Contending For The Faith

September 9, 2009

Bible Reading and Some Good Blogs

I’m now up to Day 175 in the Horner Bible reading plan.  At this point, I really don’t keep track of the day number, since I can’t match any number in the reading to that day.  Now I’m on my second round through Psalms, so I calculate the day number based on the current psalm number plus 150.  The only list left to finish is List 2, the Pentateuch, and I’m working through Deuteronomy.

For a few brief observations from the daily readings:  the history readings especially bring out the rampant idolatry.  Judges 17 verses 5 and 12 talk about the people making up their own self-styled worship.  2 Chronicles 11:13-15 has a similar case, the people of northern Israel doing their own worship in the days of Jeroboam.  The next day’s reading brings out general idol worship, again in Judges and 2 Chronicles–and in Acts 19, the idolatry of Ephesus in the 1st century.  Idolatry is also a common theme in the 2 readings from the prophets, although at the moment I’m getting a break from those subjects.  Isaiah 40 is very hopeful for the future.  Zechariah 11 is more about judgement (the flock marked for slaughter) and the First Coming prophecy about the 30 pieces of silver, such a low price they esteemed Him.

On to other matters…. in the current blog world, Biblical Christianity has a good blog, “Good men = good views? Yes, and not necessarily… respectively.”  Another good recent blog is Fred Butler’s 12th in the “Studies in Eschatology” series:  Apocalypticism and the book of Revelation in which he points out how Revelation has many differences from the non-canonical apocalyptic literature and we can’t use that excuse, that Revelation is just apocalyptic stuff, to avoid biblical exegesis.

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September 3, 2009

Lessons Learned This Week

Filed under: dispensationalism,eschatology — Lynda O @ 2:04 pm
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One, keep your focus on the Lord and His Ways.  Two, don’t waste time trying to reason with fools.  That’s the very simple description, from a rather stressful few days in which I forgot these two points.  The fool in this case is the anti-creation, anti-dispensational local pastor.  After sitting through two rounds of his version of Revelation chapters 7 and 14, and all his anti-dispensational rants and outright errors (and I did not hear all of it, but enough even as I tried to ignore it), I succumbed to the point of actually emailing him:  not to try to prove the correctness of the other view, but simply to point out the needless arrogance and ridicule of the views he disagrees with.

I admit my weakness.  I really knew better to begin with.  As I have understood for the last two years, someone who calls himself Christian yet has such an obstinate attitude against Genesis 1 shows himself without excuse.  If he won’t listen to God’s revelation concerning the beginning (and all the physical evidence in addition to the Bible itself), he certainly won’t listen to God’s word concerning the future things.  Here I recall John MacArthur’s words from this year’s Shepherd’s Conference:

Genesis is not poetry.  There are poetical accounts of the creation in the Bible, Psalm 104, certain chapters in Job, and they differ completely from the first chapter of Genesis.  Hebrew poetry had certain characteristics, they are NOT found in the first chapter of Genesis, so the claim that Genesis 1 is poetry is no solution to the question.

The man who says “I believe that Genesis purports to be a historical account but I do not believe that account” is a better interpreter of the Bible than the one who says I believe Genesis is true but it’s poetry.

But I also considered MacArthur’s advice, in a recent interview with Phil Johnson, that if you have a problem with your pastor, first go and discuss the matter with him; let him know of the problem and that he isn’t helpful, etc. (The context here was the “Case Against the R-Rated Church,” but the overall advice stands for any issue.)  MacArthur’s second point was also very relevant:  next, seek out other teachers whom you find trustworthy, and listen to them and their teaching.  This one I certainly have done, and it has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth ever since I learned how untrustworthy my own local pastor is.

As to the specifics:  in these two Revelation messages, the pastor ridiculed the idea of a pre-trib rapture, claiming that such people think this is a way to escape persecution, and “only in America” would people come up with that idea.  He also dismissed the consideration of a future “Great Tribulation” as ridiculous, because every person’s own persecution is their own “Great Tribulation.”  He threw the name of Hal Lindsey around a few times, and related his short conversation with a literalist in a way that mocked such literalism with short-answer reasoning; he also generally mocked the literal hermeneutic as wooden literalism and how of course that doesn’t make any sense in a book full of symbols.

I got nowhere in my two emails in which I pointed out that this view he ridicules is not exclusive to extremists like Hal Lindsey but believed by respected, serious Christian preachers such as John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson, and Fred Zaspel (who he knows personally), men who he has spoken well of in other contexts.  He claimed to be completely befuddled as to why I felt as I did–after I pointed out how I could just as easily make fun of amillennialism with the name of Harold Camping or by claiming that amillennialists believe such-and-such when really they don’t believe that such-and-such thing (as for example his statement that pre-trib rapturists think that means escaping all persecution).  Other than criticizing MacArthur with veiled references to the “H” word in reference to Ezekiel’s temple (and I hadn’t brought that one up, as he never discussed Ezekiel’s temple in this Revelation series), he never acknowledged any of my points regarding the respected dispensational premillennialists. Nor did he acknowledge any understanding of my repeated words concerning the distinction I made concerning “Calvinist Dispensational” or “moderate/progressive dispensationalism.”  In his mind, clearly all are guilty of the same dangers and evils.

Overall, the experience was discouraging and demoralizing.  I understand well Paul Lamey’s blog comment:  ” I really despise getting into hand-to-hand combat with folks about so-called dispensational eschatology…  I see very few willing to get down to the exegetical level and work it out in the text.” I often (as many times before) wondered if this person really is saved, with such an attitude and hardness of heart concerning the things of God’s word.  Another big thought:  is he really this stupid, this ignorant?  Or is this just an act?  Some of it would be amusing if not for the seriousness of God’s word at stake.

A few things especially stick out, that really gave reason for concern.  For one, I had pointed out that there is a scriptural basis for believing in an objective, future “Great Tribulation” which is different from general persecution (2 Thessalonians 2 and the plain, normal meaning of Paul’s words there)– and that even if he wants to disagree with it he need not dismiss that view.  In response he ridiculed the idea:  why would you think that the Day of the Lord is the same thing as a great tribulation; those aren’t the same words and so how is that being literal?  (Not the exact words, but pretty close.)  Here especially I started thinking about what’s really going on in his heart, the spiritual discernment really kicking into high gear.  This person has a Scofield Reference Bible which he still uses as his main Bible; and he was steeped in Arminian Dispensationalism in his youth, though many years ago.  Surely he knows very well the scriptural basis for associating the Day of the Lord with the Great Tribulation.  I felt like retorting this very point:  that he very well knows this; that I am finding it very difficult to believe he is really that ignorant, so I can only conclude that he is acting ignorant and thus deliberately trying to pick a fight; either that or that he really is that ignorant, so which is it?  A few hours later I considered that such a thought could be expressed in a less confrontational and more understanding way, as a concern regarding his attitude here, and requesting a simple, honest answer as to whether or not he really knew what that “scriptural basis” was.  Of course, long before this point I also recognized the futility of even discussing the matter any further, and in my final response to him I simply said that there would be no point in going on about specific issues of interpretation, that such discussion would go nowhere.

The next matter was really intriguing, and this one shows colossal ignorance.  Whether or not he really is that ignorant, in reference to the understanding of the Day of the Lord and similar stuff, the end result is the same.  Stupid is as stupid does.  Someone who has left the Bible’s wisdom in preference to spiritualizing, allegorizing, human-focused reasoning, ends up just as stupid and ignorant as if he really had been that ignorant all along.

Throughout his emails, he kept saying that Fred Zaspel is historic premillennial, and that he can accept that idea as a biblical possibility, with brief descriptions of how that idea includes a future Christian millennial kingdom — but all this other stuff about the Jews having special purposes separate from Gentile Christians, etc., is just so new (“only since 1830”) and therefore dangerous and unacceptable.  As one who has actually read and re-read Zaspel’s articles on his website, to me such statements seemed really puzzling.  Zaspel’s beliefs clearly are in the category of progressive dispensationalism, perhaps more on the “Progressive” emphasis, but clearly within dispensationalism, including belief in the restoration of Israel as a nation, the Abrahamic land promises to Israel to be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom, and a future Great Tribulation.  I’ve even heard Fred Zaspel mentioned in high regard by the professors at Master’s Seminary, and by Jim McClarty.  So finally I took a different approach and simply asked him “what is your understanding of Fred Zaspel’s eschatology? how would you describe it?”  I remarked that I had read all of Zaspel’s articles on his website, and knew that Zaspel is highly regarded by other Calvinist Dispensationalists.  Thus I wondered if Fred had since changed his views, or how did he (the local pastor) see that Zaspel’s views were different from dispensationalism (with emphasis again on the type of dispensationalism I am referring to).  The polite response was most telling:  he really didn’t know the details of Fred Zaspel’s theology.  He highly respected Fred as his friend even though he disagreed with him, and they had had light banter about it but nothing in detail; and no, he hadn’t read Fred’s website.  But he again assured me that Fred was historic premillennial and didn’t believe any of that dispensational stuff.

Talking about what you do not know, as though you really do — characteristic, classic actions of the Proverbial fool.  I was reminded of this and its great truth, in my daily reading of list 7 (Proverbs) today:
Proverbs 14:6-7 (ESV):  “A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.7 Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.”

August 11, 2009

The Rebellion of the Young, Restless, Reformed

Filed under: eschatology,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 11:32 am
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I’ve been reading through and enjoying the eschatology blog series at HipandThigh (Fred Butler) and similar articles from Expository Thoughts (Matt Weymeyer, Caleb Kolstad, and others), and have updated my blog articles page with links to all these articles. Fred Butler wrote some good rebuttals to Sam Waldron, who so objected to John MacArthur’s 2007 Shepherd Conference message that he published his own book, and has since written many more articles dealing with the basics of Eschatology. Now that I’ve listened to 112 messages from Jim McClarty, plus S. Lewis Johnson’s 37-part series, plus reading through various online articles at pretrib.org and elsewhere, most of what is addressed in these blogs is familiar material.

Fred Butler makes an interesting observation in reference to his own story and that of others, as to why so many Reformed Christians are puffed up on amillenialism and quick to denounce the dispensational premillenial view:

It seemed as though many of them were like me: Raised in a non-Calvinistic, fundamentalist church whose leadership never really taught anything theological at all, let alone Calvinism. Those were doctrines I had to learn on my own from pastors I heard on the radio or read in books I had to obtain personally. At any rate, many of my restless young Calvinist friends came to embrace Calvinism because they, like myself, saw the doctrines clearly taught in scripture.

But, with this embracing of Calvinism came a total overhaul of their entire theological worldview, including the complete abandonment of a dispensational perspective and premillennialism as an eschatological system. …even though some of these dear folks say they are biblically convinced of a non-dispensational, non-premillennial point of view, from what I read on their blogs and at times discussed with them in person, I saw their change in eschatology as a final “rebellion” as it were against the non-Calvinistic churches where they were first saved and nurtured. In other words, if these churches were wrong about the doctrines pertaining to salvation, they had to be equally mistaken about eschatology. Thus, it was believed a more Reformed view of eschatology had to be embraced in place of the errant dispensational premillennialism.

In response to this rebellion, Fred also adds this important reminder (emphasis mine):

I am for theological reform along all areas of doctrine; but I am not of the opinion I have to become either amillennial or postmillennial in my eschatology, or even adapt amillennial hermeneutics when it comes to the interpretation and application of prophetic literature, in order to be “completely reformed.” I think R.K. McGregor-Wright stated it well when he wrote,

It’s important that we as Protestants who take sola Scriptura seriously, not treat patterns of doctrine, especially the reformed tradition of theology that we have learned so much from, as a “package deal.” In fact, “reformed theology” as we find it in the literature, is no such thing. Reformed theology is a particular tradition of understanding emanating from the Reformation, not an exclusive system of divine truth that cannot itself be altered. No theology has the same status as Scripture, and no confession of faith has the same finality as the Word of God written. All theologies are the results of human effort, and they partake of the failures and partial successes of the men and women who have contributed to them down through the years. They are traditions, not additional revelations. Reformed theology is itself reformable today for the same reason catholic theology was reformable in the sixteenth century. The controlling principle of sola Scriptura still applies, Calvin or no Calvin. (The Premillennial Second Coming: A brief defense, pg. 1, unpublished paper).

Having come to a premillenial understanding from a different background, I had not been aware of this “rebellion” among the “young, restless, reformed” crowd. However, I can clearly see this trait in several individuals I know. It explains the attitude of the young Indian missionary to India, whose financial connections to Arminian churches were cut-off after he came to understand the Doctrines of Grace. Recently he has been traveling around and visiting many “Sovereign Grace” churches to create a new network of missionary support. I was rather put-off, though, when he made a special point of declaring that he had also abandoned the dispensational premill eschatology, that he now realized that all that stuff was fantasy. It also explains the attitude of one person at my church, who apparently was previously taught and adhered to dispensationalism, but now will consider every other option except the futurist premillenial view. This rebellion even accounts for the local pastor’s anti-dispensational attitude. Though he’s not among the “young” crowd, he too was taught the dispensational view as a young person in an arminian-type church, later came to understand Calvinism, and now, though he still has his old Scofield Bible, outright rejects dispensational eschatology.

In all these cases, what I see is that they really never understood what they were taught, and they did not (and still don’t) have a good grasp of the Bible itself and what it says, except in a broad overview way. Instead they put great emphasis on studying creeds and the Church Fathers (especially Augustine) and the Reformers, falling into Dan Phillips’ number one of the “25 stupid reasons for dissing dispensationalism,” that “it isn’t cool to be dispensational.” Yes, that too reflects an immature, rebellious attitude of one more interested in man’s opinions than God’s.

God’s word is quite clear on the matter, and the more I read and study my Bible, the clearer it is. My eschatology begins at Genesis 12 (and as I listen to SLJ’s “Genesis” series I’m now up to Genesis 12) and continues strong throughout the OT and continues loud and clear in the NT. But those who uphold their amillenial and preterist ideas must of necessity put man’s ideas and man’s theological systems before the word of God.  The only way to come up with such ideas is when one imposes that “system” onto a text rather than reading the Bible at face value in the normal way of reading a text, according to the literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

July 27, 2009

Thoughts Concerning “Mark Dever’s BIG Statement”

Filed under: doctrine,eschatology — Lynda O @ 11:43 am
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I’ve been following the discussion at “Expository Thoughts” blog, concerning “Mark Dever’s BIG Statement” and a response to it.  The overall issues here are two: a local church’s doctrinal statement, and the subjective idea of doctrinal “triage” in which various biblical doctrines are ranked as being of first, second, or third-tier importance.

In the matter where my experience is more limited (I’ve only been a regular member at two churches in my life), I learned of the differences between local churches — some have very detailed doctrinal statements. Some churches that have detailed statements require membership adherence to that doctrinal statement; others do not exclude for membership based on these matters, but simply give the statement as “this is what we teach and believe.” My local church has neither a detailed doctrinal statement, nor membership qualification based on that; nor do they ever fully disclose and teach “New Members classes” though the church has had a great influx of new members and regular attenders in the last six years. The pastor happens to be amillennial and partial preterist in his view, and this is the only view presented.  He frequently makes passing remarks showing his confused and highly-allegorized ideas of scripture, so he is clearly not neutral, in contrast to the many pastors that are amillennial but relegate the matter to a lesser level of importance.

The other issue, of doctrinal hierarchy, is one I’ve given some thought to, and I firmly believe that much of this concept is based on man’s ideas rather than God’s. Many of the preachers and bloggers (and many of the blog posters are also pastors) apparently rank eschatology as of little importance (3rd tier), others at 2nd tier, though all concurring that we shouldn’t divide and restrict fellowship based on either 2nd or 3rd tier doctrines.  When these individuals rank eschatology on the same level of importance as drinking alcohol, or KJV-only versus non-KJV only, though, I believe that they do a great disservice to scripture and miss a huge difference between these items. Drinking alcohol, for instance, is explicitly designated in scripture, through Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians, as one of the lesser matters (along with eating meat sacrificed to idols, and general attitudes toward physical eating and drinking) up to each person’s own conscience. The KJV-only controversy is, of its very nature, not a biblical issue but a more recent development in which people have elevated the matter of translations to the level of doctrine itself.

Eschatology fits neither of the above cases, and in fact the Bible throughout addresses the subject very frequently and is quite clear on its meaning — clear, that is, unless one chooses to eisegete, instead of exegete, scripture. The matter really should not be that difficult. As one poster at Expository Thoughts noted, “the same hermeneutic that leads to an affirmation of believer’s baptism also leads to a premillennial view.” When Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, speaking of the coming man of sin, says that this person will set “himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God,” it is not difficult to understand that Paul is speaking of an actual temple building — especially when we also consider the many other texts that speak to the matter.  To quote S. Lewis Johnson regarding the 2 Thessalonians text, “This cannot be a temple made of men who believe in the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus, while right in the midst of that temple, would be sitting in the abomination of desolation. How ridiculous can you be in the interpretation of Scripture? So Paul understands that in the last days, that temple in Jerusalem is going to be rebuilt.”

As S. Lewis Johnson pointed out, in the New Testament our Lord’s second coming is referred to 318 times, so that is is mentioned proportionately in every chapter of the New Testament; some epistles have not just one but many references to the second coming. By contrast, the doctrine of baptism is mentioned 19 times in 7 epistles, and the Lord’s Supper is mentioned only six times. Yet we have whole denominations based on the teaching of baptism, also on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Yet these same people want to relegate eschatology to something unimportant, on the level of eating/drinking or different English translations?!

A common reasoning on this point is that the Reformers were such great, learned Christian men, great leaders, and thus since they obviously believed amillennialism and yet professed Christ, we must include fellowship with similarly-minded believers today and thus eschatology is not essential. True, the Reformers believed this, but it was among several teachings that they brought in, unchanged, from their Roman Catholic background. They were in error, and by their own admission did not study or give eschatology serious consideration. John Calvin evidently thought that the supposed millennial kingdom was the same as the eternal New Heavens and New Earth, and concluded that eternal life could not be restricted to 1000 years — merely showing his own lack of understanding on the matter. Today’s Protestant believers do not have the same excuse as the Reformers, a background (from most of their lives) where they had only been exposed to the concepts of Catholicism and Church-State government. To say that we should seriously consider the validity of amillennialism because the Reformers believed it is the same as saying we should believe any other teaching of Catholicism. Here I heartily concur with Dan Phillips’ remark concerning “Big-name guys were asked what one thing they’d change about John Calvin” — “my no-name answer would be that he be more conscious of what he brought over uncritically from Roman Catholicism, and take pains to reform it as well.”

July 16, 2009

Why Satan Must Be Released (Rev. 20:3)

I’ve just completed S. Lewis Johnson’s 37-part eschatology series, which cleared up and explained more questions I had concerning the tribulation and the Millennial kingdom.

One interesting item is the purpose of the Millennial Kingdom age (in SLJ’s message 35). Revelation 20:3 states that, after having been bound, Satan must be released for a short time. The Greek term for must indicates logical necessity; it is not that Satan will or shall be loosed, but that he must. In considering this text, S. Lewis Johnson points out that in each successive “age” or dispensation, God gives man some additional “help” to answer the human objection of what was lacking in the previous dispensation. Each successive age removes another human excuse, as again and again man still fails miserably even with extra assistance, showing his true wickedness and depravity.

In the “age of conscience” (from Adam to the flood), man lacked human government and its restraints: basic capital punishment. So the “age of human government” (Noahic era) answered that objection with new directives (Genesis 9). Then came the era of divine principles — the Abrahamic covenant, and the Mosaic covenant (the law) — and again man failed. Our present Church Age answers the previous system’s objection: our inability to keep the law. Now we have divine enablement with the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. Yet even this is not appropriated by all (only by believers), and is not perfectly appropriated even by believers. Thus, as the scriptures tell us, this age will end in general apostasy.  As S. Lewis Johnson explains it:

Well, someone might say after this age is over, the reason that this age ended in general apostasy is that we had satanic opposition. Surely, we had divine enablement, but we had satanic opposition and Satan’s opposition is too much for us.

The next age, the Millennial kingdom, addresses the current-day objection of “the devil made me do it,” by the binding of Satan. So the Millennial kingdom gives man every possibility to succeed. Man has more than the divine enablement of the Church Age, he actually has Christ reigning on the throne in Jerusalem, with only resurrected saints and living believers entering the kingdom. It is a time of true peace, Israel in the land, worshipping, with Jesus reigning there; the Gentiles come to Jerusalem for the feasts (Zechariah 14, Isaiah 66), and the people have long life spans in the manner of the pre-flood age. Man also is free from demonic influence during this time. Yet the end of it proves even further that, left to himself, without Satan’s influence, man still rises up in rebellion against God. Every inducement to do good, and every human excuse for man’s failure, has been tried by the end of that age.

Thus we see the logical reason why Satan must be released. There is sin and death in the Millennial kingdom; it is not the final consummation of God’s plans. Satan’s “second coming” accomplishes two purposes: it demonstrates Satan’s utter incorrigibility, and it demonstrates human depravity.

Now, what then is God demonstrating through all of these ages? Well, he is demonstrating the sinfulness of the human heart. He is demonstrating original sin. He is demonstrating condemnation. He is demonstrating the fact that it is impossible for a man in the flesh to please God. So I think that probably is the explanation of that statement, And after that, he must be loosed for a little season. There is a logical necessity for God to demonstrate that even though Satan is not here, still man is sinful and rebels against the revelation of God.

 

July 15, 2009

Some insights from S. Lewis Johnson

Filed under: Bible Study,eschatology,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 6:36 am
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I’ve really been enjoying listening to S. Lewis Johnson, to his messages from Genesis, as well as his 37-part eschatology series. Here are a few good thoughts to remember:

From the end of Genesis 3: Adam and Eve were naked and ashamed. The Lord clothed them with the animal skins. Then the Lord Jesus took that shame of nakedness on the cross — He was naked on the cross, taking on Himself that shame that Adam and Eve originally experienced.

From Genesis 4: Cain was the first seed of the serpent, and Abel the first righteous one to die. S. Lewis Johnson considers the issue of what Eve said when she gave birth to Cain, pointing out that some have constructed the Hebrew to say that she thought Cain was the promised seed. SLJ does not hold to that view (a view I first learned from John MacArthur), but does agree that Eve clearly expresses her understanding as a believer, that God was the one that gave her the child.

From both the Genesis and Eschatology series, I’ve learned about the significance of the creation and its curse — and the necessary reversal of the curse on the creation. In Genesis 3 the curse is pronounced on mankind, and in Christ that curse is reversed. So too the creation was cursed, and that curse will be reversed, at the renewal and restoration, when our Lord returns everything to the ideal condition of Genesis and the Garden of Eden, as described in Revelation 21 and 22. Paul in Romans 8 speaks of the creation itself groaning and in travail, waiting for the renewal.  As S. Lewis Johnson says:

the whole of this creation will be refashioned, and we shall have a glorious refashioned earth upon which the Lord Jesus will rule and reign in righteousness and in justice.

Jesus also speaks of this in Matthew 19:28 — that at the renewal of all things, the disciples will also sit on twelve thrones;  here again is a reference to the renewal of the creation as well. It is indeed very reasonable to see that, just as He redeemed our souls and will resurrect and give us physical bodies, so He will also redeem and restore creation to that “utopian” condition.

Amillennialists are so plagued by the Greek notion that anything physical cannot also be spiritual, that physical means sinful and carnal and material. Yet in this life we see it all the time, that the physical and spiritual co-exist. SLJ tells a great “parable” (from a true event) about a gathering of preachers at a banquet, enjoying fried chicken while discussing their views of the future kingdom.

If the kingdom of God can exist now on the earth in a 200-pound preacher full of fried chicken without any reprehensible materialistic connotation, perhaps it also can exist in eating and drinking under more perfect conditions in a future millennial kingdom.

To the amillennialist charge of “how ridiculous” a millennial kingdom would be, with resurrected saints walking around and interacting with non-glorified saints (those still living in their natural bodies), the most obvious answer is: well, Jesus Himself in His resurrected body interacted with non-glorified bodies, coming and going for 40 days.

I encourage everyone interested in good Bible exposition to read and/or listen to S. Lewis Johnson, a great resource for Bible teaching. Some of the audio files are of poor quality, from original tape recordings in the 1970s, but for the most part the audio is good. The SLJ Institute also has transcripts of all his messages.

June 30, 2009

Various Items of Interest

Filed under: Bible Study,doctrine,eschatology,J. C. Ryle — Lynda O @ 11:49 am

I recently learned of J.C. Ryle at this blog, another 19th century British preacher, contemporary with Spurgeon. His name and writings are less well-known today than Spurgeon, but many of his sermons are available online. My local church library also has several of his books, including his expositions of the gospels.

Here are links to some of his writings online:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs blog has a good post on “What Prayer Is and Isn’t”  (link:  ). See also his recent interview and great statements, including his explanation of “why I am a Christian, a Calvinist, and a Dispensationalist.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In my Bible reading plan, I’ve been reading through much of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation. Today’s readings included Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 21. My overall understanding of these passages is so much clearer now as a premillennialist, but so many people fail to just read the Bible and what it actually says. Ezekiel 38 is so parallel to the descriptions in Revelation chapters 19 and 20. Consider the parallel between Ezekiel 38:19 and Revelation 18:18-19; or the references to “Gog and Magog” at the beginning of Ezekiel 38, also referenced in Revelation 20 — at the end of the millennial kingdom 1000 years. I’m still not sure which period Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to, and I’ve read commentators who relate it to the later period, but most relate it also to the events just prior to Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation.

In the spirit of Elijah (mocking the Baal worshippers on Mt. Carmel), I want to laugh (if it were not also sad, that such is preached and misleads people) again at the humanist, non-Biblical eschatological ideas from the local pastor. He declared his belief that the end of the world will probably come in about 50 years. But did he base this idea on any scripture, of seeing how what is foretold in the Bible relates to our world today? No. He cited, as proof, agreement with “the secular scientists” who are convinced that mankind cannot continue much longer, that man has so much power to destroy, especially with the atomic bomb which anyone can make. He predicts that humans will divide more and more apart from each other and destroy civilization, with terrible warfare that will destroy 100 million or more people.

Of course he said nothing about Israel, the fact of that nation’s existence; nor the current “Mediterranean Union” as a real possibility, or the indicators of one world government unification, or that the technology and political factors are coming together to set the stage for the Great Tribulation.  Based on human scientific ideas, he comes up with human ideas contrary to Biblical teaching — people dividing against each other, whereas the Bible says the opposite, unification. Most significantly, he dares to suggest that men are the ones to bring about a massive holocaust, where again the Bible makes it clear that God is the one who’s going to destroy this planet. He further fails to see that the U.S. will not be a major world power at that time — though perhaps this could happen within 50 years. But as Fred Zaspel notes in his article “The Nations of Ezekiel 38-39”  though we today cannot imagine any Middle-East conflict that does not involve the U.S., the text gives no indication of such involvement and thus we cannot impose other meanings (such as Russia for “Rosh”) on Ezekiel 38-39 in order to date it to our time. Nor does the local pastor recognize the biblical doctrine of rapture (at any time), much less the likely pre-trib rapture, which means that the next event for Christians to look for is not signs of the tribulation; the rapture is a sign-less event such that every generation of believers has lived in imminency, that Christ could return at any time.

My, how confused people get, even professing Christians and pastors, when they reject any part of the counsel of God, when they trade in God’s word for modern-day secular scientists. Again, at least he is consistent in where he places his real trust regarding both the beginning and the ending of our world.

But on the subject of world news and end times indicators (for the Great Tribulation), I am now considering that one important piece has not yet happened: a rebuilt Babylon which must then be destroyed again to completely fulfill the Old Testament prophecies (and agree with Revelation 17). It indeed looked like a near possibility some years back, while Saddam Hussein lived, but as Jim McClarty said in his series (2006) for the end times events to happen anytime soon, the “leading contender” would be a non-literal Babylon in the form of Roman Catholicism. Certainly Rome and the Roman church may very well have a part to play in that end times scenario, but many others make a strong case (including John MacArthur in his Revelation series) that Babylon must be rebuilt, to fulfill those OT prophecies.

Finally, I’ll close with this thought, from Fred Zaspel’s article (from 1985) mentioned above:

if the Lord were to return today it is difficult to imagine how Russia (or the U.S.A.!) could not be somehow involved in the end-time battles. But this does not mean that Christ’s return is very near, and it does not require that Russia be a part of the prophecy. That a nation is likely to be involved if events were to occur soon is not proof that the nation is specified in the original prophecy. Seventy years ago the possibility of Russia’s being an end-time power was almost unthinkable. Should the Lord tarry another seventy years the same may be true of Russia then; no one can say.

June 5, 2009

Concerning Prophecy and Study

Filed under: eschatology,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 2:54 pm

My studies in God’s word continue, and I continue to enjoy and have great desire for learning all that is contained therein. One new observation I have, after months of study and perusing message board posts at BibleForums(www.bibleforums.org): one reason I especially enjoy studying the prophetic texts of scripture is that this particular area does require more detailed study than most other scriptural matters. Those who only give superficial attention to the Bible will never plunge into the depths of scripture, will never do the extra work necessary to see how the different texts relate to each other to form a more complete overall picture. So much of scripture deals with Christ’s Second Advent, yet so many neglect it altogether or only skim the surface and come to completely incorrect conclusions.

I can see this quality of study and depth of thought in the posts in BibleForums’ eschatology section. Whereas the overall content of the website is light and often superficial (as typical of all message board sites), at least a few of the posters in the eschatology sub-board show great intelligence and skill with their subject matter, knowing the scriptures and how to present and defend the premillennial view with solid biblical interpretation using the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic. This resource too is quite helpful for learning the topic, albeit in a broad, non-systematized manner of looking at specific issues rather than an organized presentation.

I’ve now embarked on a new topical series, a general eschatology series of 37 messages from the late S. Lewis Johnson. I’m in the “Covenants” section now, having just completed all three parts of the Abrahamic Covenant (message 12). Much of the material is review at this point, basic ideas I learned from Jim McClarty’s 112 message series, but S. Lewis Johnson adds more detail and insights. Again I think of Spurgeon’s great quote about increasing our faith as I consider the wonders of our great God, who not only purposed our own salvation but has an even greater plan, to also save a future generation of Jews. As S. Lewis Johnson said, it is so inconsistent of Calvinists to think that their own salvation is elected from God, but that the Jews lost their promises based on their efforts–their behavior and apostasy. Such a view would be more consistent from an Arminian, but not from Calvinists who understand God’s Sovereignty in Election. If God could reject Israel because of their failure, what confidence have we to assume that He would not reject us based on our efforts?

April 10, 2009

Regarding the Preterist Error

Filed under: doctrine,eschatology,Preterism — Lynda O @ 7:25 am
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Concerning the Preterist Error

Note, added 5-15-09:  The AntiPreterist Blog advocates Bullinger’s UltraDispensationalism, and associated heretical ideas.  I do not endorse this blog due to these issues.  The following is my observations from actual anti-Preterist articles that do not espouse UltraDispensationalism.

I just read through the last several months of blogs from the “Anti-Preterist Blog,”  a lot of good information and observations, and it continues to help me sort out an issue I have, with professing Christians that have overall bad and wrong theology on apparently everything except the basic soteriology (the doctrine of justification by faith and the “doctrines of grace” generally). I have a specific individual in mind, a local church pastor, though I’m sure there are many like-minded individuals, even other such pastors — and yet this makes the issue personal. It is one thing to argue and debate the issue in the abstract blogosphere, and an entirely different matter to see the error weekly in your own community.  The personal difficulty comes in finding the proper balance between being nice and civil to the person individually, while rejecting his teaching and affirming that he clearly shows complete incompetence in handling God’s word, that he does not know how to interpret or teach the Bible and ought not presume to teach others. The individual in question is a “partial preterist,” who believes that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled except the return of Christ with immediate judgement and bodily resurrection. That does separates him from the “hyper-preterist” position often described in the anti-preterist’s blog, and makes a world of difference between Christian and heretic.

Yet I must agree that the same hermeneutical error, of spiritualizing the Bible to mean whatever one wants it to mean, is behind both forms of preterism. When we leave the path of solid biblical interpretation, we might as well just throw out the Bible since it has no objective meaning. Thus this one who has left the path of proper hermeneutics (assuming he ever started on the proper path to begin with, which I don’t know) also came up with the following biblically unsound ideas:

  • Genesis 1-2 is poetry, substitutes progressive creation, twists Hebrews to come up with an unending seventh day
  • no distinction between the “angel of the Lord” and standard created angels; since Hosea said Jacob wrestled with an angel, that must mean an actual created angel
  • Daniel’s 70th week occurred in the first century (the first half being Christ’s ministry, the second half the war against Jerusalem in A.D. 70)
    the tribulation happened then as well
  • denial of the rapture itself as some far-out “Left Behind” heresy
  • Revelation fits into some obtuse amillennial/preterist scheme of past and/or present events such that the woman on the beast in Revelation 17 is apostate Israel
  • Millennial passages throughout Isaiah and elsewhere represent the triumphant Church Age and the gospel going forth

The really troubling part is that the unsound pastor really believes all of this, and yet also apparently believes he is Reformed and honoring God’s word as “sola scriptura” along with all the other “solas.” Now, I realize that the Reformers did not reform all areas of doctrine, but only soteriology, and kept the Catholic ideas concerning eschatology and ecclesiology. Yet even they affirmed the truth of Genesis 1, and believed some form of non-preterist eschatology, at least to the extent that they saw the Pope as anti-Christ, not a preterist-version 1st century Nero. As this recent blog  “Sola Scriptura and The Hyper-Preterist Dilemma” points out, though, when someone rejects the historical, contextual method of interpretation, “they render the Scriptures of none effect–thus disabling the effectiveness of Sola Scriptura. The Bible alone is useless if the student cannot understand what is being taught.”

Another interesting observation, which I can also see, is the preterist anti-supernatural attitude. In “The Unbelief of Preterism,” Brian Simmons observes:

As I wrote in my last article, much of Preterist theorizing arises from the a priori notion that there must be a “perfectly logical explanation” for what is commonly viewed as supernatural. That’s just the problem, though. Preterism stands in the the wisdom of men, and not the power of God. In their effort to be “logical,” they overthrow anything that seems out of line with the established laws of the natural world.

and, from “The Infidelity of Preterism“:

What is Preterism, really, but the outworking of a latent skepticism, which seeks to find a “perfectly logical explanation” for everything? Because they do not believe it possible for the Son of Man to literally return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, literally attended by all His holy angels, they seek a more reasonable explanation: one which leaves revelation stripped of its supernatural elements, and offers an interpretation which satisfies the incredulity of the scholastics.

How well this fits in with the pastor who has such a problem with God’s supernaturally creating the world in six ordinary days, and generally thinks of himself as well-educated in the sciences. Considering that this pastor never actually went to seminary but has only a secular science-type degree and “self-taught” Christianity, it shouldn’t be all that surprising after all. The naturalistic tendencies of man, giving great “power” to so-called science, bring about a real disconnect between the Bible and reality. This preterist mindset treats the Bible as allegorical and “spiritual” and at some “higher level reality” than ordinary people, and limits God to some other realm unrelated to this world’s real origins a few thousand years ago and real history since then, including the Scriptural understanding of “the times of the Gentiles” and the status of the nations and Israel as they really are. He fails to notice the very literally fulfilled scriptures regarding Christ’s first coming, focusing on this present “realized millennium” of a glorious church as seriously making an impact in this world system, when the actual course of history should make the truth plain enough. But our world’s actual history is really bound up in the actual, literal revelation from God to us in the Bible regarding the past, present and future.

Speaking of Israel and the nations, this brings up another major point concerning this preterist attitude — anti-Judaism, as described in Simmons’ “Preterism’s Anti-Semitic Agenda“:

But what would happen if Preterist teachings were proven false? If the timing is off by even a hair, and if Israel awaits a restoration, then she cannot have been divorced in A.D. 70, nor can the Lord have returned at the destruction of the temple. Well, this would discredit Preterism’s teachings. Therefore, Preterists find themselves battling against any Gospel which holds forth a future Jewish hope. The business of Preterism is to keep the Jews down-trodden, that Christianity may continue to exist in its present form.

It all comes down to proper handling of God’s word. Do you believe it as it is, or can you only believe it by twisting the meaning to agree with your own pre-conceived ideas? That reflects on your overall attitude toward God and His word, and those who impose their own meaning on biblical texts do so at their own peril, taking glory from God and calling God a liar.

John MacArthur made a great point in his opening session at the 2009 Shepherd’s Conference: the person who recognizes that Genesis 1 is not poetry — even if they then reject it — is a better interpreter of Scripture than someone who claims that Genesis 1 is just poetry (thus claiming to believe it, while twisting the meaning). This is foundational truth, and since the individual I reference stumbles here, it should not be surprising to find numerous other errors as well. Another great truth, from an early MacArthur sermonIf you don’t understand God’s promises to Israel, one you don’t understand how to interpret the Bible. Two, you won’t understand God.

March 27, 2009

Interpreting Scripture with Scripture

Filed under: Bible Study,eschatology — Lynda O @ 1:49 pm
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Something I am really beginning to understand and appreciate, is the simple concept that we interpret scripture “with scripture.” We don’t need to look outside the Bible to find the answer to something, to allegorize or “spiritualize” some unintended meaning from a text. Instead, look to the Bible itself, and so often one passage can be explained, or understood more clearly, by looking at similar passages elsewhere in scripture.

Jim McClarty said something similar, specifically in connection with Revelation, in his eschatology series message #108 — that all of the symbolic imagery and figures used in Revelation can be found elsewhere in the Bible, either directly or alluded to elsewhere in scripture, and explained. How true this is, and so amazing! For just a sampling of things I’ve learned through further study on this subject:

  • Revelation 9 — the locust army of Revelation 9, the fifth trumpet, has a parallel in Joel 2.
  • Revelation 12 — The woman crowned with the sun, moon and 12 stars relates back to Genesis 37, Joseph’s dream in which the sun, moon and 11 stars bowed down to him; his father Jacob interpreted it, as “your father and mother and brothers” and so we understand that the woman represents Israel
  • Revelation 20 — The description here, of what happens at the end of the thousand years, including the reference to Gog and Magog, fits perfectly with Ezekiel 38 and 39.
  • Revelation 6 and 9 — The golden altar in heaven is the parallel (the real thing) to the golden incense altar in the Mosaic tabernacle and temple. This was the altar of incense, representing prayers and our access to God — always in connection with the brazen altar of burnt sacrifices. In Revelation 6, the fifth seal has the souls under the altar, and their prayers for vengeance going up to God. Then in Revelation 9 the golden altar represents God’s vengeance, in the sixth trumpet judgement.
  • The plagues described in Revelation remind us of similar plagues done to Egypt
  • Rev. 14:19-20 — the great wine press of the wrath of God, has its parallel in Joel 3:9-15. Zechariah 14:1-9 also describes similar events of Armageddon, the Day of the Lord

Interpreting scripture with scripture is not limited to prophecy, though in this area it is especially helpful. I see how very true it is that Revelation is a Jewish book, literally filled with many Old Testament references to help explain it, references which those who know their Old Testament can understand.

It is exciting to see it all unfold, how Bible verses in one place relate to other parts of scripture and reveal new details in God’s word. The Bible is such a great treasure, God’s word to us, with so much in it that we can always keep learning and studying it, always growing in our understanding.

Here, too, I appreciate the great cross-referencing Bible reading plan from Professor Horner. Daily reading from different sections of the Bible, and always in different combinations of readings, is a great way to let scripture interpret scripture, bringing things to mind that we might not have thought about. I mentioned some of these “connections” in my last blog–similarities between Joshua and Peter, for instance, or the connection between Acts 5 (an actual event of people suffering for the name of Christ) and Romans 5 (the doctrinal background, suffering produces perseverance).

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