Monday, December 26, 2011

Israel & Armageddon - Fact & Fiction?

As mentioned before, there’s a tendency for proponents of replacement theology to claim that those who support a prophetic future for Israel have a dangerous influence on politics. This is an all-too-common canard. Israel’s very presence in the land offends its neighbors, regardless of its actions. Moreover, any insinuation that God has further plans for Israel apparently offends some Christians.

Steve Wohlberg writes:

“The belief that God will ultimately defend Middle East Jews at Armageddon is so strongly embedded within the 21st century evangelical psyche that it has spilled over into politics and even influences U.S. foreign policy toward the Jewish State...”

The following is a portion of a rather convoluted article that he’s posted on his website. These “explanations” become convoluted when people attempt to make Scripture say something other than what it means. In this case, Wohlberg wants to excise Israel (the nation) from prophecy:

“What about "Armageddon"? Surprisingly, this exact word is used only once in the Bible, in Revelation 16:16. The Word says, "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon." Honestly, there is no literal "place" anywhere on Earth bearing this exact name. It's true, there is a valley north of Jerusalem which was called "Megiddo" (Judges 5:19) in Bible days. It was a place where the armies of Israel often met foreign enemies in bloody battles. Because "Megiddo," sounds like, "Armageddon," millions assume this same place will be the location of a final showdown against the Jews. But is this right?”

I wonder how many times something needs to be mentioned in Scripture to make it valid. Wohlberg assumes that it isn’t Megiddo, not because of Scripture but because it doesn’t fit into his Adventist tradition. He then constructs a number of arguments to work his way around the problem of certain biblical texts which happen to be specific about who is involved and the location. He continues:

“A careful study of "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" proves that Christianity's massive "God-Is-Behind-Modern-Israel" theology is just not true. Not that God doesn't love Modern Israel, the Israeli people, and Jewish people. But as we have seen, Revelation's focus is not on "Israel after the flesh" (Israel one), but on "the Israel of God" (Israel Two) composed of both Jews and non-Jews (including Arabs) centered in Jesus Christ.”

To be specific, “Israel Two” would be Sabbath observing Adventist church saints as opposed to the Sunday worshipping earth dwellers of the RC Antichrist system, although Wohlberg leaves those pertinent details out of his narrative. He either writes for Adventists in the know or his readers will “get it” later down the track as they get more involved in Adventist thought.

More importantly, Revelation doesn’t support any of his contentions – not even once. That is what he believes despite the plain references to Israel and the 12 tribes in the following passages - Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30; Acts 1:3-7; Acts 26:6-7; James 1:1; Rev 7:4; Rev 21:12.

Michael Rydelnik once brought up Zechariah 14 in his radio discussion/debate with Gary Burge. Dr Burge suggested that it had an historical context. To which Dr Rydelnik rightly pointed out that the last time he’d visited the region, the Mount of Olives was still intact.

Readers of Wohlberg’s materials should undertake a careful reading and comparison of Zech 14 and Revelation 16. See also Joel 3:2; 11-16 and Zech12:1-3 and the verses cited above. Connect the dots as to whether there is a literal gathering of nations in a specific place (Megiddo) that is near a literal nation called Israel, or whether this is “fiction”.

What does Scripture say sans the circular reasoning?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Early Church Fathers & Eschatology

One persistent theme that’s rehashed against pretribulationalism is the argument that it’s not found in the Didache and the early church fathers (ECF) didn’t teach it. Following on from that, the ECF appeared to hold that the church would suffer under the Antichrist, thus the early church was posttribulational.

In 2002 Dr Steve McAvoy wrote two articles for the Conservative Theological Society (Posttribulationism’s Appeal to Antiquity Parts 1 & 2) that address the issue. They can be sourced from Galaxie.Com for a modest yearly subscription fee.

McAvoy quotes Ladd and Gundry:

“Let it be at once emphasized that we are not turning to the church fathers to find authority for either pre- or posttribulationism. The one authority is the word of God, and we are not confined in the strait-jacket of tradition… While tradition does not provide authority, it would nevertheless be difficult to suppose that God had left his people in ignorance of an essential truth for nineteen centuries” George Ladd, The Blessed Hope.

“We’re dealing here with perspective, of course, not proof. For Bible-believing Christians, proof lies in the pages of Scripture, and the view that seems to represent its meaning most naturally is the view that seems best to adopt. Agreed. But Christians belong not only to current communities of faith. They also belong to a community of faith that spans the whole of church history. And since the Spirit of God has been at work throughout that history, Christians should at least respect primary beliefs of the church at large, past as well as present, and suspect the new and novel at least to the extent of requiring extraordinarily good scriptural evidence in its favor.” Robert Gundry, First the Antichrist.

So which is it - tradition or Scripture? The point Ladd and Gundry (and others) try to sell is that, while one must primarily rely on Scripture, the church couldn’t have been wrong until Darby discovered or invented the doctrine. God didn’t leave His people in ignorance.

Yet, as McAvoy and others point out, the church quickly espoused replacement theology (still predominantly the case) which led to interpreting certain prophetic passages non-literally and from a church perspective. The same may be said of soteriology up until Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (1517 AD) and the advent of the Reformation. Could the church have possibly been wrong for so long over such a primary issue as salvation? Where did the ECF stand on TULIP?

Many pretrib apologists will also argue that, from the outset, the eschatology of the ECF wasn’t developed anywhere like it is today. The rapture doctrine wasn’t on their radar. How many rapture references of any kind does one find in their writings? There wasn’t any systematic eschatological statement of faith. For a number of reasons, Amillennialism and the allegorical approach to hermeneutics quickly shaped the church’s eschatology.

Amillennialists will argue the early church was “clearly amillennial”; but I would counter that even if that were the case, the Bible clearly isn’t. Scripture is the final arbitrator. It seems inconsistent that people with differing beliefs rely on the teaching of the ECF to critique pretribulationism. This is especially a problem for those whose teachings are relatively modern developments as in some newer forms of posttribulationism, preterism, Covenant Theology and prewrath rapturism.

Let me try to illustrate. Preterists might have a hard time explaining to most ECF that Christ actually arrived in 70 AD but that they’d missed the event. In fact, don’t partials technically teach two “second” comings of Christ? Gundry might have trouble selling his postmil Sheep & Goats Judgment and maybe even his two-stage first resurrection. Would the ECF nod in unanimous agreement with prewrathers over the meaning of Matt 24:22? And what about that interesting multi-phase “single parousia”? Did the ECF have a consensus on the meaning of the Day of the Lord? I doubt it.

Appealing to the ECF to determine the validity of a doctrine is somewhat simplistic. Perhaps it’s best to stick to Scripture after all.



Further reading:

Answering The Arguments Of Post-Tribulation Rapture Position

THE RAPTURE IN TWENTY CENTURIES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

PROBING THE CRITICAL NEXUS OF THE TWO-STAGE PAROUSIA

AN ANSWER TO ROBERT GUNDRY

Addendum:

Hippolytus is one ECF who is often cited against pretribulationism. Yet McAvoy is quite right when he points out that the ECF read the church in key prophetic texts. Hippolytus, who taught that the Antichrist would spring from the tribe of Dan and who would raise the kingdom of the Jews, writes:

By the woman then clothed with the sun,"he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father's word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the "moon under her feet" he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, "upon her head a crown of twelve stars," refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, "she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered," mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. "And she brought forth," he says, "a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;" by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, "her child was caught up unto God and to His throne," signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." "And the dragon," he says, "saw and persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks conceal-meat in the wilderness among the mountains, possessed of no other defence than the two wings of the great eagle, that is to say, the faith of Jesus Christ, who, in stretching forth His holy hands on the holy tree, unfolded two wings, the right and the left, and called to Him all who believed upon Him, and covered them as a hen her chickens. For by the mouth of Malachi also He speaks thus: "And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings."

Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel

Writings of Hippolytus

Note also:

Those who wish to point out what the early church fathers taught when criticizing pretribulationism may also want to examine what many of the ECFs thought about Mary's perpetual virginity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty

Well it has been a long break since receiving my last “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” spam but I got another one last night. They invariably begin by saying something like - “Interesting and informative blog” – and then suggest Googling the familiar diatribe. The Google searches lead to polemic sites run by preterists and/or posttribulationists who rely heavily on Dave MacPherson’s material. The better part of wisdom suggests ignoring it; however, wisdom isn’t one of my strong points.

Last year someone sent me a link to a 2009 article on Joe Ortiz’s blog. The headline read:

“Dave MacPherson Finds Note of Rapture Vision by Margaret MacDonald - Copy of Handwritten Note by Woman Who Introduced the Pretribulation Rapture in 1830 is Found!”


Directly below the blurb was a photocopy of that note which contained the following words:

nothing: So that two shall
be in one bed, the one taken

and the other left; because
now will the wicked be re-
vealed with all power, and

signs, and lying wonders,

The inference was that this was new and incriminating evidence that Margaret MacDonald was really a pretribulationist and that Darby really did get his idea from her, contrary to his claims to have discovered it through studying Scripture. However, the red-flag is obvious. There’s nothing about a pretrib rapture mentioned in the note above and it isn’t new evidence. Moreover, it is actually an edited portion of an existing document.

Here are the relevant details they left out:

“I felt that those who were filled with the Spirit could see spiritual things, and feel walking in the midst of them, while those who had not the Spirit could see nothing - so that two shall be in one bed, the one taken and the other left, because the one has the light of God within while the other cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven...I saw the people of God in an awfully dangerous situation, surrounded by nets and entanglements, about to be tried, and many about to be deceived and fall. Now will THE WICKED be revealed, with all power and signs and lying wonders, so that it it were possible the very elect will be deceived - This is the fiery trial which is to try us. - It will be for the purging and purifying of the real members of the body of Jesus; but Oh it will be a fiery trial. Every soul will he shaken to the very centre. The enemy will try to shake in every thing we have believed - but the trial of real faith will be found to honour and praise and glory. Nothing but what is of God will stand. The stony-ground hearers will be made manifest - the love of many will wax cold.”Margaret also stated that:

“The trial of the Church is from Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept.”

You can read the full version of Margaret’s vision HERE and HERE

It is people like Ortiz and MacPherson who are being dishonest and spreading malicious gossip.

Further reading:

A review of The Rapture Plot

Given that there's a broken link to Dr Stallard's site, here is his review in full:

This work is a popular renewal of the claim begun two decades ago concerning the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture. MacPherson believes that the doctrine of the “secret rapture” (the two-phase Second Coming or what has come to be called the pre-trib rapture) originated with a deluded teenage girl named Margaret MacDonald. She was a member of the Irvingites, a cultish band of unorthodox Christians centered in London who practiced visions. In fact, the claim is that the pre-trib doctrine originated with one of the visions received by this girl. The main thesis of the book, the so-called “rapture plot,” is that dispensationalists have been covering up this origin because of the embarrassment it would cause their position. They have consistently maintained that the pre-trib doctrine originated with John Nelson Darby and have sought to downplay the fact that he borrowed it from the Irvingites. The implication is that, since this doctrine originated with a deluded teenage girl and since dispensationalists have sinfully covered this fact up, then indeed the pre-trib doctrine itself is suspect and cannot be held to be the truth.

The book begins with a chapter on preliminary considerations and discussions of the earliest teachings of the pre-trib rapture from MacPherson’s point of view. The second chapter focuses on Margaret MacDonald and attempts to show her involvement in not only creating the pre-trib doctrine, but also participating in occult practices. Although he does not say so directly, MacPherson uses this section to leave the impression that pretribulationalism is of Satanic origin. Chapter three discusses the Irvingites in general, including the influence of Margaret MacDonald upon them.

Chapters four through six turn to Darby himself. Chapter four tries to catalog chronologically the development of his thoughts. In chapter five, the later writings of Darby are explored with the conclusion that Darby was a historical revisionist of his own earlier experiences. Chapter six, entitled “Pre-PlotPracticing,” begins to call into question the integrity of William Kelley, an early Brethren editor of Darby’s writings.

Chapter seven carries the title of the book itself. Here MacPherson evaluates William Kelley (d. 1906) in detail as to his alleged revision of Darby. The next and final chapter attempts to show the continuing influence of Kelley’s rewriting of Brethren history. MacPherson spends most of his time dealing with the claims of the pretribulationist R. A. Huebner. It is this concluding chapter which may reveal MacPherson’s motivation for his vitriolic attack on the pre-trib position. He comments that “during the 18thand 19th centuries genuine revival during the First and Second Great Awakenings swept two continents before pre-trib dispensationalism emerged and extinguished the flames” (p. 234). MacPherson adds five appendices, including one attempting to refute the recent claims that a pre-trib rapture can be found in Morgan Edwards (ca. 1788) and in Pseudo-Ephraem (374–627 A.D.), an early Syriac church father.

One is hard-pressed to find good qualities in the argumentation of MacPherson’s work. However, the detailed bibliographical information concerning original sources will aid the historian wanting to study nineteenth century eschatological developments. MacPherson, as a former investigative reporter has done a good service to us in this area. Unfortunately, blinded by his rush to a preordained conclusion, his analysis of those sources is clouded by a hateful style which prevents much of what he says from being taken seriously. For example, beginning on page 91 he concocts a fictional conversation between himself and a dispensationalist to make points rather than interacting with detailed complaints with his own view. Although he does interact in other parts of his book to specific complaints, the disingenuous presentation here undermines his credibility. Another example is his labeling of Ephraem (the Syriac father in question concerning the writing of Pseudo-Ephraem) as a “Catholic” (p. 268), as he probably knew the connotation it would bring to his largely Protestant audience.

As to the details of his argumentation, several questions emerge from reading the book, many of which have to do with methodology. First, MacPherson has not dealt adequately with the debate over whether the Irvingites were pre-trib, partial-trib, or post-trib. His chapter on Edward Irving and his group totally ignores the fact that the group by means of visions and prophesying believed that they were living in the last three and one-half years before Christ’s return and dated that period from January 14, 1832, to July 14, 1835. The Irvingites were historicists in contrast to the developing futurism of the Darbyites. It is amazing that a historian would totally overlook the impact of this teaching while discussing documents during the time leading up to the alleged Second Coming. 

Second, MacPherson’s book shows the absence of any historical work involving followers of Irving and Darby on the Continent. There are emerging studies especially focusing on Geneva and the development of separatist movements in that region. Of special note would be the Darbyite Émile Guers who pastored in Geneva. His books La Future D’Israël (pub. 1856) and Irvingism and Mormonism (pub. 1853) aid understanding of the development of Darbyism prior to its supposed rewriting by Darby and Kelley. Furthermore, he shows the large wedge between Irvingism and Darbyism that existed as early as the 1830s. So for the conspiracy to be true, more players have to be added whose weight combines to increase the likelihood that the conspiracy did not take place! This conclusion is bolstered by the historian Barron H. de Goltz (Genve Religieuse au Dix-Neuvime Sicle [pub. 1862]), who attacked separatist movements like Darbyism and Irvingism. He also characterizes the great gulf between the visions of the Irvingites and the Scripture readings of the Darbyites.

Third, MacPherson’s book amounts to an ad hominem attack. He suggests that the pre-trib position is wrong through guilt by association. However, even if Margaret MacDonald had a vision of the pre-tribrapture, that does not invalidate the doctrine. It does not guarantee that she was the originator. At best, his view should be held in a preliminary fashion. Fifty years from now, after competent scholars have done the historical work for a little studied area, the one holding his view may find himself embarrassed. However, even the fact that Margaret MacDonald clearly gave a pre-trib vision is not at all a ready conclusion. 

Fourth, MacPherson does little detailed analysis of those sources which support his thesis. Men like Robert Baxter and Robert Norton are automatically accepted as credible. One must ask MacPherson, “Are sources only valid when they agree with his thesis?” This is seen in his handling of the Pseudo-Ephraem material. He appears to accept Paul Alexander as the expert on Pseudo-Ephraem although Alexander is a non-evangelical who would not be studied in the nuances of eschatological readings from the various evangelical viewpoints. To expect him to present a summary involving rapture timing nuances is too much to ask.

MacPherson’s thesis has been rejected by many competent scholars who are not pre-trib. Men like F. F. Bruce, John Bray, Timothy Weber, and others have found his conclusions untenable. MacPherson misleads his reader by mentioning F. F. Bruce as a good friend of his without letting the reader know that Bruce, a Brethren scholar who rejected pre-trib, totally discarded the rapture plot idea (p. 40). The fact of the matter is that the real test of whether the pre-trib rapture is correct doctrine is not its historical origin but its exegetical support from the Bible. MacPherson’s book provides no help in this area.

Reviewed by Mike Stallard, Associate Professor
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Analyzing Replacement Theology

Here's an article by Mike Vlach writing on a subject close to my heart:

I have spent the better part of the last ten years studying and examining the doctrine of Replacement Theology which is the view that the New Testament church replaces or supersedes the nation Israel as the people of God...An Analysis of Neo-Replacement Theology

Saturday, December 10, 2011

False Prophet Follow-Up

On the same day I wrote about the incident where my friend was accused of being a false prophet because he taught pretribulationism, I came across another interesting interaction in another forum. A budding apologist provided a link to an article on his website where he took Patrick Heron to task for arguing that the apostasia in 2 Thess referred to the rapture.

To be fair to Heron; Ken Wuest and Thomas Ice agree with him on that point. However, most pretribulational scholars do not.

The problem was that this article linked anti-pretrib items, two of which were produced by proponents of the view the apologist actually leaned to. While admitting that all rapture views had major issues, this individual was overtly anti-pretrib. Somewhere in the ensuing discussion his view was challenged, yet while asserting that he was aware of all the arguments, the little interaction he offered suggested otherwise. Personally, I think he underestimated the level of competence on that pretrib site.

In response, he threw out his seminary qualifications employing the word exegesis in his narrative. Where have I seen this approach before? He implied that if others had the benefit of his experience, they wouldn’t be so adamant about debating the rapture. But didn’t he just initiate that debate? He didn’t seem to recognize his own anti-pretrib bias or that proponents of his view are adamant they are right.

Later on he posted another link to an article by better-known apologist Greg Koukl. In that article, Koukl, who obviously isn’t pretrib, took a scattergun approach to pop-beliefs in the church including the prosperity industry. Right there in the mix was the seven year tribulation and the pretrib rapture. Koukl should stick to apologetics because he’s very good at it - eschatology, not so much.

That same week someone provided a link to “Believer’s Journey” where blogger Sarah notes that the pretrib rapture was unknown before 1840. How tiresome this canard is! She then mentions Margaret MacDonald:

“Whether true or untrue the story goes that a young teenage Plymouth Brethren girl (this is in Great Britain) is reported to have either had a dream of given a prophetic word or had a vision. It was then interpreted. This interpretation was circulated and Pastor John Darby then relayed it to C. I. Scofield who bought into it as revealed truth. Scofield placed this pre-tribulation rapture notion as a footnote in his popular Bible, hence this teaching became very widespread.”

Had Sarah actually read the link she provided after her article – or even done some simple research – she would have realized that “Irvingite” MacDonald had a vision of the church under persecution by the Antichrist, hence she was most likely posttribulational. Moreover, Sarah’s adopted rapture view only became widespread after Van Kampen formulated and promoted it via Rosenthal in the nineties.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

False Prophet?

I’ve been accused of attacking other belief systems on this blog so I’m just going to re-iterate what I’ve stated before. It’s relatively common for individuals to regularly criticize either dispensationalism and/or pretribulationism. Yet whenever there’s a response, these critics often cry foul.

That said; a friend, who maintains a prophecy website and daily briefing service, announced that he was attending the 2011 Pre-Trib Conference. It seems that some readers felt inclined to label him a false prophet on the basis of his pretribulationism. In contrast, my friend has never attacked others for entertaining different eschatological viewpoints.

Anyway, they - very thoughtfully - sent him a link to another website in order to set him straight. That link is to a page called “Questions for a Pretribulationist”. As irony would have it, it was one of the first web pages I found when I began studying that particular rapture doctrine.

Some time ago, an advocate of that same position labeled Hal Lindsey a false prophet and added that false prophets were showered with stones in the Bible. This is an example of the nature of the vitriol leveled against him. But, while one can find areas of disagreement with Hal, he never set dates for the rapture.

Perhaps the real motive for the attack was his pretribulationism. Yet on the same basis that Hal was judged, one can also look to the prognostications of those who thought the ENP was the Antichrist’s covenant.

That same article also erroneously linked Mark Biltz to pretribulationism. A quick fact-check would have indicated otherwise. Biltz is neither a pretribulationist nor a dispensationalist. In fact he is contra-dispensationalism and is one of those so-called teachers who promote Torah observance. It’s a pity so many (pretribbers included) have carelessly promoted this individual because of his “exciting” blood moon theories without checking his other credentials.

Speaking of which; two other people to be wary of are Dewey Bruton and Monte Judah. Bruton gained popularity over his novel Daniel’s Timeline theory but a link on his website leads to another site containing articles by Monte Judah and others who support him. That there may be a direct connection between the two is strongly suggested by the narrative on Bruton’s website. Judah promotes Torah observance; has had past failed date setting issues and believes Hebrews shouldn’t be part of the NT Canon.

Labeling someone a false prophet based on his rapture belief is myopic.

On close examination, advocates of the system promoted by the “Questions for a Pretribulationist” link are in no position to point fingers at pretribulationists.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

John 14:1-4 - a revisit

John 14:1-4 strikes me as pretty straight forward. But, no, some people don’t like what it says so they try to make it say something else. Taking his cue from Gundry and Warner one individual asks:

“Many have often assumed that the ‘Father’s house’ in John 14 referred to Heaven, and that when Christ says He’ll receive us unto Himself He was referring to a ‘rapture’ of the Church being whisked away to Heaven to live in a “mansion just over the hilltop”. And all of this, of course, before the world is tossed into the abyss of a seven-year tribulation. But is this what Jesus was referring to when He says “My Father’s house”? ”

Well, let’s look at the verses:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. John 14:1-4

I’m sorry but there are no “assumptions” involved. Christ is speaking about going to His Father’s house in heaven. That is where He is going to prepare a place for His audience. That is where the “dwelling places” are. It’s pretty clear. Just read the verses.

But that idea doesn’t comport with premil-posttribulationism so they must argue their way around a plain reading. There seems to be a lot of that sort of “reasoning” going around these days. And they accuse pretribulationists of superimposing their beliefs onto the text!

Anyway, Andy Woods has a great study on the topic HERE

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dispensationalism: Defense & Offense

There’s an interesting new post at Mike Vlach’s blog. I certainly agree with the following comments by Mike:

“In what I thought was the most significant part of the night, the panel and some in the crowd expressed hope that further discussions between Progressive dispensationalists and Traditional dispensationalists should continue, but the time has come for dispensationalists to offer a more unified defense of Dispensationalism. More emphasis should be given to dispensational commentaries and works on hermeneutics...”

But I also heartily agree with Dan Phillips’ point in response to the article when he suggested that there was a need for a unified “offense”.

Absolutely!

It is high-time that dispensationalists call out the other systems in a unified fashion. That includes their eschatology. Critics of dispensationalism (and pretribulationism) almost always avoid addressing serious criticism aimed at their own systems (see my last post).

Friday, October 28, 2011

You’re wrong so I’m right

As I’ve mentioned once before, I was influenced by reading Marv Rosenthal’s statement on p 280 of “The Pre-Wrath Rapture Of The Church” that “...refuting posttribulationism does not make pretribulationism correct”. He was absolutely correct and I took that to heart.

Dr Rosenthal was criticizing Charles Ryrie for spending “75 percent of his book to a refutation of posttribulationism” in his book “What You Should Know About The rapture”. Of course, there was an irony related to that objection. Dr Rosenthal devoted a lot of time to refuting pretrib presumably on the premise that if pretrib was wrong then his new view was correct.

It should also be noted that Dr Ryrie was responding to the challenge of Dr Gundry’s book “The Church and the Tribulation”. Unlike Dr Rosenthal, he wasn’t introducing a fresh rapture view. In fact, Dr Gundry might be singled out for trying to prove his own developed view by attacking pretrib in his two books.

One of the first things that stood out for me back in 2006 - when I first took an interest in this subject - was that most critics are better at attacking other systems than defending strong criticisms directed at their own viewpoints.

That speaks volumes to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who is a True Jew?

Excellent study by Tony Garland:

I believe that much of the confusion concerning the use of the term “Israel” in the New Testament -- and especially whether it refers to believing Gentiles -- can be cleared away by recognizing that although, consistent with its use in the Old Testament, the term always denotes those who are physical descendants of the man Jacob, there are also passages where the writer desires to call attention to a subset from within the physical descendants of Jacob who also share the faith of father Abraham. Here are some principles to consider when reading such passages...keep reading

Monday, October 24, 2011

Richard Mayhue - Day of the Lord

Going back a few posts I mentioned that the timing of day of the Lord posed no problems for pretribulationism. Non-pretrib proponents will usually try to argue that this event is intrinsically linked to the rapture’s timing and that God’s wrath can only be present in this period.

They’ll then try to show that the day of the Lord is a technical term and that it can only appear after certain precursors have taken place. If all the preceding arguments are correct then pretribulationism is false.

I don’t agree with all of Dr Mayhue’s arguments but he presents a compelling case that the timing of the day of the Lord is not significant for pretribulationism to be true or false.


THE BIBLE’S WATCHWORD: DAY OF THE LORD

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pretrib - stripping the Gospel of the cross?

While I was doing some research the other day, I came across an article written by Dalton Lifsey (DL) who also wrote the book "The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob's Trouble." He begins by praising people like Joel Rosenberg and a number of other pretribulationists for their pro-Israel stance. But then he turns it around and chides them for their “escapist” eschatology.

He notes:

“...I am grateful for their boldness to trumpet the seriousness and severity of the coming crisis. But it grieves me that their message of preparation is grounded in an anticipation of an imminent escape from the earth as “Jacob” is expected to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without a prophetic companion.”

And this:

“I hope you can sense the gravity of this. We should find it deeply troubling that men like John Hagee and Chuck Missler are speaking of a future Holocaust for the Jewish people (in no uncertain terms) and yet denying the Church’s sacrificial identification with them in the midst of it (also in no uncertain terms).”

This is a sanctimonious effort to elevate posttrib to a higher moral position. Being an ex-postie, I find it contrived. DL should just stick to scriptural arguments. He throws out some commonly used ones later in his article.

I happen to know that many of DL’s posttrib friends believe the Antichrist’s reign won’t be global. One of these - when asked about preparation for the tribulation - stated that he would likely be far away from the epicenter for most of the seven years. Yet he agrees with DL’s grievance. One might ask how these brave souls could be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” with Israel if they’re comfortably on the other side of the world.

In response to one objection another contributor states:

“The Bridegroom doesn’t “beat up His Bride” before the wedding. He saves her from an enemy who wants to kill her and prevent the wedding from happening altogether. He doesn’t drag the bride through the mud of tribulation. He drags her out of it.”

He appears to forget that it is God who initiates the tribulation via the seals. And according to posties it is Michael the archangel who “stands aside” to make way for the Antichrist.

And aren’t Israel (the divorced/future wife of Jehovah) and the church (the virgin bride of Messiah) one unit according to their view? Yet in that system the church is raptured after the tribulation (Why?), which is noted by Jesus to be the worst period in history, and leaves Israel behind to face God's wrath. A worse period? I find this logic both tortured and inconsistent.

DL claims that he’d formerly:

“...embraced a Dispensational view of things until I heard a Chinese pastor say in broken English that we Americans have “Stripped the Gospel of the cross” through out escapist eschatology that doesn’t prepare people to endure... This doctrine, more than any other, will be the cause of many becoming disillusioned, offended, and bitter in the generation of the Lord’s return. No doubt the “great falling away” of 2 Thess. 2:2-3 will be caused in part by this Western false teaching.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I hard something like that. Nevertheless, I believe dispensationalism is bigger than the rapture timing issue. I cannot help but wonder if there were other factors that caused DL to abandon it.

It’s true that some have an “escapist” mentality. Here in the West, it is easy to become complacent. We must pray for and help our brothers and sisters living in countries where there is persecution. And, in fact, there are many individual and corporate missionary outreaches where pretribulationists are directly involved.

No good pretrib student denies that severe tribulation and martyrdom will be part of the church’s experience. One only has to look at history. It could conceivably get a lot worse prior to any rapture. But it basically gets down to an academic understanding over when God’s wrath occurs.

Pretribulationism has nothing to do with stripping the Gospel of the cross. Expecting an imminent coming of the Lord should put people in daily abiding in Him.

Critics like DL should re-examine their broad-brush judgments of pretribulationalists.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Those Armageddon Loving Dispensationalists

A while ago I became involved in the historic premil Church-Israel discussion initiated at Mike Vlach’s blog. From there I looked at Craig Blomberg who strongly endorses Gary Burge and Colin Chapman and noted that these two theologians are actively anti-Zionist and anti-dispensational.

This subject is more crucial than the emotive rapture timing debate. That’s not to say that the rapture isn’t important, but (for me) what’s really important is what God said about Israel in the OT; how we understand that in light of the NT and how we understand modern Israel.

Did God mean to do what He said He would in the OT? On what basis do people re-define or ignore select OT verses relating to Israel’s future? Can we trust God at His word? See Paul Henebury’s Let God Be True…And Say What He Means

Joel Rosenberg’s 2011 Epicenter Conference featured a panel discussion called "Assessing The Threat of Replacement Theology and Other Efforts To Delegitimize Israel" between Joel and three other men. One of those men was Dr Michael Rydelnik. You can watch it HERE.

Dr Rydelnik recalled an earlier (Dec 2010) interview with Dr Burge when Moody Radio’s Janet Parshall hosted them in a discussion over Israel’s rights to the land. Notable during that interview was Dr Burge’s avoidance in fully dealing with Dr Rydelnik’s OT texts. In each case he would eventually steer the conversation away to something else.

In the end, Dr Burge retreated to a geo-political debate where he proceeded to disparage Israel in contrast to the observations of the program’s host and Dr Rydelnik. Recall also that Dr Blomberg finished off his Denver Seminary commentary with an indictment on Americans blithely supporting an Israel who “oppresses” Palestinians.

I’ve noticed a trend where certain critics employ a similar formula:

1) They link Christian Zionism with dispensationalism

2) They undermine dispensational theology by pointing out the personal failures of some of its adherents.

3) They tend to use the same arguments to try to prove that dispensational theology is unbiblical

4) They try to stereotype the average Zionist as a provocateur of Armageddon

5) Finally, they go after an “oppressive” Israel.

Rarely, in their narrative, do they acknowledge examples of Arab-Palestinian or Islamic hegemony or the recorded attempts to eradicate Israel, and they never fully engage Scripture that could undermine their theology.

One example of the contempt for Zionism and dispensationalism is Gary Burge’s essay “Why I’m Not a Christian Zionist, Academically Speaking” where his main target is John Hagee. Dr Burge writes:

“The average reader may be excused for not understanding the finer differences between an evangelical preacher who calls for a pre-emptive bombing strike against Iran and one who thinks this view is outrageous and immoral... For instance, high-profile pastor John Hagee...is a Christian preacher who enjoys outrageously militant sermons....Others like myself find him not only embarrassing but dangerous.”

And again:

“Christian Zionists excel in one but fail in the other. They love Israel profoundly but I await the day when Rev. Hagee exhorts Israel (just once) to pursue a national life of justice and truth...This is where everything has been leading. This is the crown jewel in Christian Zionism’s worldview. This is why Rev. Hagee is willing to risk throwing the Middle East into nuclear war. The birth of Israel has now set the stage for the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.”

This is the same polemic that Stephen Sizer promulgates. Rev Sizer has also written a Forward for a book by Alistair Donaldson “the last days of dispensationalism – a scholarly critique of popular misconceptions” which follows the above 5 point formula. Dr Donaldson, in turn, has endorsed Dr Sizer’s polemical “Christian Zionism”.

In his Forward, Rev Sizer wastes no time raising “apocalyptic” concerns by citing Sarah Posner’s “Pastor Strangelove” in which she focuses on John Hagee’s misguided comments:

“The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

This sets to poison the well and leads readers into believing the dispensational system unanimously promotes this sort of thing. Dr Donaldson takes this same “apocalyptic” cue when he states on page 149 that:

“[dispensational] beliefs, though being counter to a sound biblical understanding, have significantly influenced foreign policies of governments (especially the United States) concerning Israel, giving rise to significantly distressing world-impacting events, and to what is often uncritical support for the modern state of Israel – despite her atrocious and dehumanizing tyranny of another people – by millions of people who profess to love God who himself abhors justice.”

But John Hagee is not a normative dispensationalist and mature dispies would strongly disagree with his theology and politics. God doesn’t need Christians lobbying for pre-emptive strikes to fulfill His plan. Christians are to be out spreading the Good News and praying for peace.

What these critics are doing is selectively quoting statements made by individuals on the fringe of Zionism and/or dispensationalism and using them as an excuse to disparage the system and Israel. These critics also habitually make polemical and unsubstantiated statements regarding Israel. This is done so often and glibly that it becomes factual in the mind of a non-discerning reader. Far from being the peacemakers they claim to be by often quoting Matt 5:9 against dispies, they are actively fomenting conflict.

Dr Burge should know better as a consequence of his friendship with Michael Rydelnik. Dr Rydelnik’s book “Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict” is, in my opinion, a testament to how a Christian should view the Middle East conflict and Israel. He understands both sides of the conflict. He recognizes the fact that Israel isn’t perfect and that both Jews and Muslims need Christ.

One page 220 of his book, Dr Rydelnik lists three responsibilities resting upon those who follow Jesus:

1) We must pray for peace
2) We must work for peace
3) We must proclaim God’s peace through Messiah Jesus

Amen to that.



Further reading:

A Review of "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend" by Timothy P. Weber.


Is Dispensationalism Hurting American Political Policies in the Middle East?

A DISPENSATIONAL RESPONSE TO THE KNOX SEMINARY OPEN LETTER TO EVANGELICALS

A critique of "Zion's Christian Soldiers?"

Faydra L. Shapiro on "Zion's Christian Soldiers?"

Mainline Churches Embrace Burge's False Narrative

Mainline Churches Embrace Gary Burge's Harmful Mythology

Sabeel's Demonizing Liturgy

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gen 12, Israel & the Land

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. Gen 12:3

Christian Zionists often quote this verse and apply it to the nation Israel. Note that this shouldn’t suppose that Israel is free to do whatever it wills and that Christians must indiscriminately support it. Among other things, we should acknowledge that Israel’s major failing as a secular nation is its lack of recognition of Christ as its Messiah.

But anti-Zionists (for want of a better word) will invariably take the above verse and re-route it to ONLY point to Christ and ultimately the church. Steve Wohlberg’s article is one example of how replacement theologians might strategize a response to Zionists:

Notice, the direct "bless-curse" line concerned Abraham alone, not Israel, and "all the families of the earth" were to be blessed in Abraham, which meant through "his seed," which was Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:16). In order to receive that very blessing, individuals must be willing to be "turned away" from their sins by God's grace (see Acts 3:25,26).

Wohlberg, and others, invariably ignore Gen 27:29 where Isaac blesses Jacob-Israel. Note the blessing and curse.

May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.

Acts actually confirms Israel’s election and that the covenant is still valid. Peter is addressing the Jews (Acts 3:13-15):

It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways. Act 3:25-26

And Romans:

For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-- so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-- that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS. Rom 11:24-27

Those verses counter the idea that, because God is “no respecter of persons” (Rom 2:8-11), it somehow negates Israel’s future land promises. The Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional, as distinct to the Mosaic Covenant.

Referring to Deut 28 yet leaving out Deut 30 (keeping in mind Romans 11:24-27) simply doesn’t do the matter justice. Lev 26 is often appealed to by those who argue that Israel hast lost rights to the land but verses 44-46 are almost always ignored. Other verses routinely ignored are Deut 4:25-31; Eze 36:22-38; Zec 2:8 and Zec 14:1-21. There are a host of others.

Often those who deny Israel’s right to the land also deny they hold to replacement theology. They prefer to describe their views in other terms – such as “Fulfilled” - and appeal to a redefinition of the promises. Paul Henebury (Dr Reluctant) is sorting that matter out on his blog and I strongly recommend that people find out what he has to say about it.


More later.


What Does Christ as “True Israel” Mean for the Nation Israel?

Read Barry Horner's "Future Israel - Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged" HERE

Monday, September 5, 2011

Farewell to the Rapture?

N T Wright has a reputation as a solid scholar so when he writes something, people take notice.

I have his 800 pages plus book “The Resurrection of the Son of God” where he argues for the case of a real, physical resurrection – which I thought should have been obvious to anyone reading the NT. He is the author of “New Perspectives on Paul” for which he has received both praise and criticism.

Dr Wright is also one of those scholars who don’t see a future kingdom for Israel. Mike Vlach quotes him as stating:

Jesus spent His whole ministry redefining what the kingdom meant. He refused to give up the symbolic language of the kingdom, but filled it with such a new content that, as we have seen, he powerfully subverted Jewish expectations.”

I think Dr Vlach does a decent job responding to that position HERE. I’m reading Alva McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom” which meticulously exposits both OT and NT Scripture regarding the Kingdom, so I struggle to understand how Dr Wright holds to his view.

With that in mind I found his 2001 article “Farewell to the Rapture” a revealing read into the mindset of his type of scholarship. It’s important for non-pretribulationists to note here that Dr Wright’s main focus isn’t the timing – it’s the idea of the rapture.

Dr Wright:

The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre. Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal “rapture” in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been “left behind.” This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.”

I’m impressed that someone bothered to collect official statistical data addressing the issues in that last sentence. It’s a pity that it wasn’t cited. Either way…

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain 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. (1Th 4:16-17)

I like Kevin Zuber’s astute observation:

And . . . there will be a “rapture” – hey, if 1 Thessalonians 4 teaches anything it teaches we are going to be “caught up” . . . unless one is willing to “spiritualize” that passage and say it’s not going to be a “bodily catching-up” . . . in which case we have a “bodily resurrection” of the dead in Christ and a “spiritual catching up” of those who are alive and remain!”

Now that’s a thought!

Still, Dr Wright begs to differ. Apparently these passages MUST be spiritualized and Dr Zuber didn’t get the memo:

“Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere...Paul’s misunderstood metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort it?”

Well there you go. All those “misunderstood and mixed metaphors” are a challenging trap for newbies who think Scripture actually means what it says.

Interestingly, in his book (mentioned earlier), Dr Wright chose to understand passages alluding to the resurrection as literal, rather than metaphors. So I guess that somewhere, somehow, there exists some advanced manual or code of interpretation that is handed out to PhDs who’ve attended the right colleges and seminaries.

I just wish these guys would write some easy-to-follow guideline for a schmuck like me so that I can know when to take any given passage of Scripture literally or symbolically, or when to re-interpret something stated in the OT using the NT.

Speaking of which, Dr Michael Rydelnik’s book “The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic? ” is a must read. Chapter 8 “RASHI’S INFLUENCE ON THE INTERPRETATION OF MESSIANIC PROPHECY” is an eye opener (and warning) for those who rely on Rabbinic guidance for interpreting OT scripture.

You can read Dan Phillips’ review of the book HERE

In the meantime, since the writing of “End of the Rapture” in 2001, the concept hasn’t died and neither has dispensationalism. It’s one thing to mock the popular Left Behind genre or authors who are not always considered great examples of disp, and quite another to properly interact with the bedrock that props them up.

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The New Perspective on Paul - Part 1

A Defense of the Old Perspective on Paul - What Did St. Paul Really Say?

THE NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PAUL: ITS BASIC TENETS, HISTORY, AND PRESUPPOSITIONS

Friday, September 2, 2011

Does Historic Premillennialism trump Dispensationalism?

As mentioned previously, I’ve listened to a 2009 lecture delivered by Gary Hoag to a Denver Seminary audience. It was based on Craig Blomberg’s manuscript (Dr Blomberg being ill at the time). The title of the talk was “Inappropriately Privileging Israel: Why Historic Premillennialism Trumps Dispensationalism".

You can listen to it HERE


Dr Blomberg co-edited “A Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to "Left Behind" Eschatology”. The book received strong criticism by reviewer Erik Swanson for improperly engaging DP:

Not only does this book misunderstand DP, but the authors misrepresent DP as well. They (mis)represent DP as simply a popular movement, fueled by popular culture and imagination, not backed by solid exegesis and theology.”

I bring this up again because I sympathize with Erik Swanson’s frustration. That same approach characterizes the lecture. If you’re going to legitimately challenge another system, you should accurately interact with its beliefs and strengths; otherwise you’re just knocking down straw men.

Firstly, as an ex-posttribber, I’m unimpressed by the “academic & exegesis” vs the “comfortable populist” inferences that Dr Blomberg draws when he compares posttribulationism with pretribulationism. It smacks of elitism. Also, note that apantesis isn’t a magic gotcha word. Kevin Zuber has a study on it HERE, or refer to his essay in “Dispensationalism – tomorrow & beyond” (p 343). And a comparison of tereo ek in Rev 3:10 and John 17:15 isn’t helpful to post-trib either - read Richard Mayhue’s essay HERE.


Lastly, Erik Swanson answered Dr Blomberg’s wrath of God points in the review above. In fact at one stage Dr Blomberg states the church must go through the Tribulation and endure persecution and martyrdom then later claims tereo ek in Rev 3:10 means protection within!

Contrary to Dr Blomberg, Jerry Falwell’s “brand of dispensationalism” is not representative. That “America doesn’t exist to support a distinctively Jewish state in Israel” may well be true. Mature dispie scholars would vouch for the wisdom of a “separation between church and state”. But why raise that issue?

Many “religious organizations” routinely lobby the US government for political and monetary aid for other countries. Palestinian aid is sought out by certain “Christian” groups (e.g. Sabeel). And people like Stephen Sizer and Gary Burge, and organizations such as the World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches have sought the boycotting of Israeli products. What do we make of church groups who vie to influence government decisions on pro-life, gay marriage etc? Wouldn’t these activities cross over the "separation between church & state" guidelines? Why is support for Israel singled out?

I’m not sure why he even mentions Two Covenant Theology. Even if one or two “popular” dispies may hold to it; it is not the correct dispensational view. There is only ONE way to be saved and that is by grace through faith. Note Tony Garland’s article HERE and this ESSAY


He uses the term “the shifting sands of dispensationalism”. Disp was formalized in the 19th century when theologians began to take a literal approach to the OT. Since then it has gone through further refinements and developments. Covenant Theology (which isn’t that much older) has also evolved and changed. The same is true of Reformed Theology. In fact if one carefully looks at a Who’s Who of HP from the Early Church Fathers to date, one will see changes in modern day HP.

Dr Blomberg chides outright replacement theology by pointing to sufficient OT evidence indicating that national Israel has some future in the Millennium. He even points out that RT has led to anti-Semitism. This is an important admission which I’ll explore in a later post. He affirms that George Ladd is a scholar who overshadows the rest and, like Dr Ladd, he fails to see a necessity for either a Temple, or national Israel in Palestine prior to the Millennium. He punctuates that point several times.

Note here that people like J C Ryle, Horatius Bonar, Renald Showers, Arnold Fruchtenbaum etc have shown “biblically” that Israel must, once again, be a nation prior to the Millennium. Dr Fruchtenbaum identifies several OT verses pointing to a gathering into the land in unbelief in “Footsteps of the Messiah”.

Contra-arguments to Gen 12:1-3 are typically raised by proponents of replacement theology and Dr Blomberg does the same. They argue that the church, as Abraham’s spiritual heir, is the ultimate recipient of these verses and not a prophetically irrelevant Israel in a state of unbelief. In a lengthy process of circular reasoning they insert the church and remove Israel. (Acts 3:13, 25-26; Rom 11:25-29)

His comments on Ezekiel’s Temple (ET) confuse me. I’m not aware of any dispies who teach that ET is premillennial. I don’t see how you can merge ET into the New Jerusalem or why you’d want to in the first place. If you’re able to recognize clear OT Scripture to confirm a future for Israel then surely you can use that same “exegesis” on a literal comparison of the differences between ET and the New Jerusalem.

Even when he acknowledges OT prophecies regarding Israel in their land during the Millennium he attempts to apply the NT to make the Gentile church share the same territorial benefits, which he then extends to all the earth (Matt 5:5). He appears to have a problem with a uniquely Holy Land with a Jewish flavor and any type of Temple. This isn’t just replacement theology; it is absorption theology or a sort of socialist theocracy where whatever national Israel owns, so must the Gentile church.


While he briefly addresses the excesses of those who are pro-Palestinian and those who are pro-Israel, it’s quite obvious that Christian Zionism and national Israel are his primary targets. His language implies that Israel oppresses Palestinian Muslims and Christians; hence he lectures against blindly supporting Israel.

Yet a fact-check will show that Palestinians and Christians living in Israel fare much better than in Israel’s Muslim-dominated neighboring countries! He seems unaware of the dynamics driving the Arab-Israeli conflict and the existential threat to Israel. Aside from theological considerations, there are legitimate reasons for supporting Israel even if it is secular and imperfect.

But that he promotes blatant replacement theologians like Gary Burge and Colin Chapman as the “best guides” to refer to theologically ultimately explains his position on Israel both biblically and from a secular viewpoint. Burge and Chapman re-interpret the OT via the NT. These men have also written glowing reviews for anti-Israel activist and revisionist
Stephen Sizer’s book “Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?”

Dr Paul Wilkinson has written about Sizer and his supporters HERE. I also recommend his book “For Zion’s Sake”. A more balanced approach to Sizer’s book is Dr Michael Rydelnik’s “Understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict – What The Headlines Haven’t Told You”.

Keeping the terms “academic” & “exegesis” in mind, read Barry Horner’s (Future Israel) response to Gary Burge. Many points that Dr Horner raises about Dr Burge re NT authorship etc are a concern.

Based on Dr Blomberg’s lecture and his advocacy of Gary Burge’s theology, even if I were to revert to posttribulationism, I could never consider myself an HP. It’s not about rapture timing, though Dr Blomberg clings to that distinction. It’s about God’s faithfulness to His word. It’s about taking the clear OT references to Israel’s future literally. On this basis, Dr Blomberg’s lecture fails to live up to its objective.

I’ll explore Dr Burge’s stance on Israel in a later post.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dispensationalism, Salvation & Supersessionism

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Note: this article gets the odd visit from preterists. The folks at the Preterist Archive (PA) were sweet enough to link to it under "Pro-Dispensationalism" rather than "Dispensationalist Dementia." Quite frankly there are far better websites defending dispensationalism and I've linked to them throughout this blog. Still, I appreciate the plug.

The PA is an interesting site with all the usual conspirators (MacPherson etc). Anyhow, I have been meaning to write up a little something to address preterism as a layman and point to some polemics against the system. I may do more in the future, but for now I'll plug this article:

Preterism and Prophetic Scripture

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One of the most consistent and erroneous complaints about disp is that it teaches an alternative way of salvation for Israel. Is that really the case?
Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Ways of Salvation? Read the article HERE

Some have difficulty understanding the Israel-church distinction and typically draw upon various proof-text verses to support their contentions against disp. However, it doesn’t make sense that Paul should speak of Israel’s salvation in Romans etc if there were no distinction between it and the church. Note this article which discusses some of these verses HERE
For a thorough treatment of the typical verses cited against disp, see Dr Fruchtenbaum's Israelology.

While the church may currently have Jewish members; it isn’t national Israel and it doesn’t share the land promises. The Gentile church is grafted into the root of Blessing along with Israel. I am a member of the church but I will always be a Gentile. I am not a member of Israel. It’s really that simple.

The problem seems to stem from the fact that this tradition has been retained by the church from Origen and Martyr who were outright proponents of replacement theology.


How is the Term Israel Used in the New Testament?

A Comparison and Contrast Between Israel and the Church

Jews, Gentiles, Christians

WHO IS WRONG? A REVIEW OF JOHN GERSTNER'S WRONGLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH

What Does Christ as “True Israel” Mean for the Nation Israel?

These fine articles by Lynda O are appropriate to this post:

Common Claims Against Dispensationalism: Responses

More Responses to Anti-Dispensational Claims

Friday, July 29, 2011

Miscellaneous Stuff

First of all please note: The Orange Mailman has responded to both Mike Vlach and my post. You can read his thoughts on his blog, and Mike’s blog. OM has a lot of thoughtful stuff on his site. Well worth a read. Some of it I disagree with, but that doesn’t make him wrong.

I’d also like to mention that it’s not my intention to deliberately attack other people’s views here. I sometimes read criticisms of views I happen to hold and will respond to them. One example of this is when I addressed SDA Steve Wohlberg’s “End Time Delusions” and received mail from Seventh-day Adventists upset that I’d “attacked” him.

*************

What I like about people like Paul Henebury and Michael Vlach is that they can often take an objective and critical look at their dispensational system. That’s not to say that disp thought is inherently faulty. I think this kind of thing strengthens that system of interpretation. Here’s a list of articles discussing some disp issues by Dr Henebury:

Articles on Dispensationalism


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In a future post I’d like to discuss a talk given by Gary Hoag for Craig Blomberg who was ill at the time. The sixty plus minute talk was titled “Inappropriately Privileging Israel: Why Historic Premillinnialism Trumps Dispensationalism".

Half of that talk was actually devoted to posttribulationism, which I found odd. Dr Blomberg refers to G E Ladd as a scholar who overshadows the rest. Right at the end of his talk he mentions Gary Burge and Colin Chapman as the “best guys” to refer to theologically. I have issues with that.

You can listen to the talk on THIS PAGE.



Correction:

I stated that Gary Hoag (for Craig Blomberg) spent half the time of his talk on posttribulationism. On listening to it again, I was wrong; it was more like 15 minutes. I might also clarify, as per my comment above, that I have no problems with Dr Blomberg's high opinion of G E Ladd. It was Burge and Chapman and their close affinity to anti-Israelist Stephen Sizer that I have strong feelings about.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Matthew 24-25

Tony Garland of Spirit And Truth has begun a series on Matthew 24-25. You can follow it HERE.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ladd, Israel and the Church

I confess to having little patience with casual remarks that some throw out at the dispensational system. They range from the absurd heresy label to vague statements like a recent comment made by a blogger (The Orange Mailman) who affirmed that:

“…there was a real need for dispensationalists to address the contradictions in their position.”
And that:

“….So many dispensationalists have moved significantly toward historic premillennialism. Now instead of attacking those dispensationalists (classic and revised) which they acknowledge have severe contradictions in their position, they attack historic premillennialists with whom they have so much more in common now.”
OM was reacting to Mike Vlach’s post on Historic Premillennialism (Covenant Premillennialism) vs Dispensational Premillennialism. He felt that Mike misrepresented George Ladd and HP. One of the issues was whether Ladd held that the church was the new Spiritual Israel. Here’s what OM says on his blog:

“The second issue is the idea that Historical Premillennialists believe in a form of replacement theology. Vlach cites Ladd, but he does so in such a way that you think that Ladd believes that the church is the new Israel, which is not the case. Ladd never wrote that the church is the new Israel as he always used the term “the true Israel”. Notice how Vlach frames Ladd’s quote: Ladd asserted that the church is now the new “spiritual Israel.” You see how the word “new” is not in the quotes, only “spiritual Israel” is in the quotes. He does cite Millard Erickson, whom I am unfamiliar with who is quoted properly. But old school premillennialists like Nathaniel West, BW Newton, and SP Tregelles would all agree that the church is not the new Israel. They all held that Israel was Israel and the church was the church. They believed there were some parallels between the church and Israel, and there was definitely a historicist flair in many of their works, but they uniformly taught a future for the physical nation of Israel, and Ladd can easily be included here.”
And yet in “The Last Things – What about Israel?” Ladd writes:

“Here, in two separate places, prophecies which in their Old Testament context refer to literal Israel are in the New Testament applied to the (Gentile) church. In other words, Paul sees the spiritual fulfillment of Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 in the church. It follows inescapably that the salvation of the Gentile church is the fulfillment of prophecies made to Israel. Such facts as this are what compel some Bible students, including the present writer, to speak of the church as the New Israel, the true Israel, the spiritual Israel.

I’m fairly sure OM knows Ladd’s position on the 144,000:

“The second throng pictured the same people, the 144,000, seen from a different point of view. They are the church which from the human perspective is a great in numerable throng from every nation and tongue. Now they are seen as martyrs of the Great Tribulation; they are seen standing before God's throne clothed in white robes, singing a hymn of praise "salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." They are furthered identified: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14). Their martyrdom is the path to eternal blessedness and glory.” (The Last Things - The Antichrist and the Great Tribulation)

On Mike’s blog OM comments that:

“I don't believe Ladd's terminology leads to replacement theology at all. In fact, I have The Gospel of the Kingdom right in front of me. As I read through the chapter titled The Kingdom, Israel and the Church, it becomes obvious that Ladd believed in a future restoration of the nation of Israel. Two quotes are "Israel is yet to be saved" and "There will be a restoration of Israel". That directly contradicts the claim made in the above post.”
That sentiment doesn’t square with Ladd’s quote above. When Ladd talks about “restoration” he means salvation. That salvation absorbs the Jews into the church and may EXCLUDE OT prophetic land and Temple restoration. He sees the church as the New, true, spiritual Israel. That would be Replacement Theology!

Ladd again:

“What does this have to do with the present Israeli question? Three things: First, God has preserved his people. Israel remains a "holy" people (Rom. 11:16), set apart and destined to carry out the divine purpose. Second, all Israel is yet to be saved. One modern scholar has suggested that in the millennium history may witness for the first time a truly Christian nation. Third, the salvation of Israel must be through the new covenant made in the blood of Christ already established with the church, not through a rebuilt Jewish temple with a revival of the Mosaic sacrificial system. Hebrews flatly affirms that the whole Mosaic system is obsolete and about to pass away. Therefore the popular Dispensational position that Israel is the "clock of prophecy" is misguided. Possibly the modern return of Israel to Palestine is a part of God's purpose for Israel, but the New Testament sheds no light on this problem. However, the preservation of Israel as a people through the centuries is a sign that God has not cast off his people Israel.”
And this rather confusing statement:

It is quite impossible in light of the context and the course of Paul's thought in this passage to understand "all Israel" to refer to the Church. There is, to be sure, a very real sense in which the Church is Israel, the sons of Abraham, the true circumcision (Gal. 3: 7; Rom. 2: 28; 4: i, 12,16). However, this does not mean that God has for ever cast off Israel after the flesh. Paul emphatic­ally denies this. There is first of all a spiritual remnant—natural branches which were not broken off because they received Christ (Rom. 11: 1-6). But secondly, there is to be a greater turning to the Lord on the part of Israel after the flesh, of such proportions that Paul can say that "all Israel," i.e., Israel as a whole, will be saved.” (THE KINGDOM, ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH)

That Israel will be saved by faith in Christ is true. But note Ladd’s reluctance to refer to the clear and specific OT prophetic promises. He gives precedence to his interpretation of the NT which is based on his presuppositions (144,000 etc).

I don’t know what ALL HP proponents think. Some early ones, like Horatius Bonar, did believe the physical promises to Israel were still valid and awaiting fulfillment. However, my observation is that MOST non-dispies DO allow the NT to reinterpret and spiritualize the OT to the point of abrogating clear physical promises made by God to national Israel. Most concede that Israel has a future salvation but it is often doublespeak because that future most often excludes the land promises etc.

For clarification on this I recommend reading Barry Horner’s “Future Israel”.

Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum covers HP (Covenant Premillennialism) in his book “Israelology” (pp 234-317). He cites statements by Ladd, Erickson and several others who DO spiritualize Israel’s future. I recommend reading it!

Mike Vlach was correct. He didn’t misrepresent Ladd at all and OM stands to be corrected.

In conclusion, it’s apparently permitted for some individuals to attack dispensationalism and pretribulationism with generalizations, yet they often take offense when their own beliefs are called to question. I wish that people who typically make off-the-cuff statements about disp. would actually list some of these elusive “severe
contradictions”. I’d love to hear about them!

Answers to the 95 Theses Contra Dispensationalism

Core Characteristics of Dispensationalism

A Book Review of Blomberg and Chung's, A Case for Historic Premillennialism by Erik Swanson

Addendum:

Sadly, some of the links have gone by the wayside. If ever they re-appear I'll re-link to them.

Ladd ascribed to Covenant Theology which began to be developed around the 16th century. Typically, CTs reinterpret the OT via the lens of the NT, which is why Ladd was sometimes ambiguous regarding the relationship between Israel and the church. This is also the reason why he could only use Revelation 20 to defend his premillennialism.

Non-dispensational premils tend to hold Ladd's scholarship in esteem. They often eschew dispensationalism on the grounds of its pretribulationism and its sharp distinction of Israel and the church. However, this distinction is important if we are to understand God's plan for Israel. Ladd does not help us here.

The following link to a PDF document of Ladd's "Israel and the Church" proves that Ladd was closer to supersessionism than many historic premils might admit. Read it HERE 

Friday, July 8, 2011

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 Commentary

Here's a fantastic resource that ties everything together from a pretribulational perspective.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 Commentary

Here's John Walvoord's review of "The Blessed Hope" by G E Ladd. Note Walvoord's response to Ladd's critique of the pretribulational view of imminence. Read it HERE

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sheep-Goat and White Throne Judments

Mike Vlatch explores whether the Sheep-Goat & White Throne judgments are the same:

Amillennialists, Postmillennialists, and even some Premillennialists view the Sheep/Goat judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 and the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 as being the same event. But a close examination reveals that these two judgments are not the same judgment...keep reading

Mike also has two great books out – one is called “Has The Church Replaced Israel” and the other is a 73 page booklet on Dispensationalism’s Essential beliefs and Common Myths.

The fist book analyses the major pro-Replacement Theology arguments and then deconstructs them. The latter book clarifies many important points that might be missed in Ryrie’s “Dispensationalism”.

You can read a review of his Dispensationalism book HERE.

Both books are highly recommended.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Those misleading pretribulationists (Part 2)

Continuing on from the previous post:

Dr Cooper claims that if the rapture was pretribulational the Thessalonians should have been reminded that they would be taken away before any part of the 70th week began and that the very first sign (Joel 2:31) could not have been missed. Yet, while talking about the apostasy and AOD in 2 Thess 2, Paul does not mention Daniel’s 70th week or the so-called cosmic precursors.

He bundles Joel 2, Matt 24:29 and Rev 6:12-13 in the same bucket as the same event. But if we were to apply the same exegesis that he demands of 2 Thess 1-3 to those verses we would be confronted with the obvious differences in the cosmic moon signs.

On a side note, prewrath demands and boasts a single technical parousia yet it actually teaches a multi-phase second-Advent. The Antichrist is slain at 2 Thess2:8 (see Rev 19) yet the prewrath system re-interprets this to state that he is only handcuffed there and destroyed later. See Douma’s analysis of the prewrath parousia p 11.

Dr Cooper:

“It is obvious that the coming of the day of the Lord will be thieflike (sic) for unbelievers. “Sudden destruction” is the prospect for the wicked in connection with that “day”. On the other hand, Paul states that believers who are alert and sober will not expect the day of the Lord to surprise them as would a thief’s sudden appearing. Nothing that Paul wrote here is contradicted by what he wrote in II Thessalonians 2:1-3. Thomas completely misunderstands what Paul has written. Sadly, he attempts to prove a position which from the beginning was never true. This is so typical of the pretribulational position...For their definition of imminence to be correct, pretribulationalists like Thomas must distort Scripture to prove it. There are no contradictions in the writings of Paul. The only contradictions are found in the writings of those who simply will not take Paul at face value!

Another PRI post states: “…He [Paul] consistently notes a peace and security (albeit a surface-level quality) that will precede the day of the Lord. But this peace and security is illusory, a false security, for unbelievers because unforeseen sudden calamity will come on them just as unexpected labor pains on a pregnant woman...”

Let’s take some verses at “face value”.

1Th 5:2-6 Note that the labor pains and sudden destruction are directly connected to the DOL. Once a woman experiences the first birth pang she cannot escape. The birth pangs are sudden, the delivery isn’t. At the point of the birth pangs one knows the baby is due.

Rev 6:4 Scripture plainly tells us peace is taken from the earth at the 2nd seal. A delusory peace beyond this point is a deduction based upon a pre-understanding or requirement for the DOL occurring later in the week.

Rev 6:8 PRI has claimed that this verse isn’t saying that a quarter of the world’s population (1.7 billion) will be killed. Yet, in fact, that’s exactly what it is saying.

Mat 24:21-22 This will be the worst period of time there ever was or ever will be and so terrible it must be stopped or no life would be saved. The language in the first sentence indicates that this tribulation encompasses all people (see Rev 6:8). Given the description in Matt 24:21-22, the DOL cannot be worse that the GT, therefore it must comprise the same period. And it’s highly unlikely that there will be any delusory peace during the worst time in history.

Mat 24:38-39 Compare that normal situation with Matt 24:21-22 & Rev 6:4, 8.

Mat 24:42-44 The Lord tells His disciples "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”.

How can the DOL not be expected if at Rev 6:17 the unbelievers are said to be anticipating the future wrath and hiding in caves and under rocks? Compare with Isaiah 2. There the 6th seal is within that day (the DOL).

Posttribbers and prewrathers focus on the cosmic sign precursors of the DOL and insist that the rapture and DOL are tied together. The DOL is sometimes treated as a broad period and sometimes as the coming at Armageddon. And because the rapture timing is inferred in Scripture, any argument tying the DOL with that event is based upon theological deductions.

The thief coming in the night as opposed to day denotes surprise. It’s not that the believer will know approximately when the thief will come by watching. The watching idiom represents the position of the believer. The believer will not experience loss – not because he knows the “signs” of the thief’s coming but because of his continuous abiding in Christ.

Prewrath holds that, because the great tribulation has been changed to an unknown length, it qualifies as a sort-of imminency expectancy that involves “watching” for the cosmic precursors etc. However, that premise doesn’t match the face-value sense of Matt 24:44.

Moreover, the idea that the great tribulation is cut short in this sense is contrary to Scripture (Dan 7:25, 12:7; Rev 13:5, 7).

Why were the Thessalonians troubled? Had they missed the rapture?


Whatever the reason, one must ask the question that if the great tribulation of Matt 24:21-22 was a period that the Thessalonians would have to eventually endure – why didn’t Paul prep them for it?