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.

Must Jesus Return Within the Israel-1948 Generation?

In my 31 years as a Christian, I've heard so many predictions about the end of the world, and all of them have one thing in common - they've all flopped. So what I am looking for is a Biblical reason why we should be so sure that the predictions which are being bandied around today about our generation are more reliable. Otherwise, I don't want to pass them on! Good idea, don't you think.

A verse popularly used to assert that Jesus must return in our generation is the verse about the fig tree. Do you mind if I express my feelings about that popular assertion, in hopes that by your response I might further enhance my understanding? I wonder how conclusive it really is that Jesus' parable of the fig-tree was a prediction about the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948.

I know figs were once used as an illustration by the prophet Jeremiah. But far from talking about the rebirth of the nation, it was talking about God's decision that Israel should go into captivity (Jeremiah 24).

I know the vineyard was once used as an illustration by the prophet Isaiah. But on that occasion it was a vineyard of grapes and not figs that was mentioned - and neither did it talk about the rebirth of the nation, but rather the destruction of the nation (Isaiah 5).

I know fig trees were mentioned by the prophet Nahum, but that time it was not about Israel, but about the Gentile city of Nineveh. And once again, it was about the destruction of the city (Nahum 3:12).

I know Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that was fruitless for three years. Once again, it wasn't talking about the rebirth of Israel, rather it was a warning to Israel's leaders of the very opposite!

I know Jesus cursed a fig tree. But it doesn't say the event was symbolic about Israel; and even if it was, it didn't prophesy the rebirth of Israel, because Jesus said to the fig tree, "Let no man eat fruit from you henceforth and forever".

So I've observed two things in the Bible about the fig tree: Firstly, a fig tree didn't always symbolize Israel: it also represented a Gentile nation - but a statement was always included which explained the meaning that the fig tree was intended to have in the context; and Secondly, I've noticed that everytime the fig tree was used symbolically in the Bible, it was talking about the captivity or destruction of a nation, rather than its rebirth.

With that background in mind, allow me to now express my current feelings about the parable of the fig tree in the Olivet discourse, which you quoted. Knowing that a fig tree does not automatically symbolize Israel, the first thing I do is look for a statement to indicate that it was intended in this context to be about Israel - but I find an absence of a explanatory statement in the passage which conclusively identifies the fig-tree as Israel.

But even if it IS talking about Israel, I then look for support for your assertion that the blossoming of its branches is about the REBIRTH of Israel (even though in every other symbolic use of the fig-tree in the Bible, the context is always about the captivity or destruction and not the rebirth of a nation). Again, I don't find anything in the Olivet discourse which conclusively explains that the blossoming of the branches is about the rebirth of Israel.

To the contrary, it seems to be about the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, rather than about its rebirth as a nation (because Jesus explained, "So likewise ye, when ye see THESE THINGS come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand". What were "these things"? It refers back to the things Jesus had just finished describing - which was all about the destruction of Jerusalem, not its rebirth. I'm keeping in mind that Jesus was answering the disciples' questions not only about His coming but also about the signs of the destruction of the Temple and city.

But even if the blossoming of the fig tree IS talking about the rebirth of Israel rather than about its destruction, I then look for evidence in the text that events of 1948 could have fulfilled this. But I notice in Luke's account, that He said, "Behold the fig tree, and ALL THE TREES; when THEY now shoot forth, ye see and know..." So Jesus never talked about the fig-tree being the only tree to shoot forth its branches - rather, He mentioned ALL THE TREES. So apparently Jesus wasn't intending to be deliberate in His use of the fig-tree over other trees, in His parable.

But even if He WAS being deliberate in His mention not only of all ALL THE TREES shooting forth their branches but also in His menion specifically of the FIG TREE shooting forth its branches, and even if it does indeed refer to the rebirth of Israel, then it must mean that not only Israel but ALL the nations of the earth would also be rebirth. This did not happen in 1948.

So, is the parable of the fig tree and all the trees a prophecy about the rebirth of Israel in 1948? Dake's Annotated Reference Bible comments: "...this could not possibly be the meaning".

I think there is a perception that the view which you have alluded to has long been the established and accepted view - but actually it's only a relatively recent deviation from what for many centuries was the standard view held by many of the church's great reformers, revivalists, missionaries and evangelists.

For example, John Wesley's Explanatory Notes Upon the Whole Bible; Matthew Henry's Commentary; and Jamieson Faucett and Brown's Commentary do not take the view which you have asserted in regard to the Olivet discourse.

I'm not necessarily agreeing with Dake, Wesley, Matthew Henry, Jamieson, Faucett and Brown, nor am I saying the modern assertion isn't possible. I'm merely expressing my feeling that I don't see the popular modern take on the fig-tree verse in the Olivet discourse as being in itself substantial enough to be used as a basis for the assertion that Jesus must return within the 1948 generation. He said it's not for us to know the years, seasons, day, nor hour.

Am I still doing okay?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Signs of the Times

Do you share my feeling that the literal meaning of the KJV rendering of Rev.6:6 necessitates a fulfillment while the Roman Empire was in existence and somewhere in the Roman Empire?

When I first read that verse in Revelation, it didn't change my eschatological view either - because I didn't have a presupposed view at the time. However, I can remember having a sense for many years whenever reading that verse that the details in the verse - details such as the standard of measurement; currency and the price specified - seemed deliberate, and seemed to set parameters for the timeframe in which it would be possible for the prophecy to be fulfilled.

That's if all the details are applied in their literal meaning. My view on whether or not a text should be taken literally is that a text should be taken literally unless the genre of the literature is a genre which is not meant to be taken literally, such as poetry. But even then, preferably there ought to be something in the text itself that indicates it shouldn't be taken literally. A need to make the meaning fit our presupposed idea is not a legitimate reason for not taking a text literally.

My view of Bible-translation is that a translator doesn't have the right to decide that a particular detail in the original is unimportant. I believe every detail in the original is inspired. So if the original says wheat will sell for "one penny" then it isn't allowable for a translator to change it to read "a day's wages". His job is to translate, not interpret. Even though a day's wages may have been equal to one penny at the time of writing, that isn't the detail which John heard in his vision - he specifically heard, "a penny". The difference can mean thousands of years of discrepancy in the intended time-frame of the prophecy's fulfillment!

Whilst I was reading the Bible on Sunday night, after studying a different topic for about half an hour, I then asked the Lord to teach me something about eschatology. The reason I asked Him, is because nowadays there is so much talk about "signs" and about the current global crisis and the end of the world.

I felt Him say, "Matthew 16". There I found that when the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, He told them that it's a wicked and adulterous generation which seeks a sign, and that no sign would be given to it, except the sign of Jonas.

So that's the first point I learned - Jesus has no intention of giving unbelievers spectacular signs. That flies in the face of what we're hearing end-times preachers say today: they are claiming that the tsunamis, earthquakes, the volcano, and the global financial crisis are spectacular signs that God is giving to warn unbelievers of the end of the world. When all along what Jesus actually said is, "...there shall no sign be given to it..." When preachers ignore that, and try to see eschatological significance in every disaster that happens, it's no wonder their predictions tend to flop!

Then I read that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not being able to discern the "signs of the times". In other words, the only genuine signs which would ever be given were already in place and should have been evident to them. Obviously these signs had nothing to do with natural disasters!

I also noticed something about the word "times". Jesus was obviously not talking exclusively about the time of the last generation before His return - otherwise, how could He rebuke them for not discerning the signs of the times? Jesus was obviously talking about that time in which they lived.

Then I noticed that in the same chapter, Jesus goes on to speak about His coming. So that sets the scope of the time-period which Jesus was discussing. He was talking about the time in which the Pharisees then lived, and He was talking about all the time inbetween up until the time of His coming. It was in this period of time - inclusive - that Jesus said there would be no sign given. So once again He gave no indication that we should expect natural disasters which would be a conclusive sign of the last generation before His return.

The only extra sign Jesus said would be given would be the sign of the prophet Jonas, which happend to be fulfilled by Jesus spending three days in the belly of the earth followed by His resurrection. The death-burial-and resurrection of Jesus ought to be signs enough! whereof the Apostles were witnesses.

So what I learned on Sunday night is that Jesus seemed to make a disclaimer that any spectacular signs would ever be given which would be conclusive evidence of the last generation before His return.

That ought to put the significance of today's catastrophes in perspective!

Later-on Jesus did mention the signs of earthquakes, famines, wars etc., in Matthew 24. But notice these were not signs that would be given to the Pharisees or to this generation generally - because Jesus had already said that no sign would be given to it. The purpose of these signs specified by Jesus was in answer to specific questions not only about His coming, but also about the timing of the destruction of the Temple.

The language of most of this passage of Scripture is specific to Jerusalem. It isn't talking about Gentiles living in the uttermost parts of the earth! For example, Jesus said they wouldn't even have had time yet to finish preaching in all the towns of Israel before this event happens; and the final sign would be that they would see armies besieging Jerusalem - and then they should flee. That has no relevance to Christians living in Australia at the time of the second coming. But it would be relevant to first-century disciples living in Jerusalem.

He told them to pray their flight wouldn't fall on a sabbath. He said it would be a really difficult time for anyone who was pregnant. Why would Jesus bother to say such things if He was talking about the event of His second coming? In that advent, it matters not what day of the week it is nor whether or not someone is pregnant. But if you're about to flee the city of Jerusalem, then it's relevant! He was answering the question about the destruction of the Temple. And it came to pass exactly as Jesus said.

In the same passage Jesus also talked about His coming - and I don't find it easy to distinguish which of His statements refer to the destruction of the Temple and which of His statements refer to His coming. So it may be that Jesus was saying phenomenon such as earthquakes, wars, etc would also accompany the entire Gospel age as signs to the disciples of the nature of the days - the whole Gospel era is intrinsically the "last hour".

I don't find it easy to distinguish everything in Matthew 24, but at least I can see that the text doesn't prove as conclusively as we've been led to believe that phenomena such as volcanoes, global financial crises, and other catastrophes of 2010 have any value as signs of the last generation before Christ returns or as signs that world-events are about to escalate into great tribulation in our generation. It could happen - but it's not conclusive, based on this text.

So that means the text can't be used as a basis for making predictions about our generation. It's still true that "no man knows the day or the hour" and that "it's not for you to know the years nor the seasons which the Father has placed in His own power".

The term "The Great Tribulation" isn't even in the Bible in the KJV. In modern translations the terms exists - but not in the KJV. The KJV mentions "tribulation" generally, and "great tribulation" specifically at the time of the siege of Jerusalem - but it doesn't mention a special period called "The Great Tribulation" just prior to the return of the Lord.

I've pointed these things out to preachers recently, and they have responded by saying that they feel no need to differ from the generally accepted view. But the thing is, their view has only been the "generally accepted view" since their view was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible, and by Hal Lyndsey's book, and supported by recent Bible versions. Prior to that, the generally accepted view for centuries was the view expressed in the Matthew Henry Commentary, or in Wesley's Explanatory Notes of the Bible, or in Jamieson Faucett and Brown's Commentary. Our generation hasn't only lost some of the great songs and hymns of the church - it has also lost some of the historically accepted understandings of some key passages of Scripture. And a possible cause - or effect - of this, is that this generation is also by-and-large reading a text which takes licence which obscure the literal meaning in some key passages of Scripture.

Just a thought!

The Lord promises, "Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not". I love it when He does it!

NIV vs. KJV Eschatology

Rev. 6:6 in the KJV says:

"...a measure of wheat for a penny..."

It was a prophecy about an imment crisis in wheat prices.

Notice three specifics about that translation:

(1) The unit of measure is specified - it was called the "measure" - the Grecian measure (which was more or less equal to one quart, and was the standard unit of measurement at the time of writing);

(2) The currency is specified - it was the "penny" - the Roman denarius; and

(3) The exact price is specified - "one penny".

Now notice how the NIV renders the verse:

"...a quart of wheat for a day's wages..."

Notice three specifics about that rendering:

(1) It made the unit of measurement unimportant, changing it from the Grecian "measure" - to the "quart";

(2) It eliminated any specific currency altogether; and

(3) Instead of specifying the price as "one penny" it broadened the price to "a day's wages" without being any more specific.

The licence taken by the NIV rendering leaves the meaning wide-open for anyone to think the prophecy might be fulfilled virtually anywhere, at any time - regardless of the unit of measurement, the currency, the actual price of the wheat, and regardless of what might be happening elsewhere in the world - so long as in the reader's own locality of concern the price of an equivalent quantity of wheat is equivalent to a day's wages in his location. The problem with that is it makes it virtually impossible to ever really know for sure whether the prophecy has been fulfilled even if we are seeing it apparently being fulfilled before our eyes.

Whereas if we take every point of the KJV translation literally, it means, as John Wesley explained, that:

"This must have been fulfilled while the Grecian measure and the Roman money were still in use; as also where that measure was the common measure, and this money the current coin" [underlining added].

Taking the KJV literally means therefore that the prophecy probably had to have been fulfilled soon after the time of writing and somewhere in the Roman Empire. When the price of one Grecian measure of wheat began selling for one Roman denarius, the readers would therefore know that the prophecy was being fulfilled.

Modern Bible versions such as the NIV may therefore be contributing factors in today's end-times views, and may be a cause of some of today's oft-repeated cycle of failed end-times predictions. But back in the day when the KJV was more widely in use, the standard understanding of many such prophetic passages of Scripture was quite different. Matthew Henry's bible commentary as well as Jamieson Faucett and Brown's commentary agree with Wesley's explanation above.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is Progressive Taxation to Help the Poorer Fair?

I don't take it for granted that "the wealthy should be taxed at higher rates to help the poorer", as some say.

Even if the wealthy are taxed at the same rate, they are still paying more tax than the not-so-wealthy are paying.

And seeing they are wealthy, presumably it's because they are clever entrepreneurs - so why take even more money off those who are most capable of using the money to create jobs? Is the Government really going to create jobs better than the nation's most experienced business-operators?

Leaving the money in the entrepreneurs' capable hands would eventually increase the Government's revenues anyway - because the nation's wealthiest are known for using their money to create more money - and hence, pay more taxes - unlike the poor who tend to use their money for day-to-day needs rather than for creating more money.

From an ethical point of view, it's interesting that in the Law given to Israel by God through Moses, a progressive tax was never imposed on society to help the poor - it was always a flat 10% for everybody without discrimination as to industry or amount of profit. That was the pattern in God's Word - the standard of justice and compassion.

So I don't think it ought to be taken for granted that the wealthy should be taxed at higher rates to help the poor. It's certainly worth considering whether there isn't a fairer and more successful way of delivering for the poor.

Compassion isn't justice if you're unfairly using someone else's money to do it.

Revelation 6:5,6

5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A MEASURE of wheat for A PENNY, three MEASURES of barley for A PENNY; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

I wonder when this prophecy was fulfilled.

It's interesting to note that modern misrenderings of the above verses (such as the NIV) allow room for popular, modern end-times views; whereas the proper rendering of these verses (such as the KJV) lends stronger support to the more historically standard end-times view.

The proper rendering specifies that the unit of measurement was to be the “measure” – not a quart, nor a bushel, nor a loaf; it specifies that the currency in use was to be the "penny" – not “a day’s wages” in general, and certainly not the Dollar, nor the Euro, nor any other currency; and it specifies that the price of a measure of wheat was to be precisely "one penny" – nothing more, nothing less.

As John Wesley explained: “The word translated measure, was a Grecian measure…the Roman penny, as much as a labourer then earned in a day…THIS MUST HAVE BEEN FULFILLED WHILE THE GRECIAN MEASURE AND THE ROMAN MONEY WERE STILL IN USE; AS ALSO WHERE THAT MEASURE WAS THE COMMON MEASURE, AND THIS MONEY THE CURRENT COIN".

In other words, the prophecy, if taken literally, most likely had to have been fulfilled somewhere in the Roman Empire soon after John wrote to the seven churches.

But should the text be taken literally? Approaching any text with integrity normally requires that we take the text to literally mean what it says, unless the text itself indicates that we should take it another way. We certainly shouldn’t attempt to make a text mean something that it doesn’t actually say just so it fits our presupposed eschatological idea.

Otherwise we could end-up mistakenly looking for future fulfillments of a prophecy which may in fact have already been fulfilled. Could this be a core reason why, in recent generations, we are becoming all-too-familiar with the repeat cycle of failing end-times predictions? I wonder.

And as we have seen above, some modern mistranslations (such as the NIV) may actually be a contributing factor in such errors. Perhaps a return therefore to a more faithful rendering of the Scriptures (such as the KJV) could prove to be an aid towards a helpful avoidance of modern eschatological misprojections, and perhaps it could also result in a rediscovery of some worthwhile components of the historically standard end-times view which for centuries was espoused by many of the great reformers, revivalists, missionaries and evangelists of the Church. Just wondering!

In any case, as for the real meaning of the prophecy, time – if nothing else does – will tell. And in the meantime, the intention of the Scripture is always that believers draw strength from what is written by remembering that although hard times may come, it shall all be more than worth it in the end for those who overcome.

Jesus is coming soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is Rev.5:6 a Prophetic Place/Time Indicator?

The following is an example where a misrendering of certain Bible verses (in modern versions such as the NIV and the New Living Translation) could be mistaken as supporting a modern, popular eschatological view, whereas the more accurate rendering (such as that of the KJV) lends support more naturally to the more historically standard* eschatological viewpoint:

5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A MEASURE of wheat for A PENNY, three MEASURES of barley for A PENNY; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

The NIV misrenders "measure" as "quart" and the New Living Translation misrenders it as "loaf". "A penny" is misrendered in the NIV as "a day's wages" and in the New Living Translation it is misrendered as "a day's pay". Such misrenderings could easily be mistaken in a way which could affect one's eschatology.

Even though it's true that "a measure" may convert approximately to a quart (approximately an eighth of a US bushel; and even though it may be true that "a penny" was equal to a day's wages at the time when John was writing - such paraphrases could be mistaken to mean that the prophecy could be fulfilled just as easily in virtually any circumstance, in virtually any place and at any time, even where a different sytem of measurement may be in vogue besides the "measure"; where a different currency may be in use besides the "penny"; and where a day's wages may be a different amount to one penny, so long as the relative values are somewhat comparable.

For example, someone living in a member-country of the European Union, afer reading these verses in the NIV, in this year of AD2010, might assume that the prophecy is being fulfilled before his very eyes, if wheat prices ever fetch €49.53 per US bushel (based on a quart being equivalent to an eighth of a US bushel; and an eighth of a day's wages being equivalent to €49.35). And then, on that assumption, he might even feel emboldened to begin forecasting further predictions for the ensuing months and years - predictions of apocalyptic proportions.

But if instead of reading the NIV, the same person instead reads the same verses in a version which renders the text accurately (such as the KJV), he will notice that the text specifies a measure of wheat - not a quart, nor any other system of measurement; it specifies a penny - not the Euro nor any other currency; and it specifies a penny - not fewer nor more than a penny, but one penny.

He will be able to observe that the prophecy cannot apply so easily to a region and at a moment in history where the system of measurement in vogue is anything other than the "measure"; where the currency in use is anything other than the "penny"; and when the amount of "a [single] penny" is no longer regarded as a somewhat significant amount.

It will seem more natural to him then - especially if he reads the text in the literal sense - that the prophecy most likely had to have found its fulfillment in a region where the system of measurement in vogue was the measure; where the currency in use was the penny; and at a moment in history when the amount of one penny still had considerable significance.

He will be much less likely therefore to imagine that the prophecy is being fulfilled before his very eyes in his region which uses a different system of measurement; a different currency; and a different amount for the price of wheat than that which was deliberately specified by the text of the Bible; and at a time when a penny has different significance than what was intended by the Bible-verse in question.

He will also therefore be far less likely to feel emboldened to forecast predictions of apocalyptic proportions for the ensuing months and years. He will thus avoid repeating the now all-too-familiar cycle of failed apocalyptic predictions.

Instead, in all probability he will find that he concurs with the more historically standard view that there probably has been no better candidate for meeting the criteria required to fulfill these verses than regions within the Roman Empire shortly after John wrote the Book of Revelation.

* As John Wesley explained: "The word translated measure, was a Grecian measure, nearly equal to our quart. This was the daily allowance of a slave. The Roman penny, as much as a labourer then earned in a day, was about sevenpence halfpenny English. According to this, wheat would be near twenty shillings per bushel. This must have been fulfilled while the Grecian measure and the Roman money were still in use; as also where that measure was the common measure, and this money the current coin."

Could this go to the core of explaining why so many contemporary end-times predictions have a cycle of repeat-failure? It may be that Bible-readers are looking for a contemporary fulfillment of particular prophecies, in their own region and during their own moment in history, when in fact the particular prophecy may have already have found fulfillment in a region and at a moment in history which may have been specified or at least inferred by the text itself. And as we have seen, sometimes a contributing factor to such error is the inaccurate rendering of Bible-texts in some modern Bible-versions.

With a bit of poetic licence, perhaps the meaning of the above verses could legitimately be stretched to allow some room for the modern, popular eschatological view to be considered. However, doesn't the literal sense of the text seem to demand - or at least, more naturally support - the more historically standard eschatological viewpoint? (the more historically standard viewpoint being the explanation quoted above in the words of Wesley and favoured for centuries by other reformers, revivalists, missionaries and evangelists of the Church.)

The pertinent question then is, must the text be applied literally? Is it fair to say that if the Holy Spirit intended the prophecy to refer to a future time, He would have seen to it that the original text was worded in the way the NIV or the New Living Translation mistakenly renders it, instead of inspiring it to be written as it was, in a way which is deliberately specific as to the unit of measurement; the currrency of use; and the specific amount (specifically "a penny" rather than whether or not it was more generally just "a day's wages")?

An important consideration in answering that question is that good hermeneutics and exegesis require that we be loyal to that which is indicated by Bible texts themselves, rather than motivated by a need to allow a particular text to fit a presupposed, modern, eschatological viewpoint.

Time, if nothing else, will tell!

Monday, May 10, 2010

We Fulfill the Law Fully and Without Discrimination

No particular sin - such as homosexuality - should be singled-out.

That's why Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven".

And capitalist Christians aren't necessarily being inconsistent. I believe it's a midunderstanding of Jesus' statements about economics to think Jesus was introducing a new economic system that contradicted the ethics of Moses' Law.

Yes, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his goods and follow Him. But Jesus didn't tell everyone to do the same. He told one would-be follower to instead go home and testify amongst his own family.

Yes many of the members of the early church in Jerusalem sold their possession and laid the money at the apostles' feet. But obviously not all of them did so, or else there wouldn't have been any houses left for them to meet in from day to day. Plus, this was not communism, because Peter told Ananias that what he owned was his own and that he was free to do with it what he wanted.

The apostles didn't expect this of anyone, they didn't teach it in their epistles, and neither did any of the other churches follow the same pattern. It was unique to Jerusalem, and necessary because of the unique circumstances there. And a few years later everyone was scattered from their possessions in Jerusalem anyway!

Jesus went to the cross as our substitute - but that doesn't mean every believer literally has to experience poverty to the extent of death upon a cross.

Moses' Law was clear about private property rights. Otherwise, "thou shalt not steal" could have no meaning. Jesus upheld the same ethic that the means of production should remain privately owned, or else He could not have taught people to be generous. You can't be "generous" with something that doesn't belong to you in the first place!

He didn't call everyone to give-up everything and follow Him as apostles. To those He did call, He promised them 100-fold in this life. To those who weren't called as apostles, Paul advised them to work and earn money so they can have enough to give to others.

Jesus' requirement of His disciples was not therefore different to the economic ethics of the Law. Jesus expemplified it.

Paul said that we fulfill the Law. That means we don't break any of the moral ethics that were beneath any point of Law.

It is the Spirit of God that empowers us to do this!


Jesus Explained the Law

A proper understanding of the Law was meant to give people the key that would help them enter the Kingdom.

But the Pharisees, by twisting the Law so as to use it to justify their own murder, harshness, hypocrisy, extortion and sexual immorality, hindered people from acquiring the true understanding of the Law which might otherwise have prepared their hearts to enter the Kingdom.

The Law was meant to explain Kingdom-qualifying qualities such as love, mercy, patience, morality, justice, godliness and holiness.

But the Pharisees' misinterpretation of the Law robbed people of the benefit that a proper understanding of the Law could have given them, namely it could have explained righteousness and love and brought true heart repentance. But instead, the Pharisees' converts became twice the children of hell as themselves!

Entering the Kingdom required believing on Jesus, and repentance. A true understanding of Law - of God's righteousness and love - could have been the key that might have inspired that belief and repentance. But the Pharisees robbed people of the correct understanding which might have otherwise inspired that.

The Pharisees didn't only make the mistake of twisting the Scriptures to justify harshness. They also made the mistake of twisting the Scriptures to justify sexual immorality and other wrongs. Both mistakes could produce a lifestyle in our hearers that could hinder them from entering the Kingdom, in which case we would be responsible.

God's Grace Doesn't Diminish the Righteousness of the Law

The way the text of the sermon on the mount reads means that Jesus was explaining, rather than improving on, the Law - by means of correcting the Jewish leaders' misapplication of the Law.

The Law was love in action. If we want to know what the Law meant, look at the life of Jesus - because He did what it says.

That's why Paul also said that Love is the fulfilling of the Law. Love is not an improvement on the Law - Love is the Law and the Law is love.

Jesus' comments were against the wrong way the rulers were using the Law - not against the Law itself.

I don't think we can find anything Jesus taught which actually broke the Law.

Jesus was able to make a case for everything He did and taught using the Old Testament Scriptures as His moral basis for doing so.

There were two ways in which the Jewish leaders were misapplying the Law. One, they were wrongly using it to justify their own immorality. Two, they were wrongly making it harsh on others.

But even if Jesus was improving on the Law, it certainly doesn't mean Jesus was now saying that adultery and sexual immorality is no longer a sin. If anything, He was upping the ante.

Even when Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery, He was not breaking the Law. The Law required that a woman could be stoned to death only at the testimony of two or three witnesses and that the witnesses had to be the first to cast a stone at her. But no witnesses remained to testify against her.

Therefore Jesus, being the only remaining man in the room, even if He had been an eye-witness (which He wasn't) would not have been required nor would He have been permitted by Law to condemn her. Jesus showed mercy without breaking or improving upon the Law! He demonstrated perfect compliance with the true spirit of the Law - which was both justice and mercy, not one at the expense of the other.

The leaders' hypocrisy was exposed. Where was the man who was found committing adultery with her?

As for the woman, Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee...go and sin no more." He forgave her, but He never changed the fact that adultery is still a sin.

It's one thing to extend God's grace to sinners - it's another thing to say, as many are saying, that God no longer actually thinks there's anything wrong with sexual immorality.

I don't know firsthand how modernday "Pharisees" are treating homosexuals, but it sounds bad. As for me, over the years I have led female and male prostitutes in prayer to accept Jesus and seen them touched by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When sinners drew near to Jesus for to hear Him, I don't imagine He was saying things like, "Well you've heard that adultery and homosexuality are wrong, but I say to you it's okay." No - Jesus said He associated with sinners because they needed repentance. And because they were repenting, He said they would enter the Kingdom of God before the Pharisees!

One woman did not cease to weep and to wipe His feet with her tears. That was repentance. That's the effect that truth, combined with love, has.

But being harsh crushes people's spirit. And allowing immorality makes us equally guilty. But truth and grace is what Jesus was all about.

We should show God's love to all sinners. But many today are actually saying there's nothing wrong with continuing in sin. That only keeps sinners in the terrible bondages which they'd like to be free from.

Who are the New Pharisees?

It wasn't the Pharisees who were demanding allegiance to the righteousness of the Law - it was Jesus who was doing that!

The Pharisees were twisting the Law in order to justify their own sexual immorality, covetousness and murder while hypocritically expecting more from others who weren't able to find the same false loop-holes.

Jesus, on the other hand, explained the true intent of the Law, and expected people to follow it with all their hearts.

For example, the Pharisees were twisting "eye for an eye" making it an excuse for harsh revenge.

But Jesus explained what "eye for an eye" really meant - and He expected people to comply with it. It was an expression that was intended to prevent the very thing the Pharisees were doing. It was intended to ensure that compensation at law must only be equal to the actual loss that was incurred, nothing more than that.

That remains an important principle in compensation law today. But the Pharisees twisted it to justify all kinds of harshness. In contrast to the Pharisees' harsh misuse of that Law, Jesus explained that that Law was actually designed to make people to become patient and fair.

Another example, the Pharisees were twisting the verse about writing a bill of divorce for finding uncleanness in your wife. They were allowing divorce for virtually any reason. They were actually using it to justify adultery.

But Jesus explained that the true intent of that Law was to allow divorce only for marital unfaithfulness. He even said it's wrong to fantisize over adultery. Jesus explained and demanded the true morality of the Law, unlike the Pharisees who used the Law to justify immorality.

So someone today who wants to live a godly life and who lovingly urges others to repent is not guilty of Phariseeism. Phariseeism is when someone uses the Scriptures and twists it in order to justify their own sexually immoral life, or extortion or murderer and yet hypocritically demands better of others. That's Phariseeism.

Humbly acknowledging God's standard of holiness is not Phariseeism.

"The grace of God," said Paul, "teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust".

Notice it is God's grace - and not Phariseeism - which teaches us to do that - to deny ungodliness and wordly lust.

Did you know that God's grace actually teaches? It instructs. It disciplines.

But not in a self-justifying, hypocritical, self-serving harsh way like the Pharisees were doing.

It teaches us to honestly live a godly life.

Also, the term "least in the Kingdom" may not mean that the person is admitted into the Kingdom but on a lower level. It probably means that in the estimation of the Kingdom, such people are considered the least and will therefore probably not enter the Kingdom. Just a thought.

End Times - What Has Been the Standard View?

What am I saying about end-times? Nothing, it's the futurist, pre-tribulation, pre-millenial dispensationalists who are saying something - I only have questions about what they are so confidently saying!

Many think there's going to be a future 3½ Tribulation, yet concede the abomination of desolation may be past. But how can the 3½ years be in the future yet the abomination of desolation in the past seeing Daniel 12:11 seems to link the two themes together? Either they both must happen in the future, or they both already happened in the past.

If we take the view that they must both happen in the future, it presents a number of problems: the Temple doesn't exist anymore; the daily offerings already ceased nearly 2,000 years ago; and the city has already been desolated, just as Jesus prophesied.

Some people are confident both already happened in the past. The Jewish-Roman war lasted 3½ years; during that time Jewish leaders welcomed Roman idols to be set-up in the Temple area; and it ended with the Temple and city being made desolate.

If we accept that view, it also gives futurist pre-tribulationists a number of problems: it means they will have to find another basis for their belief in a future 3½ Tribulation! It would mean huge portions of Scripture which are popularly taken to be about a future Antichrist have actually already happened!

There are all kinds of excuses to get around this, one of which is the so-called "double-fulfillment" theory. It is claimed that the first fulfillment indeed was in AD67-70 and there will be a repeat fulfillment at the end of the age.

But I see a problem with the "double fulfillment" hermeneutic: it doesn't exist anywhere in the Bible.

Some people claim that Isaiah's prophecy about the sign of a virgin conceiving is one example: Isaiah's wife became pregnant soon after the prophecy and hundreds of years later Jesus was born of a virgin.

But how can that be a double fulfillment - Isaiah's wife wasn't a virgin! In all of history there has only ever been one virgin birth not two!

Some people claim that David's Psalm about " will not leave my soul in the grave, neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption..." is another example: they claim David was declaring his trust in God's protection of his own life and also prophesying about the future resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But how can that be - Peter explained that David was not speaking about himself because David eventually died and his grave was still around in Peter's day. Rather, David, said Peter, being a prophet, had written exclusively about Jesus' resurrection. None of it was about David - all of it was about Jesus! It had only one fulfillment not two.

I can't find any example in the whole Bible where the apostles ever assigned more than one meaning to any prophecy. We may apply the lesson over and over again - but the actual historical fulfillment only happened once.

My feeling is that many believers today have just swallowed popular end-times ideas about these things - hook, line and sinker - without ever really examining what the Scriptures say.

Many believers also assume that the popular ideas about end-times today have always been the standard view - not realizing that the popular view is only a recent American invention and most men of God throughout church history had a very different understanding.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

What Old Testament Laws Carry Through Into The New?

Someone asked, What did Jesus mean by His statements in defense of the Law?

I think He literally meant exactly what He said. Keep in mind however that Jesus was speaking to those who were still under the Old Covenant. He wasn't speaking to Jews or Gentiles under the New Covenant because the New Covenant hadn't been ratified yet.

One example of this is when Jesus told the lepers to "go show yourselves to the priests," and as they went they were healed. Under the New Covenant, especially in Gentile nations, there was no Levitical priesthood, so Jesus' command to the lepers only had relevance to Jews who were still under the Old Covenant. There are several such instances in the Gospels.

Jesus never abolished the Law - rather, He demanded a more sincere obedience to the Law than the Pharisees. But, keep in mind that at that time Jesus' ministry was strictly to Jews who were under the Old Covenant. His statements need to be understood first of all in that light, and then after that, we shall see in what way they carry over into the New Covenant, for Gentile believers also.

2. I think many in the Church today have a wrong understanding of what Pharaseeism consisted of. Phariseeism consisted of twisting the Law in order to justify immorality - immorality such as adultery, extortion and murder. Jesus denounced that wrong use of the Law - but He never denounced law-keeping as it was intended by Moses. In fact, He demanded it. But remember again, Jesus was speaking to Jews who were still under the Law.

John the Baptist preached repentance. Jesus never rebuked John for legalism - because John had the true heart of the Law in mind and was himself trying to live a godly life.

The Pharisees on the other hand completely misrepresented what the Law itself meant, deliberately so. That's what Jesus was against. But He was never against the Law itself. Again, keep in mind this was for Old Covenant Jews.

There is no exact equivalent of Phariseeism today because we are no longer under the Law. However, if there was anything like it today, it would not be the person who is trying to live godly and who invites others to do so as well. That's not Phariseeism.

Something similar to Phariseeism today might be the sexually immoral theocratic leader who deliberately looks for dubious takes on Scripture so that he can practise all manner of sexual immorality, extortion and murder - and yet hypocritically demand better of his followers. And there have been incidences of this throughout Church history.

Just like the Pharisees demanded the crucifixion of Jesus, there have been Church leaders throughout church history who demanded the deaths of some of God's true servants in the Church.

That's more like the spirit of Phariseeism. It has nothing to do with someone who honestly believes that repentance is still a requirement for everyone who seeks to enter God's Kingdom. But keep in mind, Jesus was speaking to those who were still under the Old Law.

3. The two commandments of loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself weren't intended as a replacement of the remainder of the Law - rather, the rest of the Law hung on those two commandments.

In other words, all the other points of Law were really just case-studies, or extensions, of those two commandments. It didn't mean Jesus was saying, "Well as long as you do these two, it's okay to break the rest." No, He meant that obedience to all the other laws should bring a person to the place of obeying these two suprememe commandments - and vice versa. But keep in mind, He was speaking to people who were still required to keep the Law.

4. Someone asked about food laws and capital punishment for delinquent youth. Moses' Laws about delinquent youth were designed to prevent the very thing which many people mistakenly think they were designed to cause. In the cultures of Moses' world, honour killings by family members took place almost in epidemic proportions, and sometimes still do today in some cultures in that part of the world. This Law forbade that, because it required that the parents had to bring the person to the Elders. It prevented parents acting in a rage of wounded pride.

It was required that parents testify that their son had not responded to attempts at rehabilitation. This means a period of time had to have elapsed. Again, it prevented heated reactions.

It also meant that the family problem would become even more publicly known than before. So once again, family pride is eliminated as a cause of killing one's son.

Also, the types of problems mentioned included drunkenness, gluttony and rebellion. I don't get the impression it's talking about a mere thirteen or fourteen year old boy - do you?

In the whole of Bible history, there is not one recorded incident of any parent ever bringing their son to Law under this point of Law. So the Law worked - it prevented the very thing which many today mistakenly think it was encouraging. It actually caused families to work things out at home instead of doing honour killings.

The real intent of the food laws wasn't about certain types of meat being physically unclean or clean. The food laws were a requirement placed upon Old Covenant Jews in order to serve as a reminder that God distinguishes between profane and holy.

It was the same with circumcision. Circumcision wasn't about physical health primarily - the ritual served as a reminder of their covenant with God. That was the real point.

Same with the laws forbidding mixed fabrics. God didn't have anything against mixed fabrics per se - it was another illustration that God requires unblemished devotion and holiness. It was only for God's covenant people, the Jews, while under the Old Testament.

5. So what carries over into the New Covenant? EVERYTHING carries through without exception - but not the outward ritual - what carries through is the true, deeper intent and purpose of the points of law.

Things like circumcision, food-laws, sabbath-keeping, mixed fabrics, not cutting the corner of your beard, animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood etc don't carry through - because those were outward expressions which only had relevance as vehicles of expressing certain morals and ethics, under the Old Covenant.

But the true moral, the ethic, the spiritual reality, the real point which all those things illustrated, carries through, and is fulfilled by our actions when we are led by the Spirit and walk in love. Without exception!

We now have the true holiness and the true spiritual blessing which every point of Moses' Law either illustrated or clearly taught, whichever the case may have been.

But this is not achieved by human effort - rather, it is achieved by the Spirit who is given to us. He poured God's nature of love into our born-again spirit. Therefore we have been made partakers of God's own nature. We can now walk in love, and love fulfills the true intent of every point of Law. Hallelujah! Receive it today.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Great Falling Away

When Paul said there would come a great falling away, do you think it refers to an especially bad falling away immediately before the coming of Christ?

I think it was fulfilled within Paul's own lifetime. Everyone in Asia forsook him. Many of the Hebrew Christians were falling away. John was always battling wrong doctrine in the church. After the apostles died, wrong doctrine soon became entrenched and reached a peak during the Middle Ages. Buddhism started. Then Islam. Even amongst "Christians", eating meat and getting married was forbidden, just like Paul predicted. It took nearly 1,500 years before the true light of the Gospel could again be preached with any sort of freedom. Common people were forbidden from owning Bibles. Sexual immorality and murder were common amongst ecclesiastical leaders.

Are things really so much worse than that in the Church today, like some end-times preachers would have us believe?

The Book of Revelation does not say that we in the 21st century are the Laodicean church. The Laodicean church was a church that literally existed in the first century.

To say the Book of Revelation prophesies a global false religion in the last days is just a theory.

Certainly it is a serious concern that many churches nowadays are going downhill in their doctrines. But it's nothing new. It's happened before - and it wasn't the end of the world. God can send revival, just like He has in the past. It's not necessarily a sign that ours is the last generation.

Wrong doctrine is something that the church always battled, especially after the foundational apostles went to be with the Lord - and it's something the church will probably always have to contend with right up until when Jesus comes.

Whether or not the Bible prophesies a special falling away in the minutes immediately preceding the return of Christ I don't know.

Is Our Generation More Significant?

I haven't necessarily missed the whole point of the End-Times, I don't think, which is faithfulness and soul-winning - it's just that the purpose of this post is not to discuss the importance of soul-winning.

In another Post I may discuss soul-winning, eternity and urgency. I may discuss the soon return of the Lord, because I believe in all those things.

What I am discussing here is whether or not current affairs indicate that ours must be the last generation.

I question whether today's technology, travel, deception, wars, rumours of wars, nation rising up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places are any more significant in our generation than what has already happened in previous generations over the past 2,000 years.

I'm not actually asserting that our generation is definitely not more signficant - I'm merely questioning whether it really is.

When challenged, it's typical of people who can't substantiate their position from the Bible to switch the topic, to switch the focus, to something like soul-winning and eternity - and those topics are important. But the result is the question never gets resolved: so the same erroneous end-times predictions get repeated over and over again.

(It's like pro-gay activists, when they realize they're unable to substantiate their own position from the Bible, they switch the topic and start discussing instead whether people are being judgmental. But being judgmental was never the topic - the topic was, "Does the Bible say homosexuality is okay?" Most people are afraid of being accused of being judgmental, so they back down, and the pro-rights activist goes away without having to resolve the question.

Or it's like pro-socialists, when they realize they can't substantiate their position from the Bible, they switch the topic and start discussing instead whether you lack compassion. But the question was never, "Should we show compassion?" The question was, "Does the Bible teach communism?" Most people are afraid of being accused of lacking compassion, so they back down, and the socialist goes away without having to resolve the question.)

Same with End-Times pundits. When they realize they can't substantiate their own assertions from the Bible, they quit trying to answer the specific question and instead switch the topic to the questioner's lack of focus on soul-winning or lack of focus on something more important. It happens every time. And because most many people are afraid of being accused of lacking focus on soul-winning or other important spiritual things, they back down, and the end-times enthusiast goes away without having to resolve the question. The result is that the same erroneous predictions get repeated over and over again.

Some of the repeat predictions are quite entertaining! Like this week someone told me the earth is going to be scorched by solar activity this year and governments all over the world including the USA are even now preparing underground cities for people to take shelter - Lol!

I've made a list of all the dates which people claimed was to be the return of the Lord, and their reasons. It's now eight pages long and keeps getting longer. May I use it as a party-joke? It makes me laugh out loud nowadays.

I don't happen to feel afraid of being accused of lacking focus on soul-winning or more important things. I'm not naive to such smoke-screens which people put-up instead of facing the inadequacy of their own assertions. Therefore I don't have any need to back down from the question, when someone's last line of defence is to try to shift the focus away from the question.

It doesn't intimidate me when someone tries to squirm their way out of answering the question by switching the focus to another topic or by turning it into an accusation against me, even if they're winning way more souls than me.

I've never questioned, "Should we focus on soul-winning?" or, "Is Jesus coming again? The answer to those questions of course is yes, and yes.

My question hasn't even been about the integrity of people who said things which didn't come true.

My question has always been and still is quite simple: do current affairs really mean our generation is way more significant than previous generations?

Is the earthquake that happened in Chile in February in which there were 486 confirmed fatalities really more significant than the Shaanxi earthquake in January 1556 in which there were 830,000 fatalities?

Is the Swine Flu of 2009 in which 10,000 people died really more Biblically significant than the Spanish Flu in 1918 which killed 20-100 million?

Is the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April in which there were no casualties and no damage to property - even though flights were interrupted across Europe for a few days - is it really more eschatalogically significant than the Mt. Tambora eruption in 1816 which had a death toll of 92,000?

Is the September 11 attacks in the USA in which there were 2,973 victims really more prophetically significant than the Sunni Islamic Ottoman empire which spanned 7.2 million square kilometres of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, waging endless wars killing an innumerable number of people all the way from the year 1299 until the empire finally came to an end in 1923?

Is hurricane Katrina in which 1,836 people died in 2005 and lots of damage was done to property in the city of New Orleans really more significant than the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD70 in which 60,000-1,100,000 civilians died, the 1000yr old Temple was destroyed, after which the location remained desolate for nearly 2,000 years?

Are such calamaties really escalating in our generation at a rate and with a ferocity and casualties far worse than at any other time in history? Are men's hearts today failing them for fear, more than during any other event in history?

Remember Bankcard, barcoding, Y2k, Gulf War, 1980s planetary alignment, Fabian Society, Illuminati, Pine Gap, 1970s oil crisis, Cold War, WWII, WW1, Hitler, American Civil War, bubonic plague, Middle-Ages persecutions, numerous historical wars, worldwide empires and economic systems, historical volcanos, pestilences, famines, false Christs, and the destruction of Jerusalem - seeing those tragedies weren't signs of the last generation, upon what grounds are we thinking the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April in which 11 people died must be a more sure sign of the end?

It's just a question - I'm not even asserting an alternative view - I'm just asking a question. It's amazing how people report that I have an alternative view when really it's they who have a view - I'm just asking a question.

The onus of proof is on those who are making the assertions. Although I haven't said so before, I do think it's become an issue of integrity. If a person makes assertions knowing that he can't back it up without caring so long as it wins souls anyway - well it's still a lie.

I've made other types of mistakes in the past in my life, but I desire to become exemplary especially with my words, like Samuel of whom it is said that he "...grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground."

None of his words fell to the ground! President Bush said of Prime Minister Howard, "When he says something, you can take it to the bank". I want my words to be like that. In the Judgment we will give account of every idle word we have spoken.

I wouldn't want a single person to go to a lost eternity because my repeated carelessness about end-times predictions turned someone away from having faith in the integrity of the Scriptures.

It's not good enough to say, "Oh well, it makes us evangelize. It wakes people up to realize we're in the last hour". If what we are saying isn't true, it lacks integrity. Sooner or later, it's going to turn someone off from believing.

There is enough power in known truth without needing to concoct spectacular stories which may or may not be true. A person should at least say that it's only an opinion. He should tolerate questions.

If an end-times proponent repeats similar errors over and over again instead of learning from his past errors; and then when someone questions it, if instead of addressing the question with integrity he changes the topic or shifts the focus into an attack on the person asking the question meanwhile repeating the same errors without caring as long as it wins souls and sells books - what's up with that!

"Be ye perfect as I am perfect," says the Lord.

I'm not asserting an altnerative view. Who knows, maybe my questions will be answered and I will start believing exactly as others do. But for now, I have a question, not a view.

My question is not about the soon return of the Lord or about soul-winning - I have no questions about that. I only question what are the grounds for being so sure that the microchip really has any more to do with the mark of the beast than barcoding, Bankcard, tattooing, Catholic indulgences or Nero did.

Down through the centuries, Bible commentaries such as Wesley, Matthew Henry, Geneva Study Bible, and Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown had a different take on end-times Scriptures. The view often repeated today is a more recent Americanized view popularized by Schofield and Hal Lyndsay - it isn't the traditional view that was held by many of the great revivalists, reformers, evangelists and missionaries of the Church.

Many people today now repeat the ideas which were popularized by the Americans Schofield and Lyndsay without checking first what other great men of God traditionally believed about the same Scriptures, and often without even checking to see if the Bible really said such things at all. Like:

Where does the Bible say there is going to be a seven-year Tribulation?

Where does the Bible say there is going to be a one-world Government?

Why isn't the Antichrist mentioned in the Book of Revelation?

Why isn't the term "The Great Tribulation" in the Bible (KJV)?

Why did Jesus say all those signs would be fulfilled within His generation? why did He say some people wouldn't even have died yet before it happens?

Wasn't part of Matthew 24 an answer to the question about the fall of Jerusalem which later happened in AD70? If all of Matthew 24 is about the end of the world and the second coming, why did Jesus tell them to flee from the city of Jerusalem, and to pray it doesn't happen in winter, and to wish not to be pregnant at the time? Why would it matter if Jesus was coming? and why the Jerusalem-focus if it applied universally to Gentile believers also?

Why did Jesus say the twelve apostles wouldn't even have had time to finish their tour of preaching throughout Judean cities before these things happen?

Why is everyone concerned about Gog and Magog attacking Israel later this year when according to the Book of Revelation the battle of Gog and Magog won't take place until after the 1,000 years?

Where does the Bible say a replica Jewish temple will be rebuilt? Do you believe it must be rebuilt, brother?

Why did John expect his first-century readers to be able to identify the beast based on the numerical value of his name, in the first century?

Why did John say that one of the kings associated with the beast was someone who "now is", that is, who was already alive and in office in the first century?

If a future Antichrist is going to deceive the Jews into thinking he is their Messiah, wouldn't he have to be a Jew? The Jews know Messiah comes from the Tribe of Judah - a direct descendant of David. So the Antichrist can't be the European Union, or President Obama, or Islam.

And if the Bible does say such things, why not see what other great men of God besides Schofield and Lyndsay believed about those Scriptures?

Those are some questions which, when I ask, instead of giving me an answer, people always change the topic and usually accuse me of something like not focusing on souls.

They accuse me of having an alternative view, when really it's Schofield and Lyndsay who invented an alternative view to what was historically the Orthodox view.

To me, if predictions based on a premise keep failing, then the premise needs to be questioned.

I really want to know the truth. I have no interest in being sensational about things if my words are going to fall to the ground.

I don't want to be the author of a book like, "Eighty-Eight Reasons Why Jesus is Coming Back in '88" - regardless of how many souls the book might win.

"Buy the truth, and sell it not"
- Proverbs 23:23

I think I can honestly say that I seek to be a lover of truth:

"...they received not the love of the truth..."

At the end of the day, truth will inspire more evangelism, and truth will win more souls for eternity, than anything else.

Are the current affairs of our generation really more signficant than that of previous generations? That's all I'm asking.

I still believe the task of the hour is soul-winning.

I still believe Jesus is coming soon. When I say soon, I mean "soon" compared with eternity. I tend to believe Jesus can come at any hour, although I'm not 100% sure about that.

Do you believe Jesus can come at any hour? Most people say they do, but really don't. For example, most End-Times preachers believe a temple must first be rebuilt in Jerusalem. How many years would that take to construct?

Most End-Times preachers believe the calamities we are experiencing are only "the beginnings of sorrows, but the end is not yet". So how many more years could it take before things escalate?

So, they don't really believe He can come at any hour. But I tend to believe, although I'm not sure, that Jesus could come right now, if the Father wills. It's possible for me to consider this view because I'm not so convinced like End-Times preachers are that a temple needs to first be rebuilt in Jerusalem.

I'm not so convinced that there needs to first come a major escalation in natural calamities. Those signs and calamities preceded the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, just like Jesus said they would; those calamities have also been happening in every generation ever since. I question whether it's factual that they have escalated in our generation or even whether they need to before Jesus can come back.

I know a lot of believers say calamities have escalated - but does anyone else think so? do unbelievers think so? are unbelievers hearts failing them for fear?

Because I question what has become the popular view, it means I actually have a stronger sense that Jesus could come at any hour than people can who have the popular belief system. In the popular belief system, Jesus can't come unless there is an escalation of calamities first; or perhaps He can't even come unless there is a rebuilt Temple first. But because I question whether that's necessarily Scriptural, it means I'm open to the possibility that He could actually come right now today.

In other words, even though End-Times pundits often switch the topic into an accusation of not focusing on souls and eternity - it means I can actually have a stronger urgency about such things than people can who hold theirpopular view - because I can be open to the idea that maybe nothing more needs to happen first before He can come: maybe He can come today.

Do you see what I mean? The popular view says, "This, this and this is now happening worse than ever before [even if it isn't happening] - therefore this and this may happen soon - and after that, Jesus can come"; whereas because I question that, I'm more open to the idea that says, "Maybe Jesus can come right now today because all those signs have already been happening for nearly 2,000 years". Get it?

I question whether the signs of which Jesus spoke were ever meant to indicate the final generation before Jesus comes. There probably will be no indication of the final generation. That day will take everyone by surprise.

Rather, I think the purpose of the signs was to indicate when the destruction of the Temple was near so that the disciples could escape the city with their lives (AD70); and it was meant to describe the signs which would accompany every subsequent generation, showing the entire Church age in every generation beginning on the day of Pentecost and continuing to the present, that these are indeed the "last days", the "last hour".

I think the Holy Spirit has always told believers in every generation that they need to be prepared for Christ to come at an hour when they think not. Does that mean there didn't need to be an escalation of calamities or certain things happening before Jesus could have come?

By being open to the idea that Jesus can come today, am I being too urgent? am I missing it that things first must escalate and a Temple has first to be rebuilt?

I welcome any helful input you may have.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Genesis Chapter 1

1-5 All the events of verses 1-5 appear to have taken place on the first day - because God wouldn't have created the earth nor would His Spirit have moved upon its formless void for a purposeless, timeless period. This calls into question the "Gap" theory and the "Pre-Adamic Race" theory.

When God gives us an opportunity, at first the circumstances may seem formless and void - but it is up to us by faith to speak light and form and thereby to give definition to the opportunity. We can exercize the faith of God. Even the Spirit of God awaits our faith-enactment through our spoken word followed by our action. And you have to know what to say, what to decree.

There is also a progression in development. One day builds upon the former. Achieving a divine purpose often requires building consistently over a period of days. You might not get far if you fulfill a divine purpose only for one day.

4 God assesses His work. When we assess our work, can we conclude that it is "good"?

God distinguishes between things: between light and darkness; between holy and profane; between soul and spirit.

5 A "day" begins at evening and concludes with daylight.

The days were 24hour periods - one period of darkness followed by one period of light. If a day was a thousand years or longer, plant-life which depends upon photosynthesis for growth, could not have survived.

God names and numbers things.

6 God speaks, pronounces, decrees, before doing. His Word is supreme. See note on verse 26

8 The "Heaven" of verse eight is probably the same "heaven" in which the birds fly (verse 20). This may help to identify the "firmament".

The sun, moon and stars were made for earth's benefit. There is no mention of them being made as a home for extra-terrestrial life.

When God made animals and trees, He evidently made them with the appearance of age - that is, He made them to instantly appear fully grown. In the same way, God caused light from distant stars to immediately begin appearing on the earth. Modern dating methods may give exaggerated results for the age of the earth or universe because they cannot take this instant appearance-of-age at creation into account.

Plants and animals were created after their kind and given the ability to reproduce after their kind. This is a denial of the theory of a common origin of all species.

26 There is a plurality of persons within the Godhead.

God - began every action with a spoken pronouncement, a decree. His Word was spoken in consultation with two or three witnesses. There was a first speaker within the Godhead, meaning that authority was recognized. Every action was later assessed and deemed to be not only good, but very good. That is godliness.

Both male and female are made in God's own image.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jesus Never Repudiated the Ethics of the Law

"Ye have heard that it hath been said...but I say unto you..."

Jesus was repudiating the Pharisee's misapplication of the Law - not Moses' Law itself.

For example, His comments about the "eye for an eye" line used by Jewish leaders was His explanation of the real intent of that portion of Law in contrast to the way the Pharisees were misapplying it - it wasn't a repudiation of the relevance of Moses' Law.

The Pharisees had been misusing that point of Law as an excuse for revenge and for harshness and inequality in punishment; whereas the real intent of the "eye for an eye" law as given by God through Moses was never meant to be a licence for revenge and was never meant to be taken literally - quite the opposite.

It never meant that if you knock my tooth out, I can literally knock your tooth out. It was only an expression that meant that the restitution demanded by Law had to equal the damage that was incurred - nothing more, nothing less.

It meant that the restitution demanded had to be the same for everyone regardless of the status of the person.

It meant a victim couldn't react in a rage of revenge and determine on his own what would be a fitting compensation for him to exact upon the person who disadvantaged him: the restitution could only be exactly according to the damage.

And it had to be determined at the hands of a magistrate, not a private revenge thing.

In the world of Moses' day, that would have been a new concept of mercy and fairness in law, considering the treatment the Jews had been accustomed to at the hands of their Egyptian slave-drivers!

"Eye for an eye" was actually meant to prevent the kinds of actions which the Pharisees were wrongly using it to justify.

So Jesus illustrated the true intent of the Law by teaching that His diciples would have to do better than the Pharisees - His disciples shouldn't immediately react to a mere slap on the cheek; they should have a certain amount of willingness to suffer a little bit of wrong instead of immediately taking matters into their own hands; they should tolerate others being a little bit demanding of them before drawing the line.

David as King understood the Law in that spirit. And Jesus was bringing His disciples back to what was truly required by God's Law - and in God's Kingdom - in contrast to what the Scribes, Pharisees, ancients and them of old time were wrongly perpetrating.

(This also seems to be the understanding expressed in Wesley's Notes, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, People's New Testament, and Geneva Study Bible.)