Sunday, January 6, 2019

Luke 5:12-16, The Poor and the Prideful


The Poor and the Prideful, Luke 5:12-26


Matt 5:3  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I. vs 12-14: Introduction - Spiritually poor leper
Jesus was in a town in Galilee. He had been teaching large crowds and had publicly called 3 men to be His disciples. While in one of these small towns, an outcast from society - a man with a serious skin disease all over him. Leprosy was the term used to describe numerous skin conditions, including leprosy. But all were treated as contagious and kept out of the covenant community. He saw Jesus, recognized Him, fell on his face and begged Jesus to make him clean. IF He - Jesus - was willing. This man was a Jew and cared not that Jesus didn't fit the Jewish expectations of their Messiah. He was poor in spirit and wanted the cleansing that only comes from the true Messiah. Yes - and Jesus, who learned obedience as a man, was vulnerable. But He came for such as this one. And for you and for me. Oh, praise Him!

This outcast begged Jesus to cleanse him, if He would. Jesus reached out and touched the man - he probably hadn't been touched by another human in years. Note how different from every common expectation He was. Not aloof, prideful, condescending, self-promoting. He listened to this man treated as a sub-human, probably looking him right in the eye, touched him - conferring humanity upon this beggar! And Jesus tells him the most marvelous thing: I'm willing; be made clean!

Now what does a person who has won a million dollars do? Most people go tell everyone they know. This Jewish leper was lifted up from the debris where his kind were forced to live, treated like a human, and cleansed! He was told to "go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing as a testimony to them." This leper was a Jew. But He did not care whether Jesus met the Jewish expectations for a political savior; he wanted to have life! “IF you are willing …” This leper KNEW salvation and cleansing was of the Lord, if He wills!, and not of man. Mark’s account, chapter 1:39-45, reveals that this man went from Jesus talking freely to everyone about what Jesus had done for him (page 1895).

Such was the fame that was swelling up around this man who heals!

II. vs 15-16: Not of this world
Contrary to what many people in our day think, large crowds of people are not necessarily a good thing. As many as 40,000 flock to see and hear Joel Osteen each week; never hearing the gospel, but they're told their destiny is to be healthy and wealthy in this age. Jesus was not teaching that message. His kingdom is not of this world; the world will hate you as it hated Him; ALL who follow Christ WILL suffer. And people from everywhere thronged to get a glimpse of this man, to hear a word from Him; to be cleansed. From this point forward, His whereabouts were fairly well known. People were looking for Him. How many accounts are there in the New Testament that tell us of the large crowds that followed Jesus; and how many of them end with a rebuke for wrong motives?

In our passage, He removes Himself from the crowds, as He often did; seeking a place to commune with His Father. The approval of the crowds was not what He sought; the approval of His Father was the goal. The Christian gets encouragement from other saints, but we dare not seek applause or disciples for ourselves. Every one of us should seek the approval of the One Who is self-approving. The Lord Jesus has always been in close communion with the Father. But since taking on flesh, since adding our nature to His, He also had human needs during His first advent. He grew and learned and ate and grew tired. His food was to do the Father's will (see John 4:28-34). Prayer is communion with God. The human nature of Jesus desired the close communion He had always had in the spirit. It is the Father's will that we spend time in prayer with Him. Not so much asking for things (which is not necessarily bad), but merely seeking closeness with him, admitting our need and His sufficiency. This type of prayer builds up the souls of the saints. This is the example our Lord gave us.

III. vs 17-20: Spiritually poor people, not those looking for bread to fill their bellies
Verse 17 describes "one of those days." The Lord Jesus had been going from town to town preaching the kingdom of God, healing people, filling some bellies. Once again, leaders from the Jewish community were gathered - along with scores of people from the villages in the region - from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. A LOT of people, from some distance. A crowd, wanting to hear, waiting to see who would be healed.

Luke includes a very curious statement, And the Lord's power to heal was in Him. Here is revealed one aspect of His earthly ministry that He spoke clearly of in John 5:30 (page 2032). This shows us the closeness amongst the persons in the Trinity - no rogue members, all in total agreement.  As the Messiah was one prophesied to bring healing to Israel, so Jesus came to heal physical Israel physically as a revelation of the spiritual healing He was bringing to spiritual or true Israel.

Many a sermon has been preached on the determination and faith of these friends. That ain't the main point. The main point of this passage is that Jesus has come as promised, to deliver the poor in spirit to freedom. These men who brought their friend to Jesus were not after food; they desired their friend to be healed. This was a genuine hunger for the goodness of God, for Jesus saw that they had faith in Him! All the other people were sitting, waiting for Jesus to perform. These 4 “took the kingdom by force” in making a hole in the roof and lowering their friend to where Jesus was. We know this faith was not merely in Jesus as physical healer because Jesus’ response to them was directed at the man’s soul – seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your SINS ARE FORGIVEN.” In the scene of the 10 lepers, Jesus first heals the body of all of them and then heals the soul of the one who returned to give thanks. Here, He first heals the soul of this man – your sins are forgiven. The lesson in this passage is all about putting spiritual things first.

We know from the biblical accounts of other miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 for example – that people followed after Jesus for food! John 6:26 - Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” As we read a few minutes back, Jesus’ food consisted of more than physical bread – to do the will of the Father. In John 6:27 He taught that we should not work for food that perishes but for food that endures to eternal life – which the Son of Man will give!

Now we are good Baptists and enjoy our fellowship meals – one of which we will enjoy in a short while. Paul wrote that all food is good if received with thanks to God, for every good thing comes to us from Father of lights. The ancient preacher, in Ecclesiastes 8:15 observed that one of the primary joys in life was to eat and drink and be glad; he posited this against the tendency we have to worry about evil men who prosper.  Eating is not our focal point, but we should be content with what we have been given. Those who followed Jesus because their bellies had been filled are identified in Phil 3:18 & 19 (page 2289) as enemies of the cross. Let us be foremost focused on seeking food that endures to eternal life, which Christ Himself gives us as we fellowship with Him and one another, through prayer, and quiet godly lives.

There is another group of people watching and listening to Jesus. The religious leaders.



IV. vs 21: Prideful people clinging to fleeting power
Note the short, sharp report Luke provides about their response. No concern about what has been taught, no concern with the paralyzed man. Their concern was as it had been – with their religious rules being kept so their position would be protected. In Matthew 12 Jesus healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Verse 14 tells us the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might destroy Him. In Luke 11, Jesus was teaching the religious leaders about their hypocrisy, pronouncing a series of “woes” upon them; summing up in verse 52 “Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.” And rather than examining themselves to see if these things were true, the chapter ends with this - When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose Him fiercely and to cross-examine Him about many things; they were lying in wait for Him to trap Him in something He said.

Note the contrast between the two groups present in our passage. One group of people who were routinely put in their place by the other group – religious leaders. The poor people were described as little children by Jesus in Matt 23 as He rebuked the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers. Verses 37-38 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you desolate." Note that the poor people of Israel were those He desired to gather tenderly, yet the leaders of Israel - called Jerusalem, as was the custom (calling civic leaders by the name of their territory) - were unyielding and unwilling, so precious to them was their political power within national Israel. In Acts 5, when Peter has been released from jail and he and John are preaching the gospel, the Sanhedrin and Pharisees were enraged and wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33).

Details will differ, but there are still and always will be (until the Lord returns) these two groups of people: the spiritually poor who want the Lord for Himself and the prideful who want themselves as lord.

V. vs 22-24: The Lord reveals Himself
Next up we see how Jesus responds to these prideful folk who accused Him of blaspheme. These men had not spoken, but had begun to think Jesus was blaspheming because no one can forgive sins but God! Jesus perceived their thoughts - a sign that He is God - and then asked them that pointed question. He was telling them, Talk is cheap, ain't it? Anyone can SAY "your sins are forgiven" but something greater than Solomon is here, telling the man to "get up and walk." And then He sets things straight, telling the brood of vipers: So you will know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins. He doesn't finish the sentence, but turns to the forgiven, paralyzed man and says, "I tell you: Get up, pick up your mat, and go home." You would think all would see this as good news. It WAS good news to the poor; it was not seen as good news by the prideful. But one thing was clear: Jesus, the Son of Man, has the ability to heal AND He has the authority to forgive sins. He is God.

VI. vs 25-26: Spiritually poor people rejoice at the goodness of God
No doubt in anyone's mind Who was before them. Sins forgiven, paralysis healed, muscles restored. Not slowly, over a matter of days and weeks. The One Who created all things, by Whom all things are held together, God in the flesh forgave the man's sins, restored the man's body, and told him to pack up and go. The man immediately got up, packed up his mat, and went home glorifying God. Just like the one leper. The sign of a person who truly desire the ultimate healing of being reconciled to Holy God is that he is thankful to God, rejoicing at having found mercy in time of need.

And note this - all the poor folk were astounded! They had heard the prophecies for generations. The Messiah would come and He would heal them! They had seen and heard of the healing miracles - but TODAY this man forgave sins and healed the man! He put the prideful religious leaders in their place by declaring Himself to be God in saying and doing what he did.

They were filled with awe! Think about this. We call all sorts of things "awesome." One definition of awesome is extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration. Is there anything more awesome - more extremely impressive, worthy of great admiration - than the Lord Jesus? What is more awesome than forgiveness of sins and the ultimate restoration of our bodies that will take place when He returns? Let us spur one another to once again be amazed at the grace given us to bring us into reconciliation with holy God. The last thing we should desire is to be complacent at the thought. These people in Galilee had been oppressed by their religious and political leaders for a long time. They rejoiced at what Christ had done in their midst and they were in AWE. We should be. As He said to the leaders of the Jews in His parable of the talents, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Mark 12:11) It is awesome to see or hear of a sinner being reconciled to God - it is the Lord's doing and it is MARVELOUS in our eyes!

Application:
What does all this mean? I hope you've picked up here and there a few things we ought to grasp. First always first and most important: do you know the Lord? Do you trust in Him for the healing of your soul? Are you willing to bring a paralyzed friend to the knowledge of who He is? Are we desperate enough and sure enough that He is the Lord that we would do something like tear a hole in a roof? How about driving 20 miles to meet someone for coffee and prayer, or give them a ride to church?

Are our lives marked by the applause of man or are we content to be found faithful to the One Who called us? Seeking the applause of men, the approval of the world, is antithetical to being pleasing to God.

There are only two groups of people – masses of spiritually poor people, oppressed by religious tyranny and the religious leaders who were puffed up and intent on preserving their power. Those who come to the gospel eagerly and those who try to suppress the gospel. Those who proclaim the gospel and those who proclaim a false one.

How do you and I respond when we hear the gospel? How do our friends and family and neighbors respond? There are only two groups of people on this planet – the poor in spirit and the prideful. The poor in spirit will receive the gospel with joy while the prideful will hate those who preach it.

Christ Jesus is God in the flesh, come to live a life we could not, pay a debt we could not, to reconcile woeful sinners to Himself by the blood of His cross. Is this good news to you? If it is, you are blessed to be spiritually poor. Is this not good news; doesn't have to be BAD news, merely other than GOOD news; is this good news to you? Let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith. Jesus came to save sinners and He actually does just that. And that is really good news to those who are poor in spirit.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Eschatology - How Should We Now Live?


Eschatology Application

These past 5 weeks we have taken a quick look at the 4 accepted systems of eschatology. I mentioned in the introduction that eschatology is not a standalone doctrine but the outworking of how we view Scripture. Our personal theology, including how that works out in our eschatology, will affect how we live and how we view the world and interpret the Word. Our main priority is to keep a proper focus on the Lord Jesus as the alpha and omega of our faith and of history. I want to emphasize again - I have no fight with brothers and sisters holding a sober-minded view of postmill or historic premill, though I think there are significant problems with those systems.

So if being this or that millennial is not the most important thing, why did we take this tour? Eschatology is not unimportant, as it is a study of a biblical doctrine. Since no system of eschatology is water tight, I've encouraged us to consider which system aligns best to Scripture, with a consistent focus on the glory of God in Christ. I am convinced that Amillennialism aligns with Scripture better than of any of the other systems. No distractions of looking to temporal things to determine how the golden age is progressing; no distractions of looking for a temporal halfway kingdom that elevate a people. In a book I recently read, the author points out that life and death are opposites; there is no third state between them. So it is with this and the age to come; there is no partially redeemed millennium between them.

This final message serves the same purpose as the conclusion of a sermon - answering the "so what?" question. In light of what we've learned, How Should We Then Live? As eschatology is the outworking of one's basis for interpreting Scripture, one's way of life is the outworking of one's theology. How we think about God and man affects how we live.

First a lesson from history. In the early years of the 20th century, dispensationalism was the hot topic in many circles. This nation's policies toward the infant nation of Israel was influenced to a large degree by dispensationalists. I read a letter from a dispensational Baptist preacher that was sent to Harry Truman, encouraging him to do all his could see to it Israel was given the land that is "theirs". This idea that the 20th century nation of Israel is the Israel of the Bible and is still owed prophetic fulfillment by God is the basis for the essential doctrine that defines dispensationalism - elevating national Israel to a place only the redeemed in Christ have, but reducing the inheritance of the saints from eternal bliss to earthly struggles under a renewed Davidic covenant. As Charles Ryrie asserted, viewing the separation between national Israel and the church as the foundation of dispensationalism, one cannot take his eyes off the ethnic group, elevating their millennium to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose. Contrary to Ryrie, we are instructed to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For we have died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:2).

Here's a very practical example I use often. Far too many Christians advocate "sin management" although most of would never call it that. There is very good, solid teaching about our need to mortify the sin in our lives. But if such teaching focuses only, or even mainly, on how to kill sin, we will be drawn to our sin. It is a function of our being that we are drawn to that which we focus on. While we are clearly told to mortify, or put to death, the sinful deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13, Col 3:5) – we should never take our eyes off the Savior. If we focus on killing sin without always keeping our eyes of faith on Christ, we will be drawn to the sin we hate. This is why the proper theology is Christ-focused: He has conquered sin and death, His righteousness is ours, He intercedes for us, and He will come and take us to be with Him forever! And if we don't, we end up trying to manage our sin - for we cannot mortify the deeds of the flesh apart from a deliberate focus on the glorious blessed hope we have been given to.

In a big picture way, that's the point. As for how our eschatology has practical applications, there are several ways. How many people do you know that are terrified of John's Apocalypse? I have a friend who belongs to a mainline protestant church. He told me he has never read Revelation; said the thought of that book terrifies him. Is that the reason God gave us that book? The right view of Scripture, including Revelation, is to show how awesome God is, how faithful He is, how terrifying it is to be without the right clothes on that great and terrible day, and how wonderful it is to have the God of all creation as your personal God, redeemer, and refuge!

Dennis Johnson has written a wonderful commentary on Revelation, Triumph of the Lamb. He learned that "God gave the Apocalypse shown to John in order to bless us — to do us good, to convey His grace, to fortify our hearts. In Revelation, God promises His blessing seven times (a symbolically significant number): to those who hear and hold Revelation’s message (Rev. 1:3; 22:7), who die “in the Lord” (14:13), who stay awake and alert (16:15), who attend the Lamb’s marriage supper (19:9), who share the first resurrection (20:6), and who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb (22:14; see 7:15). God gave the book of Revelation neither to tantalize nor to satiate our curiosity about His hidden timetable but rather to arm us for the spiritual conflict that we face every day."

Johnson provides seven helpful things to bear in mind as we ponder the wonder and glory of John's Apocalypse. There had to be 7, right? And they are very practical:

1. REVELATION HELPS CHRISTIANS SEE OUR SITUATION IN ITS TRUE PERSPECTIVE
Appearances can be deceiving. We often gauge how “the war” is going by the way things look to us today based on headlines about political and economic trends or global crises. The paradoxes in Revelation’s visions remind us that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Christ’s cross looked like the slaughter of a helpless lamb, but it was actually the triumph of Judah’s Lion (Rev. 5:5–10). When faithful martyrs shed their blood, their foes seem to have conquered (11:7; 13:7). In fact, the martyrs are the true victors who vanquish Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).

2. REVELATION SHOWS OUR ENEMIES IN THEIR TRUE COLORS
Our enemy is stronger and savvier than we are: “the great dragon … that ancient serpent … the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (12:9). But the seed of the woman has come, conquered the Serpent, and ascended to heaven (v. 5). Satan can no longer accuse: his charges have been silenced by Christ’s sacrifice (vv. 10–11). Frustrated over his defeat at the cross, Satan vents his wrath against the church on earth (vv. 12–17). His weapons are violent persecution (the Beast), plausible deception (the False Prophet), and seductive pleasure (the harlot Babylon). The sovereign state, civil religion, and luxurious indulgences may seem to be “saviors.” Don’t be fooled: they aim to destroy. Revelation’s symbolism peels back the faΓ§ade that often hides the grotesque hollowness of Satan’s counterfeits.

3. REVELATION REVEALS OUR CHAMPION IN HIS TRUE GLORY
As its title promises, this truly is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). It unveils Jesus and fixes our hearts and hopes on Him. He is the hero of each dramatic scene. He is the Son of Man foretold in Daniel 7, luminous in divine glory, who by His resurrection seized death’s keys and now walks among His churches. He is Judah’s Lion who conquered by being slain, redeeming people from all the earth’s peoples. He is worthy of worship from every creature everywhere. He is the Captain of heaven’s armies, riding into battle against His and our enemies, defending beleaguered saints, and finally destroying the Dragon and his beasts. Our Champion lifts our weary hearts with His promise: “Surely I am coming soon.” We reply: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20).

4. REVELATION ENABLES US TO SEE OURSELVES IN OUR TRUE BEAUTY
Jesus’ messages to the churches of Asia show that His fiery eyes (1:14; 2:18) see us accurately, commending our faithfulness but exposing our flaws (chaps. 2–3). Nevertheless, as mottled as the church’s spiritual complexion is now, our Bridegroom loves us and will not rest until He presents us to Himself “as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2), clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure” (19:8). Revelation paints our coming wedding in such vivid colors that we long to pursue now the loveliness that will then be fully ours (1 John 3:2–3).

5. REVELATION SUMMONS US TO ENDURE AS WE SUFFER
Revelation was originally addressed to Christians who were suffering for their faith. They experienced poverty, slander, prison, and even death (2:9–10, 13). Writhing in his death throes in the aftermath of the cross, the Dragon escalates his assault against the saints until Christ returns to consummate history. Jesus does not promise a painless escape from this war of the ages. Instead, He promises His presence as the one who is “alive forevermore” (1:18). In response to that promise, we must heed the King’s call to patient endurance (1:9; 2:2–3, 10, 13, 19, 25; 3:8, 10; 13:10; 14:12).

6. REVELATION CALLS US TO STAY PURE WHEN COMPROMISE INVITES
Some of the first-century churches, like many churches in the twenty-first century, faced a subtler threat than persecution. Satan, the father of lies, tried to mislead believers through purveyors of false teaching (2:15, 20). Material comfort and compromise with the paganism of the surrounding culture also proved alluring (2:14; 3:17). Such insidious assaults on wholehearted allegiance to Christ are still with us. Against the Devil’s lies and invitations to idolize pleasure and prosperity, Revelation calls us to keep our hearts and lives pure as befits those who will be the Lamb’s white robed bride (3:4–5, 17–18; 7:9, 14; 14:4; 19:7–8; 22:14–15).

7. REVELATION ENCOURAGES US TO BEAR WITNESS AS GOD WAITS
Lest Revelation’s summons to endure and stay pure incline us to withdraw into bunkers, hiding from the dangerous and defiling world, we need to heed Revelation’s encouragement to bear witness to “the testimony of Jesus.” Our word martyr is derived from the Greek word meaning “witness” (martys, 2:13). John was on Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). The church is symbolized in two witnesses who announce God’s word, sealing their testimony with their blood (11:4–12; 13:7). Christ’s witnesses suffer not in timid silence but for their bold declaration that Jesus is Lord of all. Through our testimony, God is fulfilling the vision of Revelation 7: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” (7:9–10).

God gave us the book of Revelation not only to inform our minds but also to transform our lives. It gives us insight into the realities of our situation, our enemies, our Champion, and our true identity, and it calls us to patient endurance, hopeful purity, and courageous witness.

Recall how I mentioned we should pattern our eschatology after Abraham? In Hebrews 11, after describing the faith of Abel, Noah, Sarah, and Abraham, we read, (verse 13 – 16, page 2380) These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Is this our perspective? Are we seeking a return to the land that these saints left? Or are we looking for and desiring a better country, a heavenly one, where our Lord dwells? The Author of life draws a line between these two countries and the people who dwell therein. Reminding the saints of the blessings and responsibilities that accompany our citizenship in heaven, we read (Heb 13:10) We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. The altar mentioned here in Christ, the eating mentioned here is the Lord’s Supper. Those who serve the tent, the earthly tabernacle, have no right to this supper. When the kingdom was taken from national Israel and given to a nation (a people) who will bear the fruit of true repentance, that people who were known as Israel lost their standing as a people. Ethnic Jews need Christ, not a rebuilt earthly place of worship.

Do you have faith like Abraham or like John Nelson Darby?

Here are a few short passages from Scripture that I pray will help us comprehend how now to live. Nothing is more practical than clear instruction from the Lord God.

2 Cor 4:16-18 (page 2229) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Peter 1:3-8 (page 2418) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:31-36 (page 2172) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

1 Peter 4:12-14 (page 2412) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Each of these short passages remind us of the temporary nature of this age and the eternal, immanent nature of the age to come. Knowing our standing in Christ, deliberately seeking to keep the eternal in plain site is the biblical means to our stability and usefulness while we yet have time here.

1 Peter 4:7-11 9page 2411) The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This ought to be on our lips, day by day – to Christ alone belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!


War on the Home Front, Luke 4:14-30


Let it be known to the listener: I referred to Jezebel as Bathsheba, my mistake, in this sermon. Enjoy!

War on the Home Front, Luke 4:14-30


Previously, Paul preached about the war against evil that had been declared by Jesus in His baptism and then we learned about the personal confrontation with Satan in the 40 days of testing Jesus endured.


There is a change in today’s passage; we have an abrupt break between verse 13 & 14. And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. In verse 13 we see that Satan had broken off the attack and departed until an opportune time. This is a classic tactic in any war - engage the enemy to discover weaknesses and defeat him, if possible. If not, retreat to recoup and seek out a better engagement, based on what you learned in the first one. And Satan must learn as he goes – he is not omniscient. In our text today we will see that Satan has redrawn the battle lines, from the spiritual domain of this age to Jesus’ home front, Nazareth. What Satan may have thought was a more opportune time.

As we consider these events, let us bear in mind the weight of what the Lord Jesus bore. The Creator of all flesh was the object of scorn and wrath by His creatures – including some of those He grew up with. Man of sorrows, obedient to the Father to save His own people, bearing shame and rude scoffing from those He grew up with. For our sake, God made Him who knew no sin to take our sin upon Himself.

Contrary to Satan’s slinking off to regroup, Jesus went back to Galilee refreshed, in the power of the Spirit. This is a mark of the one with whom the Spirit of God dwells – rather than shrinking back from conflict, Jesus knew His defense would be found in being obedient to the Father. People heard about Him, far and wide, and as He taught in the Jewish synagogues, they all glorified Him – they made much of Him. The account in Matthew gives us some insight as the Lord’s activities while Galilee and the reception He received. Matt 4:23-25 (page 1827). Many signs and miracles – attesting to His identity.

It is still as it was when the ancient preacher said that the ear never tires of hearing something new. People flocked after Jesus, just as they had John. Some of these people rushed to hear these new prophets because they desired healing and feeding and others because they believed on the Lord Jesus; this is pattern we see throughout the Scriptures. Those the Spirt has quickened will receive the gospel with joy; those still in their natural condition will reject the message. And the numbers in the crowds, both groups of people, were large enough to intimidate the religious leaders.

Verses 16-22. When Jesus went to His home town of Nazareth, He stood up to read from the Scroll of the Word of God, as He had been doing for some time – it was His regular practice at this point, having begun when He was twelve. But something was different this time. The time was approaching for the kingdom to be declared. The Son of God had been validated by heaven, it was now public knowledge who He claimed to be.

He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, a passage the Jews identified with their being set free from all political tyranny. At first everyone was impressed – Jesus read the scroll with authority that did not come from man! All eyes were on Him as they waited anxiously to hear what He would say about the text He had read. When Jesus said He was the One spoken of in this passage, they were amazed at His gracious words, yet confounded by their fleshly knowledge that He was the son of Joseph. Wasn’t that what Nathanael asked – could anything good come from that town, Nazareth? The Jews knew their deliverer would come from the house of David – Bethlehem – not from the nowhere town of Nazareth.

Verses 23-27. Jesus cites a proverb and refers to the miracles He had performed in Galilee – doubtless keenly aware of what these men were thinking. After commenting about how hard it is to be accepted by one’s home folk (Is this not Joseph’s son?), He brings up two accounts from their history. After Elijah won the famous victory over the prophets of Baal, he found refuge in the care of a widow mother in Sidon. People were starving and only this widow – not even a Jew! – was saved by a miracle. And note: her jar did not stay full until she obeyed Elijah and fed him with the last bit of flour she had. The second example is the well-known story of the Syrian army officer who was cleansed of leprosy. There was no record of the many Jewish lepers of that time being healed; God chose to save this Syrian.

Note an incident that would take place later in the Lord’s life. He and his disciples are traveling between Samaria and Galilee – the same region our text in chapter 4 takes place. Luke 17:12-19 (page 1857). The only leper who gave thanks and praise God for his physical healing was a Samaritan, not a Jew. And he was the only one of the lepers whose soul was healed. Here is the message: being a Jew, a descendent of Abraham according to the flesh, does not provide eternal life, reconciliation with God, entrance into His kingdom.

Verses 28-29. When those in the synagogue in Nazareth heard Jesus read Isaiah 61, they marveled and spoke well of Him. When the man they knew as a youth taught them the fulfillment of that passage, they were filled with wrath. The message in the Scripture citations was not lost on them – their God sometimes favored Gentiles over Jews. They tended to forget that their father Abraham was promised he would be a father to nations, far and beyond the boundaries of national Israel. This was the common reaction of the Jewish people, anger at the message from their Messiah, stiff-necked blindness, and a love for temporal comforts – just as they grumbled about being led out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness. Slavery was better than the constant wondering, not knowing where they were going or when they would get there. Note the contrast with the man they called “father” – God had called Abram to leave his family and go to a country God would show him. No map, no GPS, no direction or duration. And Abram went, as the Lord had told him. We learn that he was led to Canaan, but Abram didn’t stay there. He was a wonderer all his life, looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abram was a man of faith – he trusted God more than he trusted his own reason. People who demand a sign as evidence give evidence they don’t have faith. They want to see with their eyes of flesh what only spiritual eyes can see. About these Jesus said, The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's preaching, and look--something greater than Jonah is here (Luke 11:32). We see frequent evidence that even those closest to Jesus were prone to fall into this pattern – Thomas said he would not believe Christ had risen from the dead, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25). This is the default for man, trusting in what his natural sight can see, what his human mind can reason out. In Romans 5 we read that natural man is an enemy of God, in Phil 3 those who are devoted to things of the world are enemies of the cross, in James we are told friendship with the world is enmity (hostility) towards God, and in Col 1 we see that natural man is hostile and alienated from God by evil actions.

And when the men from Jesus' home town reacted to His message with anger, seeking to murder Him, verse 30: But passing through them, He went away. Jesus came to earth in the fullness of time; God's time. He would ascend back to the Father in God's time, not according to the whim of men. Verse 30 is a subtle reminder of Who He is. And this message and identity of their Messiah was lost on most of the Jews; even those who knew Him best - according to the flesh.

The Jewish people were, by and large, spiritually dead, ruled by their fleshly desires of temporal comfort and prestige. The Levitical religion they were given to point them to the promised Seed who would take away their sin had been turned into a religion of painting the outside of a tomb white so everyone would think it clean. They mostly had little regard for God, with the leaders taking advantage of the poor and the widows, robbing the priests who took care of those. And to these Jesus would say, You are of your father, the Devil (John 8:44). Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. (Matt 21:43) That nation, or people, producing fruit are those given by the Father to Jesus, that He would redeem the sheep of national Israel and the sheep beyond those borders, bringing all into His sheepfold. He would pray for us (John 17:24-26): Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me. I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them. And to His people, the Lord Jesus provides this guidance through His apostle: though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds (2 Cor 10:3-4). Just as Jesus waged war through obedience to the Father, so we wage war as spiritual people, not as worldly people. Christ has won the victory over sin and death and the devil – we are equipped by the Spirit to stand fast in the grace He gives to us.

This is our security – not our work, not our religion, not our earthly pedigree or station in society. God saves sinners, to the uttermost, through the redemption found in His Son, by grace alone. Unless a man is born from above, Jesus told a leader of the Jewish people, he cannot see – much less enter – the kingdom of God. In the New Covenant, we all know the Lord, we see Him with eyes of faith. We believe what was written even when the best human minds tell us it cannot be. While the world seeks a sign so they make a judgment, the sheep of God hear their Shepherd and believe.

To sum up. Satan had attacked true Israel directly; that was the scene last Sunday. In our passage today, he goes to Jesus’ home town to stir up family and friends in national Israel against the Israel of God. The Jewish leaders didn’t know it but they had grown lax, complacent, as their fathers had before them. They had grown attached to the idea that their physical connection to Abraham was their assurance of being in favor with YHWH. When YHWH shows up in the flesh, reads their Scripture about Himself, tells them it was being fulfilled as they listened to Him, their true colors were revealed.

When Job was suffering, his friends assumed it was because he had sinned and was being punished by God. They thought wealth and health were sure signs of God’s favor; illness and poverty signs of His wrath. Job was of the same mind as Abraham – he trusted God and dared not curse Him, though everything was taken from him. Do you and I see God the way Job’s friends and most Jews did, or do we see God as Job and Abraham did? Do you and I trust wealth, comfort, and the applause of man or do we trust the righteous one who judges justly? If we trust the gifts He gives, we are idolaters; if we demand signs, the men of Nineveh will rise in judgment against us.

The Jews of Jesus’ home town looked like and were treated as men of God. Yet most of them hated God and loved and trusted in their traditions and positions and sought signs. Some of the Jews in Capernaum, as in Berea, trusted the Word Who walked among them and was preached unto them.

For those of us who are in Christ, your background does not define you; your friends and family do not; your identity in Christ does. Rahab was a harlot, but she believed in God and is a sister in Christ. One Samaritan leper gave thanks to God and praised Him and was healed body and soul. Do not allow those who know you from childhood define you, as those who heard Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth judged Him. Do not allow the fear of what people close to you might say to keep you from serving God and His people, bringing joy to the brotherhood of saints and glory to your Father in heaven. If you are in Christ, you have a family that is closer and more dear that your friends and family according to the flesh. Jesus said (Matt 12:46-50) that His family was not defined by the flesh, but those who do the will of the Father in heaven were His “brother and sister and mother.” Do we identify with that family or do we cling to things and people of the flesh?

For each one of us, God forbid we allow our family, traditions, and positions blind us to the truth being taught in our midst. Let us search the Scriptures, not our traditions, to see if these things be so. Faith that saves is faith that believes the Word, obeys the Word, loves the brotherhood, and does not grow weary in doing well. Our Lord promised to defend His people, declaring that hell itself could not tear down the New Jerusalem He is building. Though Satan is defeated, his influence is seen everywhere as people of the world exalt in shameful deeds. Many who call themselves Christian despise His truth and, though many accept them as Christians, their words and their traditions betray them.

When the spiritual war stirs up trouble on the home front, when family and friends turn against you because of your testimony of Christ, look to Him, put no confidence in the flesh. We have a sure refuge, the man of sorrows who bought us at a high price. Trust Him, rest in Him, today. There is no other savior, no other advocate with the Father, no other refuge from the storms of this life or from the judgment that is surely coming upon this world. Do not live to please men. Warn those who love the world to turn and embrace Christ. He surely will save all that the Father gives to Him. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Amillennialism



Amillennialism

A reminder of a couple of things that we need to keep in mind.

1.       Every system of theology is the product of man and will have error. No one description of any system will satisfy everyone. We should look for the system that aligns best with Scripture. “does the least violence to Scripture.”

2.       Keep Christ clearly in view. The ultimate goal of all creation is the glorify God the Father and the Son. Our view of the end times should seek to keep His glory in its rightful place

This evening I will present amillennialism, but I want to make one thing clear before I get started. While I disagree with and find fault with postmillennialism and historic premillennialism, I have no fight with sober-minded brothers and sisters who hold those views. We are together for the gospel, to coin a phrase.

From our introduction, a definition and hermeneutic by Anthony Hoekema: "...amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand-year reign which will follow the return of Christ... the millennium of Revelation 20 is not exclusively future, but is now in the process of realization." Welcome to the millennium! This hermeneutic: Progressive Parallelism in Revelation (Earth's history repeated 7 times) OR Prehistorist: interpret in terms of meaning to 1st century church-- reassurance of Christ's victory over Roman persecutors. Context determines whether literal or figurative. Interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament.

I will present the progressive parallelism view this evening as that the dominant amillennial view; it is the view I hold. The handout provides an overview of how we see these different vantage points of redemptive history revealed to us in John’s apocalypse. To help comprehend the parallel nature of this Scripture, I’ve included a comparison of the three series of judgments: bowls, trumpets, and seals. This progressive parallelism is also called recapitulation - retelling the same basic story several times.

One brother summed up this view in these concise points (I changed his first point a bit):

·         The focus of the Bible is the Lord Jesus and not national Israel.
·         God deals with individuals and not nations in the matter of eternal salvation.
·         God has always included the Gentiles in the number of His elect.
·         There are two Israel’s in Scripture, one physical and one spiritual.
·         The covenant promises in the OT have been fulfilled, forfeited, or made to Christ and His church.
·         The NT interprets the OT.

Amillennialism is sometimes referred to as "realized millennium" since it holds to a kingdom that has been inaugurated. This system holds to a two-age model, wherein we recognize the many references in Scripture to "this age" and "the age to come" (Matthew 12:32, Luke 20:34-35 and Ephesians 1:21 for example). We have our citizenship in heaven, we anxiously await the return of the Lord here on earth. When He returns, it will be that great and terrible day when He will judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new; to live on the new earth with His people for eternity.

Since Amillennialism is not a basic hermeneutical rule (contrary to dispensationalism) the primary focus of the amillennial system is in Revelation, where the millennium is found. As I mentioned a couple weeks back, Revelation contains elements of narrative and epistle content, but is primarily an apocalyptic work, full of signs and symbols. We are told in the very first verse of this book that God made the revelation known by signifying it though His angel to John. The Greek word behind "signifying" is used in various technical fields to describe communication through signs; such as sign language used to communicate with deaf people. Since we see that this is the device YHWH has told us He used to reveal this bit of the redemptive story to our brother and partner in the tribulation, what basis would we have to interpret it "naturally" or "literally"? Further, in many of the scenes, John reported that he was in the spirit, not the flesh. If the book is symbolic by design, we should insist on clear indications that a piece of it should be taken literally, or physically rather than assume all should be.

The key element to our determining when each parallel story begins and ends is that we see the end of the age at the end of each one. As you can see with the bowl, trumpet, and seal judgements on the handout, the 7 parallel stories are not identical in their start or end points, but they have much in common, covering much of the redemption era. Rather than three series of world-ending judgments that crash down on creation one after another, we have a single series of judgments shown from slightly different angels, using different terms to communicate the same story. Each of the stories ends with a scene of the end of this age.

Considering this point, it is important to realize that the symbols in John's Apocalypse are not something we have to figure out; they are nearly all alluding to previous books of the Bible. God put in the canon all the tools necessary for us to properly interpret and understand Revelation. While the OT is not the determining filter for interpreting the New, we cannot understand the whole if we don't study the OT along with the New.

One thing popped into my head last Sunday while we were reading the creation story. In that historical narrative, we see that God created time and every bit of matter and organized it into our universe in 7 days. Paul (our Paul, not the apostle) mentioned that God did not need 7 days to do all He did, but He did so for a purpose. Throughout Scripture we see the number 7 having significant symbolic meaning of perfection; the battle of Jericho being one example. The Hebrews marched around the city 7 times on the 7th day and blew the trumpets 7 times; and the walls of that great city fell flat. Perfection. Completion. The amillennial view of the last book of the Bible sees that entire book organized around the number 7. There are 7 churches and 7 spirits before the throne of God. 3 sets of 7 judgments, and there are 7 parallel accounts of what happened since the first 7 days were recorded. I am not into numerology, but numbers are significant in all the Bible and even more so in apocalyptic literature such as John’s Apocalypse. The 7 spirits in ch 1 vs 4 represent the seven-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit, revealed in detail in ch 5:6. Since there is but one Holy Spirit, we know this number 7 is not literal, but symbolic of His perfection, completeness, and unity.

The first of these 7 settings is chapters 1 - 3, where even dispensationalists agree there is a break. This story introduces the book as a symbolic revelation and includes the timeless letters to the 7 churches and all churches. Each letter ends with an announcement of the end of the age (to the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life) and this haunting admonition from Christ - he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The second setting is chapters 4 - 8.5, where the seal judgments are poured out. Dispensationalists say the church is raptured between chapters 3 and 4, because you see no church in the book from here on out. That dog just don't hunt. In one of the most gripping scenes in the whole Bible, Rev 6 reveals the grief felt by martyrs who are have died and with the Lord in heaven, because their brothers on the earth are being murdered. The word "church" isn't used, but we are aware of saints on earth - they are the church!  This story ends with the 7th seal and the golden censor and judgment on the earth, in Revelation 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

The third setting picks up with the trumpet judgments in 8:6 and runs through the end of chapter 11, where we see the 7th trumpet and the judgment on the earth that is almost identical to what 8:5 revealed. Revelation 11:19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Our fourth story runs from chapter 12 through chapter 14, beginning with the vision of the woman giving birth to a son while the dragon waits to devour him as soon as he is born — an obvious reference to the birth of Christ and Satan's attempts to defeat Him. The rest of the section describes the continued opposition of the dragon to the church. This section also introduces us to the two beasts who are the dragon’s helpers: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth. This story ends with a lengthy description of judgment on the earth, with the harvest of the earth and the great winepress of God's wrath.

The fifth story picks up later in redemptive history, as chapter 15 begins with judgment, as the third telling of these judgments, with bowls this time, is revealed. Chapter 16 ends with Babylon the great being overthrown and made to drink the cup of the fury of God's wrath. When the 7th bowl is poured out, the angel of God cried out "It is done!" The Greek word is different from what Jesus cried out in John 19:30, when He said, "It is finished!" but the meanings of the two Greek words and the two English phrases are very similar. Also in this last scene of Rev 16 we see something shown to us in chapter 6 - islands and mountains fled from God. And the people of the world being punished by God curse Him as they go to their doom. This isn't happening a second time, it's merely being revealed to John - and us - a second time, from a slightly different perspective.

The sixth story is revealed in chapters 17 - 19, where Babylon falls - again! Over the years, many have seen the Roman Catholic Church in chapter 17. That cult is the city on 7 hills, she was drunk on the blood of the saints as she murdered untold numbers of Christians in the Inquisition. Most believe it to be a description of all false religion, waging war on the people of God. They make war on the Lamb and the Lamb will conquer them! Chapter 18 retells, in detail, the fall of Babylon - this is third time we've been told Babylon has fallen. Things continue to be repeated in John's account. Chapter 19 begins with a celebration of God's judgment on the rebels, celebrates the marriage supper of the Lamb, and ends with victory of the Lord Jesus over the people of the world. This is the great supper of God, where the birds of prey feast on the flesh of His enemies and the false prophet and his beast where thrown into the lake of fire.

The seventh and last story is chapters 20 - 22. In chapter 20 we see this present age, with Satan restricted from having complete dominion over the nations, the gospel having the freedom to go to the four corners of the world, saints reigning in heaven with the Lord, the brief release of Satan to deceive the nations and wage war against God - again! The Lamb wins, judges the people of the world and HIs enemies enter into the second death, never-ending punishment. The last 2 chapters reveal the glory of what is to come. As the graph I handed out shows, these chapters extend further than any other. The new earth, where righteousness dwells! The Apocalypse wraps up with the promised return of Jesus being held out to us, giving hope to every generation of saints, that we would not grow weary in well doing. And we see that the bliss of being with the Lord in New Jerusalem is not dependent on being ignorant of God's judgment on His enemies. They are described as "outside the city gate." We have the warning about adding to or taking away from this book and the promise that, surely, Jesus is coming soon! Every generation of Christians has had reason to believe His time is nigh. We are to be eagerly awaiting the return of our Lord and God, not sleep-walking through life.

This scheme is not without difficulty. Chapter 6 appears to end with the return of Christ, with chapter 7 opening with a new vision. We see continuity, however, with the seal judgments, which are unveiled beginning in ch 6:1 and ending with the 7th seal in ch 8:5. Having some of the seals in one story and the last seal in another telling of that story is more difficult to explain and accept than a story line that has judgment, a brief look at the victory of the saints, then the last seal and the end of time. Also, the binding of Satan is something that take much thought to comprehend how Rev 20:1-3 can be true when we also read he roams like a lion. Recall that even humans can have dominating influence while not present, through agents and prior contact. Much more the prince of demons!

In addition to this scheme of how we read John's Apocalypse, what else distinguishes Amillennialism? Revelation is not a book of terror, as some people imagine it. Revelation is a glorious message of Christ Jesus' victory over sin, death, and Satan and His promise to redeem and live among His people. Is that not a summary of the entire Bible? Having a right view of the Bible as a whole helps us have a right view of specific passages within it. This will be the main point of our final message on eschatology, next week.

Hand-in-glove with this view of Revelation, then, is a hermeneutic that seeks to keep the gospel message front and center in all of Scripture. Spurgeon told a story of an elderly Scottish preacher who was attending the first service of a young preacher. When the young man had finished, he sought out the older gentleman to ask him what he thought of the sermon. The old man looked the young man in the eye and said, “Not much.” “What was the problem with the message?” the young man asked. “There was no Jesus in your message, young man!” “But sir,” he replied, “there was no mention of Jesus of the text!” The elder preacher leaned in close and told him, “Son, there’s a saying that in England all roads lead to London. Not all of them go straight there, but they all lead there. Every sermon must lead your people to the cross. It may not be a direct route as in the gospel accounts, but even if you have to take them over the hedges and through the swamps, you must take your people to Christ!”

National Israel is not the focus of God's redemptive plan, Christ Jesus is. The Law of Moses is not the focus of God's redemptive plan, neither is the politics of this grand land. Anything we put in the way or place of Jesus can be a stumbling block to those being called and to those who are in Christ. So, as did Paul, we seek to preach Christ and Him crucified and not any ethnic group, political movement, or law. Here are some examples of how this works out on topics relevant to this series.

Paul uses the word mystery many times his letters, addressing several topics. One of the most controversial topics is the mystery that was then being made clear - that God had intended from the beginning to include Gentiles in His kingdom. His letter to the Ephesians is a wealth of insight into the glorious redemptive purposes of God. Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. If we understand the nature of being members of the same body we would not accept those who say any ethnic group has special standing before God. In this epistle, the apostle uses three metaphors to describe what God is doing among people who were, by nature, children of wrath. Hal Brunson summed it up - "As the architect is one with his building, as the body is one with its members (Eph 4 & 5), and as the husband is one with his bride (Eph 5), so also God sovereignly joins Himself to His elect people as the head (Col 1:18) and husband (Eph 5:25)." The building metaphor is most substantial, with Paul using several architectural terms - wall, partition, household, foundation, corner stone, framed, temple, habitation, and building - all found in Eph 2:14-22. This aligns with James' description of the elect as the tabernacle of David (Acts 15:16) and Peter's spiritual stones (1 Peter 2:5). Paul says Gentiles were once alienated from the commonwealth of Israel but have been brought near by the blood of Christ and are, therefore, members of the household of God. Jew and Gentile saints are one new man and one body (Eph 2:15-16) by this reconciliation that is found in Christ. This mystery is unveiled: Christ Jesus has broken down the middle wall of partition that stood between Jew and Gentile. Note how strange it was throughout the gospels for Jesus to speak and eat with those who alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. The Jews' literal hermeneutic could not accept the fact that YHWH had promised Himself to anyone other than physical Israel. But that was the purpose and the promise of God from the beginning.

Another way Scripture helps us understand what God is doing is to see the contrast between physical Israel, Jews, and Jerusalem. While those with a strict literal hermeneutic claim Israel always and only means physical Israel, the Bible says otherwise. Hal Brunson's book, Who is Israel/ What is a Jew? Where is Jerusalem?, is a wonderfully written, well organized, compelling look at these questions.

Galatians gives us one the clearest contrasts between physical and spiritual Israel and Jerusalem. Gal 4:21-5:1 (page 2253). Paul uses Sarah as a metaphor for both unbelieving Israel and those in those in the New Covenant. As Israel, she was barren and desolate, bearing only the child that God had promised and provided. As the heavenly Jerusalem of the New Covenant, only those the Father gives to the Son, enemies of God ransomed by the blood of the Lamb, are included. Hagar is now brought in to represent national Israel, in bondage under the Law of Moses. Earthly Jerusalem, national Israel, contrasted with heavenly Jerusalem and her children, Abraham's seed according to the promise - the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).

The term, Jerusalem, shows up 142 times in the New Testament. 137 of these are references to the physical city, regarding something that took place in the first century. In each of the remaining 5 uses of Jerusalem, the writers spiritualize it to indicate the present, spiritual, heavenly, eternal nature of God's kingdom, not a future, physical, earthly instance of God's temporal kingdom. Brunson: "Paul asserts that God has rejected earthly Jerusalem and national Israel, as Hagar was the physical mother of Ishmael the rejected seed." Abraham and the other saints of old sought a heavenly city, not an earthly one, a better country and a heavenly Jerusalem. Why would anyone teach that God's purpose in glorifying His name would be tied to return the shadow kingdom, version 2?

As for the contrast between physical and spiritual Jews, the biblical witness is manifold. Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 9:6-7 For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. Brunson observed that those who haggle over physical Israel still being the apple of God's eye might be just like Hagar, if she had argued with Abraham that her son had a biological claim on his blessing. But in Isaac shall the world be blessed, and the child of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman. Paul said it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Rom 9:8). To sum up, those who insist on keeping ethnic Jewish believers separate in identify from Gentile believers don't read Paul closely. The apostle asserts Gentiles are the true Jews (Rom 2:29), the true circumcision (Phil 3:3), Abraham's seed (Gal 3:29), fellow citizens (Eph 2:19) of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12) and children of promise (Gal 4:28) born of the same mother - Jerusalem which is above (Gal 4:26) and the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). 

Another distinctive of Amillennialism is the tension of living in this age where sin and death are present yet we have been raised up to new life in Christ. As Jesus taught (Mark 1:15),, His kingdom was among His people even while He lived on the earth. He promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matt 28:20) and He reigns even now (Eph 1:21-22, 1 Cor 15:25), not waiting for a future earthly circumstance. We are taught to live godly lives in this present age as we wait for our blessed hope (Tit 2:12-13), to not be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2), nor be devoted to it (1 John 2:15-17), and not put our hope in things of this age, such as wealth (1 Tim 6:17). And this: Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be (1 John 3:2). This is the "already but not yet" character of the kingdom of God.

We who are in Christ have our identity in Christ, we are seated with Him in the heavenlies, He lives in us by HIs Spirit, and we eagerly await His return, knowing He is the faithful one who come back and take us to be with Himself. Between this age and the next comes His return, which means the judgment of all flesh, the gathering of the elect, and the resurrection of the world. Jesus described this as a parable in Matthew 13 and explained it to His disciples (verses 36-43, page 1849).

The age-to-come is characterized by the continued reign of Christ (Eph 1:21-22), the kingdom will be consummated (Rev 22), we will be united with glorified bodies (1 Cor 15:53), and this: Revelation 21:3-4 “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This is the age-to-come. It's not the same as this present age, nor is it an improved earth.

In light of all this, how should we live? The practical aspects of one's view of the end times is more substantial and more subtle than most of us think. We will, Lord willing, examine this next Sunday as we wrap up this series on eschatology. For now, let us learn from God what the long and short of it is.

2 Peter 3:11-13 (page 2423).  May God give us grace to live as honorable servants in this wicked age.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dispensationalism



Dispensationalism

A reminder of a couple of things that we need to keep in mind.

1.       Every system of theology is the product of man and will have error. No one description of any system will satisfy everyone. We should look for the system that “does the least violence to Scripture.”
2.       Keep Christ clearly in view. The ultimate goal of all creation is the glorify God the Father and the Son. Our view of the end times should seek to keep His glory in its rightful place

Dispensationalism is one of the systems within the premil category; historic premillennialism being the other. From our introduction, Herman Hoyt's definition of dispensationalism: "A golden age of civilization...as described in the Bible...a millennial kingdom will be ushered in by a divine, supernatural and catastrophic manifestation from heaven at the Second coming of Christ....when the conditions of life have reached the depths of great tribulation." This hermeneutic: The whole Bible is divided into several (originally 7) dispensations/time periods in which God acts in different ways toward man.  Interpretation must be literal whenever possible. Interpret the New Testament by the Old Testament.

I will not spend time this evening reviewing the historical origin and development of this system. That is a hotly contested topic and is secondary to the discussion of the theological aspects that define dispensationalism.

Charles Ryrie is considered one the most consistent and respected advocate for modern dispensationalism, putting a little distance between himself and Darby/Scofield and the newer progressive dispensationalists. In his 1997 book, Dispensationalism, Ryrie listed 3 issues that he calls the sine qua non (the essential qualities) of dispensationalism. Charles Ryrie is not alone in his views. Michael Vlach is a professor at Master's Seminary and was written a couple of books espousing the same basic view as Ryrie. I will present Ryrie's list of essential doctrines and examine them, in reverse order, to so if they be so.

A Clear and Consistent Distinction Between Israel and the Church
"This understanding of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies quite naturally leads to the clear and consistent distinction between Israel and the church, which is a vital part of dispensationalism. All other views bring the church into Israel's fulfilled prophecies except dispensationalism. This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a person is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive."

The Hermeneutical Principle
"The hermeneutical principle is basic to the entire dispensational system, including its eschatology. It affects everything, and, as we have tried to show in chapter 5, dispensationalism is the only system that practices the literal principle of interpretation consistently." This hermeneutic sometimes shows up under the term, Rule of First Mention, which asserts that the first mention of anything in Scripture is the most definitive of that thing. Contrary to this, we clearly see the progressive revelation found in Scripture, as more clarity is added over time. Their hermeneutic helps keep the OT in first place.

The underlying purpose of God in the world is the glory of God
"The covenant theologian, in practice, believes this purpose to be salvation (although covenant theologians strongly emphasize the glory of God in their theology), and the dispensationalist says the purpose is broader than that; namely, the glory of God."

On this point I heartily agree. I also agree with Ryrie that many Christians tend to put man's salvation at the center of God's purpose in the world, but the Bible teaches us that the purpose for God reconciling sinners to Himself is for His glory (Romans 15:7-9 Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy.). But he soils this idea later in his book, saying, "The entire program culminates, not in eternity but in history, in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Christ. This millennial culmination is the climax of history and the great goal of God's program for the ages." And yet, even this "great goal of God's program for the ages" lasts only a literal thousand years.

It's interesting that their view of the millennium is not one of the essential elements. It is a basic consequence of their hermeneutic. Dispensationalists have a similar view of the millennium as do the historic premil, but dispensationalists have a much more aggressive view of defending national Israel and rebuilding the wall between Jews and Gentiles. This comes out in Ryrie's second essential point. The dispensations they hold to are not essential - there being differences in how many and their purposes.

In the introduction to this series, I mentioned several things that set this system apart: Dispensationalism, alone, interprets the New Testament by the Old, insists on a literal millennium, insists on two or more judgments, insists on a secret rapture, claims Satan is rampant, denies the current reign of Christ, and builds a wall between Gentile and Jewish saints. Ryrie lists 6 or 7 things he says are true only of dispensationalism. I'll have those in my notes that get posted, but will not spend time this evening on them. At the core, what sets this system apart is the first thing on Ryrie's list of 3. His second point is that all the other points of distinction are the product of his use of what Ryrie calls "the literal interpretation of Scripture."

Ryries describes his hermeneutic principle: "Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. This means interpretation that gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking." This is often summed up, “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” But contrary to this popular hermeneutic, the plain sense of Scripture often contradicts the true meaning of Scripture and our common sense often makes no heavenly sense. Ryrie: "Philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require literal interpretation." The ambiguous nature of language, however, requires one seek to understand what the author meant, rather than rely on what seems plain or normal. The biblical history of Christ's ministry shows how far astray the Jewish people had wandered, in part because they took their Scriptures literally without seeking to truly understand what YHWH had said.

Ryrie continues: "If one does not use the plain, normal, or literal method of interpretation, all objectivity is lost. The dispensationalist claims to be consistent in his use of this principle, and he accuses the nondispensationalist of being inconsistent in his use of it."  Are dispensationalists consistent in their literal hermeneutic? A friend of mine observed that dispensationalism "refuses to interpret Matthew 24 literally because it doesn't make their eschatology work. Also, forcing a 'literal' interpretation on all of Scripture is foolish. What is meant by this is that dispensationalism uses a 'literal' hermeneutic where it benefits the dispensational scheme. When using a 'literal' hermeneutic, it is impossible to see a gap between the 69th and 70th week." Ryrie and his kin make exceptions to their literal hermeneutic to accommodate normal grammatical constructs, such as word pictures. Hence they agree that Jesus is not a literal door. But when they look at the scene in the first paragraph of Rev 20 (key, chain, abyss), their rule appears to be very subjective, not consistent. Does this mean Ryrie has lost all objectivity? Not in his view, because his exceptions to his literal hermeneutic are within reason (as he sees it) and exceptions taken by us outside his camp are not. That is a subjective standard, not an objective one.

One theologian (G.J. Harloff) said, "Man’s literalistic interpretation is incomplete because: (1) Christ taught that scriptures are sometimes veiled to hide the truth from nonbelievers (2 Co 4:3), (2) comprehensive theological backgrounds and God’s help are needed to understand/teach the scriptures (1 Co 1:20-21), and (3) the literalistic system may prevent inductive study and seeing the unity in the Scriptures." Contrary to Ryrie's claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ ... were all fulfilled ‘literally’”, many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cp. Luke 2:21).

Ryrie quotes Floyd Hamilton, an amillennialist, as though he was in agreement with dispensationalism's hermeneutic. Hamilton said, "Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialist pictures. That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal kingdom interpretation of the Old Testament promises." This is not agreement by Hamilton, but recognition of the problem with Ryrie's system: first century Jews were looking for a political savior that would overthrow Rome. Jesus did not come for that purpose, but to establish His kingdom, which He said was not of this world. It's a sad error for a Christian to fall into the same pit the Jews fell into. In John 3, Jesus was explaining how no one can even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again by the Holy Spirit. He asks Nicodemus, "Are you a teacher of Israel and don't know these things?" Nicodemus understood the Old Testament the way Ryrie says Christians should; and he had missed the kingdom of God.

Ryrie goes on to say, "In the progress of revelation there has been no change in the meaning of these words (Israel and church), and they are kept distinct." I will not spend time looking at the word "church" as it's not critical to this topic and because it has such a controversial history in the translation of English Bibles. But to see how the word "Israel" has changed in meaning over the unveiling of God's Word is critical to one's proper understanding of Scripture, so we will see what the Bible says about this word. Ryrie says, "The term Israel continues to be used for the natural (not spiritual) descendants of Abraham after the church was instituted, and it is not equated with the church. Only when a believer belongs also to the Jewish race can he in any sense be called a spiritual Israelite." Romans 2:28-29 tells us a true Jew is not merely circumcised in the flesh, but in the heart. This is without regard to genealogy. Is he not a "spiritual Israelite?"

He continues: "If the yet unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament made in the Abrahamic, Davidic, and new covenants are to be literally fulfilled, there must be a future period, the Millennium, in which they can be fulfilled, for the church is not now fulfilling them." His earthly focus demands earthly fulfillment of OT prophecies. Yet all the promises of God find their "Yes" in Christ, not in national Israel. If, as Ryrie asserts, national physical Israel still plays a significant role in God's redemptive plan, why do we read in Matthew 21 (page 1867) this tale? Beginning in verse 33, Jesus tells the elders and chief priests a parable of a vineyard owner who left his vineyard in the care of tenants and sent his servants and then his son to reap the harvest. Each of them was beaten or killed. When the landowner returned, he was expected by to destroy the unfaithful tenants and lease his vineyard to other farmers that would give him produce at the harvest.

Jesus told the elders and priests that the kingdom will be taken from them and given to another that would produce fruit! The stone that was rejected HAS become the cornerstone. Not WILL BE in the future. HAS become. Upon this stone, all who fall will be broken, but all upon whom the stone falls will be ground up to powder. Note what the Scriptures says - the elders and priests knew Jesus was speaking about them in the parable and explanation He had just told them. The kingdom of God is being given to a people who will produce fruit - the fruit of the Spirit. What kingdom does that leave to be given to physical Israel?

Again, from Ryrie: "Jews today who believe in Christ are members of the church, His Body, and their destiny is the same as Gentile believers during this age. But to those Jews who will be living on the earth in earthly bodies when the Millennium begins and to those who will be born with earthly bodies during the period will fulfill the promises made to Israel that have remained unfulfilled until the Millennium. These include possession of the land (Gen. 15:18-21), prosperity in the land (Amos 9:11-15), and the blessings of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34)."         
                 
Here is the distinction between church and national Israel Ryrie spoke about, saying it was foundational to his hermeneutic; it is what drives their hermeneutic. It is a focus on the temporal. A detailed review of the land promise would take about an hour, to see if the scope is what dispensationalists claim. But there is one short passage that should settle the point about land promises. In Joshua 14, we see the beginning of a recitation of the land that had been given to Israel. This continues on until 21:43 where we see this (page 426). The literal fulfillment of this promise took place a long time ago - it's not hanging out until some time in the future. But dispensationalists do not accept this; they are looking for a renewal of temporal Israel. We are familiar with the passage in Hebrews where we read that Abraham was not looking for a piece of dirt but a heavenly city designed and built by God. The main focus of this land promise is not a temporal one, but an eternal, spiritual one.

His second promise is "prosperity in the land" based on Amos 9:11-15 (page 1675).  Is this a temporal promise yet unfulfilled? In the famous church council in Jerusalem, James referred to this prophecy as being fulfilled in the work then begun by Paul, and reported to the Jerusalem church - that Gentiles were being called by God into His kingdom (vs 13-18, page 2115). Once again, the true fulfillment is spiritual and eternal, not temporal. For the kingdom of God is focused on "precious metals" but on the power and Word of God!

Thirdly, the dispensational wedge between national Israel and the church means they see two new covenants, one for the church (Hebrews 8) and one for national Israel, in Jer 31. This aspect of Dispensationalism, separating believing Israelites from believing Gentiles, is the most grievous. By accepting this as fact, the whole system of temporal blessings for one ethnic groups as the focus of God's redemptive plan makes God a respecter of persons in matters of redemption and fractures the people He bought with His blood. Hear what Paul said about these two groups of people and their relationship to one another in Christ: Eph 2:11-22 (page 2265). Further, with the finished work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the eyes of God (Gal 3:28). You see why dispensationalists need to interpret the NT by the OT? The apostolic hermeneutic destroys their system.

Ryrie's support for national Israel's part in the New Covenant is based on his belief that the new covenant in Jer 31 is not the same New Covenant spoken of in Hebrews. "The reference to "new covenant" (in Heb 8:31) is without the definite article. The text does not say we are ministers of "the new covenant" but of "a new covenant. Obviously, not all the provisions of the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament have been inaugurated, as, for example, no need of teaching (Jer. 31:34) and Israel being firmly and safely planted in its own land (32:41)." Hebrews 8 contrasts the old and new covenants, describing Christ Jesus as the great high priest of the New Covenant, calling it a better covenant that the first one. The apostolic writer quotes Jer 31:31-34, assigning that to the work of Christ in redeeming sinners. This is repeated in Heb 10. There is ONE New Covenant, prophesied in Jeremiah and Ezekiel and fulfilled in the Lord Jesus for one people. As to Ryrie's assertion that this inaugurated covenant doesn't fulfill the teaching promise, recall what Jeremiah wrote: Jeremiah 31:34 (ESV)  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.” This does not promise a full and complete knowledge that does away with the preaching and teaching of the Word in this age. It promises that all those redeemed by God will know Him and won't need to be told, "Know the Lord." As for the land promise, if your focus is on earthly things, you will expect to see a literal fulfillment, even though much of the language is alluded to in John's description of the new earth. If your focus is on spiritual, heavenly things, it's easy to see how the apostle interpreted this promise.

If we rightly see how God redeemed His people, we'll find no need to split His body, no need for 2 new covenants, no reason to return to the shadows and rebuild the tent of David in stone. For Christ Jesus has removed our stone hearts and is building new Jerusalem as He brings each of His sheep into His sheepfold. One sheepfold of God, not two.

Dispensationalism mistakenly holds that Israel and the church are not interchangeable in the Bible, however, in Galatians 6: 16 Paul directly calls the Christian church "the Israel of God" (including Gentile believers: cf. Gal. 2:2,5; 4:8; 5:2). Christians are the true 'Jews" (Rom. 2:28-29), the true "circumcision" (Phil. 3:3), the true "seed of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7, 29), the "children of promise" like Isaac (Gal. 4:28), the "commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2:12, 19). Israel's glory was the presence of God among them in the temple (Lev. 26:11-12), and the church now is that temple, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:14-16; Eph. 2:21-22; I Peter 2:5). Israel was called the people of God's own possession (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18), and now the church has been given that same designation (Eph. I: 14; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2: 14). There is but one olive tree, with Gentile and Jewish branches both a part of it (Rom. 11:17-18). The New Covenant, which was made with Israel, is established with the church Jer.31:33; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 3:3-18). - Greg Bahnsen

Hal Brunson points out that God was meticulous in crafting ethnic Israel as a foreshadowing of God's elect people, comprised of elect from every nation, tribe, and tongue, whom Paul declared to be Abraham's seed (Gal 3:29). He observes that the name, Israel, was claimed as belonging to Christ Jesus (in Matthew's citation of Hosea 11:1) and is, by extension, applied to the redeemed wherein Paul refers to the people of God, whether circumcised or not, as the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). Brunson also sees correlation between the physical circumcision of physical Israel with the spiritual circumcision of spiritual Israel, the Jew that Paul said was truly a Jew (Romans 2:28-29). Lastly, we see physical Jerusalem foreshadowing spiritual Jerusalem. In Hebrews 12:22, the writer says Christians have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is not a future condition during the dispensational millennium; it is a current circumstance for everyone who is enrolled in heaven, their spirits having been made perfect (verse 23). This correlates with Paul's description of Hagar and Sarah as allegories of two covenants, wherein he describes earthly Jerusalem as slavery with her children in bondage. This bondage is being under the Mosaic Law, as Paul made reference to in verse 21 - Tell me, you who wish to be under the Law, do you not listen to the Law? That Law brought condemnation to all mortals who tried to keep it. That was earthly Jerusalem in Paul's day. But, he says, the Jerusalem above (which can only be the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Heb 12) is liberty and freedom. It was for freedom Christ set us free!

Contrary to the dispensational claim that physical Israel always means ethnic, physical Israel, God's Word reveals that physical Jews, physical Israel, and physical Jerusalem each served as types and shadows of the spiritual, eternal realities of what is a Jew (the redeemed), who is Israel (all those who are in Christ), and where is Jerusalem (in heaven with God until the next age).

Galatians 6:15-16 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. This construction, and upon the Israel of God, is not establishing another category of people (as Ryrie claims in asserting they describe ethnic Israel) who are reconciled to God. Paul is emphasizing who these people he calls a new creation are. The literal hermeneutic consistently divides what Christ has reconciled and contradicts the very clear teaching that, in redemption, God is no respecter of persons - that is, He does not favor one people group over another.  As Paul says in Gal 6 - neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And in Galatians 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. But premillennialism says ethnic Jews have an advantage. Vlach says it is an ethnic advantage, not an advantage in salvation. No matter how it is described, it makes God a respecter of persons and it makes circumcision count for something. 

Here's an example of where the dispensational literal hermeneutic can lead. David Jeremiah succeeded Tim LaHaye as "Senior Pastor" of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, CA. In his book, What in the World is Going On?, Jeremiah reveals that he has based a sermon or two on crude oil, calling it “the stuff of life” and a “sign” (the inference I drew is that he considers this a biblical sign). He disbelieves the biblical account of creation, believing oil took “eons of time” to create and tells us that Deuteronomy 33:24 (And of Asher he said, "Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.) and Genesis 49:22 – 26 indicate there is oil beneath the dirt occupied by the modern nation of Israel. The oil mentioned in Deuteronomy is olive oil, used in medicine and religious anointing. The passage from Genesis simply refers to blessings directly from God in Heaven and indirectly from God here below. To derive a promise of crude oil from these passages is perhaps the worst example of a literal hermeneutic that I’ve seen. Now I'm not saying every dispensationalist believes this, but many do. Shadow Mountain is a YUGE church with as many as 9 satellite campus "churches" where Jeremiah appears weekly on a big screen.

On more quote from Ryrie: "All nondispensationalists blur to some extent the distinction between Israel and the church. Such blurring fails to recognize the contrast that is maintained in Scripture between Israel, the Gentiles, and the church. In the New Testament natural Israel and the Gentiles are contrasted." He seems to fail to grasp that the Bible shows a contrast between the people of God and those of the world. When Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God, they are part of one body - wherein ethnic and class distinctions cease to matter! There is the temporal kingdom of man that will crumble before the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-17), and there is the spiritual, eternal kingdom of God that will never end (Luke 1:31-33).

When the King of glory stood before the king of this world, He said, (John 18:36) My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. The Kingdom of God is not of or from this world. The premillennial millennium is of this world. Think about that.

All the promises of God are in Christ (II Cor. 1:20). All the promises of God were made to Christ, as the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Therefore, there can be no promise of any kind for any unbeliever outside of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. What God promises is far, far better than version of a cursed earth.

Let us fix our eyes on the Lord, from Whom our help comes. No ethnic group has special standing in His kingdom or redemptive work.



Notes not in the sermon:


Why I cannot embrace Dispensationalism.

Dispensationalism splits in half what Christ reconciled in His blood, tearing down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, make both men one in Himself.

Dispensationalism holds the children of Abraham according to the flesh as God's people whereas the Bible says it is children of Abraham according to the promise.

Dispensationalism focuses on re-establishing a religion that was ended by the sacrifice of Christ, claiming the Levitical Religion is the true expression of worship of God. Types and shadows give way when the anti-type comes. The Levitical religion was shadows of the heavenly things and was swept away when Christ finished His redemptive work. Just as some herald the Decalogue to a degree that it obscure Christ, so the focus on the religion that was given with the Decalogue. The fullness has come, do not turn back to the shadows.

Dispensationalism encourages people to overlay the news onto the Scriptures, interpreting the Word by the news of the world. This lends itself to endless promotions of NEW insights, which sells more books and conference tickets to those who do not work to interpret Scripture with Scripture.

I know many people who follow Dispensationalism whom I consider brothers. But I can no more accept Dispensationalist theology than I can accept a state church.

Ryrie makes many absolute claims about his theological system, claiming "only dispensationalism" provides this or does that. "Only dispensationalism can maintain unity and diversity at the same time and offer a consistent system of interpretation, only dispensationalism can adequately account for the variety of distinguishable economies or dispensations in (not apart from) the outworking of God's purpose. Only dispensationalism with its cross-sectional and longitudinal/spiral perspectives can recognize the wealth, mobility, and complexity of the history of God's running the affairs of this world."

"Only dispensationalism can cause historical events and successions to be seen in their own light and not to be reflected in the artificial light of an overall covenant. Thus, a correct philosophy of history with its requirements of a proper goal, a proper unifying principle, and a proper concept of progress is best satisfied by the dispensational system. Like the need for biblical distinctions, the proper concept of the philosophy of history leads to dispensationalism. Dispensationalism sees the unity, the variety, and the progressiveness of this purpose of God for the world as no other system of theology."

"Classic dispensationalism is a result of consistent application of the basic hermeneutical principle of literal, normal, or plain interpretation. No other system of theology can claim this." "Dispensationalism claims to employ principles of literal, plain, normal, or historical grammatical interpretation consistently. If plain or normal interpretation is the only valid hermeneutical principle and if it is consistently applied, it will cause one to be a dispensationalist."

In his book, Dispensationalism, Michael Vlach (a professor of theology at The Master's Seminary) says, "The New Testament at times adds additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from, and show how Christ fulfills the Mosaic Law. But the New Testament writers do not reinterpret or transcend the original intent of the Old Testament writers."

Two passages from Scripture show us how Vlach goes wrong in claiming no New Testament writers reinterpret the Old Testament and provide examples of the apostolic hermeneutic that many preachers use responsibly but dispensationalist call dangerous. First up, a passage from Matthew 2 that some liberals point to in claiming the Bible has errors. While the wise men were seeking the Christ child, an angel appeared to Joseph, warning him to take his family to Egypt to avoid Herod's murderous scheme. Matthew says this was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I shall call my son." This is a citation from Hosea 11:1, where that prophet recounted the Hebrew people being called out of Egypt after their captivity. Matthew doesn't add "additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from" Hosea; he reinterprets it as applying to Christ as a prophecy rather than a commentary on a historical account.

Our second example comes from Paul, in 1 Cor 9. He has been teaching the saints that apostles and other saints had the right to marry, to eat and drink and that those who preach should be taken care of financially. (read 7-11, page 2203). As with Matthew, Paul does not merely add "additional information, offer commentary on, draws principles from" Deut 25:4; he reinterprets it entirely! He goes so far as to say it wasn't even written for what Moses intended!

Vlach is wrong in saying New Testament authors don't reinterpret Old Testament passages. It's clear from what Matthew and Paul wrote that they were interpreting and applying those Old Testament passages in ways the human writers would have never imagined. Dispensationalists turn a blind eye to this reality because their "literal hermeneutic" cannot hold together, if they recognize it. And their "literal hermeneutic" is the lynch pin to the other distinctions you find in their system.

Ryrie and Vlach both include national Israel as the human party to the New Covenant, because the first mention of the New Covenant is in the Old Testament!

Another Old Testament passage which dispensationalists claim for the second advent, which means the reestablishment of national Israel in their millennium, is found in Joel 2 and is cited by Peter as being fulfilled in the first advent! In Acts 2 the Spirit has been poured out in a magnificent display of people preaching in their tongue and being understood in the various languages of the people who were there - over a dozen languages! (Read 14-21, page 2083). The literal hermeneutic cannot accept what Peter has said - that these signs and wonders with heavenly displays were apocalyptically fulfilled in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That system cannot accept that His death on the cross was the great and terrible day of the Lord - which it must have been because that is what opened the way for the New Covenant, wherein all the elect from all nations and tribes will be gathered - everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved! This cannot be describing the second coming of Jesus, for the Scripture says (Heb 9:28) Christ will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but save those who eagerly await Him.

The literal hermeneutic requires literal, physical fulfillment of this prophecy - the moon turned to blood - even though this requires them to push it off into the future (because these things haven't happened yet). Even though the Spirit, speaking through Peter said, This is what was uttered through the prophet. Our hermeneutic must bow the knee to holy writ.

The distinction between Israel and the church leads to the belief that the church will be taken from the earth before the beginning of the Tribulation (which in one major sense concerns Israel). Note: A key feature of dispensationalism is a belief in a "pretrib rapture." Yet concerning the tribulation, Ryrie says it is based on a gap he claims exists between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel's prophecy. And yet, of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9 he says, "They are not in themselves determinative of a dispensational change."



The Millennial Kingdom
Of course, the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth is also a feature of dispensational eschatology. The difference between the dispensational and nondispensational views of premillennialism is not in the fact of the coming millennial kingdom (for both include it in their systems) but in the integration of the kingdom into their overall systems. The doctrine of the millennial kingdom is for the dispensationalist an integral part of his entire scheme and interpretation of many biblical passages.

Yet he also asserts, "Concerning the goal of history, dispensationalists find it in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, whereas the covenant theologian regards it as the eternal state." The "underlying purpose of God in the world" is the glory of God, but the "goal of history" is "the millennial kingdom on earth" where sin, death, and rebellion take place.

It's important to note: the various dispensations Ryrie claims to find in Scripture are not included in his list of essential qualities. Yet he goes so far as to say, "It is the marking off of these stages in the revelation of the purpose of God that is the basis for the dispensational approach to the interpretation of the Scriptures." Ryrie says the number of dispensations is not determinative, and he observes how some of his colleagues see 3 or 4 or 8. Then he states, "it is not difficult to deduce how many dispensations are revealed in Scripture."

So the number and purposes of the various dispensations claimed by Ryrie and his compatriots are not essential, but they form the basis of their hermeneutic rule. He also claims the distinction between Israel and the church is basic to his hermeneutic: "The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist's consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well."

Ryrie describes a dispensation: "The principal characteristic of a dispensation is the economic arrangement and responsibility that God reveals in each dispensation. Such responsibility is a test in itself. Most men fail the test, and then judgment follows. The dispensational scheme has two perspectives: a cross-sectional aspect (which is sometimes misconstrued as cycles but which is in reality a spiral) and a longitudinal aspect (which emphasizes the unfolding progress of revelation and continuing principles throughout the ages of the dispensations)." "The basic scheme involving the different dispensations remains the most helpful tool of consistent, noncontradictory interpretation of Scripture."

Ryrie quotes John Walvoord: "All the events of the created world are designed to manifest the glory of God. The error of covenant theologians is that they combine all the many facets of divine purpose in the one objective of the fulfillment of the covenant of grace. From a logical standpoint, this is the reductive error-the use of one aspect of the whole as the determining element." I will attempt to show how Ryrie falls to this same error, as each distinctive of dispensationalism flows from their first, and truly the only, essential point - their literal hermeneutic.

In his description of the dispensational millennium, Ryrie says "The earthly purpose of Israel of which dispensationalists speak concerns the yet unfulfilled national promises that will be fulfilled by Israel during the Millennium as they live on the earth in unresurrected bodies." He says neither Jews nor Gentiles who die before the millennium will participate in it. He quotes Dwight Pentecost: "The nature of the millennium, as the period of the test of fallen humanity under the righteous reign of the King, precludes the participation by resurrected individuals in that testing. Thus the millennial age will be concerned only with men who ... are living in their natural bodies." Ryrie says, "It will continue for a thousand years, and man will be responsible for obedience to the King and His laws." He observes that sin and rebellion and revolt take place during this time, although not unchecked. So Ryrie's view of the millennium is populated with unregenerate people who are under the law who rebel against King Jesus. This is a worse condition than what existed upon the earth during the Lord's first advent, as there were people (John the Baptizer, Anna and Simeon) who anxiously awaited Him and heralded His kingdom, which is spiritual and eternal - not earthly and temporal.

Ryrie laments the tendency of progressive dispensationalists who have abandoned parenthesis or intercalation to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel. Ryrie says the word parenthesis does not convey the idea the church is an afterthought. A literary dictionary defines it this way: "Parenthesis is a qualifying or explanatory sentence, clause, or word that writers insert into a paragraph or passage. However, if they leave it out, even then it does not grammatically affect the text, which is correct without it."

2 Kings 19:30-31; Isaiah 10:20-22; 37:31-32, Joel 2:32; Micah 4:7; Zephaniah 3:13; Zechariah 8:1-8, 12; Romans 9:27; 11:5. Each of these verses speak of the nation of Israel but they speak in reference to only a remnant being saved.

A friend: "In retrospect - I never thought of this till the past couple of days - I realize that I set myself up for abandoning dispensationalism long before I actually did so. Early on I realized that a "face value" view of the Bible is the only rational way to approach it. This is the view that whatever in the Word you're reading, 𝘺𝘰𝘢 𝘩𝘒𝘷𝘦 𝘡𝘰 𝘡𝘒𝘬𝘦 π˜ͺ𝘡 𝘒𝘡 𝘧𝘒𝘀𝘦 𝘷𝘒𝘭𝘢𝘦. If it's poetry, you take it as poetry. If it's history, you take it as history. If it's highly figurative, you take it as symbolism. If it's didactic, you take it as teaching. And you don't try to turn symbolism into history, nor didactic literature into poetry, etc."

If Romans 11:26 means all ethnic Israel will be saved, how is this determined - all Jews alive at the time, all Jews who ever lived, all Jews since first advent? If the first, then not ALL Israel will be saved. If the second or third, then God is a respecter of persons and fleshly bloodlines determine salvation.

Ryrie says, "Old Testament promises that Israel would be God's people forever, that they will inherit the land of Palestine forever, that they will form God's theocratic kingdom forever. These predictions will be fulfilled in the millennium." Rather than examine the Hebrew use of the word "forever." "Forever" it doesn't mean "forever" as we think, but rather often refers to "as long as the parties are able." The Levitical priesthood is a priesthood for Israel "forever" yet it was ended when Christ came as the high priest of the New Covenant. But premillennialism says "forever" promises to national Israel will be fulfilled in the millennium. Which is not forever; it's not even in the next age.

Ryrie's insistence on a separate new covenant for national Israel is based on his need to have the Davidic Covenant yet unfulfilled. His view of the millennium has David on the throne of David, as Christ's vice-regent during the millennium. Every distinctive of dispensationalism is the fruit of their hermeneutic. Just as the Westminster system was developed to defend their view of infant baptism, so called, so the system of dispensationalism exists to defend the "literal hermeneutic" that draws people away from Christ and His finished work to an ethnic people that has been rejected by God. Romans 11:5-7 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened. It's not about an ethnic people, it's about the Lord Jesus and His chosen ones, the sheep of God, the elect.