Monday, 15 November 2010

Cessationism and Textual Criticism

MARK 16:17-18

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Many cessationists claim that Mark 16:9-20 does not exist in the oldest and "best" manuscripts, but was spuriously inserted into more recent, and therefore less reliable, manuscripts. This claim is then used as their basis for asserting that tongues ceased when the last of the Twelve Apostles died, or when the canon of New Testament Scripture was finalized.

But if tongues indeed ceased when the last of the Twelve Apostles died, and if it had been taught by the Apostles that this was to happen, and if it was commonly understood by the time the spurious "newer" manuscripts were being written that tongues had now already ceased - then what motive could have existed for anyone to include such a spurious insertion?

There wouldn't have been any benefit from inserting a reference to "tongues" in any new manuscript where no references to tongues existed in any older, original, "better" manuscript - if tongues had already ceased by then.

So could this mean that tongues had not ceased by the time the "newer" manuscripts containing Mark 16:9-20 were written? that the very oldest manuscripts must have included Mark 16:9-20? and that the manuscripts containing Mark 16:9-20 may not have been newer manuscripts after all?

In any case, the truths about tongues contained in Mark 16:9-20 can be established elsewhere in the New Testament without even relying on the confirmation provided by Mark 16:9-20. So the contrived controversy about this passage can't prove anything against the truth that tongues are still for today.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Abraham's Seed (Singular)

Much of the time, when God spoke promises to Abraham regarding his seed, it refers to the vast numbers of his seed. But after Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his son, God spoke to him, this time, about a singular seed that should come. And He promised, "And in thy seed (singular) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed".

God preached the Gospel to Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that the heathen would be justified by faith. "Abraham saw my day, and was glad," said Jesus. Abraham saw the day when his seed would come, in whom all families of the earth would be blessed. Truly, God would make Abraham a blessing.

Sometimes obedience is followed by promise and revelation.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

God's Grace is Righteous


It teaches righteousness and produces righteousness.

Someone commented: "John, I thought that it was by the Grace of God that we are made righteous..."

Yes, God's grace brought righteousness - for us, in us, and through us - and all of that through a process that was both loving and righteous (the cross).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Grace and Law


The reason Jesus came to empower us with mercy, GRACE and with His Spirit is because God's good, holy and glorious LAW was, and is and always will be the standard of righteousness, love and life.

Facebook Friend:

You mean the Law wasnt done away with at the cross?


It depends what we mean by that. If we mean that attempting to keep Moses' Law is no longer the means of obtaining righteousness and maintaining covenant-relationship with God, then yes the Law was done away with by the cross.

But if we mean that the standard of righteousness has now become arbitrary or that we may continue in sin, then no - there is still a usefulness for the Law if used lawfully, said Paul.

God's righteousness and love are eternally unchangeable. The Law revealed it but was unable to empower man to live-up to it. But the grace of God actually puts God's righteousness and love into us so that we now freely live everything that the Law taught.

As a MEANS of obtaining righteousness, the Law has passed away - however, the righteousness which God has given us causes us to fulfill all of the righteousness which the Law could only foreshadow.

Facebook Friend:

Do we need to keep the commandments as given to Moses?


It depends what you mean by that.

If you mean, should we literally keep Moses' Law exactly as he prescribed it, then no - Paul taught that believers need not and should not think that doing so would have any merit.

But if you mean, do believers in whose lives the fruit of the Spirit is being produced find that they nonetheless comply with the underlying truths, ethics, love-principles, moral duties and righteousness of the Law, then yes - Paul taught that love is the fulfilling of the Law; that there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit; and that the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us who believe.

Wasn't that a grand scheme by God - He made a way, through the cross, to accomplish for us and in us, what the Law could not do: He forgave our sins; made us a new heart; we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus resulting in good behaviour; He wrote His laws on our heart; He placed His Spirit in us; poured-out His love-nature in our hearts; made us partakers of the divine nature; produces the Spirit's fruit in our behaviour and causes us to walk in His ways - all His own doing!

So, as a means of trying to obtain righteousness, the Law was indeed taken away and nailed to the cross; but then, in its place, God's grace - on our lives, in our lives and expressed through our lives - fulfills for us, in us and by us, everything that the Law sought unsuccessfully to achieve - freely by Jesus Christ!

Facebook Friend:

That all sounds good, but how about some scriptures.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Re-Reading Matthew 24

* I think many aspects of "end-times" prophecy may have already been fulfilled (such as the prediction of the siege of Jerusalem; the abomination of desolation; the destruction of the Temple; its associated tribulations; and the subsequent deportation of Jews all around the world)

* I also think some aspects of prophecy concern the future (for example, the visible return of the Lord; and the resurrection of the dead)

* I also think there are bridging statements in Biblical prophecy which seem to span the period of time between now-past and yet-future events (for example, Jesus predicted that after the fall of Jerusalem, the city would remain trampled under foot by Gentiles until the "times" [i.e., years] of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This state of affairs appears to have begun circa AD70 and still describes Jerusalem until today!)

The challenging part is to accurately decipher what is past, what spans the centuries, and what is yet future. If we fail to take note of any time-indicator statements in end-times passages of Scripture accurately, we could end-up with an eschatology that is more fiction than fact.

For example, preterists regard so much of Biblical prophecy as already fulfilled, to the extent that they even regard the resurrection as a past event.

Then on the other hand, futurists regard so much of Biblical prophecy as yet-to-be fulfilled, to the extent that they even expect a repeat fulfillment of already-fulfilled prophecies such as the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, the destruction of the Temple and its associated tribulations all of which appear to have been fulfilled circa AD70.

I therefore recommend a helpful exercise: re-read Matthew 24, taking note of the fact that Jesus had been asked two separate questions: one question relating to the destruction of the Temple; the other question relating to His second coming. As you read, try to decipher which sections of the text might answer the first question, and which sections of the text might answer the second question - and whether any phrases in the text might indicate a span of time between the two.

After you've done this little exercise, see if your own model of "tribulation" and eschatology is confirmed or changed. And, where the text doesn't give enough information to decide, don't decide!

Assumptions of Futurist Eschatology

Someone wrote that he is expecting tribulation to begin on the Gold Coast within six months to two years; he also mentioned the microchip.

My reply:

1. Your model of future events is fairly typical of the futurist interpretation of end-times prophecy. But as for me, I can't help noticing that many of the foundation-texts of Scripture which futurists rely on to construct their view, may in fact have already been fulfilled.

For example, when Jesus predicted "great tribulation", He was actually answering a question that related specifically to the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Despite these events being fulfilled circa AD70, futurists use these Scriptures to construct a futurist model.

Jesus was dealing with two, not one, question in Matthew 24: the first, related to the Temple; the second, to His coming. I admit I don't find it easy to always decipher which of Jesus' answers relates to which question. However, Jesus did seem to provide a bridging-statement that does seem to span the period of time between the two events (when He said that Jerusalem would remain trodden under foot by Gentiles for years).

Because I don't find it easy to always decipher what is now past and what is still future, I'm careful to avoid creating a dogmatic model of future events. It means I can neither embrace nor outright-reject every aspect of the futurist model.

2. But even if your futurist model is correct, I still think it's impossible to put a time-frame on its fulfillment, even given the futurist model, for the following reason:

Paul stated that the man of lawlessness could not be revealed until the restrainer would be removed. The man of lawlessness, said Paul, would appear not at a time of his own choosing, nor at the time when a naturally-spiralling circle of events climaxes - but he can be revealed only once the restrainer is removed.

In other words, we can't look at current trends and then conclude a time-frame on the basis of those events or trends. There is one and one only factor which could determine the timing, and that is the prior removal of the restrainer - even in the futurist model.

Do you know for sure that the restrainer has been, or will be, removed in the next six months to two years? If not, then there's no possible way to give time-frames, regardless of what trends you see happening in contemporary society.

3. The microchip may or may not have anything to do with the mark of the beast. To conclude that it must, requires a fair bit of interpretive licence with regard to Revelation 13.

In the first place, the mark of the beast may be already-fulfilled prophecy. But that aside, notice a few things that the Bible does and doesn't say about the mark of the beast:

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark was something that functionally enabled people to buy and sell - it could merely mean that without the mark, they wouldn't be allowed to buy or sell

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say people were marked in a way that identified them individually, distinguishing one individual from another - it says they were all marked with the same mark - either the beast's name or number

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark was invisible like an implanted microchip - the very word "mark" according to an English dictionary, implies visibility

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark replaced the use of cash - in fact, the use of the Roman Denarius currency is mentioned as being still in use during the period described in the Book of Revelation (Rev.6:6)

* The text of Revelation 13 does not necessarily mean that the people had a choice to receive the mark or not - it says they had a choice to worship the man as god or not - then the mark was imposed on them on the basis of the choice of worhsip they'd made (the wording of the text makes either meaning a possibility)

* The text of Revelation 13 says that ten kings supported the beast - ten kings doesn't sound like a one world government to me - aren't there nearly 200 countries in the world today, not ten?

* The text of Revelation 13 says that before the mark was given, miraculous signs were being done and people were worshiping the beast and his statue - that sounds like something a whole lot more religious than mere participation in a secular cashless system

* The text of Revelation 13 says that people who received the mark were thrown into the lake of fire - would God do that to a person for merely participating in a monetary system - or were these people literally worshiping a man as god?

* When an allegorical book describes an allegorical animal with allegorical horns giving a mark, chances are the 'mark' might be only allegorical too! (especially when you consider that the same book [of Revelation] already describes another mark which was given to people which was almost certainly only allegorical [namely, God's mark in the foreheads of the righteous])

All of the above means that it requires a fair bit of interpretive licence to assert that the microchip must be the mark of the beast. It's a fairly big assumption to make. I'm not saying that amount of interpretive licence shouldn't be taken - but I just want people who are taking that amount of interpretive licence to realize and admit that that's what they are doing! They have created an interpretive model of future events that relies heavily on assumptions and that doesn't seem to give regard to the fact that at least some of Jesus' end-times prophecies may or may not have already been fulfilled.

The Appearance of Age in Creation

At the end of the first day of creation, the whole earth was covered with water. So, when God gathered the waters together on the second day allowing the dry land to appear - this process might have left marks on the land which give the appearance of what might now be considered signs of age, given our stable, normal conditions.

Likewise when God made the fruit trees on the third day, He made them mature and ready to eat, giving the appearance of age.

And He made the light of the sun, moon and stars to appear immediately upon the earth on the fourth day, again giving the appearance of elapsed time.

Also, the rate of displacement of water required to submerge the whole planet under water in only 40 days during the flood, represented extraordinary conditions which again might have left geologic marks which might today be considered marks of age, given our ordinary conditions. So great and rapid was the displacement of water that what took only 40 days to place took nearly a whole year before it had dried-out enough for Noah to exit the ark!

And 100 years afer the flood the earth was divided. This may mean, geologically divided not just linguistically divided. And this happened not over a long period of time, but in the days of Peleg. If it indeed means geologically divided (perhaps through rising sea-levels or continental drift) then once again, the sudden results could leave the impression of age, considering current norms.

Perhaps some modern dating-methods ought to be considerate of such extraordinary factors.

How Soon After Adam was Eve Made?

It seems Eve was made on the same day as Adam. When describing the events of the sixth day of creation, the woman is mentioned, not only the man (Genesis 1:26-31).

So, Adam probably named the animals on the day he was created (for creation would have been incomplete if the animals had remained un-named after creation-week). And then, despite viewing all the animals, a helper was not found for Adam - so, on the same afternoon, God brought Adam his wife.

God's conclusion at the end of the sixth day was that everything was "very good". If Eve was not made until someday afterwards, then it could not have been said that everything was "very good" for God said it was "not good" that the man should be alone. Plus, it would mean that creation was not completed in six days but in six days plus one more day.

When a situation was "not good" - God didn't leave it that way beyond sun-down!

Changes After the Flood

It seems the river systems near Eden and their geography remained somewhat the same after the flood. At least, they and their locations remained recognizable (Genesis 2:13).

But it seems rainbows didn't occur until after the flood. I wonder what atmospheric changes caused that change.

Another change that God brought - it seems, after the flood - was that He placed the fear of man in animals.

And it was some 100 years after the flood - in the days of Peleg - that the earth became divided. I wonder whether it means that the land itself became separated, or whether it merely referred to a linguistic separation of the people.

"Peleg" sounds like the word pelagic (having to do with the ocean); and archipelego (a strip of land separated into islets by water). So, perhaps the idea is inherent in Peleg's name that the division which occured in his day was geophysical and not just linguistic.

If so, it might have occured through rising sea-levels, or through continental drift. The earth may have been much more connected prior to this. Or, the earth may even have consisted of a single land mass (pangea) which later separated.

This would probably mean the mountains were not as high before the flood as they became afterwards, meaning that less water would have been required to submerge the whole planet under water during the flood.

It might also explain how and why mankind, fauna and flora later became "naturalized" in distinct parts of the globe.

The Development of Spiritual Law After the Fall

After the fall, certain spiritual things were instinctively known, even though the Law had not yet been given.

For example, it was demonstrated that sewing fig-leaves together by human hands was not sufficient to cover nakedness - but the provision of garments of skins, requiring blood sacrifice and provided freely by God Himself as a gift, was better.

Perhaps this was reinforced by God when He later had respect to Abel's offering of the firstlings of the flock but disrespect to Cain and his offering of crops.

Certain animals became known as clean while others were known as unclean, despite all things being "very good" prior to the fall.

After the flood, God decreed that there should be the death penalty for murder, because the life was in the blood. This was perhaps the first instance of a "law" being given after the fall.

Other examples include circumcision, and tithing - both of which were practised prior to the giving of the Law.

The Law was later given only to express principles which were already spiritual realities. The fact that the Law was subsequently done-away with on the cross does not do away with those spiritual principles which were already realities prior to the giving of the Law. Rather, the cross fulfills those principles and imparts a real righteousness to us - something the Law was powerless to do. We're not under the Law, but we fulfill the Law - by a new and living way.

Oh the glory of the cross!

Clean and Unclean

When God finished creating everything, everything was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). But by the time of the flood - after the fall - certain animals had already become recognized as "unclean" even though the Law was not yet given (Genesis 7:2). Later, the Law was given to remove any uncertainty as to which animals were clean and which were not clean.

But after the cross, the Lord said to Peter in a vision, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [or, unclean]" (Acts 10:14).

And Paul taught that in the last days some would command "to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving [that is, with faith - with a clear conscience]: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (I Tim.4:3,4).

Therefore the early-church believers need not have let any man judge them "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which were a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ...." (Colossians 2:16,17); for the kingdom of God "is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).

What caused certain animals to become unclean and others to remain clean, after the fall?

Perhaps, from the moment of creation onwards, the elect angels had jurisdiction over those animals which remained "clean" even after the fall, while perhaps the angels which kept not their first estate had jurisdiction over those animals which later became "unclean" after Adam's fall which alligned creation by Adam's authority with the by then fallen angels.

After all, the Scripture mentions the angel which seemed to have jurisdiction over the rivers (Revelation 16:5); and another which had jurisdiction over the wind. Satan himself was able to control fire (Job 1:16). How much more the animal kingdom? But I don't know.

And by what means were they cleansed? Paul said that just as it was necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with the blood sacrifices, so the heavenly things themselves [were cleansed] with better sacrifices than the blood of animals (Hebrews 9:23). What does it mean that the heavenly things were "cleansed"? It might just mean that God's righteous demands were met. Or, could it mean that the sons of God which appeared before the throne of God (in the days of Job, and of Jehoshaphat the king) were now cast out from heaven, no more to accuse the saints? If so, with the falling from heaven of those fallen angels, perhaps even the animals who may have been under their jurisdiction received some sort of ceremonial cleansing at that time, through the cross. I don't know.

The main point of the Law, however, was to teach a distinction between clean and unclean - not so much because God cared about nutrition, but to teach a spiritual lesson about the state of man. In Christ, there is no unclean - whether Jew or Gentile. We have been made "all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Adam's Role Towards His Wife Before and After the Fall

God commanded the man (Adam) saying that he should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). It was only after that - beginning in the next verse (verse 18) - that we are told that God made a wife for the man. The Scripture doesn't say that God repeated His commandment about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to the woman.

Presumably the man was meant to inform his wife of the Lord's commandment. And the man evidently did so faithfully, for when the serpent sought to find-out whether the man had done so, the woman was able to answer that God had indeed said that they should not eat of it. Her husband had told her.

It's a man's duty to shield his wife by furnishing her with the commandments of God. The tempter may test whether the man has done so. A wife may be vulnerable if she listens to a third party who causes her to question God's Word in the mouth of her husband and to act independently of God's Word in the mouth of her husband.

This is why Paul said he did not suffer (allow) a woman to teach a man (that is, her husband) nor to usurp authority over her husband - for the wife was first deceived, not the man.

That was the man's role towards his wife before the fall. Even before the fall, he was already called her husband - spiritually as well as naturally.

But after the fall, a consequence of Eve's behaviour was that aside from the man being her spiritual and physical husband, the relationship now bore the curse of a somewhat subject-ruler relationship. Thus by acting independently, Eve got the very opposite of what she thought she might gain.

Three Heavens

On the first day, God created "the heaven (singular) and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). That's one heaven.

On the second day, God made a firmament and called the firmament "heaven" (Genesis 1:7,8). That's a second heaven.

"Thus the heavens (plural) and the earth were finished..." (Genesis 2:1).

Then Paul mentions a third heaven:

"...such an one caught up to the third heaven" (II Cor.12:2).

Paul also mentions that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings "in heavenly places" in Christ (Eph.1:3); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together "in heavenly places" in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:6); and Paul mentions that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness "in high places". I'm not sure which heaven is referred to in such passages.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Gap Theory Has Gaps

1 In THE beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. AND the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE FIRST DAY.

Notice that all the events of verses 1-5 are summarized as, "...and the evening and the morning were the first day..."

There is no obvious break anywhere in the text of the first five verses. Everything in verses 1-5 is worded in such a way that the meaning that everything happened on the first day is possible.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

It doesn't say, "In a beginning..." It says, "In the beginning..."

Genesis chapter one therefore doesn't necessarily describe two or more "beginnings" - it could just as well describe one beginning - the beginning.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Notice it doesn't say, "And then the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..." as if this was a separate event which began some indefinitely long period after creation.

Rather, it simply says, "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..."

The Spirit of God may have moved upon the face of the waters as part of the creative work of the first day, the day in which the heaven and the earth were made.

The moving of the Spirit of God upon the face of the waters may therefore ahve coincided with the event of creation - the wording of the text does not necessitate that it was something that occurred only as an after-thought or as Plan B at some indeterminately long period of time after the heaven and the earth had already been created and had allegedly subsequently become without form and void.

Furthermore, the Spirit of God, who won't always strive, would not have continued moving upon the face of the waters for a long period of time with no purpose - He would have been moving upon the face of the waters with an imminent purpose - and that purpose would have been to continue the works of creation as they were to proceed on that first day.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The way the text is worded allows room for the interpretation that all of the events of verses 1-5 happened within one period of darkness followed by one period of light - a period called a "day" - the "first day".

The period of darkness mentioned before God said, "Let there be light", might not have lasted for an indefinitely long period of time - it may have been part of the 24-hour period called the "first day" - because, if the period of time called the "first day" had only began once God said, "Let there be light", then the light should have been followed by a period of darkness. But the Scripture does not say the darkness of the "first day" followed the light of the first day - rather, it says the light of the first day followed the darkness of the first day ("...and the evening and the morning...") The text of verses 1-5 mentions only one period of darkness followed by one period of light.

Furthermore, this entire period must have lasted for 24 hours not for an indefinitely long period of time - because, if the period of time called a "day" was longer than 24 hours, then all the plants which rely on photosynthesis for survival could not have survived.

It might all have happened therefore on the first day!

ISAIAH 45:18
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited...

This verse doesn't necessarily prove that the earth must have become without form and void at some indefinitely long period of time after God first made the heaven and the earth.

Rather, it may simply show that God did not make the earth without purpose although during the early part of the first day of creation, the earth was without form and void until the works of the first day of creation progressed to completion. It was always God's intention to begin and complete creation in six days.

I'm writing this, not to make a needless issue out of it, but in hope of helping those who are making an issue out of it perhaps with not as much of a literary foundation for it as they might have thought.

Given the lack of concrete foundation for the Gap Theory, in the text of Genesis chapter one, there must be other reasons why people try to squeeze this theory into the Genesis story.

One reason might be that they are trying to explain the origin of demons. Another reason might be that they are trying to reconcile the Bible with the theory of an old earth.

There are solutions for those perceived dilemmas. But in any case, those aren't reasons enough to found a doctrine on a passage of text that could just as well be taken another way.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Every Idle Word

"Idle words are words spoken but not believed. Choose your words wisely! Matthew 12:36" - tweeted by Creflo Dollar

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Another Look at Eschatology

The Preterist view claims that the time-frame for the fulfilment of most of the Book of Revelation is qualified by the opening remarks that it "must shortly come to pass".

Then in Chapter 13 it says that one of the horns of the Beast "now is". One Preterist commentator explains that to say "now is" means that the person represented by this "horn" was somebody currently living and currently in civic office at the time John wrote to the seven Churches of Asia-minor: he "now is".

Preterists claim that John expected his first-century readers to be able to work-out exactly who he was talking about, when he informed them that the number of his name was 666.

I've heard a lot of futurists suggest contemporary figures like Henry Kissinger or Rothschilds, then use some method to prove their names add up to 666, based on assigning numerical values to the letters of the English alphabet. But the English language didn't exist as we know it when John wrote Revelation. And who knows if it will still exist as it does today, in the future?

So for a preacher to publicly preach that the modern English language can be used to decode the identity of the Beast (without justifying his basis), and then to be surprised when I ask him why – well it surprises me that my question could surprise him.

To my mind, a more likely system would be to use the Hebrew language. There was a system in use at the time when John wrote the Revelation - a system which is now called the Gamatron - wherein the letters of the Hebrew alphabet have numerical values assigned to them. Apparently Hebrew has no numerals. Instead, each letter of their alphabet has a numerical value. This practice is evidenced in secular literature of the same period.

If you believe in a pre-AD70 date for the writing of the Book of Revelation, Nero Caesar might be a likely figure, if you were looking for a first century figure who acted like the horn of the Beast of Revelation Chapter 13. One Preterist commentary showed that "Nero Caesar" indeed adds up to 666, using this method.

A Jew once explained to me the whole gamatria method to me. I asked her to calculate the number of Nero Caesar's name for me. It took her about a minute, then she replied, "666". A week or two later I decided to ask another Jew the same question. But he gave me a slightly different value.

"Another person last week calculated it to 666," I queried.

He explained, "It depends whether you use the Hebrew or the Roman way of spelling his name. The other way of spelling it does equal 666."

So I asked, "Which is correct?"

"Either is correct," he replied.

Next, I knew I had to do some research to find out whether Nero Caesar's name was spelt both ways, in secular contemporary literature of the time. And I discovered that either spelling was common.

According to one author, in an early Latin manuscript of the Book of Revelation, the number 616 occurs instead of 666, in Revelation 13. Nero Caesar, written in Latin, adds up to 616 - so perhaps this is evidence that the Nero theory already existed at that time, and the translators wanted their Latin readers to know that John was referring to Nero.

The most I can say about the Nero theory is that it seems to have at least as much in its favour as the contemporary futurist interpretations. But I still have always stopped short of concluding that Nero must indeed be the horn of Revelation 13. For one reason, we don't know for sure that Revelation was written before AD70.

So, rather than assert an alternative dogma to the modern futurist views, all I do from time to time is show some of the problems associated with it, and show some of the things in favour with altnernative views. All I'm doing is asking honest questions about the popular futurist views. I also have questions about preterism.

Back in the early 80's, when World War II was still fresh in the minds of some older Futurists and when Soviet and Chinese Communism was the threat that concerned America, most Futurists claimed that Germany, Russia and China featured prominently in biblical prophecy. But once the Cold War was over, you seldom heard that view again.

After September 11 there was a flood of new books claiming that Iraq - the new Babylon - features prominently in end-times prophecy. I don't remember ever hearing this view in the 80's. It only became popular because of America's War on Terror.

Today the end-times preachers are writing books about Iran's role in prophecy, all because of Iran's new leader's anti-Israel rhetoric. I wonder why nobody seemed to notice Iran's place in end-times prophecy before this.

I've read century-old commentaries on the Book of Revelation which claim that Germany and Turkey are the subject of end-time prophecy. But of course Turkey hasn't even been mentioned by Futurists lately, since the end of their World-War I allegiance with Germany.

During the Reformation, preachers and kings wrote literature claiming that the Catholic Church was the subject of the Book of Revelation. This view doesn't get purported much these days, now that Catholics have stopped their wars and some of their members are getting baptized with the Holy Ghost and speaking with tongues.

Without presenting any new dogma, my question has simply been, What basis do we have to interpret prophecy through the grid of current events (like every previous generation has done), instead of letting the text speak for itself? Why do we always think that the Beast must be whoever is threatening England or America at the time?

Regarding the Millennium, most Preterists believe the 1000-year reign of Christ is symbolic of the indefinitely long period of Christ's rule in history through the Gospel during the Church age.

I have some serious questions regarding the Futurists' version of events during the Millennium. I think some Futurists are the real heretics not me, when they say that the whole world will offer animal sacrifices again in Jerusalem!

However, I also have some questions about the Preterist view that the "Kingdom" began at the fall of Jerusalem in a sense that the Kingdom didn't exist before the destruction of the Temple. Preterism claims to be non-dispensational. But in reality, it seems to set-up two different Gospel dispensations: the dispensation starting from Pentecost until the fall of Jerusalem, and then the dispensation starting from the fall of Jerusalem until whenever.

My problem with this view is that it gives the impression that many things that Jesus said, and many things the Epistles said, really only had relevance up until AD70 - and then a whole new dispensation began. This sort of concurs with the view that the gifts of the Spirit were withdrawn from the Church after the last Apostle died.

It implies that the apocalyptic Gospel preached by Jesus and by the Apostles was only relevant to that generation rather than it being a message that should still form part of the Gospel that is preached in every successive generation.

In my opinion, we belong to the same dispensation as the early Church, and we should be preaching the same message they preached, and we should be seeing the same miracles they saw. But that isn't possible if the biggest event in the Apostles' prophetic calendar was something that is now already in the past.

Surely they and us are each looking forward to the same great hope! I'm not planning on preaching a different message to what they preached. If their grand hope was the destruction of the Temple in AD70, then most of the Epistles are irrelevant to us today.

I've actually heard one Preterist complain that some preachers never get beyond preaching the Gospel. He thinks we should be more concerned with fulfilling Adam's lost Dominion Mandate in this present age, through civil action.

But I never want to get beyond preaching the Gospel! That particular Preterist’s comment is evidence, in my opinion, that some Preterist thought about the Millennium is off on a slightly wrong tangent, with origins in Presbyterianism rather than Pentecostalism.

I do feel comfortable with the possibility that God has plans to renew planet earth and to use it again, in the same way that we who are born again are a new creature in Christ even though we are still the same person.

In a sense, it's almost like the planet itself could be "born again" one day. Our physical bodies will be resurrected too. I believe this is all part of the plan of Redemption. I'm not sure though whether this aspect of our redemption will happen during the thousand years, or whether it will happen right at the end of time and then into eternity.

But for now, I'm sure our role is to preach the Gospel - the same Gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached - the same hope - and we need never get beyond preaching their message. We belong to the same Church that they belonged to.

In the Book of Revelation where it says that "there should be time no longer", Preterists interpret this to mean that "there should be delay no longer" meaning that there should be no more delay before the vengeance on Jerusalem should take place; whilst Futurists interpret it to mean the end of physical time.

Modern Israel is another favourite topic of Futurists. They claim that Jesus was predicting the restoration of Israel as a nation when He said, "When you see the fig tree shoot forth its branches, then you know that summer is near, and in the same way, when you see all these things come to pass, you will know that the end is near, within a generation".

Looking at it purely exegetically, I would say the very opposite is true. The "things" Jesus had just finished talking about had more to do with the destruction of Jerusalem rather than the restoration of Jerusalem. Then he added, "When you see these things come to pass, you know the end is near".

In other words, the bad things happening in Jerusalem would be a sign of the end. Many of those bad things happened in the lead-up to the siege of Jerusalem. So I question whether this parable of the fig tree can really be a strong basis for the view that Jesus must return within a generation of 1948 just because Israel became a nation again in 1948. So if we are to look for a prophecy about the restoration of Israel, in my opinion we have to look elsewhere in Scripture.

Another question I've had is about Jesus' statement that, "One shall be taken and the other left". Futurists apply this to the rapture. But after Jesus said this, the disciples asked, "Where Lord? (Where will they be taken?)" Jesus replied, "Wherever the dead bodies are, there the vultures will be gathered." If He was talking about the rapture, how is that an answer to the disciples' question? It seems Jesus was instead saying that the Romans would be indiscriminate in their massacre of the Jews.

If Jesus was talking about His Second Coming at that moment, why did He warn his disciples to flee into the mountains? If Jesus is coming to set up His Millennial Kingdom, what need do we have to flee anywhere? And why would it matter if it was winter? Why would it matter for those who are pregnant? But it makes sense if Jesus was talking about the siege of Jerusalem, which came to pass within a generation just as He said it would, and the Roman historian Josephus recorded that the Christians survived the siege because they fled the city just as Jesus told them to.

But Futurists protest that it couldn't have been fulfilled in AD70 because the stars didn't fall from heaven and the moon didn't turn to blood, at that time. Preterists rebut that by saying that all prophecy draws on previous prophecy in its symbolism. Throughout the Old Testament, the imagery of stars falling and the sun going dark always referred to war, judgment and national calamity; and vocabulary such as the Lord "coming" was often used to describe God's involvement in various local judgments.

In support of the Preterist interpretation that the language of cosmic catastrophe in Matthew 24 is actually symbolic of political judgment, I found something interesting in an American Standard Bible. My American Standard Bible places everything in CAPITALS if it is a quote from another verse of Scripture. And in Matthew 24, it puts these verses about the stars falling etc, in CAPITALS. So, in the opinion of the producers of the American Standard Version, those statements by Jesus weren't literal statements but were actually quotes from the Old Testament. And every text in the Old Testament that uses that language always applies it as symbolic imagery of the Lord "coming" not in final judgment, but in a local judgment on a political entity.

So I question whether it was right for end-times preachers in the late 70's to hold seminars about the so-called "Jupiter Effect" in which it was presumed that a planetary alignment would cause the moon to turn red, the stars to fall, and the catastrophes of Revelation to take place on earth. Of course it came to nothing. But I got saved as a result anyway, so that was good! The same misdirected paranoia existed at the time of Y2K.

I should mention Daniel's prophecies, because Jesus linked his statements in Matthew 24 to Daniel's prophecies. Jesus said that immediately after Jerusalem's tribulation, you will see the sign of the Son of man coming in the clouds. The Futurists say this is the Second Coming of Christ. I think they could be right, and I'll explain below how I think I can depart from classic Preterism on this point without throwing out Preterism's regard for "time indicator" texts. But first, I'll mention how the Preterists apply the "coming in the clouds" verse.

It is actually a quote from Daniel. When we go to the source in Daniel, we see that the Son of man was "coming in the clouds" but in what direction? It says he came before the Ancient of Days, and was given a Kingdom. In other Words, it was speaking of an ascension, a coronation of Jesus, in heaven. Paul in Hebrews also uses the word "clouds" to refer to the saints who are already in heaven.

So the Preterists claim that the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple in AD70 enabled the people to "see" (that is, to perceive) that the Son of man (whom they crucified) has now been vindicated (in heaven) as Lord and King. And they say that this vindication, these "days of vengeance" as Jesus called them in Luke, are also the theme of the Book of Revelation.

Jesus said in Matthew 24 that those who read Daniel should understand. Certainly, I think that because Jesus quotes Daniel in Matthew 24, a contextual understanding of Daniel is important as a basis to correctly applying what Jesus was saying in Matthew 24.

Wesley and Clarke seemed to interpret it that way. But isn't it possible that some of Jesus' statements were about the destructionof the Temple and others were about His second coming? After all, the disciples had asked Him both questions. So in other words, there might be both past (preterist) and future events in the Olivet discourse. The key then would be to decipher which is which.

Another prophecy of Daniel's talks about four kingdoms that would rule over Israel, and then a fifth Kingdom coming at the time of the fourth. Most commentators agree that these are the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, then Roman kingdoms.

Futurists claim that the fifth Kingdom is the Antichrist. But Antichrist didn't come at the time of the Roman empire! People like Pastor Erica get around this problem by saying that the Roman empire is actually still alive through organizations like Freemasonry. Or they say that a gap of 2000+ years is inserted here (without Daniel knowing it) and then the Roman empire will be revived through the European Union - and then the Antichrist will come.

But I'm asking the question whether this fifth kingdom isn't in fact the Kingdom of God (not the antichrist), because Jesus indeed came announcing the Kingdom of God, during the time of the fourth kingdom (the Roman empire). This Kingdom came "out of heaven" like a "stone made without hands" and it "became a mountain that filled the whole earth".

Futurists say this is a prophecy about a coming one-world government. But I asked the question whether or not it could be the Kingdom of heaven. From the time of John the Baptist, people began to "take the kingdom" said Jesus.

If so, this Scripture may not be a strong basis for a belief in a coming one-world government. If so, it is a proof text that Jesus really is a candidate to be the Messiah, because He was born at the time of the Roman Empire.

Another major prophecy of Daniel's is the 70-weeks prophecy. He was told by an angel that from the date that the decree is issued to rebuilt the Temple until Messiah the Prince will be 70 weeks (or 70 sevens - that is, 490 prophetic years). In the middle of one of those weeks, Messiah would be "cut off" (that is, killed) but "not for himself" (that is, not for his own transgression). It goes on to describe several things that will happen within that time frame.

Futurists say that Jesus hasn’t yet done all the things that Daniel said he would do, therefore only 69 weeks have been fulfilled, and the final week (seven years) will take place during the Tribulation, after an inserted 2000+ years gap which Daniel knew nothing about.

Preterists say that Jesus fulfilled everything that Daniel said he would do and that we have no authority to turn 70 consecutive weeks into 69weeks + 2000years + 1week, just because something doesn't fit our prophetic system. Jesus did come within this time frame, making it a proof text that Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy.

Jesus also quoted Daniel when he mentioned the "abomination of desolation standing in the Temple". Futurists claim a future fulfilment for this. Preterists say it referred to Roman idols being set-up in the Temple by invitation from Jewish rulers, culminating in an outpouring of wrath and the destruction of the Temple by Titus in AD70.

Contrary to Preterism, I wonder if it's possible that the 70 weeks don't have to be consecutive. The angel told Daniel, "Seveny week are determined upon thy people". Does that necessarily mean 70 consecutive weeks - or could it mean that there will be a total of 70 decisive weeks during which God’s focus is on Israel (and the remainder of the time Israel will remain in a state of being “cast off” until the Gentile Age is fulfilled)?

Another key Scripture is Malachi where it talks about the Day of the Lord. Part of the prophecy refers to a messenger coming before the Lord “comes” in judgment. Futurists say this refers to the Second Coming.

But Jesus said this messenger was John the Baptist. So did Jesus come as judge, in John’s generation? The prophecy continues to say, “then the Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to His temple.” And that for some, He will come as Saviour anf for others, as Judge. In Malachi, He is said to come as both Saviour and Judge. What is the time frame? According to Jesus, it was in the time frame beginning with John.

So that fits with an AD70 fulfilment rather than a future fulfilment – or at least it began around AD70 – even if it’s continuing until today. Or, it describes the intrinsic apocalyptic nature of the Gospel message throughout the entire church age.

Isaiah prophesies about the Spirit of the Lord coming on Messiah to give sight to the blind and to heal the sick and preach good news, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the days of vengeance of our God.

Jesus quoted Isaiah, leaving out the "days of vengeance" line, and said, "This day this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears". But later when He predicted the coming sack of Jerusalem, he explained, "These be the days of vengeance spoken of by the prophets, that all things might be fulfilled."

In other words, Jesus was claiming to have already fulfilled many Messianic prophecies, and was now saying that any as-yet unfulfilled prophecies about Him would be fulfilled by the fall of Jerusalem. He said that the blood of all the prophets and righteous people would be required of “this generation”.

Futurists put this all in the future. Preterists put it all around AD70. But I'm currently considering the view that "the days of vengeance" indeed began three-and-a-half years before the fall of Jerusalem and culminated in the destruction of the Temple – but in a sense Jerusalem has continued in that state down through the centuries with the city being trodden under feet by the Gentiles - until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled – and then all Israel shall be saved. So that’s slightly different to the Part-Preterist view.

I actually sense problems with the extreme of both views: both with Preterism and Futurism - even though I still find some Preterist explanations of difficult texts excellent and helpful.

As an example of the problems associated with either extreme, consider Matthew 24.
After describing the siege of Jerusalem and predicting the destruction of the Temple, Jesus said:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days, you shall see the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds".

The Futurist interpretation of this passage necessitates the rebuilding of the Temple before the Second Coming can happen.

But that technically refutes the widely-accepted belief that Christ can come at any moment - because it would take years to rebuild the Temple, even if construction started today.

To get around this problem, Futurists divide the Second Coming into Part I (Pre-Tribulation Rapture), Part II (Second-Coming), and Part III (End of the Millennium).

So are there now three second comings of Christ?

And are there really any prophecies about a future Temple, anyway? Futurists sometimes quote Old Testament prophecies about the rebuilding of the Temple: but weren't those prophecies already fulfilled after the Babylonian Captivity when Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the city and temple?

Besides, why would God now rebuild the Temple and re-institute the animal sacrifice system, after Jesus has already shed His blood on Calvary? Paul said in Galatians that "if I build again that which I once destroyed, I make myself a transgressor".

Futurists answer that God won't rebuild it - but Israel will.

But if that's the case, then they still can't apply the pre-Babylonian Captivity prophecies of a rebuilt Temple, because those prophecies talk in terms of GOD rebuilding it!

And if Jesus' prediction was about a yet future Temple, then did He really have nothing at all to say about the destruction of the then present Temple? To get around this, Futurists claim a "double fulfilment" hermeneutic. But to my knowledge, there is no precedent for a double fulfilment hermeneutic anywhere in Scripture.

The basis for the Preterist view is the so-called "time indicator" texts. For example, in this passage, after describing the siege of Jerusalem, Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days you will see the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds..." Preterists claim that the words "immediately after" is a "time indicator" text as is the phrase "this generation" - and that these phrases qualify the time frame and make it impossible to insert a gap of 2000 or more years between the two events.

A problem I encountered however, if I consistently applied the logic that gave rise to Preterism in the first place, across the entire New Testament - was that you can hardly avoid eventually questioning whether there is ever going to be any ultimate Second Coming of Christ at all - and of course I felt uncomfortable with that severe a deviation from orthodoxy. That is why variations within Preterism arose - such as Part-Preterism, Orthodox Preterism, Full-Preterism etc - each of which accuses the other of breaking with the logic that gives rise to any form of Preterism in the first place. One of the most revered authors of a Part-Preterist commentary on the Book of Revelation later denounced his conclusions and became a full-Preterist, claiming that the logic that made him consider Part-Preterism in the first place now required him out of integrity to embrace full-Preterism. By denying that there is any future Second Coming of Christ, his Part-Preterist publisher and friend now labelled him an heretic.

So there are problems associated with either extreme.

Perhaps there is another solution. I need a couple more years to think about it, but here it is:

Jesus said that after the destruction of the Temple, Israel will be trodden under feet by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Hasn't that been happening for centuries, even after the destruction of the Temple?

So it seems to me that Jesus could have been talking about a state of affairs in Jerusalem which began with the destruction of the Temple alright, but which certainly didn't end there.

In other words, even though some of Jesus' predictions may already have had a complete and final fulfilment, we may now still be in the phase of history which Jesus said would begin at the destruction of the Temple and continue until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, the time wherein Jerusalem will be trodden under feet of the Gentiles - and therefore we still may not yet be up to the "immediately after" phase yet - even though the Temple was destroyed long ago.

This satisfies the Preterists' insistence on logic; it concedes that some specific prophetic events are now past; it also accurately pinpoints our present location in the timeline of prophecy, plus it upholds the orthodox belief in a literal Second Coming of Christ.

Or to put it another way, perhaps Matthew 24 includes three types of predictions: some which are now already fulfilled (such as the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple); some which are currently happening (such as Jerusalem thereafter being trodden under feet by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled); and others which are yet to occur (such as the Coming in the clouds).

I think that each verse can speak for itself whether it is now past, or current or future - without needing some "double interpretation" hermeneutic to be applied to it.

This idea is therefore neither Preterist, nor Historicist nor Futurist (each of which, in their full version, have problems, in my opinion).

In this view, we no longer need to categorize the whole Chapter into one of the above schools of thought and then try to make each verse fit. Instead we can let each verse speak for itself on it's own merits, keeping in mind that Jesus was answering more than one question, without ignoring qualifiers like "immediately after" or "this generation", and without imposing an unbiblical hermeneutic such as the "double interpretation" hermeneutic to solve problems.

That is a relatively new development of my thinking, so I still need a couple more years to evaluate the idea.

In all my discussion about eschatology, I've never sought to propose a view, I've really only questioned others concerning the basis of their view.

It amuses me that what often happens when someone expresses their Futuristic dogma and I respond with a question that they can't answer either, is that they turn it against me by accusing me of placing undue emphasis on the subject of eschatology - when in fact all I have done is respond to the emphasis that they have placed on it.

Or sometimes they'll report that I have a shocking view, when in fact I've merely asked them how they justify there's. It's as if they don't have to justify there's, but I have to justify mine even though I don't have one just because I've asked them about there's.

I'm not trying to emphasize current events in the light of prophecy. If anything, I'm trying to de-emphasize them. But actually I'm not even trying to de-emphasize anything. I've simply asked why they do.

I've written to some of America's well-known proponents of Futurism, but not one of them has replied, to date.

I also submitted a paper to a leading figure in the Australian Assemblies of God, in which I dealt with five of the principal texts used by Futurists to examine whether each text really gives as strong a basis as is claimed for some of the strongly-held components of the Futurist view. The Australian Pastor replied, describing my paper as a sound and refreshing exposition of Scripture, and he heartily agreed.

But since the objective of my article was not to propose an alternative interpretation of those texts but simply to question whether they can really form a strong basis for some of the popular assertions of Futurists, I guess that Pastor's endorsement of my thoughts still leaves me somewhere in the middle of the road between Preterism and Futurism with a semblance of Historicism.

I noticed that the New Testament itself reveals that some uncertainty about the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ already existed even in the early Church.

My feeling is that if it wasn't easy for the Apostles to satisfy every question in the first century about the Second Coming of Christ, then what chance have I got of now coming up with an explanation so good that it will eliminate all questions? The early Church had the advantage of the bodily presence of the Apostles Matthew, Luke and John who each heard the Lord at His own mouth - whilst all I have to go by is their writings.

To me it's helpful to keep in mind the PURPOSE of prophecy. Prophecy was never just about PREDICTION, but about relationship. Prophecy may include prediction, but it's more about seeking a response from the hearer.

If the purpose of prophetic passages like Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation was PREDICTION, then the passages would instead provide a detailed list of future events in chronological order so as to remove all possibility of doubt.

But instead, the purpose was to give comfort, warning or encouragement. Prediction was only included where it was necessary as an aid to provide comfort, or where it helped to solicit a desired response from the hearers. Therefore the predictive element of prophecy is incidentary to the purpose, not the sole objective.

So to try to derive a complete chronological account of future events from prophetic passages is to try to make the passages say something they were never intended to say. No wonder we have difficulties.

The real objective of prophecy is matters of the heart.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Discussion About Tithing

The following is a slightly edited version of a discussion with a Facebook Friend.

Facebook Friend:

Those who teach that God requires 10% of your income be given to a local, religious social club are not teaching either Old or New Testament doctrine.

John Edwards:

To me it doesn't feel adequate to simply command believers that they must 'tithe', but neither would I feel comfortable saying we don't have to - because neither of those two explanations seem like the New Testament approach to Biblical Law.

Facebook Friend:

Well, until it can be solidly established that the New Testament commands it, one cannot, in good conscience, say that it is required.

John Edwards:

True, and neither can I in good conscience say simply that 'tithing' is not required - because that would be as inadequate a reflection of the way the New Testament treats the Law as it would be if I simply commanded that believers must tithe.

Facebook Friend:

One does not need a reason to abandon a doctrine. One needs a reason to espouce it.

How the NT handles the Law has nothing to do with the subject, since the modern doctrine bears no resemblence to the practice depicted in the Law.

John Edwards:

There aren't really any serious evangelicals today who espouse that 'tithing' ought to be practised in a way that exactly resembles the Law. Keeping the Law isn't the objective of anyone's doctrine about tithing today because keeping the Law hasn't been possible since the demise of the Levitical priesthood and Temple.

Instead the objective has been to apply the underlying ethic that was foreshadowed by the Law of the tithe - the only question is, how do we do that in a New Testament way.

The Law of the tithe - in all its details - cannot be followed anymore. But the underlying ethic of God's Law remains unchanged. The question lies in identifying what are the essential components of the underlying ethic.

Is the principle merely to give if we want to? as much as we want to? wherever we want to? when we feel we can afford to?

Or, is giving still an obligation? is there still a right and wrong place to give? can it ever be said that a certain amount isn't quite just? is faith-giving (from a state of lack rather than abundance) still sometimes part of the principle?

After all, Paul did use terminology like: "I robbed other churches to do you service" and "whose duty it is".

Paul appealed to Christ's instructions; and to nature; and to the Law - in order to source principles in support of the churches' practice of giving.

So although I think it's inadequate from a New Testament point of view to simply command 'tithing', neither do I feel that it's adequate to simply speak disparagingly about 'tithing'. Doing so could inadvertently undervalue the manner in which Paul (and the entire New Testament) used the Law to illustrate enduring ethics. There still is something godly about giving as a priority, out of a sense of duty, to the appropriate recipient, and the amount that we give in proportion to our wealth is something that both the Lord Jesus and Paul still made a point of mentioning. The Law of the tithe - as well as the patriarcha' practice of it - illustrated each of these ethics and faith-components quite well.

Of course we can concretely reject any teaching that says we are debtors to keep the Law - but like a bird fluttering-around unable to find a perch for the sole of its foot, I feel it still doesn't ring 100% true either to hear 'tithing' discounted without also showing the manner in which its underlying ethics - all of them - become embodied in the practice of giving as taught in the New Testament See More

There isn't one jot nor tittle of the Law which hasn't been fulfilled by New Testament practice. Our job is to 'rightly divide the word of truth' by showing the manner in which each part of the Law gets fulfilled in the New. And so far, I must confess, I've felt that both sides of the 'tithing' argument have been a little less than adequate in the way they've explain how they arrive at their conclusions. No part of the Old was abolished without first being engulfed into the New - it's up to us as Bible students to show in what way.

Facebook Friend:

What you said might have been valid, except for the fact that the New Testament tells us specifically and clearly how we are to give.

And all evangelical ministers justify their Godless tithing doctrine using Malachi 3:10...a clear allusion to the law...

John Edwards:

The things that the New Testament says about giving, fulfill all of the ethics that were underneath of tithing, don't they? So although we as believers don't follow the Laws of the tithes per se, we will find that our giving fulfills all of the same ethics as 'tithing', because we're walking in love and walking in the Spirit, which fulfills the Law.

Isn't it like asking the question, "Do we have to obey the commandment, 'Thou shalt not covet'"? To simply answer, "Yes" without further explanation, would make us debtor to keep the whole Law. But to simply answer, "No", could give the wrong impression too - because God does still desire that we as believers walk free of covetousness.

So answering either simply "yes" or "no" would both be inadequate. The efficacy of the Gospel is that God actually created in us a new heart and causes us to walk in His ways, free of covetousness.

Hasn't God similarly also empowered us by a new and living way to fulfill all of the ethics that were underneath of the Laws of the tithes, even though we are no longer under those nor any other Law?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

New Creation

The term "new creation" and "new man" meant that neither Jewishness nor Gentileness was relevant anymore. God made a new distinction - those who are "in Christ". It refers corporately to the body of Christ, but also individually to the believer. All the privileges that belong to this corporate, non-Jewish, non-Gentile "new creation" ("new man") belong also to me because I'm a believer - I'm "in Christ"! That makes us Jews "inwardly" - the "Israel of God". This privilege was available to the Jew first and now also to the Gentiles.

How We Please God

Although Paul said believers are not under the Law, he nevertheless described the Christian life as a stand, walk, run, obedience, service and as being led. We are not under Moses' Law, but Paul did mention "the law of Christ" and "this rule". But we are enabled to perform those actions through faith by love, not by our own observance of the Law.

Being "led of the Spirit" is not the same as trying to keep the Law; the "fruit of the Spirit" is not the same as trying to keep the Law - the source is not from ourselves - but from Him.

His Spirit's power is exceedingly great towards us and in us. We are a new creature, a new man. Old things have passed away. This is true in our spirit, in the inner man. Therefore the Christian walk is a walk of being spiritual. We simply have to allow the outworking of what God has worked in us by His Spirit, freely by His grace.

Confess This

Confess this (from Ephesians 1-4).

In Christ:

I am a saint
I am faithful
I am blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places
I am chosen
I am holy and without blame before him in love
I was predestined unto the adoption of children to Himself
I am accepted in the beloved
I have redemption
I have forgiveness
I have obtained an inheritance
I was sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise
His exceeding great power is toward me
I have been quickened
I am saved
I am raised up and have been made to sit in heavenly places
I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works
I was made nigh
He is my peace
I am a new creature, a new man
I have been reconciled unto God
I have access by the Spirit unto the Father
I am a fellowcitizen with the saints
I belong to God's house
I am built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone
I am growing unto an holy temple in the Lord
I am built for an habitation of God through the Spirit
I have boldness and access with confidence
I am filled with all the fulness of God
His power works in me
This is my heavenly vocation
And I am part of the unity of the Spirit - I have unity with Christ, with God, with the apostles and prophets, with the saints, and with all believers
I am coming unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: I am growing up into him in all things
I am sealed by the Spirit of God unto the day of redemption

The Source of Better Behaviour Amongst Christians

Better behaviour begins with better revelation - a better revelation of our completeness in Christ - it doesn't come from a more strenuous effort to keep the Law

Not of Works but Unto Good Works

Salvation is not of [from] works - but it is "unto [resulting in] good works" (Ephesians 2:9, 10)!

Monday, 18 October 2010

How to Reduce Cravings by 50%

A doctor-friend of mine said that a person's cravings can be reduced by up to 50% simply by proper nutrition. He was talking about the advantage of including a nutrition program with a rehabilitation program. But I suppose it goes for other types of cravings too besides street drugs - like caffeine, sugar or any type of food. Having a good vegetable juice, fruit juice, or a hearty and balanced meal can reduce cravings seemingly by half. Sometimes eating more can make you eat less (when it's more of the right stuff)!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Profit, Welfare & Foreign-aid

Here are some great quotes which show why capitalism is better than socialism, welfare and foreign aid:

"A deal that is better for you can also be better for them. So, if working for your own interests strikes you as being selfish...then consider it as a favour to them"

"It is my belief that persons who strive to look after their own interests are more likely to contribute to the common good than those who assume the world owes them a living"

"If you don't trade profitably you won't trade for long and if you don't trade at all you will have sealed your fate as surely as if you had gone in for free-fall parachuting - without a parachute"

- Gavin Kennedy


Some people say the existence of aliens can fit with the Book of Genesis because the Book of Genesis, they say, only describes the creation of earth and the human race not of the whole universe.

But the Book of Genesis describes the origin not only of the earth but of "the heaven and the earth". That means the universe, doesn't it? It also describes the origin not only of our solar system but of the stars. Stars exist outside our solar-stystem.

Not only that, but the Bible describes the reason why all the heavenly bodies were made. They were made for earth's benefit - to give light, to mark time and seasons, etc. It doesn't say they were made to be the home of aliens.

But even if the Book of Genesis is only meant to be about what concerns us in our part of the universe, the Bible as a whole describes everything that can have a causal relationship with mankind here on earth.

So I would say the existence of aliens can fit with the Bible only if they exist in another universe that is not capable of ever having a causal relationship with our universe. In which case, we should never see any aliens - not in the past, present nor in our future!

However, I don't think the concept of multiple universes is possible - because the very word 'universe' is meant to describe everything that exists. So I think the existence of aliens is unlikely.

I often say that if their existence starts impacting on my life practically, that's the time I'll start responding to their existence. But in the meantime, I'm happy to stick with Biblical revelation as I currently understand it.

Queensland and Daylight Saving

Here in Queensland, during summer, everyone has the freedom to enjoy extra sunlight in the morning before work, if they want to. At the same time, everyone has the freedom to instead start work early if they want to so they can spend the extra sunlight in the afternoon after work. The government doesn't dictate to us when we will spend the extra sunlight in summer - we can enjoy it in the morning when we're nice and fresh before work, or we can spend it in the afternoon when we're hot and tired after work. It's up to us. It's called freedom!

For example, when I was a TA working for boilermakers, in summer our whole factory consulted with the foreman and decided to come into work early - so we could spend an hour less in the hot afternoon sun and knock-off early instead. Lots of tradies were doing the same. But even though we made the choice to start work early, we still called 4 o'clock 4 o'clock - we didn't call it 5 o'clock!

Whereas, when I worked with shipping and customs offices in the City, we chose to maintain usual office hours during summer so as not to confuse overseas offices who dealt with us hourly. Most offices around the City did the same. Each industry throughout the State of Queensland is free to start and finish work when they see fit - but we still say 4 o'clock is 4'clock.

But that's just us! In Queensland we also still think marriage is between a man and a woman; and abortion kills; narcotics are bad; we shouldn't kill our elderly - and an individual's wealth belongs to the individual not to the whole State. ;)

There is a case in Scripture where the sun actually stood still for about a whole day; and another case where the shadow of the sun actually went backward 10 degrees - but I can't think of a single case in Scripture where, despite nothing changing about the position of the sun, a government was instructed to call it a different hour of the day.

The Mark of the Beast Might Not Be the Microchip

Many of us have been taught that the Bible prophesies a time coming when a worldwide political leader will introduce a microchip which will enable those who accept it to buy and sell, while some who refuse it will be physically unable to buy and sell because there will no longer be any alternative medium of exchange. The microchip allegedly will be implanted invisibly beneath the skin to avoid identity fraud.

But is that what the Bible says?

The Bible doesn't necessarily say that there was no alternative medium of exchange - Revelation 6:6 mentions the use of the currency of the Roman Denarius.

Neither does the Bible necessarily say that the 'mark' of the beast physically enabled people to buy and sell - it could just mean that without it people wouldn't be allowed to buy and sell.

The Bible doesn't mention that the mark had the function of distinguishing one individual from another - rather, it only distinguished between everyone who was marked and everyone who wasn't. So the mark in itself couldn't actually physically facilitate buying and selling.

The Bible doesn't say the mark will be a microchip - a 'mark' is defined as something visible. Last time I checked, microchips are supposed to be implanted invisibly!

The Bible doesn't say that each person was marked in a way that identified him as an individual - it says he was marked with either the beast's name or number, not his own name or number.

The Bible does not say the number of the beast was some symbol of a financial system - it says it was the number of a man - the beast.

The Bible does not say his number was a logo that looks like three sixes - his number was literally six-hundred-sixty-six.

The Bible also implies that John's first-century readers - if they had wisdom - would be aware of the system being used by John when he gave the person's number as six-hundred-sixty-six, enabling them to work-out who the beast might be.

When an allegorical book (the book of Revelation) describes an allegorical beast giving a 'mark', chances are the mark might be allegorical too. After all, was God's mark in the foreheads of the righteous a literal, physical mark - or was it symbolic and spiritual? If one mark was symbolic rather than physical, then maybe the other mark was too. Just a thought!

Besides, even if the mark of the beast was literal, and even if it did have some physical function that directly enabled buying and selling, it still couldn't solve the identity problems that it is purported to solve: if it had electronic signals, those electric signals could still be interfered with even if the chip was placed beneath the skin.

Plus, the Bible says that only those who had already worshipped the beast and his statue were marked by the beast. So, before thinking we've identified the fulfillment of the mark of the beast, shouldn't we first be seeing the worldwide worship of a political leader and of his statue (that's assuming the futurist interpretive model is correct - and that's another question in itself!).

Worshipping the beast and receiving his mark resulted in being cast into the lake of fire. Mere participation in a cashless system would not in itself be indicative of worship, nor would it be eternally damnable - would it?

I'm not necessarily asserting that the microchip can't be the mark of the beast, nor am I hereby proposing any alternative interpretive model - I'm merely pointing-out that to assert that the mark of the beast must be the microchip, requires a fair bit of interpretive licence - maybe more than some people realize.

I'm not even saying that such interpretive licence shouldn't be taken. But if that's what people are doing I just want them to concede that that is what they are doing.

When a Bible-student becomes aware of that, it will have a number of obvious practical and helpful ramifications which needn't be mentioned here.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

How to Help Moody People

Moody people tend to inflict their moods on others. I heard Dennis Prager say:

"It's not easy to change your personality in that way - it is not. But we can help you by not tolerating it. Tolerating the bad-moodedness of people is exactly like bringing an alcoholic another drink. 'Are you really feeling bad? Here, let me get you another drink.' There is no difference - and you know that anyone who did that would be a fool...

...The earlier you teach your child that he or she cannot inflict their mood on others, the easier it is for you and for others...Even a two-year old you don't let do that. Easier to do it at two than at twelve. Far easier at twelve than at twenty-two..."

Monday, 4 October 2010

Stating the Obvious

"We have sunk to a depth in which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men" - Orwell

"As Orwell pointed out, it takes effort and determination to see what is in front of one's face. Among the efforts required is the discarding of the lenses of excessive or bogus theorizing. When it comes to our attempts to understand the phenomena of our own society, I cannot help but wonder how many of us are in the grip of theories that are the equivalent of Hall's Galenical theory, and whether as a result we do not prescribe the legislative equivalents of human skull, mummy dust, and jaw of pike" - Theordore Dalrymple

This may apply to modern paradigms on issues like abortion; same-sex marriage; wealth redistribution; socialism/communism; welfare; modern diagnosis and modern medication especially the diagnosis of alcoholism, drug addiction, psychosomatic "pain" and depression as "diseases" and the prescription of mental medication.

A wise man questions the social and medical science of his own generation.

Daylight Saving - an Ideological Ally of Cultural Relativism

In the middle of summer, sunrise will be at 4:41am. That gives Queenslanders two or three hours, on average, of morning sunlight to enjoy doing whatever we wish to do, before going to work. We can go surfing, attend to the garden, do some... study, spend extra time with the Lord - or we and our employees can even come to work early if we wish to. It gives us total freedom.

Daylight Saving on the other hand sends its unfortunate subjects to work an hour early whether they or their employers wish to or not, robbing them of a whole hour of the best part of the day to do whatever they enjoy. Sure, Daylight Saving gives them that hour back again - but only at the end of a long, hot afternoon after they've already spent their most energetic hours for their employers.

In a Queensland summer, we have the freedom to choose how and when to spend that extra hour of sunlight - but Daylight Saving tells people they WILL go to work early and they WILL have that hour later in the afternoon whether they want it then or not. It robs people of the freedom of choice that we have in Queensland.

And there's something about calling four o'clock five o'clock that doesn't have a parallel in God's character. Four o'clock is four o'clock - that's a fact. It's not five o'clock. It's not in God's character to alter an absolute. But it's a trait of the political Left to mess with absolutes. They refer to God as "he or she"; to marriage as either heterosexual or same-sex; to redistributing other people's profits as the public's right if it suits; to abortion as something other than murder when it suits; same with euthanasia; same with legalizing narcotics. In the same way, there's something unnatural about calling four o'clock five o'clock - it isn't consistent with God's character, in my opinion. Daylight Saving is a natural ally of moral, cultural and political relativism.

It's no surprise therefore that it's the conservative States of Queensland and Western Australia that choose to stick to the freedom and integrity of Standard Time. The more traditional the morals, the more likely they are to want to stick to Standard Time. But our socialist/leftist Labor government wants to change that, even though we the people have already said No in a Referendum.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Daylight Saving

There's something I don't like about the way the Queensland Labor Government keeps suggesting another Referendum on Daylight saving when it isn't long since we had one and voted No. Their continued insistence makes me feel like Daylight Saving comes from the same stuff as the Left's moral, cultural and political relativism.

As one Pastor Tweeted: "Still proud to be a Queenslander - plenty of sunshine without messing with the clock. So, no confusion - church is at usual time tomorrow!"

If synchronization between the Tweed and the Gold Coast is desirable, then the Tweed can change for the Gold Coast not the Gold Coast for the Tweed - the Tweed has more to do with the Gold Coast than it does with Sydney 800km away.

It's interesting that the politically conservative States of Queensland and Western Australia adhere to standard time. Changing to Daylight Saving time seems to be akin to moral and cultural relativism.

Fact: four o'clock is four o'clock. To say it's five o'clock is an aberration, a deformity, mutation, contortion, distortion, malformation, deviation, manipulation, abnormality, defect, irregularity, disturbance, it's akin to relativism, it's the opposite to Conservativism and absolutism, it's latitudinarianist - to be honest, it's like elective cosmetic surgery.

If you want to make more use of daylight, get up an hour earlier - but don't call four o'clock five o'clock.

I wouldn't mind so much if the relativist Left wasn't so imposing after we've already had our say in a Referendum.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Prosperity on Ten Levels

1. Spiritual Prosperity - We can experience the spiritual blessings of God's kingdom - righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit - in our spirit, right now

2. Soul Prosperity - Mental, emotional

3. Bodily Prosperity - Health

4. External Prosperity - Adequate and abundant provision to fulfill God's unique will for your life

5. Family Prosperity - God promises to multiply the number of your children, land

6. Tribal Prosperity - God promises to increase your family into a prosperous tribe

7. National Prosperity - A prosperous nation is comprised of prosperous tribes

8. International Prosperity - A prosperous nation engages other nations, resulting in a mutual increase of prosperity

9. Church Prosperity - The Church - universal and local - is God's family, tribe and nation which engages other nations spreading His prosperity

10. Eternal Prosperity - When Christ returns, perfect and permanent prosperity shall be experienced. In this present world, there is some variation and limitations on different believers' experience of prosperity - depending on their individual calling; the level of persecution they experience; and the circumstances surrounding them - but at the Second Coming all imperfections and limitations shall be replaced by perfect and permanent prosperity and happiness in God's Kingdom. God promises resurrection, victory over death, and eternal life in God's kingdom and glory, to believers in Jesus. We have this confident expectation, but at present, it is unseen. That is our hope - the Good News of the Gospel.

The Imperfectibility of Life

"All things that men desire are not compatible, and therefore discontent is the lot of Man...A man who understands this will not as a result cease to experience incompatible desires...but he will be less embittered that he cannot have everything he wants. An understanding of the imperfectibility of life is necessary for both happiness and virtue" - Theodore Dalrymple on Johnson in "Not With a Bang But a Whimper" Page 29

Our happiness shouldn't depend on the perfect attainment of goals which depend upon the perfect co-operation of others for their perfect attainment. That's unrealistic, and will call for less-than-virtuous strategies and result in frustration.

The source of happiness is in God Himself. And the best course of action is to get a Word from God and do what He tells you to do. That way, you can leave the results to God, and your personal happiness won't go up and down like a thermometre as others' co-operation with your goal goes up and down. Your happiness will come from an inner-knowing that you have done the will of God. Any happiness that you derive from the outcome will be real, but secondary, to that greater source of happiness which no other can interfere with.

"But most people find it more comforting to believe in perfectibility than in imperfectibility...The notion of imperfectibility not only fans existential anxieties but also - by precluding simple solutions to all human problems - places much tougher intellectual demands upon us than utopianism does. Not every question can be answered by reference to a few simple abstract principles that, if followed with sufficient rigor, will supposedly lead to perfection - which is why conservatism is so much more difficult to reduce to slogans than its much more abstract competitors." - T. D.

Dalrymple mentions "the yearning for principles that will abolish human dissatisfactions". He states that removing boundaries to please one's self - as opposed to having a sense of duty - hasn't worked, as a strategy, but has resulted in millions of deaths [under communist revolutions] as well as hurt and broken families [through traditional boundaries being ignored at a family-level].

Even in Christian ministry, we may long for perfectibility. We may therefore long for a station in ministry where perfectibility will be less interrupted, and more possible by hard work alone. There may be times when that's necessary. But often we can miss-out on a fruitful field by leaving it for another that is presumed more fruitful, just because we don't like the imperfectibility of the present field. In that case, it would be better to admit and work with the imperfectibility of the present field - if it is indeed going to prove to be a more fruitful field than another endeavour.

But doing so truly does place much tougher intellectual, emotional and spiritual demands on us! It requires a higher motivation than the motivation of perfection: motives such as service, duty and love - and faith, because you believe that it will prove in the longrun to be a more fruitful field than the alternative field.

But if you know the other field will be more fruitful, then by all means "emigrate" there (figuratively speaking)! But make sure it really will be more fruitful, and doesn't just present a mirage of fruitfulness because of your own imaginings of perfectibility!

Faith, hope, love, service, humility, duty.

The Importance of Grammar

Dalrymple explains that when an educator doens't care for his own bad spelling, let alone his students', it "has the practical effect of encouraging those born in the lower reaches of society to remain there, to enclose them in the mental world of their particular milieu." He goes on to say that, "This is perfectly all right if you also believe that all stations in life are equally good and desirable and that there is nothing to be said for articulate reflection upon human existence. In other words, grammatical latitudinarianism is the natural ideological ally of moral and cultural relativism" - ("Not With a Bang But a Whimper" Page 13)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Die Daily

A friend posted this today:

"When the Apostle Paul speaks of dying daily, he was at that time in daily danger, and he was saying that if he did not believe in the resurrection, he would not have continually put his life in harm's way." ...Meaning, Paul was speaking about the danger of dying daily that he lived in."

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Millenium

The Old Covenant Prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. When Jesus came, He explained the nature of that Kingdom. And the Apostles explained in what manner the Gospel fulfilled prophecy.

The Millenium is not mentioned by name by the Prophets, nor by the Lord, nor by the Apostles in their Epistles. Whatever is meant by the thousand years (mentioned in the Book of Revelation) therefore must be consistent with what is revealed elsewhere about the Kingdom by the Lord and by the Apostles.

So, exactly what does the rest of the Bible say about the Kingdom? It would be a good exercize to take another look at the manner in which the Lord and the Apostles interpreted Biblical prophecy about the Kingdom - and then make the meaning of the 1,000 years mentioned in the Book of Revelation fit it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Interpretive Licence Regarding the 'Mark' of the Beast

Do you believe God would cast a person into the lake of fire for merely accepting an implant? in order to be able to buy food for his family? Would that in itself be any worse morally than having one's ears pierced? or having a titanium splint implanted? And yet the Bible says that all who had been marked by the beast were seen to be cast into the lake of fire.

The Bible explains that it was only those who had worshiped the beast and his image who were 'marked' by the beast. Participating in barcoding, credit cards or chips however, are not indicative that a participant has worshiped someone or his image (statue, idol).

Also, the way the text of the Bible is worded doesn't necessarily have to be taken to mean that anyone made a choice to receive or refuse the mark - the text can be taken to mean that it was the beast who chose who to mark and whom not to mark based on the criteria of whether or not the person was known to be a worshiper of the beast or seen to be a worshiper of his idol. Textually, that meaning is a possibility.

This reinforces that the issue surrounding the 'mark' was worship - literally worshiping a person or his idol. I don't see worship as the criteria today upon which any politician is deciding to issue or not issue microchips. So far, at least.

Also, the way the text of the Bible is worded does not necessarily mean that the mark was functional. It was merely a mark. The mark was of the beast's name or number. The text does not say that the mark distinguished each individual. It does not say that the mark was something functional in and of itself as a chip would be. The only thing the mark distinguished between was between those who had worshiped the beast and those who had not. Beyond that there was no distinguishing capability between individuals. Worshipers were allowed to buy and sell - non-worshipers were discriminated against.

The Book of Revelation also talks about God's mark in people's foreheads. Where's this mark on your forehead? Since God's 'mark' is understood to be figurative, why do we insist that the beast's 'mark' must be literal? The 'beast' himself is after all not literally a beast but it speaks figuratively of a man.

All of this shows that a large degree of interpretive licence is required by those who insist that the modern microchip must be the mark of the beast. It isn't written in the Bible in black and white like many have been led to think that it is.

I'm not saying that degree of interpretive licence shouldn't be taken - I'm only wanting those who take such licence to acknowledge that that is what they are doing - and to concede that an alternative interpretive model might therefore be just as credible as theirs.