Matt Postiff's Blog
Here's a quick hit piece on worry.
Worry is associated with other negative things like pride, wrong thinking, lack of peace, misplaced trust, fear, anxiety, stress, and prayerlessness.
The opposite of worry is trust, humility, belief in God, right thinking, and peace. Some texts of Scripture that remind us about these truths are found in Psalm 20:7, Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:6-7, and Philippians 4:6-10.
I have published a new life testimony by Eduard Suderman.
Translated from German in 1981, it was originally written in 1913, when Mr. Suderman was 80 years old. It comes to about 17 typewritten pages, about 7500 words. Eduard Suderman is my great-great grandfather. The translator was Anna Suderman, my grandmother's sister, who was a missionary to India. I believe she served under the Mennonite Brethren there.
I found several notable portions from the autobiography:
- His sensitivity to sin, particularly around and after the time of his salvation at age 40.
- His views of alcohol.
- The fact that church meetings happened on Sundays and Wednesdays.
- His Mennonite heritage .
- His view of the Catholic religion as empty forms and rituals.
- His desire for prayer and real fellowship with like-minded believers.
- The importance of prayer.
I am thankful for a godly heritage that was passed down to my grandmother, and to my father. A home with two Christian parents was a great advantage to me.
Kevin DeYoung has written on the identity of the 144,000 servants of God in Revelation 7:3-8. He starts this way:
The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4) represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.
I have no argument with Pastor DeYoung's second denial--that the 144,000 are "certainly not...Jehovah's Witnesses." But I have to take issue with his assertion that these are not an ethnic Jewish remnant.
Let us suppose for a moment that God will in fact seal a certain number of ethnic Jews for a particular purpose or mission during the Tribulation period. Just how could God express this fact in writing through John if He could not convince the modern reader with the words that He used in Revelation 7:4? Perhaps something like this would have been sufficient:
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. I. Mean. Jews! And. I. Mean. One. Hundred. Forty. Four. Thousand! (hypothetical Rev. 7:4)
The hermeneutical contortions that DeYoung forces upon the text are just too much. The text is clear as it is written. If God means what DeYoung says, why did He not simply say it plainly that way?
Now for a brief critique each of DeYoung's supporting arguments.
First, whether or not it "makes sense" that God would seal all of His followers, the text only mentions these 144,000 Jewish ones being sealed. Satan's action in chapter 13 is irrelevant.
Second, using a text from Ezekiel 9 to support a seemingly "similar distinction based on who worships God" and denying any Jewish connection is tenuous. This is particularly so since those who were sealed in Ezekiel were Jews.
Third, DeYoung says, "the 144,000 are called the servants of our God…There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that." What he means is that the only descriptive phrase that is allowed to be taken literally is "servants of God." The number and the ethnicity are not allowed to be taken literally. When John heard the number, what he heard was not significant, DeYoung implies. So why didn't John just say, "Then I heard that those servants were sealed," and dispense with the remainder of verses 4-8? In fact, the phrase servants of God, the number, and the ethnicity all contribute to the meaning of the text.
Fourth, DeYoung argues from the descriptions "redeemed from the earth" and "purchased from among men" that this language is generic, applying to everyone. Again the question must be asked—why didn't God just leave out the extra descriptions, and make explicit that this was all the redeemed that were on the earth at that time in the prophecy? He asserts that the number is symbolic of the redeemed "drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews." He adds that it must be symbolic, because "not defiled with women" (14:4) cannot mean celibate Jewish men…in spite of the fact that the text affirms that they are virgins.
Fifth, DeYoung states that the tribe list and their numbers are highly stylized, so they are not to be taken literally. This reminds me of the framework hypothesis of the creation account, which argues in part that the account is highly stylized, so it cannot be understood as a literal narrative of the events of the creation week. To the contrary, though both passages display wonderful literary quality, this does not mean that it cannot be understood literally.
In sum, the bottom line of DeYoung's argument is that he cannot make sense of the text literally within his theological framework, so it makes more sense to take it to mean something other than what it says. Granted, there is much symbolic language in Revelation. But, for example, an angel whose "face is like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire" is quite a bit different than a number and a list of tribes of Israel. There is a distinction between symbolic language and plain language, and Revelation 7:3-8 is definitely on the plain side of that divide.
I would add one more argument in favor of taking the text literally to refer to Jews. Read on to verse 9:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Rev. 7:9 NIV)
John refers to tribes of Jews in 7:3-8, and then immediately mentions "every nation, tribe, people, and language." This strengthens our understanding that the 144,000 are in fact ethnic Jews whom God sets apart for special protection and service during the Tribulation. Why would God refer to "all the redeemed" as 144,000 of the Jewish tribes, and then immediately repeat Himself but using the broader language of "every nation"? It makes more sense that Scripture means Jews when it says Jews, and it means "every nation" when it says every nation.
Ultimately what is at stake in this debate is how we read the Bible. Someone like DeYoung reads the exact same passages I do; but he reads at least this one a whole lot differently than I do and, I would argue, he reads it incorrectly.Clint Archer also defends a literal reading of the 144,000.
While cleaning today we found this:
I simply argue that the cross be raised again
at the center of the market place
as well as on the steeple of the church.
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral
between two candles:
But on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
At a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write his title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek...
And at the kind of place
where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse and soldiers gamble.
But that is where he died,
and that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ's men out to be,
and what church people ought to be about.
I did not dig into who this fellow is or what his theology is. But the way I understand his text, it expresses a good thought: the cross of Christ must be pressed in the center of society; in the market place of ideas; in the academy; to scientists and engineers and stay-at-home moms and lawyers and politicians and CEOs and janitors. The need is vast. Those willing to set up a cross again in the center of the market place are few.
Pray that God will raise some more bold witnesses in our day.
I received a question today about what the Bible means in Matthew 27:46 when it quotes Jesus speaking about being forsaken by God.
Why did Jesus cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me," when he was on the cross in Matthew 27:46? It appears to be a quote of Psalm 22:1 and could be read to be part of his feeling on the cross. I am also thinking that Jesus bore the sin of all mankind and that as a result of bearing that sin, he felt separation from God the Father. Am I on the right track?
You are on the right track. Righteous Jesus is calling out to God in the way an Old Testament saint would call out to God for deliverance from his enemies. The believer trusts in God for that rescue.
But in this case, there would be no deliverance, at least not before death had taken its toll. In judicial wrath, God had turned against His own Son. This Son, although He never sinned at all, had at that time "become sin for us" so that we might "become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). So not only did Jesus feel a separation from God; there in fact was a separation between them. This happened until Jesus paid the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Sin separates from God (Isaiah 59:2). This is why we need a mediator to bring the sinner to the holy God. Only Jesus is able to do that.
A couple of details mentioned in Revelation 19-20 about the beast, false prophet, and the devil give us a clue that we are correct in our basic chronology of a 1,000-year kingdom between the Tribulation and eternal state.
In 19:20, the beast and false prophet who were so active during the Tribulation are thrown alive into the lake of fire. They are the first residents of that place (all prior souls have gone to a similar but different place called Hades).
After this, chapter 20 portrays the Devil as being bound and locked into another different place--the bottomless pit. After being incarcerated there for 1,000 years, he is released a little while (20:3, 7) and deceives the nations (20:8). This results in the final battle between God and Satan, who is thrown into the lake of fire (20:9-10).
In the middle of verse 10, note is made of the fact that the Devil is cast into the place where the beast and false prophet also already were. They had been there for 1,000 years. The fact that Satan is placed where they already were helps us to see that we have the order of events right. The beast and false prophet are sent to Hell, then there are 1,000 years, and then Satan is sent to Hell.
None of these things has occurred yet. We are boxed in by the text, so to speak, such that we must see a millennium intervening between two resurrections, all of which is yet future. The amillennial interpretation simply cannot be correct because it demands the present age immediately be followed by eternity with no intervening Tribulation and 1,000 year kingdom before the final judgment of Revelation 20:11-15.
I'm finishing Revelation and noticed something of an emphasis on repentance. For all the symbolism and other difficulties associated with the apocalyptic genre of Revelation, this element is crystal clear. God is very interested in people repenting.
Consider the following, which is the collection of all 10 verses in Revelation that use the word repent (all verses from NKJV).
Rev. 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-- unless you repent.
Rev. 2:16 `Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Rev. 2:21 "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
Rev. 2:22 "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
Rev. 3:3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Rev. 3:19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Rev. 9:20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
Rev. 9:21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Rev. 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
Rev. 16:11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
There is an awful lot of repenting that should be happening during the Tribulation. The remainder of Scripture is clear too that this is not something required of humanity only in the last days; it is the kind of response God desires in every age. It has been fashionable in some circles to downplay or eliminate repentance from the gospel. Such a fashion is not at all Biblical.
With this post, I am publishing the annual set of Bible reading schedules that I have prepared for the past eight years.
- Read the New Testament once
- Read the New Testament twice
- Read the New Testament four times
- Read the Old Testament once
- Key chapters for young readers
- Read the book of Acts and New Testament letters in just four and a half months, in chronological order
- Read the Greek New Testament in order from easier to harder Greek.
If you would like another schedule that takes you through the entire Bible in the year, and with some chronological ordering in it, check out this schedule from bibleclassmaterial.com.
Some other reading plans might catch your interest:
A reminder for those whose loved ones have gone to heaven.
Those believers who have died worship the Christ of Christmas in person.
There is no Christmas tree, for Christ Himself is there.
Their gifts are not material things, but rather heaven itself and all its glory.
Their songs are not weakened by human frailty but are strengthened by God.
Their hearts are not sad, but are glad because of the sight of God.
Their memories are purified so that they focus not on the darkness of past earthly life.
Their lives are marked by rest and not anxiety.
Their fellowship is sweet, with all those believers who have died before them and since.
Their dwelling place is perfect, with no lack.
Their hearts are free from the cares of earthly life.
They experience the tender mercy of God every moment. Do not be sad for them!
They remind us that Christmas is one key reason that they are there in heaven now, and why we can hope to go there too.
They await with perfect patience our coming to join them.
They call to us with silent voice to worship as best we can until the Lord deems that it is our time to join them there in Christmas celebration, for all eternity.
We continue in our quest to carefully develop a sequence of future events as taught in Scripture. As we saw last time, such an eschatology must take the text in Revelation 20:1-6 literally.
When we do that, we immediately find deficiencies in other approaches. For instance, we find that we cannot take seriously any interpretive system that teaches a single general resurrection. The text of Scripture could not be more clear that there are two resurrections separated by 1000 years. There must therefore be at least two resurrections. The Bible may reveal more detail or even more resurrections, but there cannot be fewer than two. I think other interpretations are caught in the older revelatory information that says things like Daniel 12:2. The
It is also clear from a plain reading of the text that the Lord Jesus returns to the earth before the millennial kingdom and after the Tribulation. That is, His coming is premillennnial. That is how the sequence of events is portrayed by John in Revelation 19-20.
I did not spell it out in the last post, but I do hold to a futurist interpretation of most of the book of Revelation. The events described in the book after chapter 3 match nothing that the world has experienced in history up to this point.
Moving "backwards" in the sequence of events and to begin to answer the question about whether there is a pre-tribulational rapture of the church, let us shift our attention to Revelation 3:10. This text records a promise of Jesus that He will keep the church in Philadelphia from the hour of trial which is going to come upon the whole world. Contextually, it seems clear that this hour of trial refers to what is written in Revelation 6 through 19. I take this as paradigmatic of the church as a whole. Certainly the very believers in that church were kept from the hour of trial, since the Tribulation was yet future to them as it is to us this day in 2016. But their deliverance is a kind of pattern of the deliverance of the entire church from the Tribulation. Other texts of Scripture agree with this notion (1 Thess. 1:10 and 5:9).
The entirety of Revelation 6 through 19 support the absence of the church by its silence about the church. Granted, there are some believers present during the Tribulation. These people are converted during the Tribulation through the witness of God's messengers (Revelation 7 and 14). Their life is evidently difficult because of the persecution done by Satan. The marked silence of Revelation on the church makes it a fool's errand to prove that the church is present during the Tribulation.
There are a number of other supporting arguments for the pre-tribulation rapture. Among them are the nature of Daniel's 70th week focusing as it does on God's program with Israel, the consistent distinction of the church and Israel throughout the New Testament, the imminence of the coming of Christ (at the rapture) as contrasted with the signs that indicate that Israel's redemption is drawing near, the restrainer in 2 Thess. 2, the differences between a translation of believers and the coming of Christ to the earth, the 24 elders in Revelation, the proclamation of peace and safety in 1 Thess. 5:3, the lack of instruction about the Tribulation in the epistolary literature, Israel as the focus of Satan's attacks during the Tribulation (Rev. 12), and the complete apostasy during the Tribulation. These and more are detailed in chapter 13 of J. Dwight Pentecost's book Things to Come, pp. 193-218.
I read Tim Challies article about why he is not dispensational and was interested to find that his defense of amillennialism was basically that it was the position he was taught from youth, and he had not been convinced otherwise since that time. Since I had recently been questioned by another inquirer on the same topic, I thought I would write on how you can develop a simple, Biblical, systematic approach to eschatology, the study of last things.
The system of thought that comes out of this approach is called pretribulational premillennialism. It is sometimes called dispensational premillennialism, to distinguish it from historic premillennialism.
I start with the principle of literal interpretation, in which words are understood according to the plain meaning. This is not the principle used by amillennialism or postmillennialism. And that is not a straw-man charge: consider this quote referenced by Challies regarding the definition of amillennialism:
Allison: "With respect to eschatology, the position that there is no (a-) millennium, or no future thousand-year period of Christ's reign on earth...Key to this position is its nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6: Satan’s binding is God’s current restraint of him, enabling the gospel to advance everywhere. Saints who rule are Christians who have died and are now with Christ in heaven. At the end of this present age, Christ will defeat a loosed Satan, ushering in the last judgment, the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth." (The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms).
Note well that the nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20 is key to this view. I could never believe such a notion, and so amillennialism is basically dead on arrival when it comes to my doorstep. I argue opposite, that the literal interpretation is key to understanding this portion, and indeed any portion, of the Bible. And in fact, the literal interpretation is feasible. It presents no impossible difficulties.
A critical review of Allison's definition raises several deficiencies in it. First, Satan is not presently bound in any meaningful sense of the term "bound." 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour. He freely deceives individuals and nations throughout the world. The gospel has not advanced everywhere, certainly not in closed countries and even in open countries it is now on the decline. This agrees with the pessimistic view that the Bible presents about mankind and its sin (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; 4:3). The ruling saints, if they are ruling from heaven, are not doing a very visible or effective job of their rule. There is no territorial realm which they rule over; there are no people they rule over; and their ruling function does not appear to be exercised here on earth, and there is nothing to rule in a perfect heaven. More importantly, the kingdom is always portrayed in the Bible as future, and earthly. To redefine the rule as present and heavenly is another example of how a nonliteral interpretation does damage to the plain meaning of Scripture. Finally, at least for this brief critique, it needs to be noted that the Bible is explicit that there are (at least) two resurrections. They are separated by a period of 1000 years. There is not one general resurrection.
Now, on to my question. How do you develop a system of eschatology? Besides using literal interpretation, we also rely on clear texts to develop our framework, and then we fit less clear or harder-to-understand texts into that framework. All will admit that there are easier and there are harder texts to interpret and assimilate into our system of understanding the Scripture. I believe it is valid to read through Scripture, and build an understanding bit by bit from portions that are easier to understand, and to add in other portions as I go. As a finite creature, I'm not sure how else it could be done. Of course, later data may and certainly should shape and re-shape my earlier conclusions, but clear texts cannot be overridden by less clear, more difficult ones.
We will use as our starting point the same text that Challies mentioned above, Revelation 20:1-6. Somewhat surprisingly, the apostle John departs from the highly symbolic and figurative approach of the prior chapters in the Apocalypse and drops into some very normal prose.
For my amillennial friends, let me ask you to, just for a few minutes, suspend disbelief and suppose that God's program could be what the literal reading of this text suggests, namely:
19:11, Christ returns to the earth after a terrible time of tribulation upon the earth and executes His enemies and those who oppose His people. This time of Tribulation is one that has not been previously experienced in world history and thus is yet future.
20:1-3, An angel is comes down from heaven to incarcerate Satan. This imprisonment lasts 1000 years and its purpose is to prevent Satan from deceiving the nations during that 1000 year time period.
20:4, Believers who had been martyred during the terrible time of tribulation re-appear, seated with Jesus upon thrones from which they rule the world. Their re-appearance occurred because they were resurrected. The text says that they had been beheaded, but now lived. They did this for 1000 years.
20:5, The rest of the dead, which I believe refers to those who do not believe in God, were not resurrected until the end of the 1000 years. The resurrection which occurs prior to the 1000 years is the first resurrection. The second resurrection happens after the 1000 years. This proves that there are at least two resurrections.
20:6, A special blessing is pronounced upon those who take part in the first resurrection. The blessing has to do, among other things, with participating in the kingdom of Christ in the prior verse. The blessing also has to do with the fact that the second death has no power over them, but rather they will be priests of God and Christ, and will reign with Christ for 1000 years. 20:14 defines the second death for us, namely that which occurs when someone is thrown into the lake of fire.
There shouldn't be any question that God could do all of the above. I don't think there is any question that He is intending us to understand Scripture to say exactly that. I wonder how He could or should have been more clear if the above is not what He meant. The sequence of John's presentation makes it clear that he saw these things in his vision in the order they are recorded. The time words as to the 1000 years, and events before and after, make it clear that it is not only the order of the vision, but also the order of events are portrayed by the vision.
To be continued...
When we get to heaven, will there be time there?
This question has come to me many times over the years. Or, the idea is expressed more confidently as a settled assertion: "There will not be time in heaven."
In reply, I always cite this verse that is in the context of the eternal state: Revelation 22:2—"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" (NIV).
The part that surprises people is that the tree bears fruit every month. How can that be, if there is no time in heaven?
Well, perhaps there is time in heaven! Maybe we can count off the years and know that we have been there 10,000 years. Even so, we will have no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun!
The answer to the question runs like this: Yes, time will exist in heaven. However, the "pressure" of time will be gone, so its passage will not matter or be bothersome. There will always be enough time.
I am no philosopher, but it seems to me that finite beings such as humans are somehow always going to be subject to some kind of time because they cannot be everywhere at once or see everything at once. To direct their gaze from one place to another, or to move from one place to another, will necessarily take time. They will not be limited by time like we are in the present age (James 4:14; Psalm 90:10), but they will notice its passage.
Admittedly, I've gone a little beyond what is written in Scripture. And I cannot say anything about how the passage of time will feel to those who do not trust in Christ, who reside in Hell forever. That place is one of interminable torment. It is too awful to think much about. So, speaking of time, today is the day to be saved from sin. Trust in Christ!