Deeper Waters Podcast 7/28/2018: Brian Godawa

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Around the year 70 A.D. an event happened that forever shaped the spread of Christianity. Before this, it had been seen as a sect of Judaism by some. Now, it could not be. The event was the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the city itself by the Romans. It’s also a tragedy that few Christians today seem to know anything about this event.

It also wasn’t just an instant of destruction, like dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. It was a long and drawn out event where the city would also be starved out. People would do anything to get some food to eat. This would often include cannibalism. To be specific, parents would often wind up eating their own children.

The Christians had already known about what was coming. They were ready when Rome showed up, not to fight, but to flee. They knew what Jesus was talking about in passages such as Matthew 24. Israel chose to fight Rome thinking that God would vindicate them in this hour much like other great miracles in their own past. Instead, as the Christians knew, this generation had rejected their Messiah and thus God had rejected them.

My guest has written the third in a series describing the events here. It is a work of historical fiction combining the rise of the beast and the destruction of the temple with the idea of Watchers as well from the Old Testament. It is a series with political intrigue and spiritual action as well. His name is Brian Godawa. So who is he?

According to his bio:

Brian Godawa is an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter (To End All Wars), a controversial movie and culture blogger (www.Godawa.com), an internationally known teacher on faith, worldviews and storytelling (Hollywood Worldviews), an Amazon best-selling author of Biblical fiction (Chronicles of the Nephilim), and provocative theology (God Against the gods). His obsession with God, movies and worldviews, results in theological storytelling that blows your mind while inspiring your soul. And he’s not exaggerating.

We’ll be talking about what it would mean to be a Christian in the time of Jerusalem putting up its resistance to Rome, especially since the book is called Resistant. We’ll discuss the conditions there and what that means to Christians today. We’ll discuss the way prophecy was seen by the people. We could look at how all the factions worked together and against each other including Qumran and Jerusalem and all the people involved there. It’s hard to believe, but even while the Romans were coming against the people of Jerusalem, the people of Jerusalem were still actively fighting against one another.

I hope you’ll be listening for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. We’re working on making the show better and better for you. It would also mean a lot to me if you would go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. It’s always good to see how much you guys like the show and to hear what you would like to see done on the show and any possible guests you’d like to have on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Resistant

What do I think of Brian Godawa’s latest self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Brian Godawa has the next book in his series on the apocalypse with this one focusing on the start of the destruction of Jerusalem. He still has Apollyon and the Watchers at work behind the scenes battling the angels of God seeking to overthrow YHWH. Many of the characters from the earlier books are still there and we get to experience what is going on in their lives.

Honestly, the second book hadn’t seemed as exciting to me, but this one did bring it back. There is intrigue with watching things play out. I find it amazing to see that Brian has taken history and woven it well into a fictional narrative all the while striving to do justice to the history and I think succeeding as well.

He also takes several different themes and weaves them together. You have what’s going on at Qumran and what’s going on with the Watchers and everything else. Brian takes these all and puts them all together and the story fits well cohesively.

In it, you will also find wrestling with great moral issues. Is it ever proper to do the wrong thing because of what is seen as a necessary good? Why would judgment come that would affect children as well? If one repents of a wrong, should they not be redeemed from the suffering of that wrong?

This is all built around the start of the destruction of Jerusalem which is an event that people need to know more about. Very few Christians really know what happened to the temple that was there at the time of Jesus. They don’t know about what a destruction it was for the people involved. They don’t know about cannibalism taking place and political intrigue and even in-fighting among the Jews themselves. Yes. Even while their country and holy city were being destroyed, the Jews were still fighting among themselves.

If there was something I would like more looking at it, it is honor and shame in the Biblical world since so many of the characters seem to be introspective and not as much is said about honor in the Biblical sense. I think this would take this excellent series and make it even better.

Also, if you are someone like me who is skeptical of the idea of Watchers and things of that sort, that doesn’t detract from the novel. I am not convinced, but I can have a sort of suspended disbelief and be intrigued by what the villain Apollyon is doing and enjoy seeing the references to other gods and such as one who grew up enjoying Greek mythology in particular.

Christians need to have a better understanding of Biblical prophecy in relation to the “end-times” and this book series is an excellent way to bring it about. I find the story to be gripping so that I stayed up a little bit later than normal last night working to finish it and see what happened. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Why Christianity Is Not True Chapter 3

Do we have a problem with evangelism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re going through David Pye’s book again and looking at chapter 3 on evangelism and eternity. I consider this chapter to be a weak argument for what it sets out to prove, but hard-hitting for the content. I am still really considering sharing this in some Christian groups to get us all to remember why we do what we do.

At the start, Pye says that Christians believe someone is either a Christian or lost by default. I think it is more likely they are, but there is the question of those who never heard and Christians have different answers to that. My answer is that God will judge us based on the light that we have. The judge of all the Earth will do right.

Pye goes on to say about evangelism that

Both the evangelistic crusades of the past and the Alpha course of today are, I believe, significant evidence against Christianity being true. If Christianity were true we would expect to see Christians integrating into their lives what they say they believe – sharing the Gospel with their relatives, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. In which case neither the Evangelistic crusades of the past nor the Alpha course of today would have been necessary.

This is a giant non sequitur. Let’s consider how we could put this in a logical form.

Christians are supposed to evangelize.
Christians do not evangelize like they should.
Therefore, Jesus did not rise from the dead.

There are any number of reasons why Christians do not do this, many of them bad. Also, keep in mind that knowing what it is we should do doesn’t seem to lead to us doing it many times. Many of us know about diet and exercise from our doctors, but we don’t do it. Many of us know that we are to treat our neighbor better, but we don’t do it.

If you want to show Christianity is not true, you have to show that Jesus did not rise. You can show Christians aren’t following their marching orders, but that only says something about Christians. It doesn’t say anything about Christianity. Keep in mind that Pye bases this on what he sees in the U.K. There is nothing about data in third world countries, especially those where doing evangelism can lead to execution.

From here, Pye goes through a list of reasons why people don’t evangelize. One of the first ones is that they want their lives to be the witness. I agree that this is a flimsy excuse. Some people do that and no one ever asks them anything. You have to lead a radically, radically different life for this to work.

Generally, in face to face relationships, I try to get to know the person first and then try to weave my way into any openings. I’m not as good at face to face which is why most of my work is done on the internet. There is a fine line. You don’t want to be obnoxious where people think you shove Christianity down their throats, but you don’t want to be totally silent so people have no clue you’re a Christian.

The second reason is that some people say God hasn’t called them to evangelize. I think this is weak as well. Do you have the Great Commission in your Bible? That’s part of your marching orders. I agree with Pye that it is tiresome to hear people talking about doing what they feel called to do or led to do, this without any Scriptural warrant.

I used to attend a church and when the offering would go around, the pastor would say “Give as you feel led.” Part of me wanted to be sarcastic and put a penny in and say “That’s what I felt God was leading me to give.” I suspect I would have been told I wasn’t listening. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t change that we are to follow wisdom, such as in Proverbs. If you want to know about giving, read a passage like 2 Cor. 8-9.

It’s also amazing how often these “signs” that people follow coincide with what they already want to do. This is not to say God cannot do something like this, but we should not expect it to be normative. I agree with Pye. This is often an excuse and giving divine authority to our feelings is dangerous.

A third reason is that God is in control. After all, if God wants them saved, He’ll do it. Even many of the staunchest Calvinists today would say God will do it, but He’ll do it through evangelism. I also wonder if Christians will do this in other areas. Need food? Don’t go to the grocery store. God will give you food if He wants you to eat. Don’t put on your seat belt when you drive. God will keep you safe if He wants you to live.

Pye shares a verse from a poem about this.

Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in the way
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side

There is also the adage that goes back to Augustine of to pray as if everything depended on God and work as if it all depended on you. It would be wonderful for an Arminian to have the confidence in the sovereignty of God that many Calvinists do. It would be wonderful if many Calvinists thought they absolutely had to do evangelism like Arminians do.

The fourth is about the leading of the Holy Spirit and identical enough to the second that we need say nothing more.

The fifth is that people already know the Gospel. Many of them do, but many who think they do also misrepresent it and not necessarily intentionally. We should not presume that someone does.  Many Christians I think don’t even really know the Gospel.

A final reason is that it’s better not to have heard than to hear and reject and be lost. I consider this quite flimsy. I don’t think it even deserves a response if a Christian treats this seriously.

There are other reasons though. Sometimes people don’t know what to say. Sometimes they don’t know what could turn a person off. For this, I honestly think the church needs some classes on evangelism.

Finally, we end with some questions on Hell. Now my perspective on Hell is different from many others. I also think there are degrees of suffering in Hell and degrees of reward in Heaven. This is a complex question and simple answers won’t do.

I also agree with Pye that we should take no delight in people being in Hell. If it weren’t for the grace of God, it would be us. Moody is once said to have said that if you speak on Hell, you’d better have tears in your eyes. I sometimes see Christians say eternity is a long time to be wrong. If someone says that, they’d better think about what that means.

Pye presents two scenarios then:

(i) A 65 year old Christian, Clive, is retiring from the job he has been in for the last 30 years. On his final day there is a presentation to him and he is shown a great deal of warmth and affection. Likewise Clive feels a deep love for his colleagues who he’s spent so much time with and with whom he’s been through many good times and bad times – challenges, disappointments, joys, successes. None of these colleagues are Christians.

A few days later, alone at home, Clive reflects about the eternal destiny of these people who he worked with and loves. Can it really be that they are condemned? he wonders. Can it really be that they’re destined for hell? Surely not? He imagines himself in heaven with the knowledge that these dear people are suffering in hell.“Would I be able to enjoy heaven in those circumstances?” he asks himself. He vaguely wonders whether he should at some point have tried sharing the Gospel with any of them.

Then he reflects further: “‘For your thoughts are not my thoughts’ saith the Lord.” With a deep sigh Clive reflects “Who am I to argue against the Word of God? Who am I to think that I can judge better than God what the consequences of unforgiven sin should be?”

And with this he makes himself a cup of coffee and switches on the TV.

Clive is pathetic and might I add misusing a text of Scripture. No Christian should applaud what Clive is doing. Many of us wouldn’t, but in many cases we do act like Clive.

He then gives a second story

(ii) A man, Donald, goes through his working life employed in a factory. He is a decent man, hard-working and honest. At 20 he marries his childhood sweetheart and they go on to have 3 children. Life is hard. Donald’s health is poor but he rarely misses a day’s work. He and his family constantly struggle to make ends meet. People who know Donald see him as a devoted husband and father, a man who is kind, reliable and trustworthy. Family life is happy and joyful despite the lack of money.

Donald retires aged 65 but within a year he has a heart attack and dies. In his life Donald never became a Christian.

Pye asks how we feel about this, but really, does that matter? I don’t feel good about many things in the world, but that doesn’t mean anything about them. Reality doesn’t change depending on my feelings.

On the other hand, would Pye prefer the more Islamic system of angels recording good deeds and bad deeds and you’d better hope the good outweighs the bad? How is this system not arbitrary? Who decides how many points X is worth for good and how many points are deducted for Y? How do we know the point system?

The reality is God gave a non-arbitrary system. Perfection is the requirement. He also offers to pay it for us. Donald did do good things, but how did He treat the greatest good out there and if Christianity is true, God is the greatest good. Does one spurn God and say they will go their own way? The thing about Pye’s system is really God is irrelevant to it. That’s not a Christian system at all. Of course, Pye is not a Christian, but how could this system be compatible with Christianity?

The next chapter will be about faith. I have my concerns about how that will go, but we will see.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Turn Or Burn?

What kind of choice is that? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my last post, I wrote about the claim that God is petty. I was told I did not say much about the turn and burn aspect often given. I thought I had, but just to make sure, let’s address that. We’re often told that God is often saying to His creation “Love me or burn!” Few of us would call that love.

I don’t think I need to say much on how few conservative scholars today think that passages about Hell being a fire and brimstone place need to be interpreted in a literalistic way. Hence, if I see someone speaking in this kind of language, I know I’m talking to someone who has not read the best material on the topic. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s all a cakewalk in Hell.

Also, most don’t think that all suffering in Hell is equal nor is all joy in Heaven equal. Everyone will ultimately get a treatment that is fair. No one will be able to legitimately say that they were wronged on the day of judgment.

The problem with this choice is it’s not really accurate. The person assumes in the argument that they have done nothing that deserves any sort of punishment whatsoever. Yet if God is real, then something has been done.

I happen to think Romans 1 is accurate and it tells us that there’s enough evidence in creation alone for us to know that God is real. This doesn’t mean that there’s evidence in creation alone that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who rose from the dead. You need history for that.

Also, the more one knows about this God, the greater the culpability one has, but there is the question of how do we respond to this evidence. Do we turn and seek the one the evidence is pointing to or do we just ignore it and take light explanations and do what we want? The people in Romans 1 chose to deny that the creator was supreme and treated things that were created like they were the supreme.

For we Christians, we should fear the judgment the most because we claim to know the most about God and have the greatest revelation of God making our sin all the worst. I have often compiled a list of attributes of God we deny when we sin. Let’s go through it again.

We deny His omnipotence when we deny He has the power to bring about judgment.
We deny His omniscience when we say we know better than He does.
We deny his love when we say He’s holding out on what is good for us.
We deny His omnipresence when we say He does not see what we do.
We deny His authority when we say we have the right to rule over our lives.

In essence, we are committing divine treason every time. This is a serious charge. Even if we don’t have the revelation of Christ, everyone knows that we do not live the way we ought. We all have ways we need to improve. Interestingly, it’s often the further we get on the path of virtue that we realize how far off we are on the path.

If this is true, then the offer is not turn or burn. At least, it’s not in the way presented. It’s not, if you do not want to be with me, then you will burn. It’s more just an offer to be come and be a part of the family of God.

In the Old Testament, there’s a story about Mephibosheth, who was the grandson of Saul and the son of Jonathan. In the ninth chapter of 2 Samuel we read about him. David wanted to show kindness to someone in Saul’s family. He was not required to. It’s not as if he was up for reelection and he wanted a good gesture to be done to win the favor of the people that the media would like. He did it just to show kindness.

Something interesting in this passage is three times you find a reference to eating at the King’s table. This is a message of grace entirely. Mephibosheth did nothing to earn this. It was all a gift.

The offer is really great. Not only does God forgive us, when we have done nothing to deserve that forgiveness, but He makes us a part of His royal family and allows us to eat at His table and we’re given all the rights of a son. It is a horrible misrepresentation from atheism and the exact opposite of the real scenario.

The problem presented is a false one. Of course, there are other issues and those could be dealt with. For now, turn or burn just doesn’t work. Present instead the real offer of grace.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Is God Petty?

Is it wrong for God to expect us to worship Him? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I found myself in a discussion about the question of how can people be happy in Heaven knowing that they have loved ones in Hell. As the discussion went on, I focused on one point which got us to a different area. I pointed out that if Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is true and there is an answer to the question. If not, then it’s just trivia. I could even be willing to say “I don’t know” but it would be foolish to say “I’m abandoning Christianity because while I’m convinced Jesus rose from the dead, I don’t have an answer on this question.”

Instead, we wound up discussing if God is petty or not. After all, God expects us to love Him and worship Him. Wouldn’t a loving God just give everyone a break? Life has enough suffering as it is. Isn’t it petty to have the whole turn or burn mindset?

Keep in mind, my view of Heaven and Hell is quite different. Still, it is a question we all have to deal with. Even those who profess conditional immortality would have to answer how it is they can be happy if they know they have loved ones who they will never ever see again.

Yet now, I want to focus on the whole charge of God being petty, because it is something we come up against. On the surface, it does look that way. God wants us to worship and adore Him. If we don’t, we are cast aside from Him. Loved ones are separated in that sense. How does this make sense?

Part of our problem is we have a view of God where we just make God a big person. He is just like us, except He has the omni-attributes. If you’re going to study this, you need to realize that God is very different. Whatever the view of God is we have in our mind, it’s in some way inadequate.

Second, we need to ask people where they are getting their theology from. If you make claims about God, how do you know this? If you think God is fair and loving and things of that sort, how is this known? Any claim about knowledge of God needs to be backed. If one wants to turn the question to me, it’s my position that if Jesus rose from the dead, He’s someone worth listening to and I do believe the Gospels are reliable.

So let’s look at the question. For one thing, at the start, Christians were always exclusive. This was even the case when they gained nothing from it. They were on the outs with the Roman Empire and with the Jewish people as well because they said Jesus was the true Lord of the universe.

We often think love cannot be exclusive. This is false. Not only is love exclusive, it has to be exclusive. If you love anything, you will exclude that which is contrary to it. This is one reason I don’t like “hate” being described always as a negative. Hate is not always bad. There are plenty of things we ought to hate. We ought to hate the great evils that we see in the world.

When it comes to the question of God, there are benefits for loving God. There is nothing wrong with this. If a man and a woman love each other, then in a marriage bond, there are benefits they share that others don’t have. There is nothing mercenary about that.

Likewise, if you do not have that commitment, then you do not get the privileges of the commitment. Other people, including other men, can love my wife in some sense, but they are not to love her in the exclusive sense that I do and only I get the benefits of that kind of love. If they had made a covenant instead, they would be having those privileges instead of me.

There are also costs in the case of God. If one rejects the revelation of Jesus knowingly, then one is in essence not only saying Jesus is a liar, but saying that God has not revealed Himself in Jesus. That’s a big claim and one had better be right on. On the other hand, if someone like myself is wrong, then I am guilty of the worst kind of blasphemy against God. I have to be willing to accept that.

If one does not accept God’s way, then one is going their own way. It is a rejection of God. If they don’t want to be with God, then God will honor their request. He will not force Himself on them.

Many of us also assume that we are innocent. It’s not that way at all. No one of us lives a perfect life. We all know that. We all know ways we can do better. God could have just been just and said none of us will be with Him for eternity. He did not.

We also have to ask that if God is going to be loving and forgive all, then what about evil here? Will there never be justice? Do those who lived their lives consistently going against God get all the benefits of those who did the exact opposite?

Once again, all of this depends on if Jesus rose from the dead. If He didn’t, then we could be discussing trivia. We might just have to see if another religion is true or if God revealed Himself some other way or just hope for the best. It is a tough situation then.

But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then we do indeed have great hope. We are forgiven and we will be in the presence of God. Not only that, all the suffering we undergo will be redeemed one day. God does not waste our sufferings in this life. Death itself will be overcome.

That is good news.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

No. It’s Not The End of The World.

Does Matthew 24 predict the end of the world? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My view in eschatology is Orthodox Preterism. I understand the hesitancy many have towards it and I suspect often it’s because they see it through the lens of dispensationalism. In dispensationalism, when Jesus comes, it’s the end. Many hold to the idea that the world will end and we’ll all live forever in Heaven. Indeed, many messages in church have it that the goal of Christianity seems to be to get to Heaven.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t think about Heaven. I think the reason we say this is actually the opposite. We’re not thinking about Heaven. We just hear about this place that is really good and we don’t think about what makes it really good. What makes Heaven good is God.

So when we come to a passage like Matthew 24, many people today think it talks about the end of the world. I mean, isn’t that what the text says? Let’s look at verse 3.

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

There you go! Right there, it talks about the end of the world. Case closed! Right?

Not exactly. That’s in the KJV. It’s not the best translation job of that verse. Let’s look at the word. The word is aion.

  1. for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity

  2. the worlds, universe

  3. period of time, age

    There were other words that can be translated as world. Matthew does not use them. Matthew refers to an age referring to the system of things. Besides, let’s consider some points. If the world is coming to an end, what good is it going to do to flee to the mountains? Will they somehow survive? May the end of the world not come in the winter on the Sabbath? Why those times specifically?

No. The end in mind refers as I said to this system of things. Let’s keep something in mind. When Jesus is there, His disciples ask about the destruction of the temple and when His coming would be. They have no concept of Jesus being crucified really. He’s said it would happen, but they’re expecting Him to be crowned king instead. They certainly don’t have a concept of Him dying, resurrecting, and leaving in an ascension. Why would they be asking Him about a return? He was right there and they did not anticipate Him leaving them.

This world is also not an evil thing. It is a good creation of God. God is going to redeem it just as much as He redeems sinners who come to Him. The enemy is not going to be allowed a victory so that God’s plans for this world come to failure.

So what is Jesus talking about? Jesus is talking about His coming to His throne, which is what the disciples would want to know about. Jesus is going to be the king so there’s no need of a temple. They could anticipate an earthly king, but Jesus is going to rule from Heaven. The Son of Man approaches the Ancient of Days. The Ancient of Days is not on Earth. He’s ascended in Heaven. Jesus is going up. He’s not going down.

Right now, Jesus is the ruling king. He is reigning and as Psalm 110:1 says, His enemies are being put under His feet right now. We await the full fruition of that in the resurrection, for as 1 Cor. tells us, the last enemy to be defeated is death.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What the Bible says about the Antichrist

What does Scripture say about this figure? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I have been reading 1 John at night lately. She’s a futurist, though not one who believes in a rapture, and I’m an orthodox Preterist. We don’t really debate it at all. If she comes to Preterism, I want it to be because she studied the Scripture and not because I pressured her. Anyway, reading the Johannine epistles leads to talk about the antichrist at times.

So what do the epistles say about this figure?

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 1 John 2:18

Something to note is that it says antichrist is coming and not THE antichrist is coming. That might seem like a small distinction, but it is still something. There is no speaking of one figure in all of this as the antichrist. In fact, many have come and because they are here, we know it is the last hour. John says this twice. He doesn’t want you to miss it. The last hour is here now because many antichrists have come.

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22

At this point, we do have the antichrist, but what does it say about the antichrist? The antichrist is he who denies the Father and the Son. In other words, anyone who denies Jesus is the Christ is the antichrist. This fits in with what Jesus said. You are either for Him or against Him. You are either pro-Christ or antichrist. There is no middle ground.

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:3

And now antichrist is referred to as a spirit. The antichrist spirit is the spirit that does not confess that Jesus is from God. Note also that once again, this is in the world already. That which is opposed to Christ is already lined up in opposition against Him.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2 John 1:7

And here we have more of the same. Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is the antichrist and deceiver. This would be the way to see the Gnostic and docetic heresies of the time that denied the bodily incarnation of Jesus.

But I know some already have objections.

What about the beast in the book of Revelation?! What about the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2? What about Daniel 9:24-27? What about the abomination that causes desolation?

Good questions. Here’s why we don’t look at those.

Nowhere are these figures described as “The antichrist.” Now they could possibly be a figure known as the antichrist, but someone who thinks that needs to show it. You don’t just jump over to 2 Thess. 2 and assume this is the same figure talked about in the Johannine epistles. If you think it is, then you need to demonstrate that.

Ultimately, something that bothers me so much about people caught up in end times paranoia is that they spend so much time focusing on the antichrist that they seem to lose sight of Christ. Too many are so busy trying to figure out who the antichrist is that they don’t take the time to think about who Jesus is. What the Bible says about who Jesus is blows out of the water anything said about who the antichrist is. Which one should our focus be?

Which one is your focus?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Orthodox Preterism?

What is the position I hold on end times? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lately, I’ve found myself in some discussions about end times matters. This is a topic I generally do enjoy discussing. I find myself increasingly concerned with what I call the rapture brigade, the people who read end times into every event out there and everything is a sign that Jesus is coming. There is never any repentance on the part of the people who do this and they are still heralded as prophecy experts no matter how many times they’re wrong.

My view is known as orthodox Preterism. So what is it? A lot of people don’t really know what it is and end up going after a number of straw men. I find in defending my view I have to spend more time answering false misconceptions of it. So let’s answer some common questions.

Question – Do you believe everything was fulfilled in 70 A.D.?

Absolutely not! That is a position that is often known as full Preterism or true Preterism or often the people who hold it just refer to it as simply Preterism. My position by contrast to them is known as partial Preterism. I do not accept that label for reasons I will give soon.

I consider this view heretical actually. Why? Because if our resurrection is only spiritual and our resurrection is to be like Jesus’s, then Jesus must have a spiritual resurrection, which denies the bodily resurrection. I prefer to call this position Neohymenaeanism.

Question – Why call yourself an orthodox Preterist then?

Orthodox has nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodox church or any other branch of the Orthodox Church. I do not know what position they hold in eschatology. (Study of end times.) It is orthodox because it holds to all the essentials of the Christian faith. I do not go by the term partial Preterist because that would be like saying I am a partial heretic.

Question – What remains to be fulfilled?

I anticipate the Gospel will spread like the mustard seed or the yeast in the dough as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 13. That will end with the bodily return of Christ and the bodily resurrection from the dead. We will then have the judgment followed by the marriage of Heaven and Earth where God will dwell with His people.

Question – So what about Jesus’s coming?

Jesus’s coming and His return are often confused. In Matthew 24 and the parallel passages, it refers not to the resurrection, which is NOWHERE mentioned in any of these passages, but refers to His coming to His throne. The sign that He is on the throne will be His enemies are judged. His enemies then were His contemporaries. They were not some far off distant generation. A number of times in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew uses the term “this generation.” Every other time it means Jesus’s own contemporaries. So it is with the final usage. It’s the ultimate one.

Question – What about the third temple?

It’s not happening. Every time in the New Testament when a prophecy is made concerning the temple, there’s no reason to think that it refers to a future third temple. It would be the temple that the audience at the time knew of. Where the temple would be is where the Dome of the Rock is now. Good luck with that project.

Question – What about Israel?

I support Israel not because of theology, but because they’re our allies against Islam. If Israel is a righteous nation, then we are fine. If they are not, then we are not.

Question – What about the Antichrist?

Four passages in the New Testament speak about the antichrist. All of them are in the Johannine epistles.

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Now somehow from these four verses, a lot is extrapolated about some major end-times figure who will be a political and military mastermind and everything else out there.

Question – But what about figures like the Beast and the Man of Lawlessness?

It is often thought that these must be the antichrist, but an argument must be made for this and not an assumption. Someone needs to demonstrate how it is they arrive at this conclusion. Let’s also suppose for now that I was uncertain about the identity of these two. (I am much more sure about the Beast than I am the Man of Lawlessness.) It does not follow that that means either one is the antichrist. You must make your own position for that.

Question – But aren’t you avoiding a literal interpretation?

It is amazing to me how hung up American Christians are at the idea of literalism, which always means literal to a modern Western American audience. Where does this rule come from? The Bible is a rich work of literature that includes metaphor, hyperbole, simile, allegory, symbolism, etc. It is not a wooden text meant to be read always in a straightforward matter. Does this require work to know how to read it properly? Yes.

Question – Do you think Israel has replaced the church?

I find it odd to say that I am a replacement theologian. How could I be? God has one covenant that He honors and one people. With Israel in the Old Testament, there was always a remnant there that was true Israel. These are the same ones that recognized Jesus as the Messiah. With ministry in Acts, Israel is expanded to include Gentiles. There is still one olive tree. God did not chop down the tree of Israel and plant a new tree of Gentiles.

On the other hand, if you do hold that God is dealing with the church in this age and will return to Israel in the end, well gues what. Right now, the church has replaced Israel as God’s focus. That is the real replacement theology. I don’t hold to it. I hold to an expansion theology. God has expanded His grace ever more to include Jews and Gentiles both in one tree together.

Question – What about people making predictions today?

We should hold them accountable. If you make a statement about when the Bible says Jesus is returning and you get it wrong, you need to repent. It is a shame that even pastors are doing this, being consistently wrong, and still allowed to stay in the pulpit. (I’m thinking especially about someone like John Hagee.) We would want a pastor removed who had an affair. How about one who mishandles Scripture in a way that embarrasses the church?

Question – What about the rapture?

I don’t hold to it. I hold to the resurrection. I see no way to fit it into the text and be consistent. It’s a very very late reading of Scripture.

Question – What about the millennium?

It’s amazing that we have three verses of Scripture in Revelation that receive all the attention. I’m somewhere between a post and an amillenialist. I think we’re in it right now as Jesus is reigning on His throne now and the more the Gospel spreads, we will get closer and closer to His bodily return.

Question – Do you have a problem with futurists?

Absolutely not! I’m married to one! I love my futurist friends. Instead, I have a big problem with the whole system. I don’t think that it holds to a consistent hermeneutic of Scripture.

Question – Where can I learn more?

Gary Demar at American Vision has some good material on this including his book Last Days Madness. J.P. Holding has a great section at Tektonics.org. Brian Godawa has some great material at Godawa.com on end times as well. The late R.C. Sproul held to this view and Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute does as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Remnant: Rescue of the Elect

What do I think of Book Two In Brian Godawa’s Chronicles of the Apocalypse Series? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Remnant is the second in the series continuing on the story of Tyrant: Rise of the Beast. The book works to explain the orthodox Preterist viewpoint in a novel form. This time, much of the intrigue is centered on Jerusalem and what is happening there as the main character try to get the Christians in Jerusalem to flee.

While there are characters that are certainly historically real, like Agrippa and Josephus, there are many who are fictional, which works just fine. There are also plenty of footnotes that show the historical sources for what is claimed. Again, this one also has the Watchers, demonic beings that act as the gods of the other countries, fighting against the angelic beings, although there really isn’t much of anything along the lines of Frank Peretti with his books of spiritual warfare.

Book one does need to be read first or else one won’t really understand what is going on. This book has the drama going on of trying to get Christians in Jerusalem to escape and uses that to also explain Johannine authorship of the book of Revelation and questions about the temple. The Essenes also make an appearance here.

There is drama as well between the characters, such as the arc of a love triangle taking place. As can be expected, there is much that cannot be said here due to the problem of spoilers. Still, much of what happened did relate especially to the way that I see many guys approaching romance and since this is the case of men that are single, I can certainly say it brought back my own thinking of what it was like.

There is some looking at what is going on in Rome. Nero has returned of course, but also there is a greater focus on Vespasian and Titus and then Domitian makes his appearance. Much is still left undone at the end of this book, which makes sense since there is another one coming.

As for the Watchers like I mentioned, you will see Allah show up this time which I’m sure would be odd to a Muslim audience, though I cannot anticipate them reading this. It’s still interesting to see a future religion showing up. Obviously, Allah will have to be active at the end of the series to some extent.

Still, while this was a good series, I didn’t find myself as intrigued as I was with the first book. I’m not really sure why. I wonder if it could be there didn’t seem to be as much of a clear villain here as Nero wasn’t as active as he was in the first one and no one else really seemed to be a main villain for this book, though Florus comes close. Apollyon also wasn’t as conniving it seemed in this one as he was in the first.

Still, it’s good to see the Preterist viewpoint being presented in this way. We need Christian writers who can write stories and stories that also don’t force the Gospel down one’s throat. Godawa also uses this volume to wrestle with questions of war and pacifism which are good for discussion. Hopefully we’ll see more Christians with vivid imaginations doing the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Understanding The Bible

What does it take to really understand the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We live in a day and age where most everyone thinks they can pick up a Bible, read it, and be an expert in it. You have the “prophecy experts” who think they can ignore the genre of a text and the historical setting and successfully pontificate on what is going to happen today. You have the fundamentalist atheists who think likewise that they just read the Bible and the “face value” of the text is what the author meant.

Of course, there is some level where the basic message of a text can be understood, but there is a level where it cannot. There are aspects that do require specialized knowledge. When you’re growing up, for some basic illnesses and such, your parents could pick up something over-the-counter and you could trust them with it. For a specialty condition, they would take you to a doctor.

So what are some things you should try to understand in a passage?

For one, what is the genre of the passage itself? If Jesus is telling a parable, you do not want to interpret it as a historical account. It is historical that Jesus told the parable, but the parable itself is not historical. If you were ever told that the story of the Good Samaritan never happened, that should not cause you to panic about the reliability of Scripture.

But then, what is the grander genre of the book itself? The Gospels, for instance, are Greco-Roman biographies and when you realize this, your reading of them will change. The book of Revelation is apocalyptic and so one of the last things you want to do is read it at face-value. The Law in the Old Testament is written not as iron-clad but more of a teaching tool showing the limits of what could be done in a situation, but giving judges freedom to decide. Of course, there are also cases like the first eleven chapters of Genesis that are real hotbeds of debate.

You also need the original languages. It’s better if you know them yourself, but if you do not, then you can use a site like BlueLetterBible and look them up. Even still, there is a limitation here. You can only look in the Bible itself. My wife asked me today about the verse where Paul uses the word Skubalon. If you want to know what that word means, just the New Testament will not help you. It’s only used once. You will need to look at usages outside the NT, if there are any, and then if you can’t do that, look up the work of scholars who know the language and see what they say.

And yet, there’s still more. You will want to know the historical context. What was going on in a book of prophecy? So many people badly misunderstand the prophets because they think everything is about our time instead of about the time of the prophet or his relatively near future. When Jesus does something in the Gospels, is there any particular historical situation that explains His actions more? When Paul wrote about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, was there anything going on at the time that explains what he said better?

And still there’s even more! What about the social context? We often think the people in the world of the Bible were much like ourselves. In some ways they were, but not in all. We are a guilt-based culture. Were they? We value individualism. Did they? What was marriage like for them? What was the economic status of the people involved? How did they all relate to one another?

It is not being said that you have to understand all of these or you’re completely in the dark, but if you are struggling with a passage, try to understand some of these even more. What definitely needs to be moved past is a simplistic approach that practically assumes that God will make everything easy for us to understand if He wants to. He is under no obligation to do that and those who are seeking truth will not care if it takes work. If you do care, then you are not really seeking.

When someone is reading a passage and you think they could be misunderstanding it or if you think you are misunderstanding it, consider these steps. Look at them and see what all can be learned. Go and check the best scholars in the field and see what they have to say. To understand any ancient text, one must have the humility to be willing to let it speak for itself as it were and work to understand it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters