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Zechariah 14 and God’s Divine Purpose

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve just finished S. Lewis Johnson’s series through Zechariah.  Zechariah 14 is of course one of the great OT chapters with so much to say about the Second Coming and the Kingdom.  Dr. Johnson noted the problems of spiritualizing, and the importance of recognizing the difference between figures of speech used within a passage, and wholesale allegorizing or spiritualizing to alter the meaning to something else; Zechariah 14 is an especially difficult passage to spiritualize.

Here is a great quote from him, regarding the believers and the missionaries in Korea in the early 20th century  (from the later transcript, second series in Zechariah:

C. G. Trumbull who was at one time associated with the Sunday-School Times took a trip to Korea where a tremendous work of evangelization had taken place in the early part of this century.  In fact, there was a great revival there and Mr. Trumbull was interested in the way in which they had responded to the word of God concerning the second coming of Christ.  And so, he asked one of the Koreans whether the Korean Christians believed in the second coming of Christ.  And he received this answer, “Oh, yes, they believe the Bible.  It’s only when some missionaries come and tell them something different that they begin to have any doubts.”

When one reads the Bible and reads in its normal plain speaking then, I think, the answer usually is, we sense there’s going to be some great disturbances in the future, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come, we see that he is going to fulfill the promises that he has made to the nation Israel, and we see he’s going to rule and reign upon the earth.  That seems to be the simple reading of the word of God.

Actually, I agree that Zechariah 14 is difficult to spiritualize, and yet of course the allegorizers persist in doing so, since the imagination can come up with so much — yet such treatment leaves the text with nothing of its original plain meaning, becoming instead the inspired version of the “exalted” human teacher who tells us what God really meant to say.

Here are some great recent articles regarding Zechariah 14, from Michael Vlach:

As I’m finding out through a study through Hebrews (also with S. Lewis Johnson),  that book also has many references to the Second Coming, including the Kingdom age.  The OT scriptures quoted in chapter 1 are filled with references to the Davidic covenant and Israel’s future.  Hebrews 2 quotes Psalm 8, a great psalm regarding man’s intended dominion over the earth:  something begun in Genesis 1, but we do not now see it; we will see it in the kingdom.  S. Lewis Johnson specifically noted that in Hebrews 2:5 (which introduces the citation of Psalm 8 ) the words “the world to come” do not refer to this age (the church), and do not refer to the Eternal State, but to the kingdom of God upon the earth.

As Michael Vlach also noted in the third blog article link above:

These conditions of Zechariah 14 can only occur in an intermediate kingdom between the present age and the eternal state. While people from all nations are being saved in the church age, the nations themselves do not obey our Lord (see Psalm 2). In fact, they persecute those who belong to the Lord. In the coming kingdom Jesus will rule the nations while He is physically present on earth. The nations will obey and submit to His rule, but as Zechariah 14 points out, whenever a nation does not act as they should there is punishment. On the other hand, in the eternal state there will be absolutely no disobedience on the part of the nations. The picture of the nations in the eternal state is only positive. The kings of the nations bring their contributions to the New Jerusalem (see Rev 21:24) and the leaves of the tree of life are said to be for the healing of the nations (see Rev 22:2).

Zechariah’s Prophetic Burdens

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m nearing the end of S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series, and the following is an overview concerning the book’s outline and prophecies.

A basic outline of Zechariah includes:

  •     Chapters 1-6:  prophetic visions given to Zechariah during one night
  •     Chapters 7-8: answer to a question about fasting and related matters
  •     Chapters 9-14: two prophetic burdens, one in chapters 9-11, the other in chapters 12-14

Each of the burdens begins with the words “The burden of the word of the Lord.”  The first burden is “against the land of Hadrach” (Zechariah 9:1),  and the second burden “concerning Israel” (Zechariah 12:1).

The first burden’s theme includes the First Advent and the Jewish rejection of the Messiah.  It also stresses the judgment that would come on the Gentiles in Israel’s deliverance.  The second burden’s theme is the blessing that God will give them when they return to their Messiah.  It also stresses the deliverance amidst the judgments of the last days.

The First Burden:  Zechariah 9-11
Zechariah 9 begins with a prophecy about Alexander the Great (verses 1-8) followed by a contrast: Alexander the Great, versus God’s King, Christ the Lowly, in the familiar words of verse 9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The scene changes in verse 10, shifting from the First Coming to the Second.  The next passage, verses 10-17, includes a prophecy of peace (v. 10), a prophecy of liberation beginning in verse 11, and praise for the Messiah of Israel.  We see here God’s sovereignty: for all the attempts of man to bring peace, man’s attempts at disarmament contracts and treaties, that sought after peace will never happen until God brings it to pass.  The prophecy does have some reference to the more immediate Old Testament situation (Greece), but the language goes beyond it, describing worldwide dominion (verse 10:  from sea to sea … to the ends of the earth) and “in that day,” a prophetic term used frequently throughout the Old Testament, always in connection with events at the last judgment and Second Coming.

Chapter 10 showcases the Shepherd-King amidst the climax of occultism, in the Great Tribulation period of great satanic opposition. God is mighty to save the people who have wandered because of idolatry (Zech. 10:2), without a shepherd.  Verses 8 through 10 describe the regathering of the people of Israel, who had been scattered among the nations.

Chapter 11 begins with their rule by the Romans, until verse 4, which foretells their rejection of their Messiah.  The “three shepherds also I cut off in one month” in verse 8 possibly refers to the three offices, or three groups, of leaders in Israel:  kings, priests, and prophets.  Certainly that is what happened, at the rejection of Christ, and the destruction in A.D. 70:  no more prophets in Israel (or in the church), no more priests, and the king is in heaven, not on the Earth.

Zechariah, probably in ecstatic vision, acts out the scene of Christ coming to His people and being rejected and sold for 30 pieces of silver: the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox!

The national calamity is described in several verses of chapter 11, events fully described by Josephus in the historical records.  Such a horrific judgment:  the nations disavowed them (and sold them as slaves), their leaders disavow them; the Jews turned against each other. (Zechariah 11:5) The Lord Himself turned against them and did not pity them.

Zechariah 11:15 jumps ahead to the last days, describing the false shepherd: the antiChrist, also known as the man of sin, the son of perdition, the beast, the one who makes a covenant with the people but then turns against them in the middle of that seven-year period:

a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

Great Free Resources From Christian Ministries: To Your Doorstep

September 22, 2011 1 comment

Nowadays so much material is available online, through email newsletters, online PDF files, and downloadable MP3 sermons.  But I still prefer hardcopy print material mailed to me, as something more portable to carry around with me and read while away from the computer.

Here are some great free resources, hard-copy material to your home:  CDs of audio material, devotionals, magazines, and newsletters.

1.  The GTY mailing list monthly offers:  monthly offers to your mailbox.  Some are CDs of sermons, but often books or even Bibles are offered.

2.  From ICR.org, the devotional

booklet “Days of Praise” and quarterly magazine “Acts & Facts.”  The daily devotionals come in three-month sets, along with the magazine.

Days of Praise Devotional
3.  5 DVD set of all of S. Lewis Johnson’s sermons in MP3 format.
Send an email to:  webmaster “at” believers-chapel.org

Include your name and mailing address, and it will be forwarded to the Chapel.  I just received my set, a week after requesting it.

S. Lewis Johnson DVD case

4.  Spurgeon literature, from Bath Road Baptist Church:
Email:   info “at” bathroadbaptist.com
http://www.bathroadbaptist.com/contact-us/

5.  Free Grace Broadcaster: a booklet sent every few months, which contains writings –on a theme each issue –by noted Christian authors of the past including Spurgeon, Pink, Octavius Winslow and Thomas Brooks.
Email to: chapel “at” mountzion.org and request a paper copy sent quarterly.
Here is their main website:   http://www.chapellibrary.org/broadcaster/

6.  Levitt Letter Monthly Newsletter:  Newsletter from a Messianic Jewish organization
Fill out the form to request a hardcopy newsletter mailed to you.

7.   Voices For Christ website:
4,600 sermons available online, from various speakers (a few from S. Lewis Johnson, plus many others)
Website lists all speakers (note:  not all are Calvinist or dispensational):
Free CDs or DVDs are available on request, including a set of 6 DVDs containing all 4,500.
Email:  info “at” voicesforChrist.org

Hebrews 1, the Second Coming, and the Davidic Covenant

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve recently started a good Hebrews study, going through S. Lewis Johnson’s series (one he did starting in late 1992).  Hebrews is a book I had previously neglected, other than through general reading (and now I read it as part of the New Testament readings every two months in my Horner-based Bible reading plan).  Seeing that the NCT (New Covenant Theology) proponents rely heavily on their interpretation and overemphasis of Hebrews (and the local amillennial preterist preacher is now doing a Hebrews series for the third time in 15 years; basically a repeat of the same superficial thoughts), I had focused my thoughts more on Romans.  But I also see the importance of understanding Hebrews from a correct biblical perspective, and S. Lewis Johnson’s series is as always a good in-depth look.

The first several verses are full of many Old Testament quotations, and so Dr. Johnson looked at each of these specific references.  Last year I briefly looked at one of these, Hebrews 1:6, and at the transcript part related to that issue; the verse in the Greek is properly translated, “when He again brings His firstborn into the world,” as a reference to the Second Coming.  Johnson’s full teachings on these verses can be found in the transcripts for the Hebrews series, messages 2 and 3.

The citations in these verses include:

  • Psalm 2:7 (Hebrews 1:4) — “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”
  • Psalm 89:26-26 and 2 Samuel 7:14 (Hebrews 1:5) — “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”
  • Psalm 97:7 (also in Deuteronomy 32:43) (Hebrews 1:6) — “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
  • Psalm 104:4 (Hebrews 1:7) — “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”
  • Psalm 45:6-7 (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.   ​​​​​​​​You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

As Dr. Johnson noted, these passages cited in Hebrews 1 have reference to the events of the Second Coming, as well as to the Davidic covenant.  Psalm 89 is one of the three key passages for the Davidic covenant (along with 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17); see “Biblical Covenants: The Davidic Covenant” for Johnson’s teaching on this during his “Lessons from the Life of David” series.  2 Samuel 7 occurred before the writing of Psalm 2.  In the words of S. Lewis Johnson:

In other words, this is the passage that gave rise in the poetic section to the statement, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.”  The Covenant came first and then the mediation by the psalmist on the Covenant.  And so we are looking at the place at which the Davidic Covenant finds its origin, so to speak, in the word of God.

2 Samuel 7:14 parallels the words cited in Hebrews 1 — I will be his Father, and he shall be My son — immediately after v. 13, He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Deuteronomy 32:43, the setting of the words quoted by the writer of Hebrews “when He again brings His firstborn into the world” have reference to the events at the Second Coming. Psalm 97:7 likewise is part of a set of Messianic Kingdom psalms; see this blog post about this set of Psalms.

Psalm 45 emphasizes God’s eternal throne.  We can look back to scripture;  who who was promised an eternal throne?  Again we go back to the Davidic covenant, and since this paragraph has so many references to other texts concerning the Davidic covenant, we can say that here also the writer of Hebrews has interpreted it correctly, in reference to the Davidic throne.

Just this short section in Hebrews 1 is rich with many great Old Testament references to the Davidic Covenant and Christ’s return.  I look forward to the rest of the series, to learn far more than what is taught by misguided NCT teachers who would reinterpret Hebrews to refer to the First Coming and the Church Age.

List of S. Lewis Johnson Sermon Series, by Date

September 15, 2011 4 comments

For those interested, and as a follow-up from discussion on the S. Lewis Johnson Appreciation Society (Facebook group), here is a list of all S. Lewis Johnson series with known approximate dates.  The dates listed come from the time references Johnson provided while doing his lessons.

Note: the full list is also maintained here at this facebook page, in the S. Lewis Johnson Appreciation Society group.

Old Testament Series New Testament Series
Genesis: 1978-1980 Matthew: 1975-1978
From Egypt to Canaan:
1984-1985
John: 1982-1983
Typology in Leviticus: 1978 Acts: 1984-1985
Lessons from the Life of
David: 1990-1992
Romans: 1980-1981
Isaiah: 1968-1969 1 Corinthians: 1993-1995
Daniel: 1979 2 Corinthians: 1987
Hosea: 1984 Galatians:  1980s?
Joel: 1978 Ephesians: 1981
Amos: 1986 Colossians: 1986
Jonah: early 1970s, Vietnam
war era
1 Timothy: 1976
Micah: 1982 Titus: 1971
Habakkuk: 1976-1977 Hebrews: 1992-1993
Haggai: 1977 2 Peter: 1975-1976
Zechariah: 1967 1 John:  1988
Malachi: 1977 2 John:  1988
Elijah the Prophet:
1967
3 John:  1988
Gideon, and Samson, topical
series: 1978
Jude: 1991
Revelation: 1989-1990

Other (non-book) Series:

  • God’s Plan of the Ages: before 1965
  • Systematic Theology: 1968-1972
  • The Local Church: 1968
  • The Christian Faith: 1968
  • The Suffering Savior: 1974
  • Eschatology Series: 1976
  • The Theology of the Reformers: 1977
  • Christology – General: 1978
  • Paul and the Ministry: 1981
  • Great Lion of God – The Life of Paul: 1983
  • Messianic Prophecies in Isaiah: 1984
  • The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History: 1984
  • The Divine Purpose: 1985-1986
  • Eight Most Important Christian Truths: 1986
  • New Testament Revelation of the Messiah: 1987
  • The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy: 1992
  • Inconsistencies in Modified Calvinism: early 1990s
  • New Time Religion: early 1990s
  • The John Bunyan Conferences: 1996-2001
  • Evangelical Feminism and the Bible: 1992
  • Upper Room Discourse:  1979
  • Leading Figures in the Drama at Golgotha:  1967
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The Author of Hebrews: Words Directly From God

September 12, 2011 2 comments

I’ve started listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, one of his last ones (perhaps the very last series he did?) which he started in late 1992.  His age definitely shows in his voice by this time, yet the words and recording are still clear and understandable, and Johnson’s insights as sharp as ever.

Much debate exists concerning the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews.  It is quite clear from the evidence that Paul did not write it; others have suggested the author as Barnabas or Apollos.  Feminists have even taken to suggesting it was secretly written by a woman, and yet we can know from the Greek grammar and the use of masculine versus feminine words in the Greek language, that it was at least written by a man.

Yet one very good point is: why don’t we know the human author?  This epistle stands apart from others, as one that emphasizes the word of God itself.  As stated in the opening verses, God has spoken: by His prophets and now by His Son.  That is the important point that the author wishes to convey to his audience:  it is God who has spoken.  This is a word from God and not from men.

The book of Hebrews has the most citations from the Old Testament:  the accolade of “using the Old Testament more than any other New Testament writer belongs to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.”  Furthermore, the book of Hebrews never cites the human author in the citations.  Never does the text say “Moses saith” or “Isaiah says.”  David is mentioned once in the 4th chapter, and not for citation purposes but to refer to the section of scripture (in Psalm 95) that has to do with David himself.

Ecclesiology: Going Beyond Popular Ideas to the Biblical Model

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

In popular terminology among evangelicals, ecclesiology conveys general ideas about how the church is independent of state government, and the general activities of the local church and its outreach.  John MacArthur, in this recent interview with Christianity.com, contrasted these common characteristics — including a serious attitude in one’s dress and overall worship service, plus shepherding, caring for people, and specific activities such as hospital visits and praying with a grieving widow — with what he termed “an event” where the gospel is preached along with rock and roll music and trying to be more like the entertainment-focused world.

But true biblical ecclesiology goes far beyond what MacArthur described in that interview, of the conventional model for modern-day evangelical churches that care for and truly shepherding their people.  Biblical ecclesiology closely adheres in both belief and practice to what scripture says concerning the structure and practice of the church (the New Testament era church).  This may indeed be a dying concept, increasingly rare in a world gone to the even further extremes of 21st century Christian “contextualization.”  Yet it is still practiced in a few churches, such as Believers Chapel in Dallas (where the late S. Lewis Johnson taught for many years).

Two articles written by William MacRae at Believers Chapel (1974) outline the points of true New Testament ecclesiology.  The second one lists nine distinctives for Believers Chapel’s practice in accordance with this model.
The Meeting of the Church      and  The Principles of the New Testament Church

Consider this excerpt, which addresses something I see as missing the mark when it comes to the overall leadership and “Senior Pastor” emphasis on John MacArthur and his leadership ministry:

I am often appalled by Christians who are meticulous about their Christology (the doctrine of Christ), and very careful about their pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), and are able to cross their “t’s” and dot their “i’s” in their eschatology (the doctrine of future things); but when it comes to ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), they are very careless. This, to me, is an amazing inconsistency. Perhaps it indicates the value or lack of value we place upon the church.

True New Testament ecclesiology, as pointed out in these nine distinctives, does not include members classes or offical church membership.  It does not include any liturgy, or any set format with time limitation.  It is not something led by one “Senior Pastor” overseeing a group of pastors and/or elders, but is led by a plurality of elders.  The NT church does not have a recognized office of pastor/teacher; rather, such are considered “gifted men” but not the church leaders.  The church meeting, which was held on Sunday evening, does allow for any men among those in the congregation to participate and share something with everyone else, as opposed to the modern-day structured church format in which only certain individuals contribute to the meeting.

Here are a few excerpts concerning distinctives #3 and 4.  Distinctive #3 concerns church offices.  See also this recent blog, Is the Position of Senior Pastor Biblical?

It may surprise some of you who have been coming to Believers Chapel for just a short period of time to discover that I am not the pastor of Believers Chapel. I have never been ordained. I do not have any official title. I am not the head of Believers Chapel.

We do not have any individual who occupies such an office in the New Testament. Pastoring is a gift (Eph. 4:11) and a work (I Pet. 5:2). But it is no more an office than “showing mercy” or “giving” or “exhorting.” Thus we do not have anyone in Believers Chapel who occupies the office of Pastor. The organizational structure of a New Testament local church has been diagrammed by Dr. S. L. Johnson, Jr. as follows:

The New Testament speaks of only four offices in the local church: The Head (Col. 1:18, Eph. 1:22). Elders (I Tim. 3). Deacons (I Tim. 3) and Priests (I Peter 5:9). Christ alone is Head. Several may be elders and deacons. All believers are priests.

The government of Believers Chapel is under the rule of a group of elders who function under Christ the Head. They are the decision-making body.

I am offended when you refer to this as Bill McRae’s church. You do a great disservice to Dr. Johnson to refer to it as Dr. Johnson’s church. It is a great affront to the Lord to refer to it as Dr. Blum’s Church. Why? In each case, you are putting a man in the position that Christ alone can and does assume in his church. He is the Head and we recognize only Him in His position of Headship.

Distinctive #4 puts into practice the idea of a NT church meeting:

Every Sunday evening, following the pattern of the New Testament church, we gather together for the meeting of the church in which we give the Holy Spirit freedom to superintend the meeting of the church. There is no officialism, no liturgy, no rituals, no stereotyped program, no man made rules, no time limitations.

The Holy Spirit is free to exercise one to stand and give a hymn, then another to read a passage of the Word of God, another to pray, or to give a word of exhortation, to give thanks for the bread, or to give thanks for the wine, or to pray for the president and for those in authority over us, or to pray for that unsaved neighbor down the street, or to share a particular prayer request or to praise God for something He has done in his life last week. It is a meeting with a three-fold purpose:

1. Edification of believers -I Cor. 14:26 This may be achieved through hymns (Eph. 5:19, I Cor. 14:26), ministry of the Word (I Cor. 14:26), and personal testimonies (Acts 14:27, 15:4, 12).
2. Worship of the Lord. This may be expressed in hymns, prayer, ministry of the Word, the observance of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:23-34), and the offering of our gifts to the Lord (I Cor. 16:1-2).
3. Evangelism of the Unsaved. Those unbelievers present may be evangelized by the proclamation of the Lord’s death in the observance of the Lord’s supper (I Cor. 11:26). For those unbelievers who are absent we are instructed to intercede for their salvation (I Tim. 2:1-8).