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Just What it Says...

We recently studied a rather dramatic moment in Revelation chapter 7 when an angel carrying “the seal of the Living God” rises up out of the morning sun and calls a halt to the judgments being poured out on our sinful world. He doesn’t stop the planned judgment, but calls a halt “until…”  Something must happen before the judgments continue. Remarkably, that something is the sealing of 144,000 Jews on earth.  The seal marks these Jews as God’s own and may suggest a protection for them from the fierce judgments coming upon mankind. The text is a clear indication that God will focus on the Jews in a special way during the Great Tribulation, which characterizes the end of the age. Scripture itself calls this “the time of Jacob’s distress” in Jeremiah 30:7:

‘Alas! for that day is great,

There is none like it;

And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,

But he will be saved from it

 

It is Jacob’s distress (the people of Jacob) and his (their) salvation.

The Scripture plainly teaches that Israel will be an exalted nation under the Messiah. When Jesus returns, Jerusalem will be His capitol (Isa 2;2-4, 9:6-7, 11:1-9, 24:23;  Zech 2:10-12, 8:2-8;  Ezek 36:24-36).  We call this future time The Millennium. It seems obvious that all Christians should believe this, but many don’t. Does it matter? Yes, it matters. Why? Because of hermeneutics. Herman who?  I know… big word. Hermenuetics is the art of interpreting Scripture.

The only way to deny Christ’s coming kingdom on earth with Jerusalem as His capitol and Israel as the leading nation of the world is to spiritualize or allegorize the Scriptures. Many Christian are willing to do this. Too many. If it doesn’t matter what the text says, then interpretation becomes a free-for-all for the human imagination. If we don’t trust Scripture when it speaks clearly, we start making it say what we want it to say. We impose our biases and opinions on the text. We delight, not in what God says, but in how clever we are to create meaning the authors of Scripture never intended. This is dangerous.

To avoid this we should approach the Bible literally—and by that we mean according to the normal use of language. As Paul Benware says:

“Literal interpretation assumes that since God wants his revelation to be understood by people, he based his revelatory communication on the normal rules of human communication…. We interpret literally when we approach the words of a Scripture passage in the same way that we would any other literature or any normal conversation.”

 

Literal, then does not ignore things like figures of speech, metaphors, poetry, imagery, etc.  When Jesus said, “I am the Door,” a literal interpretation of His words does not place on Jesus hinges and a doorknob. Obviously He is using a metaphor, and we easily understand His meaning that He is the entry way to salvation. Normal human language. The “door” image is meant to clarify, not hide, the point Jesus is making. And it does.

There are many theological reasons to accept the Millennium, the earthly reign of Christ for a thousand years. It affirms the basic goodness of God’s original creation; it will demonstrate the as yet unseen righteous rule of God on earth; it gives history a purpose; it reveals the utter sinfulness of fallen men (since even in a restored paradise with perfect rule men will still rebel [Rev. 20:7-9]), and it fulfills all of God’s promises to His people Israel.

These theological reasons are good, solid truths, but they are not why we should believe in the millennial reign of Christ. We should believe it because the Bible plainly teaches it will come. God’s word is not a puzzle; it is a revelation. God wants us to understand it.

Parts of the Bible are hard. It is a book for grown-ups, for thinking people. But even mature people must wrestle with language and expressions that come from an ancient and foreign culture. That makes work a necessary part of Bible study. But remember, the Bible is not designed as a code to be broken, but a truth to be known. Take it for what it says and you will do well.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Wayne Wilson

Originally printed in The AFBC Pony Express. Vol. IX, No. 7, July 2016.

 

“Give ear and come to me, hear me, that your soul may live.”

– Isaiah 55:3