Great is the Truth and It Shall Prevail!

October 25, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism
Psalm 37:1–2, 7-8
1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb… 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, or the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, or the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice – we look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.
David was no stranger to these temptations and helps us put the triumph of the wicked in perspective. How ought we to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us? Ought we to become angry? Anxious? Envious?
David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger or anxiety when we see the wicked triumphing? Is it righteous indignation at the defaming of God’s name? Is it fear at what they may do when they gain power? Whatever the reason for our anger or anxiety, David reminds us that such a response forgets God’s sovereignty. He calls us to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed is the one who governs all things. He is the righteous Judge and the Loving Father. He shall call the wicked to account and He knows the number of hairs on our head. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and so, David teaches us to sing, we need not grow angry or anxious, it only causes harm. We are to trust God; believe Him; look to Him. He will vindicate His Name and the names of all those who trust Him.

But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety but envy. We envy their prosperity or their power or their influence or their licentiousness. But such envy reveals that we really don’t believe that God is the Lord and will render to every man according to his works. After all, David reminds us that the lot of the wicked is not enviable; any triumph they experience is momentary. They shall be cut down like grass; their plans will ultimately fail; and they shall be destroyed. So why envy that?
God has so made the world and so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as that is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. Any triumph of the wicked is momentary. As John Wycliffe declared, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”

Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive our anger, anxiety, and envy.

The Nations Will Worship God

October 11, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Singing Psalms, Worship
 1Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 2 Sing out the honor of His name;
         Make His praise glorious.
 3 Say to God,
         “How awesome are Your works!
         Through the greatness of Your power
         Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
 4 All the earth shall worship You
         And sing praises to You;
         They shall sing praises to Your name.”  Selah  
Psalm 66:1-4
When we look toward the future, what do we expect? For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future has been unduly pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s bodily return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to His return, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even should, do to reverse this trend. After all, to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord.
So how does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David describes his anticipation for the future like this:
Through the greatness of Your power, [O Lord,]Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”
In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of the worship of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the praise of God. All the earth shall worship, all shall sing praises, even God’s enemies shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty, because He is the Exalted Lord.
So if God is the Exalted Lord and He is going to exalt His Name in all the earth in the course of human history, what is our calling here and now? Well listen again to David’s exhortations.
 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Because God is going to exalt His Name in all the earth, David summons the nations in the here and now to do just that – exalt God now! Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! David calls upon all nations to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God’s might and power.
It is this same summons that we issue every Lord’s Day. As we come into God’s presence and sing His praises, we are invoking the nations to come and to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to makes its way out of here into our homes and communities during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord!
This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord let us consider the exhortations that David gives us:
·      We are to sing – not mumble
·      We are to sing joyfully – not morosely
·      We are to sing loudly – not silently
·      We are to sing beautifully – not obnoxiously

And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.

Questions on Eschatology

February 13, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Eschatology, King Jesus

My daughter has written a thesis on eschatology for her persuasive speech this year. In the midst of her research she had a number of questions – here are a few and my answers.

1. When looking at the 1000 years in Revelation 20, it isn’t literal so is it “prophetic” or something else?

The 1000 years is symbolic of a very extensive number. The factor 1000 has already been used in Scripture and in Revelation in this way. For example, Scripture notes that God owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t own the cattle on the 1001 hill but that he owns all of them. Similarly, Revelation identifies 12×1000 from each tribe of Israel who are saved by God as a remnant within unbelieving Israel. This is again symbolic of a perfect number from each tribe – not that there were exactly 12000 from each tribe. (Rev 7:4ff).

2. Can you explain Revelation 20 about what it means by Satan being chained and being sealed away for awhile?
Yep, would you like me to? 🙂 Assuming yes – this refers to the current age. Notice that the chaining of Satan is in a particular regard. He is chained that “he not deceive the nations any longer.” In other words, the time of Satan’s control of the nations (the old covenant era) has come to an end. Jesus has broken the power of Satan, the nations are now His, and He is in the process of bringing them into submission to His rule through the preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments. Jesus clearly teaches this in Mark 3 when he is accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons. Jesus says, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” Note that Jesus essentially says – your accusation is absurd! But then he goes on to explain what he is doing: “No one can enter a strong man’s house [Satan’s house] and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.” During his ministry Jesus was in the process of binding Satan so that he might plunder Satan’s house – the nations of the earth. So that’s what Jesus is doing now. He conquered Satan throughout His ministry (Lk 10:17-19) but definitively at the cross (Col 2:15). So Satan is now “bound.” Remember the image in Pilgrim’s Progress of the two lions on either side of Christian’s path? So long as he kept to the path they could not harm him – for they were chained.

3. Does the 1000 years in revelation 20:4-6 mean that he reigns among us today?
Absolutely – Jesus reigns today. He is the Lord of all (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 2:29-36 especially 36; Rev 1:4-5; 11:15-19; 17:12-14;  19:11-16). When Satan is called the “lord of this world” it does not mean he is the lord of the earth but the lord of those forces that wage war against Jesus and His lawful rule. God is the King; Jesus is King; Satan is not.

4. Can you explain again what the iron and clay feet represent in Daniel 2? And what verses 41-44 mean?
The kingdom of iron and iron/clay is one kingdom – Rome. The mixture of iron and clay in the feet represents the inherent instability of Rome but also of all the kingdoms built on human power and might. These kingdoms are doomed to fail. So notice v. 41 – “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided…” Which kingdom? The kingdom that Daniel has just mentioned – he connects the legs of iron with the mixed feet. They are one kingdom. This is confirmed by Daniel’s later vision in chapter 7 – again there are four pagan kingdoms replaced by the kingdom of the Son of Man. There is no “extra” kingdom in there. Lion – Babylon; Bear – Persia; Leopard – Macedon; Monster – Rome; Son of Man – Jesus! The animal kingdoms are replaced by the human kingdom. Praise God!

5. What is the mountain/God’s kingdom in Daniel, referring to? The kingdom of God in the Church or the heavenly kingdom or none of those?
The rock cut out without hands is the kingdom of God (2:44), the rule of God established through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk 1:15) – he came announcing that the time to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy had arrived. The kingdom is not identical with the church. The kingdom of God is the rule of God through His Messiah Jesus. The kingdom, therefore, is more extensive than the Church. Because Jesus rules, because He has established His kingdom, there is a people of God on earth – the Church. The Church is one of the manifestations of Christ’s rule but not to be equated with His rule. After all, there are other evidences of Christ’s rule – the spread of peace, the establishment of civil justice, the protection of the poor and needy, liberty, etc. Christ’s kingdom is more extensive than the church.

6. What do Revelation 20:7-10 mean?

They imply that near the end of Christ’s triumphant rule there will be a brief rebellion by Satan and his hosts which will be overcome by Christ’s return in glory.
You might listen to my sermon here for a description of Revelation 20. You can download the pdf notes for the sermon there as well.

Are we anti-Zionists?

September 15, 2014 in Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Politics, Postmillennialism

My daughter is doing a research paper on postmillennialism. She asked me the other day whether ethnic Israel has a place in God’s plan and if we’re anti-Zionists. So here’s my quick response:

Hah – you’re reading some interesting stuff. Ethnic Israel, like all the nations of the earth, shall one day bow the knee to Jesus (Ps 72:8-11). So long as ethnic Israel does not believe in Jesus, however, she sits under God’s condemnation and curse even as Gentile nations that don’t believe in Jesus do. But the glorious promise is that all nations shall worship the Lord – including special promises that ethnic Israel shall (Rom 11:28-32).

But remember that the Church is the Israel of God in the NT – see Gal 6:16 and Phil 3:2-3 and 1 Pet 2:9ff and Eph 2:11-22. So are we “anti-Zionists”? Depends on what you mean: the Church is biblically Mt. Zion, the city of the Living God. So we are pro-Zionists in so far as we labor and strive to build up the Church.

If the question is, “Should we support ethnic Israel as a matter of biblical and theological necessity?” then I think that the answer is NO. That will make me an anti-Zionist in some minds because they define “Zion” as the physical city of Jerusalem. But Paul makes clear that the Church is the heavenly Jerusalem, the reality to which the earthly Jerusalem only pointed (Gal 4:21-31).

All of this is, in my mind, separate from the political question, “Should America favor Israel to the other Middle Eastern countries?” To that question I may or may not answer yes as a Christian – personally I answer Yes. But I do so because the nation Israel supports biblical values more faithfully than other Middle Eastern countries not because ethnic Israel is God’s elect people. The Church is God’s elect people (1 Pet 2:9-10).

Death is not Normal

May 25, 2014 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - John, Easter, Eschatology, Judgment, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:29–34 (NKJV)
29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
Prior to becoming a pastor I used to daydream about preaching a sermon on the text in John, “Jesus wept.” I found myself frustrated by the way in which death is often trivialized in our current discourse; by the way in which even well-meaning Christian people speak of death as though it is a normal and natural part of human existence. And so I wanted to preach on that text, “Jesus wept.” There in the face of death, the death of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. Tears that were a protest against death; a protest against the notion that death is natural. Jesus wept.
And we all sense this, particularly we who know our Bibles and who know that Jesus has risen from the dead. We know that death is unnatural; we know that death is an enemy. Jesus wept. And it is this knowledge of the abnormality of death which Paul highlights in our text today.
How can some of you say, Paul has been insisting, that there is no resurrection of the dead? How can you say that death has the final word? How can you say that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has not transformed all of human history? Jesus is the firstfruits of those who sleep! Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead.
Now Paul appeals to the absurdity of their claim, their claim that death will basically continue on indefinitely. If death is normal, if death is not something that God intended from the very beginning to eliminate when the Seed of the Woman crushed the head of the Seed of the Serpent, then why did God command our fathers be baptized, to be washed with water, whenever they touched a dead body? Further, why do we Christians keep putting ourselves in harm’s way? Subjecting ourselves to ridicule, to criticism, to persecution, to death? Why endure all this pain and agony? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
But Jesus wept. Jesus wept because death is not natural; it is an invader; it is not a normal thing; it is a foe. But glory be to God, it is a defeated foe. There shall be a resurrection of the dead. Jesus has risen – so we too shall rise. We shall stand before our Creator and give an account of what we have done in the body.
Therefore, we must beware how we conduct ourselves during the time of our stay on earth. We must pursue righteousness and holiness; we must beware departing from the simple Gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ; we must beware embracing ideas that undermine our hope in the resurrection.

So what of you? Are you prepared to stand before your Maker? Have you sought His forgiveness through Christ and endeavored to conduct yourself in righteousness? It is the reminder that we must all appear before our Creator that is issued to us every Lord’s Day. Today we enter into God’s presence – and so we must kneel before God and confess that only in Jesus are we worthy to enter into His presence. So let us kneel and seek His forgiveness in Christ.

Religion and Culture

May 21, 2014 in Eschatology, King Jesus, Politics, Quotations, Reformation

“In the broad sense, a person’s religion is what grips his heart most strongly, what motivates him most deeply. It is the value that transcends all other values… Religions are totalitarian. They govern everything… everything we do in culture will reflect our faith in some way… Culture, therefore, is never religiously neutral. Everything in culture expresses and communicates a religious conviction: either faith in the true God or denial of him.” John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, p. 858.

Two Humanities, Two Representatives

May 18, 2014 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Creation, Easter, Eschatology, Judgment, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:20–28 (NKJV)
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
Today we continue to make our way through 1 Corinthians 15 in celebration of Eastertide, the time of year when we are invited to give special focus to the significance of Easter, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Here Paul unfolds for us the point that we endeavored to make last week: there is an indissoluble connection between the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we shall rise from our graves. Jesus came, Paul tells us, as a Second Adam, head of a new and renewed humanity. While the sin of the First Adam plunged not only himself but all humanity into death and judgment, the resurrection of the Second Adam, Jesus, brings new life not only to Himself but to all those who are in Him.
What this means is that throughout history there are two humanities: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the sheep and the goats; the circumcised and the uncircumcised; the wheat and the tares; those who have the First Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, face death and judgment; and those who have the Second Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, inherit eternal life and salvation.
You see, when Jesus returns in glory, every human being shall be made to appear before our Creator – and when we appear before Him, there will be but two fundamental groups of men and two spokesmen. There will be those who stand with the First Adam and who say to God through their representative, “I will rule my life by my own standards; I will be my own authority.”Then then there shall be those who stand with the Second Adam and who say to God through their representative, “All glory be to You, O Lord; for you have created me so I will live for your glory not my own.”
So in which group shall you be found? Will you stand with the First Adam? Will you stand in rebellion against God, choosing your own way and ignoring the commandments of God? Or will you stand with the Second? Will you stand in submission to God, choosing His way and treasuring the commandments of God? These are our two options; these are the two spokesmen. You must choose one to speak for you; there is no viable third option.
Of course, there are those who try to fool God; there are those who unite themselves with the Second Adam in baptism but who really embrace the life of the First. But on the final day there will be no fooling God or others. He knows the Adam with whom you identify.

So today as we confess our sins, let me remind you to confess them in the Name of Jesus Christ, trusting in Him as your representative. Only in this way shall we rise unto life on the Last Day. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord.