Monday, December 21, 2009

Isaiah 7:14...Christmas Hermeneutics

The "Jewish Study Bible" (Jewish Publication Society, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.798) makes this comment on Isaiah 7:14 : "Young woman (Heb "almah"). The Septuagint translates as 'virgin', leading ancient and medieval Christians to connect this verse with the New Testament figure of Mary. All modern scholars, however, agree that the Heb merely denotes a young woman of marriageable age, whether married or unmarried, whether a virgin or not."

This comment completely ignores the New Testament, as might be expected in a Jewish commentary. It overlooks the fact that not only did "ancient and medieval Christians" make this connection to the virgin birth of Jesus, but that the New Testament itself does so in Matthew 1:23, which is why Christians have followed the teaching. The implication of this statement from the Jewish commentators is that the New Testament is wrong in Matthew 1:23, because it makes an invalid connection between Isaiah 7:14 and the birth of Jesus the Messiah. In other words, Matthew "reinterpreted" Isaiah 7:14 to fit his "Christian" purposes.
There are at least three more things wrong with the "Jewish Study Bible" (JSB) comment. (1) The Hebrew word "almah" is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to an unmarried virgin (Genesis 24:23, Exodus 2:8, Psalm 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8), not merely "a young woman of marriageable age". (2) The comment implies that the Septuagint translation had to be wrong. (3) To state that "all modern scholars" agree on this is simply not true, in fact would not be true of "all modern scholars" on anything! It does allow the Jewish Study Bible commentators to call anyone who disagrees with them "ancient" or "medieval", that is, out of touch with current scholarship and reality.

But, the sadder issue is that there are Christian commentators who have done exactly what the JSB has accused them of doing. Trying to acknowledge the historic setting of this section of Isaiah, it is insisted that the virgin is Isaiah's wife (see 8:1-2), and the son is Isaiah's son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz of his prophetess wife (see 8:3), and that Isaiah's son is called Immanuel (8:8,10). In doing this, as for example Herbert M. Wolf does in "Interpreting Isaiah" (Zondervan, 1985, p.91), it becomes necessary for such commentators to conclude that Matthew has used a "reinterpreting" kind of hermeneutic when referring to Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23. Wolf puts it this way, "In the New Testament, Isaiah 7:14 was used in a fuller sense and applied to Mary and Jesus. Mary, unlike the virgin in Isaiah's day, was still a virgin even after becoming pregnant." Did you hear it? Wolf is saying that Matthew is giving a "fuller" meaning to Isaiah 7:14 than what was actually present in the text. Thus, he is implying that New Testament writers can treat Old Testament texts in a different way than the Old Testament writers intended them, as long as the treatment is filtered through the grid of their Christian purposes (Jesus and the Gospel). If you take this approach, I suspect the JSB commentators have just had you for lunch.

It would be much better to recognize Isaiah's actual intent in Isaiah 7, and realize that Matthew is using Isaiah 7:14 in exactly the same way that Isaiah intended it to be used. When Ahaz rejected any sign from the Lord through Isaiah (7:11-12), the Lord by-passed Ahaz and gave the sign to the "House of David" (7:13). The prophesied son is not the son of Isaiah, but a royal son, in accordance with the theme of Yahweh's faithfulness to Zion and David, and fitting with the idiom "curds and honey" as royal food (7:15,22). While Isaiah's son in chapter 8 may be seen as typologically portraying to some extent the meaning of Immanuel in 7:14, the son of 7:14 is in fact the Messiah, Israel's King, not Isaiah's son. As Andrew H. Bartelt points out ("The Book Around Immanuel", Eisenbrauns, 1996, pp.115-117), "The consequences of this message, however, as they were to be played out in the subsequent history of Judah are perceived by Isaiah himself to be long-range rather than immediate." I would add for the sake of the JSB guys, that Bartelt represents some of the very latest scholarship, so "all modern scholars" are not on their side.
An excellent survey of various "evangelical" approaches to the New Testament use of the Old Testament can be seen at, and in an article by Darrell Bock. Elliot Johnson, S.Lewis Johnson, and Walt Kaiser all represent the authorial intent/single meaning hermeneutic. Though Bock distinguishes between the approach of the Johnsons and the approach of Kaiser, there is in fact little difference between them. Concerning Isaiah 7:14, they would all agree that Matthew is using the text exactly as Isaiah intended. It is edifying to read their articles, footnoted in Bock's article (Bock disagrees with them, by the way). Kaiser's article, "The Promise of Isaiah 7:14 and the Single-Meaning Hermeneutic" can also be found in an appendix of John Ankerberg's "The Case For Jesus The Messiah" (Harvest House, 1989).

What value is this discussion to us? Precisely this - the prophet Isaiah intentionally and accurately predicted the virgin birth of Jesus Christ more than seven hundred years in advance. Matthew 1:23 accurately records the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. This is not a mere Christian "reinterpretation", this is historical fact. This is truth. Our sovereign God, Who alone knows the end from the beginning, has worked out the details of His plan in His Word in such a way that the proof is documented. Let us worship Him in wonder at the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, Who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Incorrect Hermeneutics Lead to the Denouncement of Israel

In todays news from Israel is an amazingly clear illustration of the impact of one's interpretation of the Bible on world politics.

Those of us who acknowledge the importance of agreeing with the author's intent for a Bible passage as a principle of assessing validity in interpretation (as in E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation, Yale, 1967) just took a major hit today from some Palestinians who think of themselves as Christians. These Palestinians do not consider it acceptable to allow the Old Testament to speak for itself with its own intent.

Note their position on hermeneutics, clearly stated in the article " 'Christians' of the Holy Land Denounce Israel " (found at . . . "The (Palestinian "Christian') leaders then took aim at Evangelical Christians around the world that support Israel based on biblical precepts. 'Jesus came with a new teaching (Mk.1:27), casting a new light on the Old Testament on the themes that relate to our Christian faith and our daily lives, themes such as the promises, the election, the people of God, and the land. For this reason it is unacceptable to transform the Word of God into letters of stone. This is the precise error in fundamentalist biblical interpretation that brings us death and destruction when the Word of God is petrified and transmitted from generation to generation as a dead letter. This dead letter is used as a weapon in our present history in order to deprive us of our rights in our own land."

Observe that Mark 1:27 does not illustrate, support, or teach the concept that they seem to be trying to derive from it.

The hermeneutical approach they use to justify denouncing Israel is this - Jesus cast "a new light on the Old Testament". This is the same dangerous hermeneutic as proposed by George Eldon Ladd years ago within evangelical, "covenant" premillenialism, namely, "But precisely here is our basic hermeneutic. Jesus, and the apostles after Him, REINTERPRETED the Old Testament prophecies in light of Jesus' person and mission" (see Ladd, "The Last Things", Eerdmans, 1978, p.17).

Those of us who have the principle of authorial intent/single intent in our hermeneutical understanding of the Old Testament find the notion of the New Testament "reinterpreting" the Old to be inaccurate and dangerous. Does the New Testament give further information and clarity of Old Testament passages in light of the progress of divine revelation? Of course. But does the New Testament change the intended meaning of any Old Testament passage into a different meaning, i.e. "reinterpretation"? Absolutely not. For New Testament writers to do so would be to deny or contradict the intended meaning of the Old Testament, which is to say that they would have gotten it wrong, because they would have been using an invalid hermeneutic. Such would, by the model of New Testament writers, set all meaning in any text into a sea of interpretive relativity.

In the Israel Today news article, the result of this "reinterpretation" is for Palestinians to change the meaning of "Israel" to something else (or someone else, namely themselves), and to change the meaning of the land of Israel into something else (namely, "our rights in our own land"). Such "reinterpretation" of the meaning of Israel is the same thing that Ladd designed his hermeneutic to do (see chapter of "The Last Things" entitled "What About Israel?").

Do sound hermeneutics matter? In the world scene of today, more than ever. For both Jews and Christians in Israel today, their lives depend on it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This news just came in from Joel Rosenberg, and I thought readers should see it and pray.

(WASHINGTON, D.C., December 7, 2009) -- The battle to divide Jerusalem is intensifying this week. Sweden is pushing hard to pass an initiative this coming Sunday to persuade 27 foreign ministers of European Union states to endorse a plan to recognize unilaterally East Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian State. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is doing everything he can to counter the Swedish effort.

The Bible teaches that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob loves Israel's neighbors, but has specifically chosen Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish people and His own prized possession. It is not to be carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

In Psalm 132:13-16, we read, "For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 'This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her with bread."

The Bible also teaches that the Lord will judge the nations who seek to divide Israel and Jerusalem. In Joel 3:1-2, we read, "When I restore the fortunes of Jerusalem [in the last days] I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance Israel whom they have scattered among the nations and they have divided up My land."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Join us for one hour of prayer on Thursday, November 26,2009 from 11am until 12 noon at the building of the New Beginnings Grace Brethren Church, Myerstown, PA.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Some Reflections

The previous two articles on Revelation 3:10 and First Thessalonians 1:10 attracted considerable interest, both via blog comments and private emails. Permit me, please, just two reflections.

When it is all evaluated, there was no disagreement over the two pertinent verses themselves. All of the disagreement related to the application of those verses, especially regarding Revelation 6. While not wanting to minimize at all the importance of the Revelation 6 discussion (there are real issues involved), I do want to point out that the discussion only strengthened the concept that the use of Revelation 3:10 and First Thessalonians 1:10 in the FGBC Statement of Faith is valid. Further, the discussion proved that the conclusions are not arrived at by the imposition of a pre-supposed system upon the biblical text, but through an honest attempt to understand the verses themselves. I do still wish that the FGBC Statement did not use the word "tribulation", but instead used "the 70th Week of Daniel", but that is another discussion.

I want to thank David Mohler for his extended explanation of the sovereign grace of God in Revelation 6. I agree that Revelation 6 is a vivid display of the grace of God. There will be a great number of people saved (at first primarily Gentiles, Rev.7:9, Mt.24:14) during the time of the first six seals - some of them will be martyred (Rev.6:9-11) and others will be raptured as part of the 6th seal (Rev.7:14). David applies this to the past and present age, while I put it in the future, so we would have interpretive differences on the meaning of the six seals, but we agree that there is great grace. I would further say that this does not negate the beginning of wrath, sovereign wrath, in the first six seals, but is fulfilling Habakkuk 3:2, "In wrath remember mercy". I trust that I will never be found disagreeing with the sovereign grace of God whenever or wherever it is displayed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1 Thessalonians 1:10

In the previous article I sought to defend the use of Revelation 3:10 as exegetically valid in the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith. The other verse in the Statement which has been challenged is First Thessalonians 1:10 - "and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come."

Granted, genuine believers from varying eschatological viewpoints will either claim this verse as a proof-text or at least a text that fits within their approach. The critical discussion pivots around the extent of the meaning of the phrase "the wrath to come".

Is "the wrath to come" the "second death/lake of fire" poured out on unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:12-15)? Probably all believers would say "Yes", that Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath of Hell. Those who are amillennial, postmillennial, or non-"tribulational"-premillennial would probably limit the extent of the meaning of "the wrath to come" to that. Of course, believers are already rescued from any present experience of God's wrath (John 3:36, Romans 8:1), but the issue in First Thessalonians 1:10 is future wrath, not present.

But, does the "wrath to come" only refer to the believer's rescue from Hell (and perhaps some pre-realized deliverance from present wrath), or does "wrath to come" include more? Those who understand Revelation chs 6-18 as describing a yet future sequence of events, see Revelation 6:17 as a crucial verse for this discussion - "the great day of their wrath has come". There will be a future time of God's wrath on earth, and it will happen during the six seals of Revelation 6 and extend beyond that. The verb "has come" (elthen) is aorist indicative, "referring to the previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place" (from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 An Exegetical Commentary, Moody, 1992, p.457). Any attempts to make elthen into a futuristic aorist, draining any wrath out of the first six seals of Revelation 6, does so quite unnaturally, unusually, and incorrectly.

Thus, the entirety of the seven years of Revelation 6-18 contains the wrath of God. The "pre-wrath" deliverance from future wrath promised in First Thessalonians 1:10 includes deliverance from the wrath of God that will come within the first six seals of Revelation 6. Comparing this discussion with the one in the previous article indicates that what is being spoken of in Revelation 3:10 is also being spoken of in First Thessalonians 1:10.

Therefore, the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith has used First Thessalonians 1:10 properly, as it has Revelation 3:10.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Revelation 3:10

Before I took a much needed blogging break, I was asked to deal with the passages that are listed in the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith concerning the Rapture of the Church. I had made a comment to the effect that these are valid passages to use, even though they may not be the only or even strongest ones. (As an aside, I am in favor of a revision of the Statement of Faith if the revision strengthens or adds to what is already there in order to communicate more clearly to our present generation, but not if it reduces the content or intent of the Statement of Faith.) Those who raised questions about my statement were suggesting that one could not infer a Pre-Tribulational Rapture view from these verses.

What I am trying to do in this article is to demonstrate what one may know from a few exegetical observations of Revelation 3:10 and how such knowledge applies to the Statement of Faith. By no means am I attempting to be exhaustive in this brief article.


- The Philadelphia church is recognized as a solidarity, as are the other churches of Revelation 2-3. The "you" of verse 10 is singular.

- The statement "have kept the word of My perseverance" is a beautiful statement of the eternal security of the believer. The church had kept/preserved/guarded/protected this word, a description of her continuance in faith. The word she believed was concerning Christ's perseverance in keeping His own. Both the "perseverance of the saints" and the "perseverance of the Savior" are here, and you do not have one without the other.

- The promise of Christ to "keep" the Philadelphia church cannot be separated from the church's faith, she having "kept" the truth of His perseverance.

- The promise that the church will be kept "from" this time of trial does not mean kept "through" the time of trial. See John A. Sproule, "In Defense of Pre-Tribulationism" (BMH Books, 1980).

- The verse predicts a specific time of testing that was yet future to the Philadelphia church. The definite article with the word "hour" indicates that this is not trial or testing as a generalization or principle, but rather a specific, coming time of trial.

- The predicted time of trial is said to be global, upon the "whole world". No global trial like this happened during the first century experience of the Philadelphia church. The statement does not compare to the one in Revelation 2:10 concerning the church at Smyrna where the language indicates something localized and limited. Any attempts to fit this verse into an "already" model of fulfillment fail before the term "whole world". There is no history to substantiate that there has been any such time of trial like this since Jesus gave this prediction to John. Localized experiences of trial (Roman persecution, AD 70, some unknown persecution upon Philadelphia, etc.) cannot qualify as fulfillment of Jesus' prediction in this verse. Therefore, Jesus' intent of this statement to John could not have been been limited in scope of application of the promise or the prediction merely to the Philadelphia church. The fulfillment is not "already" but "not yet".

- The description of predicted future global events in Revelation chapter 6 and beyond does match the description of the global trial predicted by Christ in Revelation 3:10. Context would determine for the reader that the events of chapter 6 are what Jesus intended by His prediction in 3:10.


- It is therefore valid to conclude that those who read and believe the Book of Revelation, and meet the condition of faith described in Revelation 3:10, may also appropriate the promise of Revelation 3:10.

- It is therefore also valid for the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith to use this verse in the manner it has.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Systematic Theology or Theological System?

Should we, in fact must we, seek to organize the results of our Bible study into a form that provides answers for the culture in which we live? Yes!! We should and must systematize our biblical theology. But, should we assume or impose a theological system over our Bible study, which then makes verses read in a particular way that fits the system? No!! We must allow each passage in its context to speak for itself. This must always come first. I hope we can all see and appreciate the difference in these two approaches.

One way some superimpose systems onto our Bibles, on ourselves, and on others, is by turning otherwise helpful tools or observations into "isms". So adherence to biblical fundamentals gets expanded into "fundamentalism" (which historically I thought was a very good thing, but now it is a liable to have the label). Utilization of the observation of historical divine stewardships or dispensations throughout Scripture gets expanded into "dispensationalism" by both friends and foes. This becomes something some feel the need to attack and others feel the need to propagate. The observation that the Bible operates in a covenantal framework gets expanded into "covenantalism", or "covenant theology".

The same can happen with the contributions of individuals, which are then turned into systems or creedal groups. Such is evidenced when a group is named after a person. I appreciate a very significant amount of the work of John Calvin (much celebrated in this memorial year), but far from all (especially considering the implications of his eschatology on his failed Geneva experiment, and the imposition of theocracy even to the point of murder), so I could not be considered a "Calvinist" (even though my "Arminian" friends persist in calling me one anyway). I appreciate Martin Luther's work on justification by faith alone and his theology of the cross (catching up with some of our pre-Reformation primitive Church brethren who believed it all along and were never part of the Catholic system), but certainly disdain Luther's hatred of the Jews, so I could not be a "Lutheran". While I enjoy some of the influence of Menno Simons on the anabaptist development of the believers' church concept, I point out the error in his Christology as it relates to the humanity of Christ, so I could not be a "Mennonite". I am "soteriologically reformed", but not "reformed" in my ecclesiology nor my eschatology, so the "reformed" won't let me use the name "reformed" because I don't believe they "reformed" enough (whew!).

Or, a doctrine can be elevated to an entire system or denomination. I believe in baptism, but I cannot be a "Baptist", elevating that one doctrine into the central one. I believe in the rule of the local church by Elders, but I cannot make that the main identifier of the Church and become a "Presbyterian" or "Episcopalian". Emerging has become "emergent".

The truly sad part of all of this is that it is almost impossible anymore to have a genuinely biblical, spiritual conversation or even do some significant Bible teaching without a high number of people assuming that they already know where you are coming from, because they have already put you into a "system" in their minds.

Let's get back to "living in the world of the Bible" and bringing it to bear on our culture. Brethren, "we have the mind of Christ" (First Corinthians 2:16). Let's keep going back to the Word of God afresh and finding the answers we need to systematize in order to defend the Gospel in our day.

Friday, July 17, 2009


As a result of communicating the information you can read in the posts "PARAGRAPH 67" and "THE DREAM OF A SINGLE, GLOBAL CURRENCY", I have been asked, "Are these events 'signs' that the rapture is soon?"

The question requires a careful answer.

There are no Scripture texts that teach that there are or will be any "signs" leading up to the rapture of the Church. The rapture of the Church is a "signless" event. Since the birth of the Church the expectation has been that Christ could return for His Church at any moment (for example, James 5:9, Second Timothy 4:8). No "signs" or intermediate events are required to happen before the rapture of the Church.

There are, however, "signs" that occur pointing to the coming time of Tribulation on the earth and beyond to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. For example, Jesus Himself discusses "signs" of His Second Coming and the importance of knowing how to recognize them (Matthew 24:32-35). Some events that will take place during the coming time of Tribulation are already beginning to "line up" (the one-world political authority and currency for example, or the nations who will come against Israel at the "Gog from Magog Battle" of Ezekiel 38 for another, and more). These are "signs" that the Tribulation period is soon.

While there are no "signs" pertaining to the rapture of the Church (I use the phrase "rapture of the Church" to distinguish it from other "raptures" throughout the Bible), there is prophetic value to the Church of the "signs" pertaining to the Tribulation and Second Coming. Why? Allow me to illustrate.

Suppose you are driving on an interstate highway. Your know your destination, but there are no "signs" telling you that your destination will be reached in a certain number of miles/kilometers. But there are "signs" for a major city that is beyond your destination. As you observe the distance to that major city diminishing according to the "signs", you know that your destination is even closer than the "signs" indicate.

If there are "signs" for events (the Tribulation and Second Coming) that are beyond the rapture of the Church, that only increases our expectation that the rapture of the Church must be even sooner.

The focus of the Church is not to be on "signs", rather on the destination. Consider Colossians 3:1-2, "Therefore, since you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

"Signs" are on earth. Christ is coming from heaven for His Church. We must keep our focus upon Him. His appearing is our Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). Or consider First Corinthians 1:22-23a, "For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified". We are not looking for "signs", we are looking for Christ. Along the way, if we do happen to observe "signs", we rejoice because Christ's appearing for us is that much closer.

When some of you hear about the "signs", a sense of fear comes over you. Maybe this is because you are not prepared for the unfolding of end-time events. You have never personally and specifically trusted in The God-Man, Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. Observe First Peter 3:18, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit." Trust in Christ as your Sinbearer, your Eternal Savior, your Life. When you do, this means that God by His grace has put you in the category of those who have "turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God" (First Thessalonians 1:9). You will experience a new joy and freedom that empowers you "to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come (First Thessalonians 1:10).

It is possible that some of you do not look forward to seeing Christ because you are more attached to your sin and the present world than you are to Christ. If you are in reality a believer who has trusted Christ for salvation, this is not to be so. And, if you are not even concerned about your sin and attachment to the world-system, you may not have ever become a genuine believer at all. As a believer, you have the privilege of this promise and instruction - "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (First John 3:1-3)."

Genuine believers are being transformed into a greater reflection of Christ's glory every day as we focus upon Him in His Word (Second Corinthians 3:18). We will instantaneously be completely changed into the likeness of His glory at the rapture of the Church (First Corinthians 15:51-52), when we will "see Him just as He is" (First John 3:2).

Do not let a focus on "signs" rob you of hope today. The destination is what is vital, not the "signs". May nothing stand between you and seeing Christ today. He is the joy and hope of life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Theology And The News

Sometimes when one lets news be known in the way I have attempted in the posts "PARAGRAPH 67" and "THE DREAM OF A SINGLE, GLOBAL CURRENCY", the criticism of engaging in "newspaper theology" comes fairly quickly.

"Newspaper theology" is not a correct approach to interpreting the Bible. At least it is not a correct approach to anyone who believes that the Bible is inerrant, sufficient authority for faith, life, theology, worldview, etc. We should not, having seen something interesting in the news, cram the news into the meaning of a Bible verse, or determine the meaning of a Bible passage by what we see in the news. We should also be cautious about saying that "this" in the news is the "fulfillment of that" in the Bible.

We should, however, learn to evaluate the news in light of the Bible. No, We should not evaluate the meaning of Scripture by the news, but we should evaluate the meaning of the news by the Bible. We should not do "newspaper theology", but we should do "theology newspaper".

Everything in the Word of God will come to pass, including the details of Revelation 13:3-4, 16-17. What the news in "PARAGRAPH 67" and "THE DREAM OF A SINGLE, GLOBAL CURRENCY" points out is that the world is being set up for these future events in an unprecedented way.

"Let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (First Thessalonians 5:6).

The Dream of a Single, Global Currency

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev illustrated his call for a supranational currency to replace the dollar by pulling from his pocket a sample coin of a "united future world currency."
"Here it is," Medveded told reporters on July 10, 2009 in L'Aquila, Italy, after the international G-8 summit, "You can see it and touch it."

The coin, which bears the words "unity in diversity", was minted in Belgium and presented to the heads of the G-8 delegations. Medveded said, "The question of a supranational currency concerns everyone now, even the mints. The test coin means they're getting ready." Medveded has repeatedly called for creating a mix of regional reserve currencies as part of the drive to address the global financial crisis, while questioning the US dollar's future as a global reserve currency. Russia's proposals at the G-20 meeting in London back in April, 2009 included the creation of a supranational currency. China also has been a vocal proponent of the global currency system, taking influence away from the US dollar which has dominated global finance and commerce since the end of World War 2. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also joined the band at the G-8 summit in favor of dumping the dollar.

This issue is alerting to those who believe the Bible, especially the warning that the whole world will be forced to use a unified economic system under the domination of a wicked, global leader during the future time of world crisis known in the Bible as "the 70th week of Daniel", the "indignation", (see Revelation 13:16-17). Suspicions are aroused even further when coupled with the release of the encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI calling for a one-world-government, only three days earlier, July 7, 2009 from nearby Rome.

Paragraph 67

Pope Benedict XVI has published his first social encyclical, which was presented at a Vatican press conference on the morning of July 7, 2009 The presentation was made by Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, and Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy, and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The encyclical was then released to the public at noon on July 7, suspiciously just one day before the the G-8 international summit was to begin in L'Aquila, Italy.

The official title of the document is "Encyclical Letter CARITAS IN VERITATE of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, the Lay Faithful, and All People of Good Will, on INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN CHARITY AND TRUTH"

The encyclical is mainly devoted to urging a united world to solve the problems of poverty, injustice, terrorism, starvation, racism, etc. on a global level. It is masterfully written, and in compelling in numerous ways. After all, who would want to be found as opposing "integral human development"?

But it is mainly Paragraph 67 that causes the hairs of Bible-believers (Revelation 13:7-8, 16-17) to stand. This paragraph suggests the means by which these global problems will have to be solved. Look at these quotes from Paragraph 67 carefully . . .

"In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION, and likewise of ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS OF GLOBAL FINANCE, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth."


"Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights. Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization. They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and the civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations."

Now, I encourage readers to check out the entire encyclical for themselves. Defenders of the Pope have already tried to point out that he is not calling for a one-world-political-authority, but is in fact against it All I can say, is that when I read the document I surely see the Pope calling for "A TRUE WORLD POLITICAL AUTHORITY".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ode to Lost Celebrities

For all his years of exclaiming, "He-e-e-e-e-e-r-e's Johnny!",
did he trust in Jesus Christ?
For all the winners he delivered the money,
did he receive eternal life?

For all her attention over physical appeal,
did she know inner beauty that's real?
For all her fame in acting as an "angel",
did she ever eternity feel?

For all his pushing on infomercials
so people would buy "OxyClean",
did he trust in the death and blood of Jesus
to cleanse him from all of sin's stains?

For all the acclaim from thousands of fans,
did anyone the Gospel tell
to this talented, but sad and lonely boy
who can't do the moonwalk in hell?

For the Scripture says it's appointed for all,
yes even the famous, to die.
On the day their soul is required of them,
then what will their money buy?

For when it's all said and done, and the books are opened,
there will be no one else you can blame;
for all that will matter on that awesome day
is that you've trusted the Lamb that was slain.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's Israel - No Buts About It

Recently at our district ministerium I was speaking on the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, pointing out the yet to be fulfilled promises to Judah, especially the promise of the glorious Coming of Messiah in Habakkuk 3:3-4. In the context of the teaching, I mentioned my serious concerns over several messages I had heard fairly recently in which the preachers took Old Testament passages like this, and prefacing their messages with a phrase like, "I know this is about Israel, but . . .", then proceeded to preach an application of the text instead of preaching the meaning of the text itself. While the applications were probably valid, the main thrust of the passage was lost.

After the meeting, several of the pastors came and confessed that they had been committing this same error in their preaching. They also pointed out a number of very prominent preachers from whom they had heard such a comment. I mention one here because he was referred to several times by the pastors and apparently has had some influence on them - R. Albert Mohler, Jr. in his book He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (2008, Moody). One of my staff members mentioned to me he had noticed this kind of error in Mohler's comments on Ezekiel 37 in chapter ten. I had not read the book, so he loaned me his audio CD of the book, to which I have now completed listening (it takes a lot longer for me to listen to a book than to read it).

If I may, I would like to balance my criticism with these advance thoughts. (1) Apart from the section I am going to point out, I appreciated Mohler's book. I commend the emphasis on the necessity of expositional preaching with the Gospel at the center. (2) I have no objection to using Ezekiel 37 as a model for ministry, evangelism, personal regeneration, or even church revitalization - in fact we should do so. What preacher would not resonate at least somewhat with the chapter title "On Preaching to Dry Bones"? But, these are not the meaning of the passage, nor the main thrust of the passage - they are secondary applications.

Now, here is the statement from the chapter which has been brought to my attention. It concerns the meaning of Ezekiel 37. "This is about the future hope of the resurrection. It is about God's promise to His own people, that He would give them new life. Of course, this prophecy took place at a specific moment in Israel's history, and it was first directed to that reality - a different time and context from our own. But, like every text in the Old Testament, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. Ultimately, it's great hope is not limited to Israel. This is the hope of the Church - restoration and resurrection through the preached Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Please notice the "but" in the middle of this quote. It's about Israel, "but" . . .

Shouldn't the expositor first be seeking the meaning of the text in it's own context? But Mohler seems to want to rush as quickly as possible to use the New Testament to reinterpret to Old, an invalid way to read the text. It would seem that he is doing this to not allow the reader time to even think that there is any other intent for this passage than the one he wants to give it. The New Testament uses the Old consistently with the meaning and intent of the Old, not in a way that reinterprets the Old.

"This is about the future hope of resurrection." Well, yes. But the passage is unmistakably about the reunification of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel into one, the regathering of all of the tribes of Israel to the promised land, the spiritual regeneration of the whole house of Israel, as well as the resurrection of Israel's believing dead. Mohler has missed all the important stuff.

"It is about God's promise to His own people, that He would give them new life." This is only true if by "His own people" is meant believing Israel. This cannot be forced to mean "His people" indiscriminately.

"Of course, this prophecy took place at a specific moment in Israel's history . . ." Agreed!

". . . and it was first directed to that reality . . ." Yes, Ezekiel's prophecy is directed to the reality of the Babylonian captivity. But, his prophecy is also directed to the reality of the future for that historic people and their offspring. Ezekiel 37 has not yet been completely fulfilled. For example, the Northern and Southern kingdoms have never been reunited. Israel has not yet experienced spiritual regeneration as promised in this chapter. Ezekiel is addressing a reality yet to come.

" . . .a different time and context from our own." Yes! So, we must be very careful about how we hop and skip from the past and future to our own time.

"But, like every text in the Old Testament, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ." I would like to know what this statement means. Of course we agree that Christ is the fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament (and New Testament as well) - the law, the prophets, and the writings. But, some of this is yet future. If by "is fulfilled" Mohler means that Ezekiel 37 has already been completely fulfilled in Christ, then he is terribly mistaken. Much of this is yet to be fulfilled in Christ. Christ is the future Davidic King presented in this chapter (v.24-28). By trying to compress the meaning of this chapter into the Church age, Mohler has completely missed Jesus Christ presented in this chapter as the future King.

"Ultimately, it's great hope is not limited to national Israel." I absolutely agree. But if the promises to Israel are not actually fulfilled as promised, they cannot be extended to anyone else for they would not even be true. If God does not regather, reunite, and regenerate Israel, nothing in this chapter can give hope for ministry, evangelism, or personal regeneration. If God will not keep His promises to Israel, then you cannot be sure that He will keep His promises to you in the midst of the Church age (this is the point of Romans 9-11).

"This is the hope of the Church - restoration and resurrection through the preached Gospel of Jesus Christ." While again I agree that the hope of the Church is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is not the "this" of Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel 37 is not about the Church, and applications may only be made to the Church secondarily. The hope for the Church in this passage it is to see that Christ, the Davidic King of the glorious future Messianic Kingdom, will fulfill all of these promises to Israel, and that the Church benefits because we have been grafted in to those promises.

It's about Israel. No "ifs". No "buts". And, yes, a glorious "and" for all those who believe and are grafted in to the promises to Israel's patriarchs (Romans 11:18-19).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blessing Abraham's Nation??

Genesis 12:2-3 "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing, and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Genesis 17:19 "But God said, 'No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him."

In light of such Biblical statements as the above, evaluate these recent news pieces from Israel Today ...

Sunday, May 31, 2009 "Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday told reporters in Cairo that he is convinced that US President Barack Obama is firmly committed to finally ejecting the Jews from Judea and Samaria . . . Meanwhile, Israeli officials cited by Ha'aretz decried the Obama administration's stiff demands that no more houses be built for Jews beyond the pre-1967 borders . . . Other officials attributed Obama's hard-line positions against Israel to his efforts to reconcile with the Arab and Muslim worlds, which will be the focus of a much anticipated speech he will give in Cairo this Thursday."

Monday, June 01, 2009 "Senior officials this week warned that the Obama administration will discontinue America's traditional defense of Israel at the United Nations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not agree to stop building homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The officials were quoted by the New York Times as saying US President Barack Obama is seriously considering no longer vetoing harsh anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council . . ."

Is there any other country left on earth who will bless Abraham's nation? Does Israel have anywhere to go for help, except perhaps to the lying, deceptive offers of the anti-Messiah? What will this mean for America, and for the missionary efforts that come from American churches and mission agencies these days?

Anyone left who still believes that the Book of Genesis is the very Word of God and takes it seriously should be prayerfully and alertly watching.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dad Writes Again!!

Earlier today, Saturday May 16, 2009, my son Phillip was married. I get to be the tremendously blessed Dad once again. All my love and the Lord's gracious blessing upon you - Phillip and Emily.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope, But Then??

Maybe the previous article along with the prayers and outcries of many of us, actually did some good! Charles (Chas) Freeman actually "removed himself from consideration to head the US National Intelligence Council, a position President Barak Obama tapped him for ...". Why? Because he was "heavily criticized by Israel advocacy groups and congressional Republicans" whom he called "unscrupulous people". Read the Article on Charles Freeman. Thanks to all of you "unscrupulous" ;-) friends out there!

But, here is another headline - "Clinton:There Will Be a Palestinian State, Jerusalem Will Be Its Capital". See Hillary Clinton's comments. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "all but guaranteed that her government will clash with Netanyahu's when she suggested in a joint press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that for Washington, the division of Jerusalem is a foregone conclusion."

I would suggest that Obama, Clinton, and company read Joel 3:1-2 in the Bible and see that there is a coming judgment pronounced by God on behalf of Israel especially for those who have "divided up My land".

Trying to not be on either side usually means you are taking the wrong side - it seems to be in this case.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So Soon??

I am not surprised to see the Obama administration's disregard and disdain for Israel, but I am surprised that it has been unleashed so soon and so blatantly. Below are some news sources you will want to check out on this matter.

Headline: "Obama to Pour Nearly $1 billion into Gaza". For what? Relief to Hamas to help rebuild Gaza. Hmmm - why wouldn't he give the money to Israel who actually owns the land? True believers in Christ who live in Palestinian territory actually long to be under Israel. Why would he give the money to this terrorist group that tries to masquerade as a government? Why doesn't this make big-time news when the economy is supposed to be the major issue? Is anyone upset about the US government giving away another billion dollars to anyone, let alone a terrorist group in the middle east?

This only shows that the economic crisis is a smokescreen for the more major, global, spiritual crisis - the international rejection of Israel. How interesting that a billion dollars can slip past almost everyone in the midst of an economic crisis.

Headline: "Anti-Israel Hamas-embracer to be Named US Intel Chief"

Chas W. Freeman, Jr. has been named as the new head of the National Intelligence Council. He is quoted in this article as having said, "Supporting Israel is not in America's best interests." Hmmm - and all while the Secretary of State is out of the country.

If the administration leadership has read Genesis 12:3, 15:18, 35:9-12, and 50:24, they surely do not believe these verses to be true or authoritative. They fail to accept that this land is promised to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, not the seed of Ishmael or Esau. To try to take a position of neutrality is to fail to support Israel. To aid Israel's enemies is to curse her. One can only wonder what is coming next and how soon - what will discussions with Iran produce? How many more billions will that cost?

Headline: "What a PM Netanyahu Faces From Washington"

Many evangelicals are glad that Netanyahu is back in leadership in Israel. But he faces an America that is not likely to help him as in the past.

This is a helpful video called "What Really Happened In the Middle East".

As Israel's position grows weaker and weaker, the likelihood of the nearness of coming 70th Week of Daniel/Tribulational events grows stronger and stronger.

Even so ... Maranatha.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pray for Chad Trip

Below is Pastor Keith's itinerary for the trip to the Chad . . .

SUNDAY, JANUARY 11 : departs Philadelphia, Air France #0365 at 6:55 pm EST

MONDAY, JANUARY 12 :  arrives Paris at 8:10 am (2:10 am EST),  departs Paris, Air France #0856 at 3:55 pm (9:55 am EST), arrives N'Djamena, Chad 9:45 pm (3:45 pm EST), Dadje Samuel and Kirk Carver will pick up at airport and bring to TEAM Mission station where he will spend the night

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13 :  drive from N'Djamena to Moundou with Dadje Samuel, Kirk Carver, and Larry DeArmey , stay at Guesthouse in Moundou !

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14 through SATURDAY, JANUARY 17 :  Teaching the General Epistles (Hebrews through Jude) at Kou-Bethanie (training center in Moundou) to potential evangelists/church planters

SUNDAY, JANUARY 18 :  preaching at one of the churches in Moundou area

MONDAY, JANUARY 19 : finish teaching the General Epistles in Moundou

TUESDAY, JANUARY 20 : travel to Gadjibian for Chadian National Conference

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21 through FRIDAY JANUARY 23 : participate in Chadian National Conference, including preaching several messages on the theme of "endurance"

SATURDAY, JANUARY 24 :  to Bessao ??

SUNDAY, JANUARY 25 : preaching at one of the nearby churches

MONDAY, JANUARY, 26 through FRIDAY, JANUARY 30 :  Teaching the General Epistle again, this time to students and faculty at the Bible Institute in Bessao

SATURDAY, JANUARY 31 : return trip to N'Djamena ;  depart N'Djamena, Air France #0881 at 11:50 pm (5:50 pm EST)

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 01 :  arrive Paris 5:45 am (11:45 pm on Jan. 31  EST),  depart Paris, Air France #0366 at 1:30 pm (7:30 am EST); arrive Philadelphia at 4:15 pm EST