The Prophets, Eschatology, and Two-Ages (Vos)

Reformed Dogmatics (5 vols.)
Vos: Dogmatics

This Q/A by G. Vos is so helpful for thinking about OT prophetic literature, eschatology, and the two-ages: 

In many of these passages [Is. 2:2, Mic. 4:1, Acts 2:17, 1 Pet. 1:20, & 1 Jn 2:18], is not something entirely different spoken of than what we understand by “the last days,” namely, the New Testament dispensation of the covenant of grace?

Considered superficially, this is indeed the case. See, for example, Acts 2:17, where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is spoken of as taking place “in the last days.” Nevertheless one ought to maintain that here, too, the eschatological meaning is present. The explanation is as follows: From the perspective of the older prophets, the coming of the Messiah coincides with the culmination of the kingdom, the end of all things.

Isaiah, for example, speaks in one breath of the return from exile, of the coming of the Messiah, of the end of the world, and unrolls all these events before our eyes as in one great scene. He sees only the peaks towering above everything. Accordingly, the older prophets reckon on only two time periods: “this age” (οὗτος ὁ αἰών) and “the coming age”  (ὁ μέλλων αἰών). So, for Isaiah and for Micah the “last days” are the days that precede the end and at the same time precede the coming of the Messiah. The later prophets were granted in the Spirit to see more clearly how there would be a double coming of the Messiah, one for suffering and scorn and one in glory (Dan 7; 9; 12). Thus what in the older prophets was still combined or condensed into one coming was in the later prophets divided into two.

But now from this it follows as well that the time that elapses between the first and the second coming of the Lord can be viewed from a twofold perspective. If we fix our attention on the coming that is still expected and we include everything before that in “this age,” then we and all the New Testament saints live in the last days, that is, in the period that forms the eve of the second coming of our Lord in glory. If, on the other hand, we focus attention on the coming that is already past, and we draw the dividing line between the two ages at the first coming, then we in fact already live in the “age to come.” Consequently, since the time between the first and the second coming of the Lord is governed completely by the thought of His coming either as already having occurred or as still having to occur, one can call it “the last days.”

 Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 5 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 251–252.

Shane Lems

The Rapture and A Cosmic Dog Whistle

In A Case for Amillennialism, Kim Riddlebarger gives a great biblical refutation of the secret rapture that dispensationalists teach.  Here’s one paragraph of that section.

“One of the most telling criticisms [of a secret rapture] is the language used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the very passage used by dispensationalists as a proof text for two comings of Jesus Christ and the secret rapture.  Three times in the passage, Paul used terminology to convey the idea that Jesus Christ’s return to earth will be accompanied by divine announcements which are clearly universal in nature.  In verse 16, Paul mentioned that ‘the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.’  The whole thrust of the three-fold announcement is that God himself will proclaim the return of Jesus Christ so loudly that the whole world will hear.  Not only so, but the world will also witness the subsequent catching away of believers (v. 17). 

If dispensationalists are correct in saying that this coming is secret, then only believers will hear the divine declaration.  As my colleague, Rev. Ken Jones, so aptly puts it, this turns the thrice-repeated announcement of Christ’s return into something akin to a cosmic dog whistle.  It is another example of a text where the champions of literal interpretation cannot take the key passage literally.  What is worse, if dispensationalists are correct about a secret rapture, then Jesus does not have two advents but three.”

As I’ve said before, I really like this book and highly recommend it.  This quote is found on page 143 of A Case for Amillenialism.

shane lems

Eschatology, Millennialism, End Times, etc.

 A friend of mine recently made the trek out of dispensationalism into Reformed theology.  A few members in the church I serve also came out of dispensational circles.  These things made me want to study dispensationalism from a dispensationalist’s point of view, so I purchased and read Ryrie’s Dispensationalism (Revised and Expanded)While I don’t want to give a book review of it here, I’m glad I read it.  After reading it, I’m not at all convinced that it is the most biblical method of interpretation.  In other words, I’m still convinced that the Reformed (covenantal and amillennial) view of Scripture is more biblical.  But that’s a whole different post and discussion!  What I want to do here is recommend a book for those of you interested in the historic Reformed view of biblical interpretation and eschatology.

The book I have in mind is Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism.  Even though many of our readers may have heard of this one, I believe it is significant enough to keep on our reading lists and book recommendations. It’s not one of those trendy small hardcover books that will lose its appeal in 8 months; this is one you can keep going back to in your biblical studies.

Riddlebarger understands dispensationalism since he used to hold a dispensationalist view of the Bible and history.  After his own intense studies, he became convinced the Reformation got it right.  This means – and he explains these things in the book – OT prophecy and eschatology have everything to do with Christ, covenant, the church, and the already/not yet nature of Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Here are a some other things Riddlebarger discusses (and these discussions are steeped in Scripture): the rapture, the Day of the Lord, the two ages, the church as the Israel of God, Christ’s return (the Parousia), the Olivet Discourse, Daniel’s prophecies, and Revelation 20:1-10 (just to name a few).  Though it technically isn’t a systematic theology text, it is an oustanding supplement to ST topics (hermeneutics, Christology, pneumatology, eschatology, etc.).

A Case for Amillennialism is around 250 pages and well written – most Christians who are committed to studying this topic will be able to read it without much trouble.  I do wish there were footnotes instead of endnotes.  Also, there is no Scripture index, which is very disappointing (though I think the publisher is to blame for that one.  Dear publishers, please put Scripture indexes in books!!!).  In a word, this is a book on my shelves I refer to quite often because it is a clearly written biblical explanation of some important themes in hermeneutics and eschatology.  I believe it will be a great resource for years to come.  If you don’t have it, or have been thinking about getting it, don’t hesitate; you won’t be disappointed.

shane lems

sunnyside wa