The Prophets

The prophets get a bum rap in modern Christianity. There aren’t many stories, there are obscure prophecies about foreign places and lots of repetition. It’s too bad these things keep us from their message.

*Reading the prophets, to me, completely undermines Covenant/Reformed theology (read: amillennialism), the idea that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. please. Give me a break. The prophecies about Israel’s doom and future restoration are not fulfilled by white guys in Iowa going to church. Israel gets a Kingdom.

*The many Messianic prophecies that have already been fulfilled have been fulfilled literally. Odds are the prophecies concerning His Second Coming will be just as literally fulfilled. If not, you have to do some ‘splainin as to why His first coming fulfilled things so literally.

*When you finish reading Malachi, it just feels like something else should be coming. You can’t end on that. It ends with hope but also evil foreboding. It seems to demand another part, a further message, some more info.

*When Jesus arrives it fits perfectly, the OT prophets set you up for Christ. One of the last verses in Malachi talks about Elijah coming before Messiah. NT starts with Christ and John the Baptist coming first. It’s the next step you expect.

*The prophets were despised and rejected, completely ignored. False prophets had a lot more followers. They kept people happy and people just want to be happy. But God’s guys have a depressing message no one wants to hear. But they don’t stop and guess who’s right?

I love it.

8 thoughts on “The Prophets”

  1. *Reading the prophets, to me, completely undermines Covenant/Reformed theology, the idea that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. please. Give me a break. The prophecies about Israel’s doom and future restoration are not fulfilled by white guys in Iowa going to church. Israel gets a Kingdom.

    Actually, this does not follow. Reformed theology deals with the Church’s return to God-centredness from the desert-like experience of religious affectation and politics. Apart from this rather tenuous linkage, it has nothing at all to do with Israel.

    Your other points about OT prophets are well made and I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Not sure about that. I’ve read Calvin and Luther and both pretty much say Israel has no further part in God’s plan. Much of this Reformation theology, starting in Germany, led to anti-Semitism that led to Germany’s future acts. Luther wrote a whole book about the evils of Jews and how awful they are (even wikipedians have seen it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_the_Jews .

    I’ve had many a discussion with Reformed Theology guys about the issue so it obviously is one! One of the distinguishing marks of dispensational thought is that Israel and the Church are different with a different past and future. Reformed theology sees it as a continuation and replacement. Perhaps your understanding of it is not this way, but it’s what I’ve run into many times over.

  3. Luther wrote a whole book about the evils of Jews and how awful they are.

    Yeah, and Billy Graham has said that, too. Does this mean we must also consider all Southern Baptists as you do the Reformers of the 1600s?

    Israel and the Church both have important roles to play in God’s plan for creation. The OT prophets spoke not only of Israel’s future, but also of the Church’s future. Note that Christ acts as a linkage-as it were- between the two as he is both King of the Jews and Head of the Church at the same time. Many OT prophecies also speak to this.

    Reformed theology is not primarily defined by dispensational thought (although that has a place for some, but by no means all, theologans of this ilk), but by the five solas:

    Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
    Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
    Sola gratia (“by grace alone”)
    Solo Christo (“through Christ alone”)
    Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)

    We could find all kinds of whacky theology coming from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Charismatic, Pentecostal, and the various strains of Methodist theology too. But it would be a long stretch to define any entire movement by one scholar’s understanding at one point in time.

  4. My apologies. I see that my response veered a bit. I was using Luther as an example and proceeded to go off on a tangent.

    Perhaps you can help me understand better. What is the Reformed view of stuff like the rapture and the Millenial Kingdom (thousand year reign of Christ)?

  5. As I understand it, there are a wide range of views on this issue within Reformed theology.

    During the 1600’s, it’s true that amillennialism was popular whereas nowadays many hold to a dispensational pre-millennialism. I tend toward this latter train of thought myself, although at the same time I’m reluctant to reject the amillennialist position. (I also struggle with the ‘L’ and to a lesser extent the ‘I’ in TULIP when it comes to classical Calvinism … so like most things in life there is room in Reformed thinking for tensions to exist). I guess I sit awkwardly somewhere in between.

    Nevertheless, all Reformed Christians of the 1600’s and today would agree thusly:

    * That the Westminster Confession of Faith does not state a formal position with regards to millennialism for good reason. Nevertheless, “God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ. … so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.”

    * This may not say everything regarding the question of the millennium, but it does say enough to establish the people of Christ in faith awaiting his return when all men will stand before his judgment seat. Whether premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial, Reformed or otherwise, any Christian ought respond with a hearty “Amen”.

    * What really matters is that we are to be actively anticipating the literal return of Jesus Christ from Heaven to earth, in the clouds just as he left us.

    * That we are to take comfort in the certain knowledge that there will one day be a general resurrection of the dead (ie; of both the saved and the lost), the lost to face a Last Judgment and the saved to join with Christ in the final/full/complete/etc establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

    * That there will one day be a literally new heavens and a new earth.

    So in the end what matters more than the timing of prophetic fulfilment is the certainty that it will one day be fulfilled, and that knowing truth only in part we each must humbly allow room for alternate understandings on this issue. (Okay, Calvin himself may be a little more dogmatic than the average bear, but you get my point with respect to the rest of us!!).

  6. OK, so more accurately I should have said that the prophets undermine amillennialism.

    In my understanding and experience Reformed/Covenant Theology has always been amillennial. Calvin and Luther were. They did not reform Catholic eschatology, which is why dispensationalism was brought in. The “Sola”‘s were what defined Protestant/Evangelical faith from Catholicism. If the Sola’s are Reformed Theology call me a Reformed theology guy!

    However, to me, your doubting of points of Calvinism and going along with a rapture and kingdom for the Jews would not qualify you as a Reformed person. Maybe this is more a North American understanding, but I’ve been told by many I am no Reformed theology guy because of my views that sound awful similar to yours!

  7. You’re probably right, in that some would not consider me truly Reformed. Many strongly assert John MacArthur, for instance, is not while others would call him a strong Calvinist. I can live with that if Jesus can … in both cases.

    However, none of us is party to the whole truth and in terms of eschatology this is one area where even the most severe interpretations must allow room for differences of understanding. If Jesus himself does not know the answer then we are proud indeed to demand adherance to our own (albeit honestly and deeply held) conviction on the point!

    The issue of amillennialism is not supported by the Westminster Confession — the truly binding statement of doctrines for all Reformed churches — so in this sense it cannot be pivotal to a person’s membership of Reformed denominations. In fact, this is (to my limited understanding) the only area the Confession simply does not address. … which only goes to show how difficult it has been throughout the ages to attain a position of consensus on it. Luther and Calvin have written lots on it, but membership in a Reformed church is not dependent on acceptance of everything they wrote but on the Westminster Confession. (For very good reason, it seems to me!!)

    In terms of Calvin’s five points, I’m not so much a doubter as one who is still struggling to reconcile excellent arguments from Scripture on both sides. But this is the nature of spiritual growth is it not?

    Having been baptised and raised in a Presbyterian church, discipled as a youth in a Methodist-leaning denomination, apostate through my 20s, returned to the faith through a Baptist congregation while living in Asia, pastored in a Pentecostal denomination (which leant toward both premillennialism and supersessionisn and was certainly Arminian) I have now come home to a Reformed denomination with very strong Evangelical flavouring. I am saved by grace, can serve God and others with great joy, and my heart is content that my children will not grow up as confused as I was.

    Make of all that what you will … if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that “all fish have bones but they’re nearly all good for eating.”

  8. Jeff, I don’t know much about covenant/Reformed theology, but I really like your take on the OT prophets. I linked to your post on my blog today. Peace.

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