|Satan Evicted: Scripture to Interpret Scripture|
Scripture to Interpret Scripture
On the surface, using “scripture to interpret scripture” seems logical and appropriate; unfortunately, in application, the results are anything but…
A good definition for this concept is provided by Phillip M. Way, TIME in the Word Ministries:1
What is the “Analogy of Faith”?
My good friend Steve Owen wrote in answer to this question:
The Analogy of Faith is a Scriptural concept revived at the Reformation. The
derived from Romans 12:6 (‘kata
Simply put – the Bible does not ever contradict itself. Therefore we must study through it to be sure we are not applying a text in a way that runs contrary to what the rest of the Bible says. We use Scripture to interpret Scripture. If a portion of Scripture is not clear, then we use other Scriptures to help us understand.
Sounds like a logical and appropriate approach for careful biblical interpretation, correct? That’s what I thought when I first encountered the phrase. However, after reading several works based upon the approach, I discovered the approach actually meant something entirely different:
Scholars who employ this approach have a preset notion of what they will find within biblical scripture, and they study the Bible for verification of that notion. New scriptural discoveries are permissible but only to the extent that they conform and harmonize with their existing doctrine. Biblical passages that seem contradictory become the “difficult” or “unclear” passages and must be explained or “spiritualized” until the apparent contradiction has been overcome.
This difficulty is most recognizable when examining prophetic passages especially the book of Revelation:
When dealing with the book of Revelation, which is filled with symbolic imagery, one must define this imagery not by the morning newspaper or CNN but by examining the clearer portions of Scripture where many of John’s pictures are clearly defined. Scripture must be used to interpret Scripture. The clear passages must be used to interpret the less clear.2
The most dramatic example of this difficult rests in the assertion that Satan was bound during the first coming of Christ. They appeal to Matthew 12:28-29 as evidence (binding of the strongman). They also appeal to John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” If Satan was truly bound and cast out during Christ’s earthly ministry, why then is he still called the “god of this world” within the epistles (2 Corinthians 4:4). Their response?
This does not imply that Satan can do no harm whatever while he is bound. It means only what John says here: While Satan is bound he cannot deceive the nations in such a way as to keep them from learning about the truth of God.3
What is the connection between casting out demons and deceiving nations?
Jesus Christ bound the strongman of the house. (True premise)
Jesus Christ and his disciples cast out demons. (True premise)
Jesus Christ charged his followers to make disciples of all nations. (True premise)
The argument lacks an internal link between casting out demons and deceiving the nations. If the “house” refers to planet Earth, then we would expect Satan to be bound in all ways not just one way but advocates of this view restrict it to only one specific area… Something just doesn’t seem to add up?
Is Satan bound today? Has Satan been cast out? I think not. One need only consider the evil within our world to understand that Satan is active and seeking to devour those who are ill equipped with the truth. Ample scriptural evidence supports this simple observation. 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, James 4:7, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 2:26, and 1 Thessalonians 2:18 provide a few examples.
Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry, sacrifice on the cross, and victorious resurrection took all the steps necessary to redeem the earth from Satan’s grasp, but he has not yet taken the concrete steps to evict Satan as the God of this world – this will take place after Christ’s Second Advent, Revelation 20:1-3.
However, for some scholars, Revelations 20:1-3 cannot chronologically follow Revelation 19:11-21 because that would result in a unique age where Jesus Christ physically reigns over planet Earth, and such an age is outside their acceptable doctrine. Therefore, those scholars employ “scripture to interpret scripture” until a suitable explanation can be found to explain away any contradictions.
See “Topic Analysis: Satan Bound?” for a detailed examination of this issue.
A second example of how using “scripture to interpret scripture” can be abused is found in the amillennial interpretation of Matthew 19:28.
Matthew 19:28: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NIV)
Reverend Brian Schwertley, Westminster Presbyterian Church, provides a detailed explanation of why a premillennial interpretation should be rejected in his essay, “The Premillennial Deception: Chiliasm Examined in the Light of Scripture.” I address many of his explanations within the Topic Analysis section of this publication. I would briefly like to focus on just one of his statements:
Furthermore, this passage cannot be taken in the literal sense, for the ten tribes carried away by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. have forever been lost, being absorbed among the Gentiles. Thus, the only way the apostles could judge the twelve tribes would be by judging the Gentiles and the Jews, which is precisely what Christ instructed them to do (cf. Mt. 28:18-20).4
Does God possess limited or unlimited capabilities? While reading several essays on various biblical topics, I was constantly amazed how authors allude to the power of God in one paragraph and then restrict that same power in the next… such is the case of statements such as Reverend Schwertley’s. He asserts that Christ is currently ruling the kingdom from his heavenly throne, but then he asserts that God cannot locate members from the ten “lost” tribes – God created the entire universe, but he has difficulty locating a remnant from his chosen people? Something just doesn’t seem to add up?
Please don’t misunderstand my intentions. Reverend Schwertley’s arguments are thorough, thoughtful, intellectual, and, I believe, sincere. Unfortunately, far too many scholars have become “academics” where Bible study is an academic exercise, not divine revelation. While they assert that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual – and I believe that it is – they employ human logic to understand the spiritual.
All biblical verses are the inspired Word of God and carry the same weight as if spoken directly by God:
2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
It is an error to place more emphasis on those passages that agree with our personal belief system than those that disagree. Yes, we should look to other passages to help us understand more difficult passages but it is an error to ignore the meaning of those difficult passages.
If a scripture says that Christ’s disciples will sit upon twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel, then Christ’s disciples will sit upon twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. We should not “spiritualize” the twelve tribes by claiming that they are the Church unless there is strong, concrete scriptural evidence indicating that the Israel is now the Church, and such evidence simply does not exist.5
God’s Word is difficult, but we have little chance of acquiring a greater understanding if we restrict our understanding to what we already believe. Within this current study, I have encountered ideas that were contrary to my understanding. Occasionally, I attempted to ignore or explain those contradictions away, but they didn’t seem to want to go away. I had to set aside my prejudices… I had to go outside and feed the chicken, collect the duck eggs, watch a television program, read the news, eat lunch, sit out under the trees, or take a nap… I had to something to give my mind (and spirit) a chance to listen…
Have I altered some of my views? Yes. I have seen things that I’ve never seen before and corrected errors in my understanding. God is omnipotent and omniscience, and we should never forget those two things.
1 Phillip M. Way, “What is the ‘Analogy of Faith’?” TIME in the Word Ministries, ND <http://timeintheword.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/what-is-the-analogy-of-faith/> Nov. 12, 2011.
2 Brian Schwertley, “The Premillennial Deception: Chiliasm Examined in the Light of Scripture,” Reformed Online Library, 1996 <http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/ milenium.htm> Nov. 12, 2011.
3 Anthony Hoekema, Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminar, “Amillennialism,” The Highway, c. 1977. <http://www.the-highway.com/amila_Hoekema.html> Sep. 30, 2011.
4 Brian Schwertley, Westminster Presbyterian Church, “The Premillennial Deception: Chiliasm Examined in the Light of Scripture.” Reformed Online, 1996 <http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/milenium.htm> Nov. 13, 2011.
5 See “Topics for Analysis: Israel & the Church.”
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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