Published on September 12th, 2011 | by Gary DeMar61
Is Jesus Going to Reign on Earth?
So many Christians have their faith wrapped in the cozy blanket of Bible prophecy that they feel doctrinally exposed when their beliefs on the subject are challenged. We should not fear believing what the Bible actually teaches, but we should fear believing what the Bible does not teach.
In a previous article I responded to some comments made by prophecy writer Dave Hunt in his answer to a question that appeared on his Berean Call website. He is critical of a preterist(1) interpretation of Bible prophecy. In attempt to discredit the preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy, Mr. Hunt asks, then “When did [Jesus] begin to reign over the world from Jerusalem?” Since we don’t see Jesus reigning on the earth from Jerusalem, then this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
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Where in the Bible does it say that Jesus will reign over the world from Jerusalem? Premillennialists would point to Revelation 20. In a debate that Gary North and I had with Dave Hunt and Thomas Ice in 1988, I asked Mr. Hunt where in Revelation 20 does it state that Jesus will reign on the earth for a thousand years. He was silent. He could not tell me. Later in the debate, his debating partner Thomas Ice answered for Mr. Hunt. Here’s what he said:
Gary, Dave said I could tell you the Scripture. It’s Revelation 20:6: “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over them the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Notice that my question specifically asked where in Revelation 20 does it say Jesus will reign on earth during this period of time. There is no mention of Jesus being on earth in Revelation 20.
There’s a more fundamental question. Does Jesus have to be physically present to rule the world? It’s interesting that many dispensationalists claim that Satan is ruling over the world at this very moment. Where is his throne? If it’s possible for Satan to rule over this world without having a physical throne and an earthly physical presence, then certainly Jesus has similar power and authority.
Satan may have had the kingdoms of the world at one time (Matt. 4:1–10; Luke 4:1–13), but not any longer. We’re told by Jesus, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20). With these verses in mind, if Jesus is not reigning over the world, then who is?
Dispensationalists claim that Jesus will rule the world from Jerusalem while He is sitting on David’s throne. We know this, dispensationalists tell us, because that’s what the “millennium” is all about in Revelation 20. This chapter does not say Jesus will reign on the earth or sit on David’s throne. Furthermore, Revelation 20 is not describing a “millennium” or “millennialism,” as the terms are usually understood, that is, a Golden Age of universal peace. Even the dispensational version of the “millennium” won’t be all “sweetness and light” since Jesus is said to rule with a “rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15).
Those who reign with Jesus during this period were martyred (Rev. 20:4), like so many Old Testament saints (Heb. 11:26–40) and early New Testament believers (Acts 7:54–60; 12:2). Revelation 20:4 is the answer to the martyred saints in Revelation 6:9–11 who ask “how long . . . wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the land?” This means that Revelation 20 is describing what was going on in John’s day (1:1, 3; 22:10). John described himself as a “fellow partaker in the tribulation” (1:9). These souls “had been judicially killed: decapitation was a standard form of capital punishment, well known in the Roman Empire (cf. Mt. 14:10). Significantly, this imagery fits all the preceding story of Revelation, where the Roman beast and the Jerusalem harlot are drunk on the blood of the saints (Rev. 13:7; 17:6).”(2)
The framework of Revelation 20 is similar to what we read in Hebrews 12, a follow-up to the previous chapter: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1–2). Instead of waiting for some final eschatological kingdom event, the writer of Hebrews told his first-century readers to run the race because Jesus accomplished what He came into the world to accomplish. There is no parenthesis, gap, or Plan B. Jesus said, “It has been accomplished” (John 19:30).
There is no need for an earthly throne for Jesus. Jesus’ throne is in heaven: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me?’” (Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:49). Jesus occupies David’s throne in heaven (Acts 2:29–36). Looking at Hebrews 12:2 again, we find that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Everything a dispensationalist like Mr. Hunt claims has not happened the Bible says nothing about or has already taken place. Any view that discounts these truths and relegates the kingship of Jesus to another time or place is little different from Deism.
Hunt continues to ask questions about what the Bible says about what he claims is unfulfilled Bible prophecy: “Did those who had pierced Him look upon and recognize Him as their Messiah; weep and mourn and believe on Him?”
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The simple answer is “yes.” The above unreferenced passage by Mr. Hunt is taken from Zechariah 12:10: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” We know from John 19:36–37 that Zechariah 12:10 was fulfilled in Jesus day:
“For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of Him shall be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him Whom They pierced.’”
Those who pierced Jesus were the ones who looked on Him. The editors of the LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible are correct when they write that “this act fulfills Zechariah 12:10, which says, ‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced’ (cf. Rev. 1:7).”(3) Of course, they are agreeing with what John makes abundantly clear. But if the events of Zechariah 12:1–9 were fulfilled during the time when the events in Esther took place, then why a gap of nearly 500 years before the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10?
F. W. Farrar argues that Zechariah 12:10 “was a striking type and foreshadowing of the death of the King of Martyrs, the Son of God, and of the remorse which pierced to the heart those who had slain Him (Acts ii. 37; vii. 54).”(4) If this is true, then we should look for a more immediate historical setting that would establish the “piercing” as a type of the piercing of Christ on the cross (John 19:37).
By viewing Zechariah 12:10 as type of piercing that is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the way supplying a ram in the place of Isaac was a type of Christ, the historical cohesion of the chapter is maintained. In fact, we see something similar in the life of David. Psalm 22 is first David’s cry of anguish, even though it is filled with obvious Messianic elements that ultimately find their fulfillment in the redemptive work of Jesus.
Gerard Van Groningen, in his masterful work on the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, writes that “the experiences recorded [in Psalm 22] are in keeping with David’s historical pilgrimage to the throne and his actual sitting on it. The poetic symbols reflect a Davidic awareness of life in the open country. And the perception of the relationship between God and the king, even in times of suffering, is clearly present. . . . As he functions as a prophet, serves as a priest, and reigns as the anointed royal one, David is a messianic type in the fullest meaning of that concept. What he was, experienced, and proclaimed in his day was directly related to what his offspring would be, have, and do in the fullness of time.”(5)
Zechariah 12:10 could be read in a similar way. While some historical person may be in view, it’s more likely that something more striking is being described. Notice who is pierced: “they will look on Me whom they have pierced” (12:10). Who is the “Me”? It’s Jehovah. How is this possible? Physically, prior to the incarnation, it isn’t. The piercing is metaphorical and typological, as Homer Hailey argues: “They could not pierce Jehovah in the sense of putting Him to death; but they pierced Him through insult, blasphemy, and rejection.”(6) The use of “pierce” in this way is not uncharacteristic of the Bible. It’s said of Mary, the mother of Jesus: “and a sword will pierce even your own soul” (Luke 2:35). In Hebrews 4:12 we read: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In these cases, the piercing is being used “metaphorically.”(7)The same is probably true in Zechariah 12:10. R. T. France comments:
And in the overall pattern of Zech 9–14 this “one they have pierced” is usually interpreted as a rejected messianic figure, who appears also as the rejected shepherd in Zech 11:4–14 and the shepherd killed by the sword in Zech 13:7–9. In this gospel [i.e., Matthew] both of those latter passages will be applied to Jesus’ death in Jerusalem (see 26:32; 27:9–10), and the present allusion should therefore probably be taken in the same way. Jesus’ words here suggest then, in the light of their OT background, that the people of Jerusalem will recognize what they have done to their Messiah, but their mourning will be prompted by seeing his eventual vindication and triumph, when it will be too late to avert the consequences of having rejected him.(8)
It was the “piercing” of Jehovah that sent the residents of Israel and Judah into exile. It was only after recognizing their grave sin that they called out for mercy and were redeemed. The type is fulfilled in the piercing of Jesus and the call for mercy and the granting of grace that followed. This is why “in John 19:37 the verse is given an interpretive paraphrase: They shall look on Him. John has made an application of the prophecy in the light of the fulfillment (as far as the piercing is concerned) to Jesus. John knew that in its Old Testament context the first person was used, and that the pronoun referred to Yahweh.”(9) Consider Calvin’s wise and perceptive comments on John 19:37:
They shall look on him whom they pierced. This passage is violently tortured by those who endeavour to explain it literally as referring to Christ. Nor is this the purpose for which the Evangelist quotes it, but rather to show that Christ is that God who formerly complained, by Zechariah, that the Jews had pierced his heart (Zech. xii.10). Now, God speaks there after the manner of men, declaring that He is wounded by the sins of his people, and especially by their obstinate contempt of his word, in the same manner as a mortal man receives a deadly wound, when his heart is pierced; as he says, elsewhere, that his Spirit was deeply grieved [Matt. 26:38 and Isa. 63:10]. Now, as Christ is God manifested in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), John says that in his visible flesh was plainly accomplished what his Divine Majesty had endured from the Jews, so far as it was capable of enduring;. . . What was done by the hand of a Roman soldier the Evangelist John justly imputes to the Jews; as they are elsewhere said to have crucified the Son of God, (Acts ii. 36,) though they did not lay a finger on his body.(10)
Mr. Hunt asks whether those who had pierced Jesus looked upon and recognize Him as their Messiah. Did they weep and mourn and believe on Him? They sure did. First, at Pentecost “there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Second, Peter accuses them of nailing (piercing) Jesus “to a cross” and putting Him “to death” (Acts 2:23). Third, those who were accused of nailing Jesus to a cross cried out in obvious repentance: “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (2:37). Fourth, 3000 souls repented and believed in Jesus as the promised Messiah (2:38–47). What else is necessary for Zechariah 12:10 and John 19:36–37 to be fulfilled?Endnotes:
- Preterism teaches that certain (most) Bible prophecies have already been fulfilled. For example, all Christians are preterists because they believe that all the messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled. Similarly, New Testament preterists contend that additional OT prophecies have been fulfilled, either in OT historical events or in NT events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. A preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy is a long history, a point that Mr. Hunt rarely if ever mentions.(↩)
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Book of Revelation Made Easy, rev. ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision,  2010), 119.(↩)
- Tim LaHaye, gen. ed., Prophecy Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 1160.(↩)
- F. W. Farrar, The Minor Prophets (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1890), 220. S. R. Driver comments: “The context points plainly to some historical event in the prophet’s own time, for which the people would eventually feel the sorrow here described. . . . Accepting the text as it stands, the meaning can only be that, in the murder or martyrdom referred to. Yahweh had been thrust through in the person of His representative.” (The Minor Prophets [Edinburgh: T. C. &E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1906], 265). J. Gordon McConville follows a similar line of thought: “Though John 19:37 applies this verse to Jesus’ crucifixion the reference in Zechariah is to some event in the prophet’s time, or Israel’s history (cf. Baldwin 1972, p. 191). It may have been a murder or execution of some figure in a conflict over the leadership or direction of the post-exilic community” (Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Prophets [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002], 4:250).(↩)
- Gerard Van Groningen, Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 354, 358.(↩)
- Homer Hailey, Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972), 390.(↩)
- Randolf O. Yeager, The Renaissance New Testament (Woodbridge, VA: Renaissance Press, Inc., 1979), 4:219.(↩)
- R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 925.(↩)
- James Smith, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 453.(↩)
- John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), 2:242.(↩)