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Philip Ryken, and J.C. Ryle, on the Gospel of Luke

October 2, 2020 5 comments

A weekly Bible Study at church has started on a study of the gospel of Luke this year, and included Dr. Ryken’s Commentary in the list of recommended resources. So I’m listening to the next best thing to the commentary: the volumes of sermons from Dr. Ryken that form the basis of his commentary, a set of 14 volumes from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ podcast “Every Last Word,” available at ReformedResources.org.  The first three volumes cover the first 5 chapters of Luke, and are straight-forward sermons with exposition and application, on the wide range of topics within these first chapters of Luke’s gospel.

One pleasant surprise has been the frequent references to J.C. Ryle, with quite a few quotes from the great 19th century Anglican bishop.  In fact, in the early chapters at least (I’m currently in Luke 6) of Ryken’s sermon series, J.C. Ryle is one of the most (or possibly the most) frequently cited resources — along with quotes from a few others such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and at least one quote from existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

That brings me back to reading J.C. Ryle, several years after I read  his books such as Practical Religion, Holiness, and his book on prophecy, Coming Events and Present Duties.  Over the years I’ve read selected portions from his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (full e-book in PDF, Kindle, and EPUB formats available here), and now it’s been refreshing and enjoyable to read sequentially through J.C. Ryle’s full commentary on the gospel of Luke, alongside Ryken’s sermons each week.

Ryle’s writing style here is similar to other works, a devotional and educational commentary, simple and clear statements packed with truth, and always very quotable.  He well described the faith of the Old Testament saints, with the original, plain historic understanding that believers always had the Holy Spirit indwelling, though in less measure (quantity) — unlike several modern day teachers who want to come up with innovations, even such as a few who would come up with a “spirit of Christ” that indwells New Testament saints in contrast to Old Testament saints that were regenerated but not actually Spirit indwelled (since, supposedly, the Spirit of Christ did not exist in that earlier era).

Ryle’s Expository Thoughts also addresses the basics, with great application of texts, to exhort believers on the importance of Bible reading and study, evangelism, and diligence and hard work in our occupations and callings.  His comments on the Lord’s Day Sabbath, at the beginning of Luke 6, are also spot-on, instructive regarding Christ’s teaching on works of necessity and works of mercy brought out in the text, and in response to the same Sabbath criticisms in our day:  We live in days when anything like strict Sabbath observance is loudly denounced, in some quarters, as a remnant of Jewish superstition.  We are boldly told by some people, that to enforce the fourth commandment on Christians, is going back to bondage.  Let it suffice us to remember, when we hear such things, that assertions are not proofs, and that vague talk like this has no confirmation in the word of God.   J.C. Ryle elsewhere wrote an excellent short summary tract, Sabbath: A Day to Keep, referencing  many scriptures and how they relate together; but the additional comments in his Luke 6 commentary add to the full picture.

Just in going through the first chapters of Luke, it’s also interesting to see his clear statements regarding the future millennial era and ethnic Israel’s future, as with this sampling:

Christ was indeed “the glory of Israel.” The descent from Abraham–the covenants–the promises–the law of Moses–the divinely ordered Temple service–all these were mighty privileges. But all were as nothing compared to the mighty fact, that out of Israel was born the Savior of the world. This was to be the highest honor of the Jewish nation, that the mother of Christ was a Jewish woman, and that the blood of One “made of the seed of David, according to the flesh,” was to make atonement for the sin of mankind.  . . .

The day shall come when the veil shall be taken from the heart of Israel, and all shall “glory in the Lord.” (Isaiah. 45:25.) For that day let us wait, and watch, and pray. If Christ be the light and glory of our souls, that day cannot come too soon.  . . .

“and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever.” The literal fulfillment of this part of the promise is yet to come. Israel is yet to be gathered. The Jews are yet to be restored to their own land, and to look to Him whom they once pierced, as their King and their God.  . . .

The full completion of the kingdom is an event yet to come. The saints of the Most High shall one day have entire dominion. The little stone of the Gospel-kingdom shall yet fill the whole earth. But whether in its incomplete or complete state, the subjects of the kingdom are always of one character.

Also, a sampling of general application from passages in Luke’s gospel:

We do not expect a child to do the work of a full-grown man, though he may one day, if he lives long enough. We must not expect a learner of Christianity to show the faith, and love, and knowledge of an old soldier of the cross. He may become by and bye a mighty champion of the truth. But at first we must give him time.

and

In every calling, and vocation, and trade, we see that great effort is one prominent secret of success. It is not by luck or accident that men prosper, but by hard working. Fortunes are not made without trouble and attention, by bankers and merchants. Practice is not secured without diligence and study, by lawyers and physicians. The principle is one with which the children of this world are perfectly familiar.

Studies on The Lord’s Prayer

April 8, 2019 4 comments

The Lord’s Prayer is a familiar scripture passage, one of the most memorized passages (along with Psalm 23 and a few other verses such as John 3:16).  From Christian contemporary music (when I listened to it in the late 1980s through mid-1990s) two song versions come to mind, from Tony Melendez and Steve Camp.

The Sunday School class has been studying Al Mohler’s book on The Lord’s Prayer (The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down), and so a blog post about this and related resources is fitting.  Mohler’s book is a good layperson resource, with good introductory material, many quotes from Martin Luther (especially his words addressed to his barber, Peter Beskendorf), J.I. Packer and others, and examination of the theology involved in each clause of this prayer (from Matthew 6 and Luke 11).

Classic Puritan recommended resources (from others in online reading groups) include Thomas Watson’s The Lord’s Prayer (free e-book available from Monergism.com) now on my list to read.  Martyn Lloyd Jones’ series through the Sermon on the Mount ,and other expositions on the Sermon on the Mount / The Lord’s Prayer, are also recommended studies.

From the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the 2002 PCRT conference has an interesting 4-part series with messages by Richard Phillips and Hywel Jones: “Lord, Teach Us to Pray”. Dr. Jones’ three lectures provide exposition of Luke 11:1-13, of the prayer itself and the related parable.  Among the highlights from this series, Hywel Jones exposited Luke 11:1, the introductory words that we usually do not think about, which provide the setting and the fact that Jesus was praying in a certain place and for a specified time.  The Luke 11 account is shorter than the Matthew 6 parallel, but Luke’s version should not be considered incomplete; it has the same basic content that is expanded on in the Matthew 6 version.  This prayer has some similarity, along with important differences, to other 1st century Jewish prayers in its form.  The Lord’s Prayer (a model prayer for us to follow) fits the common pattern, yet includes a personal touch:  the word “Father” and “my” personal father, and that we are to forgive others “as we have been forgiven.”

I do not see these concepts as really absent from the Old Testament.  Throughout the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets, for example, we have many instances of Israel in a corporate relationship with “Our Father,” yet this God is personally prayed to by the psalmist.  Though the Old Testament does not use the explicit terminology found in the New Testament, certainly texts such as in Proverbs point out the need of forgiveness for ourselves as well as extending mercy and kindness (and forgiveness), instead of holding grudges or doing wrong to our neighbor.  Certainly it is true, though, that the gospel texts of The Lord’s Prayer set out clearly the things that are more implied in the Old Testament, as to our prayers and the right perspective.

These lectures provide a good overview of the Lord’s Prayer, with consideration of the two passages (Luke and Matthew) and the overall historical context.   For a more in-depth, book study, Mohler’s The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down is good for basic theology as related to the clauses of this prayer — easy reading, yet very instructive on so many areas of theology.  A sampling of a few quotes:

All we can learn about God from his revelation is designated his Name in Scripture…. A name is something personal and very different from a number or a member of a species. It always feels more or less unpleasant when others misspell or garble our name; it stands for our honor, our worth, our person, and individuality. … There is an intimate link between God and his name. According to Scripture, this link is not accidental or arbitrary but forged by God himself. We do not name God; he names himself. … Summed up in his name, therefore, is his honor, his fame, his excellencies, his entire revelation, his very being. – Herman Bavinck

Prayer and praise are like a bird’s two wings: with both working, you soar; with one out of action, you are earthbound.  But birds should not be earthbound, nor Christians praiseless. – J.I. Packer

Mohler’s book, the PCRT lectures, and the classic Reformed Puritan resources all contribute to a good study on this model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer — a few verses in scripture, yet packed with so much meaning, truths that we can never exhaust and will always be learning and gaining new insights.

A Spurgeon Christmas Sermon: Mary’s Song

December 23, 2014 1 comment

It’s that time of year again, to highlight one of Charles Spurgeon’s Christmas sermons. Click here to see all of the previous Spurgeon Christmas sermon specials.  For this year, one delivered 150 years ago this Christmas day: December 25, 1864 – Mary’s Song.

Mary had much to give thanks for and to praise God for, and Spurgeon notes several aspects of Mary’s faith, for us to follow as an example. In Mary’s Magnificat we find true joy, a personal Savior, great faith, humility, confidence and familiarity – as well as the great Covenant of Grace.

True Joy

Mary’s heart was merry within her; but here was the mark of her joy—it was all holy merriment, it was every drop of it sacred mirth. It was not such merriment as worldlings will revel in today and tomorrow, but such merriment as the angels have around the Throne of God, where they sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” while we sing, “On earth peace, goodwill towards men.” Such merry hearts have a continual feast.

A Personal Savior

Her peculiar delight was not that there was a Savior to be born, but that He was to be born of her! Blessed among women was she, and highly favored of the Lord; but we can enjoy the same favor; no, we must enjoy it, or the coming of a Savior will be of no benefit to us. … The Savior was peculiarly, and in a special sense, hers. She sung no “Christ for all,” but “Christ for me,” as her glad subject!

Great Faith

As yet there was no Savior born, nor, as far as we can judge had the Virgin any evidence such as carnal sense required to make her believe that a Savior would be born of her. How can this thing be, was a question which might very naturally have suspended her song until it received an answer convincing to flesh and blood; but no such answer had been given. She knew that with God all things are possible, she had His promise delivered by an angel, and this was enough for her; on the strength of the Word which came forth from God, her heart leaped with pleasure and her tongue glorified His name.

When I consider what it is which she believed, and how unhesitatingly she received the Word, I am ready to give her, as a woman, a place almost as high as that which Abraham occupied as a man! And if I dare not call her the mother of the faithful, at least let her have due honor as one of the most excellent of the mothers in Israel. The benediction of Elizabeth, Mary right well deserved, “Blessed is she who believes.”

Humility

Her lowliness does not make her stay her song. No, it imports a sweeter note into it—“For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.” Beloved Friend, you are feeling more intensely than ever the depth of your natural depravity; you are humbled under a sense of your many failings; you are so dead and earth-bound even in this House of Prayer, that you cannot rise to God. You are heavy and sad, even while our Christmas carols have been ringing in your ears; you feel yourself to be today so useless to the Church of God, so insignificant, so utterly unworthy, that your unbelief whispers, “Surely, surely, you have nothing for which to sing.” Come, my Brother, come my Sister, imitate this blessed Virgin of Nazareth, and turn that very lowliness and meanness which you so painfully feel, into another reason for unceasing praise!

Confidence

She sings confidently . She does not pause while she questions herself, “Have I any right to sing?” but no, “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.” “IF” is a sad enemy to all Christian happiness; “but,” “perhaps,” “doubt,” “surmise,” “suspicion,” these are a race of highwaymen who waylay poor timid pilgrims, and steal their spending money. Harps soon get out of tune, and when the wind blows from the doubting quarter, the strings snap by the wholesale. If the angels of Heaven could have a doubt, it would turn Heaven into Hell. “If you are the Son of God,” was the dastardly weapon wielded by the old enemy against our Lord in the wilderness. Our great foe knows well what weapon is the most dangerous. . . . You think that it is a sign of Divine Grace to have doubts, whereas it is a sign of infirmity. It does not prove that you have no Grace when you doubt God’s promise, but it does prove that you need more—for if you had more Grace, you would take God’s Word as He gives it, and it would be said of you as of Abraham, that, “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able also to perform.” God help you to shake off your doubts.

Familiarity

She sings with great familiarity, “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He who is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is His name.” It is the song of one who draws very near to her God in loving intimacy. . . . For my own part I want a form of worship in which I may draw near to my God, and come even to His feet, spreading my case before Him, and ordering my cause with arguments—talking with Him as a friend talks with his friend, or a child with its father—otherwise the worship is of little worth to me. Our Episcopalian friends, when they come here, are naturally struck with our service as being irreverent because it is so much more familiar and bold than theirs. Let us carefully guard against really deserving such a criticism, and then we need not fear it; for a renewed soul yearns after that very communion which the formalist calls irreverent. To talk with God as my Father—to deal with Him as with one whose promises are true to me, and to whom I, a sinner washed in blood, and clothed in the perfect Righteousness of Christ, may come with boldness, not standing afar off—I say this is a thing which the outer-court worshipper cannot understand.

And finally, a wonderful theological reference point, The Covenant:

She does not finish her song till she has reached the Covenant. When you mount as high as Election, tarry on its sister mount, the Covenant of Grace. In the last verse of her song, she sings, “As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.” To her, that was the Covenant; to us who have clearer light, the ancient Covenant made in the council chamber of Eternity is the subject of the greatest delight. The Covenant with Abraham was in its best sense only a minor copy of that gracious Covenant made with Jesus, the Everlasting Father of the Faithful, before the blue heavens were stretched abroad. Covenant engagements are the softest pillows for an aching head; Covenant engagements with the Surety, Christ Jesus, are the best props for a trembling spirit!—

“His oath, His Covenant, His blood, Support me in the raging flood.

When every earthly prop gives way, This still is all my strength and stay.”

If Christ did swear to bring me to Glory, and if the Father swore that He would give me to the Son to be a part of the infinite reward for the travail of His soul, then, my Soul, till God Himself shall be unfaithful, till Christ shall cease to be the Truth, till God’s Eternal Council shall become a lie, and the red roll of His Election shall be consumed with fire, you are safe!

A very Merry Christmas to all of this blog’s readers!

Responding Again To The Ten Lost Tribes Myth

December 14, 2012 6 comments

A recent VeritasDomain post, a devotional exhortation to Christians including teachers, emphasizes the importance of studying and being careful to “investigate everything carefully,”  with the example of the gospel of Luke and Luke’s introduction.

 the Christian ought to study things with care and sharpness if we want to emulate Luke. Can you say with a clear conscience, that your studies have reasonably “investigated everything carefully”? This glorifies God when we do this, knowing that He’s a God of truth. … the Christian ought to present the things he studied with equal care and sharpness (like the way he ought to study)”

The same morning I also had brief conversation with a pastor-teacher on a topic that includes one of the interesting details addressed in Luke’s infancy narrative:  Anna of the tribe of Asher.   When this individual (not for the first time) stated in a group (as though it were a fact),  that the people now living in Israel are only from the two tribes of Judah, and God has yet to gather the (lost) ten tribes, I mentioned a few things regarding this error, as something that has been addressed by many including David Baron, John MacArthur and others, and specifically linked John MacArthur’s sermon on that topic in Luke 2.

The teacher in question dismissed the whole topic as a “long-standing debate” he was familiar with but unconvinced of, even saying that John MacArthur was “quite speculative,” and that he doesn’t support Anglo-Israelism (so as to also discredit David Baron’s detailed work)–and then put forth a few scriptural “proofs” for his position, including his statement that the presence of people migrating from the Northern tribes to the south is something different from gathering all 12 tribes and that God has actually promised to regather the specific people scattered in the Assyrian captivity, thus only those people constitute the ten tribes.

(For additional reference see this previous post, a review of David Barron’s classic work.)

To begin with, the basic issues are the same regardless of whether someone supports the particular Anglo-Israelism addressed by David Baron.  As Baron even pointed out, the idea first began among Muslim Arabs by the 1oth century.  As anyone would know who has read it, Baron’s study covered the whole idea, regardless of the particular form.

Now to the specific scriptural “proofs”:

And it’s not true that the Bible mixes and matches the terms Jew and Israel. Jesus “came to His own” — the Jews who rejected Him. In John 11:54 we read that Jesus no longer walked among the Jews.  But when He sent His apostles out, He told them:  “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 10:5-6)

Regarding John 11:54:  Every reasonable individual who reads this passage understands the context, which is plain enough: “the Jews” referred to the leaders of the Jews.  Furthermore, during and after this time Jesus did walk among many non-leaders of that same group of people, who were following Him.  By this reasoning, the Jewish leaders were true Jews of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and the non-leaders were from the other ten tribes. What does this have to do with asserting that the Jews are a different tribal group restricted to only Judah and Benjamin?

Then Matthew 10:5-6:  This claim goes way back within the Lost Tribes group, a verse that David Baron addressed (showing that these ideas are not unique to the Anglo-Israel view).

(a) In Matthew x. we have the record of the choice, and of the first commission given to the apostles. “These twelve,” we read, “Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Of course, the merest child knows that this journey of the twelve did not extend beyond the limits of Palestine, but the “Jews” dwelling in it are regarded as the house of Israel, although many members of that “house” were also scattered in other lands.

Citation of Ezekiel 36:22-28:  Therefore say to the house of Israel  [Northern Tribes, in distinction from the House of Judah]…”

Response:  This assumes a particular meaning of “house of Israel” as only meaning the specific Northern Tribes population that was scattered in the Assyrian captivity.  But what in this text specifically relates to such an identification in the first place?

Further, as brought out by many expositors, we are to understand from actual history that the deportation to Assyria involved the leaders, the wealthy, the nobility – but not every single individual that lived in the north, and indeed not even the majority of the population.  Such was indeed standard practice amongst conquering nations.  Judgment was upon the nation itself, such that the deportation removed the northern tribes’ political power and influence as a nation; it did not remove even the majority of the people, as evidenced by the later statements in 2 Chronicles of the large population still remaining in that geographical area after the Assyrian exile.

But as to the history and identification of Assyria and Babylon, David Baron further notes:

Jerusalem was finally taken in B.C. 588, by Nebuchadnezzar—just 133 years after the capture of Samaria by the Assyrians. Meanwhile the Babylonian Empire succeeded the Assyrian. But although dynasties had changed, and Babylon, which had sometimes, even under the Assyrian régime, been one of the capitals of the Empire, now took the place of Nineveh, the region over which Nebuchadnezzar now bore rule, was the very same over which Shalmaneser and Sargon reigned before him, only somewhat extended.

Now Babylon stands not only for the city, but also for the whole land, in which the territories of the Assyrian Empire, and the colonies of exiles from the northern kingdom of “Israel” were included. Thus, for instance, we find Ezekiel, who was one of the 10,000 exiles carried off by Nebuchadnezzar with Jehoiachin, by the river Chebar in the district of Gozan—one of the very parts where the exiles of the Ten Tribes were settled by the Assyrians more than a century previously. …

This proclamation, which was in reference to all the people “of the Lord God of heaven,” was issued in the year B.C. 536, two years after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and was, we are told, promulgated “throughout all his kingdom,” which was the same as that over which Nebuchadnezzar and his successors reigned before him, only again somewhat extended, even as the kingdom of Babylon was identical with that of Assyria, as already pointed out. Indeed, Cyrus and Darius I are called indifferently by the sacred historians by the title of “King of Persia” (Ezra iv. 5), “King of Babylon” (Ezra v. 13), and “King of Assyria” (Ezra vi. 22).

Another important point brought out in the prophets, though, and missed by the Lost Tribes advocates, is that God’s purpose in the schism—as a punishment on the House of David—ended with the Babylonian captivity.  As Baron points out, specifically addressing Ezekiel’s prophecies in the section including Ezekiel 36:

The point, however, to be noticed in this and other prophecies is the clear announcement which they contained that the purpose of God in the schism—as a punishment on the House of David—was now at an end, and that henceforth there was but one common hope and one destiny for the whole Israel of the Twelve Tribes—whether they previously belonged to the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, or to the southern kingdom of the Two Tribes—and that this common hope and destiny was centred in Him Who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the rightful Heir and descendant of David. In like manner Jeremiah, in his great prophecy of the restoration and future blessing (chaps. 30-31), links the destinies of “Judah” and “Israel,” or Israel and Judah together; and speaks of one common experience from that time on for the whole people.

Daniel’s prophecy also shows this, that the purpose of God in the schism was now over, in that Daniel includes “not only the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem in his intercessory prayer, but ‘all Israel that are near, or far off, from all the countries whither Thou hast driven them.’

Was Jesus Mistaken? Did He Really Say That He Would Return In the First Century?

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Amongst Christian circles, liberals like to point to Bible texts that talk of Jesus returning soon (for instance, in Revelation 1 and 22, and Matthew 24 (“this generation”), and say that Jesus must have been mistaken, since 2000+ years have now elapsed.  “Where is the sign of His coming?” they challenge, just as surely as the apostle Peter prophesied they would.

Then Preterists, including partial preterists, came along with the desire to “rescue” Jesus from liberal criticism, by coming up with a scheme to support the idea that Jesus was not mistaken and that He really did return (in secret, or in judgment) in 70 A.D.  R.C. Sproul, influenced by the theological liberalism of his education, is one such proponent, and has admitted that he had this starting point.

But in my study through the gospel accounts, and especially the parables, comes another teaching.  As S. Lewis Johnson points out in his Matthew series  — and is also evident in many other parables, such as in Luke’s gospel — Jesus repeatedly emphasized the fact that a long time period would elapse between Christ’s First and Second Coming.

In Matthew’s “Parables of Rejection,” Jesus first hints at this long period of time.  The master of the house (Matthew 21:33-41) set up a vineyard, leased it to tenants, and then went away into another country.  The parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-10) sets forth a future time when the actual wedding feast will take place — and in Jewish custom several years elapsed between the initial engagement (by the parents) and the actual time of the wedding — again to indicate an unknown time gap; the invited guests meanwhile had gone off to do other “more important” things.  By themselves these parables are certainly not conclusive, but neither do they contradict a long period of time.

The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) tells much more information, including the fact that enough time will elapse for nations and kingdoms to rise up against each other, and for wars and rumors of war to continue.  Later in Matthew 24, Jesus indicates the importance of being prepared, again hinting that such a long time will elapse (Matthew 24:48-50) that the servants will not be expecting Him, and that wicked servants will notice that “my master is delayed.” The two parables that follow, of the ten virgins and the talents (Matthew 25:1-30), also show a lengthy delay: all of the virgins fall asleep; the master giving the talents goes away on a long journey, and in verse 19 returns “after a long time.”

Luke’s gospel has similar parables and words from Jesus, indicating a lengthy time before His return.  Consider Luke 12:35-40 and the admonition to keep your lamps burning, to be ready whether He comes in the second, third or even the fourth watch of the night.  Then, the parable of the persistent widow (which in context has eschatological reference), which concludes with Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) Just as all the virgins fell asleep, here the question arises again:  after such a long time (the continued persistent prayers of the faithful), will believers still be found, ready and anticipating His return.  In Luke 19, He tells the parable of the Ten Minas because the people believed that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately (v. 11). The following parable is similar to the talents one in Matthew 25, again with the point that the nobleman went into a far country before returning.

Luke 21, another account of the Olivet Discourse, includes additional information regarding the time gap:  verses 20-24 speak of the destruction of Jerusalem, the people being led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem being trampled underfoot by the Gentiles “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  (See my previous blog concerning this text:  Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology.) Then verse 25 resumes the narrative related to future events as paralleled by Matthew and Mark.

The gospels contain so many of Jesus’ teaching, and make the point clear.  Jesus clearly set forth the idea of a long wait, that He did not think He was going to return soon in terms of elapsed time.  Rather, He continually pointed out the ideas of perseverance, waiting and preparedness, along with parables regarding his absence for a long period of time.  Certainly no one could have realized that this delay is now 2000+ years, but the biblical record is clear enough that liberals deserve a better response than that of Preterists, those who too readily agree with the liberals’ premise and then try to force other scripture into a mold it was never intended to fit into.

Luke 21, the Olivet Discourse, and the Literal-Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

In my recent reading through Luke 21, again I’m reminded of the simplicity of scripture and how important it is to actually read what a passage says, instead of just talking about it and picking out verses here and there in support of some other idea.  Yet how often we hear someone talking about a text and explaining that it means such-and-such, or is a parallel to this other text — and go along with what they’re saying, when if we just read the account straight through it becomes much clearer.

Many times I’ve heard the local preacher speak of the Olivet Discourse, and he would read the verse in Matthew 24:15-17:
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.”

Then he would turn to Luke 21 and remark that Luke is talking about the same event, but Luke is writing to Gentiles and making it clear what it really means, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”  Therefore, the actual “abomination that causes desolation” spoken of by Daniel, was the event in A.D. 70 when the Romans came and destroyed the temple.

But just read each text, in full, paying attention to each verse and the sequence of events.  Luke 21:20-23 describes an event that includes Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, and people fleeing from Jerusalem, and a similar warning for “pregnant women and nursing mothers.”  But notice the additional verses inserted into Luke’s account, verses 23-24:  “There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  Verse 25 then picks up, after the unspecified time period in verse 24, to tell about the signs given at the end, when Christ returns.  Verse 27:  “at that time” the Son of Man returns.

In Luke’s account in verses 20-24, the subject is the city of Jerusalem, and judgment there until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled — followed by a later event, the distress at the time of Christ’s return.  Matthew 24 has a longer, more descriptive section about an event that concerns desolation of the temple (“the holy place”) with no specific mention of Jerusalem by name — verses 15 through 22.  Verse 23 says “at that time” in reference to the appearance of false Christs, and verse 27 mentions the coming of the Son of Man, who shows up in verse 30 (another “at that time”) — which comes right after verse 29, “immediately after the distress of those days.”

If Luke 21:20-23 is really a parallel to Matthew 24:15-22, as preterists and confused teachers claim, then Christ returned in A.D. 70, because that is clearly what is taught regarding the event in Matthew 24.  But then what about Luke 21:24, the time when Jerusalem is trampled on by the Gentiles?  What — Christ returned in A.D. 70, and now we’re in the millennial age which is also the times of the Gentiles, and so now we’re awaiting Christ’s next return (a “third” coming) that comes in Luke 21:25-27?  Oh, but all the verses in Luke’s account,  from verses 20 through 27, are talking about one event, the same event as in Matthew 24?  What confusion that comes when people attempt to wrest a meaning out of a text, one that simply isn’t there, to support their own preconceived ideas.  If people would only read the accounts straight through — verse by verse reading — all questions would be laid to rest and the false teachers would have no followers.

Instead, too many people listen to these outside ideas, the views of preterists and partial-preterists as they reference this point or that point — rather than going back to the source itself to see if they are actually talking about what the source says.  This example concerning Luke 21 and Matthew 24 is really just another result of the overall low view of scripture evident in such teachers:  the details don’t matter, we only need to skim the surface and get the broad picture, the overall spiritual or allegorical meaning, and “find Christ” in some spiritual meaning.  The same philosophy that broad-brushes whole chapters of Isaiah with the one simple idea of the future glory of the Church, fails to look at the words in the Olivet Discourse and fails to understand that words have meaning.  If such individuals took this approach with all the Bible, including salvation passages, they would be rightly condemned as liberal theologians and heretics who fail to see the obvious, literal meaning of soteriological passages.  Their inconsistency is what saves their souls, at least as far as a profession of faith that others can observe; but when someone who may well be saved nonetheless uses the same reasoning and  tactics as liberal unbelievers, why should we give them any credence as valid Bible teachers?

Reference the following for related reading:  “Dangers of the Parallel Passage Approach.” Point 3 is very relevant here:

“(3) There is a danger of reading into a text an interpretation drawn from another text. It may even tend to foist some preconceived interpretation from one passage upon another.”

Topics From Today’s Bible Readings

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Today’s Bible readings in my Bible Reading Plan include two themes: eschatology (Luke 21, Zechariah 10, and Revelation 20), and the Christian traits of humility versus pride (1 Corinthians 3-4, and Job 23).

In the second category, 1 Corinthians 4 includes Paul’s sarcasm as he tells the Corinthians that already they are rich and are kings — and then reminds them of the great sufferings and trials of the apostles. “What do you have that you did not receive?” Really good reading, that which we all need to be reminded of. The next reading, Job 23, is a good follow-up for contrast, as in verses 4-6 where Job says: “I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me.” Of course we all know the end of the story, and Job will get to the right place by chapter 40.

As regarding eschatology, today’s readings again show the abundance of biblical texts concerning Christ’s Second Coming. I’ve heard it said that about 1/4 of the Bible deals with prophetic events, and that Bible prophecy refers more often to Christ’s Second Coming than to His first — and based on all my readings this last year I would agree. Often my reading combinations include one or two prophetic sections. After all, I’m reading Revelation for 22 out of every 50 days (although not every chapter in Revelation is prophetic) and reading something from the Major or Minor prophets every day — though again not every text there deals with future events; sometimes the reading combinations mean that I’m reading through five chapters of OT history instead, such as days when I’m reading narrative events in lists 2 (Pentateuch), list 6 (History) and list 7 (Prophets — historical narrative sections in Isaiah and Jeremiah for instance). But then I have reading days like today, with eschatology featured in three different places — the gospel accounts, Zechariah, and Revelation.

One additional observation from Luke 21: verse 25 mentions the sea, that people are perplexed because of the roaring of the sea and the waves. This reminds me of my recent study through Acts 27 in S. Lewis Johnson’s series. The sea was not something pleasant in the 1st century, and voyage by sea was often dangerous or even impossible. Johnson noted also the reference to Revelation 21, that in the New Heavens and New Earth there would be no more sea — a description not so meaningful to us today, but something designed to bring comfort to readers of that day.

Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology

February 12, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been reading through Luke’s Gospel lately, up through chapter 19 today, and have noticed quite a few eschatological references.  At the same time I’ve noticed a few blog postings also in connection with these chapters.

As I read through Luke 17 I noted the commonly cited verse where Jesus says that the kingdom is spiritual and among you.  The verses immediately after this statement talk about the signs of His second coming.  Over at Dr. Reluctant’s blog, the latest posting addresses this very issue — “Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (17)“.

In reading through Luke 19 today, I also noted the kingdom references in Jesus’ parable about the minas and the servants (Luke 19:11-27).  Jesus tells the parable to the people as they approach Jerusalem, because “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”  The main feature of the parable is the three servants and what they did with their minas.  But notice verse 15, which states that He did (later) receive the kingdom:  “He was made king, however, and returned home.”

Here I am reminded of a common practice among amillennialists and preterists:  expounding theology from a parable.  They do this with some parables, such as the Matthew 13 parable about the wheat and the tares and the harvesting angels, or the sheep and the goats parable in Matthew 25, to try to prove their idea of a simple, one event resurrection and judgement of everyone.  As many dispensationalists point out, using parables to such extent, is problematic — an approach that fails to consider the full context of the parable and its context and relationship to other passages of scripture, both other passages nearby in the text as well as other parts of scripture.  But if they really want to use parables to affirm a particular theological position, why not use the one in Luke 19:11-27?  That passage is very clearly talking about the future kingdom of God.  Just as in Acts 1:6-7, Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking the question but simply tells them it’s not for them to know the times or dates, so here in Luke 19, Jesus does not rebuke the kingdom idea itself but again emphasizes that it will come at a future time.  If the kingdom of God was really just a spiritual kingdom now, Jesus had plenty of opportunity, both in Luke 19 and Acts 1, to explain otherwise.  Similarly, if the kingdom is only spiritual and among us as said in Luke 17:20-21, then why bother adding the rest of that chapter?

Which brings me to a third interesting passage, though I admit I scanned over it at first and didn’t catch the significance right away.  Immediately after the Luke 17 passage comes the parable about the widow and the unjust judge — Luke 18:1-8.  The significant verse is the last one, where Jesus states “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Yesterday’s post at the “World and Church Trends” prophecy website, “When Jesus comes will there be faith on the earth? Yes, no and then yes!”   takes this very passage, notes the importance of verse 8:  “The major mystery that remains in this passage is why does Jesus ask if there will be faith on the earth when He comes?” and concludes that it’s a reference to the pre-wrath rapture: the rapture will remove all the believers, then during the Great Tribulation many more people will come to faith in Christ, and then when Jesus comes to Earth at the end He will find those believers.

While I agree with the basic sequencing of the Second Coming events, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Luke 18:8 is referencing the rapture.  Yet the matter intrigued me enough to look up what John MacArthur had to say about this parable, from his Luke series.  His sermon on this text, “Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return” does not propose the rapture idea, but does point out the very eschatological focus of the parable, noting its placement immediately after Luke 17, and the statement in verse 8.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?” Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the Rapture. We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but two thousand years have passed by, believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates, evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.” He will come but part of the means of that coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a Kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. “When you pray, pray like this. Our Father who art in heaven, Thy Kingdom come.” This is Kingdom pray…praying. This is praying for the Kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say, the key to the parable hangs at the front door, we know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, “even so, come Lord Jesus. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

MacArthur then points out the importance of Christ’s Second Coming as part of a Christian world view.  He’s right, understanding the future events and our blessed Hope makes such a difference in how we act in this world.  MacArthur:

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.

I suspect he was referring to the same group as http://www.worldview.org, a popular teaching and training site with worldview curriculum.  At any rate, I googled their site for several specific key terms related to the Second Coming (Second Coming, Rapture, Great Tribulation, Day of the Lord, Christ’s Return, return, rewards, Israel, etc.) and likewise found nothing.

The shallow teacher, who misses the significance of a proper worldview regarding how it all ends, comes up with very general teachings that might do well enough for superficial followers content to do a few minutes of devotional reading each day, but it does not satisfy the believer who earnestly studies God’s word as a great treasure.  That shallow view says that Luke 18:1-8 is about persistence in prayer, as in prayer for our daily, temporal needs of this life.  The same type of teaching, though, also says that the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is about our love for the brethren, how we treat fellow believers (same as taught in 1 John), and that Ezekiel 36-37 is (only) talking about spiritual regeneration.