Matt Postiff's Blog
While cleaning today we found this:
I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the market place
as well as on the steeple of the church.
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles:
But on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write his title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...
And at the kind of place
where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
But that is where he died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ's men out to be,
and what church people ought to be about.
I did not dig into who this fellow is or what his theology is. But the way I understand his text, it expresses a good thought: the cross of Christ must be pressed in the center of society; in the market place of ideas; in the academy; to scientists and engineers and stay-at-home moms and lawyers and politicians and CEOs and janitors. The need is vast. Those willing to set up a cross again in the center of the market place are few.
Pray that God will raise some more bold witnesses in our day.
I received a question today about what the Bible means in Matthew 27:46 when it quotes Jesus speaking about being forsaken by God.
Why did Jesus cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me," when he was on the cross in Matthew 27:46? It appears to be a quote of Psalm 22:1 and could be read to be part of his feeling on the cross. I am also thinking that Jesus bore the sin of all mankind and that as a result of bearing that sin, he felt separation from God the Father. Am I on the right track?
You are on the right track. Righteous Jesus is calling out to God in the way an Old Testament saint would call out to God for deliverance from his enemies. The believer trusts in God for that rescue.
But in this case, there would be no deliverance, at least not before death had taken its toll. In judicial wrath, God had turned against His own Son. This Son, although He never sinned at all, had at that time "become sin for us" so that we might "become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). So not only did Jesus feel a separation from God; there in fact was a separation between them. This happened until Jesus paid the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Sin separates from God (Isaiah 59:2). This is why we need a mediator to bring the sinner to the holy God. Only Jesus is able to do that.
A couple of details mentioned in Revelation 19-20 about the beast, false prophet, and the devil give us a clue that we are correct in our basic chronology of a 1,000-year kingdom between the Tribulation and eternal state.
In 19:20, the beast and false prophet who were so active during the Tribulation are thrown alive into the lake of fire. They are the first residents of that place (all prior souls have gone to a similar but different place called Hades).
After this, chapter 20 portrays the Devil as being bound and locked into another different place--the bottomless pit. After being incarcerated there for 1,000 years, he is released a little while (20:3, 7) and deceives the nations (20:8). This results in the final battle between God and Satan, who is thrown into the lake of fire (20:9-10).
In the middle of verse 10, note is made of the fact that the Devil is cast into the place where the beast and false prophet also already were. They had been there for 1,000 years. The fact that Satan is placed where they already were helps us to see that we have the order of events right. The beast and false prophet are sent to Hell, then there are 1,000 years, and then Satan is sent to Hell.
None of these things has occurred yet. We are boxed in by the text, so to speak, such that we must see a millennium intervening between two resurrections, all of which is yet future. The amillennial interpretation simply cannot be correct because it demands the present age immediately be followed by eternity with no intervening Tribulation and 1,000 year kingdom before the final judgment of Revelation 20:11-15.
I'm finishing Revelation and noticed something of an emphasis on repentance. For all the symbolism and other difficulties associated with the apocalyptic genre of Revelation, this element is crystal clear. God is very interested in people repenting.
Consider the following, which is the collection of all 10 verses in Revelation that use the word repent (all verses from NKJV).
Rev. 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.
Rev. 2:16 `Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Rev. 2:21 "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
Rev. 2:22 "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
Rev. 3:3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Rev. 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Rev. 9:20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
Rev. 9:21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Rev. 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
Rev. 16:11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
There is an awful lot of repenting that should be happening during the Tribulation. The remainder of Scripture is clear too that this is not something required of humanity only in the last days; it is the kind of response God desires in every age. It has been fashionable in some circles to downplay or eliminate repentance from the gospel. Such a fashion is not at all Biblical.
With this post, I am publishing the annual set of Bible reading schedules that I have prepared for the past eight years.
- Read the New Testament once
- Read the New Testament twice
- Read the New Testament four times
- Read the Old Testament once
- Key chapters for young readers
- Read the book of Acts and New Testament letters in just four and a half months, in chronological order
- Read the Greek New Testament in order from easier to harder Greek.
If you would like another schedule that takes you through the entire Bible in the year, and with some chronological ordering in it, check out this schedule from bibleclassmaterial.com.
Some other reading plans might catch your interest:
A reminder for those whose loved ones have gone to heaven.
Those believers who have died worship the Christ of Christmas in person.
There is no Christmas tree, for Christ Himself is there.
Their gifts are not material things, but rather heaven itself and all its glory.
Their songs are not weakened by human frailty but are strengthened by God.
Their hearts are not sad, but are glad because of the sight of God.
Their memories are purified so that they focus not on the darkness of past earthly life.
Their lives are marked by rest and not anxiety.
Their fellowship is sweet, with all those believers who have died before them and since.
Their dwelling place is perfect, with no lack.
Their hearts are free from the cares of earthly life.
They experience the tender mercy of God every moment. Do not be sad for them!
They remind us that Christmas is one key reason that they are there in heaven now, and why we can hope to go there too.
They await with perfect patience our coming to join them.
They call to us with silent voice to worship as best we can until the Lord deems that it is our time to join them there in Christmas celebration, for all eternity.
We continue in our quest to carefully develop a sequence of future events as taught in Scripture. As we saw last time, such an eschatology must take the text in Revelation 20:1-6 literally.
When we do that, we immediately find deficiencies in other approaches. For instance, we find that we cannot take seriously any interpretive system that teaches a single general resurrection. The text of Scripture could not be more clear that there are two resurrections separated by 1000 years. There must therefore be at least two resurrections. The Bible may reveal more detail or even more resurrections, but there cannot be fewer than two. I think other interpretations are caught in the older revelatory information that says things like Daniel 12:2. The
It is also clear from a plain reading of the text that the Lord Jesus returns to the earth before the millennial kingdom and after the Tribulation. That is, His coming is premillennnial. That is how the sequence of events is portrayed by John in Revelation 19-20.
I did not spell it out in the last post, but I do hold to a futurist interpretation of most of the book of Revelation. The events described in the book after chapter 3 match nothing that the world has experienced in history up to this point.
Moving "backwards" in the sequence of events and to begin to answer the question about whether there is a pre-tribulational rapture of the church, let us shift our attention to Revelation 3:10. This text records a promise of Jesus that He will keep the church in Philadelphia from the hour of trial which is going to come upon the whole world. Contextually, it seems clear that this hour of trial refers to what is written in Revelation 6 through 19. I take this as paradigmatic of the church as a whole. Certainly the very believers in that church were kept from the hour of trial, since the Tribulation was yet future to them as it is to us this day in 2016. But their deliverance is a kind of pattern of the deliverance of the entire church from the Tribulation. Other texts of Scripture agree with this notion (1 Thess. 1:10 and 5:9).
The entirety of Revelation 6 through 19 support the absence of the church by its silence about the church. Granted, there are some believers present during the Tribulation. These people are converted during the Tribulation through the witness of God's messengers (Revelation 7 and 14). Their life is evidently difficult because of the persecution done by Satan. The marked silence of Revelation on the church makes it a fool's errand to prove that the church is present during the Tribulation.
There are a number of other supporting arguments for the pre-tribulation rapture. Among them are the nature of Daniel's 70th week focusing as it does on God's program with Israel, the consistent distinction of the church and Israel throughout the New Testament, the imminence of the coming of Christ (at the rapture) as contrasted with the signs that indicate that Israel's redemption is drawing near, the restrainer in 2 Thess. 2, the differences between a translation of believers and the coming of Christ to the earth, the 24 elders in Revelation, the proclamation of peace and safety in 1 Thess. 5:3, the lack of instruction about the Tribulation in the epistolary literature, Israel as the focus of Satan's attacks during the Tribulation (Rev. 12), and the complete apostasy during the Tribulation. These and more are detailed in chapter 13 of J. Dwight Pentecost's book Things to Come, pp. 193-218.
I read Tim Challies article about why he is not dispensational and was interested to find that his defense of amillennialism was basically that it was the position he was taught from youth, and he had not been convinced otherwise since that time. Since I had recently been questioned by another inquirer on the same topic, I thought I would write on how you can develop a simple, Biblical, systematic approach to eschatology, the study of last things.
The system of thought that comes out of this approach is called pretribulational premillennialism. It is sometimes called dispensational premillennialism, to distinguish it from historic premillennialism.
I start with the principle of literal interpretation, in which words are understood according to the plain meaning. This is not the principle used by amillennialism or postmillennialism. And that is not a straw-man charge: consider this quote referenced by Challies regarding the definition of amillennialism:
Allison: "With respect to eschatology, the position that there is no (a-) millennium, or no future thousand-year period of Christ's reign on earth...Key to this position is its nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6: Satan’s binding is God’s current restraint of him, enabling the gospel to advance everywhere. Saints who rule are Christians who have died and are now with Christ in heaven. At the end of this present age, Christ will defeat a loosed Satan, ushering in the last judgment, the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth." (The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms).
Note well that the nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20 is key to this view. I could never believe such a notion, and so amillennialism is basically dead on arrival when it comes to my doorstep. I argue opposite, that the literal interpretation is key to understanding this portion, and indeed any portion, of the Bible. And in fact, the literal interpretation is feasible. It presents no impossible difficulties.
A critical review of Allison's definition raises several deficiencies in it. First, Satan is not presently bound in any meaningful sense of the term "bound." 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour. He freely deceives individuals and nations throughout the world. The gospel has not advanced everywhere, certainly not in closed countries and even in open countries it is now on the decline. This agrees with the pessimistic view that the Bible presents about mankind and its sin (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; 4:3). The ruling saints, if they are ruling from heaven, are not doing a very visible or effective job of their rule. There is no territorial realm which they rule over; there are no people they rule over; and their ruling function does not appear to be exercised here on earth, and there is nothing to rule in a perfect heaven. More importantly, the kingdom is always portrayed in the Bible as future, and earthly. To redefine the rule as present and heavenly is another example of how a nonliteral interpretation does damage to the plain meaning of Scripture. Finally, at least for this brief critique, it needs to be noted that the Bible is explicit that there are (at least) two resurrections. They are separated by a period of 1000 years. There is not one general resurrection.
Now, on to my question. How do you develop a system of eschatology? Besides using literal interpretation, we also rely on clear texts to develop our framework, and then we fit less clear or harder-to-understand texts into that framework. All will admit that there are easier and there are harder texts to interpret and assimilate into our system of understanding the Scripture. I believe it is valid to read through Scripture, and build an understanding bit by bit from portions that are easier to understand, and to add in other portions as I go. As a finite creature, I'm not sure how else it could be done. Of course, later data may and certainly should shape and re-shape my earlier conclusions, but clear texts cannot be overridden by less clear, more difficult ones.
We will use as our starting point the same text that Challies mentioned above, Revelation 20:1-6. Somewhat surprisingly, the apostle John departs from the highly symbolic and figurative approach of the prior chapters in the Apocalypse and drops into some very normal prose.
For my amillennial friends, let me ask you to, just for a few minutes, suspend disbelief and suppose that God's program could be what the literal reading of this text suggests, namely:
19:11, Christ returns to the earth after a terrible time of tribulation upon the earth and executes His enemies and those who oppose His people. This time of Tribulation is one that has not been previously experienced in world history and thus is yet future.
20:1-3, An angel is comes down from heaven to incarcerate Satan. This imprisonment lasts 1000 years and its purpose is to prevent Satan from deceiving the nations during that 1000 year time period.
20:4, Believers who had been martyred during the terrible time of tribulation re-appear, seated with Jesus upon thrones from which they rule the world. Their re-appearance occurred because they were resurrected. The text says that they had been beheaded, but now lived. They did this for 1000 years.
20:5, The rest of the dead, which I believe refers to those who do not believe in God, were not resurrected until the end of the 1000 years. The resurrection which occurs prior to the 1000 years is the first resurrection. The second resurrection happens after the 1000 years. This proves that there are at least two resurrections.
20:6, A special blessing is pronounced upon those who take part in the first resurrection. The blessing has to do, among other things, with participating in the kingdom of Christ in the prior verse. The blessing also has to do with the fact that the second death has no power over them, but rather they will be priests of God and Christ, and will reign with Christ for 1000 years. 20:14 defines the second death for us, namely that which occurs when someone is thrown into the lake of fire.
There shouldn't be any question that God could do all of the above. I don't think there is any question that He is intending us to understand Scripture to say exactly that. I wonder how He could or should have been more clear if the above is not what He meant. The sequence of John's presentation makes it clear that he saw these things in his vision in the order they are recorded. The time words as to the 1000 years, and events before and after, make it clear that it is not only the order of the vision, but also the order of events are portrayed by the vision.
To be continued...
When we get to heaven, will there be time there?
This question has come to me many times over the years. Or, the idea is expressed more confidently as a settled assertion: "There will not be time in heaven."
In reply, I always cite this verse that is in the context of the eternal state: Revelation 22:2—"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" (NIV).
The part that surprises people is that the tree bears fruit every month. How can that be, if there is no time in heaven?
Well, perhaps there is time in heaven! Maybe we can count off the years and know that we have been there 10,000 years. Even so, we will have no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun!
The answer to the question runs like this: Yes, time will exist in heaven. However, the "pressure" of time will be gone, so its passage will not matter or be bothersome. There will always be enough time.
I am no philosopher, but it seems to me that finite beings such as humans are somehow always going to be subject to some kind of time because they cannot be everywhere at once or see everything at once. To direct their gaze from one place to another, or to move from one place to another, will necessarily take time. They will not be limited by time like we are in the present age (James 4:14; Psalm 90:10), but they will notice its passage.
Admittedly, I've gone a little beyond what is written in Scripture. And I cannot say anything about how the passage of time will feel to those who do not trust in Christ, who reside in Hell forever. That place is one of interminable torment. It is too awful to think much about. So, speaking of time, today is the day to be saved from sin. Trust in Christ!
Our church has worshipped and ministered in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 35 years. I wanted to write a few things that I really appreciate about our church--and though I speak of the church as "it," I mean the people gathered in the ministry who are the church. I am thankful for:
1. It's faithful history. The church established and maintained a testimony for the truth starting in 1981. Faithful teaching, expositionof Scripture, godly counsel, support of missions, and local outreach work have been ongoing ministries since then. Although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I can say that the church wanted to honor God and was used by God to help people grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ.
2. It's present kindness to me and my family. The church has continued to support us (not just financially, but also on a personal level) for the past 15+ years, the last 10 of which I have been privileged to (under)shepherd the assembly.
3. It's continued faithfulness. The church family wants to maintain a Biblical and faithful testimony. It does not want to cave into the demands or wishes of the world.
4. It's love for one another. When big needs arise, big support has shown up. When little needs arise, people work behind the scenes to take care of things. Again, this is an area where we continually need to work, but I see far more than just negatives in this "department" of our church.
5. It's support of missionaries and local missions work. Being willing to invest a good amount of finances by giving to missionaries, and by being committed to planting a new church in a town nearby to us, the church family has shown it is serious about the Great Commission.
6. It's willingness to try new ministries, and then to stick with them. In recent years, we have tried new outreach ministries and kept at them year by year.
7. It's love for God. Although this is not necessarily seen by individuals in the church as they look at other individuals that they do not know well, I see this from the pastor's vantage point.
8. It's patience. The church has endured my ministry since I preached my first message 16 years ago. I would say the content was OK, but the delivery was quite lacking. Putting up with me and my dry preaching is no mean feat. I appreciate the church for doing it.
I'll probably think of more later, but I'll stop there. I thank God for FBCAA! May God continue to bless you richly.
I am happy to see the current DBSJ has arrived (vol. 21:2016). The opening pages explain that this issue is a festschrift for Professors William Combs, Robert McCabe, and Bruce Compton. These men have been very helpful in my own theological training and I am glad to see a volume dedicated to them.
The journal also contains a 28-page article that I authored, entitled "Essential Elements of Young Earth Creationism and Their Importance to Christian Theology." There are a lot of very informative articles in this volume by authors who have also been impacted by the three professors. I hope you enjoy the read!
In a recent New York Times editorial piece, Mark Sameth claims that gender in the Hebrew Bible is a fluid concept, and that God is the He/She.
The first two paragraphs about the Bible are these:
I'm a rabbi, and so I'm particularly saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender rights. In fact, the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender. And I do mean highly elastic: In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as "he." In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to "her" tent. Genesis 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a "young man." And Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as them.
Surprising, I know. And there are many other, even more vivid examples: In Esther 2:7, Mordecai is pictured as nursing his niece Esther. In a similar way, in Isaiah 49:23, the future kings of Israel are prophesied to be nursing kings.
These claims are totally false. Mr. Sameth is one rabbi who does not know Hebrew very well; or perhaps better stated, he has allowed his presuppositions about gender to color his vision of the text so that he cannot read it plainly. Gen 3:12 refers to Eve by the Hebrew pronoun "she." Gen 9:21 does not say Noah "repaired to her tent;" it says "he became uncovered (third person masculine singular verb) in his tent." There may be a slight manuscript variance in the pronominal suffix on the word tent, but the meaning is clearly Noah's (his) tent.
Gen 24:16 refers to Rebecca as a young woman (maiden, a virgin, not known by a man), and there is no question that she was a woman given her remarkable beauty. Finally, Genesis 1:27 is where Sameth is closest to the truth, but even that is misconstrued. He doesn't say that "Adam" is the generic use of the word, which refers not to the first man created by God, but rather refers to humankind generally (see NIV). NKJV has a very literal translation:
So God created man (Adam=generic use, humankind) in His own image; in the image of God He created him (him is masculine singular); male and female He created them (yes, it is "them" but obviously referring collectively to humankind). (Gen 1:27 NKJ)
Esther 2:7 does not picture Mordecai is breast-feeding his niece. The vocabulary there refers to Mordecai virtually adopting her (end of the verse) and bringing her up and being her attendant, "nourishing" her in the sense of providing for her. Similarly with the kings of Isaiah 49:23: the second phrase of that verse talks about the queens being nursing mothers; the kings will provide for the nation. The idea of provision and care is all that is implied. There is no gender confusion, mixing, or "well-expressed gender fluidity."
Finally, his argument about the name of God is simply an example of the logical fallacy of special pleading. He should go back and study Exodus 3:14 and see the derivation of the tetragrammaton name of God. God is not the He/She; God is the self-existent eternal ruler of the universe. God is identified as Father to creation and to believers. To be sure, God is sometimes gentle as a mother, but that doesn't warrant us to call Him a Father/Mother. He is also going to judge like a lion, but we shouldn't perceive God as a Human/Lion combination. These are obviously figures of speech describing characteristics of the infinite, non-corporeal God.
God's Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:2-3). He was and is still to this day incarnate as a human male. There is no lack of clarity on that point.