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Author Archives: lifecoach4God

About lifecoach4God

I am a Pastoral Life Coach, born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca,, and currently living in Tustin, California. I am married to my best friend of 21 years - Dana - and have one teenager still living at home; four adult children; and three grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over twenty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: personal spiritually, in marriage, in their families, with friends, vocationally, physical health, finances, discipleship, and mentoring .

E-Book Review of Jonathan Morrow’s “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?”

God’s Perspective vs. Man’s Perspective

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

The default mode of the human heart is to replace our central focus on God and replace this void with idols at the center of our lives. The prolific author and Theologian D.A. Carson has stated it this way, “Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.” I believe that to ask the question, “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?” – is at its core a misunderstanding of what’s at the center of our worship – God or self? Are we going to maintain a God-centered focus or capitulate to cultural relativism with ourselves at the center? In this important e-single from a chapter in Morrow’s larger book entitled “Questioning the Bible” Morrow tackles this question with theological precision, biblical erudition, and logical acumen.

Morrow opens this essay by dealing with the question: “Does the Bible endorse slavery?” He then answers this question by carefully developing five biblical responses: (1) Christianity did not invent slavery. (2) He shows how the ancient Near Eastern cultural context was very different from the modern postcolonial context. (3) Christianity tolerated slavery and was instrumental in its abolishment. (4) Jesus was not silent on slavery; he simply understood what the root issues were–and they all reside in the human heart. (5) The Christian worldview best accounts for human rights and dignity.

The second question addressed by Morrow is “Does the Bible approve of genocide?” In five points  Morrow sets the record straight in understanding the biblical stance on genocide: (1) Things are not the way they ought to be – Israel as described in the Old Testament is not God’s ideal society. (2) The divinely given command to Israel of herem (Yahweh War) concerning the Canaanites was unique, geographically and temporally limited, and not to be repeated. (3) Genocide and ethnic cleansing are inaccurate terms for the conquest of Canaan. (4) We must allow for the possibility of rhetorical generalization in ancient Near Eastern “war language.” (5) The Canaanite incident should be read against the backdrop of God’s promise of blessing for all the nations.

The third question tackled by Morrow is perhaps the most culturally sensitive one at the moment: “Is the Bible homophobic?” He answers this question with five biblical points: (1) The Bible includes homosexual behavior among a long list of sinful behaviors outside of God’s design for human sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-24; 19:4-9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27 are passages discussed in great detail). (2) The Bible does not teach that God created people to be gay – Jesus affirmed that God’s intention was the complementary sexes of male and female committing to a permanent one-flesh union (cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24 with Matthew 19:3-6). (3) While the Bible does not teach people are born gay, it does teach that all people are born sinful (Romans 3:23; 5:12-21). A helpful distinction is quoted by Mark Mittleberg on this point: “We must correct the idea that because desire seems natural it must be from God and is therefore okay. As fallen humans we all have many desires that seem natural to us but that are not from God.” (4) The Bible teaches that change is possible for all those who struggle with sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). (5) Lastly, the Bible teaches that holiness, not heterosexuality, is the goal of the spiritual life. Morrow writes, “All of us are broken; we just express brokenness in different ways. As we repent and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we pursue holiness. The goal is being conformed to the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8:29). Unfortunately, when these goals get talked about in the context of homosexual sin, some well-meaning Christians have indicated that the goal is for this person to live a heterosexual lifestyle. This may or may not happen. But we need to be clear that whatever our struggle, holiness is the goal.”

The fourth and final question addressed by Morrow is related to setting the record straight biblically on “Is the Bible sexist?” (1) Morrow states, “God’s creational ideal is that women are made in the image of God and therefore possess the same dignity, honor, and value as men (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Ex. 20:12). (2) Polygamy was tolerated and regulated in order to offer some measure of protection for women in an ancient Near Eastern context. However, this was never God’s plan. Morrow writes, “We hear echoes of God’s ideal when he warns that Israel’s king should not ‘acquire many wives fro himself, lest his heart turn away.’ (Deuteronomy 17:17).” (3) The realities of women in the Greco-Roman world were harsh. (4) The apostle Paul had a high view of women, and the teachings of Christianity began to elevate their status (cf. Paul’s high view and co-laboring with women in Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:15; Acts 16:14-15, 40; Galatians 3:28 and 1 Tim. 6). (5) Jesus appearance on the scene is indeed very good news for women – Morrow elaborates, “With the harsh Greco-Roman backdrop in mind, we can see how radical Jesus’ view of women really was. First, he healed several women of diseases (Matthew 9:18-26), interacted with women of different races (John 4:9), and extended forgiveness to women who had committed sexual sin (Luke 7:36-50). Jewish rabbis of the day would not teach women, but Jesus had many women followers and disciples (cf. Mark 15:41) and he taught them (Luke 10:39). Women supported his ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3), and he used women as positive examples in his teaching (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus’ women followers were the last to leave at his crucifixion and the first at his empty tomb.”

Morrow patiently, wisely, and practically articulates that appearances and sound bites on these difficult issues are often messy and moral change is painfully slow in a fallen world. The reality is that Jesus came to liberate us from all of our idolatries and bondages to sin. We find our satisfaction in Jesus at the center of all of life. Many of the issues we struggle with as sinners in a fallen world are blind spots that can only be identified and remedied through the lenses of God’s revelation as revealed in the Scriptures. The good news in this little book is that Jesus has come and fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Morrow reminds us that in all of our personal and corporate sin against a Holy, Just, and Loving God He has “thankfully…not left us to die in our brokenness and rebellion; he has redemptively pursued us with the everlasting love of a heavenly father.”

 

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Is There Any Biblical Evidence for the Rapture?

Biblical Evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture

imagesby Mike Vlach
President of Theological Studies.org www.theologicalstudies.org

Introductory matters concerning the Rapture

Interest in the Rapture: A 1994 survey by U.S. News and World Report found that 61 percent of Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth, and 44 percent believe in the rapture of the church. (Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Christmas Covenant,” U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, pp. 62, 64)

Where do we get the term “Rapture”? The term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, so where does the word come from? The term “rapture” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Charles Ryrie explains, “The Greek word from which we take the term ‘rapture’ appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated ‘caught up.’ The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 462)

Passages referring to the Rapture There are three primary texts which refer to the Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and John 14:1-3.

Components of the Rapture 

The return of Christ “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. . .” (1 Thess. 4:16). “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself” (John 14:3)

A resurrection of dead church saints “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). “The dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:52).

A translation of living believers “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17).

A glorious reunion “We. . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). “I will come. . . that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

A giving of glorified bodies “We shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53). “We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Speed of Rapture “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).

The timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation period

The debate “In the nineteenth century, teaching concerning the Rapture of the church began to be widely disseminated. This raised such questions as whether the second coming of Christ involves several stages, the relation of those stages to the Tribulation period, and the distinctiveness of the church from Israel in God’s program. In the twentieth century one of the most debated questions in eschatology concerns the time of the Rapture.” (Ryrie, p. 478)

The various views Amillennialists and Postmillennialists regard the coming of Christ as a single event to be followed by a general resurrection and judgment. Within Premillennialism, though, five main views have been promoted concerning the timing of the Rapture:

Pretribulationism teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur before the seven-year Tribulation period begins. Supporters of this view include John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, Alva J. McClain, John Feinberg, and Paul Feinberg.

Midtribulationsim teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur at the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation; that is, after three and one half years have elapsed. Supporters of this view include Oliver Buswell and Gleason Archer.

The Pre-wrath rapture view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the Rapture approximately three-fourths of the way through the Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen.

Posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation period. Thus, the church will be on earth during the seven years Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include George Ladd, Robert Gundry and Douglas Moo.

The Partial rapture view teaches that only the “spiritual” Christians who are watching and waiting for the Lord’s return will be taken in the Rapture. Then during the seven years of Tribulation other Church Age saints who were not prepared for the initial Rapture will be raptured at various intervals. This view originated with Robert Govett in 1835 and was also taught by J. A. Seiss and G.H. Lang.

Why is this issue of the timing of the Rapture important?

The study of the Rapture is important because we want to know the whole counsel of God.

The Christian’s expectation The Rapture issue is important because it deals with the nature of the Christian’s hope and expectation. Are Christians to expect Christ’s return at any moment? Or, are we expecting to go through a time of worldwide tribulation?

A Biblical defense of Pretribulationism

Of these five views why is Pretribulationism to be preferred? The following are biblical evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture:

The pillars of Pretribulationism 

The foundation of Pretribulationism has four elements:

(1) Consistent literal interpretation: The literal method of interpretation attempts to explain the original sense of the writer according to the normal usages of words and language. The literal method interprets all of the Bible in a normal and plain way, all the time understanding that the Bible, at times, uses symbols, figures of speech and types.

(2) Distinction between Israel and the Church: The more one recognizes the biblical distinction between Israel and the church, the clearer one will be able to see God’s distinct plan for each group. According to Thomas Ice, “If Israel and the church are not distinguished, then there is no basis for seeing a future for Israel or for the church as a new and unique people of God. If Israel and the church are merged into a single program, then the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled and are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the church. The merging of Israel’s destiny into the church not only makes into one what the Scriptures understand as two, but it also removes a need for future restoration of God’s original elect people in order to fulfill literally His promise that they will one day be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13).

The more that believers see a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church, the more they realize that when the New Testament speaks to the church it is describing a separate destiny and hope for her. The church becomes more distinct in the plan of God. Israel’s future includes the seven-year tribulation, and then shortly before Christ’s return to Jerusalem she will be converted to Jesus as her Messiah. . . . On the other hand, the distinct hope for the church is Christ’s any-moment return.

Thus, a distinction between Israel and the church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the pretribulational rapture. Those who merge the two programs cannot logically support the biblical arguments for pretribulationism.” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, pp. 25-26)

(3) Futurism: Pretribulationism takes a futuristic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 and the book of Revelation. Daniel 9:24-27 gives the seven-year chronological framework of the Tribulation while Revelation 6-18 details the judgments that make up this period. Futurism sees prophecy as being fulfilled in the future, namely with the Tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ to earth, and the Millennial Kingdom. Futurism is opposed to preterism, which sees prophecy as already being fulfilled in the past, predominately in A.D. 70. Futurism is also opposed to historicism which sees prophecy being fulfilled in the current Church Age.

(4) Premillennialism: At the end of the seven year Tribulation period, Jesus Christ will return to earth in power and glory to set up an earthly Kingdom from Jerusalem that will last for a literal one thousand years (see Rev. 20:1-6).

Proper methodology for addressing the rapture issue 

What is the proper method for addressing this issue of the timing of the Rapture?

Examine the Rapture and Second Coming passages:

Go first to the portions of Scripture that speak directly about the Rapture and the return of the Lord to earth.

Study John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for the Rapture.

Examine Zechariah 14:1-21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27; and Revelation 19 for the Second Coming to earth.

Examine implications of conclusions Proper methodology does not stop with an examination of the primary texts addressing an issue. As John Feinberg says, “While one should begin with passages that speak directly about the doctrine under consideration, one must also pay attention to the implications of the doctrine. This is especially important if, as in the case of the rapture, the passages about the rapture and return of the Lord do not determine the question of the rapture’s timing in relation to the time of the Tribulation. . . . Implications and relations of doctrines to one another are crucial. If one’s position on a given theological issue is correct, it will fit with other known theological and biblical truths rather than contradict them. (John S. Feinberg, “Arguing for the Rapture: Who Must Prove What and How” in, When the Trumpet Sounds, Thomas Ice and Timothy eds. p. 191)

Putting it all together “The key point to remember is that proper theological methodology dare not allow us to ignore either the rapture and parousia passages or the doctrines that have implications for one’s views on the rapture and second advent. Although study should begin with passages that speak directly to the topic at hand, both are equally important. It is surely no victory to uphold one’s views on the timing of the rapture at the expense of denying what God’s Word says, for example, about the relation of the church to God’s judgmental wrath.” (John Feinberg, p. 192)

Biblical evidence for Pretribulationism 

The Bible does not explicitly tells us the timing of the Rapture. Thus, no one verse tells us that the Rapture will be pretribulational (or midtribulational or posttribulational for that matter). Does this mean that the doctrine of pretribulationism is unbiblical? Not necessarily. Many important biblical doctrines are not given to us directly in one verse. Some doctrines are based on a harmonization of multiple passages. For example, no one verse explains the doctrine of the Trinity or that Jesus Christ is the God-man. Yet a harmonization of passages shows these doctrines to be biblical. Likewise a harmonization of biblical texts shows the pretribulational rapture view to be biblical. The following are the biblical evidences:

God has promised the Church deliverance from divine wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10) God made a special promise to the church that it will be delivered from the future, tribulational wrath of God. It is best to take this deliverance as a physical removal (Rapture)from this time of divine wrath.

1 Thess. 1:9-10 The Thessalonians were wait[ing] for His Son from heaven. . . that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? First, the context of 1 and 2 Thessalonians deals with the Day of the Lord and the judgment of God that precedes the coming of Christ. Second, the text states that it is a future wrath (“wrath to come”). Third, it is a wrath one can be rescued from by the return of Christ. Thus, The wrath referred to then is the wrath of the Tribulation period and not God’s eternal wrath in general.

1 Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? The immediate context is the wrath of the Day of the Lord (5:1-8). Plus, this must be the same wrath as 1 Thess. 1:10.

The whole seven year Tribulation period is a time of God’s divine wrath so the protection promised must be for the whole seven years. Some have tried to say that divine wrath does not characterize the whole seven year Tribulation period. They say that the early judgments (the seals) of the tribulation are the wrath of man and Satan. The following points, however, show that the whole Tribulation period is a time of divine wrath.

Jesus is the One who directly opens all the Tribulation judgments including the seal judgments which begin the Tribulation period. In Revelation 4 and 5 Jesus is the One found worthy to open the seals which He begins to open in 6:1. The opening of the seals by Christ indicates that the seal judgments are divine wrath.

The seal judgments which open the Tribulation are consistent with divine wrath “The judgments of these four seals include the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, frequently used in Scripture as the expressions of divine wrath. Indeed, they are all included and named when God calls His ‘four severe judgments upon Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague’ (Ezek. 14:21).” (Gerald B. Stanton, “A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, Bibliotecha Sacra, vol. 148 #589, January 1991) Plus, plagues such as pestilence and wild beasts can hardly be caused by man.

As early as the sixth seal, unbelievers declare that God’s wrath “has come” (Rev. 6:16-17). Unbelievers recognize that all six seals that have happened so far are the direct wrath of God. Robert L. Thomas says “The verb elthen (‘has come’) is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14), but upon reflection they probably recognize it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4). The rapid sequence of all these events could not escape public notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7, pp. 457-58)

Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. Here is a promise to the Church of preservation outside of the time of Tribulation. Thus, believers are not only promised deliverance from divine wrath but from the time period (“hour”) of divine wrath. This rules out the possibility of the Church being on earth during the Tribulation. As Ryrie says, “It is impossible to conceive of being in the location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening.”

Differences between Rapture passages and Second Coming passages indicate that the two are different events happening at different times.

The central passages dealing with the Rapture are John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

The central passages dealing with the Second Coming to earth are Zechariah 14:1- 21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27 and Revelation 19. A careful examination of these texts will show that there is enough reason to conclude that the Rapture and the Second Coming to earth are not the same event:

(1) The Second Coming is preceded by signs but the Rapture is presented as imminent with no signs preceding it. “In passages that deal with the Second Advent there are signs or events that lead up to and signal the return of Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 19:11-21). In each of these passages of Scripture there is the careful and extensive itemizing of details that should alert believers in that day that the Second Advent is about to occur. . . . On the other hand, there is no mention of any signs or events that precede the Rapture of the church in any of the Rapture passages. The point seems to be that the believer prior to this event is to look, not for some sign, but the Lord from heaven. If the Rapture was a part of the complex of events that make up the Second Advent, and not distinct from it, then we would expect that there would be a mention of signs or events in at least one passage.” (See Paul D. Feinberg, “The Case For The Pretribulation Rapture Position,” in Gleason Archer, Paul Feinberg, Douglas Moo, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post Tribulational? p. 80)

(2) The Rapture is presented as a coming in blessing while the Second Coming is a coming for judgment. “In the clear Rapture passages, the Lord’s coming is presented as a coming in blessing for the saints. Nothing is said about His coming for judgment. On the other hand, passages about the second advent speak of the Lord’s coming in judgment upon His enemies (Rev. 19:11ff; Joel 3:12-16; Zech. 14:3-5).” (John Feinberg, p. 198). “In each of the Rapture passages there is no mention of trial before the event. Rather, there is the bare promise of Christ’s return for His own.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 81)

(3) Second Coming passages are in the context of the setting up of the Kingdom while the Rapture passages make no mention of the Kingdom. “Second advent passages are invariably followed by talk of setting up the kingdom after the Lord’s return (e.g., Matt. 24:31; 25:31ff; Zech. 14; Joel 3; Rev. 19-20). So, the second advent is preparatory to the establishment of the millennial kingdom. On the other hand, clear rapture passages give no hint that after the rapture the Lord establishes the kingdom.” (John Feinberg, p. 198)

(4) Glorified bodies at the Rapture: “It is very clear from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff that at the rapture those gathered to the Lord will be glorified. On the other hand, second advent passages say nothing about anyone (living or dead) receiving a glorified body.” (John Feinberg, p. 198) “Nowhere in the texts that deal with the Second Advent is there the teaching about the translation of living saints.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 82)

(5) No mention of meeting in the air in Second Coming passages: Nowhere in the Second Coming passages is a meeting in the air mentioned.

(6) Differences in timing of resurrections “There seems to be an inconsistency between the time of the resurrection at the Rapture and at the Second Coming. In the central Rapture passage dealing with this issue, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the time of the resurrection of dead saints in clearly stated to be during the descent of Christ of to the earth. Those raptured, living and dead saints, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Contrast that information with what is found in Revelation 19-20. There, the order seems to be: the descent of Christ, the slaying of His enemies, the casting of the Beast and the False Prophet into the lake of fire, the binding of Satan, and then the resurrection of the saints. It seems as though the resurrection of the dead will be during the descent at the Rapture, but after the descent at the Second Coming.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)

(7) Differences in destiny at time of comings: “There seems to be an inconsistency between the destination of those who are raptured in the Rapture and the destination of those who participate in the Second Coming. In the posttribulation understanding of the events that surround the Second Coming, the church will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and will immediately accompany Him on His continued descent to the earth. Compare that with John 14:3. In the Rapture the Lord is going to come and take those raptured to be with Him. The clear implication is that the raptured saints will be taken to heaven, not earth. If this is so, then the destination of those caught up in the Rapture will be heaven. According to the Second Coming passages, however, the saints involved are headed for the earth.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)

(8) The role of the angels in the comings: At the Second Coming, the angels are the ones who will gather the elect (Matt. 24:31). At the Rapture Jesus is the direct agent of the gathering (1 Thess. 4:16).

(9) The “mystery” nature of the Rapture: “Paul speaks of the Rapture as a ‘mystery’ (1 Cor. 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until it was disclosed by the apostles (Col. 1:26). Thus the Rapture is said to be a newly revealed mystery, making it a separate event. The Second Coming on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4). (Thomas Ice in “The Biblical Basis for the Pretribulational Rapture,” in Basic Theology Applied, p. 269) 

(10) No mention of the Church in Revelation 4-18: Revelation 4-18 gives the most detailed account of the seven year Tribulation period. If the Church were to be in the Tribulation period, surely one would expect at least one reference to the Church in this time period. The Church, however, which is referred to nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, is suddenly silent and never referred to in chapters 4-18. “It is remarkable and totally unexpected that John would shift from detailed instructions for the Church to absolute silence about the Church for the subsequent 15 chapters if, in fact, the Church continued into the tribulation.” (Richard L. Mayhue, Snatched Before the Storm, p. 8)

(11) Pretribulationism best explains the presence of nonglorified saints who will enter the Millennial Kingdom. The Bible indicates that living unbelievers will be removed from the earth and judged at the end of the Tribulation. Yet the Bible also teaches that children will be born during the Millennium and that people will be capable of sin (Isa. 65:20 and Rev. 20:7-10). How can this be? The pretribulational view allows for people to be saved after the Rapture and during the Tribulation who will then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies. As John Feinberg says, “According to pretribulationism, after the rapture the Tribulation begins. The gospel is preached throughout the Tribulation and there are some who believe. Though many who believe are killed (e.g., Revelation 13:7, 15), not all believers are killed during the Tribulation. Those who live through the Tribulation go into the kingdom in natural bodies. In addition, some people accept the Lord when he returns at the end of the Tribulation (e.g., Zech. 12:10). Many of these people do not die at that point, and there is no evidence that they are given a glorified body when they receive Christ. These people are also available to go into the kingdom in natural bodies. For a pretrib position, there are seven years to get people saved prior to the kingdom, and some of those can go into the kingdom in natural bodies. . . . The position that is really in trouble with respect to this issue is the posttribulation rapture view. If everyone who goes at the rapture is glorified, and if the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, who is left to enter the kingdom in natural bodies? All believers will have been raptured and glorified by that time.” (Italics mine) (John Feinberg, p. 201)

The nature and purpose of the Tribulation excludes the Church from being part of it. 

(12) Nature of Tribulation centers on Israel: According to Daniel 9:24-27, the “seventy weeks” prophecy including the final “one week” (seven years) is for Israel (“your people”). Jeremiah 30:7 refers to the Tribulation period as a time of “Jacob’s distress.” “While the church will experience tribulation in general during the present age (John 16:33), she is never mentioned as participating in Israel’s time of trouble, which includes the great tribulation, the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God.” (Ice and Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, p. 36)

Purpose #1: Preparation of Israel “The Bible teaches that the Tribulation is a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration and conversion (Deuteronomy 4:29, 30; Jeremiah 30:3-11; Zechariah 12:10).” (Ice and Demy, p. 36)

Purpose #2: Judgment for an unbelieving world Revelation 3:10 refers to the Tribulation period as “the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” The second major purpose of the Tribulation, then, is to test the unbelieving world. “Those who dwell upon the earth” refers to those who are unbelievers on earth during the period described in Revelation 4-19. (Thomas Edgar, “An Exegesis of Rapture Passages,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 216)

(13) The nature of the Church: If the nature of the Tribulation is Jewish and the purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel to belief and to judge the unbelieving world, what purpose does the church have in relation to this period? As shown already, the church is promised deliverance from this time of wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10).

(14) The expectation of the Church is the imminent coming of Christ not the Tribulation period. “Passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:7; Titus 2:13 and Philippians 3:20 are applicable at this point. The believer is pictured as eagerly waiting and earnestly expecting the Savior. Watching for signs is entirely foreign to these passages. It never occurs. Not even once. Furthermore, not only is the believer to look for the any-moment return of the Lord, but he is to direct his life in the light of it (cf. Rom. 13:11-14; James 5:7-8; 1 John 3:1-3). If, on the other hand, there are specific prophesied signs, in reality we would not be looking for the Savior at any moment but instead should be watching for the revelation of the man of sin, the Great Tribulation, etc. There would be at least a seven-year preparation period.” (Earl D. Radmacher, “The Imminent Return of the Lord,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 264-65). “It is incongruous then that the Scriptures would be silent on such a traumatic change for the Church. If posttribulationism were true, one would expect the epistles to teach the fact of the Church in the tribulation, the purpose of the Church in the tribulation, and the conduct of the Church in the tribulation.” (Mayhue, p. 9)

(15) The Thessalonian’s expectation: That Paul had taught a Pretribulational Rapture can be inferred from 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3. In this passage, Paul notes that the Thessalonians had been “shaken” and “disturbed” because they had been led to think that they were presently in the Day of the Lord (i.e. the Tribulation period). The fact that they were disturbed is significant. If Paul had taught a posttribulational rapture, the Thessalonians would have had no reason to be disturbed since they would be expecting signs and persecution before the coming of the Lord. Thus, they could joyously look to the soon coming of the Lord after the Tribulation. However, the fact that the Thessalonians were shook up indicates that they did not expect to be in the Day of the Lord. A fair inference is that, in line with Paul’s previous teaching, the Thessalonians expected to be raptured prior to the Day of the Lord.

Concluding thoughts The purpose of this work has been to present a positive, biblical case for the pretribulational rapture position. The judgmental and Jewish nature of the Tribulation seems to exclude the Church who is promised deliverance from this time of wrath. The differences between Rapture and Second Coming passages, though not convincing to all, seem weighty enough to make it very possible that the two are different events happening at different times. If this be the case, this view harmonizes well with the fact that the Church is nowhere to be found in the very detailed Tribulation section of Revelation 4-19. This view also harmonizes well with the fact that there must be a time period allowed for people to be saved and then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies.

 

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John Piper and The Rapture

JOHN PIPER AND THE RAPTURE

Rapture 1

(Tom’s Perspectives posted originally at http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-JohnPiperandTheRaptu.pdf)

by Thomas Ice

A new movie version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novel is scheduled for release in movie theaters on October 2014. This version features Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage cast in the role of pilot Rayford Steele. The announcement of this movie release has lead to a number of articles critical of the pretribulational rapture. Morgan Lee produced a piece primarily quoting William Craig,[1] a Philosophy professor at historically pretribulational Talbot School of Theology in Southern California. Another article appeared a week later: “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture.” [2] Apparently a number of folks within the Evangelical community are concerned that the new movie may have a great impact upon the thinking of the Christian community, so they are trying to get a head start on bashing the biblical basis for our blessed hope.

PIED PIPER

Retired pastor and author John Piper has a large following, especially among younger Evangelicals. While he is premillennial, he is decidedly anti-pre-trib and not a supporter of the modern state of Israel. According to Noske, Piper recently tweeted his nine reasons against pretribulationism. Even though space is limited, I will attempt to evaluate those reasons. [3]

1. “To meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means to meet and accompany back to earth, thus, cannot be pretribulational. The Greek word for “to meet” does NOT mean what Piper says. Piper’s view was developed in the 1930s and more recent scholarship has disproved his speculation. [4] “To meet” does not imply any direction on the basis of the word itself. Instead, spatial direction is indicated by the context of a passage.

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7 refers to the second coming. I agree this passage refers to the second coming and not the rapture. Perhaps there are some pretribulationists who see the rapture in this passage but I have never meet one. Many of Piper’s objections, such as this one, are based upon a false understanding of what pretribulationists actually believe. He is chasing after windmills.

3. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Piper equates the “gathering together to Him” and “the day of the Lord” as referring to the same event, the second coming. I disagree! They are separate items. The phrase “gathering together to Him” and “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) are identical concepts. Both refer to the rapture as a separate event from that of the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” is used in the Old and New Testaments to primarily refer to the seven-year tribulation period and is not at all a synonym for the second coming. The phrase “great and terrible day of the Lord” is a reference to the second coming (Isa. 13:9; Joel 2:31; Zeph. 1:14–16; Mal. 4:1, 5). If Piper is correct concerning his view on this matter, then it would mean that the man of sin (the antichrist) would come after the second coming, which does not make sense within anyone’s viewpoint.

Piper says further support for his view is that “gathering” is also used in Matthew 24:31, which is clearly a posttribulational event. He claims it is the same word as in 2 Thessalonians 2. Actually, both are from the same root but are not the same word. One is a noun (2 Thess. 2) and the other is a verb (Matt. 24). The contexts of the two passages are very different, just like the rapture and the second coming are also very different events.

4. If Paul intended to teach pretribulationism then why did he not just come out and say that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? I have been arguing in a number of articles [5] over the years that the Greek word often translated “falling away” or “apostasy” is best translated “departure.” Since the context supports the idea of a spatial or physical departure in 2:3, then Paul is saying exactly what Piper suggests. Paul tells them that they are not in the day of the Lord or the tribulation since the departure of the church, which is the rapture, has not taken place. The false teachers in 2 Thessalonians are teaching posttribulationism and Paul corrects them with pretribulationism.

5. Piper says no pre-trib rapture is found in Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21. I totally agree that the rapture is not found anywhere in the Olivet Discourse. That Discourse provides Jesus’ outline of the seven-year tribulation period leading up to the second coming with no mention of the rapture. The rapture of the Church is not revealed by Christ until the night before He was crucified. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16) contains Christ’s introduction to Church Age truth that He expands upon in the Epistles. It makes sense that the new revelation about the rapture was introduced to His disciples shortly before His death and resurrection (John 14:1–3). [6]

6. Piper notes the New Testament teaches saints will be protected by God during the tribulation by the seal of God (Rev. 9:4). How is this an argument against pretribulationism since all holding to a pre-trib position believe that there will be saints who will be protected during the tribulation? Those saints in the tribulation are never called the church, instead they are the hundreds of millions who will be saved after the rapture of the church during the tribulation (Rev. 7:9–17). Many will be martyred (Rev. 6:9–11) and many will make it through the perils of that time and will enter into the millennial kingdom in their mortal bodies. So it means all will not be protected during the tribulation as Piper intimates. Revelation 9:4 speaks specifically of the five month torture of the demonic locusts (Rev. 9:1–11).

7. Next, he speaks of the command to “watch” as admonished by our Lord in Matthew 25:1– 13 when speaking of the parable of the ten virgins. Matthew 25 is a parable to Israel about watching for the second coming, not the rapture. The rapture is never found in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24—25). Instead, the church, in relation to the rapture is “waiting” for His Son from heaven . . . Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Since the rapture is signless, unlike the second coming, there are no signs to watch for, thus, the church is charged with waiting for her Bridegroom (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:13; Jude 21).

8. Piper cites Revelation 3:10 and pronounces it as the strongest passage for pre-trib, then says it means to be preserved through the tribulation. Piper cites Galatians 1:4 and John 17:15 in an attempt to support his misguided notion that “kept from the hour” in Revelation 3:10 really means preservation instead of its normal meaning of kept from the time and place of the tribulation. [7] First, Galatians 1:4 does not employ the Greek phrase “tereo ek” used in Revelation 3:10, therefore, the Galatians passage is not a factor to help one understand the meaning of 3:10. Next, the only other time tereo ek is used in the Greek New Testament is John 17:15 where it speaks of God the Father keeping believers from the evil one. I am sure Piper would agree Christ’s prayer has been answered since all genuine believers are protected from Satan. In the same way, all church age believers will be kept out of the time of the tribulation via the rapture before that seven-year event.

9. His final reason is “New Testament moral incentive is . . . that we should love the appearing of the Lord so that we want to be pure as the Lord is pure.” [8] This is hardly an argument against pretribulationism since we believe most mentions of the rapture in New Testament Epistles are accompanied with a moral imperative applied to the present. Piper cites 1 John 3:1–3 as an example. Pretribulationists believe this passage is an example of multiple references to moral purity in the present in light of a future event. This verse and many others refer to the rapture and admonishes believers to “purify oneself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

CONCLUSION

Evangelical leaders like John Piper appear to be on a crusade against the New Testament teaching of the pre-trib rapture doctrine as introduced by Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse and expounded upon and applied in the Epistles by the Apostles, especially in Paul’s letters. In fact, Paul calls the rapture a believer’s “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13). Since the early 1970s in North America, God has used the teaching of pretribulationism as a key factor in seeing millions of people come to faith in Christ. Opposition to pretribulationism in the 70s came from liberals and unbelievers. Now, in 2014 many Evangelical leaders lead the way warning of the supposed dangers of preaching such a message. As a new movie is about to be released featuring the pre-trib rapture, believers should be praying that God will use it as a catalyst to proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world so our Lord will use it to see an influx of unbelievers getting saved, similar to the early 70s. Maranatha!

ENDNOTES

[1] Morgan Lee, “No, Christians Should Not Believe in ‘Left Behind’s’ Rapture Theology, Says Prominent Christian Philosopher,” The Christian Post, July 30, 2014; http://www.christianpost.com.

[2] Lauren Leigh Noske, “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture,” The Gospel Herald, August 6, 2014; http://www.gospelherald.com.

[3] I am also drawing from Piper’s “Definitions and Observations Concerning the Second Coming of Christ,” Desiring God Ministry, August 30, 1987; http://www.desiringgod.org

[4] See the following: Kevin Zuber, “1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the meaning of ‘to meet’”, http://www.pre- trib.org/articles/view/1-thessalonians-417-and-meaning-of-to-meet-meeting-dignitary-or-retrieving- bride. Thomas Ice, “The Meeting in the Sky,” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheMeetingintheSky.pdf. Michael R. Crosby, “Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s use of APANTSIS in 1 Thessalonians 4:17,” Bulletin for Biblical Research Vol. 4, 1994, pp. 15-34.

[5] See Thomas Ice, “Is the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRapturein2Thessal.pdf. Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3” http://www.pre- trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-TheDeparturein2Thess.pdf.

[6] See Thomas Ice, “The Rapture and John 14” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRaptureandJohn14.pdf.

[7]  See Thomas Ice, “Kept from the Hour” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-KeptFromTheHour.pdf.

[8]  Piper, “Definitions and Observations.”

 

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Paul David Tripp on The Best Worship Service Ever

An Extended Meditation on Revelation 19:6-8

(These articles were composed by Paul David Tripp on October 6, 12, 20 @ http://www.paultripp.com/articles/)

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Five Important Things

The Book of Revelation can be confusing and potentially intimidating. Many would prefer a simple Psalm or Proverb with our morning cup of coffee instead of the eschatological numbers, symbols and creatures that populate the final pages of Scripture.

All that imagery has significant meaning and relevant application to your life, but it does require a lot of study and understanding. So when people ask me about the Book of Revelation, I say that in its most simple form, it’s a glorious portrait of the risen King Christ.

THE BEST WORSHIP SERVICE EVER

I would argue that the best depiction of that glory is found in Revelation 19:6-8. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine being in attendance at the most vibrant and exuberant worship service ever recorded. Check out these words:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (ESV)

I love those three verses because it enables me to visualize the intimate and raucous celebration that is to come. But while I wait for that celebration, those verses also require that I re-evaluate my priorities. How so, you may ask? Think about this: those in the rejoicing multitude have lived life on earth and now exist eternally on the other side. By eavesdropping on their song, we can learn what’s truly important for us today.

FIVE IMPORTANT THINGS

There are 5 things that the great multitude is celebrating:

1. God Himself (vv. 6-7)

Those in the multitude celebrate that God exists. It sounds a bit dumb, doesn’t it? But, if you were to honestly assess your life, you would find streaks of “godlessness” every day. That doesn’t mean you’re temporarily an atheist or indulging in wild streaks of debauchery; it simply means that you’re making decisions that forget the presence of God.

Imagine how your relationships, your ministry, your work, your calendar, and your budget would be transformed if, before every desire, word, and deed, you remembered the presence of the Lord. But we’re amnesiacs, God-forgetful people; our hearts are prone to wander. Would you humbly admit that you forget God more than you should?

2. God’s Reign (v. 6)

Those in the multitude rejoice that God Almighty reigns with power and precision. How often do you and I forget about his sovereignty and try to work out life on our own? We wish we could turn back the clock and change the past; we try to manipulate people and locations in the present; we fret constantly over the future.

If you rested in the active reign of God, your life would be marked by peace and confidence, even in the darkest and most unpredictable of times. Would you humbly admit that you fearfully try to control more of your life than you should?

3. God’s Glory (v. 7)

Those in the multitude are intimately experiencing what they were made for: the glory of Another. It’s clear from Scripture that you and I were not designed to pursue and accumulate as many pleasures and treasures as we can, but to live for the glory of God.

Think about how many times you choose the kingdom of self over the kingdom of God. I’m not talking about big moments; I’m talking about the 10,000 little opportunities you have each week to pursue God’s kingdom. Would you humbly admit that you love little glories more than you love the Glory of God?

4. God’s Invitation (v. 7)

Those in the multitude recognize how significant their inclusion at the Marriage Supper is; they have made themselves ready. In other words, they’re celebrating redemption and the fact that their lives have been joined together with Christ.

There are some days when you and I are joyfully married to Jesus the Bridegroom, but there are many days when we treat our lives as if they belong to us. Remember, Christ died so that those who live may no longer live for themselves. Would you humbly admit that you don’t always want the invitation to live for Jesus?

5. God’s Grace (v. 8)

Finally, those in the multitude are celebrating their wardrobe, the fine, bright and pure linen they’re given to wear. This represents the grace of God that has transformed their heart from the inside out.

One day, you and I will experience completely pure and transformed hearts. But a filthy heart needs to be cleansed before it becomes pure, and that cleansing process – called sanctification – requires pressure and heat. I’ll be the first one to admit – I often struggle with God’s way of purifying my soul. Would you humbly admit that you don’t want sanctification as much as you say you do?

DON’T BE DISCOURAGED

As I reviewed these five important things that the great multitude celebrates, I was discouraged by how short I fall. I forget God; I try to control my future; I pursue self-glory; I’m not excited to die to self; and I don’t rejoice when sanctification comes my way.

But then I remembered – these people are on the other side. They no longer wrestle with sin like I do. One day I’ll be able to celebrate with unrestricted joy and passion!

Until then, every day will be a struggle. That’s why I encouraged to you five times to “humbly admit” your shortcomings. Remember, God gives grace to the humble, form-fit for the specific battle of that day. And, in the midst of your failing, Jesus will never turn his back on you; your the bride of Christ, and nothing can remove the love he has for you.

Value Clarification

Last week (above) I wrote about Five Important things to remember during our days on this earth. If we remember God, God’s reign, God’s glory, God’s invitation, and God’s grace, it can radically transform the way we live in the here and now.

I was inspired (and challenged) by the voices of those in great multitude, found in Revelation 19:6-8. Remember, these people have concluded their broken, earthly existence and now reside eternally with God. That means they see with clarity and value with purity what God sees and what God values.

By eavesdropping on what they have to say, we can receive the grace to see and hear where we’re so blind and deaf. Here’s one of those areas where we need help:

1. VALUE CLARIFICATION

Human beings are value-oriented. That means we assign value to people, places, objects and ideas and rearrange our behavior, schedule and finances to pursue those things that we have named as valuable. Our hopes and dreams are shaped by what we value. We find our identity in how successful (or unsuccessful) we are in pursuing those values.

There’s nothing wrong with being value-oriented; that’s the way God created us. Animals were designed to live by instinct; humans were designed to live with values.

However, we weren’t created to define our own values. Since we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), we were created to live under God’s value system. But because of sin, we stray from those values, and humanity has been in trouble ever since.

You could argue that every single act of hurtful behavior in the history of the world has been a result of an incorrect value system. The evidence is everywhere: we need our values clarified.

HEAVENLY VALUES

Let’s read the song of the great multitude again:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (Revelation 19:6-8)

Notice what they’re NOT celebrating:

- I was the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most popular person.

- I was married to the most beautiful, most intelligent, and most popular person.

- I had kids who were successful in 3 sports and won scholarships to the best colleges.

- I climbed the corporate ladder faster than any of my colleagues.

- I was always being recognized as the most successful individual in my department.

- I bought such a comfortable house and lived in such a great neighborhood.

- I had season tickets on the 50-yard-line during that Super Bowl season.

- I spent each summer at the sweetest vacation spots.

- I always wined and dined at the finest restaurants in the city.

If you follow my teaching, you should know that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with financial success or business renown. I also think there’s plenty of evidence in Scripture that reveals God’s desire to see his children enjoy the pleasure and comfort of the created world (as long as the heart is worshiping properly).

But, when we listen to the voices of those on the other side, they’re not celebrating success, renown, comfort and pleasure; they’re celebrating those Five Important Things:

(1) What God wanted was more important than what we wanted.

(2) What God decided was more important than our career path.

(3) What God received glory for was more important than our popularity.

(4) What God named as good was better than what we thought was good.

(5) What God brought into our life was more fulfilling than a lifestyle of comfort.

A CALL TO REMEMBER

I write these Articles for several reasons, but perhaps one of the most significant reasons is because you and I are amnesiacs. We’re forgetful people. Another way of saying that is to echo Robert Robinson’s hymn – “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Today, would you humbly admit with me that you forget what’s truly important? Would you be willing to re-evaluate your priorities once more? Would you confess that your values need to be clarified, not just once more, but every single day?

Thankfully, God has given us his Word to remind us. He has provided us with thousands of reminders, scattered through the pages of Scripture.

On top of that, God has lavished us with grace: enabling grace to choose the right values, forgiving grace when we fail, and and perhaps my favorite – the grace of future completion (Philippians 1:6).

There will be a day when you and I, like the great multitude, will see Christ face to face and forever have our values clarified. Until then, we need all the grace God provides.

The past two weeks (above) we’ve been studying the “best worship service ever” found in Revelation 19:6-8. By eavesdropping on eternity, we’re reminded of what’s truly important in this life and what we won’t be celebrating in eternity.

The voices of those in the great multitude certainly help us with Value Clarification, but they also help us in this area:

2. WORSHIP RECLAMATION

I purposely chose the phrase Worship Reclamation instead of Worship Inception or Worship Commencement. Inception and commencement would mean that we need to launch or initiate our worship. Reclamation (to reclaim) means that our worship is already ongoing and needs to be recovered, rehabilitated and redirected.

You don’t need to learn how to worship or how to begin worshiping. By nature and hard-wiring, you ARE a worshiper. Every human being has been designed by God to worship during every minute of every day.

In a perfect world (literally), God was meant to be the constant recipient of our worship, but Romans 1:25 says that sinners now exchange worship and service of the Creator for worship and service of the creation. That’s why we need our worship reclaimed – because it’s currently directed at something other than the One who is alone worthy of our worship.

WORSHIP AS AN IDENTITY

When we read Romans 1:25, I think our immediate tendency is to find practical ways to “worship and serve” God more. For example, we look for areas where we can spend less money and time on us and commit that money and time to the ministry of the local church.

I want to encourage those actions, because they’re biblical, but you need to consider your worship as an identity before you think of it as an activity. You, the worshiper, are always attaching your identity – your meaning, well-being and sense of purpose – to something or someone. And where a worshiper finds his or her identity, there they’ll find practical ways to worship.

Another way of saying that is this: something, or someone, is always ruling the heart of a worshiper. Since the Bible says the heart is the control center of the human being, whatever rules your heart will automatically exercise control over your desires, thoughts, words and actions.

The summary question of this Article is this: where are you finding your identity, and how is your identity shaping your worship?

DANGEROUS PLACES TO FIND IDENTITY

Last week (above) I wrote about 9 things you won’t be celebrating in eternity. I think that list is helpful to review again, because if we won’t be celebrating those things in eternity, we shouldn’t be worshiping them today. If we don’t want to worship them today, we should avoid placing our identity in those things.

Here’s that list again, phrased slightly differently, and why we need to place our identity, and consequently, our worship, in God alone:

(1) SELF – This life is not about you. You were brought into a world that is, by definition, a celebration of the beauty and intelligence of God.

(2) MARRIAGE – No human being can satisfy your soul; only God can. If you place your identity in your spouse – or any other person, for that matter – you’ll always be disappointed.

(3) KIDS – Your children are not actually your children; you gave birth to them, but they don’t belong to you. Your kids are from God, they exist through God, and the glory of their lives points to God.

(4) SUCCESS – God calls you to be fruitful and productive, but the moment you take on your success as an identity, you’ll become a slave to a never-ending stream of potential opportunities.

(5) RENOWN – Again, this life is not about you. Your primary job description is to be an ambassador for and herald of the glory and renown of your Heavenly King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

(6) COMFORT – Comfort is not sinful, but you’ll never find paradise in a fallen world. Also, the work of the gospel will often call you to uncomfortable people in uncomfortable places.

(7) EXCITEMENT – Go ahead and buy season tickets for your favorite football team, but if a touchdown excites you more than the life-transforming ministry of the local church, you need to re-evaluate your eternal priorities.

(8) LEISURE – Again, this world will never be a paradise. It’s not sinful to enjoy a vacation, but remember that this life is a preparation for your final destination.

(9) PLEASURE – Pleasure was created by God for you, but the created pleasures of this world are meant to be a finger pointing to the ultimate pleasure – an intimate relationship with the Creator.

We need to remember again that God is the only One who exists in the universe who is worthy of our worship. Additionally, he’s the only safe place to seek identity. All forms of worship and service to the creation come with life-threatening danger, but worship and service of God come with the promise of life, both now and forever more.

Would you admit with me today that it’s tempting to seek identity in all the wrong places? And would you admit with me today that no matter how long you’ve walked with Jesus, your worship needs to be reclaimed? God gives grace to humble and will never withhold love and forgiveness from the repentant hearts of his idolatrous children.

 

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Book Review of Dodson and Watson’s “Called Together: A Guide To Forming Missional Communities”

Outgrowing The Ingrown Church

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

One of the most difficult things for churches to do is to stay missional when they are established or become missional when they are plateaud or declining. For years theologians and pastors have asked the question: “How can we outgrow the ingrown church?” Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson have planted thriving churches that are missional and constantly reaching out in the context of community in their respective cities: Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon. There are many ways to be missional as a church, but perhaps one of the most simple, flexible, and successful ways is via small “missional” groups. This book is written as a guide or handbook on a proven and effective way to reach out in your community without compromising the Gospel, edification, or fellowship.

The error that most churches fall into is establishing small groups that are ingrown – what I like to call “holy huddles.” These are groups that are inward (people already in the church) focused. There is nothing wrong with care groups or specialized groups for individuals that are focused on certain needs. However, churches also need to have groups that are outward focused and missional if they are going to keep the gospel alive and thriving in their communities. In this guide the author’s model and teach how this can be done in your own church context and community.

The goal of this guide is to establish and equip missional communities so that the church can be outreach oriented, focused, and intentional. The author’s define a missional community as “a group of people who are learning to follow Jesus together in a way that renews their city, town, village, hamlet, or other space. They aren’t fancy. In fact, they can be a messy community of everyday citizens who are devoted to Jesus, to one another, to their neighbors and their city.” In writing this guide the authors will help you “imagine and form a missional community that is true to your calling” of being salt and light in your community. Crucial to the success of a missional community is in its intentional application of the following: (1) sharing life together; (2) a focus on the gospel and its daily application of faith and repentance; (3) care for your city; (4) caring for your neighbors/hood; and (5) making and multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The guide is divided into three parts designed to be studied and applied by a small “missional” community group. Each week the session consists of a biblical theme with handouts composed of key themes, verses, and applications and ideas for next steps for missional endeavors in your community. The appendix contains weekly handouts; leadership role distinctions (each group is composed of a host, discussion facilitator, prayer coordinator, meal coordinator, and missional leader – the qualifications and roles for these individuals are described in detail at various points in the guide). Missional communities invite people into a community that “isn’t centered on their needs, hobbies, or passions but the gospel of Jesus and His mission (essentially the opposite of most small groups).

Part One consists of four sessions/weeks on the Gospel: (1) What is the Gospel? (2) The Gospel is Personal. (3) The Gospel is Missional. (4) Living the Gospel. Crucial to the success of a missional community is its understanding of, implementation of, and application of the gospel which they define as: “the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us.” The gospel is essentially composed of three aspects: (1) The gospel is doctrinal: it changes what we believe about ourselves and Jesus. (2) The gospel is personal: it changes who we are by transforming us into the image and likeness of Jesus; (3) The gospel is missional: it changes where and how we live for the sake of Jesus and His glorious Kingdom. The focus of these four sessions is that the gospel ceases to be something you agree with or can recite and rather becomes something you live in community with your missional community. This bucks against the individualism of western culture and is actually a return to the model that Jesus set for His own disciples – “missional community.”

In Part Two the focus of weeks five and six are on how the gospel of Jesus is at the center of community by reminding one another of the gospel. Community is based on the early church model from Acts 2:42-27. Both what makes for biblical community and what does not make for biblical community are studied and discussed with great ideas for the application and implementation of true biblical community centered in the gospel. The focus is very much on meeting needs in your neighborhood and with your neighbors as you live out the gospel in community together.

Part Three is composed of what it means to be a “missional” community and how to be missional “together” in your community. The last session (9th week) talks about the commitments that the missional community will make with one another. These commitments are based on what the missional community will do “by God’s grace.” The authors give multiple ideas for the application of what it means “specifically” and “intentionally” to live out the gospel in community. There are many examples of ways that missional communities can attempt to be outreach oriented in their respective cities.

I can’t recommend the concept of “missional communities” highly enough, and this book is a wonderful place to start to launch your own missional communities wherever you are. I hope and pray that this book will be the first of many guides in helping outgrowing the ingrown churches of America and beyond. I personally want to thank Jonathan and Brad for writing this book and hope it’s the first of many to be written as a  very practical guide to help churches make and multiply disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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E-Book Review of William Lane Craig’s “Does God Exist?”

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E-Book Review By David P. Craig

Just because this e-book is short (approximately 60 pages) does not mean that it is simplistic or not weighty. This treatment by Craig packs a wallop. At the outset Craig lays out the outline or skeleton for his cogent articulation and reasoning for the existence of God thus: “A good argument must obey the rules of logic; express true premises; and have premises more plausible than their opposites.” Put simply, a good argument for the existence (or non-existence) of God must meet three conditions: (1) obey the rules of logic; (2) its premises must be true (correspond with reality); (3) have premises that are more plausible than their opposites.

Craig begins with the Cosmological argument for the existence of God in by developing the following formulation: (1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. (3) The universe exists. (4) Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God. He then gives philosophical and scientific evidence demonstrating that the existence of a God that is a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universes makes more logical sense than the plausibility of His non-existence given by atheistic philosophers and scientists.

The second argument unfolded by Craig is called the Kalam Cosmological argument and is set out in this simple formulation: (1) Everything that begins to exists has a cause. (2) The universe began to exist. (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. Craig delves into some complicated mathematical arguments in this section to show the amazing cogency of the Kalam argument. He also gives some compelling evidences from astronomy via studies by Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin. He also appeals to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and thus concludes: “On the basis of both philosophical and scientific evidence, we have good grounds for believing that the universe began to exist. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, it follows that the universe has a cause.”

The third argument developed by Craig is the Teleological or Fine-tuning formulation: (1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design. (2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance. (3) Therefore, it is due to design. Here Craig tackles Richard Dawkins central argument from his book “The God Delusion” head on and proceeds to tackle his seven objections one at a time. Craig carefully dismantles Dawkins objections and gives a very plausible defense of the argument of design as a reasonable explanation for God’s existence.

The Moral argument is simply stated by Craig in the following manner: (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. (2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists. Craig concludes his ethical defense for God’s existence in this way: “The moral argument complements the cosmological and design arguments by telling us about the moral nature of the Creator of the universe. It gives us a personal, necessarily existent being who is not only perfectly good, but whose commands constitute our moral dues.”

Craig’s last argument is based on the classic Ontological argument as espoused by St. Anselm in the 11th century and in the modern era by the great theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga: (1) It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists. (2) If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. (3) It a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world. (5) Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world. (6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists. (7) Therefore, God exists.

Taken together the five arguments developed by Craig make a compelling case for the existence of God – especially when compared with the counter arguments atheists give in their own apologetic of plausibility for God’s non-existence. I highly recommend this clear and intellectually sound defense of the cogency of God’s existence as the best plausible argument for our own existence which brings purpose and meaning to one’s life through the culmination of God revelation in sending His Son Jesus so that through Him we can be reconciled and restored in a right relationship with Him by His grace and for His glory.

Craig concludes why the defense of God’s existence continues to such an important window to the Gospel in our day stating, “Christians who depreciate theistic arguments because ‘no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments’ are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one’s immediate evangelistic contact. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved. As we progress further into the 21st century, I anticipate that natural theology will be an increasingly relevant and vital preparation for the reception of the Gospel by thinking people.”

 

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Preaching to Power: An Interview with Lloyd John Ogilvie

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(The Interview conducted with Michael Duduit below is adapted from http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11565834/ – Lloyd John Ogilvie recently wrote a book on preaching [pictured above] published by Harvest House Publishers in 2014 entitled A Passionate Calling: Recapturing Preaching That Enriches the Spirit and Moves the Heart)

Preaching to Power: An Interview with Lloyd John Ogilvie with Michael Duduit

Lloyd John Ogilvie has served since 1995 as Chaplain of the United States Senate, a role in which he opens each Senate session in prayer and leads an active schedule of Bible studies and counseling for Senators and their staffs. He came to Washington from Hollywood, California, where he had served as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church and hosted a national television ministry. He is author of nearly 50 books and continues to be a popular speaker and preacher. He was interviewed in his Senate office this spring by Preaching editor Michael Duduit.

Preaching: As we conduct this interview, we are sitting in the U.S. Capitol building, a place that is a symbol of political power. As you have made the transition from the pastorate of a local church to chaplain of the Senate, how has it influenced your approach to ministry?

Ogilvie: It has had an influence. I’ve had to discover ways to help people who have immense secular power learn how to find the power of God for their work. The transition that must be made is to help persons realize that the river bed is the flow of God’s power, not the river — to help them be recipients of supernatural power, instead of simply the power of talents. For instance, any Senator to be elected must have talents of articulation, clear thinking, organization, a lodestar kind of leadership that attracts others. However, once in office, a person needs the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be the kind of leader the nation needs — gifts of wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prophetic vision, and then empowered articulation that’s really the result of knowing God personally and yielding the role of leadership to him to receive the empowerment for the task. So our work here is around the motto, “Without God, we can’t; without us, He won’t.” And when we get that into perspective, great leaders can be born and nurtured to recognize that apart from the Lord’s power we can’t move at a supernatural level. God has so created the way He moves providentially in history that He works through people. Where He wants to be He invests a person; when He wants something to occur in a particular society, He puts His people to discover and do His will. And to get leaders to be open to that call is the important thing.

Preaching: You use your ministry of preaching and teaching not only to lead but to build leaders. How would you translate that into the local church setting for the pastor who is trying to build leaders among the laity?

Ogilvie: I think there has to be a fundamental reevaluation of the biblical idea of the meaning of the laity. To be in Christ is to be in the ministry, so every member of a congregation is a minister. The question is: what kind of a ministry does he or she have? So I think our task is to be a coach of the ministers, which puts preaching and teaching, counseling and administration in an entirely different focus:

I used to ask four basic questions in a church:

(1) What kind of people do we want to put into the world?

(2) What kind of church will make that quality of person possible?

(3) What kind of church officer will make that kind of church possible?

(4) And lastly, what kind of pastor will be an enabler of that quality of laity?

Once we make the basic decision that we don’t do ministry on behalf of the congregation but we equip them to do their ministry, then everything else falls into place. If, however, we think that we do ministry for people, and as professional clergy accomplish the work of the church, then our people are simply observers of the game we play as leaders. I like to picture a big stadium with all the seats filled, and two teams seated on both sides of the field, with blankets huddling in the cold. Then the coaches of both teams are running up and down the field, playing the game for everyone to see. That’s the picture of the contemporary church: the clergy — highly trained and honed in their skills — doing ministry on behalf of the people rather than equipping them. Once you get an understanding that our task is equipping the saints for the work of ministry, then preaching with power becomes the task of inciting enthusiasm and excitement for ministry of the laity and the adventure of following Christ in the secular realm. Then you can reevaluate the nature of the church’s program: is it accomplishing the task of putting the people into the world to accomplish that work?

Preaching: As a pastor, what kind of preaching did you find best accomplished that purpose of equipping the congregation for ministry?

Ogilvie: I think there’s a great hunger in our time for biblically-rooted, Christ-centered, Holy-Spirit empowered preaching. Great preaching comes from exposition. An understanding of the original languages is very important, so that the messenger has a message that arises out of a study of the text. Then the whole question is application to the contemporary scene — the explanation of the text, the illustration of the text, and the application of the text becomes the task of the pastor. If you live in the text eventually it will grip you to the place where it becomes like a banked fire, just waiting for the bellows of the Holy Spirit to be placed on it, to set it aflame to warm the minds and hearts of the people. If it happens to us it then can happen through us, so the text must become very real to us.Then I think we’ve got to have Richard Baxter’s rule, “I preach as a dying man to dying men, as if never to preach again.”

So every sermon ought to be preached with vigor as if we will never have another chance. That kind of enthusiasm and passion is what is needed in the church in America today — and all over the world, for that matter. I call it preaching with passion, and that kind of preaching is an understanding, an appreciation and an acceptance of the passion of Christ, the suffering of Christ for us, and then an identification with the suffering of human beings, so that we really feel what is going on inside of people. We want to bring the two together in an enthusiastic, heartfelt but intellectually healthy presentation.

Preaching: You talk about living with a text. I recall that as a pastor you would live with a text for more than a year before preaching it. Tell me about that process.

Ogilvie: I would use a three-year process. I would spend a year with a portion of Scripture as a devotional exercise. If I was going to plan to preach from the book of James, I would use that book as my devotional literature for the first year. The next year I would do an in-depth expositional study, and a reading of the great minds — to study the expositors, the great preachers through the ages. In the actual year of the preaching, I would take the time in my study leave to outline the presentation for a whole period of time, a portion of the year, then prepare a manila folder for each Sunday of that series, then publish a preaching guide for that period of time. I would do 45 Sundays a year in the parish, and I would come out of my study leave with 45 outlines of sermons, 45 manila folders, ready to receive the illustrative material that would go into each of them as I read, gathering illustrative materials from everyday life, and as I talked with people. Then, as I got to the week of actually preaching a sermon, there was the devotional year’s resource, the intensive study scholarship, then the practical gathering of material. Then the actual writing of the sermon — it is very important that the writing of the sermon be fresh, not dependent on well-worn phrases and hackneyed language. After the sermon is written it takes about a day of memorization, repeating it until it becomes a part of the preacher, then preaching it with as few notes as possible.

Preaching: What was the nature of the preaching guide you published?

Ogilvie: There would be a single page for each week. I would list out the title, the text, and the development. I would actually write three clear, concise, distilled paragraphs explaining what it is that I wanted to do with that particular text. That would be sent to the director of music, and he would take that and prepare all of the music to fit with the particular theme of that Sunday. So from the beginning note of the prelude to the last note of the postlude, one central theme in all of the hymns, Scripture readings, responses — all would augment that one central theme. Often I would add another page actually outlining the sermon as I envisioned it. Once I got to the week of the preaching of that sermon, the folder would be full of illustrative material that I had gathered through the year.

Preaching: Was most of your preaching in the form of series?

Ogilvie: Yes, I would take books of the Scripture for themes. The book of James I did a series on Making Stress Work for You. I did a book on the “He is able” statements of the epistles; that became the book Lord of the Loose Ends. Then I did one on the book of Acts that was entitled The Bush is Still Burning. I did one on the “I am” statements of Christ.

Preaching: How long was a typical series for you?

Ogilvie: Usually three months, so I’d do three major series in a year. I found that brought continuity and unity to the preaching. I tried to vary them so we would cover the whole of Scripture.

Preaching: I recall sitting in your congregation and marveling that you communicated so effectively with apparently no notes at all. Many preachers struggle with that.

Ogilvie: I learned that from James Stewart, my professor at New College (in Edinburgh). His method was to outline clearly, then to memorize the outline as you worked with it, then to write the sermon from that outline. Then that outline would be clearly focused in your mind so that you could move through it without hesitation. So the outlining becomes very important. Actually the church in Hollywood had a round balcony, and I would often picture the title of the separate sections of the sermon around the balcony, and I would picture them in my mind. I often used alliteration to help me remember the development of the text. All of those things would help me to retain eye contact. However I found that in lecturing or in giving long messages, we ought to be able to use notes unashamedly. But the sermon itself is a different article.

Preaching: And you spent a full day getting it into your memory?

Ogilvie: Yes, I would speak it aloud ten times and then it would be in me and could be communicated without total dependence on notes.

Preaching: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about preaching over the years?

Ogilvie: Nothing can happen through you that hasn’t happened to you. I feel a person’s relationship with the living Lord is the most important aspect of preaching, and a growing relationship with the Lord is essential to powerful preaching. When we realize that we have been given the privilege of communicating the love, peace, power of the living Lord, then it’s very important to maintain a growing relationship with the Lord so that we have something fresh to share with the people.

Preaching: Clearly James Stewart was a great influence in your life. In what way did he influence your ministry?

Ogilvie: He was a great expositor and loved the Scriptures. He was an intense preacher — he had hurricane force. I’ve written a great deal about him and given lectures on him. To me, he was the greatest preacher of the twentieth century. The chance to study with him meant a great deal to me. He was a good friend long after I finished my theological education. I would go back in the summers and renew our friendship. We would often review what I was going to preach on in the coming year, and he would always have new insights. He was the most thorough scholar-preacher I have ever met.

Preaching: If you were starting over, is there anything you’d do differently as a preacher?

Ogilvie: I came to the commitment of a schedule that allowed for intensive study each week later in my ministry. I would start earlier allowing for two full days for study and preparation of the sermon. The commitment of one hour in the study for each minute in the pulpit is one I would apply sooner in my ministry. I think the temptation when you are starting in ministry is to say, “When I move to a larger church I’ll really concentrate on study.” I think you move to the larger church because you have concentrated on study. So the commitment of time to study and prepare is to me the most important aspect. Then the pastor’s own prayer life and commitment to an honest and growing relationship with the Lord, and his accountability to a small group is very important. I would meet with a group of elders every Sunday prior to preaching, and usually one was elected to say, “Are you ready to preach? Is there anything we can pray for?” The renewal of the church will rise or fall on the quality of its preaching, and I think it will depend on preachers who make preaching the central priority in their allocation of time and energy. To do that we will need an understanding of the officers of the church and the membership — to allow their pastor to take the time to be ready to preach is absolutely essential. It’s been a great adventure. It still is.

 
 

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