Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chronology of Apocalypse: Eternity

After Jesus crushes the rebellion at the end of the Millennium, the final disposition of all things (judgment) will be made. First, the Devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire without further delay (and I would conclude all the demons with him). The Lake of Fire is a condition of torment prepared for rebellious spiritual beings, but is capable of receiving physical subjects as well. There is no escape from, nor cessation of its condition--it is an eternal, perfect state.

Hades is emptied as the dead remaining there are raised to life (body and soul reunited) to face judgment. The sea is mentioned as holding the dead separately from Hades, which is more significant of the bodies which are being restored than it is to the souls of the drowned. Sheol/Hades was never a place of ultimate punishment, but more akin to a storage area for disembodied souls. The natural (created) condition of human beings is physical and spiritual, and all the dead will be returned to that condition before judgment takes place. So, at this time everyone who ever lived will be in their natural condition, ready to face final disposition.

Judgment will by two kinds of books. One is the Book of Life, the others are the Books of Record (my name, not the scriptural name). If one's name is not found in the Book of Life, the Book of Records will determine the nature of judgment against that individual (i.e. how hot will be their eddy in the Lake of Fire). If one is found in the Book of Life, the Book of Records will determine the nature of rewards that one will experience in God's presence (i.e. our normal conception of heaven). Either way, it is true faith in Christ which is the marked difference between one class and the other.

Anyone raptured prior to the Millennium (the Church, the 144,000, the martyred mark resisters) has nothing to fear at all from this judgment, for they all are already in their eternal condition, which is alive with Christ. The dead raised in order to face this judgment are in a heap of trouble, by and large, I'm not certain any of them will escape judgment. Their works will not excuse any of them, and only those who died during the Millennium, unmarked, could possibly have true, saving faith in Christ (otherwise they'd have been raptured). Those found in the Book of Life enter eternity with Christ, those not are thrown in the Lake of Fire to burn eternally.

Everything that had to do with this current, temporal, existence is then done away with: Death and Hades and the damned are thrown into the Lake of Fire, and in a flash, the heavens and earth are made new (no death, no entropy).  God's habitation, the heavenly Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem, descends upon the new Earth, and eternity as it should be takes flight. No Devil, no demons, no death, no disease, and no damned will be there anywhere but bound in the roiling fires of the Lake. The righteous in Christ live on forever, free to move about the cabin, and enjoy the adventure with our heavenly pilot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chronology of Apocalypse: The Millennium

After dealing with the Devil, the Antichrist, the Pope and the troops they had gathered at Armageddon, Christ resurrects those who were killed for refusing to take the mark and worship the Antichrist. They, along with all those raised earlier (the Church, the 144,000, and Enoch and Elijah), enter into the Millennial Reign of Christ as his lieutenants, serving as priests to God.

These resurrected saints will be in their eternal state in incorruptible bodies, like unto the resurrected Christ, and will not die nor marry or be given in marriage, not only in this period, but throughout all eternity. The population of Earth not part of Armageddon will continue to reproduce and live in natural, corruptible bodies throughout their lifetimes during the Millennium. The effects of the Fall will be greatly ameliorated during this time: lifespans will dramatically increase, carnivorism will cease, war will be no more.

Christ will rule the world with an iron rod from Jerusalem, the resurrected will be his agents throughout the earth, without any opposition from the forces of spiritual darkness. Though there is no hope for those who took the mark, their ancestors will have known no ruler but Christ, and no kingdom but his. Nevertheless, at the end of the Millennium, the Devil is loosed from his chains and the Abyss and manages to deceive great numbers of them. They gather against Christ and his saints at Jerusalem, but fire falls from heaven and consumes them, ending their rebellion and the Millennium.

Yet to Come... Eternity

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Thunder from A Son

You might enjoy some fresh music from a son of thunder. My oldest and one of our youth leaders recorded some original music. Thought you might enjoy it.

Find more artists like Wherever Two Or Three at Myspace Music

Find more artists like Wherever Two Or Three at Myspace Music

Find more artists like Wherever Two Or Three at Myspace Music

Monday, December 13, 2010

Strange but Compelling

The following story brings a new relevance to Matthew 19:12. Not in a way I can condone, and I absolutely hate to admit it, but something inside me instinctively gave a fist pump to this story. Any thoughtful insights out there?
"For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."   Matthew 19:12

Man castrates teenage daughter's 57-year-old boyfriend

An enraged father who disapproved of his daughter's older boyfriend went to his home and castrated him with a bread knife.

Helmut Seifert, 47, an ethnic German originally from Russia, was enraged when he heard his 17-year-old daughter was having a relationship with Phillip Genscher, 57.
He went to police in the town of Bielefeld where he lives but officers said they were powerless to intervene.
"The man then recruited two work colleagues at his factory and then went to the house of the victim," said police.
"The man was forced to remove his trousers and, fully conscious, he was castrated. The severed testicles were taken away by the perpetrator."
The man was close to bleeding to death but managed to call police. His life was saved but he remains a eunuch for life.
Seifert pleaded guilty and will be on trial for attempted murder next year. But he has remained silent on who his accomplices were.
He told police: "I received a phone call anonymously that my daughter was involved with a guy 40 years older than her. You said you couldn't stop him – so I did.
"I saw it as my duty as a father."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chronology of Apocalypse: The Second Half of Tribulation

The Antichrist will elevate the Pope at that time to serve as his viceroy and the vicar of a new religion which worships the Antichrist as god. In conjunction with that worship, a new economic system, which requires everyone to be marked with the name of the Antichrist or the number of his name (666), will be imposed globally. All those who take that mark (and that will be everyone except the Jews) are lost forever. Those that refuse will be arrested and killed. The seventh trumpet has sounded.

All those who took the mark will be stricken with a plague-like disease producing festering sores. I can see it being passed off as an unfortunate circumstance of the technique used to make the mark. The first bowl of wrath has been poured out.

The entire sea will be stricken with a reddish pollution that will kill everything still left in it after the earlier judgments. This may be something akin to red tide run amok. The second bowl of wrath has been poured out.

The pollution spreads to fresh water. The third bowl of wrath has been poured out.

The sun will suddenly become much more active, perhaps a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection, and scorch the inhabitants of earth with intense heat and sunburns. Their reaction will be to curse God. Evidently, their worship of the Antichrist will not preclude them from having at least some reckoning of the true God. The fourth bowl of wrath has been poured out.

Likely the effects of a solar flare from the increased activity of the sun, something will strike Bergama, Turkey and throw the Antichrist's kingdom into darkness. Computer systems will crash, power will go offline, communications will cease, and his kingdom (the three broken off horns) will literally and figuratively be in the dark. This is a local, specific event rather than a global incident. His people's reaction: blasphemy. The fifth bowl of wrath has been poured out.

The Euphrates River, which had been ground zero for volcanism of sixth trumpet, finally dries up all together. It provides troops amassing in the east unhindered traverse to Israel. I believe the troops were originally moving to confront and perhaps unseat the Antichrist, but he, the Pope, and the Devil deftly spin a tale which unites those troops under his banner and against the invasion he is expecting (from outer space, I think). He directs them, along with others from other places, to the Jezreel Valley, near Megiddo. The sixth bowl of wrath has been poured out.

A global earthquake, the largest such event that will ever occur, will shake every city throughout the world. As a result, Jerusalem will be divided into three and Rome turned to ashes. Islands will be inundated and mountains crumble in landslides. Although the related signs of volcanic or asteroidal activity are not mentioned, a rain of large hail falls upon the earth, which makes me wonder if this is yet another aspect of the earlier strikes (i.e. a comet breaking up and hitting earth piecemeal). The seventh bowl of wrath has been poured out.

At that time, Jesus will burst through the skies, with all the saints raptured before in tow behind him. He captures the Antichrist and the Pope and tosses them into the Lake of Fire, which will have been formed at that time. All the amassed troops are killed, their bodies left to the birds. The Devil is bound and locked in the Abyss (and I would conclude all the demons with him).

Jesus has returned to earth, the saints with him, and he will rule with a rod of iron and the saints will reign with him.

Yet to come... the Millennium and Beyond

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chronology of Apocalypse: The First Half of Tribulation

The further we proceed into the prophetic future, the more speculative are my interpretations. Generally, after doing some double checking, I go with whatever strikes "my gut" after reading the descriptions in the text. I am satisfied that I am at least in the ballpark concerning what these things mean. They weren't meant to be all that mysterious after all.

Either just before or just after the Rapture, the Antichrist, as leader of the 10 nations, will seal a treaty between his alliance and Israel. Although the details of the pact are not known at this time, it will have a treaty period of seven years, and it can be inferred that it will allow Israel to rebuild the Temple and attempt to reinstate the OT sacrificial system. This will signal the advent of Daniel's 70th week and the concluding of God's promises to him concerning the people of Israel and Jerusalem. The seventh seal has been broken.

At that time, Enoch and Elijah will begin prophesying in Jerusalem, speaking a message that must be antagonistic toward the world, toward unbelief in Israel, and toward the Antichrist. Though no one in the world appreciates their message, no one can do anything to stop them. While they are prophesying, 144,000 sealed and protected Messianic Jews are present (probably in Israel) having whatever redemptive affect they may have on the Jewish people.

Shortly thereafter, fiery hail will fall upon the earth (probably the aftereffect of the volcanic cataclysm which was the sixth seal) and a third of earth's vegetation will be lost. The first trumpet has sounded.

Then, an asteroid will strike one of earth's oceans, polluting a third of the seas, killing a third of the life therein, and sinking a third of the ships sailing the seas (perhaps as a result of tsunamis). The second trumpet has sounded.

On the heels of that asteroid strike, another will fall, maybe in a lake (like the Great Lakes) or upon land, but definitely not in the ocean, and its aftereffect will be the pollution of a third of the fresh water on Earth. Note: I do not see the megastar presented as the proximate cause of this catastrophe as necessarily an angel, even though specified stars in the Apocalypse generally are. The third trumpet has sounded.

Probably as a result of the ejecta of these asteroid strikes, a third of the light of the sun, moon and stars will be darkened. The fourth trumpet has sounded.

Then a tremendously annoying but not deadly disease will spread throughout the earth. Its tortuous symptoms will last five months. I doubt the inhabitants of the earth will suspect the demonic origin of the epidemic, anymore than they suspect that kind of thing in disease now. The fifth trumpet has sounded and the demons have been loosed upon earth.

Not long afterward (nothing could be since we're only dealing with a total of 3 1/2 years in this entire section), a third of the human race alive at that time will be overcome by what appears to be pyroclastic flows or the volcanic aftereffects of the cataclysm of seal six and/or the asteroids of trumpets two and three. Ground Zero for this event will be the Euphrates River, but the spread of the effect is not detailed (although I speculate it would be easterly toward the populations of India and China). As with trumpet five, I doubt the inhabitants of the earth will suspect the demonic origin of the catastrophe. The sixth trumpet has sounded.

For whatever reason (having undergone what is described above may be reason enough), Egypt will rebel against the Antichrist and his alliance. The Antichrist will lead a response of such cold-blooded, lethal and overwhelming force that the heart of any other potential rebel will find itself without resolve. Whether through biological, chemical, or nuclear means, the wound of Egypt's (one of the seven heads) rebellion is staunched, the Antichrist is strengthened, and the world amazed and awe-struck. Egypt will suffer the aftereffects for a generation into the reign of Christ.

As the Antichrist turns back toward his base in Turkey, he will pass through Israel and stop at Jerusalem. There he kills Enoch and Elijah and leaves their bodies dead in the street, though God raises them back to life and then to heaven. The 144,000 appear to go to heaven with them. A strong earthquake will rock the city, but won't stop the Antichrist from confiscating the Temple, putting an end to Israeli plans to reinstate the OT sacrificial system.

Nothing is left for the inhabitants of earth at that time but the duress of God's wrath.

Yet to Come... the second half of the Tibulation

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey: Big Brother to the Middle East

A somewhat interesting article (linked in the title) points to the growing influence of Turkey in the Levant. Expect more tangible evidence (much more than bad movies anyhow) of such to become apparent as we move toward the end of time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chronology of Apocalypse: The Rapture

At some point in the near future a series of events will unfold which will wind up the current age. Some of the sequence and detail is uncertain in my mind, and very debatable, most is reasonably clear. With that disclaimer in view, let's give this a shot...

At some time in the near future, a politician will arise, likely in Turkey, and begin to gain prominence. He will find a way to take control of where he arises and form a ten nation alliance including Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Macedonia, and Albania. In the process, he will extend his personal rule over Syria and Iraq (or vice versa if he arises in Iraq or Syria instead of Turkey), reviving the long dead Seleucid Empire (the King of the North).

At some time in the near future, a tremendous cataclysm will come upon the earth. I think it will be volcanic, perhaps several large eruptions occurring concurrently, even if they don't all start off in unison. Perhaps it could be a supervolcanic eruption; e.g., Yellowstone, Long Valley, or Toba. Regardless, it will be the sixth seal breaking and will herald the coming of God's wrath, signal that the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and indicate that God's redemptive efforts are being turned from Gentile to Jew.

As that cataclysm occurs, or just before it, some big personnel changes will occur:
    Yet to Come... the Tribulation

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Isn't That A Prostitute?

    What an awesome quote...
    'I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this: "Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise." Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old--barely out of diapers--and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, “An enterprise. That’s a business.” After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha’s raised hand, “Yes, Martha.” She asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t it supposed to be a body?” I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.” She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?”'
    HT: Onesimus; thanks to David Ryser

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Chronology of Apocalypse: Historical

    One of my congregants thought an itemized chronology of the end times would be helpful. Maybe it would, so here it goes, starting with those things prophesied which have already occurred (not enough to make me a partial preterist, however).

    30 CE - Jesus ascends to the throne room of God bearing the sacrifice of his own blood, and receives all authority and dominion from his heavenly Father.

    30 CE - Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to endue his followers with power and turns them lose on their global mission to spread the Gospel to every nation. The rider on the white horse sets out to overcome.

    70 CE - The Temple in Jerusalem in destroyed, signifying the end of the Mosaic Covenant and the transition to the Age of the Gentiles. From that time to the time (which has not yet occurred) the Temple is reestablished, God's redemptive work is focused on Gentiles, with a mere trickle of Jews coming to Christ.

    95 CE - The last handpicked witness of Christ sets forth the last Apostolic testimony concerning Christ. His vision mirrored, although is much more extensive than, that of Daniel who was the last prophet who saw the glory of the Davidic Kingdom.

    192 CE - The Emperor Commodus rises to the throne and destroys the reality of the Pax Romana. Never again will Roman realms be as peaceful or the empire as coherent as they were before his rule. Never again would the world know such a golden age. The second seal was broken.

    313 CE - Constantine issues the Edict of Milan that made it legal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire. In 316 he intervenes in the Donatist controversy and calls the Council of Nicea in 325. A marriage of church and state began to be apparent, but no doubt was left in 380 by the enactments of the edicts of Theodosius. The Whore of Babylon had settled in Rome.

    1315 CE - The Little Ice Age starts, bringing recurring cycles of famine and death to the temperate zones (particularly of Christendom) which were dependent on cereal grains. The third seal had been broken.

    1347 CE - Someplace in the East, a disease became particularly pestilent and was carried by vermin across the civilized globe. Truly an epidemic of biblical proportions, within just a few years the Black Death had taken at least a quarter of the world's population. The fourth seal had been broken.

    1535 CE - Although persecution and martyrdom was not unknown from the earliest days of the church (e.g. James, Stephen, Peter, Paul, the Roman persecutions under Decius and Diocletian), nor in the Middle Ages (e.g. the Waldenses, the Lollards, the Hussites), it was the scale of death of true believers initiated with the Huguenot Persecutions that warrants an emphasis on martyrdom. The influx of martyred souls into the presence of God in the 1500's signifies the fifth seal being broken.

    1917 CE - Anticipating the British occupation of Palestine during WWI, the Balfour Declaration officially undoes almost 1800 years of Roman policy excluding the Jews from Palestine. It is the signal event that revealed the end of the end times was upon us.

    1933 CE - Hitler rises to power, the seventh king in the Antichrist Scheme. In 1938 he stepped up his campaign against the Jews to wholesale physical violence, confiscation of property, imprisonment, and death. Ultimately, two-thirds of the Jews within his reach were killed.

    1948 CE - The State of Israel declares its independence and a nation is born in a day.

    1967 CE - Israel captures East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai in the Six Day War. Israel was well on the way to capturing Cairo and Damascus in the Yom Kippur War which followed in 1973. In both wars, against overwhelming odds, Israel all but miraculously defeated all her enemies. She has since signed formal peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), but as yet has to sign a covenant with many which would give her unfettered access to the Temple Mount.

    Yet To Come... the Rapture

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    My Dispensationalesque Eschatology Defines Anti-semitism

    In light of a discussion I had with a friend and a comment on an earlier post, it dawns on me that an exploration of what I consider devilish and anti-semitic due to my eschatological view could be helpful. In my "dispensationalesque" approach to eschatology, I have said that the primary characteristic of the Devil's Antichrist Scheme throughout history has been anti-semitism. Not that the Devil merely dislikes Jews, but that he cold-bloodedly works to dispossess them of Canaan or to destroy them as a people, or both at the same time.

    It is my contention that either aspect betrays an influence from the Devil on the people who share such goals with him. For instance, Palestinians (whether Christian or Muslim) who seek to kick the Jews out of Canaan evidence a devilish influence whether they are aware of it or not. Similarly, anyone who tries to obliterate the Jews existence as a particular people, whether by assimilation into other cultures or by actual death, betrays a devilish influence as well. The law may have ceased being a measure of rightness with God for Jew or Gentile, but that doesn't mean that a Jew is not a Jew (or should cease considering himself one) because he accepts the righteousness of Christ by faith.

    I think the reasons for the Devil's approach are obvious: to dispossess the Jews of the Promised Land or to destroy them as a particular people undercuts the Abrahamic Covenant and affords the Devil the opportunity to put forward his shill in the place of the Promised One. Ultimately, the Devil's aim is to raise up an Antichrist. To do this, the source for the real one has to be obfuscated or even obliterated. Even now, after the fact of Christ Jesus' incarnation, to pull the old switcheroo the Devil will still have to undercut foundation of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.

    Replacement Theology is not an option for dealing with the question of the Jews' status with God, in my mind, because such a belief does irreconcilable damage to Romans 11 and Daniel 9, not to mention the Abrahamic Covenant. Even though the church represents a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham regarding the blessing to come to all peoples, the existence of the church has not displaced the specific promises of God to Abraham regarding his physical descendants through Isaac nor the land apportioned unto them in perpetuity. If anything, the church is added on to the reality of such blessing rather than replacing the beneficiaries of it.

    So to be clear, it is not anti-semitic for one to question Israeli policy regarding the human rights of Palestinians (Gentiles), or even Messianic Jews, living under the governance of Israel. It is not anti-semitic to seek accommodation between Jew and Gentile living within the hegemony of the State of Israel. It is not anti-semitic to say Jews are not right with God by following the Tanach or by merely being Jewish. It is anti-semitic with a devilish flair to assert the Jews have no claim to Canaan, or that "Jewishness" has no point or purpose with God.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The False Prophet Puts on His Mitre

    Some time ago, I identified the False Prophet in the Apocalypse as the Roman Catholic pontiff who will be in office at the time envisioned by the prophecy. That is a scandalous accusation in some quarters, but if the shoe fits... For this to be true, of course, it would mean the Pope at that time would be in cahoots with the Devil. History gives me no reason to doubt such a thing, but the current Pope has verified my suspicion recently (here too).

    The most telling characteristic of a devilish, antichrist scheme is anti-semitism. Not just a dislike for the Jews, but specifically, either an effort to dispossess them of the promise of Canaan, or to destroy them as a people. These are both central aspects of God's promise to Abraham, out of which all nations are also promised the blessing of a Savior. If these promises fail, the rug is pulled out from under the promise of Messiah as well. The strategy certainly is sly and skillful, attempting to destroy two doves with one stone.

    The Pope has now officially put the RCC into the Devil's camp and aligned the agendas of Rome and Pergamum. How much longer will it be for the fruition of such a policy to ripen? Who knows with any certainty, but I suspect it won't be too long. It seems that as our redemption draws nearer, the False Prophet has risen and put on his mitre.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Sin's Effects on the Christian

    I have said that my sins were put aside and the way to God was opened to me without regard to my sin: past, present or future. All my sin for all my life was wrapped up and put in Christ once and for all. He suffered its just retribution; so now,  I am an invited guest in the presence of God without so much as a shadow of sin over me. The curtain between us has been destroyed by God and can never be put back in place.

    That is not to say, however, that sin committed after being born again cannot have any effects on the believer. It may not separate him or her from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but it can adversely effect what we do experience in God. Let us look at a couple of possibilities (not to say there are not others).

    Sin Can Hinder Our Prayers
    If anyone cherishes (i.e, hides like a treasure) some sin in his or her heart, the Lord is not obligated to look past that and hear them as if they were dealing with God sincerely. Peter applies this principle specifically to abusive Christian husbands (never mind the contradiction in terms), so it is not merely an OT construct. There is, of course, a difference between sinning and cherishing sin in the heart, but the latter at least seems to raise a question in the mind of God as to whether or not that one truly has faith in Christ.

    For those that acknowledge sin as sin (i.e, they say the same thing as God does about it), they have no "sound barrier" with God. They confess it, he is faithful and just and forgives their sin and cleanses them from all unrighteousness. They stand before God in Jesus’ stead (name), heard, and their prayers answered.

    Sin Can Torpedo Our Faith
    By not maintaining a good conscience, or not doing what you know God would have you do, one can undermine how his or her heart perceives God. It is not something that happens in an instant. Over time, if one continues to act by the principle that sin doesn't matter, or by the assumption that God won't mind, eventually that one will come to the conclusion that God doesn't matter. Even if his words never say it, his faith as reflected in his actions will betray his absolute lack of trust in God. God can never be fooled, and faith can be shipwrecked.

    Nonetheless, notwithstanding these considerations, the principle is clear and founded upon an unmutable fact of history, my sin has been put aside. Jesus became my sin and suffered my punishment; therefore, I am justified in Christ. I can fellowship with God, just as if I'd never sinned; talk with God, just as if I'd never sinned; experience peace with God, just as if I'd never sinned; and countenance no condemnation, just as if I'd never sinned! Sin may have its effects on the Christian, but thankfully Christ has a better effect on the Christian's sin.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    My Sin Is Put Aside

    What kind of barrier between God and me are my failures, even those occurring after I was saved? Do they put me under a constant cloud that obscures the face of God? Do they threaten my soul with infinite loss? No, it is impossible that they could, and I’d like to explain why.

    Sin was dealt with once and for all through the passion of Christ--all sin, for all time, at one time. Paul, the writer of Hebrews and Peter agree very clearly on the subject. As a matter of principle, any future sin I might commit has, in fact, already been remedied just as effectively, and by the same means, as any sin I have committed in the past. We do not walk in and out of the grace of God, our reconciliation with him, nor the righteousness of Christ, because as time unfolds we fail.

    The reality was pictured in the veil of the Temple ripping in two during the crucifixion. The veil was a figurative symbol of the condition that exists between God and sinful man. The Holy God dwelt in the realm of the Holy, where sinful mankind could not see and did not have access. When the veil ripped as Jesus was experiencing God’s wrath against sin, that condition changed permanently: the way to God’s presence was opened to sinful man.

    In Jesus’ name, my sin has been put aside I bear no trace of it any longer before God, so I can walk confidently into the presence of God and stand eye to eye with him as the righteousness of God in Christ, without so much as batting an eye. This is the effect, not of sloppy agape, or greasy grace, but of penal substitution. God is just to forgive what has already been punished.

    I have a bit more to say on the subject...

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    A Place to Sit

    I remember the early days of being a Christian, the absolute determination to "go gaga" for God, firing on all six cylinders (good bye V8's of an earlier day!). I actually thought it was possible to be so thoroughly clean, so perfectly in tune, so intimately known of and knowing God that I could be like Jesus. I threw myself wholly into the effort, and expected others who followed Christ to do the same. To do less would be to dishonor God.

    Part of the problem with that outlook was that it did not truly reflect the depth of wrong in my human heart. I thought I knew what my hangups were, the flaws in my attitude, the extents of my emotional fracture, the volatility in my desires, the shape of my depravity. I did not. I could not, most of that only rises to the surface through the testing process--the vicissitudes of life, the facing of challenges unfaced before, the sparking of temptations unknown before. The human heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?

    Some place along the line, sometime, humans have to find peace. We need a space where there is no struggle within ourselves about where we stand with God and we fall back into the arms of his acceptance. I believe that place is ours in Christ Jesus: his work is a finished work, for nothing can undo what Christ has already done in history. If faith grasped the certainty of my place with God through Christ yesterday, faith can rest in it today. I wasn't worthy of it then, I'm not now, nor will I ever be.

    Oh, I realize that we are working out our salvation, but that in no way, shape or form is the equivalent working for our salvation (or even working to keep it). We have peace with God through Jesus Christ--yesterday, today and tomorrow. God has plans for us, as long as we stay on the train. The life of the faithful is a lot like a bumpy subway ride, the journey is necessary, but a lot less anxious when we have a place to sit.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Fishing for Men

    I used to fish a bit when I was younger, before the slime, the smell and the effort got the best of me. I often wondered if the fish truly understood what was happening when the hook was set and the battle to draw them in began. Probably not, how sensible can one be if a little flash of silver, some wet hair, and a treble hook looked like something good to eat!

    Nonetheless, I think that the experience of the fish in fishing parallels the experience of the human in the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Something moving through the ethereal realm of spirit flashes by, the soul craning its neck to look, feels the tug of the hook being set and an inexorable pull toward... something. Soul "flesh" pierced by Spirit hook, it's the way the work of salvation gets done.

    What does God's lure look like, I wonder? It seems to me, the working end of the Spirit's wooing or drawing is the word of God coming to us. Words are not stuff, per se, they're ethereal, real but unreal. They can hit one like a ton of bricks, but they don't weigh a thing (even when they are weighty). There is something more to words than meets the eye, especially when those words are from God.

    The prophets of old recorded their experience with the Spirit of God as the word of the Lord coming to them. They found the experience unforgettable and compelling. I think that is so for anyone who ends up ultimately standing right with God. His word comes, we find something about it unforgettable and compelling, we're drawn thereby to the Lord's side.

    That lure doesn't hook every fish it's dangled before, and some fish, hooked, begin a-flapping and break free. But for those fish landed, the story's always the same--the word, conviction, faith placed in Christ, salvation. Jesus was a fisher of men, who taught others to fish for men. A pole and tackle box is not needed, only the word of God is.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Your Word Is Truth

    "What is truth?" Pilate asked.

    Truth is not an objective quality. That's not to say that there is not some quality, truth, that comports with some standard presumed to be unchanging, or that is experienced the same for all observers, or that conforms to reality, or is seen to function consistently. That is to say that quality can never be seen to represent the absolute end of a thing, as in this is it, period. Only God has that quality, he alone is truth, all else designated by the term is subject to his whim.

    Can anything be truly independent of God? I do not think that it can; that includes gravity, the speed of light, or the existence of stuff itself. It seems to me that some philosophical schools posit a concept of truth in which there are things which even God cannot do anything about, or that are independent of the divine will. In that case, truth would be even greater than God, over him, so to speak. That, certainly, is not the case.

    Truth has its foundation in God. God is not encompassed by truth, truth is encompassed by God. It's communicated by the words that proceed from his mouth. It is a derivative and dependent property. The ultimate truth is God, all other truth flows from him. The truth is that there is nothing by which God must abide, but himself.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Because God Says So

    How can a possibility which never occurred have any substance in truth? It did not pan out, afterall, so how can it be known to be true? Ultimately, truth is about fact, or what actually is, or a correspondence to reality, is it not? So how can a mere possibility be true, what would make it so? The question may seem inconsequential to you, perhaps the musings of too active an imagination, but since counterfactual statements are made in the Bible, I think the issue is more than the cogitations of someone who drank too much coffee and couldn't get to sleep.

    If a statement is merely about the future, I think it is simple enough to divide the timelessness of the observer, who could know such things (God), from the timeboundness of the actors. Future tense statements about what will happen will be grounded in fact when the time rolls around. Our access to truth in these cases is a matter of faith. God's access to truth in these cases is from his timeless observation platform, where, for him, the future is real and every bit as accessible as is the present or past.

    The case of "what-ifs" statements is not so simple. They never come to pass so never have the opportunity to become fact in reality. Yet, God speaks as if they are not the mere musings of possibilities, but as if they were settled verities, as certain as anything can be. Could they be words spoken by the Lord that return void? No, it is impossible for God to be impotent, in error, or to be lying. If these kind of statements are true, they can only be so because God said it and God does not lie. Of course, that opens whole 'nother can of worms.

    If God can make true counterfactual statements, it means that God's omniscience cannot be merely observational, as if God must await the decision of an agent before he can know what that agent will do. God's omniscience must be of the sort that is perfectly analytical and predictive. That raises the specter that whatever an agent will or could do is ascertainable by presently (or formerly) existing facts. That, really, is a deterministic framework: A leads to B leads to C, etc. Follow the trail backward and eventually you end up with a thought in the mind of God and a decision to make it so, or so it would seem.

    Do true counterfactual statements demand determinism? No, because that leap is made without understanding how God actually knows what he knows, and ignores what God tells us about what he is and isn't responsible for. I do not think it is possible for us to formulate an understanding of how God knows what he knows--it's too far out of our plane of existence. We know what he tells us about his deliberations, nothing more. He tells us that humans do things on their own, things that never entered his mind to tell them to do. Sin itself is the consequence of an agent truly having the ability to make a choice counter to God, not initiated by God.

    Therefore, the grounding for counterfactual statements is nothing less than God's character. I can make counterfactual claims, but they'd always be taken with a grain of salt. How many such claims made by blokes like me have proven out when conditions made them actually possible? It seems to me the problem arises, not in the grounding of such truth, but in how it could be so and still allow for human freedom. There is no puzzle here, truth is not about anything other than what proceeds out of the mouth of God! The question for us comes down to brute faith--we're forced to stand in the simplicity of a child and answer, "because God says so."

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    To Be Trusted By God

    Faith is the currency of heaven. It is the means by which the provisions made by the grace of God are translated into the vessels of need. Without faith we receive nothing from God, and anything not of faith is SIN. Faith is truly, the only issue that matters.

    Faith is not mere belief but reliant trust. It is not just an acknowledgement, for instance, of the existence of God, but an assessment of his character as well--he is reliable, trustworthy, responsive. And it is yet more than that, it is the impetus for reaction on the part of the believer: "because God is, because God is trustworthy, I will act on what he's said."

    Faith is essential to eternity. The Apostle Paul lists it as one of the eternal verities, even though classifying it as not as great as love. That makes sense if you think about it. Love is a more "sight" oriented experience that actually entails reliant trust, whereas faith is most functional when sight is not truly operative. Eternity will be a realm of "sight".

    Faith will still be necessary, however. For humans to walk in the image of God (like unto Christ, that is), they have to have absolute trust in God. They will have to willingly rely on his judgment rather than their own; they will have to trust God in order to walk in absolute agreement with him. They will still be, afterall, creatures made in the image of God, capable of an independent choice.

    Faith has always been the only issue between God and mankind. From the Garden of Eden until this very moment, all that God has wanted from human beings is for them to look upon him with reliant trust. Works have never been determinative, because there is really nothing we can do for God anyhow. He does have big plans for us, but we have to trust God in order to be trusted by God.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    The Deliberative Stranger

    According to my rational, human understanding, God, in knowing all that could transpire, determined what would transpire by speaking the cosmos he foresaw into being. Inexorably, unavoidably, all will happen as it does because God, foreseeing all that would occur, actualized that world and thereby made it so. Now, that is not to say that all will happen in that world necessarily, because God decreed it so as an expression of his sovereign will. God actualized a universe which contained agents who had the God-like freedom to act according to their own wills. God merely foresaw how those agents would act in their freedom, and set in motion the reality that produced the effect he foresaw.

    Except that...

    In the scriptures, we see God seemingly making real time decisions and adjusting his action and response on a basis other than his foreknowledge or omniscience. That can be sloughed off as anthropomorphisms, or as metaphorical portrayals, but that undermines the reliability of the word (not that there are not figures in the Bible properly understood as such). If the Bible presents God responding to contingencies as if they cause him regret or that they were never part of his thinking, then we must admit that there is a strangeness in how God interacts with creation. Logically, there is no way an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being would be caught by suprise, or get stuck saying, "Shucks, why did I do it that way?" If the Word says that is so, what can that mean?

    God certainly has the ability to plan--he sees the end from the beginning. We are clearly told in the Word that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, and that grace was given to us in Christ before times eternal. Before reality and the willful acts of man gave rise to the need, God already established in his own deliberations the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And yet, God often interacts with creation in a way that is commensurate with its time-boundness rather than his timelessness. It leaves one scratching his head in wonder, and me wondering if one more name can be added to those God already has: The Deliberative Stranger.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    The Failure of Preterism in the Olivet Discourse

    Important aspects of the Olivet Discourse which factor into this article:

    1) The occassion of the discourse was a question from the disciples after Jesus stated that not one stone would be left upon the other in Herod's Temple complex. Though Luke and Mark record virtually the same question, the detail of the question in Matthew tells us most specifically what was asked, and what Jesus was responding to. Matthew's question: "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" directs us to the end of time rather than to 70 CE.

    2) The woe upon the pregnant and nursing seems clearly to refer to the same circumstance in all three accounts, and therefore can serve to "align" the details of three accounts. In doing so, it makes Luke's unique language describing the misfortune coming upon the Jews and Jerusalem merely a different description the same events presented in Matthew and Mark. Therefore, there is no description whatsoever in the Olivet Discourse of events occurring in 70 CE.

    Specific Prophecies that Prevent a Preterist Intepretation
    • "The beginning of birth pangs" in regard to earthquakes in various places, famines, and plagues seems a lot to jam into the space of time from 30 to 70 CE
    • "A great falling away" which never occurred before 70 CE
    • "The Gospel preached to every nation," which only now is a possibility ("then the end will come")
    • "The Abomination of Desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel" has not been fulfilled yet
    • "Great tribulation like never before and never again" could in no way describe events before 1940 because of the nature of the Holocaust
    • "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" could not have happened before 1940
    • "The Son of Man comes in the clouds" has not occurred even yet
    • "Angels gathering the elect" (from the earth and heaven) has not occurred yet
    • "When we see all these things happening, this generation will not pass until all these things take place" binds the prophecies in the discourse into a unit (at least from the gospel being preached to all nations) that will be seen in its entirety by the generation that sees these signs
    A preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse is unwarranted and untenable. The Olivet Discourse starts with some general discriptions of what history would hold for the disciples until the end came. The end itself would not come before the Gospel had been preached to all the nations, and when the end finally came, it would be most saliently signified by the Abomination of Desolation which is described by Daniel. The end itself, is nothing other than the Return of Christ, and that just has not happened yet!

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Questions from God

    Do you trust me?  Will you bet your life on it?  Will you follow me as a result?

    What God is after, why God made mankind the way he did, why things happen in historical time as they do is that God has a desire for mankind that requires the right answer to these kinds of questions from God. If one sincerely answers, "yes," God can share himself with that person. If one does not, he or she cannot be trusted with God's image, freedom, or even life itself, and will ultimately be contained and confined in a way not repulsive to God's omniscience.

    The Bible demonstrates this from God's testing of Adam to Jesus' dealings with his disciples. God is looking for a response from people that demonstrates their "yes." What God is endeavoring to achieve is not the kind of thing that can avoid choices and the freedom to make them, for God's image cannot be God's image apart from freedom and choice. Within the Trinity, there is always a yes between the persons of the Godhead, there needs to be a yes between our persons and God's.

    Calvinism is totally out to lunch when it comes to any understanding whatsoever about God's intents and purposes. The system doesn't begin to understand what we are here for, what God is trying to achieve or how. It is astonishing to me that it is considered intellectual in some corners when it is so fundamentally ignorant! On top of that, it assaults the character of God, making him out to be someone who cannot rise above the level of playing with toy soldiers.

    God made mankind to know him, to walk with him, and to experience life along the the lines that he does. The agreement within the Trinity is a picture of what it takes for distinctive people to be able to do that. What must be understood and remembered is that as God puts the questions that matter to mankind, only faith in God can provide the answer he's always looking for.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Man Gave Names to All the Animals

    "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field."   Genesis 2:19-20 NIV

    In the midst of extending his creation of man from just male to male and female, God brought Eden's menagerie before Adam, sat back so to speak, and let man take the lead in something creative. Some might find fault with my characterization of this event this way, but I don't think it's all that far off.

    This occurred before God's sabbath, so his "work" week wasn't quite finished when this happened. He was, in fact, not even done with the model called man, for female he had not made them yet. He tapped his son Adam to help his Dad finish his work, much the same way my dad used to "take me to work" with him on Saturday mornings to "help" him. Day 6 was the very first Take-Your-Son-to-Work Day in history!

    The work wasn't hard (neither was mine with my dad). The Father could easily have done it himself, but he didn't want to. In fact, it seems to me, the Father got a kick out of having Adam do it. I know it doesn't come right out and say that, but it does say God went on to finish his creative work (including the part Adam "helped" with), and when done, pronounced it good. A perfect God produced perfect quality work with which he was perfectly satisfied--including the component added by Adam!

    One might ask, "Why?" I think it speaks profoundly about the glory of God and what brings him satisfication and joy. The news flash is that it isn't doing a puppet show with the marionettes he made out of clay. God let man name the animals, and whatever man named them, that was their name.

    God wanted mankind to be creatively free. He made them to be. That is what they must be, in order for the Son to incarnate as one of them and fellowship with them, Creator with the created. God has never shown any interest in dealing with mankind as robots so far as I can tell: it is a complete misapprehension of his purposes and plans to ever think that he would.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Answering as an Arminian

    I was asked by one of my Calvinist readers to respond to a couple of questions on soteriology from my Arminian perspective; however, I am an Arminian more by default than by choice. My beliefs were developed from reading the Bible rather than James Arminius or Arminian theologians, so I am not truly an effective apologist for Arminian theology. That said, I do find myself in agreement with basic theological tenets set forth by Arminians and have no problem being associated as one of their lot (although that might not be a two way street! ;-) ). There is an excellent resource on the web (at that any of you readers would probably find very helpful in understanding the tenets of Arminian theology. On to the questions...

    What is man's part in salvation?
    There is no human role in salvation. The plan was God’s, the execution was God’s. Man either receives or rejects what God has finished in Christ. Those that believe in that plan and receive Christ, are saved, those that reject that plan and Christ will remain rejected by God. Calvinists characterize Arminianism as making man co-redemptors with Christ by such a stand, but Arminians see that as entirely specious. Look at it this way: if you’re at a carnival where there is a guy making balloon animals and offering them to the bystanders, how does taking one from him make you the co-creator or co-artist in it’s creation?

    I know of no passages in the scripture that say salvation is effected apart from faith on the part of the receiver. So, Arminians see that faith is the effective reaction a human makes to a work completed by God, and is thus saved by Christ. Calvinists believe that kind of faith is impossible, due to their view on Total Depravity, without regeneration preceding faith. Arminians, though we generally share the Calvinist’s view on Total Depravity, believe faith comes first, made possible by the visitation of God grace. To review: for every human saved the Arminian would say that the plan was God’s, the execution was God’s, and the enabling grace was God’s. Man either puts faith in Christ as a result or does not.

    For me personally, the problem I have with Calvinistic conceptions of this issue is that in order to give the glory to God alone and remove any “free role” for man, Calvinists end up relying in some fashion on Determinism. Once that is adopted, God alone getting the glory for salvation may be assured, but dragged along for the ride is God inexorably getting the blame for sin as well. If things happen as they happen by the decree of God, that God’s will is the effective determiner of what happens for good or for ill, then God is not only the author of salvation but the author of sin as well. I find that a totally unscriptural characterization of God and what he’s revealed about how he does things. Calvinists appeal to “mystery” to deal with the problem, I just see an unmysterious problem.

    Can one lose their salvation?
    Arminians have widely varying viewpoints on this issue. Arminius, himself, was not precisely clear on the subject. I do not believe anyone can lose their salvation, but I do believe they can lose their faith. The two are related but most definitely distinct. Salvation was achieved by the finished work of Christ, not by any work of the saved. If our works do not save us, our works cannot “unsave” us. Our faith, on the other hand, is the means through which grace and salvation are effected, and a loss of such faith would result in God’s grace and salvation becoming ineffective as well.

    There are instances of folks falling away from Christ in the NT, and Hebrews 6 spells out at least the possibility. Calvinists, generally, rely on the “they were never saved in the first place” argument. I see no validity in that approach at all, and practically, see it completely undermining trust in Christ in real time because one can’t trust that their faith is true at any given moment—they might just be fooling themselves and never truly believed from the start. From an Arminian perspective, if I know Christ is the risen Lord now, and trust him now, I am saved now. That is what an examination of oneself to see if he is in the faith should produce.

    If any of my Arminian readers would like to chime in, I'd be blessed to hear your comments.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Zero Based Prayer

    I believe we can have what we ask of God. I believe the teaching of scripture in this matter is straight forward and simple. It is in aligning a reality in which we don't always get what we pray for with that teaching that a difficulty emerges. I think that is especially true when we're convinced that our request was agreeable to God's will and we thought we asked in faith without doubting. Yet, even in those apparent conditions, some prayer goes unanswered. "Sup with that!

    First, let me say that our experience here was never meant to encapsulate all that has been earned by Christ and promised to us. Immortality cannot be inherited by mortality. Oh, the blessings are our's all right, bought with the price of blood (sale complete, I might add), but they are not necessarily experienced in the here and now. The tank of God's blessings is full, but we only get the splashover here and now. That's nothing to sneeze at--no mere trifle by any stretch. The tank includes eternal, disease-free, curse-free life in which we know even as we are known. Even some fraction of that looks like a lot to me! A lot more than many folks seem to settle for.

    People have asked me how I can believe I'm going to get what I ask for when there have been times when my prayers haven't been answered, or at least haven't been answered yet. When I see the awesome quality and quantity that has been established for us in Christ, I just can't get hung up on what went wrong with yesterday's unanswered prayer, I concentrate on today's problems and today's prayers. Today's promise is always, "Ask what you will..." and "with God, nothing is impossible," so why let yesterday's doubt, yesterday's weakness, or yesterday's sin rob me of God's blessing today? 

    When I was studying accounting, oh, so many years ago, we were taught a concept called Zero Based Budgeting. The salient feature in that system is that there is no carry over from prior period's experience in producing the next period's budget. You start with a blank slate. I approach prayer everyday from a zero based outlook. Yesterday's failures in prayer have no effect on today's promises. So, I pray expectantly, and anticipate answers, and I get more than a few, for even though I've been known to to fail in a promise, Jesus never has!

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Practical, Relational Repercussions of the Trinity

    In the first verse of the “Shema,” the Bible clearly states that there is but one God, who is in himself one. The eternally self-existent "I AM" (YHWH), the Creator of heaven and earth is one, but he has further revealed himself as embodying within himself the principles of relationship and association entailed in being Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is a trinity, a unity of three persons. It is his very nature.

    In some respect, we can “reverse engineer” the nature of humankind to understand the perplexing, trinitarian nature of God. We were made in the image of God, and so we are reflective of his nature, at least in some key ways. For instance, I am a father, but I am also a son, and there is a sense of me, a “vibe” let's call it, that is accessible to those around me. I am a finite and flawed reflection of the infinite God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--in this respect.

    Furthermore, when God looked at Adam, alone in the Garden, his response was that it was not good for man to be alone. Why? Could it be that since God in himself is not alone, and we are made to be like him, it was not good (i.e reflective of God) for man to be alone either? No man is an island, he was never intended to be. Humankind is made in the image of a triune, relational Godhead, and are not what they should be out of fellowship with others of their kind.

    God's desire is that we would reflect him, not only in ourselves, but also with each other as Jesus stated in such soaring language in his “High Priestly Prayer.” The Trinity is not just an arcane church doctrine hammered out so long ago: it’s a practical understanding of God, and by extension, us. The relational Godhead has called us into relationship with him, like him. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is more than a formula for baptism, it’s the fundamental nature of God, and it is the relational fabric we’re being woven into as the children of God.