Monday, July 21, 2014

What In The World Is Going On? The “Time” Has Come! by Gary Dromi, D. Min., Ph.D.


3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4. 

If we pay close attention, we can see (and hear) Paul’s prophetic words being fulfilled right now. One may argue that there have always been cults, false religions and pseudo-churches around. However, what Paul is talking about is not outside of the Church - he’s referring to what would be happening within the Church. 

they will not endure sound doctrine.” The Greek word translated as “sound” means to be correct, to be accurate. Many a godly pastor has been asked to leave a church simply because his desire was to remain true to God’s Word. He taught the whole counsel of God, including the parts about sin, wrong behavior and God’s sovereignty. The congregation (however small or large) thought his message was too serious or perhaps he wasn’t telling enough jokes. So, he was “asked to resign.” 

they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires.” The solution is to find someone who “makes us feel good about ourselves.” “We need to find a pastor who won’t make any judgments.” “We need to find a pastor who believes that everyone is going to heaven because a loving God would never send anyone to hell.” “We need to find a pastor who believes in singing more and teaching less.” They get what they want at peril of their souls. 

and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.” Though this is not a new phenomenon, it as been accelerated at a rate that is nothing less than astounding. The amount of non-biblical doctrine that’s being taught from pulpits across the country is frightening. The biblical illiteracy found in churches today amongst the congregations leaves them wide open to the “myths” being put forth by their leadership. 

Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to “Preach the Word.” Lest we forget, “the Word” Paul was talking about was God’s Word, the Bible - not man’s philosophies, theories, or opinions. 

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul writes, “13 Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
 
To those who are sent, listen to Paul and “preach the Word” from your pulpits. God will honor your faithfulness. To those who are sent, how can we do anything less and still remain faithful to our calling and obedient to our God? 

May the Lord give you strength and courage as you shepherd your flock and preach His Word.


Dr. Gary Dromi currently resides in Springdale, AR. He has been in full-time ministry for over thirteen years. He holds a B.A., M.A. and a D.Min. in Biblical Studies. While on sabbatical, he completed his Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling and is now available for pulpit fill, seminars and a full-time pastoral position. He can be reached at: provrbs3_5_6@att.net 

 

Monday, July 14, 2014

LIVING TODAY IN LIGHT OF THE FUTURE DAY OF THE LORD - A STUDY OF 1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11 (Part 1) by Dr. Paul Benware



          It is pretty certain that if we knew about a coming significant event, we would take appropriate action to get ready.  So, if we knew that we would lose our job in two months, we might start looking for another job as well as making some financial adjustments.  If we knew that a hailstorm was going to hit in an hour, we would put our car in a garage out of harm’s way.  If we knew that a burglar was going to break into our house in the early morning hours tomorrow, we would make a number of adjustments preparing for his coming.  

Knowing ahead of time what is going to happen is one of the significant reasons why biblical prophecy is important in the believer’s life.  When we become aware of coming events (and believe it) we do life differently.  This was the Apostle Paul’s emphasis with the believers at Thessalonica as he instructed them about future events and our response to those events.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, the Apostle reminded them of the coming of the Day of the Lord (5:1-3), and then of the needed response of the children of the Lord to this reality (5:4-11).  In this study we will look at the matter of the coming “day of the Lord” (5:1-3) and then in the next study we will focus on what our response is supposed to be (5:4-11).

THE COMING OF THE LORD AND THE DAY OF THE LORD (5:1-3). 

The Knowledge of Believers – 5:1-2.  The discussion opens with “now” (peri de) which always introduces a new subject in Paul’s writings.  He had been reminding them about the coming “rapture” (4:13-18) but now shifts to the subject of the coming “day of the Lord”; and specifically the judgment part of the day of the Lord (that is, the Tribulation).  He had taught them about this before so this is a reminder and not brand new information.  They had learned earlier about the “times” and the “seasons.”  “Times” refers to the order or sequence of coming events, while “seasons” (or epochs) refers to significant events that are turning points in history.  (For example, September 11, 2001 would be an “epoch” because the world was dramatically changed by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon). It is worth noting that Paul believed that eschatology was a vital part of Christian theology, as seen by the fact that in the few weeks he was with the Thessalonian believers, he taught them carefully on prophecy.  He not only talked about major events but also the sequence of future events. 

In the OT the “day of the Lord” is used: (1) in reference to the coming time of unprecedented trouble and judgment, which we commonly refer to the Tribulation; (2) in reference to the judgments and events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ to the earth; and (3) in reference to the coming time of blessing which is looking at the Messianic Kingdom.

          The term “day of the Lord” has a rich Old Testament history as it used some 75 times in the OT prophets.  It refers to a special time of Divine intervention into this world. 
 
 In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul is just looking at the judgment aspect of the “day of the Lord”.

The Ignorance of Unbelievers – 5:3.  It is important to note the difference between “we” and “they” in this discussion.  The “they” is looking at unbelievers and “we” refers to believers.  In a most fascinating statement, Paul declares that the “day of the Lord” will come when they are saying “peace” and “safety”.  This is an amazing thought.  When it is the consensus of the world that we are now in a time of “peace” and “safety”, then suddenly the “day of the Lord” (like the thief who arrives unexpectedly—5:2) comes in its full fury. The word peace means that there is an absence of alarm because of the harmonious relationships and circumstances on the earth.  Safety means secure from danger and enemies.  These two words point to a time when men will feel inwardly that everything is safe and secure and they see no real outward evidence that contradicts that feeling. How they arrive at these feelings is not spelled out.  But their general sense is that all is well and that sense ill prepares them for the sudden destructions of the Tribulation period.  These judgments are likened to “birth pains” that come suddenly on the expectant mother. The concept of “birth pains” is used by the OT prophets, as well as the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul. It looks at judgments which will come and will increase in intensity and rapidity as time draws to the moment of the end (the birth pains which “birth” the messianic age). Now, which birth pain is it that catches the expectant mother off guard?  The first one, of course.  She could be sleeping peacefully or enjoying a nice meal, but things change dramatically when that first pain hits. This first birth pain points to Revelation 6 where the first judgments (the “seal judgments”) begin the Tribulation period.  These are the judgments which catch the world off guard.  

So in these verses, Paul informs us that unbelievers are not only ignorant of the true situation in the world, but they are also ignorant of God’s coming judgments. 

          One might wonder how they could be so surprised by these judgments.  Jesus dealt with that very issue in His teachings (e.g. Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28-29). He used the people of Noah’s day as an example.  Even though the world had 120 years to prepare for the Noahic flood and heard Noah the preacher of righteousness proclaim this coming event, they were caught off guard by the Flood. Why? Because they simply did not believe God’s revelation. Like Noah’s day, mankind in the end times, will be preoccupied with the things of the world and quite dismissive of God’s revealed truth.  Mankind simply will not listen to the warnings given in God’s revelation and will most likely write them off (as well as anyone who might refer to them) as the ravings of unstable religionists.  This attitude which will prevail in the last days combined with their view that the world is now a basically tranquil place, will set them up for the terrible surprise of the judgments of the “day of the Lord”.  They simply do not see things as they actually exist.

          But there is a nagging issue here.  Why would any sane person see the world as a safe and peaceful place? Why would this become the consensus of most everyone in the world? Is the world safe and secure today?  The answer, of course, is “no”.  It is neither of these two things mentioned in the text.  The reality today is that we have constant surveillance with the NSA, TSA, CIA, FBI and others monitoring life 24/7.  We need to go through security checkpoints to get on a flight, go to school or go into a sports arena.  Cameras are everywhere and, if the TV shows are correct, our movements, locations and much more are observable by many.  The world is not a safe place and thus all the precautions.  But apparently something dramatic changes our present situation.  

The primary problem today which causes all these precautions is radical Islam.  Could it be that the groups and nations that produce and fund these radicals are destroyed?  Could it be that prior to the Tribulation period these radical elements are effectively neutralized thus causing a false sense of security in the world?  Could it be that the famous Gog/Magog battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 takes place destroying these nations which hate Israel and produce the terrorists of the world?  I would suggest (and this is, I admit, speculation) that after the “rapture” event but prior to the start of the Tribulation that God will destroy these nations as describe by the prophet Ezekiel, preparing the world for the great end time events.

          Whether this is the exact chronology of events or not, we are faced with the matter of why the world would be saying “peace” and “safety”.  We may not be able to figure this out this side of the events themselves but the truth is the world will be saying peace and safety and God’s judgments are a total surprise. 

But there is much more in this passage as believers who know about future events must not be spiritually sleepy but alert and living with these events in view.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Substitution by Dr. Robert Lightner

 This is one of four major accomplishments that Christ provided in His death on the cross. We will present the remaining three in subsequent articles.

    The Savior died to satisfy the demands of the offended righteousness of God the Father. He died in the sinner’s place. True, He also died for the sinner’s benefit. But that does not fully describe the nature and purpose of His finished work.


    The strongest expression of Christ’s substitutionary death is given with the Greek preposition anti translated “for.” Christ Himself used this word when He said, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ died in the sinner’s place. He died instead of the condemned.


    The Savior also said of His cross work, “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The apostle Paul wrote the same to his son in the faith, Timothy. “Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6).


    How wonderful! Christ paid the debt we owed. He died in the sinner’s place. Salvation is therefore full and free.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Rapture - Part 23 Copyright 5/26/14 by Dr. Andy Woods

My previous articles commenced a series on the rapture of the church. We began with the question, "What is the Rapture?" This question can best be answered by noting ten truths about the rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. We then moved to a second main question, namely, when will the rapture take place relative to the coming seven-year Tribulation period? We offered the contention that believers can develop certainty that they will be raptured before the Tribulation period occurs for at least seven reasons. Now that we have dealt with these two questions, we began to explore some of the weaknesses associated with the other competing views that seek to answer the question, "when will the rapture take place relative to the coming Tribulation period?" At least five differing perspectives exist. We noted at the onset that it is important to understand that all of the non-pre-tribulation positions have a difficult time handling the seven arguments favoring pre-tribulationalism previously discussed in this series. We have already noted the problems associated with mid-tribulationalism. In the last article we began to scrutinize the arguments favoring post-tribulationalism. In this article, we will continue to scrutinize post-tribulationalism.

Post-Tribulation   Rapture

Post-tribulation rapture theory contends that the rapture will take place at the end of the coming Tribulation period. This view typically sees no distinction between the rapture and the Second Advent and thus seeks to harmonize all references to Christ's return as taking place at the end of the future Tribulation period. Those adhering to the post-tribulation rapture typically rely on at least one of four arguments to support their position. In our last article, we noted that post-tribulationism errs in superficially connecting Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with the events of Matthew 24:30-31. We now move on to the second argument that post-tribulationalists use to support their view.
2. According to Revelation 20:4-6, the resurrection of all believers will transpire at the end of the Tribulation period thereby necessitating that the rapture will also take place at this time. These verses say, "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." Post-tribulationalist George Eldon Ladd even goes so far as to assert that these verses represent the only New Testament passage pointing to the time of the rapture.1
The simplest response to this assertion is that the resurrection spoken of in these verses is speaking only of the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs. Revelation 20:4 clarifies exactly which resurrection is in view when it says, "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (italics added). Thus, Geisler explains, "Revelation 20:4-6 is speaking of the believers who have died during the Tribulation, not those resurrected at the Rapture" (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58).2
Moreover, the superficial points of similarity that seemingly unite Paul's presentation of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with Revelation 20:4-6 are outweighed by a vast difference that distinguishes these sections of Scripture from one another. Although Revelation 20:4-6 does speak of a resurrection of deceased saints, it says nothing about a translation and resurrection of living saints as Paul emphasizes in his discussion of the rapture. For example, Paul's rapture presentation uses terminology such as "we who are alive and remain" (1 Thess. 4:15, 17) and "we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed" (1 Cor. 15:50). Such phrases are not found in Revelation 20:4-6. Thus, Ryrie observes, "...Revelation 20:4 speaks only of a resurrection of the dead, not of a translation of living people, a truth that is prominent and a vital part of the other descriptions of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58)."3
If Revelation 20:4-6 is not speaking of the rapture of the church and if the church's rapture already transpired before this resurrection predicted by John takes place, then why is it called "the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5-6)? When John mentioned "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:5b, he had in mind merely that this resurrection will occur before the final resurrection for all unbelievers that will transpire at the end of Christ's one-thousand year reign (Rev. 20:5a). He was not referring to the first resurrection ever in human history. Indeed, John could not have in mind the first resurrection ever since such a proposition would also mean that even Christ's resurrection would not count as a bonafide resurrection! John's use of the word "first" in Revelation 20:5-6 was only in reference to the first in a series rather than the first ever. Such a method of communication would be the equivalent of my wife telling me that she was "first" going to go the grocery store and then "last" she was going to drop off the laundry. Here, she would be using the word "first" only relative to "last" going to drop off the laundry. She would not be saying this would be her first time ever that she had gone to the grocery store. John uses the word "first" in the same sense in Revelation 20:5-6.
In sum, having previously answered the question, "What is the rapture?", we noted at least seven reasons that affirm the pre-tribulational rapture view. We then began interacting with the other positions on the timing of the rapture. In this article, we have observed that post-tribulationism errs in superficially connecting Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6.
(To Be Continued...)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Feast of Shavuot by Steven Ger

The Feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost, was celebrated this year during the first weekend of June. It marks both the anniversary of the giving of the Law to the Jewish nation and the giving of the Spirit to the Jewish believers; a celebration of both the theophany at Mount Sinai and of the indwelling at Mount Moriah.

Pentecost is one of the “big three” pilgrimage festivals, when, as during Passover and Tabernacles, every Jewish male is commanded to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. In Deut. 16:9-10, the holiday is designated Hag Hashavuot – The festival of weeks. It is so named because seven weeks, or fifty days, are counted down from the week of Passover. 

Although not specified in Scripture, Pentecost came to be understood as the day on which the Torah was given to Israel. In fact, the central Scripture reading for this holiday is Exodus 19–20. On Mount Sinai, God commands Moses to tell Israel that He has chosen them to be His people and to enter into covenant with Him. They are to be a holy nation of priests (Ex. 19:4-6).

A priest, by definition, is someone who has special access to God, an intermediary between God and man. A whole kingdom of priests makes intercession not for one individual, but on behalf of entire nations. Israel was called to be a nation of priests and to minister to the other nations, the Gentiles.

 In Ex. 19:9, God visibly manifested Himself on Sinai and communicated to Moses from within a dense cloud. This publicly established Moses as the intercessor between God and the nation of Israel. Moses was to be the only one who could speak to God face‑to‑face. The people needed to have confidence in their intercessor. To that end, the Lord firmly validated Moses’ authority in the eyes of Israel.

 Following the dramatic, awesome manifestation of God’s presence on Sinai as He thundered the Ten Commandments to His people, with accompanying lightning, smoke, fire-flashes, supernatural shofar blowing, and earth quaking, the people of Israel were a little shaken themselves. They told Moses that they had experienced all of God’s manifest presence they could stand! Hearing from God proved to be too intense an experience; they feared sensory and emotional overload and asked Moses to be God’s spokesman, to be a “middleman” between God and Israel (Ex. 20:18-19). Moses ascended the mountain to commune with God and disappeared in the midst of the thick, dark cloud which was God’s manifest presence.

But Moses disappeared for forty days, and no one had heard from him since he had disappeared within the dense fog. In their fear, the people built themselves a more tangible, far less traumatic representation to worship — a golden calf.

When Moses returned, he condemned the nation for their grievous sin. Moses, in holy indignation, destroyed the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. He instructed his own tribe, the Levites, to kill the idolaters. The Levites struck down 3,000 Israelites before God mercifully restrained them from decimating the nascent nation.

As discussed in the pages of Acts, God directed the sequel to the events of Exodus some 1500 years after Sinai.

On Pentecost, 33 A.D., we find the twelve apostles, like all Jews in Jerusalem, in the Temple courts awaiting a wonderful communal festival meal, an international Jewish picnic.

 Acts 2:2-4 describes strange, supernatural manifestations that suddenly envelop the disciples.  The Spirit’s presence was marked by three similar signs also experienced at Sinai: violent wind, fire, and supernatural sounds. The Holy Spirit, the Ruach Hakodesh, had dramatically arrived.

For the Holy Spirit to be given on Pentecost would have been appreciated by a Jewish audience. The anniversary of the divine gift of Torah is the most eloquent of moments for the revelation of the divine Spirit. This is the logical sequel to the Sinai experience. ­­­­The God who came near on Sinai has now come ultimately near as He indwells believers with His Spirit.

The response to these manifestations and to Peter’s powerful message was that 3,000 Jewish people came to faith that morning. While we should not imply that God uses a “holy calculator,” it does seem that He’s balanced the book of life pretty nicely. Three thousand Jews were killed in judgment at the Sinai rebellion when the Law was given; in that case the Law literally killed. But here, 1500 years later, the Spirit gave life. God restored the three thousand Israelites removed from the equation following the gift of the Torah.

This sequel to Sinai was necessary because Exodus 19-20 leaves no doubt that external experiences - even the most awesome ones such as the miraculous escape from Egypt and the thunderous voice of God himself shaking Mt Sinai - ultimately do not change lives. Lives can only be transformed from the inside out.

Ultimate life change which results in obedience can only be accomplished by the Lord taking up residence in His temple. Not the temple in Jerusalem, which no longer stands, but that temple that is each one of us frail, imperfect men, women and children. Individual Jews and Gentiles alike are transformed into a community of saints by the receipt of a gift – the indwelling Torah.

Pentecost reminds us that God has personally engraved His righteous standards on our hearts (Jer. 31:31) by His Spirit. He has given His Spirit to permanently indwell us, enabling immediate and direct access to the Father. He has provided the perfect Intercessor: a great High Priest, Jesus, the incarnation of Torah (John 1:1). Unlike Moses or the Levitical priests, this intermediary is no mere “middleman.” God’s presence was manifest on Sinai within an ominous and distant cloud. On Pentecost, God gave us His Spirit so that His presence can be more intimate than the very air we breathe. We now have the eternal, abiding presence of Immanuel, God with us.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What In the World Is Going On? Post-modernism: What Is It and Why Should We Be Concerned? By Gary T. Dromi, D. Min., Ph.D.

Not many people today are familiar with the term “post-modernism.” Unfortunately, this lack of familiarity has led to the acceptance of its beliefs without questioning whether or not those beliefs are in line with God’s Word. It is not my desire to write an exhaustive examination of post-modernism; that has been done well by many others. Rather, it is my hope that what is written here will spur the readers on to look deeper into the beliefs and tenets of post-modernism and of those who espouse post-modernism in order to make an educated decision as to whether or not those beliefs are compatible with the absolute truth that is found in Scripture (John 17:17, “Sanctify them with truth; Thy Word is truth.”) 

Dr. Norman Geisler has done a masterful refutation of the beliefs and tenets of post-modernism and those in the “Emerging Church” movement in his paper: The Emergent Church: Theological Postmodernism (March 2012). Some of what he wrote will be shared here. It would be wise to obtain a copy of his entire paper for your personal library. 

When did it start and who started it?
It is believed that the post-modern movement finds its roots in Friedrich Nietzsche and the death of God movement that he started. Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves?” (“The Madman” In Gay Science, p.125). 

Once it was pronounced that God is dead, then, over time, the rest of post-modern thoughts began to emerge. Here’s a brief explanation: If God is dead, then, there is no absolute Moral Law-giver. If there is no absoluteMoral Law Giver, then, there can be no absolute moral law (the rise of subjectivism). Likewise, if there is no absolute moral Mind, then there can be no absolute meaning (the rise of conventionalism) or absolute truth (the rise of relativism). In the same way, if there is no objective meaning, then there cannot be an objective interpretation of a text. What follows, then, is de-constructionism.

“So, the death of God leads to the death of every other area of thought and life as follows” :
  1. “Death of God” – Atheism
  2. Death of objective truth – Relativism
  3. Death of exclusive truth – Pluralism
  4. Death of objective meaning – Conventionalism
  5. Death of thinking (logic) – Anti-Foundationalism
  6. Death of objective interpretation – Deconstructionism
  7. Death of objective values – Subjectivism
As is clearly seen, the tenets of post-modernism run in complete opposition to biblical truth. 

Today’s Proponents of Post-modern Theology
It’s important to understand that post-modern beliefs and tenets have made their way into the church. It’s also important to understand the affects that those beliefs are having in terms of doctrine and hermeneutics. The current proponents of post-modern theology are: Brian McLaren, who wrote The Church on the Other Side; A Generous Orthodoxy ; and A New Kind of Christian. Stanley Grenz, the grand-father of the movement wrote, A Primer on Post-Modernism, Beyond Foundationalism , and Revisioning Evangelical Theology. Rob Bell was on the front page of Time magazine not too long ago, in part, because of his denial of Hell in his book, Love Wins. He also wrote Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones co-authored, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Tony Jones also wrote, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. 
 
What are the basic tenets of post-modernism? What follows is some of Geisler’s excellent explanations of the beliefs and doctrines of post-modernism and his refutation of those beliefs :
  • Anti-Absolutism. McLaren wrote: “Arguments that pit absolutism verses relativism, and objectivism versus subjectivisim, prove meaningless or absurd to postmodern people” (McClaren, “The Broadened Gospel,” (in “Emergent Evangelism,” Christianity Today [Nov., 2004], p.43).
  • As Geisler notes, “As we shall see, the root problem with post-modern thought is that it is self-defeating. It cannot even state its view without contradicting itself. For example,--
    1. Relativism Stated: “We cannot know absolute truth.”
    2. Relativism Self-Refuted: We know that we cannot know absolute truth.
  • Anti-Exclusivism. McClaren wrote: “Missional Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make some people saved and others condemned. Jesus did not come to help some people be right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion” (A Generous Orthodoxy, 109). “But Christianity’s idea that other religions cannot be God’s carriers of [redemptive] grace and truth casts a large shadow over our Christian experiences (Samir Selmanovic, in Pagitt’s, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, p.191). “Christianity is a non-god, and every non-god can be and idol” (p.192). “God cannot be hijacked by Christianity” (p.194). “If a relationship with a specific person, namely Christ, is the whole substance of a relationship with the God of the Bible, then the vast majority of people in world history are excluded from the possibility of a relationship with the God of the Bible…” (p.194). “To put it in different terms, there is no salvation outside of Christ, but there is salvation outside of Christianity” (p.195). “Would a God who gives enough revelation for people to be judged but not enough revelation to be saved be a God worthy of worshiping? Never!” (p.195).
    Geisler again refutes this claim:
    1. “The Anti-exclusivism claim: “It is wrong to make a claim that one view is exclusive truth as opposed to opposing views.”
    2. The Self-refutation: The anti-exclusivist claim is exclusively true as opposed to exclusivism.
  • Anti-exclusivism is just another term for pluralism. The problem is clear: the claim that no view is exclusively true is an exclusivistic truth claim itself.
    1. The Claim of Pluralism: “No view is exclusively true.”
    2. The Self-Refutation: It claims that its view (that no view is exclusively true) is exclusively true.”
  • Anti-Objectivism. Grenz wrote: “We ought to commend the postmodern questioning of the Enlightenment assumption that knowledge is objective and hence dispassionate” (Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p.166).
    Geisler’s response in simple form:
    1. The Claim of Anti-Objectivism: “There are no objectively true statements.”
    2. The Self-Refutation: It is an objectively true statement that there are no objectively true statements.
    3. In short, their anti-objectivism makes an objective truth claim. Hence, it is hanged on its own epistemological gallows. It self-destructs.
  • Anti-Rationalism. It is a form of fideism that states that reason has no place in matters of faith. Grenz stated, “Twentieth-century evangelicals have devoted much energy to the task of demonstrating the credibility of the Christian faith…” (Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p.160). He added, “Following the intellect can sometimes lead us away from the truth” (Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism, p.166). Geisler rightly states, “Of course, he seems blissfully unaware of the fact that not following basic rational thought will lead you there a lot faster!”
  • McLaren, added: “Because knowledge is a luxury beyond our means, faith is the best we can hope for. What an opportunity! Faith hasn’t encountered openness like this in several hundred years,” (McLaren, The Church on the Other Side, p.173). He urged: “Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument—and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue, and search” (McLaren, Adventures in Missing the Point, p.78). But here again we are faced with a self-defeating claim:
    Geisler’s answer:
    1. The Claim of Fideism: “There are no reasons for what we believe.”
    2. The Self-Refutation: There are good reasons for believing there are no good reasons for what we believe.
    To state it another way:
    1. The Claim of Fideism: “Knowledge is a luxury beyond our means.”
    2. The Self-Refutation: We have the luxury of knowing that we can’t have the luxury of knowing.
How has it affected society?
The tenets of post-modern thoughts and beliefs have had a serious impact on our society and culture. It begins with the declaration that “God is dead.” With that single statement we can trace a long list of consequences:
  1. God is dead. Therefore, humanity has no one to whom they will be held accountable.
  2. Objective truth is dead. Therefore, truth is whatever each individual believes it to be.
  3. Exclusive truth is dead. Therefore, just because it’s true for one person doesn’t necessarily make it true for another person.
  4. Objective meaning is dead. Therefore, words can be redefined to fit whatever one’s agenda may be.
  5. Logic (thinking) is dead. Therefore, contradictions can exist without question or correction. The Law of non-contradiction is ignored.
  6. Objective interpretation is dead. Therefore, one interpretation is just as good as any other and to believe otherwise is to be arrogant or intolerant.
  7. Objective values are dead. Therefore, everything is subjective, that is, whatever an individual deems to be proper in his/her own mind is proper regardless of any other logical refutation.
Once there is some understanding of the post-modern mindset, it becomes a little easier to see why decisions and adjudications are made throughout our society that are in direct conflict with God’s absolute truth. In a post-modern culture, there are no absolutes. Therefore, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes,” (NASB, Proverbs 21:2a). 

How has post-modernism affected the Church?
Michael Patton in his paper Understanding the Postmodern Mind and the Emerging Church (Sept. 2005) breaks post-modernism into two groups: hard post-modernists and soft post-modernists. Briefly, here are a few of the distinctions :
  • Hard post-modernism: “Hard postmodernism might be defined as those who have had a philosophical shift with regards to the nature of truth. The key phrase here is “nature of truth.” Hard postmodernists would see truth as being relative to the time, culture, or situation of the individual. In other words, truth does not exist beyond the thoughts of the subject. Hard post-modernism is a logical outcome of atheism or pantheism. Since both atheism and pantheism deny the existence of an eternal personal God, then there is no reason to believe in eternal truth that is mediated through the dictates of a personal agency. This type of post-modernism is explicitly evidenced in our culture in many higher education institutions, whose philosophy is clearly articulated in such a way. It is also evidenced implicitly in our culture when God is left out of the equation in matters of fact and science. It is important to note that this type of belief is decidedly non-Christian. It has no part in a biblical worldview.”
  • Soft post-modernism: “In general, they are suspicious of all truth claims. Their suspicion, however, is not rooted in a denial of the existence of truth, but a denial of our ability to come to terms with our certainty about the truth. In other words, the soft post-moderns believe in the existence of objective truth, but deny that we can have absolute certainly or assurance that we, in fact, have a corner on this truth. To the soft post-modernist, truth must be held in tension, understanding our limitations. We can seldom, if ever, be sure that we have the right truth. Therefore, there is a tendency to hold all convictions in limbo. Soft post-modernism is not built upon the denial of truth itself (a metaphysical concern), but with our ability to know the truth (an epistemological concern). The emerging Church, for example, would believe in an eternal God who has laid down eternal precepts that time bound man has broken and therefore needs restoration through Christ. But attempting to define exactly who God is, what exactly He requires, how redemption is accomplished and applied is something that must be held in tension considering our own limitations. People are limited in their understanding, being bound by their time, culture, and situation. The result is that, in the emerging Church, because of their soft post-modern tendencies, all distinctions are minimized or ignored. The issues that were the center of the controversy during the Reformation are no longer important—certainly not enough to divide over. In other words, the Roman Catholic - Protestant theological distinctions are irrelevant to the emerging church. Why? Because, while there may be a right answer, who is to say who’s right? More than likely, both are right and both are wrong.”
Closing Thoughts
Post-modern tenets and beliefs should not be minimized or ignored. Post-modernism has affected not only our society’s norms, it has invaded the church to such a degree that the great orthodox truths and Christian doctrines passed down to us (from Genesis to Revelation, from the prophets of God, to Jesus and the apostles), are being challenged and, in some cases, rejected as untrue, or at best, debatable.
The question becomes, what do the post-modern advocates in the church do with the following truths:
  1. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  2. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly [correctly] dividing the word of truth, (2 Tim. 2:15).
  3. Paul’s words to Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths,” (2 Tim. 4:1-4).
Those outside of the church (unbelievers) will continue to “go with the flow,” that is, they will adapt and adjust to the culture as it changes based upon secular morals and values. They can do nothing else unless, or until, God graciously saves them by drawing them to Himself. If, and when, that happens, then the Holy Spirit will redirect them to His Word as absolute truth and they will grow in grace and truth. 

Those inside the church, true believers in Jesus Christ, must guard the truths found in God’s holy Word with love and strong conviction because the evidence compels us to do so.
If there is one solitary issue with regard to post-modern theology vs. orthodox theology, it comes down to this question: Is God’s Word inerrant and inspired? For those to believe that it is, there can be no wavering or compromise with His absolute truth. For those who do not believe that it is inerrant and inspired, they, unfortunately, will attempt to manipulate God’s Word in such a way that it is more palatable and less offensive to their followers. 

In Jesus High Priestly prayer He prays to the Father, “13 But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” (NASB John 17:13-17). 

It would be interesting to hear the post-modern theologian exegete v.17.



























[1] Norman L. Geisler, The Emergent Church: Theological Postmodernism (March 2012), p.1.
[2] The disbelief, or lack of belief, in the existence of God or gods.
[3] The doctrine that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society or historical context and are not absolute.
[4] In epistemology, pluralism is the position that there is not one consistent means of approaching truths about the world, but rather many.
[5] Conventionalism is the philosophical attitude that fundamental principles of a certain kind are grounded on (explicit or implicit) agreements in society, rather than on external reality, such as God’s Word.
[6] An anti-foundationalist is one who does not believe that there is some fundamental belief or principle which is the basic ground or foundation of inquiry and knowledge. Anti-foundationalists claim that truth only exists in statements, not in facts. The general populous must be convinced that these statements are true. If they are convinced, then it is true. If they are not convinced, then it’s false.
[7] Deconstruction denies the possibility of a pure presence and of any essential or intrinsic and stable meaning — and thus a relinquishment of the notions of absolute truth.
[8] The doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth.
[9] Norman L. Geisler, The Emergent Church: Theological Postmodernism(March 2012), p.3-4.
[10] Michael Patton, Understanding the Postmodern Mind and the Emerging Church, (September 2, 2005), p.1-2.

Monday, June 9, 2014

INTERPRETIVE TIPS FOR UNDERSTANDING REVELATION (Part 3) by Dr. Paul Benware

            Everyone who does “projects” around the house knows how essential it is  to have the right tool for the right project.  Trying to drive a nail using a pipe  wrench, or using a pair of pliers instead of a screwdriver to remove a screw, makes the job harder not to mention rather frustrating. 

We are devoting three studies to the purpose of getting the right tools in our interpretive tool box; three studies to help us specifically with our “project” of understanding the Book of Revelation.  In the first two studies we observed three key rules and in this study we will look at three more.  The first three rules that were given were: (1) interpret Revelation literally, which means we approach this book normally as we would other scriptures; (2) interpret figurative language according to the established meanings of those figures of speech which are found in the Old Testament; and (3) interpret Revelation by keeping the truths found in Genesis 1-11 in mind. Now we want to turn our attention to our final three interpretive “tools” for understanding Revelation.

(4) Interpret Revelation by comparing it with other scriptures.  This, of course, is an interpretive rule for our approach to all of scripture.  God has not revealed all truth about any one subject in any one place.  So we need to go to other scripture in order to systematize the information revealed on any particular subject.  So when we go to Revelation 13 and read John’s discussion and description of the Beast, we are not getting all the information there is on the subject of the Antichrist. So to understand what John is saying, we need to go back to other passages that deal with this key end-times individual.  So we look at what Daniel reveals, what Paul records, what Jesus said, along with other writers of scripture.  Then, and only then, do we get a systematized view of what the Bible says about this individual.  By doing this, we avoid making interpretive errors in our study of Revelation 13 as well as coming to a clearer understanding of the Beast.

(5) Approach Revelation chronologically.  The Book of Revelation is not a random, haphazard setting forth of information about the future.  The Book of Revelation is fundamentally given in chronological sequence.  This is first seen in chapter 1:19, which almost all interprets agree is the “divine outline” of the book.  John is commanded by the Lord Jesus to write down the information being given to him: the past vision (1), the present situation of the seven churches (2-3) and then things future to John’s day (4-22).

“Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.”

This outline sets the framework for understanding the entire book.  A key phrase in1:19 is “after these things.” After the things of the church, then will come the events described in chapters 4-22.  Revelation 4:1 then uses this same phrase twice with a slight difference in usage but both usages speaking of chronological sequence. The passage reads:

After these things I looked, and behold a door standing open in heaven and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.’”

 The first “after these things” lets us know that John received this vision after he receives the information of chapters 1-3.  The second use of “after these things” tells us that the events of chapters 4-22 will follow the events of the church age (chapters 2-3).  So the “divine outline” coupled with Revelation 4:1 sets the framework for approaching the Book of Revelation.

            But there are other chronological indicators in the book.  After the events of the church age, John is given information about what will then come.  In chapters 4 and 5 he is taken to heaven where he observes the transferring of ruling authority from the Father on the throne to the Son (the Lion-Lamb of Judah). This is immediately followed by the Lord Jesus opening the first seal which initiates the judgments of the Tribulation.  These judgments are designed to bring Israel back to the Lord and to punish unbelieving men and nations. Chapter 6:1 – 8:1 records the first series of judgments, known as the “seal judgments”. In the middle of this first series of judgments (chapter 7) we are given additional, vital information. This is to let us know that God is interested in saving men, not just judging them. 

            Following the “Seal judgments” come the next series of judgments, known as the “Trumpet judgments” in chapters 8 and 9.  This series is actually the seventh and final “seal” judgment.  Coming from the seventh seal makes it clear that there is a chronological “flow” of judgments.  At this point, there can be some confusion.  Revelation 9 ends giving the details of the sixth “trumpet”.  But the seventh trumpet is not mentioned until 11:15, but the contents of that judgment is not given.  The seventh “trumpet” announces the final series of judgments, the “Bowl judgments” which are not recorded until Revelation 15 and 16. It is at this point that some confusion arises until we look closely at Revelation 10:11 and the words “prophesy again.”  There is stop in the flow of events while John is given a scroll which adds additional information about the Tribulation.  There are four things that John needs to know and reveal, found in chapters 11-14.  These, I believe, all refer to the second half of the Tribulation period: namely, the Two Witnesses (12); Israel in the Tribulation (12), the Antichrist (13) and finally Armageddon and the last weeks of the Tribulation ending in Christ’s Second Coming (14).

                                                                         

After John gives the content of “the scroll”, he records the final “Bowl judgments” (chs. 15-16).  This is followed by another parenthetic discussion of Babylon (chs. 17-18).  John had twice mentioned Babylon (14:8; 16:19) but had not given any details about this entity which is obviously quite important to the end times.  The Book concludes with John’s final vision (chs. 19-22) which has the chronological marker throughout the vision.  This marker is the phrase “and I saw” which shows again the sequence of the final events in this book.

            When we are aware of these key chronological indicators within the book itself, the Revelation becomes all the clearer.

(6) Revelation should be interpreted according the futuristic perspective.  The futuristic perspective was mentioned in our first study on the interpretive tools of Revelation.  This is the interpretive assumption as we approach Revelation; that is, the pre-tribulational, premillennial is the best way to interpret the book.

            Hopefully, these interpretive tools will give confidence and direction as we come to this fascinating but complex book.  Remember, that God’s desire is that we understand what He has revealed about coming events.  Revelation is an “unveiling” of Jesus Christ and His future work.