Nathan Eshelman

Antichrist Blesses Same Sex Couples

The claim is that when same-sex couples ask for a blessing they are actually asking–in the mind of Francis–for help. He said, ““when one asks for a blessing, one is expressing a petition for God’s assistance, a plea to live better, and confidence in a Father who can help us live better.” This is not what is being asked and surely it is not how the document will be interpreted. 

God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), but of peace, and godliness, and of order. Today the Roman pontiff, speaking on behalf of Jesus Christ and his church declared the pompous words (Daniel 7:8) that same sex couples in union could be blessed. This is an about-face as he said in 2021 that he would not allow for gay unions to be blessed because “God cannot bless sin.” Surely now he can, according to the one who shows himself to be in the place of God (2 Thes 2:4; Daniel 11:36).
This deceptive heresy (I John 2:22-23; 2 John 7) is confusing at best and outright wicked at worst. It is confusing because so many Catholics–under the postmodern banner of the rainbow flag–will see this as approval. The pope, however, has not approved of gay or same sex marriage or even civil unions, saying merely that they can be “blessed” by a priest.
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Remember Sybil

Our cultural moment tells us to affirm, affirm, affirm; when in reality we are destroying human bodies because the medical professionals have told us that this is the right treatment for this type of problem. Soon we will have our Sybil moment. Sybil was a fraud and eventually the egg on the face of society was exposed. According to a 2011 NPR article, “Shirley Mason was the psychiatric patient whose life was portrayed in the 1973 book Sybil. The book and subsequent film caused an enormous spike in reported cases of multiple personality disorder. Mason later admitted she had faked her multiple personalities.”

Orlando just had its Pride Weekend, complete with a fair-like atmosphere downtown, thousands and thousand of sexual tourists, a rainbow themed parade, and an evening of fireworks. The parade’s Grand Master was an 11 year-old boy who believes he is a girl. He was featured on the front page of the Orlando Sentinel and was being praised for knowing his true self and living his best life. He’s eleven. We ought to remember Sybil.
Remember Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)? The 1980 diagnostic manual called DSM-III defined MPD for the first time, but the psychiatric professionals in 1994 changed the diagnosis (in the DSM-IV) to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). According to Psychology Today the change was “to reflect a better understanding of the condition—namely, that it is characterized by fragmentation or splintering of identity, rather than by proliferation or growth of separate personalities.” (PT, 9.21). Splintering rather than separate.
In other words MPD was not real, although it was really experienced. The professionals realized that the condition was not truly different personalities, rather one identity (person) that was a “fragmented” or “splintered” identity. The professionals then amended their definition, diagnostic criteria, and the name of the disorder.
The psychological community knew about these symptoms as early as the late 1700s, but it was extremely rare. In 1973, the book Sybil was published and cases began to skyrocket. Daytime Television began featuring persons with MPD and the amount of personas and complexities increased. Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and even Larry King interviewed persons with the disorder. The more exposure the disorder got, the more popular it became. Eventually the Soap Operas were on board as well: All My Children; One Life to Live; Guiding Light, and others all featured characters with MPD.
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The Cross’s Double Cure

When the Lord Jesus Christ does a saving work in the life of a sinner, he or she is not only concerned with being free of guilt in the presence of God; but also being holy in the presence of God. The power of sin is broken and one is able to be well….The power of sin is broken and we are able to look to Christ and say, “Be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure!”

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.Romans 8:4
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,Let me hide myself in Thee;Let the water and the blood,From Thy wounded side which flowed,Be of sin the double cure,Save from wrath and make me pure….
As Christ’s secured salvation for sinners, he freed us from the wrath of God; freed us from sin and death; condemned sin; and after the Spirit, fulfilled the righteousness of the law in us. What does Romans 8:4 mean by fulfilled in us? Thomas Manton in his exposition of Romans 8 raises the question concerning the words, “in us.” He asks, “How is this to be understood? Of justification or of sanctification?” (Manton’s Works, 11.430.)
Through the grammar of “for” versus “in,” Manton begins with demonstrating that the words are unable to be understood as related to justification. He says, “The words will not bear it [as justification], for the apostle does not say that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled for, but fulfilled in us.” (Ibid.) This is a very important distinction as Manton considers what this fulfillment looks like in the life of the Christian. Surely, the Apostle Paul, according to Manton, meant that Christ’s work was not only a justifying work, but a sanctifying work: “Christ came not only to redeem us from wrath, but to renew and sanctify us.” (Ibid, 11.431.)
Before giving his readers four biblical reasons for this qualification, Manton tells them that the sanctification of the Christian is the “constant drift and tenor of the Scriptures.” Manton, like a skilled roper, strings together several texts from the Scripture to show that this was always God’s intentions in the life of the Christian: “And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21.) “…God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:26.) “Him God has exalted to His right hand…to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31.)  “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (I John 3:5.) Each of these show that the constant drift and tenor of the Word of God is that Jesus would provide the double cure of saving from wrath and making pure.
From the tenor and drift, Manton then turned his attention to the fact that from the Scriptures, this fulfillment of the law in us has to be sanctification. He says, “It must needs be so.” (Manton’s Works, 11.432.) Manton gave four reasons for this.
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Gospel Mourning

By faith you are called into this gospel mourning. We ought to mourn a world that is not right. We ought to mourn the rebellion of sin. We ought to mourn the turning away from God’s covenant promises. We ought to mourn the effects of sin–even the death of the Gospel Mourner, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those that mourn.” It is in this gospel mourning God comes to his people. The Spirit gives comfort as we mourn for sin and the effects of sin on a hurting world. We look to the Christ which came down in search of all those who would mourn by faith.
Gospel mourning leads the mournful to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. What can we say about the Lord Jesus Christ in relationship to this? What does Jesus have to do with this mourning?
When we think of the Christ of gospel mourning, we begin with asking how the Scriptures describe Jesus. What are the most prominent descriptors that we find in the Scripture to help us to know the character and personality of our savior?
One of the most substantial descriptions that we find of Jesus in the whole of the Scriptures is Isaiah 53. In The prophet provides a description of the Lord Jesus Christ—and we see something of his mourning in verse 3:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Jesus Christ is described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. The burden of Christ’s humiliation and taking on flesh for the sake of sinners was a heavy burden for our savior to carry.
As Jesus looked into a world tainted by sin and misery, it was a grief to him; a sorrow to know that which was created very good and those created in the image of God had rebelled. It is not unreasonable, but necessary, to say that life in this world grieved Jesus because of the great contrast of the holiness of Glory compared to the sinfulness of sin.
Did Jesus Christ know mourning?
For he was the man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Does this mean that he never smiled or laughed or enjoyed life?
No it doesn’t.
But if you would ask those closest to him what he was like while living on this earth—I imagine that, in part, they would share the words of the prophet: he was a man of sorrows bearing the sins of the world.Read More
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Salvator Mundi: I Can’t Imagine it!

The Apostle John pleads with believers to keep themselves from idols (I John 5:21) as well as reminds us that when he is revealed we will see him as he is (I John 3:2). Let’s throw off images, cling to what is confessional, biblical, and good—and know that there will come a day when you will see him face to face.

In 1978, art historian Joanne Snow-Smith quietly began a movement. She argued that a dark and ominous painting of Jesus Christ called Salvator Mundi was a long lost Leonardo Di Vinci. Through the normal media of scholarly debate, provenance building, and good old-fashioned marketing, the painting would make its way to the famous Christie’s auction block. Christie’s describes itself as “a world-leading art and luxury business.” A painting that, at its last sale (in 2005) was highly doubted among the art world as a Leonardo, sold in 2017 as “the last Leonardo” for a spectacular $450 million. It is the highest price ever paid for a single piece of art sold at auction.
An image of Jesus sold for $450 million.Well, not really an image of Jesus.
Reformed believers have always been opposed to the making and use of images of Jesus. This prohibition is rooted in the second commandment. Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, is not to be imagined, drawn, sculpted, painted, etc. The Puritan Thomas Vincent said: “It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all; and because his body, as it is now glorified, cannot be pictured as it is; and because, if it does not stir up devotion, it is in vain—if it does stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment.”
And that is not merely his private opinion, it is the confessional position of the Reformed and Presbyterian world.
Surely you know the exception to the rule. It is widely debated, even among church officers. Some will say that it is a “trendy exception” among ministerial candidates in a larger reformed denomination to take exception to the image prohibition. Well-meaning brothers and sisters will argue that since Jesus took on flesh, we are able to portray him. Others will say that images of Jesus are fine as long as we do not worship them or they stay out of the churches. Many will argue that images of Jesus are fine as long as they are only used for teaching rather than worship—think flannel-graphs and children’s books. But surely these are not the norm, but the exception. Every person that argues from these positions argues contra our confessional position and contra historic reformed Christianity.
The rule, rather than one’s personal exception is that images of God are forbidden—and that is all three persons of the godhead. (See Westminster Larger Catechism 109.)
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A Jesus Misjudged?

It seems almost weekly that discouraging news of comes from various corners of Christ’s Church. Apostasy, discipline, closures, resignations, and divisions all cause much suffering in the heart and mind of the one who loves Christ. Has God cast off forever? Has he forgotten grace? Has his mercy been undone? Let that not cause you to “pass censure” on Christ, for you only can “judge it by halves.” Jesus is doing a glorious work, even in the midst of these discouragements.

What is Christ doing in his church? What are the ways that we should interpret the–sometimes dark–providences of God in building, reforming, censuring, or comforting the church? We are not as skilled as we ought to be in judging the work of Jesus in our midst; and that’s always been the case.
Isaiah 53:4b says, “..yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” This verse demonstrates that when each of God’s people first look upon Jesus, we misjudged the work. You saw the savior stricken of God, and yet it was for your salvation, because of your transgression.
Meditating on this verse, James Durham (1622-58) said that this verse stands as a great application, or use, when considering what Jesus is doing in his church. Sometimes we see things that are not there and we misinterpret what Christ is doing among us. Durham writes, this verse is:
“to teach us, when we are ready to pass censure on Christ’s work, to stand still…to correct ourselves… [Christ] gets much wrong[ed] as to his public work, as if he were cruel, when indeed he is merciful; as if he had forgotten us, when indeed he remembers us still; and as to his private work in particular persons, as if he did fail in his promise when he is most faithful, and bringing it about in his own way.Read More
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Christ’s Pattern, a Masterful Work

The Christian life has many ebbs and flows. Among the flowing, we find patterns of our own life and that of our brethren which are reflective of our Savior. We see patterns of grace, obedience, conquering, acquiring heaven, and perseverance. When the world, flesh, and devil tell the Christian that his life is a fake, that Christian may promptly respond, “It is not a fake—it remains a masterful work.” It is the work of Christ in us and to us, and for his glory. He is doing a masterful work.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: Romans 8:3
Among the years of fruitfulness in the ministry of Thomas Manton, an unknown Dutch artist was completing a painting in 1650 that would be titled, “An elderly man with a gilt helmet.” That painting hung in Amsterdam until 1898, then purchased for a German collection in Berlin. For the whole of the nineteenth century and a good part of the twentieth, the painting was attributed to the Dutch master, Rembrandt van Rijn. An art expert recently discovered that the work was not Rembrandt’s, but by the hand of a skilled, yet unknown student of his.
As word of the “elderly man” spread, the news that the painting was a fake became well known. “It is not a fake…it remains a great masterful work,” responded Jan Kelch, the German art historian that discovered this truth. The student had reflected that which the teacher put forth—to the point where the world saw the pattern of the teacher, rather than the student.
Thomas Manton, looking at the life of Christ in the greatest chapter, saw “Jesus condemning sin in the flesh” as a means of giving the Christian a pattern to follow in the Christian life. The pattern would not be redemptive, of course, but one of godliness and encouragement in living out the Christian life. Manton said, “Christ, by taking our flesh is become a pattern to us of what shall be done both in us and by us (Works of Manton, 11.425).”
Manton put forth five ways that Christ, our master, was a pattern for us and in us, His students.
1. Pattern of Grace
The first of the patterns is that of grace. Manton said of Jesus, “His own holy nature is a pledge of the work of grace, and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit… (Ibid).” When the Christian looks to the life of Christ and sees the work of the Holy Spirit and the outpouring of grace upon his life, the Christian can be certain that God will provide grace and the work of the Holy Spirit to all who call on him by faith.
Grace is a gift of the Spirit, and that same Spirit working in us was first working in Christ. Manton makes that connection by saying, “For the same holy Spirit that could sanctify the substance that was taken from the virgin, so that that holy thing that was born of her might be called the Son of God, can also sanctify and cleanse our corrupt hearts (Ibid).”
The Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” The Spirit gives grace for sanctification, even over our “such were some of you” sins. Christ has promised grace and patterns grace as well.
2. Pattern of Obedience
Secondly, Christ’s life is a pattern of obedience for the Christian.
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What the Law Could Not Do

In God’s decree, the law was not designed to restore from sin or to recover from the wages of sin—the law brings death, and the reader of the Scriptures needs to ask concerning that other way. The law “could not do” as far as restoration was concerned. The law brings death rather than life. Living unto God is only through the person and work of Jesus Christ, rather than through the law. This was true in the Old Testament as well as in the New.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: Romans 8:3

The law of God has great value in the Scriptures and for the Christian life. Thomas Manton would not doubt the value of the law nor its place in the Christian life; he was not a Neonomian. A high view of the law of God, as described in chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, section five, necessitates that there are things the law can and cannot do:
“The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.”
Manton would understand and propound these moral-legal duties as a minister and an assemblyman at Westminster. Despite this high view of the law, Manton understood the limitations of it. Following the Apostle Paul who confessed there were things “the law could not do,” Manton gave four limitations of the law, demonstrating what the law could not do for fallen humanity. He said in summary, “It was impossible for the law to do away sin, and justify man before God…that is, through the corruption of our natures, we being sinners, and are unable to to perform the duty of the law (Works of Manton, 11.420).” The impossibilities of the law are four.
Cannot Free Us From Sin and Death
Our father Adam was given a command in the Covenant of Works. The law, being written on his heart, was a law of full obedience. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 19.1-2, tell us that the same law that was given to Adam “continued” as the moral law given at Sinai. Was that law able to free the people of God from sin and death? No.
Despite the law not being able to free us from sin and death, God’s will—his heart, his purpose, and decree—was that man would be free. Manton said,  “It was necessary in respect of God’s purpose and decree, that we should be free from sin and death. For God would not have mankind utterly to perish…(Ibid).” God’s will was that humanity, or a people chosen from humanity, would not perish in sin and death.  God “would not lose the whole creation of mankind. God hath showed himself placable and merciful to all men, and hath forbidden despair, and continued many forfeited mercies…(Ibid).”
Sin and death are unable to be overcome through the law of God, and Manton then turns his attention to the fact that restoration is unreachable through the law as well.
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Law Opposed to Law

The Covenant of Grace is a “law of the spirit.” The Spirit of God has instituted this covenant and applies it to the lives of men and women who believe. Manton said that Christ himself speaks of covenant in terms of spirit and truth. He says, “Not only because of its spiritual nature, as it cometh nearer and closer to the soul than the law of outward and beggarly rudiments; and therefore Christ called the ordinances of the gospel, spirit and truth (Works of Manton, 11.395).”

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

In our circles today, it is not popular to speak about the Gospel as Law or the Law of the Gospel. The Gospel message is one that is received by faith and the division between Law and Gospel is often driven so sharply that there is no room for Law in Gospel or Gospel in Law.
The Puritans, including Thomas Manton, saw grace in law and law in grace, all while maintaining a rigorously Christ-centered Gospel of free grace. There was no hint of the errors of Federal Vision, and yet speaking in terms of law was common parlance for the time.[1] Manton demonstrated in his treatment of the greatest chapter that law is able to be opposed to law—with the Gospel’s law triumphing.
Where does Manton get the idea of the Gospel’s law? Citing several verses which use the language of the law of the Gospel, Manton finds law used positively in the Scriptures. Speaking of the coming Gospel age, Isaiah looked forward to the time when “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Matthew 28:20 also uses language of law as Jesus sends his ministers into the nations preaching the Gospel. Jesus says, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The Apostle would speak of believing the Gospel in terms of obedience when he condemned those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”  (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul also reminded the Christians in Galatia to press on in the Christian life: “ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7).
The language of law in reference to the Gospel age is much more connected than we are comfortable with today.
Manton helped his readers to see their connectedness to law as well as their disconnectedness in his exposition of Romans 8:2 as he divided the law opposed to the law.
Two Laws
The two laws that are described in the second verse of Romans 8 are the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life. Manton does not imagine these laws as the 10 Commandments versus the Gospel, but clearly articulates that the laws are the two covenants that we find in the Scriptures: the law of “sin and death” is the Covenant of Works and the law of the “Spirit of life in Christ” is the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Works became a law of sin and death when Adam sinned and brought the curse on himself and “for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation…(Westminster Shorter Catechism, 16).”
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Space Oddity

“When the Son came for salvation, he did not take angelic nature into union but became human.” “Then again, in the visions of Revelation, John saw “living creatures” representative of creation gathered around the throne of God in worship of the Lamb…This was a vision, but we must suppose it represents a reality… While we are not given a detailed answer to our question and must leave it in the hands of all-wise God, it seems that eternity will be filled with praise and obedient faithfulness from throughout the animate and intelligent cosmos.”

What if aliens were discovered…or discovered us? Would that change your opinion of the Bible, the Christian faith, and the centrality of humanity as image bearers of God? Recently there was some buzz in the online-news about NASA hiring twenty-four theologians to help them understand how humanity would respond to the discovery of alien life.
Although the facts around NASA hiring have been called into question, the truth remains that those in the scientific community–and many people–want answers to theological questions concerning the existence of life “out there.” 

One online magazine said, “Though NASA certainly gave money toward the program, it didn’t go as far as to hire anyone from it. A spokesperson from NASA told the Associated Press that the researchers involved in the program were never directly employed by the space agency. Individuals who receive grant funding from NASA are not employees, advisors, or spokespersons for the agency, the spokesperson told the AP in an email. Thus, the researchers and scholars involved with this study were not hired by NASA, but instead received funding… to conduct this work.”
So what is the answer? Do alien lifeforms, or extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) exist? In all my reading of the puritans, reformers, Covenanters, Seceders, and others, I have never found an answer to whether we would find ETI if we explored the universe. For the most part, I didn’t care, but the question does get asked.

In Robert Letham’s Systematic Theology (which was published in 2019 rather than 1619) he confronts the question of ETI and the existence of alien life forms. Again, I don’t remember this question being posed in any of the old dead guys. 

On pages 288-289 he explores this question.
Letham begins with demonstrating that there are some that argue the vastness of our universe is connected to our planet’s uniqueness. He said, “Some argue that there is no extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) anywhere in the universe. The vast size of the cosmos, it is said, is necessary for humans to be able to live here on earth.Read More

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