Puritan Gems

Monday, March 19, 2007

Abraham’s Covenant Fulfilled In His True Seed

"And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once... Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:19, 43)

Are Premillennialists interpretations “literal”?

One common argument among premillennialists is that they take Bible Prophecy more “literally” than their Amillennial and Postmillennial counterparts. We saw in the previous post how consistent they are with their literalism. Over at the Pulpit Magazine End Times Q and A, Nathan Busenitz refers to the Abrahamic Covenant as the sticking point which demands premillennialism. He writes,

“God’s unconditional covenants with the nation of Israel are irrevocable …at the end of the day – without overwhelming evidence to the contrary — I’m left with no other choice than to believe that God will do exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He said He would do it.”

First of all, God does not make “unconditional” covenants. Rather, biblical covenants have ethical stipulations, such as “walk before me, and be thou upright” (Genesis 17:1). That said, Nathan’s argument is a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the “fig tree”. While God promised to make Abraham the father of “many nations” (Genesis 17:4-6), premillennialists limit this to just one nation, that being “Israel after the flesh”. While Scripture declares that the Abrahamic Covenant would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3), premillennialists limit this to a 10 mile strip of real estate in the middle east. In doing so, Premillennialism, especially the Dispensational variety, pits Scripture against Scripture. While the Bible identifies the true seed of Abraham as Christ and those of the Christian Faith (Galatians 3:7,16), premillennialists reserve covenantal blessings for those who reject Christ, being children neither of Abraham nor God, but of the Devil (John 8:39-44).

Has the Abrahamic Covenant been fulfilled? Yes. According to the Scriptures, the Abrahamic Covenant has been fulfilled, both physically and Spiritually.

"And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you." (Joshua 23:14-16)

We can see that God did fulfill the promise that He made to Israel concerning the land. However, we can also see that it was not “unconditional”. In addition, it can be shown that all of the Old Testament Covenants contained the promise of a new and better Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant is no exception (see Genesis 22:7,15-18 and compare Galatians 3:7-9; 15-16; 28-29). It is Christ who is the culmination of all Old Testament Covenants. He is the “seed of the woman” in the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:15), the lifeblood from man in the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:5), the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), the spotless Passover Lamb of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 15:19-23), the heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16), and the sole mediator of the new and better covenant (Hebrews 9:15), “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance”. There is no Covenant without Jesus Christ, and there never has been.

By focusing this strictly on the land of Canaan instead of Christ, premillennialists have actually made God’s promise to Abraham a failure. God clearly promised that Abraham and his seed after him would have “everlasting possession” of this land (Genesis 17:7-8). They were to have it “forever” (Genesis 13:15), yet as of right now, they do not have possession of all this land. The very definitions of “everlasting” and “forever” do not allow for a postponement. As Gary DeMar points out, imagine if God decided to “postpone” the Noahic Covenant during “the church age”. He could then wipe out the entire human race with a flood and claim that His “everlasting covenant” (Genesis 9:16) was “postponed”. After all, if premillennialists are correct, God didn’t show Noah the “church age”.

Is it proper to interpret the Old Testament with the New Testament?

Nathan Busenitz objects to using the New Testament to interpret the Old. He writes,

“if you take the verses at face value (just accepting what they say, and what their original audience would have understood them to say), it naturally leads to premillennialism. This is, in fact, how the Jews themselves have historically understood these passages.

So I think it’s a little dishonest (not intentionally, of course) for amillennialists to contend that they are the ones actually taking the OT prophecies at face value. Historically speaking, that is just not defensible.”

Does it really matter how Jews would have historically understood a passage? There are many passages of Scripture that they clearly misunderstood, while Christ and his Apostles illuminated the true meaning as inspired by the Holy Spirit. (For a few examples, see Mark 9:11-13, John 5:46, Luke 6:2-5, Galatians 3:16). Proper interpretation of the Old Testament required a Divine and Supernatural Light, the kind that Peter obtained when He confessed Christ as the Son of the Living God.

“And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

In contrast, the Christ rejecting Judaists were blinded (Matthew 11:25-26; Matthew 13:13-16). So yes, postmillennialists interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, rather than follow the “blind guides” of historic Judaism (Matthew 15:14). We need not apologize for this, as even the prophets did not have full insight into the mysteries of God's Kingdom (see Matthew 13:17).

Did the church age end in 1948?

Another common inconsistency among premillennialists concerns the alleged “stopping of God’s prophecy clock”. In an attempt to defend the importance of modern Israel in Bible prophecy, Nathan writes, “The premillennial position asserts that, in keeping with OT prophecy, God will bring the nation of Israel back to her land. Though the nation will be established in unbelief, she will one day return to embrace her Messiah”. I didn’t get a chance to ask him how “God bring[ing] the nation of Israel back to her land” (presumably in 1948) could be “in keeping with OT prophecy”, since he had already explained the mysterious gap in Daniel 9:24-27 by suggesting that the OT prophets did not see the “mystery of the church age”.

In the end, premillennialists claim to “believe that God will do exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He said He would do it.” As a postmillennialist, I believe that God did exactly what He said He would do in the Old Testament, in exactly the way He says He did it in the New Testament, and exactly WHEN He said He would do it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Past Fulfillment of Ezekiel’s War

In the recent Q&A Endtimes Discussion over at Pulpit Magazine, premillennialists such as Nathan Busenitz took a stab at some of the questions in my previous post. One of the items that consistently came up concerned some to the prophecies in the latter portion of Ezekiel. Are the fulfillments of these prophecies in the past, or are they yet future?

Premillennialists try to connect the “Gog and Magog” invasion of Revelation 20:7-8 with the “Gog and Magog” battle in Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. It is clear that the battle in Rev. 20 (if a literal battle) occurs after the “millennium”. However, making the battle in Ezekiel 38 and 39 occur at this time introduces some major difficulties for “literalists”.

A common myth surrounding this battle is that it describes a future invasion of Israel by Russia. However, the guesswork involved in such exegesis becomes obvious under any objective examination. Just read any premillennial commentary on Ezekiel 38 and 39 from 1950 to 1990. One common identification of Gog and Magog occurs, the Soviet Union. The collapse of this “great red enemy from the north” in 1991 saw premillennialists scrambling to revise their interpretation (something that they seem to have to do every ten years or so). According to most commentaries since then, Gog and Magog are now “Russia and the Arab Confederacy”.

So where do they get Russia from in this prophecy? David Chilton, citing Ralph Woodrow, explains:

“…the expression Gog and Magog does not, and never did, refer to Russia. That has been entirely made up from whole cloth, and simply repeated so many times that many have assumed it to be true. Ostensible reasons for this interpretation are based on a peculiar reading of Ezekiel 38:3, which speaks of “Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” The word chief is, in the Hebrew, rosh; some have therefore translated the text as “Gog, the prince of Rosh.” Rosh sounds something like Russia; therefore Gog is the prince (or premier) of Russia. Unfortunately for this ingenious interpretation, rosh simply means “head” or “chief”, and is used over 600 times in the Old Testament — never meaning “Russia.”

Those who hold that “Gog” (a name supposedly derived from Soviet Georgia, since they both start with a “G”!) is the Soviet Premier generally make the further claim that “Meshech” is really Moscow, “Tubal” is Tobolsk, and “Gomer” (of Ezek. 38:6) is Germany. This is doubtful. ‘Moscow’ comes from the Muscovites and is a Finnish name. Moscow was first mentioned in ancient documents in 1147 A.D., when it was a small village. Some think Tubal means Tobolsk, but this is only a similarity in sound. Tobolsk was founded in 1587 A.D. Some think Gomer [Ezek. 38:6] means Germany. It is true the words ‘Gomer’ and ‘Germany’ both begin with a ‘G.’ So does guess-work.”

The fact that premillennialists rely on such a sloppy handling of Scripture only scratches the surface of their dilemma. Both Nate and Hampton must abandon their “literal” interpretative methods to push this war into the future. Hampton writes that “Israel will use these spoils (of the Gog and Magog war) as an energy source and that it will last for 7 years”.

Actually, that is not what the text says. Ezekiel 39:9-10 tells us that Israel will burn Gog’s wooden war weapons, “shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears”. Not to mention the fact that ALL of Gog’s soldiers are on horseback (Ezekiel 38:4), and that one of the reasons that Gog invades Israel is “to seize spoil and carry off plunder…livestock and goods” (Ezekiel 38:12-13).

According to Ezekiel, there will be a return to the “weak and beggarly elements” of the Jewish sacrificial system after the Gog and Magog battle. This will include circumcision “in heart and flesh” (Ezekiel 44:7-9), use of ancient Jewish currency (Ezekiel 45:10-16), as well as “burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel… sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings” (Ezekiel 45:17). In an attempt to explain these sacrifices without debasing Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice, Nathan Busenitz explains:

“Citing Fruchtenbaum on the millennial sacrifices:

What will be the purpose of these sacrifices in light of Christ’s death? To begin with, one must remember that the Mosaic sacrificial system did not remove sins (Hebrews 10:4), but only covered them (the meaning of atonement in Hebrew). It served as a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah would do (Isaiah 53:10–12). The Bible commands the Church to keep the Lord’s Supper as a physical and visual picture of Christ’s work on the cross. In the Millennial Kingdom God will provide for Israel a physical and visual picture of Messiah’s accomplishment on the cross. For Israel, however, it will be a sacrificial system instead of communion with bread and wine. The purpose of the sacrificial system in the kingdom will be the same as the purpose of communion: in remembrance of me.”

Once again, this flies contrary to the explanation given in the Scriptures themselves. Ezekiel clearly tells us that the purpose of these sacrifices and offerings is “to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 45:17). Nothing is said here about a “memorial sacrifice”. (Why will we need a memorial if Christ is physically sitting on His throne in Jerusalem?)

Obviously, all of these events occurred before New Testament times. Ezekiel’s war saw it fulfillment in the 2nd Century BC, when the Scythians were defeated by Judas Maccabeaus. (See Jay Rogers Article)

So what of the battle after the Millennium? We can see the John consistently refers to Old Testament imagery in writing His Apocalypse. We see the “tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7), "Balaam" (Rev. 2:14), "Jezebel" (Rev. 2:20), etc. Gog and Magog are no different.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Endtimes Questions for Dispensationalists

I’ll continue with my Ten Commandments series later, but for now…

Many of you know that John MacArthur raised a few eyebrows at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference by suggesting that all true Calvinists should be “Premillennial”. He objected to the way that Amillennialists in particular have a tendency to “spiritualize” certain passages.

I have great respect for Dr. MacArthur, and I really appreciate the way he handles the No-Lordship heresy and other issues. However, I vehemently disagree with his eschatological views. There is a discussion on Pulpit Magazine (Dr. MacArthur’s blog). I asked some questions that I have been longing to ask him. We’ll see where it leads.

I did a long blog series on eschatology from November 13 through December 20. I am also aware that there are a few Premillennial Dispensationalists who stop by here occasionally. As a postmillennialist, I have a boatload of questions about the “literal” interpretation of premillennialists (especially of the Dispensational variety). Feel free to tackle some of these. However, I do request either direct answers or full quotes if you use other sources. Please don’t give an answer like “You should read Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come. He answers this question”. If so, then please provide his answer.

· Why is the “1,000 year reign” mentioned only in Revelation 20, the most “symbolic” book in the Bible?

· Since we are discussing “literal”, why not start with the time frame references? What does “shortly” mean (Revelation 1:1)? How about “near” (Revelation 1:3)? How about “about to” (Revelation 3:10)? What about “this generation” (Matthew 24:34)?

· Why were the First Century Churches of Asia concerned with 21st Century events? Why would Jesus promise to deliver the First Century Church of Philadelphia from events that none of them would ever live to see (Revelation 3:10)?

· How many resurrections will there be, and when will they take place? Why does Jesus have the righteous and the wicked being resurrected at the same time (John 5:28-29)? Why did Jesus say that the righteous would be resurrected “on the last day” (John 6:39-44)? What happened to that 1,007 year period after that?

· If 1 Thess. 4:17 is the pre-trib rapture, then that means that 1 Thess. 4:16 is a pre-trib resurrection, correct? Yet the “First Resurrection” of Revelation 20:4-5 includes “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.” Aren’t these supposed to be the tribulation saints? How can they have a part in the first resurrection if the first resurrection takes place before the tribulation even starts?

· Where does the Bible mention a Pre-Trib Rapture? How about a third coming of Christ? How about a 7 year tribulation period?

· Where does the Bible mention a third Jewish Temple?

· Where does the Bible say that Jesus will reign “on earth” for 1,000 years?

· If premillennialism is correct, then why does Ezekiel mention animal sacrifices after the “millennium” (after Gog and Magog – Ezekiel 45:18-25)? What is the purpose of these sacrifices? Ezekiel says that they will be "to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 45:17). Hasn't the work of Christ already done that?

· Is Matthew 16:28 the literal Second Advent, or should we understand it as something else? If the former, then are some of Jesus’ listeners still alive?

· In Isaiah 19:1, did Jehovah literal ride into Egypt on a cloud?

· Why did Peter say that Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) saw it’s fulfillment on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)?

· Where does the 2,000 gap in Daniel’s 70 week prophecy come from (Daniel 9:24-27)?

· What kind of chain will be used to bind the angel Satan (Revelation 20:1-3)?

· Why did Jesus say that Judaists who rejected him were neither Abraham’s children nor God’s, but the Devil’s (John 8:39-44)?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Effectiveness of Biblical Grace

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

This is a question that No-Lordship proponents refuse to answer. They think that they can live in the light of God’s grace and still walk in darkness. Biblical Grace trains “…us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Biblical Grace comes from God and makes us “worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Biblical Grace delivers us from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14). Biblical Grace assures us that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6-7). Biblical Grace is “with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24). Those who claim to have this love and do not keep God’s Commandments are liars and the truth is not in them (1 John 2:3-4). Biblical Grace saves those who are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Biblical Grace is given to those whom “he chose…in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:2-4). Biblical Grace has “…all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Otherwise, we have “receive[d] the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

Biblical Grace is not moral perfection, for such would have no need of Grace. Bibical Grace does result in sancification, regardless of how slow that sanctification may take place. Biblical Grace is effectual, accomplishing all of these things in those who are God’s. If one is not being sanctified, being trained by grace to renounce the devil and his works, he has not experienced the grace of God, but rather a grace that he has invented in his own vain imagination. The “grace” of No-Lordship proponents is not the biblical grace that comes from God, but a different sort that comes from there own human neurons. It is a cheap grace that winks at sin, does not lead to repentance or holiness, does not change the heart, and tries to mix the holy with the profane. Those who teach a lawless gospel know nothing of biblical grace, nor have they any knowledge of the new birth, without which no one can see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Woe be to any minister who would pervert God’s grace into a license to sin. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea.” (Luke 17:2)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Free Grace or Cheap Grace?

A Refutation of the No-Lordship Heresy

"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'-- only to go on doing all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:8-10)

"If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord's will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Savior, while they are wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." - C.H. SPURGEON

The grace of God is an effectual grace, though while not given to us by means of any meritorious acts, it creates a new creature from the old and produces visible fruit. The process of sanctification may differ from saint to saint, but this process is inevitable for the true believer. However, by adopting the terminology of “free grace” to cover their heresy, the corrupt schoolmen of No-Lordship salvation have sunken to playing word-games. The “free” grace they promote is not only free in the sense that it is unearned, but also in the sense of its worthlessness. It is not the biblical, effectual grace, that being “the grace of God” which “has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Rather, their grace is of a cheap and unfruitful sort, proceeding from some vain “belief” that they have contrived of their own virtuous resources. This particular brand of belief is less profitable than that of devils, for at least the belief of devils causes them to tremble (James 2:19). In their warped theology, this self-constructed “belief”, even if just for a fleeting moment, is all that is necessary to allow one into the Holy Jerusalem. Repentance, Holiness, and even the new birth are optional items to be filed under the important but non-critical category of “discipleship”. In No-Lordship theology, the new creature may live in harmony with the old (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the fruits of the Spirit may be blended with the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-24).

“…they are working with an unbiblical notion of “grace.” Grace is not a liberal clemency or a passive indulgence that simply tolerates and coexists with sin. Divine grace doesn’t guarantee heaven in the afterlife while merely overlooking the evils of this life. Authentic grace is the undeserved favor of God toward sinners, delivering them from the power as well as the penalty of sin (Romans 6:14).” – John MacArthur

In contrast, the true religion, as given to us in the Holy Writ, gives serious warnings against such vain babblings. Christ was very clear that “…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3). This is effectual, powerful, and life changing grace, bringing sinners out of the darkness and into the light (Ephesians 5:8). This grace requires more than just a mere profession or a taste of religion, for “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6). The ability to believe the truth is itself a gift from God (Acts 13:48; Phillipians 1:29), for “…no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The new birth is most necessary, for His mercy saves us “…by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5).

The Apostle Paul clearly emphasized the importance of his own sanctification, the lack of which would lead to his damnation. “…I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27). The grace Paul taught was neither a license for lasciviousness, nor was it meant to be “fire insurance for the wicked”. He warns believers in Corinth that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived” (1 Corinthians 6:9). Simon Magus “believed” (Acts 8:13), yet was unregenerate (Acts 8:20-23).

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

The new birth produces fruit, as God Himself promises “…I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:27). We must be careful not to impugn true converts who may not be as far along in their sanctification as others, but those of the true faith will strive for obedience and “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). This is discipleship, enabling true converts by the Spirit to persevere in the faith, as those who do not “were not of us” (1 John 2:19), for Jesus never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). If God’s Spirit is in us, we will obey His statutes. In contrast, those who claim to know Christ but do not obey His commandments are emphatically called liars (1 John 2:3-4). The true gospel not only proclaims the goodness and mercy of God, but the severity of his wrath toward apostates. The meat of the gospel is to “repent” (Matthew 3:2), to “bear the fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8), thereby fleeing “from the wrath to come”. (Matthew 3:7). Sanctification is not an option. Without repentance, there has been no conversion. Therefore, "…Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19). Jesus Christ is both your savior and your Lord, or He is neither.

There has been some question as to whether or not Sola Fide was taught or even properly understood by the early church fathers. For example, regarding Clement of Rome, it is true that he taught that we are “justified by our works, and not our words”, but this is not speaking of the means of justification, but rather the fruits (For no one actually taught justification by words). In this, he agrees with the inspired apostle James:

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:17-24).

Clement was clearly a proponent of Sola Fide, but he did not promote the dead faith and “easy-believism” of our modern antinomians. He writes, “We are not justified through ourselves, neither through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works we have done in holiness of heart, but through FAITH."

In the end, the promoters of "No Lordship" salvation may have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. From such, turn away (2 Timothy 3:5).

For More Information, see:

Apostasy from the Gospel by John Owen
Pursuing Holiness in the Lord by Jonathan Edwards
The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur