I Hate the Doctrine of Hell

March 3, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Eschatology, It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

“I hate the doctrine of hell.”  So begins the video by R.C. Sproul linked in this post.  I would agree with him.  An eternal hell is one of those things we Christians don’t like to talk much about, because we are so uncomfortable with what we say we believe.  Dr. Sproul explains our discomfort with hell while defending why it is still true.  One of the best things I’ve heard in a while.  The video is well worth the 3-1/2 minutes it takes to listen.  R. C. Sproul on God’s Glory in Judgment.

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Reflections of a Recovering Dispensationalist — a Book Review

October 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 2 Comments

I just read Reflections of a Recovering Dispensationalist by S. P. Sammons.  I picked up this book for two reasons.  First, I loved the title, because “Recovering Dispensationalist” could describe me as well as the author, though he knows far more than I do and was deeper into Dispensationalism than I was.  But second, when I saw recommendations by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, two men whose work I have appreciated in the past, I decided it was worth a read.  Sammons’ writing is simple and straight forward, sometimes sounding almost simplistic, but that style fits the purposes of this book very well, since his point is that a simple interpretation of scripture led him to his conclusions.  The subtitle is Revisiting the Pretribulational Rapture in Light of a Literal Interpretation.  Sammons writes as an insider, having grown up a Dispensationalist and having attended a Dispensational seminary, but he has since abandoned that school of thought.   Since I began this blog with a promise to chart my journey from a pre-tribulation rapture position to a post-tribulation rapture position, I had to include this report.

The argument he makes over and over, for numerous tenants of Dispensational Theology, is two-fold.  First he states that these tenants are no where plainly stated in scripture.  For example, Sammons says, “The pretribulation rapture of the Church is a doctrine that is not directly stated in the Scriptures.  It is a doctrine that is based on a nineteenth century theology”  (p.103)  I would have added that, in some cases, the straightforward interpretation of scripture leads to the opposite of what Dispensationalists claim.  Sammons only touches on that in the second stage of his argument.  I’ve written about some of those examples before.

Second, Sammons shows that the tenants of Dispensationalism also cannot be drawn from the Bible.  That the literal/historic hermeneutic that the Dispensationalists claim to follow really doesn’t give the conclusions they claim, unless they assume those conclusions to begin with.  The only way one can arrive there is to come to the scriptures with a predisposed bent toward them.   For example, “I would submit that to attribute meaning that the Apostle Paul did not intend is not the result of a plain and normal interpretation; rather, it is the result of coming to the text with an interpretive agenda.  One must impose a predetermined theological filter  .  .  .  ” (p.108)  He says similar things throughout the book, using this same two-fold approach for other points of the system.

I suppose I liked the book because the author wrote what has been my theological journey over the past 30 some years of Bible study.  It’s always been my intent to understand the text of the Bible.  That lead me to many unanswered questions and contradictions concerning Dispensationalism.  I came to the conviction, at one point, just as Sammons did, that one has to have a predetermined Dispensational bent to come to a Dispensational conclusion.  It is a theology that isn’t drawn from scripture; it is one that is brought to the scriptures.

Sammons claims not to be a Covenant Theologian either, and though he doesn’t clearly offer an alternative system, he quotes books that would offer one.  He does however, graciously invite those of a Dispensational bent to ask themselves some tough questions about their own system of belief.  If you’re willing to hear an insider’s journey out of Dispensational theology, you will find this book very interesting.

Heaven Is a Wonderful Place — Alternative Verses

September 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Eschatology, False teaching | Leave a comment

I concluded my sermon series on hope this past Sunday with thoughts about our final hope of being in the Lord’s presence in heaven.  I quoted that old spiritual song, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, because it talks about seeing the face of our Savior as part of the glory of heaven.  There is great hope in that – a hope far beyond anything else in the world.  That’s why Paul said “we don’t grieve like others do who have no hope.”  So how would others, because they have no hope, have to sing that song?  Here are some rewritten verses of that old song for people of other belief systems.

I know that some could be offended at these words.  This is not my intent; my purpose is to point out, in a light-hearted manner, that only followers of the real Jesus have a hope beyond this life.  The beliefs of other religious systems offer no real hope.  Others might say these verses are exclusive and simplistic.  I would agree, but they still present the truth.  I found these verses in my files hand scribbled with pencil on the back of some other notes.  I tried to look them up to see where I might have found them, and can only conclude I must have written them myself at some forgotten time in the past.

The Christian Version:

Heaven is a wonderful place,

Filled with glory and grace;

That’s where I’ll see my Savior’s face.

Heaven is a wonderful place.

Muslims

Heaven is a wonderful place,

But of mercy there is no trace.

I dread the day I see God’s face,

For judgment is in that place.

Eastern Religions

Heaven is a wonderful sound,

but we will never be crowned

to earth we’re forever bound.

So let’s stay here for another round.

Mormons

Heaven is not a real place.

If I’m good while I’m in this place,

I’ll be a god in outer space,

With my planet to call home base.

J.W.s

Heaven is a wonderful place,

But it’s filled and out of space.

What about the rest of the human race?

For them, not a saving grace

Naturalists/Humanists

Heaven is a crazy lie,

A promise of “pie in the sky.’

No such thing as “sweet by and by.”

So in our hopelessness we cry

Some Recent Reads

July 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Swimming, Theology | 2 Comments

I haven’t posted any book reports for a long time now.  Here are some recent reads that I found interesting:

100 Cupboards

Since my wife and daughter were reading this series and discussing it, I had to read it for the second time to keep up with the conversation.  I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.  I reviewed it here.

Michael Phelps: The Untold Story of a Champion, by Bob Schaller with an Introduction by Rowdy Gaines and a Forward by Jason Lezak.

The swimmers who wrote the Introduction and Forward made this look like a great read, and being a life-long swimmer myself, I couldn’t resist picking it up a while back.  Since this is an Olympic year, with Phelps back in the spotlight, I thought this would be a great summer read.  The information was interesting and I enjoyed that, but the editing was poorly done.  I noticed that the book was published in 2008 right after the Beijing Games, and I assumed it was quickly mass produced to take advantage of Michael Phelps’ popularity at that time.  Bob Schaller had written numerous magazine articles on Phelps, and this book must have been a compilation of some of those along with hastily scribbled notes from the 2008 Games.  For instance, numerous introductions of some key people, like Michael’s sisters, leave the reader with the impression the author is senile or each chapter was intended to be a separate article.  It’s no wonder I found it at the dollar store.  Maybe subsequent editions are better done.

Louis L’Amour

I hadn’t read any books by Louis L’Amour for at least 20 years, but when another swimmer at the Recreation Center loaned me a copy of The Last of the Breed, I thought I should get it back to him in a timely manner.  It was a great book – an exciting page turner.  The last one L’Amour ever wrote, and I’m sure a sequel was in his head somewhere.  It is the story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, who escapes a Soviet prison camp after his experimental aircraft is forced down over Russia.  If you like adventure stories and remember the cold war, this is worth your time.  It inspired me to pick up another L’Amour for a quick weekend read when I had some time away last week.  Called Milo Talon, it wasn’t as good as the first book.  However, L’Amour is a good story teller, and I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, by John Gerstner

This one has been on my shelf for a longtime.  Gerstner’s thesis, that Dispnsational Theology is mutually exclusive of Calvinism, fascinated me, but I’d never taken time to read the book.  It made me think more than any I’ve read in quite some time.  Gerstner begins with a historical presentation of Dispensationalism, and though it’s clear he doesn’t believe what he is presenting, his presentation was fascinating and seemed fair enough.  The section where Gerstner claims to show that Dispensational theology contradicts all five points of Calvinism was overstated.  He does demonstrate that the most popular Dispensational authors have some Arminian tendencies and do not agree with his understanding of Calvinism, but he fails to make his point.  Nowhere does he demonstrate that the tenants of Calvinism are exclusive of Dispensationalism.  However, in a later chapter, when the author asks the definition of a dispensation, he makes a strong point that Dispensationalists have changed their definitions over the years to avoid valid challenges from other Evangelicals, yet they haven’t yet corrected the problem.  Any definition given to the word changes the basic message of the gospel and opens up other means of salvation beyond the grace of God.  That chapter is a powerful refutation of Dispensationalism from a Calvinistic point of view.  Definitely a thought-provoking book that made me question what I believe on some of these issues.

Are Ghosts Real?

February 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Eschatology, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | Leave a comment

Hello Pastor Glenn,

I have a question about “spirits” or “ghosts.”  Recently a family member of mine called his ex-wife and told her he keeps seeing a man in his house whose always dressed in grey.  When he called the landlord, the landlord asked if he was dressed in grey.  He said the previous owner saw this spirit as well.  What is that?  Is it something evil?  Buy the way, this took place in Sweden.

Phenomena like this have been reported in popular tales for centuries.  The common accepted explanation is that these are ghosts, particularly spirits of dead people who may have passed away in the building or area where they appear.  Does the Bible have something to say about this?  Is the popular explanation a viable one within a biblical world view?  To answer, I will assume that at least some of the stories are factual, though to some people that is a big assumption.  Because of the human nature to embellish stories, I tend to think many of these are just fictional folk tales, but let’s say for argument purposes that some of them are true.

The Bible recognizes the existence of a spiritual world and of spirits.  However, the Bible calls those spirits “angels” (messengers from God) or “demons” (fallen angels, who oppose God).  Demons and angels are created beings, separate from humans.  The popular notion that good people die and become angels in God’s service is not biblical, nor is the idea that dead people are spirits just kind of hanging around this world until the end of time.  When believers die, their spirits are immediately in the presence of God (2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 1:22-23; Luke 23:43), and their bodies will someday be resurrected to live forever (1 Corinthians 15).  When unbelievers die, their spirits are immediately in torment (Luke 16:19-24), and they too will be resurrected (John 5:25-29).

Between the time of death and resurrection, can these spirits of dead people visit the earth and appear to or talk to others who still alive?  Apparently not.  Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man indicates that such a thing cannot happen (Luke 16:19-31).  Even if they could appear, they would have more important things to do than haunt people; for this story indicates they would want to give warning of what is to come.

What then of these ghostly appearances?  I believe we are left with two possibilities.  Either they are psychological in nature, or they are demons.  The psychology explanation, in my mind, leaves a lot to be desired,.  For instance, it can’t explain why appearances in the same location are often the same to different people, like the case you mention from Sweden.  That leaves only one possible explanation, and that is that such appearances are demons.

If that is the case, then why do they appear as they do – sometimes in the same form to different people in the same location?  I do not know.  Remember that Satan and his army are out to deceive and mislead.  They are liars, so anything spirits say is suspect, unless they prove to be spirits from God.  The Bible gives a clear test of a true spirit (1 John 4:1-4), and one would be wise to memorize it.  A spirit that cannot confess the true Jesus as the divine one in the flesh is not a spirit from God.  Finally, remember that all spirits are under the authority of Jesus, for he is the King of kings and Lord of lords; he is their creator, and they must answer to him (Colossians 1:15-20).

Saved During the Tribulation?

January 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Eschatology, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 3 Comments

Dear Pastor Glenn,

The past few weeks I have been attending a new church – a Baptist church – that is much closer to me.  Because I am new, I’ve been paying attention to doctrine … and something finally hit me last night in our Sunday night get together.  In his sermon, the pastor mentioned that he did not believe there would be any salvation after the Rapture.  That “Even if you want to believe, you will not be able to.”  That God would not permit it.

Something about that rubbed me the wrong way.  So I decided to look through Revelation.  Right away, I found in Revelation 7 the image John writes about the Multitude from every nation and every tongue, washed clean and clothed in white robes … washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb and by the Great Tribulation.  This seems to me to describe that people will find Christ in the end times … in fact, a multitude beyond count will!

Glenn, could you offer any opinion or insight you have on this?

Thank you!

 

Dear _______,  It’s good to hear from you.

This whole area of what will happen during the Tribulation is a complicated one.  I grew up being taught one perspective, and have, over the years, migrated to another.  You can read many reasons for that transition in my blog by clicking on the Eschatology category link.  Not all those posts are about that matter in particular, mostly just the older ones.  Basically, I have become convinced that what we call the Rapture will take place after the Great Tribulation, not before it.  Again, it’s complicated, and related to some other major theological matters, but in it’s simplest form, I find Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:29-31, and the parallel in Mark 13, to be the clearest teaching about the time of the Rapture.  It will take place after what Jesus calls “a great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.”  I am assuming from your question that your pastor teaches that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation.  If that is untrue, then much of what follows doesn’t apply.

Within my framework of understanding, your interpretation of Revelation 7 makes perfectly good sense (though some of that multitude will have been saved before the Tribulation).  I’m sure your pastor would have some other explanation for it.  The trouble with Revelation is that one’s end-time theology (that what “Eschatology” means) impacts the way it is interpreted more than the other way around.  When it comes to interpreting Revelation, I would be leery of anyone who can’t admit that.  Everyone admits that the book is full of symbolism, but just where the literal ends and the symbolism begins is not real clear.  And this is just one point where so many interpretations of Revelation are possible!

My perspective is that these matters are minor in comparison to some other issues.  However, these matters impact how we understand other theological issues, and visa-versa.  I don’t know that I’m familiar with the perspective your pastor is teaching, but it would make me question some other areas carefully.  Someone could come to that conclusion because they have what I might call a “hyper-dispensational” theology or because their understanding of the Gospel is different that what I believe the Bible teaches.  I grew up under dispensational teaching, but am no longer a dispensationalist; however, most who are dispensational are committed to the true Gospel, that is salvation is always a matter of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that is true in every era of history.  Some who call themselves dispensational, believe that God saves people in different ways throughout different eras of history.  Various views of this nature could lead to an understanding that no one can be saved during the Tribulation.

If this is where your pastor is coming from, I would be careful about what he believes is salvation.  Please note, I’m not saying he must have an errant view of salvation, I’m just saying, if it were me, I would pay close attention.  Even some whom I might call “hyper-dispensational” teach the true message of salvation in this era, but might believe it to be something else in other eras.  Personally I find that inconsistent, but I’m sure there are those who believe that way.

Finally, your comment “Even if you want to believe, you will not be able to.  God would not permit it” opens another big theological “can of worms” and demonstrates how different areas of theology impact our understanding of this matter.  This quote seems to confess that God is sovereign over salvation, but indicates that some who want God to save them cannot be saved.  Those two matters are totally inconsistent in my understanding.  I believe God is sovereign over matters of salvation, and that God draws to Jesus those who will be saved.  Jesus’ words in John 6:37, 44 are sufficient to prove this.  In other words, if someone wants to be saved, God is drawing him.  This last matter could take up shelves of theology books, and, in the past it has!

In conclusion, this is probably a minor issue (unless, of course, the pastor there makes it a major one), and if everything else lines with scripture, then this would not be a deal breaker.  If he makes it a major one, then I would carefully check out these other matters as well.  By the way, what he is telling you is not a Baptist distinctive, so don’t connect those in your mind.

Blessings, Pastor Glenn

A Better Country, A Heavenly One

September 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology | 2 Comments

While one a sabbath weekend in Estes Park, I reread some of the passages in the last chapters of Hebrews that I’d marked for further reflection the week before.  It occurred to me that we’ve lost our perspective on eternity.  After reading these passages, I was trying to think of songs about heaven, and I couldn’t come up with any newer songs, only old hymns.  Now I love some of those old hymns, but the fact that I could come up with no new songs indicates that we don’t think or preach about heaven much anymore.  Yet the biblical perspective is to let thoughts of heaven control many of our thoughts and actions.  Indeed it should be a big reason we do works of faith.

Here are some thoughts from those chapters.  Notice how the eternal perspective of heaven permeates much of this section on faith.  “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:34-36 ESV)

In the “faith chapter,” we are told that Abraham lived for years out of a tent without a permanent home, because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (11:10)  Later, the chapter says that these great men and women of faith were aliens and strangers in the world, because “they were seeking a homeland,” and “they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” and “God has prepared for them a city.” (11:14-16)  Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (11:27)  Those who were tortured refused release, “so that they might rise again to a better life.” (11:35)

The conclusion of the great faith chapter is found in the early verses of chapter 12.  We should “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2)  Later that same chapter reminds us that all things made will be shaken and removed, so only those things which cannot be shaken remain.  The conclusion and application for us: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (12:28-29)

Let’s make more of an effort to focus on the eternal reward in heaven.   Maybe then we can be just a little more like the great men and women of faith we are reminded of in these chapters.  “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (13:14)

We’re Still Here

May 21, 2011 at 7:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching | 1 Comment

Well, we’re still here on May 21, 2011.  This morning I “just happened” to read Psalm 75, and so much of this ancient song is appropriate for today.  God says, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly.  When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.”  God appoints the time, and as I’ve already noted elsewhere, only he knows that time.  Harold Camping doesn’t; neither do I; nor does anyone else.  Anyone who claims to know is only arrogantly boasting of things he knows nothing.  Notice the next verse of the Psalm, “To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.  Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck.'”  Only God can exalt a man, and those who exalt themselves will be brought down.  The next words of Psalm 75 are “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.  But it is God who judges:  He brings one down, he exalts another.”

Let’s not exalt ourselves because one man was wrong.  Rather let’s pray for those who gave away their life savings to advertise for a false prophet.  Let’s pray for those who will now say, “See the Bible was wrong again!”  For it’s not the Bible that was wrong, but one man’s false statements about it.  Let’s pray this draws people to the truth rather than drives them away.  Jesus Christ will return, but no one knows the day or the hour.  It is not for us to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Will Judgment Come on May 21?

April 20, 2011 at 10:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Pastor Glenn,

What do you think about all these signs around town calling May 21 the Judgment day and October 21 the day the world will end?  I am curious because I went to one website that listed all these dates since creation of the world and apparently these dates fall into proper order.  I don’t really get what they mean and how they came up with them!

Dear ________

They make some stupid assumptions; then add some spurious calculations; then get all the media attention they can get.  They will then tell you that all churches but theirs are corrupt and you must follow them.  Its has happened many times over since Jesus left the earth, and they’ve all been wrong.  The same people promoting May 21 have missed some other dates already.  Jesus promised to come back and said only the Father knows.  Best to stick with his plain words.

Pastor Glenn

My short answer was do to the format: communicating on Facebook.  There is, of course, much more that could be said.  Interestingly enough, the same day I got this question, I had read Acts 1 in my devotions.  Acts 1:8 is a verse well known to Christians, and the verses immediately before it address this very issue.  After his resurrection, the disciples met Jesus on the mountain he told them about.  They then asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  So Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Note the plain truth of the statement.  But what struck me is the connection between this and verse 8.  Jesus’ entire answer is “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  There is a big BUT connecting these two thoughts.  In other words, rather than speculate about such things, Jesus wanted his followers to focus on something else, on what he called them to do.

If Jesus comes back on May 21, 2011 or October 21, 2011 or December 21, 2012, that would be wonderful!  But that shouldn’t be our focus.  Our focus should be knowing Jesus Christ and making him known to others around the world.  Let’s let the Father worry about such things and be about the business to which he called us.

George Ladd: The Gospel of the Kingdom

February 23, 2011 at 10:04 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 2 Comments

I’ve been reading George Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom. I was greatly influenced by Ladd’s writing in the past, even though I’d never read one of his books; I’d only read what many others influenced by him had written.  When I saw a blog, on the Desiring God website I believe, listing the most influential books each person on their staff had read, I noticed this one listed by a few different people.  Soon after that, I came across a copy and decided it must be time to read it for myself.  This short book is a great summary of Ladd’s Kingdom theology.

Reading The Gospel of the Kingdom reminded me of my seminary days when I first thought through these matters for myself.  I had been raised in a Dispensational school of thought, but Ladd’s theology told an entirely different story about scripture that just seemed to make so much more sense than what I’d seen before.  His description of God’s Kingdom and its relationship to the Church and the nation of Israel drew my attention and my vote when it came time for a position paper on these matters.  That position has grown into my own conviction with over 20 years of biblical study and expository preaching since.

Ladd’s view is so simple and so elegant.  He defines the Kingdom of God and covers many scriptures dealing with the Kingdom, and then comes to these conclusions.  In scripture, kingdom primarily means authority and rule, so God’s Kingdom is his rule in the lives of men.  Those in God’s Kingdom are those in whose lives he reigns supreme – they are his people.  Ladd shows how the Kingdom is not, and was not, Israel, though those in the Kingdom in ages past usually were in Israel.  Then he shows how the Church is not the Kingdom, but those in the Kingdom in this age are in the church.  There is however, only one Kingdom, only one people of God; it works in different ages through different institutions.

This theory has many advantages of Dispensational theology without the weakness and many strengths of Covenant theology without those weaknesses.  If these matters are an interest to you, then you will like this book.  Simple but full of solid truth.

Here are two great quotes from the book:

The Kingdom of God is a miracle.  It is the act of God.  It is supernatural.  Men cannot build the Kingdom; they cannot erect it.  The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of God; it is God’s reign, God’s rule.  God has entrusted the Gospel of the Kingdom to men.  It is our responsibility to proclaim the good news about the Kingdom.  But the actual working of the Kingdom is God’s working. (p.64)

If the righteousness of the Kingdom is a standard which I must attain in my own ability, I stand forever condemned and shut out of the Kingdom of God.  No one, by human merit, can attain the standard of the Sermon on the Mount.  The righteousness which God’s Kingdom demands, God’s Kingdom must give.  It must be of grace or I am lost. (p.93)

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