Me4

Christ as the Center of Scripture – Videos 5 & 6

Parts Three and Four

Here are the fifth and sixth videos of my TELOS Conference presentations of Biblical Covenantalism. These presentations cover the pivotal role of the Lord Jesus Christ in “the Creation Project” set out in God’s Word; especially in His Covenants:

Fifth Talk: CHRIST AND THE NEW COVENANT

Sixth Talk: CHRIST AND THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS

I hope that these six presentations elucidate my approach more clearly for some visitors to this blog.

PHeneburyVideo

Christ as the Center of Scripture – Videos 1 & 2

Here are the first two videos of my TELOS Conference presentations of Biblical Covenantalism. These presentations cover the topics of Hermeneutics and Creation.

First Talk: CHRIST and INTERPRETATION

Second Talk: CHRIST and CREATION

These video presentations give a detailed overview of Biblical Covenantalism and the exalted place it gives to the Lord Jesus Christ; a place which is not artificially read onto the pages of the Bible, but which comes clearly from its plain wording – especially from the words of the biblical covenants!

Parts Three and Four

 

Teloscompass

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Pt.9)

Part Eight

Israel means Israel

I am a pretribulationist.  I think my main reasons for being so are theological, in particular the covenantal issues concerning the nation of Israel are a central concern to me.  But I am not pretribulational because I adopt a form of theological hermeneutics (now so fashionable in some quarters).  I have already made it clear that rapture scenarios cannot (in my opinion) rise above a “best explanation” conclusion.  That is equivalent to a C3 in my Rules of Affinity.  It will just not do to conflate Israel’s restoration promises with the future of the Church.  The Body of Christ needs no restoration.

Often in the prophetic literature we come across predictions of final restoration and comfort for Israel, presaged by a time of great upheaval.  Many times the texts involved include the phrase “In that day.”  A sampling would include: Isa. 10:20-23; Isa. 24:17-23; Isa. 35:1-10; Isa. 40:1-5; Isa. 61:1-3; Jer. 30:3-11; Ezek. 34:11-31; Ezek. 36:1-38;Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 13:8-9; Zech. 14:1-9.

Frequently these passages come nestled within covenantal contexts, indicating the purposive current of God’s greater plan for the nation is still at work.  The point is that there is a lot of expectation built up for Israel to run into a distinctive time of affliction.  This time of woe precedes the coming again of Jesus Christ, as is shown in Matthew 24 and Mark 13.

I have already commented on the Israeli focus in tribulation texts in the Book of Revelation.  If we isolate those passages which speak about a three and a half year period (corresponding too closely to Daniel 7:25 not to be intentional), we find this pattern:

Revelation 11:1-3 – the overrunning of the temple (Matt. 24:15-20; cf. 2 Thess. 2:4), in “the holy city” and the ministry of the two prophets.

Revelation 12:1-6, 13-14 – I have given reasons for identifying the woman as Israel (Pt. 6).  Incidentally, I view pretribulationist attempts to make the “man-child” of 12:5 the raptured Church as highly unlikely.

The scene is decidedly Jewish and nationalistic.  The Church is conspicuous by its absence.  So if we tie these time references to the last part of the Seventieth Week we should not expect to find the Church there, thus avoiding an Israel/Church mixture which interferes with covenantal expectations.  And if the link between these texts and “the time of Jacob’s Trouble” in Jeremiah 30:6 is sound, one again would expect Jacob (Israel) to be the subject, not the Church.

Even a post-tribulationist like Robert Gundry sees this:

The seventy weeks have to do with the Jews.  We cannot spiritualize the phrase “your people”
(v.24) into a spiritual Israel inclusive of the Gentiles without doing violence to the plain sense of the passage.  For example, the destruction of Jerusalem, spoken of prominently in the prophecy, deals with Israel the nation.  And yet, since in the seventy weeks the goals listed in verse twenty-four were to be accomplished, the seventy weeks cannot have enturely elapsed, for the finishing of Israel’s transgression, the purging of her iniquity, and the bringing in of her everlasting righteousness have not reached completion.  Paul writes of these as still in the future for Israel (Rom. 11:25-27). – Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, 189

One People?

The (non PD) pretribulational position is the only one which does not confuse Israel with the Church.  Hence, it is the only position which confronts the covenantal promises to national Israel squarely as direct (C1) propositions, conceding no appreciable “propositional distance” between the covenant promises and the inferences which can be based upon them.  Posttribulationists do not have much regard for Israel/Church distinctions, since they admit a good deal of their brand of typological interpretation and supercessionist thinking to make sure the problem doesn’t arise.  Midtribulationists and PreWrathers speak of a separation of Israel from the Church, as do Progressive Dispensationalists, but they eventually collapse everything down to the concept of “the one people of God”.  This just ends up looking like a case of beating around the bush to arrive at much the same place as the posttribulationist.

But the idea of more than one people of God looks to be clear cut if all the direct statements of Scripture’s eschatological prophecies are allowed to stand unchallenged.  It is on these exegetically derived premises that the theological issues ought to be determined.  We must, at every juncture, ask, “what does it say?”  Context must speak with decisiveness.  The modern ploy of pushing out the context so that it envelops the whole Bible is palpably ridiculous to anyone familiar with and scrupulous about word meanings.  Context cannot mean non-context.  That is not how progressive revelation works.

In Part One I mentioned how Ben Witherington had explained the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4 as the entourage going out to meet the returning Christ in line with the custom of the day.  But there is a problem.  The Church is not an entourage, it is the Bride.  One wonders why such a brilliant scholar doesn’t make the distinction.  At least a part of the answer is because he cannot conceive of more than one people of God.  I have elsewhere argued that not only does God like variety but the ‘three-in-oneness’ of “The Triadic People of God” pattern which emerges from tracing the flow of the Biblical Covenants seems completely consonant with scriptural revelation.

Galatians-6-vs-1

Apologetics and Your Kids (4) – Inculcating the Right Worldview

Part Three

The Bible has a very specific and definitive outlook on the meaning of life.  In the parlance of modern culture such an outlook is called a “Worldview.”  There has been a lot of talk about worldview in recent years, and this is on the whole a good development.  Worldviews are very important, and appreciation of them, and of the Christian-Biblical Worldview in particular, is without doubt a great benefit.

Briefly: What a Worldview is

A worldview is basically the lens or prism through which a person “looks”, and with which they interpret most of life.  There are many definitions; some good, some not so good, but the key element of a worldview is a commitment of the heart.  I don’t say total commitment.  To be sure, no one consistently follows their worldview – and few in fact realize there is one to follow.  But we all have one, and their influence upon us is often pronounced, for good or ill.

To illustrate this just think about the kinds of messages about which tell us how to think:

“Listen to your heart”

“You have your truth and I have mine.”

“People who think they are right and others are wrong are just bigoted”

“We evolved from some prebiotic slime and are here by cosmic accident.”

“We decide our own fate.”

These are all sayings which proceed from a false worldview, but a pretty prevalent one all the same.  These sayings each are tinged with a pretended moral authority which makes them appear more imposing than they are.  And people who absorb these kinds of beliefs will always tend to have little use for the concept of Truth as we’ve discussed it; or for absolutes, or indeed God.  They will have no answers to the Big Questions of Life: the kind of questions teens often ask (a subject to which we’ll have to return).  And the more tenaciously these trite sayings are held, the less patience these folks will usually have for Christian answers.

One thing is for sure; if any of these pat opinions take hold in the hearts of our kids, Christian Truth claims will be held with less conviction – maybe they’ll settle merely temporarily at the most superficial level of a childhood habit?  We don’t want that!

Here I hope you begin to see why Apologetics; the defense of the Truth of the Christian Bible and its worldview, can be a great asset in encouraging right thinking.  And let no one persuade themselves otherwise, it is thinking!

Consider this insightful observation:

“the Christian world-view takes seriously the teaching that God lays claim to all of life, and is opposed at every point by the counterclaims of his adversary.  Ultimately, there is no spiritual neutrality in either scholarship or literature, sports or agriculture, art or journalism.  Everywhere there are forces which seek either to honour the Creator’s intent or to replace it with a substitute.” – A. M. Wolters, “World-view”, in New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, edited by W.C. Campbell-Jack & Gavin McGrath, 761 

Parents of younger kids and teens need to be switched on to the reality of this interminable spiritual warfare that is fought in the realm of ideas.  We cannot, as Christians, believe in neutrality in any sphere.  Everything they meet with comes “worldview-loaded.”  Abstinence from the world is unscriptural, unworkable, and dangerous.  We must be able to guide ourselves and our children in right thinking about the mixed messages they’ll encounter.  To help them identify the Christian Worldview and see through false worldviews when they rear their heads (as they do every day); that is a powerful gift we can give them.

We must place our kids in the kinds of settings where they are encouraged and trained to think biblically.  We must seek to surround them (I do not say imprison them!) with influences which steer their hearts toward the claims of God upon them as his creatures.  They must be trained to recognize the messages all around them for what they are: either for Christ or against Christ!

Beginning next time, we will see how this can be done…

Galatians-6-vs-1

Apologetics and Your Kids (3) – We Are Losing Our Kids!

Part Two

have begun this series with this three-part introduction, trying to bring attention to the matter of Truth and the authenticity of our allegiance to it as Christian parents.  My concern is that Christians nowadays do not prize Truth for what it is – an attribute of God – but rather treat it as something they can use a bit of when they think it needful.   Francis Schaeffer used to say that the Church should live out what he termed “true truth” before the world.  But the Church has forgotten the importance of Truth, and its role as the witness to the Truth in this dark and deceitful age.  Truth must come first.  Our preferences are not that important.

I realize that in putting matters this way I am not going to make many friends.  But I am not concerned with making friends so much as with telling it as it is.  And the fact is young people raised in Christian homes and attending evangelical churches are leaving those churches in droves.

According to a Barna poll 66% of these kids are deserting their Christian upbringing.  And the figure may be even higher.  A survey conducted by the SBC asserts that 88% of young people walk away from the faith never to return.  And there is no sign of any abatement.  Something is badly amiss, and Christian parents especially need to stop pretending everything’s okay so long as their kid or teenager has a good time at church.

Loyalty and Credibility

In surveys which have been done of young people who have ‘left the Faith’  the issue of deep commitment to what we Christians claim to believe crops up continually.  Young people can sense when we are believing Christianity for its usefulness or pragmatic value, and when we are believing it because we know it is true and our allegiance is to it asTruth.  The former carries no assurance because Truth is being used as a prop for our life-choices.  The second is in rather short supply in our evangelical churches.  There is a lack of integrity and sincerity about the Church today.  Sincerity is the great by-product of holding loyally to the objective Truth of God’s Word.  The term Paul used when describing the “Belt of Truth” in the Christian Armor (Eph. 6:14) demands such loyalty.  You can’t put on this “belt” if you don’t prize Truth.  You don’t prize Truth if you don’t submit to it and internalize it.

The Truth ought to have the sort of authority over us that old-fashioned Headmasters had over school children.  But too often Truth is treated like modern Headmasters are.  They have a position of authority, but there is very little they can do with it, and the kids who pay lip-service to them know this.  Insincere people tend to let the side down and don’t much care if they do.  Sincere people who have placed themselves in subordination to the Truth, whatever the cost, have the kind of integrity which our young people are looking for.

What it Takes

My big concern in this series is how to use apologetics in evangelizing and building up our children, whether they are aged eight or eighteen.  But I felt I needed to stress this issue of authenticity; the difference between using something true and committing to it because it’s true.  To do this we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about our churches.  Does our local church emphasize Bible doctrine, or is doctrine and theology never really discussed?  Does the leadership have an unequivocal stance on the six days of creation and Noah’s flood?  When was the last time the ugliness of Sin was spelled out in a sermon?  We must ask ourselves, Did we choose our fellowship primarily because of its commitment to the Truth, or did we choose it for the music or the programs?

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to,

…sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Here is the classic verse for Christian Apologetics.  We are to be “always ready” to defend the Christian Faith.  We are always to be able to “give a reason for our hope.”  But please do not overlook how the verse starts: “sanctify [that is, set apart] the Lord God in your hearts.”  To set God apart in our hearts demands of us that we allow His Truth to have full authority over us.  In Christian venues where Truth is not seen as primary, we must respectfully depart and seek out those that do.  No one leaves the Faith over the music.  They do and are leaving over the matter of Truth.  Let us defend the Truth, but let us be real!

Teloscompass

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Pt. 8)

Part Seven

The Church in the Seventieth Week?

Of the several options on the timing of the rapture only the pretribulational view keeps the Body of Christ entirely out of the Seventieth Week of Daniel 9.  But that fact says little if in fact the Church is said in Scripture to go through some or all of it.  To my mind, it is no good trying to place the Body of Christ in the Seventieth Week unless there are solid reasons for doing so and appropriate excuses for diminishing the very Jewish emphasis in passages which do concern this period.

We have seen that God had in mind “Your [i.e. Daniel’s] people” in the prophecy.  It also focused in on “your holy city” – Jerusalem.  It is within this same period that the Olivet Discourse is situated.  And there, as we have seen, Jesus is talking to Jews about Israel.  We get the same story when we look at Daniel 12 or Jeremiah 30.  In the Revelation the Church is not mentioned after chapter 3 and the stress is mainly upon all things Israel (7:3-8; 9:4; 11:1-2, 7-8; 11:19; 12:1, 13-14; 14:1-4; 15:3; 16:16), which is just what one would expect from reading earlier texts.

Paul in Romans 11 uses the term “Gentiles” as a kind of eponym for the Church.  For instance, in 11:11, 12, 13, and especially 11:25 he is pointing out that God has deliberately turned to the Gentiles in this era. Israel as a nation is judicially blinded (11:7-10, 25, and 32), and although there will always be a saved remnant even in the Church (11:5), the fact remains that the Church is predominantly Gentile in complexion.  But Paul says that God will once again turn to Israel (11:24), once “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25b).

I do realize that this does not go on to say “when the Church is removed”.  All I am concerned with is delineating the [national] Israel – Church divide which seems apparent in these passages from Revelation and Romans.  I do not see the Church in any reference to the Seventieth Week.  I do see that God is focused back on Israel as predicted in Daniel 9 (and 7 & 12).  The “fullness of the [saved] Gentiles” must mean something, for it has to be accomplished before this turning can happen.  It can either happen as some Dutch-school amillennialists predict, and God can save a bunch of Jews just prior to Jesus’ return, or it can happen with the rapture of the Church at its completion.  I reject the first option because it ignores an important point in the Apostle’s argument; namely the fact that it is national Israel that is in view (see Rom. 9:1-5, 10; 10:1, 21; 11:1-2, 7, 25-29).  All those approaches which do not recognize this are, I believe, at fault.  This includes those Progressive Dispensationalists who are okay with people becoming “Christians” in the Tribulation, and there being just one people of God.  It also ignores the specific Israeli focus of the Seventieth Week as I understand it.  Those who are fine with God dealing with the Church and the nation of Israel at the same time have not provided a clear rationale for it that I have seen.

Lastly, since the Church shall be married to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25, 32) before Christ comes back (Rev. 19:6-9), I think it reasonable to relate this to a pre (or mid) tribulational rapture (I reject the mid-trib. alternative here because of what I’ve said above).  I think this is grounds for rejecting post-tribulationism, as well as suspecting Pre-Wrath, which needs Christ to return to collect the Church.  This is what forces them (along with some other views), to look for the signs of Matthew 24 with regard to the Church.

Is Imminency a Biblical Teaching?

The pretribulational doctrine of the imminent return of Jesus is not a necessary component of the approach, but the strength of it as a biblical idea definitely reinforces the pretribulational claim.  This position says that the warning signs in the Olivet Discourse are intended for Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22), not the Body of Christ.

1. James 5:8-9 – If Christ cannot return at any moment the coming of the Lord could never be said to be “at hand” and this passage simply makes no sense.

2. 1 Thess. 1:9-10 – The idea here is an expectant waiting for the Lord’s return.  If the “wrath to come” is that of chapter 5:3 and 9, called “the Day of the Lord” (5:2).  This is the “wrath” we have been delivered from.  If my previous argumentation holds any water then this is not wrath after the Second Coming.  If it is the Coming itself then it is hardly earth-shattering news for saints to be told they won’t get stomped on. (more…)

Galatians-6-vs-1

Apologetics and Your Kids (2) – The Price of Truth

Part One

 

Positive thinking is not the same as having a hopeful or joyful frame of mind.  Christians are to have joy in their lives, a joy fed by a sure hope.  However, in today’s church culture, filled so often with upbeat songs, sentimental stories, and man-centered messages, there is a big push to keep it positive and slanted towards the light side.  Positive thinking in this vein will always tend to produce wrong views of God.  He simply must get with our programs.

Although God’s mercy and goodness is a given, He is not a God to be used to help us get through life.  His claims on us transcend our wants and our happiness.  If Christian parents do not understand and act on this principle, they may well be nurturing false beliefs about God and the Gospel in their kids’ minds.

The world bids us, “look into your heart.”  God tells us that our hearts are “deceitful” and “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  The idea expressed by the prophet is of an ailing disposition which cannot produce anything but crookedness.  Hence, the Bible unsurprisingly counters the world’s advice by stating bluntly that it is the height of folly to base anything on how we may think or feel about it.  We do not consult our hearts.  We consult God’s Word.  Does our sanguine attitude to trendiness and personal choice not teach our kids that those values are to be highly prized by them?  What happens to Truth in such an atmosphere?

The Price of Truth

Christianity, if it is anything, is true.  And if it is not true we better abandon it, for we don’t want to live a lie.  If, then, Christianity really is true (and it is), our allegiance ought to be to Truth.  But Truth can only thrive in the right environment.  The ground must be cleared so that God’s Truth is clearly seen and forcibly heard.  I use the capital ‘T’ to emphasize the fact that Truth is outside us and above us.  Truth is an attribute of God, therefore when we interact with it we engage God Himself, and God wants us always to treat Truth with that regard.

You see, Truth cannot stick where its claims are not acknowledged.  That means we have a duty, both to ourselves and to our children, whatever their ages, to make sure the Truth does stick!  Truth sticks when we admit our sinfulness and our helplessness.  Truth sticks when we avert our eyes from this present evil age to the age to come.  Truth sticks when we permit it to tell us what is right and what is wrong and what to do about it at every turn.

Our kids need to be taught that the reason people don’t believe in God is because they simply don’t want to face up to the fact that He is really there.  Denying God’s existence always comes from an impious foolish heart, and stems without any exceptions from our sinful drive for independence.  Let’s see how the Bible puts it.  Consider this text:

 “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” – Psalm 14:1

Where does this verse (repeated in Psa. 53:1) put the blame for unbelief?  On the lack of external evidence for God?  On the vagueness of that evidence?  No.  The blame is placed squarely on the unbeliever.  The verse says that someone who denies God exists is a “nabal” – a corrupt fool.  Not a very complementary way to speak about a person!  If we look further we see that the verse locates the problem in the very place the world wants us to trust – in the heart.  The trouble is not that there is not enough information to make “an informed decision,” but it is what we automatically do with the information God has given to us.

In biblical parlance, people don’t notice God because they are not looking at His world rightly.  They are looking independently.  They are interpreting the world independently.  And the Truth can’t come home to a person who is not in the proper state to receive it.  All real knowledge must be true.  And Truth has its price!

To be continued…

 

Teloscompass

Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Pt.7)

Part Six

So far I have tried to establish these important factors in determining the timing of the rapture of the Church.  I fully realize that each of these points could be studied in more depth, but for my purposes I think the coverage is satisfactory.  The factors are these:

1. The time of the rapture is exegetically indeterminable

2. Hence, if it is to be known it must be deduced

3. As such the timing of this event can only be arrived at by way of inference to the best explanation (i.e. the best rapture scenarios will be C3)

4. The 70th Week of Daniel is seven years long and commences with “the prince who is to come” making a covenant with Israel.  This period is divided in half by the breaking of the covenant.  The 70th Week has Israel in mind, not the Church.

5. The white horse rider who appears at the beginning of what I take to be the seven year period is the Antichrist.  In light of the Day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2 not coming until “the apostasy” and the revealing of the man of lawlessness/sin (2:3), the rapture seems to take place at the start of the seventieth week (although 2 Thess. 2:4 could be interpreted in a mid-trib fashion).

6. The concept of the Day of the Lord and its attendant images (e.g. “birth pangs”) are not technical terms which can be restricted to one event.  However, the Battle of Armageddon is strongly connected with it.

7. In the Book of Revelation the Day of the Lord is associated with the Second Advent of Christ in wrath.

The Future Tribulation

I have asserted that the future Tribulation is seven years long mainly on the strength of equating it with the Seventieth Week.  I have also assumed that the first seal in Revelation 6 signals the start of the Seventieth Week.  Although it is evident that what is often called the “Great Tribulation” begins when the Antichrist “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God,” (2 Thess. 2:4) – that is, the last three and a half years – yet the advent of the “Four Horsemen” of Revelation 6 shows that the whole Seventieth Week may be rightly called “the Tribulation” (cf. Matt.24:8).  It is a time distinct from now (after “the times of the Gentiles” – Rom. 11:25), when God turns again to deal with Israel.

There is scarcely any reason for a seven year final determination on Israel if only three and a half of those years are adverse. Certainly the troubles depicted in Revelation 6:3-8; troubles reminiscent of those visited upon Israel by the Lord in Jeremiah 14 (when God instructs the prophet not to pray for them – Jer. 14:11), constitute tribulation.

The Day of the Lord and the Tribulation 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 is a crucial text for the Prewrath position, and it surely should be admitted that one cannot cavalierly state that the “protos” in  “for that Day will not come unless there be a falling away first …” inevitably signals a pretrib rapture.  It does not.  I have been at pains in this series to show that the best educated guess at the timing of the rapture will be a deduction from various premises.  Hence, although I am a pretribulationist, my reasons for being one come about through the way I arrange the different pieces of biblical data into a coherent picture.

The big question for the prewrath advocate is whether the “Day of the Lord” in 2 Thessalonians and Revelation begins only after the coming of Christ at the “prewrath rapture.”  This seems to require a static meaning for the Day of the Lord.  But we have already shown that in many cases this is precisely what the Bible does not teach.  The idea of the Day of the Lord, while cohesive, is not static.  Dumbrell rightly says,

the concept of the Day of the Lord, as considered by the prophets, is not singular in meaning; the connotation can be determined only by examining each context in which the phrase appears. – William J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus, 109.

Much the same holds true for the New Testament writers.  So the thing to be determined is whether the usage of the phrase within an End Times context can be given this restricted nuance. (more…)

“Science tells us how the heavens go” – or Not!

In a post yet to show up here I critique Norman Geisler’s and Bruce Waltke’s use of Galileo’s little catchphrase, “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven.  Science tells us how the heavens go.”

I appreciate quite a lot of Norman Geisler’s work.  I am not a big fan of his four-volume Systematic Theology, although I do recommend Volume Four.  And while I can’t get on board with his classical apologetics views, he has provided good arguments for many questions about the Bible and Christianity.  His stance against the definite erosion of Inerrancy is Evangelicalism is greatly welcome.

However, His Old-Earth views are just not reconcilable with a version of inerrancy which I can accept.  You cannot point your finger at one group of Evangelicals and say they are making the word “inerrant” too malleable, and at the same time hold to a teaching which demands similar pliancy.

Anyway, I think Jason Lisle has done a terrific job of answering Dr. Geisler at his blog.  See what you think: http://www.jasonlisle.com/2015/01/29/answering-dr-norman-geislers-comments-on-genesis/

 

Thx to Alf Cengia