Saturday, August 27, 2016

Does Having the Bible Allow Continuing Revelation?

The question in the title of this post should have brought immediate images to mind, such as the Book of Mormon. And that is certainly one of the things that I have in mind. However, we should also think of Pentecostal "prophets," the Pope, and a lot of common Christians who claim that "God told me."

I am opposed to all of these claims of revelation because they undermine the sufficiency of the true Scriptures, the Bible, in both the Old and the New testaments.

First, what does the Bible say about itself? Paul, writing to his apprentice Timothy, said (II Timothy 3:14-17): "As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Notice what he tells us about the Scriptures. First, they are "breathed out by God," i. e., their authority derives from their ultimate authorship by God. Second, they make us wise for salvation. And third, they equip the believer, so that he is complete, equipped for every good work.

The desire for additional revelation indicates that the person does not believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for salvation, and would leave a believer incomplete, ill-equipped for every good work. That is, that they fail to achieve their intended purpose (see Isaiah 55:11).

Notice, secondly, what Jude 1:3 also says: "Beloved, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." While it may be true that the full explanation was not yet complete when Jude wrote, he clearly indicates that the content was delivered once for all. This brother of the Lord saw no need for the revelation of any new doctrines, as both Rome and the Mormons have done. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews said the same thing (Hebrews 1:1-2): "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but, in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world." There is progressive revelation from the creation to the Gospels to the founding of the church, because all revelation was to point to Jesus Christ. Once He came, there was some apostolic explanation necessary, but no additional content was necessary or possible. That rules out the new dogmas decreed by Rome, such as papal infallibility, or the ascension of Mary, as well as "another testimony of Jesus Christ" pretended by the Mormons.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Problem with the Second Commandment and the Catholic Church


The image above is of the Ten Commandments from catholic-recourses.org. Here is a different image:


Do you notice any difference between the two images? Look at the Second Commandment: In the first one, the Second has been removed, and the Tenth has been divided to keep the right number. Which is correct? You can see them for yourself in Exodus 20:1-17. Text clearly includes, in verse 4, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." Yet it has been excised from the Catholic version. Why would they do that? The answer is simple: the Second Commandment very plainly condemns the Catholic use of images of Jesus and so-called saints in worship. And, since, the Catholic Church claims to be infallible, she cannot admit that her practice has been sinful idolatry, so she has altered the Scriptures instead, a far worse crime, in my mind. As God Himself says (Deuteronomy 4:2): "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you."

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Church in the Old Testament: The City of God


Many readers will be familiar with the hymn, "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken," by John Newton (also the author of "Amazing Grace"). However, you may not be aware that he was inspired by Psalm 87:3: "Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God." What city would that be? Jerusalem, of course, or, as it is called here, Zion. But not the Jerusalem on the map, but rather the one spoken of in Hebrews 12:22-23: "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven."

How do we know that it isn't the Jerusalem on the map? Well, first because of the use of "Zion," rather than "Jerusalem." That name was used, especially by the prophets, when the emphasis was on God's presence among His people.  Consider, for example, Joel 3:17: "So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it." and also Zephaniah 3:14-16: "Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: 'Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.'" Notice especially that the latter prophet interchanges "Zion" with "Jerusalem," so that there is no question as to of whom He is speaking. And second, because he doesn't talk about the Temple, its ceremonies, or even about the Jews.

The Psalmist proceeds with a list of countries, Rahab (a nickname for Egypt), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush (modern Ethiopia). What of them (verse 4)? "This one was born there." Born where (verse 5)? "Of Zion it shall be said, 'This one and that one were born in her.'" This is a marvelous prophecy of the extension of the church among the Gentiles, of their people reborn as children of the Church of Christ. Contrary to the expectations of the Jews, people from every nation and tribe (Revelation 5:9) will flock to the church, brought by the Holy Spirit, and praising our Redeemer Jesus Christ! This is part of the promise of the Father to the Son in the intra-Trinitarian covenant, seen in Isaiah 49:6: "It is too light a thing that You should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make You as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

To my mind this is such a glorious thing! No wonder it inspired John Newton to put those words to music, "Glorious  things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God"!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How Many Resurrections Will There Be?

As the reader probably knows, premillennialism teaches that there will be two literal resurrections, that of believers at the beginning of the millennium, that of the wicked at the end of the millennium. They base this on a literal interpretation of Resurrection 20:4-5: "I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. 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 ended. This is the first resurrection." Note two things: first, this is the only chapter in all of Scripture which describes this millennium; and second, this would mean that resurrected saints will be sharing the earth with aging, dying, and sinning unbelievers. I find that a detestable thought!

The problem with that is that it turns the principles of hermeneutics (i. e., the interpretation of Scripture) on their head. One fundamental hermeneutical principle is that clearer, simpler passages of Scripture are to be used to explain the more-difficult passages, traditionally called "the analogy of faith." Yet, this one chapter, full of symbolism, in a book also full of symbolism, is imposed on other passages which were perfectly clear before that imposition. In fact, as I will now proceed to show, that literal interpretation is contrary to the explicit statements of other portions of Scripture.

Look first at John 5:28-29: "An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His [i. e., the Son of God, v. 25] voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." Will the resurrections be separated by a thousand years? Or any period of time, for that matter? No, the Lord explicitly states that the two resurrections will occur in the same hour. Jesus is paraphrasing the prophecy of Daniel 12:2: "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The essence of the two passages is the same, but Jesus adds the explicit time reference in John.

Also in that Gospel, consider John 6:39: "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day." When will He raise us up? On one day, then a thousand years will transpire? No, but on the last day! In the biblical course of events, must that not be at the end of history? The end of the millennium, if you will?

Oops, did that disturb you? If Revelation describes a resurrection at the beginning of the millennium, and another one at the end, but other passages, by the same Apostle, describe only one resurrection, then what about the "first resurrection"? I believe that is a reference to conversion, which is often described in resurrectional terminology in the New Testament. Look, for example, at John 5:24, just before the verses above: "Whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." This is the key: the millennium is the time of the reign of Christ between our respective conversions and the general resurrection at the end of history. Without denying that He reigns over all things, Jesus especially reigns in the hearts of His people. The millennium is now, and each new Christian enters it upon his conversion, his spiritual resurrection.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Touch of Logic for the Atheist

There is a traditional argument for the existence of God, called the cosmological argument, according to which the existence of God is proven by the necessity that the universe has a cause. While I consider that a true statement, some atheists get around its implications by claiming that the universe had no beginning, and therefore requires no cause. That is, it exists necessarily.

I would suggest that a universe that is eternal and exists necessarily is thereby demonstrated to be God. But that isn't what I am here to say.

Rather, for those atheists who hold this view, I would suggest that it is logically self-defeating.

Here's why: it is not sufficient merely to assert the possibility that the universe is eternal and self-existing.To put it in logical terms, A is not disproved because not-A may be true. Rather, their logic requires that it be certain that the universe is eternal and self-existing.

How can one be certain of an eternal and self-existing universe? Only by the testimony of an eternal and self-existing witness! Thus, if true, this argument from atheists doesn't support their case; it refutes it!

In contrast, Christians can assert that the universe is neither eternal nor self-existing because we have the testimony of an eternal and self-existing Witness (Genesis 1:1): "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep." Only the triune God of the Bible fulfills the logical underpinning required by atheism. For the atheist to have his argument, he must assume the existence and truth of the Christian God.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mediators Between God and Man: Our Choice or His?

We all know the story of Moses. God chose him, speaking to him out the burning bush, to be His representative in the redemption of His people Israel from bondage in Egypt, and to represent the people to Him. This is what the Bible calls a mediator.

In Exodus 20:18-20, we see Moses as the representative of the people: "Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.' The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was." The people feared to enter the presence of God, properly understanding that they were not worthy.

Moses's account continues (Exodus 20:21-24): "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: "You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you."'" In these verses, we see the other side of the coin. Where in the first verses, God appointed Moses to mediate between Him and the people, here we see the negative side, His forbidding of any other mediator.

When Catholics or Eastern Orthodox pray to Mary or any of their other myriad of so-called "saints," they ask them to intercede for them with Jesus. They ask them to serve as mediators!  The Catholic Answers website says, "Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us." By whose appointment? Is it not by the appointment of men, in contravention of the commandment of God? Of course it is.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Does Job Teach "Soul Sleep"?

"Why did you bring me out from the womb?
     Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, 
     carried from the womb to the grave.
Are not my days few?
     Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer
before I go—and I shall not return—
     to the land of darkness and deep shadow,
the land of gloom like thick darkness,
     like deep shadow without any order,
where light is as thick darkness."
- Job 10:18-22 

The book of Job is often considered the earliest biblical book, set in a time before the revelations given to the faithful, even in the first books of the Old Testament. That means that Job was dealing with harsh spiritual experiences with very little knowledge of God's covenants or of His dealings with believers in history. Thus, we cannot look to him for an advanced theology of eternal life or the destinies of men. Some, as we can see in Job 19:25-27, but nothing compared to what a modern Christian knows as we read the book.

Given that limitation, what does he describe here? He is miserable, as can only be expected, after losing not just his material wealth, but also his ten children, all in one calamitous moment. In his misery, he is wishing that he had never lived. In the verses above, he is lamenting that he had not died at birth, so that the gap between birth and death would have been brief, with no opportunity for hardship. But now, his only relief is in the knowledge that his suffering will soon end in death, so that he can have a little cheer in that knowledge before he goes. Ah! Goes where? Not into the grave to sleep until the resurrection, but rather to a dark place. Not "dark" in the sense that he won't be able to see, but "dark" in the sense of unknown. As I pointed out above, he didn't have the revelation that we have of heaven and Christ's presence there. Job feared the realm of death, not as a bad place, but simply as a place about which he had no knowledge. Yet he had enough knowledge that he was headed to a place, one from which he could - hypothetically, but not actually, for now - return, a place that he calls "a land."

Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses like to find obscure verses in the Old Testament to deny the orthodox view of the afterlife. Their view is that the souls of the dead are in the grave, unconscious, with their bodies, a doctrine often called "soul sleep." However, even the earliest and most-obscure passages refute their error.

Job with His Friends

I also have a broader view of "soul sleep" here.