Why An Obsession with Eschatology is a Waste of Time, Part 6

Posted By on June 15, 2010

Now that we’re out of the covenants, it’s time to move on to other items that demonstrate how anyone’s position on end times is driven by presuppositions.

Our discussion of the covenants (and some reader comments) brought to light how readily many Christians assume that the promises of an earthly kingdom could not have been fulfilled yet. Now, I’ve already noted that there is more than one way to imagine the land promises being yet future while also being already realized through the Church. I want to revisit the kingdom idea a bit more and show how many Christians feel there is biblical reason to think that the earthly kingdom of God and the land promises have already been fulfilled in Israel — specifically at the time of Solomon.

Let’s go back to the Abrahamic covenant to start:

1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
Notice that in verse 18 we get the parameters of the land promised to Abraham. Verses 19-21 adds the details with regional descriptions.  The boundaries are clear.  The question is, was this promised land ever held by the nation of Israel? Modern dispensationalist evangelicals say no. The problem is that the Old Testament suggests otherwise. Here’s what 1 Kings 4:21-24 describes the boundaries of the territory under Solomon’s rule (they match the Abrahamic covenant):
21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. 22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. And he had peace on all sides around him.
Here’s what it would look like on a map:
This very obviously fits a “no millennium” understanding of the Abrahamic covenant — the position that says the land promises were fulfilled in Israel’s past, so there is no need to posit a literal millennial kingdom future taking place in national Israel.
The other side would object, arguing that all the turf outside the dotted lines (like the coastline) needs to be included for the promise to really be fulfilled.  They’d also argue that there were parts of Solomon’s kingdom that were not part of the nation of Israel, but which were just under Solomonic tribute. The believe (“presuppose”) that this doesn’t conform to the way the original promises should be fulfilled.
So which presumption is better?  I can’t say I care too much. The point is that the idea of a future millennial kingdom in Israel is not self evident with respect to the Scriptures. That may or may not be the correct read.

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8 Responses to “Why An Obsession with Eschatology is a Waste of Time, Part 6”

  1. Robbie says:

    From the specific geographical and tribal references made to Abraham, it looks like the distribution and initial settelment of the land promised to his descendants starts with the second generation of Israelites after the Exodus and concludes in Solomon’s reign. It may not sell a lot of books by 21st century North American dispenationalist gurus, but it seems closer to the historical record.

  2. Seb says:

    People need to be educated about Scofield and the lie of end time revival or humanity will return to the Dark Ages under the rich venetian Black Nobility technology known today as UFOs.

  3. Jesse says:

    As a fundamentalist/dispensationalist I am curious to see where this is headed (with an open mind)!

    I have to admit that in the back of my mind I am already thinking “NAH!”

    I guess the post I am really looking forward to is the one where you break down your personal opinion (subset of presuppositions and ideas) and what you imagine the personal application or ramifications to be. Millennium or not – THE KING is coming back. What does an individual do with that knowledge?

    • MSH says:

      for future reference (no pun intended), the king is returning in any eschatological scheme (except maybe the most extreme preterism).

  4. Cris Putnam says:

    Sorry I don’t see how this example really evidences “the idea of a future millennial kingdom in Israel is not self evident with respect to the Scriptures” at all. Plenty of passages point directly to a messianic kingdom in Israel. Zechariah 14 is a good example:

    8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

    9And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

    • MSH says:

      the idea of Zech 14 (in this trajectory) is that the exiled community alive in Zechariah’s day could look forward to the glory of the kingdom under Solomon and worship only the Lord — but the language is hyperbole. And in the millennial view, it also has to be hyperbole and symbolic – the waters won’t literally give eternal life.

  5. Cris Putnam says:

    Well I admittedly have a very basic understanding based on English translations. I see the literal kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem. I just do not see the ambiguity you struggle with at all. For me it’s just not too far a stretch from looking “forward to glory of the kingdom under Solomon” as a literal millennial kingdom head quartered in National Israel. That’s exactly the way Revelation reads to me. The 144,000 come from 12 tribes – that’s just not the church. So it just works together. Obviously there are symbols but I don’t think it’s fair to just write it all off as hyperbole. I think God will do these things because his name is behind it. Supersessionism violates more scripture than I can even list. For example I expect this to literally happen:

    “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ”” (Zechariah 8:23, ESV)

    Dr Heiser with all due respect the 1000lb elephant in the room is Revelation chapter 20 is clearly premillennial. It explicitly speaks of a 1000 year reign prior to the final judgment. All the alternatives just seem ad hoc. You have to impose them on the text.

    • MSH says:

      The amill view (and I am not amill – remember, I don’t like any of the labels) would agree that the kingdom was and would be centered in Jerusalem – but what is the “new Jerusalem where the new temple is”? Since we, as individual believers (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19-20) are the new temple, amillers view the Church as the new Jerusalem. This makes sense in conceptual terms, because the NT clearly states we are the temple. This only sounds strange to those taught to think of it literally. Hebrews 12:22-24 also suggests that the company of believers = the new Jerusalem the writer is addressing “you” – his audience, Jewish believers):

      22 But YOU have come to ?Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, ?the heavenly Jerusalem, and to ?innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to ?the assembly? of the firstborn who are ?enrolled in heaven, and to ?God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, ?the mediator of a new covenant, and to ?the sprinkled blood ?that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

      “The assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, here equated in parallel with the heavenly Jerusalem, is not something earthly (the text has the assembly and Jerusalem “in heaven”).

      Anyway, this is how the non-premiller processes all this, and they certainly have scriptural warrant for doing so (i.e., they aren’t making it up). The question in my mind is, “is that all there is?” or “does this rule the other option out — or can they co-exist?”

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