Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

What do I think of Matthew Bates’s book published by Renew? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

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

 

More on the Sadness of Jesus

Why do we not talk about the sadness of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Within the past month, I have written about the sadness of Christ. I was pleased to see that article linked to on a popular apologetics website. However, after seeing that, I started to ponder. I have written many blogs including on the historical Jesus. Why this one?

Could it be that this one resonated? This one did hit something and it at first doesn’t even seem to be something related to apologetics, but I think it is. Could it be that maybe we talk so much about the joy of Christ that we don’t know about His sorrow as well? Could it be that we ourselves don’t really know much about sorrow either?

Now that last one might be a surprising statement. After all, look at how many people in our country struggle with depression. Look at how many self-help books we have out there. Our people have experience with sorrow so surely they know a lot about it.

It’s not hard to figure out the error in this statement. Our people also debate politics and economics regularly, but most of us think that our fellow Americans are clueless about both of them. This is especially so since you can find quite sincere people and quite intelligent people on both sides of any debate. We have had the sexual revolution going on, but I contend that our culture is one that knows very little about sex.

One of our problems with sorrow and depression is we really don’t know how to handle it. We often act like we’re not supposed to have any depression or sadness at all. Sadly, the church is one of the worst at this. We often pay lip service to the idea of mourning with those who mourn and Jesus weeping in the garden,

For us, if you have depression or anxiety, then there is something wrong with you. Christians are supposed to be people of joy and so if you have depression or anxiety, there is something wrong with you. This can lead to being depressed about being depressed or anxious about being anxious.

Being a fully functional human being means experiencing the full gamut of human emotions and sometimes you will have anxiety or sadness. That is okay. If you start saying you shouldn’t, then what are we to mourn for?

This also leads to a false pollyanna world that skeptics don’t believe in. They don’t want us to act like life is always great. They want to see how we will handle it when life is hard. Will we be realistic or will we be living a life of total denial?

I also don’t believe in that world.

We also then treat suffering like it is something foreign to us. The suffering that we cannot bear often times would be nothing to our ancestors of the past. These were people who were willing to go to the death for their faith. They also didn’t only exist back then. They exist in the world today where real persecution is going on.

Why do we not talk about it with Jesus? Maybe because it doesn’t seem to give us something to aspire to. It’s easy to want to live like Jesus when He is being gracious to His enemies or outwitting them in debate or showing outstanding love. However, to aspire to be like Jesus in His sorrow will mean experiecing that sorrow as well, and we don’t want that.

But that is part of pollyanna thinking. The sorrow will come. We treat pain and suffering like they are something foreign to us. In reality, they have been promised to us.

The question is not then will suffering come, but how will we handle it? We are not to act like it is all good and wonderful. Sure, we are to count all things joy, but that does not mean that you always put on a happy face since Jesus didn’t do that. We can need help on the journey, and that’s okay. That’s why there are friends and therapists and yes, even medications.

Sorrow in Jesus I think resonates with us because deep down, many of us know that it is a reality and we want something in our lives. Yet still, the only book I found on a general search on Amazon on this topic was about 500 years old. Who is writing about this today? If any New Testament scholar is reading this, consider this a challenge to write a book on the sadness of Christ. To any pastor, consider preaching a sermon on Jesus being sad. It would be refreshing in some way. If anything, that could help many in your audience who do struggle with depression and anxiety. They could actually really resonate with Jesus.

I continue to think on this and learn about the topic. If we want to know Jesus as He is, we have to know all sides of Him. We have to have a Jesus who is not just fully God, but also fully human. That includes not just being hungry, thirsty, and tired, but also, sad.

Nothing short of a real Jesus will do.

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

The Sadness of Christ

Why was Christ sad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There have been some snafus with the blog lately. I hope that’s worked out. I do have a new laptop now and I tried to make YouTube videos of the blog for that, which apparently also had some problems. I was going to work on that some today, but really, things are extremely rough right now.

I don’t want to go into everything going on, but let’s just say that yesterday, I had the perfect storm of depression and anxiety come based on so many situations. Much of it I still want to keep private, but I can assure you it’s real. It has been so real I called to have an emergency session with my therapist and I am trying to reach out to other friends who I know can do some counseling.

So yesterday, I started wondering about the sadness of Christ. Go on Amazon and you can find plenty of books of Christ offering hope to those suffering. Wonderful. You can hear about Christ speaking to your sadness. Excellent. You can hear a lot about the promises of Christ and what He went through for your joy. Great.

And right now, I don’t really care about it.

Right now, I want to know about Christ Himself. What about His sadness? For some of us, it seems shocking to talk about such things, yet at the same time so many refer to Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Christ that describes Him as a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.

Yes. That’s what it says.

Jesus is not referred to as a man of joy. He is referred to as a man of sorrows. He is not described in ways that glorify Him. He is someone despised and rejected. There was no reason to desire Him. Nothing. Let us not color it over so much saying it was Jesus that we miss something.

This is in many ways a very depressing chapter.

Consider the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” How many of us have sung that at church? What a wonderful encouragement! What a blessing it is to us! How good it is to know God is faithful! That passage is in the Bible? It must surely be in a book of joy. It’s a Psalm of praise. Right?

Think again. It’s Lamentations. The entire book of the Bible that is just that, a lament.

So if you hold that Isaiah 53 is Jesus, this is really Jesus. When I talk about wanting Christ, I want to know just what He will do for me when I have sadness. I want to know what He did for Himself. I want to know why He was sad. I want to know His experience.

The number one place is in Matthew 26 when Jesus is in the garden praying and fortunately, I found one book on the topic by Thomas More that is over 500 years old called the Sadness of Christ and it is looking at the Passion. Jesus tells His friends that He is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus turns to His friends.

Let’s get rid of some bad theology with this.

Some people will tell you that if you have God and you know His love, you should always have joy and happiness. If you are depressed then, there is something wrong with you. You need to repent.

I defy you if you are a Christian to find one human being you think has better theology than Jesus.

Was there something wrong with Jesus that He was sad? Did Jesus have a deficient theology? Did Jesus just need to repent and find joy in the Lord?

If your theology contradicts Jesus, your theology is wrong.

Jesus was sad. We could say it was because of the sins of the world and the pain of the people around Him, but could we consider something else? Maybe, Jesus just didn’t want to go to the cross. Hebrews tells us that He went despising the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him. He knew this was the path to the greatest joy so He went for it.

He went to the cross because He wanted to save the world and bring glory to God. He didn’t want the cross for the sake of the cross. He would have preferred another way.

Yet Jesus was sad.

If that’s the case, then we can dispense with this idea that if you have God in your life, you should always have joy and living abundantly. Dare I say it, sometimes you should be sad. If you have a loved one who dies on you and you are not sad, you are not exhibiting great strength. You are being actually deficient as a human being.

1 Thessalonians is a passage I am discussing in eschatology right now, but while we disagree with many Christians on the eschatology, let’s speak about one thing we should agree on. The text says we mourn. Paul never says “Cheer up guys! No need to mourn! These people will rise again! Celebrate!” No. He says mourn. In Romans, he even tells us to mourn with those who mourn.

Paul says he had no rest at one point until he found his brother Titus. He talks about how thankful he was to have someone come to him so he could have less anxiety in Philippians, the very book where he tells us to be anxious for nothing. It could be Paul was also preaching to himself there. How many of us know what it is like to give advice some one and yet struggle to follow that same advice ourselves?

But to get back to Jesus, Jesus definitely did have sadness. When we talk about the incarnation, we understand He was hungry and He slept and was thirsty and could experience pain and even die, yet talking about sadness seems taboo. Jesus as a human being had emotions and surely those emotions always had to be joy.

No. Not a bit. He experienced the full gamut of emotions. When my soul is also overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, in some ways, I am in good company. Jesus’s was too.

What did Jesus do? He needed what we need then. He needed His friends. He didn’t just turn to God. He turned to others. I am thankful I have God to turn to, to be sure, but there are ways that another human being can connect with you that God can’t always. This evening I am planning on visiting a friend to have a gaming night. Sorry, but God isn’t going to sit on a couch with me playing Smash Brothers or something.

Sometimes, you need a touch too. Now Jesus could appear and do that, but it’s not likely. I am not a touchy person, but sometimes, it is nice to have.

In all of this, I am not saying prayer and good music and Bible study and similar things have no place in this. They are good. I also say good music because sometimes it’s not just Christian music you need. When I heard Nabeel Qureshi had died, I was one of the first. Mike Licona was there when it happened and his wife called and told me and said not to tell anyone. I was in a Wal-Mart shopping at the time and having to put on a brave face even though inside, I was falling apart. What did I listen to driving then?

World of Ruin from Final Fantasy VI.

Sometimes in my own pain nowadays, I find myeslf listening to A Place To Call Home from Final Fantasy IX. Different music will resonate with different people. Some will find themselves listening to the classical composers. Some might want rock and roll or even heavy metal. If it is not sinful and it helps you get through it, go for it.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you. For now, I just want us to think about the sadness of Jesus. We have a Lord who was sad and had to deal with it. We do nor honor Jesus when we turn Him into a superhuman who never had sorrow and sadness in His life. That should be a comfort too. If our Lord had it, we should not count ourselves exempt from it.

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

What Hill Will You Die On?

Are some battles the ones that are essential? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently in a group I’m in, someone shared a picture with someone saying on social media, “Answer me one question and I will convert to atheism. Show me the evidence for the Big Bang Theory.” I find it incredibly sad that someone could make a post like that and even if it wasn’t real, we know there are people who think that way.

For one thing, let’s start with a basic quibble. Every position has something that can be called evidence. The most crazy conspiracy theory out there that no one else will believe in except the one person who does still has evidence. You could say he’s interpreting it wrongly or that it’s not really true, but it is still evidence. If you asked if there was any evidence for Muhammad’s night flight, I could say that we do have Muslim sources saying that. That is evidence. Do I trust that evidence and think the sources are reliable? No.

This person likely meant proof, but even that is problematic for there is very little in life that we have proof for and certainly not in the area of science. We can have extremely good evidence in science for something, but that evidence is always probabilistic. It’s the same with history also. Historians don’t speak of proof. There are many events that are so sure that it’s ridiculous to doubt them, such as the crucifixion of Jesus, but that does not mean we speak of “proof.”

So after that, let’s get to the more serious point. This is not a hill to die on. Many readers I have here are YECs, but I would say the same thing to someone who was OEC and was saying “Show me the evidence of evolution and I will become an atheist.” What has to be asked is what is absolutely necessary for Christianity to be true. That doesn’t mean the other doctrines are unimportant or that they are false. It means what is absolutely necessary.

Let’s consider something with evolution. Let’s suppose you had thought that Piltdown Man was good evidence for the theory. Some people did believe that. I was trying to see how many dissertations were written on it, but I could not find that number aside from creationist websites citing 500 and I did not want to use the opponent to back the statistic.

Now we know it was a hoax. Does that mean that anyone who thought it was real should automatically conclude evolution is false? No. It could be false, but all that is really false in this case is one finding. Now you could say you question the scientific establishment after that, which is a separate issue, but the core leading cases for evolution and the science behind it would still be there. What that is would be up to the scientists to explain, but I have never had one tell me the case is built on one discovery.

So what about Christianity? You definitely need the existence of God for that. You also need Jesus being fully God and man or else we are not truly reconciled by the grace of God, which also entails the Trinity eventually, and you need the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is also not saying that you necessarily have to affirm everything to be a Christian. For example, I don’t expect a small child to understand the Trinity nor do I think the early church was quoting the Nicene Creed, though the seeds of the doctrine were there.

What about inerrancy? That is something important, but there could hypothetically be an error in the Scriptures and Christianity could still be true. It could still be that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. After all, the early church didn’t even have a New Testament and it’s not like a slip-up in a later writer could overturn a past historical event. Note that this does not mean inerrancy is false. That is not relevant at this point. It is just saying it is not an essential. It’s not even saying the doctrine is unimportant. It can still be important and I understand many churches and Christian schools putting it in a statement of faith.

The same applies to YEC. The same applies to OEC or to Evolutionary creationism. If you look at any of these and say “If this is not true, I am abandoning Christianity”, then you are basing your faith on something other than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. You could say if they are false, “I still have the resurrection of Jesus, but now I really have to rethink doctrine XYZ” and that’s okay!

For me, there have been many positions on which I have changed my stance. One such example is eschatology. I used to be a strong dispensationalist. I grew up listening to Southern Gospel music and so many songs are about the rapture. I was challenged by a Baptist minister especially to rethink that with plenty of reasons and like C.S. Lewis being dragged into the kingdom, I went kicking and screaming. Over several years time, I moved into orthodox Preterism. I have a strong passion to talk about eschatology and that doctrine, but I will not base my Christianity on it. I would say if it was shown to be false, “Whoa. I really gotta rethink the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation.” Maybe I would never even find an understanding of them. That’s okay. For all of us, there are things in the Bible that we don’t understand and aspects of our theology we are still working out.

Please note that at this point, I am not saying YEC, OEC, or EC are false. Right now, it doesn’t matter. I’m also not saying your stance on origins and creation doesn’t matter. I’m not saying you can’t have strong positions on those issues, be passionate about them, and argue for them. I am simply saying don’t base Christianity on them. Christianity needs to be based on the life of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Odds are if you are journeying on your Christian life and studying, you will change your mind on a number of issues, and that’s okay. There will still be many things you don’t know in the end also, no matter how much you study. If any of us could comprehend God, we would be God and He would not be. There are going to always be passages of the Bible that you don’t understand and you will not be a perfect interpreter of every one of them. That’s also okay.

Don’t be like this person who based their faith on something other than Jesus. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s wrong. I don’t really care on that issue. What I want to know is where does he stand on the resurrection of Jesus. It would be better to get Jesus right and everything else wrong, than to get everything else right and Jesus wrong.

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

Jesus Shock

What do we do with the words of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In all frankness right at the start, the title of this comes from Peter Kreeft. I can just think of no better way to describe this than he did, though he was taking a different approach. I started thinking about this one recently when talking with some skeptics on Facebook. Usually, we see the same verses pop up that we already know are being misunderstood.

Let’s consider Luke 14:26.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Such a statement is Jewish hyperbole and leave it to so many today to read it literalistically. The problem for those of us in the apologetics field is that we can be so easy responding to the misinterpretation that we miss the real interpretation. No. Jesus does not want us to literally hate our parents or ourselves, but He is calling us to literally do something.

So guys. If you’re married, how many of you men out there love your wives? How many women love your husbands? How much are you to love Jesus? You are to love Jesus so much that by comparison, your love for those people would seem like hatred. They can’t even be remotely in the same league as Jesus. Jesus doesn’t tell you to give up your family, but you would need to be willing to if need be.

Really. He said that.

Note that not only did He say this, but He made it about Himself. It’s not just that you need to do this to be a servant in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that could be more understandable. No. Jesus made it about Himself. You need to be willing to eliminate these from your life if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus. Other great rabbis would speak about God. Jesus spoke about Himself.

What does that tell you about how He saw Himself?

Consider also another favorite one that is used. Jesus says that a man should not go and bury his father first. He needs to let the dead bury their own dead. Now the reality is the man’s father was likely still very much alive. The man was just saying he needed to fulfill his familial obligations first and then he could fulfill his obligation to Jesus.

Jesus won’t have it.

Yes. He actually says this.

Really. Let it sink in.

Are you ready to make that kind of commitment to Jesus?

Do you make this commitment to Him?

The problem for so many of us is that we have heard these kinds of sayings so much that we just tend to gloss over them. They no longer really surprise us. I have heard that when king Clovis II was told first about the crucifixion of Jesus, he immediately reached for his sword and said, “They wouldn’t have done that if I had been there.” We know that it was necessary that He be crucified, but we need to let the surprise of it sink in. This really happened. He really did this for us. Odds are if we had been there, we would have also been crying out to God to not let this happen.

Kind of like we do with much of our own suffering.

And God did let it happen.

Much like He lets our suffering happen.

And Jesus’s suffering ended in far greater good.

So……

Usually, many of my fellow apologists agree that Jesus Mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed, is thoroughly stupid. This is another reason for it. If Jesus never existed, I don’t think we would be capable of creating a figure like Him. I realize that’s not the same kind of argument that you can normally put forward in historical studies, but it is one. We could point to characters later on like Aslan, but that’s after we have the model of Jesus to look to.

For those of us in apologetics, let’s make sure we don’t spend so much time on misinterpretation that we ignore real interpretation. Jesus said the things He said and as has been said, they were the most incredible things ever said by human lips. We need to really take them seriously.

If it leaves you nervous, you’re not the only one. If it doesn’t, then really check yourself. It should. Jesus is calling for a radical commitment. Would you be willing to forsake all others for Jesus?

Note of course that I am not telling you to not love your family. You should. However, if Jesus asked you to give them up for Him, would you be willing to do that? We can look in amazement at the story of Abraham, but Jesus is asking us for similar here. No. We aren’t being told to literally offer them up as a sacrifice, but we are told to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice in that we are willing to give them up for Jesus.

This is also looking at just two passages. There are many many more. Jesus calls us to not even hate our neighbor in our hearts because that is the first step to murdering them. That’s a hard one.

How about lust? Look at the way our society is today with sex selling everything and we are told to not look at that woman with the idea of wanting to use her for sex or else we are on the way to adultery. We have already had the willingness to do so in our hearts after all.

Do you like that commandment? I don’t. It’s a difficult one to follow. I can’t help but think about what Mark Twain is alleged to have said at this point. It’s not the statements in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the ones that I do understand.

Jesus was the most radical figure who ever lived. We need to let ourselves be shocked by Him. Let’s not be so busy defending His words that we ignore them ourselves. Honestly to skeptics out there, I would encourage you to also really think about this figure. Mythicism is just ridiculous, but once you accept He lived, what do you do with Him? If you think someone made this all up, who was that amazing person or group of persons? Color me skeptical that such a thing could be done. If it wasn’t done, then we have to ask the question he asked.

“Who do you say that I am?”

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

Should Revelation Be Scary?

How do we approach this book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about my mother’s concerns with weather all over the world. I asked her then if she was basing this on Revelation and she told me she had only read it once when she was a child and it scared her greatly. I can understand a child being scared by the book of Revelation, much like how on the other end the rabbis wanted a Jewish boy to wait until he was old enough before he read the Song of Songs.

Yet as adults, should we be scared of the book? In all fairness, there are some surprising aspects of this book. Years ago I read a book that asked at one point what would we know about Jesus if the only thing we had about Him was the book of Revelation? We certainly wouldn’t know about any “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.”

Years ago, Weird Al had a movie called UHF where he took over a TV station and brought it back from the brink with some awesome shows. One show that he had was Gandhi II. In this one, Gandhi came back and was not Mr. passive-resistance. He was a rough and tough fighter with beautiful ladies by his side toting a machine gun. Aside from the ladies, we can see Jesus being presented in such a different way in Revelation. He opens seals that bring about destruction on Earth and He comes back riding on a horse to judge and make war.

We all say to some extent we want justice. That even applies to today’s social justice warriors. What is in their name but justice? While I think it is a perverted sense of justice, they still want what they see as justice. Justice is good, but justice can also be scary. Something worth pointing out also is we constantly want mercy for ourselves and justice for our enemies. We very rarely reverse those. Perhaps we should.

Now some people reading this believe in a rapture and that Revelation describes what happens when the church is gone. That I find puzzling since why spend so much time talking about an event we won’t see? Still, if you believe that, this shouldn’t scare you because you’re not going to experience it.

I take the Orthodox Preterist approach and see the book as describing events largely happening in the first century, though some is future and one event, Revelation 12, is even a Cosmic Christmas story. These events do show justice. God takes sin seriously. The reason everything happens in Revelation in judgment is because people sin. There is a way in which justice is scary.

If we stay there, Revelation will not help us. It is not meant to just scare us. It is meant to give us hope. When Christians go through sufferings and trials, even the worst of all, God is still in charge. No matter what the Beast does in the book, it’s clear throughout who is in charge.

Often in the church today we make too big an emphasis on the devil. When it comes to what’s going on in our lives that is suffering, we blame it on the devil over and over. Whenever we are tempted to sin, it is because of the devil. After all, it can’t be that that’s our natural tendency. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need the devil to tempt me into sin. I’m quite proficient at being tempted on my own.

This fear is understood since in Revelation sealing the devil takes an army of angels to…wait….what? What did you say? The text doesn’t say that? It says one angel does it?

Huh. Imagine that.

It takes one angel to deal with the devil. Don’t practically make him the counterpart of God.

Finally, I remember several years ago being on TheologyWeb when in our chat feature on the site called the Shoutbox, someone was posting “Saints Win! Saints Win! Saints Win!” I humorously remarked that he must have just finished reading the book of Revelation. It’s a joke, but we should all really shout with joy at times. After all, the saints really do win.

In the end then, Revelation should be a comfort. Whatever the judgment that comes, God does it for the people He loves and how does it end? It ends with a wedding. It is the ultimate marriage of Heaven and Earth. It is the consummation of what has been longed for. God is with His people as He intended and all those who want to sit at the table can do so.

Come.

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

Book Plunge: Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach

What do I think of Andrew Loke’s book published by Routledge? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be thorough. Loke leaves practically no stone unturned and he deals with numerous obscure objections to the resurrection in a logical format. He lists out the possibilities in each case at the start and in the end all the evidence points to Jesus being raised from the dead.

He starts with what the earliest Christians claimed. This is the natural place to start as all we have at the beginning as many skeptics will say is a claim. Meticulously, he goes through piece by piece answering most every possible step you could think of. That includes scholars well known and respected in the field, like Ehrman, to those on the fringe, like Richard Carrier. I was extremely pleased to see this as while most scholars don’t really bother with Carrier, someone does need to and Loke is the kind of guy to do it.

On and on Loke will go looking at each section of the chain and sometimes you will be left wondering how he can write any more on the topic and lo and behold, he does. Loke wants to make absolutely sure that he has left no stone unturned.

If you want to read a chapter on its own, you can go and read the chapter relevant to what you’re studying. Do you want to know if the disciples’ experience of seeing something was something extramental or purely in their heads, go to that chapter. Do you want to know the details surrounding the burial of Jesus? Go to that chapter.

While this is a historical book, there is philosophy covered as well. Loke has apparently written earlier on the existence of God so he doesn’t make that case, but it’s good to know that foundation is there. He does have a chapter here on the question of miracles for those who want to know about that. He is just as thorough in this area as he is in other areas.

There’s also a chapter on combination hypotheses. After all, maybe you say to yourself, “Okay. My case against the empty tomb isn’t that good, but it makes more sense when you combine it with these other arguments.” Don’t be so sure. Loke has this covered.

Now for the bad part. At the time of this publishing, to get a hardcover copy of this book is awfully expensive. It will cost you a little over $100. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the really good news. If you want to read this on your Kindle or computer, you can get a somewhat better price. How does free sound? Yep. Completely free. I checked just today to make sure and it has been free for years. That means you really have no excuse to engage with this book. You can get it here.

This is my challenge then to those who don’t believe in the resurrection. Give this free book a try. Don’t have a Kindle? You can either get one or you can read it on an Amazon app on your computer or even get the app on your phone. Try to even do something like fifteen minutes a day with the book. You could say you will lose time, but how many of us would spend that time watching Netflix or playing video games? We all have time for entertainment. Just give some of it to this.

It’s free. Face this book and see what you think and if you disagree, at least have an informed disagreement.

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

Thoughts On The Rich Man and Lazarus

What does this parable tell us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am sometimes engaged in debates on the final fate of people and particularly, the unbelievers. Do they go to a place of torment or are they annihilated? Sometimes, many people will go to Luke 16 with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to get some answers. It’s understandable, but this parable is really not about the nature of heaven and hell.

Let’s start with the story. The rich man wears purple. The wording could indicate that this even goes down to his undergarments, the garments people wouldn’t normally see. Why does this matter? Because purple was the color of royalty and prestige. If you were wearing purple, you were a big deal.

This man lives in luxury every day. Outside his gate though is a man named Lazarus. Note that the rich man has a gate which means he has a good living place. After all, gates were means of protection. This guy can afford some security.

Let’s start with Lazarus being named. It would bring to mind Eleazar which means God has helped. Some people look at the parable having a man with a real name and say “No other parable has this so this isn’t a parable.” This is understandable, but it is mistaken. The reason Lazarus is named is to show him as a worthwhile and honorable individual. The rich man, who most people would look up to and admire becomes in the eyes of God a “What’s his name?”

Lazarus meanwhile is someone who is sick and has nothing and dogs lick his wounds. Some people think that the licking of a dog was seen as medicinal. Either way, the message is that dogs are doing more for Lazarus than this rich man, who could clearly afford to help him.

Lazarus dies and he gets a personal escort of angels. Note that what is said about his death is just that he died. Nothing. No one notices him. The rich man dies and is buried. Burial was important for one’s honor and it is also done by someone else. No one can bury themselves. The rich man is remembered when he dies.

However, in the afterdeath, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man is in hell. The rich man now has to look up to see Abraham and Lazarus and in all of this, he still sees Lazarus as a tool. This also shows that the rich man was aware of Lazarus since he knew his name. His attitude remains unchanged and he still sees Lazarus as a servant and refuses to even address him.

He does call Abraham, father, which indicates this was a Jewish man. He also doesn’t want to go to be where Lazarus was, but he wants to bring Lazarus to where he is. Lazarus remains completely silent. This time, he has an advocate and one great one to have, Abraham.

Abraham also refers to the rich man as son, a familial name. It is showing a degree of care, but Abraham reminds the rich man that in the past, Lazarus had nothing and the rich man had everything. Now the roles are reversed. There is also a chasm fixed so that people cannot go back and forth. This should also be another indication the story isn’t literal. (What would happen if you fell down the chasm anyway? Would you “die” or would it be like a Mario game and you would just reappear where you started?)

The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to his family of five brothers. Again, Lazarus is the servant. However, why does the rich man have five brothers? Jesus didn’t need to be specific. He could have said family and it would have worked. Why five brothers?

Could it be because in the Old Testament, Judah had five brothers? Judah would be a picture of Jerusalem. Is this Jesus pointing out that Jerusalem itself is under judgment? Quite likely.

Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets. The rich man insists that is not enough. Many of us hear this today. It is a common argument today from skeptics that they need God to do something for them personally before they will believe. I have no reason to believe those people are really seeking. Most of them are not interested in diving into the best works they can defending a Christian worldview to see what they really have to say.

It’s a shame to have some people miss out on God because they are caught in emotional arguments. These same people will often chide Christians for believing for emotional reasons. This is understandable as if atheists shouldn’t make eternal judgments based on emotions, neither should Christians. Many Christians could bear to read some scholarship as well.

We all know skeptics who are like this. The problem they claim is that there is not enough evidence when normally, the evidence that is there has not really been considered. Sometimes God does give more, but why should He if someone isn’t considering what they already have? Abraham says the rich man’s brothers won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead.

This is true.

After all, I have also met a number of skeptics that have said that even if God is real and Jesus rose from the dead, they won’t worship Him. This is normally for an emotional reason. Odds are you have met someone like that too.

This is not a parable about the afterdeath. This is a parable about those who God honors as well. That’s humbling too. Many of you who look up to me as a Christian to admire, and I hope I am, know my name from my writings and debates. Who is the real hero in the Kingdom of God though? It could be an unknown person that when they die, the world will neither know nor care. Meanwhile, those great celebrities who walk the streets of Hollywood and are known by everyone? They could be the ones that find themselves in a position of shame forever.

If this is true, you should consider your choices carefully. Before rejecting it also, you should make sure that you have investigated it fairly and don’t just have an emotional reason. If you are a Christian, be living so that you will be honored like Lazarus was when your time comes.

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

Book Plunge: Not Afraid of the Antichrist

What do I think of Craig Keener and Michael Brown’s book published by Chosen books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I used to be a futurist pre-trib dispensationalist. I’m not proud of it. I grew up in the Bible Belt and I heard Southern Gospel music and I never heard any other view. Christians believe in the rapture. It wasn’t until I got the internet that I heard a contrary view.

And I went kicking and screaming into that contrary view. Who would want to disbelieve in the rapture? Who would want to go through a great tribulation and face the antichrist?

However, there were still questions I had. Eventually, I found my eschatological home. Today, I am an orthodox preterist. I realize Keener and Brown don’t come from this position, but I wanted to go through their book to see what they had to say about the dispensationalist position which is still extremely prominent in the church.

I describe them as firm and gentle. They start out telling their stories on how they came to believe in the rapture and then in how they came to disbelieve in the rapture. They have nothing but respect for their friends who are still dispensationalist and pre-tribulationists. They are just writing this to answer questions that they have often received.

Let’s also go with a positive. The application aspects of this book are excellent. Keener and Brown write about how Christians all over the world are already going through suffering. It can be comforting if you think you could be excluded from such suffering by a rapture, but no one is guaranteed this. Keener and Brown stress that even if Christians have to face the antichrist, they have nothing to be afraid of because Jesus is greater. With these, all Christians be they pre-tribulationists or orthodox preterists should say amen. I think all of us need to read this section of the book because many of us in the West don’t have any real idea of what persecution is like from experience.

When the pair look at the arguments, they are again firm, but gentle. Michael Brown specializes in Old Testament arguments. No. I’m not going to give his answers here, but he looks at questions like “Doesn’t God regularly deliver his people from suffering in the Old Testament such as in the case of the flood or Sodom and Gomorrah?” Keener deals with New Testament passages like 1 Thess. 4 and others.

They also stress that the Second Coming is a one-stage event. The idea of the rapture breaks the second coming into two different stages. It also has a problem with the idea of the resurrection being on the last day and then a resurrection happening before the last day.

That being said, I do have some criticisms. For one, preterism is nowhere mentioned in the book. Neither is futurism. I would like to know what reasons Keener and Brown have for not accepting this viewpoint.

Next, I think as a Preterist that while Keener and Brown rightly reject pre-tribulationism, they still have many of the ideas in it. For example, what about the antichrist. The term antichrist only shows up in the epistles of John, and yet the Beast in Revelation is thought to be the antichrist as is the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians. That could be right, but it needs to be argued for.

I also think 2 Thessalonians presents a problem with this since we are told about this man entering the temple. There is no reason to think Paul has in mind a third temple that will supposedly be built sometime in the future. If that is the case, then that would mean the Man of Lawlessness has already come and if he has, then if he is the antichrist, then antichrist has already come.

Let’s also remember the Olivet Discourse. This begins with the destruction of the temple. It concludes with Jesus saying “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass until some of these things have taken place.” Oh wait. That’s not what it says. He says “All of these things.” That means the generation that sees these things start will see them end and how did the questioning start? The destruction of the temple. The generation that sees that will see the coming of Jesus.

By the way, let’s note in the passage it is about the coming of Jesus, but not to Earth. Jesus refers to Daniel 7. That shows Jesus coming to His throne in Heaven. The disciples asked Him for the sign of His coming, not knowing He would die let alone die, rise again, and then ascend into Heaven and return in the future.

I also think the authors assume a great tribulation. This is still like taking part of the pre-tribulation paradigm and running with it. We have a great tribulation referred to in Rev.7 and in Matthew 24, but why not think that that is the destruction of Jerusalem. Why assume a future event?

The authors also state that satan always has his antichrist ready for each generation since he doesn’t know the hour. I found this a very weak point. For one, satan would always be thinking that he is going to overcome the plans of God, such as in the crucifixion. Here, he is acting like he has to play along. Next, how could you establish this? How can we go and look in each generation in history and find someone who would be the antichrist of that time? Keep in mind I think this is the weakest argument in the book and I even hate having to mention it because the rest is excellent.

Again, the best part of this book is the section on overcoming suffering and being willing to for Christ. Even if pre-tribulationists disagree up and down with the rest of the book, they need to read that part. Every Christian does. I would be thrilled if future editions of the book would include more about this.

Christians who are pre-tribulationists need to read this book to receive a kind criticism. People who are not can read this to realize why they abandoned it. Orthodox preterists like myself should read this to get the criticism and for the blessing at the end. In other words, read this book.

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

A New Resource

How do you best defend the virgin birth, which I do affirm? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If there’s any blog post that I have to put up and share the most on Facebook, it’s the one I wrote about how the whole thing got started with affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm. From there, the virgin birth, which I do affirm, is something I have become known for with some interviews and requests to write on the topic. Eventually, it was suggested to me that I get a web site on the topic.

So I did.

I then decided beyond humor, take this site and turn it into a real resource. You can go there and find many resources on the virgin birth, which I do affirm. We have books you can buy, ebooks that are free that you can download, articles, videos, debates, podcasts, interviews, etc. I am still gathering more and more for those who are interested.

Also, I created a Facebook group. This does emphasize the virgin birth, which I do affirm, but it will also be a place I hope for discussing anything related to apologetics. If you want to have another great group to belong to, come and help us get started.

Where do we go from here? Right now, I am doing a lot of reading on the topic of the virgin birth, which I do affirm, because I will be writing an ebook called I Affirm The Virgin Birth. Not only that, but when I am done, I plan to keep on going and write other books in a kind of series. Here is what I have so far.

I Affirm The Life of Jesus which will be a response to mythicism.

I Affirm The Crucifixion of Jesus which will be a response to ideas like those of Muslims that Jesus was never crucified.

I Affirm The Burial of Jesus which will be a response to claims like those of Ehrman that Jesus was never buried.

I Affirm The Resurrection of Jesus which will be my case that Jesus rose again.

I Affirm The Rule of Jesus which will be my defense of Orthodox Preterism.

The good news also is that these are easy titles to keep going on with many other topics I could write about. Consider this just a start, but a start that can keep me busy. It has really been a lot of fun diving into these topics. Nowadays, aside from my just for fun going through the Peanuts collection and reading books for my personal well-being, including audio books while driving, I am really only reading about the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

I hope you want to help with this. If you do, there’s a Patreon link on this blog post and on the new web site. The more someone can give, the more it gives me time to do that reading and frees me up as I can then have enough to live on and continue this path. Going with that, I hope to someday then get back to doing the podcast as well. If that really interests you, please consider it. I do have some donors, but it would mean so much more to get enough to keep dong this. Every donor shows me how much you do believe in this work and want to see it come around. Please do make a regular donation again.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll return to more regular material including Kindle books that I listened to on my Tap (Not on the virgin birth, which I do affirm, since I couldn’t highlight passages while listening). and giving you my thoughts on them.

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