Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 3:10 to Turkey

What is going on between Turkey and Syria is incredibly interesting prophetically. I have clearly stated that Turkey will be Ground Zero for the rise of the Antichrist. You probably are already aware that he will rule over a ten nation confederation, ultimately advancing that position to world-wide dominance, but his start will be taking over three of the ten as his personal dominion. Turkey will be one, Syria another, and the third likely Iraq (but maybe Lebanon).

I am not saying that current events are precipitating the rise of the Antichrist, but I am saying that something like what is happening will likely happen just as the Antichrist is rising. The result of that something will be three nations, including Turkey and Syria being under one head. Are we already on board the 3:10 to Turkey?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nicolaitans at Night

Who are the Nicolaitans? Though mentioned prominently in the letters to the seven churches, there is uncertainty amongst modern scholars and historians about who they might truly be, who they followed, and what exactly they taught. Even among ancient authorities there was some divergence of opinion. I think something more definitive than that may be derived by the hermeneutic principle I have described concerning prophecy here.

Since the Nicolaitans are mentioned prophetically as if it is assumed the reader knew who they were, what we need to interpret the Nicolaitans should be found in scriptures already recorded. The word on its face implies the meaning "followers of Nicolas." Conveniently, there is a Nicolas recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (and no where else), who was an early Greek (rather than Jewish by birth) deacon of the church in Jerusalem. There is no dearth of ancient extra-biblical sources who report that he went astray, particularly in matters of sex, in his latter years (although there is at least one credible source that says that wasn't the case).

In light of these musings, I find it interesting that the Holy Spirit found it necessary to repeat warnings in the scriptures about men not having their own wives with whom they were sexually active. The teaching that forbade marriage is, in fact, classified as a doctrine of demons. Christian men generally disavowing and denying themselves sexual relations (within the context of heterosexual marriage) could only lead to trouble. For those who attempted to practice unnecessary, unspiritual restriction on God-designed activity, something was bound to break.

Although historical accounts of Nicolas are somewhat fuzzy, there does seem to be agreement amongst them that he endeavored to abstain from sexual relations with his wife. At some point something did break, and the rebound effect was those following his teaching embraced license rather than restraint. Nicolas went beyond Paul's teaching to beat the body into submission to abusing the flesh in order to overcome it. One never need to practice evil in order to achieve good, and certainly should never engage in sexual immorality in the name of mastering the desire for sex.

Balaam in the OT was of a similar ilk--what he could not get from God directly (the cursing of the Israelites), he sought to get by enticing the Israelites to sexual immorality and idolatry. Any teaching that espouses sexual or moral license as a means of attaining something spiritual, even something like self-control, is a Nicolaitan or Balaamite doctrine. Spiritual benefit never comes through the auspices of fleshly excess. Overcomers know this and avoid the Nicolaitans and their works of the night.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Letter to the Evangelical Church

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’"       Revelation 2:1-7 NASB
I know this is not a letter to the Evangelical Church (particularly in America), but it could be. Look at the commendation: deeds, toil, perseverance, intolerance of evil men, assaying those who claim to be apostles and finding those who are false, and stamina for Christ's name. This is written to a good church, a believing church, a righteous church, or so it seemed. This is written to what could be what many of us consider the evangelical church today.

And yet there was serious fault to be found in this church--serious enough to threaten its qualification as a church (lampstand). Removing a lampstand from its place is tantamount to no longer considering that body a true church of Christ. Could the Evangelical church truly be under such a threat, a clear threat to salvation itself, all the while believing in the gospel of grace? Yes, because there is a qualitative necessity within faith (see James 2:19-20 for instance) that determines whether or not it passes muster as faith. Just believing the right things is not, evidently, a sufficient concept of saving faith.

Christ, speaking through John here, identifies one such quality as the love that should naturally (or supernaturally) arise in one when that one has true faith in Christ. First love is not meant to convey a sentimental, romantic notion but a pure and unsullied one. Love is an uncallous thing and it should persevere as such as long as does the faith which gives it rise. This is not a principle new to this letter for John states as much throughout the bulk his first epistle. One just does not have the necessary quality of faith to be saved if one does not love Christ and the those in Christ sincerely as a result of having faith.

If that seems at odds with the Once-Saved-Always-Saved mantra of so much of evangelicalism, or the easy-believism acceptance of virtually anything and everything under the banner of grace, welcome to the matrix. There is a reckoning coming for those who rely on something they deem as acceptable that Christ does not. If you're convicted that might describe you, repent. Overcomers get a feast that lasts forever.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Big Picture God Knew

God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and knows exactly what is right.

In this "isness", God knew he wanted to make people like him--spiritual, creative, willful, relational--to share his everlasting life with.

By his understanding he knew that such people could not be him, but could share being with him if they lived in trust of him. By his insight, he knew that they would not trust him before they would trust him by means of his help. He also knew that not trusting him would cause them to strike out on their own with the most disastrous results. In his righteousness he knew they could not share his everlasting being in a condition of faithless independence.

Nonetheless, he wanted to make people like him.

By his understanding he knew that fallen people could never be fully trusting without the undergirding of knowing that their former rebellion was thoroughly purged and forgotten. By his foresight he knew that would mean coming to their world as one of them and laying himself completely on the line for them, removing for them any semblance of barrier or fear of punishment. He also knew that given his help there would be some who would respond to his effort by faith and some who would not. In his wisdom, he knew that those not willing to live in trust in him would have to be restrained eternally, kept from formulating and acting in faithless independence.

Nonetheless, he wanted to make people like him.

In his "isness", God knew he was spending eternity with people like him--spiritual, trusting, creative, willful, relational--sharing with them his everlasting being.

So God made people like him.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Nature of Election

In an interchange with one of my favorites bloggers, a difference in how we understood election led to his suggestion that I look at what Paul's letter to the Galatians says on the subject. This post is my response to that suggestion. I will interact with portions of Galatians and relate them back to issues arising from Romans 9 and 11, which were the origin of the discussion (even though they were not what the originating blog post was about). Read that post and comments here (and anything else you can from that site--Ben and J.C. are two of the finest bloggers on the internet!).
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.   Galatians 3:6-9 NIV 1984
Election, as biblically referenced, hearkens back to Abraham and what was promised to him. Abraham was hand-picked by God to be the father of a people through Sarah, who were to be given a land in perpetuity in Canaan, and who would have God as their god and who would be God's people. Through him/them would all the world be blessed. Abraham's heirs through this promise, therefore, were a people chosen by God to be savingly related to him--the elect.

Within God's covenants with Abraham, however, a potential division of his progeny was intrinsic, for "God would be their god" is an inherently conditional statement. God can only be one's god if he is believed in, trusted, and followed in obedience and fellowship uniquely by those for whom he is their god. If those characteristics are not in place, then neither can it be said that God is their god. A cultural myth, part of background perhaps, but not a personal god.

This division is what Paul exploits in Romans 9. There seems to be an assumption packed by Paul into v 6 which would represent, it seems to me, a "Jewish" way to see election. Jews, the sons of promise, the possessors of Israel, the nation affiliated with the worship of God would be expected to be those who would embrace their promised Messiah, the blessing to all nations. That was not happening and therefore it called into question the word of God regarding their election and the promise to the elect.

If the foundation of election in Abraham would have been understood by those making such an assumption, then the assumed misunderstanding could have been avoided. Paul spent chapter 9 of Romans trying to get this point across. Salvivic election, NT election--the election of Abraham (if I can put it that way) is predicated on faith. God chooses all those who trust his promise, Jew and Gentile alike, to be saved.

Instead, the "Jewish" approach to election seems to be dominated by Mosaic concerns. God picked Israel, corporately, to be delivered from bondage, ensconced in the Promised Land, governed by the law and blessed. Circumcision and nominal adherence to the Law was all that was necessary to secure what was promised, and if Messiah came it would have been obvious to them. The Jews would have followed him as a people into the golden age of Israel.

What is missing in such an understanding is the transitory nature of the Mosaic Covenant. It was nothing more than a schoolmaster, a temporary regimen meant to ensure that an anticipated goal could actually be reached. A "Mosaic" understanding of election can embrace a purpose in time for national Israel, but let us be clear--Moses has nothing to say about Abraham...
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Galatians 3:19-25 NIV 1984
So if we see Abraham's promises from God in the broadest sense, Abraham's election was sealed by faith as is that of all those (Jews and Gentiles) who follow in his steps as chosen by God and made righteous by faith. No one is elect unto anything salvivic apart from faith. As for Israel under Moses, they had a role to play (i.e. they were chosen to serve), which is over now, but despite their current rejection of Messiah, God retains plans for them to embrace him en masse finally, one day.