed the nature of that reign. The blind see, the lame walk, the outcasts are brought into community, and the wild forces of nature are tamed. That is what the kingdom of God is like.

Third, miracles actually do the work of the kingdom. When one reads Luke 18, he or she discovers that it is impossible for a rich person to be saved, although with God all things are possible. Then in Luke 19:1–10 Zacchaeus, a rich man, is parted from his wealth and is saved. Clearly a miracle has happened, and the kingdom of God has come even to a rich man. The same is true of the demons being driven out, for each time this happens the borders of Satan’s kingdom are driven back. Similarly, many other miracles also have this function.

So, did miracles really happen? The answer is that, yes, a historical case can be made for their happening. Furthermore, we have seen that it is important to establish that they happened. A miracle is central to Christian belief. And miracles serve important functions in certifying, explaining and doing the work of the kingdom of God.

Miracles are not simply nice stories for Sunday school. They are a demonstration of the character of God, not only in the past but also in the present.

About The Author:

Kaiser W image w books in background

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical TheologyBiblical Exegesis for Preaching and TeachingA History of IsraelThe Messiah in the Old TestamentRecovering the Unity of the BibleThe Promise-Plan of GodPreaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com. The article above was adapted from the book The Hard Sayings of the Bible – Chapter 2.

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Is Daniel 9:24-27 A Prophecy of Jesus? By Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Was Daniel’s prophecy about the coming “Anointed One,” that is, the Messiah, accurate? Or has the text been wrongly interpreted and is there a Messiah who comes at the end of the first set of seven sevens, that is, at the end of 49 years, and another Messiah who comes at the end of the sixty-two sevens, that is, after another 434 years?

If there are two Messiahs spoken of in this text, then the text has been doctored to make it seem that there was only one who came at the end of the sixty-nine weeks, or 483 years after the decree went forth to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. And in that case, it cannot be a prophecy about Jesus.

Originally the 1611 edition of the KJV of the Bible rendered it this way:

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, into the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks; and threescore and two weeks, the street shall be built again, and the wall even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks, shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself, and the people of the Prince that shall come, shall destroy the city, and the Sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood. (Dan 9:25–26)

The reason the 1611 edition put “Messiah the Prince” (Hebrew: māšîaî) at the end of the “seven sevens” was because the Hebrew text has an athnachat the end of this clause, which sometimes indicates a break in the thought. But neither a comma nor an athnach is sufficient in and of itself to require the conclusion that Daniel intended a break in thought at this point and a radical separation of the seven sevens from the sixty-two sevens, thus making two appearances of Messiah, one at the end of 49 years and the other at the end of 434 years. Of course there is always the possibility that the sixth-century Jewish scholars, the Masoretes, who supplied the vowel points to the original consonantal text as well as the accents that serve as a form of punctuation at times, were in error. But if the Masoretic athnachbe retained, it may serve not to indicate a principal division of the text, as the 1611 edition of the KJV took it (which translation was in vogue up until 1885), but to indicate that one was not to confuse or to absorb the seven sevens into the sixty-two sevens. The point is that a violent separation of the two periods with a projection of two Messiahs is out of harmony with the context. Therefore, we contend that only one Anointed One is being addressed in this passage.

But what led Daniel to start talking about groups of sevens anyway? Daniel had been having devotions in the recent writings of Jeremiah (Dan 9:2) when he realized that Jeremiah’s predicted seventy years of captivity in Babylon had almost expired. Thus it happened that while he was praying, confessing his sin and the sin of his people, God answered his inquiry as to what was going to happen in the future. There would be an additional seventy sevens for Daniel’s people and for the holy city in order to do six things: (1) “to finish transgression,” (2) “to put an end to sin,” (3) “to atone for wickedness,” (4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” (5) “to seal up vision and prophecy” and (6) “to anoint the most holy [place?]” (Dan 9:24). That would embrace everything from Daniel’s day up to the introduction of the eternal state. What an omnibus plan!

But first the seventy sevens must take place. Now the Hebrew people were accustomed to reckoning time in terms of sevens, for the whole sabbatical cycle was laid out that way; accordingly, to equate the “sevens” with years was not a major problem for Jewish listeners. But these seventy sevens were divided up into three segments: (1) the first seven sevens were for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which was consummated forty-nine years after the decree to rebuild the city was announced; (2) sixty-two additional sevens bring us to the time when Messiah the Prince will come; and (3) a remaining seven concludes the full seventy sevens as they were given to Daniel.

While the first two segments appear to be continuous, making up the first sixty-nine (7 + 62 = 69), Daniel 9:26 describes a gap after the first sixty-nine sevens. In this gap, Messiah will “be cut off,” a reference to the death of Messiah around a.d. 30, and the city and sanctuary of Jerusalem will be destroyed, a prediction of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Given the forty-year spread between these two events, it is enough to indicate that the final seven in the seventy will not come in sequence with the other sixty-nine.

When was this “decree” or “word” to restore and rebuild Jerusalem issued? This constituted the terminus a quo, or the beginning point for this prophecy. One of three points has been variously adopted by interpreters for this terminus a quo, with a slight edge going to the third one. First, the decree was the one Cyrus issued in 538/37 b.c. (Ezra 1:2–4; 6:3–5). Second, the decree was the one Artaxerxes announced in 458 b.c., when Ezra returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:11–26). Third, it was the decree that the same Artaxerxes proclaimed in 445 b.c., when Nehemiah returned. Since it was Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls, while Cyrus’s decree focused on rebuilding the temple and Ezra focused on reestablishing proper services at the temple, 445 b.c. is favored as the terminus a quo.

The terminus ad quem (ending point) of the first sixty-nine sevens is usually put during the life of the Messiah; some preferring his birth (5/4 b.c.), others the beginning of his ministry at his baptism (a.d. 26/27) and some his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a.d. 30).

So is this prophecy accurate in what it said about the coming Messiah, given in the sixth century b.c. to Daniel? Yes it was. It correctly said that Messiah the Prince would come and that he would die. Some have argued that it was possible to give the exact date for the announcement of Messiah’s kingdom by supposing that a “prophetic year” consists of 360 days (instead of 365 days of the solar year). This is based on the fact that during Noah’s flood, the 150 days equaled five months. There is no need, however, to make such an extrapolation. It is enough to know that there are some 483 years (69 x 7 = 483 years) from 445 b.c. to a.d. 30–33, when Christ was crucified.

Article adapted from pages 318-320 in Kaiser, W.C., Jr., Davids, P.H., Bruce, F.F., & Brauch, M.T. (1997). Hard Saying of the Bible. Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Press.

About The Author: Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com.

 

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“Revival on God’s Terms” By Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

An Exposition of 2 Chronicles 7:14 by Dr. Walter Kaiser*

The verb to revive in our English Bibles is almost exclusively an Old Testament word. It occurs in the NIV only five times in the Old Testament (Pss. 80:18; 85:6; Isa. 57:15; and Hos. 6:2). The sole New Testament occurrences were found in the King James Version of Romans 7:9; 14:9. Thus we are mainly limited to the five passages mentioned in the Old Testament where the Hebrew verb hayah to live,” to recover,” or to revive appears.

The major reference to being revived, of course, is Psalm 85:6. But we must not think that all the references to revival in the Bible will mention this word, for, as we have found out, the Scriptures will refer to the concept of revival without using this word more frequently than it does with it.

Each of the sixteen revivals in the Bible had very distinctive characteristics. Most of them began as one or two individuals saw the need for a heavenly visitation. All of them were addressed in the first place to the body of believers. In fact, five out of seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation were told to repent and return to God. Therefore, revivals are definitely aimed at the believing church and not at the unsaved. The purpose of these revivals is to call the church back to a new hearing of and responding to the Word of God. It must involve a forsaking of sin, a confession of that sin, and a deep desire to reverse the pattern of spiritual declension and apostasy that has begun to typify that ministry, either locally, regionally, or nationally.

Most will agree that the divine response given to Solomon, when he prayed that great dedicatory prayer, after the completion of the temple of God, forms one of the great hallmarks in Scripture for expecting revival in any period of history. Solomon prayed that God would forgive the sins of Israel when they would confess their guilt, after being visited by some future drought, famine, or pestilence as a result of their sin (2 Chronicles 6:26-31).

God’s reply to Solomon’s petition in 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 was put in such formulaic terms that this response would serve forever after as the basis for true revival and renewal to any people in any nation at any time. The heart of this central text, in the gallery of revival texts, was verse 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Note that “my people” are identified by the appositional clause “who are called by my name.” Since this clause is used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament for all believers, the scope of this promise goes far beyond Israel to include any and all believers in all times.

The Promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14

Philip R. Newell noted three great facts about this remarkable promise, we will describe here:

(1) The promise is for us today;

(2) The promise is descriptive of current times; and

(3) The promise of deliverance is conditional

(1)  This Promise Is Intended for Us Today

This promise was originally given to the nation of Israel. However, the qualifying clause that immediately follows the references to my people is one that opens up this promise to more than the Jewish people—it was the clause that read, “who are called by my name.” That phraseology is used to describe everyone who has become part of the family of God and over whom God had put his protective name.

We also have assurance from Romans 15:4 that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures [which up to this point, was only the Old Testament] we might have hope.” Likewise, 1 Corinthians 10:11 exhorts, “These things happened to them [i.e.’ to the Old Testament saints] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

It is incumbent on us to apply these same words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to our own times, nation, churches, and families, as did the ancient Israelites. The principles by which God operates his kingdom remain the same; we dare not assume less.

(2) The Promise Is Descriptive of Current Times

The conditions of 2 Chronicles 7:13 imply that when national disasters begin to afflict a nation, people, or group of believers, it is time to ask what it is that God is trying to say to them or to us. Naturally, one emergency or disaster cannot automatically be converted into the voice of God, for there are more factors at work in this world than reducing them all to a single factor; there is, however, that which is sinful and wicked. Ask Job about his experiences along this line. But when those tragedies start coming in a series, such as Amos 4:6-12 illustrated, then it is high time for the believer to sit up and take notice. Be sure that God is calling a nation away from unrighteousness and back to himself. In Amos’s case, God sent first famine (Amos 4:6), then drought (v.7-8), then locusts, blight, and mildew (v. 9), then plagues similar to the ones that hit Egypt (v. 10), and finally the defeat of some of their cities (v. 11); but in each case the sad refrain was, “yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD” (vv. 6b, 8b, 9b, 10b, 11b). Not one of the calamities of that day forced any of the people of God to turn back to Him.

And because the people had not returned to the Lord, there would not only be no revival; the nation would exist no longer as well: “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (v. 12). Many have taken this verse to be a salvation text, for one used to see it out in the countryside printed on large oval discs as one drove along: “Prepare to Meet Your God!” Unfortunately, that is not what the prophet of God meant here; he meant that since there was not repentance, or heeding to the national signs of disaster that were lovingly sent to those who had ignored the Word of God written and announced by his messengers, God would be obligated to send his wrath and judgment on that nation.

Likewise, God warned Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:13, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,” then it was time that Israel met the four conditions of the famous verse 14 in 2 Chronicles 7.

The question needs to be asked by every generation and culture: Have we yet reached the point described in verse 13? Only the Lord knows for sure, but one would hardly need the skills of a prophet to conclude that the current pace of evil in America has accelerated to such a rate that it is almost a foregone conclusion that God must intervene with unusual punishment soon, if an immediate repentance to God and a revival from God is to prevent such a judgment from falling on any one of the modern nations of our day.

It is not necessary to spiritualize the drought, famine, or pestilence of verse 13 in order to make the principle of this text applicable to our times, as Newell apparently decided to do. Those spiritual declensions follow the other forms of ethical, moral, and legislative deteriorations already mentioned: both are just as real and of equal importance to our Lord.

(3) The Promise of Deliverance Is Conditional

 It is all too easy in these days of stressing the love and grace of our Lord (which is correct and legitimate in and of itself, of course) to ignore the stipulated conditions attached to our participating in the blessings of God. The four conditions mentioned in this text were not of human origin, but divine. This was God’s word to Solomon but it is nonetheless his word to us as well.

Some will object: “But this is yet another form of legalism.” However, that would be wrong, for legalism is the attempt to earn our salvation by working for it—a form that is totally antithetical to Scripture. Salvation is God’s free gift; it cannot be earned in any shape or form.

But if we are talking about fellowship and communion with our Lord, then let it be noted that God cannot be present or work where sin is present. That is why revival is called for under such circumstances.

The conditionality of “If my people…will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” is no more offensive than John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me”: or John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The conditions, then, were not for entrance into heaven or possessing eternal life, but for the maintenance of fellowship and communion, and for the enjoyment of life to its fullness in these mortal bodies.

The old hymn writer said it best: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” And if that is true of an individual, it is also true for a nation and church denominations as well.

The Four Conditions of 2 Chronicles 7:14

(1) “If My People Humble Themselves”

So large is the topic of humbling ourselves in the Old Testament that there are more than a dozen Hebrew words translating this single word humble, with over eighty references. The one used in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is ‘kana’, meaning to subdue,” as Gideon subdued Midian (Judges 8:28). The picture is one of bending the knee or bending the neck in deference to another.

God calls for his people to render to him complete and voluntary subjection. The precedent for doing this is to be found in the example of our Lord in Philippians 2:8, where Jesus humbled himself.” Those who follow our Lord must be willing to deny themselves and take up his or her cross and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24).

Humbling ourselves, then, is a voluntary denial of every impulse we have to exalt ourselves instead of following the pattern set by the world. We must go into spiritual bankruptcy (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”) if we are to have the mind-set and frame of thinking that was in our Lord Jesus (Phil. 2:5).

The two revivals in 2 Chronicles indicate that more is intended by this condition of humbling ourselves.” Both Rehoboam and Josiah had to come to the point of saying that if God did not extricate them from the trouble they were in, then no one or nothing else would be able to help them.

That is the point to which the modern church must also come. God dwells with those who are of a contrite and humble spirit, reviving their spirits and reviving the hearts of those who are contrite (Isaiah 57:15).

(2) “If My People Will Pray

There are ten different words for payer in the Hebrew text, but the one used here focuses on intercession. It is well illustrated by Samuel, who assures God’s people, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

S.D. Gordon, in his Quiet Talks on Prayer, combines the various forms of prayer into three groups: petition, communion, and intercession. Most Christians know how to petition God in prayer, for that is what we do best. Like little children, we are always asking—and the Lord does not rebuke us for doing so. Fewer believers have learned about staying in God’s presence in order to commune with him and to meditate on the things of God. The joy of worshipful adoration of the Most High God and Lord of lords often goes unclaimed by many who stay in prayer only for a passing minute or two.

But the work of entering into prayer as a ministry of intercession, praying for the world and its problems and needs, is a task that is rarely entered into by believers. In intercession we participate with God in the great conflict between God and our archenemy, the devil. True intercession takes the persons and places in the world where evil is assaulting the kingdom of God and pleads that the strong hand of God might defeat evil. It prays that the lost might see the glorious offer of grace given by our Lord Jesus and that they might come to trust him personally.

Just as Jehoshaphat was taught to stand still and pray for the defeat of the enemy, so too we need to prepare for the work we attempt to do in God’s name by means of intercessory prayer. When Moses’ hands were held high in prayer by Aaron and Hur, Amalek was vanquished, and forces fell back in defeat. But when Moses dropped his hands out of exhaustion, thereby relaxing in his prayer for Joshua and the troops engaged in the conflict on the valley floor, the enemy surged forward against the forces of good (Exod. 17:8-15). This is the lesson the church needs to learn in all our current skirmishes with evil. This does not mean that this is all we must do, for that could be an easy excuse to exempt us from getting our hands dirty in the various services for Christ. But if this is not the very atmosphere in which God’s work goes forward, then we must count on being soundly thrashed by the present world system in our families, our churches, our courts, and our nations. Mark it well: where intercession goes thin or ceases altogether, there the saints and the churches drift into spiritual lethargy, and the forces of evil have a field day in the culture.

The weapons our Lord gave for our warfare are only two: (1) “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” and (2) “all kinds of prayer and requests…praying for all the saints…” (Eph. 6:17-18). No other provisions are needed for us to successfully thwart the devil’s attacks.

Newell quoted from both Alexander Whyte and Andrew Murray on this matter of prayer. Cried Whyte,

My brethren, will nothing teach you to pray? Will all His examples, and all His promises, and all your needs, and cares, and distresses, not teach you to pray? Will you not tell your Savior what a dislike, even to downright antipathy, you have at secret prayer; how little you attempt it, and how soon you are weary of it? Only pray, O you prayerless people of His, and Heaven will soon open to you also, and you will hear your Father’s voice, and the Holy Ghost will descend like a dove upon you” (cited in Philip R. Newell, Revival on God’s Terms: A Consideration of Scriptural Conditions Which God Waits for His People to Fulfill. Chicago: Moody Press, 1959).

Andrew Murray, in the introduction to his book The Ministry of Intercession, urged us to consider the fact that our Lord attempted, in this connection, to get two main truths across to us:

[First] that Christ actually meant prayer to be the great power by which His Church should do its work, and that the neglect of prayer is the great reason the Church has not greater power over the masses in Christian and in heathen countries; [and second] that we have far too little conception of the place that intercession, as distinguished from prayer for ourselves, ought to have the Church and the Christian life (cited in Newell).

Murray continued to express amazement that in Israel’s day, God

Often had to wonder and complain that there was no intercessor, none to stir himself up to take hold of His strength. And He still waits and wonders in our day, that there are not more intercessors, that all His children do not give themselves to this highest and holiest work…Ministers of His gospel complain…that their duties do not allow them to find time for this, which He counts their first, their highest, their most delightful, their alone effective work…His sons and daughters, who have forsaken home and friends for His sake and the gospel’s, come…so short in what He meant to e their abiding strength—receiving day by day all they needed to impart to the…heathen. He wonders to find multitudes of His children who have hardly any conception of what intercession is. He wonders to find multitudes who have learned that it is their duty, and seek to obey it, but confess that they know but little of taking hold upon God or prevailing with Him (Cited in Newell).

Is it not clear that we ought to pray, and to pray in an intercessory way? What a wonderful discovery it would be if we should suddenly come to the end of all of our attempts to bypass this most inexorable condition, and if we concluded that the condition of praying was what we needed to meet for God to act in our day on our behalf! The world would be changed like it had never been changed in our lifetime.

(3) “If My People Will Seek My Face”

Some things we long for so much that we can almost taste them. But what of our desire to seek God’s face?

The “face” of God signifies not his literal face, for, as Scripture often reminds us, no one can see God’s face and still live (e.g., Exod. 33:20). What the “face” of God signifies is the joy and the benefits that come from experiencing his presence, his approval, and his communion with the likes of humanity.

So how can we go about seeking his presence, communion, and approval? By drawing near to him, advises James 4:8. That is how God is able to draw near to us.

But how can we draw near to God if we have unclean hands and an impure heart (Ps. 24:3-4)? We must forsake our wicked ways and our unrighteous thought (Isa. 55:7) and ask for the cleansing work of God’s forgiveness to take place (2 John 1:9).

Only as we abide in Christ are we able to bear fruit (John 15). So, if we are raised with Christ, we must seek those things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:1). That is where we will find fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11), for when we seek our Lord with all our heart, then he will be found, promised Jeremiah (29:13).

(4) “If My People Will Turn from Their Wicked Ways”

The fourth and final condition that would allow revival to take place, in the sovereign plan of God, is if God’s people would turn from their sin by repenting of the evil they have done. If there is no turning from evil, the genuineness of the confession of sin must be doubted. Newell quotes a bit of quaint verse from another century that admonished us about this very need for being authentic and genuine in our request for forgiveness.

‘Tis not to cry God mercy, or to sit

And droop, or to confess that thou hast failed;

‘Tis to bewail the sins thou didst commit –

And not commit those sins thou has bewailed.

He that bewails, and not forsakes them too,

Confesses rather what he means to do.

Jacob was told that he had to put away the idols that were in his household and to be clean if he wished to experience the blessing of God and his reviving power (Gen. 35:1-4). Likewise, Joshua commanded the nation of Israel that they also had to “throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:14). No less insistent was the prophet Isaiah when he also rebuked Israel by saying, “Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” (Isa. 1:16b-17a). And in the very same train of thought came John the Baptist declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near…Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:2a, 8). The whole case built by all of those we have mentioned can be summarized by the apostle Paul’s injunction, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:19c).

God wants us to be clean persons, channels through which his blessings, witness, and interventions in this sinful world can flow. But if we are to be clean, we must renounce all bitterness, wrath, malice, harshness, unforgiving spirits, filthiness, and immorality; in short, anything that would “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27) in our lives, in our churches, in our families, and in our nation.

If the constant and key cry of the prophets of the Old Testament was for the people to “turn,” and “return to the Lord,” can the constant cry of our hearts be any less than that in our day?

Conclusion

There is only one conclusion that we can draw from all these matters. We all agree that our nations and we are in desperate need of revival. We also agree that if God does not intervene we are headed for a time of divine judgment; probably, such as we have never seen before. So what is this one logical conclusion to which we believers must all come? It is the one found in John 13:17- “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

About the Author: Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is www.walterckaiserjr.com. This article is adapted from the Epilogue is his outstanding book Revive Us Again, Nashville, B&H, 1999.

 

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Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. “WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT PRE-MILLENNIALISM?”

A Common Misconception on the Millennium

Lion and Lamb image

One of the most common misconceptions in Biblical interpretation today is that “the thousand years” (hence: the “millennium”), of which John speaks in Revelation 20:1-7, are mentioned nowhere else in the Scripture.  And since it is generally agreed that no major doctrine should be based on any one single passage of the Bible, it is no wonder then that all too many have concluded that pre-millennialism likewise should not be among any of our major doctrinal creeds.

However, a more careful study of God’s Word dissipates this conclusion.  The truth is that the “thousand years,” along with parallel expressions, are found in both testaments and constitutes one of the high points in Biblical prophecy.  Before we look at some of these key texts, it is important to note that the Kingdom of God in heaven and on earth is one of the grand themes of the whole Bible.  A quick review of that Kingdom (in its inception, progress, conduct, and consummation) should set the stage for our considering the key teaching passages in a pre-millennial doctrine.

The Kingdom of God

The Two Advents: The Kingdom of God has two advents, two ages, two resurrections, and two end points.  Few, except some of Jesus’ own kin-folks, deny that the first advent has already occurred.  In a Television debate I had with Rabbi Pincas Lapide on the John Ankerberg Television show a good number of years ago, he observed that the difference between his Jewish viewpoint and my evangelical one was that I, as an evangelical, believed in two comings of the Messiah and he, as a believer in the Tenak (= the Old Testament), only adopted one: a coming of the Messiah in a time of world peace.  I replied, “But Dr. Lapide, Zechariah 12:10 says `They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child… a firstborn son.’  I asked, `Who is the one speaking in this text that they will look on?’  He replied: `The Almighty!’  Then I asked, `How did he get pierced, then?’  ‘I do not know he said.’  My retort was, `I have an idea how: it was at Calvary in his first coming.’  Later the Messiah will come in a second advent in a time of final peace as this same chapter in Zechariah points out.”  Yes, there are two advents advocated in the Biblical text of both the Old and the New Testaments.

The Two Ages: But besides the two advents of Messiah, there are also two ages: in Hebrew- “`Olam Hazzeh,” “This age,” and “`Olam Habba, “The age to come.”  The New Testament Greek employs these same two divisions of time some thirty times: “Aion ho houtos,” “This age,” and “Aion ho mellon,” “The age to come.”  The “Age to come” overlaps “this Age” with the work of Christ in casting out demons, and especially in his resurrection from the dead.  While the “age to come” is still only in its incipient form, for the second advent will come in the future in its full realization.

The Two Resurrections of I Corinthians 15:22-24

Even more significantly, there are two resurrections, not just one.  Revelation 20:5 speaks of “the first resurrection,” which all too many seek to reduce in meaning by spiritualizing, allegorizing, or idealizing it in place of a literal resurrection.  But what John calls “the first resurrection,” the apostle Paul refers to “those who are Christ’s at his coming” in 1 Corinthians 15:23.  In fact, the Apostle Paul has given us just as strong a text for pre-millennialism as has the Apostle John in the Apocalypse.

I Corinthians 15: 22 begins that just as “…in Adam all die, [for which the cemetery is our main, but all convincing, evidence], so in Christ all will be made alive.”  This affirms that every mortal, regardless of race, gender, religion, or the absence of any religious affiliation, will be resurrected in the final day.  Instead of proving universalism, as Karl Barth taught from this passage (i.e., that every one will eventually be saved), the Greek text, which had no punctuation in the original text, follows immediately after observing that “all will be made alive,” with the qualification, “but each in his own turn.” The Greek word for “turn” is a military term (Tagmati), meaning “rank,” “squad,” or “platoon.” So all are resurrectible, i.e., they can “be made alive,” but only in distinct squads, platoons, or divisions.  This text lists three such squads: (1) [vs. 23] “Christ, the firstfruits,” [at the first Easter morning] (2) “then, when he comes for those who belong to him,” and (3) [vs. 24] “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” 

The most important matter to note is that Christ’s resurrection sets the pattern for the two resurrections that are to follow in the plan of the Kingdom of God. It is also important to note that there is a temporal space of time between the resurrections as indicated by the word “then,” which in Koine and Classical Greek is represented by the words that always go together: epeita….eita, (“then …. Then”).  These two are routinely found together in Greek to represent a time period between them as in the Gospel record, “First the blade and then the ear and then the full corn [old world wheat and the like] doeth appear.”  Surely this signals the growth of the wheat in its various stages with a time gap between them.  That is exactly what the apostle John was indicating, though he was more specific as to the time period, labeling it as a “thousand years.”

In just the same manner, the Greek Aorist tense of “lived” or “came to life” (in Revelation 20:40 indicated one definite act, which was called the “First Resurrection” in Revelation 20:4.  “They lived” can only mean they came to life again and returned to a life like their former life as it also means in Revelation 2:8, and of the beast in Revelation 13:14 and elsewhere (e.g., John 5:25; Romans 8:13).  The famous quote of Alford needs to be stated again:

“If in a passage [Rev 20:4] where two resurrections are mentioned, – where certain souls lived, at first, and the `Rest of the dead’ lived only at the end of a specified period, after that first, — the `First Resurrection’ may be understood to mean a spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means a literal rising from the grave, then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything. If the `First Resurrection’ is spiritual, then so is the second, – which I suppose none will be hardy enough to maintain.  But if the second is literal, then so is the first, which, in common with the whole primitive church, and many of the best expositors, I do maintain and receive as an article of faith and hope….  I have ventured to speak strongly, because my conviction is strong, founded on the rules of fair and consistent interpretation.  It is a strange sight, in these days, to see expositors, who are among the first, in reverence of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of unanimity which primitive antiquity presents.”

The First Resurrection is just as literal a resurrection in John’s Apocalypse as it is in Paul’s “those who belong to him when he comes” (1 Cor. 15:23).  And in both John and Paul, those resurrections are separated by a period of time.

Nor does the fact that John saw only “souls” detract from a literal bodily resurrection, for the souls that had heretofore enjoyed heavenly joy were now to be reunited with their bodies.  Note that John does not say the “souls” “lived and reigned,” but the same “they” who were beheaded, and the “they” who had not received the mark of the beast, were the same ones who “came alive” and were reunited with their bodies and who reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

The Two Ends: There are also two ends along with the two advents, two ages, and two resurrections.  The first end is signaled by the coming of the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus from the clouds of heaven in his second advent. The prophet Daniel brilliantly laid this out in Daniel 7:9 – 14 as did the prophet Ezekiel in his Apocalypse in chapters 37 – 48. Instead of a Valley of Dry Bones, the nation Israel is resurrected again with an implantation of the revitalizing breath of Life in each of the skeletons of bones as the nation is once again placed back in her own land.  This marks the opening of the Age to Come, now in its full view (even though it had been inaugurated in the life and times of Jesus the Messiah), and the thousand year rule and reign of Christ with his saints of both Jewish and Gentile believers.

The second end comes with the Great White Judgment throne in which all the rest of the dead are resurrected to be examined by our Lord to see if their names are in the Lamb’s book of Life.  This does not end the Age to come, for it goes on without cessation into the eternal state and the Messianic Age of Eternity.

The Witness of Isaiah 24:21-23 to the “Multitude of Days”

In addition to the two great New Testament passages dealing with the millennium, Isaiah 24:21 – 23 can take the next pride of place.  It too places its prediction in “that day of the Lord” (Isa. 24:21), which “Day of the Lord” is mainly an Old Testament term that parallels the contents of the New Testament “Apocalypse of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1).  Exhibiting the organic nature of prophecy, a separate name in germ form (an example of an epigenetic growth) is used for what John will later call in Greek Chilia Ete, “a thousand years.”  Isaiah names that same period of time Rov Yamim, “a multitude of days,” or “many days.”

Isaiah speaks of the Day of the Lord when Messiah himself will judge and then restore the kingdom to Israel.  At that time, the Lord will “punish” (or “visit”) the powers in heaven above and the kings of the earth in such a fashion that they will be gathered together as “prisoners” in a “pit” or “dungeon” and “shut up in prison.”  “After many days,” (i.e., equal to John’s “millennium,” but here not specified exactly) they will appear for judgment.  At that same time, “the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed when the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders, gloriously” (Isa. 24: 22-23).  Here, then, is a third major teaching text on the millennium.

This is the time during the thousand years when Satan is cast down to the pit “In that day.”  It is when Michael stands forth to fight for Israel (Dan 12:1; Rev 12:7) and when according to the vision of John “the angel, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand, laid hold of the dragon, the Old Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut and sealed him over, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished, or almost so, after which he must be loosed for a little season” (Rev 20:1-3).

Note that Isaiah also fixes the duration of the imprisonment of Satan as a “multitude of days,” or “many days.”  Isaiah also says that it is “after” these “many days” that the “powers of heaven” and “the kings of earth” will have their final retribution.  This implies their future unchaining and being loosed again.  Thus Isaiah 24:22 involves a resurrection of the wicked at the close of the “many days.”

The Witness of Ezekiel 37–48

In this Ezekielian Apocalpyse of chapters 37 – 48, the “whole house of Israel” is reanimated and revivified in the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:5,11). There, as one flock under one Shepherd and one nation under one king, the resurrected faithful dead of the nation Israel are resurrected and taken back to their promised land, just as God had promised in Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 17:15; 49:14, 15; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:6–9; 26:14,19; Ezekiel 37:12; and Daniel 12:1-3. Their “many days” of peace and blessedness are expanded on in Ezekiel 37:1– 28, as well as in Isaiah 2:2-5; 11:6 – 9; 24:23; 25:6–9; 60:1–22; 61:4–11; 62:2–12; 65:17–25; 66:20 23. This will be the time when Yahweh Shammah, “The LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35) living among them.

But again, “after many days,” (Ezekiel 38:8), Judgment will come on Gog with a punishment and visitation similar to what Isaiah 24:22 and Revelation 20:7–10 depict.  The termini of Isaiah 24:22, Ezekiel 38:8 and Revelation 20:7 are identical.  Remarkably, Ezekiel 28:25–26 notes that Israel will be secured from attack and the people will live in safety and their security will be undisturbed (also Ezekiel 38:8,11,12; Jeremiah 32:36-44).

Other Equivalent Expressions in Other Passages

If time and space would allow, we could add Psalm 102:13–22, where Messiah comes with his holy angels with glory to build up Zion.  Then he will judge the world in righteousness and “give dominion in the morning.” In addition to Psalm 102, is the expression “In His days,” found in Psalm 72:7. This too is a text noted as a great Messianic Psalm.

There is also that group of four bright Messianic Psalms in Psalms 96, 97, 98, and 99, ending in the remarkable Psalm 100.  Here every land in the world is called upon to make a joyful noise unto the Lord as he concludes the work in history he said he would do.

Conclusion

But notwithstanding all this data (and much more) on the terms for the “Thousand Years,” “Multitude of Days,” “Many Days,” “In His Day,” the case for Pre-millennialism is almost completely missed if one does not focus on the everlasting promise of God made to his people Israel.

Pre-millennialism is defined not merely as the future time in the Rule and Reign of God (the kingdom of God), bounded by the resurrection of all believers on the front end and the resurrection of the unbelieving wicked dead on the opposite end, during which period Satan is bound, but loosed for a brief time at the end of the millennium before he is cast forever into the abyss.  It is more precisely the time when God finishes in space and time what he promised historically to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David and his line.  It is therefore a whole philosophy of history with implications for the Christ-and-culture-hiatus that must find its resolution in the Lord of all creation and all value and beauty.

Principally the Abrahamic promise (Genesis 12:2 – 3) had three parts: (1) the promise of a Seed, the coming Messiah, (2) the promise of the land as a gift to Israel, but owned by God, and (3) the promise of the “Gospel” in which all the families of the earth would be blessed (Paul equated this aspect of the promise with the “Gospel” in Galatians 3:8). 

It is impossible to read, teach, and preach on the prophets of the Old Testament without bumping into the promise of a return of Israel to her land again and again, something like one verse out of every eight verses in the prophets!!!  This is what makes the return of Israel to her land once again in the future the most important and key part of the premillennial doctrine.

Some will attempt to say that Israel forfeited that promise when she disobeyed, but what she forfeited was only the right each of those disobedient persons or generations had to participate in the blessing promised.  Nevertheless, Israel still had to transmit the promise even though some would not enjoy its benefits.  Transmission of the promise is one thing; participation in the blessings of the promise is another thing altogether!

To say that the Church replaces Israel is not only a form of supersessionism, but it is also without exegetical merit as I have argued elsewhere (Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “An Assessment of Replacement Theology: The Relationship Between Israel of the Abrahamic-Davidic Covenant and the Christian Church,” Mishkan, 21 [1994]: 9-20). Yes, Gentiles are included in the term “People of God” (just as the Jewish people who believe are part of the “People of God”), but the term “Israel” never loses its unique national, geo-political, or ethnic flavor.  This is not because God has favorites or that he is chauvinistic, but rather because God is faithful and true to his word. Once again, note clearly that there is a divine philosophy of history, in which God does complete within space and time what he proposed earlier on in redemptive history.

What is lost, some will ask, if we demote Pre-millennialism to a secondary doctrinal status?  Isn’t it true that the majority of Christians today do not recognize it as taught in the Bible – especially in a reformed or covenantal understanding of the text?  And if they do not recognize this doctrine, isn’t it also true that most think this teaching is reduced to only one teaching passage in the Bible?

But we have shown that it is widely represented in the Biblical text.  Moreover, most will also concede that pre-millennialism was the majority view of the Christian Church in the first three or four Christian centuries.  It was the influence of Origen’s allegorizing tendencies, St. Augustine’s change of his mind on this doctrine, and of the collaboration of Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, with Emperor Constantine in their desire to capture the geo-political sides of the discussions of the Kingdom of God that brought the major change into the life of the Church.

But what is affected the most is the doctrine of redemption and God’s promise-plan for the ages.  It becomes a much more difficult matter to teach the Kingdom of God with its two ages, two advents, two resurrections and two ends without these key texts. Moreover, most will need to shy away from teaching the whole counsel of God, especially as it is found in the prophets.  Also, the very warp and woof of salvation, which Paul says in Romans 1:16 instructs us that it is impossible to talk about so great a “salvation” without at the same time noting that this Gospel is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  Romans 9–11 then, becomes not a parenthesis or an intercalation that interrupts the main flow of the story of redemption; on the contrary, one cannot talk about the gospel or our salvation without constantly intermingling the Jew/Gentile question.  Like it or not, the Jewish question will be the ragged edge on which many will be tested and found deficient from an truly exegetical standpoint of the clear witness of Scripture.

I urge Christ’s Church to go slowly in its rush to jettison the pre-millennial position, or to avoid teaching about the future return of Israel to the land God promised her.  It can only lead to other problems down the road:

(1) problems with correctly exegeting numerous passages from the prophets about Israel’s future;

(2) problems with the nature and extent of the “Gospel,”

(3) problems with a view of history;

(4) problems with the definition of the Kingdom of God; and

(5) problems with being ashamed of the whole redemptive program of God that is for the Jew first and then for the Gentile/Greek.

May our Lord grant us his grace and wisdom to fairly represent the entirety of the “Good News.

*Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. This article is adapted from Dr. Kaiser’s website: www.walterckaiserjr.com

 

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Book Review: Preaching and Teaching the Last Things by Walter Kaiser

Walter Kaiser is a gifted Old Testament scholar who has the keen ability to be able to communicate well among lay people and scholars alike. In this new offering Dr. Kaiser does not disappoint. This book is especially geared toward pastors, but is also extremely helpful for all those who teach and desire to understand the Old Testament and it’s connections to the New Testament and the ultimate promise plan of God.

Dr. Kaiser lands somewhere between a “covenant” and “dispensational” theologian – in my opinion he is very balanced and makes an excellent case for each passage he exegetes. He definitely leans dispensational – taking passages and promises to Israel literally unless there is a textual indicator deeming otherwise.

The book is composed of six parts – covering different aspects of the end times. Each of these parts contains two or three passages of Scripture, and is broken down in this way:

1)   A discussion of the topic.

2)   Specific exegetical and sermonic helps for the specific passage being taught including: the text; title; focal point; homiletical key word; interrogative question; and teaching aim.

3)   A teaching outline for the passage.

4)   An exegetical discussion of the passage.

5)   Practical conclusions based on a thorough exegesis of the passage.

Here are the topics that Kaiser addresses in the book with thorough exegetical and insightful precision:

Part 1: The Individual and General Eschatology of the Old Testament

  1. Life and Death in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:1-20)
  2. The resurrection of Mortals in the Old Testament (Job 19:21-27)

Part 2: The Nation of Israel in Old Testament Eschatology

  1. The Everlasting Promises made to Israel (Jeremiah 32:27-44)
  2. The Future Resurrection and Reunification of the Nation (Ezekiel 37:1-28)
  3. The Future Return of Israel to the Land of Promise (Zechariah 10:2-12)

Part 3: The New Davidic King and the City of the great King in the Old Testament

  1. The Branch of the Lord and the New Zion (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2-6)
  2. The Extent of Messiah’s Rule and Reign (Psalm 72:1-17)

Part 4: The Day of the Lord and the Beginning of the Nations’ Struggle with Israel

  1. The Arrival of the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-3:21)
  2. God and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39)

Part 5: The Events of the Last Seven Years and the Arrival of the Western Confederacy

10. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27)

11. The New Coming Third Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1-41:26; 43:1-11)

12. The Coming Antichrist (Daniel 11:36-45)

13. The Battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 14:1-21)

Part 6: The Coming Millennial Rule of Christ and the Arrival of the Eternal State

14. The Millennial Rule and Reign of God (Isaiah 24:1-23)

15. The New Creation (Isaiah 65:17-25; 66:18-24)

I think this book is a welcome addition to any Bible student’s collection – especially due to the neglect of roughly 20-25% of the Bible being of a prophetic nature. Those of us who teach and preach God’s Word are required to teach the “whole counsel of God.” My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen him draw more parallels in the passages to Christ and how the gospel applies to believers in the here and now – and not solely in the past or future (read Tim Keller or Paul Tripp for excellence in this matter). Overall, I think it’s an excellent resource with wise insights into God’s Word and how His promise plan will ultimately be fulfilled.

*Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website: www.walterckaiserjr.com

 

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