Postmillenialism: An Eschatology of Hope

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Etienne,

I am not “a pure idealist” as my view will, upon rare occasion, link a symbol in Revelation to an historical event, trend, or dynamic. [I attach a couple of illuminating passages from the internet at the bottom of the post, for edification on important nuances and definitions of idealism.]

I think this linking some symbols to events is permissible as we draw near or pass the fulfilment of an event, allowing us to see its realization in hindsight, or what seems to be manifesting as a fulfilment in the near future. I quote from Vern Poythress’ little gem of a book, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation:


Combining the Insights of the Schools

All the schools except the historicist school have considerable merit. Can we somehow combine them? If we start with the idealist approach, it is relatively easy. The images in Revelation enjoy multiple fulfillments. They do so because they embody a general pattern. The arguments in favor of futurism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the Second Coming and the immediately preceding final crisis (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-12). But fulfillment in the final crisis does not eliminate earlier instances of the general pattern. We have both a general pattern and a particular embodiment of the pattern in the final crisis.

Likewise, the arguments in favor of preterism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the seven churches and their historical situation. The symbols thus have a particular embodiment in the first century, and we ought to pay attention to this embodiment.

Finally we have a responsibility to apply the message of Revelation to our own situation, because we are somewhere in church history, somewhere in the interadvental period to which the book applies. Here is the grain of truth in the historicist approach.

We can sum up these insights in a single combined picture. The major symbols of Revelation represent a repeated pattern. This pattern has a realization in the first-century situation of the seven churches. It also has a realization in the final crisis. And it has its embodiment now. We pay special attention to the embodiment now, because we must apply the lessons of Revelation to where we are. (p. 37)​

To respond to some of your concerns, Etienne. A “pure idealism” would perhaps not assign some of the things in the portion of the book after the seven letters to the church in the first century, such as Rome being a manifestation of the beast rising from the sea (John could see the ships of Rome rising up on the horizon), or the false teachers / priests of emperor worship and pagan deities being manifestations of the beast coming up out of the earth and the false prophet.

With regard to a “pure idealist” view of the Book of Daniel, as there are explicit time-markers and identifiers concerning some of the beasts (Daniel 8 having the angel Gabriel interpret the vision of the ram and the goat as “Media and Persia” and “Grecia”), that enables some of the vision(s) to be further identified. Nor do I think the concept of “idealism” applies to Daniel or the OT, or at least I have not heard of such.

It may be that the symbolism of the beasts in Daniel find a place in the symbols in Revelation, as does the OT image of Chaldean Babylon find a place in the NT use of Babylon, especially in the Apocalypse. G.K. Beale’s, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Revelation, perhaps more than other Revelation commentaries, finds the keys to interpreting the symbolism used in Revelation from previous uses of the symbols and images in the Old Testament.

As time goes on, and we draw nearer to the end of the age, I believe the Lord is giving us further understanding of this book through the gift of outstanding scholars and their labors. While I firmly hold to the old Bible of the Reformation, that does not mean that I hold to the older exegesis of some of its books, particularly Revelation.

I do not mean to give the impression I only focus on the end-time prophecies and aspects of Revelation; that comes about due to what seems an obliviousness to both the prophecies of the book and the times we are in. For perhaps the primary focuses of Revelation are a) to give the suffering saints the bracing conviction that the enthroned Lord Jesus is the One opening the seals that implement the decrees of God concerning events during the church age, i.e., He is fully in charge, even when persecution and intense suffering take place; and b) there are many warnings not to compromise with the rampant idolatries of the “earth-dwellers” (a technical term in Rev used for the unregenerate followers of the beast), but to “come out of” the idolatrous world, also called harlot Babylon, so as to avoid the judgments that await her and her lovers. The Lord is in control and cares for His people, and He warns them to flee idolatrous loves.

As for books to make things clearer, William Hendriksen’s More Than Conquerors, and Kim Riddlebarger’s The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist, are two good starters. Although he differs from Hendriksen on some minor points, Dennis E. Johnson’s, Triumph of the Lamb is good. Arturo Azurdia’s sermons (81 MP3 sermons) are very good if you have a iPod or somesuch and time to listen to them.

A good lecture to gain insight into the interpretive method of the contemporary amils is Beale’s lecture on Rev 11, “Two Witnesses in Revelation”.

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Definitions and nuances: [you will see here why I have no problem not being a “pure idealist”!]

Idealist interpretation. Idealism is the other symbolic form of interpreting the book of Revelation that is most often associated with the millennialist position. In its pure form, idealism does not tie the prophecies to any particular post-NT event. Instead, it sees them as “basic principles on which God acts throughout history.” (Mounce, The Book of Revelation 28) Thus, these principles relate to people of every generation.

Erickson describes it this way, “the idealist or symbolic interpretation dehistoricizes these events, making them purely symbolic of truths that are timeless in character.” (Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology 98) They are “timeless . . . truths about the nature of reality or human existence that either are continuously present or continually recur.” (Ibid. 30) *

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The idealist view takes a purely figurative approach, not even considering literal interpretation. The idealist is free to find an appropriate application of the figurative concepts and symbols to current circumstances. While most serious Bible readers consider the personal and general applications of scripture as well as the literal meaning, the idealist does not believe that end times passages should be interpreted literally to any degree. They instead see such scriptures as a general portrayal of the fight between good and evil with graphic warnings that encourage the Christian to live righteously. The idealist view is also associated with amillennialism, which states that there is not a literal millennial reign of Christ on earth, but rather that Christians are currently reigning with Christ in a figurative sense as we strive to bring about justice and righteousness in the world.

While this approach to interpretation can be very helpful in emphasizing the Christian's ongoing duty to live righteously, the limitation is that it entirely misses the message of judgment and any opportunity for preparation and understanding of specific prophetic fulfillment. If, in fact, end times Bible passages are prophetic, as they claim internally, then this figurative view can lead the idealists astray to the point that they find themselves unprepared for end times events. Christ repeatedly warns against being unprepared at his coming. **

[Caveat: apart from their info in idealism, I do not recommend the sites below – I only give them as sources for my quotes]

* Comparison of End Times Views

** http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-4/JETS_49-4_767-796_Noe.pdf
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Matthew, thanks for correcting me with regard to Milligan being an anomaly. Would I be wrong to say that both Milligan and Warfield are anomalies, at least in light of modern Amillennialism? Please note, Amillennialists need not be “pure idealists”!

I’d much rather be called a partial idealist than an historicist-idealist, for I hold no truck with the historicist view!

How far am I willing to go with “this literalism”? On rare occasion it is the right thing; Hendriksen says, “As a rule the details belong to the picture, to the symbol. We must not try to give a ‘deeper’ interpretation to the details unless the interpretation of these details is necessary in order to bring out the full meaning of the central idea of the symbol” [Emphasis added] (More Than Conquerors, p 40). It may well be that the sorceries of Rev 18:23, by which Babylon deceived the nations, was the explosion of psychedelic drug use in the latter part of the last century, and that the final manifestation of the Babylonian empire headquarters may be the American empire (it had headquarter nations in its previous manifestations – Chaldean Babylon and Rome). The cloud of smoke and locusts ascending from the bottomless pit of Rev 9 may be the exponentially deepening spiritual darkness of the world as the end draws nearer.

Satan’s prison, from which he is loosed, is possibly hell, where he is in some degree restrained by the power of Christ (not that he could not be completely restrained, but it is not God’s will at this time) so that his activity is limited; yet it is understood that the chain and the binding are symbolic not literal. Gog and Magog, Israel’s prophetic enemies from Ezekiel 38 and 39, are in Rev 20:8 and 9 universalized as all the unregenerate world against the camp of the saints, which is the church of God throughout the world. The beloved city is that same camp of the saints, the city on a hill (Matt 5:14), and that holy city trampled underfoot by the Gentiles (Rev 11:2), i.e., the church physically trod down, while spiritually – the temple, the altar, and the worshippers, measured / protected by God – are secured and untouched. It is not earthly Jerusalem.

Matthew, your “beyond a shadow of a doubt” with regard to the battle of Rev 20 being but a brief recap of the prolonged battle against the church throughout the age, is deep in shadow of doubt from my vantage point! True, the whole history of the church has been a prolonged battle, but that does not preclude a final great universal battle.

You say of my “literal-when-possible hermeneutic”, that it “is being conveniently employed just at this point in the Book in order to validate a pessimistic view of future world events”.

I need not remind you that Paul referred to the aion we are in as “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4), and John says, “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19). The Scripture speaks of only two ages, this world and the world to come (Matt 12:32). How then do you make it a good aion, if Paul calls it an evil one? Are you positing a third and better age before the eternal state?

It is not “convenient”, my hermeneutic, but necessary if I am to be true to the Biblical texts.

We have been around this bush before! And we are both more set in our minds with regard to our respective understandings, I perceive. If you are busy and would like to wind down this conversation, I would go along with that, as I also am writing, not a book, but an essay on Revelation as well (are you really writing a commentary on it?).

I don’t have the Warfield volume you quoted from above, but in his Selected Shorter Writings II, the chapter, “The Apocalypse”, he says (of Revelation), “We should not forget that the purpose of this prophecy, as of all prophecy, is ethical and not chronological. . . And the truths here revealed are not in order to enable us to read the detailed history of unborn ages, but to comfort the persecuted, encourage the tried, and succor the despairing.” (p. 653)

I shall close with this: I agree that prophecy is to comfort, encourage and succor, though this need not exclude a view (albeit not “detailed”) of history to come.

This is from Stuart Olyott’s commentary on Daniel, Dare To Stand Alone. The angel has been telling Daniel the visions of chapter 8:

“You have heard the truth, Daniel,” says the angel (26). “Now preserve the vision, because the future will need a record of what you have seen.”

And it did. In those darkest of days, when the people of God were being hounded and killed in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, they needed and they had the comfort of this chapter of Daniel. Throughout that period they were consoled by knowing that this wicked man could not have stepped on to the page of history without divine permission and that everything he did, however awful, was nothing other than what God had predicted centuries earlier. They knew that in God’s time, and in fulfilment of verse 25, he would at last be removed. To know all this was an indescribable comfort to them in horrific times. (p. 110)​

This will be the case again, when the writings of Revelation will be “an indescribable comfort” in our “time of trouble” (Dan 12:1).

Gotta go, Matthew – on this side of the planet it’s past my bedtime! Good exchanging views with you!
 
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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you for your most sincere reply. I don't mind the ranting, because I too have shared the contemporary amil interpretation before, and I can certainly understand the sentiment of...frustration? Supreme desire to let people know what is happening? Wonder that others cannot see what one so clearly sees happening? Perhaps excitement that the end is near and Christ is returning soon? I don't know what words best describe it, but I certainly know it. I even had made the identification you are making with America to Babylon. I went from one modification of a view to another, but they all had one thing in common: an "event" driven interpretation. It wasn't until a thread at the PB when Rev. Winzer posted about how idealism does not require one to read an uninspired historian that something clicked and I started taking the idealist view seriously and saw the "event" driven views as sharing the same serious problem: they cater the interpretation of Scripture too much to our imagination (such as, in piecing together complicated current events that we do not and probably could not have a full perspective on and/or while missing how many things in Revelation have been true throughout history), and often end up causing one to be distracted by current events. I think of my non-Reformed broadly evangelical friends who sincerely think Obama is the Antichrist or that the Antichrist is coming soon, or that the end is near soon, or that Gog and Magog are surrounding the nation of Israel--and I pity them, especially how it tends to throw the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation into confusion and an unsolvable, ever-shifting mystery, and for some, distracts them from living ordinary Christian lives focused on Christ. Having the feeling of impending doom to live with does not seem especially nice either.

It seems much better to interpret Scripture with Scripture, and then apply the various manifestations of those ideals to our history as it is necessary, than to make our interpretation of current events have canonically prophetical significance. But enough of that digression, since you and I both agree the concern is with interpreting Revelation rightly--you, so the Christian can see when we are nearing the end, the idealist so that Christians can be free from "pessimism" that is not found in the bible and have a hope to interpret Revelation without having to guess at historical and current events.

I am glad you have admitted the affinities the contemporary amil view has with premil. It definitely clarifies in my mind some of the things that trouble me about that view, and it certainly makes me wonder whether one can consistently end up with that view (I'm not sure a "partial idealist" position can be consistent) and concerned about the hermenuetics that would drive one to such a blend of premil, amil, and historicism. As for my comment about the saints not reigning during Satan's release, I merely meant that on the contemporary amil view, which sees the release of Satan as chronologically after the 1000 years, it seemed to me that for consistency such a view would have to say that the saints are not reigning with Christ during that time.

You have also stated several times your concern that Christians be ready for the end of times when it comes. While I do not think that can be completely resolved for these two different interpretations of Revelation, I think the charge that idealism leaves Christians unprepared for persecution isn't quite right. From what I understand, the ideal pictures of Revelation can certainly be applied to our current situation as it is appropriate or the ideal picture more or less manifests itself at a particular time--just not interpreted in light of it. So one could say (accepting for the sake of discussion that Babylon actually figures an ideal that appropriately applies here) that the picture we see in Babylon applies to America, and indeed, the idealist might be able to say that America is Babylon in our time and place, and hence we should be sure to separate ourselves from America's great wickedness.

And further, it appears living an ordinary Christian life includes an always-readiness for Christ's return, so the end times should not catch any Christian (including the idealist, whose interpretation more easily frees one to live that ordinary life) off guard. And further still, it appears the ordinary Christian life requires us to separate from the world and to expect persecutions and troubles, so no ordinary Christian will remain complacent to surrounding events or God's judgements on nations (and indeed, God is already judging our nation, and not just ours only). And finally, further still, the idealist (and I agree) does accept an intensification of evil throughout history, so any extreme persecution does not catch an idealist off guard. So though these do not resolve all the concerns that you have for those of the idealist persuasion, I think they do resolve some of them.

And indeed, I'd better head off to bed soon too!
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Raymond. I saw that earlier thread where Rev. Winzer posted, and appreciate your being drawn to that view.

A caveat: my view of Babylon possibly being the U.S. is mine alone and not the commentators I mentioned above. Their views may be seen here, in an earlier thread of mine.

It ought to be made clear, the only affinity of the modern amil view with the premil is the severity of the final crisis, and perhaps also the appearance of an individual antichrist, who is very likely not the pope.

I can now see where the allegation comes from that amillennialists (what people seem to call idealists) spiritualize the book of Revelation, and that beyond what the symbolism calls for. The “pure idealist” view – which I really had not come across before until very recently – does indeed do this, to the detriment of the acceptance the partial idealist view of the modern amils. Let me post that list of names (modern amils) again:

G.K. Beale
Dennis E. Johnson
William Hendriksen
Kim Riddlebarger
Stephen S. Smalley
Vern Poythress
R.C.H. Lenski
Samuel E. Waldron
Leon Morris
Anthony Hoekema
Simon J. Kistemaker
Arturo Azurdia

These are, every one of them, astute scholars and exegetes. Are they every one of them wrong, and their work for naught? I don’t think so.

And so we will go our respective ways, and do what we must do, and the Lord will reveal the rightness or wrongness of our views. Thanks for the friendly interaction!
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Steve
I need not remind you that Paul referred to the aion we are in as “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4), and John says, “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19). The Scripture speaks of only two ages, this world and the world to come (Matt 12:32). How then do you make it a good aion, if Paul calls it an evil one? Are you positing a third and better age before the eternal state?

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Steve.

Geerhardus Vos pointed out that since the time of Christ the two ages overlap. Since Pentecost, the powers of the age to come have entered history in a new way.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I’d much rather be called a partial idealist than an historicist-idealist, for I hold no truck with the historicist view!

How far am I willing to go with “this literalism”? Let’s see! I think the sorceries of Rev 18:23, by which Babylon deceived the nations, was the explosion of psychedelic drug use in the latter part of the last century, and that the final manifestation of the Babylonian empire headquarters may well be the American empire (it had headquarter nations in its previous manifestations). The cloud of smoke and locusts ascending from the bottomless pit of Rev 9 may be the deepening spiritual darkness of the world as the end draws nearer.

Dear Steve, this interpretation, by definition, is historicist. The reference point is an event in "history," and chronologically sequenced in relation to other events in history. To be blunt, you are trying to have your idealism and eat it too! There is no such thing as a partial idealist view. Please double-check some of the introductions by the amillennial authors you have referenced. The Book presents itself as symbolic of abstract ideas which pervade all of history. Any reference to real space and time events in the continuum of history must apply to ALL history. If it is possible to see some of these ideas manifest themselves in some periods more than others, it must be clear that the events are seen as APPLICATION, not INTERPRETATION.

As for your particular historicism, it looks more like an apocalyptic movie coming out of Hollywood which can barely recognise there are other nations in the world besides America.

Satan’s prison, from which he is loosed, is perhaps hell, where he is in some degree restrained by the power of Christ (not that he could not be completely restrained, but it is not God’s will at this time) so that his activity is limited.

Do you know what you have just committed yourself to, from an amillennial perspective? The binding of Satan is understood to refer to the once-for-all, perfect, and all-sufficient redemptive work of Christ for His people. If you claim that Satan is loosed at some subsequent period, you are in fact declaring that the work of Christ can be undone. I am sure you would not want to go there, so I hope you will re-examine your interpretation.

Gog and Magog, Israel’s prophetic enemies from Ezekiel 38 and 39, are in Rev 20:8 and 9 universalized as all the unregenerate world against the camp of the saints, which is the church of God throughout the world.

You nearly reached the idealist interpretation. "Universalized" requires time as well as place. It is a picture of all the unregenerate world of all time coming against the church of God throughout the world of all time. That is the idealist picture.

The beloved city is that same camp of the saints, the city on a hill (Matt 5:14), and that holy city trampled underfoot by the Gentiles (Rev 11:2), i.e., the church physically trod down, while spiritually – the temple, the altar, and the worshippers, measured / protected by God – are secured and untouched. It is not earthly Jerusalem.

Here you have attained to the idealist interpretation. Given this explanation, it is impossible to confine the picture to some future period.

I need not remind you that Paul referred to the aion we are in as “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4), and John says, “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19). The Scripture speaks of only two ages, this world and the world to come (Matt 12:32). How then do you make it a good aion, if Paul calls it an evil one? Are you positing a third and better age before the eternal state?

An amillennialist is a realised millennialist, and, as Richard has helpfully pointed out, this leads to a "now and not-yet" realisation of the kingdom of God.

We have been around this bush before! And we are both more set in our minds with regard to our respective understandings, I perceive. If you are busy and would like to wind down this conversation, I would go along with that, as I also am writing, not a book, but an essay on Revelation as well (are you really writing a commentary on it?).

That is something of a running joke. After Pastor Klein suggested I write a commentary on it, he has brought it up when the Book comes up for discussion.

I don’t have the Warfield volume you quoted from above, but in his Selected Shorter Writings II, the chapter, “The Apocalypse”, he says (of Revelation), “We should not forget that the purpose of this prophecy, as of all prophecy, is ethical and not chronological. . . And the truths here revealed are not in order to enable us to read the detailed history of unborn ages, but to comfort the persecuted, encourage the tried, and succor the despairing.” (p. 653)

Yes, that is the standard amillennial and idealist understanding of the Book.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
To enter some new terms and concepts into the discussion.

From G.K. Beale’s, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Revelation, pp 48, 49, the section of the Introduction, Major Interpretive Approaches:

The Idealist View

The idealist approach affirms that Revelation is a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and Satan. The most radical form of this view holds that the book is a timeless depiction of this struggle. The problem with this alternative is that it holds revelation does not depict any final consummation to history, whether in God’s final victory or in a last judgment of the realm of evil. The idealist notion encounters the opposite problem facing the preterist and historicist views, since it identifies none of the book’s symbols with particular historical events.


The View of This Commentary: Eclecticism, or a Redemptive-Historical Form of Modified Idealism

A more viable, modified version of the idealist perspective would acknowledge a final consummation in salvation and judgment. Perhaps it would be best to call this fifth view “eclecticism.” Accordingly, no specific prophesied historical events are discerned in the book, except for the final coming of Christ to deliver and judge and to establish the final form of the kingdom in a consummated new creation — even though there are a few exceptions to this rule (E.g., 2:10, 22 and 3:9-10, which are unconditional prophecies to be fulfilled imminently in the specific local churches of Smyrna, Thyatira, and Philadelphia). The Apocalypse symbolically portrays events throughout history, which is understood to be under the sovereignty of the Lamb as a result of his death and resurrection. He will guide the events depicted until they finally issue in the last judgment and the definitive establishment of his kingdom. This means that specific events throughout the age extending from Christ’s first coming to his second may be identified with one narrative or symbol. We may call this age inaugurated by Christ’s first coming and concluded by his final appearance “the church age,” “the interadvental age,” or “the latter days.” The majority of the symbols in the book are transtemporal in the sense that they are applicable to events throughout the “church age” (see the section below on “Interpretation of Symbolism”).

Therefore, the historicists may sometimes be right in their precise historical identification, but wrong in limiting the identification only to one historical reality. The same verdict may be passed on the preterist school of thought, especially the Roman version. And certainly there are prophecies of the future in Revelation. The crucial yet problematic task of the interpreter is to identify through careful exegesis and against the historical background those texts which pertain respectively to past, present, and future.

The present commentary fits most within the overall interpretive framework of such past commentaries as Caird, Johnson, Sweet, and above all Hendriksen and Wilcock.

[end Beale]

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I will comment further in following posts.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Raymond, having had the time to think further on your remarks, I respond (your words in blue, mine in black),

I started taking the idealist view seriously and saw the “event” driven views as sharing the same serious problem: they cater the interpretation of Scripture too much to our imagination (such as, in piecing together complicated current events that we do not and probably could not have a full perspective on and/or while missing how many things in Revelation have been true throughout history)

My “modified idealist” view is not event-driven although there are historical events identified, some recapitulated and ending in a final manifestation, and some in a sole manifestation. I will be elaborating on this in a later writing, if I don’t here.

[you] wonder whether one can consistently end up with that view (I'm not sure a “partial idealist” position can be consistent) and concerned about the hermeneutics that would drive one to such a blend of premil, amil, and historicism

It’s not “a blend of premil, amil, and historicism” (my take on historicism is a finely detailed chronology of events in the church age, and seeking to correlate them with details in Revelation), for an end-time universal (world-wide) attempt to annihilate the church is not peculiar to premil, for it is plainly in the text of Revelation, and was before the premil view existed. With regard to the term “partial”, Beale calls it “modified”. With that qualifier, and in that schema, it may well be consistent.

on the contemporary amil view, which sees the release of Satan as chronologically after the 1000 years, it seemed to me that for consistency such a view would have to say that the saints are not reigning with Christ during that time

This really does not follow. The beheaded (which I take as symbolic of all Christ’s people who die other deaths or suffer for His name’s sake – which all His saints do) clearly reign with Him, for they are departed into the heavens with Him. Those suffering on the earth through persecution instigated by Satan are nonetheless simultaneously united with Him who reigns; in spirit they remain seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). Our souls are protected by God’s seal being upon us, even though our bodies are vulnerable.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Matthew, I might not be able to completely answer all your remarks at this sitting (though I will try), as I am determined to get to bed on time tonight – older persons need their sleep and shouldn’t be staying up all hours!

The prototype of Revelation’s Babylon is Chaldean Babylon, which is noted in Scripture as being notorious for its sorceries (Isaiah 47), and which was a cause (though not the only one) for its destruction. Manifestations of Babylon have appeared before, notably as the Roman Empire, and it was destroyed. It has even been generalized by amil commentators as world cultures – or even particular regimes – in opposition to God, as seen in this earlier thread on Babylon.

I appreciate in the excerpt from Beale above where he terms a certain strain of idealism as a “radical form” of the view.

As I wrote to Raymond above, I consider “historicist” a detailed schema chronologizing the entire era. I may have to concede to having rare historicist tendencies, which does not make me a historicist. For those who know Beale’s commentary, he does this himself when discussing the final battle (the last recapitulation of the age-long battles) of the world against the Lord – to mention only one example of his similar usage. He calls it, “Eclecticism, or a Redemptive-Historical Form of Modified Idealism”. I am not a radical idealist. I do not accept your strictures as valid for all forms of idealism.

The Hollywood apocalyptic movie you refer to is an interesting image. It’s not me that “can barely recognize there are other nations in the world beside America”, but the America I write of. It thinks of itself is the only true and civilized model of enlightened culture, finance, and governance (or used to before it began its recent decline). It really cannot see itself as the world sees it. True, as I live here, and as I am involved with the church here, part of my focus is to reveal what this country really is, and what it is doing to the other countries of the world.

You said, “The binding of Satan is understood to refer to the once-for-all, perfect, and all-sufficient redemptive work of Christ for His people.” With respect to the term as used in Revelation 20, that might be so in the radical idealist view, but not in the modified view. It is not equivalent to the usage in Matthew 12:29, where the Lord binds the strong man, and spoils his house, nor is it the same as in Colossians 2:15, where the Lord openly spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them by His death and resurrection, nor equal to Hebrews 2:14, where the Lord destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.

In Rev 20:1-3 it refers to a loosing to perform an activity among the followers of the beast, that is, deceiving them into seeking to destroy the church, not just parts of it, but world-wide. Your definitions of some of these things are peculiar to your radical idealism.

The already / not yet experience of the kingdom of God does not nullify the wickedness of this present age. Yes, in the church we experience the goodness and power of the age to come, but the world in which we live, the world which lieth in wickeness, does not receive that goodness which is from Heaven, but remains in wickedness. It will remain an evil aion until the Lord returns, casts out the beast, false prophet, and the dragon and throws them into the lake of fire. And then rejoices with us at the great marriage supper of the Lamb.

I do believe and rejoice in the truth that we are safe, cleansed, holy and beloved once-for-all in our Saviour, and that we are sealed against any harm the devil may seek to inflict us with, even though we may suffer tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword.

I must say, Matthew, that I have been ignorant of much of the things you have spoken of with respect to idealism. I have not really understood the relationship between “pure idealism” and Amillennialism, and the deeper aspects of your view. This discussion has been very edifying for me, and may well continue to be!

Bedtime!
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
It's been a pleasure interacting with you, Mr. Rafalsky, even though I know I am in over my head in this discussion; thank you for the discussion. Though I remain undecided about idealism or the contemporary amil view (and I acknowledge that the list of scholars you have mentioned twice are indeed weighty), I have been finding this discussion useful for clarifying both views and allowing me to think through the consequences and consistency of them, though perhaps not think through whether a particular one is actually true or not, since the consequences or consistency of a view, or a view that seems to solve more problems than another, is not necessarily a correct view, unless there is some hermeneutical rule I am unaware of that allows for that (and I could very easily be unaware!).

Jerusalem Blade said:
My “modified idealist” view is not event-driven although there are historical events identified, some recapitulated and ending in a final manifestation, and some in a sole manifestation. I will be elaborating on this in a later writing, if I don’t here.
For clarification, by "event"-driven, I was speaking of interpreting the symbols of Revelation in light of historical events, or seeing some of the symbols as being fulfilled in historical events.

Jersualem Blade said:
It’s not “a blend of premil, amil, and historicism” (my take on historicism is a finely detailed chronology of events in the church age, and seeking to correlate them with details in Revelation), for an end-time universal (world-wide) attempt to annihilate the church is not peculiar to premil, for it is plainly in the text of Revelation, and was before the premil view existed. With regard to the term “partial”, Beale calls it “modified”. With that qualifier, and in that schema, it may well be consistent.
By "blend" I was both alluding to the Poythress quotation and referring to the parts of each that this "modified" idealist view uses--amil on the thousand years (and in viewing many of the symbols as non-literally, hence your alllowance of recapitulation), premil in having that "negative" (for lack of a better and quick to use term, since I know you deny that your view is negative) outlook and placing that "negative" outlook near the end of time, and historicist (though you choose to define the term otherwse; since I do not know enough about the subject, I cannot comment on an alternative definition for historicism, and so will accept your definition for the point of discussion) in interpreting at least some of the symbols by historical events or seeing some of the symbols/prophecies as fuilfilled in historical events.

By "consistent", I am referring to consistently interpreting something according to some framework. Since I see no markers in Revelation for deciding when to interpret something as recapitulation or an ideal, and when to interepret something by history or look for the event to be fulfilled in history, it seems to me that one cannot consistently hold all these views together. For, once one starts interpreting visions ideally, what exactly causes one to stop at some parts in the book to interpret visions historically? And once one starts interpreting visions historically, what causes one to stop at some parts in the book to interpret visions ideally?

From Beale's comments, it appears one is left having to divide the events in Revelation according to what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future, or what is a transcendntal reality, or what is in the present, by "careful exegesis", but again, I am not sure what markers are there for one to tell which happens where. It seems the only way to tell is to look at the text and see what matches up with history. Why? Time moves on. What was in Calvin's future may be in our past or present. The same goes for John. Hence, if there were markers in the text itself dividing the symbols, then some events would perepetually be in the future. But even if this point isn't accepted, to know whether a particular symbol is past, present, or future (e.g., perhaps "careful exegesis" merely determines when the events occur relative to John's writing of Revelation or to the Second Coming), one will need to know one's history well, in case one missed or misunderstood some historical event that could have very well "fulfilled" the symbol (perhaps the only referrent that could work are things that are seen as happening just prior to or at the Second Coming). And thus, one is left interpreting at least some, and perhaps all the symbols by historical events, with all the problems that follow from that that I have mentioned earlier. I'm not sure then what one would be left with to decide whether the events are historical or ideal, especially if such things haven't been thought to have happened yet (or, haven't been thought to have happened yet according to one's knowledge and interpretation of history). Hence, I am still not sure such a view of interpreting some things ideally and some historically can be consistent.

However, you (through Beale's comments on what he calls "idealism") have made a good point about the Second Coming and great white throne judgment, and I look forward to seeing what someone's answer to that is.

This really does not follow. The beheaded (which I take as symbolic of all Christ’s people who die other deaths or suffer for His name’s sake – which all His saints do) clearly reign with Him, for they are departed into the heavens with Him. Those suffering on the earth through persecution instigated by Satan are nonetheless simultaneously united with Him who reigns; in spirit they remain seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). Our souls are protected by God’s seal being upon us, even though our bodies are vulnerable.
To clarify what I was saying, the text states that the saints will reign with Christ for a thousand years. It also says that at the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released. If the thousand years end, then the saints are no longer reigning with Christ because they are only said to have reigned for a thousand years, and so it seems that if those thousand years end, they are not doing so (perhaps this is the potentially questionable premise you were responding to?). But Satan being released chronologically after the thousand years implies that the thousand years do end before Christ returns. Therefore, the saints are no longer reigning with Christ while Satan is released, and so there is a time before the Second Coming in which the saints do not reign with Christ. The conclusion seems sound (though I wonder if it also applies to the idealist view? Since once the intermediate state ends, according to this logic, the saints would no longer be reigning with Christ?). Identifying the saints with those who have died only reinforces this argument all the more; since they are dead, their reign cannot be stopped by Satan being loosed on earth. I hope that helps clarifies what I was getting at!

Incidentally, the amil view I have heard (from one of the authors on your list) does identify the binding of Satan with the passage in Matthew.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Raymond,

I will try to sum up “in a nutshell” how I see the visions of Revelation (this will be a brief sketch, and not comprehensive).

The Lord appears to John, and His glory and power show that we have the mighty God as our Shepherd and Keeper in these times of trouble. It is also written (1:1) that the revelation is “to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”, which does seem to imply events which are going to appear. Granted, these events may be the dynamics of faithful testimony, persecution, and judgment, which are repeated (recapitulated) throughout the age, though it may refer to final manifestations of these things at the end, which come into clearer focus – such as Babylon, the climax of the wars between light and darkness, and final judgment. So it would be pertinent to the 1st century church as well as to the last century church, with the historical applications for each being contained in the relevant symbols.

He is actually in each congregation of His people, then – back in the 1st and 2nd centuries – and all up through the ages, even in our day. He speaks to conditions in the churches then, though these conditions appear throughout the age, and thus His remarks on them apply to all, up through time.

Here in 4 and 5 we see the great throne of God in Heaven, and the Lamb coming to open the sealed book, in which are the decrees of God pertaining to what shall happen throughout the church age. We are given to understand the greatness and glory of our God, and are assured that He reigns over all, and is in perfect control of everything.

We have the seals being opened, and forces which shall appear through the age unleashed, and also a quick view (6:12-17) of the end of the age and the Lord coming in judgment on the wicked. (The radical idealist sees this as symbolic of all judgments through the age.)

We have the sealing of the 144,000, a symbolic census of the standing army of God’s church militant in the world, and also a heavenly vision of those who have come out of tribulation and are present in Heaven. We can see the grand campaign of God’s witnesses in the earth, and their heavenly end.

Then the trumpet visions, showing divine judgments, both those which devastatingly impact the physical environment of the earth (is not the toxicity of our environment in the 21st century staggering?), and those which impact the “earth-dwellers” (the followers of the beasts) directly. These are present all through the church age, and seem to intensify as the end approaches (in 6:8 death and hell had power of a fourth part of the earth, while in 9:15 and 18 those slain comprise a third of the earth).

We then (in 11) have visions of the measuring / protecting of God’s worshippers – their spiritual lives – while being vulnerable to physical harm. We have the two witnesses, which stand for the witnessing church up through the age (see these symbolic time markers), and when their testimony “shall have finished . . . the beast which ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and shall kill them” (this is a snapshot – from a different angle – of the same event in Rev 20:7-9). This is where the church is decimated (v. 8-10), and then in vs. 11 and 12 the dead in Christ are raised to life, and stand on their feet, on the earth – which the wicked who slew them observe with extreme terror – and the Lord then calls His people to “Come up hither!” and be with Him.

In 12 we see the spiritual history of the church, and our Lord’s resurrection and enthronement, in a cameo, and the war with Satan, and the fleeing of the church to the wilderness (of godly lives "separated" from the world) for safety and God’s protection.

In 13 we see the beasts – the antichristian, persecuting governments, and the false teachers/prophets – and again we see, in verse 7, his war on the saints. I think this clearly shows that his war is all through the age, as is his physically – but not spiritually! – overcoming them. The worshippers of the beast are marked (the saints are sealed), and the mark in the hand and head signify, respectively, actions and thoughts in their allegiance to the beast.

Then in 16 we have the bowls (or vials), which are a drastic intensification of the judgments as the end nears, and also the gathering, by the dragon and the beasts, of the kings of the whole world and all their nations “to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (v. 14), which is another view of the last battle seen also in 11:7 & 8, 17:14, 19:15-21, and 20:7-9.

In 17 we have a detailed view of the identity and doings of “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters . . . which are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (17:1, 15), which whore is also called, “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (17:18), and also identifiers pertaining to both the beast and the whore, which latter is named Babylon. In 18 we have further description of Babylon and her doings, and her judgment, which is utter destruction. Heaven, and the apostles, and prophets are called to “Rejoice over her” destruction, for God has avenged them and their treatment by the bloodthirsty harlot.

In 19 we see the rejoicing in Heaven over God’s just judgment of the great whore, and the worship and praise of Him. We also see a glimpse of the marriage supper of the Lamb, and then the going forth to war of Him that is called Faithful and True, King of kings, and Lord of lords, and the call – using the imagery of Ezekiel 39 – to the great supper God has made of His enemies’ flesh for the carnivorous birds of the world, and the casting of the beasts into the lake of fire.

In 20 we have the unloosing of Satan, seen also in 11:7, to deceive the nations en mass and put in their hearts a furious hatred and rage against God’s children. There will be given a green light to slaughter and loot. When it is accomplished, we see in 11:10, “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.” This is the effect the preaching of the gospel has upon the reprobate: “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:20). We see again the Lord destroying the wicked who would attack His people, and Satan cast into the lake of fire; and then the great judgment, wherein the just shall inherit glory and the wicked torment.

In 20 and 22 we see the things pertaining to the consummation of God’s plan.

Pardon, please, the sketchiness of this quick view. If things become clearer in focus toward the very end it is because God has drawn the images of it in finer detail, such as the final battles and the identity and doings of the final, worst, and greatest manifestation of Babylon. These are just clearer markings of those features of the rebellious world that have been extant throughout the age.

These things shown are not sequential / chronological, but are recapitulated through the age, yet there is an intensification of judgment, and of persecution as the end draws near.

I do think the “modified idealism” is the better understanding of Revelation than the radical idealist view. I can see where so many are turned off to the amil / idealist interpretation because of guilt-by-association with the radical view detaching itself from all connection with the historical situation of the church.

P.S. Raymond, you said, "Incidentally, the amil view I have heard (from one of the authors on your list) does identify the binding of Satan with the passage in Matthew." Could you please specify?
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you, Mr. Rafalsky. I think I have reached the limits to where I can safely argue now. Your post both clarifies things greatly but also confuses me as I try to separate your view from the idealist view.

For example, you state,

I do think the “modified idealism” is the better understanding of Revelation than the radical idealist view. I can see where so many are turned off to the amil / idealist interpretation because of guilt-by-association with the radical view detaching itself from all connection with the historical situation of the church.
...yet through the method of application, the idealist view does connect to the historical situation of the church. Indeed, it connects to the historical situation of the church in all times and places that the church finds itself in. At least so far as I understand, anyway.

And also, you state,

These things shown are not sequential / chronological, but are recapitulated through the age, yet there is an intensification of judgment, and of persecution as the end draws near.
...which seems no different from the idealist view, and leaves no foundation for saying we are near the end (unlike what you seem to have been saying in earlier posts), since another recapitulation and manifestation could still come if the things are not chronological/sequential and are recapitulated through the age (though of course, not literally recapitulated, or else history would exactly repeat itself). And indeed, most of your brief sketch of your interpretation of Revelation seems little different from the idealist view as far as I understand it. And hence I am confused, and will have to leave it to those who know the positions better than I to sort out where the differences really are (and I'm sure they're there; something must cause you to interpret the loosing of Satan differently).

Perhaps a couple last questions I can ask though is: Are you seeing the images of Revelation as being fulfilled in specific historical events multiple times throughout the age and so having multiple fulfillments (I remember a postmil historicist view that saw the prophecies as behaving that way)? Or are you seeing the images as transcendent, having multiple applications throughout the age, as they are more or less manifest in all times and places throughout the age? And by recapitulation, do you mean that the church has historical events that are similar to each other and re-occur throughout the age, albeit, with each reoccurrence becoming more intense than the last? Or do you mean by "recapitulation" that Revelation speaks of the same ideas more than one time, each description perhaps being more intense?

P.S. Raymond, you said, "Incidentally, the amil view I have heard (from one of the authors on your list) does identify the binding of Satan with the passage in Matthew." Could you please specify?
While he doesn't seem to view the binding of Satan as Rev. Winzer has mentioned, Anthony Hoekema does connect (perhaps that's a more precise word than "identify") the binding of Satan with the passage in Matthew, along with some other passages.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Raymond,

I’m really sorry if what I write has confused you! I seek to have the opposite effect on folks!

Anyway, yes, I am “seeing the images as transcendent, having multiple applications throughout the age, as they are more or less manifest in all times and places throughout the age” – such as faithful witness > persecutions > judgments. By recapitulation I mean these are repeated in their general dynamics, but not specifics. Now some of these things are – by indicators in the text – shown to be increasing in intensity and frequency.

What leads me to think we are near the end is I see historical fulfillments in some of the repeated manifestations, for instance, I think the present manifestation of Babylon is the last, due to indicators in the text and what I see in the world.

I think the last Babylon is not just a symbolic dynamic of God-opposing culture through history (though it is at least that), but an historical appearance of that which has been symbolized. Did you look at the link on Babylon in this earlier thread? There are many details in chapters 17 and 18 which I think are meant to lead one to look for the realization of the symbolic. I know this is not kosher to pure idealists!

I am not chained to a methodology, though I try to check my thoughts by means of the parameters of this amillennial / idealist view. I think the Beale approach is sound, and I seek to understand where my thinking is in light of it. The way of thinking I have has come from many years of pondering Revelation and the times we are in. I was premil early in my Christian life, but that was because it was the default mode of the evangelicalism around me. I hadn’t thought it through. I quickly jumped to amil when shown the incongruity of premil with Scripture. It’s been a long journey since then. It was when I preached through Revelation a couple of years ago – studying some of the amil authors I’ve listed in-depth – that I came to clearer understanding. If anything, developing my view has grounded me more deeply in the “ordinary” Christian life of holiness and close communion with Christ, and seeking to bring others into such a walk. I don’t often “lead” with my end-time view, but simply encourage others to cultivate their spiritual lives and intimacy with Christ – for that’s the bottom line, and the place of safety whatever happens.

There are things taking place in our world, and our country, that bear remarking on, and may have relation to “end times” stuff. I’ll be posting a new thread on an unusual reading list I put together shortly.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Re your view of Babylon being the USA, Steve - a view which I do not share, but Revelation isn't always so straightforward anyway, so to an extent such views have to be held tentatively - the USA is only archetypal of modern Western culture generally. So why don't you view Babylon as the West?
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Richard, you asked, "So why don't you view Babylon as the West?" I do – but the modern Babylonian empire has a headquarters nation. Or you could put it, there is a general Babylon – God-opposing culture – which are those nations whose cultures reject the laws of God (which is all of them), and there is an economic-cultural-political-military entity whose empire has ruled the world, inundating it with its ungodly values and culture – the cultural / political / economic embodiment of Babylon. The global deception through the psychedelic drugs of the 60s and 70s is also a factor.

There remains but one thing to seal this
identification, but which has not happened yet: a government and culture "drunken with the blood of the saints" (Rev 17:6). When the first official decrees that result in the blood of Christians being spilled, the ID is sure – to my mind. Till then it is but a working hypothesis.



 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Dear Steve,

Thankyou for your interaction on this subject. I will have to make this the last post for the time being. I hope to clearly express the issues and concepts involved in the discussion. You may have a final reply if you wish.

First, you raise the problem of radical idealism as if that is the same as the consistent idealism I have advocated. It is not. The radical idea comes from philosophical idealism which denies the reality of the world. The consistent idealism I teach is a method of interpreting the symbols which are contained in the literary genre we call vision or apocalyptic; that is all. It goes no further than a consistent method of interpretation to which the reader is held reasonably accountable so as to guard against flights of fancy and eisegesis. Once we accept the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic, that its symbols require theological interpretation, and that its visions are arranged in a progressively parallel order, we are bound to follow the rules we have set for ourselves and are limited to them.

That the idealist interpretation admits the reality of historical events is obvious from the fact that there are two historically vital points from which the Book begins and ends its theological interpretation of history. Those two points are clearly marked in the Book itself. The terminus ad quem, the point to which history is leading, and in which it will be consummated, is the second coming of Christ. The Book itself commences (1:7) and concludes (22:20) on this point. The terminus a quo, the point from which history derives its significance, and from which it is being worked out, is the first coming of Christ. Again, the Book itself marks this point as its theological foundation, 1:18. And if that was not enough, the particular revelation of Jesus Christ which stands out above all else is that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, which was, and is, and is to come.

Given this very clear mandate provided in the Book for its interpretation, it is obvious that the two points from which and to which each vision is to be understood is the first and second coming of Christ. To suggest that there is any other event of significance is to raise principalities and powers to a temporal level with Christ and to defeat the overall thrust and message of the book. Other realities there are, but these are always described in demeaning terms so as to raise our affections to Christ as the Lord of history.

It is on this basis that amillennialism teaches that each series of symbols begin and end with Christ, and that each series recapitulates that which has gone before. To modify this commitment to recapitulation at a point where the interpreter feels it is important to introduce another historical reality, and to demand a sequence which culminates in an event other than the second coming of Christ, is, in effect, to exalt the historical element to a level that is equal with the Lord of history.

Secondly, in particular relation to the millennium of chap. 20, amillennialists in general teach that this thousand years is a complete period of time which is inaugurated by the first coming of Christ and consummated by the second coming of Christ. Granted, some of them inconsistently teach that there is to be a literal loosing of Satan after the thousand years, but that is clearly out of accord with the principles of interpretation to which they have bound themselves. To show that the standard amillennial interpretation of the millennium is that it is the inter-adventual period, I quote from William E. Cox, "Biblical Studies in Final Things," p. 175: "whereas amillennialism technically means 'no millennium,' all leading amillennial thinkers known to this writer very definitely do believe in a millennium, and most of them fix it as the period between the two advents of our Lord." After giving the view that the millennium is best understood as being synonymous with the kingdom of God in its present phase -- a view shared by most amiillennialists -- he states on p. 182: "The millennium -- which John, in Revelation 20, describes in symbolic language -- is a completed period of time during which God reigns in the hearts of all his people. This period began at the crucifixion (where Christ overcame Satan in fulfilment of Genesis 3:15) and will end at the second advent."

This is the standard amillennial understanding. Now, I do not want to misrepresent the writer just quoted. He also taught a literal end time loosing of Satan. How he could hold this and remain consistent to the view that the millennium ends at the second advent was for him to work out. The point is, the standard amillennial understanding of the millennium is that it began with the binding of Satan in the once-for-all, perfect, and all-sufficient work of Christ at His first coming, and will end with His appearance in glory at His second coming. Anyone who accepts this standard interpretation, is bound to fit the details of his eschatological system within these bounds, and is not at liberty to disregard them simply because it fits with a preconceived idea of historical development.

Thirdly, I have pointed to the fact that the binding of Satan is tied to the work of Christ at His first coming. It has been suggested that this is not the amillennial interpretation. I have already shown that William Cox taught this. I believe Anthony Hoekema has already been referenced to this effect. William Hendriksen wrote concerning the binding of Satan, "Passages such as Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:17, 18; and John 12:20-32 clearly show what is meant" (The Bible on the Life Hereafter, p. 151). Again, the writer quoted believes in a literal loosing of Satan just before the coming of Christ, but that does not detract from the point that he believed the binding of Satan was part of the saving work of Christ in His first coming. How a reformed exegete could believe in the undoing of a part of Christ's perfect work is not for me to judge, but it is clear that this binding of Satan is fundamentally connected to the saving work of Christ and cannot be dissociated from it.

Fourthly, attention must be drawn to the numerous inconsistencies in the amillennial scheme when it is open to a literal end time loosing of Satan.

1. How can there be a period subsequent to the thousand years when the thousand years ends with the second coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ consummates history? It is not possible.

2. How can there be a period subsequent to the thousand years when the thousand years is itself descriptive of the the blessed rest of departed saints who are said to reign with Christ? Surely there cannot be a period in which they stop resting and reigning with Christ and must prepare for war again.

3. How can Satan be literally loosed at some subsequent period when his binding is one of the blessed accomplishments of the work of Christ and that work cannot be undone? It is obvious that the "loosing" must be regarded as the activity of Satan among the unconverted peoples of the world throughout the interadventual period in contrast to the binding of Satan in relation to the converted people of the world throughout the same period.

4. Revelation only knows of one battle -- the battle, 16:14, which is Armageddon, and is taking place thoughout the history of the church. This takes place under the sixth vial. According to the amillannial scheme, each series of seven, the seals, trumpets, and vials, are not to be understood as distinct events in history, but realities which pervade all of history. If the sixth vial were to be separated as a distinct event, then the sixth seal and the sixth trumpet must also be separated. As the sixth in the series could only be understood as chronologically taking place after the fifth in the series, then the fifth of each series must also be understood as a distinct event. This process would then have to be applied to each and every event in the series. And what would that leave us with? It would leave us with a fully consistent historicist interpretation with no place for idealism. As can be seen, partial idealism will not work, for the introduction of historicist elements only unravels the idealist scheme.

Fifthly, and finally, the idea of an end time loosing of Satan is dependent on one element in the vision, the time element. It is the idea that Satan is loosed when the thousand years is expired that gives the only figment of legitimacy to the interpretation. But then it is acknowledged that the thousand years itself is not a literal period of time, so how can any time-marker connected to the thousand years be regarded as literal? It is like mixing iron and clay. But there is one decisive factor in the text itself which makes it impossible to regard this time element as literal without demolishing the amillennialist scheme altogether. It is this. In v. 10, the devil goes into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are. If this were a literal time referent it would mean that the beast and the false prophet, which were defeated in chap. 19, were chronologically defeated before the devil. But the amillennialist regards the vision of chap. 20 as recapitulating the vision of chap. 19. If a chronological order were permitted to the defeat of these enemies of the church it would effectively mean that chap. 20 chronologically follows chap. 19, and does not recapitulate it. It is obvious, if recapitulation is to be granted, that the whole vision of the loosing and defeat of Satan must parallel the loosing and defeat of the beast and false prophet. Since the idealist scheme regards the rise of the beast and false prophet as an inter-adventual reality of opposition which is terminated with the coming of Christ, likewise the loosing of Satan must be an inter-adventual reality of opposition which terminates at the same time.

I hope, Steve, you can give at least some of these points the serious consideration they require. Blessings!
 
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Bob66

Puritan Board Freshman
post mil??

I've always figured that WWI and WWII would have dampened the theory of Postmillenialism....
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for these explainations Mr. Rafalsky and Rev. Winzer. I did read William Hendriksen's More than Conquerors and a few expositions from newer Amillenialist, some of which Mr. Rafalsky pointed to, which were convincing, but I haven't read anything by Milligan or any older Amillenialist yet, that might be why I have a harder time to understand the line of thinking in the optimistic camp. My understanding so far has been closer to what Mr. Rafalsky has been explaining but there are a few good points that were brought up by Rev. Winzer.

Would "The Book of Revelaltion by William Milligan" be my best bet to understand the optimistic idealist interpretation?

Also do you think these differing interpretations were influence by the era they have been written in your opinions? What I mean by that question is that do you believe that the optimistic view has been influence by the flourishing of christianity after the reformation? And vice versa do you believe the pessimistic view has been influence by the increase in apostacy and wickedness in the last 150 years? I guess I would have to figure that out by myself but I guess I asking your mature opinion on your own views. Are they so solidely base on scripture that they could not be denied no matter how history unfolds?
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
I've always figured that WWI and WWII would have dampened the theory of Postmillenialism....
Things must be viewed in context. WWII killed an estimated 1.7 to 3.1% of world population. That pales in comparison to some other wars and periods. The Mongol conquests over 250 years killed some 17% of humanity, the An Lushan Rebellion in China from 755 to 763 killed anywhere from 5.5 to 15.3% of humanity. Over the course of history there have been far more horrific conflicts proportionally than the World Wars of the 20th century. It is obvious to us that war is a sorrowfully wicked thing, and it can be difficult to imagine the purpose, but it is also obvious that God has ordained it for humanity throughout history, thus we can also be assured that in the end it will bring glory to His Name. I believe none of the millennial views expressed in this thread are overthrown by the fact that wars have occurred.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Would "The Book of Revelaltion by William Milligan" be my best bet to understand the optimistic idealist interpretation?

Milligan's work is simply an exposition of Revelation. Perhaps the afore-mentioned Warfield essay would be the best place to begin. You will note in his scheme that there is no reason to reject a golden age.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you Mr. Rafalsky and Mr. Winzer. That sure has cleared up quite a bit in my mind. And I'd better get off this thread too; I have a lot of work I need to attend to this week. Thanks for the good discussion!
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally Posted by Fogetaboutit
Would "The Book of Revelaltion by William Milligan" be my best bet to understand the optimistic idealist interpretation?
Milligan's work is simply an exposition of Revelation. Perhaps the afore-mentioned Warfield essay would be the best place to begin. You will note in his scheme that there is no reason to reject a golden age.

thanks
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Matthew,

I will be (mostly) responding to your post #47. In some respects we are on the same page: we use the same version of Scripture, so that variant readings are not an issue with us; we both embrace the amillennial view, and both hold that the interpreting of Revelation’s symbols are the key to understanding the book, as well as both having a form of idealism. But we differ on the method of interpretation. And you seem to say of all those amil scholars who do not toe Milligan’s line – that is, accept his hermeneutic – they are inconsistent.

You have said that your view (mostly Wm. Milligan’s, it seems) is not to be identified as “radical idealism” as that is a “philosophical idealism which denies the reality of the world”, which yours does not. Okay, I won’t quibble about terms. I got this term from G.K. Beale’s discussion of interpretive approaches, where he says,

“The idealist approach affirms that Revelation is a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and Satan. The most radical form of this view holds that the book is a timeless depiction of this struggle. The problem with this alternative is that it holds Revelation does not depict any final consummation to history, whether in God’s final victory or in a last judgment of the realm of evil.” (Comm. on Revelation, p. 48)​

I will grant you that Milligan’s view is neither the “philosophical idealism” spoken of above, nor yet the “most radical [theological] form of this view” spoken of by Beale in the quote above, for Milligan’s interpretation does depict a “final consummation” of history and “a last judgment” of evil (at least implied). Still and all, Milligan’s interpretation transcends historical events, eschewing all but the spiritual. You put his view of the Apocalypse well when you said, “Any reference to real space and time events in the continuum of history must apply to ALL history” – but no particular history.

(For those looking on, to access the text of The Book of Revelation, by William Milligan [many formats], see here.)

Even Warfield cannot agree to this extreme a view: “We can scarcely go the length of Dr. Milligan, nevertheless, and say that the time-element is wholly excluded from our passage [Rev 20:1-3]. After all it is the intermediate state that is portrayed and the intermediate state has duration.” (from his essay, The Millennium and the Apocalypse). He does, though, agree with much of Milligan’s interpretation.

Stephen S. Smalley, in his, The Revelation To John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (IVP 2005), writes,

The history of the interpretation of the Apocalypse has been marked by a sharp division between those who have treated the work and its imagery literally, and those whose perception of the drama is entirely metaphorical, and therefore spiritual. . . In my view, it is impossible to take the symbolism of the Apocalypse literally, and to do so is to misread John totally. At the same time, I would suggest that it is equally misguided to attempt an interpretation of John’s symbolism in absolutely ‘spiritual’ terms, without any reference to the physical realities which are their counterpart; for the one level consistently points to the other, and informs it . . . (p 14)

I follow Beale (48-49) in adopting a view which may be best described as modified idealist.” (p. 16)​

It has been well said (by many), that all theological doctrines have received development and fine-tuning over the years, with the exception of eschatology. Only in the past century or so has this field received the attention it deserved. Perhaps the wars of the last century hastened the focus of the church upon it. I take Milligan as an early pioneer in developing the amillennial view (though Augustine was the first – I don’t count Origen), and Warfield after him. Yet I think both Milligan and Warfield but pioneers in their understanding (I know, I know, you hold both as at the apex of the amil school) relative to the development of the view since them. Even Hendriksen, speaking of the binding of Satan and the casting of him into the pit, says, “What is the meaning of this symbol? . . . We reject the following views on the binding of Satan for a thousand years: a. That Satan is absolutely bound (see W. Milligan, op. cit., VI, p. 913). . .” I will return shortly to interpretive methods with regard to this key symbol: The thousand years, and the binding and loosing of Satan at either end of it.

At this point I should say that, after reading parts of William Milligan’s, Lectures On The Apocalypse (access it here, or here [different sources]), I have a better view of his genius, godliness, and vision. I have to own that what he says here is true (and this represents his vision):

Thus, then, we are not to look in the Apocalypse for special events, but for an exhibition of the principles which govern the history both of the world and the Church. These principles may not even be new. . . No circumstances of [any] kind detract in the slightest degree from either their value or force. What distinguishes them here is that we are not merely told of them as coming; we see them come. We behold an old and sinful world going down in order that a new and better world may take its place; the hatefulness, the danger, and the punishment of sin contrasted with the beauty, the security, and the reward of righteousness; and the ever-present though unseen Ruler of the universe watching over His own, making the wrath of man to praise Him, and guiding all things to His own glorious ends. The book thus becomes to us not a history of either early or medieval or last events written of before they happened, but a spring of elevating encouragement and holy joy to Christians in every age. In this sense it was strictly applicable to St. John’s own day: but it has been not less applicable to after times, and it will continue to be equally so to the end. (pp. 155, 156)​

Let it not be said I do not appreciate what is good and sound in Dr. Milligan. There is indeed timeless truth in “the principles which govern the history both of the world and the Church” – and these do bring encouragement and joy to God’s people in every age. And yet, alongside these principles – or rather, beneath them, as objects on the ground may be reflected in images in the air – we may discern, here and there, “special events” in the history of the world, or of the church. These two, the timeless principles and the special events are not mutually exclusive in this Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John. I hope to establish that duality of the spiritual and the concrete in what follows.

No doubt in your own mind, Matthew, you imagine that your and Milligan’s interpretive paradigm the only true one, and the rest of us fall short of “consistency” in light of it. Were his idea – and yours – indisputably the idealist interpretation, I would agree and submit. But it is not. Your view really is the anomaly among amillennialists / idealists today, and yet you take all of us to task for not staying true to the school. I’ll be looking at that.

Now this that you have written is well said:

“That the idealist interpretation admits the reality of historical events is obvious from the fact that there are two historically vital points from which the Book begins and ends its theological interpretation of history. Those two points are clearly marked in the Book itself. The terminus ad quem, the point to which history is leading, and in which it will be consummated, is the second coming of Christ. The Book itself commences (1:7) and concludes (22:20) on this point. The terminus a quo, the point from which history derives its significance, and from which it is being worked out, is the first coming of Christ. Again, the Book itself marks this point as its theological foundation, 1:18. And if that was not enough, the particular revelation of Jesus Christ which stands out above all else is that He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, which was, and is, and is to come.”​

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Yet when you continue, you overreach:

“Given this very clear mandate provided in the Book for its interpretation, it is obvious that the two points from which and to which each vision is to be understood is the first and second coming of Christ.”​

Matthew, that simply does not follow, not with regard to “the two points from which and to which each vision is to be understood”. This is where you, and Dr. Milligan, and the venerable Warfield, go wrong. The advents of Christ do not mandaterequire – your interpretive method, although it is a possible one. And this “reality of historical events”, you have placed them outside the thousand years of the millennium, so that there is no time element in the book.

Of course there are no other events in history of equal significance to the two advents of Jesus Christ. But then you say of Revelation, “To suggest that there is any other event of significance is to raise principalities and powers to a temporal level with Christ and to defeat the overall thrust and message of the book.” (I assume when you use the term “principalities and powers” you are referring to either human governments or devilish powers, or both.) There are indeed other events of significance, and I won’t be browbeaten – although you do it with the best (godliest) intentions – with the assertion that in so saying I am defeating the thrust of the book and belittling the significance of Christ.

What is wrong with this type of argumentation is that you dismiss those who differ on this with the charge of moral and intellectual failure. For example, you say,

“It is on this basis that amillennialism teaches that each series of symbols begin and end with Christ, and that each series recapitulates that which has gone before. To modify this commitment to recapitulation at a point where the interpreter feels it is important to introduce another historical reality, and to demand a sequence which culminates in an event other than the second coming of Christ, is, in effect, to exalt the historical element to a level that is equal with the Lord of history.”​

Here it can be seen, where a “discernment of timeless spiritual realities” – I’m not sure what other name might be given it at this point – looks down upon (as though from a higher moral vantage) any differing – read additional – method of viewing the symbols and the events or dynamics in the world they may be signifying. In looking at what historical events some symbols may be referring to, you allege I am exalting things to a level of equality with the Lord.

This is surely not to deny the validity of discerning “timeless spiritual realities” in Revelation. The proper interpretation is that, but it is also more than that.

Nor do I deny recapitulation, it is that I look closely at the details of what is being recapitulated, and at the progressive intensification the symbols may be suggesting. You almost seem to have hedged your interpretive method with “moral thorns”. Transgress your interpretive parameters, and suffer wounding!

I will flesh this out a bit more as I proceed. Your second point – pertaining to the millennium of Rev 20, and the binding and loosing of Satan – will afford me the opportunity of doing so.

You have said, “in particular relation to the millennium of chap. 20, amillennialists in general teach that this thousand years is a complete period of time which is inaugurated by the first coming of Christ and consummated by the second coming of Christ. Granted, some of them inconsistently teach that there is to be a literal loosing of Satan after the thousand years, but that is clearly out of accord with the principles of interpretation to which they have bound themselves.”

Let’s look at these “principles of interpretation”.

You have labeled all amil expositors of Revelation as “inconsistent” if they do not adhere to your and Milligan’s interpretive method – this is about 95 percent of them, and perhaps 99 percent if we only consider modern amil expositors. But consistency to a flawed hermeneutic is not a thing to be valued, nor may said hermeneutic be held up as a standard.

Anthony Hoekema, in The Bible and the Future, says,

“In agreement with what was said above about the structure of the book, and in the light of verses 7-15 of this chapter [20] (which describe Satan’s ‘little season,’ the final battle, and the final judgment), we may conclude that this thousand-year period extends from Christ’s first coming to just before his Second Coming.” (p. 227)​

So Hoekema varies slightly from the view that the thousand years is precisely from advent to advent, when he says it ends “just before” the Second Coming.

As I said above, The 1,000 years signifies the church age or gospel age, which is brought to a close when gospel proclamation is outlawed world-wide, and the unregenerate are gathered by the devil and unleashed to attempt the complete annihilation of all God’s children – the church in its global entirety. Says G.K. Beale, “The rebellion [of Rev 20:7-9] is portrayed as very brief so that the directly following judgment can with general accuracy be seen as also coming at the end of the thousand years.” (p. 1024).

There are some expositors who say that the binding of Satan was begun at the first advent of our Lord and effectuated upon His crucifixion and resurrection. Thus there is a leeway of some 33 years as to the precise point of the terminus a quo. And likewise with the terminus ad quem, there is leeway.

Hendriksen says, “This personal reign of Christ in and from heaven underlies all the visions of the Apocalypse. It is the key to the interpretation of the ‘thousand years’.” And after a brief discussion of 20:4-6, he states, “We may safely say, therefore, that the thousand year reign takes place in heaven.” (pp. 190, 192)

We don’t know exactly when Stephen was martyred, but it may have been within a year of Pentecost, and he then joined the Lord in His messianic reign over the nations (20:4).

So at the beginning of the thousand years the saints who died in the Lord rose in spirit to reign on thrones with Him in the heavens. Almost simultaneously, at the commencement of the preaching of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile – in an ever-increasing wave across the world – the power of the Gospel broke the power of darkness that had held the nations in its thrall. This mighty power of the Gospel was first unleashed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and was then manifested through His disciples.

It was by this proclamation of the victory of Christ over Satan, and the outpoured power of God as the saints bore witness to the ascended and enthroned King of kings and Lord of lords – bearing witness in and to the power of His resurrection – that the strongholds of darkness were overwhelmed. The witnesses might be killed, but more followed in their train, and the power of God went forth to deliver and gather in all those the elect souls quickened by the Spirit of Christ.

We know that these things were the beginning of the “thousand years” the devil was chained, bound, and cast into the bottomless pit. It was effected by the death and resurrection of Christ, and the proclamation of this by the saints. During this period – called the millennium – the preaching of Christ crucified, risen, and coming again overcame the power of deception wielded by the devil. With respect to this dynamic (from the same root as dynamite) it is said the devil was chained, bound, and cast into the pit. For how long? Till the thousand years be fulfilled (Rev 20:3). What is the end of the thousand years, at which point Satan will be loosed to deceive the nations once again? When this Gospel preaching be stopped. When the proclamation of God’s mighty power in Christ be outlawed and forbidden. When those saints who scoff at such foul laws and preach anyway are imprisoned, and later – there are so many of them! – just killed. And then the order will come to kill them all.

This effort of the antichrist to a) deceive the world to think such preaching is evil, b) the necessity of putting a final end to it, and c) gathering / organizing the nations to actually do it – kill all disciples of Christ, this is the end of the millennium / the loosing of Satan / the attempt to annihilate the saints / and the second advent of Christ. All of these things are very closely bound together.

As with the terminus a quo we had a leeway of some 33 years in which to place it with precision, even so there will be a leeway with the terminus ad quem.

Of this loosing of Satan, Milligan (and you, Matthew), say, “There is no point in the future at which he is to be loosed. He has been already loosed. Hardly was he completely conquered for the saints before he was loosed for the world. . . In other words, no sooner was Satan, as regards the saints, completely bound than, as regards the world, he was loosed; and from that hour, through all the past history of Christianity, he has been stirring up the world against the Church: he has been summoning the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war. They war, but they do not conquer, until at last fire comes down out of heaven and devours them.”

I would sum up the rationale for this interpretation as follows: “To keep the beauty, poetry, and drama of the timeless truths, one must not degrade them – make them earthbound – with reference to temporal events.” Keep it sanitized.

Both Warfield in his essay, and Milligan in his commentary, were aware of the “formidable” problem with this exegesis: if Satan is loosed all through the millennium to deceive the nations, why then is he loosed at the end of it to deceive the nations? Supposedly he was already loosed to deceive them. It doesn’t wash.

In reality, his being restrained by the sovereign power of God from effecting a world-wide deception resulting in an assault on the church is for the purpose of God calling His elect out of all the nations. Of course, because of the absolute victory of Christ over him at the cross and subsequent resurrection, the devil could do nothing at all without leave of the Sovereign. But it served the eternal purpose of the Sovereign to allow the devil some activity during the church age, and full activity at the end of it. The bride will be purified in fires of affliction. And the devil meets his doom.

You have further said, “Secondly, in particular relation to the millennium of chap. 20, amillennialists in general teach that this thousand years is a complete period of time which is inaugurated by the first coming of Christ and consummated by the second coming of Christ. Granted, some of them inconsistently teach that there is to be a literal loosing of Satan after the thousand years, but that is clearly out of accord with the principles of interpretation to which they have bound themselves.”

Perhaps it will be clear at this point – if not to yourself, then to those looking on – that the “inconsistency” you charge us with is but a fiction, due to a flawed hermeneutic. For whether one describes the millennium as starting at the resurrection or at the birth of Christ, and ending at the cease of Gospel preaching or at the return of Christ, the leeways of both terminus a quo and terminus ad quem will confer either with legitimacy. What is not legitimate is the curtailing of all temporality in the Revelation in lieu of making all symbols and images transtemporal. This is what Milligan does (in his commentary) with the scene of the returning King at the end of the age in Rev 6:12-17; he says,

“The description is marked by almost unparalleled magnificence and sublimity, and any attempt to dwell upon details could only injure the general effect. The real question to be answered is, To what does it apply? Is it a picture of the destruction of Jerusalem or of the final Judgment? Or may it even represent every great calamity by which a sinful world is overtaken? In each of these senses, and in each of them with a certain degree of truth, has the passage been understood. Each is a part of the great thought which it embraces. The error of interpreters has consisted in confining the whole, or even the primary, sense to any one of them. The true reference of the passage appears to be to the Christian dispensation, especially on its side of judgment. . . t is still necessary to urge that the primary application of the language of the sixth Seal is to no one of such events in particular, but to something which includes them all. In other words, it applies to the Christian dispensation, viewed in its beginning, its progress, and its end, viewed in all those issues which it produces in the world, but especially on the side of judgment.” pp. 54, 56


The vision of the wrathful return of the King is subsumed in a hodgepodge of judgments throughout the age. This ought not be done. Too much liberty has been taken with the text. And he does this often!

I will admit that reading in his lectures (linked to above) one may experience a grand beauty in his view of the Book of Revelation. The error comes in limiting one’s understanding to his view. There is more than beauty for the barren, warning for the tempted, encouragement for the weary and distressed, and joy at the presence of the Saviour; there is food for practical discernment of the times at the very end of the age, dangers to be wary of, and understanding of the world and our – the saints’ – lives in it.

With reference to the saints reigning with Christ during the thousand years, and do they still reign when it is over, in the schema of the standard amil view? What does the King of kings do when the millennium is over? Of course the Almighty still reigns – whatever He does! – but now He arises from the throne; and His saints? I think 19:14 shows what they do:

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.​

They are with Him when He avenges the harm done His beloved bride.

Perhaps you are taken with the beauty and poetry of the timeless truths in Milligan’s view, but this Revelation is more than poetry! His view may suit your “optimistic” take on the future – Warfield’s surely does – but the effect is to lull those who should be awake, aware to the shadow of Mordor creeping across the globe.

No doubt we will continue this conversation. Enough for now.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
To continue: Matthew, you ask, “How can Satan be literally loosed at some subsequent period when his binding is one of the blessed accomplishments of the work of Christ and that work cannot be undone?”

Answer: The binding of Satan at the hands of the mighty Redeemer is more nuanced than you let on. Yes, the devil was absolutely and utterly undone by the work of Christ, and yet the Lord had further use for him in the governance of His world, and the perfecting of the saints. God has the right, and ability, to loose the devil in the working out of His eternal purpose. And He keeps him on a very short leash. Yes, he deceives the reprobate, and persecutes the godly. This is in God’s plan.

You said, “Revelation only knows of one battle -- the battle, 16:14, which is Armageddon, and is taking place throughout the history of the church.”

Response: Rev 6:12-17; Rev 11:7-12; Rev 13:7; Rev 16:13,14; Rev 17:14; Rev 19:11-21; Rev 20:7-9 all show “snapshots” of the one Armageddon, albeit from different viewpoints. You do with Rev 16:14 what Dr. Milligan did with Rev 6:12-17 – subsume the final battle of the Lord in a hodgepodge of all the major judgments and oppositions of the Lord against sinful confederacies of men. This is the fruit of a faulty hermeneutic. We have seven visions of the one battle, fought at the end of time. Yes, the Lord fights against those who persecute His people throughout the age, but there will be a final showdown. This view of yours is an interpretation, opposed to the consensus interpretation of idealists in this day.

Historical elements do not “unravel” the modified idealist scheme, only your idealist scheme.

Your fifth item says, “the idea of an end time loosing of Satan is dependent on one element in the vision, the time element. It is the idea that Satan is loosed when the thousand years is expired that gives the only figment of legitimacy to the interpretation &etc”

Response: Yes, the “thousand years” is not a literal period of time, i.e., it is not an actual 1,000 years. But it does denote a period of time, which will, upon its ending, be measurable. You do not agree with this, seeing it as a completely non-temporal symbol in a non-temporal book of symbols, but yours is not the final word on this. Your view is quite in the minority – though this in itself does not say anything conclusive either for or against – and yet you speak as though this is THE standard against which all other views are to be judged.

You then talk about the beasts being cast into the lake of fire in chapter 19 and the devil in 20. The indefinite (to us now) time-lapse of the millennium – which is a symbol of the church or gospel age (not a platonic ideal with no temporal referent at all) – does not mean that the 19th and 20th chapters are to be seen as chronological. In the vision of Armageddon in Rev 19:11-21 the beasts are consigned to the lake of fire; in Rev 20:7-10 – another shot of Armageddon but from a different angle – we see the devil there consigned. I will quote another modified idealist on this phenomenon:

“Just as the vision genre sometimes compresses vast historical eons into symbolic images that pass like the twinkling of an eye (see Rev. 12:1-5, which spans redemptive history from Genesis 3 to Acts 1), so a split-second in time may be expanded in visionary description and simultaneous events presented as successive, in order to help hearers to see different facets of Christ’s victory.” –Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, p. 176.​

The beast and the prophet and the restrained Satan are all inter-advental realities of opposition, but on the modified idealist view they intensify their activities (directed to do so by the Almighty Sovereign) at the end of the age, when Satan “must be loosed a little season” and gathers the nations – greatly through the instrumentality of the other two wicked players, who will be personified at the finale – for the battle against the saints and their God.

What is signified by the time “the thousand years should be fulfilled” (20:3) is when the last elect person is called and saved – then the Lord allows Satan off his leash, and the preaching is halted. This is the same thing as seen (Rev 6:10-11) when the martyrs are crying to the Lord, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” and are told to rest “until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

The modified idealist view is consistent – to its own hermeneutic method.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
To continue: Matthew, you ask, “How can Satan be literally loosed at some subsequent period when his binding is one of the blessed accomplishments of the work of Christ and that work cannot be undone?”

Answer: The binding of Satan at the hands of the mighty Redeemer is more nuanced than you let on. Yes, the devil was absolutely and utterly undone by the work of Christ, and yet the Lord had further use for him in the governance of His world, and the perfecting of the saints. God has the right, and ability, to loose the devil in the working out of His eternal purpose. And He keeps him on a very short leash. Yes, he deceives the reprobate, and persecutes the godly. This is in God’s plan.

Steve, I said you could have the right of final reply, and so I shall just respond to affirm what you have written here. What you have stated is precisely what the consistent idealist advocates. From one perspective Satan is bound and from another perspective he is loosed, not successively but simultaneously. Well said! The idealism of the book is not a-historical, but all-historical. It is a theological interpretation of history. Your theology of the relationship of Satan to the saints and to the world under God is precisely the point the passage brings to life. What you go on to say completely contradicts what you have said here, but that is for you to work out, not me. Blessings!
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you, Matthew, for a gracious and edifying discussion! I appreciate the sharpness of your arguments – you keep me on my toes. And I am especially grateful for your directing me to the work of William Milligan – reading him has been a pleasure, and edifying to me – particularly his lectures (linked to above). It is a joy to read some of his stuff.

May our great God keep you in good health and strength.
 
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