Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting Back to Torah

I'm seeing an upward trend where some Christians are identifying with all things Hebrew. Some are beginning to observe the Sabbath, the Jewish feast days and Mosaic dietary laws etc. I can't think of anything intrinsically wrong with this if it's just a personal preference. But in many cases these people have put themselves under "Torah" or "Mosaic Law" as a rule of life because they've been told they're bound by Scripture to do so. Moreover, they're proselytizing other Christians to do the same. Most of these Torah proponents deny preaching "legalism" or salvation by works. What they'll usually say is that, while there's nothing anyone can do in the way of earning salvation, if we love God, we will want to obey Him and keep His Torah commandments.

I believe this trend has been facilitated by a number of pro-Torah prophetic ministries. Mark Biltz (El Shaddai), Brad Scott, Dewey Brunton and Monte Judah come readily to mind. Biltz has been mistaken for a pretribulationist - yet he is neither pretribulational nor dispensational. His Blood Moon theories have been indiscriminately promoted by prophecy websites without any caveat on his pro-Torah teachings. Closely linked to Biltz is 119 Ministries (119M), who are also pro-Torah and anti-dispensational and who derive their name from Psalm 119. Visit the 119M website and you'll be confronted by a slickly produced video accompanied by inspiring music which admonishes the viewer to "Test Everything". In fact, most of 119M's teachings are delivered via videos which one can view onsite and their DVD sales. While they offer some written articles, they are limited in scope. Essentially, what these people teach is that the Mosaic Law (ML) hasn't been abrogated but "enhanced" and that the Christian is grafted into Israel and is therefore under ML rule.

This back-to-Torah trend was more recently impressed upon me by a string of discussions on Amazon where one prolific (and published) reviewer insisted that the church was under ML obligation, and that Christians were automatically grafted into Israel upon conversion. He argued that the New Covenant was made with Israel - not Gentiles - hence Gentile believers had to become "spiritual Israelites" to benefit from the New Covenant.

Typically, these individuals have ready responses to problem passages such as Col 2:16 and Acts 15 etc. They argue that in Col 2:16, Paul was telling his readers to not let anyone judge them when they begin to observe the "Torah" laws. Yet no such innovative example is found anywhere in the NT. We get an understanding of what the real issue was in Acts 15 and a hint of it in Gal 2:12, 14.

...for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision...But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?

In what way was Peter living as a Gentile and how were Gentiles being compelled to live as Jews if it wasn't the Mosaic dietary laws? The following is an example of a Torah-proponent's response to Acts 15 verse 10:

"Some Christians might read into this verse and assume that Peter is referring to the Torah/Law itself as a burdensome yoke. He just stated that the Gentiles are saved by faith in the same way that Jews are – the moment that they heard the Word and believed. Therefore, in keeping with his argument that all men are only saved by faith - not by works - he asks the obvious question (My paraphrase): “How can you be saved by faith, but then add all these extra prerequisites associated with Torah Observance to the Gospel presented to the Gentiles, especially when we Jews couldn’t keep the Law to be saved in the first place?” Such a works-based Salvation doctrine is a “yoke that no one could bear”. The Torah/Law was never designed to save anyone. It’s simply God’s standard of daily living for His people. Salvation is by Grace through Faith alone. This verse can’t be in reference to the Torah/Law itself, because all throughout scripture God’s commandments are called “liberty,” “life,” and a “delight” (e.g. Psalm 119; Romans 7:22). John says that God’s commands are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). So there’s either a contradiction in scripture, or, keeping with the context of the chapter, Peter is not referring to the Law itself in verse 10, but rather, a works-based Salvation doctrine that was being pushed upon the Gentiles." 

They key to Wilber's rebuttal is to paraphrase and put words into the mouths of the apostles. He tells his readers that verse 10 cannot refer to the ML because it contradicts 1 John 5:3. A different way that other Torah proponents get around Acts 15 is to state that James, Peter and Paul were only advocating an interim period so that new Gentile believers could get used to the ML. However, the context and intent becomes clear when we read through, minus the paraphrasing.

Acts 15:1) And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

2) And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.

3) Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren.

4) And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.

5) But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."

6-7) And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.

8-10) "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?

19-20) "Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

28-29) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. 

The yoke of v10 relates directly to the ML in v 5 (see also Gal 5:1). Had the issue only been a "works-based Salvation doctrine" and the yoke related to that - then vv 19-20 and 28-29 would have clarified that the ML was still a standard to live by but that salvation was by faith through grace. Yet these new Gentile believers weren't admonished to live by the ML; instead, they were given guidelines designed to foster fellowship with Jewish believers whose identity traditionally lay in the ML. Nowhere in Acts is it suggested that these guidelines are an interim getting-used-to-Torah period. In fact nowhere in the NT is there any admonishment to keep the ML. On the contrary, Torah-proponents have many problem verses to contend with. Steven Ger (Acts - Witnesses to the World p 209) points out that that Yoke "was a common rabbinic designation for the Torah, cited in the Mishnah concerning proselytes taking up the 'yoke of the commandments'".

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. Gal 5:1-3

If the ML was meant to be the rule of life, Paul would not have made the logical argument that believers who insist on circumcision are bound to observe the whole of the ML. More importantly, he wouldn't have linked the concepts of freedom with the yoke of slavery and Christ's benefit to the believer, in that same argument. If the problem was that believers thought that ML observance or circumcision was the means to salvation - and Paul wanted to correct that, yet stress that the ML was still a rule of life - he would have framed his answer in an entirely different way.

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 1Co 9:20-21

At least 4 times the believer is said to be not "under the Law": Rom 6:14-15; Gal 5:18 & 1 Cor 9:20. "Under the law" can only have two meanings - "under the law" as a way of salvation or "under the law" as a rule of life. Rom 3:20 tells us that "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight." Rom 4 tells us that Abraham and David were not saved by the law, but through faith. Romans 10:4 talks about the end (telos) of the law. Telos there means end, not goal as some would have it. See also Gal 3:23-25 and Eph 2:15. Romans 7:1-6 also teaches that - like the woman whose husband has died - we are no longer bound to the law. If the believer was still bound to the ML as a rule of life, Paul wouldn't have admonished his audience to not give freedom an opportunity to sin (Gal 5:3, 13, 18-26).

Given all this, the logical conclusion should then be that "under the law" refers to a rule of life. That's an awful lot paraphrasing the pro-ML proponent has to do to put all those Scriptural fires out!

In his doctrinal dissertation, Israelology (p 643), Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out that the Mosaic Law cannot be broken down into three parts of moral, civil and ceremonial laws (James 2:10). It is an indivisible unit. In fact, the pro-Torah proponent's own interpretation of Mat 5:17-18 has ramifications for a faithful observance of every "jot and tittle" of the 613 commandments as given in Leviticus. E.g. what do we do about stoning for various sins and what about wearing clothes made of more than one material (Lev 19:19)? Also, it's obvious that there have been changes in God's commandments. ML prohibits marriages between brother and sister but such was not the case in Genesis. It should also be obvious that expressions of God's Law existed prior to the Mosaic Covenant. Hence when Law and God's commandments are mentioned in the NT they should not be automatically thought of as referring to Mosaic Law (see Israelology pp 650-652).

Following is a link to Jim McClarty's website. I won't endorse everything there (I'm not qualified) but he has some helpful articles covering the topic of Mosaic Law and the Christian. In particular, see the articles "Jot and tittle"; "Law Vs Grace"; "New Covenant and Torah" and "Discussing Torah Observance":

J McClarty - Salvation By Grace. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Rom 8:1-2

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:23-26

For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. Gal 5:14

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal 5:18

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

Further reading:


The Law of Moses and the Law of Messiah



Dispensationalism & “Biblical Covenantalism” – What’s in a Name?


Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism – Theses 90-95

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Carl Olson's Rapture Myths

In a previous post I indicated an intention to further pursue Carl Olson's comments on premillennial dispensationalism and the "rapturists". Specifically, I had in mind those he makes in his article Five Myths About the Rapture. However, I got tied up with a bunch of other commitments and ended up with a virus which has dogged me these past few weeks.  In the article, Olson gives his reason for writing his book. He wants to:

"...thoroughly examine premillennial dispensationalism, the unique apocalyptic belief system presented, in fictional format, within those books...[which] teaches that the "Rapture" and the Second Coming are two events separated by a time of tribulation and that there will be a future millennial reign of Christ on earth." 

These Myths according to Olson are:

1: "The Left Behind books represent a fringe belief system that very few people take seriously."

2: "Catholic beliefs about the end times are quite similar to those of Fundamentalists such as Tim LaHaye."

3: "The Rapture is a biblical and orthodox belief."

4: "The early Church Fathers believed in the Rapture and the millennial kingdom on earth."

5: "The Left Behind books are harmless entertainment that encourage Christians in their faith and help them better understand the Book of Revelation."

I don't want to labor point by point against Olson's so-called myths. It would be too tedious and result in a drawn out saga that nobody wants to read anyhow. But as an ex Catholic I do want to share some thoughts.

I left Catholicism as a teenager because I had questions it couldn't answer over a number of issues. The priests I dialogued with had no adequate responses to the problem of accepting evolution and the biblical implications thereof. The problem with Catholcism is that it doesn't derive its strength from Scripture - they eschew the idea of Sola Scriptura. In fact, like other apologists, Olson constantly refers his readers to the Catechism in his Rapture Myths article as an adjunct to Scripture.

An example of inconsistency in this matter is Paul Thigpen who warns his readers about "prickly debates over the true meaning of biblical Greek" (The Rapture Trap p 21) then over the page recommends Gundry's two books. Gundry relied heavily on his understanding of Greek Grammar to try to refute the pretrib use of Rev 3:10. And Patrick Madrid has resorted to comparing the Greek meaning of "until" in Mat 1:25 - out of context to other places where it is used - in his attempt to defend the idea of Mary's perpetual virginity.

Olson is correct that Catholicism's amillennialism is incompatible with the Left Behind theology. It's an irony, however, that David Currie (p 437 The Rapture) sees otherwise-hidden Eucharistic references in Revelation and misses its overt premillennialism and earthly kingdom teaching!

Regarding the Israel, the church and the millennium issue, Ron Diprose's "Israel and the Church" is prescribed reading (among others). On page 161 he notes that Augustine explained why he gave up a belief in a future earthly reign of Christ. On Rev 20:4-6 and referring to saints reigning with Christ on earth for a thousand years Augustine says:

"...this opinion would not be objectionable if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath will be spiritual...But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets...such assertions can only be believed by the carnal."

Olson asserts that nowhere in Scripture are two comings of Christ taught. Yet verses like Matt 24:21, 37-39; 1 Thess 5: 2-3; Rev 6:1-17 and Rev 19: 11 are contradictions that can best be resolved by a dual-phase future coming. How can anyone live casually in "peace & safety" prior to Rev 19 and Matt 24:31 if one takes Matt 24: 21-22 and the seal judgments literally and futuristic?

Furthermore, we see problems with a single-phase future Advent when we compare verses like Hos 5:15, Matt 23:37-39, Matt 24:36, 44, 50; 25:13; Luke 12:39-40 and Rev 1:7. How can Jesus' second coming be contingent on Israel's pleading for His return, and yet no one knows the hour and are taken by surprise by it? See especially Matt 24:36-39.

But the fact that Olson hasn't thoroughly examined premillennial dispensationalism is obvious by his statements. He asserts:

"LaHaye and others [point] passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, and Matthew 24 as clear evidence for the pretribulation Rapture (those passages make several appearances, for instance, in the Left Behind novels)." 

As noted before, Tim LaHaye (Ryrie included) did not teach the pretrib rapture from Matt 24 (some pretribbers do). Had Olson paid closer attention to LaHaye's "The Rapture" (p 92) he would have noted the context to be the Glorious Appearing at the end of the 70th week, not the rapture. In "Revelation Unveiled" LaHaye spells it out more clearly on page 103 where he explicitly states that Matt 24:27-31 is related to the Glorious Appearing, as distinct to the rapture.

A stunning gaffe by Olson is the following assertion:

"More importantly, dispensationalists give little attention to the rich Old Testament allusions or the first-century context of the Book of Revelation."

When I first became interested in eschatology my focus was on the premillennial-preterist debate. Contrary to Olson's claim, there is a wealth of material by dispensationalists addressing futurism, historicism and preterism. I have several books where a number of dispensationalists have responded to the likes of Chilton, DeMar and Gentry. In fact Mark Hitchcock debated Han Hanegraaff on the dating of Revelation and has written his doctrinal dissertation on the subject.

On the accusation that dispies fail to acknowledge "rich Old Testament allusions", one only has to read Arnold Fruchtenbaum's "Footsteps of the Messiah" to see that Olson is wrong. Dr Frucht draws from Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, Daniel on some of the Minor Prophets and shows that these contribute to elements of the book of Revelation. Tony Garland's "A Testimony of Jesus Christ" is another great resource (which can be read online) as is Robert L Thomas' 2 Volume Exegetical Commentary of Revelation. Furthermore, Randall Price offers a feast of study resources on his World of the Bible website.

Olson's concern that the Left Behind genre is hurting Catholicism is misplaced. I don't want to go into a tirade against the RCC but I think one major factor is that, while they do recognize Scripture, they give pre-eminence to Sacred Tradition; the Magisterium and their Catechism. They need to do this because various doctrinal dogmas have crept into the RCC that are not found in the Bible and cannot be justified by it (e.g. Mary's sinless state, perpetual virginity, Limbo, Purgatory etc).

It's saddening that my Catholic relatives will routinely offer prayers to Mary, various saints and sometimes deceased relatives before praying to the Father. It's also a pity that someone like Olson can co-author such a worthy response to Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" yet misrepresents dispensationalism so badly.

Further reading:


Pretrib Conference 2012

Speaking of pretrib conferences; one of the Omega Letter members touches on what was discussed at the latest one on his blog. You can read about it HERE

Judging by my friend's blog, the conference content wasn't just about the pretribulational rapture. Apparently "Contending for the Faith" was a central theme. How about that!
Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum was also one of the guest speakers. I sat at three of his lectures on the Messiah when I was living in Melbourne Australia, and was impressed with him. I'm not one for conferences of any kind but would have loved to have attended just to meet him again. Unfortunately, a persistent virus prevented me. Maybe next time.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The "new" Balfour Project Website

I've been too busy with other stuff to post of late. But I've just come across this little item while researching an article for this week's Omega Letter. Apparently Rev. Stephen Sizer has stumbled across a website which deals with the shortcomings of the Balfour Declaration.

You can read the whole thing at rosh pina project:

Sizer’s Balfour Project Controversy

The anti-Zionist Balfour Project!

According to rosh pina:

However just who are The Balfour Project?

According to The Balfour Project web site is owned by non other than…


Registrant Organization:Stephen Sizer

Registrant Street1:Christ Church Vicarage

Well it does look like the good vicar is being less than ethical in allowing readers of his blog to draw the conclusion that someone other than him is running this Balfour Project. Why did he not just fess-up and admit it was him?

Sizer recently came into more strife for being less than careful with his sources in To whom it may concern 

It's not the first time and probably won't be the last. Play in the mud and you tend to get dirty.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Those Itching Ears

I know I should ignore it, but I won't. I still have some spiritual maturing to do. In the meantime; there have been a series of arrows shot at pretribbers by the prewrath camp of late - which is business as usual. This is one of the latest:

"These pretribulational conferences grieve me because you will not find sober biblical exposition—it is basically hype, sensationalism, sprinkled with Bible proof-texts. The message to the attendees at these conferences is basically: “Look at all the ominous prophetic signs out there, the rise of Antichrist must be soon, but thankfully the Lord’s imminent return will rapture us away before the suffering.

"[Jan] Markell and other speakers will tell their itching-ear audience what they want to hear: don’t fret about the current world’s problems, we will be raptured soon! It’s the same old same old with these pop-teachers." 

I'm sure many "sober" dispies don't like pretribulational conferences either, but not for the same reason. Jan doesn't need me to defend her but my suggestion to these critics is to spend more time addressing flaws within their own eschatology rather than incessantly attacking other systems, and undermining the motives of people they disagree with.

"Itching ears" - that brings back memories (circa 2006-7) of when I first heard pretribbers described that way. I thought it had gone out of fashion. Guess I was wrong.

I was a posttribber when I first joined the pretrib-dominant Omega Letter. I had no issues with the folks accepting me there. Many of these "fearful" pretribbers were/are ex war vets and some are still in the military and I'd love to introduce them to the author of the above article.

After the OL was invaded by a handful of adamant prewrathers miffed at something Jack Kinsella (ex cop, ex marine) wrote, I thought I'd take a closer look at the prewrath rapture. Now I'm pretrib.

I believe Eric Douma and Bob DeWaay came to the same conclusions after studying that particular system.

See HERE and HERE. One will find "sober biblical exposition" there.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Recycled Left Behind & the Magisterium

Catholic apologist Carl Olson has noted that the first Rapture film was called "A Thief in the Night" and was produced around 40 years ago. His premise - which is somewhat compelling at face-value - is that LaHaye & Jenkins borrowed some ideas from Salem Kirban's earlier novel. Essentially, Olson wants to throw a little mud at the system that undergirds the LB novels.

I'm very interested in how Catholic apologists justify their beliefs because I was born into the system and eventually left it. Likewise I'm especially interested when a "born again Catholic" or a so-called former dispensationalist has something to say against his old system. What I look for is an exposition of Scripture; what I generally find is polemics. Carl Olson co-authored a book with Sandra Miesel called "The Da Vinci Hoax". Out of all the rebuttals that came out debunking Dan Brown, I felt theirs was the best - even better than Witherington's effort. He also penned the book "Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?" and written articles such as "Five Myths About The Rapture".

Several other authors have responded to the popularity of the LaHaye-Jenkins novels. The formats are similar - point to people like Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye as if they're representative of the dispensational system and note their personal shortcomings. Then allude to the Margaret MacDonald, John Darby and Cyrus Scofield symbiosis - and especially note dispensationalism's "newness". But never engage in a text by text rebuttal of higher dispensational scholarship.

Olson is no different. His book appears academic at first glance. To a large extent that's because of its prolific references and anti-dispensational citations; not because of any textual exposition. Olson classifies himself as an ex avid-prophecy student. On page 13 of his "Rapture" book he states:

"From an early age I learned the principles of this theological system, called dispensationalism, developing a keen interest in the signs of the "end times" and those passages of scripture that I believed unlocked the door to the future."

Despite this diligence he states:

"The film brings to life the dispensational view of Matthew 24:36-44—one will be taken and one will be left—assuming the Rapture of believers takes place before seven years of tribulation … coming without warning, like a thief in the … well, you know..." [That would be "night".]

Aside from John Hart, Arnold Fruchtenbaum and perhaps a handful of other pretribbers, most dispensationalists believe that the "ones taken and ones left" portion refers to judgment. Olson's tone was mostly irenic in his book but allows cynicism and scorn free reign in his article:

"Beginning in the 1830s with John Nelson Darby (the father of the Rapture), dispensationalists like William Blackstone, Scofield, Dwight L. Moody, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Charles Ryrie, Lindsey, and Kirban have been claiming that the Rapture will occur in their lifetimes or within "this generation" (Lindsey's favorite phrase). However, if readers learned a bit of the history of the Rapture, they might not be so prone to fall for it in all its various forms — especially as recycled, warmed-up, Left Behind leftovers. While "Bible prophecy "experts" like LaHaye continue to miss the mark about the future, the Left Behind books have, in a way, fulfilled the words of Scripture in Ecclesiastes 1:9: "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.""

Whenever polemicists line up Hagee, Falwell or Van Impe, I picture a smug bully who always picks on the weakest kids on the block then boasts how tough he is. It's ironic that, while Olson demonstrates a capacity for understanding the Old Testament literally, he never expounds the classical passages used by dispensationalists. On page 215 he states:

"Many dispensationalists focus upon the nation of Israel, viewing its reemergence as a prophetic sign. Yet Scripture is not so concerned, in the end, with Israel as a nation as it is with Israel as a people - a people following after God and having his law written on their heart (Jer 31:33)."

Yet a little further from vs 33, we read:

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:  "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever." Jer 31:35-36 (See also Amos 9:14-15 etc)

Scripture does, indeed, focus strongly on Israel as a future nation. God has an invested interest in that nation, contrary to Olson's assertions. He rests upon "magisterial documents" citing, for example, the Lumen Gentium (p 220) and a few supersessionist texts that are typically taken out of context (e.g. Rom 9:67; Rom 10:12 & Gal 6:16).

Olson's logic often confuses but perhaps that's just me. On page 256 he says:

"However, as we have seen, Augustine did not teach that the Church is the Kingdom of God "in an allegorical sense", but in a very literal way: the Church is the Kingdom of God."

The inevitable track of Olson's argument is: never mind that Augustine doesn't believe there will be a literal physical expression of the Kingdom of God in the millennium as outlined in numerous Old Testament texts. It is now being "literally" fulfilled in the church, hence, this isn't allegory! Actually, it is a literal allegorization of the physical aspects of the kingdom. This sort of circular reasoning is rife throughout these books.

Most Catholics who I've dialogued with seem more familiar with dogma or their Catechism than Scripture, and appear to have little exposure to rebuttals. Apologists like David Currie, Carl Olson, Scott Hahn and Paul Thigpen claim to have high regard for Scripture and even accuse dispensationalists of neglecting it - yet they insist that Scripture cannot stand alone. Olson argues that believers need Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium to navigate the confusing landscape of Scripture and its interpretational pitfalls. Thigpen especially admonishes Catholics to consult their Catechisms.

Their view is that the Catholic Church is the Apostolic Successor, ever-present throughout the centuries in an unbroken line. On the other hand, the protestant churches have doctrinal differences because of the Reformation Breakaway. So Catholics may read their Bibles but they should default to the Catechism, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium for the final word.

Olson notes that: "While sola scriptura is appealing, especially in our individualistic culture, it is practically flawed and theologically lacking. (p 274)" Over the next page he cites "Catholic Dossier" where Madrid writes: "Scripture alone, as the tragic history of Protestantism has shown, becomes the private play toy of any self-styled 'exegete' who wishes to interpret God's Word to suit his own purposes. The history of Protestantism, laboring under sola scriptura, is an unending kaleidoscope of fragmentation and splintering."

On the same page, Olson cites Acts 17:10-12 and insists that it confirms the Catholic position because the process is that believers first receive the word (from an authorized source) and then go to Scripture. This assumes Catholic Apostolic Authority, but that's not the context of the verses and he misses the point. He notes the New Testament wasn't in existence but fails to realize that this has implications for Luke 24:25-27 and Acts 1:6-7. The disciples were expected to understand a literal reading of the OT prophecies sans the benefit of the RCC. The Bereans checked the spoken word with the Scriptures available to them to see if it tallied up.

In Scott Hahn's Forward to David Currie's "Rapture" book, he chides fundamentalists for their tendency to "read each text in isolation from other texts and from the larger context of Sacred Tradition, including the ancient Israelite prophetic traditions." Currie later states that he wants to primarily examine the Bible's teachings on eschatology. He affirms that: "Scripture remains a completely reliable authority for faith and practice (p XV)". Yet he admits that Revelation was only accepted into the canon by some of the church fathers once Augustine "conclusively" demonstrated that it did not have a millenarian slant (p 451).

Some of Olson's responses to Charles Ryrie's "The Basis of the Premillennial Faith" and "Dispensationalism" are odd. When Ryrie points to the premillennialism of some early church fathers, Olson notes their "unanimous teachings about the nature of the Eucharist" and a host of other teachings. I'd add that most also adopted the error of Replacement Theology (p 121) which is one reason why "historic premillennialists" who insist on using the ECF to debunk the pretrib rapture should be wary. At one point Olson makes the astounding observation that: "Early Church Fathers of the premillennialist persuasion believed that the Church would go through the tribulation" (p 123). If anything this demonstrates that there wasn't a sophisticated consensus on eschatology.

Yet if the ECF were so unanimous in doctrine while being the beneficiaries of Apostolic Succession and Magisterium then why were some of them premillennialists; why was amillennialism eventually (and uniformly) adopted by the church and what influenced it?  Well, I'd suggest reading Dr Ron Diprose's "Israel and the Church - The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology".

I agree with those who say the Reformation didn't go far enough. One reason why "Protestantism" has so many doctrinal differences is because they retained Catholicism's hermeneutical baggage after removing the Magisterial Harness. This is why so many supersessionist posmtil and amil scholars cannot interact in a face-value fashion with OT texts that speak of a future for Israel in a millennial setting. See Alva McClain's "The Greatness of the Kingdom".

Dispensationalism doesn't stand or fall on Olson's inferences about the origin of the sub-plots in the Left Behind books, or Lacunza, Darby and anyone else he might care to mention. The edifice rests on Scripture, not tradition. Catholic apologists need to get back to Sola Scriptura regarding Israel, the church and the millennium before they can attempt to seriously refute a pretribulational rapture. As it stands, the rapture is merely used as a scapegoat by these people for defending Catholic dogmas.

More later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Memo from Lord Foulgrin

"Don't attempt to refute Christianity when you can dilute it with anything and everything else. This is how we emasculate the message. Convince him the Carpenter is an enlightened master, in a line of spiritual teachers who went to the East and studied with gurus before working with His disciples. Commend Him as a great mentor. Damn Him with faint praise." ~ Lord Foulgrin

I doubt there's ever been an occasion when I've walked into any Christian section of a bookstore and haven't seen Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Yoga of Jesus" or Deepak Chopra's "The Third Jesus" innocuously nestled among the Christian books. I was once a member of the late Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship and Edgar Cayce's Association for Research & Enlightenment. Cayce, Chopra and Yogananda all deny that Jesus was the Christ. Their "Jesus" was a man just like us who attained the "Christ Consciousness", and so could their audience.

The problem, of course, is that it's a lie that leads the unsuspecting to the very gates of hell. And that was what the demon Foulgrin was getting at. Having spent time "searching" in the New Age and still dialoguing with some of these people in an effort to help them understand the gospel, Foulgrin's comments are particularly germane for me.

I was initially leery about reading Randy Alcorn's book "Lord Foulgrin's Letters" because it is based on C S Lewis' classical "Screwtape Letters". How can you improve on a classic? I had seen the book at Barnes & Noble and picked it up several times while debating whether I should buy it or not. I finally relented when my wife was looking for suggestions to buy me a birthday present.

I love C S Lewis' original work but I don't feel disloyal in the least when I say "Foulgrin" is great. I read the 197 page book in one day, I liked it so much. Alcorn is a lover of Lewis' works as well and gives due credit to him. Lewis even gets a cameo mention in "Foulgrin". And though he borrows from Lewis' format, Alcorn does add extra features. The book has a network of characters while the reader is granted insights into the demon targets' lives.

One of Alcorn's characters is a Reverend Braun who strongly reminds me of the Episcopal Bishop in Lewis' "The Great Divorce". In "Long Live Our Man in the Pulpit" we get to see what type of clergyman Braun is. He considers the message of the cross and blood to be "simplistic". And during one service he asks, "Pray with me now to the heavenly parent, whoever you may conceive him or her to be." In short, he's just the type of preacher that Foulgrin hopes for and another memory from my past.

Alcorn has done an excellent job and delivered some great insights. The book is worthy of a look.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's not about the movie!

Predictably, the spate of violence and tragic deaths after the attacks on American embassies in the Middle East has been blamed on an anti-Islam video. My friend Rev. Sizer has a post up on it already and I watched several Washington officials force that same angle out. I saw the expression on Jay Carney's face as he dutifully delivered his lines - he'd make a lousy poker player.

I wonder how long it will take before Israel incurs some of the liability.

But no, it's not about the movie; it's all about the rioters and their Islamist beliefs. There are several anti-Islamic videos on YouTube and elsewhere - they've been there for years. Why perpetrate this violence now? These attacks were obviously orchestrated to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. The enablers may well sense that the current U.S. administration is kowtowing to the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB has never made its intentions for Shari'a Law and a regional caliphate a secret. Why invite them to the White House and pretend that they're proponents of Democracy? Well, I guess that's politics for you. Everyone knows the "real" truth -they just can't admit it.

What's sadly missing from this narrative is a united Muslim leadership condemning the violence. But apparently al-Qaeda flags flying over U.S. embassies and American deaths aren't enough to warrant a protest.

Fred DeRuvo has posted Newt Gingrich's thoughts HERE. It's a worthwhile read.

Jamie Glazov's 3-part interview with three former Muslim women "How Islam Ruined My Life" is revealing. As an aside - if you do watch them - note the books on the shelf in the background. Glazov is a Christian and some of the books are from the dreaded "Left Behind" fiction series! Hopefully that won't offend the sensibilities of any non-pretrib viewers ;-)

What we Christians need to do is pray for peace in the Middle East. We need to pray for Muslims trapped in Islam, for the Jews, the Christians in the area and for the Christian missionaries reaching out with the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hatred within Israel?

Well, it didn't take long. I see Stephen Sizer couldn't resist but post the following story "Why are Christians the target?" on his blog:

The Christian community awoke this morning, Tuesday, September 4, 2012, to discover with horror that once again it is the target of forces of hatred within Israeli society. In the early hours of the morning, the door of the Cistercian (Trappist) monastery in Latroun was burnt and anti-Christian graffiti was sprayed on the walls....keep reading

What he failed to note was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's quick condemnation of the deed:

"Those responsible for this reprehensible act need to be punished severely. Freedom of religion and freedom of worship are among the most basic foundations of the State of Israel."


The paramount difference between this incident and Christian persecution in other countries is that it is not condoned in Israel. It's sad that some make it a career of highlighting Israel's sins while largely ignoring Christian persecution under Islam, where it is too often encouraged.

Persecution of Christians: July, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Jonathan Cahn’s Harbinger book has stirred the passion of many prophecy enthusiasts as well as generating a lot of controversy. Does Isaiah 9 speak to modern America in some mystical way? Some people, who I happen to respect, have rushed to the book’s defense whereas others find problems with its conclusions. Those who love it point out that it is fiction while others respond that its basic premise isn’t.

For me, the issue basically boils down to hermeneutics.

I think Dave James’ review of Cahn’s book is a worthy read...The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?


I've noticed that many have taken issue with Dave's critique of Cahn's extremely popular book. Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily wrote a whole column in support of Cahn while drawing negative attention to Dave James' book.

I want to reiterate that the problem with Harbinger is one of hermeneutics and it is a serious one. Who was Isaiah 9 intended for - Israel or America? When people can justify pointing to America as some sort of second referent then Scripture can be made to say anything. That's why Dave writes:

The Mystery of Isaiah 9:10: A Driving Force?

Not only does Cahn seem to believe that there is a connection, but he also presents Isaiah’s words as functioning as a driving force in specific events in America over the last decade, set into motion by the attacks of 9/11. According to The Prophet, because of the link between Isaiah 9:10 and Israel, once the pattern is set into motion, each step of the progression must inevitably take place.17

The cause/effect relationship is also confirmed in his The 700 Club interview on January 3, 2012:

[The mystery] even has determined the actions and the actual words of American leaders. A mystery that goes back two and a half thousand years and is a warning of judgment and a call of God—a prophetic call of God.18

This comes perilously close to being a mystical view of the prophetic Scriptures because biblical prophecies do not function this way. Any prophecy as specific as Isaiah 9:10 also has a unique, specific future referent in view which sets parameters and limits on what constitutes literal fulfillment. That what is being suggested about Isaiah 9:10 sounds more like a sort of mystical incantation than a prophecy is reinforced when the author introduces the idea of “The Isaiah 9:10 Effect” later in chapter 15.

Undoubtedly, Jonathan Cahn did not intend to give this impression. But he would not be the first person to unintentionally confuse genuinely spiritual approaches with unbiblical and dangerous mystical ones.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Preceptaustin has posted one of David Baron’s fine works. I have his book “Zechariah – A Commentary On His Visions and Prophecies” and “Israel In The Plan of God”. Both are highly recommended.

Introductory comments: David Baron (bio) (1857-1926) was a Jewish believer who wrote extensively about the Nation of Israel many many years before dispensational teaching became popular and most importantly many years before Israel became a nation. Minor corrections in grammar have been made to the original manuscript. In addition many Scripture references (NAS unless otherwise designated) have been added (as well as links to notes on those passages) where appropriate to allow the reader to examine the original Biblical text. In May 14, 1948 (read how the Arab nations attempted to destroy the new about odds stacked against you! Clearly God was behind the scene/seen! As an aside the United States recognized Israel as a nation 11 minutes after Israel was reborn! Ever wonder why the US is so blessed? see Ge 12:3) Israel again became a nation in one day (cp Isa 66:8) after almost 2000 years without a homeland!

Why is it important to understand the "Jewish Problem" from a Biblical perspective? Because Israel and the city of Jerusalem continue to be at the center of the world's attention, hardly a day going by when newspaper headlines do not have some mention of this tiny nation. Indeed, Israel and Jerusalem will continue to be "a cup that causes reeling" to all the world until the triumphant Second Coming of Christ (Zech 12:1, 2, 3, Zech 14:1-2, 3, 4, 5-9). It therefore behooves all Christians to be familiar with the Scriptural texts that deal with Israel's past, present and future. This little booklet by David Baron presents an(?) will done Old Testament summary of God's plan for Israel.

If you are like many Christians, and are somewhat perplexed about what will happen to Israel, Jerusalem and the Jews in the End Times, this short book, although written in 1891, will give you a good overview on a timely subject which is ever near and dear to God's heart as shown by His comforting words to the chosen people in exile for their disobedience...
keep reading

Note that at the end of the article, Preceptaustin has posted an audio commentary by Tony Garland. The writer describes Tony this way:

“For this reason, the commentary by Dr Anthony Garland is highly recommended as one of the best I have ever encountered on the "Jewish Problem." Garland is conservative and approaches the Scriptures from a literalist perspective, but he is "fair and balanced" and presents his exposition in an intellectually honest manner.” (Emphasis mine)

Tony is, indeed, a fine scholar and I think his work on Revelation rivals the thoroughness of Robert L Thomas’s 2 Volume Exegetical Commentary. But I wouldn’t use the term literalist. That word is often used disparagingly of the dispensationalist hermeneutic. See the Expanded Contents of Tony’s A Testimony of Jesus Christ for articles addressing the interpretation of Revelation.

Incidentally, Tony is currently working on the book of Daniel. Please pray for God’s blessing on his work.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Convert or Else

Lately I’ve had some conversations with several self-professed Christians regarding Israel, and Jews in general. I’m sorry to call a spade a spade but the word that strongly impresses itself in my mind as a result of some of these dialogues is “anti-Semitism”. It is plainly that because some of these “Christians” have a disposition for finding any excuse to deride the Jews as a race; even to the point in denying scriptural references about Israel’s future in God’s stated plan.

Anyway, I would love to get some comments from the usual Israeli-sin-stalking pundits regarding the following news item, given that I don’t see it covered on any of their websites:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Dozens of Gaza Christians staged a rare public protest Monday, claiming two congregants were forcibly converted to Islam and were being held against their will. The small but noisy demonstration showed the increasingly desperate situation facing the tiny minority. Protesters banged on a church bell and chanted, “With our spirit, with our blood we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Jesus.” See Gaza Christians protest over forced conversions

One other thing – please note that forced conversion and intolerance to religious plurality is sanctioned in various Islamic literature. For example:

f1.3 Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus (ijma`, def:b7) and which is necessarily known as being of the religion (N: necessarily known meaning things that any Muslim would know about if asked) thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir0 and is executed for his unbelief (O: if he does not admit he is mistaken and acknowledge the Obligatoriness or unlawfulness of that which there is scholarly consensus upon. As for if he denies the obligatoriness of something there is not consensus upon, then he is not adjudged an unbeliever). See Reliance of the Traveller and Tools for the Worshipper (p 46)

According to Wiki:

“The book was translated by the American Muslim scholar Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 1991 and became the first translation of a standard Islamic legal reference in a European language to be certified by Al-Azhar.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Rev 3:10 bombshell?

The PreWrath Resource Institute has published a pamphlet touted to be the primary tool of “Operation Expose the Truth”. There appears to be some sort urgency to wrest the pretribulational support away from Rev 3:10. The booklet isn’t available to read on their website. You either have to buy a download or wait for one of your prewrath friends to slip you a copy from the bulk purchases they are encouraged to buy and distribute.

One of the surprises is that Dr David G Winfrey, a former pretribulationist who had argued for Rev 3:10 as support, has now done a Rosenthal and changed his mind. I was a posttribber once and now I’m not. C’est la vie!

Please note that I’m not attacking prewrath; I’m responding to the pamphlet. If you’re going to regularly critique another system – expect an occasional response.

I’d anticipated that Dr Cooper was going to adopt Bob Gundry’s tactic in “The Church and the Tribulation (pp 53-61)” and argue that Rev 3:10 meant preservation within the “tribulation”. I was wrong.

The 28 page pamphlet (two of which are bibliography) spends about 17 pages covering what pretribulationists have said about Rev 3:10 in the past. It’s not a word-dense document and can be read in a quick sitting. The inference is that, whereas pretribbers had at one time confidently pointed to the verse as a proof text, they’re not so sure now.

According to Dr Cooper it gets worse when on page 18 he cites John Niemelä who “concludes that the verse has nothing to do with the traditional definition of a pretrib rapture at all.” Dr Niemelä told a colleague (Tim): “I no longer believe that
Revelation 3:10b is a Rapture passage, but it still has relevance to the Rapture.” Note that it is germane to the issue to read his conclusion. I encourage people to read Dr Niemelä’s paper for themselves: Part 1 & Part 2

What follows on the next few pages of the pamphlet is a discussion of Dr Niemelä’s arguments regarding the Greek punctuation of Rev 3:9-10. Dr Niemelä contends that the expression in Rev 3:10a “because you have kept my command to persevere” belongs to v 9. The rest of v 10 then stands on its own. In other words it would read thus:

9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie-- indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you because you have kept My command to persevere. 10 I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rev 3:9-10

I have no qualifications to make any judgment on the grammar and pretrib doesn’t need that argument for support anyway. But the real surprise comes on page 26 where Dr Cooper agrees with Dr Niemelä’s punctuation theory. Of course, Dr Cooper hastens to add that Rev 3:10 is not a proof text for pretrib but immediately asserts that it’s a rapture verse for prewrath! No explanation forthcoming. Frankly, I was surprised at the anticlimax.

The prewrath view is that the hour of testing isn’t the full seven year period. It’s the Day of the Lord which follows after the great tribulation. To arrive at this position proponents must insist that the 4th seal (one quarter of the population killed) and Matthew 24:21-22 (the worst time there ever was or ever will be) don’t qualify as a period of testing or God's wrath. Accordingly, the real testing occurs after the “shortened” great tribulation (the DotL), which must, somehow, be a worse time than the worst time.

I’ve never taken Rev 3:10 as an absolute proof for pretrib; however I do think it strongly supports it. But what I’ve read in this PRI pamphlet has done the opposite of what it was designed to do – if anything it has reinforced the pretribulational position on Rev 3:10 for me.

What Israel Means to God ~ Feinberg

We often hear people speak of what God means to Israel, and this is eminently Scriptural. In his closing address to his people, Moses had been constrained of the Spirit of God to say: “ The eternal God is thy dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms ” ( Deut 33:27 ). In the prayer of Moses found in the ninetieth Psalm, we find these words: “ Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place In all generations ” ( Ps 90:1 ). So we could multiply Scriptures to show what God means to Israel.

But how many have ever heard what Israel means to God?...
keep reading

I especially like this:

But God has used Israel, furthermore, to manifest His faithfulness to His promises. Many delight to think of the promise in Rom 11:29 : “ For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of. ” But they forget that this refers primarily to Israel, for the apostle declares in the preceding verse: “ As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election they are beloved for the fathers ’ sake. ” In fact, the main design of the three chapters on Israel in the Epistle to the Romans-chapters 9 , 10 , and 11 -is to show that, in spite of the fact that God has placed both Jew and Gentile in the same need of salvation and has placed salvation on a basis where it is free to both, yet God has abrogated none of His precious promises to Israel. If one is in doubt as to the reality of these promises, he needs only to begin with Genesis and will find them all along the way through the Old Testament, particularly in the prophecies of the prophetic books. It seems, from our limited human standpoint, that God has ample ground for annulling every promise He has made to Israel because of their disobedience, but God is faithful to all His unconditional promises. With what confidence, then, is the child of God today to look to his heavenly Father in all that He has promised to His believing children. If God has kept and is keeping faith with Israel in all that has been promised them, then there need be no fear that God will fail to bring to blessed fruition all that He has ever spoken of regarding anyone. Israel, as it were, serves as a test case in the matter: since God has manifested His faithfulness with them, then He can be trusted by all.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

More on Acts 1:6-7 etc

The reason I frequently point to the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 is because it challenges the supercessionist view. Their question was driven by a virtual tidal wave of OT passages and literal expectation. Jesus’ response is notable in that He does not correct their anticipation. In contrast to this the supercessionist response is significant because it doesn’t resolve the problem for that view. The supercessionist fabricates an answer that he feels comfortable with but ultimately doesn’t gel.

An example of this is Stephen Sizer’s “Christian Zionism, Road-Map to Armageddon?” (p169). Sizer cites John Calvin: “There are many mistakes in this question as there are words.” He appeals to O Palmer Robertson when, reflecting on Jesus’ response, he states:

“Jesus redefines the boundaries of the kingdom of God and thereby the meaning of the chosen-ness. The expansion of the kingdom of God throughout the world requires the exile of the apostles from the land. They must turn their backs on Jerusalem and on their hopes of a materialistic kingdom. They are sent out to the world but never told to return. Subsequent to Pentecost, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the apostles begin to use old covenant language concerning the land in new ways...”

Sizer uses 1 Peter 1:4 as an example of this “new old covenant” concept.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1Pe 1:3-5

The context of these verses is resurrection and salvation. Sizer assumes a redefined kingdom in a text where it isn’t to be found. Salvation and resurrection are expectations found in the OT alongside the land promises to Israel. One does not cancel the other. Nowhere are the disciples told to go out and expand the kingdom (compare Acts 1:7-8 & Matt 28:19). Neither are they told to forsake the mountain of scriptural evidence of future land fulfillment for Israel as indicated in the OT; which was the same source from which they had expected a literal Messiah. Nothing is changed – compare Jer 31 with Acts 3:25-26 and Romans 11:26-29.

On p 160 he appeals to metaphorical language and the alleged redefinition of the OT by the NT (Acts-Joel-Amos). Speaking of the prophecies of the “fulfilled” return from the Babylonian exile, Sizer declares:

“While it is true that only 50,000 exiles had returned in around 538 BC, compared with the 603,550 men (excluding women and children) that had come out of Egypt a thousand years earlier (see Num 1:46), and although they returned to only a small part of their original territory and built only a small replica of Solomon’s temple, God’s prophets nevertheless describe this restoration as so wonderful that it goes that it goes well beyond the limitations of any literal realization. Haggai and Zechariah, for example, describe a glorious future where Jerusalem becomes a great city surrounded by a wall of fire and into which the Gentile nations stream to worship. As Palmer Robertson explains, the imagery here metaphorically bursts the limitations of the old covenant wineskin.”

Sizer would have made a great car salesman – “We don’t have the Ferrari you’re looking for but that VW Beetle in the back corner of our lot is a better choice.” I love the old VWs but they aren’t a patch on a Ferrari. I once owned a tricked up Karmann Ghia; as nice as it was it didn’t have the prestige or power of a Porsche 911.

What is missing from his narrative is the lack of exposition of texts that deal with God’s promises to Israel. Go to the Index of Biblical References (p 296) and you’ll find Amos 9:14 referenced on pp 154 & 158 but there is no exposition and neither is the text given. Moreover, he fails to reference v 15 and omits Jeremiah 31 entirely! Amos 9:15 declares:

“I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God.”

Was God speaking metaphorically?

On pp 106-108 of “Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate”, Matt Waymeyer lists 8 biblical reasons why a restoration of Israel in the land is still future. One reason is Zech 10:8, which Sizer perhaps inadvertently acknowledges (see above). Also, the sinful nature and consistent disobedience of Israel cannot be reconciled with the passages that speak of spiritual renewal following that restoration. God said He would destroy the nations to which He had scattered the Jews, yet this hasn’t happened. The promise of the return was presented as an integral part of the New Covenant but that covenant wasn’t inaugurated prior to Christ.

Speaking of Matt Waymeyer, you can read his commentary on Acts 1:6-7 and the Restoration of Israel HERE.


According to Luke 24:45, Jesus not only taught His disciples during this time period [the 40 days], but He also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” The Greek verb translated “opened” is the word used in Acts 16:14 of how the Lord “opened” Lydia’s heart to respond to the gospel. In Luke 24:45 it speaks of a supernatural opening of the disciples’ minds which enabled them to understand the things spoken about Jesus throughout the Old Testament.

In light of this, how can one insist that the disciples were deceived in thinking that God was planning to restore the kingdom to the nation of Israel? Jesus Himself instructed them clearly, and He even enlightened their minds to understand the things He taught, so how could they be so radically misinformed about features of the kingdom as basic as its nature and recipients?

Monday, June 18, 2012

No Future Kingdom for Israel?

In my last post I addressed some comments by Doug Cox in regards to the relationship between Amos 9 and Acts 15 and the alleged throttling of dispensationalism. He’s since informed me that he’s responded to the Middle Town Bible Church article I had linked to.

Read it HERE.

In most of these cases, the thrust of the argument as to whether Jesus is currently sitting on David’s throne appears to be driven by supercessionism. If the church replaces Israel with Jesus currently on David’s throne then one can discard the physical nature of the OT promises, any prophetic relevance to national Israel and/or a future Messianic kingdom on earth. Some supercessionists insist these prophecies were fulfilled by Christ and the promises expanded upon, hence there’s no replacement theology involved. This isn’t the case. Jeremiah 31 promised both salvation and physical land promises to Israel. Jesus’ sacrifice enabled these promises to be fulfilled as given to the prophets.

My first observation is that Mr. Cox doesn’t deal with God’s promises to Israel nor the statements by Kaiser, Jelinek etc. He continues his argument utilizing texts which don’t fundamentally support his view when all is considered (Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 22:22; Isaiah 33:5; Psalm 132:13; Heb 12:22; Eph 2:6; Luke 1:32; Rev 3:7).

He concludes:

“Dispensationalists do not comprehend this; only when Jesus opens their minds are they able to comprehend it. This is likely an example of what Jesus meant, when he said of himself, that he is the one that “openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” The minds of some people are opened, by Jesus, while the minds of others are closed to spiritual truths.”

Let me attempt to (perhaps awkwardly) reframe the issue from a dispie perspective. God made a number of specific promises to a particular ethnic group that included a parcel of land on the earth – not located in heaven. These promises were not just spiritual but also physical. The OT is saturated with them. God promised that Israel would be forgiven despite what they’d done, that they’d be returned to their land (Israel-Jerusalem-Zion) in unbelief where they’d be given a new heart under The New Covenant and never to be removed from that land again (Jer 31:31-37; Ezek 20:33-38, 36:25-28 and Amos 9:14-15).

In doing so, God intends to vindicate His holy name among the nations (Ezek 36: 16-38).

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever. Thus says the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD. Jer 31:35-37

Could it be any plainer? Can there be a better example of an iron-clad assurance? The church is not the subject – it’s the house of Israel and the house of Judah. If God can renege there, then how can the Christian trust Him to be faithful elsewhere? See also Psalm 89:3-4, 19-37; Heb 6:17-18. God’s word and faithfulness is the issue here.

Just before His ascension, Jesus’ disciples asked Him when the kingdom of Israel was to be restored (Acts 1:3-7). This was after He had spent 40 days speaking to them “about things concerning the kingdom of God.” Of course, this is the NT (which re-interprets the OT) and Jesus immediately opened their minds by telling them that all those physical promises made in the OT aren’t meant to be taken literally. He told them something like, “I know what you think I said back then, but I was speaking allegorically and, besides, what Israel has just done is the last straw. Haven’t you been listening these past 40 days?” (See Acts 1:7)

There certainly is a connection between Rev 3:7 and Isaiah 22:22, yet that only reinforces the fact that the Davidic Covenant involved physical promises (as did the new covenant). In “The Greatness of the Kingdom” (p 440) Alva McClain notes:

“There is an interesting parallel in the career of King David, great ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ. When David was chosen of God and anointed as king of Israel (I Sam 16:1, 13), he did not immediately occupy the throne. For a time he was actually a fugitive in the wilderness, pursued by Saul whose regal rights had been abrogated (I Sam 15:28), and who therefore continued to hold the throne solely as a usurper...Later, when Saul’s rule was ended by defeat and death, the kingdom of David was established over Israel, the event being definitely marked by services of anointing (II Sam 2:4, 5:3). Similarly, at His first coming our Lord was exalted to be both Lord and Messianic King (Acts 2:36); but not until His second coming will He establish His Kingdom on earth as the rightful successor to the throne of His father David.”

Earlier (p 329), McClain points out that the Kingdom and reign of the saints are said to be in the future and on the earth (Rev 5:10; Matt 13:41-43; Luke 19:12, 17, 19). Compare also Heb 2:8 & Rev 11:15. If reigning with Christ is still future (Rev 2:26-28; 3:12, 21 – note the two different thrones) then what do we make of Eph 2:6? McClain (p 435) notes that, “Although we are not yet de facto seated in the heavenlies, the thing is so certain that God can speak of it as already done.” On p 436 he cites examples where Christians are said to be in possession of something not yet realized (e.g. 1Cor 3:31-22). Also compare 1 Thess 2:12 with 1 John 3:2 and 1Pet 5:10, and 1 Pet 1:5, 9.

On pp 437-438 McClain cites Samuel J Andrews’ “God’s Revelations of Himself”:

“It is as its Head that He [Christ] rules over it [the Church], not as its King; for this latter title is never used of this relation...As Jehovah was absolute ruler always over all nations, and yet was not the theocratic King of any till the election of Israel, so the Lord Jesus became the “Prince of the Kings of the earth” at His ascension, but does not yet stand in immediate kingly relations to any one people...”

And this:

“Had it been the purpose of God to set the Son at His ascension as the King of the nations, He would have in some way made His kingship so plain that the nations could not have been ignorant of it, and the duty of allegiance and homage.”

On pp 291-293 of “Future Israel”, Barry Horner notes that although Abraham looked for a better, heavenly country – the vital point is how a Hebrew perceives that expression:

“Thus Abraham’s hope was eschatological, but certainly not in the sense of the superiority of heaven above compared with earth below, of the superiority of the spiritual over the material. Rather his hope was of the future messianic age, the millennial kingdom in which heaven would be manifest on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy, permanent. Consequently George Peters explains this perspective as follows.”

“Evidently that which misleads the multitude in this matter is the statement of the apostle (Heb. 11:16), that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly.” Commentators, as Barnes, Bloomfield, etc., overlooking entirely the Theocratic relationship that this country (i.e. Palestine) is to occupy in the Kingdom of God, at once conclude that this “heavenly” country is the third heaven. They forget that this phraseology would not mislead a Hebrew, who was accustomed to designate the restored Davidic Kingdom a heavenly Kingdom, and the country enjoying its restoration and Theocratic blessings, a heavenly country. The expression does not mean “the third heaven,” but something that pertains to, or partakes of, the heavenly, as heavenly vision, body, calling, etc.”
~ George Peters The Theocratic Kingdom, I, p. 295.

Dispies recognize that Christ rules in the church today (See the Mediatorial Kingdom In The Epistles chap 25, The Greatness of the Kingdom) and Arnold Fructhenbaum’s Israelology p 610. But that isn’t the Messianic kingdom. McClain points out there are two Jerusalems – one on earth and one in heaven (Gal 4:25-26; Heb 12:22). He adds:

“Now the Old Testament prophets speak of a city which, in the coming Kingdom, shall be reclaimed from Gentile power, rebuilt, restored to the historic nation of Israel, and made the religious center of the world. This Jerusalem cannot be the “heavenly Jerusalem” for that city is impeccably holy, the eternal dwelling of the true God, and has never been marred by human sin and rebellion....” (p 244)

McClain cites the following notable verses regarding earthly Jerusalem: Isaiah 1:21, 26; 60:14, 18; 62:3, 7; Zech 8:3 and Jer 31:6. Also compare Zech 14 with Rev 20 & 21. In “A Case For Premillennialism – A New Consensus” John H Sailhamer writes of Isaiah 2:1-5:

“There are several features of the passage that suggest the vision was meant to be taken literally and physically, that is, that Isaiah is here looking forward to the physical restoration of Jerusalem and reign of the Messiah on earth in the “Last days”.” (p 95)

Sailhamer goes on to expound that position, answering objections, and concludes:

“Historically, it is hard to understand Israel’s prophets any other way than they longed for a physical, that is, earthly, reestablishment of the Davidic monarchy. The fact that prophetic books such as Isaiah continued as Scripture long after the postexilic period shows that their reference looked far beyond any temporal fulfillment within Israel’s own immediate history. If our goal is to describe the reference of Isaiah’s visions as he would have understood them, we can only hope to do so by playing close attention to the sense of those visions as they are given us in the book of Isaiah. That sense, as we have suggested in this chapter, fits best in the context of an earthly reign of Christ in Jerusalem as a precursor to the eternal state.”

One only need look at a sampling of OT texts to appreciate that Sailhamer is correct (Isaiah 11:1-16, 27:1-13, 35:1,10, 59:15-21, 62:4-7, 66:10-20; Ezekiel 20:33-44, 28:25-26, 37:1-28 (see esp. vv 26-28), Ezekiel 39:21-29 (see esp. vv 27-29); Hosea 2:14-23; Joel 3: 18-21; Obadiah 17,21; Micah 4:6-7, 7:14-20; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Zechariah 8:7-8).

Finally, even progressive dispensationalists who contend that Jesus is currently sitting on David’s throne in some vague “already-not-yet” (ANY) phase understand that the Davidic Covenant still awaits ultimate fulfillment. Dispensationalists disagree with PD’s ANY stance. For those interested in a refutation of ANY, I strongly recommend Ron Bigalke’s “Progressive Dispensationalism – An Analysis of the Movement and Defense of Traditional Dispensationalism” (esp. chapters 5 & 9).

Further reading:

George N H Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom


Paul Henebury - Christ at the Center (Pt.2a)


John Walvoord - The Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant

Mike Vlach - Acts 1:6-7


Bible Study & Exposition by Barry Horner

Lynda O's - Shepherd’s Conference: Matt Waymeyer on Revelation 20

Note that Matt Waymeyer has written a superb booklet entitled "Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate". It packs a great deal of information with extensive endnotes and bibliography.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Throttling Dispensationalism?

I never cease to be amazed at the circular reasoning people will indulge in to defend their theology. Blogger Doug Cox took issue with Dr Paul Henebury’s review “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” by Robert Reymond. Aside from a little reading miscomprehension of Dr Henebury's clear statement, he makes the following argument that he feels supports his view:

Judah and Israel are names that apply to the church. But because dispensationalists deny this, they are blinded to the fact that Christ has been reigning in the lives of the saints for the whole age of the church.

Amos 9:11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

By quoting this prophecy in Acts 15, James identified the church with the tabernacle of David, which throttles dispensationalism!
(Emphasis mine)

The cross referencing of Acts 15 with Amos 9 and Joel 2 with Acts 2 is a common strategy used by critics of dispensationalism to attempt to show that 1) Dispies aren’t always literal, 2) the NT re-interprets the OT and 3) The church is now true Israel.

Dispensationalism denies that Judah and Israel are names for the church just isn’t biblically supported. In fact, apart from making assertions and a “near enough is good enough” approach to Scripture, Cox cannot produce a single text to support that contention.

Alistair Donaldson joins the foray in his thinly-disguised anti-Israel polemic “the last days of dispensationalism”. Of the Amos 9-Acts 15 connection he states:

“The connectedness between the events taking place in James’s time and the words of Amos is clear – people from the nations are being incorporated into the people of the true Davidic King. There is a direct correspondence of the two; there James equates the present events as being fulfillment of Amos’s words. In doing so he has interpreted Amos in a nonliteral (sic) manner and therefore establishes within the text of Scripture itself an interpretive principle that is in direct contradiction to Ryrie’s literalism...It should be noted from this example that James is willing to attribute the fulfillment of the prophet’s words within the church age despite the dispensational insistence that what is spoken to national Israel must be fulfilled in national Israel.” (pp 24-25)

James does nothing of the kind. Donaldson is making him say more than the text intends. Here are the biblical references, just to put things into perspective:

“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name," Declares the LORD who does this. “Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God. Amos 9:9-15

"Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: `After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.' Act 15:14-17

While digressing somewhat, I should point out that Donaldson is an amillennialist (p 146). He believes that Revelation’s apocalyptic genre allows him to “symbolize” the resurrection of the martyrs in Rev 20:4 (p 141). If you “symbolize” that resurrection then you don’t have to deal with the problem that the saints are “regenerated” post-martyrdom. Donaldson can’t fathom how one thousand years could possibly contain all those myriad OT prophecies if they were literal (pp 129-130) though he doesn’t substantiate this assertion. In fact most OT prophecies (and Revelation events) occur pre-millennium (Zec 14 etc). Comparatively less detail is given about the millennium itself. Amils like Donaldson will consistently redefine or dispute plain statements such as the nature of the 144,000, the incarceration of Satan, the resurrection of the martyrs and the length of the millennium on pretext of apocalyptic genre. Given that dispies take these statements at face-value (while considering symbolism) and amils seek another understanding – one wonders what category each falls under when considering Rev 22:18-19.

Typically, neither Donaldson nor Cox comment on Amos 9:14-15. In “Evidence from Jeremiah” (p116) in “A Case for Premillennialism: A new Consensus” Walter Kaiser notes:

“Nowhere can it be shown that most, all, or even some of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or David, have been nullified, modified, exchanged, or transformed in value.”

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD. Jer 31:35-37

In “ISRAEL – The Land and the People” (chapter 9) John Jelinek notes:

“What is revealed at first in Scripture (or precedes in God’s revelation) is not contradicted by what follows in Scripture. What OT authors wrote had a comprehensible meaning for their contemporary audiences and has a revelatory significance in its own right. What these audiences understood depended on both the prophetic message itself and the previously revealed prophetic messages from God. It is a problematic hermeneutic that must either resignify the OT message or see some aspect of an OT theme reiterated in the NT before it can lend legitimacy or permanency to its relevance. Language that says one thing concerning authorial intention but actually means something else is some form of allegory....A historically sensitive study reveals that the NT develops OT teaching as divine history progresses, but the teaching of the OT is not lost in the process. Promises that are made to Israel, therefore, must be fulfilled by God. God can do more than He promised, but He cannot do less. The primary question of the exegete of texts on the land of Israel must ask is, Do I have sufficient biblical data to indicate that God is doing more or less than He promised with respect to the land promises to Israel? At least the original promises concerning the land must be fulfilled, lest God be found unfaithful.”

In “Systems of Discontinuity” Feinberg writes:

“No NT writer claims his new understanding of the OT passage cancels the meaning of the OT passage in its own context or that the new application is the only meaning of the OT passage. The NT writer merely offers a different application of an OT passage than the OT might have foreseen; he is not claiming the OT understanding is now irrelevant.” (p 77)

In “Has The Church Replaced Israel?” Mike Vlach notes:

“Claims that Acts 15 and Hebrews 8 teach that the NT has reinterpreted the OT expectation of a restoration of Israel are not persuasive. James quotes Amos 9 in Acts 15 as one example of an OT prophet who predicted that Gentiles would be saved without having to become Jews. The issue at hand here is Gentile inclusion in salvation, not whether Israel’s restoration is being fulfilled entirely with the church. The purpose of this passage is primarily soteriological and not eschatological. Hebrews 8 shows that Jesus is the mediator of the superior new covenant. But it is difficult to see how the inauguration of the new covenant means that national Israel has been separated from this covenant.” (p 204)

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Jer 31:31-33

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." Rom 11:26-27

See also Acts 1:6-7; Acts 3:25; Rom 11:28-29.

Could it be any clearer?

I strongly recommend Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s “Israelology” for those who want to explore these issues. He elaborates on Joel 2-Acts 2, Amos 9-Acts 15, David’s throne and David’s booth.

One can’t take a “near enough is close enough” attitude to Scripture by leaving out verses like Amos 9:14-15 and ignoring the plethora of OT promises to Israel (by no means an exhaustive list). To assume that it’s OK to do that because one thinks the church is now Israel is both unbiblical and an exercise in circular reasoning.

Far from “throttling dispensationalism”; these people are strangling the promises of God to Israel!

P.S. Doug Cox states:

“Dispensationalism of the classical kind denies that the government is upon Christ’s shoulder, and denies that he reigns upon the throne of David, and that he has ordered it, and established it, for whole age of the church–what blindness!”

Dispies respond:


When and Where Does Christ Sit Upon the Throne of David?