Monday, January 30, 2006

Prophetic interpretation

Most Christians I have talked to seem to avoid the books of Daniel and Revelation for various reasons. The reason I hear most is that they cannot understand what they are reading. However, in Revelation 19:10 we are told that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." For many Christians, the Left Behind books and teachings of dispensational futurism provide the foundation of their prophetic beliefs. Our churches and seminaries are responsible for the ignorance of bible prophecy that is so evident among Christians today.

Basically, there are three main schools of prophetic thought. Most Protestants are not aware that two of the three schools, Preterism and Futurism, came directly from the minds and pens of Jesuit priests. Preterism teaches that the book of Revelation was fulfilled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They have a problem here because most bible scholars agree that John wrote the Revelation around 95-96 A.D. Sadly, many of our Presbyterian brothers have resurrected this false prophetic system in our day. Futurism has dominated the scene for the past century, especially in the last 50 years. Futurists tell us that at some point in the future the church will be raptured out, Satan will enter a man known as the antichrist, who will make a covenant with the Jews and their rebuilt temple, and the Great Tribulation will last for 7 years before the Lord returns with His raptured saints.

Let's take the teachings of futurism one at a time. First of all, you will not find the term "rapture" anywhere in your bibles. Paul does tell us in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 that when the Lord returns the dead in Christ and those that are alive will be caught up into the air to meet Him. Nowhere are we told that He will secretly rapture His church. Look again at Paul's description of the Lord's return..."the Lord will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." No secret rapture here! Our Lord compares His return as the lightning that shines from the east to the west(Matthew 24:27). No secret rapture there either! Futurists point to our Lord's return as a thief in the night mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:2. If they will just read the verse in the context of the passage they will realize that Paul is referring to the timing of our Lord's return, not the manner.

Let us now deal with this idea that at the end of this earth age that a man known as the antichrist will rule the world and deceive millions. The futurist foundation for this belief is found in Daniel chapter 9 and the 70 weeks prophecy. Futurists make their first mistake in trying to identify the Prince in Daniel 9:26-27 as the antichrist who will make a covenant with the Jews. Sorry Mr. Futurist, but the Prince referred to here is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one that confirmed the New Covenant with Israel in His blood, and His sacrifice brought an end to all sacrifices. Instead of seeing Daniel's 70 weeks for the amazing fulfillment of prophecy that it was, futurists make a fatal mistake by detaching the 70th week from the other 69 without any scriptural justification whatsoever. With one voice the Protestant Reformers from Wycliffe to Charles Spurgeon identified antichrist as a system, not a single individual and that system is known as the Papacy. I will deal with the biblical details of the antichrist system in a later post.

The next fairy tale being told by futurists is that the Jews will rebuild the temple. Now, how they will do that, which requires moving/demolishing the dome of the rock, without starting world war 3, I have no idea. Biblically literate Christians know that the many references to the temple in the New Testament do not refer to brick and stone but to the "naos" of God, the universal body of our Lord. Sadly and pathetically many Christians here in the U.S. are being persuaded to send money to Israeli so more Jews can go back to their homeland. Sometimes I think that many Christians are more Jewish than Christian. The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people and to this day the Jews still reject our Lord. Newflash to all Christian Zionists-the glory of the Lord left this little strip of land we know as Palestine centuries ago, just as His glory has left many of our churches.

I urge true bible believing Christians everywhere to seek out the writings of the Reformers on this very subject. You will be greatly blessed when you see that bible prophecy and world history go hand in hand. Our Lord said "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Unshackle your minds from the lies of futurism and take heed to the historical protestant position on prophecy as you would unto a light that shineth in a dark place.

To Be Continued.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

John Wesley

I am about halfway through Iain Murray's "Wesley and the Men Who Followed." There is no doubt that God used Wesley and his brother Charles to bring revival to the British Isles. During the same time period He was using George Whitefield to bring the Great Awakening upon the 13 colonies. It is interesting to contrast what was happening in Roman Catholic Europe during this time of revival in Protestant countries-wars and upheavels and bloodshed at every turn. The countries that had rejected the open bible and the gospel(Spain, France)were being defeated on sea and land by Protestant Great Britain. The secret source of the greatness of England was to be the Bible, and they(English) would become known as a people of the Book.

John Wesley was a man of one book and one book only, the Bible. He would have no use for our so-called Christian bookstores of today that sell mostly self-help trash and play rock music while you browse. I wonder what Charles Wesley would think of the music played in churches today that calls itself Christian. What would John think about the social gospel being promoted by the Methodist Church or their acceptance of homosexuality? Would he be proud of all the female pastors whose very existence as pastors is in direct violation of 1 Timothy chapter 3?

Monday, January 16, 2006

The end of the age

Our most recent Sunday School lesson covered our Lord's discourse with His disciples concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and of the end of the age as found in Mark 13:1-27. So many futurists have hijacked this passage to fit their version of prophecy and little do they know that the very beliefs they cling to were given to us by Mother Rome herself. Wouldn't the Reformers shudder to think of what the prophetic vision of the so-called Protestant churches has become. We must be like the wise virgins of Matthew 25 and get oil for our lamps to understand these things.

I have always thought it odd that the disciples would point out the greatness of the temple to Jesus, as they do in verse 1. It makes me wonder if He chuckled to himself as these things were being pointed out to him. In verse 2 the Lord predicts the destruction of the temple that would take place in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was sacked by the armies of Cestus Gallus. In verse 4 the disciples ask two questions. The first one is "When shall these things be? and secondly, what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?" The second question takes us beyond 70 A.D. because we have not come to the point in history where all of these things are fulfilled.

In verses 5-25 we are given the following signs that apply not only to the destruction of Jerusalem but also to the whole span of Christian history:

1. Deception within the church
2. People claiming to be Christ and also false brethren that come in His name
3. Wars and rumors of wars
4. Earthquakes in various places
5. Famines and troubles
6. Persecution and martyrdom of Christians(mainly applying here to the disciples)
7. The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet(already fulfilled)
8. Verses 15-20 are direct warnings to the Christians in Jerusalem of the Roman invasion.
9. False signs and wonders
10.Deception in the church will increase
11.In verses 24 and 25 we see the reference to the sun, moon and stars-this in not a literal reference but refers to the fall of political powers(See Genesis 37 and Revelation 12)
13.In verses 26 and 27 our Lord returns visibly(no rapture here) and gathers His elect(for all Arminians, you are elect too, you just refuse to believe Scripture) from the four corners of the earth.

The problem most Christians have with this passage is when they try to make all of the events listed apply to one specific time period at the end of the age, which has no scriptural warrant. It is a shame that so many in the church are so focused on that little stip of land over in the Middle East we know as Israeli(which has no connection to the Israelites of old, except in name only) that they cannot see the wonderful fufillment of bible prophecy(especially the books of Daniel and Revelation)that has unfolded in the past 2,000 years of Christian history. I urge all Christians to read about the prophetic beliefs of the Reformers and please, please throw away your copies of Left Behind books.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts...(2 Peter 1:19)

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Ever since my wife and I began attending our current church home I have been on a non-stop critical crusade. From the casual attire of the leadership and laity, to the music played in our worship services, I have been the first in line to criticize. Have I changed my mind about entering into our Father's presence with reverence, fear and respect-God forbid! Have I embraced contemporary christian music and rejected the great hymns of the faith-God forbid, again! Have I come to agree with the more liberal minded members of our congregation regarding doctrine-my conscience would not allow me. Recently, I even considered attending Presbyterian churches, but I do not see that as a solution, especially considerning my conviction on believer's baptism.

For all of the negative things I have said(not all deserving) about my current church home, the major positive I cling to is this-the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is lifted up every Lord's Day. The past two Sundays our preacher has preached on the theme of holiness in the life of believers-not something you would expect to hear in a contemporary church. This is a topic that is ignored in too many churches these days, including traditional churches. We are beginning a series of sermons on the Book of Daniel that will encourage us to take up our crosses daily and follow our Lord, despite the pagan culture that surrounds us. In 1 Peter 1:16 we are commanded to be holy, because He is holy.

Today we sung praises to our Lord, accompanied by a keyboard and an acoustic guitar. Here's the thing, not one of the songs was a hymn, and what is even more is the fact that I was o.k. with it. The music was beautiful and the words/lyrics were theologically accurate. I still yearn, however, to hold a hymnal in my hands and sing more of the great hymns. Lately, however, we have been singing more and more hymns and the contemporary selection has been better than ever before. I guess those that say we can only sings hymns are similar to those that say we can only sing psalms. Too often modern Christian music sounds like the music produced by the world and is lacking in theological content. However, there are many good contemporary songs that are suitable, I believe, for a worship service. The danger with music, as I see it, is when music becomes entertainment or just is not appropriate for a worship service. There are many out there that believe any music can be used in a worship service and I cannot agree with them-the line must be drawn somewhere.

As for the preaching each Sunday, it is excellent in my opinion. Personally, I walk away convicted each week, ready to do battle with the culture around us until the following Lord's Day. Our pastor is not afraid to step on toes that need to be stepped on, including his own. Our mighty God is presented as not only a God of love, but also as a God of justice and holiness and wrath. Jesus is not presented to us as a buddy or a pal, but as our Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord. We are not taught that when you become a Christian life will be grand, but that we will encounter daily struggles and obstacles on our path heavenward.

I mention these things because our church does not fit the sterotypical label of a contemporary church. Maybe, just maybe, God is not as narrow-minded as many of us tend to be. For those who love tradition as I do, e.g. hymnals and the King James Bible, we must always guard ourselves against being overly critical on non-essentials. Some of my previous posts regarding worship have possibly painted too broad of a stroke and may have put labels where they were not deserved. However, one thing many modern Christians lack is a backbone, so afraid of offending. I see discussion on these matters as essential, and as long as we are speaking the truth in love I do not see the harm.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Another note on worship

I read this on one of my many travels through blogdom and think that all Christians should consider what is said here, no matter what your persuasion is concerning worship. Enjoy.

The Heart of Worship

Late last year, I found myself in London on business for a couple of days. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and decided to attend the evening worship service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, the church that the great baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, pastored in the late 19th century.

About halfway through the singing portion of the service, I noticed a man whom I assumed to be a fellow American Evangelical (he was dressed in bluejeans and a polo shirt) slip out the back of the auditorium. He did not return. Now I realize there could be a hundred reasons why he left. But I began to believe that he left because he shared the impression that I was feeling about the service.

I didn't like it.

The music was slow. There were no guitars, no drums, not even a piano. The accompanyment consisted of an old organ (it wasn't even a pipe organ!). It was boring.

I thought a lot about my feelings as I rode the underground back to my hotel in Westferry Circus, and I realized that the problem was one of two things: either the Metropolitan Tabernacle was deficient in orchestrating their service, or I was deficient in my worship of the Almighty God.

The people around me (and my fellow Amercian spectator) were not not overtaken by emotions, there were no spontaneous raisings of hands (in fact very little about the service could be described as spontaneous). But those people were engaged in worship, filled with the Holy Spirit, and I was looking at my watch.

That experience made me reconsider my attitude about worship music, because it is not just about enjoying the singers and musicians up front or the emotions that well-performed stirs up within me (I might experience the same emotions listening to secular music). It's about changing my focus to center on God and His Glory and praising Him.

I'm glad my church has a more contemporary sound in its worship music, but I now realize there is a hidden danger there. I must continually remind myself to focus on worship and not just the music. We have a God who demands and deserves our worship with our whole being.

soli Deo gloria

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Spiritual Discernment

We know from the Scriptures that the Lord gives us discernment in all areas of life. What continues to baffle me is the lack of spiritual discernment among Christians. This lack of discernment has resulted in weak theology and weak doctrine. Churches that once stood rock solid on the scriptures now operate as social clubs and business organizations. Just look at the Methodist church-wouldn't John Wesley be horrified by the liberal theology that has as it's slogan "Open hearts, open minds, open doors." The fact that denominatonal bodies are arguing about the abominable practice of homosexuality is evidence enough of their slide into the "slough of despond." If you visit the main Methodist websites in the U.S. and the U.K. you will learn more about their social causes than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have even taken our Lord's command to love our neighbors as ourselves to the extreme. I was visiting a Baptist website the other day and one of their major focuses was to eradicate poverty worldwide. While this is a noble aspiration, where do we find that as the mission of the church in the Bible? Christians today are very fond of talking about the love of God without referring to His justice and holiness, which is evidenced by the casual approach to worship so many take.

My own denomination, Southern Baptist, is not exempt from criticism. Baptists have always been know as a "people of the book." Most Southern Baptist churches today
are a "people of the world", focusing themselves not on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but on programs and innovation. It is disgusting to me the way some of our churches fall all over themselves to welcome visitors and make them comfortable. I agree that we should be warm and inviting to all visitors, but this gushing over visitors reeks of pop-psychology. A lot of Baptist churches have embraced the theologically inept Willow Creek and Purpose Driven models. I do not find any of these models in the book of Acts when souls were being added to the church. All of these pragmatic approaches to church growth speak loudly to the world that the church no longer trusts God to bless and add to His church as He sees fit. Many churches no longer live at the foot of the cross, but at the feet of Warren, Osteen, Willow Creek, etc.

Recently I attended a business meeting at my church and the subject of elders and deacons was being discussed. The pastor was listing the qualifications, and it was as if he threw a cherry bomb into the center of the sanctuary when he said that the leadership of the church should be of the male species. Most of the women present were quite upset with this statement. Over the next hour or so we heard things like, " I feel like a second class citizen; what kind of role model are we providing for the young ladies of the church, blah, blah, blah. I was told recently that one of these women had done a lot of research on the matter and the other ladies were quite impressed by her knowledge. New flash-it doesn't take a scholar to know the Lord's thougths on the matter, which are clearly laid out for us in 1 Timothy 3. God made us male and female and gave us different roles to play not only in the family unit, but also in the operation of His body of believers. Those churches and denominations that employ female pastors and elders/deacons have tossed aside the Scriptures in favor of popular culture.

Why is the church being tossed about with every wind of cultural and liberal doctrine? The answer is simple-most Christians no longer study His Word and seek to live by it. They are anemic Christians and don't even know it. They can talk all day long about God's love and loving their neighbors, but please do not attempt to discuss theology with them. They would rather read some fascinating book from the local Christian bookstore than the book that God Himself wrote for us. How many Christians know what men like Wyclffe, Tyndale, and the translators of the Geneva Bible went through to give us the Bible in our native tongue? Do they even care? Actions speak much louder than words and by their actions they are dishononoring the testimonies of those great Reformers. All that live in the Word daily must be as the watchmen in Israel of old and call the church back to it's anchor. I close with Psalm 119:105: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Clapping in worship

It has become trendy in a lot of churches to clap following the music. I have always felt uncomfortable about this because we are removing the focus from God and to ourselves. Below is a very good article concerning the matter.

Sound theology is sometimes as simple as good manners.

When I first met her she was a spirited feisty young teenager. I supposed she was born that way. When she was eight years old, her family attended a conference where her father was one of the speakers. One evening there was a musical program during which the enthusiastic leader encouraged, "Let's give God a hand." At that she got up and began to walk toward the exit. Her surprised father reached her before she fulfilled her intention.

"What are you doing?" he inquired.

"I'm leaving," she firmly replied.

"But," he reasoned, "wouldn't that be rude?"

"Well," she clenched her argument, "they're being rude to God!"

The family followed her out.

As a college student today she knows it gets a lot worse. People aren't just flippantly "giving God a hand." In many services they routinely give each other a hand, especially in response to musical offerings.

Ministers will note that the practice has not caught on as a response to sermons. Perhaps we will have to install applause signs in our sanctuaries (or "worship centers" as they're now called) before people will get the idea. Then we'll have to learn to pause until the clapping subsides.

In this context, it's a pleasant surprise to hear a word of sanity from the secular priestess of manners, Judith Martin. In Miss Manners Rescues Civilization, she answers a question about applause in church with, "Having forgotten church manners, people are substituting those that would be proper for a performance...Hard as it may be to imagine, musicians in church are supposed to play or sing for the glory of God, not the pleasure of the congregation (which people interestingly slip and call 'the audience'). That is why there should be no applause in church. Not even for small children, who particularly need to have the purpose of the performance explained to them."

In response to the protest that the Bible authorizes clapping (as is Psalm 47:1), Miss Manners proves herself a better theologian than many evangelical worship leaders. "Where," she asks, "is the Biblical reference by which God commands applause to honor musicians...?"

Miss Manners hopes she is not pressing too fine a point when she distinguishes between the clapping of hands as an "expression of religious awe or joy and the clapping of hands to denote approval and appreciation for the achievements of our fellow mortals."

The specific problem Miss Manners addresses is the tip of the iceberg of worship malpractice. Too many evangelical worshipers are like the man shopping for his wife's Christmas present and choosing something which pleases himself. So we go to church expecting to be soothed, entertained and sent home feeling good.

It hardly occurs to us to ask, "What will please God?" The subjects, not the Object of worship, are the focus. The result is that we no longer know how to conduct ourselves in God's house. We lack worship manners or even the sense that we need them.

If you invite me to your home, I'll come with my manners, which are both attitude (I respect you) and actions (I'll conform to the expectation of your household).

What attitudes should you bring to worship? God wants exuberant joy (Psalm 100:1-2) and reverent awe (Hebrews 12:28-29).

What actions does He approve in worship? Singing, praying, reading and preaching His Word, testifying to and confessing our faith, giving offerings, celebrating sacraments and making holy vows.

If you think worship manners are no big deal, you might check out the story of two Old Testament fellows who forgot their manners and lost their lives because, "Among those who approach me, I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored" (Leviticus 10:1-7).