Review: God, Heaven, and Har Magedon

This book is a mix of very good, and very, very, very bad. While containing brilliant insights into biblical symbology, Kline felt obligated to include every one of his unique (and often controversial) positions into this book.

He begins on a promising note. There is a “meta” reality to heaven, as it exists beyond our dimension. It is a holy location and contains sacred architecture. It is a palace/royal court (Deut. 26.15). Heaven is a temple that names God’s throne-site (Psalm 11 and 47). It is even identified with God in Revelation 21.22. “Heaven is the Spirit realm and to enter heaven is to be in the Spirit, Rev. 4.1” (9). Quite good.

He notes that in the biblical story we see a parallel warfare between two mountains, the mount of the Lord (usually, though not always Zion) and Mt Zaphon. Further Armageddon is Har Magedon and is not to be confused with the plain of Meggido, but that the Hebrew actually reads Har Mo’ed, the Mount of Assembly. And this is the part of Kline’s argument that is truly good and noteworthy. Assemblies are “gathered together” throughout the Old Testament, and Rev. 16.16 points out the act of gathering.

Whenever Har Moed appears in the Bible (Isa. 14.13) it is sometimes paired with its opposite, Hades or Sheol. Revelation pairs it with the pit of Abbadon (Rev. 9.11).

At the end of the book Kline identifies Har Magedon with Mt Zaphon in the North (251ff). This is a promising line of thought. Zaphon was the domain of Ba’al and can be seen as the center of wickedness. This makes sense if Gog is the Antichrist figure and comes “from the North.”

Zaphon was the Caananite version of Mt Olympus. This makes sense when we remember that Zaphon is paired with the Abyss. In Revelation 9 Apollyon (Apollo) is from the abyss. Apollo is the demon lord of the Abyss. (That’s my argument, not Kline’s). Kline also notes that when Har Mo’ed is mentioned, it is sometimes paired with the Abyss (Isa. 14:13-15; Rev. 16:16).

I will begin my analysis (and subsequent criticism) with his exegesis of Revelation 20.

Exegesis of Revelation 20

Background is Isa. 49: 24, 24. He is a Warrior who binds the Strongman (Matt. 12:29). Kline elsewhere identifies Jesus with Michael the Archangel, so Revelation 12:7-8 = Revelation 20: 1-3 (162).

Against premillennialism he argues that the chiastic structure of Revelation 12-20 favors Gog/Magog happening before the millennium.

a. Rev. 12.9. Dragon
B. Rev. 13:14. False Prophet
C. Rev. 16:13-16. Dragon, Beast, False Prophet
B’. Rev. 19.19-20. Beast and False prophet
A’. Rev. 20:7-10. Dragon.

And since they all refer to the same time period, and to the same event, this means premillennialism is false. Maybe. The chiasm is good but chiastic literature doesn’t always refer to the same event (many of the historical books form one whole chiasm, yet refer to various events).

Kline admits that the biblical evidence also supports premillennialism as well as amillennialism (170). Nevertheless, he argues that the millennium is the church age (171ff). Kline identifies the first resurrection in Revelation 20 as….I’m not quite sure. It seems he says “opposite of the second death” (176), so is it conversion? I think he is saying it is “the intermediate state of believers.”

Sed contra:

1* There are numerous premil responses to the claim that the binding of Satan = Jesus’s ministry. If the events refer back to Rev. 12, and Satan is bound and can’t deceive the nations, then what exactly was Satan doing in Rev. 13? Kline interacts with zero premillennialists (or postmils, for that matter).

2* He says the two resurrections, if interpreted literally, would confront us with a bizarre scenario (175). Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it is logically or textually false. And biblical supernaturalism is strange.

3* Interestingly enough, Kline doesn’t deal with the conclusion of Christ’s argument. If Christ has bound the strongman, then he is plundering his house. This sounds like Christendom and dominion!

Kline argues that postmillennialism is wrong because it cannot account for the final apostasy at the end (186). However, on Kline’s account it is hard to understand how there can be an apostasy, since history is always getting worse. I have to wonder how familiar with postmillennial writings Kline really is. Kline then can’t avoid a few cheap shots: “The melding of church and state and its coercive power, the arrangement which theonomic reconstructionism regards as the kingdom ideal to be attained during the millennium, is precisely what is anathematized in the Apocalypse” (186).

No Reconstructionist argues for this. Indeed, they have written books outlining the various covenants in society and how church doesn’t control state. Kline isn’t engaging in scholarship at this point. He is using scare tactics. His analysis isn’t just wrong. It beggars belief.

Kline only once deals with specific postmillennials, and that is David Chilton in a footnote on p. 269.

This book suffers from severe repetition. Page 185 is almost identical to p. 268. Some paragraphs are word-for-word the same.

A Discussion on Common Grace

Kline tells us that we live in the common grace age, but he never gives us a detailed discussion of what is the content of common grace. Kline argued that some of God’s more extreme measures (Canaanite genocide) are actually intrusions of God’s final justice. Well, yes and no. True, that was a positive command and not to be repeated by the church today. However, we do not see biblical evidence of an ‘order’ or ‘sphere’ of common grace. Is this a time or sphere of common grace? But even if it is, God’s blessings fell upon elect and non-elect within theocratic Israel.

What does it mean to rule according to common grace? How could we even determine which application of “common grace” is more “gracey” or right than the other one? General Franco of Spain probably had more common grace than either Hitler or Stalin, yet one suspects that the modern advocate of intrusion ethics wouldn’t praise Franco’s regime.

As Klaas Schilder notes, it is true that sin is being restrained. But by similar logic the fullness of Christ’s eschaton is not fully experienced. Apparently, it is restrained. (and this is true. So far, so good) If the first restraining is “grace,” then we must–if one is consistent–call the restraining of the blessing “judgment.” Kline’s position falls apart at this point.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in American Theology, Book Review, Eschatology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Review: God, Heaven, and Har Magedon

  1. cal says:

    Melding of church and state is not the church telling the state what to do, but confusing categories so as the church’s prerogatives slip easily into the state. That includes everything from Erastianism to the Covenanters. I’m not sure why you can’t understand Kline on this point.

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    • J. B. Aitken says:

      I understand. But I guess I am just more annoyed with Kline’s inserting this at every point. I’ve been hearing this from his disciples for almost two decades now. I get what you are saying and I probably agree, but Kline never once defined his terms on what he means by that.

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    • J. B. Aitken says:

      I know from personal experience in Reformed institutions that Klineans would use “theocracy” as a scare tactic to silence any criticism of their views. That’s more or less enshrined at WTS West. They have no understanding of how normative ethics work, which is why some were involved in homosexual marriage trials in the OPC.

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      • cal says:

        I have no doubt its been weaponized, nor that Kline can be ambiguous. They annoy me because they won’t (or can’t) admit that if the free-church tradition is true, then the Anabaptists were right from the beginning (which is what Leonard Verduin spent his career arguing). They want to have a Reformed kulturkampf, or perhaps even reconciliation to the zeitgeist, but dither on why it should be so. Conrad Grebel was a true martyr, but the Reformed world, as the heir to Zwingli, spits on his grave. I’m not an Anabaptist, but no one ever bothers to understand them. Regurgitating libel and strawmen, the actual criticism of relation between church and state goes unrefuted.

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      • J. B. Aitken says:

        That’s interesting. I’ve long since abandoned the “divine right view of Presbyterianism.” I think rule by elders is biblical, and meeting in presbyteries is wise, but I can’t prove the latter from Scripture. My thoughts on politics later.

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