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The Sixty-Ninth (A Complete Picture)

I hope your week went well, and that you have an opportunity for some rest around this season. This week I had quite an interesting interaction that led me to this newsletter topic. I'll give a quick synopsis of it and we'll take a look at the lesson to be learned from it.

I am a part of a couple facebook groups that talk about biblical subjects. One is an eschatology group where people post their views and discuss the bases for them. Side note: eschatology is the study of end times prophecy. The other is a group that discusses proofs that the flood occurred...but that's not the one for the story today!

In the eschatology group, I was discussing the topic of Christ's 1,000 year reign on earth with someone who believes that Christ already reigns. I tried my best to convince him of the truth, that Jesus is not yet reigning over earthly kingdoms. I pointed out passages, I even asked him why Christians are being persecuted if Christ, whose name they took and are His, is reigning? His answer was simply, "because God said they would."

This man's view, as depressing as it is, falls into the category of preterism. This term covers a wide range of beliefs that all include the view that at least some apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled. The person I conversed with believes that Christ currently reigns over earthly kingdoms based on certain verses of scripture. One of them is Psalm 22:28. Another is Daniel 4:17. He even said the book of Job must be a lie if God doesn't reign because Satan had to get permission to test Job. Yep, he's all over the place. When I pointed out Revelation 20:4, where it actually says that Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years, his argument was that is the only verse that says that and because of that it's not true. His basis is that by two or three witnesses is everything established (2 Corinthians 13:1).

Perhaps we'll get into his last point, but first I want to point out the folly in this man's view so we can learn from it. He has taken a few verses that say something similar and used it to create a doctrine. On the face of it, that doesn't seem like the wrong thing to do. I mean, that's what everyone does, right? Not in the way he did it, and that's where he went wrong.

When you look at the first verse, Psalm 22:28, and you look at its context in the whole psalm, you find that this is a psalm talking about Jesus. In fact, it talks about the entire picture of Jesus, from His birth to His death to His return. Verse 28 is actually referencing His return and reign as you can see with the context of verses 26 and 27. So in this case, his doctrine is partially based on a verse taken out of context. This is a common cause of false doctrine development.

In Daniel 4:17, we see that another verse his doctrine is based on is from when Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar. If you're not familiar with it, it's the dream with the big tree, and the message was that Nebuchadnezzar will become like an animal and he only became king because God allowed it to happen. In fact, it's this message that is used by this gentleman to prove that God reigns and thus Christ reigns even now. The key that he's missing here is that this verse is stating that God has ultimate authority over whatever happens on earth. He can decide whether one person rules or another, or whether one kingdom remains or another falls. This is based on His position as the Creator, not as one with a direct reign over the earthly realm. Remember, Adam and Eve gave Satan that position when they ate of the tree. So, this individual has misunderstood this verse, and I believe it's partially due to the word "ruler" being used.

Just as a quick side road, the Hebrew word that was translated to ruler in Daniel 4:17 is shallit. This is defined by Strong's as "having mastery." When we look at Genesis 45:8, we see a different Hebrew word translated to ruler: mashal. In this case, the word is used to describe ruling over Egypt. In other words, more of the "reigning" idea my friend was looking for. Strong's definition for this word is, "to rule, have dominion, reign." So, just a reminder that as we study His Word, we are using a language that is less precise in its meanings than the original language in which scripture was written. There are a lot more words with slightly different inferences than we have in English that give a better picture of what is being said. If there's confusion, or more clarity is needed, a lot of times we just need to look at the original text to clear things up.

So, what can we learn from this situation? We need to make a complete picture of what's being said in scripture before we start building that "doctrine coat rack" to hang our hat on. This is not an easy task, as we can sometimes miss keys to understanding based on where we are at in our walk with God. The Holy Spirit leads us to little lessons here and there which give us the building blocks we need to develop that complete picture, but we always need to be open to learning something new or seeing a new aspect of something and adjusting that picture based on it. Studying scripture is not a one-and-done book reading, but a journey of discovery and understanding...and dare I say it? Joy!

The other thing we can learn is if we look around and the doctrine we just came up with based on the verses we read and the understanding we came to just doesn't make sense based on what we see, we have to re-evaluate. Things like the persecution of Christ's body, and the death, pestilence, and starvation in the world weren't enough of a discontinuity from a reign of Christ for this guy to question his view. I even went to the beatitudes and asked him where were the meek inheriting the earth and the merciful being shown mercy. The Christ I know operates in compassion, and if He were reigning on earth right now we would not see the atrocities we are seeing. You can tell a lot about the head of an organization based on how the people in the organization operate and how the organization itself runs. In fact, they are almost mirrors of each other. If the boss is a long-hours, never takes a break kind of boss, the people in the organization will be that way, too. If the boss is a passive-aggressive and demeaning, his workers will be that way, too. When I look at the world, I do not see the characteristics of Christ, and that alone is enough for me to dismiss my friend's view.

So as you're reading and studying the Word, make sure you create a complete picture without taking verses out of context or combining passages that don't relate. And as always, pray for the Holy Spirit to lead...and then let Him!

Shabbat Shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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