Monday, June 18, 2007

Through New Eyes 3

In 'Through New Eyes' James Jordan aims to help his readers become re-familiarised with the language and thought forms of the bible. Part 2 focuses on the basic elements of creation. After a chapter on the world in general as God’s house, chapter 5 moves to the Sun, Moon and Stars.

Heavenly Bodies

Jordan’s basic text is Genesis 1:14-18 which describes the heavenly bodies as lights, signs, governors of time, seasons and days. Stemming from their position in the heavenlies and their function as rulers of time and seasons, the heavenly bodies have a symbolic function in the bible as representing angelic and human rulers and authorities (e.g. Job 38:7, Isaiah 14:13).

Following from this, Jordan highlights a popular misinterpretation of several bible passages referring to the sun, moon and stars. Most passages which speak of the shaking/falling/removal of heavenly bodies are interpreted as referring (somewhat, but not entirely literally) to the end of the physical world/collapse of the cosmos. Jordan argues that such passages (especially prevalent in the prophets and in Jesus’ teaching) actually represent the collapse of a nation/ruler/kingdom. If the end of the world is on view it is often “the end of the “world” in a socio-political sense.” Jordan cites several examples, such as Isaiah 13:9-10, which, in context, is clearly about the end of the Babylonian kingdom (Isaiah 13:17).

In this vein, Jordan argues that Revelation 6:12-13 and Matthew 24:29 refer to the events surrounding and following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Additionally, he suggests that the phrase ‘new heavens and new earth’ can refer to both a transfigured/renewed creation and also a new world order (new people, new rulers, new government).

Applying this imagery to the promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:5), Jordan suggests that the LORD promised that Abraham’s descendants would be ‘like the stars’ i.e. seated in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6) and given rule over the nations. This would suggest that Romans 4:13 is faithful to the original meaning of the Abrahamic covenant - Abraham's offspring will inherit the world (greek /kosmos/)


Celal Birader said...

Hello Pete,

I've pretty much come to the same place as you have in my eschatological thinking during my time at Oak Hill.

However, i still find it difficult to completely let go of my belief in pre-millenialism for a number of reasons.

First, Jesus's bodily return to the earth is a clear teaching of the NT. Why does He do that ? It suggests he will rule bodily on the earth (as well as the fact that He is ruling from Heaven since the ascension) for 1000 years as we read about in Revelation. Otherwise, there is something strangely incomplete about the whole scenario.

Second, the restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land is what then ? Superfluous ? Not if God is sovereign. Moreover, it takes more faith to believe God's land promise to Abraham and the patriarchs has been rendered completely superfluous because Gentiles have been engrafted to the Abrahamic covenant.

Third, post-millenialism seems to want to take a high view of the transforming power of the gospel which nobody would want to argue again. However, there are no direct promises in the Bible that the Gospel will reform the world or make the world system "better" or in some sense "godly". I'm not sure i see in the Bible any indication that the balance of power in earthly affairs is to shift from satan and his minions to that of God and His church.

It all strikes me as a socio-political version of the prosperity message.

On the other hand, there are many indications that at the return of Jesus things are not going to be bright but rather dark ("will the son of man find faith on the earth"?)

Anyway, i'm still wrestling with these things from time to time trying to understand a bit more if possible but eschatological matters don't have that kind of clarity that we have in other areas. Maybe that's because we don't need it and so maybe i'm just ultimately a "pan-millenialist" - it will all pan out in the end.

Take care and keep posting your eschatological thoughts and ideas. I find you add a fresh and original perspective.

Celal Birader said...

Hello again Pete,

I'm back because something new occured to me as i was preparing our housegroup study.

I appreciate that folk, like James Jordan whom you mention,look at pasages like Joel 2 and Matthew 24 interpreting them as having an AD70 fulfilment and so concluding that this language cannot be referring to "the end of the physical world/collapse of the cosmos".

I don't have a problem buying into this sort of interpretation despite the fact that the language on the surface seems to suggest such a cataclysmic outcome.

As you and i know, quite powerful arguments can and have been marshalled in favour of this view which overpower even my quite strong instinctive hesitation at "overspiritualising the text".

However, it just occurs to me that such interpretations as are suggested by J Jordan and many others seem to completely fail to interact with 2 Peter 3 where the inspired Apostle quite explicitly and unmistakably connects "the day of the Lord" with precisely just what the language in other Scriptures suggests - and end to the physical world/collapse of the cosmos.

Pete said...

Thanks so much for your comments and thoughts Celal. My slowness in replying has been due to a two week holiday.

I have to say, I return from my holiday more persuaded than not re. postmillenialism. This is partly due to having read 'He shall have Dominion' by Gentry, have you read it?

in my opinion Gentry gives persuasive answers to your second point (re. land). He would also vigorously disagree with your third point and would argue that the bible promises exactly that - th Messiah's reign will establish world-wide systemic righteousness. Thus, while the world will be far from perfect, Christ's kingdom will have visibly gained ascendency over satan's kingdom in history.

As for your first point, I rather feel that the logic of 1 Cor 15:23-28 helps. Here we see that Christ reigns until all of his enemies are subjected to him. The final enemy is death, which he conquers at his coming on resurrection day (23,26). Thus, Christ's reign is currently from heaven - his bodily return to earth (which I don't think Postmills deny) brings that reign to a climax with the conquest of death the final enemy. Then he hands the kingdom over to the Father and we have the eternal state. It is also noteworthy that these verses suggest that Christ's other enemies are already subdued to his authority prior to his bodily return to earth.

On links to the prosperity movement I would simpyl refer you to Gentry again, especially his appendix on cultural antinomianism. Postmillenialism is crucially different from the health and wealth gospel in a number of ways.

Finally, re. Joel 2/AD70 and especially 2 Peter 3, it is interesting to note that postmills are divided over 2 Peter 3. Some take it to refer to AD70 (based on the Joel 2 similarity among other things) whilst some take it to refer to the renovation of the heavens and the earth at Christ's second advent. Of course, wider scriptural teaching fits with both options. The new heavens and the new earth are already in existence in a very real sense, even now before the 2nd Advent when they will be transfigured to perfect glory (Isa 65:17-25, 2 Cor 5:17). The new heavens and earth have a now and not yet dimension too, so 2 Peter 3 could well refer to either aspect. I'm undecided.

Feel free to add more thoughts/rebuttals/expositions!