Back Toward the Future (Kaiser)

Kaiser, Walter C. Back Toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishing, reprint 2003.

Regardless of your eschatological viewpoint, Walter Kaiser, mighty in the Scriptures, gives guidelines for hermeneutics and how to approach prophetic texts.  Only one chapter deals with so-called “millennial issues.”

Make Prophetic Interpretation Center on the Living God

Prediction isn’t an add-on to divine revelation– “it is one of the methods of revelation” (Kaiser 18: Rev. 19:10).  Characteristics of biblical prophecy:

1) Plainly foretells things to come. No ambiguities.
2) Entails designed and intended predictions.
3) Written or spoken prior to the event.
4) It is not isolated but correlated to larger biblical revelation.

1 Peter 1:10-12 doesn’t mean Old Testament prophecy was vague or needed NT for the “real meaning.” It just means the OT writers didn’t know the time of Christ’s coming (Kaiser 23). A prophet didn’t “speak better than he knew,” but rather, on issues where he confessed ignorance (Dan. 8:27; 12:8; Zech. 4:13), he merely confesses ignorance of the time or “wants to understand what is said before he writes it down” (24).

Because biblical prophecy involves the Lord of space and time, its fulfillment isn’t intended to be ambiguous, as we see in Greek oracles.

Don’t Believe Every Prophet

Kaiser gives some criteria for discerning false prophets.  They are known for their immoral lifestyles. They are crowd-pleasers. They do not distinguish their own thoughts from biblical revelation.  Finally, they plagiarize (Kaiser 31).

Yet some prophecies do not appear to be fulfilled.  Kaiser mentions several kinds of prophecy: unconditional fulfillment; conditional fulfillment, and sequential fulfillment (35). We shouldn’t be surprised by conditional prophecy: prophecy is intended for holy living. God’s character doesn’t change; his actions might.

Word Packages

When the Bible uses “earth” in distinction from heaven, it is usually universal.  When it uses earth in distinction from the Gentile world, it probably means Israel (48). 

Go Back to the Past in Order to Get to the Future

Thesis:  Biblical prophecy uses the language of previous revelatory events: creation, flood, Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.

Biblical Theology of Prophecy

Kaiser’s method for studying prophecy is standard Evangelical hermeneutics.  He wisely recommends finding longer passages and units rather than just proof-texting verses.  Indeed, he gives a table of key biblical texts to understand prophecy:

Gen. 12 Promise to Abraham
Lev. 25/Dt 28 blessings and curses for obedience/disobedience
2 Sam. 7 Promise of a kingdom to David
Isa. 9 Promise of Immanuel and his dominion
Isa. 24 Devastation of the earth and the millennium
Isa 52:13-53:12 Suffering Servant
Isa 65-66 New heavens and new earth
Jer. 31:31-34 Promise new covenant
Ezek. 37 Restoration of Israel
Dan. 2 and 7 Succession of empires and coming of kingdom of God
Joel 2:28-3:21 Coming of the Holy Spirit and the judgment on nations
Amos 9:11-15 Restoration of David’s hut
Micah 4 Future assembly of nations in Jerusalem
Zech. 14 Christ’s return on the Mount of Olives

Kaiser recommends we focus primarily on the promise plan of God.  While it is true that Christ is the center of the Old Testament, Christ emerges from the Old Testament promises.  It is like a tree that is branching out. This is a much better approach than seeing Jesus as a rock on the road to Palestine.  It avoids allegorical goofiness.

He suggests we read “All Israel will be saved” as sequential in thought.  It might be temporal. It seems to be temporal, but even if it isn’t, nothing is lost by seeing it as sequential to the promises (114).  It follows from the promises made in the OT about including the Gentiles in salvation. It isn’t negating Israel. The phrase “life from the dead” brings to mind Ezek. 37. 

Kaiser gives a good premillennial account of two ages.  

The                 Age                       to Come

This Age   ——                                                         The Millennium/Eternity
                    Resurrection of XP              2nd Coming Great                       Judgment Throne

Three Resurrections

In 1 Cor 15 all humans will be raised by the power of God, but each in his own platoon (tagmata). Paul uses the epeita….eita construction similar to Mark 4:28: first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn appears (120).

The              Age                         to                      Come

This Age——                            The Millennium/                                       Eternity

Resurrection of Chr.              Resurrection of believers                   Resurrection Unbel.

The Pentecost Problem

Simply because Peter cited a few verses from Joel 2, does that mean all future referents in Joel are exhausted on the day of Pentecost?  Of course not.

Kaiser mightily refutes the “double-meaning” theory of prophecy, which is akin to allegorism.  Note, he isn’t addressing the fact that some prophecies have a partial or delayed fulfillment. That is perfectly legitimate.  Nay, he refutes the Philonic allegorism.

(1) This sets aside the common laws of language and makes communication meaningless.
(2) If there were a double/allegorical meaning, how could it be identified (129)?
(3) What boundaries, if any, are to be placed on double-meanings (130)?
(4) Advocates of double meaning admit it shouldn’t be used to establish doctrine, but why this reluctance all of a sudden?
(5) While it is sometimes claimed that the NT writers give a “spiritual” interpretation to OT passages, they wouldn’t have expected prophecy-fulfillment to make any sense if the rules of language were conveniently thrown out the windom.

Preaching and Teaching the Last Things (Kaiser)

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Kaiser Jr., Walter C. Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.

I can’t imagine preaching or teaching Zechariah or Ezekiel 38-39 without this volume on my desk.  Walter Kaiser starts with the “promise plan of God” and shows how God’s promises to Israel must be that in order to show his fidelity to the church.

Each passage deals with a key text of OT eschatology.  Even if you don’t share Kaiser’s premillennialism, you will likely be dealing with the same texts.  Further, his textual comments are invaluable. Each section also has a homiletical outline, similar to what we saw in his Preaching and Teaching the Old Testament.

A word of caution: Kaiser’s outlines function better for teaching series instead of single sermons.  You won’t be able to preach on Ezekiel 38-39 in one morning.  

Opening Notes

The “latter days” or “day of the Lord’….came to be connected with that group of events and times associated with Yahweh’s coming judgment and deliverance” (Kaiser xiv). Kaiser does briefly treat the NT’s Two-Age doctrine, and while I endorse Kaiser’s premillennialism, I wish he would have interacted with Riddlebarger’s claim that there is no room for a millennial reign in either of the two ages.

The Nation Israel in Old Testament Eschatology

Key argument: God made a unilateral covenant with Abraham and David.  This covenant includes God’s promise to bring Israel back into the land, which Kaiser powerfully develops in his treatment of Zech. 10.

The promise-plan of God is his promise of a Seed, a land, and the gospel (Gen. 12:2-4). Kaiser begins to really develop this in his text on Ezekiel 37, where the “bones” are “the whole house of Israel” (31).  Even more, the “promise made to the church would be without any firm attachment to any past history and to what God had planned to provide for all who believed. If the church had not been rooted in the concrete promises of the calling of a nation and the gift of a land, it too would float in the air without any grounding in the past” (39).

We will now take some time to see his outline of Zech. 10, and in this Kaiser shows us how to do a homiletical outline.

Background note: Zech. 10 speaks of another return to the land. That’s interesting.  This was written after they had returned from Babylon. In other words, there was no NT fulfillment.  

The Third Return of Israel to the Land of Promise

Text: Zech. 10:2-12
Focal Point: Verses 9-10.
Homiletical keyword: Contrasts
Interrogative: What? (What are the contrasts between the corrupted leaders of false shepherds and the good leaders and true shepherds of the people?)
Teaching aim: To show how Israel has suffered not only for her own sin, but from the corrupted leadership she has had in deference to the compassionate leadership God plans to give her in the last days as he brings Israel back to the land of his promise for the third time.

1. God is angered by Israel’s corrupted leadership—10:2-3
2. God’s model for a new leadership is his Messiah–10:4-5
3. God will regather Israel Once more in her land—10:6-12.

The Extent of Messiah’s Rule

Ps. 72: Couldn’t have been about Solomon, for he uses future tense (64).

Alexandria vs. Antioch. 

The Antiochene school “established the model of theoria….lining up what happened in the past with an analogous event in the future, so there could be said to be one in meaning, even though they were two distant fulfillments” (65). While there are some difficulties here, it is infinitely superior to allegorical or “spiritual” exegesis, which is no exegesis at all.

Kaiser discusses some interesting, but technical issues with the canonical placement of this psalm, which are beyond the scope here but definitely worth your time (66-67).  In the psalm itself, the psalmists language of “as long as the sun/moon” echo the Davidic covenant (and later the New Covenant of Jeremiah, promised to the House of Israel and Judah).

The Day of the Lord and the Beginning of the Nations’ Struggle Against Israel

The day of the Lord is never conceived as a 24 hour period, but rather a length of time associated with the Second Advent (75). This period is marked off by Daniel as a time of “seventy weeks.”

The Arrival of the day of the Lord: Joel 2:28-3:21

Kaiser does connect on one level “the last days” with the events at Pentecost (Acts 2:17). “The outpouring was an initial fulfillment of those ‘last days’” (79).  However, the Pentecostal events cannot be equated with “that great and dreadful day of the Lord” (82). The same language was used by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, so unless we want to go full preterist and say Pentecost fulfilled the Olivet Discourse, we have to allow for a future referent.

Key argument: two events in history and eschatology are interrelated: Israel’s return to the land and the Lord’s second advent (82).

Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39)

Homiletical Analysis

Text: Ezekiel 38:1-39:21
Title: “Gog and Magog’s War Against Israel”
Focal point: Ezek. 38:16
Homiletical keyword: predictions
Interrogative: What? (What are the predictions of what God is going to do as he puts a huge stop to the otherwise steady stream of attacks on the nation of Israel over the course of history?)
Teaching aim: To demonstrate that God, for his own name’s sake, will sensationally rescue Israel when all other sources of help fail.


  1. Our God will soundly defeat Gog and his Allies–38:1-23
    1. The Allies of Gog–38:1-6
    2. The Purpose and motives of Gog’s War–38:7-13
    3. The advances of Gog–38:14-16
    4. The judgment on Gog–38:17-23
  2. Our God will easily dispose of Gog–39:1-29
    1. The slaughter of Gog–39:1-29
    2. The loot taken from Gog–39:9-10
    3. The burial of Gog–39:11-16
    4. The display of the glory of God–39:17-29

Who is Gog?

Kaiser initially avoids identifying Rosh as Russia, saying, correctly, that its identity must remain open (91).

The 70 Weeks of Daniel

This section is hard. It might even be a lexical nightmare.  Here goes nothing. Here is the problem, while the “seventy sevens,” understood as years, makes sense, do we divide the sevens into two sections or three?   Do the six purposes “run only up to Christ’s first coming or do they run up to his second coming” (106)?

NASB: “seven weeks and sixty two weeks.”

Kaiser, however, divides it into three parts, understanding there to be a Hebrew athnak accent mark from the Masoretes (107).

“Verse 25 mentions a segment of seven sevens/weeks and another segment of sixty-two sevens/weeks.  The sixty two sevens is mentioned again in verse 26; verse 27 speaks of one seven/week along with a middle to that [one] seven” (108).

It might not matter too much for any particular eschatological system.  Unless you are a heretical preterist, everyone posits some “gap” in it.

The Battle of Armageddon

Kaiser suggests that Zech. 12 and 14 refer to the same event.  I’m not so sure. Moving on, if we allegorize Zech 14 to refer to “the church,” which refers back to the same entity in 13:8, then we have to posit that at the end ⅔ of the church will be annihilated (134).  Best to take it in a normal sense.

Preparing for God’s Glorious Consummation of History at Armageddon

Text: Zech. 14:1-21
Focal Point: Verse 19
Homiletical keyword: Events
Interrogative: What? (What events will God use to conclude human history?)
Teaching aim: To show that the battle of Armageddon is earth’s final attempt to overthrow the kingdom of God and the people of God, as set forth in the promise-plan of God

End Times Reading List

I’ve found the following books helpful on eschatology and prophecy, even those with which I disagree.

Moore, Russell.  The Kingdom of Christ: A New Evangelical Perspective.  I disagree with his programmatic appeal, but this is one of the finest surveys of modern eschatological movements of the last century.  Demonstrates a mastery of Ladd and Hoekema.  Shows some weaknesses in amillennialism.  Some strong arguments for historic premillennialism.  Began to tip the scales for me.

Akin, Daniel.  Theology for the Church.  See the essay by Moore.  It is the best defense and presentation of historical premillennialism in print.   He does a fantastic job with the identity of Antichrist.

Augustine, City of God.  It’s not fair to say one doesn’t like this book, but I really don’t.  It’s valuable for its impact on Western history, but it’s also valuable in how he goes out of his way to spiritualize everything in the OT.  Yes, I know premillennials make that accusation a lot, but in Augustine it’s hard to see otherwise.  The authoritative bio on him (Peter Brown) admits that Augustine was embarrassed by the carnal language of the Old Testament.

Ladd, George.  Theology of the New Testament.   We had to use it in seminary.  I didn’t like it at the time and it’s still not my favorite.  Does a good job on the already-not yet.   I am not convinced of his portrayal of the kingdom.

Vos, Geerhardus.   Some important studies on the structure of eschatology.   I demur at the cult-like following he has today in the modern Reformed world.

Ridderbos, H.  Paul.  Slightly better than Vos but in the same vein.   More readable and accessible.

Henry, Carl F.  God, Revelation, and Authority.   Relevant sections.  Some scattered but decent comments on why a premillennial millennium is mandated by biblical data.

Hoekema, Anthony. The Bible and the Future.   A superior amillennial treatment.  Hoekema recognises that most amillennial treatments are simply Christianized gnostic despair.

Murray, Iain.  The Puritan Hope. Standard Banner of Truth postmillennialism.  Very warm and moving.

Riddlebarger, Kim.  A Case for Amillennialism.  One of the better-argued books, but it suffers from many limitations.   Simply chanting already-not yet does not prove amillennialism (and doesn’t say anything different from Ladd).

Mathison, Keith.  Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope.   Decent primer on postmillennialism.  Does not not interact with other forms of premillennialism besides the older DTS models, so it suffers from limited focus.

Bahnsen, Greg.  Victory in Jesus.  A collection of essays published posthumously.  Amillennialists need to interact with  his “Prima Facie Case for Postmillennialism.”   Bahnsen did not give any serious exegesis of Revelation 20, so McClain’s and Wehmeyer’s arguments still stand.

Erickson, Millard.  Options in Eschatology.  Good primer, leans softly premil.

Grudem, Wayne.   Systematic Theology, relevant sections.   Summarizes what would later be standard arguments by Blaising et al.  Cogent presentation.

Wright, NT.  Resurrection of the Son of God.  I include this with a caveat.  Wright’s argument goes beyond the case for a historical resurrecton.  He also does a good job showing how Judaism saw the Arrival of God and how Christianity adapted and modified (but kept the same basic pattern) it on further revelation.

Moltmann, Jurgen.  The Coming of God.  He’s surprisingly premillennial.  Gets the basic pattern right in 1 Cor. 15:23ff, though it isn’t developed enough.  

Rushdoony’s Commentary on Daniel/Revelation.  I forgot the actual title.   I reject his idealist approach to Revelation, but his commentary on Daniel has a lot of food for thought.

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.   Shows the weakness of modern Reconstructionist postmillennialism.   Gentry’s whole case relies on a specific dating of Revelation.  Blaising dismantles the amillennial case.

Pate, C. Marvin.  What Does the Future Hold?  Somewhat sensational style and he doesn’t develop a lot of potential arguments.   Useful outline of basic positions.   He gives stronger arguments elsewhere (cf Bibliography in Moore). Makes the mistake of implying that postmillennialists necessarily hold to a partial-preterist reading of Revelation.  This is simply not true (Rushdoony was idealist and the Scotch were historicists).

Blomberg, Craig. ed.  The Case for Historical Premillennialism.   Uneven essays.   Blomberg’s is worth the price of the book.  Fairbairn’s is good, too.   Some of the simply swing for the fence and miss.  The essay on Covenantal Premillennialism could have buried amillennialism forever, but it didn’t.

Turretin, Francis.  Institutes of Elenctic Theology, relevant sections.    Interesting comments on certain parts of Revelation.   Not much modern stuff, whether new or older reprint, is available on historicism.

North, Gary.  Millennialism and Social Theory.  Uneven at best.  Suffers from a woeful lack of exegesis.  More theory than fact.   He does understand the challenge behind Isaiah 65:20 and notes where amillennialism simply can’t deal with it.   The problem, though, is that postmillennial conversion type theories can’t really account for it, either.

What does the Future Hold? (Pate)

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Pate, C. Marvin.  What Does the Future Hold?

This is a *very* basic primer on eschatology. Pate, however, does manage to add some insights that aren’t covered in Erickson and Grenz. He surveys all of the millennial options, noting where they agree on hermeneutics and noting difficulties in all of the options. He eventually sides with premillennialism, noting that the premillennial reading of chapters 19-20 makes the most sense of the lexigraphy and grammar, and I think he is right.

He made the strongest critique of postmillennialism. However, he seems to think that all postmillennialists are partial-preterists, yet this is not true. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since non-preterist postmillennialism is actually the weakest of all eschatological positions. He forces postmillennialist to logically accept the claims of hyper-preterism. There is no reason why a postmillennialist should stop the partial-preterist wagon at Revelation 18 and not say that Rev. 19 also applies to the destruction of Jerusalem. If, however, he does, the following absurdities arise:

1. The second coming actually happened in A.D. 70 and your position is now heretical.

2. If (1) we are no longer in Revelation 20, but actually chapters 21-22 (since 19-20 is the 2nd Coming/Millennium, which happened at the fall of Jerusalem). If that is the case, we are currently in the eternal state.

His take on amillennialism is actually the weakest in the book. Beside the critique based on Revelation 20, he doesn’t offer one. This is odd since premillennialist usually act like it’s open-season on amillennialism, yet he pulls all of his punches.

Pate ends his book with an analysis of the Jesus seminar and current gnosticisms in the American academy.

This book is fair, but suffers from a number of problems: the analysis isn’t always thorough and the style can be annoying.

Three Views on the Millennium

Bock, Darrell. Ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

I suppose this book is as good as you would expect it to be.  No side delivers “the knockout punch.” Every author admits that much more could be written and so he will have to be brief. I don’t have much of an axe to grind in the debate. My own view at this point is that the revealing of Antichrist will begin the Great Tribulation. Blaising makes it clear, which sometimes the other authors don’t want to acknowledge, that the word “millennium” is irrelevant to his position.  

Gentry.  Argues his case on postmillennialism by structuring it around biblical covenants.  That’s probably the strongest angle of his case. He notes God must be faithful to his promises within space and time.  Even if true, the premillennialist makes the same argument. Strimple’s response seals the deal: when it comes to his theological case about the effective preaching of the Gospel, Gentry offers nothing that any Evangelical would reject.  Moreover, his survey of covenant history at no point establishes “the specifics of the postmillennial vision.”

Responding to preterism: both Strimple and Blaising give good critiques of Gentry’s preterism.  Blaising notes that “The Day of the Lord” functions typologically throughout biblical history. It manifests the final judgment.  (Strimple’s argument is similar: the language Jesus uses in the Olivet Discourse has angels gathering the elect, and if Matthew 25 is read in conjunction with 24, the dead appearing before the throne.  This can hardly be the destruction of Jerusalem).

Strimple’s rebuttal needs to be developed, but it promises some fascinating conclusions.  If Nero is the Antichrist as Gentry claims, then he must be destroyed at the Battle of Armageddon.  This means Jeruselm in 70 AD is the Battle of Armageddon. This can hardly suffice.

Strimple.  He gives the standard covenantal amillennial view.  His argument has two hinges: there is no future conversion of the Jews in Romans 11; and Revelation 20 denies a golden age.  I do like how he points out that Christ, and not the church simpliciter, is the true Israel. It’s tempting for covenant theologians to simply assert “The Church Replaced Israel,” whereas biblical theology is far more nuanced.

In his take on Revelation 20 and the binding of Satan, he asks if such a binding contradicts what Jude says that the fallen angels are bound until the Judgment.  Strimple’s worries are misplaced. That is not what Jude said. Jude said those angels (or Watchers) who fornicated in the manner of Sodom and left their own estate, are bound.  That’s all. Jude doesn’t say anything about the nature of demons or whether they are bound or not.

My own response is that Strimple completely ignored “Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse” (24-26).

In response Blaising notes that “The Day of the Lord” is not always an instantaneous event.  Further, while Strimple argues that the New Testament leaves no place for a future millennium in its “Two Age scheme,” Blaising points out that numerous epochs in biblical history are divided up:

  • God says “on the day I brought you out of Egypt and into the promised land…”  That is not an instantaneous event. It took at least 40 years (Ex. 3:17).
  • Take Messiah’s birth.  Part of Isaiah 11 refers to the Incarnation, but the rest of it, the ruling forever, is taking two thousand years.  It’s not an instantaneous event.
  • Isaiah 24 speaks of “split punishments.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15’s eita….epeita construction could read both ways, but Paul specifically emphasizes the “stages” of the Resurrection.

Blaising.  Blaising begins with a survey of premillennialism.  While not an exegetical argument, it should help amils and postmils to stop identifying premillennialism with Scofieldism.

He gives the standard premillennial take, though.  He notes that the OT speaks of conditions of an exalted creation which still retains sin and death.  Isaiah 65 is the most notable. This can’t simply be “Isaiah’s just trying to show us the heavenly state.”  Isaiah knows how to communicate that people die. In chapter 25 he gives us a picture where there is no death. He didn’t just forget when he got to chapter 65.  Ezekiel 14 has the descended Messiah judging those nations who refuse to submit to him.

Gentry’s response to Blaising falls short.  Partly, Gentry critiques Blaising for not being a preterist.  Secondly, Gentry imputes the problems of pre-tribulationism to all of premillennialism.  Third, Gentry completely ignores the fact that Blaising has said that his millennial view isn’t isolated to Revelation 20. I will give Gentry credit on this: he faults Blaising for not dealing with Daniel 9 within the premillennial scheme.  Fair enough. That would have been helpful.

Strimple’s response is worth noting.  Strimple complains about the allegation that amillennialism is born out of a Platonic dualism.  He points, rather, to the fine works by Bavinck, Hoekema, and Vos. I recommend all of them. That’s precisely Blaising’s argument.  Modern day amillennialism is New Creation eschatology. Praise God. Medieval amillennialism is not. It is Platonic. The point was to float in eternity and think about the divine essence all day (well, maybe not day, since day is an indicator of time).

Strimple then complains that Blaising “considers the Bible apart from Revelation 20.”  This is really bizarre. Usually, premillennialists are accused of ignoring the rest of the Bible.  Now they are at fault for considering the rest of the bible.

Review: Zechariah (Klein, NAC)

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Klein, George.  Zechariah NAC.  Nashville, TN: Holman.  2005.

Klein does afford a place to a physical Israel in the future (Klein 67).  He notes that “the Church and Israel both participate in God’s eschatological promises, but neither will disappear in the end times” (67).  However, he rejects the idea that there are two parallel covenants today. Israel cannot be a metaphor for the church since there is no compelling literary or theological evidence in Zechariah to see it as such.

This is a fine, albeit limited scholarly commentary.  Klein interacts with the Hebrew text and occasionally the syntax.  There is a tendency for it to be “word studies,” but that is usually kept in check.

I only have one real disagreement and that is at the end of the book. He says “The biblical text gives no quarter to polytheism or even henotheism….Any other so-called deity is a non-god that possesses no power whatsoever” (376).  That statement is misleading. Of course, polytheism is out, since the “gods” are not on an even level. But what about henotheism? The problem there is that henotheism usually presupposes an evolutionary worldview, which is out of the question.  But the bible isn’t using the word “elohim” in the same sense that Klein is. An elohim is a spirit being of the unseen world. Yahwen is an elohim, but not all elohim are Yahweh. In any case, the Bible does say that elohim are real and they do have authority in some limited sense (Dt 32:8; Psalm 82; NT archons, principalities, etc).

Chapter 3

Great discussion on the identity of ha-Shatan.  Klein correctly argues that it isn’t the Satan figure of the New Testament.  The lexical argument, almost universally agreed among Hebraists, is that when x is preceded by the definite article, it is a common noun, not a proper name (135).  There are some rare exceptions. He also links it to the figure in Job 1-2. In any case, the passage makes no attempt to identify the figure, whose position is secondary to the flow of the narrative, anyway.

Chapter 6

Klein correctly recognizes that “Tsaphon” symbolizes something like cosmic evil (186).  Klein: “Mount Zaphon had a long association with Baal worship and functioned as the sacred mountain of Baal-Hadad in Canaanite mythology” (cf. CTA 3.3.10-28).

Chapter 7

Real Justice (8-14). “Zechariah places “true justice’ in an emphatic position, preceding the verb, in order to stress its importance” (221).  Justice isn’t an abstract term. It stresses the character of the Lord of the Covenant. Klein’s language is stronger: “Hence, the Bible ascribes ‘loyalty’ to a person, never to a concept. Theologically, the word hesed conveys the very ‘essence of the covenant relationship’” (221). Down with scholastic wrangling! We are dealing with the Lord of the Covenant.

Chapter 9

While there are good insights here, he misses the opportunity to fully exploit the battle between Zion and Greece.  Most commentators point to the oddity that Zechariah wrote this long before Alexander the Great, which means either it can only have some vague spiritual application, or it is a later addition.  Both, obviously, are unacceptable.

While this predated Greece’s military rise, the Greek worldview was already on the stage and fully at odds with God. On the next page Klein rightly notes the anti-Ba’al language (coming from the South as a counter to the North), but he could have extended the analysis further by noting that Zeus = Ba’al.

Chapter 11

Lebanon is linked with Bashan (315).  See Isaiah 2.13; Jer. 22.20; Ezek. 27.5-6.

Chapter 14

Klein argues persuasively that the events in chapter 14 must be future.

  1. (1) Numerous statements in chapter 14 have no equivalent in history (398).
    1. “God will gather all nations against Jerusalem” (v2)
    2. It will be a unique day known to the Lord (7)
    3. Yahweh will be king over the whole earth” (9)
    4. The survivors from all the nations that attacked Jerusalem will go up to worship (16)
  2. (2) The seven-fold reverberation of the eschatological formula “on that day” (bayyom-hahu) (4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, 21) also makes the eschatological outlook certain.

Klein does mention the connection between Yahweh’s (Jesus’s) feet landing on the Mount of Olives at the Second Coming and the earthquake that it creates (whose sole purpose is to allow the survivors time to escape). He notes textual connections with Exodus 14-15 and Ezekiel 38:19-23, which judgment will include a “great earthquake.”

Argues that the holy ones (kol-kadoshim) refers to some kind of heavenly council (407).


3 Views on the Rapture

Though the book is dated (pre-wrath has replaced mid-tribulationism), it remains valuable for a number of reasons.  Reiter’s essay on the development of American premillennialism is worth the price of the book. Many have a tendency to lump all premils as rednecks who are looking for the Red Heifer.  But what Reiter shows is that early premillennials were aware of difficulties in the system, and they tried to fix them.Image result for 3 views on the rapture zondervan

Feinberg gives the standard pre-tribulational argument. Key argument: God has not only exempted the church from God’s wrath, but from the season of God’s wrath (Feinberg 58, 63). Feinberg’s key argument is that Revelation 3:10 means that God will keep the church out of the tribulation.  

He further claims there must be an interval of time between the Rapture and the 2 Coming (72). The Millennium has nonglorified bodies.  And since all wicked will be immediately judged in the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-46), then there must be a category of saved yet nonglorified bodies?

Response: Douglas Moo

The most fatal argument is that the martyred saints in Revelation 6 are asking God when his wrath will begin?  This implies it hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, the time of Tribulation is not totally a time of wrath.

Response: Gleason Archer

Feinberg admits that the Day of the Lord referred to in 2 Thess. 2:3-4 does not start until the middle of the week (Feinberg 61). This is very close to pre-wrath.

Douglas Moo gives the post-trib argument, and since it is relatively familiar to American evangelicals, I will focus on Gleason Archer’s mid-tribulational view.  It never gained much ground and has since been replaced by pre-wrath.

The Case for the Mid-Seventieth Week Rapture

The rapture will precede the second advent of Christ. So far that sounds like pre-trib, but there are a few differences.  Archer places the rapture in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week.

Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 19.  This is the big weakness of post-tribulationism.  Where do these saints come from (Archer 120). These saints appear to have already been “clothed” (2 Cor. 5:2; 1 John 3:2).

Two phases of the Parousia (cf. response to Moo, 213ff).  There is no hint of apocalyptic struggle in the primary rapture passage (1 Thess. 4:13-18). In verse 14 it says “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through (dia) Christ Jesus.” Those who have died in Christ will not be raised until the rapture (214). They will not accompany the Lord in his descent without their resurrected bodies.


So who won?  Not really anyone.  Feinberg made a few good points, but his church/israel dichotomy hamstrung his whole project.  Moo’s responses were fairly good but post-trib is just so complex that I can’t follow him. Archer’s placing the rapture midway through the 70th week is interesting, if a bit arbitrary.  I think Alan Kurschner’s recent teaching on pre-wrath holds more promise.

Review: Keener on Revelation

Keener, Craig.  Revelation. NIVAC.  Zondervan, 2000.

I didn’t expect much out of a commentary series that had the letters “NIV” in it, but this was well-done. Keener demonstrated mastery of the current literature and made interesting, if sometimes stretched, applications.keener

Rev. 4-5 Throne Room

24 elders: Keener says they represent all believers (172). That reading is possible, but it is more likely the divine council. Further, the picture we have of believers in heaven (ch. 6) has them pleading before the altar.
Revelation 6:9-17

Keener raises the problem of the martyrs’ prayer for justice, but doesn’t give a satisfactory answer (221-22). He notes that it appears to conflict with Jesus’s love your enemies. He doesn’t bring up the imprecatory psalms. They aren’t psalm of vengeance, but psalms against God to arise in covenantal judgment. When we pray like this, we aren’t violating Jesus’s commands, but are asking God to be faithful to the covenant.

Revelation 7:1-8

Keener seems to suggest that the events following the 6th seal aren’t chronological. In fact, he breaks with premillennialism at this point: “those who can withstand the day of God’s wrath are those whom God has empowered to withstand the previous plagues” (230). That’s certainly a true proposition but there are easier answers. Pre-wrath, for one.

Revelation 12

The Mother: faithful remnant of Israel (314). The theological source most available would have been the OT, which the readers would have known.

Reasons it can’t be Mary: We don’t have evidence of Mary’s being persecuted by the Dragon.

Revelation 20

Defense of Historic Premillennialism

1. The binding of Satan during the thousand years hardly matches Satan’s deceptive and murderous activity during the present era (12:12-13; 13:11-15).
2. The saints have already been martyred, suggesting that the Tribulation period precedes the Millennium.
3. The resurrection of the righteous is parallel to and contrasted with the rest of the dead returning to life after the thousand years (20:4-6), suggesting a bodily rather than symbolic resurrection.
4. Revelation 20 presupposes all that transpired in chapters 12-19.

Extra notes on Revelation 20.

The angel’s binding of Satan (20:2; 9:14) is a common motif throughout Jewish literature (1 Enoch 10:4-6

Gog and Magog. In Ezekiel Gog is the ruler of Magog, but here they merely symbolize all the evil nations

Other notes: it’s doubtful John had Matt. 12 in mind when he spoke of the binding of Satan. It’s unlikely his earlier readers would have had access to the Synoptics.


Keener utilizes a lot of material from Tony Campolo and Ron Sider. Rev. (so-called) Jeremiah Wright of Chicago (of Obama fame) also makes an appearance (194).


A response to Riddlebarger’s Huge Premillennial Problem

He asks, “Where is this mixture of resurrected and unresurrected individuals taught, or even implied in the Scriptures? “

Answer:  Why can it not be taught in Revelation 20? Why is that chapter suddenly off-limits?

Further:  As we have seen, the New Testament writers all anticipate the final consummation to occur at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent.  They do not anticipate the half-way step of an earthly millennium before the final consummation such as that associated with all forms of premillennalism.

But that is not how 1 Cor. 15:20-27 reads.   One can legitimately make the case that the tagmata represent three different orders of events, given Paul’s eita…epeita construction.  Even progressive’s like Jurgen Moltmann concede the point and even advance this reading.

His strongest argument:

Perhaps even more problematic is the following dilemma raised by the premillennial insistence upon people in natural bodies living on the earth alongside of Christ and his resurrected saints.  How do people living on the earth at the time of Christ’s second coming escape the resurrection and the judgment?  The Scriptures are very clear that Christ returns to judge the world, raise the dead and renew the cosmos.  According to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, those who have died in Christ are raised from the dead at his coming.  Those who are Christ’s and who are still alive when he comes are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  This includes all believers, whether living or dead.  But those who are not Christ’s, we are told, will face his wrath and will be taken away to face final judgment (Matthew 24:37-41).  This includes all unbelievers living at the time of our Lord’s return.  Therefore, premillennarians must explain just who, exactly, are these people in unresurrected bodies living during the millennium.

Why is this exactly a problem?  Premillennialists have dealt with these rebuttals for a long time.  Dr Paul Henebury notes,

So what?  If someone born in the Millennium can be summoned by Satan to rebel against Christ at the end of the thousand years, surely there are a lot of unsaved people who need saving?  Why is that a problem?… So what?  Does the Bible say anywhere that there will be no death after Christ’s second coming?  What about Rev. 20:7-10? … Zech. 8? Easy, apocalyptic.  Isa. 65? same.  Zech 14? more of the same.  Rev. 20? symbolic.

I should point out that Dr Riddlebarger’s criticisms are theological in nature, not exegetical.   If this is what the Bible teaches, then I fail to see the problem.  We must adjust our ontology about created reality if that’s the case.

Uneasy tension of choosing and eschatology

A brief history:

In college and seminary I was a postmillennial reconstructionist.  To put it delicately today, I am not. When I left seminary I understood the reasons behind Historic Premillennialism.  Exegetically, I still think it is the strongest case.  My own position, rather, was a mix between postmil and premil.

When I left the EO debate I was a convinced historic premillennialist.  I stayed like that for about 3 or 4 years. One of the reasons that historic premillennialism won by default was that idealist Amillennialism was just so bad. It’s gnostic.  But when I read the Reformed Scholastics I realized that they had a very interesting eschatological timeline worked out.  Ultimately, I couldn’t accept it. It’s tied in with historicism, which says the Pope is the Antichrist.  Mind you, it’s easy to pick on Francis today, and he deserves it, but he isn’t the eschatological Man of Sin who sitteth in the temple of God.

So that couldn’t work.  So here I am today.  I feel a strong tug in my heart back to historic premil.