Women in preaching roles in Church

•August 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The debate over women teaching finds its centre in 1 Timothy 2:12, one of the most contentiously disputed passages in the bible, and most especially in recent decades as part of the women’s ordination debate and feminist theology issues.[1] The rationalisations behind the passage are almost as diverse as the [i]number of theologians who explain them. Although there appears to some prejudiced hypothesis from some quarters, both sides of this debate raise clear points that require further investigation.  The core question pertaining to this argument really is whether this is a cultural issue that is uniquely Ephesian or conversely, an issue that is universal and precludes women from teaching in mixed congregations.


There is a vast array of conjecture on this debate: NT Wright proposes that the reason for the commotion surrounding this verse was that in Ephesus, they worshipped the Goddess Atemis (known to the Romans as Diana). Her priests were female and perhaps Paul was trying to avoid similar politics in the new church there. His inference then is that this is a local issue. In his discussion he sidesteps the issue of women preaching altogether. He insists that the emphasis should be “a woman should learn….”[2] If this issue is cultural, then the culture of Ephesus appears not to be tainted by Judaic patriarchal society but more truly by Greco Roman society that, in this town at least, has a large temple to their Goddess.


Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart remind us of the false teachers prevalent in Ephesus who were leading astray the young widows who are allegedly attributed to Paul’s rationale for forbidding women teachers in this instance. (2 Tim 3:6-7;Cf 1 Tim 5:11-15).[3] David M. Scholer lends support to this view. “Therefore,…” Scholer states “1 Timothy should be understood as an occasional ad hoc letter directed specifically towards Timothy and the church to avoid and combat false teachers and teaching in Ephesus” thus limiting the text for Ephesian application only. [4]


John Stott emphatically refutes this stating that if it has only local, synchronic implications, then “…it opens a door to wholesale rejection of apostolic teaching since virtually the whole of the New Testament was addressed to specific situations.” [5] His point is that all the epistles were chosen for the canon and as such were considered, by the early church, relevant for universal teaching (2 Tim 3:16-17).


Scholer attributes the reason for such explicit instruction concerning Ephesian women to the church’s reputation in wider society and the need for self control from the women and the church. (Cf: 1 Tim 3:7; 6:1; ). [6] Daphne Key suggests that some overcome the entire issue by suggesting this is a Pauline opinion ”do not permit…” [7]


The most distinctive catalyst to this issue is found in 1 Timothy (2:11) ”A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” The word translated here as quietness: ἡσυχία hesuchia,[8] may give the false impression that a woman was not allowed to speak at all. The word is similar to the word in verse 2, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  ἡσύχιος hesuchios,[9] infers a manner in which they were to live.[10] Typically: inward calm or tranquillity,  attentive quietness.[11] Submission ὑποταγή hupotage, [12] translates as obedience, subjection.[13] However, the language of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:34-35) is much stronger, apparently suggesting a more extensive restriction on women speaking in church.


That being said, proponents for women teaching use this same passage[14] (1 Cor 11:3ff) to argue that Paul allows women to pray and prophesy in public worship and therefore are teaching. We then need to clarify the nature of prophecy. Certainly it edifies the church (1 Cor 14:4). Is prophecy, or any other form of edification, teaching? The word Paul uses in the passage for prophesies: (προφητεύω) prophēteúō which “…declare truths through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit…” [15]  edify is (οἰκοδομέω) oikodoméō[16]  which is a building term. This suggests that, rather than teaching it is a building up or encouragement in growth. Paul lists teaching and prophecy separately on three occasions (Eph 4:11; Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29) so it stands to reason they serve different functions within the church. This does however; support the point that silent does not mean a woman cannot speak and contribute to worship. The prophesy in 1 Corinthians is reminiscent of Acts 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit where Peter quotes Joel 2:28ff. There is every likelihood that the women who were closest to Jesus during his ministry and possibly even first witnesses to the empty tomb were there when those tongues of fire came down and fulfilled the “daughters” portion of that prophesy. Hence, in Corinth, women are able to prophesy in the Holy Spirit as part of worship.


There is no doubt that women are good teachers. Paul himself alludes to this in Titus 2, when he acknowledges that Timothy’s own grandmother Lois and mother Eunice instilled the faith in him. The ability to teach is not the issue here. Those that see this verse as prohibitive to women teaching cite 1 Tim 2:3 & 14) as the reason for Paul’s assertion. This leads to a further debate on the creation and fall account: This side of the debate advocate that there is a creation order that is the defining factor. “13For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” That doesn’t allow that men are in some way above women. The creation account of Genesis 1 makes that abundantly clear: (Cf :Eph 5:21)

27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
(R) male and female he created them.”

They assert that Adam had the right of primogeniture. He was the firstborn and inherited the rights pertaining to that position. [17] So verse 14 would then propose Eve was deceived but Adam responded with open eyes and was influenced by her. Both were equally guilty. So that means when the woman is allowed to take the lead both are more vulnerable. [18] And it is not just Ephesian men that are susceptible to the suggestions of women, it is a common feature of biblical history whether by intentional deceit or not. (Cf: Gen 3:6; 16:2; 21:10; 29:25; 38:15; Judges 16; Mark 6:25). Stott disagrees with this viewpoint and ascertains that she had usurped Adam’s authority and reversed their roles.[19] Paul’s allusion to Genesis 2-3 account is that women are more easily deceived and as teachers could be deceived and in turn mislead.


The result of the sin on Eve’s part led to a submissive role for women. (Cf: Eph 5[20] The curse laid on the woman was threefold: firstly increased pain in child birth; next she would have desire for her husband and finally she would be subject to him.[21] This may even be “harsh domination.” [22] This has been overcome by the assurance we see in Galatians 3:28, which clearly states we are all equal through our faith in Christ and His work. Some assert therefore the gender factor of 1 Timothy addressed a cultural issue pertinent only to Ephesus. Howerver, the Galatians still maintained their roles as slave or master, Jew or Gentile, male or female. To claim any different would have to be considered an over realised eschatology. Otherwise the instruction relating to the issue in 1 Timothy, or any epistle, is futile and renders the authority of the apostolic writing invalid. It is that Kingdom value that we must strive for but we are constricted to these earthly roles until that Kingdom comes. [23]


David M. Scholer insists the answer to the 1 Timothy 2 puzzle lies in verse 15 ”But women will be saved through childbearing.”  [24] A commonly accepted view is that the childbearing the woman is saved through is foretold in part of the serpent’s curse in the fall account [25] “he will crush [b] your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15) This is widely accepted as the earlier mentioned “offspring” in that verse being the Messiah who defeats the serpent through the cross and resurrection. (Lk 23-24). Scholer denies this on the grounds of the meaning of the Greek word τεκνογονέω teknogoneo which relates to child bearing.  Scholer suggests that the word implies more than the actual birth but involves rearing the child as well. This would make sense from the perspective of a woman fulfilling all her maternal duties as her part in her divinely appointed role. However it infers a suspiciously works based salvation.


An extension of this idea is that Childbirth may be being used as a synecdoche which uses the related term “childbearing” to refer to the much larger issue of how a woman conducts herself in maternal duties, and: her modesty; her apparel; hair and good works.[26]


The final idea is that the mother will be kept safe in child birth. This has less textual support than the other ideas as salvation is from sin in the pastoral letters.[27] The most widely accepted view is the birth is that of Christ as salvation for women and in fact for all.


The debate of 1 Timothy 2 concerning women teaching may be considered ambiguous. Though we should work hard at seeking an answer, it should be sought in grace and the truth of the scriptures. It would appear that whatever this passage tells us about women teaching in a mixed gathering for worship, it does not extend to women in ministry. Women have fulfilled some of the most important roles in biblical revelation notably being the first witnesses of an empty tomb and much more besides. As we struggle with these issues we must never allow it to interfere with the message of the gospel. Above all this it may be worth asking ourselves: what, if any, are the consequences of allowing a woman to teach in a mixed congregation? And what could be the consequences of prohibiting that?

However, it seems clear that Paul is in fact not referring to an isolated pattern of behaviour in Ephesus as he points us to creation and the fall in Gen 1-3. Each of us should weigh this with the utmost care and be carried by their convictions. I must go with mine of which I am convinced that women should not preach in mixed congregation accept for in extenuating circumstances. That said women should and must fill vital teaching roles for other women and children and the many and varied roles they so readily fill.



[1] John R W Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus: The Life of the Local Church (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 74.

[2] NT Wright, Paul for Everyone: The pastoral letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, (London and Westminster: John Know Press, 2004), 23-27.

[3] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Boo: A Guided Tour, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002), 375.

[4] David M. Scholer, “1 Timothy 2:9-15 & The Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry” in Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickleson, (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986),197-199&200,218.

[5] Stott, 77.

[6] Scholer, 198.

[7] Daphne Key, “Women in the Church” in The Role of Women (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 146-152.

[8]James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible  (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.,1996), G2271.

[9] The Exhaustive Concordance, G2272.

[10]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Ti 2:9.

[11]Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000), 193.

[12]Robert L. Thomas and The Lockman Foundation, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, c1981, c1998).

[13] The Exhaustive Concordance, G5292.

[14] Gilbert Bilezkian, “Beyond The Sex Roles”; Linda Belleville, “Women Leaders and the Church”; Aida Spencer, “Beyond The Curse” in Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah,2005), 227-8.

[15]Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), G4395.

[16] contracted oikodomó̄. (Zodhiates), 3616.

[17] Stott, 80.

[18] G. L. Bray, “The Fall Is a Human Reality,” Evangelical Review of Theology 9 [1985]: 338.

[19] Stott, 81.

[20]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Ge 3:16.

[21]James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed. (Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Ge 3:16.

[22]D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Ge 3:9.

[23] Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Galations 3:28: Conundrum or Solution” in Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickleson, (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986), 179.

[24] Scholer, 196.

[25]K. A. Mathews, vol. 1A, Genesis 1-11:26, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995), 248.

[26]Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, vol. 34, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992), 102.

[27] Stott, 87.


  1. Belleville, Linda. “Women Leaders and the Church .” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah,2005.
  2. Bilezkian, Gilbert. “ Beyond The Sex Roles .” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth , by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  3. Bratcher, Robert G. A Translators Guide to Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. London: Stuttgart, 1983.
  4. Bray, G. L. “The Fall Is a Human Reality.” Evangelical Review of Theology 9, 1985: 338.
  5. D. A. Carson/ Edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. “ New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, Rev. Ed. of: The New Bible Commentary. 3rd Ed.1970, 4th ed.: .” Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  6. Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. “How to Read the Bible Book by Boo: A Guided Tour, .” Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002.
  7. Friberg, Timothy Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller. “vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library .” Grand Rapids, Mich : Baker Books, 2000.
  8. Grudem, Wayne. “Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth .” Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  9. Jamieson, Robert A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments . Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
  10. Key, Daphne. “Women in the Church .” In The Role of Women. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984.
  11. Lea, Thomas D. and Hayne P. Griffin. vol. 34, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary . Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1992.
  12. Marshall, Chis. “Let a Woman Learn: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in Context.” Journal Unknown 43-51.
  13. Marshall, Chis. “Women in Ministry.” Today’s Christian, July 1990: 25-28.
  14. Mathews, K. A. vol. 1A, Genesis 1-11:26, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tn.: Broadman & Holman, 2001, c1995.
  15. Oden, Thomas C.1989. Interpretation: a Bible Commentry for Teaching and Preaching I & II Tim & Titus. Louisville. KY : John Knox, 1989.
  16. Scholer, David M. “1 Timothy 2:9-15 & The Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry.” In Women, Authority & the Bible, by ed. Alvera Mickleson. Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986.
  17. Smith, James E. The Pentateuch, 2nd ed. . Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co., 1993.
  18. Snodgrass, Klyne R. “ Galatians 3:28: Conundrum or Solution .” In Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. , by Alvera Mickleson. Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1986.
  19. Spencer, Aida. “Beyond The Curse.” In Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth, by Wayne Grudem. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2005.
  20. Stott, John R W. “The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus: The Life of the Local Church.” Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, UK, 1996.
  21. Strong, James. “The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible .” Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996.
  22. Thomas, Robert L. and The Lockman Foundation. “ New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Updated Edition .” Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998, c1981, c1998.
  23. Wiersbe, Warren W. In The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books., 1996, c1989.
  24. Wright, N.T. “Paul for Everyone: The pastoral letters 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.” London and Westminster: John Know Press, 2004.
  25. Zodhiates Spiros. “ The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament, electronic ed.” Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993.



The Word

•July 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I know we are totally saved by Grace and not under the law. I don’t believe we have the right to just throw law out. God has put it in His word to us for a reason and to dismiss it so easily is a tad disconcerting to me. It displays the benchmark none of can attain. Of course none of us could ever attain the glory of God. None of us would be able to claim Christ as saviour without Grace but it is not entirely free as seems to be inferred. It was the greatest cost, of course that the creator of the universe be so shamefully treated by His creatures and yet He still said

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

But there is also a cost for us. In the end it is one of great reward but Jesus told us to repent Mark 1:15. That means a total turn around and giving our lives over. It means taking up our cross daily to follow Him Luke 9:23. The journey is a daily one. We need always to be in repentance it is not just a one off thing like we can say a little sinners prayer then party. That is what Paul tells us to Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2).

I’m not sure that we will ever agree on the importance of scripture. I never said it was God but I am convinced that it is His sacred word. I am not saying that the paper itself is Holy but the words of it are precious and should be close to our hearts…

Psalm 119:11, Deut 11:18.

We have been over 2 Tim many times but God breathed not only infers word but also Spirit

1 Peter 1:25 The Word of the Lord endures forever. This refers to OT it is true but the same man refers to Paul’s writing as scripture also 2 Peter 3:16. The Apostles knew they were writing scripture. It was part of their job description

This passage is not worth editing…

1:12 Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly 42 of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. 1:13 Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, 43 I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder, 1:14 since I knowthat my tabernacle will soon be removed, 44 because 45 our Lord Jesus Christ revealed this to me. 46 1:15 Indeed, I will also make every effort that, after my departure, you have a testimony of these things. 47

1:16 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return 48 of our Lord Jesus Christ; 49 no, 50 we were 51 eyewitnesses of his 52 grandeur. 53 1:17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that 54 voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.”55 1:18 When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves 56 heard it, for we werewith him on the holy mountain. 57 1:19 Moreover, 58 we 59 possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. 60 You do well if you pay attention 61 to this 62 as you would63 to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star 64 rises inyour hearts. 65 1:20 Above all, you do well if you recognize 66 this: 67 No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 68 1:21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men 69 carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

And that is true of all scripture because prophecy is not just predictive stuff it is all that comes from God. That is scripture OT and NT.

Because ” 4 “It is written, ‘Man 5 does not live 6 by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 7 Matt 4:4

I agree that God chooses other ways to reveal himself and I am a big on for touting nature/creation Psalm 8, Romans 1:20 as one of the biggest for that but we are also told “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. So if it does not concur with Scripture it is not to be trusted.

The Bible in under 1000 words

•April 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A limited synopsis on Yahweh’s ongoing plan of salvation for humanity and creation…


In the beginning Elohim[1] made everything: time, light, darkness, water, earth, sky, plants and animals. At the pinnacle of His Creation Yahweh-Elohim[2] placed humanity, made in His image, to care for that creation and enjoy relationship with Him. He created all in six days and took delight in it. He rested on the seventh day.

Satan[3] tempted Eve, in her weakness to seek to be like Yahweh. She influenced Adam and so both sinned falling from Yahweh’s good grace and instigated His curse on humanity. Within one generation murder occurred[4].

In time, man became so sinful that Yahweh could not tolerate him any longer and flooded the earth providing salvation for one righteous man, Noah and his family as a remnant, through whom he continued to build up humanity[5] whom He eventually scattered by imposing languages on them.[6]

Yahweh chose another righteous man, Abraham, through whom He promised to bless all humanity[7] starting with a nation, Israel. From Abraham’s Children Yahweh formed this great nation whom He rescued from famine by sending them to Egypt where they lived for four centuries eventually becoming enslaved to the Egyptians.

Yahweh continued to save and restore His chosen people and through Moses He showed His might against Pharaoh and delivered them from captivity and into the land He had promised Abraham.[8] However, as His chosen they were to keep the law He gave them, keeping themselves Holy and free from idolatry. But they grumbled against Yahweh and failed to trust Him so He allowed that generation to perish in the wilderness saving their children as the remnant who would enjoy the blessing of the promised land.[9] 

With Joshua as commander, Yahweh led Israel to conquer Canaan but they failed to wipe out the Canaanites as He had commanded[10] and the people that remained became a thorn in Israel’s side leading them to idolatry[11] and so a cycle developed: Israel sinned;[12] Yahweh judged;[13] Israel repented.[14] Hence Yahweh appointed Judges as saviours.[15] But as each judge died Israel fell back into sin.[16]

So, Israel cried out for kings like their neighbours[17] and Yahweh appointed Saul who, like Israel became unfaithful.[18] So Yahweh removed Saul and appointed David, a faithful man after his own heart, as king.[19]

David, seeing Yahweh’s ark and law abiding in a tent, while he lived in his palace, planned to build Him a temple. Instead, Yahweh promised to establish David’s kingdom eternally through David’s son Solomon, who built the temple. Thus Yahweh’s Abrahamic covenant flourished and His sovereign plan was further revealed drawing a parallel from Solomon to His coming messiah.[20]


Solomon delighted Yahweh by asking for wisdom in ruling His people. So Yahweh blessed him greatly.[21] However, Solomon allowed idolatry and fell from Yahweh’s blessing.[22] Subsequently Yahweh vowed to remove Israel from Solomon’s son,[23] yet in His mercy left one tribe, Judah, as a remnant.[24]

Now the kings of Israel and Judah led their people to become evil in Yahweh’s eyes.[25] And so He sent His prophets to warn the nations against their rebellion.[26] In 722 BC Assyria, invaded and swept away Israel in the north and assimilated the people with their own[27] so that, apart from Samaritans, Yahweh “…removed them out of his sight”.[28]

Judah, not heeding the fate of their brothers, ignored the prophetic warnings[29] and from 597-587 the land and finally Jerusalem was stripped of its finest people who were taken into captivity in Babylon, whilst the Babylonians tore down Jerusalem and the temple.[30]

Judah was in captivity for almost 70 years. Then Yahweh turned the usurper Cyrus’ heart towards Him and he sent the remnant of Israel back to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple but it was never returned to its former glory[31]: Israel had failed.

Then there was 400 years of silence…


Finally, the prophesied[32] one,[33] the promised one like David,[34] called Yeshua, came. He overshadowed all that had come before. Where all had failed: Israel, its Judges and its Kings, who could not uphold the law, He came as messiah[35] and God,[36]  bringing the foretold justice, healing and salvation for His people[37] and creation.[38] He didn’t come to replace the law and the prophecies but to fulfil them.[39]

He told how he must suffer and die a painful death at the hands of men and rise again[40] for the sin of the world[41] and His people.[42] Where no other sacrifice was sufficient His was, for all time.[43]

After Yeshua had risen from the dead He poured out His Holy Spirit on His people beginning with His apostles.[44] They are His witnesses[45] sharing the news of God’s promised salvation. He added Paul to their number as the apostle to the Gentiles[46] and through him God expounded the simplicity of His Grace[47] to all who will repent and believe.

And now God’s plan is being completed in Him so that His plan of Salvation for His chosen remnant will be finalised when He puts everything under Christ.[48] Yeshua has promised to return and those whom He has saved will dwell with Him forever[49] in His new creation.[50]


Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—   

John 1:12



















[1] Gen 1:1- God – The Lord God – Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004),7.

[2] Gen 2:4 – ibid.

[3] Rev 20:2

[4] Gen 4

[5] Gen 5-9

[6] Gen 11

[7] Gen 12:1-3

[8] Gen 12:6-7.

[9] Num 14:28-32.

[10] Judges 1:27-36

[11] Judges 2:11-13

[12] Deut 30:17-18

[13] Judges 2:14-15

[14] Judges 2:18

[15] Judges 2:16

[16] Judges 2:19

[17] 1 Sam 8:1-9, Cf: Deut 17:14-16

[18] 1 Sam 15:11,23,26,28 Cf: 1 Sam 12:24-25; Hosea 13:11

[19] 1 Sam 16:13; Acts 13:22 Cf: 1 Sam 13:14

[20] 2 Sam 7

[21] 1 Kings 3:5-15

[22] 1 Kings 11:1-8

[23] 2 Kings 17:13

[24] 1 Kings 11:9-13.

[25] 1 Kings 11:6;14:22;15:26,34;16:25; 22:52; 2 Kings3:2; 8:18,27;13:2,11. 

[26] Amos 2

[27] 2 Kings 17:24-28

[28] 2 Kings 17:18

[29] Is 6:9-13

[30] 2 Chron 36:15-19

[31] Haggai 2:3.

[32] Gen 3:15; 49:10; Deut 18:15-19; Num 24:17-19 (Lk 3:34); 2 Sam 7; Gen 3 :15 Ps 2; 16; 22; 69; 72; 110; 118; 132:11;  Isaiah 49–57. Ad infinitum.

[33] Heb 5:1-9

[34] Jer 33:21-26; Eze 34:23, 37:24,25; Hos 3:5; Mic 5:1-5

[35]Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1993), Lk 7:21-22.

[36] Ps 110:1; Is 35:4; John 1:1; Rom 9:5.

[37] Lk 7:22 Cf: Is 35:4-6

[38] Heb 2:17, John 10:10, Phil 2, Rom 8:22.

[39] Mt 5:17-20, Lk 24:40.

[40] Col 1:18.

[41] Mark 8:31; 9:3; 10:33-34;45 Lk 24:46.

[42] 2 Cor 5:2; 1 Pet 3:18

[43] Heb 9:11-14,27-28.

[44] Lk 24:49; Jn 14:15-20; Jn 16;5-15, Acts 1:5; Acts 2:1-21, 32b,38-39. Cf : Joel 2:28, Is 32:15, Ezk 11:19,36:25-27;39:29; Zec 12:10.

[45] Acts 1:8; Lk 24:47, Mt 28:18-20.

[46] Rom 11:3, Gal 2:8. 1 Tim 2:7.

[47] Gal 3:2-10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Acts 15.

[48] Eph 1:3-14.

[49] Jn 14:3, Ps 23:6. Mt 24:29-31.

[50] Is 65:17; Rev 21:1-5.








Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

Introduction by Torrey, R.A.,. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge : Five Hundred Thousand Scripture References and Parallel Passages. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 1995.

Jobbins, Boak David Peterson and John Woodhouse. Rev. Ed. Peter Bolt. Introduction to the Bible. Sydney: Moore Theological College, 1985. Rev Ed. 1994.

Keener, Craig S. and InterVarsity Press. The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Marshall, I. Howard. “The Gospel of Luke : A Commentary on the Greek Text, Includes Indexes., The New international Greek testament commentary .” Exeter, Eng.: Paternoster Press, 1978.

Platinga, Cornelius Jr. Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning and Living. Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2002.

Wiersbe, Warren W. In The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books., 1996, c1989.


Colossians Background & Overview

•February 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Paul’s Colossian epistle was written to address a heresy that threatens that church and remind his readers of the truth and nature of Christ, the salvation he offers and living in light of that. The following account attempts to demonstrate that and cover any issues raised in the text.

Colossians offers fascinating insight in to Paul’s life and the mechanisms of his ministry. It is a major piece in the first century puzzle. It does, however raise some interesting questions about the provenance of the letter. We know from within the script itself that it was written from prison (Col 4: 3, 10 & 18) and that another letter, to the Laodiceans (Col 4:16), that the Colossians were privy to was written and almost certainly delivered at the same time. The letters were carried by Tychicus [1] who may well have carried a third Epistle to Ephesus at that time. By its similarity of message and structure to Colossians this makes perfect sense. [2]

Although there is some conjecture where and when he was gaoled as he penned this epistle, most scholars are fairly satisfied with the idea of Rome. J. D G. Dunn mounts a strong case for an Ephesians imprisonment based on the Philemon epistle. Richard Melick on the other hand argues is there are only two possibilities from the records in Acts we have of prison terms long enough to allow writing such a letter, Caesarea and Rome. He is adamant that Rome is the most likely candidate.[3] In the end Dunn agrees that when you engage the three canonical epistles Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians, Rome makes the most sense. [4] This means we can date Colossians to around AD 60, much later in the apostle’s life with his ministry in Asia some years earlier around AD 52-55. [5]

Paul had never actually been to Colossae (Col 2:1). From what we know, his time in Asia was spent in Ephesus preaching firstly in the synagogue and then at the school of Tyrannus. The impact of his ministry there must have been profound. Luke tells us that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” {Acts 19:10} [6] So those in Colossae would also have responded to the message. Amongst those respondents may well have been Epaphras. [7]  He subsequently became the evangelist amongst his own people the Colossians (Col 1: 7) and most likely throughout the rest of the Lycus Valley. [8]

Paul’s epistle to the Colossians seems to have been one that developed out of occasion rather than intention[9] and was the culmination of a series of events. While in Prison he met Onesimus a fugitive slave of Philemon [10] who was of the Colossian brethren. Through the influence of Paul and doubtless others in his entourage Onesimus was converted and so Paul subsequently wrote to Philemon on his behalf to ensure his safety. This gave Paul occasion to write to the Colossians to encourage them and address crucial issues arising there.

In his opening remarks Paul celebrates that the Colossians had received Christ in his praise to God for them (Col 1: 3-6) recognising the truth of that salvation because of their love “for all the saints.” (4) and the fruit of the Spirit (Col 1: 6, 11; Cf: Gal 5:22).

Interestingly Paul uses a chiastic structure for his prayer [11] As intended this lends power to the opening of the letter, encouraging the Colossians. This is followed by a Petition (9-14) on their behalf which echoes many of the thoughts of the earlier prayer: – 3 “We always thank God…” echoes 9 “…we have not ceased to pray for you”; 3”…since we heard of your faith…” 9 “…from the day we heard…” 6”… in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing…  10”… bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” – and crescendos into final thanks to the Father for the inheritance which is the Kingdom of the Son.[12]

However, the crucial issue Paul is faced with and the driving force behind this letter is in fact the false teaching that has slipped in to the Colossian church, as in many of the other 1st century churches and throughout the church’s history. Epaphras had brought news to Paul of events in Colossae and probably Laodicea and further afield. Often referred to as “The Colossian Heresy”, the text does not specify the exact nature of the heresy itself but rather addresses issues born of that teaching.

J B Lightfoot believes the heresy was “…a combination of Judaic formalism with Oriental mystic speculation…”[13] and NT Wright argues that Paul is tackling Judaism on its own because of the reference to circumcision.  [14]  Judaisers had been prevalent in the Galatian church who Paul had written to just a few years earlier on the subject. [15] Also Paul warns about being judged on observance (or non) of “…festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (2:16) distinct Hebrew markings.  So is it plausible that Wright is right? It may well seem so however, the ensuing verses speak of asceticism and severity to the body and even angelology (Col 2: 16-18, 23; Cf: Gal 1:8) unquestionably Gnostic characteristics. So the question is not whether there is Gnosticism and Judaism but whether there was a syncretistic brand of the two. [16] Dunn, in his reflection leans toward a diasporic Jewish influence and also suggests that, given the lack of canonical Christian scripture at this time it may not be truly fair to label the Colossian problem as Heretical. [17]

That the influences are external rather than from internal speculation seems certain. Twice in the letter they are warned not to be deceived (2:4&8). The meaning here is not by cheating but by well conceived lies. [18] Dunn goes so far as to suggest a planned attack. [19]

Paul’s encouragement to Archippus[20] (Col 4:17) was most likely in light of the heresy. Although it is not stated in the text, it seems that he is the minister of this church in Colossae. He appears to be struggling to hold against the onslaught of false teaching. Paul’s words endorse the fact that God has appointed Archippus to this task and so Paul endeavours to encourage him in his plight.[21] If his ministry was to pastor the Colossian church, it was his responsibility to ensure the congregation understood orthodox truths rather than heresy. With Christian scripture still being in the developing stage, this must have been a trying exercise for first century pastors hence Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus and the growing need for apologetics and councils through the life of the early church.

In answering the heresy Paul articulates the most crucial part of his message to the Colossians: the centrality of Christ.  Not only is it the main thrust of the Colossian epistle, it stands as one of the most telling points in all of Scripture; Christ is central not only in salvation but in all creation and “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.” (Col 1:19). And also “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…”  (Col 2:9).

Academics generally concur that this exalting praise (1: 15-20) is in the form of an ancient Hymn or Poem. [22]  Some even go so far as to suggest that this may have even been an existing Hymn that Paul reiterates. [23] Some however are quite opposed to the suggestion that any other than Paul wrote this. [24]

Never-the-less the literary form of these verses does not detract from the fact that these statements have been drawn on as orthodoxy for centuries after and enlighten us to the very nature of Christ. Wright suggests that Paul uses the prose to capture the imagination of his audience.[25] It is hard to think of any other piece of scripture that gives us more concentrated doctrine on the person, nature and centrality of Christ. The reality that “…in Him all[26] things hold together” (1: 17) makes him undeniably God. But not only is he Creator as this suggests, he is: Saviour, redeemer (14a); Forgiver (14b); He is the very image of the unseen God (15) Jesus became a man (Phil 2). In Him we can see God in flesh and in nature. Man has also been described as being made in His image (Gen 1:27[27]). However, Christ is the firstborn over all creation. [28] Firstborn refers to status. He is the heir of creation. (1:16) [29] “The Greek word for “firstborn” is prōtotokos (πρωτοτοκος).”This word has two important implications: Not only was Jesus sovereign over creation he pre-existed it and therefore is not created.[30]In fact he is the creator (v16). He is the firstborn from the dead which grants new life to His church (18) of which he is the head.

The best way to deal with any untruth is to conquer it with truth. In explaining the truth of who Jesus really is (1:15-20) and His redeeming work of salvation Paul reminds the Colossian Church of the Gospel they first heard and the salvation they have received (1:21-22), If they continue to stand firm on the gospel they have heard (1:23)…

The heart of Colossians found in the key statement Ch 2:6-7. This is the very crux of the whole letter.[31] It begins a full instruction on how they are to live in light of Christ’s work that dominates the remainder of the letter. (2:6-4:6) They are to remember the true nature of their salvation and to remain firm in Christ. [32]   And that is that: they have died (2:13&20), been buried, baptised and raised in Him (2:12; 3:1); They have been circumcised which is a spiritual circumcision, of the heart, not a physical circumcision as the Judaisers would stress to them. This circumcision is not of man but of God. [33] (2:11). All their debt has been now nailed to the cross. (2:14) That means the legal obligation of death (2:13; cf Rom 6:23). Through all of this they have “…fullness in Christ (2:10). As they were taught (2:7), there is nothing else they need to be complete. The natural response to this is to be “…overflowing in thankfulness.” [34]

The deceivers are trying to add to this Gospel message. They are trying to say that the completeness found in Jesus (2:10) who has all the fullness of the deity dwell in Him(2:9), is not enough to give salvation and are trying to peddle “human tradition”(2:8).

The powers and authorities mentioned in 2:15 may have a passing reference to the Jewish and Roman Authorities that put Jesus on the cross. But more likely refer to sin and Satan. Certainly with the debt (14) being nailed to the cross this would appear to be the case.

The example Paul sets for us in evangelism demonstrates strategy. If we are to reach our communities and our world, we need to be setting long and short term goals that are flexible in a similar manner. Paul’s missionary strategy was to evangelize in major centres such as Ephesus establishing bodies of Christians who influence their region and allow commerce and trade to affect outlying centres.[35] Paul’s concern was not just to see people saved and matured. He was keen to raise up ministers like Epaphras (1: 7), Tychicus (4:7) and Aristarchus (4:10) who were keen to see others grow to a maturity in Christ (4:12) which can be recognised by their love in the spirit. (1:4, 8). (Cf: Jn 13: 34-35 ; Mt 22:36-40; Rom 18: 8; Gal 5:12-13) Which is the fruit of the Spirit (Col 1: 6; Cf: Gal 5: 22)

As was his practice (Acts 17:2[36]) Paul went to the synagogue in Ephesus and began reasoning and teaching the Gospel. And then moved to the Hall of Tyrannus and continued to teach. It is most likely that Epaphras heard the word and was converted at this time and then carried the word into the smaller towns in his own region the Lycus Valley where Colossae was situated. [37] In the same way if we disciple believers to live in thankfulness (2:7) they in turn will desire that others respond to and mature in the Gospel.

False teaching is as prevalent in today’s church. Perhaps, even more so now and in more subversive and detrimental ways than we have previously known. Of course the best way to overcome false teaching is to impart truth. Paul has done that clearly in this epistle proclaiming the deity of Christ and leaving little room for any doubt as to the nature of Salvation in Him. We too need to be striving for orthodoxy in its purest sense and so not allow heresy to gain momentum within our own sphere of influence.

Although the epistle to the Colossians may have been born out of opportunity, it is clear that Paul meant to address the Heresy taking place there by reminding the Colossians of the truth of the  Gospel they had been taught. Central to this truth is the Divine and human nature of Christ and the salvation that can only be found in Him. Paul exhorts his readers to continue in Christ in the same way they received Him and gives clear and concise instructions for Christian living.

Intellectual Property of T J Warner

Bruce, F. F. “The Epistle to the Galatians : A Commentary on the Greek Text .” Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982.

Comfort, Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley. “Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale reference library .” Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2001.

D. A. Carson/ Edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. “ New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, Rev. Ed. of: The New Bible Commentary. 3rd Ed.1970, 4th ed.: .” Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Drane, John William. In Introducing the New Testament Completely rev. and updated, 351. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000.

Dunn, James D. G. “The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon : A Commentary on the Greek Text.” Grand Rapids, Mich.: Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996.

Ellington, Roger L. Omanson and John. “A Handbook on Second Book of Samuel, UBS handbook series .” New York: United Bible Societies, 2001.

Foundation, Robert L. Thomas and The Lockman. “ New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Updated Edition.” Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998.

Garland, David E. “The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life.” Grand Rapidis, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley. “ Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard FriedTheological Dictionary of the New Testament, Translation of: Theologisches Worterbuch Zum Neuen Testament. , 1995, c1985.” Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995, c1985.

HAWTHORNE Gerald F., Ralph P. MARTIN Daniel G. REID. “Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.” Downers Groves, ILL: Inter Varsity, 1993.

Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. “ Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. of: New Bible companion. 1990.; The Tyndale reference library.” Wheaton, Ill.: Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. of: New Bible companiTyndale House, 2001.

Keown, Mark. “ New Testament B Lecture notes: Paul’s Missionary Strategy.” Auckland: Laidlaw, 2008.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. “ Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon., 8th ed. .” London and New York: Macmillan and co., 1886.

Marshall, D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard. “New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.” Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill: Downers Grove, Ill., 1996.

Melick, Richard R. “The New American Commentary: vol. 32, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, electronic ed., Logos Library System.” Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1991.

Mish, Frederick C. et. al. “Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh ed.” Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster Inc, 2003.

“New World Translation.” Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Soiety of New York, Inc., 1984.

Nida, Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert. “ A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon.” New York: United Bible Societies, 1993, c1977.

Olson, Roger E. “The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity.” Downers Gove Il. : IVP, 2002.

Wiersbe, Warren W. In The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books., 1996, c1989.

Wright, N. T. “Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Colossians and Ephesians.” Leicester,U.K: IVP, 1986.

Wuest, Kenneth S. “Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English Reader .” Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, c1984.

Zuck, Roy B. “A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, electronic ed.” Chicago, Il.: Moody Press, 1994 (Logos 1996).

[1] Tychicus courier refs: (Cf: Col 4:7; Eph 6:21 see also 2 Tim 4:12; Titus 3:12.) Also of Paul’s entourage through Greece and Macedonia (Acts 20:4); And faithful minister. (Col 4:7)

[2]Richard R. Melick, vol. 32, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1991), 171.

[3] Melick, 170.

[4]James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press, 1996), 40.

[5] Gerald F. HAWTHORNE, Ralph P. MARTIN Daniel G. REID, Dictionary of Paul and his letters, (Downers Groves, ILL: Inter Varsity, 1993,) 147-153

[6] Hawthorne 148.

[7]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Col 1:5. {LOGOS No Pg}

[8]Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon., 8th ed. (London and New York: Macmillan and co., 1886), 29.

[9]“Onesimus’s desire to restore his relationship with his master probably provided the incentive for writing…” – Melick, 170.

[10]John William Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000), 351.

[11]Roger L. Omanson and John Ellington, A Handbook on Second Book of Samuel, UBS handbook series (New York: United Bible Societies, 2001), 1259.

Dunn, 54.

[12] Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993], c1977), 7.

[13] Lightfoot, 32.

[14] N. T. Wright, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Colossians and Ephesians, (Leicester,U.K: IVP,1986)104.

[15]F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, Includes Indexes. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982), 56.

[16] Lightfoot,

[17]James D. G. Dunn, 23.

[18] Bratcher, 47.

[19] Melick, 252.

[20] Based on the greeting in the letter to Philemon (Phlm 2), assuming all is said in the nature of personal correspondence  it is altogether possible that the Archippus mentioned in Paul’s closing remarks (Col 4: 17) is Philemon’s son and Apphia is his wife.

[21] Wiersbe, Col 4:15 {Pg No. not offered}.

[22] Wright, 64.

[23]James D. G. Dunn, 83.

[24] David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 82-83.

[25]Wright, 66.

[26] Jehovah’s Witnesses, as adherents to Arianism insert the word “other” in parenthesis in The New World Translation to try to skirt the idea that Jesus may be equal with God. In doing so they seek to remove Him from the Godhead and thereby overcome Trinitarian theologies.

Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of  Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity, ( Downers Gove Il. : IVP, 2002) 144.

NWT (Col 1: 16-17) Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1984

[27] Imago Dei –Olson, 200.

[28] Bratcher, 22.

[29] Wiersbe, Col 1:11-19 {Page No. not offered}.

[30]Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, c1984), Col 1:15. {page No. not offered.

[31]Similar key verses: Romans 1:16–17 and Galatians 1:11–12 -Dunn, 138.

[32]James D. G. Dunn, 138.

[33] Bratcher, 56.

[34] ibid. 51.

[35] Mark Keown, New Testament B Lecture notes: Paul’s Missionary Strategy, (Auckland: Laidlaw, 2008) 89-93.

[36] Cf: As persecutor- Acts 9:2,20; 22:19; 26:11. As apostle: Acts 13:1-5, 13ff; 14:1ff; 17:1-2,10,17; 18:4, 19:8

[37] Hawthorne, 148.

Canon of Scripture

•February 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 “The New Testament is full of what we might call second-narrative moments, short retellings of Old Testament stories in the light of Christ.” One such second-narrative moment is found in the gospel account of Luke as Jesus himself speaks concerning the purpose of the scriptures. In a room in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to those gathered and said: (Steinmetz )

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)

Notice Jesus’ use of the words: “Thus it is written“. However, what he then goes on to say is not actually contained in a single statement anywhere in the scriptures. Rather, Jesus gives a summary of the entire message of the texts of what we now know as the OT. “Thus it is written” may be paraphrased “This is the entire message of the scriptures”. And what is that message? That the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. This is a fine example of what Steinmetz refers to as a second-narrative moment. The long, rambling history of Israel and the nations recorded in the diverse OT texts finds its coherence around the gospel events accomplished by Christ and the consequences of those events. Here is one of many crisp, clear second narratives found in the NT.

When the texts that make up the Bible are discussed, often the term “canon” is used. And as theologian Roger Beckwith writes in his article on “The Canon of Scripture” in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology “every book has a text, but not every book has a canon. Only a book like the Bible, which is also a collection of books, has a canon.” (pp. 27-28) What does the word “canon” mean? Beckwith continues:

‘Canon’ is by origin a Greek word, denoting a straight rod or rule, and thus a criterion, and (together with its cognates ‘canonical’ and ‘canonize’) it began to be applied by Christian writers of the later 4th century AD to the correct collection and list of the Scriptures. … Before the term ‘canon’ was invented, a variety of names were already used by Jews and Christians for the collection of their sacred books, some, such as ‘the Holy Scriptures’, going back to the 1st century (Rom. 1:2; 2 Tim. 3:15; Philo; Josephus), and others, such as ‘the Holy Books’ and ‘the Law and the Prophets’, being even more ancient (1 Macc. 12:9; 2 Macc. 15:9). The terms ‘Old Testament’ and ‘New Testament’ began to be applied by Christian writers to collections of Scriptures in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries. What the language of ‘canonicity’ added was the idea of correctness; this correctness could now be embodied, for the first time, not just in lists but also in one-volume copies. The biblical canon is not, of course, primarily a collection or list of literary masterpieces, like the Alexandrian lists, but one of authoritative sacred texts. Their authority does not derive from their early date, nor from their role as records of revelation (important though these characteristics were), but from the fact that they were believed to be inspired by God and thus to share the nature of revelation themselves.

It is crucial that Bible readers not only appreciate the storied shape of scripture – its plots, themes, characters, settings etc. in terms that we have already discussed, but that they also begin to appreciate the remarkable diversity of literary texts that make up the Bible. What is the relationship between the various books of the OT and NT? Why these books and not others? How did the final versions that we have come into being? Does the order of the books matter? There are plenty of questions around the canon of the scriptures, not least around the so-called apocryphal books – “apocryphal” means “hidden” – books such as Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, 1 Esdras, 1 and 2 Maccabees, which are recognised as OT scripture within some churches and not others. Biblical theologians deal with the whole Bible in terms of both its diversity and unity. Thus literary questions such as these are crucial within biblical theology.


•January 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment


Introduction. Dispensational premillennialism75 can be identified through two basic features: (1) a distinction is made between God’s program for Israel and His program for the church; (2) a consistently literal interpretation of the Scriptures is maintained. Dispensational premillennialists believe that the church will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:13–18) prior to the Tribulation period; God will judge unbelieving Gentiles and disobedient Israel during the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the end of the Tribulation Christ will return with the church and establish the millennial kingdom on earth. Following the thousand-year reign, Satan will be freed once more, whereupon he and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7–10). The eternal state will follow.

The church from the beginning was premillennial in belief. The Didache (c. a.d. 100), Clement of Rome (a.d. 96 or 97), the Shepherd of Hermas (a.d. 140–150), Ignatius of Antioch (a.d. 50–115?), Papias (a.d. 80–163), Justin Martyr (b. c. a.d. 100), Irenaeus (d. a.d. 200), Tertullian (a.d. 150–225), and other sources indicate that the early church believed in the return of Jesus Christ to personally establish His earthly kingdom.76

Interpretation. There are two basic features that identify dispensational premillennialism. (1) Literal hermeneutic. Literal interpretation refers to “normal” interpretation—understanding words and statements in their normal, customary way.77 Because prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were fulfilled literally, it makes good sense to expect the prophecies concerning His second coming to be interpreted literally. Furthermore, if prophecy can be spiritualized, all objectivity is lost. Dispensational premillennialists emphasize consistency in interpretation by interpreting prophecy literally. In this premillennialists criticize conservative amillennialists and postmillennialists for changing their methodology in hermeneutics by interpreting literally except in the case of prophecy.

(2) Distinction between Israel and the church. The term Israel always refers to the physical posterity of Jacob; nowhere does it refer to the church.78 Although nondispensationalists frequently refer to the church as the “new Israel,” there is no biblical warrant for doing so. Many passages indicate Israel was still regarded as a distinct entity after the birth of the church (Rom. 9:6; 1 Cor. 10:32). Israel was given unconditional promises (covenants) in the Old Testament that must be fulfilled with Israel in the millennial kingdom. The church, on the other hand, is a distinct New Testament entity born at Pentecost (1 Cor. 12:13) and not existing in the Old Testament, nor prophesied in the Old Testament (Eph. 3:9). It exists from Pentecost (Acts 2) until the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18). Herein lies the reason for belief in the pretribulation rapture: the purpose of the Tribulation is to judge unbelieving Gentiles and to discipline disobedient Israel (Jer. 30:7); the church does not have purpose or place in the Tribulation.

Covenants. Although Revelation 20:4–6 confirms dispensational premillennialism, that is not the foundation of it; the foundation of dispensational premillennialism is found in the covenants of the Old Testament.79 These covenants were literal, unconditional, and eternal. There are no conditions attached to the covenants and as such they unequivocally promise Israel a future land, a Messianic rule, and spiritual blessings. (1) The Abrahamic covenant. Described in Genesis 12:1–3, the Abrahamic covenant promised a land (v.l; cf. 13:14–17; further developed in the Palestinian covenant); numerous descendants involving a nation, dynasty, and a throne (v. 2; cf. 13:16; 17:2–6; further developed in the Davidic covenant); and redemption (v. 3; cf. 22:18; further developed in the New Covenant).

(2) The Palestinian covenant (Deut. 30:1–10). This covenant guarantees Israel’s permanent right to the land. It is unconditional, as seen in the state ments “God will,” without corresponding obligations. This covenant promises the ultimate return of Israel to the land in repentance and faith (v. 2) in circumstances wherein God will prosper them (v. 3). This covenant will be fulfilled in the Millennium.

(3) The Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:12–16). The provisions of this covenant are summarized in v. 16 by the words “house,” promising a dynasty in the lineage of David; “kingdom,” referring to a people who are governed by a king; “throne,” emphasizing the authority of the king’s rule; “forever,” emphasizing the eternal and unconditional nature of this promise to Israel. This covenant will be fulfilled when Christ returns to rule over believing Israel.

(4) The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34). This covenant provides the basis by which God will bless Israel in the future—Israel will enjoy forgiveness of sins through the meritorious death of Christ. The unconditional nature of this covenant is once more seen in the “I will” statements of vv. 33–34.

If these covenants are understood according to their normal meaning, then they call for a future blessing of believing, national Israel in the land under Messiah’s rule. These covenants await a fulfillment in the Millennium.

The rapture. The term rapture comes from the Latin translatio n, meaning “caught up,” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The rapture, which is distinguished from the second coming of Christ, is taught in John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:51–57; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. Prior to the advent of the Tribulation, Christ will descend from heaven, catching up the church to be with Himself while the Tribulation is unleashed on an unrepentant and unbelieving world.

The pretribulation rapture is espoused for a number of reasons.80 (1) The nature of the Tribulation. The seventieth week of Daniel—the Tribulation—is an outpouring of the wrath of God throughout the seven years (Rev. 6:16–17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1; 16:1, 19); it is described as God’s judgment ( Rev. 14:7; 15:4; 16:5–7; 19:2) and God’s punishment (Isa. 24:21–22). (2) The scope of the Tribulation. The whole earth will be involved (Isa. 24:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 21; 34:2). It also involves God’s chastisement of Israel (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 9:24). If this is the nature and scope of the Tribulation, it is inconceivable that the church will be on earth to experience the wrath of God. (3) The purposes of the Tribulation. The divine intentions of the Tribulation will be to judge people living on earth (Rev. 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:8) and to prepare Israel for her King (Ezek. 36:18–32; Mal. 4:5–6). Neither of these pertain to the church. (4) The unity of the Tribulation. The Tribulation is the seventieth week of Daniel; Daniel 9:24 makes it clear that it has reference to Israel. (5) The exemption of the Tribulation. The church is the bride of Christ, the object of Christ’s love, not His wrath (Eph. 5:25). It would be a contradiction of the very relationship of Christ and the church for the church to go through the punishments of the Tribulation. Specific statements affirming the church will be kept from the Tribulation (cf. Rom. 5:9;81 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rev. 3:10).82 (6) The sequel of the Tribulation. The signs of Matthew 24 (and numerous other passages) were given to Israel concerning the second coming of Christ; no signs, however, were given to the church to anticipate the rapture (which means it will come suddenly, as pretribulationists have affirmed). “The church was told to live in the light of the imminent coming of the Lord to translate them in His presence (John 14:2–3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 6:14; James 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:3–4).”83

The tribulation. The Tribulation is the seventieth week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27), a week according to the prophet’s terminology equaling seven years. It is the last of a seventy-week (490 years) prophecy regarding Israel’s future (Dan. 9:24–27), which began in 444 b.c. Sixty-nine weeks (483 years) concluded with the death of Christ (Dan. 9:26). There is a gap between the sixty-ninth week (a.d. 33) and the seventieth week (the future Tribulation period).84 As the seventieth week of Daniel, the Tribulation has particular reference to Israel (not the church), because Daniel was told, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people” (Dan. 9:24). When Jesus detailed the events of the Tribulation in Matthew 24–25, He explained to the disciples what would happen to the nation Israel, indicating the Tribulation has reference to Israel.

The Tribulation will begin with the signing of the covenant by the beast, who promises to protect Israel (Dan. 9:27). Technically, the rapture does not begin the Tribulation; there may be a brief period of time between the rapture of the church and the signing of the covenant. The Tribulation will involve the judgment of God upon an unbelieving world, as detailed in Revelation 6–19. The consecutive series of seals, trumpets, and bowl judgments of Revelation detail God’s judgment upon unbelievers, climaxing in the triumphant return of Christ to earth with His bride, the church (Rev. 19:11–21).

A prophetic year was regarded as 360 days, with emphasis on the last half of the Tribulation period, called the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21) and referred to as 42 months (Rev. 11:2) or 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3).

The nature and purpose of the Tribulation is important in resolving the issue of the church’s participation in it. (1) Nature of the Tribulation. It has already been shown that the Tribulation is a time of the outpouring of the wrath of God (1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16, 17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1; 16:1, 19); it is a time of punishment (Isa. 24:20–21); a time of trouble (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1); a time of great destruction (Joel 1:15; 1 Thess. 5:3); a time of desolation (Zeph. 1:14, 15); a time of judgment (Rev. 14:7; 16:5; 19:2). If the church is the object of Christ’s love, how can it be present during the Tribulation?

(2) Source of the Tribulation. Posttribulationists suggest the Tribulation is a time of Satan’s wrath, not God’s. The emphasis of Scripture, however, is that the Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath poured out in judgment upon an unbelieving world85 (Isa. 24:1; 26:21; Zeph. 1:18; Rev. 6:16–17 ; 11:18; 16:19; 19:1–2, etc.).

(3) Purposes of the Tribulation.86 The first purpose of the Tribulation is to bring about the conversion of Israel, which will be accomplished through God’s disciplinary dealing with His people Israel (Jer. 30:7; Ezek. 20:37; Dan. 12:1; Zech. 13:8–9). The second purpose of the Tribulation is to judge unbelieving people and nations (Isa. 26:21; Jer. 25:32–33; 2 Thess. 2:12).

Judgment seat of Christ. The judgment seat of Christ is mentioned in Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:9–15, and 2 Corinthians 5:10. It does not denote a judgment concerning eternal destiny but rather rewarding church age believers for faithfulness. The term judgment seat (Gk. bema) is taken from the Grecian games where successful athletes were rewarded for victory in athletic contests. Paul used that figure to denote the giving of rewards to church age believers. The purpose of the judgment seat will be recompense for deeds done in the body, whether good or worthless (2 Cor. 5:10). The believer’s works will be examined (1 Cor. 3:13) whether done by self-effort or whether done by God through the individual. If the believer’s works do not endure, he is saved but receives no reward (1 Cor. 3:15); if the believer’s works are genuine, he is rewarded (1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Thess. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4; James 1:12).

That the rewarding takes place prior to the Second Advent is seen in that the bride has already been rewarded when returning with Christ (Rev. 19:8).87

Marriage of the Lamb. Prior to the Second Advent, the marriage of Christ and the church takes place in heaven. When Christ returns with His bride in Revelation 19:7 the marriage has already taken place.88 The marriage has reference to the church and takes place in heaven, whereas the marriage supper has reference to Israel and takes place on earth in the form of the millennial kingdom.89

Second coming of Christ. At the end of the Tribulation Christ will return physically to earth (Zech. 14:4) to render judgment and to inaugurate the millennial kingdom (Zech. 14:9–21; Matt. 25:31; Rev. 20:4). The Old Testament and Tribulation saints will be raised at that time to inherit the kingdom (Rev. 20:4). At the Second Advent Christ will judge Jews and Gentiles. The Jews will be judged on the basis of their preparedness for His return (Matt. 25:1–13) and their faithfulness as stewards of the Word of God (Matt. 25:14–30). The saved Jews will enter the millennial kingdom (Matt. 25:21), while the unsaved will be cast into outer darkness (Matt. 25:30). Unbelieving Gentiles will be judged in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron Valley; Zech. 14:4) regarding their treatment of the Jews (Joel 3:2; Matt. 25:40). A positive response would indicate their belief in Messiah; these will inherit the kingdom (Matt. 25:34), while the unbelieving will be turned away into everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46).

Millennial kingdom. When Christ returns to earth He will establish Himself as King in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David (Luke 1:32–33). The unconditional covenants demand a literal, physical return of Christ to establish the kingdom. The Abrahamic covenant promised Israel a land, a posterity and ruler, and a spiritual blessing (Gen. 12:1–3); the Palestinian covenant promised Israel a restoration to the land and occupation of the land (Deut. 30:1–10); the Davidic covenant promised a ruler for the throne of David (2 Sam. 7:16); the New Covenant promised Israel forgiveness—the means whereby the nation could be blessed (Jer. 31:31–34). At the Second Advent these covenants will be fulfilled as Israel is regathered from the nations (Matt. 24:31), converted (Zech. 12:10–14), and restored to the land under the rulership of her Messiah

The conditions during the Millennium will depict a perfect environment physically and spiritually. It will be a time of peace (Mic. 4:2–4; Isa. 32:17–18); joy (Isa. 61:7, 10); comfort (Isa. 40:1–2); and no poverty (Amos 9:13–15) or sickness (Isa. 35:5–6). Because only the believers will enter the Millennium, it will be a time of righteousness (Matt. 25:37; Ps. 24:3–4); obedience (Jer. 31:33); holiness (Isa. 35:8); truth (Isa. 65:16); and fulness of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28–29).

Christ will rule as king (Isa. 9:3–7; 11:1–10), with David as regent (Jer. 33:15, 17, 21; Amos 9:11); nobles and governors will also rule (Isa. 32:1; Matt. 19:28; Luke 19:17).

Jerusalem will be the center of the world and rule (Zech. 8:3), rising physically to reveal its prominence (Zech. 14:10). There will be topographical changes in Israel (Zech. 14:4, 8, 10).

At the end of the Millennium the unsaved dead of all ages are resurrected and judged at the great white throne. They will be condemned and cast into the lake of fire, their final abode (Rev. 20:11–15). The devil, the beast (the Antichrist), and the false prophet are also cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).

Eternal state. Following the Millennium, the heavens and the earth are judged (2 Pet. 3:10), because they were the domain of Satan’s rebellion against God. The eternal state, the abode of all redeemed (Heb. 12:22–24), will be ushered in (Rev. 21–22).




The History of Interpretation

Across the centuries of church history there have been various interpretations of Revelation and of prophecy in general.

My Word Bible Handbook (Word) sums up the history succinctly:

The Early Church. The Didache was probably written about a.d. 100. It gives this picture of the future as understood in the post-apostolic church: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh. When lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate and betray and persecute one another, and then shall appear the ‘world-deceiver’ as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish, but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the sign of an opening in heaven, the outspreading of the heaven; (b) then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the (c) third, the resurrection of the dead, yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, 382).

In a.d. 140–160 Justin Martyr wrote, “I, and as many as are orthodox Christians, do acknowledge that there shall be a resurrection of the body, and a residence of a thousand years in Jerusalem, adorned and enlarged, as the Prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and others do unanimously attest” (Fathers, Vol. 1:239).

Irenaeus, a great missionary and church father, who died in a.d. 202, summed up the picture of the future taught in his day. “When the Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then shall the Lord come from heaven in clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man, and those who follow him, into the lake of fire; but bringing for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which the kingdom of the Lord declared that ‘many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob’ ” (Fathers, Vol. 1:560).

It is clear from these early fathers, as well as from the writings of Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius and others, that for some 300 years the church did integrate Old Testament and New Testament prophetic pictures and took them in their literal sense. They expected Christ’s return to precede a time of blessing, promised in the Old Testament, before the world would end.

To the Reformation. A review of commentaries on the Book of Revelation shows a shift in understanding prophecy occurred after the early centuries. A leader of the African church, Tyconius, wrote a commentary around a.d. 390 in which the events Revelation describes were spiritualized. His allegorical approach was adopted, and later used to justify the development of the papacy as a political power. The allegorical method of interpreting Revelation was followed by Pirimasius (ca. a.d. 550), Alcuin (a.d. 735–804), Maurus (a.d. 775 836), and Strabo (a.d. 807–859).

Joachim of Fiore (ca. a.d. 1130–1202) challenged the dominant allegorical interpretation by introducing a chronological division. He divided all of history into three ages: the Age of the Father (Creation to Christ), the Age of the Son (Christ to his own day), and the Age of the Spirit (his time, until final judgment). When the Reformation came, this chronological approach was fastened on by Luther, Calvin, and others. The Antichrist-beast of Revelation 13 and the harlot of Revelation 17–18 were interpreted as the papacy, and as Rome. Events in the history of western Europe were linked to the various seals and trumpets of the book.

The Catholics responded with a commentary on Revelation in which Francisco Ribera (a.d. 1537–1591) argued that the Antichrist was an individual who would come in some future time, not the pope. Other Catholic writers argued that Revelation applied only to events before the fall of Rome, in a.d. 476.

The medieval scholars, the Reformers, or the later Catholic theologians attempted to relate Revelation to the prophetic picture found in the Old Testament and build a unified picture of the future.


Ezekiel and the Millennium

The interpretation of the Book of Ezekiel must involve more than exegesis and text-critical analysis. It must involve relating the message of the book to biblical theology as a whole. Since Ezekiel’s message is largely an eschatological one, this means relating Ezekiel to the Bible’s teaching on eschatology.116 The major questions in this regard are: Who are to be the recipients of the redemptive promises of Ezekiel? What is to be the nature of the fulfillment of those promises? Various answers to these questions largely distinguish four primary hermeneutical frameworks applied to biblical eschatology.117

Dispensational Premillennialism. Premillennialism is the teaching that Christ’s second coming will inaugurate a visible kingdom of righteousness that will comprise the whole earth. The term “dispensationalism” refers to a system of scriptural interpretation that stresses literal fulfillment of prophecy as well as distinctions in God’s administrative program historically, that is, “dispensations.” The various dispensations (some of which may overlap) reflect different aspects of God’s purposes in his plan for history.

The thousand years of Rev 20 are considered to be literal in fact and duration, fulfilling Old Testament promises of a Davidic messianic kingdom (distinct from the universal kingdom of God), including a restored national Israel and a redeemed earth. J. S. Feinberg has written, “While a prophecy given unconditionally to Israel has a fulfillment for the church if the NT applies it to the church, it must also be fulfilled to Israel. Progress of revelation cannot cancel unconditional promises.”118 During the millennium Satan will be bound, signifying the elimination of his influence from the world. Most important, Jesus will reign as Messiah on earth, and believers will be his administrators. The millennial kingdom will entail blessings for all nations but will have a distinctive Jewish emphasis, including a form of worship involving a rebuilt Jewish temple and the reinstitution of certain sacrifices. There will be two resurrections, the first unto life before the millennium and the second unto judgment at the end of the millennium.119

Classic (or “essentialist”) dispensationalists maintain a sharp distinction between the church and Israel. The church age is understood as a parenthesis in God’s prophetic program, during which focus is on the salvation of Gentiles. God’s program with Israel will be renewed after the church has been temporarily removed from the earth during the tribulation. Jesus’ second coming to the earth with the church will begin the millennium, during which there will be two distinct peoples of God, the church and Israel.120

A contemporary variation known as “progressive dispensationism” places greater stress on ultimate fulfillment of divine purposes in the final eternal kingdom of the new heavens and earth. Also while maintaining the expectation of the restoration of national Israel in the millennium, they see the current church age as having inaugurated the Davidic kingdom in some sense and as having begun the fulfillment of Old Testament promises of spiritual blessing, including Gentile salvation. Thus this current age is not a parenthesis in God’s prophetic program, and there is only one people of God united in Christ. In the millennium as well, although an ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile will be recognized as “different dimensions of redeemed humanity,” there will be only one people of God.121 Also stress is placed on fulfillment of prophecy not in Israel or in a Davidic kingdom but in Christ.122

Historic Premillennalism. This hermeneutical approach is based upon a literal interpretation of New Testament prophecy and thus agrees with dispensational premillennialism that there will be two resurrections and that Jesus’ second coming will inaugurate an earthly millennial kingdom (whether or not literally a thousand years).123 Christ’s messianic reign, however, is believed to have begun in an invisible form at his resurrection and ascension, so that the millennial kingdom is only part of Christ’s reign.124 More important to the distinctiveness of the view, Old Testament prophecies of the coming kingdom of righteousness are thought to be fulfilled in the New Testament church. G. E. Ladd explains that the “basic watershed between a dispensational and a nondispensational theology” is that dispensationalism “forms its eschatology by a literal interpretation of the Old Testament and fits the New Testament into it.”125 Nondispensational eschatology, however, follows the principle of the New Testament and reinterprets the Old Testament “in light of the Christ event.”126 Thus the church is identified as spiritual Israel, the people of God, although a future conversion of literal Israel is affirmed, perhaps in the millennium.127 Nevertheless, the millennial kingdom is not interpreted as a Jewish kingdom involving temple and sacrifices but as a kingdom of Christ.128

Postmillennialism. This view, not widely held, while agreeing with premillennialism that there is a future earthly kingdom, asserts that the blessings promised to Israel in the Old Testament are in process of being fulfilled in the church. Initiated by the first coming of Christ, the kingdom of God is being extended through the work of the church with the growth and power of the gospel. According to J. M. Kik, “The post-mill looks for a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the glorious age of the church upon the earth through the preaching of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit.”129 Those who hold this position expect the conversion of all nations prior to the second coming of Christ. The millennium is understood as a gradually beginning period of indeterminate length during which there will be unprecedented peace and righteousness on earth. It will be the final stage of the church age which will end with Christ’s return and with one general resurrection of those who have lived in all previous ages of human history.130

Amillennialism. The word “amillennial” means “no thousand years.” This is the view, then, that there is to be no literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth. Rather, the millennium of Rev 20:1–10 is “not exclusively future but is now in process of realization.”131 In the sense of a present “inaugurated” reality it is most commonly considered to be a heavenly kingdom in which believers who have died reign with Christ. As such it extends from the first advent of Christ to just before the second.132 An older view defines it more as symbolic of the reign of Christ in the church in the present age. Christian history since the ascension is the story of the conflict between good and evil, God and Satan. Many biblical passages regarding the millennium relate to this ongoing spiritual struggle which will intensify until a climactic conflict symbolized by the battle of Armageddon and the destruction of Gog and Magog (Ezek 38–39; Rev 16:16; 20:7–10) is ended by the return of Christ.133 The binding of Satan (Rev 20:2–3) is frequently interpreted as his restriction from deceiving the nations, making possible the evangelistic work of the church.134 To an even greater degree than in historic premillennialism, the church is equated with spiritual Israel and is considered the direct recipient of Old Testament promises.135 Christ’s return and the final judgment will conclude the millennium, thus ending human history and inaugurating the final eternal state of believers and the new heavens and earth.136 Many of the Old Testament prophecies commonly applied to the millennium by premillennialists are interpreted by amillennialists as referring to the new heavens and earth, which is understood to follow the church age as the second phase of the kingdom of God.137 This approach advocates less literalness in the interpretation of prophecy and is less preoccupied with details and chronology of events related to the end of time since many eschatological events are expected to occur almost simultaneously.138

One’s eschatological view will have a definite affect on the hermeneutical methodology employed in interpreting Scripture.139 While there are capable scholars who favor each of the above approaches to the interpretation of end-time events, this commentary will follow the dispensational premillennial framework as that which best fits the exegesis of the text and which correlates with the theology of the rest of Scripture. A rationale for this orientation is presented in the next section.



The English word church is related to the Scottish word kirk and the German designation kirche, and all of these terms are derived from the Greek word kuriakon, the neuter adjective of kurios (“Lord” ), meaning “belonging to the Lord.”1 The English word church also translates the Greek word ekklesia, which is derived from ek, meaning “out of,” and kaleo, which means “to call,” hence, the church is “a called out group.” Ekklesia appears 114 times in the New Testament, 3 times in the gospels, and 111 times in the epistles. In the gospels it appears only in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17 (twice). The latter two occurrences are probably used in a nontechnical sense of a Jewish congregation. Thus in a technical sense, ekklesia is used only once in the gospels, and in that passage it is a prophetic reference to the church. This helps establish the fact that the church began after the ascension as recorded in the book of Acts and is a particularly Pauline doctrine.

The word ekklesia, however, does not indicate the nature of the called out group; it can be used in a technical sense of the New Testament church, or it can be used in a nontechnical sense of any kind of group. For example, in Acts 7:38 it refers to the congregation of the people of Israel as the ekklesia (it is translated “congregation” ). In Acts 19:32 it refers to the mob at Ephesus that was angry at Paul (here it is translated “assembly” ). Most often, however, the word is used in a technical sense to designate the New Testament church, a group of called-out believers in Jesus Christ.


The local church. The most common use of the word church in the New Testament is to designate a group of believers that is identified as a local assembly or congregation. Thus there was a church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1; 11:22), in Asia Minor (Acts 16:5), in Rome (Rom. 16:5), in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1), in Galatia (Gal. 1:2), in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1), and in the home of Philemon (Philem. 2).

These early believers did not have special buildings in which to meet; instead, they met in homes (Rom. 16:5; Philem. 2). The early believers came together for worship (1 Cor. 11:18), fellowship (Acts 2:45–46; 4:31), instruction (Acts 2:42; 11:26; 1 Cor. 4:17), and for ministry such as sending out missionaries (Acts 13:2; 15:3). The result was that people were continually being saved (Acts 2:47).













The universal church. While the local church views the church as a group of believers gathered together in a particular locality, the universal church views “all those who, in this age, have been born of the Spirit of God and have by that same Spirit been baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Pet. 1:3, 22–25).”2 It was this corporate group of believers that Christ promised to build (Matt. 16:18); it was this Body for whom Christ died (Eph. 5:25), and He is the head over it, giving it direction (Eph. 1:22–23; Col. 1:18). In Ephesians 1:23 the church is referred to as “His body.” This cannot refer to a local assembly but must depict instead the universal body of believers (cf. Col. 1:18). A particular emphasis of the universal church is its unity, whether Jews or Gentiles, all together compose one body, in a unity produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 4:4).

The universal church is sometimes referred to as the invisible church and the local church as the visible church3 (although some deny this equation). Men like Augustine, Luther, and Calvin all taught this distinction, which upheld the invisible church as emphasizing the perfect, true, spiritual nature of the church, whereas the visible church recognized the local assembly of believers with its imperfections and even unbelievers having membership in a local church. The term invisible is also used to indicate that its exact membership cannot be known. In reality, the members are entirely visible!4



75 75. Dispensational premillennialism will hereafter frequently be referred to simply as premillennialism. It is safe to say that the vast majority of premillennialists are also dispensationalists; by Ladd’s own admission, historic premillennialists are similar to amillennialists in their view of eschatology. It is, in fact, a serious question whether “historic premillennialism” is an apt designation for that eschatological position because it was not, we think, the position of the apostles and because it eliminates the dispensational elements that are historically integral to most premillennialism.

76 76. Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1953), pp. 17–26. This is an extremely valuable source in not only tracing the history of premillennialism but also explaining the hermeneutical principles and the biblical foundation of premillennialism in the unconditional covenants of the Old Testament.

77 77. See Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody, 1965), pp. 86–98; and Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), pp. 119–27.

78 78. The only passage that is somewhat debatable is Galatians 6:16. The Greek kai should probably be understood epexegetically as “even.” Israel of God thus refers to believing Israelites who walk by faith and not as the legalistic Judaizers.

79 79. For a detailed discussion of these covenants see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), pp. 65–128; Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, pp. 48–125; John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), pp. 139–220; and Charles L. Feinberg, Millennialism: The Two Major Views, 3d ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1980).

80 80. See Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 193–218.

81 81. The statement “wrath” is emphatic in the Greek text, being at the end of the sentence, and additionally is definite by use of the article in tesorges. Both of these factors show that it is not just any wrath that is referred to, but a specific wrath—the wrath of the Tribulation. If God loved us while we were sinners He has promised to deliver us from the wrath to come.

82 82. For comprehensive studies of this subject see John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979); and Gerald B. Stanton, Kept from the Hour (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956).

83 83. Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 203.

84 84. See Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), pp. 115–39 where Hoehner discusses the seventieth week and es tablishes the necessity of a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. See also Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1940).

85 85. Ibid., pp. 235–37.

86 86. Ibid., pp. 237–39.

87 87. The plural term “righteous acts” suggests the righteous deeds of the believer that have been rewarded.

88 88. The phrase translated “has come” in Revelation 19:7 is the Greek aorist form, elthen, indicating it has already taken place.

89 89. Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 227.

[1]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989), 389.

[2]Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary, Includes Index. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 1066.

116 The importance of one’s eschatological approach is discussed in G. E. Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, ed. R. G. Clouse (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1977), 18; E. E. Johnson, “Premillennialism Introduced: Hermeneutics,” in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 15–34; P. L. Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy (Winona Lake, Ind.: Assurance, 1974), 201–36.

117 Our concern here is only with those positions based on belief in “predictive prophecy” in the Bible and also in the personal visible return of Christ to the earth in glory. A careful yet succinct survey of the issues may be found in B. Hunt, Redeemed! Eschatological Redemption and the Kingdom of God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 240–304.

118 J. S. Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity,” in J. S. Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1988), 76. Also see R. L. Saucy, “A Rationale for the Future of Israel,” JETS 28 (1985): 433–42.

119 The two resurrections are discussed in H. A. Hoyt, “Dispensational Premillennialism,” in The Meaning of the Millennium, 92; J. P. Newport, The Lion and the Lamb (Nashville: Broadman, 1986), 94–102. For a thorough contemporary presentation of premillennialism see D. K. Campbell and J. L. Townsend, eds., A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus (Chicago: Moody, 1992.

120 M. J. Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 117–22; C. A. Blaising, “Dispensationism: The Search for Definition,” in C. A. Blaising and D. L. Bock, eds., Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 13–34; Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity,” 67–86.

121 R. L. Saucy, “Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity,” in Continuity and Discontinuity, 239–40.

122 See C. A. Blaising and D. L. Bock, “Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church: Assessment and Dialogue,” in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, 377–94; V. S. Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalists (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 19–38.

123 Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” 32–40; idem, Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 141–49; R. H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 356.

124 Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” 29–32; idem, The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 218.

125 Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” 27.

126 Ibid., 21.

127 D. J. Moo, “The Posttribulation Rapture Position,” in The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-tribulational (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 207.

128 Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” 18–29.

129 J. M. Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974), 4.

130 Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology, 55–58; S. J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), 65–89. For recent expositions of postmillennialism by its proponents, see L. Boettner, “Postmillennialism,” in The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, ed. R. G. Clouse (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1977), 117–41; D. Chilton, Paradise Restored (Tyler, Tex.: Reconstruction Press, 1985); J. J. Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).

131 A. A. Hoekema, “Amillennialism,” in The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, 155–56.

132 Hoekema, “Amillennialism,” 164–72, 177–81; idem, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 234–35; M. G. Kline, “The First Resurrection, WTJ 37 (1975): 372–75; J. A. Hughes, “Revelation 20:4–6 and the Question of the Millennium,” WTJ 35 (1973): 288–302; V. S. Poythress, “Genre and Hermeneutics in Rev 20:1–6,” JETS 36 (1993): 53–54.

133 See, for example, G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 314–15; R. F. White, “Reexamining the Evidence for Recapitulation in Revelation 20:1–10,” WTJ 51 (1989): 325–36.

134 W. Hendricksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), 226; Hoekema, “Amillennialism,” 161–64.

135 See T. R. Schreiner, “The Church as the New Israel and the Future of Ethnic Israel in Paul,” Studia Biblica et Theologica 13 (1983): 17–38; M. W. Karlberg, “The Significance of Israel in Biblical Typology,” JETS 31 (1988): 257–69; O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), 134–59; W. Hendricksen, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968), 16–57. While “all Israel” in Rom 11:26 usually has been understood by amillennialists as the elect from all the ages, many today interpret it as the remnant from literal Israel (see O. P. Robertson, “Is There a Distinctive Future for Ethnic Israel in Romans 11?” in Perspectives on Evangelical Theology, eds., K. S. Kantzer and S. N. Gundry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 217–27. Also see W. A. VanGemeren, “Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy,” WTJ 45 (1983): 143.

136 Hoekema, “Amillennialism,” 160, 181–86.

137 M. W. Karlberg, “Legitimate Discontinuities Between the Testament,” JETS 28 (1985): 18.

138 Hoekema, “Amillennialism,” 172–76; Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology, 74–75; Newport, The Lion and the Lamb, 82–86; Grenz, Millennial Maze, 152.

139 See Grenz, Millennial Maze, 181–84.

[3]Lamar Eugene Cooper, vol. 17, Ezekiel, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1994), 45.

1 1. Robert L. Saucy, The Church in God’s Program (Chicago: Moody, 1972 ), p. 11.

2 2. Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 307.

3 3. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 3:1043–48; cf. Douglas Kelly et al., eds., The Westminster Confession of Faith, 2nd ed. (Greenwood, S.C.: Attic, 1981), p. 44.

4 4. Saucy, The Church in God’s Program, p. 17.

[4]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989), 347.

Sinless and forgiven. Really?

•November 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I would still love to see the scriptures that support this.

Do they compare to these?

Heb 9:27 And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment

Dan 12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dusty ground will awake – some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence. 3 But the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavenly expanse. And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.

Matt 25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Rev 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death – the lake of fire.

The list of Scriptures – God’s Word against your theological position is overwhelming my friend. Perhaps you should recognise that people are actually in danger and you are like the doctor smiling at them as they die telling them it will be okay. Really though Christian it won’t be, will it.

So far Christian you haven’t countered any of these scriptures. Does this mean you are telling people half truths?