Journey to Preterism — Isaiah 13

When will judgment take place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When talking with these Preterists, another passage that came to my mind was Isaiah 13. We’ll go through the latter part of it bit by bit, though not exhaustively, of course.

See, the day of the Lord is coming
    —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
    and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
    will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
    and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
    the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
    and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
    more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
    and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the Lord Almighty,
    in the day of his burning anger.

Now if you read this normally, many of us will think that this is something far off in the future. The start of the chapter tells us that this is a prophecy against Babylon. Well, isn’t Babylon supposed to be brought back in the end? That’s it. This must be something in the future and it sounds really bad. The sun is dark, the moon doesn’t give light, and all the world is punished!

14 Like a hunted gazelle,
    like sheep without a shepherd,
they will all return to their own people,
    they will flee to their native land.
15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
    all who are caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
    their houses will be looted and their wives violated.

Okay. This doesn’t seem to fit in. If all this destruction has taken place, how are people fleeing to their native land? How are people being captured? Kind of hard to do that if everything is dark. Oh! This is the future! Right! Electric lighting or something of that kind!

17 See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
    who do not care for silver
    and have no delight in gold.
18 Their bows will strike down the young men;
    they will have no mercy on infants,
    nor will they look with compassion on children.
19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
    the pride and glory of the Babylonians,
will be overthrown by God
    like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 She will never be inhabited
    or lived in through all generations;
there no nomads will pitch their tents,
    there no shepherds will rest their flocks.
21 But desert creatures will lie there,
    jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
    and there the wild goats will leap about.
22 Hyenas will inhabit her strongholds,
    jackals her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
    and her days will not be prolonged.

Okay. This will take a bit of time. The Medes? They’re not around anymore. Not only that, but these people don’t really seem to be bothered by universal destruction going on. Not only that, but the animals seem to get along just fine. This seems really difficult to put in the distant future.

But what if….

What if it was the future….

But not the distant future?

After all, all of this has happened before with Babylon being conquered and lo and behold, it was by the Medes. Okay. That did happen, but what about this language of great universal destruction? Oh wait. That’s the point of the 2 Samuel 22 post. That language there was not to be read in a literal sense either.

Now does that mean the text is false? No more than it means that a news report is false when it says a football game turned into a bloodbath for the loser team. No one hears that and expects that if they were to go to the stadium that they would see several dead bodies floating in blood. This is hyperbolic language, which Jews used a lot, to express a point of destruction. We could consider it in some ways to be akin to trash talking.

Isaiah was then giving a prophecy and it was of the future, but it was not of the far distant future. It was of the Babylon that existed in his own time. What does this mean for us?

It means we need to stop going to every prophecy in the Bible and thinking the only thing the prophets wanted to talk about was our own time in the future. They often spoke more of a fulfillment in their own time. However, there is still one possible objection remaining.

What about dual fulfillment? Could something like this happen in the future. That could be, but the problem is this is the burden of the futurist at this point. If I have a past fulfillment, why should I think there is another future one except to save the case for the futurist viewpoint? Even if this happened in the future for a specific prophecy, it does not follow that it will happen for all.

This opened up to me a new way of reading the texts. Preterism started to make a lot more sense and showed me ways I was misreading the texts. It is now also a point of mine to try to find out how the text was most likely immediately relevant to the audience of the time instead of reading our own questions into the text when the text could not even have our concerns in mind.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey to Preterism — 2 Samuel 22

What does an Old Testament passage not about eschatology have to do with eschatology? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I had that talk with two Preterists, I remember distinctly hearing about 2 Samuel 22. This is not a prophecy or a passage about eschatology. This is about the life of David and what happened during his days. So what on Earth does this have to do with eschatology?

Let’s look at the passage. We’re not going to go through the whole thing. It’s just going to be the relevant parts.

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.

Here, we can recognize a lot of poetic license going on. This is the ways of poetry and even the hardest internet atheist could understand that this is not to be taken literally. This is David talking about how he felt hopeless. Those Christians who say we should always take the Bible “literally” will recognize this as well.

But what happens when we get to the next part?

“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Whoa. What happens with your interpretation here? This is quite an amazing  event in the life of David. David is surrounded by enemies and here comes YHWH flying out of Heaven on the backs of Gabriel and Michael. He is preceded by a massive earthquake and then YHWH starts shooting arrows at all of the bad guys.

This is a fascinating event and as we look back at the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, we find that this battle took place in…

Wait. I can’t find it….

It’s got to be here somewhere! An earthquake and then YHWH flying on angels shooting arrows at the enemies of David! Surely this would be worth mentioning! Where is it?!

Wait. Wait. You mean this whole chapter is poetic license? This is not a literal reading? This is David describing political events, such as ordinary battles and running from Saul, in cosmic language?

Who on Earth ever talks this way? Who uses over the top language to describe an event?

What? You mean a football team was described as destroying their opponents? That political announcement was said to be Earth-shattering? America’s story has a history of a shot heard around the world?

So you’re saying that if David is an Old Testament prophet, as is said in the New Testament such as in Acts 2, then maybe we should see this is how prophets spoke? Maybe prophets did use this kind of language regularly and it’s a mistake to take it “literally”?

It might be tempting to think this is an isolated incident, but it isn’t. There are several passages like this in the Old Testament. As we go through, we will find that this is the way that Jews spoke of events in their lives. Something literally happened, of course, but language used to describe it is often highly apocalyptic in nature. For us, a football team does get defeated, but the language we use is often very far from literal.

I had read this passage several times before and never considered it. This opened me up to a whole new way of reading the text. I had always understood it was poetic license, but I never had considered that this could be done in prophecy as well as the exact same language shows up there.

And as we’ll eventually see, the New Testament does the same, but that’s for the future.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey to Preterism — The Talk

What are the first steps in coming to Preterism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

On my journey in eschatology, I had heard about Preterism before. The sad reality is, I did not know what it was. I thought I knew, but I didn’t know. I remained convinced that Preterists believed that everything had happened in the first century and that there was no resurrection and no return of Jesus. I’d see Christians I know who would have defenses of Preterism and I would just wonder about it. “Why would they do that?”

It’s not uncommon. I had someone leave a comment here recently asking if I knew any Preterists who held to the creedal statements of the church, especially on doctrines like the future resurrection of Christians and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I replied with what I now know to be the truth. All orthodox Preterists hold to those doctrines. That doesn’t make us partial-futurists. That makes us Christians.

This is also why I don’t call myself a partial Preterist. The idea of so-called Full Preterism is that everything has happened and I consider that a heresy since it can lead logically to the denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I think it has to even. It doesn’t work to change the rule and say Jesus is the exception. If we are raised like He was raised, then we are either both spiritual or both physical.

I am not a partial heretic. It’s my stance that so-called Full Preterism is denying the physical resurrection of Jesus at least implicitly and thus puts us in the area of heresy. That is also a term I do not use lightly. Not once in all of this have I referred to dispensationalists who I disagree with incredibly as heretics. They are my fellow Christians, all things being equal.

I am an orthodox Preterist instead, and what really led to me embracing that? It happened back in 2006, a year I can easily find out since I am wearing a t-shirt now for TheologyWeb convention 2006. TheologyWeb is a site I help moderate on and have my own section on.

You can come here if you want to join. You can find sections for debating every area of theology, other religions, atheism and agnosticism, politics and history, as well as areas just to have fun. There’s also a Deeper Waters section where you can interact with other people on the material that I write here. People of all faiths and no faiths are welcome. Also, after you’re done signing up, your breath will feel minty fresh.

Anyway, at this convention, I did something unusual really. I joined in a talk where I sat down with two people who hold to Orthodox Preterism that they were giving and I listened and asked questions. What they said that I can remember, I will try to explain in future posts, but I want to get to this part first off.

If you want to know about a position, one of the best ways to do so is to just talk to someone who is informed on the position and holds it and ask honest questions. It’s easy to think the worst of your intellectual opponents at times. Generally, there’s a rule that if you can make a position look absolutely ridiculous, you probably haven’t understood it.

Years ago, TheologyWeb had a section for remedial Christian teachings where I would answer questions. Now what if someone wanted to hear an answer from the dispensational position? This was an easy chance for me if I wanted to take it to come up with an answer to make dispensationalism look really stupid and thus get more people to Preterism.

Never took it. Instead, I would find a well-informed dispensationalist that while I disagreed with, I knew had studied the issue, and asked them to give the best answer from their position. I want people to have informed opinions.

This works politically too. I remember reading a story and I think it was about Matt Damon about how he went and interacted with several Trump voters somewhere. He walked away saying “Those people really aren’t the way that I thought they were.” Now that doesn’t mean he went and put on a MAGA hat, but he did at least understand their reasoning.

The sad reality for me is I could have cut off years of time in my search if I had just done this. I just always assumed I knew what was meant by Preterism and what a shock to find out that I didn’t. That is why I say when I entered that talk, I was doubtful, but when I left, I had enough questions answered and no remaining doubts strong enough to overcome the conclusion that the Preterist position had the best arguments.

So over the next few posts, we’ll be talking about those arguments. For this one, I just want to encourage you to really listen to someone about a viewpoint. Ask questions, but try not to be antagonistic. Consider this a fact-finding mission, like being a detective. Maybe you’ll change your mind. Even if you don’t, you’ll at least have a better idea of what you disagree with and a better idea of why the other person holds what they hold.

Give it a try.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey to Preterism — Where is the Church Pushback

Is there a distinction between tribulation saints and the church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of Deeper Waters left a message on our Facebook page about my post on where is the church? In this, I argued that the word church not being in Revelation does not indicate the absence of the church. This commenter left a reason why he thinks the tribulation saints aren’t the church.

For me the strongest argument for the church being a different group than the saints in Trib, is that Rev states that when Satan is cast out of heaven and sent down to earth to possess that false prophet/antiChrist it says “And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 13:4–8.
This seems to contradict Jesus’ statement that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, that all authority has been given to the church and Satan has NO authority over the church.
It seems to me that Satan cannot be on earth at the same time as the church if Satan is given authority on earth. So this likely is a different group of saints.
This argument depends a lot on timing. For one thing, the objection here seems to assume that all of Revelation is future. I come from an opposite approach. Look at Revelation 12 where the dragon does appear. What do you see going on? A dragon about to devout a child that will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Biblically, the only conclusion I can reach is that this is the birth of Jesus.
I don’t see any reason to think that this event will happen again, so I take this to be a description of the birth of Christ. When that takes place, the dragon tries to devour the child, namely through the slaughter of the infants. What about Satan being on Earth though?
In Luke, Jesus says He saw Satan cast down from Heaven. (Luke 10:18) This was during His ministry. Is Satan however active while the Kingdom of God is active?
The answer from Scripture has to be yes. In Matthew 12, Jesus casts out a demon and the Pharisees tell the crowd that it is by Beelzebul that Jesus does that. Jesus says that if He casts out demons by the finger of God then the Kingdom of God is among you.
Did you catch it?
Jesus is on Earth and yet He is fighting against the devil. Jesus declares the Kingdom is right there, but so is the Kingdom of the devil. In Matthew 13 next, we are told that the Kingdom grows like a mustard seed or like yeast through dough. This means that the Kingdom of God will keep growing and if it is doing that, it has to be breaking into another kingdom pushing it out.
Any guesses which that is?
By the way, there’s no indication that the Kingdom of God will be removed from Earth and then started over during a tribulation period somehow. God is building up His army and there’s no reason to think that He’s going to remove it en masse at any time. Also, for those who say the Holy Spirit can’t be on Earth during the tribulation, kind of difficult for an omnipresent being to not be, you know, present.
I contend then that if the Kingdom of God is removed, that would be God giving authority again to the devil which would really be a case of a violation of Matthew 16 and the gates of Hell passage.
From my viewpoint, it’s straight through historical. The dragon falls and then not too much later, here comes Nero, who I think is the Beast, on the scene. When we get to the harlot later on in Revelation, who is that? Some of you might be surprised when I say that that harlot is Israel.
Does that sound anti-semitic?
If so, then the Old Testament must be a very anti-semitic book since it regularly depicts Israel as a harlot. This again makes the historical sense of what happened. For a time, the Jews could work with Rome to persecute the Christians, but then the Romans turned on the Jews as well and sought to kill them. That culminated in the fall of Jerusalem which is compared to Babylon in the book.
I wanted to answer this objection because I do try to take objections to my view seriously. I did give a little bit of commentary on Revelation as well. I won’t do this for every objection I get, but I wanted to address this one as it seemed more well thought-out.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey To Preterism — Where is the Church?

Why is the church not mentioned in the Great Tribulation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another claim I would often see come up from pre-tribulationists back on my journey was that the church was not mentioned in Revelation after chapter 3. The obvious conclusion to them was that the church wasn’t there. The church had been raptured.

At best, this is an argument from silence. The church only shows up in the Gospels in Matthew. However, it also ignores that there are other ways to refer to the people of God. Saints is a very common one and Paul even uses that for the church at Corinth which was a highly messed up church.

If we consider also that most of the focus on Revelation is on God judging the wicked, it’s not a shock that God’s people are not described as the focus. Still, they are there, such as the dragon going off to wage war against those who hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The problem with arguments from silence is that where there is no reason to expect a mention, the argument is weak. Those who put forward the argument need to state why such an event in any case should be mentioned. This is a big problem Jesus mythicists have as they assume that since Jesus is the most awesome figure in culture today, that surely everyone would have been talking about Him. Especially since this was the supposed Son of God walking on Earth doing miracles.

Most people though would have treated the claims with skepticism and not wasted time and/or capital to investigate them. It’s not a shock that so few people outside of the Christian community mentioned Jesus. It’s a shock that really anyone did mention Him.

So right at the start, we have this as an argument from silence. Now pre-tribulationists will definitely admit that the text of Revelation 4-19 does include references to those who hold to the testimony of Jesus and other terms, but these are usually seen as tribulation saints. These are people who find Jesus after the rapture.

That does work, but the problem is that you have no reason to think that unless you assume the pre-trib idea to begin with. This is especially so since it’s assumed that when John gets called up to Heaven in Revelation 4:1, that the church would have been understood to go up with him, except John is shown on Earth in passages such as Revelation 10 and there’s no indication that the church is understood to return to Earth with him then. Again, when the rules change suddenly, then you can expect that there is something else going on here.

I really do want to stress that I am trying to be fair to the arguments that i came across, but I really do just find them extremely weak. Did I ever return and give them a fair shot later on? We’ll be getting to that in a later post, but for now, this is just another argument that I don’t find convincing a bit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Hour of Temptation

Does Revelation 3:10 provide a good case for pre-tribulationism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I was on my journey of eschatology, one passage that came up often was Revelation 3:10. Let’s look at the passage as a whole. It’s the letter to the church in Philadelphia.

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Well, this seems like a good argument doesn’t it? The hour of temptation is coming to the whole Earth. That would be the Great Tribulation wouldn’t it? It fits.

Unfortunately, you have a host of assumptions going into it. First off, this hour of temptation must fit the Great Tribulation. It could be, but that needs to be argued for. Second, you have to have it that keep means to be raptured out. The second one is the most problematic one.

Keep is better understood as guard. The church would be protected from the hour that was coming. That doesn’t mean delivered from it, but that they would be protected in it. This could be a parallel to what the Israelite experienced during the plagues of Egypt. They were there for all the plagues, but they were exempted from them.

Not only that, if you want to be a literalist, then you already have a problem because the church in Philadephia is likely no longer there, at least in the same way. The idea that that specific church would be kept fits better then with a Preterist interpretation.

In the end, while this could be possible, I don’t find it persuasive. I find a Preterist interpretation fits much better and is consistent with what we see on how God deals with His people. There are too many assumptions for the pre-trib view that just don’t work well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Journey To Preterism — Not Appointed to Wrath

What does it mean to say that we are not appointed unto wrath? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the most common verses I saw pre-tribbers use in my quest was 1 Thess. 5:9. We are not appointed unto wrath.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Well, that seems to settle it. After all, the letter has just talked about the rapture and what is the rapture doing? It’s delivering us from Earth before the Great Tribulation. We are obviously not meant to go through the Great Tribulation, which is the wrath of God, and therefore we will be raptured.

It does indeed fit, but it makes so many assumptions. For instance, why should I automatically equate wrath with the Great Tribulation? Tribulation is a general word that refers to suffering. It assumes that what is described in the Olivet Discourse must be a distant future event and then that that equates with the Great Tribulation In Revelation 7 and then Paul is referring to this as if everyone would know this.

However, God’s wrath is also spoken of as a present reality. In Romans 1:18, Paul speaks of wrath coming on the enemies of God. That wrath has now been revealed he argues. This isn’t the only place he treats it as a present reality. There’s also another letter he does this.

1 Thessalonians itself.

Let’s look at chapter 2.

14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Here we have something that fits in very well with judgment on the Jews specifically of the time which would have a culminating effect in the War of the Jews and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. That doesn’t rule out a future event, but it does fit in well still with the traditional Preterist interpretation.

What does this mean then for 5:9? The contrast is made with that and salvation. This leads me to conclude that ultimately, it really means we don’t have to go through judgment. I can’t say Paul is arguing against a pre-trib interpretation here since I hold that it didn’t exist.

If a pre-tribber wants to treat this as a veres that seals the deal they need to establish all the links in the chain that has been set up. That will prove to be very difficult to do. With that not having happened, then there is no sure way to conclude that Paul has an interpretation in mind that fits in with the pre-trib position and as I go through this series, I hope to show more problems with that and why a Preterist interpretation of the New Testament is more likely.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Ten Shekels and a Shirt

What do you go to God for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I went to speak to a financial advisor yesterday who is also a Baptist minister. I assured him I would not hold that against him. Naturally, in the middle of talking about my finances a lot, we talked a lot also about theology. One recommendation he gave me was to listen to a sermon called Ten Shekels and a Shirt by Paris Reidhead given in the 1960’s that can be heard here.

I honestly don’t remember what led to this message being recommended, but I did listen to it. The reference comes from Judges 17. In it, a young Levite agrees to serve a family as a priest for ten shekels and a shirt a year and willingly sacrifices that when he gets a chance to be a priest for the tribe of Dan. This young man is an opportunist just going wherever he can get the biggest reward.

Reidhead’s point is that too many times we are doing the same thing. Are we just talking about the liberals who are all about the happiness of man? No. The conservatives do the same thing. A liberal Christianity is often about making you happy in this life. Too often though, a conservative focuses only on happiness in the next life. Both have the same focus, but just in different times.

I remember years ago attending a church and the pastor finished a sermon with a prayer like this. “Lord Jesus. I know I am a sinner, and without you, I cannot get to Heaven. So come in to my heart and be Lord of my life from this day forward. Thank you for my salvation. Amen.”

True, the prayer says we are sinners and calls Jesus Lord, but what is the point in the prayer? Sadly, it’s about going to Heaven. I am honestly at the point where I wish Christians would stop talking about Heaven so much, at least the way that they do. I have even said we talk about the joys of Heaven and God is an afterthought. It’s like saying God’s purpose is to make us happy.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being happy and wanting to be happy. The question is what will make us happy. A Christian should happily serve Jesus because they do it all for the glory of God. In the end, if you do glory in God, you will wind up finding happiness. Too often though, we choose a path and think “This path will make me happy” but if we sacrifice holiness, it will only be a short-term happiness.

This can happen in any number of ways. A person can cheat at the job to get some extra money and it can even be for a good reason, but yet they have sacrificed their soul to some extent. A couple can decide they love each other so much that despite their not being married, why not just have sex anyway? A little here and a little there and it adds up. What are we willing to sell our souls for? Do we really think if we want happiness and we’re Christians that we’re going to find it going against the ways of God?

This becomes a way of using people, and we can often do this. If we are dating, we often want to date someone who makes us happy, and our spouse should want to make us happy and we should find happiness in them, but do we think “How can I make this person happy?” Much of our marriage culture is all about our happiness and that only leads to destruction. Gary Thomas has a book called Sacred Marriage where he asks “What if the purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to make us holy?”

Good question.

In reality, the Bible does tell us to seek happiness to some extent. When Jesus tells us to sacrifice and give, He also consistently points to some reason for it. He tells us about treasure in Heaven and that we will have the Kingdom. The Ten Commandments say to honor your father and mother so that it might go well for you and you will have a long life on the Earth. Romans 2 praises those who persist in doing good by seeking glory, honor, and immortality. Yes. We are to seek those things.

But why do we seek them?

If we all do it for ourselves, we are empty beings indeed. We do it also for the glory of God. If we come to God just because we want the goodies, you could say in some way we are raping God as it were. We are using Him for what we want and then dispensing with Him when life doesn’t go our way. There is nothing wrong with wanting forgiveness and salvation, but let’s try to remember we do this because we have dishonored a holy God and we don’t want to do that. Too much of our thinking today assumes God owes us something, which is also behind a lot of atheist argumentation with the idea of “How dare God judge person XYZ!”

To get back to what we do in conservative circles, we have made Christianity all about what happens when we die and we say hardly anything about what happens before that. We don’t talk about the kingship of Christ or the glory of God. All we do is pretty much give people “Get out of Hell free” cards. Is it any shock that if that’s all we’re doing there’s not much passion for evangelism? That’s also hardly a loving Father we present. “Come to God so He won’t send you to Hell.” I can’t imagine why it is atheists don’t just flock to that.

This is not to say we avoid teaching about Hell. We should. It is to say we need the positive too. Come to God because He is worth it. Come to God because He truly is goodness and love.

My biggest concern with Reidhead’s message is that yes, we can have a message that focuses too much on the happiness of man, but let’s not go so far as to say that doesn’t matter a bit. God cares about it for He did create Heaven to be a place of joy to remove everything sorrowful from us and He did send His Son to the cross. God cares about our happiness too, but He also knows the best way to bring it about. You will never find true and lasting happiness by going against Him. God’s rules for living are not to hinder our joy, but to enhance it.

It is a fine line. We do not exalt the glory of God by choosing to be miserable, but we also don’t go to God just because we want to be happy only and don’t care about Him. That is like a man doing good for his wife because he wants her to do something to make him happy and he doesn’t really care about her. The great joy is in knowing you did something loving and if you get a blessing from it, even better. If not, you still did what was right. You bettered your own soul.

Where is the balance then? I don’t claim to fully know at this point. Our lives are caught in a state that we don’t really know what is good for us and often run contrary to what we think is good for us. However, I am sure we can never find true happiness apart from God and we can’t find it in using God. One might start with coming to God for less than noble reasons at first, but when we start to grow in Christ, we should think more about His glory and honor and let that be motivation for serving.

At this point, I ask, what about you? What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment and let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

God As A Means

What is the point? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times, I get really annoyed when Christians start talking about Heaven so much. It’s not so much because Heaven is unimportant to talk about. It is. The problem is that seems to be all that we talk about and when we talk about Heaven, it’s not even for the right reasons.

Let’s start with the first point. Listen to many Christians today and you would think the whole point of Christianity is going to Heaven. A small child comes forward and accepts Jesus and now he has to look forward to that when he dies, he will go to Heaven. What is he told about the here and now? What is he told about the purpose of his life? Well, be a good person. Congratulations. Even secularists do the same with their children. They can also offer that without all this stuff that people find so hard to believe, so what a shock when children will dump Jesus later on in their teen years. What was the point anyway?

Nothing is said about us being servants of the Kingdom. Jesus is your savior, but nothing is said about what you are to do for Him. It’s all about what He did for you. Nothing is said about how He is supposed to be your king. When do we hear about holy living in the here and now for the glory of God?

As for the second problem, I have heard many Christians describe Heaven and when they do so, their descriptions are quite lacking. The lacking in the details of Heaven is nothing is said about God. You see, you get to live forever and you’re reunited with your loved ones and you have this mansion and these streets of gold. It’s as if God is an afterthought.

With this, God becomes solely a means to obtain what we want for ourselves. God is not the goal and the great reward. He is the means to the goal and the great reward. It’s almost as if this kind of attitude is wanting to rape God for the good things that He has.

I can assure you it was incredibly awkward even writing that last sentence, but that is the only kind of parallel I can come up with. Perhaps such a graphic illustration is what some of us need anyway. All the good stuff alone does not make Heaven.

I have heard there was an episode of the Twilight Zone where a man dies and goes to a place where he has a mansion and all the good things he wants. As time goes on though, he gets bored and when asks about that is told that’s the way it is. He asks why it is that Heaven is like this to which he is told, “Who said you were in Heaven?” I am not saying this is what happens, but one could imagine how twisted it would be for a hell to be a place where you seem to have all you want at the start and then find out that it is unfulfilling. Ultimately, only God can eternally satisfy the longings of man, something I still have to remind myself of.

Besides that, when we see our loved ones, it’s almost as if we think we will pick up right where we left off. Last night, I finished reading again C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. He describes the same sort of idea and does also realize he is being tempted to treat God as a means to see his beloved again. Lewis throughout tries to think about what could be happening to his bride. Perhaps she is still being sanctified. Why think that her pain is entirely ending? Could she be experiencing separation? While Lewis was a Protestant, he did still pray for her and was open to some sufferings of purgatory.

Perhaps it is because we do not see God as desirable Himself that we look at Heaven like this. Why do we not see God as the great reward Himself? As an apologist, I wish I had an answer, but I do not at this point. It is a question I am still mulling over. I hope to do some future blogs as I think about it in the future.

I suppose in closing all I can say is to think about why you are doing what you are doing. Is God a means to an end? What is the point of your life now? Are you presenting God as the goal or just the afterthought, the means to the end?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)