History of the First German-Lutheran Settlement in Altenburg, Perry County Missouri: pages 70 - 74

"4. According to verse 1 of the first chapter of St. John's Revelation the prophecy should be accepted as coming from Jesus Christ. If anyone can prove that the voice of Christ is not perceivable within it, well then reject it as a lie of the devil! However the future will reveal anyone who speaks in Christ's name and delivers warnings as though he were the bringer of glad tidings and promises when Christ has not truly appeared to him. Anyone, who has not been sent and enlightened by Christ must be a false prophet and a servant of the devil. No one can escape this dilemma. The honorable synod has come dangerously close to declaring this precious gift of Christ, this final book and crown of holy scripture, a work of a fallen angel. Look at what you're doing. See to it that it does not become an obstinant council *. The word of Christ stands firmer than heaven and earth and the broom used to sweep it away. Christ's word will burn it to scinders. However if St. John's Revelation is Christ's word then the chilia etae, the thousand years, is also Christ's word. Isn't it then highly inappropriate to call a hope based on Christ's word heresy under the name of chiliasm? If someone decides to reject this message as false, doesn't he also impugn the name of the individual, who delivered the message? Call it Cerinthianism or whatever you want, however do not abuse Christ's own word or try to turn him into a heretic. Couldn't one just as easily be accused of heresy for believing in Matthew 5,5 - the meek shall inherit the earth? And because St. John's Revelation was recognized as God's word by the old church, didn't it necessarily follow that it was waiting for the millennium, which couldn't possibly date back to the time of the Old Testament? In fact, aren't all Christians chiliasts? I respect the ardor


* This is a play on words relating to the Council of Constance (concilium Constantiense), which people called an obstinant council (concilium obstantiense) because of its contradiction of the truth. Return to text

"with which our ministerial brothers tend the teachings of the cross. Indeed I rejoice in it. It does not make me bitter but it also doesn't change my mind. Distingue tempora et concordabit scriptura. * To this point we have only dealt with the two greatest prophecies presented in Revelation 19 and 20 - the two emphasized by Spener and Bengel - the imprisonment of Satan and the subsequent absorption of the earthly realm into the realm of Christ. The third great hope, which all the apostles have told us to expect, concerns the appearance of Christ and the first resurrection of those belonging to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15, 23 speaks of a royal and priestly dominion or governance, while Revelation 2: 26, 27 and 2 Timothy 2, 12 relate it to the first resurrection in the church. From these it becomes evident that the word of God in every section internally agrees with itself and seeming contradictions are the result of imperfections in our knowledge."

... Hereafter Pastor Gruber reflects on Rudelbach's important words from his journal for Lutheran theology and church, 1849: "An opinion on the 'Revelation of Jesus Christ' has been ecclesiastically constructed. It has no fundamental grounding or extensive and fruitful parallel by which it can be related to all other theological fields of study and thus correlated and enlightened. In the strictest sense when it comes to the major points of Lutheran prophetic theology we are left with the works of Luther, Arndt, Spener and Bengel to provide guidance towards its development in our church." In his letter Pastor Gruber follows this point:

"May the words of this dear veteran of our church not be cast aside by the honorable Synod. Instead let it be respectfully accepted and taken to heart. May the honorable Synod not forever exclude our church's prophetic teachings from exposure to life-giving light! May the merciful God, who has imparted so much to us in this distant western land through the service of our synod, not withdraw His hand. May he keep us in grace and


* See how the times and the scripture agree with eachother. Return to text

keep us from sinning against His holy word by which He has imparted to us the mystery of His will, the wondrous maintenance of His church and the promise of His eternal kingdom."

So ends the letter by the late Pastor Gruber. In general the Synod charged that it had a bitter tone although the impartial reader sorely tried not to impart such a tone. However the synod perceived the seriousness of the letter as bitterness. Prof. Walther in particular was unwilling to concede that one could cite Luther for the basis of his statement that prophetic scripture would eventually be disclosed to the church by examination of its individual sections. He said Gruber's statement, that traditional exegesis of prophetic scripture could not take place, was an indirect indictment of the synod as an agent which wanted to bind conscience to traditional interpretation. Walther wanted proof for this. I responded that this proof was quite near. It was well known that the old teachers of our church had collectively followed a spiritualistic means of interpreting the works of the prophets. This means of interpretation was traditional and at the same time a major stumbling block in understanding how St. John's Revelation correlated with the Old Testament prophets regarding the future victory and splendor of Christ's reign. It was this spiritualistic interpretation which was used to bind conscience. This statement provoked much resentment. Prof. Walther replied, this form of interpretation was the correct method because it was in accordance with God's word. They permitted their consciences to be bound to the clear word and they cast aside the obscure. The Synod would only tie faith to the clear word, however people no longer want their consciences bound to it.

The Synod declared the beginning of Gruber's letter, in which he accused the synod of anathema for calling his hope in the thousand-year reign a devil's lie and hellish poison, a manifestation of his ill temper. Gruber's statement that he thought the conversion of Israel was clear and certain gave the synod the opportunity to assert

it did not condemn the hope of conversion but had merely rejected it or rather rejected the notion that one must believe in such a thing. However I wish to emphasize that the previous year's synodal resolution had done nothing other than completely reject this belief. It didn't state that one was permitted to believe such a thing; indeed it stated that it was not permitted to posit it as an uncontested tenet of faith. Stated simply, it meant we reject that this event is immanent and must be believed in. We consider it unbiblical. Unbiblical means contrary to scripture, so such a thing should not be believed. From there they tried to soften the words of the synodal resolution by justifying the words themselves. They turned towards me and asked whether I wished to maintain that people must believe in it. I said that I could not and would not force anyone's conscience, however I still stood firm in my hope. Prof. Walther retorted: If there were one definitive passage in scripture in support of it, then would I require others to submit? I called for Christian moderation such as exhibited by Spener. He said that in regard to this matter what was clear to him should not be forced on others. However like Dr. Spener I did not want to see the opposite opinion forced on anyone. To His praise and glory I saw my hope as bestowal of grace from Christ. They continued to press me with the question of whether I was so certain I could die today and still maintain the opinion? I responded, yes, with joy. With this they ceased the discussion. Pastor Fürbringer said he perceived that this was truly a matter of conscience for me.

They went back to discussion of Gruber's letter and spoke with great irritation about the reprimand contained therein, that the Synod had come dangerously close to declaring St. John's Revelation a work of a condemned angel. People called this reprimand a gross injustice; the Synod had never said anything against the canonical nature of St. John's Revelation. I said they had at least given the appearance of casting doubt by publishing Röbbelen's

article in the Lutheran. It was stated that the Synod did not stand by everything that was printed in the Lutheran. Others maintained that there was nothing anti-lutheran in Röbbelen's article. A proposal was made to decree that an opinion concerning the Revelation should remain unbiased. In a very judicious manner Pastor Klinkenberg pointed out what a disruptive influence such a resolution would have especially in Altenburg. One should abandon this resolution and rely upon the Chemnitz' verdict, which stated the church did not have the power to render verdicts on those biblical texts, upon which the old church could not make unanimous decisions, as it had upon texts, upon which there was unanimous agreement in interpretation. Prof. Walther then accused me of throwing a torch into the congregation with my Pentacost sermon and of unwisely casting suspicion upon the Synod for refuting the word of God. I stated that I would have been willing to read the Synod that sermon but I hadn't brought it with me. President Wyneken had the letter in which I related the events, which had caused such upheaval. He read it to the Synod. To my great joy and the shame of my opponent, it contained nothing to substantiate the charge.

Later they stated that the sentence in Pastor Gruber's letter was false wherein was written that the entire old church would necessarily have been waiting for the millennium because it would have been impossible for the event to have taken place in Old Testament times. I declared that what Pastor Gruber had said must be true; at the time when St. John's Revelation was written the time for the millennium had not yet occurred, thus it remained a subject of hope and expectation for the Christians of that time. People countered that the first Christians were as tied to the analogs of faith as we are and those analogs told them to expect Judgment Day at any time. I responded, the passage in 2 Thessalonnians 2, 3 warns not to expect the second coming of Christ to come any time soon.

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