Friday, November 30, 2007

I knew I liked those guys

Carl Trueman has said this recently in an interview about his new book on John Owen.

What relevance might Owen have for the contemporary evangelical church?

He offers a model for doing theology which connects biblical exegesis and systematic theology in a way that respects trajectories of previous theological discussion while at the same time grounding everything in pastoral concerns. He also demonstrates how the doctrine of the Trinity should permeate Christian thinking and devotion. Above all, he understands the holiness of God and shows how theological thinking should proceed in this context.I get so tired of modern evangelical writers, whether biblical or theological, who have no grasp of the holiness of God and who treat scripture just like any old book, theology as a kind of entertaining crossword puzzle, and themselves as God’s gift to the church. God is not mocked, especially by those for whom theology seems to be little more than an idiom for self-promotion and patronizing previous generations. Owen was not a perfect theologian; but he knew the importance of that with which he was dealing, and his own comparative unimportance in the grand scheme of things.

Owen is a tough read. I've read his Communion with God. It is slow going, but now it is out in an abridged version with more modernized English. I've also read parts of Overcoming Sin and Temptation. You should read Owen.

I also have always appreciated what I have read by Trueman. One should read his regular column entitled the "Wages of Spin" over at His diagnosis of the contemporary church is spot on. His wit and turn of a phrase is a delight to read. In these columns he has an ability to drive home a point with a bit of light heartedness. In some respects, Trueman is like a prophet of old, he has an ability to see the problem he may use wit, parable, and clever phrase but he has this uncanny ability to stand square in the street and shout "the emperor has no clothes." To read him is to take your medicine, maybe it has something to do with his English wit.

I'm sure Trueman would agree that we should read Owen first. But at least somewhere in there, (not second, but down on your list) check out his column.

THERE is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books...This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul- or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy...Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook-even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it...

Go read Owen, but do it somewhere quiet and read him very slowly, perhpaps with pen and paper in hand. The kind of reading it takes to read Owen requires discipline. I have in the past sat down and picked him up for "light evening reading," often while my children watch a bit of TV (or I have it own for who knows what reason). This does no justice to Owen. One does not sit down at a banquet table with the TV on in the other room, you cannot serve two masters, you will hate the one and love the other. Owen is a banquet table and to feast you must be sitting at the table, knife in one hand, fork in the other and a napkin on your lap. If your attention is elsewhere you will miss savoring the meat that has been thrust onto your plate.

Want to know more about John Owen? Check out this websight:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Church History Lectures

Nothing fancy today, just want to point out two lectures from one of my former Westminster Professors. Carl Trueman is both a churchman and a scholar. He gave some great thoughts on church history and its value for the church today.

The first lecture talks about the early church fathers and is quite helpful. The second deals more with the Reformation. There are a lot of helpful things for the church today in these lectures. I particularly enjoyed what he said about confessions and catechisms in the second lecture. I recommend these lectures to everyone.

There is a lot that we in the contemporary church should be learning from Church History. We have this preoccupation in our day with the "new" but the church universal is ancient. There is a faith handed down "once for all" and while in some ways the church today will look different, we must hear the past, not just pillage the past. This upcoming year at my church, I want to encourage my people, alone with their Bible reading and study, to familiarize themselves with church history. When we understand the issues of the past we begin to understand how to address the present. We find out what issues should be most important. Many of the questions we ask today are so self-centered and betray a youthful arrogance. The issues we fight over in the church are petty (pews or chairs) compared to the issues people divided over in the past (the nature of Christ's deity (Arian vs. Nicea/Athanasius)). How did the church conduct itself in the past and how should that influence the present?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Warfield on the Catechism

B.B. Warfield (left) tells this story about D.L. Moody (below):

An anecdote told of Dwight L. Moody will illustrate the value to the religious life of having been taught these forms of truth. He was staying with a Scottish friend in London, but suppose we let the narrator tell the story. "A youngman had come to speak come to speak to Mr. Moody about religious things. He was in difficulty about a number of points, among the rest about prayer and natural laws. 'What is prayer?," he said, 'I can't tell what you mean by it!' They were in the hall of a large London house. Before Moody could answer, a child's voice was heard singing on the stairs. It was that of a little girl of nine or ten, the daughter of their host. She came running down the stairs and paused as she saw strangers sitting in the hall. 'Come here, Jenny,' her father said, 'and tell this gentelman "What is prayer."' Jenny did not know what had been going on, but she quite understood that she was now called upon to say her Catechism. So she drew up, and folderd her hands in front of her, like a good little girl who was going to 'say her questions,' and she said in her clear childish voice: 'Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.' 'Ah!' That's the Catechism!' Moody said, 'thank God for that Catechism.'"

Qtd. from B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, I.382-83.

To that I want to add "Amen." I have two little girls who are just the loves of my life (along with their beautiful mom), we also have one on the way, which they tell me is probably a girl. I can't think of anything better to do with my daughters then to train them up in the LORD through reading God's Word, praying with them and study the Catechism.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chrysostom on Heaven

In Chrysostom's exposition of the Lord's prayer, he says the following:

For He did not at all say, “Thy will be done” in me, or in us, but everywhere on the earth; so that error may be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and earth.

Is Chysostom denying that heaven and earth are distinct places? Is he following some sort of "integrated view" that we have in a previous series critique of Doug Pagitt, a leader in the emergent church? Pagitt argues for an overrealized eschatology that denies the "vertical eschatology" of the Bible where heaven and earth are distinct places. We shall argue that Chrysostom does not deny the basic distinction between heaven and earth. Yet Chrysostom's ethics do seem to have an "already" aspect to them without denying the distinction between heaven and earth.
(1) We begin by examining Chrysostom's exposition in context. Here is what Chrysostom says:
He teaches, moreover, to make our prayer common, in behalf of our brethren also. For He saith not, “my Father, which art in Heaven,” but, “our Father,” offering up his supplications for the body in common, and nowhere looking to his own, but everywhere to his neighbor’s good...When therefore He hath reminded us of this nobility, and of the gift from above, and of our equality with our brethren, and of charity; and when He hath removed us from earth, and fixed us in Heaven; let us see what He commands us to ask after this. Not but, in the first place, even that saying alone is sufficient to implant instruction in all virtue. For he who hath called God Father, and a common Father, would be justly bound to show forth such a conversation, as not to appear unworthy of this nobility, and to exhibit a diligence proportionate to the gift. Yet is He not satisfied with this, but adds, also another clause, thus saying, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Worthy of him who calls God Father, is the prayer to ask nothing before the glory of His Father, but to account all things secondary to the work of praising Him. For “hallowed” is glorified. For His own glory He hath complete, and ever continuing the same, but He commands him who prays to seek that He may be glorified also by our life. Which very thing He had said before likewise, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Later in the expostion:

From beneath, out of the heart, draw forth a voice, make thy prayer a mystery. Seest thou not that even in the houses of kings all tumult is put away, and great on all sides is the silence? Do thou also therefore, entering as into a palace,—not that on the earth, but what is far more awful than it, that which is in heaven,—show forth great seemliness. Yea, for thou art joined to the choirs of angels, and art in communion with archangels, and art singing with the seraphim. And all these tribes show forth much goodly order, singing with great awe that mystical strain, and their sacred hymns to God, the King of all. With these then mingle thyself, when thou art praying, and emulate their mystical order....

Chrysostom sees us in our prayers entering heaven, which is greater than entering a house of a king here on earth.

“After this manner, therefore, pray ye,” saith He: “Our Father, which art in heaven.” See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning. For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings. Doubly, therefore, doth He awaken their spirit, both by the dignity of Him who is called on, and by the greatness of the benefits which they have enjoyed. But when He saith, “in Heaven,” He speaks not this as shutting up God there, but as withdrawing him who is praying from earth, and fixing him in the high places, and in the dwellings above.

Chrysostom sees the prayer entering heaven, where God Himself dwells. This seems to be in some sort of spiritual sense through our communion but not a denial that heaven is a separate place. Rather it is this place we enter, as our spirit is awakened.

For because He had said thus, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” but was discoursing to men encompassed with flesh, and subject to the necessities of nature, and incapable of the same impassibility with the angels:—while He enjoins the commands to be practised by us also, even as they perform them; He condescends likewise, in what follows, to the infirmity of our nature... For ye must long, saith He, for heaven, and the things in heaven; however, even before heaven, He hath bidden us make the earth a heaven and do and say all things, even while we are continuing in it, as having our conversation there; insomuch that these too should be objects of our prayer to the Lord. For there is nothing to hinder our reaching the perfection of the powers above, because we inhabit the earth; but it is possible even while abiding here, to do all, as though already placed on high.

Notice that this applies to while we are living here, on earth, which is different than ‘on high’. We do it as though we are placed on high, although we are not yet ‘on high’ (e.g. in heaven).

Seest thou how He hath taught us also to be modest, by making it clear that virtue is not of our endeavors only, but also of the grace from above? And again, He hath enjoined each one of us, who pray, to take upon himself the care of the whole world. For He did not at all say, “Thy will be done” in me, or in us, but everywhere on the earth; so that error may be destroyed, and truth implanted, and all wickedness cast out, and virtue return, and no difference in this respect be henceforth between heaven and earth. “For if this come to pass,” saith He, “there will be no difference between things below and above, separated as they are in nature; the earth exhibiting to us another set of angels.

The grace to do these things comes from heaven above. He does see us obeying here on earth, but if we do we will make it like above (heaven). We will "exhibit" another sense of angels. Chrysostom elsewhere sees the angels as dwelling in heaven and without earthly passions. He sees us being able to do the same here on earth if we obey. This is not a denial that heaven is a place but clearly does see what we would call an "already" aspect to his eschatology. It is precisely because heaven and earth are distinct in his worldview, that Chrysostom sees us being to emulate here "below" the life of heaven "above".

Even with this hope of obedience in the present life to obey on earth as God is obeyed and His will is done in heaven, Chrysostom is quite clear that heaven and earth are distinct places.

(2)While Chrysostom does have “present” aspects of the kingdom, for example: he calls the church heaven in some places. And we experience the present realities of the kingdom and heaven; He also very clearly distinguishes heaven and earth as separate places.
Notice the distinction between heaven as “there” and earth as “here”. While we clearly enjoy in the present the benefits of heaven (here):
[3.] Here we must apply our minds attentively, and consider the Apostolic wisdom; for again he shows the difference of the Priesthood. “Who” (he says) “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” What are the heavenly things he speaks of here? The spiritual things. For although they are done on earth, yet nevertheless they are worthy of the Heavens. For when our Lord Jesus Christ lies slain [as a sacrifice], when the Spirit is with us, when He who sitteth on the right hand of the Father is here, when sons are made by the Washing, when they are fellow-citizens of those in Heaven, when we have a country, and a city, and citizenship there, when we are strangers to things here, how can all these be other than “heavenly things”? For in the former place after saying, “according to the power of an endless life” ( Heb. vii. 16 ), he then said that “there is a disannulling of the commandment going before” ( Heb. vii. 18 ); and then after that, he set forth something great, saying, “by which we draw nigh unto God.” ( Heb. vii. 19.) And in this place, after leading us up into Heaven, and showing that instead of the temple, we have Heaven, and that those things were types of ours, and having by these means exalted the Ministration [of the New Covenant], he then proceeds suitably to exalt the priesthood. Yea, verily. And whence does it appear that [the first Covenant] came to an end? He showed it indeed also from the Priest, but now he shows more clearly by express words that it has been cast out. But how is it “upon better promises”? For how, tell me, can earth and heaven be equal? But do thou consider, how he speaks of promises there [in that other covenant] also, that thou mayest not bring this charge against it. For there also, he says “a better hope, by which we draw nigh unto God” ( Heb. vii. 19 ), showing that a Hope was there also; and in this place “better promises,” hinting that there also He had made promises.

Chrysostom speaks of heaven being a dwelling place:
Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven.

Thus, they learned that there is a Son of God, and that God has a Son equal with Himself in dignity (John v. 17–20); they learned that there will be a resurrection (Matt. xvii. 9); that when He ascended He sat on the right hand of God (Luke xxii. 69); and what is still more stupendous, that Flesh is seated in heaven, and adored by Angels, and that He will come again (Mark xvi. 19); they learned what is to take place in the judgment (Matt. xvi. 27); learned that they shall then sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke xxi. 27); learned that the Jews would be cast out, and in their stead the Gentiles should come in (Matt. xix. 28)...

(in the context Chrysostom is expounding why the angels had to tell the disciples Jesus went into heaven; eyes could not see that he went into heaven so the angels had to tell him. This only makes sense if heaven is a place distinct from earth:)

Inasmuch, however, as the sight of their eyes even here was not all-sufficient; for in the Resurrection they saw the end, but not the beginning, and in the Ascension they saw the beginning, but not the end: because in the former it had been superfluous to have seen the beginning, the Lord Himself Who spake these things being present, and the sepulchre showing clearly that He is not there; but in the latter, they needed to be informed of the sequel by word of others: inasmuch then as their eyes do not suffice to show them the height above, nor to inform them whether He is actually gone up into heaven, or only seemingly into heaven, see then what follows. That it was Jesus Himself they knew from the fact that He had been conversing with them (for had they seen only from a distance, they could not have recognized Him by sight), but that He is taken up into Heaven the Angels themselves inform them. Observe how it is ordered, that not all is done by the Spirit, but the eyes also do their part. But why did “a cloud receive Him?” This too was a sure sign that He went up to Heaven... And He did not merely say, “I go,” lest they should again grieve, but He said, “I send the Spirit” (John xvi. 5, 7); and that He was going away into heaven they saw with their eyes. O what a sight they were granted! “And while they looked stedfastly,” it is said, “toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven”—they used the expression “This” demonstratively, saying, “this Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus”—demonstratively, “in this way”—“come in like manner as ye have seen Him going into heaven.” (v. 10, 11.)... Moreover the Angels did not say, ‘whom you have seen taken up,’ but, “going into heaven:” ascension is the word, not assumption; the expression “taken up,” belongs to the flesh. For the same reason they say, “He which is taken up from you shall thus come,” not, “shall be sent,” but, “shall come. He that ascended, the same is he also that descended” (Eph. iv. 10).

More on the ascension into the place of heaven. Again it is the notion that heaven is the specialized dwelling place of God (without denying omnipresence):

For the thing required in the first instance was this, that it should be believed that He was risen, and ascended into heaven. As then the point on which Christ himself most insisted was, to have it known that He was come from the Father, so is it this writer’s principal object to declare, that Christ was risen from the dead, and was received up into Heaven, and that He went to God, and came from God.

Christ's flesh went into heaven; note the continuing incarnation in heaven. Notice that he speaks of "any place" and he refers to "heaven...or upon earth", heaven is clear a place distinct from earth:

He inhabits this tabernacle for ever, for He clothed Himself with our flesh, not as again to leave it, but always to have it with Him. Had not this been the case, He would not have deemed it worthy of the royal throne, nor would He while wearing it have been worshiped by all the host of heaven, angels, archangels, thrones, principalities, dominions, powers. What word, what thought can represent such great honor done to our race, so truly marvelous and awful? What angel, what archangel? Not one in any place, whether in heaven, or upon earth. For such are the mighty works of God, so great and marvelous are His benefits, that a right description of them exceeds not only the tongue of men, but even the power of angels.

Speaking of Daniel, and our unworthiness to be like him, there is the reference to the distance between heaven and earth, it is just a passing reference, but he takes this worldview so much for granted that he can speak of the distance between them.

He was in the den for God’s sake, and yet he counted himself unworthy of His remembrance, and of being heard. Yet we though daring [to commit] innumerable pollutions, and being of all men most polluted, if we be not heard at our first prayer, draw back. Truly, great is the distance between them and us, as great as between heaven and earth, or if there be any greater.

Notice what He says about the kingdom, in despising the earth and thinking of heaven. They are clearly distinct. Notice the distiction between the things "here" offered by men and "eternal life" followed by the contrast between heaven and earth:
To teach us to despise worldly dignities, and to show us that He needed nothing on earth. For He who chose all things mean, both mother and house and city and nurture and attire would not afterwards be made illustrious by things on earth. The things which (He had) from heaven were glorious and great, angels, a star, His Father loudly speaking, the Spirit testifying, and Prophets proclaiming Him from afar; those on earth were all mean, that thus His power might the more appear. He came also to teach us to despise the things of the world, and not be amazed or astonished by the splendors of this life, but to laugh them all to scorn, and to desire those which are to come. For he who admires things which are here, will not admire those in the heavens. Wherefore also He saith to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” ( c. xviii. 36 ), that He may not afterwards appear to have employed mere human terror or dominion for the purpose of persuasion. Why then saith the Prophet, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass”? ( Zech. ix. 9.) He spake of that Kingdom which is in the heavens, but not of this on earth; and on this account Christ saith, “I receive not honor from men.” ( c. v. 41.)... In a word, if thou wilt desire glory, desire it, but let it be the glory immortal, for that is exhibited on a more glorious stage, and brings greater profit. For the men here bid thee be at charges to please them, but Christ, on the contrary, giveth thee an hundredfold for what thou givest Him, and addeth moreover eternal life. Which of the two then is better, to be admiredon earth, or in heaven? by man, or by God? to your loss, or to your gain? to wear a crown for a single day, or for endless ages?

(3) Notice how with respect to ethics, living in this earth actually has heaven in view. He says the following about treasures in heaven be saved up in distinction from that which is for this earth. Notice the language of our journey to heaven in distinction from the riches upon earth:
Let us store up righteousness in the heavens. Instead of riches upon earth, let us collect treasures impregnable, treasures which can accompany us on our journey to heaven, which can assist us in our peril, and make the Judge propitious at that hour. Whom may we all have gracious unto us, both now and at that day, and enjoy with much confidence the good things prepared in the heavens for those who love Him as they ought, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
(4) Chrysostom does the very thing that Pagitt says in unorthodox. Pagitt refuses to speak of people in heaven and hell and talk about them as places or “wheres”. This is unorthodox. Chrysostom does exactly the opposite of Pagitt. He is speaking of one of the Roman emperors, Julian. Julian is in Hades and Christ is in heaven. He clearly sees them as places. In the interview, when asked "where" Pagitt said this would be Platonic, Chrysostom clearly describes them as "where" and distinct places where these guys are now, respectively:

What then do the deeds say? Christ said that it was easier for heaven and earth to be destroyed, than for any of his words to fail. Luke xvi. 17. The emperor contradicted these words, and threatened to destroy his decrees. Where then is the emperor who threatened these things? He is perished and is corrupted, and is now in Hades, awaiting the inevitable punishment. But where is Christ who uttered these decrees? In Heaven, on the right hand of the Father, occupying the highest throne of glory; where are the blasphemous words of the Emperor, and his unchastened tongue? They are become ashes, and dust and the food of worms. Where is the sentence of Christ? It shines forth by the very truth of the deed, receiving its lustre from the issue of the events, as from a golden column. And yet the emperor left nothing undone, when about to raise war against us, but used to call prophets together, and summon sorcerers, and everything was full of demons and evil spirits.

There is a clear distinction between heaven and earth in Chrysostom. This continues throughout Chrysostom’s writings. A simple search will affirm this. The texts I have cited are not exhaustive merely representative. The texts you quoted about heaven being here and now are much the same pattern we see in other places, for example Jonathan Edwards’ “Heaven is a World of Love”, Christians can speak of present aspects of the kingdom, particularly in love and ethics without denying in the slightest that heaven is a place separate from the earth. Just this introductory reading of these quotes of Chrysostom show that he does not deny that heaven is a separate “place”. Pagitt does deny this—and what he says is a problem, particularly if he claims to be an orthodox Christian.

While there are clearly present aspects of the kingdom for Chrysostom, it is not to the extent that heaven and earth are not distinct places. In his thought they quite clearly are. There is no such this as the "integrated way" either in Hebraic thought of the first century or in Chrysostom's thought. There is no "holism" that Pagitt advocates. There clearly remains the distinction of places with respect to "heaven" and "earth" in Chrysostom's thought.

Thankful to whom?

Like many pastors, I spoke last night at a thanksgiving eve service. I spoke at Psalm 111. I talked quite personally about how I am often not thankful enough. I do not marvel enough at the works of God or think about his wonder.
I started some of the my thoughts from Romans 1:21:

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
I pointed out that the person who doesn't believe in a personal God has no one to really thank. They thank people and have a warm feeling of 'thanks' but it is impersonal and void. It is really a pride in self. I pointed out how often I in my sin thank, but secretly reserve a bit of "I earned this" or "I deserve this".
I made the point that our whole life is to be about thanking God. We are created to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." So often we fail to ponder the works of God. But it is the height of impeity and ungodliness, to deny true thanksgiving to God.
Some of my thoughts were sparked by finding this quote over at Jollyblogger:

The οὐχ ηὐχαρίστησαν, “were not thankful,” is not to be understood as a kind of standard formality (as could the earlier epistolary use; see on 1:8). In contrast here Paul is obviously thinking more in terms of thanksgiving as characteristic of a whole life, as the appropriate response of one whose daily experience is shaped by the recognition that he stands in debt to God, that his very life and experience of living is a gift from God (4 Ezra 8.60); cf. Kuss. In Paul’s perspective this attitude of awe (the fear of the Lord) and thankful dependence is how knowledge of God should express itself. But human behavior is marked by an irrational disjunction between what manknows to be the true state of affairs and a life at odds with that knowledge. This failure to give God his due and to receive life as God’s gift is Paul’s way of expressing the primal sin of humankind.

[Dunn, J. D. G. (2002). Vol. 38A: Word Biblical Commentary : Romans 1-8. Word Biblical Commentary (59). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]
Today, as if I needed another illustration, I found this article from John Piper. I dare say it is a must read. READ IT. Print it a tuck it away. Take Heed! He responds to atheist Christopher Hitchens and liberal Bishop Spong, their theology (or lack thereof) leaves them with no one and even no need for thanksgiving. It is the height of ungodliness expoused. Here are some juicy quotes:

Hitchens said that those of us who believe in the God of Christianity are “condemned to live in this posture of gratitude, permanent gratitude, to an unalterable dictatorship in whose installation we had no say."

Quoting Spong:

the traditional understanding of the cross of Christ has become inoperative on every level. As I have noted previously, a rescuing deity results in gratitude, never in expanded humanity. Constant gratitude, which the story of the cross seems to encourage, creates only weakness, childishness and dependency.”


You say this “constant gratitude” produces “childishness.” Not really. Children do not naturally say thank you. They come into the world believing that the world owes them everything they want. You have to drill “thank you” into the selfish heart of a child. Feeling grateful and saying it often is a mark of remarkable maturity. We have a name for people who don’t feel thankful for what they receive. We call them ingrates. And everyone knows they are acting like selfish children. They are childish. No, Bishop Spong, God wants us to grow up into mature, thoughtful, wise, humble, thankful people. The opposite is childish.

In fact the opposite is downright cranky. C. S. Lewis, before he was a Christian, really disliked the message of the Bible that we should thank and praise God all the time. Then everything changed. What he discovered was not that praising and thanking made people childish, but that it made them large-hearted and healthy. He said, ‘The humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.’ That is my experience. When I am ungrateful, I am selfish and immature. When I am overflowing with gratitude I am healthy, other-oriented, servant-minded, Christ-exalting, and joyful.


You both seem to assume that the affection of gratitude is puerile and unsatisfying—something we need to grow out of if we would be deeply joyful and useful people. Presumably you feel that way because, in your experience, being self-sufficient and being thanked is more satisfying than feeling dependent and thankful. I have tasted this pleasure you seem to prefer. It is the pleasure of power—the pleasure of being above others so that they must give you thanks rather than the other way around.

If we really want to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, we will give thanks. What a perverted day we live in where black becomes white and evil becomes good. Thanksgiving to God is "bad" and "weak". We have become Nebuchadnezzars who will not yield to God, but we cry up to heaven: "I am the greatest, I will not bend my knee" We think we have built our life with our power and our might, our houses, fancy cars, stable jobs, economic prosperity, and most of all the force of will and strength of our personalities.
Angels and ministers of grace, defend us. Dear Lord, enable us as your people to humble ourselves.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Happy Thanksgiving

I found this over at Star

Hope everybody has a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Bodily Ascension

Standard Orthodox theology holds that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead and ascends bodily into heaven. This has been held from the days of the New Testament, but the church Fathers argued this. This is particularly in cases where they were often arguing against Gnosticism or Greek thought that denied the bodily resurrection and despised the ascension of a body into heaven. This ties into much of what I said in "Heaven in a Worldview." Christ remains incarnate and as incarnate He is in heaven at the right hand of God as our intercessor. The incarnation continues so that Christ can offer mediatation for us.
And the term in question, ‘highly exalted,’ does not signify that the essence of the Word was exalted, for He was ever and is ‘equal to God,’ but the exaltation is of the manhood. Accordingly this is not said before the Word became flesh; that it might be plain that ‘humbled’ and ‘exalted’ are spoken of His human nature; for where there is humble estate, there too may be exaltation; and if because of His taking flesh ‘humbled’ is written, it is clear that ‘highly exalted’ is also said because of it. For of this was man’s nature in want, because of the humble estate of the flesh and of death. Since then the Word, being the Image of the Father and immortal, took the form of the servant, and as man underwent for us death in His flesh, that thereby He might offer Himself for us through death to the Father; therefore also, as man, He is said because of us and for us to be highly exalted, that as by His death we all died in Christ, so again in the Christ Himself we might be highly exalted, being raised from the dead, and ascending into heaven, ‘whither the forerunner Jesus is for us entered, not into the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.’ But if now for us the Christ is entered into heaven itself, though He was even before and always Lord and Framer of the heavens, for us therefore is that present exaltation written.
3. And besides, the Saviour came to accomplish not His own death, but the death of men; whence He did not lay aside His body by a death of His own—for He was Life and had none—but received that death which came from men, in order perfectly to do away with this when it met Him in His own body. 4. Again, from the following also one might see the reasonableness of the Lord’s body meeting this end. The Lord was especially concerned for the resurrection of the body which He was set to accomplish. For what He was to do was to manifest it as a monument of victory over death, and to assure all of His having effected the blotting out of corruption, and of the incorruption of their bodies from thenceforward; as a gage of which and a proof of the resurrection in store for all, He has preserved His own body incorrupt.
For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father...And thus was He, with the flesh, received up in their sight unto Him that sent Him, being with that same flesh to come again, accompanied by glory and power. For, say the [holy] oracles, “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen Him go unto heaven.” But if they say that He will come at the end of the world without a body, how shall those “see Him that pierced Him,” and when they recognise Him, “mourn for themselves?” For incorporeal beings have neither form nor figure, nor the aspectof an animal possessed of shape, because their nature is in itself simple.
Irenaeus responds to the Gnostic notion of noncorporeal ascension and their despising of the body, Against Heresies:

For they do not choose to understand, that if these things are as they say, the Lord Himself, in whom they profess to believe, did not rise again upon the third day; but immediately upon His expiring on the cross, undoubtedly departed on high, leaving His body to the earth. But the case was, that for three days He dwelt in the place where the dead were, as the prophet says concerning Him: “And the Lord remembered His dead saints who slept formerly in the land of sepulture; and He descended to them, to rescue and save them.” And the Lord Himself says, “As Jonas remained three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth.” Then also the apostle says, “But when He ascended, what is it but that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?” This, too, David says when prophesying of Him, “And thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost hell;” and on His rising again the third day, He said to Mary, who was the first to see and to worship Him, “Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to the disciples, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and unto your Father.”2. If, then, the Lord observed the law of the dead, that He might become the first-begotten from the dead, and tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth;” then afterwards rising in the flesh, so that He even showed the print of the nails to His disciples, He thus ascended to the Father;—[if all these things occurred, I say], how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that “the lower parts” refer to this world of ours, but that their inner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? For as the Lord “went away in the midst of the shadow of death,” where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God.

In other words, Christ goes bodily into the presence of God and we too will one day be in God's presence bodily.

Tertullian The Resurrection of the Flesh.He is dealing with what Paul means by "flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God". You really should read the whole section and the context but for the ascension:
yet God—the last Adam, yet the primary Word—flesh and blood, yet purer than ours—who “shall descend in like manner as He ascended into heaven”the same both in substance and form, as the angels affirmed, so as even to be recognised by those who pierced Him. Designated, as He is, “the Mediatorbetween God and man,” He keeps in His own self the deposit of the flesh which has been committed to Him by both parties—the pledge and security of its entire perfection. For as “He has given to us the earnest of the Spirit,” so has He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it with Him into heaven as a pledge of that complete entirety which is one day to be restored to it. Be not disquieted, O flesh and blood, with any care; in Christ you have acquired both heaven and the kingdom of God. Otherwise, if they say that you [i.e. flesh and blood] are not in Christ, let them also say that Christ is not in heaven, since they have denied you heaven. Likewise “neither shall corruption,” says he, “inherit incorruption.” This he says, not that you may take flesh and blood to be corruption, for they are themselves rather the subjects of corruption,—I mean through death, since death does not so much corrupt, as actually consume, our flesh and blood. But inasmuch as he had plainly said that the works of the flesh and blood could not obtain the kingdom of God, with the view of stating this with accumulated stress, he deprived corruption itself—that is, death, which profits so largely by the works of the flesh and blood—from all inheritance of incorruption.
If we deny heaven is a place, what are we saying about the continuing incarnation? If we deny the continuing incarnation what do we say about the resurrection and the ascension?
The Heidelberg Catechism says it this way:
Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension into heaven?

Answer: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eschatology 101 Charts

Basic First Century Judaism: a. In First Century Judaism the age to come and the point of transition into include the judgment, the resurrection, and the recreation of the heavens and the earth.

b. At this point the Messiah would rule all creation and defeat the Romans.

c. History continues with the eschatos ushered in and the triumph of Israel's God overall enemies.

The 'Already/Not Yet':

Basic New Testament Fulfillment between the first and second comming.

a. Christ now reigns in fulfillment of Psalm 2, 8 and 110.

b. The resurrection of Christ is the ‘first fruits’.

c. The ‘last days’ have begun.

d. We await the final end of things.


a. The 1,000 years of Rev. 20 is future of us but before Christ.

b. The millennium is either the spread of the gospel or the world converted to Christianity and under a sort of ‘Christian state’ of peace and prosperity.

c. 1,000 years is either literal or a metaphor.


a. The 1,000 years is a description of the present age until Christ returns.

b. Not literal but a metaphor.

c. It describes a ‘spiritual’ reality. The kingdom is a present reality. Christ's reigns over the kingdom and all creation. Christ on the throne of David now.

Historic Premillennial:

a. Believers go through the tribulation.

b. The ‘rapture’ occurs with the return so that the saints are called up with Christ and then immediately descend with Him.

c. Christ ushers in a 1,000 year period where he reigns on earth.

d. Christ is on the throne of David right now.

Dispensational Premillennial:

a. Christ comes down into the clouds and ‘raptures’ all the Christians. They all leave earth and go to heaven.

b. Believing Christians do not experience the tribulation.

c. The rest of humanity is left of earth and God returns to his program with Israel.

d. The saints will return with Christ seven years after their rapture where Christ sets up the kingdom.

f. There is a 1,000 year reign where Christ and the resurrected Christians along with Israel rule.

g. Some hold that Israel an the church are eternal distinct in separate places. New Heaven for Christians and the new earth for Jewish believers.

h. Distinguishes between Christ's present reign in heaven and the kingdom that will come. (Some more classic types make this distinction more radical so that Christ is not on the throne of David). Some completely postpone the kingdom Jesus offered in the Gospels (progressive dispensationalism has corrected this).

Common to all:
a. Christ returns bodily and that has not happened yet.

b. There is a belief in a literal judgment. (symbolized by the 'bomb').

c. There is the belief in a literal bodily resurrection.

d. The eternal state includes the new heavens and the new earth.

e. All affirm the basic early orthodox creeds on the resurrection, judgment and the eternal state.

f. All believe in a literal hell/lake of fire for the unsaved and eternal life for the saved.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eschatology 101b

Eschatology (Cont'd).

d. What do the Scriptures say about the events associated with Christ’s return?

Before the return of Christ the antichrist, or man of lawlessness will be revealed. In the zest to determine whom the final antichrist might be and consider his role in the Biblical end times we often forget that according to John anyone who denies that Christ came in the flesh is an antichrist (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). Yet there will be an ultimate antichrist who will lead the world in rebellion against God. Paul calls him the ‘man of lawlessness.’ He will even demand worship and proclaim himself to be God (2 Thes. 2:3-4). Revelation 13 also describes him as the beast. The antichrist will not be revealed until the one who holds it back is taken out of the way (2 Thes. 2:7-8). There is not enough exegetical evidence to indicate who this is, although it might be the Holy Spirit. We do know that coming of the ‘man of lawlessness’ is in accordance with the work of Satan. Ultimately it is the Lord Jesus who will overthrow this man by the splendor of His coming to earth (2 Thes. 2:8).

The second coming of Christ will be a literal physical return of Christ to the earth. Acts 1:10-11 tells us that the same why Christ ascended into the sky He will descend. He ascended in his glorified body; he will also descend in his glorified body. The return of Christ to the earth is described most fully in Revelation 19. It will precede the resurrection of those who are ‘in Christ’. This return of Christ is also described in 1 Cor. 15:51-57 and 1 Thes. 4:16-5:10 but in less detail. However, only God the Father knows the exact time of the second coming of Christ (Matt. 24:36, et al).

The ultimate hope of the believer is the resurrection. Even in the Old Testament the resurrection is the primary hope of the believer (Daniel 12:1-3; Ezekiel 37:1-14; et al). Christ’s own resurrection, that inaugurated the age to come, is the ‘firstfruits’ that guarantees the resurrection of those who are ‘in Christ’ (1 Cor. 15 esp.: v.23.). This resurrection will be to a glorified body (1 Cor. 15:42-49). The resurrection of the dead is the key eschatological event a believer looks for in anticipation that must remain foundational to our understanding of the Word of God concerning the end times, second only to the literal physical return of Christ. Therefore, it seems wise that we should not split up or divide the resurrection without clear explicit exegetical warrant. At this point, I do not believe there is the exegetical warrant for splitting the resurrection up more than is explicitly stated in Rev. 20.[1] Revelation 20:4-5 indicates that the first resurrection is immediately prior to the millennium. If this is explicitly the first resurrection then I do not believe we have support for splitting up the resurrection of believers.[2]

1 Corinthians 15 teaches that our resurrection is based on the fact of the resurrection of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 is often used to defend the pretribulation rapture of the church. The context is clearly the resurrection. Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 (esp. 16-18[3]) is also used to defend the pretribulation rapture of the saints. This also seems to refer to the resurrection because here also is where we find the ‘trumpet call of God’. This context seems to indicate the coming of the Lord and the resurrection happen together. Since Rev. 20:4-5, places this first resurrection before the millennium I do not believe there is enough exegetical evidence to split the rapture and resurrection of the church with the resurrection of tribulation saints.

Interestingly, in 2 Thessalonians when Paul was writing to them in assurance that the ‘Day of the Lord’ had not yet begun he does not say, “What are you worried about? You know you won’t be here for it and the fact that you are still here should tell you it hasn’t begun.” What he does tell them is that it has not begun because the man of lawlessness has not been revealed (2:3-4). While this argument is an argument from silence, it does hold some weight. If Paul was clearly believed in a pretribulation rapture and the Thessalonians really understood Paul’s teaching before he left they should not have been worrying in the first place and Paul could have simple reassured them that the rapture was pretribulational. Another important point that must be considered from 2 Thes. 1:6-10 is that at the same time the just judgment of God is described right along with God’s provision of relief for the believer. The passage describes one coming of the Lord which provides both relief for the believer and everlasting destruction for the unbeliever:

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you."

In light of the context it seems to argue for a single coming of the Lord because this coming is when the Lord will be glorified in his people. Paul is specific that this group of people does include the Thessalonians because they believe. What Paul seems to indicate is that all Christians in the church will be glorified at the return of Christ, this would also include the large number of Jews which Rom. 11:26 seems to speak of.

Rev. 3:10 is most often used to support a pretribulation rapture. While it is possible that it does indicate a pretribulation rapture, it could also mean the God will protect his church during the tribulation. The text reads of Rev 3:10kagw/ se thrhsw ek th$ wra$ tou= peirasmou= th$ mellou/sh$ erxesqai epi\ th$ oi)koumenh$” (NIV: I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world…). The pretribulationist argues that thrhsw ek denotes physical ‘removal from’. The first problem is that nowhere in Biblical Greek does ek (from) mean ‘outside position’ as if marking physical or spatial position outside of.[4] The preposition e)k generally marks separation from [out of] not physical or separation [outside of]. John 17:15b combines the Greek words threw (keep or protect) and ek in the only other combination in Scripture besides Rev. 3:10[5]. Whereas in John 17:15a when Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world” the verb ai[rw is used for ‘removal’ from [out of] the world (e)k tou¾ kovsmou). In John 17:15b the two words (threw and ek) clearly do not mean “removal from” or “keep them outside of”; given that the same author writes Revelation there could be a parallel here. Rev. 3:10 could mean ‘protection from’ marking spiritual protection within but not ‘removal from’ or ‘keep outside of’ the tribulation.[6] Rev. 3:10 most likely refers to God’s protection upon his people within the tribulation, the ‘hour of trial’. This interpretation seems to consistently reflect the use of threw and ek. It is God who protects and preserves his people so that they do not experience his wrath, although they will experience persecution. We should point out while the pretribulation view puts a lot of weight on this verse, the argument for the pretribulation rapture or the posttribulation rapture does not rise or fall on a single verse.

Paul is clear 1 Thes. 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This wrath however, does not have to be referring to the wrath of the tribulation but the final judgment from which we will be saved. Paul seems to use ‘God’s wrath’ and ‘wrath’ primarily in connection with the final judgment and not the tribulation.

At this point I favor the posttribulation rapture. My reasoning is primarily because of the significance of the resurrection above ‘schemes’ and ‘timelines,’ which often may be imposed on the text. This is compounded by the generally recognized fact that the genre of apocalyptic literature is intended by the author to be highly symbolic and provide hope for the future rather than a detailed roadmap.[7] Two points of elaboration should be made with regard to this.

First, I think we need to be careful before assuming the tribulation is an exact seven-year period and adding a detailed extrapolation of dates within it. The only warrant for this seven-year period comes in the highly debatable passage of Daniel 9:20-27 (esp. 26-27). Elsewhere in Scripture, as we have noted, there will be a period of worsening trials and troubles, culminating in a great tribulation or hour of trial. It is quite possible that the tribulation is referred to as the last week in Daniel but there is too much debate surrounding this passage in my mind at this point. For example, George Eldon Ladd argues that Daniel 9:27 the words “and he shall make a covenant with many for one week” literally translated means “He shall cause the covenant to prevail”. He concludes “The messianic interpretation sees the subject as Christ, [as apposed to the interpretation that the subject is the antichrist] who confirms and fulfills the covenant already in existence so that its terms and conditions are now to be made more effective.”[8] Rev. 7:14 speaks of the ‘great tribulation’, Revelation never seems to set a specific timetable of seven years to it. Regardless of one’s view of the tribulation, as Christians we should not discount suffering as something we will never undergo (Phil. 1:29). Revelation, consistent with the genre of apocalyptic literature, is written not so that believers can relax because they will not face trials and persecution, but so that the believer will stand strong and firm through persecution, trial and tribulation knowing that no matter what happens the final victorious outcome is assured.

Jesus does speak of the worsening times of tribulation that will immediately precede the coming of the Son of Man (Matt 24, and parallels). It will be a horrific time: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now” (Matt 24:21) We should remain clear that if Christians are on earth during the tribulation God’s wrath will not be poured out on them although they will suffer the wrath of the beast and unbelievers, which John makes clear in Revelation.

Second, I do believe there is a certain amount of imminence to the second coming of Christ. The ‘day of the Lord’ does come like a thief in the night, yet it should not surprise believers (1Thes. 5:1,2,4). Imminence does not necessarily demand ‘any moment’. However we must never fall into the trap of trying predicting the return of Christ either exactly or with a degree of certainty. We are to look forward to Christ return with hope knowing that he will establish a 1,000-year earthly reign, we will receive the resurrection and reign with Christ, and at the end of the 1,000 years Satan will be defeated. This hope of return of Christ should play a large part in our daily living in light of any present trials or sufferings. Our ultimate victory remains secure because we are ‘in Christ’ and will be resurrected just as he was

e. What do the Scriptures say about the millennium?

While the reign of Christ began at Christ’s resurrection and exaltation, his kingdom will be brought to earth at his second coming. This reign of a physical kingdom over all the earth lasts 1,000 years while Satan is bound up. Rev. 20:1-5 teaches that this reign is a literal one thousand years. In this age the promises that where inaugurated at the first advent of Christ, such as the Holy Spirit with us, will reach their climax. All the Davidic promises that have not been fulfilled will be fulfilled.

While some debate whether or not John’s mention of ‘coming to life’ the first time refers to a “spiritual” coming to life or if it refers to a bodily resurrection, the latter is more likely for five reasons. First, while other New Testament passages talk about our present reign with Christ (Col 3:1; Eph. 2:6;), even Paul speaks of a future reign if we endure (2 Tim. 2:12). John also earlier gives hope for those who overcome are promised to reign, something clearly future (Rev. 2:26; 3:21). Indeed with many aspects of the kingdom of God there is a tension of an already/not yet that cannot be overlooked. There is no indication in Scripture that we presently exercise judgment over the world. In fact 1 Cor. 6:2,3 speaks of a future judgment being exercised by believers. John is clear that this installment of reigning with Christ is one of judgment (Rev. 2:4). The ezhsan and appointment to judge are related so ezhsan [they came to life] is not a spiritual coming to life but a bodily physical resurrection.

Second, it would be awkward, to say ‘the rest of the dead came to life’ if the first reference of coming to life was ‘spiritual’. In fact, all would then have to yet participate in second ‘coming to life’, what the amillennial view sees as bodily the resurrection. The fact that the 20:5 says, “the rest of the dead” indicates that it is those who did not experience this first resurrection who will come to life after the 1,000 years are over. These dead come to life before the judgment in Rev. 20:12-15.

Third, it is difficult to image that John would use ezhsan twice within two verses and have a double meaning. While we cannot rule out the use of double meaning as a literary device (Cf. John 3:7ff ‘born again’ can mean ‘born from above), it seems unlikely here since John gives little contextual reason for the meaning to change. We cannot make an appeal to symbolism or a spiritual meaning without sufficient exegetical warrant, such as clear contextual indication that the subject has shifted, which the text does not contain.

Fourth, the progression of the passage, which speaks of the dead of the martyrs followed by the statement kai\ ezhsan kai\ ebasileusan meta\ tou= Xristou= xilia eth, would seem to suggest physical realities are in view. Note that in 6:9ff, the souls of the martyrs await God’s justice giving no indication that they are reigning with Christ as Rev 20 describes. It is in Rev. 20 they are raised to physical life they receive and exercise justice. IF John had want to point to the spiritual life and spiritual reign of the believer it would make more sense to place the statement kai\ ezhsan kai\ ebasileusan meta\ tou= Xristou= xilia eth [they came to life and reigned with Christ 1,00 years] (and perhaps the statement auth h( anastasi$ h( prwth [this is the first resurrection]) before drawing attention to the beheaded martyrs who experienced physical death.

Fifth, there are numerous passages that speak of the activity of Satan in this present age (cf. Luke 22:3; Acts 5:3; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 11:14; Eph. 2:2; 1 Thes. 2:18; 2 Tim. 2:26; and 1 Pet. 5:8). To see the binding of Satan in Rev. 20:1-3 as in anyway a present experience of the world or the church at best minimizes the vividness of the language in Revelation along with certainty and comprehensive nature of Satan’s captivity, and at worst removes all meaning from the idea of a real imprisonment and real binding. Satan’s hold on individuals is defeated by the power of God in the gospel but this is not the type of binding described in Rev. 20:1-3. Rev. 20:3 says Satan cannot deceive the nations, presently Satan does blind people in unbelief (2 Cor. 4:3-4). He is clearly not yet bound, in fact “he prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). The comprehensive binding of Satan immediately precedes ezhsan ('they came to life' e.g. the first resurrection) and the 1,000 years, indicating the first resurrection and 1,000-year reign is something we are clearly awaiting as long as Satan remains unbound.[9]

While arguments can be (and most certainly have been) mounted against a premillennial interpretation, this interpretation seems strongest based on the context. However, we will briefly respond to two common critiques to a premillennial position. First, is the critique that all other references to the resurrection indicate only one physical resurrection where both the righteous and unrighteous appear to be raised at the exact same time. This is not insurmountable, without discussing every Scriptural presentation of the resurrection we can simply point out that in the Old Testament even the first and second advent of Christ is telescoped in such a way that they often appear as one event. Second, it is often objected that if the premillennial position is true Revelation 20 is the only place that speaks of it have a time of 1,000 years. Without trying to flippantly dismiss the objection, it is sufficient to respond here simply by noting the progressive nature of God’s revelation. Only at this point did God seem fit to spell out more specifically the nature and extent our reign with Christ in his kingdom. Giving the organic nature of revelation, the passage expands and grows upon what is previously revealed.

We should point out that even for the premillennialist the ultimate hope is not the 1,000 years but the new heavens and the new earth. We cannot be so focused on the 1,000 years that we neglect the new heavens and the new earth. When discussing the 1,000 years and our eternal life with God in the new heavens and the new earth, we must be sure to stress the quality of our reigning with Christ and fellowship with God and not simply the extent as if only the extent of what happens is what makes it superior. When we think of the extent of our future we should automatically think of the quality and when we think of the quality we should automatically think of the extent.

f. The Judgments

There are two judgments one for the saved and one for the unsaved. The first is the bema seat of Christ. The bema seat is described by Paul in Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, and 2 Corinthians 5:10. At this judgment the believers’ eternal destiny is not at stake rather his position in the kingdom of God. He is judged by the deeds he has done. Paul describes it as a fire that tests the quality of each person’s work. The person himself remains saved. It light of this judgment we are to carefully devote ourselves to the Lord’s service using the gifts he has given us.

The next judgment is the Great White Throne judgment. This is described in 20:11-15. This is the judgment for those who are unsaved. No one will have any excuse as they stand before God, only those who are covered by the righteousness of Christ and have his work imputed to their account will not be condemned on this day. Paul in his argument that both Jew and Gentile are under sin goes into some detail in Romans 2. In 2:1-5 the self-righteous and hypocritical Jew demonstrates a recalcitrant heart and thus is not exempt from God’s judgment against sin. In 2:6-11, Paul explains that God’s eschatological judgment will be rendered impartially to Jew and Gentile alike on the basis of their works. He goes on in 2:12-16 showing that God’s eschatological judgment will be rendered impartially to Jew and Gentile alike in accordance with the form of law God has given them. The Jews have not kept the law so the Jews’ presumption of privilege, based on the covenantal advantages of law and circumcision, is invalidated (2:17-29). Yet the one who is a true “Jew” is not one who conforms outwardly to the covenant sign of circumcision, but rather one who is “circumcised” and transformed inwardly by the Spirit (2:28-29). Paul is perfectly comfortable with God’s judgment based on works. The works however are not a relative or sliding scale. All have fall short. Yet it is those who are justified by faith and have the Spirit in their hearts who will stand in the judgment because their sins were paid for (Rom. 5:9 et al in Romans; 2 Thes. 1:8). We also know that God’s judgment will be just (2 Thes. 1:6).

g. The Eternal State.

The eternal state for the non-Christian is everlasting conscious suffering in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). Paul is quite clear that those who are unbelievers will be exclude from God's presence: 2 Thessalonians 1:9 "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." The final state for the believer will be in resurrected bodies dwelling on the New Heaven and the New Earth. God will dwell with them and they will dwell with God for eternity (Rev. 21,22). This resurrected body, for believers, is exactly like the resurrected body that Christ presently possesses. The eternal state is not a ‘soul’ apart from a ‘body’. The eternal state is the glory that God intended humanity to enjoy in the garden had they obeyed.

[1] I say ‘at this point’ because I have not done an in-depth study of Revelation 4-19 and Daniel 7-12 with consideration of their genre, apocalyptic literature, in my interpretation. I am fully convinced that Revelation 20 teaches a real 1,000 year millennial reign but I am unsure about the apocalyptic/prophetic structure of Revelation. I do not wish to demonstrate integrity to the Word of God in my personal life by not making any too many conclusions on the interpretation of Revelation without more complete study.

[2] Obviously the very first resurrection is the resurrection of Christ. Yet there does not seem to be enough warrant for saying the resurrection of the church and the resurrection of Israel are two separate events. However the second resurrection (in Rev 20:5) seems to refer to the resurrection of the unrighteous.

[3] 1 Thes. 4:17 says that the believer will be ‘caught up’ and the purpose will be ‘to meet the Lord in the air’ [ei$ apanthsin tou= kuriou ei$ aera]. While the word apanthsi$ is not necessarily a technical term it is often used in secular Greek literature (especially with parousiva) to describe a group of loyal subjects going out to meet coming king and usher him into their city with celebration. While it is not clear whether we can press this meaning onto the text here there is a good chance that may be what Paul has in mind. (Bruce, F.F. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. WBC. [Waco, Tx.: Word, 1982] 102-3. Balz, Horst and Gerhard Schneider. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1978) vol. 1 page 115)

[4] Cf. Feinberg, Paul “The Case for the Pretribulation Rapture Position” in Three Views of the Rapture: Pre- Mid- or Post-Tribulational? (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996) 63-69. And Douglas Moo’s rebuttal concerning ek pp 90-97. Moo notes that in classical Greek ek can occasionally mean physical or spatial separation from [i.e. the idea: outside of] (p.91).

[5] Moo also notes Acts 15:29 with a very similar construction with its use of ejk and diathrevw (which means virtually the same thing as threvw) as another example of ‘keeping from’ without denoting ‘removal from’ (Ibid. 94).

[6] Moo. Ibid. 198.

[7] For an example of some discussion on apocalyptic as a genre cf. Sandy, D. Brent and Martin G. Abegg, Jr. “Apocalyptic.” Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide to Interpreting the Literary Genres of the Old Testament. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995) 177-196. For example they say: “[A]pocalyptic is generally not a chronological account of the future but a literary shock treatment of bold and graphic images to take our attention away from the problems we currently face and give us hope that God will win a resounding victory over all evil” (188). “If we could solve all the puzzles of apocalyptic, it would defraud the genre of the mystery that is intended to surround it” (189). “Likewise, correct interpretation of apocalyptic seeks to understand the big picture—the meaning of the whole rather than the meaning of parts” (189). Any interpretation of the text needs to respect the genre of the literature, I have not done enough personal work in revelation to wrestle with all the details.

[8] George Eldon Ladd, The Last Things. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 61.

[9] For basically the same point cf. Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Revised. NICNT. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans. 1998) 361-2.

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