Contending For The Faith

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 Challies.com, 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

August 5, 2009

“Whenever You’re Speaking To Me”

The title here is from a Don Francisco song, with the following joyous lyrics:

There’s nothing I’ve heard that compares with your word,
the strength in it can set me so free.
There’s joy deep inside, that can’t be denied,
Whenever you’re speakin’ to me.

Every day as I spend time in God’s word (which nowadays means reading a set of 12 different chapters, about 40 minutes each day) I continue to find great encouragement to keep pressing on in the Christian walk. When so often I feel discouraged, and long for the rapture to be away from this wicked world, I find the strength to carry on. When on Sunday afternoon I was especially bothered about the local pastor’s disparaging remarks regarding premillennial eschatology (such as a passing comment that, oh, the book of Revelation contains a lot of symbols, it can’t be taken too seriously), the reading time again refreshed my spirit, to continue on with hope in God’s final deliverance.

The following are specific examples from recent readings (day 142). I read, as in today’s reading from Luke 8, of the Gadarene demoniac freed from demons, longing to go with Jesus; Jesus did not let him, but instead told him to go and tell others what God had done for him. In the same chapter I read of the fearful disciples on the boat, while Jesus slept in the storm, and then Jesus calmed the storm. I read in Hebrews 11 and 12 of the great saints of old, and the example they give to us, for holy living. The holy living theme continues in Titus 1, a place of wickedness much like today’s world, and yet Titus had to remain in that situation to put it in order, to do the work of God in a dark world. I read in the historical books (Joshua 8, 2 Kings 3) of mighty ways in which God delivered His people and brought victory against Israel’s enemies. Isaiah 6 shows the full awesomeness and glory of God, a scene similar to that of many others in the Bible who reacted with great fear at seeing a glimpse of the holy God. Amos 9 tells of judgement to come, as well as great deliverance for God’s people Israel in the final days after the great tribulation. Then (list 12) Revelation 7 tells of the vast number of peoples who will be saved in that last day, the 144,000 Israelites and the uncounted multitude from every nation, who come out of the great tribulation.

Spurgeon spoke of the great blessings that come from knowing God and how through that we grow in our faith:

“Every believer understands that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his faith. Believers are constantly referred to in the Bible as people who are enlightened and taught by the Lord; they are said to “have been anointed by the Holy One,”1 and it is the Spirit’s peculiar office to lead them into all truth, so that they might grow in their faith. Knowledge strengthens love as well as faith. … Knowledge also strengthens hope. … Knowledge supplies us with reason for patience.

Like Don Francisco, I can sing:

‘Cause like the rain from the sky on a thirsty land,
Your word brought life to a dying man.
From desert to garden,
condemnation to pardon,
and all of the praise goes to You!

and

With Your spirit inside and Your Word as my guide,
I’ve got a sense of direction so strong.

August 4, 2009

A Look at Some Free Bible Software

Filed under: Bible Software,Bible Study — Lynda O @ 11:37 am
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I recently discovered two great, free bible programs: e-Sword and TheWord. These programs have actually been around for awhile; I started hearing about e-Sword on some Christian message boards, and since have downloaded and tried them out.

Both programs have a basic program which includes KJV and basic functionality, and many optional modules to add additional Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries and more. E-Sword appears to have more overall modules, including several available for a small fee in addition to the many free modules. TheWord does not have any maps yet, though I noticed it has a category for that in the download section; no doubt they will add map modules in the future. In both cases, the free modules are often public domain material, such as Spurgeon devotionals, Matthew Henry commentary and Scofield reference notes.

TheWord has an importer utility that can import and convert e-Sword modules. However, it only works with earlier versions of e-Sword. The current version of e-Sword, version 9 (just released this May), has its databases completely redone in new formats. Also, earlier versions of e-Sword apparently had the ability to show Bible text in paragraph format, in addition to the verse-line format. That feature was accidentally omitted from the current version, and when I inquired about it, they acknowledged this mistake and said it would be added back to the next version.

Paragraph format text, along with footnotes and the “headers” included in a translation, are important features to me, and for this TheWord is the winner. TheWord allows you to display the text in either verse-line or paragraph format. You can also adjust the settings to show the footnotes at the bottom of the chapter, or in-stream at the verse, or as numbers that show the footnote when you move your mouse over the number. TheWord also displays the text with many small blue-colored links throughout — cross-references based on similar words and/or ideas in some other part of the Bible. These also display in pop-up windows when I move my mouse over the link.

E-Sword has one great feature, but the lack of paragraph formatted text makes it of limited value. The “bible reading plan” option allows you to create one or more “reading plans.” You can define each reading plan to all of the Bible, or any specific books. The default option is one chapter a day, though you can change it to other time periods. Using this feature, I was able to set up 12 reading plans, one for each list I read in my modified Horner Bible Reading plan. When you select each list from the drop-down, it shows the full text for the first day’s chapter. A check-box at the top of the screen allows you to mark a reading as completed, so the next day when you access the list, it shows the correct chapter. (Obviously it helps to set up the reading plan when you actually start reading the chapters. In my case, I was in the middle of several of the lists, and it takes quite a bit of time to go through each day’s reading and “check it off” to get to where I’m actually reading.)

Given the format limitations of E-Sword, however, I found an even better way to quickly access my 12 daily readings in TheWord. I already have an Excel file “calendar” that lists all the chapter readings. A one-time save to CSV format, then loading the CSV file into Wordpad and removing the commas, gives a basic text file with each day’s readings, line by line. With TheWord running in another window, I just go into the wordpad file, and highlight and copy each scripture reference on the schedule — for instance, highlight “Isaiah 1” and copy to clipboard. TheWord displays a pop-up window in Wordpad (or whatever program you’re using to copy to the clipboard), with the full text displayed, and a link to “go” to the full view in TheWord. It only takes a few seconds to highlight, copy, then click “go” and I’m reading the full chapter, with my paragraph formatting, in TheWord. I also maximize the text window for easier reading.

TheWord also has a way to import text files (stored in rtf format), and create book entries from these. I tested it out with the transcripts from some S. Lewis Johnson messages, one message per file. Each file (transcript) is considered a chapter in the “book” and you can easily link to any of the chapters, or search for text anywhere in the book. Once the first few chapters of the book are setup, you can easily modify the chapter names, and add new chapters anywhere in the sequence. So if one had the time and desire, with TheWord you could add all of SLJ’s transcripts (or any other pastor or book series transcripts available online) as various books (each book having all the transcripts in a sermon series), to have all of the material easily accessible and searchable.

TheWord is available for free download at: http://www.theword.gr

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.

July 10, 2009

Some False Teachers are Christians

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynda O @ 11:56 am

Over at Pyromaniacs … In “A Reasonable Question” Frank Turk considers the biblical account of Peter’s behavior in eating with the Gentiles, then eating only with Jews, and Paul’s rebuke — and relates that to a modern false teacher, John Stott, who teaches annihilationism of the lost:

Peter needed a rebuke. John Stott prolly needs a rebuke. God knows that Frank Turk needs more than one rebuke — all of them, for false teaching. That doesn’t mean that any of them are not Christians. Some false teachers are Christians. It disqualifies them as teachers, not as men or women who are being saved by grace. Some non-Christians are also false teachers.

This is a good point, one I’ve been considering — and I had come to the same conclusion regarding my local pastor’s numerous errors: that he very likely is a real Christian, yet I do not see that he is fit as a teacher. One who purposely rejects several areas of the Bible, including matters regarding the beginning and the end (those areas in which we must especially look to what God says) should not presume to teach others, no matter how much he may feel “right” and no matter how much he knows and loves the Lord.  As Frank Turk added in a follow-up comment, “But some false teachers are Christians who need not to be teachers anymore — who in fact need better teaching to help them out.”

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 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 Cal.vini.st  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.

June 16, 2009

Day 91 of the Horner Bible Reading Plan

Filed under: Horner Bible Reading Plan — Lynda O @ 8:35 am
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I’m now up to day 91 in just under three months, with the following reading statistics: all of the New Testament at least once; and most of the Old Testament. Two days ago I completed List 1 (the gospels), so now I’m reading Matthew again. I’ve now implemented my variation on List 12 — Acts and Revelation, rather than just the book of Acts — and up to chapter 7 of Revelation. As with all my other NT reading, I’m reading Revelation for the second time through. In List 2 (the Pentateuch) I’ve started the third book (Leviticus), and in the history and prophets lists I continue reading through 2 Samuel, Ezra, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. At this point, I’ve read at least some (in most cases at least half) of all but eight of the Old Testament books: Leviticus (which I just started today), Numbers, Deuteronomy, 1 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, Lamentations and Daniel.

A few things from my recent observations: both Romans (especially chapters 9 and 11) and James (chapters 2 and 3) speak of mercy, and the two readings complement each other in their frequent references to mercy. From today’s readings, Leviticus 1 (priestly instructions concerning the burnt offering) fits well with Ezra 8:35, in which the returning Israelites restarted the sacrificial system and made burnt offerings. In the gospels, again I am struck by the writing in Matthew’s gospel: the first chapters are just chock-full of Old Testament references that show how events concerning Jesus’ birth and early years fulfill so many Old Testament prophecies.

Again, this is a great way to read the Bible, reading many different parts at the same time to grasp something of the whole picture of God’s redemptive plan in history.

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