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Posts Tagged ‘judgment’


One of the newer challenges to God and the Scriptures is to question the morality of God, particularly in the Old Testament. Both atheists and liberal theologians are finding this to be a fertile field right now. It is this challenge that Greg Beale meets in his booklet The Morality of God in the Old Testament.

He does not simply dismiss the charges made by others that God is essentially immoral to command acts often considered evil. His response is a mere 40 or so pages. It is not easy reading, but rises to the challenge. He lays out a 5-fold approach that he believes answers this problem. But first he mentions 2 common, but unsatisfactory, responses.

  1. Wartime Ethics Are Legitimately Different from Peacetime Ethics. Tied into this is the fact that we tend to judge the Scriptures based on our wartime ethics. As late as Vietnam we had no problem engaging in carpet bombing. In more recent conflicts we are loathe to harm civilians (unless using drones) in policies that often put our soldiers at risk. We are concerned about perception and ignore the reality of the threat they face in conflict. But this booklet isn’t about that ethical dilemma. While it is common for us to speak of a wartime ethic, Scripture doesn’t seem to offer us one explicitly.
  2. The Divine Command to Kill All Women and Children Is Not Meant to be Taken Literally.  Some argue that documents  from the ANE use exaggerated language in describing conquest similar to this. It refers essentially to thoroughly defeating the enemy. It functions as a rhetorical device. However, the Scriptures clearly indicate that particular people, like Rahab, were spared because they aligned themselves with Israel. Others escaped. So this argument does not seem to hold.

His proposed 5-fold approach tries to look at the problem from different angles. It is not a simplistic answer to the questions raised by atheists, agnostics and liberals. It is, I think, a thorough answer.

  1. The Commands Demonstrate God’s Justice in Response to Their Immorality and Idolatry in a Unique Redemptive-Historical Circumstance. That is a mouthful! During Abraham’s years in the Promised Land, we are told the Canaanites’ sin was not yet full. God was not ready to judge them. See how patient He is with societies and cultures. It was not that Abraham’s family wasn’t big enough, but they hadn’t sinned enough yet. By the time of the conquest they had. God was not just giving Israel the land, but judging the Canaanites. This is unique because there is no other Promised Land that needs to be conquered. The commands were not binding, but tied to the circumstances of the conquest. He was using the Israelites to execute His justice against them (just as He would Assyria against the Northern Kingdom and Babylon, and later Rome, against Judah). Everyone died because everyone was guilty and part of an utterly corrupt culture.
  2. The Commands Were to Remove Moral Uncleanness as Part of a Unique Redemptive-Historical Commission to Purify the Land as a Sanctuary. He goes back to the Garden and the Creation Mandate. Adam was to expand the borders of the Garden as a sanctuary for God. Israel was to treat the Land as a sanctuary. They were a corporate form of Adam as a kingdom of priests. After the conquest, the civil law laid out severe penalties for those guilty of similar sexual and cultic sins as the Canaanites.
  3. God’s Sovereignty Justifies His Command to Annihilate the Canaanites. As the Scriptures teach, He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy and hardens whom He will harden. And judge too!. God is free to deal with us as He chooses. While we may be relatively better or worse that other people, in God’s eyes we are all sinners who fall short of His glory and have earned the wages of sin which are death. God is free to annihilate any nation He wants to annihilate. We usually see His patience and mercy, and therefore presume upon them as if they were required of Him.
  4. God’s Command is an Anticipation of the End-Time Judgment of All People, and Thus a Suspension of the Expression of His Common Grace to Unbelievers during the Epoch of Israel. This is pretty much Kline’s intrusion ethic. This is an intrusion of the final judgment in which God will annihilate all who are not His. This is not the only type of the final judgment we see in Scripture. We also see the destruction of Samaria, Judah, Babylon, Assyria and other nations. There is evidence for this in how the NT uses the OT in judgment passages.
  5. God’s Command and the Imprecatory Psalms Anticipate the End-Time Judgment When Love of the Unbelieving Neighbors Ceases. While we are to love our neighbor now, in the final judgment we will not love all our neighbors but only those who love Christ as we do. God’s mercy and patience toward unbelievers reaches an end. He reveals His holy hatred for sin and the wicked.

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I’ve tried to become less reactionary in my blogging. I might have made some progress, or perhaps I’ve just been busier and don’t think about it very much. Sometimes there is an article or blog post that comes to my attention that is so annoying that I feel compelled to consider it for blog fodder. This morning I read one of them called 16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible. I suppose I am tempted to read too much into his Patheos post, but aware of this and will try my best to interpret his words well.

He is Roger Wolsey, a “progressive” United Methodist pastor. What he does is helpful because he does lay out his assumptions when he interprets the Bible. He doesn’t defend those assumptions, he just assumes they are superior to the assumptions held by “Fundamentalists”. By the way he articulates his argument you’d think there were only “Fundamentalists”, “Atheists” and “Progressives.” I am part of the great unknown (perhaps not to him but at least “Sir Not-Mentioned-in-this-Article”) that would fall under the category of Conservative and Confessional.

“All Christians pick and choose which portions of the Bible (to interpret) literally, progressive Christians simply admit this and share how we discern.”

Not sure I’d agree with that statement. Most people I know admit this and talk about how they discern the difference. Progressives are not superior to anyone in this matter. They don’t have “interpretative righteousness” as a result. I am bringing my men’s study through the book Bible Study that addresses many of these issues and I often verbalize these things as I preach or teach SS (the Revelation series was not an exception). I suggest he doesn’t give those pesky Fundamentalists enough credit. So much for the love (or charity) he talks about later. He seems to always paint them in a most negative light.

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I still remember seeing the trailer for Alien in the theater as a kid.  “In space no one can hear you scream.” Of course we heard them all scream since they were in a pressurized ship, but that is beside the point. It became a franchise that captured our imagination, and kept 20th Century Fox afloat.

The movies boasted some amazing directors at the beginning of their careers. It was the beginning of Ridley Scott’s amazing career. While Terminator had been filmed, it had not yet been released when James Cameron started working on Aliens. David Fincher is an amazing director, even if this wasn’t anywhere close to his best work.

I watched all of the movies this winter while my family was on vacation. Someone lent me the boxed set. As a result I watched all the director’s cuts and lots of the special features.

What could they do next? They really didn’t want to do another sequel. Ridley Scott was fascinated by the idea of a prequel, to explore the origins of the alien. Sounded good to me. I really wanted to see it in the theater, but just didn’t get around to it. The reviews were quite mixed. The movie was quite interesting, in my opinion.

I watched it the other night after recording it on one of those premium channel free previews. It was better than I thought it would be.

It began in an unlikely place and at an unknown time. An alien is left stranded by a gorgeous waterfall. He then drinks something and soon his body is disintegrating. Okay, you think, what is that all about? But they show you the DNA strand to give you some hints.

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I wrapped up my personal reading of 1 Corinthians last week. While I was in chapter 15, a few things stood out to me. You might be interested. Or not.

23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “Go has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Christ is the vice-regent. I mentioned this while preaching about Joseph as vice-regent to Pharaoh (for all intents and purposes). Jesus, on the throne of David, rules under the authority of the Father to accomplish the purposes of the Father. Someone, understandably, asked me about this. It is not common to speak this way.

Here we find that Jesus presently rules and is currently subduing His enemies. When He completes this work, the end comes and Jesus hands it all over to the Father. He is not independent of the Father, but subdues their injuries.

Death is the Final Enemy. Death is the last enemy that He will destroy. We are moving toward this. Keep this thought in mind!

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection is the End of Death. Paul ties the resurrection at the return of Jesus with the death of death. We who are in Christ will no longer sin, and therefore we will no longer die. Death is swallowed up at the resurrection. This, according to Paul, includes the transformation of those who are still alive.

This passage presents a huge problem for those who advocate a pre-tribulational or mid-tribulational rapture. We who are alive are not taken up and changed prior to the resurrection according to Paul. This is the death of death- the final enemy is destroy at the resurrection. Therefore, the resurrection cannot take place prior to the judgment when the enemies of God are thrown into the abyss.

We see here that Jesus, as the 2nd Adam, does what the first Adam failed to do. He subdued and ruled the world! We see this fulfilled most clearly in Revelation 21-22. Our future is an earthly future. Ponder that, an eternal earthly future in the world that Jesus subdued, ruled and renewed.

No, not the most earth shattering thoughts for most of us. But perhaps a few of you might consider, or reconsider, a few things.

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While I was a temporary bachelor, I spent an evening watching The Last Man Standing. I had only seen parts of the movie in the past, so I decided to watch the whole thing. It is an updated version of A Fistful of Dollars, which was the basic story line of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo that takes place during prohibition on a Texas border town. The basic story is that of the unknown drifter who enters the town in the midst of a struggle for power between 2 gangs (of different ethnic groups in the Leone and Hill versions). What the drifter notices is the beautiful woman who “belongs” to one of the gang leaders.

It has been some time since I’ve seen A Fistful of Dollars, so perhaps The Last Man Standing starts off differently. Or I didn’t have the eyes to notice how important the beginning was. LMS begins with the thus far unknown woman in the deserted chapel. She is praying. We learn later, of course, that she is essentially a hostage. The leader of the Irish gang won her in a poker game. She longs to be reunited with her husband and child (here a little girl). In AFD, we actually see the grieving husband and their grieving son. Here they have vanished in the depths of Mexico. We are led to believe that she is praying for her freedom.

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Thankfully Out of Print

James Montgomery Boice has written a number of solid and edifying books.  I think it is safe to say that The Last and Future World is not one of them.  This 1974 book was his entry into the eschatalogical frenzy of the early 1970’s by those who tried to “read the times” and had suspect exegetical methods.  At some point James Montgomery Boice was an historical premillennialist.  I read the book hoping to better understand this (currently) obscure position.  The book reads rather like a Hal Lindsey book, or Billy Graham’s Approaching Hoof Beats.  That could be because he often quotes from and refers to Hal Lindsey.  Frankly I was shocked.  This book advocated the dispensational premillennial position, not the historic premillennial position.  Yes, there is a difference.

The Last and Future World is mis-titled.  It is about the end of this world, and never mentions the future (re)new(ed) heavens and earth that will come about at the cosmic renewal at Jesus’ return.    It puts for the view of a 2 stage return of Jesus- first for the church at the Rapture, and then to set up an earthly millennial kingdom which will see yet another rebellious and great battle.  Boice, and dispensationalists, because of their literalistic & chronological understanding of Revelation don’t see the book as recapitulating the same events from a different angle.  So, you have 3 great battles instead of 3 accounts of 1 great battle.  You end up with 7 judgments (with Christians experiencing at least 2 times before the judgment seat) instead of 1 time in which all people are standing before Christ.  His hermeneutic is flawed, and he rarely if ever examines different view points.  He assumes many things like an earthly millennium (there are brief, inaccurate descriptions of other views of the millennium), a future plan for Israel (distinct from the Gentiles) which is based on one word in Romans which could refer the manner or time of fulfillment.  He says that Paul stressed this, but only wrote of it in Romans 11:26-33.  That’s not a whole lot of emphasis.

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A Good Response to Ed Steven

I’ve begun preparing a Sunday School series on The Revelation (note to all Hollywood screenwriters, there is not “s” on the end!).  This is no simple undertaking.  There are so many presuppositions that play a role in interpreting Revelation that is just is insane.

One of the things I’m doing early on is to address the four primary views of Revelation: historicist, futurist, preterist and idealist.  These views feed into millennial positions, but are foundational.  They include presuppositions and interpretative issues.  Though I am a partial preterist and idealist (yes, I use bifocals in looking at Revelation), I wanted to spend some time trying to understand the full preterist position.

Why?  I ask myself that same question.  It is such a minority viewpoint that it seems pointless.  But, sometimes I do crazy things.

Years ago I worked my way through someone’s personal library after their death.  It had been willed to a few people, one of whom I knew, who no longer lived in the area.  They asked me to catalog it in exchange for the books they did not want.  Oddly, they didn’t want the eschatology.  The deceased had a thing for eschatology, but not the Hal Lindsey thing.  He liked full preterism.  So I kept those.

This past week I spent some of my spare time going through What Happened in A.D. 70? by Edward Stevens.  It is a booklet.  In this booklet, the author seeks to demonstrate that all of the prophecies regarding the end of time and the return of Jesus were fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem.  I know, most of you are not just thinking, but saying out loud, “Is that guy crazy?”

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