Is Geerhardus Vos a Transformationalist?

Typically I think of Vos as the granddaddy of modern Reformed Amillennialism.  Many of his spiritual descendants are now representing the so-called Radical 2 Kingdoms theology, which denies any visible cultural difference between believer and non-believer in the non-ecclesiastical realms.  While his Amillennialism is still likely impeccable, I recently discovered a section in Vos which would place him well outside the non-interventionist sub-school of Amillennialism that looms so large today.  In The Kingdom of God and the Church, Vos sounds downright Kuyperian.  Here are some examples:

Undoubtedly the kingship of God, as his recognized and applied supremacy, is intended to pervade and control the whole of human life in all its forms of existence.  This the parable of the leaven plainly teaches.  These various forms of human life have each their own sphere in which they work and embody themselves.  There is a sphere of science, a sphere of art, a sphere of the family and of the state, a sphere of commerce and industry.  Whenever one of these spheres comes under the controlling principle of the divine supremacy and glory, and this outwardly reveals itself, there we can truly say that the kingdom of God has become manifest.

pg. 87-88, P&R 1972 ed.

Even more strongly, Vos writes:

And what is true of the relation between church and state, may also be applied to the relation between the visible church and the various other branches into which the organic life of humanity divides itself.  It is entirely in accordance to subsume these under the kingdom of God and to co-ordinate them with the visible church as true manifestations of this kingdom, in so far as the divine sovereignty and glory have become in them the controlling principle.  But it must always be remembered that the latter can only happen, when all of these, no less than the visible church, stand in living contact with the forces of regeneration supernaturally introduced into the world by the Spirit of God.  While it is proper to seperate between the visible church and such things as the Christian state, Christian art, Christian science, etc., these things, if they truly belong to the kingdom of God, grow up out of the regenerated life of the invisible church.

pg. 89

While Vos clearly wants to distinguish Christendom from the visible Church (as he should) , he does not shy away from the concept itself.  Notice that at the beginning of his list is “the Christian state.”  This is consistent with the old Two Kingdoms theology of the Reformers.  It is not consistent with the new version today.

A Season for War

The primary ascension text from the psalms comes from Psalm 110:1.  “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  The Psalm continues with the restoration of the Melchizedekian priesthood, and the worship of the people of God.  Melchizedek was, you will recall, a priest and a king.  But the Psalm concludes with a statement about the Lord shattering kings and judging the nations.  Indeed, he fills up the land with corpses, according to David.

It doesn’t get any better when Pentecost comes around.  Sure, the Spirit gives us good miracles like prophecy and visions.  But He also turns the sun to darkness and the moon to blood.  If you cry out you will be saved, it is true, but don’t forget that this is in the context of bloodshed.  Joel 3 continues the same line of thought as chapter 2, and it is all about war.

Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men.  Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up.

Joel 3:9

It doesn’t look good.  The prophet has critiqued the Gentiles for selling God’s people and the treasures of the temple.  That payment is about to returned upon their own head.  But then something surprising happens:

Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”Hasten and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD. 12Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations.

Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow,
for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.

The LORD roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.

There’s a strange mix of fear and gladness.  The warriors show up for a fight, but they end up turning their weapons into farming tools.  But the LORD is still roaring.  We’re taking refuge, though there’s still a storm coming.

Joel ends his prophecy with good news for Israel, but there’s also warfare all the way.  “Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness.”  We could allegorize this and ask, “What’s the Edom in your life?” but the original is pretty clear.  The enemies of Israel are vanquished.  God takes vengeance.

When Peter says that Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Acts 2, you have to bring in all of this with it.  The end of the world is here.  The Book of Revelation unfolds throughout the Acts of the Apostles.

And I suppose it is still doing so in the life of the Church now.  Paul says that we fight the very powers of the air.  Angel war, or something.  Thankfully, Paul also tells us that this means we can’t use sticks, clubs, swords, guns, machetes, or voting booths.  We’ve to to get out our other weapons.

So Pentecost is about war.  Get out your flaming swords and get to it.  Oh, but by the by, you will most likely get killed in the process.  A few times, actually.  But that’s the way it goes.

Ascension Sermon

I preached a sermon on the Ascension this past Sunday, and it is now available online.

Next week will be Pentecost, and that will bring a close to my lectionary preaching this year.  It’s been really great, and I would recommend it to any starting preacher.  The lectionary cuts out a lot of the pre-preparation work, and the texts always keep you focused on Jesus.