Theology: Eschatology

Creation And The End Times

This is the final installment in the current series on the Doctrine of Creation. We have examined the how and the why of Creation, as well as looking at the importance of this doctrine and most recently, we examined how in more detail how the rest of the bible stems from this doctrine. Now let us turn our attention to a somewhat unusual: the end times. This post is essentially about sovereignty, and God’s ability to carry out His will in exactly the manor and timing of His choosing.

I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:9-10

End Times PictureSomething that is clearly lost when the doctrine of creation is denied, is the doctrine of sovereignty. And God’s sovereignty pertains over not only past and current events, but future events also. As Isaiah 46:9-10 says above, God knows the end from the beginning, indeed it goes further, it says that God declares the end from the beginning. In the same way that He knows and ordains that which happened in the beginning, so He knows and ordains that which happens at the end. How do we know that Christ will return? Answer, because He said He would. How do we know that Satan, sin and death will finally be defeated and the curse removed? Because He promised that He would do it. But there are more ties to this than just that.

Why is it that we look forward to the day that Satan is cast into hell? because of all the destruction that he has cause throughout the history of creation. That all started in Genesis 3. How about sin, the scourge of humanity, will be finally removed, that those who are born again and have been fighting to remove it from our lives, that will be gloriously completed for us by Christ; it all  started back in Genesis 3. Why is it that we are so looking forward to the end of death? Because since our forefather Adam sinned, death as been the single constant factor that has haunted all humanity. This was warned about in Genesis 2:17, and began happening to us after Adam sinned, Genesis 3. Or the curse, that which has made men live, by working hard, sweat pouring off our brow, and women, having pain in childbearing, and always desiring to take the man’s curse also. Ah the rest that will be at that time. That all started in Genesis 3:16-19.

Hermeneutics HatI would like to make a hermeneutics clarification though. The bible is meant to be taken literally, not allegorically. That is why we use what is called the, grammatical-historical hermeneutical method. Basically, we read the verse, understand and interpreting it from within its own grammatical and historical contexts, to get an understanding of the text. I make this clear because I am not trying to draw a direct line of parallel between the events of Genesis, and of Revelation. People may be tempted to infer that I am saying for example, that the 7 days of creation, line up with the 7 years of tribulation or 7 trumpet judgement or whatever. Bad hermeneutics. Also consider that that Genesis is historical narrative and revelation is apocalyptic literature. They are not parallel. Apocalyptic literature is full of imagery and literal events; and the bits that are imagery are clearly that. Genesis is not full of imagery. It is historical, although sometimes poetically written.

Timeline from beginning to end

But regardless of literature type the point is clear. God can, does and will do everything according to the council of His sovereign will.He determined, designed and did (sorry couldn’t think of a better word that kept the alliteration) the beginning. All of His creative process came to pass. Then He predicted how it wall all end. He has determined each detail of the end, and will carry each point out, till there is a new heaven and a new earth and the old has passed away Revelation 21:1.

To put it in a sentence, “Trust God, He can, will and does everything He says He will, just as He has in the past.

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

One of my favourite hymns, and one we don’t sing too often and usually a shorter version. I present here the much longer version which I believe is even so abridged from the original Latin poem. I felt it would be most appropriate on this day, Good Friday, the day Christ’s crucifixion. I beg you to read through and consider these words.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favour, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their colour once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendour that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigour, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Saviour, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Saviour, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

 

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Expository Preaching, What Exactly Is It

Yesterday I wrote about how Expository preaching played an important roll in my life and God’s mercy in bringing me to a church that preaches in that way. Read that article here.

And the next question there is what exactly is expository preaching; how do we define the phase and what does the words mean?

open_bible According to dictionary.com the word “expository” is is defined in this way: “serving to expound, set forth, or explain.” Thus expository preaching is the art of expounding, setting forth or to use a more modern term, explain the bible. The point being, it takes the text and sets it forth, explaining it so that a congregation of people get a richer, fuller and ultimately an accurate and convicting view of what that scripture says. To put it another way, to help explain to those who listen what the text means, in its original context, to its original hearers so that we can apply those teachings accurately to our lives.

john-macarthurIt is usually done systematically, By which I mean the preacher doesn’t jump from passage to passage all over the bible, but rather he preaches from Chapter 1 Verse 1, and goes through to the very last verse. This means that the preacher preaches on whatever the next thing in the text is. If he gets to Luke 11 (as my pastor recently did) then he preaches on the Lord’s prayer. To get there, he navigated through and taught on Luke 1 – 10, which included everything from, Christ’s authority, to demons, the Holy Spirit, the seventy two evangelists and their role compared to ours and so on. In the case of my pastor, being half way through the Luke 11 at time of writing, he has preached 85 sermons, and we’re into the forth year of this Gospel. And we, as a congregation can’t get enough of it.

The question can be asked: Does the bible command expository preaching? The short answer is yes. The text that immediately springs to mind is 2 Timothy 4:1-2, where Paul exhorts Timothy to Preach the Word. Remember the context? In the previous chapter Paul had stated that all scripture is God breathed, and how it was profitable for various things. He then makes it clear, this is important:

1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)

ezra_reads_galleryIts also interesting to note how we see many other descriptions of similar things happening. For example several of the revivals that happened within Judah happened because the the King somehow rediscovered the book of the Law, and had it read and proclaimed. Then we have this interesting passage in Nehemiah 8 which describes the priest Ezra doing expository preaching. Consider this passage from Nehemiah 8:8 “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. “ From the context, Ezra was teaching the people of Jerusalem straight from the Law of God. These people, due to the situation they found themselves in, were a generation ignorant of God’s Law and as the text says, they read the Law, read it clearly so that the people could understand, and they gave sense, that is, explained it so that everyone understood exactly what the Law said. It is further interesting that the wooden platform in Nehemiah 8:4 is often translated “pulpit” even as today the preacher preaches from the pulpit.

I hope this has made it clear. Below I will list three sources of excellent expository preaching, and it really is worth listening to a number of sermons in order, to get the full effect of “verse by verse”. Any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Hillcrest Baptist ChurchClint Archer (You can listen to those Luke sermons I mentioned here)
Solid Food MediaRW Glenn
Grace To You – John MacArthur

On The Immortality Of The Flesh

tombstoneFor most of my life, both as a false convert, then later, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I had a vague stereotypical idea of what heaven in like. Basically in my ignorance, I believed that once a believer died, their soul left their body and went to heaven, where there was golden streets and mansions, one assigned to each person. What’s more, our entire occupation would be singing, in worship to God, the whole time, without ceasing.
While not everything in the previous two sentences are inaccurate, there is quite a lot of detail missing, and one or two parts completely wrong. In this post, I will try to outline what the bible says this topic and how things play out.

  1. God designed man to live on earth. God made man from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7) to work and tend the earth (Gen 2:15). It was God’s plan that human beings would live forever, on earth, as it tenderers. Although through sin, man wrecked all that, I will try to show that it is still, ultimately, God’s plan for us to live on earth as physical beings, tending and working it.
  2. When Adam sinned, he and his wife had died, spiritually. Physically they had also begun to die, and (in Adam’s case)  after 930 years, he breathed his last. For those who have not been born again, a person is thrown, ultimately, in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14) which is described as the second death. This is God’s ultimate judgement on sin, the complete fulfilment of what He said in Genesis 2:17. Its interesting to note that this lake is physical, and that the suffering there is physical. It has fire and worms, (Mark 9:47-48) smoke, Darkness, and physical actions like gnashing of teeth (Mat 22:13)
  3. In the same way that hell is real, so is heaven. But more to the point, in the same way that the lake of fire is real, so is the New Earth

    Revelation 21:1-3  1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    These verses describe how God create a new spiritual heaven, and a new physical earth. This is done because the old earth had been destroyed as part of God’s judgement on the place, and the old heaven seems to go with it. Notice the detail about there being no sea there (sorry my surfer buddies). This is fascinating when you think about it. The sea is a sign of God’s judgement, it came when God flooded the whole world and made a significant change, it transformed a world, designed to be inhabited into a wretch, such that today, only about 3% of the surface of the earth can be inhabited by man. But on the new earth, without the sea, there will be much more space for man to live. All these features are physical.

    It is clear from these verses that for those redeemed by Jesus, their ultimate destination is on a new physical earth.


  4. With all the above in mind, by way of preamble, lets now look at the humans themselves:
    First lets take a few logical steps. If humans are designed to physical, live on a physical world and work as part of our existence, then it makes no sense to say that, after death and all of the events of Revelation are complete, we should spend our time as spiritual beings without bodies or physical activities. Also, why would God recreate a completely new physical earth unless He intends real physical humans to live there.

    Let us now look to the bible to see if it has anything else to say on the subject. The key word here is resurrection. There are several verses that I could cite, but the key one in this case is Revelation 20:5-6:

    5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

    It is clear that part of God’s fulfilling of all things, is to resurrect His people unto life forever with Him. Resurrection is always physical, if its not, then its not a true resurrection. Christ rose physically from the dead.

  5. The final point is that from this point, we will carry on into eternity (Rev 22:5) living and reigning with Christ without end.

So what then, the bible teaches that the ultimate destination of man is earth? Yes it is true, but certainly a new earth, one without curse or sin (Rev 22:3). An those who are there are, if you will immortal, they will not die, for death was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14)
A few other points have to be made: firstly that we must be careful with the word flesh. 1 John 2:16 uses the word flesh to describe one of our 3 things we as believers have to look out for, which come as temptations to us. The “Lust of the flesh” is not a good thing. For that reason, we would do better to refer to ourselves as having ‘glorified bodies’ or ‘resurrected bodies’ rather than ‘immortal flesh’. Praise God that our sinful flesh will pass away.
Also you may have questions as to the in-between times. What happens to us if we die before Christ’s return? That whole topic requires another post, but in brief this is my answer: 2 Corinthians 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. The verse implies that when a believer is away from their bodies (in this context, meaning dead) they would be in the presence of the Lord.
Recommended Resources
400000000000000080040_s4[5]If you want to get a good, comprehensive and biblical book on this topic, I highly recommend Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This really is the best book on the topic, and it is recommended by many brilliant theologians. For example Rick Holland said Rez2011 that it was one of his top 5 most important books after the bible. You can buy it from amazon or in audiobook format here

I also put forward a sermon series tentatively. Tentatively because it has only just been released and I haven’t yet listened to it yet. But I have gained very much from the preacher in question and trust him implicitly to be both accurate and biblical. Still listen with discernment.
Heaven & Hell: The Truth About The Afterlife by RW Glenn
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

If Only They Had Read The Verse

May21[2]
In light of the recently come-and-gone apocalypse and rapture that failed to happen on May 21st (yesterday) it is relevant for me to address the issue with a post and with a clear verse in scripture.
Matthew 24:36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
Let me put this into . Jesus was asked by his disciples when will His (Jesus’) prophecies be fulfilled and when will be the sign of His return and the closing of the age (vs 3). Jesus then begins telling them about events that will happen during the build up to His return, the ‘signs of the end of the age.’ It is interesting that He begins by warning His disciples (and us):
See that no one leads you astray” (vs 4)
He then goes on to describe a number of events that will happen during this time, leading up to Jesus’ return. This includes the statement:
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. (23-26).
Jesus specifically warns us that in the last days, people will present false christs, and false apocalypses. This goes even further than Mr Camping does, saying Christ HAS ACTUALLY RETURNED. we are warned beforehand, these things will (and even already have happened)
However, Jesus then goes on to describe how He will actually return which brings us up to the verse in question (vs 36) where Jesus states that no one know when He will return. That no one includes us ordinary human beings, angels of heaven, demons & Satan, and even the Son, Jesus Himself, has laid aside in omniscience as a man such that He does not know the day or the hour. Only the Father knows, and that His return will be like a thief who comes in the night, and is obviously, totally unexpected (1 Thes 5:2).
If only the followers of Harold Camping had read and understood this very clear verse in scripture, we wouldn’t had the anti-climax of so many deceived people being disappointed. I pray God grants them an understanding of this scripture and that they would repent.
There is a few applications and further observations I would like to point out:
Firstly, for the Christian: be ready for Christ’s return, it could happen at any moment, the least expected moment. And don’t follow after the next deceived individual who decides on the next date of Jesus return. Also be ready to defend the true faith. Harold Camping positions himself (and is seen be the whole world to be) and evangelical Christian. This event has caused unbelievers to mock genuine Christians to scorn, one more time. We need to be able to distance ourselves from false prophets.
To the unbeliever: Just because some false prophet, claiming to be evangelical, is proved to be false, and that Jesus did not return as he said, this does not mean that Jesus Christ will not be returning. He (Jesus) has promised that He will, but that it will be unexpected. I beg you to repent and believe the gospel, to be ready for the day when the time is fulfilled and Christ returns. Also understand, we, the Christians, distance ourselves from Mr Camping and other false prophets who claim to know the hour of His return, we are not deceived by his prophecy and are not the same as them.
Finally to the Camping follower, Let Matthew 24:4 ring in your ears: “Do not be deceived”. I have sympathy for you, you are very disappointed. Many of you were very genuine in your desire to see Jesus. Nevertheless, you were deceived. Now I beg you, repent and return to the true Gospel, the only one that offers hope for eternal life. Also be weary, many of todays most popular and mainstream cults are formed out of groups of people who, in the past, believed in some other false prophet who said the world would end at such-in-such a time, on such-in-such a day. You are now in the position of being sucked into a new cult. I pray that this does not happen, and I beg you to flee from this.

In hopeful anticipation of Christ’s return…