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Top 5 Books and Sermon Series Read/Listened To In 2013

December 27, 2013 2 comments

It’s that time of year when people review and summarize the highlights from the past year.  I haven’t read as many books as I’d like to, and also appreciate good sermon series.  But here is a list of the “top 5” I’ve enjoyed from the last year — note, these are books and series I listened to in 2013, not material that was published in 2013.

1.) Pillars of Grace (A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume 2) by Steve Lawson.  I actually started this one in late 2012, continuing with a second post about later content in early 2013.  Here is the post from January 2013, looking at the doctrines of Grace through the middle ages.
2.) Daniel and the Latter Days, by Robert D. Culver:  the full text of this book is available online free here.  In two posts (The Future Restoration of Israel and also The Judgment by Fire) this September I looked at some interesting material in this great classic work.

3.) The Hidden Life, Devotional from Adolph Saphir.  Review of it, from August 2013, here.

4.) After the Flood, by Bill Cooper.  A great book on creation apologetics, unique in its look at creation history and the earliest historical European records.  This one also is full text free online; review here.

5.) S. Lewis Johnson’s series through 1 Corinthians.  His last full book, verse-by-verse sermon series (from late 1993 through early 1995).  His voice was tired in this one, but still great material covering many different biblical topics as they came up in the study of this the longest of Paul’s epistles.

A Spurgeon Christmas Message

December 23, 2013 5 comments

I like to highlight Spurgeon Christmas sermons during the holiday, as with this “Spurgeon Merry Christmas” from last year, and also this post from Christmas 2010.  For this Christmas, the summary and excerpts from Spurgeon’s Christmas 1862 message, delivered December 21, 1862, “No Room for Christ in the Inn.” In Spurgeon’s textual sermon style, he went far beyond the text and account itself, to consider the other reasons (beyond the narrative account) why Christ “should be laid in the manger.”  He also considered other places in our world and daily life that have no room for Christ, as well as the modern-day equivalents of the “inn itself” that “had no room for Him,” in a message that shows the timelessness of human nature and describes a world so similar to the 21st century.

Christ Laid in the Manger brings out the following truths:

  1. To show forth His humiliation.  Would it have been fitting that the Man who was to die naked on the Cross should be robed in purple at His birth? Would it not have been inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb, should be born anywhere but in the most humble shed, and housed anywhere but in the most ignoble manner?
  2. He was declared to be the king of the poor.  He will be the poor man’s Friend, the people’s Monarch; according to the words of our shepherd-king, He shall judge the poor of the people; He shall save the children of the needy.
  3. By this event (being laid in a manger), He gave an invitation to the most humble to come to Him.  We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger!
  4. Showing that Christ is free to all who will come.  The inn of ancient times was not like our modern day hotels, but was free to all.  What was provided was a huge square block, arranged in rooms for the travelers, with lower stages for the beasts. The traveler was given a certain provision of water, and perhaps chopped straw for the cattle, and must make himself as comfortable as possible.  Christ was born in the stable of the inn.
  5. In the manger beasts were fed; to show that beast-like men may come to Him and live.
  6. Only His presence could glorify the manger; beasts fed there again after He left.

Other Places Besides the Inn That Have No Room For Christ

  •  The palaces of emperors, the halls of kings
  • The place of senators and forums of political discussion
  • What is called “good society”
  • On the Stock Exchange
  • The Schools of the Philosophers
  • The Jewish Temple and Synagogue

The Inn Itself Had No Room For Him: places that Spurgeon considered similar to the Inn — Public sentiment, general conversation, and the workplace.

I would give not a farthing for your religion, no, not even the turn of a rusty nail, unless you will sometimes win that title! If God’s Word is true, every atom of it, then we should act upon it! And whatever the Lord commands, we should diligently keep and obey, remembering that our Master tells us if we break one of the least of His Commandments, and teach men so, we shall be least in His Kingdom. We ought to be very jealous, very precise, very anxious, that even in the least significant of our Savior’s Laws, we may obey, having our eyes up to Him as the eyes of servants are to their mistresses.

But if you do this, you will find you are not tolerated, and you will get the cold shoulder in society. A zealous Christian will find as truly a cross to carry now-a-days, as in the days of Simon the Cyrenian! If you will hold your tongue; if you will leave sinners to perish; if you will never endeavor to propagate your faith; if you will silence all witnessing for the Truth of God; if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, “Ah, that is right! This is the religion we like!

But if you will believe, believe firmly, and if you let your belief actuate your life, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then at once you will find that there is no room for Christ even in the inn of public sentiment, where everything else is received! Be an infidel, and none will treat you contemptuously; but be a Christian, and many will despise you. “There was no room for Him in the inn.”

The Difference Between Historicism and Historic Premillennialism

December 20, 2013 2 comments

Two similar words, historicism and historic, are often confused, such that it is common to find people describing “historic premillennialism” as a historicist view of prophecy: that the prophetic events in the Bible are symbolic of various events throughout history.  Historicism is really one of four approaches to the prophetic chapters of Revelation, and the historicist approach is not limited to any particular millennial view, premillennialism or other.  After all, the 16th century Reformers were amillennial and historicist, seeing the pope and Catholic system in their day as the antichrist.

The term “historic premillennialism” refers simply to the historic (not historicist) view of premillennialism, a term broad enough to include the variations among many believers throughout church history, with no association to whatever other doctrines they may have believed.  This grouping includes the early church fathers, who showed understanding of future events and their sequence, as briefly quoted previously here  — a futurist understanding (that the prophetic events are future to our age, not occurring throughout history).

Within the Protestant era, historic premillennialists generally came from the post-Reformation background including Covenant Theology, and 18th century premillennialists such as John Gill also had a historicist view of prophecy.  The mid-19th century premillennialists came from the background of this historicist approach, but through their emphasis on the literal hermeneutic  understood the problem with historicism: simply, that the events described in Revelation have not yet happened.  It is interesting as well to read Benjamin Wills Newton put forth the same futurist arguments as modern-day writers, for a rebuilding of Babylon to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and in Revelation (prophecies which tell of a destruction of Babylon that has not yet happened), in a detailed look at the actual history of Babylon and its surrounding region up to the mid-19th century.

Newton, in Thoughts on the Apocalypse, also shared this then-new development of a more literal understanding and futurist approach.  As he noted, we do see some of the same characteristics, in our age, of the great evil events yet to come: a kind of foreshadowing as history moves toward its conclusion, as the events of world history move closer and closer toward the final manifestation, the antiChrist’s rule.  But we must go beyond the historic similarities, the application, to the direct meaning of the text and what God intends as His primary communication to us in His word:

(Concerning Revelation 17-18):

We cannot, therefore, be surprised that this chapter has frequently been applied by the servants of God, in different ages, to those ruling systems which they have severally recognized in their own day as hostile to the people and to the truth of Christ, whilst perhaps blasphemously assuming His authority and name. Nor were they altogether wrong in this; for what ecclesiastical body, I might add, what secular body, has yet arisen in the earth, that has set itself to order the ways of men either in their relations toward Christ or in their natural relations toward God, that has not run counter to His will, dishonored His Scripture, opposed His saints, and arrogated to itself a place which God never gave it?

And how can any be the sustainers of such things, without names of blasphemy being written on them, the more in proportion to the energy and devotedness of their labor? Many a defender of Romanism and such like systems, must be regarded as marked with names of blasphemy — for falsehood cannot be thrust into the place of Truth, without Truth being rejected and reviled; and false assumption, and the consequent reviling of God’s Truth and people, is blasphemy in His sight. ” I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not ; but are the synagogue of Satan.”

But the exactness of prophetic statement must not be destroyed by applications, which, however valuable as applications, must never be substituted for direct and exact interpretation. Our first duty always is to inquire what the event which God is pleased to reveal, definitely and specifically is. It may be with godly and upright intention that many have sought to turn the edge of the testimony of (Revelation 17) sometimes on Rome, sometimes on national assumptions of Christianity; but the cause of Truth will not ultimately be served hereby, if in doing this they have unconsciously narrowed the testimony of God, and refused to see in this chapter the definite picture of that closing system to which Romanism and everything else that successfully sways the unregenerate heart will finally lead …  It cannot be doubted by any who seriously examine this chapter, that its fulfilment is altogether future.

The Real Story Behind the Pre-Conflagration, Supposed ‘Pre-Trib’ Rapture

December 16, 2013 10 comments

Recently an online posting has been circulating around, listing a number of well-known Christians throughout history who supposedly believed in a pre-tribulational rapture.  This posting does not include any actual source quotes from the people claimed to have believed in a pre-trib rapture, but asserts a “pre-trib” view for many of the early church fathers including Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Victorinus, as well as post-Reformation pre-19th century teachers including John Gill and Morgan Edwards.

I had already seen several quotes from the specific early church fathers, statements that show they understood that the saints (same group as the church), would experience the future time of antichrist.  Here are a few such statements, showing also their futurist (and premillennial) understanding of the events in Revelation:

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, XXV, 4

And then he points out the time that his tyranny shall last, during which the saints shall be put to flight, they who offer a pure sacrifice unto God: ‘And in the midst of the week,’ he says, ‘the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation [shall be brought] into the temple: even unto the consummation of the time shall the desolation be complete.’ Now three years and six months constitute the half-week.

Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 47

For this is meant by the little horn that grows up. He, being now elated in heart, begins to exalt himself, and to glorify himself as God, persecuting the saints and blaspheming Christ, even as Daniel says, ‘I considered the horn, and, behold, in the horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things; and he opened his mouth to blaspheme God. And that horn made war against the saints, and prevailed against them until the beast was slain, and perished, and his body was given to be burned.’

Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61

That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains,…

Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 20:1

The little season signifies three years and six months, in which with all his power the devil will avenge himself trader Antichrist against the Church.

As to the many current-day claims of pre-trib belief before the mid-19th century, it is interesting to note here that previous generations of dispensationalists —  Darby himself, also Scofield and later John Walvoord – all recognized and admitted that the pre-trib teaching was in fact a recent development.  This agrees with S. Lewis Johnson’s observation in 1989 during his series through Revelation, that those who held to pre-trib acknowledged that it was a recent teaching. The claims of pre-trib belief prior to the mid-19th century, are themselves a revision introduced by more recent pre-trib and prophecy teachers.

The idea that historicist Christians, including Morgan Edwards and John Gill, believed in a type of “pre-tribulational rapture,” comes from a twisting of their “pre-conflagration” statements, such as the following from John Gill:  He’ll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him there, and whom He’ll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it….   I note here, first, that these statements still show an idea of one First Resurrection and not a two-stage coming with one group before the Great Tribulation followed by another resurrection/rapture after that event – really a type of “pre-wrath” rapture of believers taken out before God’s wrath.

A further point of distinction must also be noted here:  the difference between historicist and futurist ideas of the book of Revelation.  The historicists were generally premillennial (John Gill, and at least a few others), but they understood the Great Tribulation in a non-literal way, as occurring throughout church history, with the events in Revelation describing longer periods of time, symbolic descriptions of various wars with the Turks or other enemies throughout the church age.  According to the historicist view, the Great Tribulation is already occurring, we are already experiencing it:  an idea obviously incompatible with the very notion of a pre-Tribulational rapture of one group of believers.  If the whole church age is the Tribulation, a “pre-trib rapture” could only occur before the church age began, which becomes speculative nonsense.

Thus, the present-day claims of a pre-1830 belief in a pretribulational rapture of the church, “found” in the statements of 18th century historicist pre-conflagrationists, is really deceptive handling of true Christian doctrine (what these men actually believed) and church history.   Here I also can appreciate the honesty of the earlier dispensationalists, such as Walvoord, who at least recognized the correct time period for the origin of the pre-trib rapture idea.

‘Sheep without a Shepherd’ and the Old Testament Mediatorial Kingdom

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment

From my daily genre Bible reading, including recent readings in Ezekiel and Numbers, the following observation.  Ezekiel 34 is a well-known text on the subject of the shepherd and the sheep, and the wicked shepherds who did not take care of the sheep; Jesus in John 10 expands on and identifies with this figure as well.   But in also reading through the Pentateuch, comes an interesting “first mention” of the idea of sheep without a shepherd.  Sheep and shepherds are of course introduced generally in Genesis, with Jacob meeting Rachel – and the subsequent chapters of Jacob’s contribution to Genesis.  But Numbers 27:16-17  contains the first mention of the idea of a people needing a shepherd to lead them so that they be not “as sheep that have no shepherd.”

The scene is near the end of Moses’ life, and Moses’ request for someone to succeed him in leading the people that now are a nation – and the request is granted, in Moses’ assistant Joshua. Here I am also reminded of the kingdom concept as brought out in Alva McClain’s “Greatness of the Kingdom,” including his point that the mediatorial kingdom began in history under Moses.  We often think of the Old Testament kingdom as specifically that established under the monarchy (King Saul, then David and Solomon), but the concept began in history with the Exodus from Egypt, the covenant nation established before God,  with God as their king and Moses their leader.  Numbers 27 brings this out, in this first reference to this concept, in the matter of leadership succession within this mediatorial kingdom.

The idea of “sheep without a shepherd” does not appear in the scriptures again until several hundred years later, during the divided kingdom and the early prophets: first in the account of Micaiah’s prophecy of Ahab’s destruction (1 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 18:16):  I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.”  Judgment is in view here, that the king (Ahab) is destroyed, and the people are without a leader.  The next time the concept is mentioned is the later prophets associated with the Babylonian exile, the end of the mediatorial kingdom in Old Testament history:  Jeremiah 23:1 and 50:6, followed by this as the topic of Ezekiel 34.  How fitting it is, and brought together in the daily genre reading of different sections of the Bible, to see this unity and overall theme seen throughout the Bible including Old Testament history and prophecy:  the concept of sheep without a shepherd introduced near the beginning of that mediatorial kingdom, then at two points of judgment, earlier in the decline (the time of Ahab) and again at the end of that era of Israel’s mediatorial kingdom, just before the “times of the Gentiles” began.

Presuppositions of Typology

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

The following points come from Fred Zaspel’s recent blog series on typology, at Credo magazine.  For future reference, his list of six presuppositions of Biblical Typology:

1)      the understanding of the relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament as essentially that of promise and fulfillment. This is reflected in the larger framework of the Old Testament and its patterns, and it is one aspect of typology specifically. The broad narrative of the Old Testament is incomplete in that its story never reaches a climax or conclusion. There is a hope still in place that awaits Christ.

2)      A recognition of history as revelation, a conviction that God reveals himself and his purpose in words, yes, but also in historical events and actions.

3)      An understanding of history as prophecy, an understanding that God directed and arranged historical events, institutions, and persons in a way that was not just analogous to but inherently prospective of a greater reality yet to come. There was a conviction that the patterns of history were illustrative and forward-pointing, portraying ahead of time the way God would yet work in history.

4)      The Sovereignty of God in history is also presupposed, an unshakable conviction that as Lord of history he was all along arranging and directing events and people with his own purpose and goal in mind, thus establishing a framework and declaring ahead of time what he would yet do.

5)      History is redemptive in purpose and in design, that God is working in history toward the goal of his gracious saving purpose that culminates in Christ.

6)      The centrality of Christ in history and in revelation. In a sense, typology is christology, for it all — history and revelation — culminates in Him (Ephesians 1:10).