Much of Rev Schwertely’s critique presupposes some of the wackier elements of American dispensationalism. Since I am not in that category, I am ignoring parts of his paper. At the paper’s strongest he has given what he considers to be “problems” for premillennialism, but only once or twice has he given attempts at logical contradictions. Around page 10 he outlines a postmillennial alternative.
He says the angel’s binding of Satan is symbolic. Satan is no longer deceiving the nations during the church. This raises a large, exegetical problem: if Revelation 13 is also part of the church age, then precisely what was Satan doing? This is the strongest argument against any “recapitulatory reading” of Revelation. He then quotes David Chilton’s analysis of the symbolic meaning of 1,000 years. I hold to a 1,000 year reign, but I also think premillennialism can be defended elsewhere and so I won’t enter that debate.
The saints’ thrones are in heaven, with Christ (Eph. 2:6); yet, with their Lord, they exercise rule and dominion on earth (cf. [Rev.] 2:26-27; 5:10; 11:15).
At best this is ambiguous language. At worst it is logically contradictory. No one denies that in a sense we are spiritually raised with Christ in the heavenlies. But the New Testament explicitly denies that we are exercising that sovereign rule on earth right now. At several places in 1 Corinthians Paul implies we are not yet realizing our full reign. “Or don’t you know that the saints will judge the • world ? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest cases? 3 Don’t you know that we will judge angels—not to mention ordinary matters?” (6:2). This is future language. Paul is not saying we are exercising this type of rule through our heavenly seating. Paul had stated earlier,
For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it? 8 You are already full! You are already rich! You have begun to reign as kings without us —and I wish you did reign, so that we could also reign with you
This appears to support the postmillennial position that we are reigning now. But if you read it in conjunction with chapter 6 and consider Paul’s tone throughout the latter, the more likely reading is that he is being sarcastic.
One or Two Resurrections
He then revisits the resurrections debate. I don’t know what else to say. I grant with him that the NT uses “resurrection-ish” language to refer to spiritual rebirth, but he is at great pains to show that the word normally used for “bodily resurrection” temporarily doesn’t mean “bodily resurrection” but it will certainly mean “bodily resurrection” the next time it is used. As C. Marvin Pate writes,
A spiritual resurrection can hardly explain the compensation provided for the martyrs in verse 4. From John’s perspective they are physically dead but spiritually alive. What they need is a bodily resurrection. (b) The best understanding of the verb esezan (they lived) in verse 4 is that it refers to a bodily resurrection” (Pate, “A Progressive Dispensationalist View of Revelation” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation).
Further, as Alva McLain notes,
“If this verse refers to the new birth, then the martyrs were beheaded before they were born again”(MacLeod, 2000: 57). This interpretation introduces “the absurdity of having souls being regenerated after they had been beheaded for their faithfulness to Christ!” (McClain 1974: 488).
I have nothing else to say on this point.
Kingdom as Millennium
I don’t have much disagreement with this part. It is aimed at old-school dispensationalists. I do have a question that I haven’t seen satisfactorily answered: Granted we know that Christ is ruling at the Father’s right hand, but where in the NT does it say that Christ is currently seated on David’s Throne? Or to say it another way, “Where in the NT do we see that David’s Throne is currently occupied?” There are no verses.
The Nature of the Kingdom.
This is a series Bible quotations showing how the kingdom is spiritual and triumphant in nature. The problem is, I can also marshal Bible verses to show apostasy and cultural darkness escalating before the Lord’s return. I do have an interesting question that came from reading Gary North’s Millennialism and Social Theory. North, similar to premillennialists, takes Isaiah 65:20 literally. A literal reading presupposes elongated lifespans and cultural, even technological advances beyond our current abilities. There is almost a qualitative change in the nature of human existence, yet it is not heaven, as North rightly notes, since there is still death. North gives the best rebuttal to Anthony Hoekema in print. The problem, though, is that it is hard to see how large-scale preaching of the gospel and the “Christianizing” of institutions effects this qualitative change. It simply cannot. A premillennialist can easily answer this: when Christ’s feet touch down on earth, the world begins to change (Zech. 14:3-4).
The rest of the paper deals with Old Testament passages. Premillennialists use the same passages, ironically. He is arguing mostly against dispensationalists and his paper presupposes a number of points I have already shown to be problematic, so I will forgo a larger response.