Monday, September 17, 2012

Beale's Amillennialism

In my write-up today on G.K. Beale's The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, I will highlight a passage from the book and comment on it, as I give the passage context for the reader and evaluate it.

On page 988, Beale states:

"Rev. 12:2-5 telescopes this process of Satanic oppression against the covenant community climaxing with Christ's death and resurrection.  All who subsequently identify with Jesus as true Israel begin to fulfill the commission to be a light to the nations, so that Satan's veil of deception over the nations is lifted (cf. Isa. 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:18, 23).  This means that the devil will not be able to stop the spread of the preaching of the gospel or its expanding reception (=the church) during most of the age preceding Christ's return.  So Christ commands his followers to 'make disciples of all the nations' (Matt. 28:19).  The gospels will 'be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come' (Matt. 24:14).  But at the end of the age, directly preceding Christ's return, Satan will again be allowed, for 'a little time,' to stop the preaching of the gospel and to draw the curtain of delusion over the nations, especially with the goal of mounting a devastating attack against the people of God...A lethal attack must be launched against the corporate body of Christ, as earlier against the individual Christ..."

Beale is an amillennialist: He believes that the millennium in Revelation 20 applies to the church age and is not the saints ruling with Christ on earth for a thousand years right after Christ returns.  Rather, for Beale, the millennium is the saints ruling in heaven for a period of time (Beale takes the thousand years to be symbolic rather than literal) after Christ's death and resurrection, and it takes place before the Second Coming of Christ.  In my latest reading, Beale argued that the serpent in Revelation 20 gathering Gog and Magog for battle after the thousand years have passed is the same as the Battle of Armageddon, the battle that immediately precedes Christ's return.  For Beale, Revelation 20 is recapping the final battle and the Second Coming of Christ, the same way that things are recapped throughout the Book of Revelation.

But does not Revelation 20 say that Satan is bound during the millennium so that he will not deceive the nations?  How, then, can we be living in the millennium now, a time when Satan deceives people?  Beale argues that, since Christ's death and resurrection, God has placed limits on Satan's deceptive activity, which means that people can become spiritually enlightened and the Gospel can spread throughout the earth.  Beale provided Scriptural references to that effect in the passage that I quoted.  In terms of the Book of Revelation itself, Beale refers to Revelation 3:7-9, which affirms that members of the synagogue of Satan in Philadelphia can receive the truth, implying that Satan's deceptive activity cannot stop them.  Beale still appears to argue, however, that demons can be active even when Satan is bound.

Beale may have some valid points, for I agree with him that Christ's death and resurrection did hit Satan pretty hard, for they deprived Satan of any basis for accusing the saints as well as defeated death.  But I have problems with Beale's scenario.  For one, Beale has spent pages arguing that much of the Book of Revelation relates to the church age----the trumpets, the Beast, etc.  So does the time of the Beast's deception correspond with the time when Satan is bound and is not deceiving the nations?  That does not make a great deal of sense to me.  Beale, in defending his amillennialism, appears to argue that the time of deception will come soon before Christ's Second Coming, but that strikes me as different from what he has been arguing elsewhere in the book, where he presents the Beast as a reality throughout the church age.  Second, Revelation 20 talks about the serpent being bound so that he will not deceive the nations, which implies (to me) that he won't be able to deceive them, not that his deception will be limited.  Third, I think that Revelation 3:7-9 concerns what will happen when Christ returns, not what happens during the church age: God will subordinate the synagogue of Satan to the church in Philadelphia.  After all, the letters to the seven churches have eschatological promises, so why can't that be one of them?  And fourth, Beale seems to be saying (if I understand him correctly) that the Book of Revelation is envisioning the saints ruling in heaven for some time before Christ returns.  But, at some points in the book, Beale is open to the possibility that John expected the end to occur in his own time (though Beale sometimes equivocates on what the "end" is).  In that case, would John be envisioning a short millennium?  (UPDATE: On page 1018, Beale speculates that the number one-thousand in Revelation 20 does not relate to a long time but rather "the ultimate victory of Christians who have suffered", for large numbers in Revelation appear to concern the completeness or security of God's people.)

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