Reading Revelation

What’s the most important part of Revelation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many readers of this blog know about my fondness for debating eschatology. That includes the book of Revelation. I have also gone to a Bible study not so much from the Preterist view, which I hold, at an Orthodox Church Allie was attending for awhile. Not only that, but once we did a study through the book of Revelation like the one I am recommending on this blog.

Just last night I finished going verse by verse through Romans and I figured I would start going through Revelation. It would be interesting to go through it that way and I remembered the study I did years ago. That has taught me the most important lesson in reading Revelation.

Do not focus on end times when reading Revelation.

Now that seems shocking to people. Really? Isn’t that the purpose of the book? Well, that is certainly a purpose. We are to be shown what must soon take place. Now I will happily debate with dispensationalists and others on the interpretation of soon and I will debate with premillennialists and others I disagree with on the millennium, but there should be something that we all agree on and that something is the real focus on the book of Revelation.

That is to look and see what the book says about Jesus. The book begins as being described as the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Whatever your view on eschatology, you are supposed to see what you can find about Jesus.

In the book, Rediscovering Jesus, the authors imagine what would happen if we only knew what we know about Jesus through the book of Revelation. There would certainly be no gentle Jesus, meek and mild. This is a terrifying Jesus. This is a Jesus that is angry and He’s not going to take it anymore.

Fortunately, we do have more on Jesus in the Bible and when we study the book this way, we can consider so many odd messages. Think about the rulers of the Earth who went to be hidden from the wrath of the Lamb. What? How many of you have ever been terrified of a lamb?

If you have your eschatology timeline all filled out right and you have wrong who Jesus is, it will count for you for nothing. Make sure you get Jesus right. Try going through Jesus and don’t ask questions about eschatology, or at least primarily about eschatology. Ask about Jesus.

This book has a lot to say about Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Is Ehrman Among The Mythicists?

What about the Ehrman quote on the lack of references to Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night I am browsing Facebook and see someone share this quote again.

“In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references!”

It is a real quote from Bart Ehrman. Unfortunately, the problem is too many people look at this and think that Bart Ehrman is endorsing mythicism. Hardly. Besides that, if some of the epistles in the NT are first century and mention Jesus and are private, such as Philemon, the pastorals, or perhaps some of the Johannine epistles, do these count as private correspondences?

However, to get to the point, no Ehrman is not a mythicist. He wrote a whole book to argue that Jesus did exist partly to deal with this claim that he is a mythicist. It’s a good book, but reading it, you can almost get the idea that he’s thinking, “I can’t believe I have to write this book.”

He has also spoken at the Freedom From Religion Foundation where he told mythicists that they just make themselves look stupid with that position. He has also debated Robert Price on the topic of did Jesus exist. So either Ehrman is massively in contradiction to several actions he’s done and is really a mythicist, or else the mythicists are misunderstanding Ehrman.

However, let’s also look at another approach. Let’s suppose this is the standard Mythicists give. Surely someone should have mentioned these people! Let’s see who else is unmentioned.

Hannibal was a general in the Carthaginian Empire and nearly conquered their great enemy, the Roman Empire. If anyone ever put fear into the Roman Empire, it was Hannibal. Many of us know about his crossing the Alps with his elephants on the way to conquer.

First reference? About 40-80 years later in Polybius. Think that’s not too bad? That’s also the date that would be given to the Gospels by liberal scholars.

Queen Boudica led a revolt in her time also against the Roman Empire. Keep in mind, this is a queen who did this. Contemporary references to her? None.

Arminius was a German general who in one battle defeated 1/10th of the Roman army. Where do we see him mentioned? About a century later in Tacitus.

In 79 A.D., the volcano Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii and killed a quarter of a million people. Historical references from contemporaries? One off-the-cuff remark between Tacitus and Pliny the Younger about how Pliny’s uncle died. We have some references in poetry and other places, but those are anecdotal. We don’t even learn about Herculaneum which was also destroyed until Cassius Dio in the third century.

In my debate with Ken Humphreys, he told me that he was absolutely certain Josephus existed. I asked him what contemporary references we have to Josephus. Answer? None.

These are just a few arguments and there are many more. The argument from silence is notoriously weak for something like this. It also assumes that these people should have written about Jesus, something I have written about elsewhere.

Note that I am not defending her the idea that Jesus is the Son of God who did miracles and died and rose again in the body on the third day. Affirming Jesus’s existence does not mean you have to affirm everything an orthodox Christian affirms about Him. I would think you’re wrong, but it is a more realistic position than mythicism.

When you see someone share this quote from Ehrman, put them back here. Odds are they don’t have a clue what Ehrman really believes and have never interacted with his work.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
Support my Patreon here.

Book Plunge: Why The End Is Not Near

What do I think of Duane Garner’s book published by Athanasius Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is a part of series of answers in an hour. The book is short enough that if you have the question about the end times of if the end is near, this book is meant to answer that. Of course, one could say we don’t know when the end is so it could be near, but I’m inclined to think we still have time since there are still unevangelized parts of the world.

Thankfully, Garner does hold to the future resurrection of the dead, but most of this is meant to deal with premillennial dispensationalism. Readers of my work know that eschatology is a favorite topic of mine and I speak as a former holder of the view of premillennial dispensationalism. Garner sums up well in his book reasons for my own change in position.

The position that he is responding to is quite likely the most prominent one in the church today, which is odd since it has virtually no presence in the early church. Even those who try to point to a few isolated passages would have to say those are the exception and not the rule. This is not the case with premillennialism itself. While I do not hold to that position, it was a prevalent one in the early church.

Garner asks how it was that the modern interpretation came about. There are some that trace it to a minister who held to some heretical positions named Edward Irving or the visions of a Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald. It was largely popularized by John Darby and then further pushed by Scofield’s Bible.

Garner will point out various hermeneutical problems that I have with the rapture view. One main one is how do you divide the comings of Jesus? We are to talk about the second coming but the rapture is Jesus coming for His church, yet somehow it is not a coming, and then the second coming is seven years later. I’d add in also that Jesus says the resurrection will be on the last day and Paul says at the last trumpet, but if you read Revelation with the rapture viewpoint in mind, then there are 1,007 years at least after the last day and seven more trumpets after the last trumpet.

The far better way is to read passages like the Olivet Discourse like you would Isaiah 13. Isaiah 13 sounds like a doom and gloom future passage about what’s coming up. However, it is a prophecy against Babylon. Some would try to push this into the future with a future Babylon (Think New Babylon from the Left Behind series), but the reading of it as referring to Isaiah’s near future works just fine.

While I hold a great love for my brothers and sisters who hold to the idea of the rapture, I do hope that will start changing soon. End times madness is incredibly shaping in the church and those from the Preterist viewpoint, like myself, often have our orthodoxy questioned immediately as if we’re denying the Trinity. I look forward to the day when the church is caught up in understanding many more aspects of the faith than just prophecy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)
Donate to my Patreon here.

Book Plunge: 100 Bible Verses That Made America

What do I think of Robert Morgan’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you want to know about the history of America, it is imperative that you know about the Bible. You don’t have to be a Christian, of course, but a non-Christian should recognize the role that the Bible played in shaping our country. Our Founding Fathers were heavily influenced for the most part by the Bible.

This book follows that shaping from 1511 to 2019. Yes. Even before the country was founded, the seeds were being sown in Scripture that would make us who we are. Great figures in American history have used the Bible to inspire them and to inspire others. Great conversions led to intense ramifications for America.

My personal favorite stories largely took place in the 18th century. This is when our country was starting to establish itself and in war against the British. The way that pastors were targeted at that time is mind-blowing. Back then, the British put a bounty on the heads of certain pastors of churches. Today, most of our pastors are scared to say anything political because they could lose their 501c3.

These people relied on Scripture and based their lives on it. They believed Scripture called them to resist a government that was tyrannical and stand up for the freedom that they believed was found in Christ. Whether their interpretation was right or not, what matters is how seriously that they took the text.

Of course, one can’t avoid talking about American exceptionalism and if anything has made America exceptional, it has been the focus on Scripture. Christianity has shaped our country to be what it is and I have a great fear for what happens the further we move away from that. I keep coming back to a conversation I had a few years ago before even the 2016 election.

I made a statement to someone about the future of our nation that the gospel doesn’t need America, but America needs the gospel. That is still the case. If there is anything that our country needs today, it is still the gospel. We need 100 more instances of the Bible shaping America and even more.

That being said, sometimes in the book, I did question the connection between the verse and the historical incident. Was that incident specifically based on an understanding of the verse in question or did Morgan find a verse that he thought fit the context? I was unsure.

However, reading this will hopefully change your idea of American history. It really is a fascinating topic and with all going on in our country today, one I am definitely looking more into. For those of us who live in America, if we love our country, we need to know how we got to where we are and what we can do to keep America being what she’s meant to be.

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

Book Plunge: Time and Despondency

What do I think of Nicole Roccas’s book published by Ancient Faith Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes when I have been struggling with something, I will talk to my wife’s priest. While I am not Orthodox, that is not a problem with us as he’s more than happy to help me with things. I also think wisdom can be found outside of one’s own tradition (And even religion) and if we as Christians ever think it’s only people of our theological heritage that have true wisdom worth gaining, that is a very sad state.

Right now with some present circumstances, I have been in normally a state of seasonal depression. When I mentioned the word depression to him, he turned it into despondency. At that moment, I remembered I ordered for my wife who is a catechumen in the Orthodox Church the book Time and Despondency. I decided to get it out and give it a try.

Let’s start with one excellent thing about this book. The author does not come out as someone high and holy and thus you read the book and think “I will never reach this level.” Nope. Roccas is a fellow traveler on the journey and she too would prefer at times to do something like binge watch Netflix.

She definitely writes from an Orthodox perspective, but that does not overwhelm the book so much that others won’t benefit. As a Protestant, I found much of the advice helpful. The advice of great saints is found as there is wisdom to be found in many places.

She also writes of goals that are doable. She never tells you to go and pray for an hour or so. Instead, just work on matters bit by bit and learn and grow in them. There’s even a place advocating quick prayers. Those are fine many times. When I am out in public and I hear sirens and see a first responder going by, I always pray for that situation. (Definitely not with eyes closed if driving.)

Her advice to deal with despondency is also not just purely spiritual matters. She talks about St. Antony who was scolded by someone for playing with his fellow monks when surely he should have been praying and how Antony responded to justify his actions. She talks about the use of humor, which at this point, I couldn’t help but think of Harry Potter and the spell to deal with boggarts.

For those who don’t know, boggarts are creatures that take on the image of your worst fear. The way to deal with them is to use a spell with the word “Ridiculous!” and turn them into something you can laugh at. I think Rowling at this point hit on something with the nature of fear.

Roccas also shows that this is a problem that is not just modern in nature. Monks from well over a thousand years ago dealt with this. They had times they didn’t want to pray either or work on the Scriptures. Apparently, some could have even committed suicide from sorrow. It was even called the noonday demon. The condition is the same, but today we probably have more means to encounter it.

There is also definitely good theology in here. Roccas brings out the reality of the resurrection and what it means. God being the God of all time is there to redeem every moment of time, including the moment that we are in. Again, just like before, none of this though is spoken in terminology that is over the layman’s head.

If you’re struggling with depression, or despondency if you prefer, this is a really good book to read. The advice is practical and doable and not over your head. Most of the chapters are short enough to read in one sitting and even the longest one can be broken down into manageable pieces. Give it a try. It beats living in despondency after all.

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

The Calling of Matthew

Why does Jesus hang out with tax collectors? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a gameshow junkie. I sadly think gameshows are going to pass away with the advent of streaming, but I can still talk on and on about mainly older gameshows. As a teenager, I got a wish to come true when Gameshow Network went on the air. I was curious when I started seeing older ones from the 50’s and 60’s like What’s My Line?

In this game, a panel got to ask a contestant yes or no questions. Every no gave the contestant $5 for a maximum of $50 if he stumped the panel and they were told no ten times. The question every time was to guess what the person’s job was.

Normally, this would be met with applause, but I remember one time specifically where the applause had some boos thrown in. The panel noticed it too which led to the conclusion this must not be a well-liked job. What was it? IRS tax agent.

No one likes taxes. They and death are the two great inevitables in the world. If you rank right up there with death, you have to be pretty unpopular. Jews are no exception to this and the past is no exception. Jews of the past particularly hated tax collectors. They not only took the money, but they were seen as betraying their people by aligning with Rome and normally, they would also line their pockets with a little bit extra.

So when Jesus calls Matthew, it’s a shock to everyone, and no doubt Matthew as well. Keep in mind also that Jesus’s entourage also included at least one zealot so that must have been fun to have someone who was extremely pro-Israel and anti-Rome and someone seen as a collaborator in the same group.

Jesus is asked about this, and understandably so, though prostitutes are also included the mix. Jesus points out that it is the sick who need to see a doctor. He has come to call the sinners and not the righteous. Let’s look at that point of Jesus saying “I have come.”

First, there are shades of pre-existence here. It’s not a slam dunk by any means, but there is evidence of it here. If that is what is going on, this certainly is a high Christology going on and coming from the lips of Jesus Himself.

However, Jesus certainly has a view of Himself as a man on a mission. He is here for a specific reason. He has come to call the sinners. He also doesn’t speak of fellow sinners. He never indicates any need on His part. It is also as if He can provide righteousness.

With anyone else also, we would get concerned. Imagine if you heard your pastor had had a meal with several prostitutes, and this not even at a restaurant but at someone’s house. “Sure pastor. I’m sure that’s all you had. Say. What was served for dessert?”

Similar could have been said of Jesus. This was the scandal that the man Jesus was and still is. Yet we look at Jesus as not only hanging out with prostitutes, but leading a celibate lifestyle. It’s worth pointing out that when Jesus walked this Earth, he freely forsook one of the greatest joys He had created.

We’re not wrong in being suspicious of a pastor doing this necessarily. I know there are some guys who can actually do ministry in places like strip clubs. More power to them. I don’t want to risk it. However, even as I say that, some of you might be thinking that you’re sure they’re doing “ministry.”

Yet when God comes before us, who does He go to? Not the best of the best, but the lowest of the low. He goes to the ones who are cast out and the ones who see themselves as hopeless. We are told elsewhere that prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom due to repentance. Prostitutes certainly don’t stay prostitutes, but Jesus has a heart for these women who are trapped in the sexual trade either willingly or unwillingly.

Jesus was a scandal then.

He still is today.

And we’re meant to show His love today, even to those tax collectors and prostitutes.

Maybe it would be better to pray for that What’s My Line contestant instead of booing.

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

Jesus and the Pigs

What do pigs have to do with eschatology? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus reaches His destination and is approached by two demon-possessed men. They beg Jesus not to judge them before the appointed time. Obviously, it’s the demons speaking at this point, but let’s notice what they say.

The appointed time.

What is that? It’s a time where the demons know that they will be judged. It’s a set day. This is not a secret idea. The only secret is when it’s going to be. When Jesus shows up on the scene, the demons fear that that time has come, but yet something tells them that this is not the time.

Now a lot of skeptics like to look at this chapter and think about how awful Jesus was to those pigs or how awful he was to the townspeople for depriving them of bacon. We’re not really going to tackle those today. We’re looking at Jesus and the demons.

It’s quite interesting that demons actually take theology much more seriously than we do. The Pharisees and priests weren’t scared to nail Jesus onto a cross. They didn’t know who He was to be sure, but His presence was one they thought they could dispose of. The demons, on the other hand, are terrified of Him.

We see this in James also. James says “You believe in one God? Good. So do the demons, and they tremble.” Most of us don’t tremble before God. I know the demons love to see us mouthing off to God, but I wonder if they see us do that sometimes and think “They are sure making things worse for themselves.” They have a better idea of who we’re messing with.

This should also show us that our idea of gentle Jesus meek and mild is not always accurate. These guys know Jesus is a judge. Jesus can lay down the hurt as it were. They are scared to death of Jesus. You never see a demon in the Gospels try to challenge Jesus at all. Jesus is calling the shots.

Note also Jesus never used formulas or anything close to what is called magic in doing this. Jesus doesn’t need to use artifacts of any kind to get a demon to go. He just has to say the word. Jesus is remarkable in this. This is why in other accounts the people are amazed at what Jesus can do and the Pharisees have to explain it away somehow.

What we see though is temporary. Judgment day is coming for the demons and it is coming for all of us. The demons are scared of what will happen to them on that day. Let’s make sure we’re not on the same side of them. As we’ll see later, Jesus says you are either for Him or against Him.

Choose wisely.

Preferably against the demons.

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

Jesus Calms The Storm

What does Jesus’s power over the weather tell us about who He is?

As we move through Matthew, let’s keep in mind why we’re looking at who Jesus is in relation to eschatology. It’s because if Jesus is the King who is coming, that has immediate ramifications for eschatology. If Jesus is God incarnate, it means something about who He is and what was and is going on in His work. There are real implications.

In Matthew 8, Jesus is asleep in a boat while the disciples panic over a storm. First off, I find it amazing that Jesus is so calm in all of this that He just simply sleeps right through it. Jesus is confident enough in His disciples that He trusts them to handle the sea. Too bad these men, many experienced with the sea, don’t have such trust in Jesus.

Note that the disciples are in a panic, but there is no sense of urgency or panic on the part of Jesus. Some of you might think that if such a violent storm is going on at sea, isn’t it natural to panic? Perhaps, but if these people are to believe who Jesus is, they have to believe He came for a mission and God is going to let Him do that mission. He is in charge of the story even if it seems to be going off-script.

Jesus is in charge throughout this whole course of events. He is so much in charge that He can issue a command to nature itself. The disciples could have thought of Psalm 107:29 or Psalm 65:7 which talk about God calming the storms immediately. This leads to the question of who is Jesus.

Which is what is fascinating about Jesus. Still 2,000 years later, we are debating who He was and is. (And no silly mythicists, we are not debating if He even existed because that debate never even started anyway) It could be tempting for some to deny a miracle story like this because miracles never happen, but that needs to be shown first or have an argument given for beyond Hume’s question-begging one.

If Jesus is who He said He was, then that has huge ramifications indeed. Many of us like to go to our favorite verses, but really one of the most powerful arguments is the overall life of Christ. It’s not a shock that high Christology came right out of the gates.

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

Building A House

Upon what do you build a house? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, He talks about how to build a house. He says if you hear His words and obey them, you build your foundation on the rock. If you hear and do not obey, you are building on sand.

Listeners would think of the temple.

The temple had that kind of strong foundation. Jesus is telling His listeners then about how to build a new temple. What will the new temple be founded on? The words of Jesus.

Take a moment to consider how Jesus is speaking. He doesn’t say “Thus sayeth the Lord” or anything similar. He speaks on His own behalf. We could understand if someone like Isaiah or Elijah gave this message and ended it with hearing the words from God. Jesus doesn’t do that. He says “My words.”

As discussed last time, either Jesus has a massive ego trip, or He’s severely deluded, or again, He is claiming to speak as God and He means it. God is the one responsible for the temple ultimately and Jesus is now claiming authority over a temple structure. This temple structure won’t be something physical. The language is metaphorical and the temple is built on His words instead.

This is why when the message ends, the people are amazed. Jesus speaks as one who has authority. The teachers of the law could teach, but they did not speak on their own behalf. They would reference numerous others to back their opinions and authority. Jesus didn’t do that, save for when He pointed to God Himself.

Just picture what you would think if a new nominee for pastor of your church got up and spoke the way Jesus did. It would be seen as super egotistical or severely deluded. Jesus did speak this way. Every thing He says and does leaves us with a reminder that we must question who He is at every point. What manner of man is this?

As we end the sermon and go on to see eschatology in the Gospels, that is the question we have to ask ourselves.

What manner of man is this?

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

How Many Will Be Saved?

How many are going to make it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

42.

Hey. We all knew the answer to the question had to be 42. Right? That’s the answer to every question.

But now to be serious. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to make sure to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life instead of the wide gate that leads to destruction and few will find it. This relates to eschatology since some people think a more postmillennial idea of Revelation is untenable since who would say the world is going to get better and better. Have you seen the news?

Yes. I have. I also know the news only emphasizes the bad news. In a hypothetical situation, 100 planes take off in America in one day. One crashes. Nothing is said about the 99 safe flights. Only something is said about the one that crashed.

Of course, many of us would not watch the news if it was bland and boring. “Tonight, we report that there were no murders or rapes in our city.” Hardly breaking news. Bad news just sells.

But here we have Jesus. Is Jesus saying that most people aren’t going to make it? Not necessarily. I think it’s quite likely Jesus is speaking to His immediate audience. That would fit since few embraced Him as Messiah in His time. It’s also in line with what we see in Revelation, that a great multitude from all over the world is in front of the throne and the Lamb enjoying the presence of God.

That being said, many people are sharing a story about a problem in the church where 30% of evangelicals don’t think Jesus is God. That would actually be false. If they don’t think that, they don’t qualify as evangelicals. Let’s keep in mind though that this is in the Western Church. Go to the East where people actually have to be willing to die for their faith and they take it a bit more seriously.

When we get to Matthew 13, we’ll look a bit more at the idea that things will get better for the Kingdom based on the parables there, but for now, we need to comment on this. Jesus is speaking to a group of people at one time and there’s no indication that He means all people for all times. Of course, all people should seek and strive to enter into the Kingdom. Keep in mind also that when Jesus is asked in Luke how many will be saved, He refuses to answer. (Even though the answer would be 42)

Jesus is not interested in a numeric account, although we can easily say the number of people who replied positively to His immediate message were few. Still, even in Acts we see the number growing. Luke before too long describes the number as multiplying. In the end when Paul reaches Rome, there are already Christians there waiting for Him.

There are several cultish groups out there that want to have you think that only a few select people are going to make it. (Consider Darwin Fish as an example. Yes. That’s not a joke. That’s the actual name of the man.) There are plenty of discernment ministries out there convinced everyone is a heretic except the person running them.

However, I believe God’s grace is greater than we think. I am not advocating anything like universalism or something like that. I am saying though that God would rather save than condemn and would rather show mercy than to judge. This should give us all hope. This could extend to some who never hear the gospel at all through no fault of their own.

Yet as I have said many times, we have no guarantees and we are not given details. Matthew ends with the Great Commission. Those are the marching orders. God never gives a Plan B. He never tells us what happens if we fail at the Great Commission. He just assumes that we do it.

So let’s do it.

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