25 September 2008

The Book of Enoch (Pt 4) - Genesis 6 "Bonus Tracks"...?

The Sons of God lusted after the daughters of menWe've made a case so far that the Book of Enoch is a worthy read due to its historical context, and its acceptance by most in early church history, including the writers of the Greek Scriptures. So, I turn now to pulling tidbits from this book that are worth looking at for some of the interesting pieces they add to some "gaps" in Scripture.

As a follow up to our previous digression of the two parts dealing with the early church's understanding and acceptance of the "sons of God" of Genesis 6, I now turn to quote a portion of the Book of Enoch that offers additional information - filling in a back story to that brief mention in Genesis 6. This is information that the early church leaders knew and from where they probably received most of their understanding for their view we discussed in the previous two writings (found HERE). From the Book of Enoch:

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.' And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations5 not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.' Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader, Araklba, Rameel, Kokablel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaq1el, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jomjael, Sariel. These are their chiefs of tens.

And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.

And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, 'Armaros the resolving of enchantments, Baraqijal (taught) astrology, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven. (Book of Enoch, Ch. 6-8)
So this section reveals the "behind the scenes" story of Genesis 6, as understood and promoted by the Jewish community at least as far back as a couple hundred years before Jesus came on the scene, and for the first few hundred years of early church history. The story continues with the response from heaven to the cries of mankind, and we'll look at that in upcoming sections.

What makes such a story so impossible to believe by most today? Why in more recent history has this view been utterly outcast from orthodox theological circles? Those are some of the questions I would like to look into, and will try to dig up some of the objections to this line of thinking to discuss in future segments.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

22 September 2008

Genesis 6, Sons of God, & Nephilim (Pt 2)

As we continue our look at the alternative history that was held by most of the early church, but denounced nowadays, we turn to some extra-biblical Jewish writings to see a fuller picture. In you go back and read Genesis 6, you find a quick jump of action with little details shared. Men multiplied, "sons of God" multiplied with women, creating giants, and then God says the world is evil and sets out the plan to destroy it and save Noah.

Looking ahead in 2 Peter, we find a connection there too:
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:4-5)
So, here we again have a connection of angels sinning, followed by the mention of Noah and the flood. Then again, we have a similar hint in Jude:
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 6-7)
I think many people often miss what is being said and compared here. It compares the sin and judgment of Sodom to that of the angels, in that both the angels and Sodom gave "themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh" and are both therefore held in chains for judgment.

Of course, we can tie in Enoch with all of this, as he was taken to be with God shortly before Noah came on the scene, being Noah's great grandfather. We have no real way of knowing when the Genesis 6 procreation account took place or how long the giants corrupted the world, but we see right before Noah comes on the scene, Enoch has been taken away to be with God. This all flows with what has been mentioned in my previous series on Enoch (link below), it is believed he was taken to be a representative of sorts in the case between God and the angels who sinned. Before going further into that branch of the story behind the scenes, let us look further down the road at the judgment handed down for these actions. This will help us see how both the Scriptures and the words of the church fathers mentioned in part one of this topic tie together.

And the Lord said unto Michael: Go, bind Semjaza and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations (*note, 70 generations brings us to the time of Jesus - JM) in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. (Enoch 10:11-16)
So the same type of judgment is related in the book of Enoch that is later spoken of in the exact same language by Peter and Jude. Now, in looking at how the church fathers discussed demons and how they come from this unholy procreation, the Book of Enoch also addresses that:
Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants as your sons? And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling. And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. (Enoch 15:3-10).
So it appears pretty evident from all signs, as I stated in the other series on Enoch, that the Book of Enoch was very influential to both the biblical writers, as well as the early church fathers. Because of this influence, the early church followed in the footsteps of belief that these Jewish writings set forth, and we have no evidence of any command in the Greek scriptures to refute or negate this thought pattern; yet scholars in the past century have explained it away for some reason. Why is this historic view so offensive to theologians today?

At this point, I will return the discussion back to the already established and ongoing thread on Enoch, as I explore deeper into the story, history and life of this great man of God, as contained in the book bearing his name, and others of similar Jewish origin. So if you started here, go to the beginning of the Enoch discussion to proceed on this matter by clicking HERE.

Or proceed with the next section on Enoch and this Sons of God idea by clicking HERE.

17 September 2008

Genesis 6, Sons of God, & Nephilim (Pt 1)

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
(Genesis 6:1-4)
I have read numerous commentaries and small articles set forth to attempt to explain away the historical understanding of these verses, that the "sons of God" referred to were angels, and the offspring produced were giants called Nephilim. I have read very little so far though, that states why commentators are so opposed to this view, however. What is gained or lost with accepting this view?

Historically, per many other extra-biblical Jewish writings, the angel view is predominant, and if accepted, opens up and reveals much more detail to the biblical record from these non-canonical writings. Sometimes I wonder if some of these other writings got denied as canon due to including these views of the angelic realm (the book of Enoch for example).
The earliest datable exposition of Genesis 6 known is 1 Enoch 6-11, usually dated c. 200 B.C. It clearly identifies the "sons of God" as angels. This interpretation could in fact have originated long before 1 Enoch was written. It continued without challenge for the next three hundred years.

The book of Jubilees (dated no later than 100 B.C.) describes the "sons of God" as angels sent to earth to help mankind. They became consumed with lust, cohabited with women, and fathered a race of giants...Other early exponents of the belief that Genesis 6:1-4 describes a supernatural-human union include Philo of Alexandria (early first century A.D.), Flavius Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Lactantius, Ireaneus, Cyprian, and Ambrose. (F.B. Huey, Jr., "Are the 'Sons of God' in Geneis 6 Angels? - Yess," The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions about Creation and the Flood, ed. Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 189, 190.
So, we have a long history of this belief in Jewish and church history, by some of the big names in the early church fathers. And if we accept the teaching, then through the many other writings surrounding the teaching, we fill in gaps to Genesis 6 that have caused many people to question and misinterpret these verses, the flood, and more.

The Septuagint is one of the translations that makes the verse more plain by saying:

that the angels of God having seen the daughters of men that they were beautiful, took to themselves wives of all whom they chose.
As mentioned, the early church fathers held to the same belief that was historically the position. Let us now look at some of their quotes:
From the seed [of the fallen angels and women], giants are said to have been born. By them, arts were made known to the earth. They taught the dyeing of wool and everything that is done. Yet, because they were of an evil seed, the Almighty did not approve of their being brought back from death when they had died. For that reason, they wander and they now subvert many bodied. And it is they whom the [pagans] presently worship and pray to as gods. Commodianus (c.240, W), 4.203.

However, those who were born from [the relations of angels and women] - because they were neither angels nor men, but had mixed nature - were not admitted into Hades [when they died]. Similarly, their fathers had not been admitted into heaven either. Thus their came to be two kinds of demons; one of heaven, the other of earth. The latter are the wicked spirits, who are the author of all the evils that are done. Lactantius (c. 304-313, W) 7.64

The angels are likewise possesed of personal freedom. For we can be sure that if the angels had not possessed personal freedom, they would not have consorted with the daughters of men, thereby sinning and falling from their places. Bardesanes (c.222, E), 8.725

By the power of those angels, they conceived the giants as their children, by whom wickedness reached its peak on earth. Finally God decreed that the whole of the living should perish in their impiety by the deluge. Julius Africanus (c. 245, E) 6.131.

All of these things [i.e. the making of jewelry] the sinning and apostate angels put forth by their arts, when, lowered to the contagious of earth, they forsook their heavenly vigor. They also taught women to paint their eyes with blackness drawn around them in a circle and to stain their cheeks with a deceitful red. Cyprian (c.250, W) 5.434.
There are more, but this should be enough to see that the general consensus in the early church was that angels had indeed procreated with women, and their offspring were later killed and became what is known as demons.

In part two we will take a look at the way the story plays out in the Book of Enoch.

Click HERE to continue to part two


16 September 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 8): Church Fathers on Sheol and Ephesians 4:9

OK, shifting gears ever so slightly in this conversation. After writing part seven yesterday, I started kind of flipping through other books on my shelf that might contain related material on this topic, and I found quite a few interesting comments in this early church fathers reference guide A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (not sure why I never went to this book before now). This book has nearly six pages loaded with quotations from these men regarding the intermediate state of Hades; I will only touch on a couple of them.

I do not quote the church fathers because I hold that they have a more correct understanding like some, and I do not hold them up on a pedestal of orthodoxy as some are known to do. I just share these quotes to show what some of the common teachings were in the days when the "descended into hades" clause was supposedly written/added to the Apostle's Creed. But more astonishing to me, was the quotes dealing with Ephesians 4:9, and just how totally opposite the view was from that which is normally held since the Reformation. So I wish to deal specifically with those surrounding verses, which state:
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:8-10 (ESV)
Now it appears from the commentators and Bible study notes I have read on this section of Ephesians, the modern, common position in the Reformed world, is that the "he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth" refers to his original descent from heaven to earth, and his low estate while on earth. So it is assumed to mean the lower parts of the earth is life above ground as we know every day. A few examples should hopefully suffice for this point regarding the clause Into the lower parts of the earth. of verse 9:
To the lowest state of humiliation. This seems to be the fair meaning of the words. Heaven stands opposed to earth. One is above; the other is beneath. From the one, Christ descended to the other; and he came not only to the earth, but he stooped to the most humble condition of humanity here. Some have understood this of the grave; others of the region of departed spirits; but these interpretations do not seem to be necessary. It is the earth itself that stands in contrast with the heavens; and the idea is, that the Redeemer descended from his lofty eminence in heaven, and became a man of humble rank and condition. (Barnes NT Notes)
The point that I seem to see so clearly that seems missed here, is the ascending and descending are being spoken to in reference to Christ's work (and the relation to the hearer should not be discounted) on the earth. From earth he ascended, but before he ascended from earth, he descended below the earth. The other view is seeking to jump backwards in time to show that before he could have ascended from earth to heaven, he had to first have come down from heaven to earth. Well, that is an obvious point, and does not seem to be what Paul is getting across here, that I can see. John Calvin get a bit more agitated when dealing with this passage in his commentaries:
These words mean nothing more than the condition of the present life. To torture them so as to make them mean purgatory or hell, is exceedingly foolish. The argument taken from the comparative degree, "the lower parts," is quite untenable. A comparison is drawn, not between one part of the earth and another, but between the whole earth and heaven; as if he had said, that from that lofty habitation Christ descended into our deep gulf.
Again, it seems Calvin misses the timing of the issue. Christ stood on earth and is said to have ascended, but that before he ascended from earth to heaven, he descended from earth to the lower parts of the earth. Why would Paul be telling the Ephesians something so obvious - that Christ came to earth long before? Plus, as we have seen in the earlier parts of this series, "lower parts," "beneath the earth" and such terms as that have always been used to refer to the hadaen realm, and not to the above ground earthly living.

Some prime examples of this: "But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth." (Ps 63:9) which obviously speaks of his enemies going to the place of the dead. The same can be understood from many verses in Ezekiel

"When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living" (26:20)

"...for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth (same Hebrew word), in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit." (31:14)
See also Ezekiel 31:16, 18, 32:18, 24 if you need more similar examples, they all portray the same concept.

Some will put more weight on the one verse of Ps 139:15 to imply that the term simply refers to being given life through birth, and says "lowest parts of the earth" refers to the womb. But in light of the overwhelming amount of other scriptures for this term, I don't see how that single verse in Psalms cannot be made the measuring rod for the meaning here.

Now for the final example of the understanding of the phrase, this time from Baptist preacher John Gill, who gets even more defensive when dealing with this phrase, and practically strikes out at every point made through this entire series so far:
This the Papists understand of his decent into a place they call Limbus Patrum, which they make to be contiguous to hell; and where they say the patriarchs were detained till Christ’s coming; and that he went thither to deliver them out of it; and that these are the captivity he led captive; all which is fictitious and fabulous: for certain it is, that the place where Abraham was with Lazarus in his bosom was not near to hell, but afar off, and that there was a great gulf between them, and the spirits or souls of the patriarchs returned to God that gave them, when separated from their bodies, as the souls of men do now, nor did Christ enter any such feigned place at his death, but went to paradise, where the penitent thief was that day with him; nor were the patriarchs, but the principalities and powers Christ spoiled, the captivity he led captive and triumphed over: some interpret this of Christ’s descent into hell, which must be understood not locally, but of his enduring the wrath of God for sin, which was equivalent to the torments of hell, and of his being in the state of the dead; but it may rather design the whole of his humiliation, as his descent from heaven and incarnation in the virgin’s womb, where his human nature was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; and his humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, when he was made sin and a curse for his people, and bore all the punishment due to their transgressions; and his being in Hades, in the state of the dead, in the grave, in the heart of the earth, as Jonah in the whale’s belly. (John Gill's Expositor)
So, this view point was the basic understanding that most in the Reformed faith have believed in the past and the present in most cases. But let us turn now to the early church fathers for support for or against such a view. One reference directly deals with many of the issues we just discussed:
The Lord observed the law of the dead so that He might become the First-Begotten from the dead. And He waited until the third day "in the lower parts of the earth." ... [Accordingly,] these men [the Gnostics] must be put to confusion, who say that "the lower parts" refer to this world of ours...The Lord "went away in the midst of the shadow of death," where the souls of the dead were. However, afterwards, He arose in the body. And after the resurrection, he was taken up [into heaven]. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.560.
So to Irenaeus, it was the Gnostic's who believed the "lower parts of the earth" referred to earth. Irenaeus also stated:
For their benefit, "He also descended into the lower parts of the earth," to behold with His eyes the state of those who were resting from their labors. (c.180, E/W), 1.494

It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also. And he [declared] the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him. (c. 180, E/W), 1.499
And similarly we find Tertullian stating:
For we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth... He did not ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth. This was so that He might there [in Hades] make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. (c.210, W), 9.316
There are many other quotes that reference the belief in the intermediate state after death, more than enough to show that common belief not only during the time of Jesus, but for the first couple hundred years, the church believed and taught of the hadean realm, and the belief that Christ did indeed "descend into hades" after his death on the cross.

According to church history, and logic itself, I have always been kind of perplexed by all of this as it fits the current belief system. Maybe such a confusion as mine is why the later church counsels and preachers began to explain the whole system away, and began teaching an immediate ascension to heaven of Christ and all mankind. My confusion goes like this:

If all mankind goes to the hadean realm awaiting the return of Christ, a physical resurrection in our future; then logically, no one has yet to ascend to the heavenly realm at all. As further back-up for this, Christ said in John 14, that he goes to prepare a place for us and would return to take us to be with him; and again, since he has not returned, then logically he has not taken anyone to be with him yet, and so heaven has yet to be open. Tertullian and others would agree:
How indeed, will the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father's right hand? For the archangel's trumpet has not yet been heard by the command of God...To no one is heaven opened...When the world indeed, will pass away, then the kingdom of heaven will be opened. (c. 210, W), 3.231.
Justin Martyr states it was the Gnostic belief that stated there is no intermediate state, and that mankind upon death are immediately taken to heaven:
You may have fallen in with some [Gnostics] who are called Christians. However, they do not admit this [intermediate state], and they venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham...They say there is no resurrection of the dead. Rather, they say that when they die, their souls are taken to heaven. Do not imagine they are Christians. (emphasis mine) (Justin Martyr, c. 160, E, 1.239)
So which is it? Do we die and go to heaven now, in a "naked" (2 Cor 5) state, awaiting a time of being fused back with our dead body, changed, and then to re-enter heaven? Do we die today and continue in the resting place of hades, awaiting the resurrection and judgment in the future, while heaven stands empty for centuries? Maybe I'll get more into that in a future study...who knows?!?

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

15 September 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 7): James Jordan on Sheol

James Jordan - The Handwriting on the Wall
I really didn't expect this little look at the Apostles' Creed clause to go this far, but I continue to run over excellent comments by noted commentators that further expound and enforce the view that many in today's church have forgotten or denied. This time around, I pull a quote from the new commentary on Daniel by James B. Jordan entitled The Handwriting on the Wall.

In dealing with the resurrection passage in Daniel 12:2:
And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake, some to life age-during, and some to reproaches—to abhorrence age-during. (Young's Literal)
Jordan discusses six possibilities for what type of resurrection this verse could be speaking of. For point five he states:
A fifth possibility is that this refers to the emptying of sheol into heaven when Christ ascended there. This is a concept less familiar to us today, and will be explained below. (Pg 617)
He has it right, in saying it is less familiar to us; it appears many have totally forgotten the whole concept. He then continues a little later to explain the position:
Looking first at the fifth possibility, ascension to heaven: Until Jesus went into heaven, nobody went into heaven. Those who died from Adam to Christ went to sheol, which the New Testament calls hades. The righteous went into Abraham's bosom, also called in theology Limbus Patrum, while the wicked went to an uncomfortable place. After Jesus' death He descended to sheol and sorted the dead. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He emptied Abraham's bosom and brought all the righteous dead to heaven with him. The wicked in sheol, however, are not brought up to heaven until the end of time, when they are cast into the lake of fire that is before the throne of God.
So, here we have another example, and another modern one, that has not forgotten the idea of death as portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures.Again, if we assume this to be the proper understanding, then you should hopefully see the importance of Christ first descending into hades, and how removing this step in the salvation process causes an issue and leaves those who died prior to Christ still in bondage to death.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

14 September 2008

Why God Kills People - Rolfe Barnard

I stumbled across an old sermon tape I have had in my possession for close to twenty years now. I remember when I first heard it, how powerful I thought it was, and the impact it has had to all of those I shared it with.

The speaker is the late Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969), and this was a short (18 minute) radio broadcast that packs quite a punch. You don't hear many preachers speak like this anymore sadly. I just thought I would share it with you all.

If you can't see the player, or it won't play, download the file HERE

I found it interesting that many of his sermons have been uploaded to Sermon Audio now, so there is much more you can hear of this man found at www.sermonaudio.com/barnard

09 September 2008

Why the End is Not Near

The view of the "any-minute-now" rapture of the saint together with the belief that some time after that event Christ will return again to usher in a thousand-year political kingdom, thereby fulfilling his promises to David, is the product of a method of interpretation known as dispensationalism. This construction is entirely unique to dispensationalism. No other system teaches this view.

Dispensationalism is fewer that two hundred years old. It was fabricated by Darby and further formulated by Scofield. Dispensationalism is not a development of orthodox, historical Christian theology, but is the product of over-stimulated imaginations together with lack of honest Biblical scholarship.
So are the words of author Duane Garner is his new book Why the End is Not Near.

Garner will be on Covenant Radio soon for a discussion of this new book (watch www.covenantradio.com for show details), which seeks to give a brief, yet powerful, refutation to the dispensational theological system that currently plagues and cripples the life and power of the modern church. Some of the sub-sections discussing dispensationalism include:
  • Dispensationalism's Source is Not the Scriptures
  • Dispensationalism Mishandles the Scripture
  • Dispensationalism Works Against the Unity of the Church
  • Dispensationalism Leads to Retreatism

Followed by a discussion of what Christ and the Bible say about the Kingdom, and how it differs from dispensationalism.

This book is the second in the new series "Answers in a Hour," a series of small writings that are written with the attempt to be read through within a hour and give a good foundation introduction to the topic at hand. The first book in the series was of course Why Baptize Babies? by Mark Horne who appears on Covenant Radio shortly after it's release.

If you think about it, Covenant Radio is sort of like this book series, as we shoot to discuss topics for about an hour.

04 September 2008

Homosexuality and the Church

Tonight on CovenantRadio.com we begin a four part series on the topic of homosexuality. The series was launched based on various chapter topics in this book, "The Homosexual Debate and the Church" which is a series of articles compiled by the fine people at Harvest USA. You can hear tonights show live at 8:00PM at live.covenantradio.com or listen to the archive if you miss the live show.

Right on the heels of this broadcast, I received news (just yesterday) of an acquaintance of mine that has now officially announced his "coming out" of the closet. He is a professing Christian who has a music ministry he is active in. I wish to now interact with his comments in the announcement he posted about his "news."

His announcement starts with an image of two men on a wedding cake, and the announcement that he is getting "married." This photo is followed by:
I'm sure I will be judged and will lose many "friends" from my page once they find this. Many people will never want to know any more about me and they will think the worst of me. I've been gay my whole life and have known since the first grade. The only difference about me now is that now you know I'm gay. Knowledge has changed...I haven't.
He tries to push blame over onto us, his "friends" by stating nothing has changed about him from how we knew him before, so if we change our attitude, it is basically our problem. This is ridiculous logic, to say the least. Let me put it in another scenario. A man's best friend of twenty years tells him "hey, I have been sleeping with your wife regularly for the past 15 years." So, how should the man feel? Well, I guess fine, since they have been the best of friends all of that time, so now the only thing that has changed is knowledge, not the friend. Pretty silly to say the least.

Knowledge changes a lot of situations. People can hide a multitude of sins all of their life, and many do, even from those closest to them, such as family, spouses, etc. The sin is there, it is not hiding from God, but as humans, we are unaware of it, and therefore have no reaction to it. What if a church member stood up in church one day and said "I have been a faithful member of this congregation for 10 years, serving the church as an elder, serving on various committees, counseling many, and working for the good and glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. But I must now confess, during all my years here, I have been secretly an active terrorist, and responsible for over 50 bombings and the death of thousands worldwide. But remember, I am still the same guy you all love, nothing has changed but knowledge." Oh, OK, then let us continue life as usual. Come on!!
Being a Christian and believing with all my heart in Jesus as my Savior & Lord still comes first. The one thing that Scripture and prayer has been teaching me over the last 4 years is that I am to let no man tell me how I can or can't love Jesus. There are many that try to tell me I can't be a servant because of being gay.
Now he seeks to find refuge in condemning man for their treatment of his issue. True, you can't always let man tell you how to love Jesus, but you darn sure better let Jesus tell you how to love him. And Jesus plainly tells us in His Word, that no matter how much we claim to follow or love him, we can judge our sincerity by one thing...following his commandments:
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2)
Likewise, the Gospel of John is filled with similar "If you love me, keep my commandments" type teachings, and he knows it. The Bible is clear in the condemnation of homosexuality, and regardless of how the liberal homosexuals try to spin things, the Bible is still clear, so I won't waste time defending the position. To opening and unrepentantly live in an active sodomite lifestyle is to openly deny the very love and relationship you claim with Christ.
I've prayed for years and years and years, I've confessed my sins to others and Jesus has taken away so many of my sins; yet I'm still gay and that hasn't changed no matter how much I've prayed or confessed. I even spent 6 years being abstinent, single, no dating and being completely devoted to serving Christ. Still I'm gay.
More silly logic. So, if we struggle with a sin for many years, and don't overcome it, we should give up, and give in to the sin? Is that what the Bible says? Poor Paul had a thorn in the flesh for most of his ministry, yet he didn't give in and give up. Let me see if I can apply this to another situation. I have been married for over twenty years, I love my wife, I have never cheated on her, I have regular relations with her...yet I have for the life of our marriage I have had a problem with lust a desire of pretty women. No matter how much I pray against it, no matter how I fight it, I still have that lust. I guess I should give up and admit I like women and just start cheating on my wife. This same lame excuse could be equally applied to any single heterosexual male follower of Christ. Since they have normal lust for women, should they just give in to their lust and start sleeping around? I hope you can see the utter foolishness of such a claim.

We all have struggles with sin, we all have issues we deal with daily and we seek to overcome. How long is long enough before we give in and stop fighting and just go with our sin? Well, the Bible is clear that the answer is...never. We do not let ourselves become a slave to any sin, but are to constantly fight to keep it under check.
I've let people and the church for too long make me feel like I'm not worthy to serve the same God that saved me 14 years ago. Jesus said that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." I'm a whosoever and He as taken me just as I am. I am gay and I love Jesus. I will go through the doors that He opens and minister to those that He puts in my path. I will still sing of His great name and share the Good News with those that will listen.
To come to a place in one's life where they openly admit a struggle with sin, yet seek to just live in it, without a heart of repentance, is a true sign that their conscience has been seared. Romans 6 makes it very clear:
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
And of course, do we really need to even breech the contents of Romans 1?
I will continue to believe with all of my heart that Jesus wants us just as we are; not a made up image of Christianity or man made religion that tells us what to wear, what to watch, what to listen to, who to associate with, who to love or who not to love. It is the job of discernment from the Holy Spirit through reading of the Bible that will change people as God would have them changed for His service. It is not the job of the church to make people change before coming to Christ or fit their image and mold as a church. Looking at the Bible it's easy to see that Jesus would not be welcomed in many churches today because He always put the will of His Father first. He didn't change to fit in. He loved His Father and He loved us...all of us. He didn't let others tell Him how He could serve the will of His Father. He associated with those that the religious people would never minister to...they would instead stand back and cast their judgment and stones. Really, not a lot has changed. Finally I hope and pray that others like me will not let Satan speak through the church any longer to make them feel like they can not serve the God they love.
And he ends with a real kicker. An all out attack on the church. Sure, the local churches have issues, sure they don't always act or work as Christ would have them do so, but that doesn't mean you dismiss the whole system. Nor does it mean you chalk it all up to just allowing "Satan to speak through the church."

As he states, it is not the church's job to make people change before coming to church, and that is true. Sinners are invited to come as they are. But that in no way is to be considered an invitation to stay as they were. Christianity requires change and conformity to the ways of Christ. Christ gave the church the keys and the Spirit to guide and shepherd the people into the truth. While going to church doesn't necessarily make you a Christian, forsaking, or rebelling against the church sure says a lot about the true nature of your relationship with Christ. Churches can stray, churches can become legalistic, and yes, it is always up to us to study the scriptures ourselves and to be in line with them. But how does this help his case, it is not only the church that condemns his sin, it is the very Word of God that the church uses to condemn it. There is no refuge outside of the church for his sin, it is the Word, not the church, that laid the condemnation against his sin.

Sure, Jesus ministered to those that the church often overlooked...so what, how does that apply to his case? Jesus didn't bring drunks and sinners into the church and tell them to stay drunks and sinners. Christianity requires repentance from our old sinful natures, not an open acceptance and flaunting of it. To come to this kind of irrational conclusions shows just how far off the deep end people can go to justify their sin.

02 September 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 6): John Lightfoot on Abraham's Bosom

John Lightfoot
As a continuation of the series I have previously been discussing on the early Hebrew understanding of the intermediate state that leads to the inclusion of the "descended into hades" clause of the Apostles' Creed, I share with you this interesting reference from the writings of John Lightfoot in reference to the meaning of "In Abraham's bosom" as understood historically by the Hebrews of Jesus' time:

...if you would know what it is, you need seek no further than the Rhemists, our countrymen...for they upon this place have this passage: "The bosom of Abraham is the restingplace of all them that died in perfect state of grace before Christ's time; heaven, before, being shut from men. It is called in Zachary a lake without water, and sometimes a prison, but most commonly of the divines Limbus patrum; for that it is thought to have been the higher part or brim of hell"

If our Saviour had been the first author of this phrase, then might it have been tolerable to have looked for the meaning of it amongst Christian expositors; but seeing it is a scheme of speech so familiar amongst the Jews, and our Saviour spoke no other than in the known and vulgar dialect of that nation, the meaning must be fetched thence, not from any Greek or Roman lexicon. That which we are to inquire after is, how it was understood by the auditory then present: and I may lay any wager that the Jews, when they heard Abraham's bosom mentioned, did think of nothing less than that kind of limbo which we have here described. (Lightfoot, John - Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. 3, Pgs. 168-169, 2003, Hendrickson Publishers)
While Lightfoot might not agree with this understanding of the term, the point is that he clearly points out that this was the common understanding of the Hebrew people during the days of Jesus, and He neither corrects the thought, nor condemns them for it, but in fact uses the very same terminology in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, as well as to the thief on the cross, appearing to give further proof for the truth behind the belief.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Eve - Adding to the Word of God?

And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" (Genesis 3:2-3)
I have heard teacher and preacher alike rail against Eve, attacking her for adding to the Word of God in this statement to the serpent. But was she really? And if so, is it her fault?

It is not so much that I am concerned with her supposed addition of words in the matter, but of the blame and guilt laid upon her as if what she had done was both intentional and/or destructive. How is the wording that is added counterproductive to the situation. Are we to think that yes, they can't eat it but it is just fine if they handle, fondle, rub and caress it? Is the idea of not touching it not that much more of a safety net against eating it? Do the added word change the overall effect of what God commanded, or do they just enhance it?

Now obviously, the Jews were notorious for adding extra to the commands which made things not only very strict and legalistic, but over time actually took away the the true meaning of the laws, making them of no effect to their original intent. However, is the addition of these words something that would lead to a contradiction, reversal or a removing of the impact of the command?

I agree, adding to the Word of God is a no-no, but I really don't know if that was the intent here. The biggest issue that most seem to fail to realize, is she might not have been intentionally at fault in either case, considering God didn't tell her anything about the tree (that we know of). Adam was given the command to not eat:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17)
It was only after this that Eve came on the scene:
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)
So, maybe as a way to bolster the strength of the command against eating, Adam told Eve not to even touch it. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Eve was only repeating what she was told from Adam, who (as far as we can tell from Scripture) is the only one that could have relayed the command to her. Therefore, all of the blame, if there really is any blame worth discussing, would fall on Adam's head.