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.


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 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.


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 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.

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.

January 29, 2009

Psalm 2, Eschatology, and Expository Preaching

Filed under: Bible Study,eschatology,Phil Johnson — Lynda O @ 12:15 pm
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The local pastor has often said that he learned a lot of his theology by encountering bad theology, through the process of learning how to refute it. He observed this in reference to someone in the Church of Christ, and proper understanding of  salvation. In my own spiritual journey, I find how true this is — though in my case, with the local pastor’s own bad/weak theology.  As I consider the words of scripture, and compare the local pastor to the teaching of more-learned pastors, I too can come to a better understanding of God’s word and recognize truth and error.

The most recent incident involves Psalm 2, a fairly short Psalm packed with lots of detail, the first of several Messianic psalms. After hearing some of the local pastor’s session through this Psalm at a recent Wednesday evening service, I listened to Phil Johnson’s sermon on this very Psalm, “The Rage of the Heathen Against a Sovereign God,” for good contrast. Interestingly enough, Phil began this sermon by commenting that he only had a half-day that Saturday to prepare a sermon, and thus he broke from his regular study series to do a shorter passage, and these are the times he often preaches from the Psalms. Then he delivered an excellent, expository verse-by-verse sermon, with great insights. Johnson notes the division of the Psalm into four sections: the words of the nation, followed by verses spoken by God in each of the three persons, a trinitarian Psalm in a sense. In this Psalm Johnson describes the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ, and properly addresses God’s sense of humor as a scornful derision, one that is not just humor for its own sake but that shows God’s sovereignty and scorn / pity towards the lost. He presents the fulfillment of the verses which apply to Christ’s crucifixion, and relates the present-day reality of lost man raging against God, something he experiences regularly with his blog and the hateful, blasphemous emails he receives from the “Internet infidels.” God’s sovereignty over mankind, as well as God’s mercy, that the very ones who rage against Him and hate Him, will be brought in to become His people, also come out in this sermon.

Contrast this with the typical pattern of the local pastor (and no doubt this applies to many local church pastors as well; so few pastors can really preach and teach at the level of Phil Johnson, John MacArthur, and others I’ve come to appreciate from the Master’s Seminary), a rambling that quickly goes off course, even way into left field in the pastor’s continual push for his preterist / amill eschatology — a preaching style that tends to gloss over the details of what a given text is saying, to casually say that it means one thing, when a careful exegesis of the text itself and in light of all other biblical texts, shows that that is NOT what the text is saying. This preaching, now that I can spot all the flaws, is in a way humorous (except that it can mislead others, alas) and certainly provides extra topic material, for blog entries as well as for further study of the real texts. Here, for instance, I learned that the pastor thinks the harlot woman in Revelation 17 is Israel; he stated his certainty on that point, though without giving further details or exegesis to prove that assertion.  Considering that he also believes that Daniel’s 70th week was completed in the 1st century, and holds to the NCT (New Covenant Theology) construct that the church is the real Israel, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — though again, this is a big leap from supposedly teaching about Psalm 2. This view completely misses the point of the events in Revelation — the Great Tribulation, the time of “Jacob’s trouble” also spoken of in Old Testament passages. He noted his uncertainty about Revelation 17 being a future event (using the word “if”), and maintains Israel in a permanently apostate condition, completely missing the fact of what Revelation is about, how God is going to bring great trouble on national Israel and save a large number of them. He mentioned the creature with ten horns and seven heads, but without any reference to the parallel passages in Daniel, which also help set the context of the scenes in Revelation.  More could be said here, but this gives the general idea — and again reminds me why I often tune him out and read good Bible teaching instead.

Yet I can be thankful even for the bad teaching, in that it prompts me to look into a matter for myself — to find better material available online, such as the great expository, verse-by-verse preaching of the truly biblical preachers.

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