Posts Tagged ‘Mark Hitchcock’

Mark Hitchcock: Bible Study in Esther

July 30, 2010 Comments off

Recently I’ve listened to a Bible Study series through the book of Esther, one done by Mark Hitchcock two years ago.  This was done as a ten-part Wednesday night series, a straightforward book study series of this interesting narrative account.  As I listened to this series, I often recalled some of the content of the biblical fiction book “One Night with the King,” which I read several years ago (and was later made into a movie) — a very fictional account that portrayed Esther in a much more positive light than the reality indicates.
Like any good Bible study series, this one provides a great deal of background information, concerning the time period, the culture and the characters.  The story took place, I learned, during a ten year period from 483 to 473 B.C.  In Bible chronology the story comes after Ezra chapter 6, but before Ezra 7.  Esther 3 – 10 take place during 11 months, from 474 to 473 B.C., about 5 years after chapter 2.  In between chapters 1 and 2, King Ahaseurus left to a great battle against the Greeks — and suffered great defeat.  Mordecai likely refused to bow to Haman out of his own personal pride, reflecting the age-old enmity between the Amelekites  / Agagites, and the Jews.  The book of Esther continually refers to the two characters as “Haman the Agagite” and “Mordecai the Jew” to bring out the contrast.  The Persians were one group of rulers, interestingly enough, who did not claim divinity for themselves.  Haman’s decree (chapter 3) was issued by the scribes on the day before Passover.  Chapter 4 takes place shortly afterwards, and so Esther’s request for all the Jews of Susa to fast actually meant that they would have to skip Passover and fast when they should have been feasting.  Yet Esther and the other Jews in Susa seem unaware even of the fact of Passover on their calendar.

Among some of the interesting points made early in this series:  Hitchcock believes that Mordecai and Esther were unregenerate Jews — certainly good citizens, patriotic type Jews, but nevertheless unbelievers.  He suggests this as one of the reasons why God’s name is never mentioned in the book, and points to the obvious contrasts of Mordecai and Esther, with the behavior of other well-known Jews such as Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah.  Unlike Daniel, Esther ate ceremonially unclean food; she also willingly joined a pagan king’s harem, had unlawful relations with a man not her husband, and later married this non-Israelite.  Not only does the book of Esther never mention God, the book also never mentions prayer or repentance.

When I looked up the book of Esther in an online commentary — Thomas Constable — I noted great similarity in content.  It’s possible that this particular commentary was among Hitchcock’s source material.  The MacArthur Bible Commentary (MBC) gives a somewhat different stance, leaving some of the story details to the benefit of the doubt.  For instance, the note for Esther 2:8 simply says that it is impossible to tell if Esther was forced or joined the harem voluntarily.  From my reading of Esther 2:8, “was taken,” and subsequent verses that describe Mordecai coming near to check on her as much as possible, it seems at least possible that she was taken by force — a story version developed to great extent in the fictional tale, “One Night With the King.”  Regardless of how it  happened, of course, Esther and Mordecai certainly continued a very secular life afterwards — and yet the events were a part of God’s great providence in bringing about deliverance for the Jews at that time.  In the overall summary, MacArthur notes the differences in Esther’s conduct as compared to Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, yet allows the possibility that we may not have the complete story concerning their lives afterward.  The MBC also gives more explanation concerning why Mordecai wanted Esther to hide her identity, due to a letter against the Jews, from the time of Ezra.

The book of Esther nevertheless stands as a great example of God’s providence and His determination to save His people, even using unregenerate people to play their part in preserving the Jewish nation.  This series from Mark Hitchcock is also valuable as one that makes the connection between what God did for His people Israel at that time, and the great future plans that God yet has for national Israel.  Haman is a type of the antiChrist, to be compared both with Hitler and the future antiChrist.  Hitchcock even mentions Barry Horner’s Future Israel and its basic message concerning God’s (future) election of Israel, and relates the story of Esther to great texts including Jeremiah 31 and Romans 11.

List of Bible Books and Sermon Series

June 29, 2010 5 comments

Since I enjoy book-by-book and verse-by-verse Bible teaching, especially in MP3 sermon format, I have created an Excel file to help organize the available resources, for future Bible study.  My list includes each book of the Bible and associated Bible teachers who taught through part or all of that Bible book.  For each teacher I list the number of messages in the series, and note if the series covered only part of the book.  For my purposes I looked at several preachers that I’m familiar with.  The list includes John MacArthur and S. Lewis Johnson, as well as the other teachers at Believers Chapel, plus material from preachers affiliated with John MacArthur (Don Green, Steve Lawson, Bruce Blakey, Lance Quinn), and a few other recommended names including Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Constable, and Ray Stedman.

A few observations from the complete list:

  • John MacArthur has the greatest number of messages, and the most complete coverage of the New Testament.  He actually has preached through all of the New Testament books (gospel of Mark still in progress), yet I did not include his sermons for books covered early in his ministry, especially since better series exist for those books, from more mature (better delivery style) preachers.
  • S. Lewis Johnson has the most coverage for the minor prophets — and when you include Dan Duncan, Believers Chapel has the most extensive coverage for all the Prophets:  all books except Lamentations, Nahum and Zephaniah.  Believers Chapel also generally has the most coverage for all the Old Testament: most of the history through the time of King David, plus most of the prophets, and decent coverage for Proverbs and even some Psalms.
  • Thomas Constable has audio sermons available for several Old Testament books, but in many cases the complete series are only available with payment for audio CDs.  Yet Constable also has a complete 66 book commentary of the whole Bible, in PDF format.
  • Thomas Constable, plus Ray Stedman and Mark Hitchcock nicely fill in some of the spots neglected by others, such as Ruth, Esther, 1 Samuel 1-15 (pre-David),  Nehemiah, Job and Ecclesiastes.  Yet a few gaps exist, books I could not find audio sermons for, including the Kings and Chronicles and some of the smaller Old Testament books.  Further study of those books can always be done with material from J. Vernon McGee, or through print resources such as commentaries from Thomas Constable and Alexander MacLaren.

Click the following link to see the actual list:

Bible Teaching Series List

Mark Hitchcock: Preterism series

June 18, 2010 Comments off

Recently the name Mark Hitchcock came up again (through a question on Dan Phillips’ blog) — one of the better Bible prophecy teachers.  I had briefly looked at his church website last year, and enjoyed a general prophecy message that sounded solid enough.  From the recent inquiry, I learned a few more things: Mark Hitchcock is “4.5 point Calvinist,” and he does teach Calvinist soteriology, as in a recent Ephesians study.  This was good to hear, as sermons on prophecy don’t necessarily indicate one’s understanding of the doctrines of Grace.  Mark Hitchcock also does not hold to the “gutless grace” of the non-Lordship salvation group, and has been described as part-way between Ryrie and John MacArthur.

Hitchcock’s church site, Faith Bible Church (Edmond, OK),  has a good selection of online sermons going back to 2004, and among the offerings are series on the prophets, dispensationalism, and preterism.  I’ve been listening to the 8-part series on Preterism (from 2006), and so far it’s quite informative.  Like Don Greene, who has a good paper concerning Matthew 24 and problems with Preterist interpretation, Hitchcock deals with partial or moderate preterism, the belief of a few prominent men including R.C. Sproul, Hank Hennegraff, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry.

Some of Mark Hitchcock’s presentation was familiar, from Don Greene’s paper, including the point about the context for Matthew 24 in the verses at the end of Matthew 23 — and Jesus’ strong words to the Jews, that “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’.”  Obviously the Jews did not repent in A.D. 70, so that event could not have been the time of Christ’s Second Coming, even any “cloud coming” or “judgment coming.”

Where I found Hitchcock’s Preterism series especially helpful was its explanation of the preterists’ view of the book of Revelation.  Everything I had previously seen online, including from Don Greene as well as the pre-trib website, dealt with the Olivet Discourse, and so this supplied a lot of details concerning other preterist ideas.  This 8-part series includes an overview of Revelation plus a few extra sessions discussing the preterist idea of Revelation 13, the claim that the beast was Nero.

Now for a few highlights, from my notes through Hitchcock’s Preterism series:

Preterists emphasize “Reader Relevance” with the claim that the prophecies given in the Olivet Discourse and Revelation had to have meaning for the 1st century generation, and therefore fulfillment in their day.  A good response here:  what about Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah, 700 years before it happened?  How was that one relevant to people in Isaiah’s day?  What about the prophecy in Genesis 3:15, written down by Moses 1400 years before the Messiah came?  By such “reader relevance,” we could not have any biblical prophecies for anything beyond a few years.

In reference to Reader Relevance, Preterists cite the High Priest Caiaphas as a case of one who was told by Jesus that he would see the Son of Man coming — and therefore Jesus must have been talking about a judgment coming in 70 A.D.  It turns out, from biblical archeology findings, that Caiaphas didn’t even live until 70 A.D., but had died some 20 years previously anyway.  Caiaphas will see the Son of Man coming, certainly — at the future Second Coming, as one of the “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.”

Did Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus two or three questions at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse?  Mark Hitchcock makes a good case that, really, the disciples were only asking one question.  When Jesus mentioned the temple being destroyed, their only point of reference was Zechariah 14, and so they associated Jesus’ words about the destruction with God’s deliverance of Israel, and His return, with one single future event.  Of course Jesus knew that these were two separate events (the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, then the future Second Coming), so He told them the signs associated with His return.

Preterism and the Book of Revelation

Whereas Mark Hitchcock sees the seven sealed scroll as a “scroll of doom,” and John MacArthur has described it as the “title deed to the earth,” preterists claim that this scroll is God’s bill of divorce to the nation Israel.  Throughout the overview of Revelation, the Preterists have an extremely obvious anti-Israel bias.

Preterists interpret numbers in a very inconsistent way, and don’t even follow their own made-up rules.  Their overall “rule” is that very large numbers are only symbolic, but small numbers are literal — but then in Revelation 11 they flip-flop and say that the two witnesses are symbolic of a small body of Christians remaining in Jerusalem to testify against it.

Inconsistent hermeneutics:  as just one example of the many inconsistencies, how Preterists treat the period of 3 1/2 years. Any normal Bible reader, just reading the book of Revelation, would notice the descriptions of a period of time that is 3 1/2 years, also called 42 months, both in Revelation 11 and Revelation 13 — and reasonably conclude that both are talking about the same 3 1/2 year time period.  But the Preterists claim that the 3 1/2 years in Revelation 11 happened from 67 to 70 A.D., but the 3 1/2 years in Revelation 13 occurred from late 64 to 68 A.D.  And the events that they say “fulfill” Revelation 11 and Revelation 13 were only “about” 3 1/2 years.  Approximations don’t cut it when we are dealing with the exactness of God, who has shown great precision in past dating such as the amazing prophecy (Daniel 9) concerning the first 69 weeks.

This series has much more interesting information, a good resource on this subject — and I plan to listen to quite a bit more from Mark Hitchcock’s teachings available online.