Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Avoiding the Repeat Cycle of Failed End-Times Predictions

Tips for avoiding the repeat cycle of failed end-times predictions: 1. Know for yourself what the prophetic text of Scripture itself actually says 2. Don't confuse allegory/symbolism for prose. 3. Where there is an allegory/symbol, see if the text itself explains the allegory/symbol 4. Where the text doesn't explain an allegory/symbol, see if the same symbol's meaning is explained elsewhere in the Bible 5. Don't confuse fulfilled prophecy for unfulfilled prophecy 6. No-one knows the hour, day, season nor times (years) 7. The main purpose for prophetic texts was not prediction per se but to give re-assurance 8. If anyone thinks he knows something, he doesn't know anything yet as he ought to know it

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Freewill and the Sovereignty of God

Man's will doesn't diminish God's sovereignty at all - it confirms it.

If man didn't have a will, then God doesn't have a will either - because man was made in God's image.

But since man has a will, it is confirmed that God has a will - since man was made in God's image.

God is holy, and we are commanded to be holy as He is holy - and He has appointed a day of judgment. The necessity for judgment confirms that man has a will. If the only will that existed was God's will, then there should be no necessity for judgment - for God can't judge Himself!


The fact that I own freehold title to my land diminishes nothing of the Crown's sovereignty - it confirms it.

Crown sovereignty is the source of my freehold title. Crown sovereignty sets the limits of my title. Even though I have title, I'm still subject to judgment by the Crown if I break laws on my own land.

Similarly, anything that God sovereignly decides to do, confirms His sovereignty, rather than denies it.

Since God sovereignly decided to make man in His own image, and gave man a will, then the fact that man has a will is evidence of the sovereign action of God who gave man a will in the first place.

Seeing man is sovereignly given a will, it follows that man is also subject to sovereign, divine law - and to judgment.


It's appropriate for a father to tell his child who lives in his house, what to do. But when the child is grown, married and lives in his own house, the father now knocks on his son's door before entering. He is still his father - but his son has his own house now.

God created sons to be mature sons - not undeveloped children. He delights when we use our will with the same ethics with which He uses His.


Marriage is an example of God sovereignly subjecting Himself to the limitations of a subsequent principle - without diminishing anything of His sovereignty. When a man and woman decide to get married, God puts them together - and forever thereafter God relates to the couple as one, respecting the decision the couple made to get married.

God remains sovereign over both individuals, yet He no longer treats them as though they were not a couple. In all His actions towards the couple, He is now duty-bound to regard them no longer as individuals alone but also as a couple.

After they were married, the sovereign God now frames His own actions towards the couple by the terms of a subsequent law - the law of marriage.

The fact that God's regard for the couple must now be framed by the fact that the couple had decided to get married, takes nothing away from the sovereignty of God - it confirms His sovereignty, because it was God who sovereignly decided to create the law of marriage in the first place.

Their decision to marry forever shapes the way God sees them - yet within the provisions of that framework, the couple remains subject to sovereign, divine law.

Similarly, God's sovereign decision to make man in His own image, giving him a will, takes nothing away from His sovereignty, but confirms it. Man's will can affect the way God relates to man - and yet it is still subject to sovereign, divine law and judgment.

Man's will has limitations though - it can't achieve as much as God's. Man is subject to time and death - but God can predict man's choices and He can control certain political destinies spanning generations - not by removing man's will, but by working with it, by keeping someone alive or not - as He did with Pharaoh, and as He did with the unbelieving nation of Israel. He didn't remove their will, but He kept them alive for His own time and purposes.

Pharaoh was like a cleaner-fish in an aquarium. A cleaner fish does what it does by nature - it goes along cleaning up the mess from the other fish in the aquarium. It goes along happily doing what it does, unaware that it is fulfilling someone else's purpose - its owner's purpose.

Similarly Pharaoh was doing his own will, unaware that God, who could have judged him earlier, instead allowed him to rise to a prominent position for His own purpose (so that God's judgment and deliverance would be public).

God couldn't have judged Pharaoh if Pharaoh hadn't had a will of his own. Pharaoh had a will of his own, and was therefore subject to Sovereign judgment - yet God still worked-out His purpose in history by delaying Pharaoh's judgment and allowing him to rise to prominence for such a time.

In the same way, natural Israel was allowed to exist, despite its self-will and unbelief - so that God's judgment and the salvation of believers could both be demonstrated. That's what Romans 9 is about.

Indeed God's salvation plan did not originate with a man's will or running - but with God Himself. He sovereignly offered salvation upon His own sovereign basis - faith. Man's will and running had nothing to do with deciding that basis - God Himself decided it. And faith to live by is not a work: it's a gift for all to receive. Receiving a gift is not a work. The door of faith is open. Whosoever will may come.

Everything in life is a gift. Faith is a gift - and it is offered to all. Therefore if some don't have faith, it's not neccessarily because God hadn't offered it to them - some simply may not have liked to take advantage of the offer. Yet even this is within God's sovereign allowance.

I feel that I'm taking Scriptures on face value, in context, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and without manipulation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Essence of the Gospel Message - Especially as Pertains to the Theme of the Coming Kingdom - Luke 1:67-75

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

Here's another idea for further thought - about Messianic prophecies, the return of Christ and the coming Kingdom.

Let's imagine a military General promised, "I shall return", and the oppressed people take comfort in knowing that the general will subdue their enemies when he comes. The day the General returns, people are declaring every man to his neighbour that the promise has been fulfilled and the day of their liberation from their enemies has come. But it may take several weeks, or longer, before all their enemies are actually subdued. Nevertheless, the announcement was still true that the day of their promised liberation had come on the day the General arrived.

Perhaps in a similar way, the Messianic prophecies of God's coming judgment and coming Kingdom were indeed fulfilled when Jesus was born in the manger in Bethlehem - but in like manner as the military General's landing was only the start of his promised mopping-up operation, so the birth of Christ, and the earthly ministry of Christ, and the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Christ, were only the beginning of the total fulfillment of the full-package of the Messianic promises - the remainder being fulfilled throughout Church history to a limited extent perhaps, but ultimately and fully at the return of Christ.

The Gospel as a message comprises of the package-deal message, even though the ultimate fulfillment of each of the components of the message may in history be separated by thousands of years or longer. But of course there is an individual receiving of the full package deal in a spiritual, intrinsic, down-payment sort of a way, in the here and now. Perhaps there may even be corporate realizations of many aspects of the promises in regions, or in times of history. But the fullest sense of the promises won't be received until the coming of Christ and His Kingdom. Nevertheless, intrinsically the promises were fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

So when Zechariah prophesied that the birth of a baby fulfilled the promises that Israel would be delivered out of the hands of their enemies, it was as true as it was to say a country's promise of liberation was fulfilled the moment the military General's feet landed on the beach. Yes, Jesus' birth, in fact even John's birth, intrinsically fulfilled or in a sense heralded the promise to deliver Israel out of the hand of all their enemies - but historically it won't happen in fulness until the return of Christ. It will also only happen for the remnant who believe. Some of the remnant may experience it to varying degrees and at various times before the return of Christ too. It may also be experienced in a spiritual sense. But in any sense, it's true to say the promises were fulfilled by Christ.

It could be the same with end-times prophecy, such as Malachi, Daniel and the Olivet Discourse, and maybe even the Book of Revelation. Perhaps some events which historically may end-up being separated by thousands of years or longer, are described almost as if they were a single event - because the package-deal is intrinsically one and the same even though God in His longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, has extended the time.

Maybe that's why Jesus' answer to the question of His coming and His answer to the question of the destruction of the Temple make the events seem like one event - because intrinsically they are, even though historically they have ended-up being separated by a period of time.

Maybe that's why Daniel's prophecy about the mountain filling the earth sounds like something that happened right away, when historically the coming of Christ as a baby and as a prophet and as the Lamb of God to take away our sins - and His coming as King of kings and Lord of lords - may end-up being separated by thousands of years.

Maybe that's why Malachi's prophecy about Elijah coming and the Lord suddenly coming to His temple - before the great and noteable day of the Lord - are both made to sound almost like one day - because intrinsically that was the package-deal message of the day, even though historically there may be a time-period of thousands of years, due to God's longsuffering, not willing that any should perish.

If so, then regardless of where we are at in the timeline of ultimate history, our message is and should be still intrinsically the same - the same as John's, Jesus's, and the Apostles'. Hallelujah! It's the same Gospel message!

It's a message of fulfillment and of yet-to-be fulfilled, at the same time. It's a message of redemption and of judgment. It's a message of individually receiving Jesus and of the imminent ultimate realization of His kingdom - both intrinsically wrapped in the same packaging, as on offer, although the historical timing will differ, by how long nobody knows.

If so, then let's recover the same message of hope, of joy, of gladness, of realization, of promise - hallelujah!

Just an idea for further expansion.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jesus Explained and Upheld the Law of the Sabbath - Matthew 12:1-12

None of Jesus' actions nor statements about the sabbath meant that He was breaking, improving on, or replacing the Law of the sabbath. Rather, Jesus' statements about the sabbath explained the Law of the sabbath.

Jesus was ministering to Jews who were still under the Old Covenant, and His statements need to be understood in that context.

The manner in which the spiritual meaning of the sabbath finds fulfillment in the lives of New Testament believers is another subject. But the point in the Book of Matthew and in this particular Blog post is that Jesus refuted the Pharisees' wrong application of the Law of the sabbath by explaining, upholding, obeying, and fulfilling the true meaning of the law of the sabbath - and at the time, He expected His disciples also to do no less.

Nothing Jesus ever said or did broke the Law or improved on the Law. He exemplified Law-keeping and taught Law-keeping on every point, exactly as it was originally intended.

Matthew 12:2
2 ...which was not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

Only in the Pharisees' minds was it unlawful to pick corn on the sabbath day under these circumstances.

Jesus explained that it was "lawful" - i.e., it was consistent with the law of the sabbath - to do good on the sabbath day - e.g., by healing the sick or lifting a sheep that has fallen into a pit.

Jesus said the Pharisees were condemning the guiltless, i.e., He was saying that His discipls were in fact guiltless under Moses' Law.

In order to explain the true meaning of the Law in regard to the sabbath, Jesus appealed to three sections of the Scriptures: He appealed to the writings of Moses in the Law itself; He illustrated it by an incident in the life of David; and He backed it up with a Scripture from the prophets - plus He added an appeal to a commonsense behaviour which even the Pharisees themselves were doing.

Jesus showed in the Law that the laws of the sabbath were never meant to over-arch the sacredness of other important functions in the house of God. Even under the Law, there were certain things which a person could do on the sabbath day without incurring guilt (verse 5).

An incident in the life of David illustrated the principle that some laws - such as those governing the use of the shewbread in the Temple - were not necessarily enforced in moments of life-and-death emergency.

The prophet illustrated the spirit in which the Law was intended, by saying, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice".

On top of all that, the Pharisees themselves had enough commonsense to lift a sheep from a pit on the sabbath day. Therefore they were actually being hypocritical.

Seeing then that the Law itself, when understood correctly, vindicated the disciples who were picking corn on the sabbath day - how much were they vindicated seeing a greater than the Temple was with them!

The Pharisees were misapplying the Law and hypocritically condemning the guiltless. But the truth under the Law always was that the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath. That was not some new idea which Jesus was introducing - Jesus was merely explaining the truth as it always was under the Law.

The son of man is Lord of the sabbath - without breaking the Law! In fact, the Law itself - and principles in the Law - upholds the Lordship of the son of man over the sabbath!

The Law itself allowed that the Temple and its required functions could over-arch certain requirements of the law pertaining to the sabbath - how much more, now that a greater than the Temple was here! This put the laws of the sabbaths and the disciples' actions that day, in proper perspective.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daniel 12:4 - What Kind of Knowledge?

For those who claim we must be in the final generation because Daniel 12:4 prophesied an increase in knowledge, my question is - what kind of knowledge?

Although electronic technology has increased in recent generations, other kinds of knowledge may have been lost.

For example, although new jargon in the English language is being invented, old vocabulary is simultaneously being lost.

"In one century we went from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to offering remedial English in college," said Ross Mahan.

Even in languages like Cebuano and Japanese, a lot of older vocabulary is being lost to younger speakers.

The knowledge of herbal remedies is another area where we may be losing knowledge.

And what about practical skills knowledge? Many who know how to operate computer systems have missed-out on skills that were more widely known by previous generations, such as sewing or carpentry.

The knowledge of how to use an electric jigsaw may have increased - but would you say there has been a decline in the numbers of people who know how to make tongue-in-groove furniture?

I've slipped and slided on mountain walking tracks, while hilltribe children laughed at my ineptness and women observed with amusement, while even balancing heavy jars on their heads without using hands. Sure, I might know the Western way of explaining physics - but they obviously knew a thing or two about physics which I didn't know!

Another huge area where we are seeing a loss of knowledge is in languages. Someone has estimated that 90% of the world's 6,000 languages could be lost within 100 years:

"Many linguists predict that at least half of the world's 6,000 or so languages will be dead or dying by the year 2050. Languages are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. If this trend continues, the world of the future could be dominated by a dozen or fewer languages.

Even higher rates of linguistic devastation are possible. Michael Krauss, director of the Alaska Native Language Center, suggests that as many as 90 percent of languages could become moribund or extinct by 2100. According to Krauss, 20 percent to 40 percent of languages are already moribund, and only 5 percent to l0 percent are "safe" in the sense of being widely spoken or having official status. If people "become wise and turn it around," Krauss says, the number of dead or dying languages could be more like 50 percent by 2100 and that's the best-case scenario.

The definition of a healthy language is one that acquires new speakers. No matter how many adults use the language, if it isn't passed to the next generation, its fate is already sealed. Although a language may continue to exist for a long time as a second or ceremonial language, it is moribund as soon as children stop learning it. For example, out of twenty native Alaskan languages, only two are still being learned by children.

Fewer Languages, Fewer Thoughts

Although language extinction is sad for the people involved, why should the rest of us care? What effect win other people's language loss have on the future of people who speak English, for example? Replacing a minor language with a more widespread one may even seem like a good thing, allowing people to communicate with each other more easily. But language diversity is as important in its way as biological diversity.

Andrew Woodfield, director of the Centre for Theories of Language and Learning in Bristol, England, suggested in a 1995 seminar on language conservation that people do not yet know all the ways in which linguistic diversity is important. "The fact is, no one knows exactly what riches are hidden inside the less-studied languages," he says.

Woodfield compares one argument for conserving unstudied endangered plants--that they may be medically valuable--with the argument for conserving endangered languages. "We have inductive evidence based on past studies of well-known languages that there will be riches, even though we do not know what they will be. It seems paradoxical but it's true. By allowing languages to die out, the human race is destroying things it doesn't understand," he argues.

Stephen Wurm, in his introduction to the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing [see access, page 12], tells the story of one medical cure that depended on knowledge of a traditional language. Northern Australia experienced an outbreak of severe skin ulcers that resisted conventional treatment. Aborigines acquainted with the nurse told her about a lotion derived from a local medicinal plant that would cure the ulcers. Being a woman of broad experience, the woman didn't dismiss this claim for non-Western medical knowledge. Instead, she applied the lotion, which healed the ulcers.

This incident and similar ones have resulted in a general search throughout Australia for medicinal plants known to aboriginal people through their languages and traditional cultures. The search has to be fast because most Australian languages are dying. When they go, the medical knowledge stored in them will go too.

As Michael Krauss expresses it, the web of languages is a "microcosm of highly specialized information. Every language has its own take on the world. One language is not simply a different set of words for the same things." Just as we depend on biological complexity for our physical survival, we depend on linguistic complexity for our cultural survival.

Does Mainstreaming Require Language Death?

Some language loss, like species loss, is natural and predictable. No language exists forever. Just as plants and animals have appeared and disappeared over the millennia, languages evolve, grow, and spread, and eventually dwindle and die. Sometimes they're replaced by their "descendant" languages, as Italian gradually replaced Latin. Other times they're forced out, as the ancient Etruscan language was when Latin speakers overran the Italian peninsula.

Language extinction is accelerating today for some of the same reasons as species extinction--population pressures and the spread of industrialization. The global economy often forces small, unindustrialized communities to choose between their traditional language and participation in the larger world. East Africans need to speak Swahili for success; Central Europeans need to speak Russian; and lately, the whole world seems to need to speak English. Sometimes these languages coexist with the local language. More often, they eventually replace it as older speakers die and younger ones adopt the more-useful tongue.

As Nicolas Ostler points out, "Modem media have produced a strange phenomenon, giving children a source of knowledge about the world which is independent of the knowledge that comes from their elders in their own community. [Since] it conveys a sense of wealth that is not available in most places ... it is not surprising that children are seduced by it..."

- Rosemarie Ostler

I think the type of knowledge which Daniel foresaw an increase in is the knowledge of God, and an increase in knowledge about Daniel's prophecy. I think the running to and fro which he foresaw was probably activity in relation to God's Word or to prophecy. That's been the general understanding of this verse, by many great men of God throughout church history (see Wesley's Explanatory Notes; Matthew Henry Commentary; Geneva Study Bible; and Jamieson Faucett and Brown Commentary).

The view that it refers to modern technology is only a modern view. It was never the standard take on that verse throghout church history.

And even if the modern view is the right view, we still can't assert on that basis that our generation must certainly be the last - because we can only compare current increases in the level of technology with past levels - we can't compare it with any future leaps in technology which may come in a future generation.

There was a time when the knowledge of God began to increase in Israel, just as Daniel foresaw. When John began to preach, the people who sat in darkness saw a great light. When Jesus began to preach, a great light shone. Through the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles it came to pass in Israel that no-one needed to say, 'Know the Lord', for they were all getting to know Him. God was writing His laws on the hearts of the multitudes who were being born from above.

The Gentiles were also grafted-in, and the knowledge of God increased among the Gentiles. Within Paul's own lifetimes it came to pass that the Gospel was preached to every nation under heaven. Within a few centuries, idolatry was virtually eliminated from Europe. And now in 2010 more nations and tribes are hearing about God than ever before.

Daniel's main concern however, was the nation of Israel. His prophecy therefore was most likely fulfilled by the events of the first century, when the New Covenant was first made with Israel, through Jesus Christ. Truly, the knowledge [of God] increased and many began heeding God's prophetic Word - the Gospel.

Since the day of Pentecost therefore, we have been in "the last days", the "last hour". Jesus could come at any hour, irrespective of any increases or decreases in human knowledge be it technology, languages, natural science or anything such like. The son of man cometh at an hour when you think not. And no-one knows the year, season, day nor hour.

Daniel 9:27 & Mark 13:14 - Fulfilled or Future?

May I ask a question about your above explanation, in hopes that through your response I might attain what is lacking in my understanding?

Why do we need to look for a future fulfillment of a prophecy which has already been fulfilled?

My understanding is that although Antiochus Epiphanes did indeed set-up an abomination in the Temple, that was not the abomination which Daniel prophesied about, because Israel did not go into desolations after that event. Daniel's prophecy stated that the setting-up of the abomination would be followed by the desolation of the nation.

Jesus never mentioned a future special seven-year period of God's dealings with Israel, so my feeling is that it takes considerable licence to say that "Jesus predicted that this 'abomination of desolation'...would occur at the midway point..."

There was however one moment in history when an abomination was set-up where it ought not to have been, which was followed by the nation being made desolate for nearly 2,000 years - and that was in AD70, exactly as Jesus predicted.

So why should we expect a future repeat-fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 and of Mark 13:14?

And is it really the "general understanding of prophecy" that it must be fulfilled by a future European ruler? That wasn't the general understanding of men of God like Wesley, Matthew Henry, Jamieson Faucett and Brown. They believed it was fulfilled by the events of AD70, just as Jesus predicted.

The choice with which I am confronted is not a choice whether to believe the Bible or not - rather, it is a choice whether to believe in a modern, popular view or to believe in the general understanding of prophecy adhered to for centuries by many of the great reformers, revivalists, missionaries and evangelists of the Church.

So I'm still left with the question - is there a solid basis in Scripture for the assertion that a temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem before Jesus can return?

I sincerely hope you can help me clear this up, using actual Scriptures, with good hermneneutics, good exegesis, and drawing on generally accepted commentary by great men of God throughout church-history, rather than merely quoting the assertions of a popular, modern view.

Otherwise I will probably tend towards the general understanding of prophecy rather then the popular modern view - meaning, I am considering the view that Jesus could come back today if the Father wills, even though no replica temple has been built.

Daniel 12:4

Has human knowledge increased in our generation?

"In one century we went from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to offering remedial English in college." ~ Ross Mahan

Daniel's prophecy was probably about an increase in knowledge about God generally and about Daniel's prophecy specifically. Running to and fro probably referred to activity in relation to the Word of God or directly to Daniel's prophecy.