Covenants

The Apocalyptic (Wrong) Turn, Part 2

The “Apocalypse” of John and Picking Sides

The first composition to call itself an “apocalypse” was the Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John circa 95 A.D.1 “And even there” says Collins, “it is not clear whether the word denotes a special class of literature or is used more generally for revelation.”2 But right here at the start I believe we are misdirected. John expressly tells us that his book is a “prophecy” (Rev. 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19), and is “the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:2), which “is the spirit of prophecy” according to Revelation 19:10. So every indication within the Book of Revelation itself is that it is a prophecy. Hence the term apokalypsis as John uses it does not refer to a special class of literature, but rather does stand generally for a revelation from Jesus Christ.

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The Apocalyptic (Wrong) Turn, Part 1

This is a draft chapter from the forthcoming book The Words of the Covenant.

The purpose of this article is to cast a little doubt upon the generally received view of the reading of biblical apocalyptic literature. As the unique Word of God, the Bible itself is its own interpreter, and much of the edifice of genre criticism and particularly apocalyptic genre is not based on biblical premises, nor should the “apocalyptic” sections of the Bible be read as if at odds with the understanding of God’s covenants that we have been considering. In point of fact, read against the backdrop of the divine covenants apocalyptic presents few problems for the interpreter and makes its own contribution to the prophetic big picture of the Bible.

Apocalyptic as We are Supposed to View It

According to the leading writers on the subject, the study of apocalyptic literature only gained impetus in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and really began in earnest in the second half of the twentieth century. Though there has been some shift in opinion over the past fifty years, the overall consensus is fairly stable. Mainline scholars have broken down their study into three major strands:

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 5)

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The Christology of the Psalms continued …

Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension

Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension in Psalms 16:10 (resurrection), and 68:18 (ascension).

Psalm 16:10: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

It is not fully apparent in Psalm 16 just who the “Holy One” is. David is the author of the psalm, but would David call himself “the Holy One”? It is this passage the apostle Peter quotes and applies directly to the Risen Christ in Acts 2:25-30. Sheol was the place of departed souls and generally has negative connotations in the OT. David appears to be speaking of it, not as a place of his temporary punishment, but of separation still from the presence of God. If this is true then the hope of resurrection, and an ascension of some kind, is certainly in David’s mind as he writes, and it is this that Peter picks up and uses.

Psalm 68:18: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.”

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 4)

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The Christology of the Psalms

Everyone knows that from an evangelical perspective there are a number of psalms that are designated “Messianic.” In surveying some of the categories above, it has already been impossible to avoid encountering the doctrine of Christ. Christology surfaces in many of the Psalms, although the main “Messianic Psalms” are Psalms 2, 22, 69, 110, and 118. These five are so-called mainly because they are employed by the New Testament writers to relate in some way to aspects of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry.1 If we quickly survey these five Psalms we find that,

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 3)

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The New Covenant

Finally, although it is not named as such, the New covenant is represented in such psalms as Psalm 96:11-13; 98:3 130:7-8, and 147:12-14, although it is central to the realization of eschatological hope in the Book since the themes of Kingdom and Messiah are allied with it. In Psalm 96:11-13 many of the themes we see in Isaiah 11:4-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, and Ezekiel 34:24-31 are present, such as universal justice and peace, and blessing upon the productivity of the earth. As Yates put it,

Perhaps this refers to a ceremonial enthronement which may have been a part of the New Year’s celebration. However, the main emphasis is eschatological; God is pictured as King of the nations and Judge of the earth.1

We see a celebration of this in Psalm 147, a psalm usually dated to the post-exilic period because of its dependence on other Old Testament passages:2

Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat. (Psalm 147:12-14)

The descriptions are much more befitting a kingdom restoration rather than a post-Babylon return.

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 2)

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The Theme of Covenant

One would expect the covenants to have a marked presence in the Psalms, and indeed they do.1 Psalm 25:14 announces “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” Although the covenants are for the most part clearly set out in Scripture, they are overlooked by the human parties. Those who fear God know that these covenants direct history behind the scenes. Even if they do not connect what the covenants are saying to the hermeneutical flow of the Bible, many of God’s people realize that the world’s hopes are fastened to them.

We don’t see much of the covenant with Noah in the Psalter, but Psalm 74:16-17, with its recollection of God’s governance over the seasons, certainly seems to allude to it (especially the preamble in Gen. 8:21-22). The Mosaic covenant is featured in Psalm 135:4, where it says, “The Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure” (cf. Exod. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; Psa. 114:2; Zech. 9:16), although the Lord’s choice has its roots in the promises to Abraham (Gen. 17:7-8).

Abrahamic Covenant

This is seen in the recounting of history in Psalm 105:

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 1)

Vows made to You are binding upon me; O God… (Psalm 56:12)

I will go into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered… (Psalms 66:13-14)

The heaven, even the heaven of heavens; are the Lord’s; but the earth has He given to the children of men (Psalms 115:16)

In addressing the contribution of the Book of Psalms to the Creation Project and the biblical covenants it is vital to notice those places where the psalmist is grounding his remarks upon the covenants or looking forward to the New covenant kingdom (e.g. Psa. 2, 22, 24, 31, 45, 50, 72, 89, 110, 132).

We also must be alert to the many Messianic passages, always trying to locate the coming King and His promised earthly kingdom within the correct covenantal timeline. That timeline is in continuity with the covenantal picture that has its roots in the Book of Genesis.

The Church’s reading of the Psalms has not always paid attention to the future fulfillment of some important passages, preferring to see fulfillments almost totally within the light of the first coming and the realization of the Body of Christ.

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Surveying the Period from Joshua to David (Part 4)

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Returning to chapter 7 of 2 Samuel, verse 13 speaks of David’s son building “a house for My name” with the addition of the pledge of an everlasting dynastic kingdom. Walter Kaiser has commented on the connection between the establishing of a kingdom and the right to erect a temple. He writes,

[A]ccording to 2 Samuel 7:13…the “house” of David had to be first established by Yahweh before a temple could be built. Temple building could only be the completion and crowning effect of Yahweh’s creation of a kingdom.1

If this is right then David could not begin his reign by ordering the construction of a temple to Yahweh. Why not? Because peace in the kingdom was not attained during David’s reign, either through having to impose his reign over dissidents, or through his own disastrous breaking of the law he was supposed to be upholding via the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11).

As Niehaus reminds us, the covenants of God,

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