Written by Gabriel N.E. Fluhrer |
Monday, November 6, 2023
The Bible is not a textbook of science, math, physics, or art. However, it gives us the only worldview that ultimately makes all those things possible. In other words, the Bible not only teaches us ultimate truths about man, the world, salvation, the future, and a host of other subjects that make up a worldview, it also gives us the very principles by which we can know what’s true. One more caveat. We will never believe the Bible is true unless we are born again.
“How can I know what’s true?” It seems like a simple question. But with the advent of social media, “fake news,” and a multitude of competing voices, it can be hard to discern the truth. But there is good news. The Bible tells us that we can and must know what’s true.
Looking to the Scriptures, theologians have discerned two different ways we can know what’s true. First, we know what’s true through general revelation. This term refers to what God has revealed in His world and in us (Gen. 1:1, 28; Ps. 19:1–6; Ps. 139:13–14; Rom. 1:18–21). Interestingly, this conviction about general revelation led to the scientific revolution. Biblical Christianity provided a worldview that encouraged mankind to investigate the world around us with the firm assurance that because the God who made it and upheld it is true, we could discover what’s true.
But we do not learn what’s true just from investigating the world around us. We also learn the truth by using our minds. This is another aspect of general revelation. Since man is made in God’s image, we can, as one theologian put it, think His thoughts after Him. So, we use the laws of logic, mathematical laws, laws of physics, and so on to discover truth.
Second, we know what’s true through special revelation (Ps. 19:7–11; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16). This refers to the way in which God has revealed Himself in His Word. Of course, God spoke other words to His prophets and Apostles that were not recorded in His Word. But the special revelation He wanted us to have, He has preserved for us in the Bible.
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By Tim Challies — 2 weeks ago
Rather than doing my utmost to fully obey even very difficult commands, I turn quickly to the exclusions. I become an expert on what God does not mean rather than a demonstration of what he does. I live safely and comfortably rather than radically. And, I fear, I end up living in self-satisfied rebellion rather than free and joyful obedience.
I have long observed a fascinating but concerning tendency when I read one of the Bible’s clear commands. I have observed it in myself and I have observed it in others. It’s the tendency to turn quickly from what the Bible does command to what it does not, from the plainest sense of one of God’s directions to a list of exceptions or exclusions. It’s the tendency to hear what God says and immediately reply, “Yeah, but…”
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” Jesus says. Yeah, but you don’t really mean that in any sense but the metaphorical, right? Surely I shouldn’t actually allow myself to be harmed without mounting a strong defense. Surely I shouldn’t actually suffer unjustly without some kind of recourse or retaliation?
“Love your enemies.” Yeah, but they are your enemies too and they are doing harm to your people and your church. I’m sure you don’t mean for me to actually love them. What if I just pray for them and leave it at that? Isn’t righteous anger and imprecatory prayer a better response in this case?
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Yeah, but I know that beggar is going to use the money to buy booze and I’m pretty sure that borrower is going to fritter it away on something ridiculous. Surely wisdom should trump generosity in this circumstance, shouldn’t it?
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” Yeah, but I’m sure you don’t mean for me to be subject to this ruler, this governor, this institution. Don’t you see how he stole the election? Don’t you see how he hates and defies you?
By Kendall Lankford — 2 years ago
My only hope is that you see the time frame references the New Testament is speaking about, and realize that much of what we consider “end of history events” are actually “end-time events” that have already occured in the past. I also hope that when you see a phrase like “last days” in Hebrews, that you will understand where we are in redemptive history. We are not waiting on the last days, we are living in them.
Gordian Knot Eschatology
As we begin this study on the end times, I would like to address you from the junkyard of eschatological insanity that we find ourselves in today. To my left lies a cardboard cutout of the late Harold Camping, a stack of books titled “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Occur In 1988”, and a few posters of various blood moons, pale horses, and tracks about being left behind. To my right, an ever-growing pile of Antichrist candidates and mark of the beast hopefuls heaped on top of one another and most are now well rusted.
All around us is the odious stench of eschatological failure. From end times views assuming future failure, to failed past and present predictions, to wild speculations about Gog, Magog, and Vladamir Putin. Is it any wonder that the church is confused, frustrated, and lacking the joy and hope that a Biblical view will bring?
In this series on the end times, my hope is to bring the joy, clarity, and hope back into eschatology. And to do that, we need to flush everything we have heard about the end times, clean down the eschatological toilet, and wave goodbye as it goes back to where it belongs. I say this so strongly because the Bible was never meant to be a Gordian knot to confuse, frustrate, and paralyze you. It was always meant to be a clear revelation to encourage, strengthen you, and give you a living hope as you face the days ahead. When we return to what the Bible says and examine it in Biblical ways, I believe eschatology can be one of the most encouraging topics you will ever study.
So, in the weeks ahead, I want us to look at what the Bible says about the end times, and today I want to focus on the consideration of time. When do the end times begin? Are they getting ready to happen in the 21st century? Are they still long into the future? Or did they begin sometime in the past? Let us look at a few passages in Scripture to gain a Biblical perspective.
End Time Incarnation
By far, one of the clearest passages in all of Scripture, that teaches us when the end times will begin, is Hebrews 1:1-2, which says:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.- Hebrews 1:1-2
The author of Hebrews is appealing to two very different sets of times in the history of redemption. There is the old covenant era of temples, feasts, priests, and sacrifices, where God once spoke to His people through the fathers and the prophets. This era is known as the Old Testament. But, now we are told a new era of human history has dawned (in fact it is the final era of human history), that began when Christ came as the incarnate Son of God.
What Hebrews is saying, is that when Jesus came He not only secured salvation for His people, but He also fulfilled all of the Old Covenant expectations, types, shadows, and norms, in Himself. For instance, He is our true King (Hebrews 1:8), that serves as true priest (Hebrews 2:17), making Himself to be our true and perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27), offering Himself in God’s true heavenly temple (Hebrews 9:11), to secure a perfect unvarnished redemption. The point this book is making is that when Jesus uttered “It is finished”, He perfectly drew all of the Old Covenant types and shadows to a glorious end, fulfilling every jot and tittle of the Law, leaving no temple stone unturned, so that He could become the cornerstone of a new end time era. In Him, the old has been finished, and the new has come.
The importance of this cannot be understated. Jesus Christ put an end to the old era of redemption and began a new redemptive era called “these last days” at His coming nearly 2000 years ago. That is why the author of Hebrews says that God has spoken to us during the ends of time because he assumes we would understand that these end times began in Jesus’ first glorious coming! And since that much is true, it is clear to say that you and I have been living in the end times our entire lives. It is also clear to say that the Church has existed entirely during the period called the “last days”. That fact has been true for two successive millennia and will continue until the Royal Son returns a final time!
Unlike what many have wrongly said, the Church is not an asterisk period, the Gentile Church was not plan B, and we are sandwiched awkwardly between the Old Testament and a future millennial kingdom. The Church was, is, and will continue to be God’s plan A, for these last days. We are His end-time bride on His end-time mission until the final sands in God’s end-time glass have fallen.
Whatever thoughts we may have about this topic, at a minimum needed to be ground by the firm exegetical understanding that the “last days” have already come and that we are currently living in them. To that end we continue we a few more proofs.
End Time Dissolution
As mentioned above, one of the reasons we can be so confident that the end times have already begun is that Jesus so carefully and methodically brought an end to all the old-timey stuff. He brought a new priesthood, new temple, new mountain, new sacrifice, a new bride, and is bringing about a new covenant city. In the weeks ahead we will examine some of these things in greater detail, but for now, how about a summary? And how about we begin with the old and new bride?
In the Old Testament, there is very specific wedding language that must be understood before we will have any hope of understanding the eschataological bride that is given to Christ in the New Testament. Take for example, Israel. In the Old Testament, Israel was called to be God’s faithful and covenantal bride (Ezekiel 16:8-18). She is the one He lovingly drew out of the land of Egypt, clothed in His love, and brought to a mountain marriage ceremony at Sinai (Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:59-60).
If this were not clear enough, God explicitly calls Himself the husband of Israel in Isaiah 54:5 and identifies their relationship as a marriage betrothal in Jeremiah 2:2. It was these people that God set His affections upon (Deuteronomy 7:6-9) and it was this nation who provoked His holy husbanding jealousy (Exodus 20:5; Ezekiel 16:38). It is to this matrimonial status that God appeals to Israel to repent (Jeremiah 3:14), when she burned in belligerent and raunchy affections, playing the whore with the other pagan nations and pagan gods (Ezekial 16:27-48).
Instead of purity and fidelity to her covenant Husband Lord, she acted shamefully in debauched spiritual adulteries (Hosea 2:3-7) until she provoked the righteous fury of her God. For a time, God graciously pursued His faithless bride, beckoning her to leave her lurid pleasures behind and to be reconciled to Him (Hosea 2:7; Joel 1:8). But, alas, it was to no avail and they exhausted His mercy.
In the end, God’s first bride became so polluted in her perversions, that God, Himself, issued those ten faithless tribes a formal certificate of divorce (Hosea 2:2; Isaiah 50:1) and wrote them out of the annals of history through a devastating Assyrian invasion. Along with that, God also warned the southern nation of Judah, that if she continued to play the harlot, like Israel, her fate would be the same as her twin harlot sister (Jeremiah 3:6-10). That imagery is the operative backdrop that is in play, as soon as we turn the page over and into the New Testament.
When we arrive in Matthew we must remember two important truths. 1) God is still married to Judah (although barely). And 2) God is not a polygamist.
That second point is especially poignant because when we see God taking for Himself a new bride (The Church), we ought to remember that the only way this could be possible, is if Judah is also issued a formal divorce from God. And while we will explore this topic more fully in the weeks ahead, that is one of the major themes of the book of Revelation, how the whore of Babylon, who I take to be the unrepentant, paganized, and Rome-loving Judah, will be put away (Revelation 17:1-18) so that God can claim for Himself a new and spotless, blood-bought, bride (Revelation 21:2).
Without getting into the weeds, we can rightly assume that if God marries the Church, then He must put away the harlot Judah. We know that this divorce from God must be executed in lawful ways because He is righteous and is never the unfaithful party in His marriage. Knowing that the New Testament records how the Jews piled their adulteries up to the heavens, even making Israel blush in shame. It was Judah who got in bed with Rome and turned their back on God. It was Judah who became so blinded in her defilements that she killed God’s one and only Son. And it was feckless Judah, that God brought down the full fury of His righteous, just, and divorcing wrath.
We can know that we are living in the end times, not just because the author of Hebrews has said so, but also because God has put away His old unfaithful brides (both Israel and Judah) and has taken for His Son, a new end time wife (The Church). A bride that was blood-bought on a better mountain called Calvary, married to Him in His resurrection from the dead and is waiting for the final consummation when He returns and calls her into His arms forever. That is the mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 5:32) and a sure clue that we, the church, His bride, is already living in the end times.
Again, we will revisit this theme when we get to the book of Revelation, but for now, let us proceed along.
End Time Demolition
Along with putting away His old wives, part of Jesus’ work to usher in the new end time Kingdom was to put away the old faithless city of Jerusalem. As you are aware, Jerusalem was the old covenant city of God where He would meet with His people. It was in that city He promised to dwell within the temple, live within their midst, to be their God, and for them to be His unique chosen people. It was in this city that the epicenter of Old Covenant religion and eschatological hope collided, with every song, every feast, and every sacrifice. Yet, in the end, this city was put away just as decisively as the faithless prostitute of old.
In some of the final moments of Jesus’ life, the city of Jerusalem collectively turned against the Son of God, and sided with Caesar as their one and only king (John 19:15). Since God alone was supposed to be King of Israel, the irony, idolatry, and infidelity were palpable. Is it any wonder that Jesus pronounced covenantal curses on this city, for all of her longstanding rebellion against God, in Matthew 23:34-36? The text says:
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:34-36
Jesus is making a straightforward claim here. Jerusalem was entirely at fault as the covenant breaker! She had systematically cut down God’s prophets of old, killing them every time God sent them. It was this Babylonesque, city of sin, that would also slaughter the disciples of Christ in cold-blooded murder, after turning on God’s beloved Son, like a rabid dog, slaying Him and crucifying Him.
By Nate Pickowicz — 2 years ago
Having a biblical view of justification should also produce overwhelming thanksgiving. Knowing that justification by faith is apart from works, that justification is a gift of God, and that we are pardoned, declared righteous, and adopted into the family of God should generate within us a heart of eternal thankfulness. This thankfulness then translates into a life of consistent worship of the God, who, in His infinite wisdom, devised a way that depraved sinners might be accepted in the Beloved.
The Reformer John Calvin (1509–64) ardently declared the doctrine of justification by faith alone to be “the principle hinge by which [the Christian] religion is supported” (Institutes 3.11.1). Known as the material principle of the sixteenth-century Reformation, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was at the epicenter of the battle to bring needed reform to the church. This biblical doctrine is central to preserving an accurate understanding of the gospel even as we find it so clearly taught in Paul’s letters to the churches of Rome and Galatia.
As we approach the Bible’s teaching on justification, it is vital that we comprehend the finer points of the doctrine. To put it bluntly, if we get justification wrong, we get the gospel wrong. Thankfully, we have a rich and faithful heritage of believers who have courageously upheld Scripture’s teaching on justification by faith alone. The Westminster Shorter Catechism presents a clear and succinct definition of justification:
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of God imputed to us, and received by faith alone (WSC 33).
In other words, justification is a legal act by God, based on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, by means of our faith (granted as a gift from God).
However, the practical nature of the doctrine of justification is often overlooked and dismissed. Sometimes doctrine can become so heavy with terms and concepts that we miss just how applicable doctrine really is. While there may be more that can be applied from an informed understanding, there are no less than four practical applications of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
The first practical application of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is assurance. Frankly, there will be days when we simply won’t feel justified, when we won’t feel like a Christian. We will have off days, down days, shaky days, sinful days, days on which the question haunts our minds, “Am I even a Christian?” The doctrine of justification by faith alone proclaims loudly, through the fog of doubt, that we have been born again and are “in Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Christ has completed His redemptive work, satisfied the justice of God the Father, and sealed us with His Holy Spirit. Justification assures us that there is never a need for re-justification. Rather, God justifies us by His grace. Before the courtroom of heaven, God has declared us, depraved sinners, to be “justified and righteous.” Paul declares, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The doctrine of justification gives us the assurance to know that “[He is] just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:26).