Thursday, April 27, 2017

"The Elect Are in Union with Christ Like the Soul Is in Union with the Body" - Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679)

Every Wednesday morning I mentor men who have a call to vocational ministry. It's a free-for-all where they can ask any questions they desire. Most queries come from their assigned reading. They're all aware of my belief that dead theologians make for far better reading than living ones. They are given books to read that were originally published 200, 300 or even sometimes 400 years ago. The writings of previous generations far surpass modern authors in biblical fidelity, erudite theology, and Christological centrality.

I gave one of the men a book by John Brine (1703-1765) entitled A Defense of the Doctrine of Eternal Justification. I've read this small book several times. It is actually a written response to a few vociferous objections by Brine's contemporaries to his views that God justifies His people from eternity. Very few Christians today have the aptitude to even consider that God's unconditional and effectual love for His people precedes our love for Him, but the question asked by the young man I mentor had nothing to do with election or justification. 

He brought to my attention a quote from an even older book that Brine used in preparing his defense. Thomas Goodwin (1600- 1680) was a renowned English Puritan pastor, a theologian par excellence, Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell the Protector, and the author of Exposition of the First Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians (1681).  Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) would later call Goodwin's commentary on Ephesians "the best in the English language." John Brine gives an extraordinary quote from Goodwin's commentary in defense of his own view that justification is from eternity. It is a quote that I had not previously noticed during the dozen or so times I read Brine's book:
"Look, as God did not, in his decrees about creation, consider the body of Adam singly and apart from his soul, nor yet the soul without the body (I speak of his creation and state thereby) neither should either so much as exist, but as the one in the other, so nor Christ and His church in election, which gave the first existence to Christ as a head, and to the church as His body, which each had in God's decrees."  (Thomas Goodwin)
The young man I'm mentoring pointed out two short statements by Goodwin in the above quote in asking me his question:

1. "God did not... consider the body of Adam singly and apart from his soul nor yet the soul without the body."

2. "...neither should either (e.g. the soul or the body) so much as exist, but as the one in the other."

The young man expertly and correctly pointed out that Thomas Goodwin believed, and seemed to assume that all Christians believe, that God created man so that the soul never exists apart from the body, nor does the body live apart from the soul.

So the question asked of me yesterday went like this:
"From where does this common Christian belief that the soul separates from the body at death come from if the leading Christian theologians of the 17th and 18th centuries believed the Bible teaches there is never a separation of soul and body?"
Great question young man.

Man and woman (Adam) is unique in that Adam is neither an angel or an animal. No, when you're loved one dies, heaven does "Not gain another angel."  While mankind does share characteristics with both angels and animals,  we are not angels because we have a corporeal or physical body necessary for our existence. We are not animals because we have a spiritual capacity which animals do not. You never see an animal bowing before his meal giving his Creator thanks.  Animals, angels, and man do share the capacity for intelligence (contrary to plants and inanimate things), but man alone is uniquely created by God.

The world was created for man, the universe for the world, and God grants the gift of immortality to man alone (not animals and not even angels have immortality), for "God alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:16), and the gift of God is eternal life to those in union with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).

When evangelicals awaken to the truth Goodwin declared, the truth that the Apostles and New Testament writers seemed to convincingly convey - that man is soul and body and never shall the two exist without the other - then the emphasis of the Christian gospel will be on "the resurrection" and the gift of "immortal life" to those in Christ. What happens to the wicked? The Scriptures seem to teach that after God raises to bodily life again the wicked, He will dispense proportional, personal and we dare say appropriate punishment. After their various sentences of isolation from God's mercies are served, the wicked will be turned over to die a second time (Revelation 20:14)

"For God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 18:23).

For indeed, the wicked do die.

But the righteous will inherit the earth and will live forever (Psalm 37:29), or as Jesus said it, "The meek will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).

That's the gospel, and I can't wait for the resurrection.

Those who live for the body alone will die as brutish animals die. Those who live for the intellect alone will die as pagan philosophers die without the knowledge of the one true God. But those who know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and come to an understanding of the Person and work of the Anointed One (Jesus Christ) will be given the gift of immortal life in bodily continuity.

Union with Christ for the ages is as sure as the union of body and soul for the ages.

So says Thomas Goodwin.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Importance of Building Christian Fellowship Around Relational Knowledge, not Doctrinal Beliefs

Fellowship in a church should never be dependent on believing the same things.  We are the family of Christ because of our mutual, personal, and experiential knowledge of Jesus. In other words, our eternal fellowship with each is based on our mutual love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, not necessarily what we believe the Scriptures to teach.

The apostles made a clear distinction in their writings between knowledge and beliefs. There were just a few things which they "knew" and were absolutely persuaded about by God. The best synopsis of this knowledge is found in Paul's letter to young Timothy when he said,
Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed" (II Timothy 1:12).
Paul knows whom he has believed. He knows Christ. I know Christ. You know Christ. Paul and I and you all know that Christ is able, and we are incapable. We know Him. This knowledge binds us together in eternal fellowship.

But we believe so much more than we know.

Atheists deny that we can even know God. They say knowing God is a matter of faith, not knowledge. To some degree, the atheist would be correct. The writer of Hebrews says, "And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6).

However, the atheist is missing the key reward for coming to God through faith in Jesus Christ. God rewards those who seek Him with the knowledge that He exists. In other words, those who seek God will meet Him.  The prophet declares, "Prepare to meet thy God." He gives no room for a belief there is no god. You must seek Him, prepare to meet Him, and find Him.

To know Christ is to know God.

We know there is a God, for we have met Him. We were trapped in our own failures and inabilities when we heard the good news. We came to faith in the God who made provision for us in Jesus Christ.

We know God.

But, again, I believe so much more.

In my ministry, I live what I know and I teach what I believe. "For I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20).

In my ministry, I fellowship with those who know Christ, regardless if they believe what I teach.

This is a lesson that a church must learn for a church to thrive.

We should teach what we believe with passion. We should teach what we believe with conviction. But there is a difference between knowing and believing.

My brothers and sisters in Christ who know God should be free to believe differently than I, but we should always seek to continue in genuine fellowship, regardless of our different beliefs. Our fellowship is relational. We share in common the Person we know, not the things we believe.

Let Me Illustrate

(1). I believe and teach Jesus died for a particular people, but I know Jesus.

The Bible calls these people God's 'elect,' or Christ's 'bride,' or His 'church,' or 'believers,' or many other things. Christ's people are from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue who have an inheritance in heaven, but they are a particular people God chooses to save out of the entire sinful human race.

I don't know Jesus died just for the elect. I have friends who believe Jesus died for every single human being who has ever lived, those in hell and in heaven, and as a result, they are hopeful that one day God will - in the end - bring every sinner into union with Christ. They hold out a hope that somehow, someway, and someday, Jesus will empty hell, and every sinner will be redeemed because everyone will see the glory of the Son who actually redeemed them.

I teach what I believe (particular redemption), but I don't "know" that what I believe about particular redemption is true. One day we will all find out. My belief in particular redemption is not shaken by those who oppose it. My belief in particular redemption does not form my identity.

My fellowship with other believers is not defined by our mutual faith in particular redemption. I don't know that particular redemption is true - but I believe it.

What binds me in fellowship to others is our mutual knowledge of God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

(2). I believe and teach that the earth is a young earth, but I know Jesus.

I don't know that the earth is young. When I teach through Genesis expositional, as I have done three times, I teach that God created the earth at most 6,000 years ago - because that is what I believe. However, I don't "know" that God created the earth 6,000 years ago.

I wasn't there.

And, I understand how some can teach the Bible portrays an old earth and a local flood.

The Scriptures can be interpreted in various ways regarding the age of the earth. My belief in a young earth is not threatened by those brothers in Christ who believe in an old earth. My fellowship with those who know God through Jesus Christ is not limited to those who believe in a young earth.

I am firm in my personal belief in a young earth, but I am honest enough to say I don't "know" the earth is young.

One of these days we all will "know."

Until then, we fellowship around the Person of Jesus Christ.

(3). I believe and teach that most of the prophecies of Scripture have been fulfilled, but I know Christ.

I am what some would call a partial preterist. Preterism is based on a Latin word meaning "having been fulfilled." I believe the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in 70 A.D.

I believe in an early dating of the writing of Revelation (pre-70 A.D.). I believe the prophecies of Jesus in Matthew 24 were fulfilled in 70 A.D. within a generation of when Jesus spoke them. I believe that the prophecies of Daniel were fulfilled through Alexander the Great, the birth of Jesus, and the destruction of Jerusalem.

But I don't know that the prophecies of Scripture have all been fulfilled completely.

I am able to teach all four major eschatological positions (premillennialism, amillennialism, postmillennialism, preterism) to the people of Emmanuel as if I believed each one. In fact, I've done exactly that in the past, and at the conclusion of the study, I told them to choose the eschatological position they believed reflected most closely the position of the biblical authors.

Then I reminded them our fellowship is based on our personal knowledge of Christ, not our mutual beliefs in other matters.

(4). I believe and teach that God made women equal to men in authority, but I know God. 

I see the prophetesses in Scripture prophesying, Priscilla teaching Apollo theology, Deborah reigning over Israel and judging God's people, and I have no problem with women teaching men today, or women holding positions of authority over men today, or believing women are gifted by the Spirit of God just the same as the Spirit gifts men today.

Sure, there are different roles for men and women (women give birth, men don't), but the idea that a woman cannot have equal "authority to a man" is completely foreign to my understanding of the Bible and the purposes of God.

But here is where it gets sticky. Unlike my belief in a young earth, particular redemption, and partial preterism, my belief in the equality of women has a corresponding action. Belief in the equality of women affects my treatment of women. Am I open for women to be in positions of spiritual leadership? Yes. Can women teach the Bible to men in our church? Yes, and they do. Do I believe women can teach Hebrew to future preachers? Yes.

Again, my view of equality is based on what I believe the Scriptures teach.

Could I be wrong?

Of course. God may not have given to women equal authority or equal spiritual abilities to men. If that is the case, then my interpretation of Scripture is leading me to place women in very compromising, uncomfortable and possibly untenable positions.

But my actual experiences have been just the opposite. Every teacher, every leader, every proclaimer of Jesus Christ who happens to be female seems to me to be just as capable and equal to men.

My point remains. Christian fellowship with brothers and sisters who disagree with me on this belief I teach should still occur. But sometimes it is difficult for Christians to fellowship when differing beliefs lead to opposite actions.

In other words, one can debate ecclesiology, eschatology, creation, and atonement, but when a church serves the Lord's supper to a non-church member in front of a Landmarker, or when a church places a woman as a teacher in front of a patriarch, then some seek to break fellowship. Why?

I'm not sure that we have spent enough time teaching followers of Jesus the difference between knowing something and believing something.

The people in the church I pastor understand that we all should be comfortable fellowshipping with other Christians that have differing beliefs. We fellowship around knowing Christ and Him crucified, but we are free to disagree in our beliefs. There is in our church, for lack of a better phrase, soul freedom.

(5). I believe and teach that God is absolutely sovereign, but I know God. 

I believe that not one atom, one molecule, one event,  one person, or even one devil is allowed to move or act without his permission, prohibition, persuasion, or providence.

There is nothing that is hidden from God or too hard for God.

He does as He pleases, always as He pleases, only as He pleases. His purposes shall be fulfilled, and he shall accomplish everything according to His purposes.

But I could be wrong.

God could not know the future because the things of the future do not yet exist and thus are not knowable, as Greg Boyd teaches.

 God could be dependent upon the will of man as Arminius taught.

But I teach what I believe, so I teach He is sovereign over all things, even the will of man and the future events of the world.

But it doesn't bother me to fellowship with someone who knows God but believes differently regarding His providence.

One of these days I am hopeful that those of us who have very specific beliefs will come to the place where we are neither threatened by, nor seek to separate from, those Christians who believe differently than we.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Son of Man Is Punished for the Sin of Man

"The Lord struck the son that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill...and after seven days the son died." (II Samuel 12:15-18).

In the Old Testament (Covenant), God punished the sin of a man in the son of that man. This concept is very difficult for many to grasp, but any student of the Bible knows it is true. When God revealed Himself to the Hebrews, His covenant people in ancient days, He said, "I visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children" (Exodus 34:6-7). God is not always the way you think He is, but He is always the way He says He is. He punishes the sin of a man in the son of that man.

When Noah became drunk and fell naked on his bed, Ham came into Noah's tent and did something sinful to Noah. Genesis 9:24-25 says that when "Noah awoke and saw what Ham had done," he said, "Cursed be Canaan" (Ham's son). Of course, when the Israelites came into "the land of Canaan," the fulfillment of that curse was seen by the Canaanites utter destruction, commanded by the Lord (Deuteronomy 20:17).

It's easy to gloss over King David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. We read that King David orchestrated the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, and we groan at David's attempts to cover his sin, but we identify with him because we do the same thing. However, very few of us seriously contemplate that God punished David for his sin by striking his infant son with death.

We are not Hebrew. It is difficult to understand living under the covenant God had with the Hebrew people. The Old Testament is a record of God's dealings with the Hebrews, but we often spend too little time reading the Old Testament Scriptures. The Hebrews understood that God punished the sin of a man in the son of that man.

That's why the disciples of Jesus, all of them Hebrew, were walking through Jerusalem and came upon a man born blind from birth and asked a question of Jesus that puzzles us who live in a different culture. The disciples asked Jesus, "Teacher, who sinned? This man or his parents?" (John 9:2). That question doesn't make sense unless you understand that God revealed Himself to the Hebrew people as the God who punishes the sin of a man in the son of that man.

Likewise, in the Old Covenant culture (e.g. that is from Genesis to Malachi, or from Adam to Jesus, or better yet from "the first Adam to the last Adam"), a deed of courage and honor was credited to the father. When something stellar is done by someone today, we will say "Who is he?" But in the Old Covenant days of the Hebrews, people would ask, "Whose son is he?"

This is true of young David when He killed Goliath, an act that caused the entire nation of Israel to celebrate. After David killed the giant, King Saul, who knew David well, asked the shepherd boy, "Whose son are you, young man" (I Samuel 17:58). King Saul was saying, "Your father deserves the praise and glory for your heroic actions."

In the same manner, Jesus commended Peter for the confession Peter gave of the Christ by saying, "Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah" (Matthew 16:17). Jesus, raised among the Hebrews in Hebraic culture, once told His disciples "I do what I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).

Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin, sent by the Father to glorify Him through the noble, courageous act of delivering sinners from their just punishment. "You shall call His name Yehoshua," said the angel, "For He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).  "For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have immortal life" (John 3:16).

We quickly grasp that Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us. But why is the name "Son of Man" used 84 times in the New Testament?

Answer: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. That means everything in the Old Testament (and I mean everything) finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "These very Scriptures (the Old Testament) testify of me" (John 5:39).

Jesus came to fulfill the Law of the Hebrews (the Old Testament) and to make that Law "obsolete" (Hebrews 8:13) in order to establish a New Covenant with the nations.

Jesus is the Son of Man because the God who sent Him, the very God who punishes the iniquity of the fathers on the children, has sent His Son as the Son of Man to take punishment for the sin of man on a rugged cross on a hill called Moriah.

Some wrongly dismiss the Old Testament as an errant description of who God is. Others ridicule the ancient Hebrews for not fully understanding God for who He really is.

Count me in as one who believes the Hebrews were chosen by God as the people through whom He would reveal Himself to the world in the form of shadows.

On a sunny day, if you see a shadow coming around the corner of a building, you know that a person is soon to follow. When you read the Old Testament, you see shadows in the Law, the Prophets, the sacrifices, the rituals, the Temple worship, and all the rest of God's dealings with His people. Don't fall in love with the shadow and seek to imitate its form. The Substance has come, and to know Him is far better than to worship the shadows and kiss the pictures (the Law). The Person whom the shadows represent has arrived. The Son of God and the Son of Man has come.

Jesus came to establish a new agreement between God and sinners. God doesn't change, but He sends His Son to fulfill all righteousness. The Son of Man has come (literally, your son), so that the righteous punishment from God due your sins can be placed on your Son, fulfilling the Law. The honorable, noble and courageous act of the One "who knew no sin but became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21) redounds to the glory of the Father - for the Father, in love for sinners, has sent His Son as our Son (e.g. "the Son of Man), to pay the price for our sin. There is no greater love than this. The Father, the Son and the Spirit in covenant together redeems sinners.

Now, for those of us who "embrace the Son of Man," the good news is powerful. It's the answer to our sin, and it is the solution for peace with God and a life full of good promises from God.  "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all "Yes" in Christ. And so through Him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God' (II Corinthians 1:20).

Two Closing Illustrations

Recently I ministered to a young mother who fell asleep while nursing her baby. When she awoke, her newborn infant son lying dead on the floor. The guilt and excruciating agony in this mom was overwhelming. I'll never forget the question she cried out to me, "Is God punishing me for my sin by taking my son?"

Most evangelicals would quickly say, "Oh no! God would never do anything like that to you." Yet, if you study the Scriptures, that is exactly what God does. He punishes the sin of man in the son of man.

At least, that's what God did in the OLD COVENANT.

But He sure doesn't do it now in the NEW COVENANT. 

I was able to confidently assure this woman who lost her child that the love of God abides on her, and never would she experience punishment from God in this life because her trust is in the Son of Man (which it was). I was able to show her "The Good News' in Jesus Christ, and help her understand that any punishment due her sins was poured out on God's Son who came as the Son of Man in order to bear the sin of man. I showed her Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

After focusing on the gospel, this woman in time began to understand the love of God in a deeper and fuller manner, even though she went through the terrible agony of losing a child. She came to realize that events in this life are not punishments from God, for the punishment from God due her sins has already been meted out on the cross. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never forsake those who love the Son

After our Easter services at Emmanuel (2017), a beautiful young teenage girl spoke with me in the lobby. The details of her life are stunning. She lost her parents and most of her siblings in a tragic tornado as they drowned while taking shelter in a drainage ditch. All of them were swept away by a ravaging flood. This beautiful young girl survived, but her family was killed. Doubts about God's love and goodness for her had flooded her heart since that tragic day.

When she heard the gospel on Easter it set her free.

"God will never punish me for my sins because the Son of Man has come to bear my punishment on the cross. I am free from the fear of God, but more importantly, I am now captivated by the love of God because He sent His Son - the Son of God - to represent me as my son - the Son of Man - that the Law of sin and death might be fulfilled in Him. All the promises of God are now freely mine through the Son, and I have no reason to fear any punishment from God, but desire to grow in my understanding of His daily love, mercy and grace for me. I want to know Christ and Him crucified!" 

That indeed is Good News.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"This Is The Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible"

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matthew 24:34). 
The erudite 20th-century British evangelical C.S. Lewis believed that the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:34 conveyed His belief that all events associated with His Second Coming would transpire within the lifetime of his hearers. Lewis pointed out that these words of Jesus are recorded by two other gospel writers in Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32, so Jesus' belief in His soon-to-be Second Coming was something all the disciples heard Him declare.

A generation in the Hebrew mindset of Jesus' day was a lifetime or forty years. However, because Jesus did not return within the lifetime of those who heard Him say this, Lewis declared Matthew 24:34 "is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." 

C.S. Lewis was a contemporary of Albert Schweitzer.  Christian theology in Europe during the 20th century (Lewis' lifetime) came under the direct influence of Albert Schweitzer's book The Quest for the Historical Jesus. Schweitzer. an accomplished musician, theologian, philosopher, physician, and humanitarian in his own right, proposed that Jesus and His disciples were obsessed with a very imminent end of the world. Since the world did not end the first century, Schweitzer convincingly argued that Jesus was mistaken about His own return. This mistake by the historical Jesus, according to Schweitzer, is cause for embarrassment among all evangelical Christians, particularly those of us who live 2,000 years after Jesus declared He was coming soon.

C.S. Lewis' solution to this embarrassment is to propose that Jesus in His human nature was actually ignorant of the time of His own return.
"To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that Jesus is God, makes it hard to understand how He could be ignorant. Yet it would be difficult, and to me, repellent, to suppose that Jesus never asked a genuine question, that is, a question to which he did not know the answer. That would make his humanity something so unlike ours as scarcely to desrve the name. I find it easier to believe that when he said, "Who touched me?" (Luke 7:45) he really didn't know." (C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night). 
The only problem with Lewis' explanation, at least in my mind, is that Jesus wasn't asking a question of the Father about His return, He was declaring a truth to the disciples about His return.  "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matthew 24:34).

Jesus' words convey certainty, not doubt.

Lewis would later use the famous trilemma to confront peoples' opinion of Christ. "Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord." 

I believe Jesus is Lord, and for that reason, when Jesus speaks with certainty, it certainly happens just like He says it will.

The reason many Christians, even wonderfully astute thinkers like C.S. Lewis, have such an embarrassing time with Matthew 24:34 is because they wrongly think Jesus is referring to the end of the world. He wasn't. Jesus was referring to His coming to end the Old Covenant age by destroying the Temple and the system of worship built around the Temple.

That happened in A.D. 70 - within a generation of His words in Matthew 24:34.

Once Christians begin to understand that the Kingdom of God which Christ came to establish looks so much different from the Hebrew Kingdom of Old Covenant Israel, any confusion dissipates. Jesus promised His hearers, "within this generation," to end the entire system of Old Covenant worship. He did exactly what He said He would do. He came to establish a New Covenant with the world and to inaugurate His eternal Kingdom through His fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. When we understand how Christ came to "make obsolete" the Old Covenant (see Hebrews 8:13), then we'll begin to focus more on what the Kingdom of God today looks like today rather than looking for something to come. The Kingdom of Christ is already here.

The Temple of God - is every believer in Christ' it's a people, not a building.
The Priests of God - are those who believe in Christ; it is no longer a hierarchal system of spiritual authority.
Worship - is in Spirit and in truth every day; not in a building once a week.
Law - is simply to "Love one another as Christ loves us": not the Law of Old Covenant Israel.
Life - is led by the Spirit, not regulated by laws of a church, a man, or a system of worship, but only by the Royal Law of love.

All the promises of God are "yes and amen" in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 1:20), who "fulfilled the Law and the Prophets," made obsolete the Old Covenant system of worship through His death, burial and resurrection (Hebrews 8:13), and gave His followers certain promise that He would soon return and destroy the age of Law which they grew up in (Matthew 24:34). So when it comes to living out the life Jesus calls you to live, you are to "Listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35).

The reason many evangelicals struggle with Matthew 24:34, especially evangelicals from a Presbyterian, Episcopal, or Reformed Protestant background like C.S. Lewis as well as Pentecostals, Charismatics and Dispensationalists who are unlike C.S. Lewis, is because all these Christian groups have a tendency to try to merge the old age (e.g. "the Old Covenant") with the new age (e.g. "The New Covenant").  When you merge the Covenants, you have a difficult time seeing how all the eschatological talks of Jesus (e.g. His "end times" talks) and the apostles are about the END of the OLD COVENANT and not the end of the physical world or the universe.

After Christ died and rose from the grave, He fulfilled the promise He gave to His early disciples and returned in judgment to abolish the very thing which prefigured Him (The Temple and the Law).

There's no need for embarrassment when it comes to Matthew 24:34.

Christians need to know Jesus simply told His disciples He was coming back within a generation to end the old age that He came to make obsolete, not the world.

And He did.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Jesus Died and Rose from the Dead at 33 in A.D. 30

During Passion Week several articles about the death and resurrection of Jesus will be posted on social media. One such article by Christianity Today, written and first published in 2014 by a friend of mine, is entitled Five Errors to Drop from Your Easter Sermon.

The number one error made by preachers, according to the authors of the article, is saying that Jesus died when he was 33 years old. They confidently describe this "error" preachers should avoid on Easter by writing:
The common assertion seems reasonable that if Jesus "began his ministry" when he "was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) and engaged in a three-year ministry (John mentions three Passovers, and there might have been a fourth one), then he was 33 years old at the time of his death. However, virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died. Jesus was born before Herod the Great issued the decree to execute "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under" (Matt. 2:16, ESV) and before Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C. If Jesus was born in the fall of 5 or 6 B.C., and if we remember that we don't count the "0" between B.C. and A.D., then Jesus would have been 37 or 38 years old when he died in the spring of A.D. 33 (as we believe is most likely). Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30 (the only serious alternative date), he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old. No major doctrine is affected by this common misconception. But don't damage your credibility by confidently proclaiming "facts" from the pulpit that are not true.

"Virtually no scholar believes Jesus was 33 when He died?"


Sorry CT, Jesus did die and rise from the dead at 33 in A.D. 30. I'm not claiming to be a scholar, but I am calling out the Christianity Today authors for their error.

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) writes,
"When Jesus began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age (see Luke 3:23). Most scholars agree that Jesus' ministry lasted 3 1/2 years. So 30 plus 3 1/2 years equals the age of 33." 
It's puzzling how  Christianity Today cautions pastors about "damage (to) your credibility by confidently proclaiming 'facts' from the pulpit that are not true," when Christianity Today is allowing the authors of the article they published to do that very thing.

How can Christianity Today retain credibility by claiming "virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died" yet CARM states "most scholars agree...Jesus was 33 (when He died)"?

The CT article states emphatically "Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C." But in reality, Biblical Archeology states "there are reasons to reconsider the date of Herod's death," moving it to the fall of 4 B.C. or even later.

We are told by Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4) that there was a lunar eclipse "shortly before Herod died."  Lunar eclipses were a very big deal during the era that ancients kept time by the moon (e.g. the lunar calendar). A lunar eclipse portended ominous events for world leaders, and there is reason to believe Herod himself felt something ominous was coming his way.

A lunar eclipse occurred in March of 4 B.C. (this we know). There was also another lunar eclipse in 1 B.C., leading some to think Herod didn't die until that year (1 B.C.). Regardless to which lunar eclipse Josephus refers when he tells of Herod's death, we know that shortly after the eclipse Herod died. What we don't know is how long "shortly after" is to Josephus. The Jewish historian doesn't tell us, and no date for Herod's death from antiquity exists. It could have been as long as 6, 7 or even 8 months after the eclipse of 4 B.C., meaning October or November of 4 B.C., or it could have been a few months after the lunar eclipse of 1 B.C.

What we do know is that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to avoid King Herod's decree to kill newborn boys "two years and under" (Matthew 2:16),  and they only came "out of Egypt" back to their home in the hills of Galilee after Herod's death (see Matthew 2:13-15). So Jesus was either one year of age or four years of age when Herod died (4 B.C. or 1 B.C.) and his parents came back to Israel.

The important point remains. Jesus was born during "The Feast of Tabernacles" (September 10, 5 B.C.) while King Herod the Great reigned over the Jews. The great Matthew Henry writes:
"It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zec.14: 16).
It matters not when Herod died as far as the date of the birth of Jesus or the date and/or age of Jesus when He died and rose from the grave.

Jesus died and rose from the dead at 33 in A.D. 30.

Let me show you why.

Since Jesus was born in the fall of 5 B.C.  - the very time that even the Christianity Today article gives as the most likely date for the birth of Christ -  Jesus would have been age 33 at His death on Passover in A.D. 30.

The authors of the Christianity Today article wrongly state, " Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30, he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old when He died (had he been born in the fall of 5 B.C.).

Sorry, Christianity Today, that's simply not true.

Here's why.

Jesus was born during September (The Feast of Tabernacles) in 5 B.C.

Age 1  - 4 B.C.
Age 2  - 3 B.C.
Age 3  - 2 B.C.
Age 4  - 1 B.C.
Age 5  - A.D. 1 (There is no "0" Year)
Age 6  - A.D. 2
Age 7  - A.D. 3
Age 8  - A.D. 4
Age 9  - A.D. 5
Age 10 - A.D. 6
Age 11 - A.D. 7
Age 12 - A.D. 8
Age 13 - A.C. 9
Age 14 - A.D. 10
Age 15 - A.D. 11
Age 16 - A.D. 12
Age 17 - A.D. 13
Age 18 - A.D. 14
Age 19 - A.D. 15
Age 20 - A.D. 16
Age 21 - A.D. 17
Age 22 - A.D. 18
Age 23 - A.D. 19
Age 24 - A.D. 20
Age 25 - A.D. 21
Age 26 - A.D. 22
Age 27 - A.D. 23
Age 28 - A.D. 24
Age 29 - A.D. 25
Age 30 - A.D. 26
Age 31 - A.D. 27
Age 32 - A.D. 28
Age 33 - A.D. 29
Age 34 - A.D. 30

Remember, Jesus birthday would have been September. He would have turned 34 in September of A.D. 30. But Jesus died in the spring (Passover - April) of A.D. 30 - which means He had not yet turned 34. 

So Jesus died at the age of 33 in A.D. 30.

40 years later (a very important number of transition in Scripture), the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, ending the Old Covenant.

God is now in a New Agreement (Covenant) with the world.

Christianity Today, it would be wise to take your own caution to heart and refrain from confidently proclaiming "facts" in your magazine which are not true.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Knowing the Lingo Isn't the Same As Letting Sin Go

The following is a letter I received from a woman that goes by Hupomone when she comments. She listens regularly to our podcasts from overseas, and she also reads Istoria's Blog. The past year has been a difficult one for her. In an effort to process some of the things that transpired, she decided to write the equivalent of a "blog post." She doesn't have a blog and or even Facebook, so the letter was really initially intended for immediate family/friends. She's given me permission to publish it on Istoria. I believe it illustrates beautifully how principles of the Scripture are either applied - or not applied - in the lives of Christ's people.

"I remember my childhood home well. I grew up with my brother, sister and my parents. "My mom always tried to do such a great job making it feel like not just a house, but a home. She tried to decorate in a way that would be nice, but economical. Most vividly, I remember her hanging up pictures all over our upstairs hallway to cover the holes in the wall punched through by my father. It saddens me that those pictures stand out the most. You see, my dad didn’t just punch holes through the drywall in our family home; he managed to punch holes through our family itself.

I grew up knowing my parents didn’t have a perfect marriage. In fact, I often wondered if they even loved each other. I think they once did, a long time ago… but after three kids, full time jobs and “life” set in, their relationship devolved drastically. They both started to look outside each other for fulfillment. My mom poured everything into her kids. My dad took to another woman. It wasn’t just a fling, either. He told her he wasn’t married and she fell in love with him. He wanted a life different than what he had. He would eventually get that, just not in the way he would expect.

 I am not sure why my mom took him back. She certainly never seemed happy with him since she found out about the affair. I remember countless threats of divorce, yelling, screaming, fighting… My dad even ended up in jail when my mom finally called the police after he hit her.
The thing is, my dad was one of the most outwardly professing Christians I knew. He spoke openly of his love for Christ and the forgiveness he knew through Him. He knew what to say and when to say it and it often left everyone feeling that if they disagreed with him, they were directly disagreeing with God. After all, how can a professing Christian argue with how forgiven another believer is?
My mom understood this dichotomy better than anyone. She lived with an outwardly professing Christian man who wanted very little to do with her. She could never understand the vast expanse between his words and his actions. I imagine that after a while, she felt like she was going a little out of her mind. The problems surrounding their marriage were placed on her shoulders: she hadn’t forgiven him completely, she didn’t understand him, she couldn’t get over the past, she… she… she.
I think time took its toll. As the years went by and her children grew up, her depression became even more evident. She sought professional help, tried various medications, and did her best on a human level to overcome the darkness that enveloped her.
Meanwhile, my father grew in his spirituality. He concentrated on daily devotions, blogging, even writing books and plays. His attention was anywhere but on my mother. And because his pursuits were “godly”, he was beyond reproach.
The breaking point came one August afternoon when my father called and said my mother was in the hospital. He told me that she had tried to kill herself with an overdose of pills. 911 was called and the ambulance took her to the emergency room. Doctors anticipated she would be able to “sleep it off”. Within 24 hours she was moved to the ICU and put on life support. I took the next flight out with my two young daughters in tow. By the time we arrived, she had coded blue twice and they were able to revive her, but it wasn’t looking good.  She lived another 36 hours, never to wake out of her coma, and then passed away. An autopsy would later show she had over seven different medications in her system, all at high doses. She never really stood a chance.
She left a 3-page letter behind, as to why she did what she did. I am not exaggerating when I say that over 2/3 of this letter was an indictment of my father. She clearly communicated that his behavior and the way he treated her were what contributed to her decision to end her life. I have no doubt that she meant every word she wrote.
One of the many things that saddened me about this, was actually culminated in a blog I read two months prior to her death. A former pastor of mine, Wade Burleson, of Emmanuel, Enid, Oklahoma, wrote an article on his “Istoria Ministries” website about marriage. Specifically, he wrote about 15 words that can save a broken marriage: “You are neither the source nor the solution for the trouble or pain within me.”
 I knew as soon as I read these words, that if my mom could grasp them and the power of Christ behind them, her life could change. If she could find her identity in Christ and what he did for her, instead of what my father does or does not do – then she could find peace. I prayed for her often and specifically in this regard. Clearly, despite my prayers, this was not the direction the Lord would lead her in. Her suicide did not surprise my Lord, and I know He remains sovereign despite the outcome.
The sovereignty of God was about to take another turn in my life. My mom died on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016. The very next day, Thursday, August 18th, while I was still reeling from everything that had happened, my dad called me downstairs. My daughters and I were staying at the house my parents had owned for the last 18 years. It was the only house my daughters ever knew of their grandparents. It was an important home to me, my siblings and all six grandchildren.  So, my dad had asked that I come downstairs into the office. He seemed… excited. It was not an emotion I expected, so I was eager to see what he wanted to show me. He sat down in front of the computer and proceeded to show me the “Christian Mingle” dating profile he had just set up. He asked about his picture, how everything came across… I was suspended in disbelief. It had been less than 24 hours since my mom died and my dad had already set up a profile on a dating website?  I had no idea how to respond.
The memorial and burial services came and went over that next week. Things with my dad were just…. strange. I tried to remind myself that often people aren’t aware of their actions when something like this happens. I tried to put myself in my dads’ position – If a suicide note blamed me for everything, how would I handle it?  I really tried.
As I write this, just about 7 months have passed since my mom’s death. In that time, my father joined many online dating sites, started dating, found a girlfriend, and is now talking of marriage. He also sold his house, moved away from his 2 children and four grandchildren who lived within a ten-minute proximity and found a house on the other side of the country. He calls it “Sanctuary.” 
The hardest part for me in all of this, is that from the day my mother died, my father has cloaked everything he has done with godly-sounding euphemisms.  All I would hear is, “The Lord has given me a peace that surpasses all understanding…” or, “The Lord has clearly directed my steps in all these endeavors…” As someone who professes Christ, how can I argue with a “peace that surpasses understanding”? How can I dismiss the “sovereignty and will of God” as my dad made these snap decisions? He never even looked behind him, at the destruction left from this storm. He didn’t seem to care that my sister began cutting herself to abate the pain, or that my brother found his solace in the bottom of Vodka bottles. It was all about his “turn” to find happiness.
Here is the best of what I can surmise: I know that the heart is deceitful above all things. I know that people can hide behind a fa├žade of Christ. I know that I am not to sit in judgment of my father, but to show him the same love and grace Christ has shown me. But I also look at his actions and see no sign of sacrifice. I see no evidence of him loving his family (or anyone else, for that matter) more than he loves himself. How can I reconcile these things? In many ways, it would be far easier for my mind to comprehend this situation if he was an atheist, or agnostic, or held a belief I knew was outside of biblical doctrine. But for him to justify the very actions that hurt others as “following where the Spirit leads...” is just impossible for me to resolve. Or at least, it was.
Pastor Burleson just this week, posted another blog on Istoria Ministries. As God in His providence would dictate, here is the last part of what that blog said:
            “…it would be an appropriate time to remind us who follow Jesus that we are to be known for our love and truth - in that order. The Royal Commandment is love (see James 2:8).  People will know I am a follower of Christ by my love, not my truth (see John 13:35). The love I show is more important than truth I know, because in reality my Truth is a Person, and He tells me to love you as He loves me.

Here's the good news about love. You can't fake it. You either have it or you don't (see I Corinthians 13:4-8). 

Love is patient.
Love is kind. 
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love is not proud.  
Love does not dishonor others.
Love is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil.
Love rejoices with the truth. 
Love always protects.
Love always trusts.
Love always hopes.
Love always perseveres.
Love never fails

I may tell you I love you, but if I don't show you I love you, then I'm faking love. The good news about true love is that fact checking it is easy for me. Before I condemn those who pass on Fake News as gospel truth, I ought to examine to see if I am attempting to hoodwink you with my fake love. 

I think the latter is worse because it often involves self-delusion. 

At least the Fake News purveyors know they are liars.” 
So, it became quite evident to me that my family has been hoodwinked. I still am not sure what to do with this, but at least I am not trying to reconcile the truth my father purported with his actions. And in the end, it almost seems fitting: his actions were like his punching holes in drywall. His truth? Just pretty pictures he hung in front of the damage done."