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)

ISIS. We Don’t Hate You

What do we say to our enemies? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometime in our day and age, it’s hard to be able to show love to your enemies. Many of us remember well 9/11. We remember the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil. We see in our minds the image of people on the upper stories leaping out of the windows. We remember watching those towers come down.

We remember also people coming on the news afterwards trying to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and so they have told us. They have told us after every single terrorist attack that has happened. It’s really hard to think that it is and we wonder how we as individuals, not as the political entity of a nation, are to respond to ISIS.

ISIS in their magazine recently put out and article called “Why We Hate You And Why We Fight You.” It’s a real article and you can see it here. A commenter on Mike Licona’s Facebook page said when shared that it would be awesome if someone wrote from a Christian perspective to counter about why we don’t hate them.

Well why not?

First, “We hate you first and foremost, because you are disbelievers, you reject the oneness of Allah.”

Naturally, this is about the Trinity. Of course, we could respond and say that Muslims deny the full deity of the Son of God which would also be blasphemous. Many of them have an idea that Jesus was conceived of some sexual union between God and Mary. Not at all. Still, it’s important to note we wish to honor God properly and to honor the Son as we honor the Father per John 5:23. This will get us into apologetics arguments for why we believe the NT is reliable and why we believe in the highest Christology that we can.

The main difference between us is we think God is best to give out the final judgment rather than us. We like you would rather see you converted than see you dead. That is so much for us that as individuals, we are willing to wait it out and pray for our enemies and bless those who persecute us, per Jesus’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount.

Second, “We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted”

Some of these things we’ll agree on actually. We don’t care for the way the homosexual lobby has transformed America. Still, the difference is we don’t want to win over our enemy with the sword. It ultimately won’t convince him. It’s also not allowed in the way of Jesus.

As for separation of church and state, we seek to give a place where everyone can worship freely. That may seem risky to you, but to us, ideally it’s supposed to allow everyone to live in freedom. Here for instance, I disagree thoroughly with your religion of Islam, but I would surely defend the rights of Muslims to build a mosque and worship as they see fit.

Next, we also remember that according to Romans, we were all once enemies of God and living our own lives putting ourselves at the center. Okay. Some of us still struggle with that. We also remember that while we were His enemies, God sent His Son to save us. Our fellow Americans and such who disagree with us are in the same boat. Anyone of them could also follow in the footsteps of Paul for all we know.

Third, “In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage are against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.”

And again, we agree. We don’t care for atheism. The difference is we don’t hate atheists. It’s atheism that is the problem. We also think it’s foolish to deny the reality of a creator and yes, we could all bear to think about our final judgment a lot more. Still, as with the second, we prefer to use the methods of Christ and besides, we’d rather show the idea is just wrong instead of killing those who hold it.

Fourth, “We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.”

We have seen plenty of this towards us as well. In fact, our own military has burnt Bibles sent to our soldiers. Yet still, this all falls under the second theme. We would rather show that the religion is wrong instead of going the path of warfare.

Fifth, “We hate you for your crimes against Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bombs, kill, and maim our people around the world.”

Based on what came first, I’m quite sure that even if this stopped immediately, you’d still have the same attitude. This goes to what we do as a nation. If we look at nations that have been attacked by Muslims, we take that seriously. If an innocent nation was being attacked, we would also take that seriously. Many of us were living in peace when 9/11 took place. That kind of matter is taken by our government as an act of war and like you, we want to defend our women and children as well.

Sixth, “We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out.”

In the West, there is no real desire to build an empire. With our nuclear capabilities, we could have done so easily if we wanted to. We have no desire to wipe you off of the map. We would prefer to see people living in freedom. Still, once again, we are not to hate our enemies. We are to love them.

“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam…As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage—and escalate—a calculated war that the west thought it had ended several years ago. So you can continue to believe that those ‘despicable terrorists’ hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam.”

And here is where we are different. Your reason for hating us is we don’t embrace Islam. Our reason for loving you is God. God loves you and He loved us even while we were enemies. In fact, His love for us never changed. We didn’t earn it at all. We don’t become Christians so He will love us. We become Christians because He loves us.

And what is that love? It is not sentimental warm fuzzies. It is not what you would see in some Disney movie. It is the active sacrificing of your good for the good of the other. For instance, many of us who are husbands frequently put our own desires on the line for the other. You also know this in saying that you want to protect your women and children. You would be willing to die for your women and children. So are we.

What our nation does as a nation we cannot say. What happens if we are attacked directly could lead into that self-defense, especially with our wives and children at stake. It is nothing we take delight over. It has been said that all good soldiers should hate war but sometimes it is a necessity.

An ultimate difference between us is Jesus is our supreme example whereas yours is Muhammad. Jesus has been our greatest incentive to holiness and a life of true love and sacrifice for one another. No doubt, we fail miserably at times, but we all still seek to try.

Of course, if you want to keep going after us, you’re going to do so and that will just perpetuate the cycle. We would prefer you take the way of Christ. Perhaps you should look into the case for Christianity. What have you to lose? If Islam is true, there is no reason to fear. Start by reading the New Testament. At this, you might ask me if I’ve read the Koran. Indeed I have. I hope to someday soon read some of the hadiths as well. I think it’s part of being informed.

Unfortunately, we suspect you will likely keep going down the same path, but we Christians in America should make it a point to pray for you. Our opponents are not flesh and blood but principalities. It is the ideologies that are our ultimate enemy, not the people who hold them. We hope you’ll see things the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Struggle of Forgiveness

Is the way of Christ sometimes what you don’t want to do? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s no secret I’m a Christian. I think the claims of Christ are true and that He did rise from the dead. I think His way is the way of Wisdom. I uphold all that I believe that the Bible teaches. I try to be as staunch as I can in my moral stances on issues. If you follow the Christian path, you are following the right path.

And sometimes, I don’t want to follow it.

You see, I’ve written before on forgiveness such as will your murderer be in Heaven, a view on justice, and just forgiveness in general. We all think forgiveness is a really great idea. We do. The problem is we think it’s a really great idea for everyone else. It’s not so great when we have to do it ourselves.

I’m going to be a bit revealing in this blog, but I will not give names or details on the people involved and please do not ask for them. These are my struggles though I welcome you coming alongside of me in them. Generally, I tend to be an easy-going guy. If you say something that is hurtful to me, oh well. It doesn’t really bother me. I can take it. I can handle it. In fact, I will often take it as a compliment in the long run. Go ahead and try to say your worst. It really doesn’t get to me.

If you say something about my wife Allie, well that’s something different.

My wife does happen to be a very sensitive person to what people say. Of course, this is something she needs to work on, but it does not change the reality. The biggest way someone can hurt me honestly is to do something to hurt her. It doesn’t matter if the person intends it or not. If they hurt her, you can find my rage immediately increasing. Allie, a Dragonball fan, would tell you that she thinks I go Super Saiyan at that point.

You see, my wife is the most precious human being in my life. She is the one I have built my life with. She is the one I sleep next to every night. She is my confidante, my companion, my fellow traveler on this journey. There is no human being on this Earth that I have a better relationship with than my wife and there is no person on the planet who means more to me than she does. When I see in Scripture that we are one flesh, I think it includes what happens in the bedroom, but it goes beyond. Marriage has been described as one soul in two bodies. I can relate to that.

So to go after Allie is to go after me. Some of you have seen that happen on Facebook. Some of you have seen that when someone insults her, that I immediately jump in and start to deal with the problem. This is one time I break my rule about not posting on Facebook on Sundays.

As it stands right now, I have been thinking about some people who have done things to hurt Allie. This hurt has been severe and it is hurt that Allie is carrying with her to this day and when I see Allie in pain, I am tempted to enter my rage state once again. My Princess is in pain after all and she does not deserve that pain. I am not going to say my wife does everything perfectly. Of course not. I am going to say that I hate seeing her carry pain from other people in the past that she should not have to carry.

When this happens and I’m her husband and protector and the one who is supposed to take care of her, my tendency is to go out and rain down justice on the people who hurt her. I think this is the natural way men think and while I know that’s not really doable, the anger is still there. What happens then when I open my Bible? I see Jesus telling me I ought to forgive, and the standards are serious.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

1 John 4: 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Matthew 18: 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

These are serious passages.

Mark Twain said years ago that it wasn’t the passages in the Bible that he didn’t understand that bothered him. It’s the passages that he did understand. This is the same situation. In many ways, I honestly wish that these texts were not in the Bible right now. I wish I could pull a Thomas Jefferson in some ways and remove them. These texts go against everything that I experience when I’m angry at someone hurting Allie and challenge me on a route that I do not want to go down really.

Which means in some cases that no, I don’t want the way of Christ in my life.

And I think it’s important we be honest and admit that.

Anyone of us who says he always wants the way of Christ I think is a liar. They’re a liar because they go against it quite regularly in their own lives. We have all manner of sins in our lives that we struggle with. Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, pride, etc. Sometimes we do want the way of Christ in those. Sometimes we don’t.

So let’s get honest. Intellectually I do know the way of Christ is the best way. I do know His way works the better for my life and He works everything to my good. I know that everything that He does is meant to work towards my good. The intellectual awareness is there, but the emotional longing and the will to do so are not. In some ways, the anger is enjoyable to hold on to. Anger can be like a drug in that way. What am I to do on this case? This is my resolve.

First off, I wish to thank my friend Dr. Clay Jones for his advice in this area when I talked to him. One of the things to remember is that it’s not really bad to want justice. We should all want justice. Yet I am to think “What if I was the person in the situation? Would I want God to whack me upside the head and get my attention?” If it meant getting on good terms with God, yes I would. What’s wrong with praying that about the persons I have anger against? What’s wrong with praying that God gets their attention?

Second, the more you pray this kind of prayer, the more you will start to have some sort of empathy for the person. Even though I do not want to, I have to pray that God blesses the people who have hurt my wife in this way and in turn hurt me through their actions. Does that mean I am being insincere with my prayers? I don’t think so. It’s praying something and saying “God, my heart is not here right now, but I know that this is where it needs to be. Please help me to get my heart where it needs to be.” If we waited to do the right thing that was very difficult for us to do when we felt like it or when we wanted to, we would never do it. Part of the process of walking rightly is learning to do things when we don’t want to do them. It is denying our wants for the greater good that we know we ought to pursue.

Third, to forgive does not mean to forget. It does not mean that I treat things like they never happened. It could be that I might want to keep people that hurt Allie far away from her until they prove themselves worthy of her and earn my trust there again. If they do not, I won’t let them near her any more.

Fourth, I have to learn to really deny my own feelings and experiences on the matter. This is also where I have to trust in those who are outside of me. I mentioned Dr. Clay Jones earlier in this post. There have been others who have been friends in this journey and know all that is going on and have provided the advice. My wife and I have found that Celebrate Recovery has been quite helpful. Allie gets the help she needs from a group and I get to go to a family support group.

Fifth, I do have to realize the place Jesus is to have in my life. When I am caught in the vortex, what I am dealing with is more present in my thoughts than Christ is. This is something that I have to change in order to get past what I deal with. I have said before that one of the greatest helpers you can have when you are going through a crisis is to have good theology. If we could all realize how we are seen through the eyes of God for just one moment of time, we would never see our lives the same way.

Forgiveness is the better way however despite what I feel at the time because forgiveness releases me from the anger. The anger can be like a cancer tearing away at one’s soul ripping out some of the humanity that is there. The people involved that I am angry with don’t even have to know about the situation, but they are getting free rent space in my head and they are getting a power over me that they do not deserve to have.

And you know what? This also works out better for Allie. Allie has her own emotional turmoil. How is it going to help her to know she can handle hers if I do not handle mine? How am I going to tell her to stop giving people free rent space in her head if I don’t stop giving them free rent space in mine? How am I going to tell her to not listen to her emotions and feelings if all I do is listen to my emotions and feelings?

Ultimately, this is the way of Christ. It is to die to ourselves. Many of us would rather do anything, including go through death itself, rather than to die to ourselves. It is a constant struggle to bow down to Jesus and say He is Lord and say that come what may, we are going to follow Him.

It is a struggle, but it is not optional.

And if this is also you right now, you’re not alone. I’m a fellow traveler. If you ever read this blog and think I’m a super Christian who never has these struggles, well you’re just wrong. I have flesh and blood like you do and if you cut me, I will bleed like you will. I have to learn to walk the better way. It is better for myself, better for my Princess, and most honoring to my Lord Christ.

The Kingdom is worth everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Justice

Will justice ever come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Justice is something interesting. Many of us are great advocates of justice. We talk about social justice and the justice of equal rights and if a war is just or if a punishment fits the crime which is also a question of justice. For the Christian, we also want justice. Let’s face it. People often do wrong to us in this life and we want some justice. The Psalmist can relate to us, or rather we can relate to him, in saying that we can go and ask how long. How long will this go on?

I thought about this last night. Justice is odd in that it’s something that we greatly desire, except we desire it for everyone else. Of course, in some ways, that’s so with the other virtues. We want others to be patient with us, but we’re not so quick to ask to be patient with others. We want others to forgive us, but we don’t look to see if we’re forgiving others. We want others to love us, but we don’t often strive to love others. We want others to listen to and understand us, but we don’t often seek to listen to and understand others.

Imagine how it would be if you prayed to God for justice and you heard the voice from Heaven speaking to you and saying “Yes. Justice. Very well. I shall dispense it now. I will start with you.” Most of us would not be too crazy about that prayer. Justice is great as long as it starts with everyone else, and yet 1 Peter 4 emphasizes starting with the household of God. When we think about justice, we often do so without realizing the gravity of our own sins. Now of course we should think about justice and we should desire justice and we should seek to bring about justice in this world, but we should do so in humility knowing that we deserve justice too and in fact, we will get justice.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But let’s also have a basic argument for justice.

The greatest good of all in this world on Christian theism is God Himself. God seeks His glory the most as that is the greatest good. Any sin is an affront to the glory of God. It matters not how big or how small. Of course, there are degrees of crime, but all will be dealt with. If God ignores any of them, then He is ignoring an affront to His glory, and He would only do so because He considers something greater than His own glory, but there can be nothing greater than God. Therefore, God will make sure justice comes some day.

Now does that include even for forgiven sinners? Yes. Oh we’ll spend eternity with God, but we can determine the kind of eternity we’ll have by how we live in this life. We will all give an account for how we handled this life. (This is something I stress to husbands especially since you are to give an account for how your families turned out and what kind of husband and father you were. Serious charge!) If we do not take that seriously, it is because we are not taking God seriously. If we are not taking our own sin seriously, we are not taking God seriously. This is something that we see happen. We usually ask God to remove the source of temptation from outside of us, such as food, drugs, alcohol, a person of the opposite sex, etc. We do not ask Him to deal with the problem in us that causes us to be tempted to that degree in the first place. The problem is with us for the most part.

Justice delayed is also not justice denied. Anyone who works a cold case can tell you this. These cases don’t often come to trial for decades. Still, justice is given. Sometimes, crimes will escape an earthly tribunal. While this is a tragedy, no one gets away free. There is a heavenly tribunal and there is no partiality and favoritism there. There is no fooling the judge who knows all.

And I hope that just put the fear of God in you to an extent.

Pray for justice and long for it, but remember you will be judged just as much. Pray that you will stand and seek to live a holy life so you can all the while relying on the grace of God in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: True Paradox

What do I think of David Skeel’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

TrueParadox

David Skeel’s True Paradox is a difficult book to place really. Now this could be because of the way that I think and like things to be nice and organized. Skeel is trying to get us to look at complex issues that seem to be paradoxical in their nature and ask how it is that Christianity makes sense of them. I do not see this as a book to show that Christianity is true, you need to argue for the resurrection specifically I think to do that, but a book to get you to consider that perhaps there’s more to the world than you realize.

Throughout, Skeel deals with various areas in our lives that are often ones we don’t think about. For instance, an early chapter is on the question of beauty. Why is it that we even think some things are beautiful? What role does beauty play? Of course, Skeel points out evolutionary explanations of this, but he often finds them lacking. In many cases, there would be no immediate benefit and the ideas of what is beautiful doesn’t really lead to the benefits supposedly given. When many of us see a beautiful painting, we don’t immediately want to go and be a contestant on Survivor. Instead, we often get transfixed. If anything, we are more prone to an attack from an enemy.

There is also the paradox of suffering and evil. Why do we act as if something unusual is happening to us when we suffer? Skeel compares his Christian friend Bill Stuntz to the atheist Christopher Hitchens. Both died from cancer. Stuntz and Hitchens both saw it in different ways and Skeel pictures how it is that they would respond to different questions about suffering. The question to ask is which worldview best explains not only suffering but why we think of suffering the way that we do.

The best chapter in this book without a doubt for me was the chapter on Heaven. There are times in this chapter where one finds oneself emotionally moved and gripped by thinking about what the reality of Heaven is. By all means, I do not mean the silly Sunday School images that we have of sitting on clouds being angels and playing harps. None of that has any Biblical justification whatsoever. In fact, if such was the nature of Heaven, most of us would quite likely think we’d gone to the other place when we wound up there. Instead, I am thinking more of a rich view of Heaven found in the writings of people like Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and N.T. Wright. In fact, if you could only read one chapter in this book, I would definitely recommend that you read the chapter on Heaven and the afterdeath (As I prefer to call it).

In the end, my thoughts on this are mixed. The last chapter is highly recommended. The others do present something that an aspiring apologist can look at and for people who live on a more existential level, I suspect that they will find something in this work that they really really like. If you enjoy thinking about paradoxes, it is one that is worth a look.

In Christ,

Nick Peters