10 Questions for Calvinists

Guest contributor: Martin Alexander McMahon

1. Can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He, from eternity, unconditionally determined not to save, and is, in the words of Calvin, “pleased to exclude” and “doom to destruction”? Or in the case of those who eschew the more passive doctrine of preterition and opt for the more active doctrine of reprobation, I ask: can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He has specifically created for the express purpose of destroying, who are, to quote Calvin, “doomed from the womb to certain death, whereby God is glorified by their destruction”?

2. If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to think that our prayers influence God’s answers to our prayers? Further, wouldn’t prayer be like someone putting on a sock puppet, and then having the sock puppet ask him to do something? And to extend the analogy even further, wouldn’t God’s answer/s to prayer be like someone answering a request that he had his own sock puppet ask himself?

3. Regarding the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-18), is the Calvinistic doctrine of Irresistible Grace compatible with Satan actively stealing away the Word of God (the ‘seed’) from people to prevent them from believing (Luke 8:12)? In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to steal the Word from people, when these very people whom he is attempting to prevent believing cannot believe anyway, due to Total Depravity, and indeed, cannot believe until after they are already regenerated?

4. Regarding Luke 22:14-23, is the Calvinistic doctrine of Limited Atonement compatible with the fact that Judas Iscariot – who would have been better off had he never been born (Mark 14:21), and whom Jesus called a ‘devil’ (John 6:70) – was among those for whom Jesus Christ said He gave His body and shed His blood? If so, wouldn’t that mean that Judas Iscariot is among the elect?

5. God specifically states that there were sins that He “did not command or decree” (Jer. 19:5). Indeed, these sins did not even “come into my [God’s] mind” (Jer. 19:5; cf. Jer. 7:30-31; 32:35). If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to believe that He has causally determined and decreed sins that He did not command or decree, indeed, sins that did not even come into His mind to command or decree? Further, does the fact that these sins occurred without God first decreeing them mean that the sins were not under God’s sovereign rule?

6. In 1 Samuel 23, David learned that Saul was plotting harm against him (vv. 7-9), and so inquired of God as to 1) whether the people of Keilah would surrender him into Saul’s hand, and 2) whether Saul would indeed come to Keilah. Regarding both inquiries, God answered in the affirmative: Saul would come to Keilah, and the people of Keilah would surrender David into Saul’s hand (vv. 10-12). David and his men swiftly fled from Keilah (v. 13), and even though Saul sought David every day, God would not surrender David into his hand (v. 14). According to this passage, it would appear that God had foreknowledge of events that, in fact, never came to pass. Doesn’t this passage contradict the Calvinistic tenet that God can foreknow the future only if He has already causally determined said future? On the Calvinist view, if the above-stated events never came to pass, then surely God did not foreordain (or even permit) them to come to pass, so how then could God have foreknowledge of events that never came to pass?

7. The Apostle Paul states that “those who are perishing… refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10; emphasis added). Even the Hyper-Calvinist John Gill said of this passage, “the reason therefore of these men’s perishing is not the decree of God, nor even want of the means of grace, the revelation of the Gospel, but their rejection and contempt of it” (emphasis added). Isn’t the obvious implication that those who are perishing, in spite of the fact that they do ultimately perish, had a legitimate chance of being saved?

8. In the Bible, Christians are described as having “died to sin”(Rom. 6:2; cf. Rom. 6:7, 8, 11; 7:4-6; Gal 2:19; Col. 2:20; 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:11). Before conversion, the unregenerate are obviously described as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. Col. 2:13). Calvinists (eg., Boice and Ryken) describe the spiritually dead as having “all the passive properties belonging to a corpse” in that “like a spiritual corpse, he is unable to make a single move toward God, think a right thought about God, or even respond to God”. If being dead in sin entails not being able to make a single move toward God or even respond to God, does being dead to sin entail not being able to make a single move toward sin or even respond to sin?

9. Regarding the Apostle Paul’s warning to be sober-minded, watchful, and to resist the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9), is the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (which entails ‘inevitable perseverance’, ‘once saved, always saved’, and if anyone apostatizes, they were ‘never saved to begin with’) compatible with Satan actively prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8-9)? In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to seek to devour people whose salvation cannot possibly be put in jeopardy? And even if he actually does successfully ‘devour’ someone, wouldn’t that be sure proof that the person was never saved to begin with, and thus render the act of ‘devouring’ futile?

10. John Calvin taught what is known as ‘evanescent grace’ (Institutes, 3.2.11). Calvin thus taught that God bestows grace on the reprobate (or non-elect) and implants faith in them that is “so similar to the elect” that sometimes, there is virtually “no difference” between the elect and the non-elect. Calvin further taught that, “In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end”. In other words, true saving faith only proves to be truly saving if it perseveres to the very end. In light of this, is it possible for a Calvinist to have true assurance of salvation? Doesn’t this doctrine actually undermine the Biblical markers for assurance? How can someone know that his present faith is genuine, if genuine faith only proves to be genuine if it perseveres to the very end? How can a person be sure that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not an “inferior operation of the Spirit” which “afterwards proves evanescent,” the “better to convict them, and leave them without excuse”? Can a person even have assurance by producing fruit, considering that Calvin taught that the reprobate, through evanescent grace, “may for several years… produce fruit”?

Faithful Preaching of the Gospel in a Sermon

Guest Contributor: Calan Moy

“all [sermon] messages given were relevant … as well as faithful to the Gospel.”

The words of my friend sat in my head as I tried to wrap my head around how the seemingly “Christian” event he had went to had portrayed that concept to him since it was an event that was notoriously known for the lack of attention given to sermons. After contemplating for several weeks, I have came up with what I think is a good reference to discern sermons that are preached through a biblical perspective:

1) Faithful preaching of the gospel in a sermon is expository in nature

An exposition of the text simply brings out the meaning of the text to explicitly show the gospel from every location in scripture, hence the preaching fundamentally roots itself in the power of the words of the text, and not in the preacher.

2) Faithful preaching of the gospel is rooted in systematic theology

Faithful preaching understands, grounds and applies theology that has been derived from Scripture and it understands the nature of God in a deep and reverent fashion. It understands the truths about God’s justice shown in his awful fury and judgement towards sinners and yet restrains these truths with the love of God towards the righteous and unrighteous. The effect of systematic theology is that it acts as a control for the preaching. It preaches the “whole counsel of God” without missing out the essentials of the gospel.

3) Faithful preaching of the gospel is God-glorifying

The preacher of the gospel, ultimately, does not want people to hear what he has to say but wants people to hear what God has to say about Himself and about them. An emphasis that focuses on men, with a positive note as to what men achieve without the work of Christ in their lives, achieves the opposite effect of being God-glorifying.

4) Faithful preaching of the gospel is a blade

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ”…the word of God is active, sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart…”
Be very afraid of preaching that is faithful to the gospel. It is a blade (or a scalpel) that surgically slices you and reveals your motives as for what they are. It shows you to be what you really are.

5) Faithful preaching of the gospel has a basic understanding of biblical anthropology

Anthropology, which means the study of men and their beings, makes the condition and being of men the point of the preaching. It points out the deficiencies and incapability of men rather than teach a positive and high view of what man is.

6) Faithful preaching of the gospel grounds itself in the power of the Holy Spirit

The gospel which is exposited, relies wholly upon the Holy Spirit to convict and bring men to repentance. It is not of the preachers own doing. It does not rely upon the things that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:4, i.e. “…clever and persuasive speeches”, but rather, upon “(the) demonstration of the Spirit and of power”.

7) Faithful preaching of the gospel does not advocate legalism

The preaching of the gospel brings about the change within believers that only God can do and only by the sanctifying power of the word. It changes people to orient their thoughts and attitudes towards the good of both God and the neighbour, and thus smashes the power of legalism for it leaves the believers only with the law of love/Christ due to the work of Christ on the cross.

8) Faithful preaching of the gospel is Christ-centred

It centres itself around the nature, incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession of Christ, in his kingly, priestly and prophetic roles. I am convinced that to leave out any one of the 3 roles mentioned above is to deprive Christ of his majesty and glory, as well as to reject the Old Testament understanding of the “Messiah”. To preach Christ as Lord and Saviour requires all 3 roles to be rightly expounded and understood.

9) Faithful preaching of the gospel is apologetic in nature

The gospel when rightly proclaimed, teaches, rebukes and corrects our thoughts that are mistaken or which deviate from the truth of God. The gospel is, according to 1 Corinthians, “…foolishness to the world” as the world cannot comprehend the mind of God. Hence, the gospel serves as the argument that defends the truth of God and what He has revealed to us. We recognise that the gospel as an apologetic tool will never make sense to the world unless they repent and believe in it. The gospel either brings the unbeliever to repentance when confronted with the truth, or it pushes the unbeliever away with that exact same truth.

Conclusion

I believe that God still works through sermons that do not rightly have Christ at the centre. However, while admitting this, we must acknowledge that an abnormality does not equal to the norm. Instead, we should constantly hold to being “semper reformanda” (constantly reforming), in light of God’s word as these are dark and sinful times we are in. Therefore, all the more do we need to have a sharpness and a discernment of the truth that a preacher in the pulpit brings to us!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Editor’s Note: The author welcomes any feedback on the article and can be contacted at calanmoy20142015 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Walking with God

Guest Contributor: Zech Chan

Continuing the series on 1 John being conducted, this portion will be on 1 John 1:5-10. This portion is a direct continuation of the first 4 verses which, in the last session, wanted to convey that man’s joy is complete when in fellowship with God. This portion of the text focuses on how we can achieve this fellowship with God.

With any relationship we choose to be in (either with a significant other or a friend), generally we have certain standards before we can be with that person. For example, if I were to choose a girlfriend, there will be some criteria that I personally have before I choose to be in a relationship. Similarly, God has a requirement we need to meet before we can enter into fellowship with Him.

God has a requirement we need to meet before we can enter into fellowship with Him. Click To Tweet

John starts 1 John 1:5 with “This is the message we have heard from him”, as a claim to authority that he and the apostles themselves witnessed, heard and learned from Jesus personally and the message was that God is light and that there is no darkness in him at all. This claim of God being light and the contrast of darkness to the light is repeated by John throughout verses 5 to 10 (e.g. verse 6 that immediately follow talks about traits of those walking in the dark).

Light when referring to God, as Calvin explains, is God’s pureness and perfection which reveals all things that are sinful. For example, in Isaiah 6:5, when Isaiah has a vision of God, he says “for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Therefore, God being light is a testament to God’s holiness and in as John writes later in 1 John 3:5 “In him there is no sin(darkness).”

John also uses light and truth interchangeably as he also uses sin and darkness. In verse 6, John argues that if we still walk in darkness while still claiming to have fellowship with God, we do not practice the truth. One would also surmise that if one is walking in the darkness, he is not walking in the light. Verse 7 also further uses it similarly when one claims to be walking in the light and having fellowship with one another by the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin.

Not only that, there is a claim that walking in the light allows one to have fellowship with one another, this not only means with God but also with the body of believers and this is only possible through the Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our confession and repentance of sins. Therefore, for the one seeking God and wanting to be in fellowship with Him, there needs to first be a repentance of sins, having faith in the work that Jesus has done on the cross and taking hold of the assurance in 1 John 1:9 that God is faithful to His promises to us of forgiveness and salvation but not only that, He is also just as Jesus has already paid our debts on the cross.

However, there is another dimension to having fellowship with God besides the work that has been accomplished by Jesus and that is our daily response to Christ. In verse 7, the blood of Jesus his Son (continually) cleanses us from all sin. As Matthew Henry said, “The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquired, and sin abolished for ever.” As we still live in a world that is of sin, a Christian is still fallible to sin and how one responds to their sin will be an indication of that believer.

In verse 8, the one that claims to be sinless is deceiving himself and that the truth is not in them. A Christian who has had his past, present and future sins forgiven on the cross does not lose his salvation when he sins but rather he does not experience it in his walk until he confesses his sin. The confession of sin is not the cause or condition of salvation nor the manifestation of it but rather it is descriptive of the person, one who is subject to God’s will and has experienced his grace and love of forgiveness.

A Christian who has had his past, present and future sins forgiven on the cross does not lose his salvation when he sins but rather he does not experience it in his walk until he confesses his sin. Click To Tweet

In conclusion, God who is holy cannot tolerate sin. As people who are born with sin, we cannot naturally have a relationship with God. However, through the work of Christ on the cross, the one who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life and will continually walk in the light of God, being committed to walk in His ways daily.

The confession of sin is not the cause or condition of salvation nor the manifestation of it but rather it is descriptive of the person, one who is subject to God’s will and has experienced his grace and love of forgiveness. Click To Tweet

References

John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 136-147

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Retrieved from: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/1-john/1.html

John Gill, John Gills’ Exposition of the Bible. Retrieved from: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/1-john-1-9.html

Masculine Imageries of God (Part 1)

Guest Contributor: Hon Sir Neng

INTRODUCTION

Throughout Scripture, God is addressed with masculine pronoun. Nowhere has God ever been addressed by feminine pronoun(s). This is an issue that needs to be discussed, especially with the rise of what some Western theologians would call “Christian Feminism.” Some of the more radical ones would promote the idea of addressing God with a female pronoun (i.e. she, her & etc). Many would go to the extent of claiming it was written from a patriarchal mindset and that women must reinterpret Scripture for themselves. There are certain underlying assumptions and implications behind this idea, especially when the masculine imageries are taken away.

To start things off, we need to establish 3 assumptions.

GOD’S GENDER

Firstly, God has no gender, He is neither male or female. Reason being that Scripture describes God’s incorporeality or Him being immaterial, just as John Frame argues how He is not identified with any physical being in the world (389-390)[1]. However, there are certain things which we can deduce from Scripture:

i. God was never addressed with female pronoun, but with male pronoun.

ii. God revealed Himself to us primarily through masculine imageries.

iii. Scripture also contains feminine imageries of God.

These findings suggests that, even in light of God being genderless, Scripture emphasizes the importance of addressing God with a masculine pronoun. The masculine and feminine imageries in the Bible also describe certain attributes and acts of God. This series will solely focus on the masculine imageries only.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM

Secondly, God reveals Himself to us via anthropomorphic means. Beegle describe it as “…a figure of speech that describes God as having human form (Exo. 15:3, Num. 12:8), with feet (Gen. 3:8; Exo. 24:10), hands (Exo. 24:11; Jos. 4:24), mouth (Num. 12:8; Isa. 40:5), and heart (Hos. 11:8), but in a wider sense the term also includes human attributes and emotions (Gen. 2:2; 6:6: Exo. 20:5; Hos. 11:8)”[2] This simply means God who is transcendent (i.e. far above), uses human imageries to reveal Himself and communicate with humans. That does not mean God possesses all these physical attributes. As we mentioned earlier, God is incorporeal, and does not possess any physical forms.

GOD’S DESIGN OF MALE & FEMALE

Thirdly, God created and ordained men and women in a way that complements each other. Within Scripture, God has established and ordained certain positions for only the men. Take for example the Priests (Lev. 8), Pastors and Elders (1 Tim. 2:12-13), as well as Kings and Apostles. Even within marriage, God has ordained the husband as the head of the house to lovingly lead the family (Eph. 5:22-24). These roles display headship within its specific function(s).

CONCLUSION

What can we make out of these 3 assumptions? God does not reveal Himself out of a vacuum. Instead, he reveals Himself even through means like human function or roles which He ordained and established. These three assumptions would better help us understand the masculine imageries of God as we explore further in the next few articles.

 

[1] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (P & R Publishing, 2013), 289-290.

[2] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: Baker Pub Group, 1996), 69.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Quick Guide to Four Views of the End Times

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Amillennialism Postmillennialism  Dispensational Premillennialism Historical Premillennialism

What is ammillennialism?

  • The view that the millennium is the spiritual reign of Jesus in the hearts of his followers
  • The first resurrection in Revelation 20:5 is not a physical restoration from the dead but is either
  1. the spiritual resurrection, also known as regeneration, OR
  2. the life that believers experience with God between their deaths and their final resurrection
  • Christ’s triumph over Satan through his death and resurrection around AD 30 restrained the power of Satan on earth (Revelation 20:1-3).
  • Persecution of Christians (tribulation) will occur until Jesus comes again, as will the expansion of God’s kingdom (the millennium).
  • When Christ returns, he will immediately defeat the power of evil, resurrect the saved and unsaved, judge them, and deliver them to their eternal destinies.
 What is postmillennialism?

  • The view that believes that the coming of Christ will occur after the millennium.
  • The millennium reign in Revelation 20:1-6 represents a long time period when, through the preaching of the gospel, most of the world will submit to Jesus Christ.
  • During this time, Satan will have no power over the earth and regimes will collapse (Revelation 19:19 – 20:3).
  • A period of great tribulation may precede the millennium.

What is dispensational premillennialism?

  • The view that Jesus will come back to earth after a seven-year tribulation and will rule during a thousand-year millennium of peace on earth.
  • In addition, God will still give to the nation of Israel the land described in Genesis 15:18 (from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates – the full extent of King Soloman’s kingdom).

What is historical premillennialism?

  • This view believes that Christians will remain on the earth during the great tribulation.
  • The tribulation will purify the churches by rooting out false believers, and the second coming of Christ will precede the millennium.
  • Like dispensational premillennialists, historical premillennialists see the millennium – the thousand-year reign of Jesus – as a literal, future event.

What do amillennialists emphasize?

  • Many amillennialists believe that the book of Revelation consists of seven sections. Instead of dealing with successive time periods, these seven sections use apocalyptic language to describe the entire time from Jesus’ first coming until his second coming in seven different ways.
  • Amillennialists tend to emphasize the historical context of Revelation and what the book meant to first-century readers.

What do postmillennialists emphasize?

  • Postmillennialists place great confidence in the preaching of the gospel; they contend that the gospel will eventually spread in such a way that nearly everyone in the world will turn to Jesus Christ.
  • One Scripture cited in favor of this view is Mark 3:27. Augustine understood this verse to mean that before Jesus can claim his kingdom, those that are lost (the “possessions” of Satan, “the strong man”) must come under the control of Jesus.
  • Postmillennialists believe that this golden age is described in such Scriptures as Psalm 2:8, Isaiah 2:2-4, Jeremiah 31:34, Daniel 2:35, and Micah 4:1-4.
  • Postmillennialists tend to emphasize the power of the gospel to transform societies and individual lives.

What do dispensational premillennialists emphasize?

  • Dispensational premillennialists believe the rapture and the second coming of Jesus are two separate events. The rapture comes before the great tribulation, and the second coming occurs after it.
  • During the seven years of tribulation, natural disasters and wars will occur on earth, and people who are faithful to Jesus will suffer intense persecution.
  • Dispensational premillennialists emphasize literal interpretations of Revelation.

What do historical premillennialists emphasize?

  • Historical premillennialists try to balance symbolic and literal interpretations of Revelation, emphasizing both what the book meant to first-century readers and how it might apply to people’s lives today.

According to amillennialists …

  • The great tribulation represents disasters, wars, and persecutions that have occurred throughout church history.
  • Most references to “Israel” in Revelation are symbolic references to the people of God on earth (compare Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16).
  • In apocalyptic literature, numbers represent concepts, not literal statistics. For example, six represents incompleteness, seven represents completeness, ten indicates something that is extreme but limited, twelve represents the perfection of God’s people, and 1,000 symbolizes a great amount or long period of time.
According to postmillennialists …

  • During the millennium, Christ will rule the earth through the gospel, through his Spirit, and through the church. He will not, however, be physically present on earth.
  • The resurrection depicted in Revelation 20:4 represents the spiritual regeneration of people who trust Jesus Christ.
  • The second coming of Christ, the final conflict between good and evil, the defeat of Satan, the physical resurrection of all people, and the final judgement will occur together, immediately after the millennium (Revelation 20:7-15).

 

According to dispensational premillennialists …

  • During the great tribulation, many Jews will turn to Jesus Christ.
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were unconditional; therefore the Jews will still receive the land described in Genesis 15:18. The establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 fulfilled a key end times prophecy.
  • All references to Israel in Revelation refer to the nation of Israel.

According to historical premillennialists …

  • God’s promise to give Abraham all the land from the Nile River to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18) was made to the “offspring” of Abraham – one, particular offspring whose name is Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
  • During the millennium, Jesus will reign from Jerusalem not only over the land promised to Abraham but also over the whole earth. In this way, Jesus will completely fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s “offspring” would gain the land from the Nile to the Euphrates.
  • The true Israelites in every age have been those who trust in Jesus as the divine Messiah-King (Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16). Before Jesus arrived on earth, people trusted in Jesus by looking expectantly for a Messiah who was yet to come (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40). Most references to “Israel” in Revelation refer symbolically to the church.

What Scriptures seem to support amillennialism?

  • The Bible frequently uses the number 1,000 figuratively (Psalm 50:10; 90:4; 105:8; 2 Peter 3:8).
  • The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4) could refer to the spiritual resurrection (the regeneration or new birth) of persons who trust Christ (Romans 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:1-4). The first resurrection could also refer to a Christian’s life with Jesus after death (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
  • The second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saved and unsaved will occur at the same time (Daniel 12:2-3; John 5:28-29).
  • The saints are on earth during the tribulation (Revelation 13:7).

What Scriptures seem to support postmillennialism?

  • Every ethnic group will receive the gospel before the second coming (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10).
  • The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4) could refer to the spiritual resurrection (the regeneration or new birth)
  • of persons who trust Christ (Romans 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:1-4). The first resurrection could also refer to a Christian’s life with Jesus after death (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
  • The second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saved and unsaved will occur at the same time (Daniel 12:2-3; John 5:28-29).

What Scriptures seem to support dispensational premillennialism?

  • God will remove Christians before the outpouring of his wrath during the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were unconditional (Genesis 15:7-21).
  • The church is not specifically mentioned between Revelation 4 and 19.

 What Scriptures seem to support historical premillennialism?

  • The revealing of the Antichrist precedes Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
  • The tribulation will root out false members from the churches (Revelation 2:22-23).
  • The saints are on earth during the tribulation (Revelation 13:7).
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were conditional (Genesis 22:18; 2 Chronicles 33:8; Isaiah 1:19-20; Jeremiah 7:6-7).
  • The New Testament frequently uses “Israel” and “the twelve tribes” to refer to Christians (Matthew 19:28-29; Romans 9:6-8).

When has amillennialism been popular?

  • Amillennialism became popular in the 5th century. It has remained widespread throughout church history.

 When has postmillennialism been popular?

  • The earliest writer who was clearly postmillennialist was Joachim of Fiore (1135 – 1202), although many historians believe that early church leaders such as Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo leaned toward postmillennialism.
  • During the 1800s, postmillennialism increased in popularity. Some Christians even believed that the increased work of missionaries throughout the world represented the beginning of the millennium.
  • During the early 1900s, a world war and an economic depression raised questions in many people’s minds about whether the world was actually becoming a better place, and postmillennialism diminished in popularity.

When has dispensational premillennialism been popular?

  • This view emerged in the 1800s among the Plymouth Brethren (group of fundamental Bible Churches founded in the 1820s).
  • Dispensational premillennialism increased in popularity in the late 1800s and remains widespread today.

When has historical premillennialism been popular?

  • Historical premillennialism seems to have been the earliest view of end times among Christians who lived just after the apostles.

Who are some prominent amillennialists?

  • Martin Luther, John Calvin, E.Y. Mullins, Abraham Kuyper, G.C. Berkouwer, Herschel Hobbs, Stanley Grenz, and J.I. Packer.
  • Many students of early church history believe that the church father Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – 430) was an early amillennialist. He once said, “During the thousand years when the devil is bound, the saints also reign for a thousand years. Without any doubt, these two time-periods are identical and point to the time between the first and second coming of Christ.” [Augustine, The City of God, 20:9]

Who are some prominent postmillennialists?

  • Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, Augustus H. Strong, Charles Hodge, R.L. Dabney, Loraine Boettner, and R.C. Sproul.

Who are some prominent dispensational premillennialists?

  • J. Nelson Darby, C.I. Scofield, Harry A. Ironside, Gleason Archer, Donald G. Barnhouse, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley,Norman L. Geisler, and Tim LaHaye.

Who are some prominent historical premillennialists?

  • Many early church fathers – including Lactantius (240-320), Irenaeus (130-200), Justin Martyr (100-165), and probably Papias (60-130), a disciple of the apostle John.
  • David Dockery, John Warwick Montgomery, George R. Beasley-Murray, Robert Gundry, George E. Ladd, R. Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

Three Views of Rapture and Return

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The word “rapture” does not appear in most English translations of the New Testament. Still, “rapture” is a thoroughly biblical term.” [1] “Rapture” (the verb rapiemur, from the noun raptus) basically means “being caught up”. [2]

1 Thessalonians 4:17 talks about believers who are still alive during the return of Christ, being “caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” (NASB). The Greek word used for “caught up” is ἁρπάζω (harpazō). Strong defines it as, “catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).” [3]

It is not disputed whether or not there will be a rapture. Rather, the disagreement stems from the question of when the rapture will take place in light of the return of Jesus. Below are the simplified views of a few schools of thought:

Dispensational Premillennialism  Amillennialism and

Postmillennialism

Historical Premillennialism
 The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus occur at different times. They are separated by 7 years or more. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur at the end of the millennium. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur immediately before the millennium.
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur some time after the rapture of the church.
  • Most dispensationalists place the rapture before the tribulation and the return at the end of the tribulation, immediately before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-2); the church will return to earth after the tribulation as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur at the end of the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  • The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur after the tribulation and before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.304

[2] Ibid.

[3] Strong, James. “Harpazo.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Accessed November 16, 2017. http://biblehub.com/greek/726.htm

The Harlot of Revelation 17

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

In Revelation 17, we see the Apostle John mention “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast” (Revelation 17:3). This woman “is drunk – but her inebriation does not flow from any typical liquors. Her drink of choice is the blood of the saints [seen in v.6]. She is wrapped in a harlot’s robes, and this inscription is found scrawled across her forehead: “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND THE ABOMINATION OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5) …

An angel unravels the mystery of this woman’s identity. As it turns out, this scene is not about a woman at all. The woman symbolizes a city, “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18). But this city’s rule does not last forever. “In one day, her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning, and famine, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her” (18:8).

But what city could this woman possibly be? And when does she fall? Or could it be that she has already fallen? Here are the three possibilities for the city symbolized by the woman on the beast” [1], which has been postulated:

 What city could the harlot symbolise? When does the city fall?
  • Jerusalem – judged because of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah
  • In AD 70 when TItus beseiged the city and destroyed the temple.
  • While the defenders of Jerusalem split into three factions (Revelation 16:19), the Roman armies passed easily over the Euphrates River (Revelation 16:12).
  • During the siege, Roman catapults hurled massive white stones into the city (Revelation 16:21).
  • Rome & any other regime like ancient Rome – judged because of their exploitation and persecution for the sake of luxury and gain
  • They collapse will collapse upon themselves (Revelation 17:16-17)
  • When Jesus returns, he will destroy all such powers once and for all
  • Babylon (thought to be rebuilt in the future along the Euphrates River in Iraq)
  •  Near the end of the future seven-year tribulation.
  • This fall of Babylon is also described in Isaiah 13-14 and Jeremiah 50-51


Source
: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.261

Revelation 12

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Revelation 12:1-4 says the following:

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;

2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,

“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

12 For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.

14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.

16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.

17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Today we will be examining the different ways this particular chapter has been interpreted.

 Timeframe  Description
 1) Flashback to Bethlehem + Flash forward to end times
  • The woman is seen as ethnic Israel and so the birth of the child is a flashback to the incarnation of Jesus.
  • After the Messiah is born, the scene immediately flashes forward to a time after the rapture, halfway through the seven year tribulation.
  • That’s when Satan will renew his assault on the modern nation of Israel. This assault will result in cosmic war between the angels of God and the dragon.
  • Defeated by the archangel Michael, the dragon will try to destroy the Jewish believers in Jesus but the earth itself will rise up to protect them (Revelation 12:13-17).
  • Bottom line: Satan will be thrown down to this earth; this will happen during a future time of tribulation.
 2) Flashback to Bethlehem + Flash forward to AD70
  • The woman represents heavenly Jerusalem.
  • During the Jewish-Roman War, Roman legions swept through the land like a destructive deluge (Daniel 9:26; Revelation 12:15-16), but believers in Jesus left Jerusalem before the worst of Rome’s wrath (Revelation 12:14-17).
  • Bottom line: Satan was thrown down to earth; this happened in AD70
 3) Victory in Jesus from heaven’s point of view
  • This chapter is seen as an apocalyptic recounting of all that Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection.
  • The woman is the Virgin Mary (Revelation 12:12, 6).
  • Jesus died, and God the Father raised him to life and enthroned him in the heavens (Revelation 12:5).
  • Satan tried many tactics to disrupt the Messiah’s genealogy and destroy the long promised king (Revelation 12:3-6; see Matthew 2:16-18; 4:1-11; Luke 4:29-30), but Jesus triumphed and crushed the serpent (Revelation 12:9; see Genesis 3:15).
  • Bottom line: Satan was thrown down to earth; this happened through the sacrificial death and the third-day triumph of Jesus.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

When did John write Revelation

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Who wrote Revelation is relatively certain. Although not everyone agrees, the most ancient evidence points to the Apostle John. When the apostle John wrote Revelation is far less certain. Unlike books today, no one placed copyright dates in copies of biblical texts! To decide the approximate date when this biblical text was written, scholars compare what’s inside the book with what was happening in the world outside the book. In the case of Revelation, that process results in two primary possibilities.” [1]

 During the reign of Emperor Nero  During the reign of Emperor Domitian
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 54-68.
  • After a fire in Rome, a rumor circulated that Nero had started the fire.
  • According to the ancient historian Tacitus, “To get rid of this report, Nero accused and inflicted exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, the ones called Christians.”
  • This persecution seems to have been limited to the regions around Rome, but it likely affected attitudes toward Christians beyond Rome.
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 81-96
  • Domitian reportedly declared himself to be divine during his lifetime.
  • According to the ancient historian Suetonius, “Domitian issued an encyclical in the name of his governors that declared ‘Our Master and our God bids that this be done.’”
Evidence 1: An ancient inscription

  • A fifth century version of Revelation in the Syriac language refers to the book as “the Revelation given by God to John the Gospel-writer, on the island of Patmos where he was banished by Emperor Nero.” It is possible that this ascription preserves an earlier tradition.
Evidence 1: The testimony of Irenaeus

  • The second-century writer Irenaeus of Lyons – a student of Polycarp, who knew the apostle John – reported that John wrote Revelation while in exile during Domitian’s reign.
Evidence 2: Persecution of Christians

  • It seems that Christians may have been in the early stages of a time of persecution when John wrote Revelation (1:9; 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10).
  • Nero instigated the first imperial persecution of Christians in AD 64; this persecution lasted until Nero’s death in 68.
Evidence 2: Worship of the Roman emperor

  • Hints can be found throughout Revelation that Christians may have been coerced to worship the emperor (13:4; 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  • Nero was never worshipped as divine in his lifetime.
  • Worship of the emperor does seem to have occurred during Domitian’s reign, in the AD 80s and 90s.
  • Coins from Domitian’s reign refer to Domitian as “father of the gods.” An idol of Domitian may have been constructed in the city of Ephesus.
Evidence 3: The temple in Jerusalem

  • If Revelation had been written in the AD 90s, it seems that John might have mentioned the fall of the Jewish temple that occurred in AD 70.
  • The wording of Revelation 11:1-2 suggests to some scholars that the temple of Jerusalem was still standing when John wrote this book.
Evidence 3: The church of Laodicea

  • The description of Laodicea’s self-sufficiency may reflect a time in the AD 80s when the Laodiceans rebuilt their city with no outside assistance after an earthquake (Revelation 3:17).

 

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.225

Four Ways Revelation is Viewed

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The Book of Revelation takes its name from the Greek word found in 1:1, apokalypsis (637), an unveiling, uncovering, or disclosure … Written largely in what has been termed apocalyptic genre, not surprisingly Revelation has yielded the greatest number of divergent interpretations of any NT book.” [1] Today, this article will present an overview of four of the most predominant views which have cropped up.

 Perspectives How Revelation is Viewed
A) Futurist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy primarily about the future end of the world and years leading immediately to the end
  • All or nearly all of Revelation is yet to occur
  • Held to by dispensational premillennialists and some historic premillennialists
B) Historicist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy about church history from the time of John to the end of the world
  • The events in Revelation are viewed as symbolic descriptions of historical events throughout church history

Note: Some futurists understand the Seven Churches (Revelation 1-3) in a historic manner, treating each church as descriptive of a particular era of church history

C) Idealist
  • Revelation is a non-historical and non-prophetic drama about spiritual realities
  • Revelation is viewed as “… hyper-allegories or esoteric parables designed to simply illustrate the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, good and evil, the Church and the world.” [1]
  • Seemed to have originated among ancient Alexandrian theologians, who frequently spiritualised and allegorised biblical text
D) Preterist 
  • Revelation is a prophecy which was fulfilled primarily in the first century AD
  • This view “stresses the immediacy of the book’s message.”
  • Strand #1: Partial Preterism – views most of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century although the final chapters of Revelation describe future events to occur at the end of time
  • Strand #2: Full Preterism – views the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19 as spiritual and occurred in AD 70 when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Typically held to by amillennialists or postmillennialists

Note: Christians throughout church history have understood full preterism to be a heresy

 

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible NIV (1996), p.1447