Monday, October 19, 2009

The Millenium, and two friends: a Rookie Preacher and a Seminary Professor

I've been preaching through Genesis 1-3 in the morning services here at Twynholm. Yesterday we arrived at Genesis 3:1-7. In the evening service we take a passage related to the morning passage. Marcos Peters, probably still inside his first 10 sermons, preached an excellent message on Revelation 20:3 (the one who deceived Eve is bound so that he might not deceive the nations).
Taking us through from Eden to Babel to the coming of the kingdom in Christ Marcos argued convincingly for an amillennial reading (though he did well not to use that term!) This was then applied in a way that was encouraging for us, just as it would have been encouraging for the initial readers. Things may look tough, but Christ has won his victory through the cross and resurrection; he is enthroned in heaven; Satan is bound; we can have confidence to preach the gospel, knowing that today Christ is in the business of bringing people from every nation to enlightenment and salvation.

On the other side of the argument, my friend and dear brother Jim Hamilton has had a series of posts arguing for a premillennial reading. You can find them here, here, here, here and here. They are very coherent, and deserve serious thought.
One of the key arguments he uses is a comparison of Revelation 20:3 where Satan is bound so that he cannot deceive the nations with Revelation 13:14 where he deceives the inhabitants of the earth. Revelation 13 is clearly the church age, so Revelation 20 can't be, he argues.

Well, when it comes to the rookie preacher and the Professor of Biblical Theology, this time I'm with the Rookie!

Here's my reply to his last post:

Thanks Jim for these posts.
(Thanks also for your very helpful reflections on your first pastorate. This was very encouraging to me 18 months into life at Twynholm. Praying the Lord would make me more prayerful.)
As a fairly convinced amillennialist I’m interested in your comparison between the two texts, seeing deception in Revelation 12-13 and no deception in 20.
My own reading is that the deception of the nations is exactly what comes to an end with the finished work of Christ (not without exception, but without the Jew/Gentile distinction that existed before the coming of Christ).
Since Babel the nations have been deceived, and only through coming through Israel is there enlightenment in the Old Testament (focused on the temple in Jerusalem… I think someone’s written a good book about that!).
With the coming of Christ (and the Spirit) Babel is reversed (Acts 2) worship in delocalised (John 4) and repentance is granted to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11)
Jesus himself says that unless the strong man is bound, there can be no freedom.(Matt 12)
So I think that you are being a little harsh on the amillennialist. We don’t believe that Satan deceives nobody in the church age, but that the nations are not deceived as a whole. I’d suggest that we are paying very careful attention to the text, and particularly the force of the word “Nations”.

Jim then replied:

Mike, Thanks for your kind note and encouraging words.

On Rev 20, it looks to me like the kind of thing that Satan was doing in Rev 12-13 is stopped altogether.

Great to hear from you!


I replied to Jim:

Thanks Jim,
Yes, you argue very well the case that all deception has stopped; if people are wanting to think the issue through and hear the premil position argued for well, these posts would be a great place to start. Revelation 20:3 is of course your best verse if you are going to be premil. I would argue though that it’s your best verse in the same way that 1 John 2:2 is the best verse for a general atonement. Looks like a slam dunk case on a first reading (or, as a Brit I ought to say a plumb LBW decision).

I’m just wondering though that, given the huge emphasis on the breaking down of the Jew/Gentile distinction in the New Testament, that you could not at least understand why an amil reader would see it entirely consistent to describe such a cataclysmic change in terms as radical as the chaining of Satan so that he would no longer deceive the nations?
Grace and peace,
Your brother,

Jim replied:

Mike, I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s wrong!

The reason is that Revelation 13:7 says this of Satan’s beast: “and authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.”

So I think that when you read Rev 13, you see that Satan’s beast has Satan’s own authority (cf. 13:2) over the nations. Then in Rev 20 all that authority is stripped away from him.

Making that say the same thing is more than I’m interested in trying to do,


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