Friday, December 30, 2005

Last Day to Save on Bookstores

Just a quick note: I meant to put this up earlier for those who have emailed and showed interest in having an online bookstore. Tomorrow, 12-31-2005, will be the last day that that you will be able to get the store at a great price. The price through tomorrow is only $319. That's an entire web bookstore complete with plenty of books, credit card processing and new capabilities. After tomorrow, the price is going up due to the software updates with the new store. This new price will be $580. If you have been leaning towards this, then take the opportunity now to save over $250. Just click on this post's title and you will be taken to the sign up page. If you have any questions, you can call me at 704-913-4374.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jim Elliot's Story about to hit big screen?

In January 1956, five men dared to make contact with the most savage tribe in history, and their story changed lives around the world. Fifty years later the story, told from the tribe's perspective, will reach another generation in theaters January 2006.

I found out recently about a new movie due out in the first month of the new year, 2006. Evidently it will be somehow a retelling of the Jim Elliot story. Jim was a missionary determined to take the gospel to the Auwca Indians of Ecquador. He and his team were brutally murdered just days after landing in the jungle. When I have read Jim Elliot's biography and his personal journal, you cannot help but sense a love for Christ and for men. I have also been blessed to hear his wife, Elizabeth on the radio.

Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

I understand that this movie is a representation of the book "Through the Gates of Splendor" by Jim's widow, Elizabeth. If so, I am hopeful that God will use it to move many men and women into the fields for harvest.

Are you a part of the Calvinist Revolution?

I know that my posts come like machine gun fire. I don't have posts for a week or more at a time and then, boom, there are several of them. This is concerning an email from a dear brother of mine. He was in the Air Force and has lived around the world. He has many Christian brothers and sisters that he personally knows in many of the areas of the world and keeps in contact with them. He forwarded an email from one of his friends in Italy, we'll call him JJ. I thought it was extremely funny concerning how this radio guy in Italy dug himself a hole concerning the practice of what is commonly Roman Catholicism and the only way out was to setup up a "Calvinist Conspiracy", which he evidently perceives to be the enemy:) I'm enlisted, how bout you? LOL. (Although, I wish they would do it justice and call it a Christ Revolution.)

The following is the short email.

While listening to a normal Italian radio station this morning -- "Radio DJ" -- one of the announcers started talking about cultural religious practices. That's not at all uncommon here, but what I heard this morning made stop and think.

The man made special note of the fact that, in his opinion, from the standpoint of religion, Italy has advanced farther than other nations of the world -- "even other Catholic nations" -- in that pilgrimages, etc. -- "to places like Lourdes, for example" -- are not obligatory. Italian Catholics can go to Lourdes, or not, as they please. "And that's why church attendance in Spain is so high."

He was obviously getting into deep water by then, and realized he was making Italian religion seem light and almost meaningless, as if he were saying, "Italians can do what they want, and nobody cares."

In order to save himself, he uttered the following: "And this is the best way to prevent the Calvinist revolution which has occurred in so many other countries." (!)

How interesting that, on the spot, and under the gun, a phrase like "the Calvinist revolution" should be broadcast nationwide.

I spare you my personal comments, but it does make one stop and think.

Thoughts on Christmas

Ok, I know that The holiday itself has come and gone and I for one enjoyed the time off and also the time with family and food. I said earlier in the month that I would attempt to put down some of my thoughts concerning Christmas. I use to hold to the "traditional" celebrations of Christmas. However, more and more I don't see the need for them or the seemingly hypocritical way Christmas is presented. Please don't take my words as directed towards any specific individual. I am speaking generally here as a man who is seriously trying to examine the "reason(s) for the season". My attempt is not to set myself up as a Pharisee and command everyone to abstain from things in order to be holy. Our holiness is from the Lord. However, that holiness does present itself in various practical ways and that is what I am implying here. I have not "arrived", but do offer these things for those who might not see a problem with Christmas or with some of the practices and traditions associated with it.

I recall a conversation I had recently with a gentleman whom I consider to be a very godly man. I witness him on a daily basis living a godly life. However, he was extremely upset about the left's move in this country to take away any reference to Christ in Christmas. He was just as adament that Christians should stand up and be counted and that they should oppose such things including the commercialization of Christmas. To him, Christmas was a Christian holiday and that if you didn't stand up in opposition to those looking to put up "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", then you would certainly be in trouble when they came in your house and told you what you could and couldn't teach your children. I was left sort of looking at him with that, well you know, ears perked up kind of head tilted dog look.

I explained to him that not all Christians observe Christmas. We have sound reasons for not doing so. It is not that we deny the Incarnation, nor is it that we are Scrooges who do not wish to enjoy special days with family and friends. In fact, most who would oppose the Christmas celebrations do get together with family and friends and spend time with one another around the table and home. Christmas' history began apart from apostolic teaching. It is not authentically and primarily Christmas. One can be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and not celebrate Christmas. By the way, the left, and sadly many on the right, are trying to tell us what to teach our children, which does come down to biblical authority. We specifically do not observe Christmas because of the trappings associated with it. Let me explain.

First and foremost, we end up engaging in something that is specifically not commanded in the Scripture. This is where it gets tricky for some people. I don't mean to imply that we shouldn't preach, teach, or pray recognizing the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. I do not mean we should not make mention of it with our children. What I mean by that is that the Scripture is clear about what we should remember and that is the Lord's Death. He clearly instituted the Lord's Table as a reminder of it and He said that as often as we did it we did it in remembrance of Him. What is amazing to me is that most churches don't like the term often used there. Therefore, they do it once or twice a year or once a quarter. Our assembly remembers the Lord's Death each week. After all, it is the very reason that we come together.

I have been told that each week can make the Lord's Table seem common place. That is true. It can. Thus there should be warning and examination each day of each week as to whether or not we rightly discern the Lord's body and whether we judge ourselves worthy to partake (in the language of Paul). In all honesty this could be said of teaching and preaching and singing and praying, but we don't only do those things at select intervals during the year.

As we assembled yesterday in our home we remembered the promise of God in Genesis 3:15 in which there was the first declaration (the proto evangelion) of the Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent. We recalled that by the end of Genesis God, through Jacob, prophesied the time frame in which the Messiah would come (49:9-10). We recently went through Daniel and I quoted some of the sections that we studied in reference to the coming, work, and establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah along with a specific time in which it would take place. We recalled the birth of Christ from the gospels and noted that Paul defined His coming in the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4-5). We also spoke to Jesus giving the very reason that He came before Pilate in John's gospel (18:37)
"You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Earlier in the same section we noted that the scepter had departed from Judah, for the Jews could no longer lawfully execute capital punishment (18:30-32). Finally I made the following comments:

Christ was not born so that we could have a warm fuzzy experience.
He did not manifest Himself in the flesh so that we could decorate trees in our homes (spawned by pagan idolatry) with trinkets of His wonderful grace.
God did not become incarnate so that we would follow after the lusts of the flesh in an overindulgence of gift giving.
He was not born of a virgin in order that His people could mix His holiness with pagan traditions thinly veiled in Christian terms.
No, He was born that He should bear witness of the truth and that He should die to vindicate the name of God and rescue God's people.

It is true, that there is no Calvary without a Bethlehem. But Christ did not come specifically for Bethlehem, He came for Calvary. I do not mean to imply that Bethlehem was not important, nor do I mean to imply that the virgin birth was not important. They were because God said those things would be accomplished. They are part of the very fabric of biblical prophecy concerning the Messiah. However, they were the signposts, if you will, which would give authenitcation to the person who was the Messiah. This should give us cause for joy and pleasure, exalting in the supreme wisdom of God in sending for His Son, through a sinless birth, living a sinless life, and dying a sinless death in the place of sinful men, even me, the most unworthy sinner.

I could take the opportunity to address the many traditions associated with the season and their pagan origins. However, anyone who reads this could easily access that information if they really are interested in the truth. One of those traditions however, is that we end up tying ourselves to a date of December 25th as the birthday of Christ, when most Bible students understand that He was more likely born in the Fall. Should we mix the error of the date with the truth knowingly? We end up following the traditions of Rome, while calling ourselves Protestant. The question I have is this: evaluate what you did on December 25th. Were you totally engaged in the celebration of what God provided in Christ, or were you mixing pagan traditions in with the holy name of God? I really do believe if we are honest with ourselves, for far to long we have tried to separate the two, but fail to do so. This may go to exactly what so many Christians are upset about this year. They hate the commercialization of Christmas, while engaging in the very things that promote that commercialization (trees, lights, decorations, gifts, etc.)

December 25th is very special to me though, for it was on December 25th of 1992 at about 2am that the Lord Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit to regenerate me from the deadness of my sins, to experience the terror of His holiness, and also the beauty of His mercy. It was 13 years ago yesterday that God imputed to me the righteousness of Christ that was promised by the Father to the Son from before the world began. How can I not be joyous and glad? How can I not but weep tears of joy and take pleasure in my Savior? I simply am compelled to!

Lastly, I believe every time the believer lifts his heart in a prayer of praise to God for the person and work of Christ, he is in fact recognizing the truth of the incarnation. For there can be no Christ, the God-man, apart from the Incarnation. There can be no satisfactory propitiation of the wrath of God by Jesus Christ if He is not born of a virgin. So, in fact, each time we confess these things before God there is an underlying presupposition that we are in fact thankful to God for His unspeakable gift.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

What this monk wants for Christ-Mass is a heart.......beat

Truly this is the wierdest thing I've seen. Of course it does come from the same folks who gave us the pagan traditions of Christ-Mass.

Before Jerusalem Fell

How are we to date the book of Revelation? Is it important? What difference does it make? Will it affect our view of eschatology? Will it give us some clarity to those things, which in our modern time, have caused us to be curious, wild-eyed, and even anxious? I think the answers to these questions are clearly laid out in a book I have been reading by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. titled BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL. I believe Dr. Gentry has laid out the most convincing and strongest argument from the text itself as to its dating. Dr. Gentry has used the method of sola scriptura. He has also taken on the various other views of both futurists and dispensationalists and put them to the test. I must confess that I had previously saw good points to the futurist (historicist) argument, but I now think Dr. Gentry’s dealing with the clear things (that being its flow and main characters)of the book of Revelation to be the most consistent with Scripture and the most fulfilling of biblical prophecy. With that said, I am not about to go out on a limb and claim I am omniscient concerning all things eschatological. However, I think I have gained ground in understanding other portions of the Word through earlier studies and through the insights gained from reading Dr. Gentry’s book. I am over half way through it and wanted to post some of the things that have been pointed out. I hope it will be beneficial to those who may read my posts and possibly invoke some response.

First of all, as a reseller of books and video, as well as, audio I come across a wide variety of what claims to be Christian. However, there are certain men that I realize are godly men and who truly desire to honor Christ and His gospel. Among those are some of the great men of the past such as Edwards, Spurgeon, Gurnall, Calvin, Gill, Owen, Luther and other men who might even be unknown to the vast majority of Christendom today along with those who presently serve the church like Sproul, Mohler, MacArthur and others. I had not heard of Dr. Gentry, though he is a resident of the same state I live in and pastored a church about 1 ½ hours from my house. I came across a video of his via one of the men I purchase some of my products through with the Apologetics Group. The DVD was titled, “The Beast of Revelation Identified”. I had begun to move in a direction, that up until that time I did not fully realize existed. Much like my coming to the doctrines of grace, which I didn’t know existed either and was definitely not part of my tradition of indoctrination with the church I attended, the teaching known widely as preterism I was utterly unfamiliar with. Over the past months I have understood more clearly why preterists believe what they believe. I struggle with a full preterist view, because there are still huge questions in my mind as to how it is consistent with other passages. I haven’t run across anyone yet that has convinced me to buy into that line of thinking.

Clearly the first hurdle that Dr. Gentry has to overcome is the history of what the majority of the church has held historically. He makes an excellent case for the words of Ireneaus, whose comments are not clear concerning John and the book of Revelation. The following is the particular quote of Irenaeus from which most of the fathers and church historians reference as the definitive external evidence to the late date of the book of Revelation.

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to
the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should
be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen
no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of
Domitian’s reign.

At best it is understandable that Irenaeus refers not to the Apocalypse, but to John himself. This seems to be best understood since this comes in the midst of comments he is making regarding the number 666 and the identity of the beast. His point is this: if John was around at this time and it was important that they understand who this Antichrist was, he would have made it clear to them. In simplest terms: John would have made it clear who the man identified by the number 666 was if it was imperative for those living at that time. Since Irenaeus declares this time to be about the time of the end of Domitian’s reign, then the things of the Apocalypse, primarily speaking, the identity of this man would have already been understood by the audience for which it was addressed and who lived in that time.

This seems to be the strongest evidence externally that exists for those who propose a late date for the book of Revelation, since they would afford the fact that Domitian’s reign ended in 96 AD. However, Dr. Gentry takes many pages to take into account the reasons for understanding Irenaeus’ comments as referring to John and not the Apocalypse. Again, this is what most of the fathers rely on for a late date of Revelation and this is simply external evidence.

I think some of the most convincing evidence is the audience relevance, identity of the beast, the harlot, and the New Jerusalem.

I will see if I can be brief on some of these comments and maybe sometime in the future elaborate on them further, unless discussion gets stirred up. First, there is the issue of audience relevance. Again, though I faced some words of leaning towards liberal hermeneutics, there are some even among conservative scholars and bible teachers who say that the seven churches that John writes to are really to be understood as churches throughout history or that this is a picture of how the church will progress through history (ie. from Ephesus to Laodicea). Is this not to miss the point? Did John write to the church in the various regions of Asia Minor or not? What is the purpose of him writing to those churches warning them that the time was at hand and that the things he wrote about were to shortly come to pass? The only explanation is that he was writing so that they, not people thousands of years in the future, would be ready and understand what was about to happen.

This seems to be missing from most futurist type views of the book of Revelation. All of a sudden audience relevance seems to go “out the window”. However, this is how we tend to do exegesis in other books of the Bible. We find out the history behind the text. We understand the geography and the events and/or teachings that led up to the reason for the writing of the book.

Some other things concerning the audience relevance and the timing I mentioned in the previous posts such as the time frames mentioned in chapters 1 and 22 along with verse 7 of chapter 1 in which is stated that those who pierced Christ would see Him coming in judgment. This coupled together with Christ’s own words from Matthew 24 tend to lead us towards the fact that the coming referenced in the Revelation is Christ’s coming in judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple.

Second is the identity of the beast. While many have for centuries went on and on with wild speculation about who the beast of Revelation is, they have not taken into account the time frame involved. I would say that the time frame is laid out not only in Revelation, but also in Daniel and Matthew 24. It is within the generation that Jesus spoke to which also must be within the time of the Roman Empire. Any interpretation regarding the identity of the beast that falls outside the time frame must therefore be seen to be inconclusive.

Revelation 13:18 is well known, even among those outside of Christianity. The verse reads as follows:

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is six hundred and sixty-six.

Notice first that the calculating of the number is given as wisdom. In other words the reason for the number being given is to clearly identify the man who is synonymous with the beast. It is not for vain speculation, nor for symbolism, but for wisdom. This number is 666. It is not three sixes, but is defined as six hundred and sixty-six.

The Hebrew equivalent to Nero Caesar or Neron Kaisar is Nrwn Qsr. Using Hebrew letters as numbers (for the Hebrews used a numbering system based upon their letters, similar to the Romans) we find that a Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar equals 666.

However, we will also note that a textual variant is also rendered in which the number is not 666, but 616. Most scholars who accept Nero as the beast, including John A. T. Robertson understand that the variant can be explained by pointing to the fact that as Latin became the known language and tongue used in the day, a scribe inserted the Latin calculation of Nero Caesar so that the readers might more easily identify who is being spoken of. When we use the spelling in Latin it comes up to 616. This should be no mere coincidence that such a thing should exist. Rather it should lend weight to the conclusion that is drawn.

Another conclusion is drawn from Revelation 17 as to the identity of Nero. Revelation 17:9-10 is as follows:

"Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.”

The angel interprets the vision John has concerning the beast and the harlot. There the angel is clearly there to help him understand, not leave him in confusion. As with the number 666, we find here that the angel gives wisdom. The angel describes that seven heads. They are seven hills on which the woman sits. All throughout ancient history till the present Rome has been known as the city on seven hills.

Also, the angel affirms that the seven heads represent seven kings. He says that five have fallen, one is, and another is to come, but will only reign for a short time. The Caesars of Rome were known as kings, though they took the title of Emperors. The important thing to note is the time frame. Notice that five have fallen. This would be the reference to the first 5 Caesars. They are as follows:
1. Julius Caesar (49-44 B. C.)
2. Augustus (31 B. C.-A.D. 14)
3. Tiberius (A.D. 14-37)
4. Gaius, also known as Caligula (A.D. 37-41)
5. Claudius (A.D. 41-54)

Then the angel says that one is. This king exists at the time of the writing of Revelation and obviously during the lifetime of John, since he is the writer.

6. Nero (A.D. 54-68)

Then we are told that another is to come, but when he comes he will only continue for a short time. We were told in Revelation 13 that one of the beast’s heads received a mortal wound, but the beast itself did not die. Instead what happened was the Nero committed suicide by thrusting a sword through his own throat. It was then that the Roman Empire began to convulse in what appeared to be a death throw. Yet it wasn’t until Vespasian came to power that there was stability. However, we will note that John in his vision only sees 7. This is curious in understanding the time frame we are dealing with as well, since the internal evidence leads us up till the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.
7. Galba (A.D. 68-69)

Galba only reigned from June 68 till January of 69 during a time known as the year of the four emperors. During this time there were four emperors who reigned that year. The last emperor during that year was Vespasian who was able to hold the empire together and get some semblance of control.

There is much that could be said in regards to these things. I have given you the crux of the argument. For a more in depth argument for this point, let me suggest reading BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL. With this said, I am not sure that I would agree with his firm stand on postmillenialism, which is called theonomic postmillenialism. I really don't know where I fit in with that. However, as I have said before, I can see where that conclusion could be drawn.

I will comment on the final two evidences in a later post (ie. The harlot and the New Jerusalem), as well as, the time involved in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Corruption Scandal in Congress

I received this from the Constituion Party yesterday. Yes, I am a supporter of the party, for their goal is not primarily "how can we get elected", but rather is based upon strict principles of righteous governing. I hope you find the information useful. As has been said before, if we continue to vote for the same people expecting a different result, that is the definition of insanity.


LANCASTER, PA: The burgeoning influence-peddling scandal in Washington has already led to the resignation of one congressman, Randy Cunningham of California, and may implicate many others of both parties. The House Majority Leader, outspoken Texas Republican Tom DeLay, is under indictment for money-laundering charges, and others are under investigation.

Jim Clymer, Chairman of the Constitution Party, believes that a major change is in order. "Both the House and the Senate have been thoroughly corrupted by influence-peddling for decades," Clymer said. "But the solution is not to return the Democrats to power or to elect a more ethical Republican majority. The solution is to jettison the two major parties altogether and to start afresh with principle-based leadership."

The unprecedented levels of graft and influence-peddling in Washington are the predictable result of a legally-protected bipartisan oligarchy more concerned with party loyalty than with upholding their Constitutional oath of office, Clymer said.

"The two major parties," Clymer pointed out, "are not very far apart on a wide range of policy issues, in spite of widespread perceptions. Both Republicans and Democrats show near-total disregard for constitutional limits on their own power. The result is a federal government of almost unlimited clout, whose favors are for sale to the highest bidder."

Clymer believes Americans are ready for a sea change in party politics. Pointing to the recent special election in California's 48th Congressional district, in which Jim Gilchrist, running for the American Independent Party (the Constitution Party's California affiliate), made a very strong showing, Clymer noted that Gilchrist outpolled both major party candidates on election day, losing the overall election only because absentee ballots favored his Republican opponent.

"In the Gilchrist campaign, illegal immigration, a problem that both major parties have been ignoring, was the hot-button issue. If a heavily partisan Republican district like the California 48th can nearly elect a third-party candidate, the opportunity seems ripe for change elsewhere in the country," Clymer said, predicting major gains for third parties in the next elections.

The Constitution Party National Website is For more information contact Steve Bonta at 814-684-1175,

Eschatology & Literal Interpretation

Well, I didn’t think I would I would get to post this on the day that I thought I would. However, late is better than never( I have been very busy lately with trips out of town, which I don’t necessarily like, since they keep me from my wife and children. However, the Lord has saw fit to give me a long weekend through Monday and for that I am grateful. I have had several posts on my mind and hopefully I will get to them today. The first is the one I mentioned in our discussions surrounding my previous post on eschatology.

I have been challenged by my friends in regards to literal interpretation. I confess there is literal interpretation, but that is in regards to the particular literature we are dealing with. Obviously we interpret different literature in light of the kind of literature it is. For instance, we don’t interpret historical narrative in the same sense we interpret poetry and we don’t interpret apocalyptic literature as we do historic narrative. The Bible is full of different kinds of literature. All have a literal interpretation. In other words, the meaning must be literal for it to have meaning. However, the methods in writing may be different, but with the same result.

In order to demonstrate this I am going to use some comments from a well known and highly respected Bible Teacher and pastor, which I personally love and admire. I am speaking of Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur has been used in my life for many years now and I am a supporter of his ministry. God has used him to help me understand some things much clearer and in a couple of instances I have seen how he has made things less clear. Since he is a man, he is prone to error, just as I am. With that said, I want anyone who reads this to understand that I am not attacking Dr. MacArthur. I love and respect the man. However, I am going to attack the presuppositions and statements that are made, which I will quote and make my point about literal interpretation.

I finished up my study in Daniel, and saw nothing in the text that I do not believe has been fulfilled in the time of the Messiah until 70 AD and is being fulfilled in the growing of the kingdom of God represented by the stone “cut out without hands” that grew into a great mountain which filled the earth from Daniel 2. Since my mind won’t allow me to totally leave the subject, since our other elder is coming up on Matthew 24 in a few short weeks, I am leaning toward going through Revelation. I decided to do some study in the book and see how Daniel and Matthew 24 fit in with Revelation. I am convinced that Daniel and Matthew 24 are specifically speaking to the time of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem that followed. I don’t think the dispensational argument can consistently go through the text, unless it has an underlying presupposition that says these things must be future.

With that in mind I went to Dr. MacArthur’s commentary on Matthew (Vol. 3: 24-28). I will be quoting from there and will give you the page numbers if you care to reference it. One of the first things that Dr. MacArthur says is on page 2.

“The teaching of the Olivet discourse is much debated and frequently misunderstood, largely because it is viewed through the lens of a particular theological system or interpretive scheme that makes the message appear complex and enigmatic. But the disciples were not learned men, and Jesus’ purpose was to give them clarity and encouragement, not complexity and anxiety. The intricate interpretations that are sometimes proposed for this passage would have left the disciples utterly dumbfounded. It is preferable to take Jesus’ words as simply and as strait forwardly as possible.”

Now, I will first point out that when anyone says something remotely like, “frequently misunderstood, largely because it is viewed through the lens of a particular theological system or interpretive scheme”, that red flags go up for me. The reason being, is that most believers who are reformed face the same kind of talk when we try explaining the doctrines of grace with our friends who do not believe them. They see us interpreting inside “our system”. I don’t have a problem with interpretations inside the system. That’s what makes it a system. That’s where we can see whether or not we are consistent. So when someone says such a thing, I am going to see if he interprets according to his system and MacArthur does just that. Matthew 24 is interpreted in light of a dispensational view. By the way, I am told that he is rethinking some of his dispensational views. I hope this is true.

Dr. MacArthur then takes the next few pages to discuss how the Jews expected their Messiah. He quotes from various sources including the Old Testament, the Mishna, and various other writings of the Jews.

Then on page 7 under the header, “Prophetic discussions with Jesus” he says the following,

“In fairness to the disciples, the Old Testament prophets also saw the Messiah’s coming and establishing His kingdom as a single event. The church age was a mystery to them, a mystery, as Paul explained, “which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested. (Rom. 16:25-26).”

Ok, here is Dr. MacArthur looking through his own lens. Instead of seeing the gospel as he should as is also relevant to Ephesians 1, Dr. MacArthur speaks of the church as the mystery. That is clearly a dispensational lens. It is not a literal interpretation in regards to Romans 16, and since it is not correct it should not be imported into an interpretation of Matthew 24. Also, the kingdom was established. This is clearly tied to the "last days" in which is picture the coming of Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The New Testament is filled with references to the kingdom already being established and the fact that we are in it now.

MacArthur then says on page 9 that he affirms that Jesus was talking about the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem in chapter 23. However, the questions from the disciples stem from the statements by Jesus in 23. MacArthur rejects audience relevance of what Jesus is saying and instead, like most dispensationalists, makes the passage speak to thousands of years into the future rather than the very plain understanding that Jesus was communicating, namely for that generation (24:34). To use Dr. MacArthur’s own words, he makes the text complex and enigmatic, not clear and encouraging.

Dr. MacArthur then takes the approach that everything in Matthew 24 is for sometime in the future, taking an approach that does not see Daniel’s 70 weeks as complete, but looking for some future Great Tribulation for physical Jews, of which I really question if that line is not completely mixed up. The reason for my thinking that is because no one can prove they are a physical descendant of Abraham: no one. All records were destroyed in the Temple during its destruction, this is one of the greatest reasons for believing Christ is who He said He was for Matthew and Luke record His genealogy for us so that we will know. Many speak of a rebuilt temple and the performing of sacrifices. The biggest question I have is who are the Levites? No one can prove it. No one is able to honestly come forward and prove they are from the tribe of Levi. What purpose would a new physical temple serve? After all, in the New Testament, believers are spoken of as the temple of the Holy Spirit and the church is also spoken of as a holy nation.

This helps us understand where Dr. MacArthur comes from. Before I give the particular example for our understanding of literal interpretation, I will quote MacArthur’s own words in regards to why he is a premillenialist.

“I believe the prophetic passages of Scripture should be handled like any other portion of God’s Word. The plain meaning of a text is the preferred interpretation. There’s no reason to spiritualize or devise allegorical interpretations of Scripture if the literal sense makes good sense. Only if the context of a passage gives some compelling reason to assume the language is symbolic should we look for figurative meaning. Where the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, there is no reason to seek any other sense. (The Second Coming, John F. MacArthur, pgs 22-23)”

Now in the main I agree. We should not look for different meanings if the passage is clear. However, MacArthur and others have used the same thing that he says he doesn’t use in passages like Daniel 9:24-27. Therefore, he can have some future week, but in failing to understand the plain interpretation, he renders Christ’s work outside of the 70 weeks, not within them and then promises a holocaust that will make WWII pale in comparison for physical Jews as well as the whole world. He will also not take into account in Matthew 24 the apocalyptic language that will be used in some of the verses.

Particularly we will look at verse 29. From my perspective and I think from the perspective of Christ and His disciples, Jesus was referencing His coming judgment upon Israel, so when tribulation is spoken of there it is the same tribulation spoken of by Daniel in 12:1. Jesus fulfilled those things that the prophets said about Him. Notice the verse we are looking at, including verse 30:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

MacArthur takes this “literally”. In other words he believes that Jesus is saying that there will be great cosmic “stuff” happening. Again, he takes into his commenting on the passage “literal” interpretations of numbers from Revelation such as the 144,000. However, I believe that since he has missed the main point as I stated in the first part of the post, his interpretation will follow and be further from the truth rather than closer to it. However, we recognize that all of the Word of God comes from God, yet written by men. If so, would it not do us good to see how God used the same language in the past? When Peter uses similar language in 2 Peter 3:10-14 is he implying the end of the physical world, or is he speaking about the destroying of a world, namely the world of the nation of Israel? Let me demonstrate why I think we should not see this passage as literal, but having a literal meaning.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 34, we find the prophet prophesying God's judgment upon Idumea and the nations of the world in the days of Assyria and Babylon.

1 Come near, you nations, to hear; And heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, The world and all things that come forth from it.
2 For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, And His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter.
3 Also their slain shall be thrown out; Their stench shall rise from their corpses, And the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
4 All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.
5 "For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.
6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is made overflowing with fatness, With the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah, And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7 The wild oxen shall come down with them, And the young bulls with the mighty bulls; Their land shall be soaked with blood, And their dust saturated with fatness."
8 For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, The year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9 Its streams shall be turned into pitch, And its dust into brimstone; Its land shall become burning pitch.
10 It shall not be quenched night or day; Its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; No one shall pass through it forever and ever.

Now notice the language used by the prophet. Did the mountains actually melt with blood (vs. 3)? Did the host of heaven dissolve (vs. 4)? Were the heavens rolled up like a scroll (vs. 4)? And their host fall down (vs. 4)? Was a literal sword bathed in blood in heaven (vs. 5)? When verses 9-10 reference burning pitch and the fire not quenched night or day and the smoke rising up forever, was that meant literally? Did judgment take place? Yes it did. God did judge the people, but the language of the prophet is apocalyptic. I cannot read this as a historical narrative except that there was a real judgment of God. Otherwise, I would have to conclude that God brought an end to the physical realm and somehow restored it all including the people He didn’t judge, right? The prophet is simply using the picture of host of heaven and stars to refer to those who ruled over the people and their way of governing. The same seems to be true concerning the words of the Lord in Matthew 24. There was a total undoing of the governing of Israel to never be established again. Therefore, to them it would become a new world. You see this is apocalyptic language and both Jesus and John use it. They are familiar with how the Old Testament prophets spoke and they use the very same type of language. This is one of many examples that I could show that everyone, including those who say they take the texts literal, do in fact, on occasion not take things literally. However, even when they don’t, they usually have a literal meaning that they derive from the symbolism or the language. I do believe it also applies to numbers that are used in the Revelation as well. Though I think some numbers are more clearly to be taken at face value rather than at an exact, such as the number of the beast, for we are told that the number is there to give wisdom and that number is not three sixes, but rather is six hundred and sixty-six.

Also, let me point out the apocalyptic language of verse 30 of Matthew 24. You see that Jesus employees the same kind of language again in 26: 64,

Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Interestingly enough Matthew, Mark, and Luke give the account of the Olivet Discourse. However John is the only gospel writer who does not include it in his gospel, but it appears that Revelation is his commentary on the Olivet Discourse. We will note that John also uses the same phraseology in chapter one of Revelation and verse 7.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Notice that John speaks of Christ coming in the clouds and specifically references those who pierced him seeing this. This is obviously not for some people thousands of years in the future, but is in reference to the Lord’s own words of the generation that He spoke to. Thus John began the Revelation with,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants----things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

He also references the fact that the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Tribes is a better rendering than the AV gives. However, we will note that the Greek word here for earth is the same word used for “land”. This would give us a better understanding of the purpose of the book if we understand that it is concerning the judgment of the tribes in the land and that land is the area of Jerusalem.

Many, like Dr. MacArthur argue that when this “coming” happens that is referenced in Matthew 24 and that in Revelation 1 that what is referenced is a literal seeing with the eyes Jesus Christ in the clouds coming in judgment. Now that may or may not be. We are told by the angels in Acts 1:11 that Jesus would return in like manner. However, to better help understand this apocalyptic language; let’s look at how it was used in the Old Testament. After all there we find a basis for our hermeneutic in regards to the language.

God is referenced in the Old Testament as being surrounded by clouds as a picture of His holiness and righteous judgment (Gen. 15:17; Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19-20; 19:9, 16-19; Deut. 4:11; Job 22:14; Psa. 18:8ff.; 97:2; 104:3; Isa. 19: 1; Eze. 32:7-8). He is also poetically portrayed as coming in the clouds (Psa. 18:7-15; 104:3; Isa.19:1; Joel 2:1, 2; Nab. l:2ff.; Zeph. 1:14, 15).

Isaiah 19:1 is one of the passages that probably best illustrates the point. There we read,

The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.

Now, did Egypt actually see God riding on a cloud? No. Did God judge Egypt? Yes. Again, the apocalyptic language helps us identify a literal meaning from the specific imagery used. This is part of the problem I see when someone says that something should be literally interpreted.

I still hold that the thousand years spoken of in chapter 20 of Revelation does not have to be taken literally in order to be understood. For if I am correct in assuming the early date of Revelation and that in fact speaks to God’s judgment upon Jerusalem, then it would make perfect sense to understand the thousand years to follow that time. With that in mind, I am also going to post some reasons regarding internal evidence for the early writing of Revelation. I am eager to hear from some who hold to a late date writing for Revelation (90-96 AD) and any internal evidence you might have. If you say it is because the church has always held to this then that is not internal evidence. That is not sola scriptura.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hunting & Reflecting on Creation, Redemption, & Eschatology

This past week was a blast. I got some much needed rest and also got to spend some great time with the family.
Dakota & Caleb: Ready for the Hunt
The boys were really excited. We went hunting every morning I was off. Unfortunately we didn't actually get to shoot anything. However, we did pick off an old peanut butter can with the 30.06. We had a great time sitting out in the woods before sunrise and watching the forest come alive with light and sounds of nature. It was then that I remembered the words of the Psalmist from Psalm 46:10:
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Can you see them in the doghouse?
Often in our society many, including myself don't take time just to be still and reflect on the majesty and power of the Creator. We don't stop to look around and revel in the glory of His handiwork. Though the Creation has been subjected to the effects of the curse of sin, it still bears the imprint of the Lord Jesus Christ upon it.

I reminded the boys of this. We pointed to the fact that God shows us even in creation that there is a time to die. The Fall and Winter comes and we see the once green leaves of the trees turn colors and fall to the earth. We see the bark of the trees become dry and crack and appear grey. We watch the flowers fade and die along with many other plants. We feel the stinging cold when we go outside and if we are paying attention it may seem that all is going to die and pass away.

However, when Spring comes and then Summer we see in the Creation a "resurrection to life". As the trees begin to put forth their buds and the plants begin to spring forth with life and color we are amazed at how they are able to do so.

We should marvel, for the One who brings them forth from the death of Fall and Winter also has called us, His people, forth from death unto life. We were without hope and helpless before God. Our future, to us, appeared desperate and hopeless, but Jesus spoke forth and called us from the grave of sin and death. In fact, He died in our place and we died with Him and He rose and we rose with Him. Our identity is not in the Church we attend, but is in the One who has placed us into His church: His body. We are united with Him in marriage and are His and He is ours. We are His bride and He is our husband.

The powerful God who made all things, brought us forth from death in sin to life and that more abundant in Jesus Christ. All praise be to His name for His unspeakable love and mercy!

I also took time to think in regards to the things I've been studying. I was hoping to hear more from some others concerning Daniel chapter 9. I believe if you believe that has been accomplished then there is no longer a need to discuss pre, post, mid, or pre-wrath rapture scenarios, for they are all based on the fact that the 70th week of Daniel is yet future, but I am still looking for the argument that it is future from the text itself. I believe now that the rapture will be that which occurs on the last day, the day of Christ's return. The more I meditate on these things the clearer it becomes that we are indeed in the kingdom just as the Scriptures say and that Jesus is King now and is ruling and reigning and that when He returns, He will indeed deliver the kingdom up to His Father. Most would not question the idea that Christ is indeed reigning as King of kings, however, some may ask are we living and reigning with Christ now. Fair question. Let me answer it by stating clearly that the ones living and reigning with Christ are those who have gone before us. Look at the text.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Notice it is the ones who have been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God along with those who have not worshipped the beast or his image and have not received his mark. Those are the ones specifically addressed in the passage. They reign during the millenium. I do believe the millenium defines this period since the ascension of our Lord till the time of His bodily return on the last day to judge all men.

Now, I have already gone longer in this particular post than I wanted to, but I want to call upon all my reformed brothers who take the "pan" millenial approach. I once called the ministry of a well known apologist, a man I have deeply respected and learned from over the years to hear that escahatology and these things were not important and they really didn't impact anything. They were those whose eschatology was "It'll all pan out in the end." To me, this should not be the attitude of those involved in defending the faith. I believe we should defend the gospel and brothers, the gospel contains aspects of eschatology. Did Jesus really bind the strongman(Matt. 12:29; Luke 11:21; Mark 3:27)? Did He really crush Satan's head (Gen. 3:15)? Did He really disarm principalities and make a spectacle of them and triumph over them(Col. 2:15)? I could go on and ask other questions, but these seem to be tied to the work of Christ at the "time of the end".
Jerusalem 70 AD
I think that going through Daniel has helped me to see that the time of the end is phrase dealing specifically with the people of the nation of Israel. The "last day" is the day when Christ brings an end to history as we know it. This is how He can speak in Matt. 24 of knowing when the end is near (vss. 32-33), clearly referring to his coming judgment that He has referenced in the whole chapter, and then telling His disciples that He would return when they did not expect Him to (vss. 36, 42-44).

Brothers, eschatology does matter!

I can see already how my former teachings gave me a vision of a darkened pitiful future. Now I am beginning to see the glory of the reigning King of kings. I see the crushing of the serpents head MORE clearly now and am gaining understanding in this area of theology. I am not one who thinks that these things are incomprehensible. I believe they are very much like the doctrines of grace. They need to be approached from Scriptures (in their contexts and the contexts of the books they are written in) and with a genuine interest to learn and understand. Let us not just disagree with a particular view because we don't understand it. Let us be willing to learn from those who have gone before us and understand the reasoning behind the eschatology and then we will be better equipped to hold fast the truth or discard the error concerning eschatology.

Remember we must not be silent on the issue of eschatology just be cause we don't understand it all. It is doctrines which we must understand and use to fight back the enemy of dispensationalism, which brings harm to true Christian doctrine, for in its purist form it presents different paths of salvation for different people at different times in history. The gospel is at the heart of eschatology. May God grant us understanding and perseverance to grasp these thruths from His word.