Sunday, November 18, 2018

Postmillennialism


Postmillennialism


Before we dig into the four views of the end times, a couple of things that I pray will help keep things in proper perspective.

1.       Every system of theology is the product of man and will have error. No one description of any system will satisfy everyone. One author advises his readers to 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. Jesus humiliated Himself once, came to earth to live among sinful people and redeem His sheep. He returned to the Father, with the glory that was His before He put on flesh. Does our view of the end times keep His glory in its rightful place?

Recall the definition of postmillennialism by Loraine Boettner: "..the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals... the world eventually is to be Christianized and the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium." This hermeneutic: Revelation either mostly figurative or mostly fulfilled in 70AD (Mt. 24:34). Context determines whether literal or figurative. Interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament.

Something dawned on me: of the 4 systems of eschatology we reviewed last week, there are two categories, Postmillennial and Premillennial, with two variants in each category. Both postmil and amil posit the return of Christ after the millennium; both historic premil and dispensationalism posit the return of Christ before the millennium. The differences within each category are very real and tangible, but the grouping should make them easier to keep organized in our minds.

Let us learn more from two well-known advocates of this system.

Kenneth Gentry (Postmillennialism Made Easy): "Undoubtedly, postmillennialism’s distinctive principle is its conviction that the vast majority of men will be saved." Since Gentry identifies that as the distinctive principle of postmillennialism, it ought to be easily and vigorously supported by Scripture. Here’s an example. With regard to Matt 7:13-14, he says: "he (Jesus) is urging his disciples to consider the present situation they currently live in. They must look around themselves and see that many souls are presently perishing and too few men are being saved. He is not giving them a prophecy regarding the future. He is pressing them: What will they do about this current situation? Do they love him enough to seek to reverse it?" Is this what the Scriptures indicate? (Read the passage.)

In another place, Gentry tell us, "Postmillennialism teaches that a time is coming in earth history, continuous with the present and resulting from currently operating, God-ordained spiritual forces, in which the overwhelming majority of men and nations will voluntarily bow in salvation to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  Scripture’s glorious message — in both the Old and New Testaments — is that “every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom 14:11). This is the postmillennial hope."

In its original context, God is calling His people to repentance, promising salvation for them – and glory! In Romans 14, Paul uses it to remind the saints to look kindly on one another (verses 10 – 12): But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord,
every knee will bow to Me,
and every tongue will give praise to God.5
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

In Romans 14, Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23, wherein we read this (verses 21-25 page 1324).

Brother Gentry confuses this age with the age to come, claiming something that YHWH has promised to do at the end of the age, when all who are true Israel will be redeemed and all who do not believe on the Son will be broken. On that great and terrible day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord; both, those who inherit eternal life and those who enter eternal doom. There is no place in Scripture that promises a virtually universal redemption of humankind. We see a glimpse of them at the closing of Rev 6 (summarize).

Loraine Boettner, in The Meaning of the Millennium, says postmillennials look forward to "a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church Age." This is brought about, he says, "through forces now active in the world." A couple pages later, Boettner appears to clarify what he means by this last statement, in describing life in the millennium: "Christian principles of belief and conduct will be the accepted standards." He agrees with Gentry about the nature of the millennium but adds detail on how it will be brought about. Behavior modification can produce these changes, but the kingdom of God is not so; it is populated by God redeeming sinners and making them new creatures.

As did Gentry, Boettner assigns Scripture revealing the age-to-come to the millennium, which is in this age. This point, that EVERY system of eschatology places the millennium in this age is important to keep in mind. Otherwise we can incorrectly accept arguments that describe the eternal state when they are used to describe the temporal state. Zech 9:10 and Rev 7:9-10 are examples he uses. The context of each passage provides clear evidence that the Spirit was speaking of the age-to-come. Rev 7 is striking (page 2473). The scene is in heaven, not on earth. The saints in 9 & 10 are described in 11 – 17. These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night. How can anyone claim this scene describes a scene on earth?

In like fashion, Boettner uses Psalms 47:2 & 97:5 to claim specific validation of their glorious millennium, while these passages describe YHWH's sovereignty and power over all the earth even now - not only or peculiarly during this golden age.

Boettner writes several pages describing how he looks to current events as evidence of the "golden age" blossoming, citing foreign aid spending by the USA and reports in the London Times lauding our spending. He cites various forms of religious radio programs spreading what he calls "the Christian message" as more evidence. If you have spent any amount of time listening to "Christian radio" you know the gospel is a rare thing to be broadcast, there being as much error as truth in any given radio program. With scant discernment, Boettner would have us be impressed with size and scope: the 22 million listeners of the Lutheran Hour and other large scale programs. When Christians measure spiritual success by the numbers, they will end up being businessmen, with an eye for the numbers of this world rather than having a desire for faithfulness to the gospel.

He pushes this pragmatic perspective further touting "theological seminaries, Bible institutes and Christian colleges" which are "growing faster than the population" as well as statistics which show "nominal adherents" to the Christian faith to be the largest religious group in the world and declares "All the false religions are dying." He bases this assertion on the fact that false religions come and go. But there is nothing new under the sun and all false religions have the same substance and foundation, regardless of their name. And John tells us antichrist is coming and many have already come. False religions are not dying - they are putting on new clothes, spreading the same lies as always.

On this point, I cannot help but think of what Paul said in his second letter to Timothy. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (page 2329). Gentry noted this passage and declared that it does not say more and more people will grow in wickedness, so it doesn't work against their position. He agrees that some people will continue and grow worse - which flies in the face of Boettner's assertion that false religions are dying. Everyone who speaks against Christ serves doctrines of demons and is part of a false religion. These men and their work will not die off until Christ returns to destroy them.

In keeping with his focus on things temporal, Boettner next tells us, "The great material prosperity of which the Bible speaks of accompanying the millennial era will be, to a large extent, the natural result of the high moral and spiritual life of that that time. In numerous prophecies temporal blessings are expressly represented as following in the train of the new covenant blessings."  He references Matt 6:33; Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Based on his statement, one would expect this passage to reveal “great material blessings” for those in the New Covenant. But the “other things” mentioned here are the basics of life, as the preceding verses make clear: Matthew 6:31-32; Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. We are not promised "great material prosperity" in this passage! We are told not to worry about food and drink and clothes; to trust God to provide.

In this same line of thought, he cites 1 Timothy 4:8; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Does this communicate "great material prosperity" or spiritual value as a child of God? Which of these will be a part of the life to come? He lastly brings to our notice Isaiah 35:1; The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus. This verse is in the midst of a lengthy passage wherein the prophet is describing the age-to-come, when the judgment of God has set all things right.

Two great errors attend this line of thought: claiming spiritual promises and blessings as material, and seeing material blessings as the measure of godliness. This is the very same perspective of Job's friends and of the Jewish community in the say of our Lord. This is why His disciples were incredulous when He told them it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom. They were incredulous, having been taught material blessings were a sure sign of God’s favor. Who, then could be saved? In their cultural religion, if a rich man could enter the kingdom, who could? Further, Romans 14:17; the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Again - the Jewish culture of Jesus' day was based on this same error, thinking the kingdom was of eating and drinking and of silver and gold. Did not the Pharisees question Jesus about why His disciples did not wash before eating? Did they not question why He ate with tax collectors and sinners? Did His own disciples not think valuable perfume was better sold to feed the poor than to “waste” washing His feet?

To be concerned about temporal things, thinking they are of God’s kingdom is to fall into the same ditch as did the Jews of Jesus day. This is the ditch the postmillennial position puts people in.

David Engelsma noted, “The hope of postmillennialism, particularly in its "Christian Reconstruction" form, is a "Jewish dream." This was the express judgement of the early Reformed creed, the Second Helvetic Confession (A.D. 1566):

We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgement, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt. chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18 and the apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different (Chap. 11, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, ed. Arthur C. Cochrane, Westminster Press, 1966).

He says, postmillennials “call the church to "Christianize" the world, a task that Holy Scripture nowhere assigns either to the church or to the believer. Christ calls His church to guard against becoming worldly; He does not call her to make the world Christian.”

Back to Boettner’s case for Postmillennialism. He says, “man’s proper management of the earth, the task assigned to him before the fall, will go far toward restoring a profitable plant and animal life. Remedy for the sin condition in man and a marvelous transformation will take place in nature.” Did you understand what he said? By “properly managing the earth” man can restore and transform nature – including remedying the sin condition in man! Boettner cites no Scripture for this extreme claim – how could he! How presumptuous of the man! He devotes a page to describing advances in transportation, medicine, communications; not one word about the work of the Spirit. Does this not sound exactly like the liberal who claims man is inherently good and simply needs a little education to make his righteous?

After all this, Boettner seems to try to get back on track, saying, “no matter how marvelous this material prosperity may become, it will ever remain but he by-product of the moral and spiritual prosperity that already to some extent characterizes the partially Christianized nations.” Not quite back on track, Boettner claims God pours out material blessings in response to what He sees in “partially Christianized nations.” There is a consistent theme here: the kingdom of God is about great material blessings. Pagan nations suffer poverty. What does Scripture say?

Psalm 37:1-2 & 7 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 73 reveals the prosperity of the wicked, who seem to prosper and never face trouble like the common folk. They deny God’s existence, and yet: (verse12) Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. Despite all this, he has the right perspective: (Read 23 – 28, page 1028)

The Christian response to material prosperity is NOT to blindly assume it’s a blessing from God. He will be generous and take care not to fall in the various pits that await those who seek after riches. The foolish farmer who thought material prosperity was goodness met his maker that very evening. Better to treasure peace with God through faith in Christ than to trust in uncertain riches of this age. Rather than boasting in wealth, Paul tells us (2 Thess 1:5-7, page 2316). Some trust in horses and chariots, we trust God. That should be our stance.

These men who hold to a postmil view are not heretics, but the arguments put forth by these advocates are at odds with the express intent of Scripture in critical areas. I think we'll see another way of looking at the end times which does less violence to Scripture and points us more consistently to Christ.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

An Introduction to Eschatology



Questions.
1. How many views of the end times are widely held?
2. Is any particular view of the end times a Baptist view?
3. Are all the several views fairly equal in age, or is one rather new?
4. Which books of the Bible have the most impact on how one sees the end times?
5. What's your favorite author or preacher on end times?
6. Does one's view of the end times impact other aspects of how the Bible is understood?

First things.
Before we start, a caveat: This will not be, cannot be, an in-depth study of this topic. Countless books have been published defending the various views we will review and, while I will rely on credible advocates to describe each system, not all who hold to any eschatological view will agree with a given advocate of that system. Anyone could claim a difference between what I present and what he believes - such is our condition, wherein advocates of a position have much difficulty agreeing on their common position.

Before we define our terms, there is a topic we need to address. Eschatology, the study of end times, is not a detached doctrine that has little or no connection to the Bible as a whole. Just as we go astray when we take a verse out of context to determine its meaning, so with any doctrine. We must anchor our doctrines in the Bible, trying to bring the biblical message to bear rather than treating this study or any other one as a standalone topic.

This helps us take what the Bible teaches as a frame of reference for the topic at hand. One author asks these questions: Who is Israel? What is a Jew? Where is Jerusalem? In the Bible there is a record of two of each of these; one physical, the other spiritual. We should all be familiar with physical Israel, ethnic Jews, and physical Jerusalem - they fill up most of our Bible. But through the lens of the New Covenant, Hal Brunson says, "Paul assigns a spiritual definition to all Christians as "the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16) and "Abraham's seed" (Gal 3:29). Paul also describes each individual Christian as a spiritual Jew whose "circumcision is that of the heart by the Spirit" (Rom 2:29). Moreover, Paul uses the term "Jerusalem" in a spiritual sense to reference the "state of grace" that believers experience through their relationship to Jesus Christ; "Jerusalem which is above," Paul declares, "is the mother of us all" Gal 4:26). Echoing Paul's language, the writer of Hebrews even asserts that believers have already "come to the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22)."

Just as our spiritual identity and spiritual family are more important than our temporal identity and temporal family, so is it when Scripture speaks of physical and spiritual Israel, Jews, and Jerusalem.

Basic definitions of words and phrases will make this study much more manageable. Key terms for us are eschatology, millennium (with the various prefixes), rapture, preterism, and futurism.

Why should we study this topic? Is it that important, or can't we ignore it and trust God, knowing it will all work out in the end? This is one of several secondary topics we can study from the Bible that are important but not essential. But if we don't take a serious look at these - including covenants and eschatology - we will end up with views of these important topics that are shallow, the product of another's study; making us disciples of man. If we continue to hold tightly to conclusions we have not made our own, we will be either subject to being swayed easily by spurious doctrines OR we will be aggressively defensive. No matter what secondary topic we come across, the proper view will be closely connected to the basic rules we have adopted for interpreting the Scriptures. This needs to be the result of careful deliberation rather than a casual journey.

It is my prayer that this short study of eschatology will spur you on to dig deeper into the Scriptures to see if these things be so. I've known some people who are unwilling to think about these things and have thrown up their hands, rightly claiming God will win in the end; calling themselves "pan-millennialists." God hasn't given us His Word to ignore the parts that are troubling or difficult to understand. He has given us His Spirit to illuminate our understanding and promises to give us wisdom if we ask. Let us humbly yet boldly ask God for His wisdom as we study this important aspect of His written revelation to us.

As noted, many people consider eschatology as a separate doctrine that does not have a large role to play in everyday life, one's view of the end times is, in reality, a logical outworking of the way one reads the Bible. God's revelation of Himself through His written Word is progressive and we cannot understand what the future holds if we do not understand what God has done in the past and what He has promised to do to His own and His enemies. Jesus said (Luke 24) that all Scripture was about Him; this guides our view of what lies ahead - it's all about Him.

Millennium literally means a period of a thousand years. Premillennialism teaches that Christ returns before the millennium, postmillennialism teaches that He returns after the millennium, and Amillennialism teaches we are in the millennium until Christ returns. We find this millennium mentioned in Revelation 20; no place else. Here is a prime example of how one's basic view of Scripture, your hermeneutic, determines your eschatology: Do you read apocalyptic (that is, vividly symbolic) literature the same way you read historical narrative? This is part of one's basic understanding of how to read the Bible and will determine whether you see the millennium as a literal expression of time or a symbolic reference to time.

Rapture is a word derived from Latin Vulgate rendering of 1 Thess 4:17, where the saints are "caught up" to meet the Lord. Historically, this has been viewed as an account of the general resurrection at the end of the age (along with 1 Corinthians 15:50-55 - page 2215 and 1 Thess 4:13-5:11 - page 2309).

Preterism and futurism are terms referring to prophecies fulfilled in the past and those to be fulfilled in the future, respectively. Full preterists claim all the prophecies of Christ's return, including His second advent, have taken place. We now live in the age to come, according to this view - which is considered heretical by virtually everyone. The futurist is at the other extreme, with the added condition that all prophecies made concerning national Israel must be fulfilled in national Israel. With both preterism and futurism there are partial views held by many people. Most of us, I would wager (if I were a betting man), are partial preterists. These two views are products of one's basic hermeneutic - how do you see the Scripture?

There are 4 basic views of the end times that are held by the saints, with some things in common and some things in conflict. Here is a brief overview of these positions, as described by leading advocates of each.

Historic Premillennialism: "After the Second coming of Christ, he will reign for a thousand years over the earth before the final consummation of God's redemptive purpose in the new heavens and the new earth of the age to come." George Ladd. Here's the basic rule of interpretation (hermeneutic) used by this system:  "Natural reading" of Revelation. Context determines whether literal or figurative. Interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament (Hos. 1:9/Rom 9:25-26, Jer.31:33ff/Heb. 8) Millennium must be Christ-Centered and is often seen as a literal 1,000 years, but this latter is not essential to this view.

Amillennialism: "...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." Anthony Hoekema. 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.

Postmillennialism: "..the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals... the world eventually is to be Christianized and the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium." Loraine Boettner. This hermeneutic: Revelation either mostly figurative or mostly fulfilled in 70ad (Mt. 24:34) Context determines whether literal or figurative. Interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament.

Dispensationalism: There is what’s known as “classic dispensationalism,” first taught by John Darby in the early 1800s, and then by C.I. Scofield and early 20th century folks at DTS. In the past 30 years a movement called progressive dispensationalism has emerged. This latter group is moving away from some of the more objectionable doctrines of Darby, which is very good, but is a moving target as they continue to migrate their view more towards historical teaching. To keep things manageable, in this study the term “dispensationalism” will refer to that which was taught by well-known advocates from our time. Here’s how one of their own describe it: "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." Herman Hoyt. 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.

The first three systems have been held by Christians since apostolic times and can be found in writings of the early church fathers. Dispensationalism has some things in common with Historic Premillennialism and Postmillennialism but, as a system, did not come into being until the 19th century and was first popularized by the notes in the Scofield Study Bible - the first study Bible widely published in this country. Only the new system of dispensationalism seeks to interpret the New Testament by the Old, denying the progressive nature of God's revelation found in the Scriptures. Only dispensationalism insists on a literal millennium. Only dispensationalism believes in more than one judgement, dividing this event into three separate events. Only dispensationalism believes in a secret rapture before the return of Christ. Only dispensationalism denies the current reign of Christ as Lord and King. Only dispensationalism believes Satan is not bound in any sense until Christ returns. Only dispensationalism insists on a near complete separation between Gentile and Jewish Christians.

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.

These seven distinctions put dispensationalism at variance with the three historic systems of eschatology and should cause any student of Scripture to view it with great caution. A long standing rule to guide our biblical interpretation is, if it's new, it's not true. Why would God keep something of significance from His people for nearly 2,000 years after the close of the canon of Scripture?

Historically, Baptists have been largely amillennial (William Carey, John Bunyan, Alexander Carson, John Broadus, Andrew Fuller, Arthur Pink, T.T. Shields, and Adoniram Judson), with a few postmillennials (B.H. Caroll, J.M. Pendleton, and A.H. Strong) and historic premillennials (Spurgeon, John Gill, and Robert Haldane) in the mix. Beginning in the early 20th century, dispensationalism has gained much ground, taking the dominant position; it now appears to be losing some ground. Major advocates of this view include Paige Paterson, John MacArthur, Jack Graham, John Walvoord, and Thomas Ice.

Implications.
If you see prophecies to national Israel as something that must be fulfilled in national Israel, your eschatology will reflect that view and you will likely embrace Darby’s system. If you see all the promises finding their yes and amen in Christ Jesus, you are more likely to embrace the amillennial perspective.

We need to ask ourselves - What is our primary focus in our personal theology: is it ethnic Israel, God, or self? Is our primary focus on the heavenlies, where we sit with Christ, or on earthly matters? The honest answer to these questions will help each of us begin to examine our underlying beliefs, our presuppositions, that for the foundation for how we read the Scriptures.

Since all Christians are called children of Abraham (Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:29), one author encourages us to look into the Scriptures to see what eschatology he held.

When we first read of Abram (Gen 12), he is told by God to leave his people and go to a land God will show him. Leave the comfort of the known and trust the Creator to lead you to a better but unknown place. In the very next chapter, his clan has grown too large for all to live together so Abram gives nephew Lot the choice of where he will settle. Verses 10 & 11: And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram was the elder and could have chosen the land that was like the garden of YHWH, but he did not. His eyes were fixed, not on earthly things but on heavenly things.

Abram was promised a large tract of land in Gen 15, beyond Abram’s comprehension. God gave him a vision of the growth and captivity in Egypt that his earthly heirs would experience. Verses 18 – 21: On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give3  this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

In Gen 22 we have the well know story of Isaac being offered up as a sacrifice and the ram being supplied by YHWH. It was later said of Abraham, that he considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Heb 11:19). In Gen 25 we read of his death – he was buried in a cave he had bought, not having taken possession of the land promised.

All of this is summed up in Hebrews 11: 8-10. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Abraham was promised lots of land and countless heirs of his own flesh. He lived as a sojourner and exile on the earth (1 Pet 2:11). Again, from Hebrews 11:13-16 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.

What is this city? Was Abraham looking for an earthly city? Hebrews says if that were the case, the ancient saints would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Abraham wasn't seeking refuge in a temporal kingdom, but in an eternal one.

This is what we are told in other places to fix our minds on. (1 Pet 2:4-5a) As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house. (Eph 2:19-22) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Every sermon ought to present Christ properly and exhort the hearers to seek Him. This is essential for us to be reconciled to holy God. And it ought to be our focus of the end times.


R.A. Torrey, Profitable Bible Study

Do not come to the Bible full of your own ideas, and seeking from it a confirmation of them. Come rather to find out what are God's ideas as He has revealed them there.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Gospel Blessedness of the New Covenant

You can listen to this sermon here.

The gospel is not a weak step-sister that requires the big brother of the Law to help her win people to Christ. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. All that is required for us to be saved is accomplished by Christ; and credited to His elect by grace.

This is the last of the three messages I was blessed to preach at the conference in Lake Charles recently.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Romans 11:25-36 All Israel Will Be Saved

You can listen to this message here.
 

This is out of sequence - looks like I left it out when I was posting these.

Romans 11:25-27 (HCSB) So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.
 
Last week we saw that Paul turned his attention explicitly to the Gentiles in the church at Rome. He argued that Gentiles have no cause of boasting, as it was grace that grafted us into Abraham’s spiritual promise just as it was for the Jews – perhaps more difficult for us as we were not in the covenant people to whom the oracles of God were given. Verse 25 continues in this thought, plainly revealing a mystery to us so we will not be conceited. The mystery, that had confounded many Jews and, no doubt, caused many Gentiles to get the big-head, was that the rejection of Israel was complete; it was a partial hardening. There has always been a remnant in Israel, the 7,000 who did not bow the knee to Baal, who were brought from spiritual darkness that enveloped the nation into the glorious light of Christ that all His redeemed enjoy. As with much of Paul’s use of the word “mystery,” here it does not mean something difficult to understand, it means something revealed that had been hidden. Jew and Gentile both thought national Israel was God’s chosen people, just as the Pharisees demonstrated – through trust in their flesh. The mystery is that most of Israel’s people were hardened and only a small number were reconciled to God. For from the beginning, God made clear that ALL nations would be blessed in Abram – not only national Israel. This partial hardening continues until all the Gentile elect – people from every nation, tongue, and tribe – have been brought into the sheepfold of Christ. As one commentator put it, “until all elect Gentiles come into Israel.” And in the same way, all Israel will be saved. What does he mean, “in the same way”? How are Gentiles saved? Paul explained to us in chapter 10 how one calls upon the Lord and is saved. In the same way means that those Jews who will be saved, the ones who were not hardened, will be saved in the same way as us Gentiles are saved. They will call upon the name of the Lord! Every one of His elect will call upon His name and be saved.

Paul then does what is fairly common in the New Testament – he cobbles together a “quote” from the Old Testament from several fragments that his audience would have been familiar with. Not a precise citation as we are accustomed to when we read books. He grabs part of Isaiah 59 (which has connections with Psalm14, Micah 4, and Isaiah 2) and Jeremiah 31. The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins. These were promises of the Messiah coming to redeem Israel. Paul applies these promises the work of the Spirit that was going on as he was writing to the Romans, and will go on until the full number – all Israel and Gentile – are saved. Those who were by nature captive to the sin we hold so dear will be liberated by the King of Zion. Freedom does not come from Sinai! This King will turn His people away from godlessness, take their sins away, and bring them into the New Covenant. All this action is of God. Our part is godlessness and sin. His part is to take those away and make us new creatures in Christ. 

Romans 11:28-29 (HCSB) Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. 

Returning to his argument to keep Gentiles from getting self-important, Paul says the Jews, being partially hardened, were our enemies regarding the gospel – and this was for our advantage! Recall how in Acts 13 and 18 different apostles were rebuffed by the Jewish leaders and announced they were turning to the Gentiles. Recall how Jesus told the 70 to knock the dirt off their sandals if they were not welcomed in a town. Enemies of the gospel were used for advantages to the Gentiles just as the evil deeds Joseph’s brothers did worked to his – and their – advantage. But the remnant within Israel are beloved because of the patriarchs. This due to election, he says. Which tells us he is speaking of the remnant within Israel and not all the Hebrews. This is tied to the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We know that Abraham is the father of all the elect (in him all nations will be blessed, if you belong to Christ, then you are indeed true descendants of Abraham, and are heirs in fulfilment of the promise. If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.) And these three men are tied together very tightly in Jewish and Christian theology. Note how Peter ties them all together in his sermon to Jews; and ties them to Christ. Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Or why do you stare at us, as though we had made him walk by our own power or godliness? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus. Acts 3:12 & 13 (HSCB) This identification is also found in Exodus 3:6 & 15; 4:5; Deuteronomy 9:27; 2 Kings 13:23; Matthew 22:32; and others. A quick survey of the key promises to each of these three patriarchs will show why they are tied together with more than a human bloodline. While only of one of them was named Israel, they are each and all together the foundation stones of that nation, which had Moses as its prophet and the faith that has Jesus as its prophet.
Promises Made
Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Nations would be blessed – Gen 12:1-3
Nations would be blessed – Gen 26:3-5
Nations would be blessed – Gen 28:14
Father of many nations – Gen 17:1-7


Descendants would be as the stars in the sky – Gen 15:5
Descendants would be as the stars in the sky – Gen 26:3-5
Descendants would be as the dust of the earth – Gen 28:14
The promise was to his seed – Gen 12:7; Gal 3:16
Isaac’s seed would be blessed – Gen 26:24
Jacob’s seed would be blessed – Gen 28:14

Although there are some differences, and a critical promise is made to Abraham that is not given to Isaac or Jacob, we do see commonality in the essentials among these three patriarchs of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Each of them were heirs to the same promise (Hebrews 11:9), each of them knew what God had promised was better than the picture of the promise seen in Canaan (vs 16). Their descendants were numerous, as promised (vs 12) as YHWH counted the heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29). Fulfillment is found in Christ, not in the flesh. Through each of them the promised seed would pass.

Because of His promise to these three men, and because of His indelibly holy character, God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. Abraham was called out of the post-flood mass of humanity. Everyone who believes is called of God to do so. I’ve mentioned this next passage several times during our study; it is a deep truth that we need to keep in mind: 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (HCSB) He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. See how this parallels what is found in our passage? God’s calling and gracious gifts are irrevocable – His purpose and grace were given to us in Christ before time began. God would have to deny Himself and be like a man in order to allow any promise to fail.

Paul shows us the other side of this argument. One side is all about YHWH – He is faithful, He will not fail. This side is about us – Jew and Gentile. Verses 30-32: As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now may receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all. Paul observes that we Gentiles once disobeyed God, meaning we were a law unto ourselves (chapt 1), hostile towards God (chapter 5). But now, as Paul was preaching and writing, Gentiles were finding mercy – God had turned His attention away from national Israel and was bringing Gentile sheep into His fold. As we’ve seen elsewhere, national Israel’s disobedience was the proximate cause, the reason identified, for the apostles turning to the Gentiles. Their house having been left to them desolate, the temple veil torn; first century Jews were without hope – unable to even pretend to keep their own laws. Having turned the temple into a den of robbers, they were now turned out of the temple. Their long string of disobedience appeared to be complete, but it was not. Hence the apostle’s insistence that God had NOT rejected them! And now that the Gospel is going out to the Gentiles around the world, Jews were and are being raised up and returned to the sheepfold of Christ. Both Jew and Gentile have long-standing histories of rebellion against God – it is our nature as men. In making this imprisonment known to them, those to whom God have ears to hear, He gives mercy in time of trouble, saving all – Jew and Gentile; those who are called.
Just writing this letter, proclaiming the glorious truths about God’s saving grace and mercy towards sinners in both camps, Paul brings out in one of the most God-exalting hymns of praise known to man.

Romans 11:33-36 (HCSB) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

The vast difference between God and man are repeatedly shouted from the Scriptures. YHWH told rebellious Israel that one of their main problems was that they thought He was altogether much like them. Job was a humble man who refused to blame God for his trials and in a blast that goes on for 4 chapters, He questions Job so that he might better grasp the immeasurable distance between creature and Creator.

God’s judgments and ways are unsearchable – this means we do not imagine we can understand the whys of what God does: why does He save this one but not that one, what is the good purpose behind these horrible circumstances, how can life go on when loved ones die? As He made known to Job, He made known to Paul – no man can comprehend the awesomeness of God’s mind. We stand in awe of some bright people in our day. Mere men. Nations are dust in the hands of God – really bright people are like burnt-out light bulbs in comparison to Him. Our language does not have the words to provide a stark enough contrast!

When Paul spoke to the Oprah Winfry crowd in Acts 17, he told them God did not live in temples made by human hands as though He had need of anything human hands could do for Him. As he wrote to the Corinthians, For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor 4:7) All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him – meant to bring Him glory. This is how the apostle preached this idea to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:15-20 (HCSB) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Dear saints, the praise due our God springs from the same overwhelming awe Paul experienced. He was not caught up in praise because every Jew would one day be saved. He was caught up in exultation because sinners from the Gentiles and Jews would be saved in his day and until the great day when He returns.