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The Judgment by Fire in 2 Peter 3

September 16, 2013 2 comments

A recent topic has come up in my recent studies, both from S. Lewis Johnson’s 2 Peter series, and Robert D. Culver’s Daniel and the Latter Days.  Culver’s Appendix 1 “The Time and Extent of the Coming World Dissolution”  considers two issues in 2 Peter 3:1-10.  First, is Peter referring to what happens at Christ’s Return, or to what occurs at the end of the thousand year millennial era?  Second: the extent of the fire and destruction: complete annihilation of the Earth and a completely new Earth, or a renovation?

In the 2 Peter series Dr. Johnson shared reasons in support of the idea that the text is referring to Christ’s return, and in characteristic fashion also provided the reasons for it being after the 1000 years.  Culver treats this question (and the first answer) in more depth, referencing several of the same points.  For instance:

  1. The Old Testament prophets speak of a judgment by fire, that immediately precedes the beginning of the future Messianic kingdom.  (Joel 2:30-31; Malachi 3:1-3, 4:1)
  2. The Old Testament repeatedly states that disturbances in the material heavens, of a type identical with those described by Peter, shall transpire immediately before the establishment of the kingdom.  (Isaiah 34:4, 13:13, 51:6; Haggai 2:6-7; Joel 3:16)  Culver further notes the citation of Haggai 2:6-7 in Hebrews 12:26 – “yet once more” – not twice – “will I make to tremble not the earth only but also the heaven.”
  3. The New Testament writers likewise affirm a judgment of fire associated with the Second Advent.  (2 Thess. 1:7-8; Revelation 16:8-9)
  4. The coming kingdom shall occupy a regenerated earth from its beginning; therefore the purifying effects of this prophetic dissolution must be at the beginning, rather than at the close of the Millennium. (Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:22-24)
  5. The immediate context of 2 Peter 3:10 is the Second Coming itself, not something to take place 1000 years later.  Peter addresses the argument of the skeptics, “Where is the promise of His coming?” and speaks of Christ’s coming.
  6. A perpetual and continuous kingdom such as is repeatedly promised demands that no such destruction as is often urged be placed at the end of the Millennium to interrupt the continuity of that kingdom.  This is another good point from Culver’s book: the Kingdom of God is not limited to the first 1000 years. The first 1000 years is the period when Satan is bound before his final destruction, when fallen people in non-glorified bodies will be around, and the time between the two resurrections.  But the Kingdom itself continues into the Eternal State of Revelation 21.  Regarding the perpetuity of the kingdom, reference Luke 1:32-33; Daniel 7:18, 2:44, 7:14.
  7.  In 2 Peter 3, Christians are exhorted to godly living, based on this predicted dissolution, as though this is something they should expect to see if they live to the end of the present age – rather than it being something at least 1000 years away.  (Reference also the similar moral lesson in Mark 13:32-37; Matthew 24:42-51; and Luke 21:25-26 – the Olivet Discourse.)

The Nature and Extent of the Cosmic Changes

Culver is another of a few teachers who suggest a renovation of the Earth instead of annihilation and complete remaking of the earth.  Dr. Vlach has also addressed this issue at his blog, along with the related idea of the New Creation model.  S. Lewis Johnson in his Revelation series also referenced this idea:

He describes the makeup of the new creation in verse 1, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth:  for the first heaven and the first earth passed away; and there is no longer any sea.”  Not “another earth and another heaven,” but “a new earth and a new heaven.”  In fact, the adjective that he uses, the adjective “new” here, one of several adjectives for new, particularly one of the two primary ones is a word that means something like fresh, a fresh heavens and a fresh earth.  And the sense that one gets from it is that there is a correspondence between the new heavens and the new earth and the present heavens and the present earth.  But the new one is a fresh one, a correspondence that is suggested by other things in the word of God.

In my own regular Bible readings, when I come to 2 Peter 3 I have noticed also, that Peter makes comparison to the first judgment and change to the Earth, the flood:  “the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.”  Yet the actual Earth is the same as then, the same actual planet — with plenty of the scars, the evidences, of that great deluge and what great destruction happened then. Then the comparison to “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire” suggests a parallel event: not annihilation but a remodeling, a renewal, of the same actual planet.

The ‘Simple Gospel’? John 3:16 In Depth

September 2, 2013 1 comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, comes the following (shared, from Dr. J. G. Vos, The Simplicity of the Gospel.) analysis of the “simple” verse John 3:16:

Alas, this favorite verse of millions of Christians fairly bristles with theological questions that have to be answered if the verse is to have a definite meaning for us.

The first clause, ‘For God so loved the world’:  Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind, or the intensity of God’s love?  Is the stress on that he loved so many people, or is the stress on the intensity of it that his love is so strong it would even love such a vile thing as the world? Is the idea of universality or that of wickedness?

Does it describe the extent of God’s love for mankind of the intensity of it?

That He Gave His Only Begotten Son: 

Does this mean that God gave his Son to become man to live a perfect life under the law, to suffer and die as a substitute for dinners on the cross, to rise again the third day?

If that is what it means then does not this little word gave involve in it’s meaning here the whole doctrine of the incarnation, the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, the atonement, Christ’s active and passive obedience in the covenant of grace?

Again why was it needful for God in order to put his love for the world in action to give his Son?  Was this because of the lost guilty and sinful condition of the human race?  If that’s the meaning then does not this verse in it’s true meaning really involve the whole doctrines of the creation of mankind, the covenant of works, the fall, original and actual sin, total depravity and total inability?

If God gave his Son in order to save men from sin, must we not know what sin is in order to grasp the real meaning and force of the word gave?

What is meant by referring to the Son as the only begotten?  Does that mean that Christ is the Son of God in a unique sense?  If so does not the phrase, his only begotten Son involve the doctrines of the eternal sonship and deity of Christ? And do these doctrines not in turn involve the doctrine of the Trinity if they are to mean anything?

The phrase ‘believes in Him’:

Does this mean what is called saving faith?  If so, what is the nature of saving faith, and how does it differ from other kinds of faith such as mere historical faith, temporary faith, et cetera?  If this expression ‘believes in Him’ is really to mean anything to us, do we not have to know the biblical doctrine of saving faith?

And what is the force of the words in him in the phrase ‘believes in Him?’  Does this phrase involve making Jesus the object of the believer’s faith?  If so, what is the difference between making Jesus the object of one’s faith and making Jesus one’s example as a man of faith?  In short, what is the difference between having faith in Jesus and having faith in God like Jesus’ faith in God?”

The original commentary continues further through this verse — but the above is just a sample of the depth of the “simple gospel.”  The final conclusion:

The person who rejects theology and says that he wants only the simple gospel of Christ only deceives himself.  What he calls simplicity is not really simplicity, it’s only vagueness, that’s what he wants, vagueness.  The person who wants to take John 3:16 just as it stands without facing any of the theological questions which this verse raises, may think he is insisting on simplicity and is religiously superior to other Christians who want definite and clear cut knowledge, but in reality he is only hiding his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, and saying the truth is not important.

The Charismatic Movement, A Potemkin Village: S. Lewis Johnson in 2 Peter

August 17, 2013 6 comments

I’m currently going through S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, an evening class (ten sessions) he taught in early 1976, with emphasis on the false teachings of the 1st century as well as modern errors.  Studying the Bible, so many ideas and problems really are timeless, just as true now as nearly 40 years ago: as for instance, Dr. Johnson’s comments regarding the charismatic movement.

The first lecture tells about the “Potemkin Village” expression (something I was unfamiliar with, either never learned or had forgotten) and its background in Catherine the Great’s Russia: the story that the great Russian man Potemkin had exaggerated his accomplishments, then the Queen decided to visit the city he had supposedly built; so Potemkin hurriedly went to the site and built up a scene of impressive buildings rather like a Hollywood movie set..

Upon later reflection I recalled the 1970s movie “Capricorn One”, which presented basically the same idea of a façade, a fake image as supposedly the truth to the people being fooled:  astronauts about to embark for the moon are taken away minutes before launch, to a fake set of a moon landing while the real space launch occurs without them on-board, and all transmissions of the astronauts to the public are really from this movie-set location.

In the 2 Peter series, here SLJ likens the modern-day charismatic movement to a Potemkin Village — something that appears to be the real thing, visually impressive to people who lack discernment, but is hollow and without substance: observations to an issue still with us today (nearly 40 years later).  A friend observed that if SLJ were still with us, she could easily picture him as one of the speakers at the upcoming “Strange Fire” conference.

No one ever gains the favor of God through false doctrine and no one ever gains a sense of peace through false doctrine. You may have a kind of false peace for awhile, but you never will have the true peace with God until you have the right doctrine. This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement, because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines — and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge. …

So he says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge….   A Potemkin Village is a village in which is all façade, in which there is no reality.  Incidentally that story is also greatly exaggerated.  He was an eccentric man but there is no real historical proof that he ever did that.  But nevertheless the figure of speech of Potemkin Village has come into our language expressing that which is supposed to be something but it’s really nothing.  And in my opinion, if I may just pass an opinion, the charismatic movement is one giant Potemkin Village and we are going to see as time passes that it does not satisfy those who are most deeply involved in it.  True salvation comes through the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord, as Peter says.

Matching Good Quotes/Thoughts to Bible Verses

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Over the months of listening to good Bible teaching sermons, I have picked up several biblical ideas and quotes — from what the preacher, such as S. Lewis Johnson, says — though I can’t always match up the idea to a specific scriptural passage.  But recently I have come across particular verses, either during my Bible reading or from others’ comments, that jump out and clearly affirm these particular ideas.

One of these matters is the question of how much did people in Old Testament times understand.  As SLJ often pointed out, it really comes down to an individual level.  Just as in our day some believers have great knowledge and understanding while others do not, so in the Old Testament age many believers probably did not have that clear of an understanding, but some (at least a few) very likely did understand a great deal.  Added to this point from Dr. Johnson, I have recently considered something Matt Weymeyer pointed out in regards to Luke 24 and the disciples on the Emmaus road:  Jesus expected them to be able to understand the sequence (with just the OT and no NT revelation), of Christ’s suffering and his exaltation, and called them “dull” and “slow” for not getting it.

As a fellow blog-commenter on Pyromaniacs pointed out, 1 Peter 1:10-11 tells us that the prophets did understand:  … the prophets … searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  Sure enough, the sequence is there to make it clear that they at least did read their Bibles correctly and understood it.  They had to work harder, more diligently, but they could still find the answers in their Old Testament Bible.

The second matter comes from S. Lewis Johnson’s observations, from experience, regarding the cause of backsliding, or the type of person most likely to backslide.  I included the quote in this previous blog, during my study through Isaiah.  While reading through 2 Peter recently, 2 Peter 1:5-8 impressed upon me a strong connection with that very idea.  Notice especially verse 8, which fits so well with S. Lewis Johnson’s observations:  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the person who does not make every effort, who is not increasing, becomes ineffective and unfruitful.  Verse 9 then continues with the warning for those who lack these qualities.  Verse 10 reaffirms the importance of what was just said regarding our continuing to increase in these qualities:  for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.