Monthly Archives: September 2016

Coming to the End…Again

You have heard the associated or mis-associated terms, and perhaps have engaged in discussing them: Armageddon. The Last Days. The End of the World. Judgment Day. The Second or Final Coming of Christ. The Parousia. The Rapture of the Church.

Judging by various questions and statements recorded in the New Testament, this subject has fascinated believers from the earliest days of the New Covenant.

Christ’s Olivet Discourse, recorded at Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 is often central to any discussion of this. It is very popular to interpret that message, which Jesus gave shortly before His arrest, in a futuristic way. That means to take what Jesus foretold in the Olivet Discourse as having a fulfillment in His own generation’s very, very distant future (and possibly our generation’s near future).

Many of those who take a futuristic position on the Olivet Discourse also assert that they believe the Bible literally. As believers in God’s inerrant, infallible word we do take the Bible literally – when it speaks literally. And we take it figuratively when it speaks figuratively, e.g. Christ’s parables. Either way it always speaks with divine authority. When Jesus told His disciples that He was going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, He spoke literally. When He said “I am the door of the sheep,” He did not mean that He was a passageway for ovine critters! He spoke figuratively, as do other Holy Spirit inspired Bible passages.

With these preliminary considerations in mind let us reflect with joy on a precious promise God made in another discourse, recorded long before the one delivered by the incarnate Son on the Mount of Olives:

“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments…” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

If those who understand the Olivet Discourse in a futuristic way also want to insist on the pervasively literal nature of all Scripture, they cannot consistently exclude that promise, any more than they can exclude this exhortation that was written by the same human author in the same context:

“Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven….” (Deuteronomy 9:1)

Did those ancient cities of which Moses spoke really have walls or battlements that reached the sun, moon, and stars, or even the much closer clouds in the heavens? If one’s canon of interpretation is absolutely strict literalism, his absurd answer must be yes! So let’s think through God’s promise about a thousand generations according to the same literalism:

What is the duration of a “generation?” Even though it might have been longer in previous ages, let’s use the typical forty years. That is the number of years of the wilderness wanderings in which God waited for one rebellious generation to die out. It is also the number of years between Christ’s ascension to the Father’s right hand c. A.D. 30 and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We note that in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus repeatedly and emphatically addresses this generation, i.e. His contemporaries of the first century.

Taking the thousand generations of Deuteronomy 7:9 just as literally as some want to take the millennium (the 1,000 years mentioned in one passage, Revelation 20), we whip out our common-core free mental calculators and sum up 40,000 years. God gave Moses the book of Deuteronomy circa 1,500 B.C. So about 38,500 years remain before God’s promise to keep His covenant to a thousandth generation is literally fulfilled.

Surely, here is a call to compare Scripture with Scripture, to be faithful to all Scripture in interpreting any, and to not jump quickly onto any popular bandwagon of “last days” teaching.

Previously published elsewhere, March 20, A.D. 2016

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The Answer is Not Far Off

We banned prayer offered by teachers in state schools decades ago. More recently, young people who dared stand by a flagpole to pray on their own time, or bring a Bible into school, or mention God in a valedictory address met with swift retribution for such offensive, threatening behavior.

Ten commandments monuments and crosses have been banished; local municipalities daring to place a manger scene representing the faith of thousands of their residents were sued when one person in another county complained. Not only in state education on all levels but in every realm of public life, we have dismissed our benevolent Creator, that powerful Friend as Benjamin Franklin called Him. In short, we as a society have lost the FEAR OF GOD.

That fear is not an abject, terrified cowering. It is a reverent devotion which recognizes the utterly pure righteousness of our Creator and Provider. When that fear of God permeated our culture, the broad daylight we call civilization was the norm. Now the gloomy dusk of anarchy is settling upon us – the consequence of our national godlessness.

One sort of a-Theism is an absurd core belief system which a tiny minority vainly tries to portray as free thought. The other sort is practised by multitudes who say in their hearts “there is no god.” In other words, they live day in and day out as though their Sovereign and Judge was not ever at hand, the unimaginable power of His just wrath withheld only by the unfathomable depths of His long-suffering mercy.

What fools we have been! As a man sows or as a nation sows, so shall he or it reap! Why do we marvel and burst out with phrases like “How can such things be happening in the 21st century?” “What is wrong with people?” “What on earth is going on these days?” Why do we describe the new normal of perpetrated horror, mayhem, and death using anemic terms like crazy…deranged…insane…disturbed?

Emotionally or mentally ill people speak and act incoherently. They exhibit confused, bizarre behavior. One imagines he can fly, another that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. Sang froid coupled with calculating intelligence plots to fly airplanes into buildings, drive trucks into crowds, and assassinate specific uniformed targets.

It is not wackiness, it is WICKEDNESS. It is not economic disparity, it is human DEPRAVITY! And as the late Rev. R.J. Cameron was wont to say, “mankind does not have a SKIN problem, we have a SIN problem!”

In what we know as the 59th chapter of the book of prophecy God gave through his servant Isaiah TRUTH is proclaimed with power…

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.

They hatch vipers’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; he who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. Their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace.

Therefore justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places.

We all growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them:

In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice…”

It will not go well with us if His displeasure is the end of the story. REPENT, America!

Previously published elsewhere, July 18 A.D. 2016

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Glorious Inference

When your friend speaks in a loud voice over the phone, and you conclude that she is angry, you have made an INFERENCE…you have inferred that she is upset. When you later discover that she was speaking loudly because a train was passing by, and she wanted to be sure you could hear her, you are relieved to find that your inference was wrong and you both have a good laugh.

God’s promises to His children in Scripture are staggering. Let’s take one of them, and make some inferences, guided by the whole counsel of God in Scripture and trusting in the blessed Spirit Who inspired Scripture. It is found in Revelation 21:7 –

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

Inheriting ALL THINGS…that’s what God has promised to overcomers. Here’s a place to ask ourselves, do we really believe the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant word of God, utterly truthful in all it says? Does all things really mean all things? YES! Now to those inferences.

Envy on the part of Christians regarding the temporal possessions and gifts of others is rendered absurd in at least two ways:

1. When all is said and done, whatever the wicked have now will be taken from them, and given to those who will inherit all things. Why fret? (Psalm 37, Proverbs 13:22B)

2. Whatever the righteous have is given to them not for self indulgence (which vile passion in glory will have been thoroughly eradicated) but for sharing. Why not concentrate on seeking first the kingdom of God, Who knows all your needs? Why not freely give? (Matthew 6:33, 10:8)

And the Christian’s attitude about his own temporal possessions and gifts is effected in at least two ways:

1. He is not overwhelmed or crushed by temporal lack or loss. Has he been bankrupted? He already has the earnest and later will have full possession of the true riches which never fly away (cf. Proverbs 23:5). Is he mostly alone in this world, without much family? If he is a faithful disciple, he already has the promise of Jesus (Mark 10:29,30) which assures him a place at the everlasting table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the forever family of God.

2. He is free from that obsession to hoard and protect property which characterizes the world. Instead, he experiences great liberty in what he understands to be his stewardship of God’s goods, knowing that his eternal inheritance will include incorruptible rewards (1 Peter 1:4)

The Executor of the estate is faithful and true. Set your sights on overcoming. Share with Jesus in the eternal inheritance of all things.

Previously published elsewhere, December 6

A.D. 2015

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Genocide

“Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” – 1 Samuel 15:3

Thus God commanded Saul, the man He had anointed to be king over Israel. And just as there is no denying the dreadful damnation to eternal shame, fiery torment, and outer darkness reserved for all the wicked, so what we read here cannot be denied. This temporal condemnation of God the Judge of all the Earth against the Amalekites is dreadful, even though it was a lesser punishment than hell will be.

Yes, the same God Who became incarnate and said His disciples would be known by their love for one another told Saul to exterminate an entire ancient nation. And previously He had given similar explicit commandments to Joshua in connection with the conquest of Canaan. (Cf. Joshua 6:17, 8:26)

Disciples of the Jesus the Prince of peace have rightly and vehemently judged as exceedingly wicked the genocide being committed by Islamists today – along with all the other violence that has been perpetrated by adherents to that movement since it came to power with its imperialist agenda in the 7th Christian century. Meanwhile, enemies of Christ and His kingdom have appealed to the Biblical record (and usually to the Crusades as well) and claimed that Christians have done the same things in name of the God of the Bible.

Are those accusers of the brethren right? What is the ethical difference between the extermination of Canaanites by Joshua or of the Amalekites by Saul, and the genocide occurring in the Middle East today? Are Christians being hypocritical when they judge Isis, the Nazis, or the Ottomans who committed genocide against the Armenian people in the early 20th century?

Let us not settle for an easy dodge of this hard question with a response such as “you’re right, but that was the old testament, now we’re in the new testament era.” The world may mock or falsely accuse, but the faith once for all delivered to the saints answers YES, there is great ethical difference! The God of the Bible is the only true and living God, perfectly righteous in His judgments. Those He handed down in times of old are as infallibly righteousness as His future day of judgment for all mankind will be.

God is not only the redeemer of His own people, but the sovereign creator, ruler, and judge of all nations. When He brought His people out of the nation that enslaved them, God judged both the Egyptians and their idols. He sent miraculous plagues as His instruments of judgment.

Joshua and Saul had extraordinary callings from God to execute His judgments on nations. Like the hail, frogs, insects, or boils that plagued the Egyptians, they likewise were only God’s instruments. It was God Himself wiping out wicked sinners like He did in a global way at the time of the great flood. Consider God’s ancient statute, given to all men long before the Law of Moses:

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6) It is God Almighty Who determined that murder is a capitol offense, i.e. that the one who commits murder has forfeited his own life. But God assigned the duty of execution to man.

So to sum this up, Saul (like Joshua before him) was an instrument in the hands of the true and living God. Saul was given an extraordinary assignment of a kind not to be taken as normative for God’s people. The Amalekites and other nations had been judged as worthy of punishment by God, not man…but men were sent to carry out the sentence.

This principle is found elsewhere in Scripture as well. A case such as when consuming fire and brimstone fell from the heavens upon Sodom, Gomorrah, and vicinity is an extraordinary one. Ordinarily God raises up a nation to punish or chasten another by His inscrutable, providential ordering of all things. Post-biblical history showcases His sovereignty over the affairs of all who dwell on Earth. In cases like those of Joshua and Saul, He gave specific commands to specific servants to carry out specific, limited judgments.

In light of that, we also answer the charge of hypocrisy according to the ordinary, normative calling God has given to His people of all time. Jesus was not giving a new commandment when He said “Love your enemies.” He was correcting those who had distorted or were despising God’s standing orders for those who name His name:

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. (Exodus 23:4)

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles…” (Proverbs 24:17)

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’ ” (Zechariah 7:9-10)

To those who were in captivity in Babylon He commanded, “…seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. (Jeremiah 29:7)

Finally we answer that though self defense is certainly not forbidden to Christians (the Crusades were acts of self defense), God will never again issue an extraordinary call by direct revelation such as those he gave to Joshua or Saul. For God has made an end of speaking until Jesus appears again. Until then, the abiding and precious special revelation called the Bible gives us all we need to know to be workers in His kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

Thus we know that the so called prophet of Islam is an imposter, who claimed to speak for a god over six hundred years after the true God made an end of special, direct revelation. Behind allah and all false gods is satan the evil one who hates and envies the true God. The devil is the thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Those who believe in false gods and their so called prophets are in reality acting by satanic instigation, and out of their own sinful hatred and love of violence.

We Christians do well to take as a banner of the Kingdom the very words of our King:

“For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (from Luke 9:56)

Previously published elsewhere in two installments, April A.D. 2016

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A Match Made in Heaven

The Lord Christ summarized the entire Law of God in two commandments:

1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

All the written law and prophets “hang on” these two. Our Creator and Judge demands perfect, perpetual, zealous, 24/7 obedience to them. No illumined and precise exposition of His written law is more profound, no moralist – though he be as skillful as “(h)Alfred P. Doolittle” – can set the ethical standard higher.

Faith therefore cannot regard a particular instance of sin as the trivial infraction of a person who is basically good. Every outbreak of sin reveals a heart consumed with hatred of God and neighbor. You and I by nature, from our birth, are beings who loath our Creator and what we imagine is His harsh and oppressive yoke. You and I by nature, from our birth, are beings rotten to the core in our selfish, arrogant despising of our fellow creatures.

So before we can benefit from Christ as the most heroic Example of virtue (and He is utterly sinless), before we can be schooled by Christ the great Teacher (and His instruction is flawless), before we can be led by Christ the good Shepherd (and so He identified Himself), we must be drawn by the power of God to see on one hand the depth of our depravity and on the other hand the amazing grace of Christ the propitiating sacrifice…Christ the liberating ransom…Christ the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world…Christ the only One perfectly suited to fulfill our most fundamental need, deliverance from the guilt, power, and corruption of sin.

Any so-called faith not rooted here, not built on the only Foundation, not trusting in the Savior Whose name is the only name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved is just another outbreak of self-justifying, man-made religion, itself an odious sin in God’s sight.

So if you recognize your destitute and desperate situation, don’t despair and try harder to please God with your religious works. Flee to Jesus to be cleansed, forgiven, delivered from the certainty of judgment, and to receive the GRACE (unmerited favor) of salvation, the GIFT of eternal life!

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Body and Blood

Any six syllable word is surely a bone to be chewed! Today we set the teeth of our understanding on one of them. It is term that relates to the Lord’s supper, and the Bible believing disciple must not swallow its meaning as he or she partakes thereof. The word is…

TRAN-SUB-STAN-TI-A-TION

The word speaks to the alleged TRANSformation (change of form) of certain SUBSTANces into other substances. For example, those involved in an occult practice by the name of alchemy believe that one substance, lead, can be transformed into another substance: gold!

The substances we are considering are those served when we come to the Lord’s table: the bread representing His broken body, and the cup representing His shed blood. Those holding to transubstantiation believe that those material elements are transformed…that they actually become the physical body and blood of Christ. Appealing to God’s almighty power, they believe that God causes the physical elements to mysteriously turn into Jesus’ body and blood.

The idea assaults the senses and reason of anyone who comes to the Lord’s table; no such transformation can be observed. Yet, if we base our objection to transubstantiation on that grounds alone, it is likely that we will swiftly get tangled up in a nest of questions dealing with the properties of matter and its relation to its Creator, Who is spirit (John 4:24).

God is indeed all powerful and He can change the basic nature of matter as surely as He turned water into wine in Cana of Galilee. Jesus healed a man born blind and opened the ears of a deaf man. We rightly infer that some drastic change in organic matter (the bodies of the healed ones) took place when Jesus worked these miracles. Surely this also obtains for the risen bodies of Lazarus et. al., and of our Lord Himself in His greater resurrection.

But transubstantiation makes a worse assault. The Bible teaches that Christ’s once for all sacrifice saved an innumerable multitude for all eternity. Transubstantiation claims that every time the Lord’s supper is served, not only are substances being transformed, but that Jesus is being sacrificed again and again!

Thus the error of transubstantiation must be opposed primarily on the basis of the all sufficient, glorious sacrifice God provided. Although God is almighty and COULD transform one substance into another substance, God WILL NOT do so in this specific case. That is because there is no need for Jesus’ sacrifice to occur on many occasions and at many places! In fact, to say that Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself must be continually repeated is actually unbelief. It is rejecting God’s word and saying, “No, Jesus has not fully and finally accomplished salvation for His people once and for all.” (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10; Jude 3)

Consider the words of our Lord at John 6:63 – “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” The material bread and the cup are not the spiritual food and drink we need. The real food and drink which those things represent is received according to Jesus’ own ordinance by faith in His once for all sacrifice of Himself, not by ingesting matter about which unreasonable claims are made.

Previously published elsewhere, April 3, A.D. 2016

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Every Thought Captive

“..casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The following was posted in a public forum on a social media website:

A girl believes that when she’s dead, she’s dead and nothing happens afterward. That the idea of heaven and hell is just a lie manufactured in order to scare people into being decent human beings. I know this to not be true, but my debate skills have gotten a bit rusty. Any idea for an intelligent retort that might make her reconsider her position?

This writer offers the following answer:

Death is not synonymous with cessation of existence. When you see a road kill squirrel, the wee beastie has not ceased to exist. This is obvious to anyone coming across such a smelly blob of rotting flesh which once scurried about trying to find nuts. Death is better understood as separation; the onset of decay…dysfunction…dissolution of some kind.

Hell is described in Scripture as the second death – everlasting existence but an existence separated from God and all that is good, condemned by Him to darkness, chaos, and torment which is the only alternative to being vitally connected to Him the Source of all light, meaning, and delight.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they did not cease to exist nor did their bodies immediately cease to function. But instantaneously they were separated from the intimate communion with their Creator which they had enjoyed up to that point and expelled from the glorious garden which God Himself had planted. Their bodies began a slo-o-o-w dissolution, a miserable descent back to dust.

If this young lady DOES believe that death means cessation of existence, perhaps you can appeal to the observable reality that the corporeal remains of the dead do not cease to exist. She can observe this at the next funeral she attends. Ask her why would the intangible part of her being cease to exist?

If she asserts that she does not believe there is an intangible part of her being (soul, spirit, mind, will, affections, memory), then you can simply ask her “who is making that denial?” What other than an immaterial self can make a statement like “when I’m dead, I’m dead and nothing happens afterward?” For that matter, what other than an immaterial self can make any statement?

In other words how does a biological mechanism with no spirit (the girl herself, according to her own beliefs) make any sort of affirmation or denial or ask any kind of question – whether she is asking a weighty question about life and death, or asking you what you had for lunch?

The irrationality is patently obvious, but only when the Spirit has given the new birth can one embrace Him Who is Truth, or know anything aright – because all truth inheres in Him, as the same Spirit proclaims through His apostle at Colossians 2:3, “…in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He refers of course to our Lord Jesus Christ.

ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him, not just some of them! There is ZERO knowledge or wisdom apart from Him. ALL means all. Those who don’t know Him as Savior and Lord could know nothing at all apart from the same mercy which “…makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

Previously published elsewhere, April 10, A.D. 2016

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