Contending For The Faith

August 21, 2009

Bible Details Matter

Filed under: Bible Study,John MacArthur,S. Lewis Johnson — Lynda O @ 6:20 am

Regular Bible Study and repeated readings of the Bible really help with understanding scripture and its meaning and context, and increase our ability to discern truth and error in the teachings of our pastors/teachers.  Consider the following example from my recent readings.

2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 (ESV):  ” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

The previous day I had read chapter 2, which begins thus:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (ESV):   Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

It is clear from these verses, and the rest of 2 Thessalonians 2, that someone had sent a forged letter claiming to be from Paul, in which they claimed a false doctrine:  that the day of the Lord has come.  The reason for Paul’s closing comment in 2 Thess. 3:17 is also clear:  his original handwritten letter had some distinguishing feature by which the Thessalonians could recognize his writing as compared to a forgery.  As John MacArthur remarked, Paul must have had a unique signature that was not easy to duplicate.

All of this is so straightforward, so why do I even bring it up?  Something as simple as this can be twisted to teach something completely unrelated, as I have seen from a not-so-solid pastor.  Twice in the last fifteen years he has preached through the book of Hebrews, and both times he began his series with an “introduction” message that included many great “proofs” for authorship by the apostle Paul.  One of the “proofs” he cited is that Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, said “this is the sign …. it is the way I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all,” and in the book of Hebrews the author closes the letter with the same phrase “Grace be with you all.”  This pastor then proceeded to show many examples (even having the congregation actually turn their Bibles to each of these passages) where Paul closed his letters with that same phrase “Grace be with you all,” and also showed how the non-Pauline epistles did not end with that same phrase.  In the pastor’s thinking, Paul’s comment to the Thessalonians that “this is the way I write” is directly connected with the next sentence “Grace be with you all.”  Therefore, any epistle that ends with that same phrase, including the book of Hebrews, must be showing Paul’s special mark of authenticity.

Obviously this pastor completely missed the seemingly obvious point of 2 Thessalonians chapters 2 and 3.  Paul’s concern was to show the Thessalonians some physical way to distinguish his letters from that of a forgery.  The closing phrase “Grace be with you all” could just as easily be put into a forged note as into a real note, and the words themselves say nothing as to the genuineness of Paul’s authorship.  After all, I know many people who sign their letters with “In Christ,” or “Regards,” but does that mean that all such letters were written by the same person?  As to the authorship of the book of Hebrews, I’ll go with John MacArthur’s and S. Lewis Johnson’s teaching on this: we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but it was not Paul.  S. Lewis Johnson made an interesting point here, in a brief reference to the topic:  the style of writing of Hebrews is very different from Paul’s letters, and this is much more clear in the original Greek texts.  (From which it is also safe to infer that the above pastor doesn’t know Greek, at least not that well; and considering that he is self-taught, never went to seminary, that too makes sense.)

I don’t know the Greek language, but as a layperson who studies God’s word (in my own language, English) I can study it for its context and meaning, and along the way discern whether what a pastor-teacher says agrees with what the Bible says in its context, its meaning.  Some examples of such discernment are of course easier than others, and the pastors that demonstrate many obvious errors (as with the pastor cited above) easily prove themselves to be poor teachers and even false teachers.  Of course we can all find something we don’t agree with, or some factual error.  I’ve even found a few factual errors, in the use of certain sermon examples / illustrations, from John MacArthur and S. Lewis Johnson; though in these the error was with the illustration itself and not related to any actual biblical teaching.  After all, all teachers are only human and without perfect knowledge; but some are much closer to the truth than others.


August 11, 2009

The Salvation of Babies Who Die

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,doctrine,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 7:08 am
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I’ve been following the recent blog discussion, started at, regarding the salvation of infants who die.  The faithbyhearing blog article includes a link to John MacArthur’s two-part message regarding this topic. I have now finished listening to these two messages, which were very helpful and very solid in reference to what the Bible has to say on the matter, which is more than I had realized.

For me this topic is more academic: I’ve not personally experienced the loss of an infant or young child. I’ve known a few cases, such as a friend who 15 years ago gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and that Christian woman still regrets the loss though accepts that this child is with the Lord. I recall a pastor years ago who was uncertain, but held hope based on God’s character, that our God is merciful. My more recent reference point is a pastor with many other errors (Hugh Ross creation, amillennialism, preterism, heavy emphasis on spiritualizing and allegorizing texts and skimming the details), who on this issue has not openly stated it, but tends toward the Tim Challies viewpoint of damnation for infants who die. In a conversation regarding the matter, his main point was the guilt of the young children, to compare them to snakes and even baby snakes. The baby human is sinful and will manifest its sinfulness if given time to grow up, just as surely as the young snake will manifest its deadliness. As I now reflect further on the matter, and considering this pastor’s other errors, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. It’s the same heartless attitude that allows him to compare human sinners to disgusting roaches– and true, human sinfulness is a very vile thing, but I’ve never heard MacArthur or other biblically grounded teachers describe sin in such terms (such a description instead, I suspect, relates more to his old-earth attitude of animal death and suffering for billions of years) — and to declare that people’s young children really “are just brats.”

In my recent general readings, I’ve noted Spurgeon’s clear view that all babies who die are with the Lord; and now MacArthur’s view, and really it does make a lot of sense and with good biblical reference. (My only exception to what MacArthur said was his reference to C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle.” That story has nothing to do with the salvation of babies; those who die in the train crash are those who were school-age children in the earlier books, and in “The Last Battle” are grown, in their late teens.) As Todd at FaithByHearing noted, the real issue isn’t the young child’s sin and guilt before God; we all are in that condition, and we all are saved completely by God’s grace, and even our salvation does not involve us in any way. The real issue is God’s grace and mercy, that which He extends to those who die while in a condition of being unable to comprehend, unable to rebel against God.  As MacArthur points out in reference to Romans 1, the lost are “without excuse.” Dead infants are “with excuse.” Likewise, at the Great White Throne judgment of the damned, the lost are judged by their works, their deeds. Infants (though guilty sinners with the curse of original sin) do not have any deeds to be damned for. If an infant were in hell, it may realize that it is suffering and in torment, but it would not understand why it is suffering. All the lost, at the final judgement, do understand why they are suffering.

I now offer the following theory, for what it’s worth. Admittedly it is based on an extremely small sample, and so I’m not being completely serious here, perhaps a little facetious, yet I still see some truth in the following. Those who reject the idea of salvation for infants who die, tend to also be those who like to spiritualize and allegorize much of the Bible, those who tend to skim over the scriptural details, and end up as amillenialists and preterists. The same group (again I speak generally) that would deny a future salvation for Israel, that would deny God’s promises and electing grace to Israel, who say that the Jews lost their salvation on the basis of works and thus inherit the curses while the Church receives salvation on the basis of election and now inherits the blessings — are the same people who would deny God’s grace and salvation to infants, to those incapable of consciously accepting or rejecting God.

  • C. H. Spurgeon: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • John MacArthur, and like-minded bloggers: future for Israel, and salvation for all infants
  • Tim Challies, and like-minded bloggers: amillenialist, no future for Israel — damnation for infants
  • The nameless local pastor: amillenialist, no future for Israel — uncertainty and likely damnation for infants
  • John Calvin: amillenialist;  partial infant salvation: elect infants and non-elect infants
  • Martin Luther: amillenialist;  partial salvation: only for those infants who are baptized before death

June 18, 2009

Great Christian Influences

This is a common topic on Internet blogs and message boards: list your favorite Bible teachers, or list the ones you’re most influenced by / learned from, etc.

Over time I find this list changes, and it’s always interesting to see the lists from others. Many of the names are unfamiliar, though over time I begin to hear more about those individuals. My own list is much smaller than others, those who obviously have been studying from many Christian teachers over many years.

Here is my own list of those great influences:

  • John MacArthur
  • Phil Johnson
  • Charles Spurgeon
  • S. Lewis Johnson

I’ve studied some from a few other names during the last 12 months– R.C. Sproul, Jim McClarty–but these are the important ones, and really more than I have enough time for in any given week. Unlike the  blogger, I don’t have an iPod to do podcasts, so I’m sticking with the “old” technology of MP3 files played on my computer, or burned to CDs and CD-RWs to play on the home DVD player or the car stereo.

My typical week includes:

  • listening to at least two John MacArthur sermons in my car, CD-RW discs with WAV files — currently listening to his Revelation series, up to chapter 16.
  • reading Charles Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s “Truth for Life” daily devotional emails), and reading a few sermons from the 1855 New Park Street volume
  • reading some of Pulpit magazine  and Teampyro blogs
  • listening to S. Lewis Johnson MP3s: half a sermon (about 23 – 25 minutes) each weekday morning before going to work.  I just started his series through Genesis.  Also, listening to MP3s of SLJ’s eschatology series, usually one message each weekday, on my PC at work (currently finished up through number 20 out of 37)

I’ve especially come to appreciate S. Lewis Johnson recently — a name I had often heard in the last several months, as being of like theological views to John MacArthur and Grace Community Church (baptist, Calvinist, dispensational). He really was a great teacher as well, with great depth of teaching (what I also appreciate about John MacArthur), and now I hope to listen to all of his messages, available on the Believer’s Chapel website (link here), and I’ll start by going through from Genesis to Revelation, all of his scripture-book messages.

May 21, 2009

Great Words From Spurgeon

Filed under: C.H. Spurgeon,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 11:21 am

Only within the last year have I really begun to appreciate, and seek out, the sermons of great Christian teachers– what a treasure I missed, all those years content with reading the Bible through once a year, glancing through my NIV Study Bible notes, and weekly sermons from the local church pastor. It was actually my discontent with that local pastor (which is another story) that God used to lead me to the good material, the solid preaching and teaching. First I started reading and listening to John MacArthur, and what a difference that has made in my life, to go deeper into the Word, to correct and increase my biblical understanding and faith.

Since then I have found a few other good teachers I enjoy listening to, including Phil Johnson and Jim McClarty. I’ve only begun to read the “dead Christian teachers” including two books from A.W. Pink, and now, especially, C.H. Spurgeon. I’ve started with my church library’s Spurgeon sermon collection, about halfway through the first volume, sermons from 1855.

Now I also enjoy the daily Spurgeon devotionals (from Alistair Begg’s website), and a new blog called “The Daily Spurgeon.”  So much of Spurgeon’s words are “spot on,” timeless observations of God and man, and still as true in today’s Christian world as then– and special to me personally as well.

For example, the following quote, from his 1855 sermon “The Necessity of Increased Faith,” describes where I am now at:

From C.H. Spurgeon, sermon #32, “The Necessity of Increased Faith” (1855)

I know I can say I have had an increase of faith in one or two respects within the last few months. I could not, for a long time, see anything like the Millenium in the Scriptures; I could not much rejoice in the Second Coming of Christ, though I did believe it; but gradually my faith began to open to that subject, and I find it now a part of my meat and drink, to be looking for, as well as hastening unto, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe I have only just begun to learn the A B C of the Scriptures yet, and will constantly cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith,” that I may know more and believe more, and understand thy Word far better.

Spurgeon was only 21 then, an age now a little over half a lifetime ago; I wasn’t even yet saved at that age–God would work on my heart just three years later. But just at the point when I had become content, and thought I knew all that the Bible had to say, God has seen fit to reveal this too, and like Spurgeon I cry to the Lord, “Increase my faith.”

March 21, 2009

Various thoughts from Bible reading

Filed under: Bible Study,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 11:42 am

In my reading of John 20 this month (in the reading plan to read John 15 – 21 every day), I consider the parallel passages of the resurrection. Thomas wasn’t there and didn’t believe those who told him. But the other disciples also didn’t believe those who told them — the women — as mentioned in Mark 16:14.

A few great thoughts to remember, from MacArthur’s “Grace to You” radio program.
These are excerpted from a message he delivered to the students at The Master’s College, about how to find a good church.

From the March 20, 2007 show:

“what happens is this dumbing down of a whole culture gets brought into a dumbed-down church environment and there’s very little ability to rise above that, apparently, and to think great and grand and glorious and profound and compelling and searching things about our God.   … You worship God at whatever level your understanding of God allows you.  If you have a superficial understanding of God, then that’s how you worship because the substance of your worship is the content of your belief.”

From the March 21, 2007 show: MacArthur tells the story of a seminar where he and others were given a paper cup, and each person had 45 minutes to construct the cup in a way that told others about themselves. MacArthur put a hole in the bottom of the cup — his explanation later was that he was a conduit for God’s word to flow through him.

March 5, 2009

Daniel 12: The Great Tribulation

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,eschatology,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:57 pm
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Now to wrap up the study of Daniel, with a look at the 12th and last chapter. Here I reference John MacArthur’s first sermon on “The Great Tribulation” part 1. 

Daniel 12 opens with a message of hope, with the opening words “and at that time.” Here it is clear that the last verses of chapter 11 refer to the time of the end, for chapter 12 continues without break from the previous events. The next few verses make it clear what will happen: Michael will arise, a great time of distress will come, followed by the resurrection of the dead: some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and contempt. As I now have been studying through Revelation, up to chapter 6 in that study, I see even more how the different, parallel passages in scripture describe and give details to the same event in the future, and the very fact that the time of trouble is connected with the resurrection should make it obvious (and here I think of the Preterist error) that this has not happened yet.

Here are a few highlights regarding Daniel chapter 12, from MacArthur’s sermons:

Special distress: The “time of distress” is a special distress, none like any before it, and the term is a Hebrew idiom, a term used and described elsewhere throughout the Old and New Testament: Exodus 9 (verses 18 and 24), Deuteronomy 4:30, Jeremiah’s reference to “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7); also Zechariah 13:8. Jesus describes it in Matthew 24, and Revelation 6 through 19 give the details of the last 3 1/2 years of this time.

The hope comes — Michael, a special defender. Described several places in scripture, he is the one given the “singular responsibility of defending the people of God.” Earlier in Daniel, Michael assisted Gabriel (Daniel 10); in Jude verse 9 Michael is even fighting Satan for the body of Moses. Revelation chapter 12 gives more description here; after the child (Christ) was snatched up to heaven, and after the woman (Israel) fled into the desert to be protected for 1,260 days (another reference to this same 3 1/2 year period of time) — in verse 7 Michael and the holy angels fight against the dragon. Daniel 12:7 also clues us to the time reference, that the events of the previous verses (about Michael coming, great distress, and the resurrection) are for “a time, times, and half a time” — another way of describing the 3 1/2 years.

Next comes a special deliverance: “But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered.” Jeremiah 30 agrees here, as does Romans 11, “and so all Israel will be saved.” Ezekiel 20:33 similarly describes this time of deliverance. As MacArthur points out, not every Jew alive on the earth at that time will be saved; God is going to purge, put them under the rod (Ezekiel 20); Zechariah 13:9 says two-thirds will die. We don’t know how this remnant comes to faith, and the Bible doesn’t give us all the specifics, but one of the key things to remember is the two witnesses set apart by God, in Revelation 11; Revelation 7 and Revelation 14 tell of the 144,000 evangelistic witnesses — 12,000 from each of the tribes — during this time.

A special destiny: the climax to the Tribulation is the resurrection. Some Bible scholars (see, for example, this blog article regarding New Covenant Theology, that the Jews were unsaved, unregenerate and served only as a type of the true people of God) contend that the Jews never had a clear understanding of life after death, but several passages tell us otherwise: Abraham clearly understood (see Hebrews 11:19), also Job 19:25; Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13, and the words of David in Psalm 16:10. Revelation 20 gives more detail about this very special resurrection, and here a synopsis: the first resurrection has three parts: 1) Christ, the firstfruits; 2) the church at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4, “the dead in Christ shall rise first” and then they who are alive are caught up together to meet the Lord in the air”); 3) the raising of the Old Testament saints, and the Tribulation saints. As noted here, the church is removed and not involved in the Great Tribulation; we weren’t in the first 69 weeks, we aren’t going to be in the 70th either; God is then going to go back to dealing with Israel, then “after the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The second resurrection has just one part, a thousand years later at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, when God raises the bodies of the unjust, and they go into the lake of fire. Now Daniel does not see the thousand years in between, this is part of the flow of redemptive history and progressive revelation. The Old Testament prophets wrote many things they did not understand (as Peter later states), things which often included great leaps from Christ’s first coming to his second, all in the same sentence.

Finally, a special dividend: verse 3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” As MacArthur describes it, “in eternity we will be rewarded by the capacity to manifest the blazing glory of God… in eternity we will shine as stars.”

February 19, 2009

Daniel 11, Continued

Now for a look at the last part of Daniel 11, verses 35 to 45.  Click here to view John MacArthur’s message on this topic.

These verses must refer to a future time, not something already fulfilled in history, for several reasons. Verse 35 tells us the purpose of all these events: for the purging of the people of Israel, their spiritual purification. Also, the term “time of the end” is an eschatological term, dealing with last things. Verse 40 reiterates this: “at the time of the end.” The end of verse 36 indicates that the antichrist will prosper “until the time of wrath is completed” — the completion of God’s wrath. MacArthur refers to this word as “the indignation” and notes that this is near synonymous with the term Tribulation.

The description of antichrist in this passage, detail by detail, parallels other Scripture passages about Antichrist. The beginning of chapter 12, referring back to these verses, tells us that Michael shall stand, a time of trouble will come, and the resurrection follows.

The previous three revelations in the book of Daniel all ended with a prophecy about the Antichrist; this prophecy follows the same pattern.

In these verses we see three things about the antichrist: his character, his conflict, and his condemnation. His character is revealed in words describing him as “the willful king.” Other titles in the Bible given to him include “the little horn” (Daniel 7), “the king of fierce countenance” (Daniel 8), “the prince that shall come” (Daniel 9), “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2) and “the beast” (Revelation 13). This willful king is marked by prerogative: he does everything according to his will, as an absolute ruler. It is true that Revelation 17 says there are ten kings, but they are just puppet kings under this one; Revelation 13 describes his cohort the “false prophet” but again the false prophet does his bidding; and also in Revelation 13, all men must take his mark, the mark of the beast. His other character features: he is proud and profane (verse 36), perverted (verse 37), and powerful (end of verse 37).

His conflict: beginning in verse 40, a revolution from the king of the south. Ezekiel 38 also describes the army that comes, the king of the north. The condemnation finally comes, in verse 45: “yet he will come to his end.” MacArthur identifies the northern army as Russia, and his message gives more details on the sequence of events and relates the events to the parallel passages described in Revelation.

Three great lessons from this prophecy:

1. God controls everything

2. God will purge His people Israel

3. The world will end in a holocaust, but Christ will triumph over that, and all will be well forever for the saints of God

These are great things to rejoice in and give thanks for, to consider how great is our God.

Daniel 11: The Reign of Rebellion

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:13 pm
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Part 1
For study of Daniel 11, I’m looking at John MacArthur’s sermons “The Reign of Rebellion” (parts 1 and part 2).

This chapter gives a detailed prophecy about events that took place a few hundred years after Daniel, followed by events yet to occur at the end. The overall theme continues, that the chastening of Israel is going to continue until the time of the restoration, until the time when Messiah comes in His kingdom, and this (Daniel’s time) was only the beginning.

The details of the prophecy, especially verses 2 through 35, are amazingly accurate, and historically verifiable, such that its contents are the cause of all the criticisms of the book of Daniel. Lost man recognizes the accuracy of the prophecy, but cannot allow for God or miracles, and thus must conclude that Daniel wasn’t really a prophet but lived hundreds of years later, that the words must have been written after the events occurred. As MacArthur notes, they have two problems: a god who doesn’t know the future, and a man like Daniel, of impeccable character and highly esteemed as one of the most honorable men that ever lived, made into a first-rate liar.

One common “hook” running through the passage, a way to remember it all, is that all the kings’ names begin with the letter “A”: Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) of Persia , Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, and antichrist.

Regarding the first king, there were actually more than four kings in Persia, but the angel picks out the key right here: there were three who ruled just before a fourth, and that fourth one was the one that led a major attack on Greece. The first three kings were Cambyses (son of Cyrus, king in Daniel’s time), a man named pseudo-Smerdis (an impostor who had great physical resemblance to Cambyses), and Darius Hystaspes. The fourth king, Xerxes or Ahasuerus, was the truly great king, the one mentioned in book of Esther, who had great wealth and commanded the largest army of ancient times.

About 150 years after Xerxes’ great battle against Greece, the Greeks finally got their act together, and Alexander came forth, as noted in Daniel 11:3. After Alexander died, his kingdom was parceled out to four rulers, two of whom had significance for Israel: the Ptolemaic line in Egypt (the kings of the south), and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria (the kings of the north), with Israel the pawn in the power struggles that continued for centuries.

Verse 10 introduces the third king, Antiochus the Great. The next several verses describe with astonishing accuracy the events of the king of the south (Ptolemies) and the king of the north (Seleucid). The fourth king, Antiochus Epiphanes, is introduced in verse 20, and again Daniel describes to the specific details the events of his reign, in the verses up until verse 35. Starting in verse 35, Daniel describes future events which do not fit with known history. Yet since we have the record of history for the previous verses, we can trust God that the future verses will also take place, as precisely as the previous events did.

February 5, 2009

Daniel 10: The Vision of Glory

Filed under: Bible Study,Daniel,John MacArthur — Lynda O @ 12:55 pm
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Daniel 10 begins the last section of the book, including the last and greatest vision. Chapter 10 introduces the vision, chapter 11 gives the prophecy, and chapter 12 is an epilogue.   John MacArthur’s message “The Vision of Glory” discusses chapter 10.

This chapter occurs two years after the previous vision (the third year of Cyrus), and Daniel is feeling discouragement and disappointment, because the people really haven’t gone back yet. Only 42,000 returned with Ezra, the rest living their new lives in Babylon and Persia, and the 42,000 were such a small number.

Daniel 1:21 tells us that Daniel retired in the first year of Cyrus, so by chapter 10 Daniel has retired from public service. Yet Daniel did not return with Ezra’s group, and here MacArthur suggests a reason: not because Daniel was too old, but because he was too disapppointed. Daniel saw himself as having the responsibility to motivate other Jews to return, and he couldn’t return because he wasn’t satisfied.

Instead, Daniel does what he always does in a crisis: he prays. Chapter 10 shows us that Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and that “Daniel received a revelation. The revelation was true. He understood very well the revelation.”

Here are six points in the outline of Daniel 10:

  1. Mourning toward heaven
  2. Manifestation of heaven
  3. Mastery by heaven
  4. Messenger from heaven
  5. Mischief in heaven
  6. Message from heaven

Mourning toward heaven: the three weeks of mourning

Manifestation of heaven: verses 4 through 6 describe the appearance of a certain man “dressed in linen.” This is not an angel, but a preincarnate appearance of Christ, a Christophany, for the description is very similar to John’s description of Christ in Revelation 1.

Mastery by heaven: as with others in the Bible who have an encounter with God, Daniel is overawed. The others who are with him flee in terror; Daniel loses all strength and his face turns deathly pale. Such a reaction is similarly shared by Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John.

Messenger from heaven: an angel appears and touches Daniel, to restore him and deliver a message to Daniel, who is greatly beloved (verse 11). Mischief from heaven: The angel explains his delay of three weeks; the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him for 21 days, and Michael came to this angel’s assistance. These verses teach us that the true rulers of the kingdoms of men are not men but demons. Verse 20 tells us that a demon is to be assigned to Greece. In the New Testament, Paul tells us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. Here we have a rare glimpse behind the scenes in world history.

Message from heaven: verse 21 begins this section, which really develops in chapter 11. “First I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.” The vision concerns Daniel’s people, is a vision not just for now, not just for the 70 years but many years, until the end of the Tribulation.

Some important truths we learn from Daniel 10 include the reality of demonic powers over nations of men, and that “God actually carries out His will through the angelic conflict.”

January 31, 2009

Daniel 9: Israel’s Future

The second half of Daniel 9, the answer to his prayer, is contained in seven important verses, Daniel 9:20-27, and here I review the three sermons MacArthur preached, “Israel’s Future.”   Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3.

MacArthur focuses on three features and three main characters:

  • The Circumstances of Daniel
  • The Coming of Gabriel
  • The Communication of God

First, Daniel and his circumstances: he was praying, a very strong, fervent prayer, as described in the first 19 verses and the previous sermon set.

Second, the coming of Gabriel: he is an angel, though he comes in the form of a man, and his name literally means “The strong one of God” from the hebrew words gabar “the strong one” and el “God.” Gabriel also appeared in other important situations: to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary to announce the birth of the Messiah. God wants Daniel to know that His message is a high-priority one, sent by Gabriel personally; this information also connects the events with Gabriel in chapter 8, Gabriel’s previous visit to Daniel.

Third comes the communication, the prophecy in verses 24 to 27, a well-known prophecy about 70 weeks. Daniel had been praying about the ending of 70 years of captivity, and God responds that there is much more to come, not just 70 years but 70 times 7 years. An interesting side note here regarding scripture: when Daniel read the term “seventy years” in Jeremiah’s writings, he thought it actually meant seventy years. As MacArthur points out, so many Bible commentators and when the Bible says seventy years, “they immediately go into instant hocus-pocus and they invent all kinds of fantastic symbols which were not the case in Daniel’s mind.

Now for a summary of the prophecy: the entire prophecy has to do with Daniel’s people and Daniel’s city, the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

Two different princes are mentioned: “Messiah the Prince” in verse 25, and “the prince that shall come” in verse 26 — the first is Christ, the next one is antichrist.

The entire time period involved is exactly specified as 70 weeks, which are divided into three sections: the first seven weeks, then 62 weeks, and a last week.

Verse 24 is important, as it tells the purpose of these 70 weeks in God’s redemptive plan. Six purposes are described, of which the first three are negative — finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity. The following three purposes are positive: to bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint a Holy of Holies. The prophecy for the 70 weeks goes from Daniel’s time to the end. The first three purposes point to Christ’s work on the cross; the last three purposes go beyond the cross to the kingdom, which lets us know there’s a time gap.

These seventy weeks are “determined” for God’s sovereign eternal plan. The Hebrew word literally means “to cut off,” and so “it’s as if God has just cut off or cut loose a seventy-week period, pulled it right out of human history and in that period He will accomplish His purposes with His people Israel.” These weeks are determined by God, and determined by God “upon thy people and upon thy holy city.”

MacArthur gives reasons for stating that the years are according to the Jewish calendar, 360 day years (see previous blog entry “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks“). Parallel texts in Revelation say that the great Tribulation will last 42 months (Rev. 13) and specifically, 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), and 1260 days means you have to be using 360 day years.

In the third part of this series, MacArthur looks more closely at verses 26 and 27. We note from the text that Messiah is cut off, killed, AFTER the 69 weeks, not during it. Then come more events AFTER the 69 weeks; “the people of the prince that shall come” describes the antichrist (the prince or ruler that shall come), and the people of the prince are Romans, who “will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This part refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans. Then, “War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” The gap continues, and then, verse 27, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” We know there’s a time gap before the 70th week, though we don’t know how long it lasts — only that it ends when antichrist comes to confirm a covenant with Israel. As MacArthur relates, the book of Revelation gives us additional information not disclosed here in Daniel, describing the same time period. Additional texts describing the antichrist and the great Tribulation include Revelation 13: 4-5, also 2 Thess. 2.

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