Tag: General Theology

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

That which is referred to as Calvinism, generally, and “5-point Calvinism,” specifically, is much misunderstood and maligned even moreso by those who mean well but lack a proper understanding of what we believe. To help us with that we are, once again, blessed to have received instruction from that dear friend and eminent theologian, James Quiggle. What folllows is his instrucion…

Every now and then I am asked if I am a “5-point Calvinist,” or a “4-point Calvinist,” or “Just what kind of Calvinist are you?!?”

Those questions reflect a misapprehension about Calvinism, even among Calvinists. The misapprehension is that Calvinism is a neither more nor less than a system of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). That, of course, is not true.

Calvinism was a revival of Augustinianism (Augustine of Hippo, d. AD 430). You are affirming the Calvinistic system of doctrine if you believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, saved by grace through faith, the sovereignty of God, the three offices of the Christ (prophet, priest, king), the deity of Jesus Christ, and the deity, personality, and ministries of the Holy Spirit (conviction, salvation, teacher, administrator of the NT church, etc.). Calvin is, in fact, the person who defined for the NT church the person and work of the Holy Spirit as we understand that doctrine today.

But I digress.

Unfortunately, the entire Calvinistic system of theology has become defined by an acronym, the TULIP (explained below), developed from the Cannons of the Synod of Dort to express a Calvinistic view of soteriology. The Synod of Dort was a year-long examination of the soteriology of Jacobus Arminius. Both Arminius (1560–1609) and Calvin (1509–1564) were dead by the time of the Synod (1618–1619), so the theological conflict was debated by the followers of both systems of theology using the Bible and their respective writings. The decision of the Synod was published in a document known as the Canons of the Synod of Dort (available at many web sites). The Arminian view of soteriology was declared false, the biblical arguments of Calvinism were declared the true understanding of biblical soteriology.

But the TULIP does not accurately reflect Calvinistic soteriology as defined by the Canons of the Synod of Dort. Let us first examine the TULIP, albeit briefly. These may not be the definitions you have heard or read.

T — Total Depravity. This means every aspect of human nature—physical, moral, spiritual—is negatively affected by the sin attribute in human nature, with the result an unsaved human being is always in rebellion against God. The effect of the sin attribute on the spiritual aspect of human nature is to make the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception grossly dulled, to the extent the sinner is unable to comprehend spiritual matters, but instead rejects them, and as a result is unable to initiate saving faith.

U — Unconditional Election. This means God chose (election, Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), for reasons not stated and therefore unknown, to give some human beings his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8), in order to redeem them from their sinful state of existence. And it means God chose to take no action, positive or negative, toward human beings he had not elected. God’s choices were not based on any intrinsic or foreseen merit in those whom he chose to elect to salvation, for when the decree of election was given, God saw all human beings as sinners, all completely undeserving of redemption.

L — I will explain this below.

I — Irresistible Grace. This means the grace God gives to an individual sinner through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) will enliven the sinner’s faculty of spiritual perception, so that the sinner who has received God’s gift will comprehend the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation, with the result the sinner willingly chooses to exercise saving faith in God’s testimony as to the way/means of salvation. God’s gift of grace and faith always results in salvation.

P — Perseverance of the Saved. This means the saved person will continue in the faith by faith all the way through life and death, when (after death) he/she will receive the grace of indefectibility. Perseverance is often mischaracterized by another acronym, OSAS, Once Saved Always Saved, resulting in silly hypothetical questions from skeptics. Perseverance is not OSAS. Perseverance is both the continuance of faith and the continued practice of the faith. God gives the grace of perseverance to the believer, and the believer uses the grace of perseverance to mold his/her life of faith to continue in the faith by means of faith all the way through life and death.

Looking now to the 5-point/4-point issue. The “L” in the TULIP represents “Limited Atonement.” This is where the TULIP strays from the Canons of Dort. Limited atonement refers to Christ’s act of propitiation on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. It will be helpful to define Christ’s atonement-propitiation.

Propitiation. The satisfaction Christ made to God for sin by dying on the cross as the sin-bearer, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10, for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. Christ’s propitiation fully satisfied God’s holiness and justice for the crime of sin. Christ’s propitiation was of infinite merit, because his Person is of infinite worth. Christ accomplished the propitiation of God for sin by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“[B]owing his head, he gave up his spirit.”)

But in the TULIP acronym, Christ’s propitiation, the “L,” has different meaning: Christ’s death on the cross to redeem the elect. This is often stated in the question, “For whom, did Christ die?” The TULIP answer is, only for the elect. But that is a significant departure from the Canons of Dort on which the TULIP is based.

The divines of the Synod of Dort were of two camps on the issue of Christ’s propitiation. Some believed in limited efficacy (only the elect are redeemed) and some believed in unlimited sufficiency (all the sins of the whole word are paid for). The Synod resolved this issue, as they did with all the issues, biblically. Both sides recognized the Scripture teaches both views. The Synod therefore taught both the universal sufficiency of the propitiation (atonement) and the limited effectiveness of the propitiation to save only the elect.

The Synod stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article III, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” Thus, the gospel is offered “to all persons promiscuously [indiscriminately] and without distinction” (Article V). That many die unsaved is not due to “any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.” Thus, an Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation.

The Synod then stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article VIII, “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” Thus, a Limited Redemption, sometimes known as Particular Redemption.

The “L” in the TULIP should have been “Limited Redemption,” not “Limited Atonement. Why did those who created the TULIP (not the divines of Dort) distort the teachings of the Synod? Because of a peculiar habit of the Puritans, perpetuated by Reformed Theology.

The Puritans had a bad habit of replacing the cause with the effect. The difference between election and predestination gives an example. The Puritans, and Reformed theology, always name election as predestination. But these are different decrees of God with different effects. Definitions.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God (Ephesians 1:4), 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners (Ephesians 2:8), and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected.

Predestination. God’s decree to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Ephesians 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.

More simply, election is a decree concerning sinners, predestination is a decree concerning the saved. Election is the cause, predestination the effect. Election-salvation is the cause of the effect predestination: to be like Christ. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names election as predestination.

So too Christ’s propitiation and the sinner’s redemption. Christ’s propitiation completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of human sin. Then, God’s justice having been satisfied, the infinite merit of the propitiation is applied by God according to his decree of election via his gift of grace-faith-salvation. Propitiation is the cause, redemption the effect. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names Christ’s propitiation/atonement as redemption. Thus the confusion caused by the TULIP, and Reformed soteriology.

When the Canons of Dort are faithfully expressed, then one’s soteriology must acknowledge unlimited atonement/propitiation and limited redemption. But because Reformed theology distorts the atonement/propitiation to be redemption, they reject unlimited atonement, calling it universal salvation.

Unlimited Atonement (propitiation), is not universal salvation, because the direct purpose of the atonement was not redemption but judicial satisfaction toward God for the crime of sin.

For an atonement (propitiation) to be redemptive it must be applied by faith to the sinner’s demerit (his or her sin). That is clear from every Old Testament sacrifice for sin. On the first Passover in Egypt, the merit of the lamb’s blood was sufficient for every household, but must be applied to each household to be effective for that particular household, Exodus 12:13. The blood of the sin offering, collected at the moment the animal was killed, was sufficient to atone for sin, but must be applied, Leviticus 5:5–7, to be efficient for forgiveness. The blood on the day of atonement was sufficient for all, but must be applied to the Ark of the Covenant to be efficient to forgive sins.

The direct purpose of Christ’s atonement-propitiation was toward God. The merit of Christ’s propitiation of God for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2, is sufficient for all, so that the call of the gospel and the duty to believe may be legitimately offered to all and required of all.

The effect or result of the propitiation is the application of its merit toward sinners. That merit is specifically applied via God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation (the salvation principle, “saved by grace through faith”) as determined by God’s decree of election, in order to effect the redemption (salvation) of those whom God has chosen to salvation. Without application there is no redemption.

The unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation could be applied save any non-elect person: “whoever believes,” as the Scripture states. God takes no action, pro or con, toward the non-elect, but leaves them in their sinful state. The non-elect are unable to initiate saving faith because unable without God’s gift to overcome the rebellion and disobedience engendered by the sin attribute in human nature. If they could believe, God would act savingly toward them, but they always choose to disbelieve, because that is the nature of the sinner.

Unlimited Atonement (Propitiation), Synod of Dort, Canon 2, Article 3, does not teach universal salvation: the merit of the propitiation must be individually applied through faith. Canon 2, Article 8, Limited Redemption, does not teach Christ died only for a particular group, but that the merit of his propitiation is applied only to the elect.

Thus: Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation, Limited (Particular) Redemption.

Returning now to the original question, “What is a 5-point Calvinist?” To be a five point Calvinist one must affirm all five points of the T, U, L, I, P. A four point Calvinist is someone who does not agree with Limited Atonement/Propitiation. A 4-pointer affirms T, U, I, P.

But, and it is a BIG objection, the 5-pointer, as discussed above, rejects the statement of the Canons of Dort concerning the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, focusing only on the redemptive effect of the propitiation, not the limitless merit of the propitiation. This is, in part, due to Reformed theology’s definition of the purpose of God in the world: to redeem sinners. If God’s purpose in the world is redemption, then one must devise a theology that accounts for so many sinners not being redeemed. The Reformed theology solution is to limit the sufficiency of Christ’s propitiation to the redemption of the elect alone.

The 5-point Calvinist is a distortion of Scripture, and the 4-point Calvinist is a straw-man designed to support the untenable 5-point position. The dual perspective of Christ’s propitiation as “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is the true Calvinist soteriology. This is the perspective of the Scripture. The dual perspective accounts for the universal call to believe, Romans 10:13, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “Revelation 22:17, “Whoever desires let him take of the water of life freely.” The dual perspective accounts for the limited redemption effected by God’s choice. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the universe,” and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation,” and 1 Peter 1:2, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The “L” in the TULIP is too entrenched by centuries of false teaching to be changed. But if I could change it, that “L” would represent “Limited Redemption,” in agreement with the Canons of the Synod of Dort.

What is Dispensationalism (guest post from James Quiggle)

What is Dispensationalism (guest post from James Quiggle)

Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. Every household is run in a particular way, which we might call an “economy.”

From time to time God changes his economy—the way in which he runs his household—as human civilization develops. Those different economies are called “dispensations.” For example, we can see God ran his previous economy, the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, different than the way he runs his present economy, the dispensation of the NT church.

Dispensationalism as a theology is defined by three basic beliefs.

  1. The consistent application of the Literal hermeneutic (method of interpretation) to every Scripture and every doctrine. (In contrast, Reformed theology does not apply the Literal hermeneutic to eschatology—end times prophecy—but interprets by allegory or spiritualizing.)
  2. The NT church is not a new Israel, but a different people group in God’s plans. Dispensationalism believes God has a continuing plan for national ethic Israel and a different (but in some ways related) continuing plan for the NT church. (In contrast, Reformed theology believes the NT church has become the new Israel and God has transferred to the NT church all the promises he made to national ethic Israel, most now to be fulfilled spiritually, not literally.)
  3. The purpose of God in the world is his own glory. In contrast, Reformed theology, while it believes in God’s glory, believes God’s purpose in the world is salvation. Dispensationalism believes God gets glory not only from salvation but also from his justice on unsaved sinners, and how God leads his saved people in the world to victory over sin.

That is the basic outline.

Doctrine of Scripture

Doctrine of Scripture

THE SCRIPTURES INSPIRED

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

  • 2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 2 Peter 1:21

Matt Slick: “Verbal plenary inspiration means that every word found in the Bible is given to us by God(verbal), everything in the Bible is authoritative (plenary), and every word is also divinely directed (inspired). But, this does not mean that everything referenced in the Bible is also morally proper. For example, the Bible might record someone’s lie or a murder even though lying and murder are not approved of in Scripture. But the recording of the events is under the direction of God and is accurate.

The verbal plenary inspiration applies to the original manuscripts, also known as the autographs. It was the originals that were penned by the prophets and apostles that were given by God, authoritative, and  divinely directed. Presently we have copies of the original manuscripts but the copies are not perfect, though close to it. So, we have copies of inspired documents and for all intents and purposes the copies are inspired.

  • “The older phrase “plenary inspiration” meant that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (the word plenary means “full”), a fact that I affirm in this chapter without using the phrase.”
  • “Inspiration, plenary The “full” (plenary) inspiration of the Scriptures, in the sense that the whole Bible is inspired, not simply portions of it.
  • “inspiration, verbal theory of The view that God through the Holy Spirit directly guided the exact words recorded by the biblical writers as they wrote the Scriptures.”

Verbal plenary inspiration stands in opposition to partial inspiration which limits the inspired quality of the Bible in various ways whether it be restricting inspiration to doctrinal matters, or one author was inspired where another was not, or there are mistakes in historical events and geographical locations but the main thoughts are correct.”

 

THE SCRIPTURES INERRANT

If all Scripture is breathed out by God (theopneustos) then as a logical consequence, it must also be inerrant. Since God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), He would cease to be God if He breathed out errors and contradictions, even in the smallest part. So long as we give theopneustos its real meaning, we shall not find it hard to understand the full inerrancy of the Bible.

3 Things Inerrancy does not mean (from Answers in Genesis)

  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean everything in the Bible is true. We have the record of men lying (e.g., Joshua 9) and even the words of the devil himself. But we can be sure these are accurate records of what took place.
  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean apparent contradictions are not in the text, but these can be resolved. At times different words may be used in recounting what appears to be the same incident. For example, Matthew 3:11refers to John the Baptist carrying the sandals of the Messiah, whereas John 1:27 refers to him untying John preached over a period of time, and he would repeat himself; like any preacher he would use different ways of expressing the same thing.
  • Inerrancy doesn’t mean every extant copy is inerrant. It is important to understand that the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original manuscripts.

 

 

SOLA SCRIPTURA

The Bible and only the Bible is our all sufficient rule of faith and practice. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture.

 

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” —Westminster Confession of Faith

 

 

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for allowing their traditions to have equal weight to the TaNaKh

 

Mark 7:6-9 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans. “You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.” He added, “You have no trouble rejecting the commandments of God in order to keep your own traditions!

 

Paul commends the Bereans for testing all teachings against the Scriptures

 

Acts 17:10-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

 

Paul directs the church in Corinth not to go beyond what is written

 

1 Corinthians 4:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

 

 

TOTA SCRIPTURA

 

Tota Scriptura emphasizes that the Bible is to be taken as a whole. The complete canonis God’s Word, and we cannot pick and choose what parts of it to accept and what parts to reject. In Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian believers, he said, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27, ESV). Note that Paul had discharged his duty before God by preaching the “whole counsel of God”; in other words, Paul preached tota Scriptura.

 

Some false teachers suggest that only the “red-letter words” (those spoken directly by Jesus Himself) are truly inspired. Others reject Paul’s epistles or throw out the book of Revelation or ignore the Old Testament. Still others divide the passages that deal with matters of faith from those that deal with matters of history or science—the Bible is accurate, they say, when it speaks of faith, but in matters of history or science it cannot be trusted. The problem with all of these views, besides the fact that they contradict the principle of tota Scriptura, is they set up man as the judge of God’s Word. Who exactly gets to decide what parts of the Bible are right or wrong? If we move away from tota Scriptura, we can all take scissors to the Bible and come up with our own text, relying on our own wisdom (or feelings or intuition or whatever).

 

Circling back to Inerrancy for a moment…

 

Inerrancy Governs Our Confidence in the Truth of the Gospel

If the Scripture is unreliable, can we offer the world a reliable gospel? How can we be sure of truth on any issue if we are suspicious of errors anywhere in the Bible? A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault, because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure the doctrine or moral teaching is correct?

The heart of the Christian message is history. The Incarnation (God becoming a man) was demonstrated by the Virgin Birth of Christ. Redemption (the price paid for our rebellion) was obtained by the death of Christ on the Cross. Reconciliation (the privilege of the sinner becoming a friend of God) was gained through the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?

Inerrancy Governs Our Faith in the Value of Christ

We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture. If, as many suggest, the stories in the Gospels are not historically true and the recorded words of Christ are only occasionally His, how do we know what we can trust about Christ? Must we rely upon the conflicting interpretations of a host of critical scholars before we know what Christ was like or what He taught? If the Gospel stories are merely the result of the wishful thinking of the church in the second or third centuries, or even the personal views of the Gospel writers, then our faith no longer rests upon Jesus but upon the opinions of men. Who would trust an unreliable Savior for their eternal salvation?

Inerrancy Governs Our Response to the Conclusions of Science

If we believe the Bible contains errors, then we will be quick to accept scientific theories that appear to prove the Bible wrong. In other words, we will allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God. When we doubt the Bible’s inerrancy, we have to invent new principles for interpreting Scripture that for convenience turn history into poetry and facts into myths. This means people must ask how reliable a given passage is when they turn to it. Only then will they be able to decide what to make of it. On the other hand, if we believe in inerrancy, we will test by Scripture the hasty theories that often come to us in the name of science.

Inerrancy Governs Our Attitude to the Preaching of Scripture

A denial of biblical inerrancy always leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture both in the pulpit and in the pew. It was not the growth of education and science that emptied churches, nor was it the result of two world wars. Instead, it was the cold deadness of theological liberalism. If the Bible’s history is doubtful and its words are open to dispute, then people understandably lose confidence in it. People want authority. They want to know what God has said.

Inerrancy Governs Our Belief in the Trustworthy Character of God

Almost all theologians agree Scripture is in some measure God’s revelation to the human race. But to allow that it contains error implies God has mishandled inspiration and has allowed His people to be deceived for centuries until modern scholars disentangled the confusion. In short, the Maker muddled the instructions.

 

Divine Worship as Judgment Begins

Divine Worship as Judgment Begins

Text: Revelation 4

Several visions of the heavenly throne-room occur in Revelation, usually preceding punitive actions on earth implying divine sovereignty over all earthly events, for events in heaven determine events in the world (7.9–17; 8.1–5; 11.15–19; 14.2–3; 15.2–8; 19.1–10; 21.3–8; see also 1 Kings 22.19–23; Job 1.6–12; 2.1–6).

 

Overview

This chapter is all about praise to God, the Creator of all. In the first vision, John sees the one God enthroned over the whole universe, praised as the Creator of all. This scene provides the setting for the remainder of the book. Faith in one God is at the core of both the Jewish and the Christian faiths (Deut 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-34; Rom 3:30; Gal 3:20; Jas 2:19).

In chapters 4 and 5 we get a glimpse into the Divine Throne Room as YHWH prepares to judge a Christ rejecting world.

Revelation 4

4:1 Come up here. This is not a veiled reference to the rapture of the church, but a command for John to be temporarily transported to heaven “in the Spirit” to receive revelation about future events. The Rapture has occurred somewhere between chapters 3 and 4. We note that it is not mentioned again until chapter 19 and God is specifically calling John into the Throne Room of Heaven to see:

what must take place after these things. According to the outline given in Chapter one and verse 19, this begins the third and final section of the book, describing the events that will follow the church age. We need to be absolutely clear here, the events which are described in chapter four and following do not concern the Church. This is the time of Jacobs Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) and is for the purification of national Israel.

4:2 throne. This is not necessarily a piece of furniture; it is, however a symbol of sovereign rule and Divine authority (7:15; 11:19; 16:17, 18; Isa 6:1). The Throne is the focus of chapter 4, occurring 13 times, 11 times referring to God’s throne.

4:3 It is unlikely that this is a description of God Himself. More likely what John is describing are the colors he sees as the Lord’s Crown reflects His radiant majesty. jasper. John later describes this stone as “crystal-clear” (21:11). He is probably referring to a diamond, which refracts all the colors of the spectrum in wondrous brilliance. A jasper/diamond would amplify the brilliance of Divine Majesty

sardius. A fiery bright ruby stone named for the city near which it was found (The sardius stone was commonly found near the city of Sardis).

emerald. A cool, emerald-green hue dominates the multi-colored rainbow surrounding God’s throne (cf. Ezekiel 1:28). From the time of Noah, the rainbow became a sign of God’s faithfulness to His Word, His promises, and His Noahic covenant (Genesis 9:12-17).

4:4 twenty-four elders. Their joint rule with Christ, their white garments, and their golden crowns all seem to indicate that these 24 represent the redeemed (verses 9-11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11:16-18; 14:3; 19:4). The question is which redeemed? These Elders cannot be Israel, since the nation is not yet saved, glorified, and coronated. That is still to come at this point in the events of the end. Their resurrection and glory will come at the end of the 7-year tribulation time (Daniel 12:1-3). Tribulation saints aren’t yet saved (7:9, 10). Only one group will be complete and glorified at that point—the church. Here elders represent the church, which sings the song of redemption (5:8-10). They are the overcomers who have their crowns and live in the place prepared for them, where they have gone with Jesus (John 14:1-4). We need, also, to remember that the term elder is used to describe the Sanhedrin, which these are not, and it is also the title of the leaders of the Church. Since the Elder (presbuteros) stands before God to represent the flock, it is logical that the elders mentioned here are analogous to the Church.

4:5 lightning… thunder. Not the fury of nature, but the firestorm of righteous fury about to come from an awesome, powerful God upon a sinful world (8:5; 11:19; 16:18). Much like a storm that blows up on a lake, this is sudden and severe. It will seem like a surprise to the unredeemed world but to God it will not be a surprise but will come at exactly the time He plans for it.

seven Spirits of God. The Holy Spirit in His full perfection.

4:6 sea of glass. There is no sea in heaven (21:1), but the crystal pavement that serves as the floor of God’s throne stretches out like a great, glistening sea (Exodus 24:10; Ezekiel 1:22).

four living creatures. Lit. “four living ones or beings.” These are the most likely cherubim (sing., cherub), those angels frequently referred to in the OT in connection with God’s presence, power, and holiness (Ezekiel 1). Although John’s description is not identical to Ezekiel’s, they are obviously both referring to the same supernatural and indescribable beings (Psalm 80:1; 99:1; Ezekiel 1:4-25

full of eyes. The description of them as being full of eyes is reminiscent of the seraphim in Isaiah chapter 6. However, while these 4 Living Creatures could be seraphim it is more likely they are cherubim. The eyes are metaphoric in nature; although they are not omniscient—an attribute reserved for God alone—these angels have a comprehensive knowledge and perception. Nothing escapes their scrutiny, hence a description of being full of eyes.

4:7 first… like a lion. In what is obviously intended as symbolic language, John compares these 4 beings with 4 of God’s earthly creations. Ezekiel indicates that every cherub has these 4 attributes. The likeness to a lion symbolizes strength and power.

second… like a calf. The image of a calf demonstrates that these beings render humble service to God.

third… face like that of a man. Their likeness to man shows they are rational beings.

fourth… like a flying eagle. The cherubim fulfill their service to God with the swiftness of eagles’ wings.

4:8 full of eyes. See v. 6

Holy, holy, holy. Often God is extolled for His holiness in this 3-fold form, because it is the summation of all that He is—His most salient attribute (Isa 6:3). Here, again, is why I bring up the possibility that the 4 Living Creatures are seraphim. As in Isaiah, these angels call out holy, holy, holy in what is most likely an antiphonal chorus.

who was and who is and who is to come 

This is the eternal nature of who God is. He always has been (Psalm 90:2), He is I AM (Exodus 3:14), and He always will be (eis tus aionos tau aiono) (Revelation 22)

4:10 cast their crowns. Aware that God alone is responsible for the rewards they have received, they divest themselves of all honor and cast it at the feet of their King.

4:11 You created all things. It is the Creator God who set out to redeem His creation.

Heaven’s response to the person of God and to everything He does is praise. The Church joins in that worship. We join in because He is not just our King, He is our Redeemer and for that, we praise Him

Freed By Grace

Freed By Grace

Lately I have noticed that a number of my Calvinist friends are anathematizing Arminians for teaching something that they do not actually teach. Before I continue, I want to make clear that I am Calvinist, all five points but I am also a former adherent to Arminianism and I am currently a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Why would I, a self admitted Calvinist, be there? Discussion; it is hard to understand someone’s point of view if you will not talk to them and so I pursue friendships with Arminians of both stripes, Evangelical and Wesleyan. I digress…

Many of my brethren go off on tangents regarding things they think Arminians teach that are not actually to be found in Arminian doctrine. In this case, they claim that Arminians teach that man has a free will to choose Christ. This is not quite correct. As a point of reference, when I refer to Arminian Soteriology, I will be referencing the document, the FACTS of Salvation (http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/) , by the excellent theologian Brian Abasciano. Permit me a rather large quote from Brian,

“We speak of the will of man being freed by grace to emphasize that people do not have a naturally free will when it comes to believing in Jesus, but that God must graciously take action to free our wills if we are going to be able to believe in his Son whom he sent for the salvation of all. When our wills are freed, we can either accept God’s saving grace in faith or reject it to our own ruin. In other words, God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. We become free to believe in Jesus and free to reject him. The resistibility of God’s saving grace is clearly shown in Scripture, as some of the passages already mentioned testify. Indeed, the Bible is sadly filled with examples of people spurning the grace of God offered to them. In Isaiah 5:1-7, God actually indicates that he could not have done anything more to get Israel to produce good fruit. But if irresistible grace is something that God dispenses, then he could have easily provided that and infallibly brought Israel to bear good fruit. Many passages in the Old Testament talk about how God extended his grace to Israel over and over again but they repeatedly resisted and rejected him (e.g., 2 Kgs 17:7-23; Jer 25:3-11; 26:1-9; 35:1-19). 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 mentions that God’s persistent reaching out to his people, which was rejected, was motivated by compassion for them. But this could only be if the grace he extended them enabled them to repent and avoid his judgment yet was resistible since they did indeed resist it and suffered God’s judgment. Nehemiah 9 presents a striking example of Old Testament testimony to God continually reaching out to Israel with his grace that was met with resistance and rejection. We do not have space to review the entire passage (but the reader is encouraged to do so), but will quote some key elements and draw attention to some important points. Nehemiah 9:20a says, “You [God] gave your good Spirit to instruct them [Israel]” and is followed by an extensive catalogue of gracious divine actions toward Israel in vv. 9:20b-25. Then 9:26-31 says,

26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. 29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The text affirms that God gave his Spirit to instruct Israel (9:20a) and that God sent his prophets and warned Israel for the purpose of turning them back to him. God purposed his actions to turn Israel back to him/his Law, yet they rebelled. This shows God allowing his purpose to not come to pass because of allowing human beings a choice of whether to yield to his grace or not. Intriguingly, the word translated “bore” in Neh 9:30 uses a Hebrew word that usually means something like “draw, drag, pull” and gets translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by the early church with the same word used in John 6:44a (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”). A better translation of Neh 9:30 would be, “Many years you drew them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear.” The text speaks of a resistible divine drawing that seeks to bring people to the Lord in repentance. Stephen also furnished a good example of the resistibility of grace when he said to his fellow Jews, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). Luke 7:30 tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” And Jesus, who spoke to people for the purpose of saving them (John 5:34), yet found that they refused to come to him to have life (John 5:40), and who came to turn every Jew from their sin (Acts 3:26; see the treatment of this text under “Atonement for All” above), yet clearly found that not every Jew believed in him, lamented over his people’s unwillingness to receive his grace, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34; see further Ezek 24:13; Matt 23:37; Rom 2:4-5; Zech 7:11-14; Heb 10:29; 12:15; Jude 4; 2 Cor 6:1-2; Ps 78:40-42).

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.”

The concept of “freed will” raises a broader question of whether human beings have free will generally, apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good (again, people are not free in this area unless God empowers them). The Arminian answer is yes. People have free will in all sorts of things. By this we mean that when people are free with respect to an action, then they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices. When free, the specific choice someone makes has not been efficiently predetermined or necessitated by anyone or anything other than the person himself. In fact, if the person’s action has been rendered necessary by someone else, and the person cannot avoid doing the action, then he has no choice in the matter and he is not free in it. And if he does not have a choice, then neither can it properly be said that he chooses. But Scripture very clearly indicates that people have choices and make choices about many things (e.g., Deut 23:16; 30:19; Josh 24:15; 2 Sam 24:12; 1 Kings 18:23, 25; 1 Chron 21:10; Acts 15:22, 25; Phil 1:22). Moreover, it explicitly speaks of human free will (Exod 35:29; 36:3; Lev 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Num 15:3; 29:39; Deut 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chron 31:14; 35:8; Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28; Ps 119:108; Ezek 46:12; Amos 4:5; 2 Cor 8:3; Philemon 1:14; cf. 1 Cor 7:37) and attests to human beings violating God’s will, showing that he does not predetermine their will or actions in sin. Furthermore, the fact that God holds people accountable for their choices and actions implies that those choices and actions were free. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Arminians do not believe in unlimited free will. There are many things in which we are not free. We cannot choose to fly by flapping our arms for example. Nor do we deny that our free actions are influenced by all sorts of causes. But when we are free, those causes are resistible and we have a genuine choice in what we do and are not caused necessarily to act in a certain way by God or anyone or anything other than ourselves.

Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name!”

In candor, I do not find in needful to elaborate on what our learned commentator has written. Instead, I would like to summarize/paraphrase:

  • Both the Calvinist and the Arminian believe that man is under Total Depravity (T in TULIP and T in FACTS)
  • Both would believe that it is in act of God’s grace that allows man to come to Christ.
  • Our Arminian brethren believe that the Holy Spirit has freed the individual’s will to respond to the Gospel Call
  • We disagree on whether or not grace is resistible but we do not disagree that it is God who elects and the Holy Spirit who administers the act of grace.
  • Calvinists and Arminians agree that nothing can happen unless God either does it or allows it.
  • We agree that God is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience.
  • Like Calvinists, all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people

There are points of Arminian doctrine that I vehemently disagree with, perhaps even to the point of calling them heterodox but I am loath to call them heretical. The charge of heresy is the most serious charge that can be leveled because true heresy damns the soul eternally and I do not find that the Arminian position on salvation meets the level of damnable heresy, I just disagree with it.

 

At the end of the day, there will be Arminians in Heaven and I hope to get close enough to the Throne of Grace to meet Tozer and some of his brethren. If we forget that Arminians also have a place in Heaven, we insult the very One who died to redeem them unto Himself.

 

Until next time, grace to you.

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

A Brief Intro to Prevenient Grace

In response to some things I have seen on social media lately, I want to address Prevenient Grace. We will deal with three primary questions: What is Prevenient Grace? Is Prevenient Grace a biblical idea? Is Prevenient Grace distinctly an Arminian doctrine?

Let’s begin with a definition of Prevenient Grace. We will quote the definition found at Theopedia.

“Prevenient grace refers to the grace of God in a person’s life that precedes conversion (or salvation). The word “prevenient,” considered an archaic term today, was common in the King James English and simply means to “go before” or “precede.” Likewise, it is sometimes called “preventing” grace (from prevenient) with the same meaning.

  • In Reformed Theology, it is the particular grace which precedes human decision — a salvific grace prior to, and without reference to, anything we have done.
  • In Arminianism and Wesleyanism, it is a grace that offsets the noetic effects of the Fall, restores man’s free will, and thus enables every person to choose to come to Christ or not. There are two forms of this view:
    • Universal prevenient grace — This grace is extended to every person.
    • Individualistic prevenient grace — This grace is only extended to those who come under the intelligent hearing of the gospel, and not to every person.

We can see, already, that Prevenient Grace is a doctrinal position of both Calvinists (Reformed Theology) and our Arminian brethren. Permit me to expand for a moment on the Calvinist side of things: Prevenient Grace is, literally, grace that is preceding, but preceding what? This is actually the grace that we refer to as being irresistible. God, in an act of preceding grace, elects, calls, and regenerates those whom He has chosen.”

 

In Arminian Soteriology, Prevenient Grace is referred to in the F of the F.A.C.T.S of salvation. The Arminian Theologian would say that we are freed by the Grace of God to respond with an act of our own volition and “choose” to respond to the Gospel call.

 

The sad irony is that most of my teaching brethren do not know their theology well enough to realize that the two perspectives are so closely related that they are most likely two halves of the same sandwich…

 

In both Calvinism and Arminianism, saving grace is 100% a choice and act of God. In both cases Prevenient Grace precedes regeneration and justification. The major question, and point of disagreement, is the effect of Prevenient Grace on the will i.e. does Prevenient Grace restore man’s free will and thus allow said grace to be resisted or is Prevenient Grace irresistible as the Calvinist teaches.

 

As a Calvinist, I do not believe grace can be resisted. Since it is antecedent to salvation and a corollary of election, Prevenient Grace cannot be resisted.

 

Prevenient Grace is entirely Biblical and it is not a distinctly Arminian doctrine. For further study, I would refer you to the Foundations of Doctrine Series.

The Unfolding Revelation of Jesus

The Unfolding Revelation of Jesus

The whole of the Bible is the story of Jesus: Our Savior, Healer, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and soon coming King. The following is how each book presents Jesus and the verse associated with each presentation.

Genesis

  • Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15)
  • Shiloh (Genesis 49:10)

Exodus

  • Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:3)

Leviticus

  • Anointed High Priest (Leviticus 8:7-12)

Numbers

  • The lifted up healer {Bronze serpent} (Numbers 21:8-9; )
  • Star of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)
  • Scepter of Israel (Numbers 24:17)

Deuteronomy

  • Future Prophet Like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15)
  • The great Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Joshua

  • Captain of the Lord’s army/Lord of the Hosts (Joshua 5:14)

Judges

  • Angel of the LORD (Judges 2:1)

Ruth

  • Kinsman redeemer

1 Samuel

  • The great judge (1 Samuel 2:10)

2 Samuel

  • Son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

1 Kings

  • Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 8:15, 25)

2 Kings

  • Lord of the cherubim (2 Kings 19:15)

1 Chronicles

  • God of our salvation (1 Chronicles 16:35)

2 Chronicles

  • God of our ancestors (2 Chronicles 20:6)

Ezra

  • Lord of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:2)

Nehemiah

  • Covenant-keeping God (Nehemiah 1:5)

Esther

  • God of providence

Job

  • Risen and returning Redeemer (Job 19:25)

Psalms

  • Anointed Son (Psalm 2:2, 12)
  • Holy One (Psalm 16:10)
  • Good Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
  • King of glory (Psalm 24:7-10)

Proverbs

  • Wisdom of God/Embodiment of wisdom (Proverbs 8)
  • Architect at Creation (Proverbs 8:30)

Ecclesiastes

  • The one above the sun

Song of Songs

  • Fairest among 10,000 (Song 5:10)
  • Altogether lovely (Song 5:16)
  • Our Beloved (Song 6:3)
  • Him who our soul loves (Song 3:4)

Isaiah

  • Virgin-born Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
  • Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Servant (Isaiah 52:13)
  • Man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3)

Jeremiah

  • The Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16)

Lamentations

  • Faithful and compassionate (Lamentations 3:22-23, 31-33)

Ezekiel

  • The tender shoot (Ezekiel 17:22)
  • The one who has the right to judge (Ezekiel 21:27)

Daniel

  • The rock (Daniel 2:34)
  • One like a divine being (or like “the Son of God”) (Daniel 3:25)
  • One like the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13)

Hosea

  • King of the resurrection (Hosea 13:10-14)

Joel

  • God of the battle (Joel 2:11; Joel 3:2, 9-17)
  • Giver of the Spirit (Joel 2:28-32)

Amos

  • Lord God Almighty (Amos 4:13)
  • Plumb line (Amos 7:7-9)

Obadiah

  • Destroyer of the proud (Obadiah 1:8, 15)

Jonah

  • Risen prophet (Jonah 2:10)
  • God of the second chance (Jonah 3:1-2)
  • Long-suffering one (Jonah 4:9-11)

Micah

  • God of Israel (Micah 4:1-5)
  • Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • God who pardons (Micah 7:18-20)

Nahum

  • Avenging God (Nahum 1:2)
  • Bringer of good tidings (Nahum 1:15)

Habakkuk

  • Eternal (Habakkuk 1:12)
  • Pure (Habakkuk 1:13)
  • Glorious (Habakkuk 2:14)

Zephaniah

  • King of Israel (Zephaniah 3:15)

Haggai

  • Desire of all nations (Haggai 2:7)

Zechariah

  • My Servant (Zechariah 3:8)
  • The Branch (Zechariah 3:8)
  • Builder of the Temple (Zechariah 6:12-13)
  • King of triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9)
  • Pierced one (Zechariah 12:10)
  • King of the earth (Zechariah 14:9)

Malachi

  • Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2)

New Testament

Matthew

  • King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2; Matthew 27:37)

Mark

  • Servant (Mark 9:35; Mark 10:43-44)

Luke

  • Perfect man, Son of Man (Luke 2:40, 52; Luke 9:22, 58; Luke 22:48)

John

  • Ever Living God (John 1:1-5; John 20:28, 31)

Acts

  • Ascended Lord (Acts 1:9)

Romans

  • The Lord, our righteousness (Romans 10:4)

1 Corinthians

  • Our resurrection (1 Cor. 15)

2 Corinthians

  • God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)

Galatians

  • Redeemer of those under the law (Galatians 4:4-5)

Ephesians

  • Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 2:19-20)
  • Giver of gifts (Ephesians 4:7-16)

Philippians

  • Supplier of every need (Philippians 1:19; Philippians 4:19)
  • Obedient servant (Philippians 2:5-8)

Colossians

  • Fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 1:9; Colossians. 2:9-10)

1 Thessalonians

  • The coming Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)

2 Thessalonians

  • The all-consuming Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

1 Timothy

  • Savior of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:16)

2 Timothy

  • Author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Righteous and rewarding judge (2 Timothy 4:8)

Titus

  • Our great God and Savior (Titus 1:3; Titus 2:10, 13; Titus 3:4)

Philemon

  • Payer of our debt

Hebrews

  • Appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2, 4)
  • Greater than prophets or angels (Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 3:3)

James

  • Ever-present God (James 4:8)
  • Coming One (James 5:7-8)
  • Great Physician (James 5:15)

1 Peter

  • Spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:19)
  • Great example (1 Peter 2:21-24)
  • Lord of glory (1 Peter 3:22)
  • Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4)

2 Peter

  • Beloved Son (2 Peter 1:17)

1 John

  • Word of life (1 John 1:1)
  • Advocate (1 John 2:1-2)
  • Sacrifice (1 John 4:10)
  • Son of God (1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:5)

2 John

  • Son of the Father (2 John 1:3)

3 John

  • The truth (3 John 1:4, 8)

Jude

  • Preserver and only wise God (Jude 1:1, 25)

Revelation

  • Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8)
  • Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5)
  • Root of David (Rev. 5:5)
  • King of Kings (Rev. 19:16)
  • Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)
Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

The final dispensation is that of the Kindgom. We will begin with some material from gotquestions.org and then move into our lesson on the 4 views of the Millenium…

“In classic dispensationalism, there are seven dispensations. It is important to remember that dispensationalism is a theology inferred from Scripture rather than an explicitly taught doctrine of God’s Word. The value of dispensationalism lies in its systematic view of history’s different eras and the various ways in which the Ancient of Days interacts with His creation.

The seventh and final dispensation brings about the culmination of life on Earth and the closest thing yet to how God really wanted to live with us on this planet. As its name suggests, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ will last for 1,000 years.

The Millennial Kingdom is the seventh dispensation (Revelation 20:1-10).

Stewards: The resurrected Old Testament saints, the glorified Church, and survivors of the Tribulation and their descendants

The Period: From the Second Coming of Jesus Christ until the final rebellion, a period of one thousand years

Responsibility: To be obedient, remain undefiled, and worship the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 11:3-5; Zechariah 14:9)

Failure: After Satan is loosed from the Abyss, sinful man rebels one more time (Revelation 20:7-9)

Judgment: Fire from God; the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:9-15)

Grace: Jesus Christ restores creation and rules righteously in Israel, with all saints assisting (Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20)

The Millennial Kingdom will be a time characterized by peace (Isaiah 11:6-7; Micah 4:3), justice (Isaiah 11:3-4), unity (Isaiah 11:10), abundance (Isaiah 35:1-2), healing (Isaiah 35:5-6), righteousness (Isaiah 35:8), joy (Isaiah 55:12), and the physical presence of Christ (Isaiah 16:5). Satan will be bound in the Abyss during this period (Revelation 20:1-3). Messiah Jesus will be the benevolent dictator ruling over the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11). The resurrected saints of all times will participate in the management of the government (Revelation 20:4-6).

The Millennial Kingdom is measurable and comes after the Kingdom of God (embodied in Jesus Christ) came to man during the dispensation of Grace. On Jesus’ first visit to the earth, He brought grace; at His Second Coming He will execute justice and usher in the Millennium. Jesus mentioned His glorious return at His trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62), and He was referring to the Millennial Kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

The rebellion at the end of the Millennial Kingdom seems almost incredible. Mankind will have been living in a perfect environment with every need cared for, overseen by a truly just government (Isaiah 11:1-5), yet they still try to do better. Man simply cannot maintain the perfection that God requires. Mankind follows Satan any chance he gets.

At the end of the Millennium, the final rebellion is crushed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unrighteous of all of the dispensations will be judged according to their works and also cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

After the final judgment, God and His people live forever in the New Jerusalem on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21). God’s plan of redemption will have been completely realized, and the redeemed will know God and enjoy Him forever.”

The “Millenial Kingdom” is the thousand-year period in Revelation 20:1-6. From days of old, orthodox Christian interpreters have been divided over the nature and timing of the millennium relative to Jesus’ second coming. There are 3 dominant views: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. In premillennialism, Jesus returns before his thousand-year reign on earth. In postmillennialism, Jesus returns after an earthly golden age. In amillennialism, the millennium is a symbolic time frame between Jesus’ ascension and his return, when deceased believers reign with Christ in heaven. We will treat those a little more below.

Postmillennialism

Definition:

The postmillennialist believes that the millennium is an and not necessarily a literal thousand years during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from a literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives (emphasis mine). After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: covenant-historical.
  • Israel and the church: the church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual entity experienced on earth through the Christianizing affect of the Gospel.
  • The Millennium: a Golden Age previous to Christ’s second advent during which Christ will virtually rule over the whole earth through an unprecedented spread of the Gospel; the large majority of people will be Christian.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting First Century events in the light of prophecy; preterism often goes hand-in-hand with postmillennialism.
  • Of the several versions of postmillennial eschatology, the reconstructionist’s seems to be gaining the most popularity in the world today.
  • Major proponents: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., David Chilton, and Gary North.

 Synopsis:

There are several different versions of postmillennialism, but one of the views gaining the most popularity, is that of the theonomists. Generally speaking, the postmillennial theonomist viewpoint holds to a partial-preterist interpretation of Revelation and the various judgment prophecies in the Gospels, believing that the majority of those prophecies were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The postmillennialist sees the millennial kingdom as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would become “a great nation” and that “all peoples on earth would be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:2-3). This holy reign will come about via gradual conversion (rather than premillennialism’s cataclysmic Christological advent) through the spread of the Gospel — this incremental progress is drawn from many pictures found throughout Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:22 and Ezekiel 47:1-12).

Postmillennial optimism is also nurtured through many of prophetic psalmody. The Psalms often speak of all nations fearing Him, salvation being known among all nations, the ends of the earth fearing Him, et cetera (e.g., Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 22:27; Psalm 67:2, Psalm 67:7; Psalm 102:15; Psalm 110:1). Another passage that well feeds this earthly optimism is Isaiah 2:2-3 in which the nations will stream to the righteousness of God.

In light of current world events, I must reject the idea that the preaching of the Gospel is ushering in any kind of “Golden Age” for the church. Instead, it is my considered opinion that we are living in a time of unmatched wickedness. The advent of social media has enabled all manner of wickedness to spread like an insipid virus throughout the souls of mankind.

Some would ask, “Can’t social media be used to usher in the Kingdom?” Of course it could but it is not. Many of the largest and most influential “ministries” belong to false teachers and I find that to be indicative of the problem.

I do not, presently, see any indication that the world is becoming more Christlike, holy, peaceful, or prosperous.

Amillennialism

Definition:

The amillennialist believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection (sometimes called “inaugurated millennialism”) at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is even now reigning at the right hand of the Father over His church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. The term “amillennialism” is actually a misnomer for it implies that Revelation 20:1-6 is ignored; in fact, the amillennialist’s hermeneutic interprets it (and in fact, much of apocalyptic literature) non-literally.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: redemptive-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual reality that all Christians partake in and that is seen presently by faith, but will be grasped by sight at the consummation.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds and immediately proceed to judge the nations with Christ and then follow Him into their eternal state.
  • The Millennium: inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection. In an “already/not yet” sense, Christ already reigns over all and is already victorious over Satan.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting prophecy in light of Christ’s advent, death, resurrection, and glorification.
  • Relies heavily on a two-age theology.
  • Major proponents: Meredith Kline, Richard Gaffin, Robert B. Strimple, Gregory K. Beale, and John Murray.

 

Synopsis:

Eschatology is the study of the eschaton; the eschaton is equated with “last things.” While other views focus on the final days of humankind on earth, amillennialism sees “the last things” as having been initiated at Christ’s resurrection and so, being applicable from the earliest days of the Christian church (cf. Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; and 1 Peter 1:20). The amillennialist perspective sees the whole of God’s redemptive revelation as twofold – promise and fulfillment; it also emphasizes that a strict-literal interpretation of Old Testament is not necessarily the most accurate way of determining what the text means.

The amillennial perspective emphasizes that the coming of the Kingdom ofGod is a two-part event. The first portion dawned at Christ’s first advent (John the Baptist proclaimed at this time, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” — Matthew 3:2). At the cross, Christ won final victory over death and Satan. And then He ascended to reign upon the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-31). Now because we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18) — because of this, the amillennialist sees the final things already accomplished, though not yet seen by sight, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

An important note is the amilleniallist’s view of the church in this world: a role of suffering. The Christian will be hated by all, just as was Christ (Matthew 10:22), for a servant is not greater than his master. Seeing this as the church’s role on earth — to suffer as did Christ — the amillenialist can hold no hope for an earthly exaltation and longs for the fulfillment of the second stage of the coming of the Kingdom.

This second stage of the amillennial perspective is the final consummation of all the heavenly promises. The Christian will no longer see by faith alone, but by sight. All the shadowy things will pass away and our eternal reign with Christ will begin. The amillennialist, expecting no earthly glory for the church, places all his hope on this heavenly glory.

Of course Christ is victorious over Satan. That being said, If Satan is bound, I think that he probably did not get that memo. 2 Thessalonians 2:6 mentions a “restrainer” that many have identified as the spirit filled church. The context of the text does not really allow for that but, at the same time, it is evident that there is a direct Agent restraining the evil that is in the world. Said Agent, is the Holy Spirit. How do I come to this?

By mere elimination, the Holy Spirit must be the restrainer.  All other possibilities fall far short of meeting the requirements of one who is to hold in check the forces of evil until the manifestation of Antichrist.  Some of the alternate suggestions are out of harmony with the basic text itself.

The Wicked One is a personality, and his operations include the realm of the spiritual.  The restrainer must likewise be a personality and of a spiritual order, to resist the wiles of the Devil and to hold Antichrist in check until the time of his revealing. Mere agencies or impersonal spiritual forces would be inadequate.  Moreover, the masculine gender of II Thessalonians 2:7 requires the restrainer to be a person.

To believe all that is to be accomplished, the restrainer must be a member of the Godhead.  Of necessity He must be stronger than the Man of Sin, and stronger than Satan.  In order to restrain evil down through the course of the age, the restrainer must be eternal, for Satan and his workers of iniquity have made their influence felt throughout the entire history of the Church.  Likewise, the sphere of sin is the whole world, making it imperative that the restrainer be one who is not limited by time or space.  Such an one is the Holy Spirit of God, for He is omnipotent, eternal, and omnipresent throughout the universe, and therefore preeminently qualified to hold in check all of the Satanic forces of darkness.

I will not go so far as to say that He is using the true church to restrain evil though it is possible; His methodology is somewhat of a mystery as it is not directly revealed in Scripture.

What is certain, though, is that while Satan is not currently bound, he certainly is severely restrained by whatever method it is that the Holy Spirit is using.

Historical Premillennialism

Definition:

Historical premillennialists place the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and Gog and Magog will rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment. While similar in some respects to the dispensational variety (in that they hold to Christ’s return being previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture).

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: grammatico-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: present through the Spirit since Pentecost – to be experienced by sight during the millennium after Christ’s return.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds immediately preceding the millennial reign.
  • The Millennium: Christ will return to institute a thousand-year reign on earth. The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Major proponents: George Eldon Ladd, Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, and Theodore Zahn.

 

Synopsis:

The historical premillennialist’s view interprets some prophecy in Scripture as having literal fulfillment while others demand a semi-symbolic fulfillment. As a case in point, the seal judgments (Revelation 6) are viewed as having fulfillment in the forces in history (rather than in future powers) by which God works out his redemptive and judicial purposes leading up to the end.

Rather than the belief of an imminent return of Christ, it is held that a number of historical events (e.g., the rise of the Beast and the False Prophet) must take place before Christ’s Second Coming. This Second Coming will be accompanied by the resurrection and rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18); this will inaugurate the millennial reign of Christ. The Jewish nation, while being perfectly able to join the church in the belief of a true faith in Christ, has no distinct redemptive plan as they would in the dispensational perspective. The duration of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6) is unsure: literal or metaphorical.

Dispensational Premillenialism

Definition:

Dispensational premillennialists hold that Christ will come before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church (living and dead) into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ’s earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillenialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism.

 

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: strict literal.
  • Israel and the church: views church and Israel as two distinct identities with two individual redemptive plans.
  • The rapture of the Church: The church is raptured before a seven-year tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel – Daniel 9:24-27). This tribulational period contains the reign of the AntiChrist.
  • Millennium: Christ will return at the end of the great tribulation to institute a thousand-year rule from a holy city (the New Jerusalem). Those who come to believe in Christ during the seventieth week of Daniel (including the 144,000 Jews) and survive will go on to populate the earth during this time. Those who were raptured or raised previous to the tribulational period will reign with Christ over the millennial population.

 

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting present-day events in the light of end-times prophecy.
  • The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • From the millennium-ending “white throne” judgment (by which Satan and all unbelievers will be thrown into the lake of fire) Christ and all saints will proceed into eternal glory.
  • Major proponents: John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Louis Sperry Chafer, J. Dwight Pentecost, Norman Geisler, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, and Chuck Missler.

Synopsis:

A strictly literal hermaneutic is foundational to the dispensational premillenialist viewpoint. Interpreting Scripture in this manner will in fact demand such perspectives unique to dispensationalism as:

  • an earthly kingdom of God from which Christ will reign
  • a future redemptive plan for national Israel
  • a seven year period of great tribulation
  • the rejection of prophetic idiom

 

Dispensational premillennialism holds that a seven-year tribulation (forseen in Daniel 9:27) will precede a thousand-year period (Revelation  20:1-6) during which time, Christ will reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32).

Immediately previous to the time of great tribulation, all the dead saints will rise from their graves and all the living members of the church shall be caught up with them to meet Christ in the clouds (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17); this is known as “the rapture.” During this time of tribulation, there will be three-and-a-half years of world peace under an AntiChrist figure (Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:1-8) who will establish a world-church (Revelation 17:1-15), followed by three-and-a-half years of greater suffering (Revelation 6-18). At the end of this period, Christ will return (Matthew  24:27-31; Revelation 19:11-21), judge the world (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Matthew 25:31; Jude 1:14-15), bind Satan for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3), and raise the Old Testament and tribulation saints from the dead (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4).

At this time, the millennial reign will begin and Christ will reign politically over the earth at this time from His capital in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Throughout His reign, there will be no war (Isaiah 2:4) and even the natures of animals will dwell in harmony (Isaiah 11:6-9). At the end of this era of peace, Satan will be released and instigate a colossal (but futile) rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-9). After this fated battle, Satan and the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), while the righteous proceed into their eternal state in the realm of the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1ff).

 

Grace Upon Grace: Dispensation of the Church Age

Grace Upon Grace: Dispensation of the Church Age

Grace Upon Grace: The Dispensation of the Church Age

As we come to the 6th Dispensation, there are a couple things that need to remain in the forefront of our minds.

  1. We are currently in this Dispensation. It began at Pentecost and continues until the Rapture.
  2. The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 Romans 8:23 Titus 2:13 1 Corinthians 15:51,52)
  3. NO ONE, absolutely no one knows when this Dispensation will end. (Matthew 24:36 Mark 13:32) Therefore it is our duty, as the Church, to proclaim the message of the Gospel unto the ends of the earth until Christ shall come.

Many in the Covenant Theology camp accuse Dispensationalists of teaching a “secret rapture.” This absurd and reflects a lack of taking the Bible text at face value. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17 is the “Rapture Passage” and there is nothing in the text that suggests this event will be a secret. The Lord, Himself, will come with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the Trumpet of God; that does not sound very secretive at all. I will concede that it is possible that those who are about to be consigned to the Tribulation may have no clue as to what is happening since the god of this world will have blinded their eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4) but there will be absolutely no mistaking that something is happening. No mistake at all; Zero, zip, zilch, nada; not one single person will be left to wonder if something terrible has happened, though it is possible that they will be blind to the new definition of terrible that they will be about to learn.

Personally, I do not believe, for a second, that the entire world will be completely blinded to the reality of the Rapture. Instead, I am convinced that there will be people on the earth, who were not really believers, that will realize that they have heard, before, what they are witnessing and will weep, gnash their teeth, and fall prostrate before the Lord in hopes He will have mercy.

Because no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36) we refer to End of Days (the final dispensation) as being imminent, that is to say that Christ could return at any moment. If Christ’s return is imminent we must, then, ask what is our obligation as the Church? In the Dispensation of the Church Age we must (Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 28:19, Luke 3:8)

 

  • Make Disciples, teaching them all things that Christ has commanded us
  • Bear fruit that is keeping with repentance
  • Proclaim Good News to the Poor
  • Bind up the brokenhearted
  • Set the captives at liberty
  • Release the prisoners from the darkness

 

It is required of stewards that they be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1) and our stewardship is the Good News of the Gospel, the Christ has come to redeem a people unto Himself and that we shall one day be with Him in the clouds for ever.

It should be noted that the Dispensation of the Church Age is also simply called the Dispensation of Grace. The people at gotquestions.org have some excellent information on this dispensation. It follows here:

Grace is God’s benevolence to the undeserving. Grace is the rule of life for the Church, and through the Church God’s grace is extended to the whole world, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the ends of the earth. It has been said that grace saved us (Ephesians 2:8-9), it supports us (Romans 5:2), it teaches us (Titus 2:11-12), and it disciplines us (1 Corinthians 11:28-32; Hebrews 12:5-11). With the Holy Spirit indwelling His Church, we are able to walk with the Lord and live as He intends (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10; 5:17-18; Philippians 1:6; 4:13; Romans 8:14). It is not heaven yet, and it is far short of perfection, but as the Church is being sanctified, it provides a little taste of heaven on earth (Ephesians 2:21-22).

Until that “bright and blessed morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share,” let us labor for our King and spread the Good News, Our God Reigns.

Dispensation of Law

Dispensation of Law

In out study of Dispensationalism, we now come to the the fifth dispensation, Law. This is one of the 3 longest Dispensations, lasting approximately 1500 years and covering all aspects of the Scripture from Exodus 19:5 to John 19:30.

The Dispensation of the Law begins with Moses and the children of Israel receiving the Law from God at Mount Sinai. The Period of this Dispensation ranges from Mt. Sinai until Christ Jesus fulfilled the Law with His death, which we have said is a period of around 1500 years. During this Dispensation, man’s responsibility was to keep the whole Law (Exodus 19:3-8). As with other Dispensations, man failed his responsibility and the Law was “broken.”  (2 Kings 17:7-20) Worldwide dispersion resulted from this failure as the Host of Israel we carried into captivity in Assyria (Northern Kingdom) or Babylon (Southern Kingdom) (Deuteronomy 28:63-66; Luke 21:20-24) All is not lost, though, and neither is there cause for despair; as the Dispensation of Law gives way to the Dispensation of Grace and the promised Messiah Redeemer arrives…

We need to understand that Israel was never to be saved by keeping the Law (Romans 3:20). The Law was meant to govern the daily life, to define sin, and to point to the coming Savior. The Law, as Paul pointed out was meant to be a school master (Galatians 3:24). I alluded to, previously, the fact that every sacrifice and festival pointed to Christ.

The dispensation of Law is named after what is commonly called the Mosaic Law but is called a “covenant” in Exodus 24:7-8; Deuteronomy 4:13; and Galatians 3:19. The Law of Moses, as is commonly called. was God’s only conditional covenant with Israel;  blessing and success depended upon the people’s obedience to the Law (Exodus 19:5). Unfortunately, as we see in Exodus 32, the Children of Israel did not even make it in their obedience to see the Law given but instead bowed the knee to a golden calf that Aaron fashioned for them from the jewelry of the people.

The Law was also a temporary covenant to be abrogated by institution of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9). The Law was given because of sin until the promised Seed of the Woman (and also the Seed of Abraham) would come. (Galatians 3:19).

It is important to note that the Law of Moses was given only for the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 4:8). Jesus made it clear that it was given to Israel and not the Gentiles (Mark 12:29-30). The apostle Paul said the Law was given to Israel and not the Church (Romans 2:14; 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12).

The Dispensation of Law ends at the Ascension of Jesus as Acts Chapter two shows us the inauguration of the next dispensation. Some call it the Dispensation of Grace and others call it the Dispensation of the Church.

It is an absolute tragedy that the people of Israel misinterpreted the purpose of the Law and sought a righteousness by good deeds and ceremonial ordinances rather than by God’s grace (Romans 9:31—10:3; Acts 15:1)! It is an even bigger tragedy that people today continue to pursue a righteousness based on good works to this day.  In the case of Israel, they were focused on attaining their own holiness, they rejected their Messiah (John 1:11).

Israel’s history from Mt. Sinai to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was one long record of violating God’s Law. However, the Law was still fulfilled, as Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because of Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the Law, we are saved through Him.

Galatians 2:15-16 (HCSB)

15 We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners” 16 know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.

Acts 4:12 (HCSB)

12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.”

There are those who dismiss the Law (antinomians) and say that Christians are no longer bound by it. I think, though, that what we call the Law still serves as our school master even to this day. If it were not for the Law we would not know our sin (Romans 7:7) and therefore would miss out on the glory of our Redeemer and His salvation.