Puritan Gems

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dual Fulfillment and a Future Tribulation

As an increasing number of Christians are beginning to recognize value of the historical context in interpreting Bible Prophecy, those who hold to a futurist view are pushing for a "Dual Fulfillment" principle. This enables Dispensationalists in particular to honor the imminent fulfillment recognized by Preterists, and yet apply them to future events at the same time.

The "dual fulfillment" principle is not new. At first glance there seems to be some basis for this methodology. There were certainly Old Testament prophecies that had dual fulfillments. One need look no further than the numerous Messianic prophecies in the Psalms, which applied to David's life as well as foretold of the Messiah. Isaiah 28:11 speaks of the Babylonian Conquest of the Holy Land, yet Paul uses it to describe Pentecost with the same type of judgment from the Romans (1 Corinthians 14:21). There is also a sense in which the judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70 is a picture of the final judgment. However, using such a principle to push specific New Testament Prophecies into the future is a questionable practice at best, especially when applied to the Great Tribulation.

For one, this principle ignores the fact that the focal point of all prophecy is the work of Jesus Christ. Because the Judaists of the First Century failed to see Christ in the Old Testament, they were blind leaders of the blind (Luke 6:39). Yet these things were revealed to the children of God, and a "dual fulfillment" of these events would demand a continued sense of blindness. Christ's first advent brought the gospel which was "to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things" (Ephesians 3:9).

Besides, it is impossible for certain prophecies to honor this principle. Will there be two Millenniums? Two Great Tribulations? Jesus' own words concerning the Great Tribulation demand that it can be only a one time event.
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." (Matthew 24:21)

By this very description, a dual fulfillment of this prophecy would make it a false prophecy. The same is true for Daniel 2:44, as a kingdom that is established forever can only be established once.

Some prophecies, if pushed into the future, would require a triple fulfillment. Consider the charismatic application of 1 Corinthians 14:21 in regards to the Latter Rain movement. Since 1 Corinthians 14:21 is a dual fulfillment of Isaiah 28:11, any futuristic application would in fact be a triple fulfillment. The same is true with Daniel's "abomination of desolation". It was fulfilled during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, but was also applied by Christ in the Olivet Discourse to the armed invasion of Jerusalem by Titus and the Romans (compare Matthew 24:15-21 with Luke 21:20-24). Thus any futuristic view of the abomination of desolation would require a triple fulfillment. The same can be said for the fall of Babylon in the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:1-22) applied to Jerusalem in the New Testament (Revelation 14:8, Revelation 17:5).

In short, using the "dual fulfillment" principle to warn of a future Great Tribulation is a practice of sensational desperation, not sound Biblical exegesis. Dispensationalism in any form is a theology with an exiled Christ, with no kingdom today relevant to the earth in which we live. While we may not know the exact order of events leading up to the Second Advent, we can know that the Great Tribulation, as well as the other events of the Olivet Discourse, is past history. They happened within the apostle's generation (Matthew 24:34), never to be repeated.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On the Incarnation

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)

As the trees light up and the sounds of Carols resonate through the cold night air, millions worldwide will reflect upon a baby boy in a manger, a cultural icon of peace and good will towards men.

However, the real miracle of Christmas goes way beyond a mere human baby boy who was born in Bethlehem. The real miracle surrounds the hypostatic union of very God and very man. This is the ONLY orthodox Christology, that Christ was the very God (100%) and the very man (100%) in one person. To err in this area is to err to the destruction of your soul, for “...if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24). The word “he” does not appear in the original Greek. Therefore the MKJV rendering of this passages correctly reads, “…if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins”, with the phrase “I AM” being a claim to Deity (Exodus 3:14). The temptation to worship Christ’s human nature is one of the most deceptive forms of idolatry.

Jesus Christ was the very God, and was also very man. He was not “God changed into a man”, nor was He some mixture of God and man. Christ did not relinquish any of His Divine Attributes during his Incarnation (Colossians 2:9). Christ’s divine nature was “been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2), for “before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58).

Christ’s human nature was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15), “God…manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). The idea of “celestial flesh”1 is an Anabaptist morbis mentis. Christ was not a created being, as the ancient Arians and modern Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, nor was He a “mode” of God, as the ancient Socinians and their modern Oneness deceivers would proclaim. Christ is one person with two natures, divine and human, being distinct from each other, yet clearly united to each other. Wilhelmus a’Brakel reflects the importance of meditating on the Incarnation of Christ.

“…let the incarnation of the Lord Jesus also be the frequent subject of your meditation, for the manifestation of God in the flesh is a “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16). All true godliness proceeds from the knowledge of, and a believing union with, the Lord Jesus. This generates love and all that proceeds from love. Whatever does not proceed from this source cannot be called godliness. Even though nature may give us an impression of God and religion, it does not reveal this mystery. He who has only been illuminated outwardly is also ignorant of the frame of heart which proceeds from knowing Jesus (that is, as both God and man).” (Wilhelmus a’Brakel – The Christian’s Reasonable Service, pp.512-513.)

This Christmas, let us not fall into the idolatry of worshipping a human baby, but let us wonder at the miracle of God, in all of His Glory, being united to human flesh.

Related Article – The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity


1 “Celestial Flesh” is the belief among Mennonites and certain Brethren groups that Jesus did not derive his humanity from Mary, but from Heaven. The results are that Christ’s deity and His redemptive work become less important than His humanity, thus the focus is on Jesus as a good example as opposed to a Savior. The question for the Christian is not so much “What Would Jesus Do?” as opposed to “What Has Jesus Done?”

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Law and Offices of Jesus Christ

“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11).
A reflection on the gifts of the magi can give one an understanding of the offices of Christ, as well as how the law relates to these offices.

Gold represents the Kingship of Christ. Christ is the Almighty King, superior to all others. “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:16). It is this particular office of Christ that is the most ignored today. If Christ is the Almighty King, then He should be obeyed. "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). What a travesty it is that professing Christians view God’s law with distain, implicitly deny Christ’s reign over their lives. “…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price...” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The kingship of Christ flies right in the face of the spirit of our age, which focuses on the importance of self. Such self exaltation and self deception leads to antinomianism, and against such Christ duly warns us.
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” (1 John 2:3-4).
A call to obedience is not legalism. Obedience to God’s commandments is legalistic only when it becomes the grounds by which we consider ourselves justified. Therefore, reflect on the authority that Christ has in both heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), and, as His subjects, give Him the honor and obedience due an Almighty King.

On this point, we turn to the frankincense, representing the high priestly office of Christ. Just as antinomianism denies the kingly Office of Christ, legalism denies His priestly office. As high priest, Christ is superior to all other priests. “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:23-25). However, the high priestly office of Christ only merits value to those who understand their miserable condition, who feel the burden of sin, and perceive its due justice. For that, the law serves as a mirror (James 1:23), showing us that condition accurately. It is then and only then that one tastes the sweetness of Christ, who administers His priestly duties through His once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12) and His intercession (Hebrews 7:25).

The prophetic office of Christ is confirmed by the myrrh, a rather strange gift to give to a child. It was a burial spice, confirming the prophecy of Christ's death and burial (Isaiah 53:8-9). Christ was confirmed as the prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:15 by Acts 3:22. It is a proper understanding of this office that undergirds the authority of the written word, as the words of the prophet were directly spoken from the very mouth of God (Deuteronomy 18:18). As Christ is the very God Himself, He is superior to all prophets. He is the end goal of all prophecy (Hebrews 1:1-2), and today administers His prophetic office by the written Word, being preached and expounded. "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." (Mark 9:7)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Egalitarianism: A Theology of Rebellion and Unbelief

Dr. Bruce Ware has published an article summarizing “the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry”. As there has been some discussion of female “deaconesses” in the PCA, I thought it necessary to address this issue with Sola Scriptura.

Women are highly esteemed before the Lord, and have very important roles in both the home and ministry. However, there is no such thing as egalitarianism in either the home (Ephesians 5:22-24) or the church (1 Timothy 2:12).

Note well, however, that the Bible gives no such limitations regarding civil government, as Deborah (Judges 4-5) bears this out. (Say it with me – Sarah 2012!!!). But with the home and the church, the Bible is quite clear.

Regarding 1 Timothy 2:12, let’s suppose, just for a second, the Paul had actually meant that he does "not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man", and that "she is to remain quiet". How else could he have expressed that sentiment any clearer than he did here?

Egalitarianism is a theology of rebellion and unbelief.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Miserable Condition

Wilhelmus a’Brakel reflects upon man’s miserable condition before his conversion, with respect to his sinfulness, his deserving of punishment, and his impotency. Guaranteed not to be a best seller.

Our Misery: A Reflection upon our Sinfulness

Thus we have demonstrated to you the misery of man from various perspectives. We have done so in reference to the fall of Adam, original sin, actual sin, man’s impotency, and punishment upon sin. Do not rest in a mere external knowledge of all this, but make practical use of it, applying it all to yourself, and view yourself as such. Be it known to you, and impress it upon your heart, that you are the most miserable creature upon the face of the earth. If you could but perceive a glimmer of your misery, your hair would stand up straight from terror, your eyes would never fail to weep, and you would continually gnash your teeth and wring your hands. Therefore listen attentively to me as I address you. May the Lord cause you to see and feel all this, for you are miserable in many respects.

First, you are miserable in respect to your sinfulness. Go to Paradise and behold how ingeniously and gloriously you were created in Adam, enjoying sweet communion between God and your very own nature. Behold how willfully you have fallen away from God and have joined ranks with the devil. Having thus sinned, you have forfeited the glory of God. The image of God in which you were created in Adam has departed from you. Neither life, truth, love, holiness, nor glory are to be found in you. Instead, the appearance of a wretched black devil is within you.

Your soul is in an evil, devilish condition, and is blind and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God. It is alienated from the life of God through ignorance, dead in sin, capable of devising and committing all manner of evil, having no other desire but for that which God hates, and having no contempt for anything but that which God delights in. Your soul wallows in filth, stench, abomination, and in that which is despicable and intolerable. Your soul is a pool teeming with all manner of hateful, envious, wrathful, evil, impure, unrighteous, deceitful, and proud thoughts—thoughts by which you forget, depart from, and despise God, all of which are abominable in nature. Your throat is an open sepulcher; with your tongue you use deceit. The poison of asps is under your lips, and your mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Your eyes, ears, hands, feet, and all the members of your body are instruments of unrighteousness; you are a servant of sin in the fullest sense of the word. You are of your father the devil, a prisoner of Satan, and the property of the devil. You are thus separated from God, desiring also to remain separated from Him, finding delight in your evil frame and deeds. In one word, inwardly and outwardly you are in a state of direct opposition and enmity towards the high, holy, and glorious God.

What aggravates the abominable nature of your existence, however, is that there is not one honest person to be found in your generation, but rather you belong to a generation which is despicable, hateful, evil, and impure. There is not one single individual in your entire genealogy—even if you trace back your genealogy for five thousand years, and thus to Adam— who by nature is not a liar, a murderer, a thief, a fornicator, and a horrendous monstrosity at heart. You are an unclean thing out of an unclean (Job 14:4), of the earth earthy (1 Cor. 15:47), by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3), evil from your youth (Gen. 8:21). Give careful attention to these and similar passages of Scripture, and come into the presence of God. Hear these words as coming from the mouth of the Lord, hearing Him declaring you to be such a person.

Impress this upon your heart, and be convinced beyond any doubt that this is descriptive of you, since He declares you to be such. It is necessary that the view of your sinfulness exceeds that view which is the result of a mere believing in the Word of God. In order to be truly humbled and to be a suitable recipient of grace in Christ, there must be a sensible perception of this. For this purpose it is essential that you do not merely examine yourself in the mirror of the law of nature, measuring your deeds by that which nature teaches to be good or evil, but that you seek to acquire a thorough knowledge of your virtues and vices in light of the law of the ten commandments. For this purpose you should carefully read Lord’s Days 34 through 44 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Do not merely seek to acquire an extensive knowledge of the subject matter itself—that is, do not merely seek to discern what are good or evil thoughts, words, and deeds—but also consider their very nature as commandments, and consider that every deed must proceed:

(1) from a consciousness of being reconciled and united to God, so that one does not serve Him as a strange God and provoked Judge, but rather as an appeased Father;

(2) from a conscious submission of one’s self as creature to Him who only is Lord, who by virtue of His and our natures obligates us to be subject to Him in all things;

(3) from joyful willingness and obedience;

(4) from pure love;

(5) from a view and consciousness of His supremacy and majesty, and thus in the fear of His Name;

(6) from a joyful embracing of His will, solely because it is His will, so that our will is also swallowed up in His will;

(7) from an intense yearning that He alone be glorified, and that He alone is worthy of all honor and service, this being our sole objective;

(8) from an earnest zeal and devotion, until each deed be accomplished in all its particulars.

In one word, all things must be performed as proceeding from God, in dependence upon Him, and as before His countenance; and all must end in Him. With this in mind one will not be satisfied with the mere performance of one good deed, but will perceive how dreadfully one has fallen short—even in his best deeds, and thus how dreadful every sin is.

Be frequently engaged in this fashion, and examine your entire conversation both as to its internal and external dimensions. During the entire day give heed to your thoughts, words, and deeds, and sit down every evening to review the history of your behavior on that particular day. Proceed from hour to hour, from place to place, from one person to the next person with whom you have been in contact, from incident to incident as it occurred, and then consider your behavior in all these circumstances in view of each commandment. Identify the corruption of your nature as the fountain of all these things, and consider all that would have proceeded from this fountain if opportunity and inclination had given occasion for this. Add to this the aforementioned qualifications which are required for every action, in order that you may become acquainted with yourself. However, even that will not engender a truly perplexed, sensitive, and contrite frame, unless the Lord were to give you a view of His majesty, holiness, righteousness, and truth. He must cause you to see that sin is an act of denial, rejection, and contempt towards God, while simultaneously giving you an impression of the dreadfulness of its punishment. Only then will sin truly become a reality, and the sinner be perplexed. Only then will he need help and be driven to the Mediator, Christ. Behold, thus you are a horrendous and abominable monstrosity smothered in your sins.

Our Misery: A Reflection Upon the Punishment to Which We Are Subject

Secondly, you are miserable in view of being deserving of punishment. Proceed further to the consideration of the temporal and eternal punishments which are the consequences of sin. Contemplation upon the state in which you have come due to sin ought to make you shudder and tremble, considering that therefore you are not worthy to walk upon the face of the earth. It is a wonder that the earth still bears you and does not open its mouth to devour you alive. It is a wonder that fire does not come down from heaven to consume you with Sodom and Gomorrah and that the devil is not permitted to tear you to pieces and to drag your soul to hell. You are not worthy of inhaling air through your nostrils, of seeing the sun, and of having the canopy of heaven stretched out over you. You are not worthy of having a piece of bread to put in your mouth, nor a thread to cover your skin.

Lift up your eyes and think for a moment about God, the majestic, holy, and glorious God who is a terror to the sinner. Consider what David said regarding Him: “For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with Thee. The foolish shall not stand in Thy sight: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (Ps. 5:4–6). Paul spoke likewise: “But unto them that . . . do not obey the truth . . . indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish [shall come] upon every soul of man that doeth evil” (Rom. 2:8–9). Hear the thundering declaration in Galatians 3:10, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written . . . to do them.” Consider also 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh my unconverted fellowman who does not wish to be drawn and wooed by the goodness of God, may God once cause you to perceive what His wrath is, to which you are subject, in order that you may be saved with fear!

Let me present this in more detail to you, hoping that in some measure it may move you.

(1) Take note of God’s own expressions in this regard. “Thou, even Thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in Thy sight when once Thou art angry?” (Ps. 76:7); “Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath” (Ps. 90:11); “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

(2) Consider the anxiety of the saints when God hides His countenance from them and when He causes but a glimpse of His anger to be seen by them. David feared this and therefore prayed, “O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” (Ps. 6:1). Jeremiah could endure anything, but he feared the wrath of God, for he said, “Be not a terror unto me” (Jer. 17:17). How Job complained of this! “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me” (Job 6:4). Heman expressed his anxiety as follows, “Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; Thy terrors have cut me off” (Ps. 88:16).

(3) Observe and consider how the Lord Jesus, the Surety of the elect, became a curse, and how He endured all misery and anxiety. Consider how He was assaulted by the devil, was rejected, despised, and mocked of men, was condemned and put to death on the cross. Consider how the wrath of God pressed Him down and caused Him to be sorrowful unto death. He was engaged in a fierce battle, and was sorrowful and very heavy. He sweat an abundance of blood which fell in drops from His face to the earth; He crawled as a worm upon the earth. He prayed and mourned, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Such was the heaviness of His task in atoning for the sins of His elect.

(4) If this does not move you, proceed to observe the dreadful pit of damnation, and listen to the gnashing of teeth, the weeping, the frightful shriek, “Woe, woe, woe,” the terror, and the violent raging of the conscience of the damned in the eternal fire. Consider that to all eternity they will never enjoy one beam of light, nor one quiet moment, but will eternally be overcome with inexpressible despair knowing they will never be delivered as well as be subject to an inexpressible perception of the wrath of God.

In all quietness you ought to meditate upon the state of damnation. First of all, what will it be to have a soul and body which cannot find fulfillment within itself and thus cannot be satisfied unless this fulfillment comes from elsewhere, which, however, will be lacking to all eternity. There will not be the least refreshment, neither will there be food, drink, light, sleep, nor companionship by which one could find some delight in conversation. On the contrary, there will be an infinite separation from God, angels, the godly, joy, and glory. At the present time one may be able to forget his unhappiness and sorrow by a variety of means and thus feel no sorrow concerning that of which he is deprived. Then, however, it will be unbearable when these various means are removed. What dreadful despair will this yield for the unfulfilled and sorrowing soul!

Secondly, consider how the soul, against its will, will continually be compelled to think upon all the benefits which it had received of God in this life as far as the body is concerned. He will also be compelled to think upon the means of grace received, and the sermons and ministers by which he was admonished and rebuked, exhorting him to repent, and indeed, constraining him to do so. The soul will think upon all divine conviction within the conscience, as well as the deliberate rejection, despising, opposition towards, and contradiction of all the means of grace, as well as towards those who with words and deeds convicted them.

Thirdly, consider how dreadful it will be when all committed abominations will continually come to mind, and when these, one by one, will be vividly recalled together with all the abominable circumstances attending each of them.

Fourthly, consider what it will be when the ungodly will blame God for not having converted them as others, and for not having ushered them into heaven as others, but instead depriving them eternally of all grace. Consider what it will be when, in their wickedness, they will lash out at God with every imaginable blasphemy.

Fifthly, consider how dreadful and terrifying it will be when the eternal wrath of God will continually overwhelm the soul, causing it unbearable pain, and all the perfections of God will simultaneously manifest themselves against the soul. How dreadful and terrifying this will be! What eternal despair this will engender!

Behold, you who hear or read this, you have deserved all this. Perhaps many of you, due to your failure to repent and the hardness of your hearts, will experience this and have your portion in this lake which burns with sulfur and brimstone. Perhaps this will be your portion within a few days. Be alarmed, tremble, and repent, in order that you may escape the manifestation of this wrath. Perhaps all of this may not even affect you. This one or that one may perhaps think that he is too strong mentally to be seriously disturbed by all these things.

Perhaps such a person can rationally respond to all this and quiet his conscience. I assure you, however, that when God causes one’s heart to tremble, he most certainly will become aware that a terrified conscience alone will cause him unbearable distress. Even a rustling leaf will cause him to tremble. Oh that you would quietly and intelligently consider and believe these things, applying all this to yourself if you are still unconverted—in order that your heart might be appalled by all this, as to whether it would please the Lord to grant you conversion!

Perhaps someone else, in response to the presentation of these matters, may think, “since God is gracious and merciful, I hope for better things. I hope that He will keep me from hell.” My response to this is that, first of all, mercy must have an object which is pitifully miserable. You, however, are hatefully miserable, and there is nothing in you which would move God to be merciful. You are Lo–ruhamah: no more to have mercy (Hosea 1:6), hateful (Titus 3:3), “the generation of His wrath” (Jer. 7:29), to be loathed and not to be pitied by anyone (Ezek. 16:5), an abhorrence (Ps. 5:6), and a generation of vipers (Mat. 3:7). Who would have compassion upon an injured toad or snake? Man either continues to kill them or at least gets rid of them. In like fashion you are hateful and abominable, and therefore you are not to comfort yourself with the mercy of God. God is just and cannot allow any sin to go unpunished. God’s grace does not consist in permitting any sin to go unpunished. Grace is God’s ordination and sending forth of a Surety whom He has punished in the stead of His elect. It is grace that He, by means of the gospel, causes this Surety to be proclaimed and offered. It is grace that He bestows the gift of faith on someone, enabling him to receive this Surety. It is grace when He converts someone and sanctifies him. It is grace when He, by virtue of the merits of this Surety, leads someone to eternal felicity in the way of sanctification. Therefore you who are not upon this way have no reason to comfort yourself with grace, for that is deceiving yourself to your eternal damnation. In addition to your hatefulness, God can also not tolerate you because you neither cease from sinning, nor from provoking, reviling, and despising Him continually. Furthermore, you also exalt yourself above God. By all this you demonstrate that you ignore God’s threatenings, and rather continue boldly in sin. It is as if you are saying, “God may do whatever He wishes, but I don’t care. I will live as I please, and I will refrain from or do whatever I wish.” In addition to this you show that you desire to be honored, feared, loved, obeyed and served by men—desiring that with all these deeds they would end in you. Do not you thus establish yourself as a god? Therefore, abominable and intolerable creature, do not imagine that your misery will move God to be merciful.

Secondly, God’s justice will not permit sin to go unpunished. God’s majesty, which you have trampled under foot, His holiness, and His truth demand satisfaction by the bearing of punishment. Therefore the sinner can neither hope for grace, nor for mercy—and he will certainly find himself deceived in his hope—unless he has an interest in the Surety Jesus Christ. Therefore, oh man, be alarmed about your condition and be convicted of your abominable and damnable nature, for to be sensible of this is the initial manifestation of grace.

Our Misery: A Reflection upon our Impotency

Thirdly, you are miserable in view of your impotency . Your condition is that you are abominable, condemnable, and forsaken of God and all creatures. Come then, be a hero and save yourself if you can. This is, however, absolutely impossible, for your salvation requires the perfect satisfaction of God’s justice by the bearing of all temporal and eternal punishments, and a perfect holiness. This the justice of God requires, for God can only justify a just man and can by no means clear the guilty. He cannot grant the right to eternal life to a man unless the conditions of the covenant, upon which eternal felicity was promised, have been fulfilled. And now, oh miserable one, what will you do? What can you give as a ransom for your soul? You cannot bring that which is eternal to a conclusion, neither by suffering punishment can you make full satisfaction and be acquitted as one who has satisfied the requirements of justice. You are not able to deliver yourself from the pollution of your sinful state and adorn yourself with internal and external holiness which is both perfect and pure. Thus you cannot present yourself before God as pleasing in His sight, saying with boldness, “Here I am; enter into judgment with me and judge me according to Thy justice.” If only you may perceive this to some degree (I do not even mention the things which precede this), you must be convinced of your impotency and cry out, “Oh, wretch that I am! I cannot help myself, and I sink away in my misery. Where must I go? Woe unto me!”

Now consider all this together, and take some time to meditate on how completely abominable, condemnable, and hopeless your situation is. If you are unconverted, it may be a means to stir you up to seek and to ask, “Is there yet help? Is there no hope? Is there yet a way whereby I may be saved?” If you are then directed to Jesus Christ as the way, He will become precious, and you will earnestly seek to become a partaker of Him by faith. If you are converted, the contemplation upon the state of sin, no matter what it may have been for you prior to your conversion, will make and keep you humble; it will teach you to esteem Christ highly and to make use of Him continually. It will motivate you to glorify God, this being an expression of gratitude for sending His Son to deliver poor sinners through Him and to lead them to eternal felicity.

(From Wilhelmus a’Brakel, "The Christian's Reasonable Service", pp. 417-425)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review: Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff

Man is, by nature, a spiritual being. In western society, particularly in America, that sense of spiritual longing too often leads to a desire for fleshly manifestations. Having previously been part of the charismatic movement myself, I can easily identify with the ease that these manifestations can delude those who forsake the use of Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and practice in favor of esoteric experiences, thus mistaking those experiences as genuine encounters with the living God.

Using the appropriate acronym FLESH, Hanegraaff outline the pretenses and methods on which these counterfeit revivals are based.

Fabrications, Fantasies, and Frauds
Lying Signs and Wonders
Endtimes Restorationism
Slain in the Spirit

Hanegraaff's expose is a tough indictment against many of the founders of Counterfeit Revivals; names who are considered to be Spiritual giants in the world of Pentecostalism including Parham, Wigglesworth, Seymore, and MacPherson. Hanegraaff traces the movement from those early roots to modern day false prophets such as Hinn, Kilpatrick, Hill, Arnott, and Wimber. While most charismatics are familiar with many of the aforementioned names, they are not familiar with the selective book keeping that attempts to make saints out of these charlatans. Hanegraaff's historical study takes us on a journey of deception, phony miracles, historical revisionism, questionable teachings, lifestyles of excess, drugs, sex scandals, millennial heresies, false prophets, and just plain old skinflintary.

One common thread in counterfeit revivals is the ridiculous theology and practice surrounding the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit. Vineyard founder John Arnott explains:

"Many times Carol and I will be praying for people, we're soakin' 'em, soakin' 'em, soakin' 'em, feel the anointing going in. Next thing you know the guy that's supposed to be catching goes flying back 'cause it just kind of, it's got to go somewhere. If the person doesn't take it, it goes to the catcher, or it rebounds back on the person praying, or something where they can't take it." - CR p. 50

So rather than being the powerful God who created the universe, the Holy Spirit is reduced to some sort of cosmic energy looking for a person to rest in. False prophet Benny Hinn can constantly be seen on TV throwing the Holy Spirit at people like a dodgeball. In contrast, John's wife Carol actually claims to have a conversation with the person of the Holy Spirit, where "the spirit that spoke with her communicated sorrow over being separated from Jesus:

"You know, the Father, and Jesus and I have been together for all of eternity. But when Jesus went back to heaven to be with God the Father, I came to earth." And he said, "I am so lonely for Jesus." He said, "So that when people really, really love Jesus, and really honor him, and really worship him," he said, "I love to be around those kinds of people.. . He misses Jesus, and he misses the Father" - CR p. 125

Hanegraaff boldly chronicles the nonsense being pushed forth by counterfeit revivalists who claim to be led by the Spirit of God, while taking the full blunt of the charges leveled by these false prophets that he is "resisting the Spirit". Consider the following televised "prophecy" from John Kilpatrick.

"I got a word from the Lord last night. . . . The Lord gave me a word last night that I'm going to share with you in a few minutes. . . . It's what he said to me last night. And I heard the Lord, friend. If I didn't hear God I'd tell you, but I heard the Lord... I want to say something this morning to Hank Hanegraaff.... If you want to keep any kind of a semblance of a ministry, you better back off from this revival and what God is doing. You better back off, because I am going to prophesy to you that if you don't, and you continue to put your tongue and your mouth on this move of God, within ninety days the Holy Ghost will bring you down. I said within ninety days the Holy Ghost will bring you down. And I speak that as a man of God. I don't speak that out of vengeance, I don't speak it out of selfishness, and I don't speak it out of a hurt feeling, because my feelings are not hurt. I feel as normal today as I've ever felt. I don't have a chip on my shoulder, I don't have an ax to grind, but this is a move of God and you better leave it alone... And I want to tell you something else, if you don't want your head to start shaking—you make fun of someone in the choir shaking—come here a minute, girl. Come down here a minute. Hurry up. Hurry up. If you don't want your head to do like this, you better lay your mouth off of her... Mr. Hanegraaff, and all other devils, listen up..." - CR pp. 279-80

Kilpatrick later apologized to Hanegraaff and admitted that this was not a word from the Lord. Such prophecies, however, are quite common among Charismatics against their critics.

Learn the truth about...

  • How unbiblical practices such as Holy laughter, "passing the anointing", acting and sounding like animals, and being "slain in the Spirit" have more in common with Hindu Ashrams and mesmerism than with Christianity.

  • How false revivalists revise history by appealing to the preachers of the Great Awakening and fabricating justification for their unbiblical practices.

  • How false revivalists rely on esoteric experiences over the authority of Scripture, despise the church of Christ, and compromise essential Christian doctrines such as the Trinity.

  • How Benny Hinn receives "the anointing" from the bones of the false prophets Aimee McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman by visiting their graves.

  • How a lady was killed during a false revival when someone was "slain in the spirit" and fell on her.

  • How counterfeit revivalists see numbers, football scores, and cartoon characters as omens by which Scriptures should be interpreted.

  • How false revivalists manipulate their followers by accusing critics of "resisting the Holy Spirit" in an effort to shield themselves from the biblical mandate to "test the Spirits".

  • How missionary A.G. Garr, after receiving the "gift of tongues", moved to India in an attempt to preach to the natives in their own language, but unlike the Apostles, he was unable to do so.

  • How false revivals have disillusioned many, resulting is people being pushed away from Christ as opposed to being drawn in.

As important as it is to identify false prophets, Hanegraaff also gives us the all important characteristics of true revival:

"...While the Counterfeit Revival is founded on fabrications, fantasies, and frauds, genuine revival always rests firmly on the foundation of faith and facts...While the Counterfeit Revival finds its validation in lying signs and wonders, genuine revival always finds its genesis in the Living Word...While the Counterfeit Revival presumes an endtime restoration, genuine revival is predicated on earnest repentance...While the Counterfeit Revival is fixated on sensational manifestations like being "slain in the spirit," genuine revival is focused on salvation and sanctification in the Spirit...While leaders of the Counterfeit Revival enslave devotees through hypnotic schemes, leaders of genuine revival enlighten disciples through Holy Scripture.” - CR pp. 14-17

The new expanded edition includes several useful Appendices where Hanegraaff responds to critics, of which there is no shortage of. In a biblically illiterate culture where people are eager to grab anything that seems "spiritual", and where snake oil salesmen like Benny Hinn can still sell out an auditorium, Hannegraff's book "Counterfeit Revival", however unpopular it may be to the sensitivities of American evangelicalism, is much needed medicine. I would encourage anyone involved in the charismatic movement, and love the truth, to take it.

Easy Reading.
375 pages.
Highly Recommended.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Postmillennialism vs. Amillennialism Part IV

Romans 11 and the "Fullness of the Gentiles"

“The Jews now remain, as it were, in death for lack of the Gospel: but when both they and the Gentiles shall embrace Christ, the world shall be restored to a new life.” (1560 Geneva Bible Notes on Romans 11:15)

What are we to make of “Israel after the flesh”? Amillennialists would say “nothing”, holding that Israel is the Church, for “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:8).

Luther and Calvin saw no future conversion of Judaists, holding that the Israel of Romans 11 referred to the universal church, consisting of both Gentiles and Hebrews yet to be converted. A great many Reformers, however, disagreed, most notably Peter Martyr and Theodore Beza. The vast majority of the Puritans followed suit. Jonathan Edwards wrote, "Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11" – (Jonathans Edwards Works, vol. I p. 607)

On the point of defining the children of Abraham as those of the faith (Galatians 3:7), Postmillennialists would agree with the Amillennial view. However, defining Israel in this way doesn’t quite work on Romans 11. The “Israel” in this chapter is distinguished from “the elect” (Romans 11:7). When Paul explains that Israel had been given “a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day," (Romans 11:8), this can hardly refer to the church? Paul goes on to explain that he magnified his ministry to the gentiles “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” (Romans 11:14). Thus he is clearly referring to his own countrymen. Richard Sibbes explains,

“The Jews are not yet come in under Christ’s banner; but God, that hath persuaded Japhet to come into the tents of Shem, will persuade Shem to come into the tents of Japhet, Gen. 9:27. The “fulness of the Gentiles is not yet come in”, Rom. 11:25, but Christ, that hath the “utmost parts of the earth given him for his possession”, Psa. 2:8, will gather all the sheep his Father hath given him into one fold, that there may be one sheepfold and one shepherd, John 10:16.
The faithful Jews rejoiced to think of the calling of the Gentiles; and why should not we joy to think of the calling of the Jews?"
– (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed)

There is much confusion today in trying to define “Israel after the flesh”, but the phrase in the Bible refers the religion of new covenant Judaism. The Christian faith blurs any line of distinction between races and countries (Galatians 3:28). It was the Christ-rejecting religion of Judaism that was the focus of the blinding that both Jesus and Paul spoke of, though most of them were of Hebrew origin. However, Paul looked forward to a day when the natural branches would be grafted back into the vine (Romans 11:23). Contrary to dispensational theology, there is only one Olive Tree, that being Christ. However, Paul explains that “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25). This unfulfilled prophecy speaks of a time when the Great Commission will be completed in the gentile world, turning its focus on Paul’s “fellow Jews”. In doing so, there will be an age of Revival among the Judaists that will bring greater blessings to the Gentiles.

“Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:12)

During that time period, the Christian religion will be the majority worldview, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14), “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11).

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

This age will be a time of unprecedented material blessings. There will “be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field! May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (Psalms 72:16-17). Expounding on the 72nd Psalm, David Brown writes,

“We need not have recourse to the miraculous fruitfulness of the earth which Papias feigned, in order to fulfill this prophecy. Plenty is the natural consequence of the moral change which takes place in the world at the millennium. The universal righteousness of that happy period will prevent despotism in government, anarchy in the people, as well as the devastations of war, by which the earth is left uncultivated, or its produce destroyed. The religion of that period will civilize savages, and destroy among civilized nations the numerous occupations that minister to the lawless passions of men; thus directing a great multitude of the human race to the useful arts of agriculture, who had been formerly idle and a burden upon the labor of others. The love universally felt and practiced in that period will lead those who have abundance to distribute cheerfully and freely to the necessities of those who may be in need". (The Second Advent, p. 400 - cited from Loraine Boettner's "The Millennium").

It is this postmillennial belief that was the foundation for the Christianization of Europe, the age of exploration, and for most of world’s missionary societies. It is this belief that sparked both the London and Scottish missionary societies, and it is this belief that will see the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission. The command for the church to “make disciples of all nations” cannot fail, for Christ has promised to be with us “until the end of the age”.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Postmillennialism vs. Amillennialism Part III

The Extent of the Kingdom

"The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!" (Psalms 110:2)

What is the nature of Christ’s Kingdom, and what does it exist for? In looking over the works of prominent Amillennial authors, one common theme resonates. Christ’s kingdom is “other-worldly”, and is not the age of the triumphant church. Consider this quote from Walter Chantry:

“ . . . the kingdom of God is preoccupied with eternal and spiritual realities. It has to do with a presently invisible world. Its focal point is the inward man . . . The gospel of the Kingdom completely absorbs men in the eternal rather than the temporal . . . The gospel of the kingdom absorbs men in the spiritual rather than the material” (Walter Chantry - God’s Righteous Kingdom (1980). pp. 15, 19).

R. Scott Clark writes,

“There are forms of partial preterism, however, which often go hand-in-glove with triumphalist postmillennialism and theonomic ethics and Christian Reconstructionism that has to make the messiness of a semi-realized biblical eschatology go away in order to facilitate their program of cultural transformation and their own version of an earthly glory age….Both the preterist/postmil/reconstructionist glory age and the dispensational premil glory age are manifestations of what Luther called the “theology of glory.” The confessional Protestants, however, at least in the 16th century, taught a theology of the cross. It’s true that in the early 17th century forms of chiliasm became disturbingly popular in Reformed circles. We can be thankful today that we are neither saddled with some of the old views of science (geocentrism etc), politics (theocracy), or eschatology (chiliasm). Scripture teaches no future earthly golden age.” (The Heidelblog – Dismantling the Rapture).

John Seay adds,

“Christ's Kingdom during this age is not of this world, but is a spiritual Kingdom” (Is Postmillennialism Taught In the Bible?)

Amillennialist Kim Riddleberger agrees, and points to the area of contention concerning political activism:

“No political pep rally and no amount of political activism will ever "bring about the kingdom" on this earth. This is a bad example of an over-realized eschatology and an all too secularized understanding of the kingdom. Didn't Jesus say something about his kingdom being "not of this world?" (From The Kingdom on Earth? Now? Obama Thinks So . . .)

Of course, no orthodox postmillennialist would suggest that God’s Kingdom will be realized by political activism. But does that excuse Christians for being lackadaisical concerning politics, as many would have us do? Does the Word of the Living God not have clear instructions for civil rulers? What about being salt and light? Truly, an over-emphasis on being “other-worldly” makes modern Christianity “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” (Matthew 5:13).

Christ’s statement regarding His kingdom being “not of this world” relates to the source of authority, not the extent of His reign. Christ taught His disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). After His resurrection, Christ claimed “all authority”, not just in Heaven, but on Earth as well (Matthew 28:18). It is this authority that is the basis for the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), not just convert individuals. Christ’s reign in all-encompassing, not just “other-worldly”, but "on earth" as well (and that includes the earth's politics).

Jay Rogers offers this critique of “Optimistic Amillennialism”.
“Postmillennialism stresses that there will be a Golden Age of Christianity in time and history prior to Christ’s return. Postmillennialism is sometimes called optimistic amillennialism for this reason. In reality, an amillennialist who is optimistic about the end-times is a postmillennialist.”

Based on the quotes from prominent Amillenialist above, I would have to agree. Romans 11, which we shall examine soon, would probably be the dividing point.

The Nature of the Kingdom

A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." (Psalms 110:1)

Like Premillennialists, Amillennialists view the culmination of the Kingdom to be ushered in by some cataclysmic event. Amlllennialist Professor David writes,
“Unlike postmillennialism, which has a gradual or evolutionary aspect to it, amillennialists proclaim the biggest discontinuity of all the millennial views. The present church age, is the Kingdom of God. Satan is already bound although not completely powerless (hence the paucity of demonic possession?). Throughout this age, a diminished (but strengthening) kingdom of evil will coexist with the kingdom of god. Both will be replaced virtually instantly with the eternal dispensation.” (Lesson 8: Amillennialism: A Golden Age Beyond Time (part 1))

Those who await this “virtually instant” replacement of both kingdoms usually confuse passages that refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and apply them to the Second Advent. According to Scripture, however, the kingdom was established during Christ's First Advent, and will continue to grow like leaven until it fills the whole world.

“He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."” (Matthew 13:31-33)

"Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth...And in the days of those (Roman Emperors) kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever." (Daniel 2:35-44)

The spread of Christ’s Kingdom through the Preaching of the Gospel will have global impact before the end of the age, “on earth as it is in Heaven”, as the list of Scriptures in the previous post suggests.

“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)

Postmillennialism is not universalism

A common objection to postmillennialism is based on the flawed belief that postmillennialism removes the tares from the kingdom before the end of the age. This is not true. Biblical postmillennialists agree with Amillennialists that “Evil and good co-exist together during this age before Christ's second coming”. David Chilton explains:

“Biblical postmillennialism is not an absolute universalism; nor does it teach that at some future point in history absolutely everyone living will be converted. Ezekiel's prophecy of the River of Life suggests that some out lying areas of the world — the "swamps" and "marshes" — will not be healed, but will be "given over to salt," remaining unrenewed by the living waters (Ezek. 47:11).” (David Chilton – The Days Of Vengeance, p. 519)

It seems that postmillennialism is superior to Amillennialism when it comes to the fulfillment of earthly promises concerning the Kingdom of God, and the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission in this “church age”.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Postmillennialism vs. Amillennialism Part II

Reasons for Optimism

The adoption of a more optimistic outlook among modern Amillennialists with regard to the Gospel is not without biblical foundation. Postmillennialists have long held that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would eventually hold sway in the world. Indeed, it is a guarantee in the New Covenant.

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Considering the following passages, many of which concern the outgrowth of the First Advent of Christ, being completely absent of an earthly millennium.

Numbers 14:21
"But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,"

Psalms 2:6-9
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Psalms 22:27-28
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations."

Psalms 72:8-11
"May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!"

Psalms 102:15
"Nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory."

Psalms 110:1
"A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.""

Psalms 138:4-5
"All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD."

Isaiah 2:2-4
"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."

Isaiah 9:6-7
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."

Isaiah 11:6-10
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his `hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious."

Isaiah 45:22-25
"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance. Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory."

Habakkuk 2:14
"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea."

Zechariah 14:8-9
"On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one."

1 Corinthians 15:24-26
"Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Amillennialists have a tendency to "spiritualize" these texts as being symbolic of the church age. Postmillennialists hold that these promises are guaranteed in the Great Commission, where Christ commands us to “make disciples of all nations” and promises to be with us until the end of the age.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Postmillennialism vs. Amillennialism Part I

Historic Differences

In discussing the differences in Reformed Eschatological views, I’ve been asked to defend the postmillennial view against the more popular Amillennial view. The challenge here is to clearly define views that, over time, are slowly evolving into each other, particularly with the rise of "optimistic Amillennialism". The similarities are as follows:

1.) All modern Amillennialists (with the exception of Hyper-preterists) are Postmillennial in the sense that they believe that Christ will return after the “millennium” which they would define as the current church age.

2.) Most (if not all) modern Postmillennialists are Amillennial in that they don’t believe in a literal “millennium”. However, they do hold to a future millennial age (not necessarily 1,000 years) in which the conversion of “Israel after the flesh” will lift part of the curse on Creation.

In the past, however, these two schools had greater differences. Amillennialists have historically been pessimistic about the future of the gospel. In the early church, both chiliasts and amillennialists held that the Roman Empire would wax worse and worse, until the last and worst emperor of all (antichrist) would eventually be destroyed by Christ's Second Advent.

A similar timeline would be suitable for classic postmillennialism as well, with two major differences. The first is that early postmillennialists were more likely than Amillennialists to suggest a date for the Second Advent due to the belief that they were already in the literal millennium. The second difference is, unlike the other eschatologies, postmillennialism was optimistic about the effects of the gospel in the "church age" (though most did hold to a future antichrist).

Preterism Unites

Preterism in some form had advocates among the earliest Christians such as James the Just, Mathetes, and Clement of Alexandria. However, it was Eusebius who first wrote the most complete work of systematic Preterism. As a backlash against some of the dispensational folly in much of evangelicalism today, Preterism has made huge inroads in Reformed circles. As a result, both Amillennialism and Postmillennialism have made huge strides toward becoming one eschatology. Postmillennialists have long since abandoned their chiliastic roots. Very few believe in a literal millennium today. Much of Amillennialism has adopted a more optimistic view of the gospel, realizing that "tribulation" of the First Century saints was the greatest that shall be faced by the church. The cause for this optimistic view of the future was a return to Scripture as the source for eschatology as opposed to newspapers.

Therefore, modern postmillennialism and “optimistic Amillennialism" are almost indistinguishable, yet there are still some differences, particular with nature and role of God's kingdom in this world, as well as the future state of the world at the Second Advent.

As we examine these differences, perhaps some Amillennial Preterists will find themselves agreeing with the postmillennial camp, and thus objecting to my "broad stroke" labelling. Be assured that the conclusions I have drawn come from leading amillennial authors, and direct quotes will be given as much as possible.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wisdom: The Cure For "Self-Esteem"

From J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" - 1858

"Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness and to feel our need of Christ is the start of saving religion.

Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul were all eminently humble men.

Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn with humility the doctrine they profess. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.

The person who really knows himself and his own heart, who knows God and his infinite majesty and holiness, who knows Christ and the price at which he was redeemed, that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God's mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, "I am unworthy." He will cry, like Paul, "I am the worst of sinners" He will consider others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).

Ignorance--nothing but sheer ignorance, ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ--is the real secret of pride.

From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered. The wise person knows himself and will find nothing within to make him proud."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Poll: What role should science play in interpreting Scripture?

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1)

There is an interesting post on the Creation controversy regarding the age of the earth on the Omnipotent Grace Blog. Although I'm a presuppositionalist, I am sympathetic toward Old Earth Creationism, due to the enormous body of evidence provided by God’s own handiwork. It is a view that is obviously controversial to the vast majority of those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. Consider the words of John MacArthur:

"...clearly from the words of Scripture, God created the universe in six literal days. And Christian leaders can't deny that that's what it says cause that's what it says. You can translate it any way you want, it all comes out...the word yom means day and you have six of them.

But they believe somehow that scientists have proved that the age of the earth must be billions and billions and billions of years old. So they believe you've got to go back to Genesis and fix it. And in so doing they have allowed the authority of the Bible to be undermined, right? It's serious stuff."
("Creation: Believe it or Not--Part 2")

Young-earthers like MacArthur are to be commended for their high view of Scripture. At the same time, however, the scientific evidence for an old earth and an old universe are overwhelming. (The 1992 Cosmic Background Explorer pretty much sealed the deal). Should science, as flawed as it may be, ever to be considered when interpreting Scripture?

There are many who adamantly declare "no". MacArthur writes, "I'm never going to get caught in the trap of trying to prove to you that Genesis is true by science. I'm just going to proclaim to you what Genesis says and let science bow its knee to that explanation." ("Creation: Believe it or Not--Part 2")

Fair enough. Science certainly has no place to rest outside of a theistic worldview, and Scripture itself is the only ultimate truth. But Scripture itself declares, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). Theologians have historically agreed that there exists a "natural revelation" of God's existence in addition to Scripture, though such a knowledge merely renders us to be "without excuse" (Romans 1:20).

I would have to ask MacArthur and others who share his view if they believe in geocentricism. If not, on what basis would it be rejected, since a straightforward interpretation of Scripture would certainly support it? MacArthur gives us a clue to his answer when he quotes Edward Young on the "more poetical accounts of creation, such as Psalm 104":

"Genesis is not poetry. There are more poetical accounts of creation in the Bible, such as Psalm 104, certain chapters of Job, and they differ completely from the first chapter of Genesis. Hebrew poetry has certain characteristics and they are not found in the first chapter of Genesis." ("God: Creator and Redeemer")

To clarify, we "old-earthers" do not necessarily treat Genesis 1 as poetry; we just aren’t convinced that the days of creation were 24 hours days. In any case, while I fully agree that Psalm 104 is poetic, I must ask again how MacArthur and Young arrived at this conclusion. Are they not, in fact, using science to interpret Psalm 104:5?

To put their view into historical perspective, consider the following statement, written by Wilhelmus a'Brakel in 1700.

"The truth is that God states in many places in His Word that the sun is in motion, her circuit resulting in both day and night, and that the world remains both motionless and stationary. Nowhere does God speak to the contrary, ... Since God states it to be so, it is truth and we are to embrace it as truth. Is not God the Creator, maintainer, and gover­nor of all things, who is much better acquainted with His own work than is man with his limited and darkened understanding? Should men not subject their judgment to the very sayings of God? Or should one attempt to bend and twist the clear declarations of God in such a way that they agree with our erroneous thinking? Whatever God declares, also concerning things in the realm of nature, is true. God says that the world is motionless and stationary, being circled by the sun, and thus it is a certain and incontrovertible truth." (Wilhelmus a'Brakel, The Christian's Reasonable Service. pp. 64-66)

a'Brakel was certainly a learned man for his day, and like today’s young earth creationists, sought to be faithful to the Scriptures. However, those who would actually hold to a'Brakel's geocentrism today are very few in number. Certainly, modern astronomy has affected our interpretation of Psalm 104:5. Should it not affect Genesis 1 as well?
Should God's natural revelation have any role in interpreting
Scripture (Please be gracious to opposing views)?

No. Scripture is the ultimate truth, and all science must succumb
to the plainest meaning of the Scriptures.

Yes. Since Creation is itself a revelation of God, it is proper use
this revelation to seek a deeper understanding of Scripture.

Depends. Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 should be treated differently.
(Please explain the difference.)

Free polls from

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Satan's Slaves

He welcomes them to hell
(From Thomas Watson, "The Lord's Prayer")

"The prince of this world." John 16:11.

The devil has a kingdom. His throne is set up in the hearts of men. Satan does not care for their purses--but their hearts! Satan's empire is very large. Most people in the world pay tribute to him. His kingdom has two characters:

1. Satan's kingdom is a kingdom of IMPIETY.
Nothing but sin goes on in his kingdom. Murder and heresy, lust and treachery, oppression and division--are the constant trade driven in his dominions. He is called "the unclean spirit." Nothing else but iniquity is propagated in his kingdom.

2. Satan's kingdom is a kingdom of SLAVERY.
He makes all his subjects--slaves. The sinner is held captive under the grim tyranny of the devil!
Satan is a tyrant--and a worse tyrant than any other!

Other tyrants do but rule over the body: but Satan rules over the soul! He rides his captives--as we ride upon horses. Other tyrants have some pity on their slaves. Though they make them work in the galleys; yet they give them food, and let them have their hours for rest. But Satan is a merciless tyrant--who gives his slaves poison instead of food, and hurtful lusts to feed on! 1 Timothy 6:9. Nor will he let his slaves have any rest--he wearies them out to do his drudgery. "They weary themselves to commit iniquity." Jeremiah 9:5. When men have served him to their utmost strength--he welcomes them to hell with fire and brimstone! Thus he is the worst of tyrants.

Men are willing slaves to Satan! They will fight and die for him! Therefore he is not only called "the prince of this world," but "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), to show what power he has over men's souls.

O let us pray that "they may come to their senses and escape the Devil's trap, having been captured by him to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:26.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Examining Baptist Misunderstandings Concerning the Covenants

I may be too busy to open this particular can of worms now, but...

There have been some interesting blog debates recently concerning the subject of infant baptism. (See here, and a whole series on the subject here).

One encouraging sign is that more and more Baptists are coming to the realization that Baptism is to the New Covenant what Circumcision was to the Old Covenant. Colossians 2:11-12 spell that out pretty clearly. The difference now, it appears, is the nature of the covenants themselves and who was included in them. While I have no hopes of settling this 400 year old debate this side of eternity, I thought that it would be worthwhile to examine some of the objections that have been offered concerning the inclusion of children and infants into the New Covenant.

1.) Judas at the Supper, but Not Included in the New Covenant.
This is a correct observation, but doesn’t adequately explain why Judas was presented the Lord’s Supper. Jesus very clearly established the Lord’s Supper as the continuing sign of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), and proceeded to give it to one (Luke 22:21) that He acknowledged was “a devil”(John 6:70). Likewise, Simon Magus (Acts 8:13) was baptized by Peter, yet was unregenerate (Acts 8:20-23). Just stating that these men were not in the New Covenant does nothing to support the Baptist argument, but does just the opposite. They are faced with the reality that two men in Scripture were given the sign and seal of the New Covenant who, by their own admission, were not part of the New Covenant. Since this is a biblical reality, why would we exclude the holy children of believers from this practice?

2.) There are no specific verses in the Bible commanding infant baptism.
This is both presumptuous and arbitrary. It is presumptuous because of the thousands of baptisms that occurred in the New Testament, such as the 3,000 baptized on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), no age is given for the object of Baptism. While it’s fair to state that Paedobaptists have no basis for assuming that any of these 3,000 were infants, it is equally true that Credobaptists have no basis for assuming that all 3,000 were professing adults.

It is arbitrary because the “specific verse” standard is selectively applied. Most churches who reject infant baptism have no problem holding a “baby dedication service”, despite the fact that there is no scriptural warrant for such practice. There are no examples in Scripture of women partaking of Communion, yet allowing such today is all but a universal practice.

The commandments to go and baptize are sufficient enough to warrant infant baptism. It is up to the Baptist to show why the holy children of believers (1 Cor. 7:14) should be excluded from this commandment. I dare say that “there are no specific verses in the Bible forbidding infant baptism.”

3.) Going to Church Doesn’t Put You in the New Covenant.
Again, a true statement, but it was equally true in the Old Covenant. While the Baptist hopes to use this observation to establish that the New Covenant was only for the elect, he fails to see that the Old Covenant was only for the elect also. Just having the DNA of Abraham did not put a person in the Old Covenant.

“…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, …" (Romans 9:6-7)

Yet it cannot be denied that the sign and seal of the Old Covenant was given to infants (Genesis 21:4), despite the fact that this Covenant was only for the elect. Why change it in the New Covenant? Both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are prone to admitting false converts. Just as the Old Covenant had it’s Esau, the New Covenant had it’s Judas. Neither were in Covenant with God, yet both were given the sign.

4.) Paedos equate those in the new covenant with the visible church, and Credos equate those in the new covenant with the body of Christ.
Again, this is not true. Paedos equate the New Covenant with the elect, just like the Old Covenant. The Credo, on the other hand, wants to reserve the sign and seal of the New Covenant for the elect only. This, of course, results in quite a few problems. First of all, if this assumption is true, then we could never rightly baptize anyone. How do we determine if a candidate for baptism is truly elect, for that ultimately is the credobaptist standard? How do we know if a profession of faith is genuine? If salvation (referring to those within the Bride of Christ) is the prerequisite for baptism, then how do we determine who is a member of this bride? If the answer is that merely a profession of faith is what is required for adult baptism, then one must agree with the covenantal view of the visible church. If not, then what?

Second, it is clear from Scripture that the signs and seals of the New Covenant were applied to unsaved people in the visible church, which I have already noted.

Thirdly, Baptist theology fails to adequately explain the fact that God views the children of believers as “holy”, whereas the children of pagans are “unclean” (1 Cor. 7:14). What does the term “holy” mean here, if not being set apart in the New Covenant? While Baptists make the assumption that a profession of faith is evidence of regeneration, the Paedobaptists makes the assumption that the children of that household are elect as well, for they are God’s children up until the time when and if evidence shows otherwise. Of course, it’s quite possible for both assumptions are wrong, but I’m waiting for the Baptist argument to show how we can truly know who is among the elect.

5.) "Circumcision was applied to babies in the Old Covenant, because they were in the Old Covenant, as it was with the physical nation of Israel. But the New Covenant is made with individual believers of the Spiritual nation of Israel."
As I demonstrated earlier, the Old Covenant was not given to the physical nation of Israel, but to the elect only. And again, how do we determine who is a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel?

6.) The New Covenant “is not conditional and performance based like the Old Covenant with the physical nation of Israel.”
This was a surprising statement from a Calvinist brother. I won’t presume what he meant by “performance based”, but the Abrahamic Covenant was never based on works. The only Covenant that was based on works was the Adamic Covenant, and even that covenant was full of grace and sealed by the work of God Himself. Besides, the Scriptures are quite clear that God chose Jacob over Esau “in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call” (Romans 9:11). Furthermore, Abraham himself “…received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith…” (Romans 4:11). The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace are not just a New Covenant Reality, and neither should the sign and seal of that grace be denied to the children of believers.

7.) The New Testament pattern is that Baptism is performed only on those who have professed their faith.
Correction: The New Testament pattern is that Baptism is performed on those who have professed their faith, as well as their entire households (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33-34, Acts 18:8, 1 Corinthians 1:16), just like the Old Covenant. In particular, Acts 16:34 has been the object of some questionable renderings, but the correct translation suggests that the entire household of the Philippian jailor was baptized, because “he had believed in God”. While it may be possible that all of his household consisted of professing adults, it is quite clear that the basis for their baptism was his own belief in God.

In conclusion, Baptist theology cannot seem to make the case as to why children in the New Covenant should be treated any differently than those of the Old Covenant. If they insist that Baptism should only be performed on the elect, then they must offer a better method of determining who the elect are other than that of a profession of faith and being born in a Covenant household.

Check out the Baptism debate between James White and William Shishko.

Part I

Part II