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Review of Dean Davis' The High King of Heaven on Amillennialism

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Dean Davis - The High King of Heaven:

Discovering the Master Key to the Great End Time Debate

The subtitle indeed is a bold claim, saying that in this book we will discover “the master key” to the End Time debate. I believe we indeed do discover the master key to the End Time debate.

This book is nothing like the others that I’ve read on Amillennialism (Kingdom Come, The Bible and the Future, The Case for Amillennialism), it dares to go and try to interpret the difficult texts in support of premillennialism. It is anti-premillennial as well as, but in lesser tone against Postmillennialism. This is all done in a tone of brotherly love. I enjoyed that aspect of the interaction.

Amillennialism

This book lays out the classic view of Amillennialism which is Dean Davis[1] believes (as others also do) is the classic eschatology of Church History and the Reformation.

The word amillennialism means no millennium. However, amillennarians do not deny the existence of a millennium, only that it begins after the Parousia and that it will last for a literal thousand years. Instead, they teach that the thousand years of Revelation 20 symbolize the present Era of Proclamation, during which time Christ reigns with (the departed spirits of) his saints in heaven. Amillennarians are, then, “present-millennarians.” Pages 23-24

Basically, Amillennialism teaches that the Millennium of Revelation 20 started from the cross and will end at the Second Coming of our Lord, spanning over 2 millennia up till now and is thus to be interpreted symbolically, rather than literally. The Millennium is the Gospel Era, or as Dean likes to call it, the Era of Proclamation.

This is a simple chart laying out the Amillennial vision of Salvation History.

The Kingdom of God

One of the very ups of this book was the extensive study of the Kingdom of God in the New and Old Testaments. My understanding of the Kingdom of God was really expanded.

A Definition of the Kingdom of God

Dean Davis defines the Kingdom of God as:

In essence, the Kingdom of God is the direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, over his redeemed creatures; creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual and physical enemy, and restored to every spiritual and physical friend that God planned for them in the beginning. Also, the Kingdom is the blessed realm that this redemptive reign creates, and over which it forever rules. Page 65.

This he does not merely assume, but ably goes to prove it from the Bible, here is a summary of his five points:

  1. The Kingdom is the direct reign of God the Father (Mt 6:10)
  2. The Kingdom is a sphere of wholeness and blessing (Mt 9:35; 10:7-8; 12:28)
  3. The Kingdom is mediated by the Son of God (John 5:19, 30; 6:38;  8:28; 12:49; 14:10)
  4. The Kingdom is effected by the Spirit of God (Mt 12:28; Acts 1:4-8)
  5. The Kingdom is a realm beneath a reign (Mt 13:41-42; Rev 11:15)

Thereby is indeed the definition that he gives is justified and satisfactory.

The Two-Staged Kingdom

Amillennarians see the Kingdom of God coming in two stages, separated by the Parousia of our Lord:

  1. The Kingdom of the Son (already, the present Era of Proclamation)
  2. The Kingdom of the Father (not yet, the future World/Age to Come)

Now, the terminology used here is not meant to give the idea that the Son has no share in the second stage of the Kingdom or that the Father has no share in the first, but rather ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

... He will be subjected to the Father. Here again we have the two phases of the Kingdom of God as we did in Matthew 13. The Son will “deliver the kingdom [of the Son] to God the Father” (v. 24).

We see that the Kingdom of the Son is spiritual, consists of His heavenly reign, includes both the righteous and wicked in its sphere. But the Kingdom of the Father is the eternal, physical, post-resurrection, post-judgment and consummated. We believe that Holy Writ teaches that the Kingdom of God is revealed in two stages and no more. One stage is temporal and spiritual, while the other is consummate, physical and eternal. For the interested student, I direct you to chapter 9 of Dean Davis’s excellent book The High King of Heaven. He does a very good job and spends a considerable amount of time diving into many passages of the New Testament which teach the two-stages of the coming of the Kingdom. The following is a diagram provided by Dean Davis:

The Second Coming of King Jesus

There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to speak of the Second Advent of our King, and there is the expression of “the day of the Lord.” We will take a look at each of these things.

Parousia

Amillennial eschatology teaches a singular, visible, physical, and glorious coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of this Present Age. The word παρουσία (Parousia, G3952) means “presence” and “the coming, arrival, advent”[11], it is very often used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ, hence the popular word for the Second Coming is the Parousia. Acts 1:11 teaches us to expect the Lord Jesus to bodily return as He bodily went to Heaven. He will not return spiritually in the future, but in the selfsame glorified body in which He ascended to Heaven. He will come in glory and with His angels and saints (Matt. 25:31; 1Thess. 3:13). He will come for the purpose of saving His people from this wicked world (Heb. 9:28), to be glorified in His saints (2Thess. 1:10), and to judge the wicked (2Thess. 1:5-9) among other things. Let us take a look at how this word is used in the New Testament.

Matthew

In Matthew 24:3 the disciples connect the coming of Christ with the end of the age saying, “what will be the sign of your coming [παρουσίας, parousias] and of the end of the age?” Throughout the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25), it does not seem to me that Jesus points out that the understanding of the disciples was wrong in connecting the Parousia with the end of the age. But obviously the nature of the coming which they had in mind was wrong. The word occurs three more times in the same chapter, “the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27, 37, 39). The reference is definite as indicated by the definite article attached to this Parousia (ἡ παρουσία τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπουhe parousia tou huiou tou anthropou). This is not referring to a spiritual coming or a spiritual presence, but a definite advent of the Son of Man.

Paul

In 1 Corinthians 15:23, the Parousia is connected to the time of the resurrection and transformation of the saints. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, the Parousia is said to be a day when Paul will be proud of the Thessalonians before the Lord Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Paul prays that the Lord may establish the hearts of believers as blameless at the coming of Christ, indicating that it will be a day of judgment when the Lord Jesus returns, so that believers will not be condemned at His coming, but be glorified with Him (cf. ...


A Review of O. Palmer Robertson's The Israel of God

...ts the coming of the Kingdom with Israel. But as argued earlier and continually throughout the book, the Israel of God is not defined by ethnicity, but by faith in the Messiah.

There is a very helpful discussion on the Kingdom of God in Acts as it relates to the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6. He shows how the New Testament vision of the Kingdom is that it is spiritual in the present age and non-consummate, but it will have its consummation at the Second Coming of its King. The Kingdom comes in two stages and no more. What some (e.g. Dean Davis) have called the Kingdom of the Son and the Kingdom of the Father. There was also a helpful discussion on Revelation and an Amillennial interpretation of chapter 20.

Romans 11

Chapter six deals with the question of Israel’s future. Dr. Robertson maintains that ethnic Israelites are and will always be part of God’s people and in God’s plan, but he denies that there will be distinctive future for ethnic Israel, as envision by Dispensationalists for example. There will never be a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles ever again. Both are on an equal footing and both are together heirs to the promises of God in Christ.

Dr. Robertson stresses throughout this chapter how Paul is actually concerned with what is to happen with Israel in the present and no so much in the future. He stresses how Paul is seeking to save some Israelites now and how he is seeking to save them through his ministry and not at some future date (Rom 11:5, 7, 14-15, 23, 30-31). All this emphasis is right and warranted by the context and it was helpful to have that pointed out because some act as if Romans 11 largely or wholly has to do with the future. Dr. Robertson shows that the emphasis of Romans 11 itself is upon the present time. He rightly notes that the “references in Romans 11 to God’s present intention for Israel are pervasive and are highly significant for the total thrust of the chapter” (p. 171). This point must not be overlooked.

It is not the purpose of God to save every Jew. He has always had the freedom to pick and choose according to His sovereign pleasure and He has never bound Himself to save every ethnic Israelite. The mystery of God in this is that the rejection of Israel serves the purpose to bring Gentiles in. But even this is for the purpose of moving elect ethnic Israelites to jealously so that they would cling to their Messiah and in this way the world will be blessed (Rom 11:11-15).

Then there is a very interesting discussion on the most controversial verses in the chapter, namely, vv. 25-26. I will make this short. Dr. Robertson argues that the “partial hardening” (Rom 11:25) means that a part of Israel after the flesh has been hardened, i.e., not elected and given a hard heart (Rom 11:7-8). Then he argues that the word “until” in the Greek does not necessitate a change of course after its termination. In another words, the word “until” in itself cannot indicate that there will be a day when the decree of reprobation will not be in effect in Israel. This is something which he hammers on throughout this section. The word “until” in itself is not enough to indicate a change of course after “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” He argues that

Romans 11:25 speaks of eschatological termination. Throughout the present age, until the final return of Christ, hardening will continue among part of Israel. Too often "until" has been understood as marking the beginning ...


Review of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

Introduction

I purchased this book because I wanted to have a good biblical case for each doctrine that I was interested in looking at. At that time I was interested in learning more about God's sovereignty.

I never thought that I'd read such a large book with 57 chapters of biblical doctrine, but I am thankful that God sustained me through the journey that I had with Wayne Grudem in biblical doctrine.

Why it's awesome

A lot of reasons can be given why this Systematic Theology is great. It is the first Systematic Theology that I've picked up and I know for certain that I will go back to it many times.

In a certain sense Dr. Grudem's job is simple, find the passages which speak of a particular doctrine and explain what they say. But it is the manner in which he cites and explains the passages that is encouraging. He always explains the contexts and I cannot think of a citation that is out of context. He lays out the context, explains what the passages means in context and it's relevance to the present topic.

I love those fruitful footnotes. I would often skip footnotes thinking that they only refer to works cited, but that's not the only thing that Dr. Grudem does in his footnotes. He often explains things more technical, makes a particular case for something, refers to a relevant topic in his Systematic Theology or engages with the other side. 

His handling of the Holy Scriptures is truly aspiring. I pray that God would given me the same love for the Scriptures, that Dr. Grudem has. He does not simply assume things, he proves them biblically. That should be every Christian's desire.

The two biggest reasons why it's a great text is because, first it is thoroughly biblical. What I most loved is the fact that he produced the passages and not merely referenced them. He backs up every major statement he makes upon a doctrine.

Second, it is accessible and not only for “theologians.”[1] It is easy to understand, he tries his best to explain things plainly, though there are obviously difficult doctrines which are not that easy to explain.

If you don't have this great Systematic Theology, get it now.

Major Doctrines

Here I want to say a couple of things about Grudem's major influence on my doctrine.

The Holy Scriptures

Dr Grudem is unashamed about his belief in God's absolute and holy Word.

The Bible is God's sole authoritative Word, His very speech (2Tim 3:16). God used holy men as His instruments and spoke through them, not ignoring or overriding their vocabularies and use of language (2Pet 1:20-21).

It is incapable of being wrong, because it comes from the God who is the Truth (Jn 14:6) and who cannot lie (Heb 6:18). The Word of God reflects the character and its integrity is based upon the character of God.

The Bible, which is the collection of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books is the very and certain Word of God.

See my commentary on the first chapter (Of The Holy Scriptures) of the 1689 Baptist London Confession.

Trinity

Dr Grudem excellently shows the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity from the Scripture and not from creeds as is often alleged by unbelievers. I have often gone back to chapter 14 (God in Three Persons: The Trinity) to get more insight into this great doctrine and the biblical support.

Dr Grudem goes on to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by using three statements that summarize the doctrine:

  1. God is three persons.
  2. Each person is...