Class Notes: 2/8/2009
2Tim 1:13-14 The mandate to "retain the pattern of sound doctrine" cont...
The mandate of the PPOG for the church age believer that we are presently examining is found in 2Tim 1:13; where we have the command to retain the "standard of sound words" or doctrine and in verse 14 we have the command to " Protect” that doctrine.
In verse 13 the word translated "retain" in the NASB, "hold fast" in the KJV and "keep" in the NIV is the second person singular present active imperative of the Greek word "echo" that means to " keep on having" the present tense signifies action in progress or in a state of persistence, the active voice shows that the believer performs the action of the verb and the imperative mood is a command.
So we have the command for the believer and especially the communicator of Bible Doctrine to hold on to and to guard "the pattern of sound words" that have been taught by Paul.
Given the mandate to hold to and protect this "pattern of sound doctrine" we are presently examining the system that the pastor is to use for the development of that doctrine.
We have seen that the Protestant Reformation that started with Luther, Calvin and Zwingli was the result of their switch from the allegorical to the historical literal grammatical method of hermeneutics based on the original languages of scripture that led to a rediscovery of the doctrines of Salvation by Grace through Faith alone in TLJC alone and the Eternal Security of the believer led to rediscovery of the divine framework of human history that emerged in the theology of dispensationalism.
We have seen that dispensationalism provides a timeline of history and that the church age began at Pentecost in the year of the Lord's crucifixion and ends imminently but maybe not immediately with the exit resurrection or rapture of the church.
We have seen that Biblical passages that offer historical downtrends as harbingers for national discipline, such as 2Tim 3:1-7; or passages that reveal events prophetic of the Second Advent, such as Matthew 24, are often misapplied to the Rapture.
This mistake causes certain theologians to assert that apostasy in the land means that the Rapture is immediately upon us. Others maintain that the establishment of the nation Israel in 1948 is a clear sign the Rapture is immediate.
However, there is absolutely no passage in the New Testament that reveals any prophecy regarding the Church Age, except for its beginning and its end. Therefore there is no prophecy to be fulfilled before the Rapture may occur.
This means the Rapture could occur at any moment, but this was as true in the first century as it is today and one cannot logically conclude that an event that has been impending for over 19-hundred years is immediate.
The best word to describe the place of the rapture on God's timetable is imminency. Imminency means impending, or threatening to occur but it does not necessarily mean immediately.
The day the Rapture does occur it will be both imminent and immediate, but until then it must be considered imminent but not necessarily immediate.
While the Rapture is imminent, the Second Advent is not.
Those who subscribe to the pretribulational Rapture also conclude the Second Advent to be posttribulational this is referred to in theology as premillennialism.
Simply put, pretribulationists believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins. Premillennialists believe that the Second Advent will occur before the millennial reign of Christ begins.
Poor hermeneutics has led many to confuse the timing of the fulfillment of prophecies related to each of these events.
Some commentary on this subject is provided by the Dictionary of Premillennial Theology on Pages 344-345: under "History of the Rapture"
A history of the Rapture is of necessity a history of pretribulationism, since most other views do not distinguish between the two phases of Christ's return; The Rapture and the Second Advent.
It is conceded that the earliest documents of the ancient church reflect a clear premillennialism, but great controversy surrounds the early understanding of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation.
Pretribulationists point to the early church's clear belief in imminency and a few passages from a couple of documents as evidence that pretribulationism was held by at least a few from the earliest times.
As was typical of every area of the early church's theology, views of prophecy were undeveloped and sometimes contradictory, a seedbed out of which developed various and diverse theological viewpoints.
It is hard to find clear pretribualtionism spelled out in the fathers; there are found clear pretribulational elements that, if systematized with their other prophetic views, contradict posttribulationism and support pretribualtionism.
Expressions of imminency abound in the apostolic fathers. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas all speak of imminency.
Evidence of pretribulationism surfaces during the early medieval period in a sermon some attribute to Ephraem the Syrian entitled, "Sermon on the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World."
The sermon was written sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. The statement that refers to the rapture reads as follows:
"Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms the world? For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the Tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."
This statement shows a clear belief that all Christians will escape the Tribulation through a gathering to the Lord. How else is this to be understood other than as pretribulational? The later Second Coming of Christ to the earth with the saints is mentioned at the end of the sermon.
Those who do not believe that the Bible presents a dispensational view of history are quick to criticize those that do but their failure to grasp the presence of dispensations in Scripture is due to the system of hermeneutics that they use to interpret the text.
We have seen that the dispensationalist system of hermeneutics is based on the principle of the "literal-historical-grammatical" interpretation of the original languages of Scripture.
This standard is defined by: Charles Ryrie, in Dispensationalism Today Pages 86-89:
Literal interpretation gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking. This is sometimes called the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined by grammatical and historical considerations.
This could also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning of words is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. It might also be designated plain interpretation so that no one receives the mistaken notion that the literal principle rules out figures of speech. Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation.
After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved. The literalist is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted according to the received laws of language, as any other utterances are interpreted.
There are many reasons given by dispensationalists to support this hermeneutical principle of literal, normal, or plain interpretation.
Philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require literal interpretation. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate with man. If God be the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to man, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell man.
It must also follow that He would use language and expect man to use it in its literal, normal, and plain sense. The Scriptures, then, cannot be regarded as an illustration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought.
If language is the creation of God for the purpose of conveying His message, then (the interpreter) must view that language as sufficient in scope and normative in use in accomplishing that purpose for which God originated it.
The prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ, His birth, His rearing, His ministry, His death, His resurrection-were all fulfilled literally. There is no nonliteral fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament.
If one does not use the plain, normal, literal method of interpretation, all objectivity is lost.
What check would there be on the variety of interpretations which man's imagination could produce if there were not an objective standard which the literal principle provides?
To try to see meaning other than the normal one would result in as many interpretations as there are people interpreting.
Ryrie goes on to take up the principles of interpretation utilized by the nondispensationalist that uses the allegorical hermeneutical approach on page 90 of his book Dispensationalism Today:
Perhaps the distinction between the dispensationalist and nondispensationalist can be seen by noting what the latter has to say about this matter of hermeneutics, especially as it relates to the application of the principle of literal interpretation to prophecy. For instance,
Oswald T. Allis, a vigorous opponent of dispensationalism, says: "One of the most marked features of premillennialism in all its forms is the emphasis which it places on the literal interpretation of Scripture. It is the insistent claims of its advocates that only when interpreted literally is the Bible interpreted truly; and they denounce as "spiritualizers" or "allegorizers" those who do not interpret the Bible with the same degree of literalness as they do. None have made the charge more pointedly than the dispensationalists."
In his words, the issue between dispensationalists and nondispensationalists is "the same degree of literalness."
More specifically this has to do with the interpretation of prophecy.
The dispensationalist claims to apply his literal principle to all Scripture, including prophecy, while the nondispensationalist does not apply it to prophecy. That he does not apply it to prophecy is evident, for if he did he would not arrive at amillennialism.
It is assumed that the nondispensationalist, who interprets Old Testament prophecies as allegorical for the church and are fulfilled "spiritually" in the church, would not accept the idea of a literal millennial kingdom.
The view of the amillennialist is summed up in the Dictionary of Premillennial Theology under Amillennialisim.
Amillennialism is the view that the kingdom promises, or prophecies, in the Old Testament are fulfilled spiritually rather than literally in the New Testament church. Those who hold this view believe that Christ will literally return, but they do not believe in His thousand-year reign on the earth.
According to the amillennial view, the kingdom of God is present in the church age, and at the end of the church age the second coming of Christ inaugurates the eternal state. The book of Revelation is interpreted as a description of those events that take place during the church age.
Nevertheless, the amillennialist is forced to agree that if the literal-grammatical-historical system of hermeneutics is applied to the Scripture then a premillennialist view emerges:
Ryrie continues in Dispensationalism Today, Pages 92-93:
Theoretically at least, the application of the literal principle is not debated. Most agree that this involves some obvious procedures.
For one thing, the meaning of each word must be studied. This involves etymology, use, history, and resultant meaning.
For another thing, the grammar or relationship of the words to each other must be analyzed.
For a third thing, the context, immediate and remote, must be considered. This means comparing scripture with scripture as well as the study of the immediate context.
However, in practice the theory is often compromised or adjusted and in effect invalidated.
The amillennialist does this in his entire approach to eschatology.
Floyd E. Hamilton, for instance, who is an amillennialist, confessed; Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialist pictures.
That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal kingdom interpretation of the Old Testament promises.
Allegory Replaces Israel with the Church, Earthly Promises to National Israel Are Spiritualized away making God a Liar.
One of the major principles of dispensational theology is that of progressive revelation. Ryrie demonstrates that those who spiritualize and allegorize scripture turn divine revelation into a hodgepodge of contradictions:
The premillennialist who is antidispensational also compromises the literal principle.
This is done by what Daniel P. Fuller calls theological interpretations.
In Covenant Theology there is the tendency to impute to passages a meaning which would not be gained merely from their historical and grammatical associations. This phase of interpretation is called the "theological" interpretation.
An example of this hybrid literal-theological principle in action is given by Fuller in connection with the promises made to Abraham. He states (correctly) that the dispensationalist understands the promises to require two seeds, a physical and a spiritual seed for Abraham.
He notes that the amillennialist "depreciates the physical aspect of the seed of Abraham so much that the promises made to Abraham's physical seed no longer mean what they say, but are interpreted strictly in spiritual terms.
Fuller's problem is that apparently his concept of progressive revelation includes the possibility that subsequent revelation may completely change the meaning of something previously revealed. It is true that progressive revelation brings additional light, but does it completely reverse to the point of contradiction what has been previously revealed?
Fuller's concept apparently allows for such, but the literal principle built upon a sound philosophy of the purpose of language does not. New revelation cannot mean contradictory revelation. Later revelation on a subject does not make the earlier revelation mean something different. It may add to it or even supersede it, but it does not contradict it.
A word or concept cannot mean one thing in the Old Testament and take on opposite meaning in the New Testament. If this were so, then the Bible would be filled with contradictions, and God would have to be conceived as deceiving the Old Testament prophets when He revealed to them a nationalistic kingdom, since He would have known all the time that He would completely reverse the concept in later revelation.
The true concept of progressive revelation is like a building and certainly the superstructure does not replace the foundation but the same hermeneutical principles must be applied to all revelation, regardless of the time in which it was given.
To pursue the illustration of Israel and the Church further, the amillennialist's hermeneutics allow him to blur completely the meanings of the two words in the New Testament so that the Church takes over the fulfillment of the promises to Israel. In that view true Israel is the Church.
The system that allows the Word of God to speak clearly to the believer without allowing preconceived opinions to pollute the interpretation is the literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic.
When utilized objectively it will result not only in revealing a dispensational economy of God's dealings with the human race, but the clear plan of God will be exposed to the believer
In order to discover the perfect order of divine revelation and through which the plan of God for mankind can be perceived, one of the most important distinctions that must be made is between Israel and the Church.
A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the Church distinct.
Lewis Sperry Chafer summarized it as follows:
The dispensationalist believes that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.
Over against this, the partial dispensationalist bases his interpretation on the supposition that God is doing but one thing, namely, the general separation of the good from the bad, and, in spite of all the confusion this limited theory creates, contends that the earthly people merge into the heavenly people; that the earthly program must be given a spiritual interpretation or disregarded altogether.
Lewis Sperry Chafer states in Dispensationalism. on pages 44-45:
A man who fails to distinguish Israel and the Church will inevitably not hold to dispensational distinctions; and one who does, will.
This distinction between Israel and the Church is born out of a system of hermeneutics which is usually called literal interpretation. It does not spiritualize or allegorize as nondispensational interpretation does.
Regarding the underlying purpose of God in the world, the covenant theologian in practice makes this purpose salvation, and the dispensationalist says the purpose is broader than that, namely, the glory of God.
To the dispensationalist the soteriological or saving program of God is not the only program but one of the means God is using in the total program of glorifying Himself.
Scripture is not man-centered as though salvation were the main theme, but it is God centered because His glory is the center.
The Bible itself clearly teaches that salvation, important and wonderful as it is, is not an end in itself but is rather a means to the end of glorifying God.
The essence of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the Church. This grows out of the dispensationalist's employment of normal or plain interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well.
The deviation away from the literal-grammatical-historical approach to Scripture led to the failure to truly discern the primary purpose of God in creating mankind and in saving mankind.
The sine qua non of the plan of God is His glory and this can be accomplished only by the believer who through spiritual growth becomes a star witness for the Prosecution in the appeal trial of satan and the fallen angels.
To miss this important point is to emphasize the means to the end rather than the end itself. When theologians allegorize and spiritualize the Word of God they place emphasis on man and his good works, and all of this leads to human good and evil.
When the Rapture, the Second Advent, and the millennial kingdom are explained away through allegory then the integrity of God is blasphemed by asserting that He does not keep His promises to either Israel or the Church.
We have seen that one of the early proponents of the allegorical method was Origen who was influenced by the school of Alexandria.
This school was founded by Clement who applied the allegorical method of Philo to explain passages of Scripture that were in opposition to Greek philosophy.
Origen and the Alexandrian school are summarized in The Dictionary of Premillennial Theology on Pages 145, 289:
Clement believed that God intentionally placed stumbling blocks to the reader in the literal meaning to awaken people's minds to find the hidden truths buried beneath the surface of the text.
Origen (c.185-254ad), the most influential teacher of the Alexandrian school, was drawn to the allegorical method of Philo because it allowed him to reconcile Scripture. While Origen believed that spiritual truth was self-consistent and accurate, he argued that the historical accounts were sometimes inconsistent and inaccurate. From the modern hermeneutical perspective, these issues seem rather naïve; however, to Origen, they were unresolvable with the literal method.
Origen attempted to resolve these alleged inconsistencies and other historical-exegetical dilemmas through the allegorical method; the (biblical) stories do not mean what they say; their real meaning lay in the allegorical level. According to Origen, the difficulties of Scripture suggest the existence of a deeper meaning.
Origen was the first church leader of stature to challenge the premillennial orthodoxy of the early church. Completely dedicated to the allegorical method of interpretation like his mentor, Clement, Origen spiritualized virtually every Christian doctrine.
Under Origen's influence, the blessed hope of the Christian apologists; Christ's imminent return to establish His kingdom-began to yield to the spiritual hermeneutics of Alexandria.
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