Note: This is the first of two essays dealing with cosmic geocentrism: the idea that the Earth sits at rest at the center of a rotating universe. Here we deal with biblical testimony favorable to cosmic geocentrism, in the next with the scientific. I have extracted the material for these articles from my book on biblical cosmology, In Search of the Beginning: A Seeker’s Journey to the Origin of the Universe, Life, and Man (Redemption Press). That book contains copious end-notes (not included here) and much additional information about the development of modern cosmological views, and also about the scientific evidence—often suppressed—supporting cosmic geocentrism. If you find this subject of interest, please consult the longer work, and also the resources that I have linked to remarks you will read below. God bless you as you embark on your journey to the center of the universe!


The world is firmly established: It cannot be moved.
Psalm 93:1

Modern Man is lost in the cosmos. He is told by the experts that space is curved and expanding; that the universe is perfectly homogeneous and isotropic (i.e., that it is the same, and looks the same, no matter where you happen to be in it); that it has no center, no edges, and no place special or more important than any other. Believing all this, most folks have no definite sense for the structure of the universe, or for their place in it. Quite literally, they no longer know where in the world they are. And if they no longer know where they are, how can they possibly feel at home where they are?

Giving picturesque expression to this modern mood of cosmic displacement, H. L. Mencken once complained, “The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions per minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.”

Carl Sagan agreed (philosophically, if not astronomically), confidently declaring that man’s inheritance from modern science is the humiliating realization that ” . . . we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”

And yet it has not always been so. Medieval man, for example, was actually quite at home in the cosmos, dwelling securely beneath God’s heaven and envisioning himself at the center of a finite, spherical universe, lovingly set and kept in motion around the Earth by the Father of lights (James 1:17). So too were many of his Catholic and Protestant descendants.

But then came Copernicus, and after him Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. And with these, the dominoes began to fall: first, the Earth-centered universe, then the finite universe, then the sun-centered universe, then the created universe; and finally the creator of the universe himself. Said the poet Goethe after much of the damage had been wrought:

Among all the (scientific) discoveries and (new) convictions, not a single one has resulted in deeper influence on the human spirit  than the doctrine of Copernicus…Humanity has perhaps never been asked to do more. For consider all that went up in smoke as a result of this change becoming consciously realized: a second paradise (i.e., a coming Kingdom of God), a world of innocence (i.e., Eden), poetry and piety, the witness of the senses, and the conviction of a poetic and religious faith.

And Goethe was not alone in this gloomy assessment. Contemplating the collapse of the ancient biblical worldview and all the spiritual wreckage it would surely bring in its train, Anglican priest and poet John Donne lamented, “Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone!”

Subsequent history bears out the testimony of these seers. The Copernican revolution did indeed eventually bequeath to modernity an essentially beginningless, structureless, purposeless, and godless cosmos, in which the Earth and man henceforth appear as cosmic specks, meaningless accidents wandering aimlessly about in the void. All coherence—and all comfort—was indeed gone.

Now given this dismal outcome, alert spiritual seekers, tender to the importance of optimism and hopefulness in any viable worldview, may well find themselves asking: Could it be that we have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way? Might we even have erred at the Copernican crossroads? Could it be that in abandoning cosmic geocentrism we have lost something precious that the Unknown God (i.e., the God who reveals himself in nature and conscience) actually intended his dear human children to enjoy: a sense of place, a sense of importance, and a sense of being at home in the midst of his creation?

The Test Perspective (i.e., the idea that our life is a test from the Unknown God, who, in a world of religious diversity, is testing of our love of the truth about ultimate religious and philosophical questions) boldly answers all these questions in the affirmative. For if, as I have suggested earlier, our spiritual hunger to behold the beginning of the universe comes from the Unknown God, then surely our corresponding hunger to know something about its structure—and to situate ourselves comfortably in its midst—must come from him as well. And if (as the labors of the scientists abundantly attest) we are by nature eager to look upon and contemplate these things, is it not reasonable to expect that a revelation from the Unknown God will enable us to do so, at least in some small measure? Here, then, we find yet another occasion for suspecting that the Unknown God may well be speaking to us in the Bible. For as we have already seen, the Bible does indeed give us a clear revelation, not only of the beginning of the universe, but of its basic structure as well.

The Bible and Cosmic Structure

Concerning this fascinating question, three preliminary points must be made.

First, experience proves that it is difficult to glean from the Bible a detailed picture of the (structure of the) universe. Partly, this is because the data is limited; partly, it is because that same data is amenable to different interpretations. As a result, many questions still remain open. For example, do the waters above the expanse (Genesis 2:6-7) serve as the outer boundary of the atmosphere, or as the outer boundary of the universe itself? Does the third heaven—the abode of God’s continuing self-revelation to the angels—exist somewhere within the expanse of space, or in a “hyperspace” situated just beyond our own, or as another dimension altogether (yet mysteriously related to our own)? Is the expanse of space empty (i.e., a true vacuum), or is it full (i.e., a plenum, filled with an invisible substance such as the light-bearing ether of 19th century physics)? Is space “curved” (as Relativity Theory argues) or “flat” (as Euclid and common sense assert); and is it static or expanding? Is the universe bigger than we have yet to imagine, or smaller than we have been led to believe?

To these and other fascinating questions the Bible may well give definite answers; but again, experience proves that those answers are elusive, and that consensus is difficult to achieve. Thus, it seems fair to conclude that the Bible does not readily yield a detailed picture of the structure of the universe.

But secondly, despite all this, it is indeed possible to glean from the Bible a reasonably clear picture of the basic structure of the cosmos. Believing this to be so, I would not agree with biblical creationist Gerald Aardsma when he asserts, “The Bible provides no explicit teaching on any questions relating to the form of the universe.” On the contrary, it seems to me that the Bible provides quite a number of concrete and spiritually comforting facts about cosmic structure. Admittedly, some of these must be inferred from the text. Yet down through the years—and especially prior to the Copernican revolution—multitudes of interpreters have made these “good and necessary” inferences, and have therefore reached a significant degree of consensus.

Chief among such basic facts is what I will henceforth call the radical geocentrism of the cosmos, the focus of our attention in these essays. It is crucial to define this idea carefully. As I see it, the biblical revelation of radical cosmic geocentrism involves at least the following five elements: 1) Our habitable Earth lies at (or very near) the geometric center of a spherically symmetrical universe, a view technically referred to as geocentrism; 2) the Earth sits motionless, or at absolute rest, at the center of this universe, a view technically referred to as geostationism. These two ideas imply, of course, that the Earth neither rotates on its axis beneath the “fixed stars,” nor revolves in an orbit around the sun, nor revolves around the center of the Milky Way, nor moves through space with the Milky Way, etc.; 3) the heavenly bodies (i.e., sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies, etc.), though not necessarily without limited motions peculiar to themselves, nevertheless all orbit the Earth once a day from east to west. The essential idea here is that the universe itself revolves around the Earth, somehow carrying all the heavenly bodies (and their peculiar motions) along with it; 4) this revolving universe is finite, since, quite apart from the direct biblical testimony to this effect, it is self-evident that an infinite universe cannot revolve daily around the Earth, and 5) the radical geocentrism of the physical creation is laden with spiritual meaning, having been designed to reflect the existence, wisdom, and power of the creator, as well as the centrality of the Earth’s inhabitants in his affections and purposes.

Now if all this may be justly deduced from the Bible, one would certainly have to concede that we have indeed been given a clear picture of the basic structure of the universe. Moreover, it is a picture clear enough to make even a little child feel at home in the cosmos—and very important to the divine head of the household!

This brings us to our third point—and to a fact that will come as a surprise to no one—namely, that a radically geocentric understanding of the physical universe is highly controversial, more even than the alleged 6,000 year age of the creation. Just to contemplate such a universe is to completely go against the grain of some 300 years of scientific “common sense.” Indeed, it is to invite charges of abject scientific ignorance and/or religious fanaticism, as though one held that the Earth is flat, or perched on the back of a cosmic turtle. Most assuredly, no son of modernity can fail to be scandalized by the geocentric thesis.

And yet, if that son is a true seeker—and a seeker who truly hungers to find his place in the universe—he will be unable to dismiss it out of hand. Why? Because the biblical signs (i.e., the manifold body of God-given supernatural signs bearing witness to Christ and the Bible) have instilled in him a sense of the trustworthiness of the Hebrew Scriptures. Accordingly, his proper course of action in this matter will soon become clear. First, he must determine if the Bible really does teach radical geocentrism (for some who love the Book say that it does not). And second, if he finds that it does, he must determine whether this teaching has any scientific credibility at all. That is, he must see if the Unknown God has graced the idea of radical geocentrism with enough theoretical and observational support to make it scientifically reasonable to believe.

Needless to say, this will be another daunting—and fascinating—journey. In an effort to point the way, I will now offer a few remarks on the first of these two important questions.

The Testimony of the Bible

Does the Bible really teach radical cosmic geocentrism? Or is Dr. Aardsma correct when he claims that the Bible contains no clear teaching on the physical form of the universe? A careful consideration of several different (classes of) texts will enable the seeker to make his own informed judgment on this important question.

  1. The Genesis Cosmogony

First and foremost, we have the Genesis cosmogony itself, and especially the material found in Genesis 1:1-19. This passage is, of course, explicitly cosmological, as opposed, say, to the more poetic statements of the Psalms and the Prophets. Moreover, because of its placement at the very head of biblical revelation, it is clearly of first importance in determining the biblical testimony about the structure of the universe. With the question of cosmic geocentrism in mind, let us survey this foundational passage with some care.

Verse 1 is best read as a heading and summary statement. That is, it gives us the gist of all that the writer is about to tell us in verses 2-31; the gist of all that God did when he created “the heavens and the earth,” or what today we call “the universe.”1

In verse 2 we meet the object of God’s primordial creation, what the writer referred to as “the Deep.” It appears to be an enormous sphere of water, standing silent and motionless amidst absolute darkness. Possibly, it is suspended in empty space (see Job 26:7). However, subsequent verses suggest a far different interpretation: that the Deep is the immense physical body within which the womb of space (i.e., the expanse) will be opened up on the second day of creation. Note carefully that the Spirit of God alone is moving—moving upon the face of the Deep.

In verses 3-5 we have the creation (or sudden appearing) of a bank of primordial light. Like the Spirit of God (who is its ultimate source), this light also seems to be moving. Indeed, how else can we picture it except as revolving around the still motionless face of the Deep, thereby introducing the first day and the first night, and thus instituting the fundamental unit of Earth time?

In verses 6-8 we have the creation of the expanse (or firmament). This begins the account of the creation of the heavens, mentioned in verses 1 and 8. Here we can readily envision God separating or pushing back the waters in such a way as to create spherically concentric envelopes of: 1) air, 2) clouds (or water vapor), 3) space, and 4) water or ice serving as the outermost edge and boundary of the universe. In other words, this passage gives us a strong impression of the Earth-centered sphericity of the universe. 

Importantly, this impression is confirmed by a number of other biblical texts that refer to the sky as a vault or dome (Job 22:14, NIV; Amos 9:6, RSV), and also as a canopy (Job 36:29, NKJ; Isaiah 40:22, NIV). Note also that the sphericity of the sun, moon, stars, and planets—clearly visible to the naked eye—only adds to our common-sense impression that space itself is spherical, and that Gen. 1:6-8 presupposes this very thing.

In verses 9-13 the focus is upon the creation of the earth, first mentioned in verse 1. Here, God first brings forth (i.e., creates and raises up) the dry land (or earth) out of the waters beneath the heavens, waters that will henceforth be called the seas (v. 10; 2 Peter 3:5). Then, with a view to the service of man (and the animals), he brings forth from the dry land grass, vegetation, and fruit, some of which he will later designate as man’s appointed food (vv. 29-30).

Finally, in verses 14-19 we have the creation of the luminaries on the fourth day: the sun, moon, and stars. This paragraph completes the account of the creation of the heavens. Here the text strongly encourages us to envision God as not only imbedding the luminaries in the expanse (v. 17), but also as setting them in orbit around the still motionless Earth that they will henceforth serve. This important conclusion flows logically from several biblical considerations.

First, it is evident that the luminaries are designed to supplant the revolving bank of light that marked out the Earth’s first three days. This leads naturally to the conclusion that they too revolve around the Earth.

Secondly, in describing their function, the text treats the different luminaries as a unit: all give light upon the earth, all are for telling time, all serve as signs, etc. Presumably, then, all share the same basic motion as well: All revolve around the Earth.

Thirdly, it is highly counterintuitive to imagine that God, on the fourth day, would suddenly set a stationary Earth in motion around the sun. Intuitively, we feel instead that the member of the Earth-sun system that was created first should remain the stationary member—that it should serve as the center—while the other member should become an orbiting “planet,” (from the Greek planao, to wander). Along these lines, note once again that the luminaries are expressly designed to serve the Earth. How, then, shall the Earth subserviently revolve around any of the heavenly lights, including the “greater light” that we call the sun?

Finally, we do well also to observe that the Genesis cosmogony puts life and man only upon the Earth. The uniqueness of the Earth in this regard further inclines the reader to view it as central: central in God’s affection, purpose, and plan—and therefore central in his cosmos.

In sum, we find that the Bible’s premier, foundational, and most explicitly cosmological text, Genesis 1:1-19, positively drips with radical geocentrism. Admittedly, it is not explicitly stated; but it is everywhere implied. Moreover, as we are about to see, subsequent biblical texts go on to make explicit what remained implicit in the all-important cosmogony of Genesis 1-2.

  1. An Earth at Rest

We come now to a class of passages that affirms cosmic geocentrism by depicting the Earth as being at rest and immovable in the universe. Importantly, these texts seem clearly to presuppose and reflect the cosmology of Genesis 1. In particular, they are designed to glorify God as the divine sustainer of the world. He who in the beginning set the world “in its place” (Job 9:6) is here depicted as the One who keeps it there, safe and sound, day by day, until all is accomplished and the end (i.e., ultimate goal) has come.

Such passages are numerous. The Psalmist declared of God, “You laid the foundations of the Earth so that it should not be moved forever” (Psalm 104:5). Similarly, David said, “Tremble before Him, all the Earth. The world also is firmly established: It shall not be moved” (1 Chronicles 16:30). And again, David proclaims, “The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty. The LORD is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. The world is firmly established: It cannot be moved” (Psalm 93:1, 119:90). The message of such texts is uniform and clear: The mighty creator God has anchored the Earth securely in its proper place beneath the sun, moon, and stars, all of which go about in their courses above (Judges 5:20; Psalm 19:5-6; Ecclesiastes 1:6). Though hell itself should come against it, he will hold it to its place and to his purposes. His obedient and trusting people may rest assured.

Now it is true that a few texts envision the Earth as moving (Psalm 99:1), shaking (Isaiah 2:19-21, 13:13; Haggai 2:6), tottering (Isaiah 24:20), reeling to and fro (Isaiah 24:19-20), and even as fleeing before he face of Christ (Revelation 20:11). While the language here is somewhat figurative and hyperbolic, it is nevertheless clear that these texts do indeed speak of the Earth moving. However, in each case the thought is of the Earth being temporarily moved out of its normal resting place by the end-time judgment(s) of God. Isaiah gives us an excellent illustration of this point:

I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make man scarcer than fine gold, more rare than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the Earth will move out of her place at the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger. —Isaiah 13:11-13

Again, this text and the others like it actually support the idea of cosmic geocentrism, seeing that they presuppose a static, immobile Earth as the divine norm. From where will the LORD move the Earth? From her appointed place, which is a place of rest. Such texts reveal the assumption of all the biblical writers, namely, that the Earth is not like the other heavenly bodies, for it alone lies at rest in the midst of the cosmos; it alone, in one form or another, will remain forever; it alone is the privileged, stationary footstool for the feet of him who sits unmoved upon heaven’s throne (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34-35; cf. Genesis 28:12).

  1. A Sun In Motion (and the Stars as well)

This class of passages, strictly interpreted, proves challenging indeed for all who have imbibed modern heliocentrism. I refer to a largish number of texts stating or strongly implying that within the Earth-sun system it is the sun that moves. Moreover, the assumption here, as we just saw, is that the sun is in motion relative to an Earth at absolute rest. This was the tenor of Genesis 1:2-19, the basis of Hebrew cosmology. In the passages we are about to consider, that tenor is specified and confirmed in remarkable detail.

Let us begin by noting the obvious: In common with our own habits of day-to-day speech, many Bible passages speak of the motions of the sun (Genesis 15:12, 17, 19:23, 32:31, etc.). One thinks of the words of the Psalmist, who declared, “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the LORD’S name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3). Importantly, in some texts we hear the voice of God himself using these very terms. For example, in the Mosaic Law we find God saying, “If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down” (Ex. 22:3, 26; Lev. 22:7). Similarly, through the prophet Malachi God says, “From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles” (Mal. 1:11; Isaiah 45:6). Along these lines, one thinks also of the words of our Lord, who, in urging his disciples to show impartial love to all men, directed their attention to the work of his Father, who “…causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Just as surely as God sends down a (moving) rain to the parched earth, so surely does he raise up a (moving) sun over the darkened earth. Thus, the Bible gives us many passages about the sun that not only reflect our common sense experience, but actually shape and confirm it.

Of special importance is Psalm 19, in which David vividly describes the motion and ministry of the sun:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork… In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing like a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heaven, and its circuit to the other end, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. —Psalm 19:1, 4-6

David’s words here are very like those of his son Solomon, who wrote, “The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose” (Ecclesiastes 1:5). Both of these texts have the sun in motion, both have it running a course, and both have it making a circuit around the Earth. Elsewhere, we learn that the stars too go “in their courses” (Judges 5:20). Nowhere, however, do we read of the Earth having a course, or making a circuit around the sun. Like all the biblical writers, David and Solomon assume that the sun—and beyond that, the heavens themselves—revolves around an Earth that remains stationary in the midst of all.

This persuasion is explicitly affirmed in James’ epistle to his persecuted Christian brethren. Seeking to reassure them of God’s immutable love and goodness in all his dealings with his children, James writes, “Every generous act, and every completed gift, is from above, and descends from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow cast by turning”  (James 1:17). The idea here is that every gift of God—including the persecutions and temptations he wisely permits—is good; that the goodness of the gifts reflects the goodness of the Giver; and that the immutable God is always good.

Importantly, the saints may catch a glimpse of their Father’s unchanging goodness in his gift of the heavenly lights—the sun, moon, planets, and stars—whose faithful “turnings” in the sky above reliably give us light, warmth, shade, and the ability to reckon time. On the other hand, those same lights stand in stark contrast to God, since their position is always changing—along with the shadows that are cast by their “turning”—whereas God changes not (Malachi 3:6). We see then that James—who may well have been aware of ancient (Greek) heliocentric cosmologies—nevertheless fully embraced the faith of his fathers, presupposing as he did a stationary Earth above which all the heavenly lights are steadfastly “turning” (revolving) in their appointed courses.2

  1. “Phenomenological” Language?

When modern readers come upon the passages we have just cited, they typically react in one of two ways. If, on the one hand, they are skeptics, they will simply dismiss such texts as yet another “proof” that the Bible is a mythological artifact of pre-scientific man in his spiritual and cultural infancy. If, on the other hand, they are respectful of the evidence pointing to the Bible’s divine inspiration, they will try to interpret such texts “phenomenologically.” That is, they will say, “The (inspired) writers were simply using the language of appearance. Today we know that the sun does not really rise or go down. Rather, the Earth, rotating on its axis before the sun (and moon), makes it appear as if this is the case. Thus, the Bible is simply speaking from ‘the Earth’s reference frame.’ It gives us the language of common sense experience, while science gives us the language of truth and reality.”

Though the latter approach is popular even among strict biblical creationists, there are a number of good reasons why seekers should think twice before embracing it.

First, the contention that the Bible uses phenomenological language does not arise from the Bible itself. On the contrary, the Bible seems consistently to presuppose that the Earth is stationary and that all the luminaries are in motion. If we had just one or two passages in which it was recorded that the Earth turns or moves or goes about in a circuit, then we would indeed have to wonder which of the two classes of passages was telling us the truth and which was speaking phenomenologically. However, we do not have to wonder, for all the texts speak geocentrically. And if the Bible is inspired by God, that is a fact to be taken seriously.

Secondly, the assertion that these texts are speaking phenomenologically clearly does arise from assuming the truth of heliocentrism. Why would this discussion even come up unless a modern reader was interpreting the text through the grid of the prevailing heliocentric model? The preeminent proof of this important point is the simple historical fact that prior to Copernicus no trusted biblical interpreter ever taught that the Bible speaks phenomenologically about the Earth-sun system. Rather, the leading interpreters of Scripture received these texts at face value, and therefore consistently gleaned from them a radically geocentric cosmos. It is, then, our modern indoctrination into heliocentrism that moves even the biblical loyalist to impose a new (and alien) interpretive framework upon the text. “Knowing” that heliocentrism is true, he presumes to vindicate the Bible from an apparent error by saying that it is speaking phenomenologically—and therefore truly enough relative to common sense experience. But one wonders: In thus subordinating his interpretation to prevailing scientific opinion, is he missing the true cosmological teaching of the very Book that he so ardently seeks to defend?

This brings us to our third point, namely, that seekers of cosmological truth cannot take the phenomenological approach. The reason is clear. As seekers, they have interacted with the evidence indicating that the Bible is a trustworthy revelation from God. Therefore, in their quest for truth about the structure of the cosmos, they will want to come to this book with a fresh, unprejudiced mind. In particular, they will want to see what it really says about the structure of the universe. Moreover, if they are well established in the test perspective, they will examine the data with a keen awareness that finite man, apart from divine revelation, can never be sure about the structure of the universe; that sinful man—whose faculties (according to the Bible) are fallen—is always biased and subject to error; and that as a result of all this, scientific theories about the nature of the universe are always in flux. In short, prudent seekers will be wary of imposing popular cosmological models on the biblical data, no matter how deeply entrenched in the culture they may be. Knowing that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, they will try to let the Bible speak in it owns terms (1 Cor. 1:27). And when they do, they will find that it speaks geocentrically from Genesis to Revelation.

Fourthly, the fact that the Bible uses common sense language to describe the motions of the heavenly bodies should actually be seen as an argument against a phenomenological interpretation. All agree that the Scriptures do indeed reflect our common sense impression of an Earth at rest beneath a revolving heaven full of lights. But this argues against geocentrism only if we assume that heliocentrism is true, and that God, in the Bible, is “accommodating” himself to our scientific weakness by using the language of everyday experience. Yet surely it is just as reasonable to assume that God chose the language of common sense in order to confirm the testimony of common sense. Indeed, of the two options this is clearly the better, since God himself is surely the author of common sense. Why, then, would he deceive us twice: First by inclining us to feel that the Earth is at rest in the center of the universe (as indeed most ancient pagan cosmologists taught), and then again by couching his revelation in language that would only serve to confirm this (false) impression? When Goethe said that Copernicanism overthrows “the witness of the senses,” he put his finger upon a telltale heart. The senses do indeed bear witness to cosmic geocentrism, and have not ceased to do so all these 500 years since Copernicus stepped forward to contradict them. Why is this so?

Fifthly, the fact that occasional Bible passages use figurative language to describe the shape of the Earth does not entail that the geocentric passages are figurative as well. Yes, the scriptures sometimes refer to “the ends of the Earth” (Psalm 72:8; Isaiah 40:28; Matthew 12:42), or to “the four corners of the Earth” (Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1), or to “”the pillars of the Earth” (1 Samuel 2:8; Job 9:6; Psalm 75:3). We can be sure, however, that all such expressions really are intended figuratively. This is usually evident from the contexts in which they appear, but even more so from the important fact that still other passages speak of the sphericity of the Earth, thus directly contradicting them (Job 26:7; Prov. 8:27; Isaiah 40:22; Luke 17:34-36). Moreover, the foundational cosmological text of the Bible (Genesis 1:1-19) gives no hint whatsoever of a flat, four-cornered Earth set upon its pillars. When, however, we read it in conjunction with the other biblical passages cited above—and bring to our reading both common sense experience and a wealth of compelling scientific observation—we see immediately that biblical cosmology everywhere presupposes not only the sphericity of the Earth, but the sphericity of the heavens as well.

In sum, the geocentric passages—unlike those describing the shape of the Earth—are abundant, consistent, and undergirded by explicitly cosmological texts. This is why history provides us with no biblical theologians who believed in a flat Earth, but with many who believed that the sun, moon, and stars go around a spherical Earth situated at rest in the midst of all (here).

This brings us to our sixth and final point: If geocentrism is not true, then the truthfulness of God is impugned. The argument here is straightforward. According to the Bible, God is the author of common sense, a common sense that inclines us to view the universe geocentrically (Psalms 94:8-11; Prov. 20:12). Also, he himself has directly spoken of a sun that rises and sets (Ex. 22:3, 26; Lev. 22:7; Isaiah 45:6; Mal. 1:11). Moreover, he himself was inspiring all the biblical authors when they wrote, believingly, of an Earth at rest “in its place” and of a sun revolving in its circuit around the Earth (Job 9:6; Psalm 19:6; Prov. 30:5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Thus, in manifold ways the God of the Bible gives us a definite and powerful impression of a geocentric cosmos. Furthermore, until Copernicus, this was precisely the impression that God’s people took from his Book. To say, then, that geocentrism is untrue is to say that God has given us a false impression. But this is to impugn the truthfulness of the God of truth, the God who cannot lie, the God who would not have his people ignorant, and the God in whom there is no darkness at all (Num. 23:19; Isaiah 65:16; John 8:40; 1 John 1:5).

  1. Joshua’s Long Day

These considerations bring us to a brief discussion of Joshua’s Long Day. This well-known Bible story, which served as a potent theological weapon against the early Copernicans, is among the most impressive bastions of geocentricity to be found in Scripture. As we are about to see, it not only powerfully resists “phenomenological” interpretations, but also contributes decisively to their demise. Let us turn to it now.

In Joshua 9-10 we read of Joshua and the Israelites going to war against a great confederacy of Canaanite kings. When the battle was finally joined, God worked mightily in behalf of his people, strengthening them for victory in direct combat, and further assisting them by casting down hailstones upon their foes. Joshua, however, found that he needed still more time to complete the rout. So he petitioned God, thereby securing a final intervention that stood out far above all the rest:

Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and O Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people avenged themselves of their enemies. Is this not written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. —Joshua 10:12-14, cf; Habakkuk 3:11

Observe first that “Joshua spoke to the LORD.” Presumably, this means that he asked for further help in completing the defeat of the Amorites, whereupon God explicitly authorized him to issue his forthcoming command in the sight of all Israel (John 5:19; 1 Corinthians 4:7). Now if this is so, it means that Joshua’s very words to the sun and moon were, like the miracle itself, God’s idea. But if this is so, it means that God himself presupposed the sun to be moving, or else he would never have spoken to Joshua as he did. For if heliocentrism were true, then God, in the interest of speaking and teaching truth to his people, would surely have told Joshua to say, “Earth, stand still beneath the sun!” But he did not, presumably because heliocentrism is not true (Numbers 20:8).

Notice next that our passage tells us twice that the sun did indeed stop. This double affirmation may well reflect God’s ancient mandate that in the giving of public testimony every matter must be established by two or more witnesses (Deut. 17:6, 19:15; 2 Corinthians 3:1). If so, it implies that we should give special consideration to the magnitude, uniqueness, and importance of the miracle here affirmed. In other words, the double affirmation signals that we are to take this testimony seriously, as all who consent to the divine inspiration of the Bible must.

Finally, we must not overlook the significance of the moon’s having stood still as well. For what is the simplest, most natural implication of this notable fact, if not that the sun, just like the moon, normally makes a daily circuit above the Earth? The text says that sun and moon both stopped. Therefore, the sun and moon both were moving, and moving with the same kind of (orbital) motion. Moreover, we may be sure that the “real” miracle was not, as some heliocentrists have suggested, that the Earth stopped rotating on its axis beneath the sun. For if that had been the case, then it is indeed true that the motion of the moon would not have been apparent to the Israelite’s naked eye; however, since the heliocentric model also posits a monthly journey of the moon around the Earth, the moon would still have been in motion. Yet the Bible says it stood still. For all these reasons pre-Copernican interpreters took this text at face value: They confessed that the sun and moon really did pause in their regular motions above a stationary Earth.

But modern interpreters, constrained by their allegiance to the Copernican theory, have been forced to depart from simplicity and seek out exotic, non-geocentric explanations. Indeed, they have proven endlessly inventive in doing so. Some, of course, simply reject the story out of hand, calling it a mere legend. Others, trying to reconcile their Copernicanism with an inspired Bible, argue that God specially refracted the light of the sun and moon; that he temporarily changed the inclination of the axis of the Earth so that Gibeon became the North Pole for one day; that he slowed the rotation of the Earth, or placed clouds over the sun, or caused his people (fortuitously) to hallucinate a longer day. The list goes embarrassingly on. (See here)

All of these strained interpretations have one common and painfully obvious flaw: They are motivated by a desire to avoid the plain sense of the text. The text says that the sun and moon stood still. Logically, this entails that they were first in motion, then stopped, and then—after about a day, when victory was complete—began to move again. Admittedly, none of this logically requires that the Earth itself remained at rest beneath the sun and moon. Most would agree, however, that this is by far the most natural conclusion. Moreover, when our text is read in light of the Bible’s pervasive geostationism, that conclusion becomes positively compelling.

Seekers of cosmological truth should understand that the story of Joshua’s Long Day (along with one or two others like it) is an especially important piece of biblical testimony since, among other things, it so powerfully anchors down the geocentric interpretation of the rest of the Earth-sun passages in the Bible. To say the same thing negatively, it decisively refutes the phenomenological interpretation of those passages. And indeed, some would say it was providentially designed to do so. Yes, in speaking of the rising and the setting of the sun the biblical authors speak of how things appear. But the story of Joshua’s Long Day—confirmed as it is by widespread extra-biblical evidence—assures us that how things appear is how they really are.3  So does the cosmology of Genesis 1. So does the fact that the God of the Bible always tells the truth. So does the fact that he could easily have told us something else if something else were the truth. So does the fact that he hasn’t.

In sum, the biblical narrative of Joshua’s Long Day wonderfully focuses our attention on the central issue in our quest for cosmological reality: Whom shall we trust to tell us how things really are? Modern science says that the Earth really revolves around the sun, and that the Bible is therefore in error, or that it must be interpreted phenomenologically. The God of the Bible says that the sun—along with the heavens themselves—revolves around the Earth, and that modern science, insofar as it contradicts his word, must be in error. Honesty compels us to admit that the two views and the two antagonists cannot be reconciled. It appears, then, that honest seekers must be willing to search out the truth for themselves, and to stand up bravely for it when he finds it, no matter how foolish it may seem to the world ( 1 Cor. 4:10).

  1. The Argument from Typology

We come now to a further class of passages often held to support radical geocentrism, passages in which the sun “typifies” the Messiah: the divine Son who “goes down” from heaven to the Earth below to secure his people’s redemption, and who then “rises” from its depths to carry the light of salvation from east to west, and so to the whole world.

By way of introduction let us note that the biblical writers consistently treat nature as “God’s other book”—as another appointed vehicle of his self-revelation to the world. In “general revelation” God uses the book of nature to reveal certain general truths about himself to the generality of mankind. These truths include his existence, eternity, power, intelligence, goodness, etc. In “special revelation” God uses the words of Scripture to reveal certain special truths that man cannot read in the book of nature. These include the answers to the ultimate questions of life, and especially the answer to our urgent questions about eternal rescue from evil, suffering, and death, and eternal restoration to the fullness of life.

If, however, man cannot discover these special truths simply by studying nature, it does not necessarily follow that nature is silent about them. As a matter of fact, Jesus and his apostles did not view nature as being silent about them. On the contrary, they taught that under the light God’s special revelation believers can henceforth see and understand nature in a whole new way. In particular, they (the believers) can see that God has fashioned all things—including nature itself—with a view to glorifying his Son and supplying tangible vehicles for communicating the great truths of redemption. In other words, they can now read “God’s other book” as heralding, celebrating, and confirming the things of Christ.

Here, then, is the reason why we find Jesus and the apostles declaring that rocks (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4), trees (Romans 11:24; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 2:7), water (John 7:37), bread (John 6: 35, 48), vines (John 15:1f) and many other material objects all speak mystically of (the things of) Christ. But if this is so, it should hardly surprise us to find that the Bible, in many places, symbolizes or “typifies” Christ and the things of redemption by referring to the sun and its motions (Psalm 89:36; Matthew 17:2; Acts 26:13; Revelation 1:16). Moreover, when we examine these passages closely, we realize that they speak, not only of the things of Christ, but also (in favor) of a radically geocentric cosmos as well.

Perhaps the most impressive of these passages is Malachi 4:1-2, where we find God speaking through the prophet as follows:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes all who do wickedly, will be as stubble. And the day which is coming will burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts. “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings. And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.”

Most interpreters regard this as a Messianic prophecy. In context, the rising of the Sun of Righteousness refers to the coming again of Christ at the end of the age, when he will judge the world in righteousness and consummately “heal” his people by raising them bodily to eternal life in God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:36-43; John 5:24-29). Nevertheless, the NT also affirms that the Sun of Righteousness has already risen, though not yet consummately. Christ now shines as the light of the world (John 1:5, 8:12, 9:5). His light now heals the (spiritually) sick of the world, (Acts 3:11, 8:7; Hebrews 12:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Thus, our text also refers to present blessings, presently enjoyed by all who believe in the Messiah.

How has all of this come to pass? Essentially, it is through the twofold work of the divine Sun of Righteousness. First, this Sun “went down.” That is, the divine Son humbled himself to incarnation as a man, then to death on a cross, and finally to burial in a borrowed tomb. As Jesus himself said, “I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38, 41, 51, 58; Ephesians 4:7-10; Philippians 2:5-8). Thus, the setting of the astronomical sun pictures Christ’s manifold humiliation.

But secondly, this Sun also “rose.” That is, the divine Son was exalted by God unto a resurrection from the dead, an ascension into heaven, and a seat at God’s own right hand, whence, by means of his Spirit working through his obedient people, he henceforth encircles the Earth, sun-like, bringing to the nations the light and warmth of the gospel (Psalm 50:1, 113:3; Isaiah 45:6; Romans 10:18). Thus, the rising of the astronomical sun, as well as its circuit, pictures the full scope of Christ’s exaltation. Notably, it is all but impossible to read Malachi without thinking in particular of Jesus’ resurrection, which occurred at dawn on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1), just as the sun was rising (Mark 16:2). The NT is clear that for all who “see” this risen Son and believe on him, a new Day—a day of everlasting rejoicing—has begun (Matthew 29:9; Luke 1:78; John 6:40, 8:56).

The geocentric implications of this constellation of texts are evident. According to the Bible, God himself has established a definite correlation, both in nature and in Scripture, between the work of the sun and the work of his Son. This correlation strongly supports radical geocentrism, the idea that the sun (and all the heavenly wanderers) moves around an Earth at rest. For it is clear that in the work of redemption it is the Son who does all the moving. As we just saw, he is the one who came down out of heaven, and he is the one who came (in) to the world (John 16:28). Moreover, such divine initiative was absolutely necessary, since man, being absolutely dead in trespasses and sins, could not make a single move towards the Son (John 6:44, 65; Romans 3:11; Ephesian 2:5). Now if God desired to embed these profound truths in his other book (i.e., the book of Nature), how better or more impressively than by having the astronomical sun—in humble, life-giving subservience—go down and rise upon an Earth that sits absolutely still with the stillness of the grave (Mark 10:45; John 11:1f; Phil. 2:5f)? We conclude, then, that “sun” passages like Malachi 4:1-2—and the great truths of redemption that they typify—do indeed support cosmic geocentrism.

Let us complete this section by looking again at Psalm 19:4-6, already cited above. Just like the passage in Malachi, this text also seems to have the sun typifying Christ at his second coming. For just like the sun, Christ, in that day, will be as a bridegroom coming out of his heavenly chamber (Matthew 25:1f; Mark 2:19; John 14:1-3). Eager to fetch his beloved Bride, he will be as a strong man, rejoicing to run his race. Importantly, his circuit will be from one end of the sky to other (v. 6). This correlates well with Jesus’ own description of his return, in which he said, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to west, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). Observe also from our text that no one will be hidden from the heat of this sun when it finally appears. John the Revelator says much the same thing, crying, “Behold, he is coming with clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him (Matthew 26:64; Revelation 1:7). But how can this be unless Christ, like the sun, makes at least one circuit around the globe, safely gathering his Bride to his side, even as he consigns his enemies to the final judgment (v. 6, cf. Matthew 13:42, 50; Luke 17:34-36)?

We see, then, that the typology of Psalm 19:4-6 richly supports the idea of cosmic geocentrism. For just as Christ one day will “rise” and circle the Earth at his coming again, so even now the sun rises and circles the Earth, both promising and warning all nations that the great Day of the Lord—the Day of Christ—is soon to come (Psalm 50:1f; Philippians 1:10, 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

  1. The Argument from Eschatology

Let me conclude this essay with a final argument from biblical eschatology: the Bible’s teaching concerning the wrap-up of world history and the future state of the universe.

According to the biblical writers, history is moving inexorably towards an awesome consummation of God’s redemptive work in the universe, a consummation that will occur when Christ comes again at the end of the age. In that day he himself will create “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 22:21). Importantly, this creation is actually a re-creation. That is, the old cosmos—and especially the Earth—will not be annihilated, but rather transformed into a (radically) new cosmos (Romans 8:18f; 1 Corinthians 7:31, 15:35-49; Philippians 3:21). In the Revelation the apostle John gives us some tantalizing glimpses of the new and eternal world to come. Having just described the resurrected and glorified people of God under the imagery of a city that descends onto the Earth as a Bride adorned for her husband, John says of her, the New Jerusalem:

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God illuminated it and the Lamb was its light…They shall see His face and His name shall be on their forehead. And there shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. —Revelation 21:23, 22:4-5

This text harmonizes with many others found throughout the Bible, indicating that the sun, moon, and stars will all be dissolved in the end-time conflagration, and also that they—along with darkness itself—will never again be created (Isaiah 13:10, 24:23, 34:4; Joel 2:10, 31; Zephaniah 1:15; Matthew 24:29; 2 Peter 3:10). As John said, God and Christ alone will be the light of the world in the world to come (Isaiah 60:19-20; Zechariah 14:6-7; Matthew 17:1f). The question therefore arises: What part of the old universe does manage to pass through the end-time cataclysm so as to enjoy continuing existence in the eternal Kingdom? The biblical answer is spectacularly clear: only a fully transformed Earth, so firmly established in its place that it “cannot be moved forever” (Psalm 93:1, 104:5; Ecclesiastes 1:40).

Here, then, is yet another line of evidence favorable to cosmic geocentrism. For it is evident from Scripture that the world to come is, in several important respects, exactly like the world as it was before the fourth day of the good beginning: suspended once and for all—majestic, unmoving, and immovable—in the midst of space, and in the midst of God’s loving presence and watch-care. The only real difference is that in the future world, night (a symbol of spiritual darkness) has given way to perpetual day, and periodic illumination to the perpetual light of the glory of God. With the luminaries gone and astronomical time abolished, the consummated Kingdom breathes an atmosphere of eternity, though time itself endures forever. Thus, in biblical perspective, the “day” of the luminaries is surprisingly short and quite temporary: For just a few thousand years out of a whole eternity they shine, move, and at the last move on. But the Earth does not move on. Like God himself, it abides unmoved and immovable, forever.


In our survey of biblical teaching on the structure of the universe we have encountered an impressive body of evidence favorable to the idea of cosmic geocentrism. This includes the Bible’s foundational cosmological passage (Genesis 1:1-19); passages that depict the Earth as being at rest and immovable in the midst of all; passages that depict the sun (and the stars) as revolving around the Earth; Joshua’s Long Day, along with extra-biblical evidences for it; Messianic types indicating that the sun daily encircles the globe; and passages depicting the Earth as the only “world” in the world to come. Moreover, we have seen that in many ways the Bible positively discourages a “phenomenological” interpretation of the relevant texts.

Here, then, is why Christians understood their Bible geocentrically for over 1000 years: For all the reasons just cited, it seemed like the sensible thing to do. Here also is why Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, strenuously resisted Copernicanism for some 200 years, leaders such as Martin Luther (1483-1546), Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), John Calvin (1509-1604), Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Gilbert Voet (15881676), Abraham Calovius (1612-1686), John Owen (1616-1683), and Francis Turretin (1623-1687). These men ran deep. Well able to understand the science of their day, and well acquainted with it, they nevertheless remained convinced that the Bible spoke more clearly and more authoritatively about the structure of the cosmos than did the scientists. Said Martin Luther in the midst of the tumult: “Even in these things which are thrown into disorder, I believe the Holy Scriptures.” John Calvin concurred, reaffirming on the basis of God’s inerrant word that, “The heavens revolve daily, immense as is their fabric and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions.”

But again, the center did not hold. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, incorporated by Newton into a powerful new system of celestial mechanics, seemed too compelling. Since Newton’s system described and predicted the motions of the heavenly bodies so well (though not perfectly), most concluded that its underlying heliocentrism must be true. And with few exceptions, most continued to reckon it as true for the next 200 years. Little did they imagine, however, that fresh theoretical insights and new astronomical observations would soon enable even the staunchest opponents of biblical revelation to contemplate a geocentric universe once again.



  1. Hebrew scholar Dr. Thomas Strouse writes, “Insurmountable arguments for interpreting Genesis 1:1 as the the title for the chapter are the following: 1) the expression “the heavens and the earth” consistently refers to the completed creation of God (Genesis 14:9; Psalm 121:2; Matthew 24:35; etc.); 2) the completed cosmos of v.1 cannot exist contemporaneously with the incomplete cosmos of vv. 2-19; 3) the verb ‘bara’ refers to a finished creation; and 4) the ‘waw’ of v.2 (i.e., the “and” introducing the verse) is disjunctive, thus not giving consecutive action, since it is attached to a non-verb (i.e., and the earth).” Also, the heading of the complementary creation account of Genesis 2 (found at 2:5) suggests that the analogous verse in Genesis 1 serves the same funciton.
  2. I am indebted to Dr. Martin Selbrede for his close examination of James 1:17. It is found in his video, Geocentricity: The Scriptural Cosmology.
  3. In his book, A Geocentric Primer, Dr. Gerry Bouw cites many stories from around the world referencing either a long day, a long night, or a long sunset. For example, with regard to an unusually long and frightening night, the Mayan Book of Princes states, “They did not sleep, they remained standing, and great was the anxiety of their hearts and their stomachs for the coming of the dawn and the day…’O, if only we could see the rising of the sun! What shall we do now?’…They talked, but they could not calm their hearts, which were anxious for the coming of the dawn.” Concerning the widespread historical evidence for a global long day, Bouw writes, “That some peoples have tales of a long night, while others tell of a long day, while none have both a long day and a long night tale signifies that Joshua’s Long Day is not one account, originating in the mid-East, which has migrated all over the world. For if such were the case, then all nations would tell of a long day and none would tell of a long night, let alone a perfectly placed long sunset. So we must conclude that Joshua’s Long Day was a real, historical event and not some fiction” (Primer, p. 61). For further historical confirmation of Joshua’s Long Day, click here.





Note: This is the second of two essays dealing with cosmic geocentrism: the idea that the Earth sits at rest at the center of a rotating universe. The first dealt with biblical testimony favorable to cosmic geocentrism; this one deals with the scientific. I have extracted most of the material for these articles from my book on biblical cosmology, In Search of the Beginning: A Seeker’s Journey to the Origin of the Universe, Life, and Man (Redemption Press). For documentation of the statements made in this essay, see the book itself, along with the end notes. My book, plus others referenced in it, contains much additional information about the development of modern cosmological views, and also about the scientific evidence—often suppressed—supporting cosmic geocentrism. If you find this subject of interest, please consult these longer works, and also the resources that I have occasionally linked to remarks you will find in these articles. God bless you as you embark on your journey to the center of the universe!


“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth?”
Job 38:33

In the previous essay we examined the testimony of the Bible concerning the structure of the cosmos. In so doing we found that Scripture consistently pictures the Earth at the center of the physical universe, and this for the excellent reason that the Earth and its human inhabitants lie at the center of the Triune God’s affections, purpose, and plan for his creation.

Now it is time to consider a second witness in the great debate about cosmic structure: natural science.

In approaching this subject we must be careful to ask the right question. I believe it is this: Do the findings of natural science at all speak up in favor of cosmic geocentrism? Now if, as I argued earlier, our life in this world is essentially a test of our love of the truth about God and the other great questions of life, then they certainly should. For how could the God who created the universe, reason, and human ability in natural science give us a revelation that runs altogether contrary to the universe, reason, and sound natural science? In other words, if the Bible really is God’s word to mankind, its cosmological statements should be reasonable, and, to a reasonable extent, verifiable by means of good evidence. And this includes God’s statements about the geocentric structure of the universe.

Note carefully, however, what the question here is not. It is not, “Does natural science prove cosmic geocentrism?” Natural science cannot prove any model of the universe, since natural scientists are unable to observe the universe in all places and at all times. So then: The real question is: “Are geocentric models of the cosmos scientifically plausible? Is there good observational evidence to back them up? Are they at least as reasonable—or possibly even more reasonable—than the prevailing a-centric model?” Well, surprisingly enough, a growing number of modern physicists and astronomers are now returning an enthusiastic answer of “yes” to all these questions!

In what follows I will touch briefly on the main lines of scientific argumentation favorable to the idea of cosmic geocentrism, beginning with theoretical considerations and then progressing to specific experiments and observations. Since I have neither the space nor the expertise to speak on these subjects at length, more scientifically inclined readers should consult the books, articles, videos, and websites that  appear in the “links” section of my website, and also in the notes at the end of this essay.

Arguments from Theory

  1. The Trend Towards Relativity

The first line of argumentation is the modern trend towards relativity—a trend that, paradoxically enough, actually restores geocentrism as a viable cosmological option.

Consider, for a moment, the crucial role of the assumptions, or presuppositions, that we bring to the study of the cosmos. We know, for example, that medieval cosmology in the West was grounded upon a biblically-based metaphysical assumption that (with the help of Ptolemy) endured up until the time of Copernicus: absolute cosmic geocentricity. However, with Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, that assumption changed: Now the sun stood at the center of a finite material universe, while the Earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun beneath “the fixed stars.” Later on, Kant retained a cosmic center, but denied pride of place to our solar system. And after that, theoretical cosmology more or less abandoned that idea, realizing that it was indeed an assumption, and that the methods of natural science could not, in any case, discover or demonstrate a center, since, according to the Galilean/Newtonian principle of relativity, we are unable to determine absolute motion or rest by direct observation. Finally, Einstein stepped forward and made what is surely a philosophical and scientific faux pas: Daringly, he introduced a new metaphysical assumption: absolute relativity. According to this assumption, there is no such thing as absolute motion or rest, an absolute truth which entails that a cosmic center cannot exist. Seekers of cosmological truth should understand that in our day, this conviction of an a-centric cosmos—and not textbook heliocentrism—is the view that prevails in the scientific world.

Said Dr. Arnold Sikkema:

No physicist I know says that the Earth in any absolute sense travels around the sun . . . Science today does not claim that there is an absolute reference frame in which the Earth is moving. Newton thought that, but after Einstein, no informed scientist still makes that claim.

Similarly, Bertrand Russell wrote:

Whether the Earth rotates once a day from west to east, as Copernicus taught, or the heavens revolve once a day from east to west, as his predecessors believed, the observed phenomena will be exactly the same. This shows a defect in the Newtonian dynamics, since an empirical science ought not to contain a metaphysical assumption.

This is a most revealing statement. Because of the modern trend towards relativity, Mr. Russell faults Newton’s cosmology as unscientific. He asserts that an empirical science (e.g., cosmology) ought not to contain a metaphysical assumption (i.e., Newton’s assumption of absolute heliocentricity). However, if this is so, then surely cosmology ought not to assume absolute relativity. True, we cannot observe absolute rest or motion. Nor can we observe the center of the universe (if indeed there is one). But do these observational limitations really justify our saying that absolute rest, absolute motion, and an absolute cosmic center absolutely do not exist? Surely not, for again, that would be to introduce exactly what Mr. Russell condemns: a metaphysical assumption—a metaphysical assumption of absolute relativity. This is what Einstein did in his Theory of Relativity. But, says Russell, he was quite unscientific in doing it. For in the end, the post-Copernican trend towards relativity does not rule out the possibility of absolute motion, absolute rest, or an absolute center; it only confronts us with our inability to observe or ascertain them scientifically. Accordingly, the modern trend towards relativity does not rule out a geocentric universe.

Happily, some modern cosmologists are wise and honest enough to admit it. They include men like S. Hawking and G. Ellis, who confessed that it is impossible to do cosmology without metaphysical assumptions; that their preferred a-centric universe contains an “admixture of ideology”; that they have arbitrarily embraced a “democratic” view of the cosmos, rather than grant to the Earth or to mankind any special place therein. Similarly, we have the words of Sir Fred Hoyle, who declared—albeit rather reluctantly—, “The Earth-centered hypothesis is as good as anybody else’s, but no better.” Here, Hoyle speaks for all clear-thinking relativists, openly admitting that the modern trend towards relativity has not ruled out cosmic geocentrism, but has in fact made it a viable cosmological option once again.

However, in one respect Hoyle is surely mistaken. For what if an ever-growing mass of direct observational evidence actually favored the geocentric view? Furthermore, what if the Unknown God has given us a well-attested scriptural revelation that positively teaches this view? Under such circumstances would not the geocentric model become, far and away, the better hypothesis—and therefore the most reasonable to believe?

  1. The Proliferation of Geocentric Modeling

Since the idea of relativity leads inexorably to a fresh consideration of cosmic geocentrism (and therefore quite possibly to its own demise), it should hardly surprise us that 20th century physics is marked by a noteworthy proliferation of geocentric models. We will briefly discuss them here.

In order to be viable, any model of the cosmos must satisfy two basic criteria. First, it must “save the appearances.” That is, it must enable us to understand and even predict the observed motions and appearances of the heavenly bodies (e.g., the path and phases of the moon, the path of the sun, the Earth’s four seasons, the path of the planets, the retrograde motion of the planets, various “perturbations” of the planets, the path of the stars, etc). Down through the years Ptolemy gave us one such system of celestial kinematics, Copernicus another, Tycho Brahe yet another, and Kepler and Newton another still, until at last the modern turn to relativity seemed to eliminate any hope of arriving at a definitive picture of the actual motions of the heavenly bodies. Might a renewed confidence in the geocentric cosmology of the Bible supply us with such a picture? Perhaps. But for it to do so, it must—like any good model—“save the appearances.”

Secondly, a viable cosmology will also seek to give us a plausible system of celestial mechanics and dynamics. That is, it will follow in Kepler’s footsteps, trying to explain the physical reasons for the diverse motions of the heavenly bodies. Are these bodies attached to revolving crystal spheres that are propelled by angels? Are they moved by invisible gravitational, centrifugal, and Coriolis forces acting at a distance? Are they rolling around in pockets of curved space-time (whatever that might mean)? Or are they carried along by a dense but invisible ether, rather like fish in a revolving fishbowl, or like boats in a whirlpool? Only heaven knows for sure. But on Earth, we do know that the model with the greatest explanatory and predictive power normally carries the day—until a better one comes along.

Again, the twentieth century has witnessed a surprising proliferation of basically geocentric models of the cosmos, all of which attempt to address the above concerns. Very importantly, the majority of these are “secular,” having been developed by scientists with no explicit interest in, or appeal to, divine revelation. Examples here include the work of P. Gerber, H. Thirring, G. Brown, G. Birkhoff, P. Moon and D. Spencer, J. Nightingale, J. Barbour and B. Bertotti, G. F. Ellis, D. Lynden-Bell, and others. The common component in all or most of these models is Mach’s Principle: the idea that if the universe is indeed a bounded sphere revolving around the Earth, the cosmic rotation will somehow generate forces more or less identical with those we associate with heliocentric physics: centrifugal, centripetal, coriolis, and Euler. After agreeing on this, each embarks in its own direction. Some are based on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, others upon classical Newtonian mechanics, others still upon newer physical models. After discussing a number of these, Christian astronomer G. Bouw concludes:

All of these physicists (and there is not a geocentric Christian in the bunch) conclude that there is no detectable, experimental difference between having the Earth spin diurnally on an axis as well as orbit the sun once a year, or having the universe rotate about the Earth once a day and possessing a wobble centered on the sun which carries the planets and stars about the Earth once a year. In none of these models would the universe fly apart, nor would a stationary satellite fall to the earth. In every one of these models the astronauts on the moon would still see all sides of the Earth in the course of 24 hours, the Foucault pendulum would still swing exactly the same way as we see it in museums, and the Earth’s equator would still bulge. In other words, each of these effects is due to either the centrifugal force, Coriolis force, or some combination of the two, and can be totally explained in any geocentric model.

Such considerations are likely the kind of thing English astronomer G. F. Ellis had in mind when he said, “I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center and you cannot disprove it based on observations.”

Encouraged by these developments, biblically-oriented scientists and philosophers have stepped forward as well. Modern biblical geocentrists include the father of the movement, W. van der Kamp (1913-1998), the heir to his mantle, Dr. Gerardus Bouw, and a growing cadre of thoughtful colleagues including Dr. Russell Arndts, Dr. Robert Bennett, R. G. Elmendorf, Dr. J. Hansen, Dr. Martin Selbrede, Philip Stott, and Dr. Robert Sungenis. Most of these men have daringly devoted a significant portion of their career to rescuing modern physics and cosmology from their thralldom to Relativity Theory, hoping to restore them once again to what they see as their true and proper foundation: the geocentric cosmology of the Bible. Their friends call them prophets, their opponents call them “windmill tilters.” Each seeker will have to decide for himself which description fits best.

Most biblical geocentrists (but not all) champion a slightly modified version of Tycho Brahe’s Earth-centered cosmos, sometimes referred to as the Neo-Tychonic Model (NTM). If we limit ourselves simply to the kinematic side of the model (i.e., to a description of the motions of the heavenly bodies), it is fairly easy to understand. Here, the Earth stands motionless at the center of the universal sphere. The moon, whose orbit wobbles slightly over the course a month, revolves around it daily. As for the planets, they do indeed orbit the sun. But since the sun itself is embedded in the ether, it too, like the moon, revolves daily around the Earth. And since the stars, galaxies, and other astronomical bodies are all “centered on the sun” (that is, embedded with the central sun in the same ethereal frame), it appears to us as if the sun were carrying the entire universe around the Earth. Thus, the Earth truly is at the center, since the moon, the sun, the planets, the stars, the galaxies—the universe as a whole—all revolve around the Earth once a day!

Kinematically speaking, this model is the exact equivalent of the traditional heliocentric view, but with the Earth standing still and everything else in motion. Accordingly, its proponents argue that it does everything the traditional model does. In particular, it is held to account for the observed motions of the planets (including their retrograde motions), the phases of the planets, the phases of the moon, and stellar parallax, commonly held to be one of the definitive proofs of heliocentrism. But as we are about to see, it may do even more, since the NTM is uniquely able to accommodate the various observational evidences favorable to cosmic geocentrism, and since it also proffers a fresh, holistic understanding of the physics of the universe.

Turning now to the dynamic side of the NTM, we find considerably less agreement and considerably more speculation, some of which is quite challenging for the layman to understand. We cannot, however, overly fault the geocentrists on this point, since, unbeknownst to many, the situation in the larger scientific community is certainly no better, and perhaps worse. Yes, with the help of Newton’s equations any physicist can give a basic mathematical description of how gravity and inertial forces work (on the Earth, at least). But the well-kept secret of modern science is that there is little if any agreement as to why, physically speaking, they work as they do—and no end to the resulting hypotheses and speculations about them. Here, then, is where the geocentrists may well have a leg up on their secular peers: Though they are not yet fully united around a single theory of cosmic dynamics, they are at least pretty much agreed in eschewing the bizarre relativistic world of Einstein in favor of a simple, underlying physical cause for the dynamics of celestial motion.

To get a feel for this cause, let us briefly consider some of Robert Sungenis’ thoughts about the structure of the cosmos. According to Sungenis, the Earth lies at the center of a spherical rotating universe full of ether particles. He likens this universe to an immense gyroscope whose enormous mass locks the Earth in place in the midst of all. But what exactly does he mean by “the universe” and “the mass of the universe”? In the following quote he answers these questions, and in doing so implicitly proposes an (astonishing) explanation for the seasons, as well as for other important astronomical phenomena:

What constitutes the sphere of which the Earth is the immobile center? Do the stars themselves define the universal sphere, or is the universal sphere defined by itself? By force of logic we are compelled to say that the stars are merely contained within the universal sphere, but are not necessarily the composite body by which the sphere is defined. This is especially true when we understand that besides the stars and other celestial bodies comprising the universe, the universal sphere has its own substance (i.e., the ether), and thus it has a mass and velocity independent of the stars. It is the universe’s own mass that is rotating around the immobile Earth, and as it does so it carries the stars with it. As such, there is nothing to prohibit the stars from being slightly shifted to one side of the universal sphere and thus have their center on the sun, whereas the universal sphere itself is centered on the Earth. In fact, if that is the case, we would obtain the characteristic precession or “wobble” that we see in so many sectors of the cosmos. All this can be accomplished by keeping the Earth as the immobile center of the universe.

Here we find Sungenis introducing what, for many biblical geocentrists, is the primary physical cause of cosmic dynamics: an all-pervading physical ether that somehow lies behind, or is involved with, gravitational and inertial forces. First, he places the Earth at the center of a rotating spherically symmetrical universe. Second, he fills this universe with ether. Third, he embeds the stars and galaxies in the ether, thus making the universe a gigantic ethereal fishbowl. Fourth, he posits that the stars and galaxies are (intentionally) distributed in such a way as to be “centered” on the sun, rather than the earth. (Does this mean that the stars and galaxies are largely arranged in concentric shells radiating outward from the sun, as astronomical observations now affirm? Or is it simply that, at the largest scale, all the other stars are homogenously distributed around this particular star?) Fifth, he suggests that because of this arrangement the universe “precesses”, or slightly wobbles. This causes the sun, which is itself carried along by the rotating universe, to describe an annual helical motion up and own the Earth’s y-axis. Here then, according to Sungenis, is the reason for the seasons, and for other astronomical phenomena as well.

Again, the dynamical side of geocentric cosmology (and of other systems as well) is essentially based upon the ether, a concept that controlled much of the physics prior to Einstein, and to which post-Einstein scientists are now gradually returning under the influence of new discoveries in quantum mechanics. Dr. Robert Bennett, Sungenis’ colleague, defines the ether as a hugely massive “fluid of quanta” (i.e., tiny particles, the smallest in all creation) that is more rigid than steel, more flexible than any known substance, and that fills (or constitutes) all of space. It is this ether, he argues, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of “the firmament.”

The importance of the ether for geocentric cosmology can be seen in its many functions. Macroscopically, it serves to carry all the stars and galaxies in their daily revolution around the Earth; that is, it is the primary physical cause of cosmic inertia (with the God of providence being the spiritual cause). Its enormous mass locks the Earth at the center of the universe. According to some, vortices or whirlpools of ether account for local rotational motion, say in a spiral galaxy. According to others, streams of ether flowing to us from outer space create a downward ethereal pressure that we on Earth experience as gravity. According to others still, gravity is caused by the ongoing vibration of ether particles, which vibration will always push two material objects together, since there is less “ether pressure” in the space between them than there is elsewhere around them. Furthermore, it seems to be agreed that rotating ether—or rather interactions with it—somehow produces the so-called “inertial forces,” (i.e., centrifugal force, the Coriolis force, and the Euler force). Finally, as in days of old, the ether is seen as the appointed medium for the propagation of electromagnetic waves and gravitational force.

Geocentrists freely admit that their new ether science is still in its infancy, and that there will inevitably be theoretical false starts and dead ends before things come into focus. They are, however, much encouraged. Experimental evidence for the existence of cosmic ether, which began to appear in the 60’s, is now abundant. Secular researchers are increasingly open to the idea that the “vacuum” of space may actually be a plenum of tiny ethereal particles. As a result, the prospect of a new and truly physical physics suddenly looms upon the horizon. For biblical geocentrists this is all to the good, since it raises hopes of a latter day exodus from the maze of Relativity Theory, a fresh look at cosmic geocentrism, and, above all, a return to the God and cosmology of the Bible. In hopes of winning a new generation of seekers to that warm and wonderful world, the geocentrists labor on.

  1. Geocentric Answers to Heliocentric Arguments and Objections

While geocentrists certainly do not claim to have all the answers, they contend that their model has at least as much explanatory and predictive power as the heliocentric. Neither space nor scientific competence permit me to explore this fascinating debate in detail, but we can at least survey the main fields of battle here.

In arguing for the Earth’s rotation on its axis, heliocentrists typically cite: a) the Earth’s equatorial bulge, b) the veering flight of projectiles fired towards the north or south pole from the equator, c) the diagonal, west-to-east pattern of the Earth’s generally north-south winds, d) the “precession” (i.e., arcing motion, rotation) of the plane of gyroscopes or a Foucault Pendulum, and e) the amazing behavior of geostationary satellites (i.e., satellites that hover over a single point on the Earth’s equator).

Beneath the light of Newtonian mechanics, all of these phenomena can indeed be taken to demonstrate a rotating Earth. For example, one can argue that the centrifugal force generated by the Earth’s spin produces its bulge; that geostationary satellites, orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 22,000 miles, are moving synchronously with a point on the Earth’s equator below and being held aloft by a balance of centrifugal and gravitational forces; that winds, projectiles, gyroscopes, or pendulums—all actually moving in approximately straight lines—seem to be veering because the Earth is moving beneath them, thus producing a so-called Coriolis effect.

In response to this line of reasoning, geocentrists typically point out that the same phenomena may be explained at least as well within a geocentric framework. All that is necessary, they say, is to begin with the presupposition that the Earth is at rest with respect to a universe that revolves around it once a day. It is the second part of this presupposition that proves decisive (as well as shocking). For again, many scientists, whether secular or biblical, agree with Ernst Mach, that a revolving cosmos will generate centrifugal and Coriolis forces capable of producing the various effects under discussion. Moreover, the biblical geocentrists throw a revolving ether into the mix, thus enhancing their model by positing a genuinely physical cause for such effects.

If, then, the Earth really does have an equatorial bulge (for satellite photographs do not show one clearly), might this be an effect of a rotating universe, or of distant masses rotating within it? As for the flight of projectiles, the diagonal pattern of winds, and the arcing motion of the Foucault pendulum or the gyroscope, might these also be caused by forces associated with a rotating sea of ether and/or distant masses embedded in it?

Concerning the challenging problem of geostationary satellites, most geocentrists argue that cosmic forces of some kind balance out gravity and hold them aloft. Sungenis illustrates this approach by inviting us to imagine a roulette wheel. There are two ways to put centrifugal force on the marble situated on the inside rim. We can move the marble very fast on a stationary rim, and the marble will cling to the rim due to centrifugal force; or we can rotate the roulette wheel very fast, and the marble will again cling to the rim, again by centrifugal force. The latter option is meant to picture the geocentric solution: A geostationary satellite remains in place at 22,000 miles about the Earth because at that that point the sataellite “experiences” a centrifugal force generated by a rotating universe that exactly matches the centripetal force generated by the Earth’s gravity.

There are other options as well. Robert Bennett, for example, points to peculiarities in the flow of cosmic ether near the Earth, suggesting that, “Ether motion around the Earth can be deduced from satellite motion, since ethereal rotational motion around an object sustains orbital motion.” Thus, a geostationary satellite would remain in place because at an altitude of 22,000 miles the ether, for some reason, is either flowing negligibly or not at all. Still another approach would simply be to say that at 22,000 miles above the Earth the gravitational force generated by precisely situated stars and galaxies cancels out the gravitational force generated by the Earth, the allowing any object in that special zone to remain aloft.

In seeking to prove the Earth’s annual revolution around the sun, heliocentrists typically cite the four seasons, stellar parallax, and its kissing cousin, stellar aberration. They also note that everywhere we look in the solar system, the smaller body (e.g., Jupiter’s moons) revolves around the larger, as indeed Newtonian mechanics seems to require.

Concerning the first of these, we have already seen that geocentrists respond by positing a “wobble” in the rotating universe at large. Yes, to modern minds saturated in heliocentrism this solution will indeed sound far-fetched. It must be remembered, however, that biblical geocentrism tends to be radically theistic; that it is centered upon the God of the Bible, who rhetorically asks all mankind, “Is anything too hard for the LORD” (Genesis 18:14; Matthew 19:26)?

Moreover, the idea of a cosmic wobble—perhaps a slight destabilization of the motion of the original universe—seems to fit well with the Genesis cosmology. The wobble could, for example, be traceable to the Fall of Adam, which, according to the apostle, sent shock waves throughout the entire universe (Romans 8:18-21). On the other hand, it may have begun in the days of the Flood, after which, for the first time, the Bible mentions the four seasons (Genesis 8:22). In either case, the four seasons—and their astronomical cause(s)—would ultimately be traceable to man’s sin, an idea embraced by Christian poets and philosophers who see in this annual cycle a mystical and redemptive significance centered upon Christ.1 Thus, the thesis of a cosmic or solar wobble may not be nearly as preposterous as it first seems.

Geocentrists typically explain stellar parallax by noting that the Copernican and Tychonic models both predict this phenomenon, on the condition that we modify the Tychonic model by centering the stars upon the sun rather than the Earth. Sungenis has developed some helpful graphics to illustrate this point. (See here)

As for stellar aberration, it is different from stellar parallax since the elliptical path described by the annual motion of the stars as seen in our telescopes does not correspond exactly to the (alleged) elliptical path of the Earth. Bradley, as we saw earlier, therefore postulated that stellar aberration was an optical effect produced by two components: light traveling at a finite speed through the ether, and the annual motion of the Earth. However, Robert Bennett argues that there are other explanations for aberration that do not necessitate ascribing motion to the Earth:

Bradley’s results make perfect sense in an ether-filled universe. The effect could be caused by the ether flow or density variation between the star source and the Earth. The light speed changes while traversing the ether medium, bending according to the ether’s properties and hitting the Earth at an angle, moving the image position of the star so as to form an annual ellipse. For example, stars on the equator have no observed North-South aberration component, so the ether flow in the space projected out from the equator has only an East-West flow. Another valid interpretation is that the ether has no net effect on the starlight, but what is observed is, in fact, reality, the actual intrinsic elliptical motion of the stars. The only reason to discard this alternative is Occam’s razor, which makes a subjective human judgment about the (relative) beauty and simplicity (of) two possible conclusions. Occam’s razor sees complexity as an obstacle to human understanding, which it is, but excludes revelation as a valid source of knowledge and is ignorant of God’s perfect simplicity. Having no parts, God finds nothing complex. To Him all things are simple!

Concerning the problem of the smaller body typically orbiting the larger, two responses are customarily made:

First, it is not good logic to say that the pattern seen in the planets must apply to the Earth as well. Obviously, the Earth may be an exception to the rule. Indeed, if the Earth holds a God-ordained, privileged position in the universe, it is only reasonable to expect that it should be an exception, and the sole exception.

Secondly, it is indeed true that Newtonian mechanics requires the smaller body to orbit the larger—if we limit our gravitational calculations to these two bodies alone. But this is precisely what the geocentrists will not permit. Rather, they insist that gravitational and centrifugal forces arising from a rotating universe filled with other massive bodies must be included in the calculations as well (as indeed all good Newtonians would agree is necessary). In other words, they argue that God has so meticulously situated the ether, stars, and galaxies in space that they hold the (presumably) more massive sun in orbit around the (presumably) less massive Earth. R. G. Elmendorf has this very thing in mind when he writes:

In the geocentric model, the function of the Earth is primarily to furnish a small gravitational stabilizing influence to the rest of the universe, not to generate the physical forces of orbital mechanics for everything else.

Now that is some kind of fine-tuning—and one that justly explains how the sun can be reckoned a “planet” that actually revolves around the Earth!

Our discussion thus far has addressed the usual objections to cosmic geocentrism. It remains only to touch on two that are somewhat less common:

First, critics sometimes assert that geocentrism is impossible, since the enormous centrifugal forces generated at the outer edges of the universe would cause it to “fly apart.” One response is to say that such centrifugal force is counterbalanced by an equally enormous gravitational force directed towards the cosmic center (i.e., the Earth). However, the question itself may betray a misunderstanding of the true nature of centrifugal force. If, as some geocentrists assert, centrifugal force is generated by rotational motion against the ether, then it is clear that only objects within the (ether-filled) universe will feel such force, and not the universe itself. In other words, unless our universe were encased within yet another sphere of (rotating) ether, it would feel no centrifugal force working upon it to cause it to stretch or fly apart. And besides this, where would such a universe fly apart to?

Finally, some object that celestial objects situated beyond the so-called Schwarzchild radius (i.e., about 2.6 billion miles out from us, the radius beyond which objects daily orbiting the Earth would exceed the speed of light) would be moving at superluminal speeds, something that is physically impossible. Here, several responses are in order.

First, this objection presupposes the truth of Special Relativity, which posits that the speed of light is a cosmic absolute. However, there is no good reason to believe that Special Relativity is true, and good reasons to believe it is not (see here, here and here) More to the point, however, is the fact that even in Relativity Theory, c is constant only within a given medium, and in particular the so-called “vacuum of space.” Therefore, even if the relativistic view of c were true, this would not constitute a problem for geocentrism, since in that model it is the (outer reaches of the) universe itself that travels at superluminal speeds, not the stars moving within it. In other words, relative to the (ether-filled) universe that carries them along in its bosom, celestial objects beyond the Schwarzchild radius do indeed travel faster than the speed of light. But relative to one another, or to the ether through which they (and their light) are moving locally, all or most of them are traveling at speeds considerably slower than 186,000 mps. On the other hand, it may be that some are indeed traveling through the ether at speeds faster than c, as a number of recent observations seem to suggest, much to the dismay of strict relativists.

I want to close this section on geocentric modeling by stressing once again that science still does not really understand gravity or inertial forces, only how they work locally (i.e., near the Earth), and even then only approximately. Newton thought it preposterous to hold that gravity was an immaterial force acting upon objects from a distance, and he therefore contemplated a number of physical theories of gravity. Einstein’s notion of gravity as a distortion of space-time is incomprehensible, and observations alleged to demonstrate its truth have been challenged or explained on other grounds. Quantum Mechanical views, looking to explain gravity in terms of tiny particles of “space-foam,” may be getting closer to the mark, since the evidence for a kinetic ether is now plentiful. But again, the bottom line is that no one really understands gravitational and inertial forces from a physical point of view.

Moreover, even if we were able to discover an underlying physical cause for these forces, the new knowledge would only inaugurate a fresh search for further causes behind that one. In the end, then, our journey towards a satisfying theory of celestial mechanics must lead us back to the First Cause of all things. For the biblical geocentrist, that cause is God. However many physical links there may be in the great chain of kinetic causation, he is the spiritual anchor that holds them all down. Ultimately, he is the Prime Mover of all that moves. As the Bible puts it, he is the One who causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the Earth; who makes lightning for the rain; and who brings the wind out of his treasuries. He is the One in whom all things live and move and have their being (Psalm 135:7; Acts 17:28). And—according to the geocentrists—he is the one who causes the universe to revolve daily around the earth.

Therefore, urging physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists to lift their sights a little higher, God himself unabashedly asks:

“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season, or guide the Great Bear with her cubs? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the Earth? Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, the One who brings out their host by number and calls them all by name. By the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. —Job 38:32; Isaiah 40:26, 25

Arguments from Observation

  1. No Conclusive Evidence for Earthly Motion

Turning now to observational evidences for cosmic geocenetrism, let us begin by affirming with Einstein’s disciple, Lincoln Barrett, that, “We cannot feel our motion through space, nor has any physical experiment ever proved that the Earth is actually in motion.” Similarly, Henri Poincare wrote, “We do not have, and cannot have, any means of discovering whether or not we are carried along in a uniform motion of translation.”

Though these statements will come as a shock to many, we have already seen why most scientists, in private at least, will admit to their truth. The reason, in a nutshell, is relativity. As Einstein, Hoyle, Hawking and the rest have publicly confessed, relativity makes it impossible to deduce the Earth’s motion from any physical experiment. For example, we have repeatedly seen that the NTM is at least as fruitful as the heliocentric; and that it saves all the appearances and gives acceptable explanations for all the so-called proofs for the Earth’s rotational and translational motion. So who can say what is really moving–the Earth or the sun?

Now, it is true that relativity is a two-edged sword: Just as it precludes observationally demonstrating that the Earth is in motion, so, too, it precludes observationally demonstrating that the Earth is at rest. This does not mean, however, that the evidence does not favor one model over the other. Indeed, a growing number of scientists, many quite reluctantly, are now prepared to admit that there is indeed a large and compelling body of observational evidence favorable both to the geocentric and geostationist views. In the space that remains, let us survey that evidence briefly.

  1. Observational Evidence for Geocentrism

Observational evidence for geocentrism is so varied and so abundant that it now threatens to completely overthrow the Copernican (or Cosmological) Principle, forcing a paradigm-shift on modern cosmology. Capturing the drama of this recent development, Sungenis writes:

After Hubble, all kinds of interesting objects and forces were found in man’s telescopes, e.g., quasars, gamma-ray and X-ray bursters, CMB radiation, and a wide assortment of galaxies and star clusters. To the utter consternation of the world’s scientists, each of the newfound discoveries kept revealing the same startling information—that the Earth was right smack in the center of it all!

In their magnum opus, Galileo Was Wrong, Sungenis and Bennett collate and carefully document all of the new evidence. Some of their discussion is technical and therefore challenging for the scientific layman. Nevertheless, the salient points are clear enough. Citing frequently from their work, I will touch on a few of the most important here.

The Cosmic Microwave Background

First, we have the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB). Though views differ as to its cause, all agree that this so-called black body radiation arrives at the Earth at essentially the same temperature (2.70 K) from all directions in space. In other words, the CMB radiation is almost perfectly isotropic. This means, however, that the Earth must be at or very near the center of the CMB. Joseph Silk expresses the situation this way:

Studies of the CMB have confirmed the isotropy of the radiation, or its complete uniformity in all directions. If the universe possesses a center, we must be very close to it…otherwise excessive observable anisotropy (i.e., non-uniform appearance) in the radiation intensity would be produced, and we would detect more radiation for one direction than from the opposite direction.

As we saw earlier, Big Bang theorists reject Silk’s common sense geocentric conclusion by assuming the inconceivable, namely, that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic; that it has neither edges nor center; and that matter is so evenly distributed throughout it that the heavens (and the CMB) look basically the same from every vantage point. However, since this assumption is highly counterintuitive, and since other evidence points even more decisively to geocentrism, the geocentric interpretation of the CMB seems the more reasonable.

In passing, we should note also that painstaking studies into slight irregularities in the CMB (i.e., so-called anisotropies) have given further credence to geocentricity. In particular, Dr. Max Tegmark’s analysis of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) led him to conclude that: 1) the CMB is not perfectly isotropic, 2) the anisotropies show it to be symmetrically structured, 3) the universe seems to have an axis upon which it rotates (and therefore an equator as well), and 4) that axis passes through the Earth or a point very near to it. In short, the WMAP evidence points to a rotating cosmos with the Earth at its center. So dangerously anti-Copernican were these results, that one author wrote an essay about them entitled, “Axis of Evil Warps Cosmic Background.”

Galactic Red Shifts

Over the last 25 years, beginning with the work of William Tifft, astronomers have carefully measured the red shifts of hundreds of galaxies. Also, they have analyzed the red shifts of several different kinds of galaxies (e.g., individual spiral galaxies, binary clusters, dwarf irregulars, rapidly rotating regulars, etc.). To the astonishment of everyone, the results showed that their red shifts are all “quantized.” That is, the red shifts are not smoothly distributed along a spectrum of numerical values, but bundled in one or another fraction of the most common value, 72 km/ sec. Thus, red shift measurements commonly fall at 12, 24, 36, 72, 144, or 216 km/sec. As Robert Bennett observed, “The probability of this occurring by chance is incalculable.”

But what does it all mean? Well, for the standard Big Bang model it means big trouble. That’s because Big Bang cosmology interprets red shifts as an indicator of galactic recession and spatial expansion. But if this view were correct, the red shifts should be smooth, not quantized. Furthermore, the new observations lead quite naturally to a most geocentric conclusion: The galaxies are situated around the Earth like the layers of an onion. As Tifft himself observed with due scientific caution, “A hierarchy of quantized domains is suggested.” Drawing out the implications of this for Big Bang cosmology, the alarmed writer for Sky and Telescope Magazine complained, “Quantized red shifts just don’t fit into this [standard Big Bang] view of the cosmos, for they imply concentric shells of galaxies expanding away from a central point—Earth.”

Big Bang cosmology wants all galaxies to be receding smoothly one from another, leaving no hint of a cosmic center, and thus confirming the cherished Cosmological Principle. However, the actual observations—now confirmed beyond serious dispute—tell a very different story, putting the Earth at the center and leaving no hint of the Cosmological Principle.

It is, of course, possible to interpret galactic red shifts in other ways. For example, rather than seeing them as “cosmological” (i.e., as indicating recessional velocity), one can view them as “intrinsic” (i.e., as arising from some property within the galaxy itself). This approach would, however, be equally disastrous for the Big Bang, since it would mean that the so-called “Hubble relation” between the red shift, recessional velocity, distance, and age of a given galaxy is non-existent. This in turn would mean that the universe is likely quite small and (relative to Big Bang conclusions) quite young, leaving far too little time for cosmic evolution. Moreover, even if (as the best evidence now indicates) red shifts are not due to recession, the geocentric implications would still remain, for no matter what their cause, red shifts would not appear in our telescopes as systematically quantized unless the Earth were central. As Robert Bennett explains:

If Earth were not central, arcs of each shell would be seen with varying red shifts. In geometry, concentric circles can have but one center. All quantum red shifts indicate that the Earth is the center of this incredible phenomenon. Any other location would break the quantum levels, smearing them out, as was expected prior to the discovery by Tifft.

In closing, let us note also that actual observations do not favor the standard view that galaxies are homogeneously distributed throughout space. To the contrary, galactic distribution—like galactic red shifts—is decidedly geocentric. Physicist Harold Slusher states the case as follows:

If the distribution of galaxies is homogeneous, then doubling the distance should increase the galaxy count eightfold; tripling it should produce a galaxy count 27 times as large. Actual counts of galaxies show a rate substantially less than this. If allowed to stand without correction, this feature of the galaxy count implies a thinning out with distance in all directions, and that we are at the very center of the highest concentration of matter in the universe… This would argue that we are at the center of the universe… When galaxy counts are adjusted for dimming effects, it appears that the number of galaxies per unit volume of space increases with distance. From this we still appear to be at the center of the universe, but now it coincides with the point of least concentration of matter.

Summing up, it appears both from their distribution and the observed red shift of their light that the galaxies are trying to teach us something important: We on Earth are privileged to live in the midst of it all—and we didn’t get there by accident!

Other Celestial Bodies

Like a symphony performing variations on a theme, the universe over and again presents us with celestial objects that are distributed geocentrically in space. We have just seen that the CMB and the galaxies both play their part. Let us look here at a few more.

First, we have gamma ray bursts (GRB’s). Emanating from invisible sources, these enormously powerful bursts of gamma rays “…are equivalent to 1045 watts of energy, which is over a million trillion times as powerful as the sun. The bursts occur at the rate of about one per day, but they are fast fading and random, never occurring in the same place twice.” From this description, we may justly surmise that GRB’s are caused by the explosive death of unknown, star-like objects. Very importantly, careful observation of the location and uniform intensity of the GRB’s leads investigators to the unavoidable conclusion that their sources are situated upon a spherical shell (or shells) whose center is the Earth. As GRB researcher Jonathan Katz observes below, the data create a very disturbing “dilemma” for the followers of Copernicus:

No longer could astronomers hope that the Copernican dilemma would disappear with improved data. The data were in hand and their implication inescapable: We are the center of a spherically symmetric distribution of gamma ray burst sources, and this distribution has an outer edge. Beyond this edge, the density of the burst sources decreases to insignificance.

Note carefully Katz’ emphasis on an outer edge. This is another source of his Copernican dilemma. For unless the GRB’s are distributed evenly throughout all space, they present decisive observational refutation of the Cosmological Principle, according to which no place in the universe is special or unique. The evidence, however, clearly leads to the conclusion that the shell of GRB sources is unique, and that the Earth at its center is uniquer still!

This brings us to a second kind of geocentrically distributed body: quasars. First discovered in the 1960’s, these faintly visible quasi-stellar radio sources display large red shifts, and so (on Big Bang premises) are thought to be very distant and very old. Y. P. Varshni, one of the earliest researchers in the field, studied some 400 quasars and found, to his amazement, that their red shift values effectively bundled them into 57 groups, giving the impression that quasars, much like the galaxies, are situated on concentric spheres, all of which have the Earth at their center. Subsequent observations of some 20,000 quasars have only confirmed Varshni’s findings. His original statement about the significance of this data, though later abandoned under pressure from his colleagues, was impressively direct:

The Earth is indeed the center of the Universe. The arrangement of quasars on certain spherical shells is only with respect to the Earth. These shells would disappear if viewed from another galaxy or quasar. This means that the cosmological principle will have to go. Also, it implies that a coordinate system fixed to the Earth will be a preferred frame of reference in the Universe. Consequently, both the Special and General Theory of Relativity must be abandoned for cosmological purposes.

As we see from Varshni’s own words, quasars produce big problems for relativistic Big Bang cosmology. If the Cosmological Principle is true, why are there no quasars near the Earth? Why are they uniquely centered upon the Earth? How can they travel at superluminal speeds (as indeed they must if they are moving as fast as their red shifts suggest)? Questions like these again cast doubts upon the standard interpretation of red shifts, inviting us to contemplate a small, Earth-centered universe, created by a big, Earth-centered God.

Besides the CMB, galaxies, GRB sources, and quasars, there are quite a number of other celestial objects that play their part in the great geocentric symphony. In surveying them at some length, Sungenis and Bennett discuss such exotic phenomena as BL Lacertae, X-Ray Bursts, Spectroscopic Binaries, Globular Clusters, Quantized Planetary Orbits, and Cosmic Mega-Walls. The breadth and force of the evidence is impressive indeed.

The Uniqueness of the Earth System

Observations to date reveal that the local physical system of which the Earth is a part is cosmically unique. For example, though astronomers think they have found a few stars with a single associated planet, they have certainly found nothing like our own so-called solar system, however we may conceive its actual configuration. Also, they have never discovered a planet that supports life, not to mention a planet inhabited by self-conscious beings such as ourselves. Now the Cosmological Principle predicts that all these phenomena should appear uniformly throughout the universe—hence NASA’s deep space probes and the SETI program. But the facts, so far as we know them, show that they do not. The Earth, and the local system of which it is a part, appear to be very special, even unique. If so, it is only reasonable to think of them as central.

Cosmic Fine Tuning

Here we touch upon a very large body of evidence suggesting that our Earth lies at another kind of center—the center of interest of the One who created it. It includes literally hundreds of phenomena indicating that the Earth, the solar system, and the universe itself have all been fine-tuned to support life on earth.

Scientists know, for example, that there are a great many physical constants in nature, none of which could vary even slightly without shattering the physical integrity of the universe (e.g., gravitational and electromagnetic constants, the mass of elementary particles, strong and weak nuclear forces, etc.). They know also that life could not exist if the sun were a different color, or a different mass, or closer to Earth, or farther from it. The same is true of the moon: If it were only 50,000 miles closer, ocean tides would engulf nearly all the Earth’s land mass twice a day; if slightly further, life in the stagnant seas would die. Or again, if the Earth’s gravity, crustal thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratios, and water vapor and ozone layers were only slightly different, life would perish. Because, on naturalistic premises, this manifold fine- tuning is so improbable, many have concluded that there must be a Fine Tuner who has delicately structured all things for the support and enjoyment of earthly life. In short, cosmic fine-tuning reveals Earth’s inhabitants as the special object of a divine creator’s interest and activity. And if they lie at the center of his interest, is it not reasonable to imagine them at the center of his universe as well?

Summing up on this point, in our brief survey of the evidence for geocentrism we have looked at the CMB, galactic red shifts, miscellaneous heavenly bodies, the uniqueness of the Earth system, and cosmic fine-tuning, also sometimes called the anthropic principle. Any one of these phenomena should give Copernicans pause. Taken together, they are compelling. The Bible declares, “Out of the mouth of two or more witnesses, let every matter be established” (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16). To judge from the manifold observational evidence, the matter of cosmic geocentrism appears to be well-established indeed, presumably at the hand of the Bible’s evidence-loving and evidence-giving God.

  1. Observational Evidence for Geostationism

Just as it is impossible to prove experimentally that the Earth is moving through space, so too it is impossible to prove experimentally that it sits at absolute rest in the center of the universe. Nevertheless, there are several lines of scientific evidence suggesting strongly that this is indeed the case.

First, there are the results of the numerous interferometer experiments. An interferometer is a device specifically designed to detect and measure the speed of the Earth as it moves through space. However, as Michelson and Morley found—much to the dismay of the scientific establishment—their device, and the many successors to it, was unable to detect any significant motion. These experiments do show that: a) there is indeed an ether, b) it is either stationary, with the Earth moving through it at a snail’s pace, or c) the Earth is stationary, with the contiguous ether (i.e., the ether near the Earth’s surface) revolving around it at a snail’s pace. While direct observation cannot decide between these two options, several other lines of evidence agree in declaring that the geostationary option is best (e.g., Biblical teaching, common sense experience, the observational evidences for cosmic geocentrism, etc.).

Secondly, we have the pattern of global air currents. In heliocentric thinking, the observed west-to-east airflow is caused by thermal heating plus the rotation of the Earth on its axis. But in the following quote, Robert Bennett shows how unreasonable this view is, and in so doing gives impressive evidence for a stationary Earth:

We would think that a rotating Earth would drag along the air right at the surface, but the lack of friction and viscosity of air, plus its inertia, would make the air stream behind the ground’s motion form as swirls of cream in a coffee cup. At the equator, which [supposedly] spins at 1,054 mph, there would be a rapid change in the wind profile, from zero on the ground to 1,054 mph at high altitudes. Testing our belief with anemometers, we are surprised to learn, however, that the equatorial winds are quite docile, random, and calm, even at heights. Only the sun’s heat, as it crosses the sky (literally) provides gentle breezes…Moderns, having made great advances in natural understanding, laugh and say, incredibly, that the whole atmosphere co-rotates with the Earth, as if the air were solid! Theists, with a geocentric mind, say with scriptural simplicity “Of course there is no wind—the Earth is fixed forever. It was God who told us so!

Finally, we have the superior usefulness of a fixed-Earth model for astronomical and navigational calculations. After conceding that the heliocentric paradigm does have occasional practical advantages (e.g., for calculating the relative positions of the planets), geocentrist Philip Stott goes on to observe:

Nevertheless, well over 90% of all astronomical calculations are done assuming the Earth is not rotating and is stationary at the center of the universe. All navigation calculations also assume that the Earth does not move and does not rotate.

Notably, this is precisely the testimony of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and other governmental science agencies, all of which concede that global positioning satellites, geostationary satellites, and deep space probes use what is called the Earth Centered Inertial (ECI) frame of reference in planning and executing their launches. In other words, because it works best to do so, these agencies chart their rocket’s courses on the assumption that the Earth is at rest in the midst of the universe. But this invites an important question: Does their assumption work so well because it happens to be the truth?


Though it may well be an emerging trend, cosmic geocentrism is still a radical idea. It cuts hard against the grain of prevailing scientific opinion and sharply challenges a pervasive ideology of progress telling us that we moderns have become wiser than our ancestors. Yet the Test Terspective warns us against any and all smugness, even in the matter before us. So too does the Bible. Together, they declare that the world is a strange place where truth and error ever do battle, where God sorely tests men’s love of the truth, and where he chooses “foolish” things in order to confound the wise (Matt. 11:25f; 1 Cor. 1:27).

In such a world, cosmic geocentrism may well be true. Moreover, from many quarters we have received good evidence for its truthfulness. It is the testimony of common sense (and therefore the testimony of most ancient cosmologies). It is the testimony of the Bible. It is the testimony of sound theoretical and observational science. It promises emancipation from the confusing labyrinth of Relativity Theory. It holds forth the promise of a new, coherent, and holistic physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. But most important of all, it points us to a wise and powerful divine creator, one who very much has the Earth on his mind; a God who shows himself to us in his universe; and a God who calls us back to himself in his Book.

Such considerations will give seekers of cosmological truth pause. Moreover, as they pause—perhaps gazing upward on a clear, moonless night at the mighty vault of heaven—they will better be able to discern the wisdom of the great Swiss mathematician, Leonard Euler (1707-1783), when he said:

In our researches into the phenomena of the visible world we are subject to weaknesses and inconsistencies so humiliating that a (divine) Revelation is absolutely necessary to us. We ought to avail ourselves of it with the most powerful veneration.

On the matter of cosmic structure, shall we not then seriously question the word of man, even as we powerfully venerate the Word of God?


  1. Since, in man’s experience of nature, the four seasons embody a cycle of life and death, Christian interpreters of nature wonder if they mystically point to the truths of redemption. One suggestion is that spring typifies the birth of Christ, who, after millennia of spiritual cold and darkness, brought new life into the world (John 1:4); summer represents the days of his childhood and youth when, like Israel’s crops, he quietly grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52); fall points to the short three-year season of his earthly ministry, when he began to harvest God’s believing children in Israel (Matthew 9:37; John 4:35); winter recalls the dark days of his rejection, death, and burial, in which the light and warmth of the world was seemingly extinguished, and when “no one could work” (John 9:4, 5, 11:9, 12:35). This brings us again to spring, which may also be seen to typify the day of Christ’s resurrection, when he brought life and light back into the world, once and for all, (John 1:5; Romans 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:10). According to a similar (and related) paradigm, spring corresponds to the world in its pre-fall purity and vitality; summer to the first four millennia of mankind’s toil, when God was secretly working (especially in Israel) to prepare a global harvest; fall to “the fullness of time,” now some two millennia long, throughout which Christ, by means of the Church, harvests a people from all nations; winter to the end-time tribulation and agony of the true spiritual Church; and spring to the eternal season of light and life, inaugurated by Christ’s coming again, the resurrection of the dead, and the creation of new heavens and a new Earth.

THE LORD is mid-way through his Olivet Discourse. He has just revealed to his disciples the various signs that must occur prior to his providential coming in AD 70, and also his supernatural Coming at the end of the age. In a moment he will complete the discourse by speaking of the Judgment (Matt. 25:31–46). However, before doing so he desires to draw out some practical applications of the truths he has spoken so far.

He begins by admonishing his disciples—all of them—to watch for the signs of his Coming. To this end he bids them learn a lesson from the fig tree: When they see it put forth its leaves, they know that summer is near. Likewise, when they see “all these things”—all the signs he has just spoken of—they can know that his eschatological Coming (vv. 29-31) and the end of the present evil age are at hand (vv. 32–33).

But how do we know that his eschatological Coming is in view, and not his providential coming? We know it because “all these things” (i.e., all these signs) include events that did not occur prior to 70 AD: the global proclamation of the gospel (v. 14), the universal hatred of Christians (v. 9), the appearing of the eschatological Abomination that Causes Desolation (i.e., the Antichrist; v.15), unprecedented and unparalleled tribulation (v. 21), false messiahs and prophets who work deceptive signs and wonders (v. 24), and dreadful portents in the sky and sea (v. 29; Luke 21:25-26). All the saints must watch for all these things; and when they see them happen they must lift up their heads, for in those days the Parousia, the Consummation, and the fullness of their redemption will be near, even at the door (v. 33; Luke 21:28)!

Having thus outlined the remaining years of Salvation History, the Lord now solemnly pledges: “I tell you the truth: This generation will by no means pass away till all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:34-35). These verses are quite difficult, and have therefore generated a host of interpretations, some of which I will touch on before briefly sharing my present view.

Note first his preface: “I tell you the truth.” This strong affirmation fits hand in glove with verse 35, where he states that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words never will. The meaning? “My words—my predictions, warnings, and promises—come straight from the divine Creator and King of heaven and earth. They are eternal, true, and trustworthy. In the face of all events, temptations, and persecutions you can take them to the bank.”

In much the same spirit, Jesus then says, “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things have taken place.” What did he mean by “this generation”? We cannot answer with confidence until we know what he meant by “all these things?” Now in light of verse 33, it is possible that he meant the various signs previously mentioned, but not the Parousia itself. Here, however, the expression seems to be all-inclusive. His solemn “I tell you the truth,” plus his reference to the passing of the (present) heavens and the earth (v. 35), both suggest that in addition to the signs of his Coming, he also had in mind his Parousia, the Consummation, and the advent of the new cosmos itself.

What, then, did he mean by “this generation”? The Greek is genea. Undeniably, the Lord customarily used this word to refer to his contemporaries: the Jewish men and women of his own generation (Matt. 11:16; 12:30, 38-42; 16:4; 17:17, etc.). Insisting that he was doing so here, theological liberals, rejecting a divine Christ and an inerrant Bible, assert that he was simply wrong. We dare not follow them.

Others—our preterist brethren—agree that Jesus was referring to his own generation, but assert that in speaking of the signs of his Coming (vv. 3-28), and of his Coming itself (vv. 29-31), he was largely using figurative, apocalyptic language to describe the events of AD 33-70, events that would culminate in Titus’s destruction of Jerusalem. But this “mystical” interpretation cannot possibly be correct, since it is obvious that throughout his discourse the Lord was making straightforward historical predictions about his providential coming on the one hand, and his supernatural and cosmological Coming on the other. The former has come to pass; the latter—and many of the events that must precede it—has not. And so we watch.

Still other interpreters, noting that genea can sometimes mean race, believe that the Lord was referring to the Jews (cf. Matt. 13:15; 15:8, Luke 21:23), whether as an obdurate people who will remain under God’s wrath until the Judgment (Hoekema), or as a beloved people from whom God, in love and mercy, will continually save a remnant down to the very end (Hendriksen). Seeing, however, that the thrust of the discourse is to prepare the whole Church—both Jew and Gentile—for her age-long pilgrimage into the World to Come, this ethnic interpretation seems far too narrow, and is therefore unlikely.

Given, then, the vast historical scope of the discourse, my view is that Jesus was using the word genea in its widest possible sense: as referring to the entire guilty, sinful, judgeable, but also beloved and eminently redeemable generation of Adam and Eve; as referring to Jews and Gentiles, saints and sinners, of all times and all places; as referring to the people of his own generation, the people of the last generation, and the people of all the generations in between.

Admittedly, such usage is rare; however, the disciples’ two-fold question, the historical reach of the Lord’s reply, and the very words he used in this short pericope, all seem to demand it.  Moreover, such usage is not unprecedented. Earlier, Jesus had said, “In their dealings with their own generation, the sons of this age are wiser than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8; cf. 29:34-35). Similarly, the apostle Paul would soon refer to God’s saints as those who shine like lights amidst a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). In both texts the word genea is used to describe huge blocs of certain kinds of people who, since the fall of man, have always been with us, and always will.

So again, may it not be that in speaking to us as he did, the Lord was assuring all of his disciples that “this generation”—this fallen but beloved seed of Adam and Eve (and perhaps also “this present evil age” in which multitudes of them will be redeemed)—will not pass away until he himself—the divine Creator, Judge, and Redeemer of heaven and earth—fulfills all of the words he has so solemnly, graciously, and comfortingly spoken to the world in his great Olivet Discourse?

Note: This essay is a chapter from my book, The Great End Time Debate: Issues, Options, and Amillennial Answers (Redemption Press, 2022). I have posted it here not only to introduce readers to the Revelation, but also to help them understand its most controversial chapter, Revelation 20. Once you have finished reading the essay, you may wish to continue with the sequel, available here.

Here is a key to some of the acronyms you will find in my books and essays:

DNT = The Didactic New Testament (the teaching portions of the NT)
OTKP = OT prophecies of the Kingdom of God
NCH = New Covenant Hermeneutic (the NT method for interpreting the OT in general, and OTKPs in particular
HP = Historic Premillennialism
PP = Partial Preterism
FP = Full Preterism


Immanuel’s Loftiest Land

Truly, God has situated the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the high places of Immanuel’s Land, for which reason many a biblical traveler, growing suddenly dizzy, has found himself turning back, overwhelmed. And yet the holy terrain ever beckons, being richly favored with tall peaks and lush valleys that God’s pilgrim people long to see and enjoy. The need, then, is not to avoid the Revelation, but to be equipped and prepared so that we can boldly enter in. In the following essay I have done what I can to meet that pressing need.


The year is around 95 A.D. John, in all probability the last living apostle, is now in his 80’s (John 21:21-23). Because of his faithfulness in preaching the Gospel, the Roman authorities have exiled him to a penal settlement on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9; John 21:21-23). It has been over 60 years since Christ’s ascension. The Lord is tarrying, and among many believers the expectation of his Parousia is waning (2 Pet. 3:1f). The demonic emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68), a vicious persecutor of the Roman Christians, has come and gone. Titus has decimated Jerusalem (A.D. 70). Under emperor Domitian the persecution of Christians has spread throughout the Empire and reached Asia (A.D. 81-89). More is now looming (Rev. 2:3, 10, 13). And beyond this external threat there are internal threats as well. Heretical “Christian” sects have grown in size and number. Their members are seeking to infiltrate the orthodox churches and draw away disciples (Acts 20:13ff; Rev. 2:2, 6, 14-15, 20-24); some churches are even tolerating their presence (Rev. 2:14f, 20f). The love of certain Christians is growing cold (Rev. 2:4, 3:1-2). Others, having thus far escaped the fires of persecution, are falling in love with the world and sinking into apathy and hedonism (Rev. 3:14-21). The situation is dire. The faltering Church needs a word from the Lord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is that word.


The author is the apostle John (Rev. 1:1, 4, 9, 12; 22:8), an historical fact confirmed by several of the early church fathers. Significantly, he is now in exile (likely from his home church in Ephesus) and under persecution. In fulfillment of his Lord’s words, he has remained upon the earth for many years; and now, as promised, his Lord has come to him. It is not to take him home, but instead to give him a revelation and prophecy meant for the Bride, the entire Church (John 20:20-23). Like John himself, she will be in exile: not from the presence of her Lord, but from her heavenly home. Like John himself she will (often) be under persecution (Rev. 12:6ff). And so Christ comes to him . . . and through him to her. Through the Revelation he will prepare his Bride for her centuries-long pilgrimage through the howling spiritual wilderness of this present evil world (Rev. 12:6, 14).


It is almost certain that John recorded the Revelation around 95 AD. This is important to keep in mind, since preterist interpreters argue for a much earlier date: sometime between 54 and 68 AD, during the reign of Nero. Based on that assumption, they say that most (or all) of the “comings” and judgments described in the Revelation were actually fulfilled in and around the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. But as indicated above, the internal evidence weighs heavily against it. Accordingly, the vast majority of scholars agree that the Revelation was composed between 81-96 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Notably, at that time Pergamum was the official center of emperor worship in Asia, and the city in which Antipas became a “faithful martyr” for his Lord (Rev. 2:12f). External confirmation of a late date comes from the scholar and bishop, Irenaeus (ca.125-202), who, citing earlier sources, wrote, “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian” (i.e., AD 81-96).1

Intended Audience    

The Revelation is a prophecy given by God, through the glorified Christ, his angel, and his apostle, to the universal Church, for the crucially important reason that it is about the universal Church. It is not, as preterists hold, about the Church in and around 70 AD. Nor, as dispensationalists hold, is it (largely) about a band of 144,000 Jewish evangelists proclaiming a millennial Kingdom during a literal seven-year Tribulation. No, it is about all Christians of all times and all places. It is a prophecy meant to edify, exhort, and encourage the universal Church.

The evidence for this crucial thesis abounds.

Revelation 1:1 states that God gave Christ the Revelation in order to show it to his bond-servants. That would be the universal Church.

In Revelation 2-3 we have Christ’s messages to the seven churches of Asia. But the number 7, which symbolizes completeness and perfection, alerts us to the fact that here we have a complete and perfect message designed to perfect the complete Church: the Church of all times and places.

In Revelation 1:9 we hear Christ telling John: “Write down the things you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that will take place soon after them.”

This verse gives us one of the key structures of the book. The things John saw are described in chapter 1: the details of Christ’s self-disclosure to the apostle. “The things that are”—the present condition of the seven churches of Asia—are described in chapters 2-3. “The things that will take place soon after them” are described in chapters 4-22. These are the things that will happen from now on: all the way out to the Consummation and beyond. Why does Christ want all his bond-servants to know about these things? The answer is obvious: It is because he knows these things concern and affect all his bond-servants. The Revelation is for the universal Church because it concerns the universal Church and the things that will affect the universal Church.

In a moment we will discover a second way in which the Revelation is structured. It too will show that the book is for and about all Christians of all times and places.

Nature and Purpose  

On six separate occasions John speaks of the Revelation as a prophecy (Rev. 1:3, 19:10, 22:7, 10, 18, 19). Now according to the apostle Paul, he who prophesies speaks to men for edification (i.e., instruction in the faith), exhortation (i.e., warning, admonition), and comfort (i.e., encouragement, the impartation of hope), (1 Cor. 14:3). This short definition wonderfully captures the deep purpose of the Revelation. Everywhere we turn we find the exalted Christ teaching, warning, and encouraging his Bride, so that she may overcome all adversaries, complete her pilgrimage, and safely enter the completed Kingdom of God.

A few examples will illuminate this rich three-fold purpose.

In the Revelation Christ teaches the Church Militant by helping her understand her true place in the world and in Salvation History. In other words, through the use of richly symbolic language he strengthens her grip on the biblical worldview. Here Revelation 12 is central. In a prophetic vision of stupendous theological reach and power, Christ teaches the Church Militant who she is, what she is about, what she can expect, and upon whom she can call and count as she makes her way out of eschatological Egypt, through the eschatological Wilderness of Sin, and into the eschatological Promised Land. Fittingly, this rich chapter stands in the middle of the book, since in many ways it gives us the keys to the whole book. Before wrestling with Revelation 20, it will repay you to study it well.

In the Revelation the Lord exhorts the Church by warning her about the four enemies she will encounter in her long pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world.

The first is the Dragon, that serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan (Rev. 12:9). While he is indeed capable of direct attack upon the saints, in the Revelation he is found using the three remaining enemies as his evil agents and instruments.

The second foe is the Beast (Rev. 13:1-4), the political or governmental face of the world-system, which, when seized and energized by the Dragon, will always persecute the true spiritual Church.

 The third enemy is the False Prophet, also called the Beast from the Earth (Rev. 13:11-18, 16:12-16, 19:20, 20:10). This beast symbolizes not simply false religion, but false religion in the service of the self-deifying State, and therefore demanding that the Church worship the State on penalty of persecution or death.

The fourth and final enemy is the Harlot, also called Babylon the Great and the Great City (Rev. 17:1, 3, 5, 18; 18:2). This is the economic, commercial, and cultural face of the world-system. As a general rule the Harlot likes to collude with the Beast and the False Prophet, doing all she can to persecute the Church (Rev. 17:6), even as she entices saints and sinners alike with her allurements and sorceries (Rev. 18:23).

Out of deep love and concern for the Church’s purity, power, and eternal welfare, the High King of Heaven exhorts his Bride to be aware of all her enemies and to come out from among them (Rev. 18:4)

Finally, in the Revelation the heavenly Husband speaks comfort to his Bride, and this in several different ways.

At the very outset of the book he comforts her with a majestic vision of his own divine nature, covenant faithfulness, and Messianic glory (Rev. 1:9-20).

He comforts her with repeated assurances of his presence in, and faithful watch-care over, all his churches, even as he manifests the tough love that he feels for each one of them (Rev. 2:1-3:22).

He comforts her with rich, symbolic representations of his heavenly mediatorial reign, the share that the saints have in it, and his absolute sovereignty over all that remains of Salvation History (Rev. 4:1-5:14).

He comforts her with scenes of the spirits of departed believers safely arrived in heaven, praying for divine justice, and waiting eagerly for the resurrection of their bodies at his return to the earth (Rev. 6:9-11, 20:4-6).

He comforts her with serial portraits of his own Parousia in power and glory at the end of the age (Rev. 14:14-20, 19:11-21).

In conjunction with these portraits he also comforts her with visions of ultimate justice: of final rewards for the faithful saints, and of final retribution against the persecuting and God-hating “inhabitants of the earth” (Rev. 6:9-17, 11:11-19, 15:1-4, 16:17-21, 20:7-15).

He comforts them with several “sneak-previews” of the glorified Church surrounding the throne of the Triune God, exultantly lifting up the eternal worship that will fill the World to Come (Rev. 7:9-17, 14:1-5).

And finally, he comforts her with two luminous chapters supplying mysterious, thought-provoking glimpses of the (eternal) life of the saints in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21-22).

Do you consider the Revelation a frightening book? Well, for sinners it is, and is meant to be. But for saints who bravely venture into its depths, it is not only a prophecy that instructs and exhorts: It is also a river of comfort that never ends.

And this is true of Revelation 20 as well.

Underlying Theme

The underlying theme of the four Gospels is the humiliation of the Son of God: His incarnation as the Last Adam, his righteous life, atoning death, and public ministry on earth as Israel’s Messianic prophet, priest, and king.

The underlying theme of the Revelation is the exaltation of the Son of God: the various ways in which God the Father is pleased to honor his Son, so that in the end every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord: the High Prophet, Priest, and King of the universe (John 5:23; Phil. 2:5-11).

In a moment we will see how the structure and contents of the Revelation reinforce this majestic theme. Here, however, I want to highlight the many ways in which this book sets the worshiping Christian before every facet of the one diamond that is the exaltation of Christ.

The Revelation shines its light on Christ’s resurrection (Rev. 1:18), his ascension (Rev. 12:5), his session at the right hand of the Father (Rev. 5:1ff), his spiritual headship over his Body (Rev. 2-3), his authority and control over all the remaining events of universal history (Rev. 5:7, 6:1), his prophetic proclamation of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth through the Church Militant (Rev. 6:2, 11:4-13, 14:6), his faithfulness to his persecuted people (Rev. 12:6, 13ff), his ongoing (providential) judgments against their enemies (Rev. 11:5, 16:1f), his rich provision for the souls of his departed saints (Rev. 6:9-11, 20:4-6), his rush to the rescue of his little flock in the days of the Last Battle (Rev. 16:12f, 19:11ff), his glorious Parousia at the end of the age (Rev. 6:12ff, 11:11ff, 14:14ff, 19:11ff), and, at that time, the final judgment of his enemies, whether human or demonic (Rev. 6:12ff, 11:11ff, 14:14ff, 16:17ff, 19:11f, 20:11ff), the final redemption of his Bride (Rev. 7:1ff, 11:11f, 15:2-4, 14:14-16), and the creation of new heavens and a new earth, the eternal home where he and his beloved Bride will dwell with the Father, the Spirit, and all the holy angels as the eternal family of God (Rev. 21-22).

This manifold revelation of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ is integral to the prophetic character of the book. It is in beholding and contemplating the exalted Christ in all of his offices, prerogatives, judgments, and redemptive acts that the saints are instructed, admonished, and, above all, comforted for their arduous spiritual journey through the wilderness of this world.

Does all of this help us understand Revelation 20? Indeed it does. For if the theme of the book as a whole is the glory of the exalted Christ reflected in the course, character, and consummation of his heavenly reign, how likely is it that the theme of Revelation 20 is the glory, vicissitudes, and final failure of his future 1000 year earthly reign?

No, the Revelation is a predictive prophecy that sings the glory of the High King of Heaven and Earth through and through. To see this is to see the meaning of chapter 20 as well.

Literary Genre

The Revelation is an outstanding example of what theologians refer to as biblical apocalyptic. We may define this as a special kind of prophecy in which the Holy Spirit uses symbols—both images and numbers—to communicate divine truth about the course, character, and consummation of Salvation History, and especially about final judgment and final redemption.

We encounter biblical apocalyptic in both the Old and New Testaments. Chapters 24-27 of the book of Isaiah use dramatic OT imagery to speak of final judgment and final redemption on the Day of the LORD. The four beasts of Daniel 7 supply what is likely the single greatest OT picture of the course and character of Salvation History. The mysterious tropes of Ezekiel 38-39 give us the consummation of Salvation History at the Last Battle and the Day of the LORD. The visions and prophecies of Zechariah are apocalyptic through and through. While many NT texts address the course and consummation of Salvation History, the Revelation is the sole instance if NT biblical apocalyptic.

Our definition states that biblical apocalyptic uses vision and symbol to communicate truth about Salvation History. It is vital to understand, however, that in the Revelation the Holy Spirit no longer uses these instruments to veil the truth about things come (as he did in the OT), but rather to celebrate the truth about things previously unveiled in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles. In other words, the Revelation is not really a “mysterious” book, since the DNT gives us the keys by which to understand it (and all the OTKP’s that puzzled the prophets themselves). To see this blessed fact is to receive fresh courage for plunging into its formidable depths. 

Method of Interpretation

As an instance of biblical apocalyptic, the Revelation is a book of signs. Therefore we must interpret its images and numbers symbolically, rather than literally.

If you doubt this, simply look at the first verse of the book. There it is written that God “ . . . sent and signified (the Revelation) by his angel to his servant John” (Rev. 1:1). The Greek for “signify” is semaino, a verb etymologically related to the noun semeion, which means “sign.” In using the verb semaino to describe this prophecy, the Holy Spirit is instructing us at outset to interpret the Revelation as a book of signs or symbols. We shall not go far wrong if we do.

It is true, or course, that all interpreters acknowledge the presence of symbols in the Revelation. However, while admitting that it contains symbols, many premillennarians do not acknowledge that it is a book of symbols, which must therefore be interpreted figuratively and symbolically from start to finish.

The result is an inconsistent hermeneutic. For example, pressured by the obvious, the prophetic literalist will concede that the sword coming from Christ’s mouth is a symbol for the word of God (Rev. 1:16), or that the seven horns and seven eyes of the exalted Lamb of God symbolize his omnipotence and omniscience (Rev. 5:6).

When, however, the literalist comes to the 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel (Rev. 7:4), or to the two witnesses who prophesy and (briefly) perish on the streets of the Great City (Rev. 11:8), or to the Church’s 1260 days in the wilderness (Rev. 12:6), or to Christ’s admonition against taking the mark of the Beast (Rev. 13:16-18), or to the gathering of the kings of the whole earth at the Mountain of Megiddo (Rev. 16:14), he suddenly abandons a symbolic hermeneutic for a literal, thereby abandoning a consistent method of interpretation for an inconsistent. Despite all the evidence that this really is a book of signs, he nevertheless imports his literalist approach to OTKP into the Revelation itself, not realizing that the NCH alone can open both to our understanding.

So then: We must recognize that in the Revelation the Holy Spirit is giving us the Bible’s supreme manifestation of biblical apocalyptic, that it is a book of symbols through and through, and that the DNT provides the key for interpreting those symbols with confidence. When we do we will soon understand the meaning of the 144,000, the Two Witnesses, the 1260 days, the Mark of the Beast, the Battle of Armageddon, and the 1000-year reign of Christ proclaimed in Revelation 20.

There is more to be said about the proper interpretation of the Revelation, but before we can say it we must pause for a moment to consider its structure.


At first glance the Revelation is indeed a complex and intimidating book. But when we push past our fears, enter in, and carefully survey the entire terrain, we begin to see things: recurring themes, patterns, and cycles. Suddenly, perhaps after several readings, we realize that this prophecy has a structure: a structure so nuanced, complex, beautiful, and ingenious that the hand of God himself must be behind it. Moreover, when we fully behold this structure we see at once how to interpret the book as a whole, and chapter 20 in particular. We must, then, devote some quality time to this crucial subject.

Having considered a number of different views on the structure of the Revelation, I have found myself returning over and again to the ideas presented in William Hendriksen’s outstanding commentary, More Than Conquerors.  I have tried to summarize them in this chart. Let us consider it in some detail.

As you can see, the book is divided into five blocs. The titles beneath each one reflect my best effort to identify the main idea of that particular bloc, while at the same time keeping in view the central theme of the whole book: the Person and Work of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ, the High King of Heaven.

I am very pleased with the fact that the third bloc, which gives us the Investiture of the High King of Heaven (Rev. 4-5), stands mid-way between the other two. This is altogether fitting, since this particular bloc is the theological Mount Everest and center of gravity of the entire prophecy. For consider: Because of his coronation as the High King of Heaven, Christ can come to John in glory (Rev. 1) and speak to the seven churches with supreme authority (Rev. 2-3). Moreover, because of that coronation he can also rule over the universe throughout the remaining years of Salvation History (Rev. 6-20), and then, following his Parousia, usher his glorified Bride into the full and final form of the Kingdom of God (Rev. 21-22). Thus, chapters 4-5 hold the book together, making it a unified celebration of the Person and Work of the High King.

For the purposes of our study, the most important—and most controversial—portion of the chart is bloc four. My name for it, together with its contents, suggest that chapters 6-20 are best understood as six separate apocalyptic cycles or recapitulations, each of which—in its own unique way, and for its own unique purposes—describes the course, character, and consummation of the High King’s heavenly reign.

Since that’s a mouthful, let me break it down a little. This large bloc (Rev. 6-20) is comprised of six sub-blocs or cycles (Rev. 6-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-16, 17-19, and 20). But in each of the cycles the Holy Spirit is speaking about the same time frame: the time between Christ’s first and second advents; the time during which the exalted Christ reigns as High King of heaven and earth. This means that the fourth bloc of the Revelation—and the great bulk of the book—is actually made up of six separate apocalyptic cycles, with each one using different OT and NT ideas and images to cover the same historical ground: to rehearse or recapitulate the earthly impact of the heavenly reign of Christ.

How do we know this is true? How do we know that the six sub-blocs in this big bloc really do traverse the same historical ground?

While the answers are many, the most important is the way in which the cycles begin and end. In nearly every case it is quite clear that they begin with a symbolic representation of Christ’s session and/or the coming of his spiritual Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost. Similarly, in several cases it is clear that they end with a symbolic representation of the Last Battle; and in all cases it is clear that they end with a symbolic representation of the Parousia, the resurrection, and/or the last judgment. These phenomena are quite compelling, further opening up the deep structure of the book and the proper method of its interpretation.

Implications of the Structure

If this chart really does give us the deep structure of the Revelation, it carries with it two major implications for the interpretation of the book as a whole, and of chapter 20 in particular. Let us attend to them now.

First, if the chart is correct it means we cannot interpret Revelation 6-20 as the preterists do. They say that here the Spirit’s focus is largely, if not exclusively, on events that for us are already past. These events include the fall of Jerusalem, the tyrannical power of Rome, and the vicissitudes of the early Church at the hand of Jews and Romans. But if in fact the Spirit’s focus is on the era between Christ’s two advents, then obviously the preterist interpretation cannot be correct.

Similarly, if the chart is correct it means we cannot interpret Revelation 6-20 as the futurists do. They say that here the Spirit’s focus is largely, if not exclusively, on events that will occur towards or at the very end of the age. Yes, there are some differences among them. Moderate futurists like George Ladd say that these events will befall the Church. Dispensational futurists, like John MacArthur, say they will befall latter day Jews during a seven year Tribulation that begins after Christ has secretly come and taken his Church to heaven. But again, all futurists agree that chapters 6-20 are largely, if not entirely, fulfilled in the last of the last days. However, if these chapters are speaking of the entire Church Era, then obviously the futurist view cannot be correct either.

This brings us to a second and closely related implication. If the chart is correct it means that when the Holy Spirit uses a particular symbol to speak to God’s people, he is not (usually) referring to a concrete historical entity, whether a person, place, thing, or event. If our chart is correct, he cannot be. Rather, he must be referring to a kind of historical entity that all the saints will encounter over and again throughout the entire Church Era.

Let us consider an example. Some preterists say that when the Spirit speaks of the Beast (Rev. 13:1f) he is referring to that arch-persecutor of the early Church, the emperor Nero. On the other hand, most futurists say that when the Spirit speaks of the Beast he is referring to a personal Antichrist who will arise just prior to Christ’s return, whether to persecute the Church or ethnic Israel. If, however, we embrace the cyclical view, we immediately realize that it entails a broader and richer approach: an approach that is capable of affirming the element of truth in both the preterist and futurist views. For now we see that in speaking about the Beast, the Spirit is actually speaking about a particular kind of historical phenomenon—in this case the political or governmental face of Satan’s fallen world system, whenever and wherever it pops up in the course of Salvation History. It is a face that could be embodied in Nero, Domitian, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ceausescu, Pol Pot, this or that Ayatollah, the (last) Antichrist, or any of the persecuting institutions that these people represent. And what is true of the Beast is true also of the False Prophet and the Harlot: Though their faces change from generation to generation, they are ever present in the world.

We find, then, that the cyclical view of Revelation 6-20 generates a particular hermeneutic; that is, a particular way of understanding and applying the symbols found in the book as a whole. Theologians refer to this as an idealist hermeneutic. On this view, the symbols in the Revelation do not stand for unique historical persons or events, but rather for general ideas or principles that will manifest themselves throughout the Era of Gospel Proclamation, and therefore in any number of historical persons, places, things, or events. William Hendriksen, an enthusiastic advocate of this approach, applies it as follows:

The seals, trumpets, bowls of wrath and similar symbols refer not to specific events, particular happenings, or details of history, but to principles of human conduct and of divine moral government that are operating throughout the history of the world, especially throughout the new (Christian) dispensation.

Now, while this approach is extremely helpful, I would join Hendriksen in issuing two caveats.

First, the Revelation can and does speak about specific times and events in Salvation History. Yes, when speaking of the course and character of Christ’s heavenly reign it uses its symbols to address all Christians of all times. However, in speaking of events destined to occur at the end of the age, it uses its symbols to speak of historical events in which a relatively small handful of Christians will be involved. All Christians should be aware of these events, but not all will experience them. A brief look at Revelation 11:3ff will illustrate my point.

In Revelation 11:3-6 we learn about the spiritual career of the Two Witnesses. Described in imagery reminiscent of Moses and Elijah—but also of the disciples whom Jesus sent out two by two to preach the Gospel to Israel—they represent the witnessing Church. God calls them to prophesy (i.e., to preach the Gospel) for 1260 days, a number that symbolizes the entire Era of Gospel Proclamation as a season of exile, persecution, and divine provision (see 1 Kings 17:1f). So then: All Christians of all times can see themselves in the Two Witnesses.

When, however, we reach verses 7-13 the focus narrows. Now the Spirit is speaking concretely about the last generation of witnessing Christians. This generation will see the completion of the Great Commission (11:7). It will see the Beast—hitherto restrained from thwarting the Church’s mission—rise up out the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3), wage war against them, overcome them, and “kill” (i.e., thoroughly suppress) them (11:7-10). But this is also the generation that will see the return of Christ in glory, the resurrection of the dead, and the Last Judgment (11:11-19). Here, then, the symbols do indeed point to unique events set to occur in a unique portion of Salvation History. Here the universal Church cannot see herself (much as she might like to), but only that portion of the Church that will live and serve Christ during the days of the Last Battle.

This brings us to our second caveat. While it is true that the six cycles of Revelation 6-20 traverse the same historical ground, it is also that there are notable differences between them. In particular, the further we progress through the cycles, the more we learn about the Satanic powers operating behind the scenes of the great clash of the kingdoms, and about the human instruments they use to persecute the Church. Also, the further we progress through the cycles the more we receive clear visions and revelations of the Last Battle, the Parousia, the Resurrection, the Last Judgment, and the World to Come. Referring to this phenomenon as progressive parallelism, Hendriksen writes:

Although all the sections of the Apocalypse run parallel and span the period between the first and second comings of Christ . . . yet there is also a degree of progress. The closer we approach the end of the book the more our attention is directed to the final judgment and that which lies beyond it. The (several) sections are arranged, as it were, in an ascending, climactic order . . . The final judgment is first announced, then introduced, then finally described. Similarly, the new heavens and earth are described more fully in the final section than in those that precede it . . . The book reveals a gradual progress in eschatological emphasis.

So again: All six cycles of Revelation 6-20 give us the course, character, and consummation of the direct spiritual reign of the High King of Heaven and Earth. But they do not all have precisely the same contents or emphases. Also, while all of the contents of the cycles are meant for all Christians, not all of the events symbolized in the cycles will befall all Christians. By keeping these caveats in mind we shall be able to use the idealistic method of interpretation to good effect.

The third and final implication of our chart takes us deep into the heart of the GETD. If indeed chapter 20 properly falls into bloc four of the Revelation; if indeed, like the previous five cycles, it too describes the course and character of the High King’s heavenly reign, then obviously it cannot be speaking of a future earthly kingdom that is destined to appear after that reign. In short, if our chart really does give us the true structure of the Revelation, then the Revelation itself rules out premillennialism once and for all.

Ancillary Purpose: The Grand Finale in the Symphony of Scripture

Think for a moment about your favorite symphony. Now think about its final movement. What is it that makes the final movement into the symphony’s grand finale? Speaking personally, three simple answers come to mind.

First, it appears at the end of the symphony. There is no more music to come. Accordingly, this is the composer’s last opportunity to sum up his message and get it across with a final burst of artistic power and panache.

Secondly, it reprises all the themes heard in the previous movements. However, when it does, it does so “grandly.” That is, the composer skillfully and majestically weaves together all his earlier motifs so that we not only hear them again, but also hear them afresh, and with fresh power. We hear them in new, startling, and beautiful relations with one another. We hear them in such a way that the whole symphony is somehow poured into the last part of the symphony.

And thirdly, because it is a grand finale, it does not typically introduce a new musical theme. Instead, the composer devotes himself more or less exclusively to fresh, inspiring, and deeply impressive recapitulations of the old.

All three of these observations apply to the Revelation, and in a way that helps us understand it to the depths.

Like a grand finale, the Revelation appears at the end of the great symphony of biblical revelation. By God’s wise decree it is the last book of the Bible. What’s more, its contents positively cry out to us that it should be the last book, since it is so thoroughly taken up with the Last Things: the course and character of the Last Days, the Last Battle, the Last Resurrection, and the Last Judgment, the final two of which occur at the Last Coming of the Last Man. The claims of Church History’s false prophets notwithstanding, Spirit-taught Christians find it unthinkable that God, having given us a book like this, would give us any more. And indeed this is the testimony of the Revelation itself (Rev. 21:18-19). The Revelation is the Book of the End; therefore it rightly appears at the end of the Book (Rev. 1:8, 2:26, 21:6, 22:13).

Like a grand finale the Revelation also incorporates and artistically weaves together ideas, images, and texts from the preceding movements of Holy Scripture, whether the Old Testament or the New. Here biblical allusions abound: to the Garden of Eden, Moses, the Exodus, Elijah, Mt. Zion, the Temple, the birth of Jesus, the cruelty of Herod, the preaching of the disciples two by two, Christ’s resurrection, ascension, session, heavenly reign, and Parousia. Westcott and Hort counted nearly 400 references to the OT in the Revelation. Many say there are more. In Revelation 12 alone we find quotes from, or allusions to, Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, John, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Jude. Clearly, the Revelation is not simply historical narrative, law, poetry, gospel or epistle. Rather, it is something completely new under the biblical sun: A final prophetic word to the universal Church, clothed in raiment that weaves together all that has gone before it. As such, it is not only a prophetic word, but also the Grand Finale of All Scripture.

If so, the implications are important. If the Revelation really is the Grand Finale of All Scripture, we should not expect it introduce new themes (i.e., doctrines). It is not the purpose of a grand finale to introduce new themes; its purpose is to creatively recapitulate the old. And when we examine the Revelation we find that this is the case. Here there is nothing new, nothing other than what Christ and the apostles have already taught us in the DNT. There is nothing new about the Holy Trinity, the Creation, the Fall, the Eternal Covenant, the nature and structure of the Kingdom, or the Consummation at Christ’s coming again. Rather, we simply find the Holy Spirit speaking over and again about these old and well-established truths. However, when he speaks of them he does so in new and amazing ways: in beautiful, powerful, and supremely inspiring visions and symbols. Here he weaves together all that has gone before in Holy Scripture, even as he celebrates, one final time, the exaltation of him who is the grand theme of Holy Scripture: the High King of Heaven and Earth.

The application to our study is easy to see. If the Revelation really is the Grand Finale of All Scripture, is it likely that just a few measures prior to its end (i.e., in chapter 20) God would suddenly introduce a completely new eschatological theme (i.e., a future earthly millennium)? What if that theme had never appeared in the Revelation itself? What if it had never appeared in the DNT? What if it had never appeared in the OT? What if it could not be harmonized with the Revelation, the DNT, and the OT? And what if it threatened to destroy the harmony that previously existed between them?

In short, is it likely that God would destroy the Grand Finale of All Scripture by using Revelation 20 to introduce a new movement about a future millennial stage of the Kingdom of God?

My answer: Not likely. Not likely at all.


In this essay I have offered a short introduction to the Revelation as a whole in order to help readers better understand the 1000 years of Revelation 20. With that goal in mind, let me summarize what we’ve learned so far.

The book was written by the apostle John, a man in exile and under persecution. As a founding elder and emblem of the Church, it should not surprise us if Revelation 20 speaks of the Church in exile and under persecution (Rev. 4:4).

John wrote the book around 95 AD. Contrary to some preterist views, Revelation 20 cannot be about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The intended audience of the book is the universal Church, the purpose of the book is to instruct, exhort, and encourage the universal Church, and the theme of the book is the privileges and prerogatives of the High King of Heaven who rules over the cosmos for the good of the universal Church. It should not surprise us then if Revelation 20 addresses the Church, prophesies to the Church, and speaks of the destiny of Church during the course of High King’s reign.

As to its literary genre, the Revelation is a unique example of biblical apocalyptic. Like all apocalyptic it uses visions and symbols to discuss the course and character of Salvation History. Unlike all other apocalyptic, the meaning of the symbols is not hidden, but disclosed in the DNT. It should not surprise us then if the message of Revelation 20 is couched in symbols that are readily decoded by means of the NCH.

The structure of Revelation 6-20 is such that it gives us six cycles or recapitulations of the heavenly reign of Christ, which is first disclosed on the Mt. Everest of the Revelation: chapters 4-5. Since each of the first five cycles begins with historical events surrounding his session and concludes with events surrounding his Parousia, it should not surprise us if the sixth cycle, Revelation 20, does the same. Also, since the book as a whole gives us a progressive revelation of the High King’s reign during the Era of Gospel Proclamation, it should not surprise us if Revelation 20 uses symbolic language to describe the activity of Satan in history and the Last Battle that he will foment.

Finally, since the Revelation is not part of the DNT, but is instead the Grand Finale of All Scripture, it should not surprise us if Revelation 20 does not introduce new eschatological truth about a future millennium, but instead simply draws upon OT and NT Scripture to speak of its one great theme: The heavenly reign of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

Does Revelation 20 confirm our expectations, or will it surprises us after all? To find out, please click here.


1. In defense of an early date preterists cite verses in the Revelation stating that the events in view “must shortly come pass” (Rev. 1:1; 22:6), and that “the appointed time is near” (Rev. 1:3; 22:10). But these texts hardly prove an early date of composition or a strictly 1st century fulfillment of the prophecies. To begin with, the verses from chapter 22 state that all things, including the advent of the World to Come, must shortly come to pass, and that their time is near. So unless one is a full preterist, those verses rule out a strictly 1st century fulfillment of the book. More to the point, the progressive idealist interpretation of the book richly illumines the nuanced meaning of these expressions. Since the Revelation speaks to all believers of all times, it is indeed true that many of its predictions spoke to 1st century Christians, just as they would to believers of subsequent generations. As for the prophecies that speak of the end of the age (i.e., of the Last Battle, the Parousia, the Judgment, etc.), these too will soon come to pass, for against the backdrop of eternity a thousand years in God’s sight are like yesterday when it has passed by, and like a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8).

Liturgically speaking, I’ve made the rounds. Down through the years this septuagenarian has worshiped in—or observed the worship of—Pentecostal, Charismatic, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. Also, over the decades during which I served as a pastor, I continually mulled the New Testament (NT) parameters for worship on the Lord’s Day, trying hard to discern them accurately and practice them faithfully. Now, as I near the end of my journey, it has seemed good to me to share my best thoughts on Lord’s Day worship, and to craft a service of worship that I believe would be pleasing to God and edifying to his children.

Theological and Practical Foundations

Here in Part I of the essay I want to share my major premises: the theological and practical foundations upon which I have based my proposed liturgy. There are seven of them.

Lord’s Day Worship is Special

Worship on the Lord’s Day is quite special. Unlike other gatherings of God’s children, on this day the elders and members of a Christian body come together as a whole church (Acts 15:2, 22; 1 Cor. 11:17-18; 14:23, 26; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 10:25; 13:7). Also, the regulations for this assembly are different from, and more stringent than, those pertaining to smaller gatherings (1 Cor. 11:1-15 vs. 11:17-14:40; 1 Tim. 2:1-15).

But the uniqueness of Lord’s Day worship stems above all from its close association with the mystery of the Sabbath. Theological reflection on this subject is extensive, diverse, and sometimes controversial. For brevity sake, I will give my own view simply by citing a Statement of Faith that I wrote some years back:

We believe that the Sabbath Day, which in the beginning God set apart as a day of rest and worship for all mankind, and which at the giving of the Law he instituted as a day of rest and worship for his OT people, stood as a type or picture of the eternal rest that he now offers to all men—and commands them to enter—through the Gospel. / We believe that Christians do in fact enter this rest, first at the moment of saving faith, then more fully at the entrance of their spirits into heaven, and still more fully at the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s return. / We believe that in order to underscore the perpetuity of the believer’s rest in Christ, the NT does not, by an ordinance, tie the worship of God to the Sabbath or any special day of the week. / But we also believe that through a holy tradition inaugurated by Christ himself on the day of his resurrection, and perpetuated in the practice of the early church, God’s people are invited and encouraged to designate the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day; that on that day they do well to assemble themselves together in order to celebrate and be refreshed in the spiritual rest God has given them, through a reverent and joyful observance of the ordinances of NT worship; and that in so doing God will be pleased, Christ exalted, his people blessed, and the world confronted afresh with the Good News of the Gospel.1

In short, Lord’s Day worship is special because on that day God specially draws near to his people in order to remind them of, teach them about, and refresh them in, their eternal Sabbath rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Day Worship is Important to God and Man

The worship of the Lord’s Day is important to the triune God. Scripture affirms that he takes great pleasure in his people (Ps. 149:4). Indeed, his people are his chosen dwelling place (1 Ki. 8:10-11; Ps. 132:5-7; Ezek. 43:5; 44:4; John 14:23; Acts 2:2; Rev. 21:3). Therefore, knowing their needs, and not unmindful of his own enjoyment, he delights to draw near to them on the Lord’s Day. Abba Father delights to gather his children to himself and take them in his arms (Psalm 50:5, 149:4; Is. 43:2). His exalted Son, their heavenly Husband, delights to speak tenderly to his Bride, and to lay her weary head upon his vast and comforting bosom (Is. 40:1-3; John 13:23, 14:3, 17:24; Eph. 5). The Holy Spirit, knowing these things, delights to facilitate the holy visitation: to unveil and strengthen the eternal bond of love that unites the family of God. For these and other reasons, Lord’s Day worship is indeed important to the Three-in-One.

But it is even more important for man. For though God’s people have been justified, they are not yet fully sanctified. Though they are seated in heavenly places in Christ, they are still making an arduous journey through the howling wilderness of this present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Rev. 12:1ff). Therefore, their needs are great. Because they are weary, they need refreshing (Acts 3:19). Because they are pursued and persecuted, they need protection (Rev. 12:13-14). Because they are without (mature) understanding, they need teaching (Eph. 4:91-16). Because they are called, they need equipping (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Because they have faltered, they need exhortation, repentance, and reassurance (1 Cor. 11:27-32; 14:3). Because they are lonely, they need family; because they are lacking, they need the support of the family (Psalm 122; Acts 2:43-5). And because they are grateful and glad, they need a time and a place in which to express their gratitude and joy (1 Pet. 1:8). In sum, the saints are eager for Lord’s Day worship because they know that on that Day, through word, prayer, sacrament, and body ministry, they will yet again behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and so be transformed into his image from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18).

Lord’s Day Worship is Regulated 

Because God desires to meet with his people, and because their needs are so very great, he carefully regulates his own worship. In particular, he gives us detailed instructions concerning the attitudes, actions, and procedures that are proper to the gathering of the whole church. We may think of these regulations as borders by which he surrounds, creates, protects, and preserves a sacred space, ensuring that he himself may fully fill that space, and that in it his people may be fully edified and refreshed (Rev. 12:6, 14). He gives us regulations so that he may freely give us himself.

Concerning the attitudes that we are to bring to this gathering, the NT provides rich instruction. We are to come with understanding (Col. 1:9), gratitude (1 Tim. 2:1), joy (Matt. 13:44; Phil. 4:4), reverence (Heb. 12:28), humility (James 1:21), sincerity (Acts 2:46), confidence (Heb. 4:16), faith (James 1:6), and eager expectation (Matt. 18:20). We come in order to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). We come faithfully, in spite of what we’ve done or not done, and in spite of what we feel or don’t feel, always remembering that God is faithful, and that he is eager to meet both us and our needs (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 10:25). And so, having put on these attitudes, we too come with eagerness, hoping and expecting to see his glory fill the house (1 Kings 8:11; Ezek. 43:4; Acts 2:2)!

As for the actions of NT worship, they are far fewer than those of OT times, being carefully designed to facilitate the simplicity of worship in spirit and truth instituted by Christ, and now so supernaturally natural to the regenerate hearts of his flock (John 4:24; 2 Cor. 11:3). These actions include prayer; the reading, preaching, teaching, and prophesying of the Word of God; psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, sung with grace in our hearts to the Lord; the Lord’s Supper; and, on occasion, the administration of water baptism.

Again, these actions are regulated: The NT prescribes basic procedures for each one. As the procedures become familiar, the worshiper comes to rest in them, trusting that all things are indeed being done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Thus resting, he is free to give himself fully to the Lord throughout all the service: to listen for his voice, and to wait for his touch. Regulated worship becomes liturgy, the work of the people; liturgy, in turn, becomes a  garden paradise where the people experience the work of God.

Lord’s Day Worship is Participatory and Charismatic     

Speaking personally, I cannot read 1 Corinthians 12-14 and fail to conclude that here the apostle’s primary concern is to regulate the worship of the Lord’s Day. Yes, he begins by laying some theological groundwork, by unveiling the Church as the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, each of whose members is charismatically gifted for the continual edification of the Body. And yes, for this reason some of the gifts mentioned here will not typically operate in a worship service (e.g. helps, mercies, administrations, healings, miracles; cf. Rom. 12:3-8). But surely the thrust of these chapters is to educate the saints on the gifts of the Spirit with a view to their proper exercise in the gatherings of the whole church (1 Cor. 14:23).

Accordingly, in our thinking about Lord’s Day worship we must take seriously the words of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then, brothers, is the sum of the matter? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Therefore, I would ask my Reformed brethren: Can a biblically faithful church exclude this verse from its understanding of the regulative principles of corporate worship? Does it not clearly tell us that Lord’s Day worship is participatory (i.e. each one has something to contribute, though not necessarily every Sunday) and charismatic (i.e. each one contributes that something in the exercise of his spiritual gift)?

My cessationist brethren will balk at this claim, believing as they do that with the closure of the NT canon, and with the passing of the foundational apostles, God has permanently withdrawn some of the more supernatural charismatic gifts. I cannot enter into that debate here. Suffice it to say that for nearly 50 years I have been unable to find a single NT text affirming the withdrawal of any charismatic gift. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 I find quite the opposite, since here the apostle depicts the charismata as essential equipment for the Church Militant as she makes her difficult pilgrimage towards the fullness of her redemption in the Age to Come.

How so? The key words are “now” and “then”. Now, in the long Era of Gospel Proclamation, the Church needs the gifts of the Spirit in order to fulfill her mission. Now she needs to prophesy, speak in tongues, teach, etc., so that the saints may be gathered in, and the Body built up (1 Cor. 13:8). However, as important as the gifts are, they reflect only a partial knowledge of God, and are therefore only temporary. For when “the perfect” comes—not the close of the NT canon, but the return of Christ, the Consummation, and the life of the Age to Come (1 Cor. 1:7)—then her partial knowledge will fail, cease, and pass away (1 Cor. 13:8-9). Then, having graduated into her eternal adulthood, she will put away her “childish” things—her childish ways of knowing, speaking, and reasoning—for then she will see face-to-face; then she will fully know, just as she is known (1 Cor. 13:11-13). If, then, it is essential for the Church to pass through her spiritual childhood, it is also essential that she permanently possess the distinguishing marks of her spiritual childhood: the panoply of spiritual gifts.

All that said, the closure of the NT canon is indeed of great importance. It enables us to identify the various spiritual gifts, and to exercise them properly in their appropriate settings. With reference to the worship of the Lord’s Day, it enables us to prioritize the ministry of the Word (i.e. Scripture reading, preaching, teaching, prophecy) with a view to the edification of the church (John 17:17; 1 Cor. 14:26). It enables us to judge the doctrinal and ethical integrity of various ministries of the Word (1 Cor. 14:29). And it enables leaders, through the exercise of their own spiritual gifts, to structure the Lord’s Day worship in such a way as to incorporate all its elements, while at the same time leaving ample room for the move of the Spirit and the spontaneous participation of various members of the congregation.2

Lord’s Day Worship Specially Regulates the Verbal Participation of Women

The NT places special restrictions on the verbal participation of women in the Lord’s Day gathering of the whole Church. Pressured by the surrounding culture, modern theologians fiercely debate the meaning and application of the relevant texts, with the result that different churches have settled on different policies (1 Cor. 14:34-36; 1 Tim. 2:9-15). My own reading, which aligns with traditional Catholic and Protestant interpretations, is that sisters in Christ may freely participate in congregational singing, and in the corporate recitation of prayers, Scripture, or creeds (yet another good reason to embrace all these practices). They may not, however, engage in any form of solo speech: They may not teach, preach, prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret a tongue, read Scripture, ask questions, or make announcements.

It should go without saying that in giving us these guidelines God is in no way denigrating the value, intelligence, or spirituality of his daughters, who, just like men, are created in his image and likeness, loved, and redeemed in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Nor are the regulations meant to exclude women from all verbal ministry, since a number of other NT texts authorize them to teach, pray, and prophesy in settings other than the gatherings of the whole church (Acts 2:17; 18:26; 1 Cor. 11:1-16; Titus 2:3-5).

Why, then, these special restrictions? A close reading of NT teaching on gender relations makes it clear that the rules are designed, above all, to reflect—and to reinforce in the hearts of his people—God’s creation order for the sexes (1 Tim. 2:11-15). By his wise decree—which is meant to image the mystery of Christ and the Church—man is the spiritual “head” of woman: the authority over her (1 Cor. 11:2-16; Eph. 5:22-33). In marriage, in the family, and in the church, God has given to men the responsibility—and with that, the authority—to lead, always with a view to the protection and provision of those under their care. Accordingly, when a woman speaks out in church she inverts the creation order by displacing the authorized leader, replacing him with herself, and setting the men in attendance under her authority, since the Word of God, or the words of the elders, in her mouth are (or are thought to be) authoritative. Paul states that such an inversion is disgraceful, for when the illicit inversion is both performed and permitted, ignominy rightly falls on the woman, her husband, the elders, and the men in the church—all of whom have had their part in turning the world upside down (1 Cor. 14:35).

There are practical considerations as well. If a woman happens to misspeak (as men themselves will surely do from time to time), she will not only dishonor her husband, but may even oblige the elder in charge to correct her in front of her husband and the entire congregation—a needless embarrassment that Paul no doubt wanted to avoid. It should also be noted from 1 Timothy 2:14 that unless a woman is fully submitted to her husband, she, like mother Eve, is especially vulnerable to deception, and therefore to propagating deception, in the event that she is allowed to speak in church. Finally, we need honestly to admit that a solitary woman speaking in church will necessarily attract attention to herself, which in turn can stimulate sexual thoughts in the men (who are more visually oriented than women), thereby distracting them from the worship of the Lord. This, I think, is why Paul urges the sisters to dress modestly and discreetly when they come to church (1 Tim. 2:9-10).3 The words of the apostle display great practical wisdom, a wisdom that enables us to avoid all sorts of problems, and so to preserve peace in the churches.

I am all too aware that in our day these regulations are highly counter-cultural. It will therefore take great wisdom, love, patience, and courage for church leaders to explain and implement them, and for God’s men and women to submit to them. But if they love the Lord, and if they desire the fullest possible manifestation of his presence and power in the worship service, they will do so gladly. 

Lord’s Day Worship Honors the History and Accomplishments of the Church Triumphant

In the Lord’s Day worship the Church Militant joins with the Church Triumphant before the throne of God, in order to worship, praise, petition, and receive from our triune Creator and Redeemer (Rev. 4-5). Because this is so, it seems fitting that the Church Militant should honor the Church Triumphant by incorporating into her own worship the forms and contents that her predecessors developed through their own prayerful interaction with the Word of God. Yes, we must do this carefully, striving to set aside anything that we consider unbiblical. But our natural bias, born out of love and respect for the work of God in former times, should be to include from the past as much as we honestly can, so that the worshiping Church of our own time may feel an abiding spiritual connection with our Catholic and Protestant forefathers.

In the service of worship below I have sought to do this very thing. With an eye both to Scripture and Church tradition, I have created a space for preparing our hearts for worship, for a scriptural call to worship, for the public reading of Scripture, for the exaltation of the Gospel reading for the day, for a season of charismatic ministry and free prayer, for the passing of the peace, for the teaching and prophesying of the Word of God, for private confession of sin, for corporate gathering at the Lord’s Table, for a glad confession of our evangelical faith, for a closing benediction, and—through it all—for making joyful melody in our hearts to the Lord. It is through such historically sensitive and inclusive liturgies that the Church Militant, on the Lord’s Day, will find herself seated together in heavenly places with the Church Triumphant, blessedly participating in the eternal worship of God.

Lord’s Day Worship is Regulated but not Rigid

Reading texts like Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and 1 Timothy 2, it is easy enough to discern the basic elements and regulations for the Lord’s Day worship of God. What is not so easy is to picture exactly how the early church put these things into practice. After mulling the matter for many years, I have concluded that the ambiguity is purposeful. Though he could easily have done so, God decided against inspiring his apostles to impose a single liturgy upon the Universal Church. Instead, alongside the various elements and regulations of worship, he granted church leaders a measure of liberty to craft liturgies suitable to their own circumstances, needs, and understanding. Here’s how the authors of the London Baptist Expression express it: “We recognize that some circumstances concerning the worship of God . . . are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian wisdom, following the general rules of the Word, which must always be observed” (LBC 1:6).

This studied NT ambiguity helps us to understand what we see all around us: different folks worshiping in different ways. So long as all is done scripturally, this appears to be acceptable to God. Thus, some worship services will be more simple, others more complex; some shorter, others longer; some more oriented to charismatic spontaneity, others to liturgical formality; some more expressive, others more reserved. Since the NT does not mandate weekly communion at the Lord’s Table, some churches observe this ordinance monthly, some quarterly, and some annually. However, Acts 2:42, 20:7, and the placement and prominence of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 in Paul’s three chapters on church order certainly seem to favor weekly participation. Perhaps if we partook of the Lord’s Supper more often we would find ourselves longing to do so more often.  Let each elder board be fully persuaded in its own mind (Rom. 14:5); and let all elder boards do all things decently and in good biblical order (1 Cor. 14:40).

A Service of Worship for the Lord’s Day

Here, then, is my “dream” Lord’s Day worship service. As you will see, I have included a number of comments along the way in order to clarify what I have in mind for each element of the service. Very importantly, this is but one of many possible services. No doubt it reflects my own personal history, gifts, and tastes. Nevertheless, because it seeks faithfully to incorporate all the elements and all the regulations of NT worship, I dare to hope that it will prove helpful, whether to you who are seeking a place of worship for yourself and your family, or to church leaders seeking to craft a rich service of worship for the Lord and his people.

I. WELCOME (Brother)

A. Welcome
B. Announcements
C. Invitation to Prepare our Hearts for Worship

Comments: As people gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, they love to visit. This is an integral part of the fellowship of the saints. To facilitate it, I recommend no background music prior to the beginning of the service (this from a hearing impaired brother who struggles in pre-service conversations, :)). / One or two minutes before the service begins the musicians should play (but not sing) a hymn. This signals to the worshipers that it is time to be seated, quiet down, and prepare one’s heart for worship. / A brother opens the service by welcoming both the saints and the visitors, giving all necessary information to the latter. He then briefly shares essential announcements, directing worshipers to the bulletin or church website for further information. / Finally, he calls for a moment of silence in which the worshipers may prepare their hearts for their meeting with the Lord (Is. 41:1; Hab. 2:20).

Special Note: Here and throughout this outline you will notice that the brothers always lead. My view is that several different ones should do so: elders, fathers, husbands, older singles, and mature youth and boys. This practice adds participation, variety, and zest to the service. Even more importantly, it aligns the service with God’s creation order for the sexes, and with his rules concerning the verbal participation of women. As a result, it provides the Holy Spirit with a special opportunity to impress upon men their role as leaders in the family, the church, and the world; to bless godly sisters, as they watch the relevant men in their lives stepping up to do this very thing; and to remind the sisters once again of the privilege God has given them to image the Church to the world by freely submitting to the godly men in their lives, even as the Church submits herself to Christ.


A. Scriptural Call to Worship
B. Prayer of Invocation

Comments: The call to worship should include a biblical text in which God summons his people and/or the nations to come and worship him (e.g. Ps. 95:6; Isaiah 55:1-3). It is led by a brother, but could well involve an antiphonal reading of the text (e.g. leader-congregation or brothers-sisters). Again, these options have the great advantage of enabling the sisters to participate aloud. / Following the call to worship, the brother will pray, thanking the Lord for this special opportunity to worship him, and asking his blessing upon the gathering.4

III. WORSHIP IN SONG, Round #1 (Brother)

A. Song #1
B. Song #2

Comments: The New Covenant is a marriage covenant, and therefore a covenant of great joy (John 2:1-11, 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). Accordingly, at its very heart it involves celebration, music, and song (Rev. 5:9; 14:3). / My view is that in the Lord’s Day service the songs should be plentiful, giving God ample opportunity to stir the hearts of his children, and the children ample opportunity to pour out their hearts to their God (Ps. 62:8). / As for musical leadership and accompaniment, I believe a brother should lead the worship at all times, but that sisters may participate in the worship team. Ideally, the worship team will be located in the back of the sanctuary, or at least to the side of the Lord’s Table or pulpit, so that all attention is focused, not on the team, but on the Lord and the words of the song. If sisters must be visible, they should be very modestly dressed, so as to present no distractions to the men. The music should be simple and relatively unobtrusive, so that emphasis falls upon the lyrics of the song and the blended voices of the congregation. / The first round of songs will normally consist of joyful hymns of praise to God as Creator and Provider. All hymns should be carefully chosen or approved by the elders. Ideally, the hymns will significantly align with the theme of the sermon, which should become the theme of the entire service. Thy lyrics must be theologically sound, and, as a general rule, God-centered rather than man-centered. They should celebrate, above all, the Person and Work of the Holy Trinity in Creation and Redemption, and how these affect us sinful but beloved human beings. / Most of the songs should be familiar; new songs should be repeated two or three Sunday’s in a row; the melodies of the songs should be memorable, and the accompanying music beautiful. / Certain hymns and choruses cry out for clapping; but in the interest of truly congregational worship, the worship leader alone should initiate it (Ps. 47:1). / Since percussion instruments naturally call attention to themselves, I advise against their use. If they must be used, let it be as unobtrusively as possible. / Special music by a soloist, a quartet, or a choir seems best suited for informal gatherings. In the worship of the Lord’s Day, the congregation itself is the soloist and the choir.5


A. OT Reading (Law, Psalms, Prophets) (Brother)
B. NT Reading A (Acts/Epistles/Revelation) (Brother)
C. NT Reading B: (Gospel) (Brother; All Stand)

Comments: The NT commends the public reading of Scripture on the Lord’s Day (1 Tim. 4:13; Rev. 1:3). Wisely, many of our forefathers decided to implement this rule by reading first from the OT, then from the Acts, the Epistles, or the Revelation, and finally from the Gospels, a comprehensive approach whose conclusion is specially designed to honor our Lord. There are, however, a variety of ways to enjoy the public reading of Scripture. / I believe the teaching elder should choose the day’s Scripture texts, ideally with a view to communicating the theme of his soon-coming sermon. / While at this juncture congregational and antiphonal reading is possible, I think it preferable for two or three different brothers to read the day’s texts. Speaking personally, I find it encouraging to see and hear young men and mature boys giving the readings, a practice that significantly involves them in worship, and helps to train them in biblical manhood. / Those chosen to read the texts should practice beforehand, so that the reading is slow, smooth, audible, and confident. / In harmony with ancient Church tradition, the congregation should stand for the Gospel reading of the day.


A. Song # 3
B. Song #4

Comments: This round of songs, while still celebratory, begins to focus more on God’s redemptive purpose and plan in the Person and Work of Christ. Songs in this set may be slower and more contemplative, tilting towards expressions of grateful love, longing, and adoration.


A. Prophecy, etc. (Brothers only)
B. Free Prayer (Brothers only)
C. Silent Prayer (Brothers and Sisters)
D. The Lord’s Prayer Aloud (Brothers and Sisters)
E. Song #5

Comments: In this portion of the service, which could take as few as 15 minutes or as many as 30, we specially invite the Lord, by his Spirit, to move among his people, prompting them to charismatic ministry and prayer (Rev. 1:12-13). / Since this portion of the service requires careful leadership and oversight, it should be led by an elder. / During the initial time for prophecy, two or three brothers may take 2-5 minutes each to bring a short word from the Lord. To ensure the integrity of such ministries, the brothers must be members of the church in good standing. Per 1 Corinthians 14:3, their prophecies should be words of edification, exhortation, and comfort, delivered from, or in accordance with, the words of Scripture. NT prophetic diction does not involve the Lord (allegedly) speaking through the prophet in the first person. Rather, the brothers speak in an ordinary conversational manner, sharing the message they believe the Lord has laid on their hearts, humbly recognizing that their words may contain defects. / The people themselves will judge these prophecies for conformity to scriptural truth (1 Thess. 5:19-21). If necessary, an elder may add a supplementary, corrective, or qualifying word. / Based on my reading of 1 Corinthians 12-14, and especially of 14:26, I believe this portion of the service should be reserved primarily for prophesying, but could also include a short teaching (i.e. words of wisdom and knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8; 13:8-10), a supernatural tongue with (mandatory) interpretation, or a song (sung or led by a brother). While the Spirit may indeed suddenly grant a revelation to a brother during the service (1 Cor. 14:26), there is nothing in Scripture to say that the Lord could not do so hours or even days earlier, giving him time to prepare his remarks. / The season of free prayer is led by an elder, who briefly states the guidelines and perhaps suggests topics, and then opens the meeting for the men to pray aloud (1 Tim. 2:8). The men may pray as the Spirit leads, but as a rule will offer prayers of thanksgiving and adoration to God, and then intercede for temporal rulers, missionaries, and the special needs of the church family (1 Tim. 2:1-2). / I recommend closing this portion of the meeting by inviting the sisters to join with the men in a moment of silent prayer and intercession to God, after which, as led by the elder, the whole church may offer the Lord’s Prayer aloud. / I believe that prayers for physical healing or other special needs are best offered in a prayer room after the church service. One or more of the elders should be on hand to pray with those who come, though other church members, with a special gift for intercession, should be present as well.


A. The Passing of the Peace
B. Song #6

Comments: The Passing of the Peace is an ancient tradition, now commonly practiced in liturgically oriented churches. During this short break in the worship service the people stand, shake a neighbor’s hand, and say, “Peace be with you,” to which the neighbor then replies, “And with you also”. When performed sincerely, this little ritual is a beautiful manifestation of the fellowship of the saints, and of the exchange of grace that continually occurs in God’s family (1 Cor. 12:4-31). / As a rule, this portion of the service will last from 3-5 minutes, giving worshipers a mini-opportunity to stand, pass the peace, greet a newcomer, and briefly visit. / The beginning of Song # 6 is a signal for the congregation to re-assemble for the sermon.6

VIII. SERMON (Teaching/Preaching Elder)

A. Sermon
B. Brief Season(s) of Q and A (Brothers Only)

Comments: In evangelical circles, which commonly prioritize the Word of God, the sermon tends to be the climax of the service. In Catholic circles, which always prioritize the administration of the sacraments, the Lord’s Supper is the climax. I incline to the Catholic position, but for evangelical reasons. In the sermon, the elder will bring the Word of the Lord to the people; but this is only in preparation for the climax, when he brings the people to Lord of the Word, and then steps aside (a beautiful and healthy exercise in Christian humility). / I do not believe the Sunday sermon should be an in-depth Bible study, a ministry better accomplished in settings where time limitations are not a factor, and where extended dialog can take place. Rather, it is a special opportunity for leaders to exercise one (or more) of three scriptural charisms: gospel proclamation (preaching), gospel instruction (teaching), and gospel encouragement and exhortation (prophecy). Depending on the nature of his spiritual gift(s), the preaching elder will typically major in one of these charisms, and minor in the others. In larger churches with multiple elders, this fact of charismatic life argues for letting differently gifted elders preach at different times in order to meet different spiritual needs. / As a rule, the sermon should last 20-30 minutes, thus leaving ample time for the church to linger at the Lord’s Table. The preacher will normally close with a word of prayer, thanking the Lord for the good gifts celebrated in the sermon, and asking him to help the people walk in their practical applications. / Again, it is ideal that each Lord’s Day service have a clear theme. This can be briefly stated even in the Welcome, reflected in the Scripture readings (one of which will normally be the text for the day’s sermon), and opened up in the sermon itself. / Per 1 Corinthians 14:35, the preaching elder should leave room along the way, or at the end of the sermon, for short comments and questions from the brothers. If sisters have comments or questions, they can share them with their husbands at home, visit briefly with the preaching elder after church, or (better yet) participate in an elder-led discussion of the sermon after lunch.


A. Welcome to the Lord’s Table
B. Fencing of the Table: Words to Seekers, Words to Saints
C. Invitation to Private Confession of Sin
D. Consecration, Distribution, Corporate Sharing of the Elements (Song #7)
E. Corporate Confession of the Faith / Scriptural Words of Assurance of Forgiveness and Salvation
F. Final Song of Celebration (Song #8)

Comments: I think it wise, both by word and practice, to train God’s people to view their time at the Lord’s Table as the climax of the service of worship. / We honor the sanctity of the Lord’s Table, and best serve both seekers and saints, by fencing it. To do so is first to graciously ask inquiring non-Christians not to participate, but instead to carefully consider the deep meaning of this rite. It is also to invite the saints, during a moment or two of silent prayer, to examine their hearts, and then privately confess and forsake any specific sins for which the Spirit may be convicting them (1 Cor. 11:28). An anointed sermon will often lead to such introspection, confession, and prayer. Elders should advise those who are unable or unwilling to forsake their sin to abstain from participating. But he should also remind honest strugglers that their Host warmly invites them to his table just as they are, so that they may receive the True Food by which to fight the good fight of faith. / There are a number of possible procedures for consecrating, distributing, and sharing the communion elements (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26). While approaches will differ, NT testimony concerning the one Bread given to the one Body argues that the saints should partake of the elements together, thereby manifesting and underscoring the unity of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17). / During the distribution of the elements it is a great blessing to sing a hymn celebrating the atoning Work of Christ and its glorious fruits. / I believe that the moments immediately following our time at the Lord’s Table are ideally suited for a corporate confession (i.e., affirmation) of our Christian faith. The specific words may be drawn directly from Scripture, or from the classic creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the historic Church.8 The confession should (usually) be chosen in such a way as to strengthen the believer’s assurance of the forgiveness of his sins, his justification, and his final salvation. This is accomplished through confessions that focus our attention on the all-sufficient work of Christ, and on the once-and-for all forgiveness and justification that God grants his people at the moment of saving faith.7 / Following the corporate confession of faith, the elder will invite the congregation to stand and sing Song #8, which should be a rousing celebration of the finished work of Christ, the blessings it bestows, and the joyful hope it imparts to all who believe.


A. Final Reminders (Offering, etc.)
B. Benediction
C. Doxology
D. Dismissal

Comments: One of the elders will close the service by reminding the people of special matters. This will likely include his inviting both seekers and saints to the prayer room (or corner) of the church, where they can meet with leaders or mature members for counsel and prayer. It will also include his encouraging the saints to worship the Lord by placing their offerings in the special box located near the entrance to the church. / Drawing upon Scripture, the leader will ask the congregation to stand, declare a benediction over them, join with them in singing a doxology, and then send them out into the world to love and serve the Lord.

(But not before enjoying refreshments and a post-service season fellowship!)


I want to conclude my meditation with some observations of a largely practical nature.

Regarding the place of children in the worship of the Lord’s Day, I believe that leaders and parents should strive to include them as much as possible. The Lord has given us his mind on the subject: “Let the children come to me” (Mark 10:14). I can think of no finer place for a child to meet the Lord, or to receive memorable impressions of the beauty of Christ and his Church, than the Lord’s Day worship service. With maximal participation, and with Spirit-led leaders moving things steadily along, children will find the service interesting. I do indeed favor dismissing children for age-level teaching during the time of the sermon. But beyond that, by all means let them join the family, and let us adults show them how much we enjoy their presence and participation. / I appreciate those wise parents who graciously train their children to sit still, and (at the appropriate times) to be quiet during the worship service. I appreciate the patience and forbearance of the rest of the saints, when some of the little children fail to do so. And I greatly appreciate church leaders who provide a nursery and cry room, to which Dads or Moms can swiftly take their little ones if and when they start to disrupt the service.

From 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 it appears that love feasts were commonly held just prior to the saint’s time at the Lord’s Table (Jude 1:12). However, the NT does not mandate this practice, but only mentions it. I am aware of at least one medium-size church that concludes its formal worship service, and then invites all who so desire, first to eat lunch, and then to partake of the Lord’s Supper. In smaller churches, like the house churches of NT times, this is a viable practice. But since many in a larger congregation will not be present, this practice does not seem to manifest or promote the unity of the Body as the Lord intended. Let each leader be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Again, I very much favor the idea of the saints eating lunch together after church, and then discussing the sermon. It seems a shame to me that a pastor will spend hours crafting a rich sermon, and then, having delivered it, simply move on with his flock to the next thing! Surely an excellent sermon is worthy of an excellent discussion, one in which all church members may share their thoughts and ask questions of the preacher. Might not such a discussion seal a pastor’s message in someone’s heart for a lifetime? If so, why not offer it?

The total time for the service outlined above is around 2 hours. Yes, that’s a stretch for many American Christians, but perhaps American Christians need stretching, seeing that longer gatherings were actually quite common in days of old. Again, if the service is variegated, if there is frequent congregational participation, and if leaders—sensitive to the promptings of the Lord—keep in step with his life-giving Spirit, the two hours should fly by. That said, any number of exigencies may require a shorter service, and there is nothing in the NT to forbid it, so long as all necessary things are done decently and in order.

In conclusion, let me urge all involved—elders, worship leaders, and church members—to prioritize the worship of the Lord’s Day. It is entirely possible that apart from one’s daily quiet time with the Lord, there is no more important activity for a Christian man or woman. For again, here the Father desires specially to gather his children to himself; and here the High King of the Church desires specially to walk among the golden lampstands, and to minister to his Bride (Rev. 1:12-13) Therefore, in preparing for the Lord’s Day, let all the leaders aspire to excellence. Let them stand in the counsel of the Lord, earnestly praying for a revelation of his heart and mind for the Sunday ahead (Jer. 23:22, 1 Cor. 14:27). And with that revelation in mind, let them carefully select the call to worship, the Scripture readings, the hymns, the contents of message, and the ministry at the Lord’s Table. Prior to the Lord’s Day, let them communicate with their people, urging them to prepare for it, and helping them to do so. And together with the whole church, let them pray for God’s richest blessing on the gathering. Surely he is eager to bestow it. And if we, on our part, do all we can to prepare the holy ground, surely the Holy One will meet us there.



O day of rest and gladness, of day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:
On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.

On Thee, at the creation, our worship had its birth;
On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;
On Thee, our Lord victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on Thee most glorious, a triple light was given.

Thou art a port protected, from storms that round us rise;
A garden intersected, with streams of Paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our Promised Land.

Thou art a holy ladder, where angels go and come;
Each Sunday finds us gladder, and nearer to our home;
A day of sweet refection, thou art a day of love,
A day of resurrection, from earth to things above.

Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls;
To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,
Where Gospel light is glowing, with pure and radiant beams,
And living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.

New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,
We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed.
To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son;
The church her voice upraises, to Thee, blest Three in One.



1. This portion of the Statement of Faith is based upon the following Scripture texts: Gen. 2:3, Ex. 20:8, Mark 2:28, Col. 2:16-17 / Heb. 4:3-11, Rev. 14:13, 20:4-6 / Rom. 14:5, Col. 2:16 / Mt. 28:1, Mark 16:2, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10; Isa. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, 1 Cor. 16:2, Heb. 10:26; Isa. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, Mark 2:27-28, 1 Cor. 11:26. To view the entire Statement, click here.

2. For a thorough introduction to the gifts of the Spirit from a continuationist perspective, see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1994), chapters 52, 53.

3. The exegesis of the texts dealing with women’s verbal participation in the whole-church gathering is highly contested. To read interpretations that I have found convincing, please click here, here, and (especially) here.

4. To read a list of Scripture texts appropriate for the call to worship, please click here.

5. In 1 Corinthians 14:24 we find Paul saying, among other things, “ . . . each one has a psalm.” While the apostle, in making this statement, likely had in mind an individual brother leading out in a psalm or hymn, I find nothing here to preclude the ministry of a chosen worship leader and his musical team, just so long as the psalms they “have” have been prayerfully received from the Lord.

6. To read a short article on the history and practice of Passing the Peace, please click here.

7. I do not favor pre-written confessions of specific sins, seeing that this practice, which is common in Reformed liturgies, actually forces believers to sin by confessing sins that they have not committed in the week prior, and for which they are not under conviction by the Spirit! Also, I do not believe that leaders (or liturgies) should encourage believers to ask God for forgiveness of sins. This practice tends strongly to undermine their grip on the once-for-all character of their justification. When they trusted in Christ, God forgave them all their sins, once and for all (time). When they trusted in Christ, God also imputed Christ’s perfect righteousness to them, once and for all (time). This is the clear teaching of Scripture (John 5:24; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:7; 9:12). Therefore, in light of these tremendous truths—so easily forgotten or misunderstood—I believe leaders should train their people simply to confess any specific sin for which they are presently under conviction, determine with God’s help to forsake it, and then thank him once again for so graciously forgiving them for it when they trusted in Christ. The Lord’s Day worship service must never undermine the saints’ grip on their justification, but instead do all it can to strengthen it.

8. In the interests of truth and clarity, it may necessary for the elders slightly to modify one or more of the ancient confessions, in order to align it with their best understanding of Scripture and the church’s Statement of Faith.