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Posts Tagged ‘Amillennialism’

Which Is Easier To Say?

Posted by Job on May 26, 2011

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This [man] blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. Matthew 9:2-7

I have three observations from this passage.

1. Jesus Christ saw that this man had faith and then acted. Thus, faith was prior. This contradicts the curious doctrine held by many Reformed or Calvinistic believers that regeneration precedes faith. Now this doctrine has some merit, but only from an eternal viewpoint, from the perspective of the transcendent God who exists outside of time. This transcendent God chose His people, the ones who would be saved, from before the foundation of the world, and when He did so, it was done. Those people were considered saved, spared the wrath to come, and nothing could be done to nullify or revoke this fact. However, the eternal viewpoint is not the only viewpoint. God is not only transcendent, apart from time and creation (denying this, making God a part of creation, is the bedrock of so many false religions) but immanent with respect to creation, meaning that God does maintain a presence in time-space – indeed this presence is omnipresent – and sustains it (denying this is deism, among many other false systems), and then there was immanence par excellence by way of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. So while the salvation of the elect was an accomplished matter as soon as God decreed it before the foundation of the world, the regeneration of human beings happens at a specific time and place that God has also decreed. Compare this with the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the elect on the cross. That Jesus Christ would do this thing was decreed by God the Father in eternity before creation was accomplished. However, God also declared that accomplishing atonement would happen by way of His Son’s entering space-time, dying on the cross at a specified time and place in a manner that fulfilled prophecies from earlier times and diverse places, and being likewise raised from the dead. Though this act accomplished salvation for all the elect regardless of time, the cross nonetheless happened at a particular time. It would be therefore be improper to say “the atonement preceded Jesus Christ going to the cross” if for no other reason than the Bible’s specifically stating otherwise. In like manner, this example shows that one cannot say that regeneration precedes faith. In this text, Jesus Christ saw that faith already present in the man, and forgave his sins. Though faith is not of man but of God, a gift of the Holy Spirit sovereignly bestowed upon the elect according to the decree before the foundation of the world of the Ancient of Days, who is God the Father, this example shows that the Godhead is glorified by the Holy Spirit’s first giving a person faith and then accomplishing the work of regeneration that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross made possible. (I am aware that people were regenerated by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament prior to Jesus Christ’s atonement, with the deathless ascensions of Enoch and Elijah being the chief examples, but this was based on looking forward to the atoning act that Jesus Christ would accomplish at a particular place in time. Even in these cases, regeneration did not precede faith, and as the epistle to the Hebrews conclusively lays out, atonement did not precede the cross.)

2. Though “regeneration precedes faith” is a doctrinal aberration adhered to by some Calvinists, Reformed soteriology is also confirmed by this text. For at what point did the paralytic man exercise his free will? At what point did this paralytic man ask for his sins to be forgiven and to be saved? This paralytic man did have faith, mind you, and this faith was in whatever relevation of the Person of Jesus Christ that he had access to (for the Lord was not yet lifted up on the cross for sins, nor had He yet risen from the dead). But make no mistake: he came to Jesus Christ expecting to be healed! Even if he presumed that his paralysis was due to sin on his part (and the Bible makes it clear in the book of Job and when Jesus Christ healed the man born blind in the gospel of John that such is a false assumption!) the text and the context of this episode does not reveal that this paralytic had the priestly role of Jesus Christ in mind when he sought the Christ’s aid. It should also be noted that even the unbelievers in this episode did not challenge Jesus Christ’s ability to heal this man, but to forgive his sins! So, this man went to Jesus Christ expecting to be physically healed and thereby fulfilled his human responsibility of exercising his God-given faith (though this faith existed in the context of limited human knowledge) and when Jesus Christ being sovereign God saw that the faith given by the sovereign God the Holy Spirit was present in this man, Jesus Christ acted sovereignly, of His own initiative, unasked and uninvited (this man did not “ask Jesus Christ into his heart” or “say a sinner’s prayer”!) to save this man from his sins! And when the sovereign God acted in this manner, the paralytic had no say in the manner. He could not reject, refuse or undo it, nor could he truly even consent to it! This text, this example clearly demonstrates unconditional election and irresistible grace.

3. Point 1, that regeneration does not precede faith, and point 2, that unconditional election and irresistible grace are true doctrines, should inform our evangelism. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God says God the Holy Spirit in Romans 10:17. Regeneration happens when – in accordance with the time and place chosen by the Ancient of Days – one who has been elected unto salvation and given to Jesus Christ in eternity but from the temporal perspective is unregenerate encounters Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel, receives the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit, and is saved by the work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:14 asks us rhetorically “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” The Holy Spirit does not give faith apart from the preaching of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit does not regenerate in the absence of this faith.

Yet, the gospel is oft not being preached! A form of the gospel, perhaps, but not the gospel. The gospel of good works is often substituted where we try to draw people to Jesus Christ by being good, loving moral people so that we won’t have to use words. The Roman Catholic Francis of Assisi did say “preach the gospel, and use words if necessary”, but that is not Romans 10:14 or Romans 10:17. Also, a gospel of politics and social action is offered up to draw people to Jesus Christ, whether it is the conservative one of opposing abortion and homosexuality or the liberal one of relieving poverty and opposing political oppression. Yes, the Bible speaks of morality and justice on a personal and societal level, but those are in the interests of revealing God’s attributes and nature to mankind, and accepting only some of God’s attributes and not God Himself is but idolatry. Yet, these and other such flawed, distorted gospel presentations, which amounts to either Christless evangelism or evangelism that presents a false Christ, are common, even dominant.

Why? Well the answer is given in the text. When Jesus Christ presented the gospel – presented Himself in His priestly role and His divine prerogatives that bore witness to His identity as God in the flesh – what happened? He was opposed. He was hated. He was rejected. He experienced trials and persecution. “And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This [man] blasphemeth.” And the same thing happens to us when we present Jesus Christ as God who is not only Savior but Lord and Judge! That is what happens when we tell people that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and unless we repent of our sins, believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation and love Him by keeping His commandments! We experience opposition! We face persecution!

Now instead of accepting what the Bible says when it tells us that we will receive opposition just as Jesus Christ did, that we will be scorned and rejected just as Jesus Christ was, because He is our Master and the servant is not greater than his master, we decide that the problem is either us or the message. We decide that if we are experiencing opposition, it is because something is wrong with us and we need to change. We decide that if we are experiencing rejection, it is because something is wrong with the message and the message needs to change. So, in order to gain carnal acceptance, we take Christ out of the message. When we deny that Jesus Christ is the only way, we deny Christ. When we deny that true repentance means turning away from sins and living in obedience to Jesus Christ, we deny Jesus Christ. When we deny that God alone saves us, and not works or membership in a church, we deny Jesus Christ. And when we deny or omit the reality of eternal judgment and damnation for sinners, we deny Jesus Christ.

And why do we do this? Go back to the text. “For whether is easier, to say, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” We do it because it is easier! Again, the scribes who persecuted Jesus Christ with their blasphemy in this episode were willing to accept Jesus Christ the teacher, because there were many teachers. They were willing to accept Jesus Christ the prophet, for there had been several prophets. They were willing to accept Jesus Christ the priest, for there were many priests. They were willing to accept Jesus Christ the king, for there had been several kings. They were willing to accept Jesus Christ the miracle-worker, for there had been miracle workers. What they were not willing to accept was Jesus Christ as God, as the one God, as their God! Had Jesus Christ merely been willing to be accepted, He could have just healed the man’s paralysis and ignored that man’s sin. For what? So that man would have been well and whole and therefore able to walk into the lake of fire for eternity instead of being carried there? Is that what would have been in that man’s interests? How? Or had Jesus Christ merely been willing to avoid rejection by His own people and persecution, even the death on the cross, He could have just overthrown the Romans and been made emperor of the world with Jerusalem as the capital and Israel the chief people. After all, didn’t Satan offer Jesus Christ the very same deal during His temptation in the desert? But the people would have enjoyed the earthly benefits of Jesus Christ’s imperial rule during their lives only to be cast into the lake of fire after they died, because no atonement would have been made for their sins!

So, Jesus Christ didn’t just take the easy way in merely presenting Himself to this man as his Healer, a role that He knew that the faithless unelect would accept Him. Instead, He presented Himself to this man as his God, a role that He knew would be rejected by the faithless and the reprobate! Jesus Christ took the hard way! He asked “Which is it easier to do, forgive his sins or heal him” and did the hard part, which was promise this man’s salvation at that time, and then be the personal guarantor, the personal surety of that salvation when He went to the cross later! But now, so many of us who presume to speak and teach in Jesus Christ’s Name despise the hard road that Jesus Christ took for the easy road. Which is easier to say? Repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ lest you perish for eternity? Or “I am pro-life?” Or “I support family values?” Or “America is a Christian nation founded on Biblical principles?” Or “marriage was created by God to be between one man and one woman?” Or “I stand with Israel?” Or “no justice, no peace!” Or “help the poor, the orphans and the widows”? Or “judge not”? Or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” Or “we must be good stewards of the environment and of our bodies?” Or “God is love”? While Biblical support can be found for all of those notions (provided that they are given in context) the point is that they fall short of the message of Jesus Christ, and fall particularly fall short of the message of Jesus Christ crucified for our sins and resurrected for our justification! The message of eternal life and worship of God to those who believe, and of woe and sorrow exceeding for those who do not!

And why do we avoid persecution by saying the easy things instead of the hard ones? Because though we profess to love God first with all our heart, soul and strength as the chief commandment requires us, the truth is that we love ourselves more. Because we love ourselves more, we love the world and the things in it more. That is being double-minded, and the epistle of James reminds us that such a person will never receive a thing from God, and that includes the free gift of salvation. So, Christian evangelist, I urge you to make your calling and election sure. Get off the easy way and take the hard way. Bear witness of the true Jesus Christ with the true gospel today, and do not withhold Jesus Christ and the gift of faith from your fellow man because you value yourself so much than you value your fellow man. If you are unwilling to experience persecution to liberate your fellow man from sin and death by preaching him the gospel, how can you say that you love him? And if you do not love your fellow man, whom you see every day, how can you say that you love God whom you do not see? The Bible asks the same question and you know the answer. Do not blaspheme Christ by saying that which is easy! Glorify Jesus Christ by telling the world the truth of Him.

If you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, I urge you to do so right now.

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Posted in abortion, abortion rights, Bible, Calvinism, Christianity, evangelism, false religion, false teaching, Jesus Christ, Reformed, religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Is Your Eschatology Political Or Biblical?

Posted by Job on March 12, 2011

Sorry for the disproportionate emphasis on the endtimes lately. Rest assured, I am not reverting back to my “Heal The Land With Spiritual Warfare” angry Pentecostal days when I was given to much speculation concerning anti-Christ new world order conspiracies. It is merely that I have finally gotten around to reading an excellent book recommended by the Irish Anglican, which is “Interpreting Revelation: A Reasonable Guide to Understanding the Last Book in the Bible” by the late Merrill Tenney, an evangelical theologian who at one point was under the employ of Wheaton College. Now this Tenney was not nearly objective; rather it was quite easy from reading the book to discern that his beliefs tended towards premillennial dispensationalism/pre-tribulation rapture. Fortunately (for me anyways) Tenney pays little attention to his rapture beliefs beyond “gently” mentioning it as a possibility now and then, and instead deals with other issues using my own preferred methodology, which is literal-historical-redemptive interpretation of Bible texts (a hermeneutic that relies mostly on literal interpretation but allows for symbolic and figurative interpretation where appropriate) supported by responsible prooftexting (interpreting scripture with scripture without using verses out of context in order to support some agenda or bias) and appeals to church history. This makes it possible for me to (mostly) agree with Tenney’s scholarship in “Interpreting Revelation” in spite of my disagreement with his belief in (and in this book advocacy of, however mildly) a pretribulation rapture.
Of particular interest are chapters 8 and 9 of his text, which are “The Chronological Approach” and “The Eschatological Method.” In those, Tenney makes the case – though oddly enough this case was not his intention to make – that premillennialism was the eschatological view adopted based on the Biblical (and extrabiblical) text, and that other systems, particularly preterism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism, were developed for political reasons. (Regrettably, Tenney fails to distinguish between his own modern premillennialism – which includes dispensationalism – and historic premillennialism, or chiliasm. His case would have been much stronger, and dare I say more honest, had he done so. That, and his shocking failure to deal with the objections to premillennialism – his own view – as thoroughly as he did with the systems with which he disagrees actually constitute a greater shortcoming than his occasional stumping for the pretribulation rapture.)
First, preterism. Tenney convincingly credits its development with Alcazar, a Roman Catholic Jesuit friar. This Alcazar was a counter-Reformer, which was a duty of The Society of Jesus in general. He developed preterism in order to refute Protestant attacks on the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church, as the Reformers polemically used Revelation to refer to this church and its pope as “Babylon” and “anti-Christ.” His method: claiming that Revelation was written in reference to the early church’s struggle with the Jews (chapters 1-12) and paganism (13-19) and had no contemporary or future application whatsoever. Thus, Alcazar followed after a long line that began at the very latest with Eusebius in marginalizing Revelation for political purposes. What is amazing is that Protestant theologians soon began to adopt for themselves a Roman Catholic system created for the very purpose of opposing – and attempting to destroy – the Protestant Reformation, and many have used it ever since despite knowing its original origin and purpose! Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
Next, Tenney deals with the political origins of postmillennialism: Augustine’s need to defend the declining Roman Empire (and the ecclesiastical arm of the church-state) along with it. The idea at the time – first proposed by Eusebius in his “official theology” created to support the political aims of Constantine, to whom Eusebius served as an “advisor” – was essentially that the Roman Empire through its making Christianity the state religion, was the earthly fulfilment of the kingdom of God, and that the empire and its church would grow (whether by conversion or coercion) to fill the earth and thereby fulfil the prophecies concerning the global reign of Jesus Christ. Of course, this doctrine JUST HAPPENED to provide a religious justification for the need/desire of the Roman Empire to wage war, conquer territory and subdue/repress people. When the Roman Empire began to crumble, Augustine had to rework his doctrines somewhat in order to arrive at the position that even though the present political order – the Roman Empire – might collapse, the visible church destined to gain global dominion (and domination) would continue by attaching itself to whatever political, social and economic order that existed (whether the Roman Empire of Constantine’s time, the feudalism of the Dark and Middle Ages, or our current political hegemony) and adapting to fit it.
To pull this off, Augustine had to use an allegorical/spiritual method of interpreting Revelation (and other texts) that allowed him to strip the text of its intended meaning and assign the meaning that suited his purposes, which of course were the purposes of the empire and its state church. In that regards, we can consider Augustine to be a postmodern reader-response deconstructionist sort whom the Marxist scholar Jacques Derrida merely followed after 1500 years later! One of the things that Augustine had to do was deny a literal first resurrection, that of the martyrs spoken of in Revelation 20:4-6, by making the amazing claim that this passage referred to Christian regeneration! Now while Augustine was technically not Roman Catholic (but rather “proto-Catholic”) it is still amazing that so many Protestants followed his eschatological groundwork when it so blatantly involved willfully denying the meaning of scripture in order to contrive an interpretation that suited his political needs. Now, the Reformers were motivated to remain basically loyal to Augustine’s eschatology because of their commitment to his soteriology. The problem is that where Augustine’s soteriology is easily confirmed by a plain reading of the Bible, one has to reject that plain reading in order to adopt his eschatology. The Reformers erred in not being consistent in their hermeneutics, and with regard to the magisterial Reformers in general, were not free of their own political needs in maintaining their own church-states.
Amillennialism, at least according to Tenney, is little more than an improved or more sophisticated and “realistic” postmillennialism. Thus, it follows the same Eusebius-Augustine theological lineage, and ultimately comes to the same conclusions, even if – again according to Tenney – it makes better use of scripture in arriving at them. For instance, amillennialism also generally denies a literal first resurrection. Which is understandable: if the church and the political/economic/military/religious/cultural systems (the world) are one and the same, then who is martyring the Christians that will be resurrected? However, it should be pointed out that amillennialists do generally acknowledge that evil will increase before the return of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ does return to overthrow and judge a wicked worldly system, a wicked ungodly antiChrist system (as opposed to a personal antiChrist). At best, this system is an attempt to reconcile political eschatology with what the Bible actually says. As stated earlier, this was likely done because these doctrines came as part of a larger packaged doctrinal system (i.e. covenant theology).
Then, there is premillennialism. Tenney does acknowledge that premillennialism was not the consensus view of the early church, though he does regretfully understate this fact. However, Tenney does effectively make the case that premillennialism was a doctrine of many Christians from the earliest times in recorded church history, and naming such people as Papias and Justin Martyr (who wrote mere decades after the canon was completed, as early as 115 AD) as well as Irenaeus. Tenney uses the uncanny similarity between the millenarian teachings in Revelation and those in such apocryphal books as Baruch and Esdras IV as evidence of the existence of chiliast beliefs in the first century church. Of course, many throughout church history have used this fact against premillennialism, claiming that it is Jewish propaganda and misinterpretations of prophecy, but that principle is not used against apocryphal and extrabiblical references that appear in other Bible books (i.e. the book of Jasher and the book of the wars of the Lord in the Old Testament; the book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses in Jude).
Of course, embrace of premillennialism was far from universal in the early church. However, some of that can be attributed to anti-Jewish bias among Gentile Christians (which scripture tells us was developing as far back as when Paul composed the epistle to the Romans), and more still to a lack of a normative canon, and in particular the fact that Revelation appears to have been among the last books to gain widespread circulation and acceptance. However, it is known that vigorous opposition to chiliasm – and in many cases to Revelation itself, including many who wanted to either explain away its meaning and application or keep it out of the canon altogether – did not arise until Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, and that this opposition was motivated by the need to depict the Roman Empire as the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Tenney’s assertion of this point is by no means unique, but is repeated in any number of books on church history, and in particular those that deal with the debate over Revelation’s inclusion in the canon.
A final positive contribution by Tenney is his debunking the common claim that premillennialism received its modern revival thanks to the works of such spurious characters as Cyrus Scofield. The effects of this contribution is somewhat diminished by Tenney’s failure to acknowledge that at least some of the Christians who began investigating premillennialism had social and political motivations. This was true of certain radical Anabaptists in their violent upheavals in the 16th and 17th centuries, and also of Christians operating in the political, economic and social upheavals in the United States and England in the 19th century. Still, Tenney does identify a list of more reputable scholars who contributed to the revival of premillennialism (including historic premillennialism, which again Tenney regrettably does not distinguish) including Johann Albrecht Bengel, Hermann Olshausen, Heny Alford (definitely a chiliast), Johann Peter Lange (somewhat questionable because of his tendencies towards neo-orthodoxy), Andrew Fausset (another chiliast), Joseph Seiss, Franz Delitzsch and Charles Ellicott. Unfortunately, Tenney does the credibility of his effort in compiling that list great harm by including Plymouth Brethren hyperdispensationalist (a position that challenges the unity of the New Testament by setting Paul’s teachings over against those of the gospels and Acts) John Nelson Darby on his list of “reputable scholars”! (Why Darby and not Scofield, who in some respects is actually LESS problematic?)
So, Tenney’s book, despite its problems, helps one arrive at the conclusion is that premillennialism is the eschatological position that, despite is shortcomings, reflects the Biblical text according to a consistent hermeneutic and early church doctrines, and not the political need to assert that a church-state serves as the kingdom of heaven until the return of Jesus Christ. The former view integrates Revelation into a consistent schema of Old and New Testament thought – and not merely thought related to the apocalyptic/eschatological/prophetic – while the latter makes one wonder why Revelation is in the canon in the first place, and especially its application to contemporary Christians.

Posted in anti - Christ, anti - Semitism, antichrist, beast, Bible, catholic, Christianity, church state, church worldliness, covenant theology, endtimes, eschatology, evangelism, false doctrine, false teaching, Israel, Jesus Christ, man of sin, mark of the beast, postmillennialism, prophecy, religion, religious right, replacement theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

An Important Distinction Between Israel And The Church

Posted by Job on July 18, 2010

God created Israel separate from the nations with the duty to be a light to the other nations. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit led Israel and were present with Israel, but did not indwell national Israel. Thus, Israel failed. Not only did they not become a light to the other nations, but fell into an apostate state whose abominations and wickedness actually EXCEEDED the evils of the other nations. Thus, only a righteous remnant preserved by God remained.

By contrast, when God created the church, it was not as a set apart nation to be a light to the other nations. Instead, God created the church as a people called out from ALL nations, Israel included, to be a light to the world. Where Israel was God’s national project with global implications, the church is God’s global project with eternal ramifications. And unlike national Israel, the church did not and will not fail. Unlike national Israel, the church was bought and created with God’s own divine Blood, that being sinless Jesus Christ shed on the cross. And unlike national Israel, the church is Jesus Christ’s Body with Jesus Christ Himself as the Head, and the Holy Spirit is not only present with the church, but indwells the church.

So where the failure of Israel was a failure of man – the human leaders and followers of national Israel – the church cannot and will not fail because God Himself indwells it. The old covenant was temporal, conditional and limited to one people (Israel) in one time (prior to that of Jesus Christ) and one place (the land of Canaan). The new covenant is unconditional (cannot be broken), eternal (will last forever) and universal (given to those coming from all nations, tribes and tongues).

Thus, contra covenant theology, Israel was not the church of the Old Testament. Instead, national Israel was a type, seed or foreshadowing of what was to be fulfilled by the church, New Testament spiritual Israel that both includes those natural descendants of Israel who are elect and thus believe, but it also transcends them. Calling Israel the church of the Old Testament distorts the purpose and method of its creation, and it also rejects the fact that the presence of God (the Holy Spirit) was in the tabernacle/temple behind the veil and not indwelling Israel in a corporate sense as it does the church in a corporate sense. At best, the Holy Spirit may have indwelled individual Old Testament saints such as the prophets and King David, and even in that sense the Old Testament saints were not limited to national Israel (consider Jethro/Reuel, Melchizedek, Seth, Abel, Noah, Job, the Queen of Sheba, Nebuchadnezzar etc.)

And also against dispensationalism, the church age is not a parenthetical period between two Israel ages (the Old Testament and the Jewish millennium), with memorial animal sacrifices in a third temple to Jesus Christ to occur in the second Jewish age, and Israel again taking her place as a light to the nations during the millennium. Instead, the purpose of Israel’s lesser light (and in creation, the lesser light rules THE NIGHT, which according to the parables of Jesus Christ is the time of sorrow because the bridegroom is not present) was to point to Jesus Christ, who is the true light to the nations, including Israel, and is the greater light which rules THE DAY. So, what of the Old Testament prophecies of the nations’ bringing gifts to Zion and serving Zion that were to be fulfilled in the millennium, the alleged “unfulfilled promises to Israel that have to be fulfilled in the millennium”? Read “servant songs” of Isaiah. Jesus Christ is the Son of Israel, who took upon Himself the role that Israel rejected, succeeded where Israel failed, obeyed and fulfilled the law of Moses that Israel broke (and dispensationalists claim that Israel should have never accepted to begin with when the truth is that Israel had no free will in the matter to accept or reject; they had no choice for they were chosen unconditionally by God and could not resist or reject His will) and thereby became Israel or Zion within Himself.

Jesus Christ is able to fulfill the prophecies given to both national Israel because He IS both national and spiritual Israel. Jesus Christ is national Israel because He was born a Jew to Mary and Joseph as a natural son of David of the tribe of Judah, and spiritual Israel because one is part of spiritual Israel only through faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is the object, author and finisher of that same faith. So, the “Zion songs” that speak of a restored Israel receiving the worship and gifts of the nations and ruling the nations are actually fulfilled in Jesus Christ who – as Israel’s personification, representative and fulfillment – rules the nations with a rod of iron and receives the worship and praise of all who have faith in, abide in and obediently serve Him in heaven and on earth while ruling the nations with a rod of iron.

Suggesting that national Israel will rule and receive gifts in the place of the only One who is worthy of such rule and praise is to take the position that Jesus Christ was never incarnated, crucified and resurrected. Incidentally, the amillennial beliefs held by many covenant theologians and is being adopted by dominionists, which holds that the church is to subdue and rule the earth just as Israel was to do with Canaan (and in the case of the dominionists, as Adam was subdue and rule the earth), possesses a similar error, giving to man and his institutions the rule – and praise – that belongs only to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will not rule the earth through the church, but instead will rule the earth including the church. And there will be no memorial sacrifices to Jesus Christ, for why do things in memory (as is done to those who are dead and sleep) to that who is alive and present forevermore? Instead of memorial animal sacrifices in a temple, Jesus Christ will receive active worship and praise in spirit and in truth from the hearts of those who believe, those whom the Holy Spirit indwells!

Therefore, knowing the difference between the church and Israel is vital to understanding the past, future and the present for the Christian. By contrast, failing to know these differences leaves one vulnerable to error and deception. So, do not be destroyed for the lack of knowledge! Instead, study to show yourselves approved!

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Revelation 12 In Brief: My Proposed Interpretation And Commentary

Posted by Job on July 4, 2010

Upon reading chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, I encountered John 12:31, which reads “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” As “the prince of this world” is a reference to Satan, immediately, I had the notion to cross reference that text in Revelation because it sounded familiar. Thinking that I may have found scriptural support for amillennialism in the words of Jesus Christ, I checked Revelation 20:1-3, which speaks of Satan being bound for 1000 years. However, the two passages did not appear to have anything to do with each other. Then I recalled that the reference to Satan being thrust from heaven was in the “there was a war in heaven” passage, which is contained within Revelation 12.

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with child cried , travailing in birth , and pained to be delivered.

The identity of this woman has been a subject of some debate. Roman Catholics assert that this is “Mary, queen of heaven.” Some assert that the woman is the church. However, this woman obviously represents national or Old Testament Israel. The 12 stars are the twelve tribes of Israel. Please recall that in Joseph’s dream of Genesis 37:9, his brothers were represented by stars. And the child that Israel was carrying was Jesus Christ. God’s purpose was to create Israel as an elect people, give Israel the law, and have Jesus Christ born to Israel as a human and member of their nation and people under the law so that Jesus Christ would fulfill the law perfectly and then surrender His life as payment for the sins of others. And Israel suffered many things (i.e. bondage in Egypt, destruction and captivity by Babylon, brutal subjugation by the Greeks) before Jesus Christ was born to the Jew Miriam (Mary).

3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

The dragon is Satan. The significance of the 7 heads, 7 crowns and 10 horns I do not know at this time. It is interesting that Revelation 13:1, which some manuscripts assert as being the final verse of Revelation 12, describes the beast as having 7 heads, 7 crowns and 10 horns. However, Revelation 13 identifies the beast (popularly referred to as the anti-Christ) and the dragon (Satan) separately. The reference to the 1/3 of the stars of heaven that were thrown to the earth is that to the angels who were not elect (see 1 Timothy 5:21) and therefore joined Satan in His rebellion against God, becoming demons or evil spirits.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

This man child is obviously Jesus Christ. The references to Satan’s attempting to devour the man child can refer to the various attempts of Satan to tempt, kill or otherwise thwart Jesus Christ, with an example being Herod’s genocide after the visit from the wise men. It can also refer to Satan’s many attempts to destroy national Israel – either by killing them or seducing them into idolatry – prior to Jesus Christ’s advent. The child’s being caught up to God’s throne refers to Jesus Christ’s ascension to heaven after His passion and resurrection.

6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

This is a reference to the dispersion of national Israel and the end of the Jewish age after the destruction of the temple and nation by the Roman Empire in 70 AD. The times of the Gentiles, or the last days, began. The phrase “where she hath a place prepared of God” seems to refer to national Israel still being under God’s protection though the eyes of the Jews are blinded during the church age. This confirms Romans 11. As far as the time period of 3.5 years, to me that remains a mystery.

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out , that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down , which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

This would be the portion that correlates with John 12:31. “That old serpent” is better rendered “that serpent of old”, which identifies the Satan that deceived the whole world as being the same that deceived Eve and successfully caused the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Not only was the entire world deceived and sent into a fallen state of original sin as a result of Satan’s dealings with Adam, but Satan has been deceiving the world – those not reconciled to God – ever since. Also, we know from the book of Job that Satan had access to heaven and accused the righteous of sin before God. After Jesus Christ atoned for sin with His death and obtained justification for believers at His resurrection, Satan’s access to heaven and his accusations against believers could no longer continue. Because of the work and victory of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross and His being resurrected from the dead, Satan was defeated. Glory be to Jesus Christ, who reigns and is blessed forever!

12 Therefore rejoice , ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. 13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time , and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

After being cast from heaven, this Satan who in his madness thought that he could somehow exalt himself over the One who created him and sustains his existence was forced to give up any delusions that he might have harbored concerning his battle with God. Knowing his fate – and that time is rapidly ticking towards it – Satan turns his full malicious destructive intentions to humans living on the earth, and especially national (or ethnic) Israel, who despite her current apostasy is still God’s chosen and beloved, and was used by God in the incarnation of the Jesus Christ who defeated Satan through His death and resurrection. From this, one may conjecture that the many calamities that have befallen Israel since her dispersion (including but not limited to the Holocaust) is not – or is not solely – due to her rejection of Jesus Christ; that it is the result of some national sin or curse that Israel bears. Indeed, Jesus Christ prayed and interceded for the forgiveness of Israel as He died on the cross (Luke 23:34). Instead, Israel’s misfortunes are the result of Satan’s concentrated and determined efforts against her. (Please note that while Satan has taken special efforts of cruel malice against Israel, he has not neglected his steal, kill and destroy mission against everyone else either.) Yet despite Satan’s best efforts, Israel endures as a people because of God’s protection. This protection – as well as the 3.5 year time period – is a repeat of what was given in verse 6. God is a faithful God. Though national Israel suffers many things, God has not cast her aside, and one day Israel will be saved.

15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

This could be a reference to the nations and peoples of the earth whom God has raised up and used to protect and defend ethnic Israel. From the nations that accepted Jews when they were expelled from Spain to the people who shielded Jews from Hitler’s holocaust, God has used various people and nations to preserve a remnant of the natural descendants of Abraham.

17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Now the woman is national Israel. (By this I mean ethnic Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, not the current nation of Israel, or necessarily the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.) Descendants of Abraham who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ excepted, national Israel does not keep the commandments of God or have the testimony of Jesus Christ. So, the “remnants of Israel’s seed” referred to in verse 17 is the church, spiritual Israel, the true descendants of Abraham because of the faith of Abraham. Abraham had faith in the revelation of Jesus Christ just as does the church. It is the church that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is carrying out the mission of God. And just as Satan is at war with national/ethnic Israel, he is at war with spiritual Israel, the church. Note that this passage does not refer to the church having the protection of God during this time, only the woman (Israel). In this, we are reminded that the servant is not greater than his Master, therefore the church must suffer many things just as Jesus Christ did.

This interpretation would appear to be at odds with some points of both dispensationalism and covenant theology. Regarding covenant theology, a clear distinction between Israel and the church is made and maintained, and Israel is still under God’s protection, in blindness until the day that it joins the church (though the church was grafted in) in salvation through Jesus Christ. So, the attempts by John Calvin and others to assert that “all Israel will be saved” and other points in Romans 11 actually refers to the church cannot be supported in Revelation 12. As far as dispensationalism goes in general and the rapture doctrine specifically, you have often heard the allegation that no reference to the church appears in Revelation after chapter 3. Not only does Revelation 7:9-17 refer to martyred Christians “who have come out of great tribulation” (and hence the 144,000 also refers to the church), but Revelation 12:17 can only refer to the church, and Satan’s wrath against it.

And as noted earlier, the reference to Satan’s wrath against the church in Revelation 12:17 leads directly to the passages concerning the beast, popularly referred to as the anti-Christ, in Revelation 13. The agent of Satan’s wrath against the church mentioned in Revelation 12:17 will be this beast, and it will be given to this beast to make war against the saints and overcome them (Revelation 13:7). And recall what was stated earlier: Revelation 12 does not mention the church as having the same protection as does national Israel. So, do not be deceived into thinking that these saints will be Jews, or people somehow converted during the great tribulation. (How can these conversions be possible if – according to dispensational doctrines – the indwelling Holy Spirit is gone?)

So during the end of the last days, the great tribulation, both Israel and the church will be present and figure prominently in it. The church during this time will glorify God through its suffering after the manner of Jesus Christ. Israel will glorify God through her continuing to exist despite all efforts to destroy her and the ultimate joining of national Israel with spiritual Israel in salvation through Jesus Christ.

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A Question For Premillennial Dispensational Rapture Believers: Explain The Fifth Seal In Revelation!

Posted by Job on September 25, 2009

Revelation 6:9-11 reads

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

The Word of God for the elect people of God. Glory be to God.

For my premillennial dispensational brethren who believe in a pretribulation (or prewrath) rapture that spares the church from the time of sorrow, please explain this text. Who are those slain for the Word of God? Are they Christians? And when will these Christians be slain for their testimony? Does it refer to those believers slain in times past, whether in the Old Testament or at the time that Revelation was written? Or does it refer to believers slain during the great tribulation? (If so, how can any Christian stand under persecution, even martyrdom, without being emboldened by the Holy Spirit, which according to premillennial dispensational doctrine has to be taken from the earth along with the church? Please recall the difference between Peter and the apostles before the Comforter – cowering and fearful and running from their lives – and afterwards – bold and brave witnesses even unto death. As a matter of fact Peter himself went from being the worst – the one who denied Christ three times – to being the boldest. And how can anyone even be saved during the great tribulation without the work of the Holy Spirit? Recall: the Holy Spirit was indeed present during the time of the Old Testament saints. Indeed, the Bible states that the earth’s very existence cannot so much as even be sustained without the Spirit of God.) Or does it refer to believers slain during all ages, from the first (Abel) until the last before the return of Jesus Christ?

To interpret this passage with scripture, let us go to another one in Revelation that touches the martyrdom of the saints, which is Revelation 18:24. Please recall that this chapter refers to the fall of Babylon,  which since the Tower of Babel incident and particularly since the destruction of the temple in 586 has been used to symbolize people and systems that rebel against and oppose God and persecute His elect covenant people, and that Revelation extends this symbolism with personification, describing all that opposes God as a harlot (prostitute), which in this verse is called “her”:  And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. Now as much as I love my King James Version, allow me to quibble with their translation of “kai” to “and” in the phrase “and of all that were slain upon the earth.” Many times, “kai” is just used for emphasis, as an amplifier of degree or a focus of attention. This text should probably read:

“And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints, indeed all [prophets and saints] that were slain upon the earth.”

However, if you go with the King James Version, which granted carries much more weight and authority than my own, and all which follow its tradition on that text, then “and of all that were slain upon the earth” simply means that in Babylon was the blood of every person that has been murdered, all innocent blood that has been shed. This means that the prior clause “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints” means that “the prophets and saints” (a  New Testament idiom which refers to old covenant and new covenant believers) which means that the blood of Stephen and all other Christian martyrs ever since is contained in Babylon. So with reference to the elect the meaning is the same: the blood of everyone killed because of their faith in God is in Babylon.

So, if we interpret Revelation 6:9-11 with Revelation 18:24, when the fifth seal was opened the martyred souls viewed under the altar should very likely be interpreted to include every Christian martyr since Stephen. This would support the idea of a church that has always been under continuous tribulation. Such an interpretation would be consistent with, indeed fulfill the words of Jesus Christ in John 15:18-20.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

The Word of God for the people of God. Glory be to God.

Now one can hardly claim that those words were only aimed at the apostles. Those words are for all Christians for all time. So what basis is there for believing that there will be a rapture to save the church from a persecution that A) Jesus Christ said that we would face and B) Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to withstand? Now this is not an endorsement of the historicist, preterist or amillennial position that there will be no seven year literal great tribulation. Instead, it is to say that if there will be such a seven year literal great tribulation, the church will be present for it just as it has been present for all other tribulations, the “lesser” tribulations.

Now the prewrath (and mid-wrath) rapture adherent does have Revelation 3:10, which reads “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”, in his favor. However, that could be fulfilled in a number of ways, including 1) a place of refuge (which ironically rapture believers commonly propose will exist for those who will saved during the great tribulation … again these people will have to be saved despite the absence of a church to preach the gospel or a Holy Spirit to perform regeneration) or 2) death. Do not let the “death” option astonish you, but instead study the scriptures, especially the Old Testament but also in the New Testament. It is a consistent theme that death is a way of being preserved, saved, spared from times of great evil … to be absent from the troubles of this world and present with God! Perhaps the best example of this is the death of Abijah, son of the wicked king Jeroboam, who died according to God’s will so that he would not be corrupted by Jeroboam and also not share in their judgment in 1 Kings 14. A New Testament example: at the time that he wrote Philippians 1:20-26, Paul viewed death as being removed from the extremely trying circumstances that he was living and exchanging it for a better fate. In that passage Paul stated “to die is gain”, but it appears that the rapture adherents have transformed it into “to be raptured is gain.”

So, the idea that there must be a rapture in order for Christians to be spared martyrdom seems to be inconsistent with Biblical revelation. It is also an idea that only makes sense for Christians living in the west. Practically everywhere else in the world, Christians face persecution: marginalization, poverty, disease, imprisonment, death. There are two doctrinal systems that have the effect of promoting the idea western Christians should have no part in what Christians in Indonesia, China, Iran, Palestine (and Israel!), India and Mexico (where Roman Catholic/pagan syncretists are persecuting Protestants) by simple right of geography of birth: pretribulation rapture and covenant theology. Pretribulation rapture teaches that Christians not currently under persecution now will never have to face it, because persecution will only come to “the good parts of the world” (i.e. “Christian nations” or “western nations” or “non-socialist nations” … you know, what Glenn Beck was referring to) when the anti-Christ (which 8% of New Jersey residents regard Obama to be) takes over it.

Now ask yourselves … why is it that Christians can be persecuted in some places (including Israel … and read this too!) now without the anti-Christ, but it requires the anti-Christ to happen in others (especially America)? Or that the saints in other places (and times, including in the west … remember the 30 Years War and the Anabaptists?) are not spared persecution, but only the modern American saints are? Only the idea that contemporary western (especially American and possibly British!) Christians are somehow better than Christians living in other times and places, and this fact would be due to America having some special status before God as a unique elect covenant nation, giving us special status within the Body of Christ. Of course, the Bible makes it clear in the Roman and Corinthian epistles that there is no special group or people with a special status, special favor, or special standing before God in the Body of Christ, but instead that we are one Body. Further, the Bible makes it clear that those who are accounted greater according to rank or authority (not standing or value) demonstrate this through being servant roles that cause us to A) serve those who are of lesser rank and authority and B) endure even greater persecution than those who are of lesser rank and authority. So, even if America did have some special standing before God, instead of our being wealthy decadent privileged Laodiceans, we would be poor, oppressed and serving everybody else! If you deny this, read the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ!

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Keep in mind, the version in Luke reads “Blessed are the POOR!”)
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Word of God for the people of God. Glory be to God.

Now earlier I mentioned the covenant theologians, from whom the modern concept of the “Christian nation” originated. Covenant theologians believe – or at least believed – that people in “Christian nations” would or should be spared persecution only because in a church-state Christians would control the government, economy, military, police, and religion in a theocracy after the manner of Old Testament Israel. That is why such extreme theonomists and reconstructionists as Gary North and Rousas John (R. J.) Rushdoony deny that the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount apply to Christians, instead stating that it only applied to Jews living in that time. (Curiously, hyperdispensationalists believe the same.) While I believe the covenant theology position to be in error, this statement is aimed primarily at premillennnial dispensationalists.

So if America were this special, Christian nation, it would be marked by our poverty and service, not by our decadent delusions of religious nobility which makes us believe that we are somehow exempt from the sufferings of Christians living in Belarus or Namibia, or for that matter the Christians of the early church. After all, when Paul wrote his statement insisting that those in the Body of Christ were equals, the statements were direct AGAINST two groups of people: the Jewish Christians in the Roman church and the wealthy Christians in the Corinthian church. The Jewish Christians regarded themselves to be superior to the Gentile Christians because of nationality, and the wealthy Corinthian Christians regarded themselves as superior to the poorer believers because of their riches. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to tell both groups that they were wrong. So, then, how can we justify believing that a rapture will come and rescue us from the type of persecutions and deaths at the hands of Muslims that are going on all over the Middle East, Asia and Africa right now, such as the two million Christians that were killed in Sudan, many of whom were tortured, raped, doused with gasoline and set on fire, had their limbs chopped off, or were sold as slaves because they refused to renounce Christianity?

Ironically, the world, including the media, the activists, and the government of our own “Christian nation”, did their level best to ignore this genocide, choosing instead to focus on Muslims murdering other Muslims in Darfur. And let us not forget that the term for which the word genocide was originally invented and applied to, that of the Armenians by the Turks, is still not recognized as such by the U.N. or by the government of our “Christian nation.” It is still more ironic when you consider that the Armenian genocide happened in the same general area that the letters in Revelation were sent, in the Turkey region. That persecution kicked off what was the bloodiest period of Christian persecution in history, the 20th century, that saw 45.5 million Christians killed!

So if there were any geographical or political entity within the Body of Christ that had special status, it would be those Christians because of their poverty and persecution who would come first, not us . It is those to whom the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ were addressed, and premillennial dispensationalism completely rejects that truth for the belief that the rapture will save Christians not yet under persecution from ever having to experience it because the saints who have it easier are the ones who fulfill Revelation 3:10! Never mind that the rich church that was not facing persecution was Laodicea, and the church that Revelation 3:10 was addressed to was Philadelphia. Why was the promise of Revelation 3:10 given to the Philadelphians? It is in Revelation 3:8, which reads “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” The Philadelphia Christians were being persecuted, and similar to the Sudanese Christians, they refused to yield to the persecution by denying Jesus Christ. In other words, they refused to do the same as the apostle Peter did THREE TIMES before he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet dispensationalism teaches that this Holy Spirit will be taken away, and those converted during the great tribulation will have to face the greatest time of sorrows ever without it, and will yet somehow stand? How? Why? Because of their free will? Or because of their inherently good human nature untainted by original sin? Followers of Reformed/Calvinist believers in the rapture like John MacArthur and Albert Pendarvis (the latter’s bookstore sells the Scofield Reference Bible) have to answer these questions! In any event, those who claim that Revelation 3:10 refers to Christians being raptured to escape persecution have to deal with the fact that the text was in reference to a Philadelphia church that was enduring it!

Make no mistake. I believe in a bodily literal return of Jesus Christ which I believe will occur after a literal great tribulation which will include a literal and personal anti-Christ. However, I also believe that the church will endure this tribulation, and that we need to be preparing ourselves and those who will follow us in the faith for it in a manner that is consistent with scripture as opposed to believing that we – or our WESTERN descendants – will have an experience of escaping it that will be unique to Christians living in other times and places. At the very least, someone must explain why western Christians alone should enjoy this pleasure!

The Three Step Salvation Plan

Posted in Christian Persecution, Christian persecution America, Christian Zionism, Christianity, Christians United For Israel, church hypocrisy, church state, church worldliness, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Three Views On Jesus Christ

Posted by Job on August 29, 2009

Lordship view:

Popular with Reformed and Calvinist churches. Jesus Christ is presented primarily as ruling sovereign king. Transcendence of Jesus Christ is emphasized. A main view of the effects of His incarnation was to sanctify creation with His presence, and the emphasis of His work on the cross is that of being the giver and head of the new covenant and to transfer dominion from Israel to the church. This emphasis on Jesus Christ – as Lord and King and head of the covenant – correlates to the aim of such bodies to view themselves as extensions and agents – the Body – of Jesus Christ’s kingship and rule on earth. Because Jesus Christ sanctified the earth with His presence, that increases the prominence of natural theology and general revelation as ways of knowing, understanding and having a relationship with God. Further, it makes it fitting and appropriate for Christians to seek to subdue and rule the earth by political, economic, cultural and military means as a way of worshiping and glorifying God. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is mediated through western culture and institutions which God through His providence used and created to improve worldly conditions, spread the gospel, and prepare the world for His coming. Jesus Christ’s Lordship, kingdom and influence are spread primarily through cultural, political and military means, and such things largely take the role of personal evangelism and missionary work in infant baptism cultures. Thus, attacks on western culture and institutions are seen as direct attacks on God’s kingdom, God’s plan to redeem the world, and ultimately on Jesus Christ Himself. Due to Jesus Christ’s being depicted as Lord and King and thus viewed in the context of European and other Gentile kings (remote, detached, very difficult or impossible to directly or personally know or relate to) worship is liturgical, sacramental, even mystical with preaching de-emphasized to the point where often reading the pastor’s sermon notes is a more productive activity than being present for the sermon’s oral delivery. Very little practical attention is given to God the Father or the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ’s humanity. Eschatology: often amillennial or postmillennial.

Savior view:

Popular in free will evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Jesus Christ is presented primarily as Savior. Heavy emphasis on Jesus Christ’s humanity, particularly the very safe approachable nonthreatening imagery of a baby in a manger and other views emphasizing Jesus Christ’s immanence. Primary role of incarnation is to make Jesus Christ human in order to facilitate a personal relationship with Him: Jesus Christ as friend, buddy, confidante, parent (particularly as it relates to parents’ giving their children gifts, reassurance, and nurturing), “sounding board/venting object”, or even lover. Please note: the ability to accept or reject friendship and personal relationship with another human is always by personal discretion, and both humans have equal rights to set the relationship’s terms, including the depth and intensity of the relationship. Jesus Christ’s deity is depicted in context of His ability to work miracles and teach during His earthly ministry and His being an effective in His role in dying for sins, and His ability to live a sinless life. Jesus Christ’s role as Lord and King is practically limited to His headship of the Body of Christ and is only stated factually or doctrinally as the justification for congregational church polity. In practice, Jesus Christ’s actual rule or dominion is deferred until judgment day, the millennium, and in heaven. The role of the Holy Spirit is to comfort Christians, give Christians friendly but non-coercive and not truly binding moral advice, and to help Christians deepen their friendship and bond with Jesus Christ; to make a relationship that is in many respects little different from a one-sided self-serving relationship with another natural human into a spiritual relationship. Ultimately, friendship with Jesus Christ meets the need of the Christian, first to escape eternal damnation, and second to meet or fulfill personal or emotional needs during challenging, difficult and uncertain lives. Note: a high percentage of people adhering to this form of Christianity are children of divorced parents, people who were abused or neglected as children, low income people, and women. God the Father is depicted in terms of an ideal human father and His relationship with Jesus Christ depicted as the ideal relationship between a parent and son, which is a source of reassurance and comfort (and also a goal) of people whose lives have been affected by family dysfunction and failure to live up to the western middle class ideal family image, with the Body of Christ offering the promise of a true, real stable family that meets true and idealized emotional needs that will finally be fulfilled in heaven. Result is an outsized emphasis on good families as the solution to personal and spiritual needs, with some going so far as to claim that the family is a type of the Holy Trinity or that the Holy Trinity is the model for the family (see Wayne Grudem and James Dobson). Thus, a major goal is the creation and preservation of not only a church system but also a worldly culture (i.e. government, politics, economics, values) that is “family-friendly.” The role of worship is to meet human emotional needs, often meaning entertainment and cathartic release for lower income people and intellectual stimulation for higher income and more educated people. The goal is to relate to Jesus Christ on a personal or human level, often using the relationship with Jesus Christ  as a substitute for flawed human relationships with spouses, parents, children, friends etc. Heavy emphasis on personal evangelism and missionary work, but the driving force is often eschatological beliefs or a desire to “grow the Christian family” (meaning creating more people to enjoy relationships with) and generally rely on human initiative and methodology. Growing integration of psychology and psychiatry with Christianity to meet the emotional needs of church members. Also increasing emphasis on “personal spirituality”, to “worship God my own way” and an increasing conviction that God’s grace accommodates the desire to satisfy or fulfill personal and emotional needs, including giving license to engage in conduct forbidden by scripture. This trend includes – but is not limited to – the emergent church. Preaching  is often exhortary, entertaining or emotionally charged, with an emphasis on narratives that relate to the personal experiences and needs of the listeners that causes them to recognize their own traits – or the traits of loved ones – in the sermons. Eschatology: often dispensational.

Lord and Savior view:

Begins with the Trinity, as God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son work together to create, redeem and sustain a community of believers as the ultimate goal of accomplishing creation, and such things are done for the pleasure and glory of the Godhead as opposed to the benefit of believers, though believers do certainly benefit and are exceedingly grateful. Jesus Christ is Lord of all for times past, future and present and graciously took upon the role of Savior.  Jesus Christ’s present dominion is not extended to the political, economic, military or cultural systems of the world, but instead is limited to the church over which He is Head and whose dominion all members of the church must continually submit to. The goal of worship and praise is to glorify and honor Jesus Christ, and Christ rewards those who glorify and honor Him by using the Holy Spirit to give them joy and other gifts and fruits. Evangelism is a worship activity done to glorify Jesus Christ, to fulfill the mandates of scripture, to provide Jesus Christ with more servants, to act as God’s servants in carrying out His plan of salvation, and to give more people the benefits of salvation. Christians can appreciate general revelation and natural theology as part of their praise and worship of God, but can only know God through special revelation, which includes the Holy Scriptures and Holy Spirit illumination which reveals the Son who in turn reveals God the Father. A very personal relationship with Jesus Christ is possible, but only on Jesus Christ’s terms which cause the believer to respect Jesus Christ’s holiness and sovereignty. Thus the rules of engagement between Jesus Christ and the believer are not as equals with the focus on Jesus Christ’s meeting the believer’s needs as the believer asks (which is the believer taking the initiative) but rather a relationship where Jesus Christ takes the initiative and it is the responsibility of the believer to obediently respond. In this way, Jesus Christ is Lord and King, but not after the detached manner of human kings, but a King that one can truly know and relate with, a King who allows us to continually eat bread at His table not because He is deficient in any way and needs our company but because it is to His pleasure and glory that we accompany Him. Attacks on culture, governments and institutions are regrettable for such things are servants of God and act to restrain evil, but ultimately are not attacks on Jesus Christ Himself, whose current dominion is now spiritual over the church and whose realized dominion over the earth – one that He will exert with a rod of iron – is yet to come. Presently only attacks against believers are attacks against Jesus Christ. Relationships with other believers are based on shared beliefs, common membership in Jesus Christ’s Body, and exercise of spiritual gifts as opposed to values, family or culture. Emphasis of preaching is to inform people about God’s nature; to reveal God to hearers so that the hearers will respond to the revelation of God. Churches and pastors with this view of God are present within virtually any legitimate Protestant Christian denomination or movement, however such churches and pastors always represent a decided minority in whatever denomination or movement they are in. Eschatology: can be amillennial, postmillennial, dispensational or chiliast. Practically, eschatology is de-emphasized in favor of an emphasis on God’s eternal plan and nature.

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How Does Premillennial Dispensationalism And Covenant Theology Interpret The Parable of the Tenants In The Vineyard Matthew 21:33-44?

Posted by Job on August 26, 2009

The parable of the tenants of the vineyard of Jesus Christ is as follows.

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

The Word of God for the people of God, praise be to God.

Now, this is a parable that should cause trouble to both covenant theology and premillennial dispensationalism. First, regarding covenant theology “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” has to point to a clear distinction, a clear demarcation between Israel and the church. Further, the fact that there were 12 apostles does so as well. The 12 apostles clearly supplant the original 12 tribes of Israel. It is the apostles and prophets that are called the foundation of the church, not the patriarchs of the 12 tribes, and even Moses is only included in the church’s foundation inasmuch as he is a prophet. Further, when Jesus Christ stated that he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, whom Jesus Christ called the greatest of prophets (meaning greater than Moses) then the church age prophets would have been greater than the Old Testament prophets. Now, it is true that there is one people of God; one elect people, and further that everyone in this elect group was justified by the work of Jesus Christ. However, this group does not only include Israel and the church. It also includes Seth, Enoch, Noah, Job, Melchizedek, Jethro/Reuel, the Queen of Sheba, and many others that cannot be called “Israel” in any sense. Just as Job and the Queen of Sheba were most certainly not Israelites, having no part in the Sinai covenant or Abraham’s lineage, the Israelites are certainly not part of the church. Also: the Bible makes it clear that everyone who is in the universal, invisible church, the actual body of Christ, is born again and thus heaven bound. It is self-evident from scripture that every Israelite was not and is not heaven bound. Yet, covenant theology maintains that “Israel was the church of the Old Testament” because covenant theology was created to support the concept of the state-church where everyone in a given jurisdiction was initiated into by paedobaptism (infant baptism) as opposed to a confession of faith and subsequent believer’s baptism (which is the method that the Bible actually commands and gives examples of whereas there is not a single instance of paedobaptism recorded or commanded in scripture despite the best attempts of paedobaptists to claim that the command “believe and be baptized and you will be saved, you and your house” to the Philippian jailer justifies this doctrine, ignoring the critical “believe” portion of the formula which precludes sprinkling babies) and state church advocates openly acknowledged that not everyone in these churches was born again, that only the ecclesiola within the ecclesia (the hidden invisible smaller subset within the larger church) was going to heaven. Keep in mind: there was never any denial that the state church was one where people were joined to by compulsion (with death or banishment to those who refused) and was maintained not for political purposes but because of the belief that a single religion was necessary for political and cultural unity and stability, not for religious reasons. So, with the need to maintain such political-religious institutions, the notion that baptizing unregenerate and non-elect infants into the church was the same as circumcising non-elect Jews under the old covenant was a natural progression. However, once one actually obeys James 4, Romans 12:1-2, John 14-17 and learns from the typology of the sacrificial system (where it wasn’t even lawful to use tools to cut the stones for the altar or else the altar would be rendered ritually impure by the tools and the hands that used them … the seed of the “by the gracious work of God and not the works of men” doctrine) and removes the holy sanctified church from the unholy and defiled state and larger society, the whole “Israel is the church of the Old Testament” idea falls apart, and the concept of the theocracized government and culture with it.

Now for premillennial dispensationalism. The first servant rejected by the tenants was Moses, which happened when Israel refused to enter Canaan, choosing to believe the evil report over the good report of Joshua and Caleb. The second servant rejected by the tenants was Samuel when Israel asked for a king. Then Israel – or at least the northern kingdom – rejected the line of David. The subsequent servants rejected were the prophets who warned Israel of their apostasy and called them to repent, but ultimately were not heeded. And finally, Israel rejected the Son Jesus Christ. Now a key here is this portion: “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.” Please note that while Jesus Christ did not emphasize their interpretation, He did not deny it either. Rather, He assented to it, and moved on to the main point that He was trying to make. Yet the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to recall and include this answer – which was in no way wrong – for a reason. The destruction of the wicked men who rejected the Son of God was a reference to the destruction of the Jewish temple and the nation in 70 A.D., a topic that Jesus Christ gave more detailed attention to in the Olivet discourse. (While I am not a preterist – whether partial or full – this is the portion of “this generation” of Matthew 24:34 and similar that was fulfilled in 70 A.D. Of the range of meanings of “genea”, it cannot mean “nation or race” for the Jewish nation will never be destroyed, and whether it means “age” or “generation” is of no consequence, as the Jewish age did come to an end at 70 A.D., and it happened within that generation, the people living in that time.)

And this brings us back to “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” What of the premillennial dispensationalists calling “replacement theology” an evil, anti-Semitic heresy? Who was the kingdom of God taken from but the Jews? Who was it given to but the church? In particular, this is a problem for the premillennial dispensational “Jewish millennium” doctrines, which states that after the church age ends, a newer, better Jewish age will begin with Jesus Christ ruling from the Jewish temple, the sacrificial system and priesthood reinstituted (which completely rejects or ignores virtually everything in the book of Hebrews), and all nations and people serving Israel. If the kingdom of God was taken from Israel, then the millennium will not be Jewish but Christian, and Jews will participate only inasmuch as they become Christians and join the church.

Premillennial dispensationalism, however, rejects this and states that the millennium will be one of Messianic Judaism (or what Messianic Judaism is fast becoming, see exhibit 1 and exhibit A, exhibit B and exhibit C and exhibit D and many more!) and not Christianity hence the true Messianic age. In that case, what does that make the church age? A type or foreshadowing of the Messianic dispensation? If that is true, what does that make Old Testament Israel? Premillennial dispensationalism makes Israel the center of God’s salvation-historic plan, and the church goes from the mystery planned but kept secret from the foundation of the world that the prophets spoke of whose true nature will not be revealed until the seventh trump sounds in Revelation to being a “make-work keep busy project” between the two Israel ages, and Christianity becomes an inferior and temporary – though suitable for Gentile purposes – form of the true eternal revelation and religion, which is Judaism. This rejects even the Suffering Servant songs of Isaiah, which states that rather than Israel being the center of God’s salvation-historic plan, the purpose and role of Israel in redemption was transferred to the Son of Israel Jesus Christ, which in these days is accomplished by the Body of Jesus Christ, which is the church.

Now of course, Paul the Benjamite did say that God has not cast aside His people and that all Israel will be saved after the times of the Gentiles are done. However, a contextual reading of Romans (and everything else that Paul wrote, not to mention everything else that Peter, James, John, Luke, Jude, the writer of Hebrews etc. wrote) makes it clear that all Israel will be saved by virtue of hearing the gospel, which means that all Israel joins the Gentiles in the church to form one new man. Premillennial dispensationalism does give a plausible explanation for why the millennium will be a Jewish one: the church will have been raptured. This allows premillennial dispensationalism to interpret the Kingdom of Heaven parables to refer to the Jewish nation during the millennium as opposed to the church age. (Seriously, that is what this system teaches. So, “the pearl of great price” under this system does not refer to either a man giving up everything – his old nature – to become saved or Jesus Christ’s lowering Himself and going to the cross to redeem the church, but rather the Jewish remnant during the great tribulation.) So, while it is possible that Paul’s prophecy “all Israel will be saved” will occur during the millennium, the idea that it will happen with the restoration of the Jewish kingdom directly conflicts with Jesus Christ’s statement that the kingdom was taken from the Jews and given to another nation (the church) and its fruits. Indeed, “all Israel shall be saved” will be counted as the fruits of the church.

The bottom line: Jesus Christ specifically stated that the kingdom was transferred from the Jews to the church, and this message was modeled by His choosing 12 apostles to replace the original 12 patriarchs of Israel, and it was repeated by the writers of the New Testament. Though the Bible does say “all Israel will be saved”, at no point does it say that the kingdom (meaning the focus of God’s economy, the people of God, the people that give God prayer, worship and praise that He accepts, and the people that God works through to carry out His purposes) would be transferred back to Israel. No scripture text that can be interpreted as claiming that the kingdom would revert from the church back to Israel can be found in either the Old or the New Testament, and no doctrine based on scripture can be formed to even explain why this will have to take place. Now the kingdom was taken from Israel first for their breaking the Sinai covenant terms in Deuteronomy (read first where Deuteronomy predicts that this will happen, and second where Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets state that the old covenant was broken and will be replaced) and second for their rejecting Jesus Christ. The new covenant will not be broken and the church will not and cannot reject Jesus Christ because of A) the promises of the new covenant and B) the church is Jesus Christ’s own Body and as such is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and God the Father, and no part of the Godhead can reject or be divided against Himself. So, the only way that the kingdom of God can revert back from the church to the Jews is the rapture of the church. With the church out of the picture (meaning out of the way) things can simply revert back to how they were in the Old Testament, right? Pardon me, but that would mean rejecting the cosmic effects of the incarnation, the cross of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection. Like time itself, salvation history only goes forward, it cannot go back. Moreover, the book of Hebrews describes the ultimate relevation of God to be through Jesus Christ by way of His incarnation, cross work, resurrection, and return. Premillennial dispensationalism makes the salvation of Israel during a second age of grace the ultimate revelation of God, and removes Jesus Christ’s own Body in order to facilitate it!

It really is no surprise that premillennial dispensationalism is so attractive to Messianic Jews who want to retain the essentials of their old system. It treats the church age as just an interstitial intermediary between the first Jewish age and the second Jewish age, and further one that happened not because it was God’s plan and the climax of His salvation plan all along, but only as punishment for the Jews for first failing to keep the Torah and second for failing to accept Jesus Christ. Once these errors are atoned for, things go right back to where they should have been all along! Further, premillennial dispensationalism re-instates the wrongheaded ideas about the millennium/Messianic age that Jesus Christ corrected! This is probably the one good point that the amillennialists do make: that the Jews in the time of Jesus Christ were expecting a political liberator and ruler who would usher in the Messianic age and institute a global Jewish theocracy and a time primarily for the benefit of Jews, not the God-man Saviour who would usher in an age of grace for the benefit of all nations. The Jewish religion still teaches the error of the Pharisees and Sadducees to this day, and premillennial dispensationalism – which includes most strands of Messianic Judaism – tells them that they are right about everything save the timing.

The core of premillennial dispensationalism is that God ceases dealing with His temporary vehicle the church and begins dealing with the Jews anew. However, unless premillennial dispensationalists can identify a part two of the parable of the tenants that describes when this will happen (and more importantly, how and why such a thing will happen in a manner that makes it consistent with New Testament doctrines and promises) this area of their doctrine is Biblically unjustified. Premillennial dispensationalism teaches that their doctrines concerning the millennium allows for the fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham, David and Israel under the old covenant. However, in order to accomplish this, their doctrines require breaking the promises made to the church under the new covenant!

So, just as the parable of the tenants is very problematic for covenant theology by declaring an explicit distinction between the church and Israel, it is even more so for premillennial dispensationalism by explicitly proclaiming that with regards to their place in God’s economy, just as the the second temple could not match the glory of the first (for it did not include the ark of the covenant with the rod that budded or the tablets of the law), for the Jews the former things are no more, and their only place in the latter things (which are greater than the former because the latter is founded on better promises, bought with the Blood of Jesus Christ and hence incorruptible) will be inasmuch as their place is found alongside the redeemed and grafted in Gentiles in the church.

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Four Views On The Tribulation and the Millennium

Posted by Job on May 25, 2009

Please click on link to access document.

The Tribulation and the Millennium: Four Views

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Amillennialism 12: The Millennium

Posted by Job on April 15, 2009

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Amillennialism 11: The Rapture

Posted by Job on April 15, 2009

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Amillennalism 10: The Beast

Posted by Job on April 15, 2009

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Amillennialism 9: The Anti-Christ

Posted by Job on April 15, 2009

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Amillennialism 8: Interpreting The Book of Revelation

Posted by Job on April 15, 2009

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