The preterist approach: have the Last Days
already occurred? / Reply Markus Mosimann 04, 2003-01-22
Will Christ never rule an earthly kingdom of
peace? / Reply Markus Mosimann 05, 2003-02-13
Is the New Testament to be understood as the spiritual
and invisible fulfillment of the Old Testament? / Reply Markus Mosimann 06, 2003-03-11
Anonymous 00, 2001-05-30
Part 1 - Discourse 35
Reply Markus Mosimann 00-03, 2003-01-06Part 2 - Discourse 352
Another comment on your reference to the "end of the world". What these
expressions ("end of the world", "end of time" etc.) come down to is something that cannot
be gone into at length here. Perhaps at some other time we can come back to these differentiations
in the original text, to which some translations and many interpretations pay insufficient heed ("age"
[aion], "earth" [ge], "world" [kosmos] etc.).
What for my part I cannot understand is your linking the view that the prophecies have been fulfilled in terms of temporal history to the attitude of unbelief of the people of Israel in the desert. The unbelief of the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert consisted, after all, in the very fact that they had lost confidence in the promises of God, relying instead only on the visible and perceptible. It was not a matter of the way and the manner in which the promises would be fulfilled, the fundamental issue was rather one of belief or unbelief. No one understood the desert as the fulfillment of prophecy, or claimed that the desert was already the Promised Land:
"And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!" (Num 14,2).
Our points of view surely differ much rather in respect of the way and the manner in which prophecy has been fulfilled or is to be fulfilled. It is completely beside the mark to assert that the preterists - by contrast with the futurists - do not believe in any kind of "real" fulfillment of prophecy. Is then only this visible world "real" in the biblical sense? Is it not actually an easy way out to link the promises of God to something that has not yet been fulfilled in a visible and earthly sense, rather than holding that they have already been fulfilled based on belief in their specific temporal reference? Quite apart from this, the preterist approach involves many cases of earthly fulfillment, to which the futurists attribute little importance (like the destruction of Jerusalem, for instance). The difference then is not in the question whether certain sections of prophecy should be read in a spiritual sense, but rather in the question where prophecy is to be understood as earthly and where as spiritual prediction. The invisible, though, is anything but "not real", as Paul’s clear message to the Corinthians makes plain:
"... while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor 4,18)
The question whether Christ or the Jews were "disappointed" was I think improperly put, and my choice of words was somewhat unfortunate when I said that the Jews were "disappointed" because Christ did not assume earthly power and majesty. This approach to an explanation is admittedly a superficial one, but because this question in my view also has implications for our understanding of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity, I did not want to go into it in too much detail. This theme could well have a whole discourse to itself. But I will say just one thing here - I do not think that Christ was "disappointed" that the Jews failed to accept him. I understand "disappointment" as a form of "disillusionment", and Christ, as the Son of God, had no illusions. Or are we to think that Christ was "disappointed" when he was crucified?
I recently came across the following sentence, written by a futurist commentator with reference to the first coming of Christ: "Satan succeeded in drawing a line through God’s accounts". He went on to explain that this was the reason why Christ has to come again in order to achieve the victory over Satan, establish his empire on earth and fulfill the plan of salvation. This kind of argument, brought forward by some futurists, seems to me to imply a disrespectful attitude to Our Lord, because the message they are subtly putting across is this: God had plan A, which Satan foiled, because the Jews did not accept Christ. Therefore God went over the books again, so to speak, and worked out a new plan - plan B - in consequence of which Christ must come back to earth a second time, in order to fulfill the plan of salvation. Isn’t this demeaning to God? What is your view of this kind of interpretation, which I have of course formulated in a rather loaded manner?
Incidentally, I agree in every way with your censure of the Israel of today for having founded a state of its own. In this sense you would have to direct your reproach of impatience in respect of the fulfillment of prophetic texts not just to the Zionists, but also to those futurist groups who see the present-day state of Israel as the reestablished Israel foretold by biblical prophecy. I also think you are right in what you say about the members of the Sanhedrin, who were scribes and familiar with the prophetic books and so "knew" who Jesus of Nazareth actually was. "Knowing" and "believing", however, are two different things. In this sense the expression "disappointment" can certainly not be applied, either, to those people who did not accept Christ. I will try at all events to avoid using the term "disappointment" in this context in future.
(Markus Mosimann email@example.com )
In the interest of saving both space and time, I must ask you in future to refrain
from presenting the views and opinions of third parties. This discourse is between us two, and here
the only arguments that apply are those which we ourselves advocate and put forward, and no others.
You write: "Our points of view surely differ much rather in respect of the way and the manner in which prophecy has been fulfilled or is to be fulfilled." I would agree with that without reserve. But the problem is that you repeatedly back up your views by referring only to those scriptural passages which - admittedly - speak of an imminent end of the age (e.g. 1Cor 10,11, etc.).
All other scriptural passages relating to the Last Days have remained - hitherto at least - unmentioned and unexplained. This situation emerges with great clarity from a statement you make in your last e-mail. Here you argue as follows:
"If Christ said, 2000 years ago, that the kingdom of God was at hand
(Mark 1,15), and if he inspired John to write that the events of Revelation would ‘shortly take
place’ (Rev 1,1) and repeatedly indicated that he would come ‘quickly‘ (Rev 22), then I simply
fail to understand how it is possible to weigh these and many other testimonies in the New Testament
against the expectation of a visible fulfillment, and give preference to the latter."
As I have mentioned many times already, I am fully in agreement with the first part
of your argument here. I too am struggling to clarify these passages, which is why I find myself
grappling with this theme on repeated occasions.
It is however a fact that in the Revelation of John itself we find prophecies of such events as the following:
- Peace will be taken from the earth, and men will slay one another (Rev
- Famine and pestilence (Rev 6,8)
- Earthquakes and darkening of the heavenly bodies (Rev 6,12)
- Fires that burn up one third of the earth’s vegetation (Rev 8,7)
- Poisoning of the water in the seas, rivers and springs (Rev 8, 8-11)
- A third of mankind will perish (Rev 9,15)
- to name just a few of them - which are to be referred to us human beings and our
world in the most real and concrete sense. And here I for my part find it impossible to understand
how a person can sublimate these unambiguous biblical prophecies just in the interest of upholding a
"spiritualized" point of view.
These catastrophes of the Last Days as foretold to us in Revelation cannot realistically have yet taken place - any more than the Second Coming of the Lord, which Mt 24,30 after all tells us is going to happen in such a way that it will be visible for all people on earth.
And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky.
Mt 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the
sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on
the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. Mt 24,30;
So I share your view, certainly, that those passages in the New Testament that speak
of the Lord’s coming "quickly" and of the end’s being "near" should not be ignored. But
I think we cannot just take an easy way out and simply transpose the events prophesied for the last
days - for want of evidence on the plane of reality - into the transcendent dimension. That would be
in the truest sense of the word a sectarian interpretation (from the Latin sectio - cut; religious
sect - making a partial selection of the main body of doctrine).
But perhaps this actually is not the preterist view at all. The answer you have promised to my questions on this point - which I am still waiting for - will undoubtedly make things a good deal clearer.
The interpretation of the "thousand years" in Revelation 20, 2-7 has been
since time immemorial one of the most controversial issues in the discussion of the developments
of the Last Days. So it is not surprising that the best known futurist scenarios for the Last Days
derive their terminology from these same "thousand years" (amillennialism, premillenialism,
postmillenialism - from the Latin prefixes "a-", "pre-" and "post-" and the words "mille"
[thousand] and "annum" [year]). As with other issues relating to biblical interpretation, such
theological expressions are sometimes helpful and sometimes confusing. In the present case this
Latin jargon encourages the impression that the "thousand years" referred to amount to a
central feature of biblical eschatology. Indeed the place of the "millennium" in salvific
history has become a crucial cornerstone for the various futurist approaches to prophecy - while
the entire background of the Bible, and the prophetic scriptures, are so rarely drawn into the
discussion that it is astonishing.
We have a similar situation with the term "the kingdom of a thousand years". Some translations (Luther, for instance) introduce Revelation 20 with the chapter heading "The kingdom of a thousand years" or "The kingly rule of God in the millennium". Neither "kingdom" nor "kingly rule of God" actually occur in the biblical text that follows, but such boldly printed titles are more than capable of directing our understanding into certain channels by coloring the message before it is delivered. So this introductory equation of the "thousand years" with a "kingdom" or the "kingly rule of God" may - though it does not have to - support the idea of an earthly kingdom of peace. The biblical text however only tells us that Satan was bound for a thousand years, and that those who had not worshiped the beast came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. In this connection the millennialists are over-hasty in building a bridge to an earthly world empire - and that too in spite of the fact that the mention of the "thousand years" forms part of a narrative that does not seem to have all that much to do with our visible cosmos:
"Key to the abyss", "a great chain in his hand", "the dragon, the serpent of old", "threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him" etc.
Whereas hardly any commentator would be found to insist that this "chain", this "dragon" and this "serpent" are material images relating to the visible reality of this temporal world, the literal application of the "thousand years" associated with these actions - in the sense of an earthly and human chronology - has met with an astonishing degree of support. Here the views of the Jehovah’s Witnesses fit in almost seamlessly with the ideas of the Evangelical premillennialists - and vice versa. The gospels and the letters of the apostles do not at any point give the least grounds for the supposition that Christ would at any period in history rule over an earthly, material kingdom of peace. This is why many biblical commentators point to the Old Testament, where dozens of descriptions of a supposed earthly kingdom of peace are indeed to be found - presumably on the grounds that the significance of these passages (as of the Old Testament as a whole) was only completely revealed through the gospel, in being fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Anyone who now asserts that these passages must all be "reinterpreted", if they are not to be "literally" understood, must be prepared to confront the question whether Christ also "reinterpreted" the Law and the Prophets. As an example:
"You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court’. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court..." (Mt 5,21-22).
In his introduction to this discourse, Christ strongly asserts:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." (Mt 5,17)
Christ did not abolish the Law or the Prophets in interpreting the commandments and the prophets as a matter for the heart, and not just a case of purely formal application. Like a red thread, this spiritual fulfillment of the realities and prophecies of the Old Testament can be traced right through the New Testament, while the visible signs and wonders in this temporal sphere made plain to see what was going on in the invisible world. So if we are really to talk about a "kingdom of peace" ruled over by Christ, then Paul gives us an apt description of it in his epistle to the Colossians:
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body" (Col 3,15).
The literal interpretation of the "thousand years" in Revelation 20, what is more, involves us with a whole host of further problems.
First of all we have to say that the fact that the thousand years are mentioned six times in the space of six consecutive verses cannot seriously be taken as an indication of the fact that this expression is to be understood as an earthly and mathematical quantity, though this is an argument that has frequently been put forward. Are we really to suppose that the sense of a biblical term depends on its being mentioned a number of times in succession?
The suggestion, which I personally agree with, that these "thousand years" stand for a time reserved by God, the numerical value of which expresses precisely an indefinite quantity, not a quantity accountable in earthly terms, may seem unconvincing at first glance. But I would like to show on the basis of a further example that the biblical use of "a thousand" is not quite so simple as our human calculations might like to think:
1 Chron 16,15: "Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations" (and see also Psalm 105,8 and Deut 7,9).
If we interpret Scripture in the literal sense, here likewise a calculation would be the appropriate response. So if we take a generation to be 40 years, this would imply a promise that has a validity of 40,000 years! No such explanation is extant, not even with those interpreters of biblical prophecy who like to work out when the end of the world is due - perhaps because this approach to interpretation would guarantee the continued existence of the earth into an exceedingly remote future, so that the whole polemic about the imminence of the events of the Last Days would be called in question.
Furthermore, there are good grounds for supposing that Peter was not just speaking at random when he gave a more detailed explanation of the significance of the "thousand years", in speaking of the last things of the age in which he was living: "But the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3,7).
The context reminds us, without any doubt, of Revelation 20, and in addition to the widespread assumption that what is stated in the following verse amounts to a generally valid explanation of the relationship between divine time and human time, we can also see in it as connecting with the "thousand years" of Revelation 20 in a quite concrete way:
"But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3,8)
This interpolation must be read in connection with the following assurance, which is the next point of Peter’s exposition:
"The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3,9)
(NB: a discussion as to the likelihood of Revelation’s having been written before the second epistle of Peter would be too lengthy at this point. So I will just leave it at that, with a reference to the well-known arguments of Thomas Schirrmacher.)
Peter speaks of the fact that some Christians thought that the promises had been postponed - perhaps for the very reason that they knew of these "thousand years" of Revelation 20, and were asking themselves how long it was actually going to take before the things of which Peter writes in this connection would finally occur. Peter’s explanation now makes it unmistakably clear that God’s promises have not been transposed into a distant future, and so lends support - as Paul too does in all his letters (see 2 Peter 3, 15-16) - to the injunction to persevere in patience in the Last Days:
"Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’" (2 Peter 3,3).
The question remains as to why this "millennium" in Revelation 20 has given rise to so much discussion, when Peter after all sets these divine "thousand years" in relation to a single day, by that very fact underlining the expectation of the imminent fulfillment of God’s promises in the time of the first Christian congregations.
(Markus Mosimann firstname.lastname@example.org)
So you advocate the view that the designation "a thousand years" in Rev 20,4, in
which the martyrs who have come to life in the first resurrection reign with Christ, is in no way to
be understood as an "earthly and mathematical quantity". You then try to present these thousand
years, based on the symbolism of the rest of the overall context, as not being earthly or material
So let us take another look at these passages:
They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was
given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of
Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and
had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life again
and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20,4;
The expression "they came to life again" is identical with the formulation we
find in chapter 13, which tells us of the beast from the sea that has again come to life:
The beast, which has the wound of the sword, and lived again.
Rev 13,13 And it works great signs, that it should cause even fire to
come down from heaven to the earth before men. 13,14 And it deceives those that
dwell upon the earth by reason of the signs which it was given to it to work before the
beast, saying to those that dwell upon the earth to make an image to the beast, which has the
wound of the sword, and lived again. Rev 13,13-14;
And here we have the twice repeated and explicit statement that all this is taking
place on earth, which makes it somewhat difficult to shift it into other cosmic
You then go on to say
"In this connection the millennialists are over-hasty in building a
bridge to an earthly world empire - and that too in spite of the fact that the mention of the
‘thousand years’ forms part of a narrative that does not seem to have all that much to do with
our visible cosmos."
Here is the immediate context of the passage:
They shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Rev 20,2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent who is the
devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 20,3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut
it and sealed it over him, that he should not any more deceive the nations until the thousand
years were completed; after these things he must be loosed for a little time. 20,4 And I saw
thrones; and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them; and the souls of those beheaded on
account of the testimony of Jesus, and on account of the word of God; and those who had not done
homage to the beast nor to his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and hand; and
they lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years:
20,5 the rest of the dead did not live till the thousand years had been completed. This is the first resurrection. 20,6 Blessed and holy he who has part in the first resurrection: over these the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 20,7 And when the thousand years have been completed, Satan shall be loosed from his prison. Rev 20, 2- 7;
The statements that
- Satan was bound for a thousand years
- so that he should no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years
had been completed,
- the martyrs come to life in the first resurrection and
- reign with Christ for a thousand years,
- while the remaining dead only come to life a thousand years later,
- the martyrs then are the priests of God and Christ
- and reign with him for a thousand years
- at the end of which time Satan will be loosed again
are thus also, in your opinion, symbolic statements and "do not seem to have all
that much to do with our visible cosmos."
If we are to pursue this line of argument of yours, we could just as well also declare the references to God and Christ that occur in this passage as "symbolic" and call the very existence of God in question.
And finally you claim:
"The gospels and the letters of the apostles do not at any point give
the least grounds for the supposition that Christ would at any period in history rule over an
earthly, material kingdom of peace."
You are plainly trying to draw the reader’s attention away from Revelation,
because in that book the references to a kingdom of a thousand years are altogether too
But we can also find proof of the kingdom of God on earth in the gospels. In the gospel of Matthew the Lord Jesus commands us to pray as follows, in the most important prayer he left to us - the Lord’s prayer:
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Mt 6,9 "Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. 6,10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Mt 6, 9-10;
For Christians whose faith is based on the Bible, these words first of all
constitute a proof that God is in heaven. Now heaven is a completely different dimension - it is not
the earth. Then comes the command that the name of God should not be taken in vain, and after that
"Your kingdom come".
The Lord Jesus thus tells us to pray to the Father that his (the Father’s) kingdom
may come. Where is it to come? In heaven? That cannot be the case, because God is already ruling
there, as the previous verse states. So it must be a petition that the kingdom of God should also
establish itself on earth. And that is just what we find confirmed by the next petition, which
"Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
This is first of all another confirmation that the Father reigns in heaven, as there
his will is done. But then, with the words "on earth as it is in heaven", the petition is once
more reiterated that the kingdom of God may come on earth and so also the will of God be done not
just in heaven, but on earth as well.
One is of course at liberty to dismiss these words too as being "symbolical", and read all kinds of possible (or impossible) meanings into them. But that is the point where scripturally based discussion comes to an end, and we have moved into the realm of dream interpretation.
This distinction between the kingdom of the Father in heaven and the kingdom of the Son on earth is confirmed in the words of the Lord Jesus himself - again in the gospel of Matthew:
The kingdom of the Son of Man and the kingdom of the Father.
Mt 13,41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they
will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 13,42 and
will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of
teeth. 13,43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their
Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13,41-43;
The kingdom of the Son of Man referred to here is precisely this kingdom of a
thousand years - the millennium - in which the Lord Jesus will rule on earth with an iron scepter
and in absolute righteousness, and with him the martyrs of the first resurrection will reign
likewise. The fact that here "those who commit lawlessness" are gathered by the angels is
the most blatant demonstration of the fact that this cannot be a heavenly kingdom, seeing that in
heaven, where the will of the Father is after all already being done - in the kingdom of the Father,
that is - lawlessness and offence cannot possibly exist.
The "kingdom of their Father" mentioned in the next verse, on the other hand, in which the righteous will shine forth like the sun, is this kingdom of the Father in heaven which at this time of the New Creation will come down, as the holy city of Jerusalem, from the new heaven to the new earth.
The first earth and the first heaven fled away.
Rev 20,11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from
whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
20,12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
20,13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
20,14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 20,15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20,11-15;
A new heaven and a new earth: the holy city new Jerusalem.
Rev 21,1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first
heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
21,2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. Rev 21, 1- 2;
So we have to make a concrete distinction between
- the "kingdom of the Son", i.e. the millennium, the kingdom of a
thousand years on earth, in which the Lord Jesus will reign in righteousness with the martyrs who
have come back to life, and
- the "kingdom of the father", which just now is in heaven and which,
after the passing away of the present earth and the present heaven, will come down in the New
Creation from the new heaven to the new earth as the holy city of Jerusalem, in which the just shall
live for all eternity.
But the transition from the earthly kingdom of the Son to the heavenly kingdom of
the Father, as presented in Mt 13,41-43 above, is also to be found in the letters of the apostles to
which you refer.
In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul gives us a very clear account of this sequence of events:
Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father.
1Cor 15,22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made
alive. 15,23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s
at His coming, 15,24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father,
when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
15,25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 15,26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 15,27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 15,28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1Cor 15,22-28;
Paul is speaking here, first of all, of the various resurrections. Christ has risen
from the dead as the "first fruits", and then on his Second Coming before the millennium - in
the first resurrection, that is to say - "those who are Christ’s", the martyrs that is, will
be the next to rise. "Then", Paul writes - in other words, after the thousand years - comes the
end, that is the General Resurrection of all human beings who have ever lived and the Last Judgment,
in which - as we are told by the passage (Rev 20,14) quoted earlier - death will be done away with
as the "last enemy", being cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death and eternal
But then Paul also speaks of the "kingdom". First he says in 1Cor 15,25 that Christ must reign until God "has put all enemies under his feet". This is a reference to the promise given in Psalm 110,1:
Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.
Ps 110,1 <<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD says to my Lord:
"Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
110,2 The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, "Rule in the midst of Your enemies." 110,3 Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. Ps 110, 1- 3;
Even David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, foretells this dominion of the Son of God on
earth, ("Zion", "in the midst of your enemies"), and this is what Paul is
referring to here.
But then Paul says in 1Cor 15,28:
"When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be
subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all."
So when Christ, in these thousand years, has subjected all enemies to himself, then
the Son will hand over the kingdom to the Father and himself likewise be subjected to the Father, so
that in eternity "God may be all in all".
And you then wrote:
"If you are genuinely inclined to align an interpretation of prophetic
texts that takes into account Jewish linguistic modalities of two thousand years ago with arbitrary
‘symbolism’ and ‘dream interpretation’, then I must declare in a similar spirit of
earnestness that I would associate futurist conceptions of a visible kingdom of God on earth with
Greek mythology. The Greek mindset has plainly established itself so firmly in our modern culture
that the spiritual reality of the kingdom of God is dismissed as ‘symbolism’ and ‘dreams’."
My reference to "dream interpretation" related - if you will kindly take the
trouble to check - not to "an interpretation of prophetic texts that takes into account Jewish
linguistic modalities of two thousand years ago", as you put it, but simply and solely to the
danger that in this passage (Mt 6,10)
- "your kingdom",
- "your will",
- "in heaven" and most particularly
- "on earth"
should not be understood as referring to the kingdom of God, the will of God,
heaven, and our material and visible planet earth respectively.
For only in this way would it be possible to maintain an interpretation that
declines to recognize all real, earthly and so visible components of the kingdom of God, and
designates them as a "futurist conception of an earthly world empire".
For this is precisely the tenor of your remarks below:
First of all I would like to make the point that I did not assert that the kingdom
of God was not on earth. The problem is purely and solely in the idea of the NATURE of the kingdom
of God. And here I decline to recognize the kingdom of God in the cosmos (see Greek etymology of
this term) as being of a visible and material nature, because the Bible could not be clearer in
"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or, "There it is!" For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’"
So if the kingdom of God is in our midst, then of course it is also present on earth - by its indwelling in us. But does this kingdom of God have anything to do with the futurist conception of an earthly world empire? Because you plainly do not differentiate between the so-called kingdom of a thousand years (not a biblical expression, incidentally, when formulated in this way) and the kingdom of God (which in this formulation is actually the central message of Christ), I have not done so here either.
You go on to mention the Lord’s prayer and to quote Matthew 6,10:
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." "
You then write: "The Lord Jesus thus tells us to pray to the Father that his (the Father’s) kingdom may come." Here the futurists miss an important truth, and this in my view results in a quite drastic distortion of our understanding of prophecy. Did the Lord Jesus tell "us" to pray? Not at all. He instructed those people who 2000 years ago, as contemporaries of his mission as God’s Son on earth, heard the message of the coming kingdom of God to pray in this way. The paradigm of prophecy as yet unfulfilled, and the credo of a parousia that has been postponed for generations, both lose from view the temporal context of the message of Jesus. Interestingly, the futurists do not have any problem with the fact that Jesus urged his disciples to pray for the coming of the kingdom of God and allowed them to believe that this kingdom would actually come in the lifetime of many of his hearers - when the prediction has remained as yet unfulfilled for the last two thousand years. Here the futurists unconsciously pour oil on the flames by lending support to the arguments of those biblical critics (who incidentally include such names as Albert Schweitzer, C.S. Lewis and others) who all assert that this non-appearance of the Second Coming of Christ is the proof of the fallibility of the saving plan of God. While their argument leaves out of account the question of the NATURE of the kingdom of God, these biblical critics explain the non-fulfillment of the parousia as a mistake on Christ’s part, while the futurists see it as a change of plan or manipulation of consciousness (based on the permanent imminence of the Second Coming) on the part of God - both points of view that imply criticism of the Bible..
(Markus Mosimann email@example.com )
In interpreting the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, it is standard
procedure to assume that the fulfillment of many prophecies may be delayed for hundreds, or in some
cases even for thousands of years. And then, too, we have what is known as "multiple fulfillment",
where it is plain that the fulfillment of a prophecy has already occurred once (e.g. through the
equation of Antiochus with Antichrist), but in the ongoing sequence of history it can be expected to
From this we may conclude that information given to Jesus’ contemporaries through his promulgation of a prophecy must also, and in particular, relate to those people who will be alive at the time when the prophecy is fulfilled
Thus the indications given by the Lord in Mt 24 for instance, and parallel passages, are admittedly addressed to the disciples, but they only became genuinely relevant years later, and for the most part - in my view - only thousands of years later.
But I would really like to take issue with your argument in connection with the Lord’s Prayer, when you ask this question:
"You then write: ‘The Lord Jesus thus tells us to pray to the Father
that his (the Father’s) kingdom may come.’ Here the futurists miss an important truth, and this
in my view results in a quite drastic distortion of our understanding of prophecy. Did the Lord
Jesus tell ‘us’ to pray? Not at all. He instructed those people who 2000 years ago, as
contemporaries of his mission as God’s Son on earth, heard the message of the coming kingdom of
God to pray in this way."
Of course the Lord was speaking to the people of his own time, but - and here the
overwhelming majority of commentators are in agreement - the validity of this command extends right
through till the Second Coming of the Lord in the future, that is to say until the will of God is
done upon earth. If you spurn this point of view, then you shouldn’t really continue to pray the
Now if we take a look at the passage you quote (Lk 17,20), we have a concrete indication of who the Lord was addressing here:
"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees..."
So it was the Pharisees who were questioning him on this occasion, and to whom he
"For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."
And here you seem to fall into the very same "error" that you reproach me with:
that is, by referring this statement that was addressed to the Pharisees who were the Lord’s
contemporaries without further ado to us who are living today, and concluding on this basis:
"So if the kingdom of God is in our midst, then of course it is also
present on earth - by its indwelling in us."
If the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees that "the kingdom of God is in your midst",
and you interpret this as meaning that the kingdom of God was or is in human beings ("indwelling"
in them), this is not in keeping with the semantic meaning of these words. This is because the
Pharisees were stigmatized by the Lord (e.g. in Jn 8,44) as the sons of the devil, so any attempt to
see the kingdom of God as "indwelling" in them would be completely beside the mark.
We just must be careful, as well, to avoid reinterpreting the plain meaning of this passage. The Lord here states:
The kingdom of God is in the midst (Greek entos)
and as the translation here makes perfectly plain, this does not mean that the
kingdom of God was "in" but rather "among" them. And here the Lord just had to be referring
to himself, who was "among them" after all. He was the representative of the kingdom of God. The
same idea emerges from other New Testament passages as well, for instance Lk 11,20:
But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Lk 11,19 "And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your
sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 11,20 "But if I cast out demons by
the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Lk 11,19-20;
And with that the Lord addressed the Pharisees in particular, who after all expected
to see the Messianic Kingdom in their own lifetime, giving them to understand that he represented
this kingdom of God and that it could become a reality only through the acceptance of the Son of God
in faith. But this the Pharisees refused to do - and they were not the only ones.
With reference to your observations on "biblical critics" and "the futurists", I would yet again earnestly press upon you that we should restrict ourselves exclusively to those statements that have been explicitly formulated by the one or other partner in this dialog. In that way we will save a lot of time, and the commentaries will also be shorter and more succinct as a result, and so more readable.
In your further comments you then argue that the Greek expression "ge" has nothing to do with the planet earth, but rather stands for the land as bounded by the sea:
"You then try to apply ‘Your will be done, on earth as it is in
heaven’ in such a way that ‘on earth’ would supply the proof of an earthly kingdom of God.
Quite apart from the fact that the Greek expression used for earth is ‘ge’, which has nothing
whatever to do with the planet earth but rather stands for the land as bounded by the sea, and in
Jewish thinking signified the Promised Land, this says nothing about the nature of the kingdom of
God. Though we are told about this elsewhere, as shown by my earlier citation."
Here you are plainly in error. The Greek "ge" - there is no doubt about this -
stands for "earth, country, soil" (according to Menge’s dictionary). And it has the same
meaning in the New Testament, as we can see from Revelation for instance - I will just refer to Rev
20,8.9.11, 21,1.24, and there are many similar passages - where it is quite clear that the earth as
planet is meant.
From whose presence earth and heaven fled away.
Rev 20,7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released
from his prison, 20,8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of
the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the
sand of the seashore. 20,9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and
surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured
20,10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 20,11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. Rev 20, 7-11;
A new heaven and a new earth.
Rev 21,1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the
first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Rev 21, 1;
Rev 21,24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Rev 21,24;
Here the Greek text has the word "ge" in all cases, and when a "new heaven and
earth" are referred to, for example, this cannot possibly be "land as bounded by the sea", as
you suppose above..
This, I am afraid, is an example of the way in which the preterists put a new spin (often against their better judgment) on all those biblical statements which really do prove an earthly, material and visible fulfillment of the kingdom of God, like this very phrase from the Lord’s Prayer in Mt 6,10 -
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in
- just so that they will be able to continue to maintain their own view of a kingdom
of God that is exclusively spiritual and transcendent and not visible and material in any sense.
This also expresses your final conclusion:
"If you do not understand the New Covenant as the spiritual and
invisible fulfillment of the Old Covenant, which as an earthly and visible paradigm declared the
invisible things of the kingdom of God - then of course our discussion will just go round in
circles. And if you insist on the earthly and mathematical significance of the thousand years in Rev
20, I must respectfully point out that in consistency you would then have to believe that the
promised covenant in 1 Chronicles 16,15 lasts for exactly one thousand generations. I personally
cannot go along with this form of literal interpretation, because in my view a sound interpretative
approach should take into account the contextual and semantic meaning, in the light of the Jewish
linguistic usage of the time. And our modern understanding of these texts is very far removed from
No, I cannot understand "the New Covenant as the spiritual and invisible
fulfillment of the Old Covenant", as the many prophecies of this same Old Covenant referring to
the coming of the Redeemer, as well as his death and Resurrection, were not invisible either, but
came to be fulfilled in physical and visible form.
Anyone at the time - and for that matter, anyone living today - who advocated the view that the Old Covenant must meet with a spiritual and invisible fulfillment, would not only have had to reject the Son of God in his physical and visible manifestation, but would even have had to dismiss his death as the redeeming sacrifice for the sins of the world as being not in conformity with Scripture.
And this seems to me to be just the point where the selective nature of the preterist approach shows itself. On the one hand you want to see the New Covenant as the "spiritual and invisible" fulfillment of the Old Covenant; on the other hand - under compulsion, perhaps, but notwithstanding - you are unable to deny the most important elements of the entire Old Covenant, namely the physical and visible fulfillment of the prophecies referring to the Son of God.
As may be seen from this, if we are to have a "sound interpretative approach" we should above all have regard to the realities of the Bible, before concerning ourselves with "spiritual and invisible fulfillment".
Anonymous 00, 2001-05-30
Part 1 - Discourse 35
Reply Markus Mosimann 00-03, 2003-01-06Part 2 - Discourse 352