Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

The Different Judgments In Scripture

June 30, 2011 Comments off

Just as our legal system has many courts, so in God’s word we see many different courts, or judgments.  We have our federal courts, state courts, and even local county or city courts.  Not all cases and not all people face justice in each court.  So when it comes to understanding the Bible, we are not to jump to conclusions and assume that all the mentions of judgment are referring to one single future judgment.

In looking at Matthew 25:31-46, S. Lewis Johnson points this out, and briefly lists the different judgments set forth in scripture:

1.  The Judgment that Christ bore, paying for our sins at Calvary
2.  The Believer’s Self-Judgment, spoken of by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11  (see also 1 John 5:16-17)
3.  The “Bema Seat” judgment of all believers, for our rewards — reference 1 Cor. 3:12-15
Good resources concerning this topic:  John MacArthur’s Believer’s Rewards and S. Lewis Johnson’s The Believer’s Judgment

4.  Judgment of Living Israelites, for going into the Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 65:8-16, Zephaniah 1, Zechariah 13)
5.  Judgment of Living Gentiles, for going into the Kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46)
6.  Judgment of the Fallen Angels  (Rev. 20)
7.  Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead — The “Great White Throne” of Revelation 20:11-15

I was aware of some of these, but had never heard them listed out.  From some googling, though, I found additional information including a Walvoord book, “Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today” which also describes the many different judgments found in the Bible.

Many believers (especially amillennialists and postmillennialists) have concluded that the Sheep and Goats judgment is the same event as the Great White Throne, a single general judgment of all believers.  A recent blog from Michael Vlach especially compares these two judgments, noting nine important differences between these accounts.

S. Lewis Johnson likewise noted that the historical church position was to view the account in Matthew 25 as describing a single general judgment, a parallel to the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20.  But as with many things in this overall category of doctrine, more thorough study shows the differences.  Just as the resurrection will take place in phases, first the resurrection of the just followed by a time gap of 1000 years before the resurrection of the wicked, so too God’s word reveals many phases in God’s judgments upon His creation: the great judgment put upon His son, and the many judgments to the living and the dead, of both the just and the wicked.

Why The Bible Does Not Have A Simple Blueprint

June 23, 2011 Comments off

From S. Lewis Johnson, as to why God’s word does not provide simple passages that explain everything we want to know about a particular doctrine

You might wish that the Bible did contain one little blueprint that you could turn to that would answer all of the questions, but it seems to me that one of the reasons why this is not so is that God evidently has thought that it was necessary for us to ponder and study the Scriptures in order that through the pondering and study of the word of God, we might come ultimately to the knowledge of the truth.  In other words, it’s necessary to do what the Reformers used to do when they spoke about the Analogy of Faith:  compare Scripture with Scripture, because this is a good test of one’s desire to know the truth.

Incidentally, it’s not simply concerning the doctrine of the second coming that these comments could be made.  They could be made concerning most of the doctrines of the word of God.  If we wish to have a full understanding of all aspects of them, it’s necessary to look at a number of passages in the word of God.  And the very fact that we are willing to do this is some evidence of a desire to know, and it seems to me, that one of the reasons that God has not given us one passage that answers all of our questions concerning each doctrine, is that he does want to test our desire to know holy Scripture.

Now theologians speak of normative passages, and by that, they mean the central passage, the one passage that one turns to, first of all, to gain the major outlines of the teaching of a particular doctrine.  We don’t deny that there are normative passages—there are—but there are, for most of the major doctrines of the word of God, no one passage that answers all of our questions.  I do think that that is something for each of us to think about.  It means that if we are really to know the teaching of the word of God, it is necessary that we ponder and reflect a lot more deeply than simply looking at the word in a surface kind of way.

I think there’s another reason why the Bible does not contain an organized obviously plain statement concerning the second coming doctrine.  We might be so pleased with this blueprint that we discover in the word of God that we forget that the truth concerning the second coming is designed to change our lives.  You may remember that in almost all of the passages of the Bible in which the Second Advent, or the second coming of the Lord Jesus, is referred to, there is a statement in which that truth is made applicational.  That is, it has to do with ethical or moral issues that are to flow out of it.

The Parables of Rejection: Matthew’s Gospel

June 9, 2011 1 comment

As many know, the gospel of Matthew is arranged topically, with all related material together in one section of the gospel, followed by another section for a few chapters, and so forth — in contrast to Luke’s gospel which follows a more chronological pattern.  In my study through the gospel of Matthew with S. Lewis Johnson, I now come to the section dealing with events of the last week before the Crucifixion, and particularly to chapters 21 and 22 — which introduce a series of three parables containing the theme of the rejection of Christ by His people Israel.

The first parable (Matthew 21:28-32) tells of two sons asked to go work in the vineyard. One said he would not go, but afterward repented and went.  The other said he would go, but did not go.  By direct application this parable contrasts the rulers of the people (the second son) with the common people (the tax collectors and harlots), and by extension applies to the overall nation of Israel as compared to the Gentiles.

The second parable (Matthew 21:33-45) tells of a householder, a very wealthy man who planted a vineyard and prepared it for fruit and then went off to a far country, expecting his fruit to be given in its season.  This parable has much in common with Isaiah 5:1-7, and therefore familiar terminology to the Jews; but here Jesus adds the element of the man sending his servants (the prophets), and finally his son, to the tenants to collect his fruit.

The third parable (Matthew 22:1-14) is that of a Marriage Feast. Those who had been invited are now called to come, but they refused — and so the king extended the invitation to many others out on the main road, to fill the house with guests.

These parables have different emphases, but all teach the same main points:
1.  The empty profession leads to judgment:  the man who says, I will go and work — but does not go, can expect only judgment.  The judgment theme is further developed in the second parable:  the man who does not respond to the owner of the household, to give Him his fruit, is likewise exposted to judgment.  The third parable shows a man at the wedding feast, but without the wedding garment:  an empty profession is not enough.

2.  God’s Program for the Nation Israel and the Gentiles shall undergo a dramatic change–by virtue of the fact that the Nation Israel, to whom the promises had been given, has now evidently refused the Son at His coming.

The first parable teaches that the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you — and likewise, the Gentiles shall precede this generation into the kingdom of God.  Note that even here God is still very gracious and leaves the door open:  they shall enter “before you.”  The door has not been permanently shut, and there still is opportunity for you.  Thus has been the case down through history:  the church has been composed of a majority of Gentiles, but still some Jews.  Even in the book of Acts we learn that some of the Pharisees, and some of the priests, did indeed come to faith in Christ — one of the evidences we see for answer to Christ’s prayer from the cross, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The second parable is even more clear:  the kingdom of God shall be taken from you (those who did not bring forth fruit to their master) and given to the Gentiles.  Then in the third parable, the chosen people do not even want to come, and so the servants of the king go out to the highways and gather as many as they can find.

Those that have been invited to the feast, the Nation Israel, because of their rejection of the Son did not come, and so he goes out into the highways and selects all, as many as they find, both bad and good, and they come to the feast.  That’s His way of telling in a simple illustrative story that there is a tremendous transformation taking place in the program of God at the first coming of the Lord Jesus.

The parables also have different emphases:  work for God in the first parable, stewardship and the particular relationship of trustee in the second parable, and the joy of a marriage feast in the third parable.  Yet each of these parables convey great truths, in the illustrative way that only our Lord Jesus Christ can relate these things to us, for our greater understanding.

The Questions That God Asks Us

May 17, 2011 1 comment

In our Christian life we all know the experience of people asking God questions, or asking questions about God and why things are the way they are.  But what about the times when God asks questions to people, such as individuals in the Bible?  I consider that here we see a few different categories of such questions.  In Job 38-41, for instance, God asks Job countless questions — rhetorical questions to show God’s sovereignty and to “put Job in his place” but not actually expecting specific answers.

Another category is that of probing questions, and we see examples of these in several places, including the dialogue in Genesis 3, God’s conversation with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, and in Jonah 4.  These are situations where God asks the person a question in an attempt to get the person to think and reason, to snap out of a sinful way of thinking.  Throughout these incidents we also see God’s loving patience with stubborn and sinful men, the manner of a parent trying to reason with a rebellious and wayward small child.

I remember reading through John MacArthur’s Genesis series a few years ago and how impressed I was with the depth that I’d never seen before, especially when I got to Genesis 3 and God’s approach to Adam.  MacArthur pointed out the loving approach God took; He knew that Adam had sinned and disobeyed, and could have instantly destroyed Adam — but He brought up the subject with questions, to get Adam to confess and return to fellowship:  “where are you, Adam?” and then “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  It was an opportunity for Adam to admit and talk about it, but of course we all know how Adam responded.

The prophets give us two situations rather similar to each other, of prophets who are out of the will of God.  Elijah was so fearful for his life that he ran away from Jezebel, but then told God he wanted to die.  In 1 Kings 19, verses 9 and 13, God confronts Elijah with the same simple question:  “what are you doing here, Elijah?”  When Elijah doesn’t “get it” the first time, God has to show himself to the prophet in His true power — not in the great events of wind, earthquake and fire, but in a still small voice.  The second time the question is asked, Elijah just repeats the same answer, and so God must also point out that Elijah is not the only one left.

Then God dealt with Jonah, a similarly stubborn prophet, with probing questions and another object lesson: the growth and subsequent demise of a plant that pleased Jonah.  As with Elijah, God asks him the question twice:  “Do you do well to be angry?” and later, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”  Like Elijah, Jonah persists in his stubbornness and fails to “get it” until God brings home the final lesson.  Jonah was even willing to die, he said, over the loss of the gourd:  something inanimate, uncreated by Jonah, unnourished by Jonah, and temporary.  How much more did God have concern over His animate, created, nourished and eternal souls (120,000 Ninevites).

The Bible gives us many other great examples of questions asked by God, as well as interesting conversations between Christ and people He interacted with.  Here I think of the interesting conversations with Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria in John 3 and 4, as well as His words to the Syro-Phoenician woman.  Another question in Matthew 19:17, to the rich young ruler (“Why do you call me good?”) was also designed to get the man thinking about why he was calling Jesus a “Good Master” but not thinking of Jesus as actually being God — though in this case the man did not respond and went away unsatisfied.  All of these incidents from the Bible, of course, are instructive to us as well.  Whenever we get into the same thoughts and attitudes as the prophets or the people Jesus encountered, we can remember these incidents and relate to the characters as people just like us — and take the same instruction from the words God directly told them.

Backsliding, versus Sanctification: Quotes from S. Lewis Johnson and J.C. Ryle

November 30, 2010 Comments off

S. Lewis Johnson:  Backsliding

From a message on Isaiah 55, the following thought from S. Lewis Johnson:  who will backslide

the one thing above everything else that has impressed itself upon me with regard to backsliding is this: the man who does not continue in the word of our Lord is the man who would backslide — in almost every case (with some exceptions, where Christians are overtaken in some sin that seems to be a sin of an immediate character).  In most of the cases, it is because men have not continued in the word of God.  They have not been students of the Bible.  I don’t mean just devotionally reading it at the breakfast table.  I mean to do some real study of the word of God.

If people will not study the word of God, they are going to need spiritual medicine.  They are going to need a spiritual physician, and I think that through the years the thing that has impressed me in the church is that those Christians who are the least problem to the elders are the Christians who are growing in the knowledge of the Bible.  If you could just get a group of Christians in a church together in which everyone was daily growing in the knowledge of the word of God, the elders could set it out and twiddle their thumbs because it would be a healthy, happy, growing, fruitful body of Christians.  This is so fundamental because the word is powerful and God sees that it accomplishes His purposes.  It is when we neglect the Bible that we begin to drift, becoming indifferent, lose our love, become overtaken and entangled in sin.

How true it is — we need to continue in the word of God, the daily manna to grow in the knowledge of God’s word.  I can see the backsliding effects in other professed believers who give minimal attention to the Bible, with their hearts occupied with the cares of this world.  I can see it in my own past, the years of mere casual Bible reading but no growth in Bible knowledge.  The neglect of the Bible brings out indifference and loss of our first love.  How tragic it is too, to see in loved ones an attitude of indifference to God’s word: the post-modern attitude that only certain parts of the Bible are important (soteriology) and all the rest is up for interpretation and it’s arrogant to say that we know for sure what God’s word means (and therefore why bother to study God’s word?)

Here I turn to words of great comfort and counsel, from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness (chapter 12, The Ruler of the Waves), for my own trial of living with a backslidden person:

How should you know who are true Christians, if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How should we discern the wheat from the chaff, if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How should we know whether men served Christ for His own sake or from selfish motives, if His service brought health and wealth with it as a matter of course? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They discover whose faith is real and whose is nothing but profession and form.

How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning–knife which the great Husbandman employs in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind and rain and storm.

If you desire to serve Christ and be saved, I entreat you to take the Lord on His own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. For want of understanding this, many seem to run well for a season, and then turn back in disgust, and are cast away.

If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes any mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and waters swell. But fear not, “He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation” (Ps. 107:7).