Deeper Water Podcast 7/15/2017: Hugh Ross

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

This year at Rosh Hashanah, many Jews will be celebrating that a new year has come. There will also this year be many Christians waiting for this event. After all, this is the day that the rapture is being predicted to take place.

What was that?

Yes. A few months ago a friend of mine emailed me about some people at his church talking about Rosh Hashanah and their hope that the rapture will take place. This is supposed to be based on certain astronomical signs. I immediately thought back to the whole blood moons fiasco (Anyone heard that apology from John Hagee yet) and decided I’d talk to a specialist about this.

So I sent an email to get in touch with the person I know who knows astronomy best. I got more than I bargained for. He has agreed to come on the show and talk about the signs that are being said to be shown and we’ll look and see if they are of any real significance. I am of course referring to none other than Hugh Ross from Reasons To Believe.

So who is Hugh Ross?

Astronomer and best-selling author Hugh Ross travels the globe speaking on the compatibility of advancing scientific discoveries with the timeless truths of Christianity. His organization, Reasons to Believe, is dedicated to demonstrating, via a variety of resources and events, that science and biblical faith are allies, not enemies.

For those worried about the deck being stacked, it is also my understanding that Dr. Ross has in the past held to a futurist/dispensationalist understanding of eschatology. I do not know if that is still the case, but his main point here is to come as an astronomer. Are there really some signs that we are supposed to be looking out for, or is this going to be another case like that of the blood moons where there will be embarrassment in the eyes of unbelievers once again?

How ought Christians approach this phenomena anyway? If we don’t understand astronomy well, could we be saying things without knowledge? Even if one does want to defend a futurist/dispensationalist viewpoint, do we need to be extremely careful about setting dates for certain events?

If I am correct about my prediction that this is much ado about nothing, what will it take for Christians to learn? What more do we need to be paying attention to? How should the church handle it when there are claims that get national attention that prove to be wrong, such as the four blood moons or Harold Camping?

Some might think this is an in-house issue for Christians, but I’m not convinced. How we present ourselves to the world matters a great deal and if we can be shown to embrace something wrong so many times so easily, then how is it that we can expect anyone to believe us when we claim Jesus rose from the dead? I hope you’ll be listening for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast and that you’ll leave a positive review on ITunes to let me know what you think of the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/27/2017: Brian Godawa

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

Nero. No matter what your stance on end times is, the name evokes strong thoughts right away. We can easily think of Christians being lit on fire to light up the ceremonies that Nero was hosting. If we try to think of a Roman emperor that could be seen as the embodiment of evil, Nero would be right up there on the list.

That’s why many of the orthodox Preterist persuasion also see him as the beast described in Revelation, and even if one is a futurist, they should have no problem granting that Nero was certainly a beast at least. What would it have been like to have been living in the time of Nero? What if you were a Christian in Rome? What if you were a Jew? What if you were a soldier in the military? What about the great fire? What was also going on at the time in Jerusalem while Nero was having his rule?

My guest this week has written a fictional story set in the time of Nero and focusing on what happened in Rome and in Jerusalem. The writing is lively and engaging. The story will open your eyes to what was going on at the time and includes numerous historical figures as well. The book is called Tyrant: Rise of the Beast and the author is Brian Godawa. So who is he?

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.

So we’ll be talking about life in first century Rome in the time of Nero and what life would have been like in Jerusalem. What did it mean to be a Christian? How much danger was someone really in? Perhaps, as a result, many of us will take our Christianity a lot more seriously here.

We’ll also be discussing the writing process. How does one go about writing a book with historical figures in it? Especially when you have actual figures from the Bible in them, how does one walk that line? There is a desire to remain fully faithful to the text of course, but at the same time one does have to take liberties as well since these events aren’t included in the text.

I hope you’ll be listening to the next episode and really considering what it would have been like to be a Christian in the time of Nero. Many of us don’t really realize what was going on at the time, but there was a time when being a Christian was a dangerous practice. It started around the time of the resurrection. Please also go on ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: We Shall All Be Changed

What do I think of Joel McDurmon’s book published by American Vision? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been an orthodox preterist for years, even before going to a Seminary that is pre-mill and dispensational. A church I attended in Charlotte was largely that way and yet they let me give a presentation on orthodox preterism. It was quite a fun time. There is one title I refuse to accept and that is a partial preterist.

Why? Because I do not consider the other side to consist of full preterists. I call them Neohymenaeans. For reasons that will come out, I consider the movement a heresy. If that is so, why would I want to be called a partial heretic? Preterism means something and I do not define it by the heresy.

In this book, Joel McDurmon takes a look at one of the most prominent figures in the Neohymenaean movement, Don Preston. McDurmon starts with a look at hermeneutics. How we read the text is important. I like that McDurmon starts off with a case that could be convincing to many for the Neohymenaean movement. We must always show that as strange as we think a belief is when we first hear it, there are reasons people hold it. (Indeed, I used to consider preterism this bizarre belief and how could people believe it? The reality was I didn’t know what preterists really believed.)

McDurmon then gives what he thinks is a proper hermeneutic, and I agree with him. One example is that all does not mean all in a literal sense. Consider how we are told all Judea and Jerusalem was baptized by John the Baptist. Really? Every single person in Judea? All those Pharisees and Sadduecees in Jerusalem were going to be baptized? No. This is hyperbole.

The far more damaging part here is the practical outworkings of Neohymenaeanism. If you truly believe this, then you need to do things that are supposed to stop when the fullness of Christ comes in the resurrection and the new age. That includes things like the Lord’s Supper, marriage, and teaching. In other words, if you’re a Neohymenaean, don’t teach it to anyone, don’t have Communion, and don’t marry.

McDurmon also makes an argument for the bodily resurrection. I’m not going to give his key passage here. I think you need to get the book to see that for yourself. He does interact with the problematic reading of passages that attempt to turn the body referred to in passages like 1 Cor. 15 to just that of the body of Christ.

If there was something I would have liked emphasized more, it would be my biggest problem overall with the Neohymenaean movement. That is that if we are to be raised as Christ was raised, and we are instead resurrected spiritually and not physically, then that would mean that Christ was also resurrected spiritually and not physically. We can be told Christ is the exception, but then that leads to a contradiction and is begging the question. That’s why I say the movement is ultimately a Christological heresy. In fact, it’s quite similar to Gnosticism in that the material world doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t deal with the problem of evil ultimately. Evil still gains a victory that claims the material world.

Orthodox preterists out there need to know about the Neohymenaean movement and how to argue against it. Futurists need to realize that orthodox preterists are not neohymenaeans and we stand against this movement just as you do. While Neohymenaeans often try to paint preterists as futurists and dispensationalists, it’s important that on the other end Christians who are futurists don’t paint preterists as Neohymenaeans. Yes. We can have our discussions and disagreements in good Christian fellowship, but let us be clear that we who are orthodox Preterists do indeed hold to an orthodox position.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: End Times Bible Prophecy. It’s Not What They Told You.

What do I think of Brian Godawa’s book published by Embedded Pictures Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Brian Godawa writes as someone who is a reluctant Orthodox Preterist. He writes about growing up in a futurist mindset and then when he first encountered the view that he’s currently defending of Orthodox Preterism, he was shocked. That has to be heresy! It has to be liberals not taking the Bible literally! It’s undermining the faith delivered once and for all to the saints!

His experience is not unusual. I remember being stunned the first time I heard about the Preterist viewpoint. How could anyone think this? I remember reading in an old study Bible about different views of Revelation and how some think it depicts events that happened in the first century and thinking “Wow. Some people really believed that all this stuff happened?” Of course, it was my mindset that was in the reading of “All this stuff must be fulfilled in a wooden literalistic sense.” It never occurred to me that the problem could be my viewpoint.

Like Brian, I had cracks show up in my thinking that were hard to answer. What about the statement of “This generation will not pass away?” I also started seeing that some ideas behind the view of the rapture were extremely difficult to hold. These were paths I did not want to take, but the evidence was too strong to avoid not taking those paths.

Abandoning the idea of the rapture was extremely hard, and yet I wasn’t done. As I met preterists, I started realizing that I was wrong about what they believed. It wasn’t the case that everything had happened in 70 A.D. I had just never really taken the time to look like I should have. It was a group discussion led by two preterists that got me to see what my problem was.

Brian’s book begins with his own story and then goes to hermeneutics. I think this is an excellent way to begin as Brian shows a different way to read Scripture that still strives to be faithful to the test and is not “liberal” or “denying Inerrancy.” Hermeneutics is one of the first areas of questions I have for futurists nowadays. It is asking them that even if their conclusion differs, and I’m thankful it does, how is their hermeneutic any different from the one that produced the four blood moons of John Hagee?

He then goes step by step through the Olivet Discourse. Brian is gentle and understands regularly how his readers could balk at this thinking. He takes a few diversions to look at questions like the antichrist and such. All the while, Brian wants to take someone’s hand and slowly walk them through this territory that could be unfamiliar to them.

Still, he has produced a convincing work. A few times I was reading and thinking “Brian. You could have a much better argument if you would include XYZ.” I would find a few paragraphs later that Brian does indeed know about XYZ and says something about it. Brian is also not at all dogmatic in what he says.

It’s also helpful that he has a part in here about the idea of Neohymenaeanism, whereby everything was said to take place in 70 A.D. No doubt, more could be said here, but he does refer to another work on this topic. He wants people to still know that Jesus will return and there will be a bodily resurrection.

Brian’s book is an excellent guide for someone wanting the ins and outs of this whole area. He also has a novel that can go with it called Tyrant: Rise of the Beast. I have not read it yet, but it is supposed to be a novel form of what he is talking about in his book if you prefer that way instead.

I recommend that anyone interested in the truth about “Bible prophecy” check out Brian’s book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

End Times Laziness

Does speaking about the end times spark laziness in Christians? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I put my post from yesterday in the comments section on a few posts on Facebook yesterday on the page of John Hagee Ministries. Interestingly, last I checked I have not been blocked. Of course, there has been no public statement of appearance and the fact that absolutely nothing happened doesn’t seem to be a concern to fans of Hagee. This is one time where I do think cognitive dissonance does indeed play a factor. The more I have thought about this, the more I have been concerned about why we have this obsession with end times. Too often in fact, it has sparked laziness.

This is something I have written on before on a post about the escapist mentality. This mentality was shown best by a lady I saw in a small group once who said “I’m saved and my children are saved so we just sit back and wait for Jesus to come.” I was just stunned that a Christian would say something like that. I was immediately thinking that first off, keep that up and your children could fall away from the faith before too long, especially when they get to college. Second, good that you’re all “saved” but what about your neighbors and their children. Do they not matter?

It’s such a strange belief that we have today. We have people who are Christians who say that the commands of Jesus are of utmost importance. When it comes to what marriage is, we sure say we want to defend that. (Although, we seem to only want to defend it when it comes to our right to eat chicken sandwiches or it infringes with a favorite television show.) When it comes to defending marriage by, you know, actually studying the purpose of marriage and why it is the way it is, or an even more bizarre way, and yes please forgive how bizarre this idea is, actually living out the way marriage was meant to be by God, we’re not as interested. While I agree with the research of Shaunti Feldhahn that divorce is not as prevalent among Christians as believed, it is still all too prevalent.

The commands of Jesus are of selective importance. They are important when they involve what we want, but if they involve any work or sacrifice on our part, well we must just be misunderstanding them. Yet Jesus calls us to die and there is no reason to think He is not serious in what He says.

So here then we have a group of people who say the commands of Jesus matter the most to them and who also especially want to have a focus on reminding everyone that Jesus is God in good Christian fashion. So now they are told repeatedly that they are the last generation and they believe it. They are convinced Jesus is coming back at any moment and what are they doing?

They’re reading books about how He’s coming back at any moment and watching TV shows about how He’s coming back at any moment and attending seminars about how He’s coming back at any moment.

Question. How many of these people are out supporting missionaries overseas? After all, if Jesus is coming back any moment, don’t we want to have as many people ready to go with Him? (While I do not hold to a pre-trib paradigm, I am speaking this group of people and they do hold to it and I’m asking for consistency. Of course, this does not mean that all pre-tribbers are like this. Many are just as incensed at Hagee as I am and many of them are just as concerned about the matters I’m writing about as I am.) How many of us are watching our behavior and how we’re living because who wants to have the King come back and be caught unawares? How many of us are honoring our spouses or raising our children properly and showing them extra love? After all, if you think Jesus is coming back, don’t you want to enjoy the time with your family now as well instead of spending it doing something that won’t benefit the Kingdom? (This is not to say of course there is no time for play, but there is more to life than play.)

This also raises the concern of if we suddenly decide to shape up, are we doing so not because it’s required but because we want to look good when Jesus returns? That should be our focus every day. We shouldn’t have to wait until the signs start coming. Frankly, the signs really shouldn’t change how we live. My friend Dr. Randy Richards has a post about doing the right thing wrong that I think is excellent. Richards argues that we should be looking for Christ’s return, which is right, but if we do so because of blood moons, we do so for the wrong reason. I think the same applies here.

Let’s consider an analogy in marriage. It is good for a husband to love his wife. No doubt. But now let’s suppose that we realize the sweet loving husband does something only because he wants his wife to give him a good time in the bedroom. There is nothing wrong of course with wanting that and a husband should want it, but if all you want from your wife is the reward at the end of the day (Or any other time of day for that matter), then you’re essentially using her. Now let’s reverse that. Let’s suppose a wife wants to please her husband and knows that sex is a great way to make him happy. However, she does this saying “I hope he’ll take me out to eat at that fancy restaurant soon.” She’s also using her husband. Now of course, it’s fine if a husband or wife want to show appreciation. Still, we should also always be watching our motives. For those who might be overly sensitive in this area like I am, I always tell people that when you think you might be tempted with wrong motives, you are still to do the right thing and ask God to work on your heart.

We end up then with end times madness doing the right thing wrong in one area, but in another, we don’t even do the right thing. Where is the great transformation of our world from people who are sure the King is coming? Could it be we don’t see it because we think the King is in fact coming? After all, the King will clear up this mess when He gets here. We don’t need to worry about that. Sorry, but I just don’t see that in the Bible. If you worked for a company and you were told the president of the company was coming to pay a visit, you would be working as hard as you could to get ready. When you’re dating and know your date is coming by, you work to make yourself the best you can be. Now we live in a culture where we think Jesus, our God, is supposed to be back any minute, and what are we doing?

It is a shame that all the time spent chasing after blood moons and any other end times event could have been spent far better. Our end times obsession has often ended up being something to stroke our own egos and make us think we are special, instead of doing something for the world around us so they will know how special we think they are, and how awesome we think Jesus is. What Jesus has said He will do, He will do and you trust Him on it. The question is are we going to do what He told us to do?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: It’s Not The End Of The World

What do I think of Dee Dee Warren’s book on Matthew 24 published by Xulon Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dee Dee Warren’s book is an excellent commentary on Matthew 24 coming from an orthodox Preterist position that says most of it, at least up to verse 34, was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Now I do want to be fair and state some bias here. DDW, as I call her, is a friend of mine and in fact, it was at a TheologyWeb convention where we had a Q&A that I got to hear her and another member speak on this topic and in my long quest of eschatology, that was the time that sealed the deal for me that the Bible does in fact teach orthodox Preterism so I owe a lot to her for that.

Now most of us when we want something fun to read we’re not going to say “Oh! I’m going to go to the library and get a commentary!” Normally, when we pull out a commentary, we go to the part that we’re interested in, read that, and then move on. You could do that with DDW’s book and you’d get good answers, but you’d be missing a lot. This is a commentary that is enjoyable to read as DDW spices it up with her own humor and yet it is at the same time meticulously researched. There are over 400 end notes at the end. DDW has done her homework. If you’ve heard the Preterist Podcast of hers, you’ll know a lot of this already, but even still DDW has sharpened her game for as she would indicate towards the end of her book, we are always learning and growing.

Not only that, she shows how this can apply to us today and how this is meant to encourage us to be more faithful. It’s quite an ironic turn since this passage has been used by so many people to argue against Christianity. In fact, even the great C.S. Lewis had his problems with this passage. When you’re done with DDW’s book, you should see that far from being a disproof and a problem for Christianity, this passage can be seen as one of the great proofs of Christianity as it shows how accurate Jesus was as a prophet and how the judgment of God came on the people of the time. (It’s important to note that it’s the people of the time and not Jews of all time.)

Despite this being a tough subject, DDW’s work is not tough to read. You will not get bogged down with “And this Greek word in this tense refers to.” I have no problem with that intense study, but it can go above the head of the layman several times. DDW is thorough and yet simple. You can read a passage and understand it easily enough and you can get to interact with much of the history of the first century as well.

Also, DDW takes on the hyperpreterism faction at the end of the book as well briefly, and if anyone has had experience dealing with these people, it’s DDW. We can be thankful that she herself came out of it and I am also thankful that she did it with the help of a pastor who took time to answer her questions. If only there were more pastors around today who knew about the major issues going around and were prepared to answer questions. DDW’s work has been a blessing to several in this area. Imagine how it would have been if she had never come around.

If there was a way I’d improve, I’d definitely put the lesson of the Purple Cow front and center. This is a story DDW shares (That is not original with her) and it is important to really studying this topic. In fact, I would have it as a bit of an introduction to the whole book so people could go through and learn to avoid committing the fallacy of the Purple Cow. If there was something else I would have preferred to not be a note, it would have been David Green’s comment on hyperpreterism being a heresy if a position like orthodox Preterism was true.

If you really want to study orthodox Preterism and know what Matthew 24 is about, get this book. If you want to have an answer to the question of “How can we trust Jesus if He was wrong about the time of His own return?”, get this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: With The Clouds of Heaven

What do I think of James Hamilton Jr.’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With The Clouds of Heaven

With The Clouds of Heaven is a look at Daniel and the role it plays in the whole of Scripture, which is indeed a major one. I got this book largely because I do have a great interest in eschatology being an orthodox Preterist. So how did it deliver?

I thought Hamilton’s start was excellent at the beginning talking about how we have an assumed background knowledge when we make a statement. This is what we call a high-context society and the social science studies of the NT world are starting to bring this out more. Hamilton uses the example that he started writing this after the Super Bowl in 2013 where the Baltimore Ravens won. No one needs to be told what the Super Bowl is and no one thinks Hamilton is talking about a bunch of birds in Baltimore. Even I who is absolutely clueless on football knows that. Hamilton gives an example of what he said at his church as the pastor (And might I say it’s wonderful to see a scholar being a pastor too). His church does not have Sunday evening services so in the morning he said during announcements:

Warren and Jody are opening their home this evening to all and sundry. Evidently, there’s something happening on television tonight, maybe you know the details, apparently some commercials are going to be aired. If you’d like to watch the proceedings with others from our congregation, you’re welcome to bring a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, or a two-litre to Warren and Jody’s house.

According to Hamilton, when it was said that something was happening on TV that evening, there were smirks and snickers. Nowhere in this do you see the terms “Super Bowl” or “football game”, but everyone understands. I could go further and say nowhere do you see explained what a two-litre is, and yet Hamilton’s audience no doubt understood this term even if a reader unfamiliar with the language would not. Hamilton is also certainly right that many such allusions like he has in the announcements at his church take place in Scripture. A snippet from somewhere can bring to mind a whole passage.

For example, how many of us could be watching a show and hear a saying like “The Prodigal son returns.” When we hear this, we’re supposed to bring to mind the whole of the prodigal son story. None of this needs to be explained. It’s assumed that even if you’re a non-Christian, if you live in a Western culture, you know at least that even if you don’t believe Scripture, what the story of the prodigal son is. You know it’s a story about a wayward son that comes back home.

I appreciate also Hamilton’s insistence that Daniel is rightly in the canon and that a date that is more traditional does matter. I do wish there had been more on this as he compared Daniel with other writings at the time to show that they relied on it and thus it would have been accepted instead of being something new, but it would have also been good to have seen archaeological evidence presented, such as it now looks like Belshazzar was a co-regent and that’s why Daniel was offered the third highest position in the Kingdom. A later writer would not have known this.

The writing on how Daniel is laid out is also very interesting. Hamilton points to several chiasms that take place in the book. It is truly a marvelous work of literature. He also looks at the four kingdoms. I found it interesting on how after Daniel’s explanation of the dream of the statue with the gold head, Nebuchadnezzar makes a whole statue of gold, as if to say that if he is the gold, then he will make sure he is treated like he deserves.

When we get into eschatology, I did not find the stance of Hamilton too clear and what I did find, I do disagree with. I do not think there is anything in Daniel, especially the ninth chapter, about an antichrist figure. I’m convinced that Scripture does not speak of an antichrist person as much as an antichrist attitude. In that, everyone is either for Christ or they are antichrist. It’s interesting that John is the only one who uses the word, and yet nowhere in Revelation do you find anyone described as the antichrist. I in fact think the abomination described in Daniel 9 is that the pure Son of God was crucified in Jerusalem. What happened in the Middle of the week? That was when Stephen was stoned. It’s noteworthy that when that happens, he says he sees the Son of Man (How often is Jesus called the Son of Man outside the Gospels) standing at the right hand of God. Why standing? Hebrews says He sat down. He’s standing because that’s what you do when you judge. Jesus is pronouncing judgment on the Jews who have now killed the first Christian martyr.

This affects how I also read the way Hamilton thinks the rest of the NT interprets Daniel. I do think the section is interesting as it is a contrary viewpoint as far as I’m concerned, but I just don’t find it convincing and I leave it to readers to see the data that Hamilton provides.

If you like to study eschatology, I do think this is an important book to read and there needs to be serious look at Daniel and not just about eschatology, but how it relates to all of us as a whole. While I disagree with a good deal of what Hamilton says, he has done his homework and that is commendable and I do think again, that a church with a pastor who is also a scholar is indeed blessed. If only more of our pastors would strive to be if not scholars, at least be scholarly, we would all be better off.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/1/2014: David James

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few months back, my wife saw something on television where a book called “The Harbinger” was being discussed. That aroused my suspicion since I’d heard concerns about it from a friend of mine who came out of the occult. Around that same time, a former pastor of mine contacted me and said his church was asking him questions about it and asked if I had anything on it.

I went and got the book myself and wrote a review of it. After that, I decided to look online to see if anyone else had written a review and might have pointed out the errors. No need to reinvent the wheel. I was pleased to find someone had and he sent me his own book in response. As a preterist, I was surprised to find this was a futurist critique as well. I decided then to have him come on the show. His name is David James.

Dave 02 - 400x400

Who is he? In his own words:

David James has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, a field in which he worked for five years.

After he and his wife were saved in 1984, they attended the Word of Life Bible Institute in the U.S. in 1985. The next year Dave then went to Dallas Theological Seminary where he received his master’s in biblical studies.

He and his family served with Word of Life for 21 years, with 16 of those years as missionaries in Hungary where Dave was the founding director of the Bible Institute, and later the associate country director.

In 2009 they returned to the United States to establish an apologetics and discernment ministry, The Alliance for Biblical Integrity.

As part of this ministry, Dave continues to teach for Word of Life nationally and internationally, as well as at other schools, churches and conferences. Besides teaching, he also does much writing, and weekly national radio interviews on important theological issues affecting the church.

In addition to The Alliance for Biblical Integrity, he works with the ministry of Prophecy Today, where he administers and teaches in a master’s and doctoral-level program in advanced eschatological studies.

He has been married to his wife Karen since 1980. They have two adult children who are married.

I have had a problem with much end times talk since so much of it relies on conspiracies and eisegesis of Scripture. Let it not be said I’m going to my fellow preterists on this one. With talk of blood moons and everything else being discussed these days, Christians need to not chase after the sensational in studying eschatology but need to rely on that which can be soundly backed.

I’m glad to have David James be my guest this Saturday to discuss this topic and hopefully it will clear up some confusion, especially since the author of the Harbinger has recently come out with another book that is already selling well in Christian bookstores. I hope that you will be listening to our show as well and watching your ITunes feed for it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

What did I think of David James’s book responding to the Harbinger? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Most people who read my material know I am not a friend of dispensationalism. I consider it to be a belief that has zero Biblical support and think that orthodox Preterism awaiting the return of Jesus and the bodily resurrection is the true message of Scripture in regard to eschatology. This does not mean that dispensationalists are my enemy. I married one. (Although she does hope my view is the true one.) I have many friends who are of a futurist persuasion. 

Despite this, if I’m cruising around on Facebook and see some sensationalism on the walls of Christians friends, it usually has to do with end times. Just this past week, I’ve had to deal with the claim that Jesus said the name of the antichrist was Barack Obama (And I am no fan whatsoever of The Empty Suit) and that Obama is also planning to implant RFID chips in people which as we know just has to be the Mark of the Beast!

Unfortunately for the dispensational camp, the sensationalists usually do carry the day. Right now, one of the big items going around is Blood Moons. I still remember being in a Christian bookstore with an aged pastor talking to the clerk about wanting to read the book on it and about his excitement with “Biblical Prophecy.” 

Sadly, I’m sure books by N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, and William Lane Craig are being neglected while Christians read spiritual junk food.

Another big one in recent times was the Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. Cahn is of the opinion that he saw a message from God that everyone else missed in the 9/11 attack and the following economic collapse and all of this was said to happen according to what was written in Isaiah 9:10. Of course, this is done by selective usage of facts and horrible Scriptural interpretation, but hey, details. Who needs them?

It’s natural that a Preterist like myself would condemn such a work.

It’s a breath of fresh air that a dispensationalist like David James does.

Yes. James’s book is definitely worthy of praise. James does not go in for any of this in the book. He has nothing against Cahn as a person, but he does think that Cahn’s idea of America being given a warning of judgment starting with 9/11 has no backing whatsoever. He does think that Cahn is right in that America needs to repent, and I do agree with that point, but the warning has not happened the way Cahn thinks it has.

Naturally, James and I disagree on a number of points. We could probably sign the same statements on the veracity of Scripture and of course, we would agree on the great creeds of the church. Each one of us has a viewpoint that falls within the realm of orthodoxy. Still, I would not agree with his view that much of prophecy is future with the rapture of the church coming and I would not agree with his views on Israel. (I also don’t care for the term “replacement theology.” I prefer the term “Grafting in theology.” God did not replace Israel. He expanded it beyond what it was to include people in all places, of all languages, and all cultures, and all times.)

That’s what makes it so wonderful. This isn’t a battle of dispensationalism vs. Preterism. This is good interpretation vs. bad interpretation. This is also a danger of getting into the sensational. In a private email with James, I even told him that as I was thinking about futurism, I decided to use Blood Moons as an example and said “Suppose for the sake of argument that these were true messages from God. So what?”

Seriously. So what?

Are we to say that if you knew Jesus Christ was going to return in say, a year, that you’d suddenly start living differently? Then you have a problem right now. If you are truly living a Biblical life, and to be fair none of us truly are definitively, then it should not matter to how you live your life really if you know Jesus will return tomorrow or if it will be 1,000 years from now. Your marching orders are still the same.

Fortunately with the Harbinger, James has done his research and he has done it very well. He looks at each and every piece of information given by the prophet in the story and shows how it doesn’t line up. He shows that Cahn is highly selective in the material that he chooses to presents and ignores quite often the historical, linguistic, and cultural context of the information. In many places, he is quite loose with the facts.

James also looks at Cahn’s behavior since the publishing of the Harbinger and how many times, while he denies being a prophet (And probably the son of a prophet) and denies that this is really a prophecy about America, his actions seem to say otherwise. There are many chances he’s had to clear it up naturally and it hasn’t been taken.

Also, later in the book, he shows Cahn is entering quite dangerous territory with using material that could be considered more occultic in nature, like the Zohar. While I have no problem with extra-biblical sources, I do think some can be quite dangerous at times not because of challenging ideas, but if there’s the possibility of the occult, we must be careful. Even if it is not so, Cahn gives a more dangerous spin as inspiration seems to play a role into what goes into the Zohar.

James also deals with the idea that America is a covenant people. As I have said, a covenant requires agreement by two parties. Anyone can stand up and say they’re in a covenant with God. It isn’t one until God returns the deal somehow. No one can force God to be in a covenant. He is the initiator of the covenant. 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is more people will read Cahn’s junk food than will read James’s antidote, and this is a shame. In our society, too many people only want to read or pay attention to that which agrees with their own conclusion and do not show any proper interaction with the other side. I am sure James’s character would also be attacked if more people knew about this book. (Well obviously, he’s just resisting the Holy Spirit.) Such is the way of thinking, or rather non-thinking, in our culture.

While I disagree with James ideologically, I find in this book he is entirely level-headed and not going for the sensationalist stuff that too many dispensationalists are and sadly, that group that is sensationalist becomes the group that most people perceive the whole as being like. I only wish there were more out there who were like James. While we disagree on many issues, our disagreements will focus more on Scripture than anything else. I urge dispensationalists, preterists, and everyone in between to read this book. If you know someone who has read the Harbinger, get them to read this one as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Harbinger

Is there a secret prophecy for America hidden in the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Jonathan Cahn’s book “The Harbinger” has been at the center of a lot of controversy, much like anything related to end times material is. Unfortunately, too much of it is highly sensationalistic, which is why some of Cahn’s greatest critics, such as David James, even come from the futurist camp. While I am an orthodox Preterist, I do think people from all eschatological persuasions should seek to avoid a work like the Harbinger.

So let’s dive in. It’s written as a work of fiction, but that is a loose term because fiction usually has some sort of story. The Harbinger does not really have one. Instead, it is a long conversation describing events that happen in the life of the main character as he enters into conversations with a “prophet.” We are not given any reason really why we should trust this prophet other than he seems to appear at various places and speaks in esoteric language and knows the main characters name. (Not much of an accomplishment in the age of the internet)

A little warning. This book is highly recommended if you struggle with insomnia. It is a human tranquilizer that can knock you out quick and I could hardly wait to get done with it. It tries to present what it believes is true as a story much like the Da Vinci Code did, but while the Da Vinci Code had terribly hideous history in it, it at least had an actual story.

The main character is a reporter named Nouriel who apparently is so dumb in needing to have everything spelled out for him that the staff of the Daily Planet, who can’t figure out that Clark Kent in their midst is Superman when all he does is take off his glasses, look like brilliant geniuses by comparison. It’s a wonder any publishing entity ever hired this guy to be a reporter.

The reader will also find constant repetition. As Nouriel relates his story to the lady he’s sharing it with in the story, you get the idea repeatedly of “No way!” “Really?!” “Wow!” Again, the book is a tranquilizer. Take it if you want to sleep at night. Could be the best night’s sleep you ever have.

But now, let’s get to the so-called content.

Apparently, there is a hidden prophecy to America in the Bible. Where is it? It’s in Isaiah 9:8-10

“8 The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
And it falls on Israel.
9 And all the people know it,
That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with smooth stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”

You see it. Right?

I don’t either.

But Cahn is convinced that it is there!

So let’s start at the beginning. First off, this passage is addressed to Jacob. That means Israel. It does not say anything about America. It is strange that those who insist that we take a text “literally” always want to ignore the parts that are not literal whenever it suits the theory. The rules are always changing in this style. It is one reason I hold to a Preterist hermeneutic. I find it much more consistent.

So what was the beginning of this message anyway? It was that America needs to repent. No Christian should disagree with Cahn on this point. America does need to repent. Could we be judged by God? Absolutely. Have we been? I am not going to go so far to say that. I am not a prophet and consider it dangerous and foolish to speak as one. I prefer the words of a real prophet. That would be Jesus in Luke 13 and say we should all repent unless we perish.

The warning that we were given was 9/11. Cahn finds much symbolism here, but let’s compare and see how “literal” his interpretation is. For instance, I went here and I found no mention of bricks being used in the WTC. I have found some sources say brick terracotta was used, but we know the building was for the most part built of steel. Is there a plan to rebuild and make a new tower? Yes, but despite what the prophecy says, it is not to be done with smooth stones.

Cahn finds this all important because Israel was in a covenant nation and he says that America has broken covenant with God. How so? Well we saw ourselves as the new Israel when we established America and believed God had a purpose for establishing America.

Let’s grant all of that. That does not equate us being in a covenant any more than Alexander the Great using Greece to unite the world to prepare the way for Christianity meant that Greece was in a covenant relationship with YHWH. By this standard, if a Mormon temple is dedicated to God, then that must mean that God is in a covenant relationship with the Mormons as well.

Cahn also sees this as a vow that we have broken to God and violated our covenant so he dropped the hedge of protection around us. I kept wondering throughout this then why does Cahn have this Americentrism? Does he think other nations have not tried to please YHWH in the past? Does he think most of Europe has just been filled with atheists and pagans throughout its history? What about nations that are Christian and do suffer? Is this a warning for them? Why think America has this hedge of protection? Especially since we have had past events of greater magnitude such as the War of 1812, the Civil War, and while not of greater magnitude I’d necessarily say but of great magnitude, the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

Cahn also sees Al-Qaeda as the descendants of Assyria, who he says are the original terrorists and just like Assyria performed acts of terrorism on Israel, so Al-Qaeda today is performing acts of terrorism on America. We are in the same situation. Of course, we don’t have Assyrians coming through and building siege ramps and ripping open pregnant women and such but hey, details. Who needs them?

Cahn then gets us to the sycamores. Apparently when the WTC towers fell, a sycamore was knocked down. This sycamore was then replaced with a cedar. Well there you have it. The sycamores have fallen and we will rebuild them with cedars.

Never mind that this is one tree that fell. Never mind that the text has it in the plural for Israel and never mind that there was a totally different purpose for the building. Even the prophet in the Harbinger says there is nothing wrong with wanting to rebuild, but that America was doing so with pride.

Now of course, I do not deny that we have much pride and too many of us did not use a good opportunity to call our nation to further repentance when the towers fell. While suffering is not a sign that God is punishing us, it never hurts to examine ourselves and see how we are living.

Cahn also stresses the idea of a vow. He tells us that several politicians were in fact quoting this passage of Scripture after 9/11 and using it to say that we would rebuild. What does this tell us? It tells us that politicians are terrible at exegesis. (This isn’t a shock. Most of us are still waiting to find out what it is that they are good at.)

Most likely scenario? Someone did a search on something like Biblegateway.com and looked up the word “rebuild” and found the first reference they thought applied and decided to go with that. Then like a meme on the internet, when one person says it, everyone else starts copying it.

Yet every time that someone says we will rebuild, the prophet takes that as if it was a vow made to God that we will be held accountable for. The original prophecy itself does not describe itself as a vow. (Keep in mind the rule. The prophecy is literal when it fits the theory. Where it does not fit, you can throw in whatever you need to make it fit. If you have to change the meaning of what a vow is, then change the meaning! We have a scenario that the facts must fit!)

The prophet also tells us that our economic judgment taking place 7 years afterwards is a result of this judgment and ties it in to Sabbath festivals, because, you know, America can always be expected to be judged by Sabbath festivals. It’s at this point that I see more and more difference. Israel had actual prophets coming and telling them about specific events and warning them. We do not. Of course, Cahn could be wanting to see himself as a prophet. If so, God have mercy on him because there is a strict punishment for if a prophet gets a prophecy wrong.

It’s hard to think of all of this as a judgment on America when no one would have thought anything so bizarre as picking a random text out of Isaiah and going through it and only it and making your whole view out of that text. While America does need to repent, something I agree totally with Cahn on, there are much better usages of prophecy, such as pointing to the coming of Christ the first time and defending His resurrection. If only Christians were as interested in defending that and learning about that as they were about end-times hysteria and blood moons!

Of course, if a Christian is interested in eschatology and having a strong position on the end times, that is just fine, but if you know your version of the end times forwards and backwards and can chart out the book of Revelation perfectly, but have no clue how to defend the resurrection of Jesus or to tell what the impact of it is, there is something wrong with your thinking.

In the end, books like the Harbinger will only serve to further embarrass Christians as people who buy into sensationalism with an Americentric outlook and draw us away from the areas of study that matter most to us, such as the historical Jesus, His resurrection, and the Kingdom of God. It fits more into our mindset that we are super important and the Bible is just all about us and written to us in our time and place and is to be read like a modern document. It’s a shame that those who love Scripture are so excited about this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters