Expectations of Doom and Gloom

Since becoming a Christian in 1972, Jesus has been coming soon. In 1973, during my short daily commutes to USF, I used to gaze into the sky wondering if today would be THE DAY of His glorious appearing. And the fervor over Jesus’ impending return hasn’t diminished one iota in the past 45 years. Every school shooting, Middle East skirmish, natural disaster, financial crisis and/or anything considered negative, is always perceived as a sign that we’re in the final days of the ‘last days.’ Just wander through the eschatology section of your local Christian bookstore. All of the popular apocalyptic novels and movies are similarly themed. The world is in an out-of-control death spiral on the road to Armageddon. And, according to the gurus, we can only expect things to get much worse. The worse things get, many argue, the closer it is to Jesus’ return. So, in a somewhat perverse sense, there seems to be a morbid preoccupation with gloom. When bad things happen the constant refrain is, “It’s just a sign of the times.” And the carrot is, Jesus’ return is right around the corner. They assume that what God the Holy Spirit, (the second person of the Trinity), has been unable to accomplish in the past 2,000 years, Jesus (the third person of the Trinity) will do in the twinking of an eye.

Following are just a few titles headlining the prophecy sections of our bookstores. Take a moment to peruse them. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over. 🙂 Is there any wonder Christians have underlying expectations of coming food shortages, financial chaos, escalating wars, civil unrest, increasing natural disasters… all ultimately leading to the END?

  • Is there the slightest possibility that there is a fatal flaw in the underlying premise of all these books?
  • Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that at least some of the predictions found in these books (other than the obvious short-term events that any political or financial analyst could have predicted) would have been fulfilled by now? Some of these authors have produced as many as 15 to 20 similarly style works and none of the main events have come to pass.
  • Is it possible that this entire genre of Christian literature is so far off base that none of these books will have produced a shred of fulfillment even 20-30 years from now? 

Consider just a few forerunners to those shown above and below: The Late Great Planet Earth (1971), Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (1972), The Terminal Generation (1976), New World Coming (1984), Final Dawn Over Jerusalem (1997), Planet Earth 2000 -Will Mankind Survive? (1994), all 16 books in the Left Behind Series (1995-2007), The Last Jihad (2002), The Apocalypse Code (2007), The Late Great United States (2009), The Twelfth Iman (2010),  Edge of the Apocalypse (2010), Earth’s Final Moments (2011), Jerusalem Countdown (2011), Israel at War (2012), The Four Blood Moons (2013), Damascus Countdown (2013), The Shemitah (2014)… 

We have spent millions if not billions on these exhilarating reads. But, have you ever asked what we have to show for it… other than ever more gloomy expectations of impending doom?

Given the overwhelmingly negative content of all these apocalyptic books, ask yourself (as I did) the following:

  1. Does the Bible speak about the end of the world [kosmos] or the end of the age [aion]? If so, is there a difference?
  2. Are we still living in the same ‘last days’ which Peter and the author of Hebrews said they were living in almost 2,000 years ago? (Acts 2:16-21; Hebrews 1:1-2)?
  3. If so, then why do you think God chose to use the term ‘last days’ (which in every context means the tail end of something) to describe a time period 400 years longer than the entire Mosaic economy (which was approx 1,600 years)?
  4. Does the Bible speak of a singular person called antichrist? (read HERE and HERE)
  5. Does the New Testament predict that the Temple will be rebuilt? (Watch HERE)
  6. Does the New Testament predict a regathering of Jews in the last days?
  7. Has God preordained that from this point forward things are destined to go from bad to worse? If so, which passages of Scripture support that premise?
  8. Are these ever-present gloomy expectations having a chilling effect on our mandate to make disciples of all nations?
  9. Is there still a chance of worldwide revival and the healing of the nations?
  10. Is the Gospel destined to fail? In other words, is evil so pervasive that the work of the Holy Spirit as He inhabits Christians, incapable of revolutionizing the world for Christ?

If you have a few minutes, I’d like to share some thoughts that reverberated throughout my noggin after returning from a wonderful tour of the UK. I will attempt to deal with most of these questions, emphasizing question #7. It seems that we 21st-century Americans have far too little historical context with which to put our current difficulties in the proper perspective. And this lack makes us prone to make sweeping, eschatologically-induced generalizations like, “We live in terrible times.” Really? Compared to what?

On the lighter side…

Posted in 2nd Coming, Eschatology | Leave a comment

The Apocalypse in Space and Time

This is an outstanding survey outlining the way in which the book of Revelation [apocalypse: the unveiling] has been viewed throughout church history. Bruce Gore, your tour guide, has been a teacher/theologian/professor /historian for most of his adult life and is currently on the Whitworth College staff as he has been for 30 plus years. Be forewarned, Bruce will challenge you! 

Concerning this series, Bruce writes: “THE APOCALYPSE IN SPACE AND TIME: The New Testament book of Revelation was likely written by the Apostle John early in the era of the persecution of Christians under Nero (in spite of the opinion of many that the book originated later under the reign of Domitian). Across the vast Roman empire, Christian people were being targeted for oppression, imprisonment, exile, and death. The church needed a strong message of encouragement, and the book of Revelation provided that message. Chapter 17 of Revelation provides helpful references that can guide our exploration of the precise timing of the book. This introductory lecture examines the historical setting suggested by that chapter.”


1) The Historical Setting of the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation was originally addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor, today’s western Turkey. Each of the churches represented a condition of Christian fellowship in crisis, as each faced the prospect of imperial oppression from Rome. At the same time, the churches give insight into the conditions of the church throughout her history, and for this reason, it is useful to consider the counsel offered by Jesus, through the Apostle John, to each of them.

2) Letters to the Seven Churches
The book of Revelation was originally addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor, today’s western Turkey. Each of the churches represented a condition of Christian fellowship in crisis, as each faced the prospect of imperial oppression from Rome. At the same time, the churches give insight into the conditions of the church throughout her history, and for this reason, it is useful to consider the counsel offered by Jesus, through the Apostle John, to each of them.

3) The Apocalypse in the 3rd and 4th Centuries
By the beginning of the third century, the chiliastic views that dominated earlier Christian thought had begun to wane, being replaced by a vision that expected a much longer course of Christian history and growth. The idea was brought to its most sweeping expression by the great Christian thinker, St. Augustine, whose view of Revelation came to dominate the middle ages well past the time of Thomas Aquinas. In the spirit of Augustine’s understanding, vast numbers of Christian missionaries carried the gospel to the barbarian tribes surrounding Europe, and in time the effects of Christian influence began to be felt.

4) The Historicist Approach to Revelation
The dominant view of the Book of Revelation during the Reformation period was the ‘historicist,’ largely because it provided a biblical framework by which to understand and interpret the evident corruption of the Roman Catholic church, and the bloodshed experienced by those aligned with the Protestant cause. The historicist view continued to heavily influence the post-Reformation period, especially among the Puritans, and became an important interpretive approach in the early 19th century among some millennarians, especially the Adventists and their most famous champion, Ellen G. White.

5) Jonathan Edwards and Puritan Postmillennialism
The Puritans added a new aspect to the historicist view of Revelation with their post-millennial eschatology. The most thorough and formidable expression of this view came from the pen of the great Puritan divine, Jonathan Edwards, whose treatment of the subject would leave a lasting impression for generations to come.

6) The Age of Reason, 2nd Great Awakening, and Millerism
The end of the Age of Reason and beginning of the Age of Anti-Reason in the early 19th century saw the introduction of a variety of new theories as to the meaning of the book of Revelation. The most important voice in this movement was that of William Miller, who used a historicist approach mixed with the emotionalism of the Second Great Awakening to produce a precise calculation as to the time of Christ’s return. While Miller eventually died disappointed, his contribution spawned a number of related movements that shared his conception but reworked his timetable. This lecture surveys this extraordinary moment in Christian history.

7) The Age of Reason, 2nd Great Awakening, and Millerism
The early nineteenth century witnessed the rise of a variety of religious perspectives, and included among them was a recovered vision of a pre-millennial eschatology from the book of Revelation. The movements varied in many ways, but the shared common denominator involved an expectation of the soon return of Christ and the establishment of his rule for a thousand years. Many of these millennial movements died out in subsequent decades, but a few persisted and remain important to the present day. One of those was the movement founded by Ellen G. White and her husband, James White, and known to us as the Seventh Day Adventists.

8) John Nelson Darby and Dispensationalism
During the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th Century, a parallel movement in England produced the innovative eschatological scheme known as Dispensationalism, the creation of John Nelson Darby. This movement was widely popularized in America by James Brooks and his most famous protege, C.I. Scofield.

9) Dispensationalism in America
The system of eschatology worked out by John N. Darby came to America largely through the influence and support of James H. Brookes, pastor of Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri. A prolific author and effective speaker, Brookes gave the dispensational message a powerful voice that began to reach large numbers of evangelical Christians in America in the late 1800s. The influence was greatly expanded, however, by the young protege of Brookes, C.I. Scofield, who embraced the Darby/Brookes views and incorporated them into a publication that would become one of the most important in shaping the views of evangelical Christians in America, the Scofield Reference Bible. It would be impossible to overstate the sweeping impact of the Scofield notes in subsequent American Christian history, and to this day the Scofield Bible, along with its many editions, revisions, and republications, has remained a staple of conservative Christianity in America.

10) The Preterist Approach to Revelation
Throughout the history of the church, there have always been those who maintained that the colorful and powerful images of Revelation refer largely to events that took place in the first century, and are related generally to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, and the definitive end of the Old Covenant era. While this view has not often been the majority outlook, it has persisted, and continues to offer a compelling perspective for the thoughtful reader of the Apocalypse. This lecture offers a summary of the major aspects of the view usually called ‘preterist.’

Posted in 2nd Coming, Audience Relevance, Eschatology, Hermeneutics, Revelation; dispensationalism | Leave a comment

Alexa, say it ain’t so!

Recently, I began to notice quite a few videos and articles regarding the exploits of Amazon’s Alexa. And quite frankly, I assumed most of it was much ado about nothing. Either baseless paranoia (similar to all the hoopla over the evils of Harry Potter and Star Wars supposedly being conduits into black magic, Hinduism and the like) and/or Onion-type parodies. 

As it turned out, a Steven Crowder video, which had all the earmarkings of a parody, was not, in fact, an Alexa satire piece. Crowder is a former comedian turned political junkie known for parodies. To my amazement, they played it completely straight.

Crowder and his buddy asked Alexa a number of leading questions and none of Alexa’s answers were edited as it had been conjectured by all too many conspiracy theorists. Matter of fact, Crowder received so much flack accusing him of faking Alexa’s answers through voice editing, that he posted the completely unedited session HERE

So far, here’s what I’ve found:

  • Amazon records everything after the user says “Alexa”. And so every last question you’ve asked it is in a database. Matter of fact, you can access it on your mobile app. I haven’t even used it all that much (since in its infancy it wasn’t very intuitive) but to my surprise, I scrolled through literally hundreds of questions entries.  Each entry affords you the ability to click on the audio portion and hear your own voice ask the question. It’s kind of freaky. You can choose to delete individual questions from the history or you can delete everything in one click, but be assured it’s permanently stored in the cloud. As you can see below, if you click the rightmost arrow that will bring up your voice stating the question and Alexa’s response in text form.

Check out the answer as to how many genders there are.

  • I don’t know at this point if Amazon is recording everything it hears through Alexa even prior to it hearing “Alexa” (I’d need proof from an insider), but the capability clearly exists to record every last word. It’s obviously listening prior to hearing its name, and it records the question after hearing its name, so what’s to stop it from recording everything it hears all the time? And if you are unaware, “A judge dismissed a murder charge against an Arkansas man in a case that drew national attention when prosecutors sought evidence they believed was stored in an Amazon Echo speaker.” Story HERE. The moral? If you plan to commit murder in the near future, turn off the Echo microphone. LoL  No, seriously, this device (and of course Siri, Google’s version and many others to follow) may impose a serious invasion of privacy.  
  • Amazon is apparently morphing Alexa’s answers based on consumer pressure. In the video Steven Crowder asked Alexa, “Who is the Lord Jesus Christ?” and the response was “A fictional character.” And this was clearly not edited. Then he went on (the videos are linked above) and asked who Mohammed was and it went on and on talking about the wise prophet blah, blah, blah. Sure made Mohammed sound like a swell guy worth following and wouldn’t even acknowledge the certain existence of Jesus.

So I asked the same questions as Crowder and received completely different responses. Instead of editorializing, it gave me the stock answer from Wikipedia. So within a couple of months answers have been modified! So somebody at Amazon is listening. Yikes! 

  • Given the answers to a broad array of questions, leaves little doubt that Alexa is being programmed by a bunch of leftist social justice warriors. Paranoia? Perhaps, but I truly don’t think so. If you lean left you’ll probably applaud their efforts. I, however, don’t appreciate their attempts to program unwitting guinea pigs. 

It’s common knowledge that the majority of the silicon valley mega-corps (actually I can’t think of any that aren’t) are run by *leftists (not liberals) with clear political/societal agendas. In a free society, they have every right to those opinions as long as they are playing by the rules. But there have been questionable practices. We’ve seen it at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon. They’ve been caught altering search results to fit their political preferences and they have censured those who don’t agree with them.

Twitter employees bragged to an undercover reporter about being paid “to view everything you post” (beware: extremely lewd content in the linked video) and in the “latest undercover Project Veritas video investigation, eight current and former Twitter employees are on camera explaining steps the social media giant is taking to censor political content that they don’t like.” 

And now Prager is suing YouTube (Google) for being censured simply for espousing conservative views antithetical to Google’s agenda.  

I don’t want to get overly paranoid but I do think we need to keep a close watch on these tech giants. With *leftist founders (many of whom are atheists) who have clear political agendas and little to no moral code; the MEANS is always justified by the END, which is to create a utopian socialistic society.

These guys live in an echo chamber and have surrounded themselves with like-minded people. And these supposedly openminded geeks simply don’t tolerate deviance from their agenda as we found with the fired Google engineer who was critical of Google’s diversity policy. And now we learn that an ex-Google engineer who invented the self-driving 0automobile has established a nonprofit religious corporation, Ways of the Future, with one main goal i.e. to create a deity with artificial intelligence. 

So, my advice is to proceed with extreme caution. Remember that Alexa is listening and recording. How much we don’t really know. And it’s being programmed to answer questions in a way that may be antithetical to your worldview. That, in and of itself, is not a problem for those of us who have a solid biblical framework, but for the millions of impressionable young minds, it may do as it is intended: indoctrinate them with social paradigm alien to . If you ask Alexa how many genders there are and the answer is anything but two, things are very far askew.

Most of us think we have nothing to hide (and we don’t in a legal sense) but when political dissent becomes “inconvenient” for these wildly rich megalomaniacs and their agenda, we may find that our views are not so openly welcomed. How all of this information gathering may be used in upcoming elections remains to be seen.

One more thing. In an article, The Amazon Echo Can Be Hacked to Listen to Everything You Say, Chris Smith wrote the following: “Smart home speakers equipped with microphones programmed to listen for everything you say may be turned into devices that would spy on everything you say. Gadgets like Amazon Echo and Google Home are programmed to record your commands, but they’re also programmed to ignore everything you say unless you use a hot word to activate the assistants. But as it turns out, someone with physical access to an Amazon Echo device could hack it to send everything it hears to a remote server.” So, even if Amazon, Google or the manufacturer your brand of smart speaker, isn’t recording anything but your question, others can if they can get access to your speaker. So be very wary of purchasing them second hand.

Let me hear from you if you have any interesting anecdotes to share or greater knowledge of this technology arena.


Since writing this article, it has come to my attention that Google Home (rival of Amazon’s Echo) has disabled all religious references. Why? You guessed it! Because the Google Home “…wasn’t programmed to give any answers about Jesus Christ’s identity but could provide information about Buddha, Muhammad, and Satan.” Hmm. I think there’s a bit of a pattern here.

*I don’t equate liberals with leftists

Posted in Current Events, Technology | Leave a comment

Yes, it is about time!

In today’s Christian Care Ministries blog post titled “It’s about time“, Dan Norris made the following statement.

“Growing up, I never thought Jesus could actually come back in my lifetime, but the way the world is today I am not so sure.”

No offense to this well-intentioned blogger, but I find it difficult to believe that anyone growing up in evangelical America since the early 1970s could make such a statement. I became a Christian at the tail end of my senior year of high school (1972), and I can’t think of a Christian band in that era that didn’t write a steady diet of ‘Jesus is coming soon’ type tunes. From “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” (1969) to “The King is Coming” (1970) to “I Can’t Wait to See Jesus” (1975), Jesus music (as it was called at the time) was fueling “the end is near” expectations. I can’t think of one Christian friend who wasn’t eagerly anticipating the Blessed Hope. So I find it very unusual that this blogger would only just recently think things have progressed to the point where Jesus really is about to come. 

Since Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1971), the ultra scary flick, “A Thief in the Night” (1972), followed by a steady stream of apocalyptic novels and movies like the “Left Behind” series, it’s a wonder any Christian would not have believed in the imminent return of Christ until now. 

Regardless, since this writer has finally joined the common refrain, I think it would be wise to ponder the following questions before moving on.

  1. Why has there been a significant uptick in the certainty that Jesus’ return is imminent?
  2. Is this pervading certainty based upon concrete biblical signposts clearly indicating that we are in fact nearing the end?
  3. If so, what specific signs would you point to that prove that thesis?

Hold on to your answers for a moment and let’s move on in his short article where he quoted from Matthew’s version of the Olivet at the point when Jesus began answering the disciples’ “when” question (Matt 24:3). Jesus had just rocked their world when he emphatically stated that the massive and magnificent Temple complex (which had been under construction since well before any of them were born) would be utterly obliterated…so much so that even the gargantuan foundation stones would be unearthed. 

So, in response to “When will these things be?”, Jesus began to foretell the events which would lead to His coming (parousia). And this is the very text quoted to support his notion that Jesus’ coming is fast approaching.   

Matthew 24:4-8 – Watch out that no one deceives YOU. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. YOU will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that YOU are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.  (I added the all caps -the reason will become clear in a moment)

Next, the blogger made this observation:

“Of all the things He said, what stands out the most is that He tells US not to be alarmed. How is that possible? These are scary times. People are hurting.” (All caps and underline added)

Though this has been a rather common sentiment for at least the past 5 decades, one would be hard-pressed to find a time since Adam’s Garden transgression, which hasn’t been “scary”. As you consider the centuries following Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in approx. AD 30, ask yourself this: Has there ever been a decade, a year or even a few months without hearing of “wars and rumors of wars”?

I’m not certain what specifically prompted this blogger to jump on the “Jesus is coming soon” bandwagon, but it’s not a stretch to assume that he (along with the majority), believes that there has been marked increase in wars, famines, and earthquakes.

For a reality check, let’s look at the big three calamitous events beginning with wars taking place just in the past 150 years. 

In the 1860s our nation endured a Civil War so comprehensive and bloody that an estimated 700,000 were killed out of a population of only 31,000,000 (less than 10% of what it is today). That’s 2.25% of the entire U.S. population!

Matter of fact, it is estimated that 1,600,000 Americans have died in all U.S. Wars. Consider these: the War of 1812; the Civil War; WW1; WW2; the Korean War; the Viet Nam War; 2 Gulf Wars; and the ever-present war on terror.

But these numbers only reflect war deaths in the United States. How about worldwide wars and genocide just in the 20th century? 

“According to Matthew White’s estimate on the page Worldwide Statistics of Casualties, Massacres, Disasters and Atrocities., a total of about 123 million people died in all wars of the 20th Century, thereof 37 million military deaths, 27 million collateral civilian deaths, 41 million victims of “democide” (genocide and other mass murder) and 18 million victims of non-democidal famine.” (https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-died-in-all-the-wars-in-the-20th-century)

So, given the state of world affairs today, October 31, 2017, do you believe that we are experiencing more or less war? Have the prophecy pundits been correct?

Let’s move on to another one of the catastrophes mentioned in those 4 verses above: Earthquakes. Surely earthquakes are on the rise, right?

Well, in an Institute of Creation Research study,  “EARTHQUAKES AND THE END TIMES: A GEOLOGICAL AND BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE“, authors Steven A. Austin and Mark L. Strauss conclude:

A number of prophecy teachers say that a pronounced increase in frequency and intensity of earthquakes has occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century, a worldwide trend fulfilling a prophecy made by Jesus. Contrary to these prophecy teachers, no obvious trend is found indicating an abnormal increase in the frequency of large earthquakes during the last half of the twentieth century. Neither is there a noteworthy deficiency of earthquakes in the first half of the century. Graphical plots of global earthquake frequency indicate overall a decreasing frequency of earthquakes through the century. The decades of the 1970s, 80s and 90s experienced a deficit of larger earthquakes compared to earlier decades of the century.

So again, should we not ask why today’s prophecy experts have led us to believe that earthquakes have been on the rise in both size and frequency? Is it possible that just like the errant perception regarding wars, they have been reading their assumptions into reality? Since they need to perceive an increase in mayhem to support their “end is near” arguments, and in too many cases their book sales, there seems to be a conflict of interest that should be factored into their predictions.  

Therefore, isn’t it incumbent upon us to take these prophecy experts to task when even a cursory overview of the data does not conform to their conclusions?

(As a sidebar, it should be noted that Jesus never predicted that there would be a rise in seismic activity. He merely stated that there would be “earthquakes in various places” during the time parameters set in Matthew 24:34.)

Well, then, how about famines? Are more people starving today than at any point in history? Let’s look at the facts. The first chart shows famines per decade since the 1860s and the second chart shows the number of famine victims worldwide in that same period of time. The numbers are startling given the various prophecy guru’s rhetoric. (source: https://ourworldindata.org/famines/) Listen, one death by famine is one too many, but for the purposes of Bible prophecy, the clear decline of famine-related deaths should be factored into our perceptions (that might not be rooted in reality). 

(Again, it should be noted that, contrary to what I hear coming from those holding a premillennial dispensational view of Bible prophecy, Jesus never said anything about an increase in famines. He simply said that within the context of the timing of His prediction (Matthew 24:34) there would be famines in various places.)

So at this point the score is:

Prophecy experts: 0
Reality:                    3

Though severe economic hardship is not mentioned in the Olivet (Mark 13, Luke 21, Matthew 24), since many today believe that financial devastation will be a sign of the end, let’s consider financial disaster as well. Larry Burkett, a well respected financial advisor who died in 2003, wrote “The Coming Economic Earthquake” in 1991. Three years later it was revised to include “The Clinton Agenda”.

In one 5-star review from 2012 was written: Larry Burkett died in 2003 but his book “Coming Economic Earthquake” is accurate on just about every point except the timing, which he admitted he couldn’t predict with any accuracy.” 

But isn’t the timing of a prediction every bit as important as the overall prediction? Sure, some of his prognostications are insightful and they can be useful in plotting one’s financial course. However, the problem is that incendiary titles like “The Coming Economic Earthquake” (which is obviously meant to be emotionally provocative) not only invokes fear but it ultimately causes an attitude of indifference if and when those predictions don’t come to fruition within a remote proximity to the time referent? How many trillions of dollars since the 2008-09 bear market, have Christians lost who have inculcated these often debilitating expectations into their psyche…and their portfolio?

If one believes as the blogger wrote, Tick tock, the time is drawing near, that it is inevitable for the Titanic to sink, won’t that have a rather chilling and potentially debilitating effect on one’s decisions, both personal and professional?  

The reviewer went on to praise Burkett, What he wrote in 1991 and updated in 1993/1994 is still almost textbook accurate as to the source of the economic issues and the result of the popular choices our Congress and Administration have been making for 60 years.”

Perhaps, like this gentleman, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater of these grandiose predictions (since Burkett provided some otherwise valuable insight), but I think it’s also prudent to ask if Burkett’s views are solely based upon the economic and political policies he believers are deleterious to a free people. In other words, are there other overriding factors (perhaps eschatological) driving his rather dire conclusions? If these kinds of predictions are pragmatically based upon a person’s view of economics as they intersect the political realm, that would be fine. However, when one’s pervading biblical understanding is that financial chaos and calamity must come before Christ’s second advent, one’s interpretation of the data can be significantly skewed. 

No events can be accurately interpreted if our overriding presuppositions are incorrect. For example, let’s say we are in the midst of 40% decline in the market. Person “A” believes that this precipitous drop is a sign of the end, and they, therefore, convert their equities to cash and hard assets, thus locking in substantial losses. Convinced that things are going to continue to deteriorate, person “A” will undoubtedly not reinvest in equities for obvious reasons. 

Contrarily, person “B” sees the decline as a short-term market correction, stays invested and may even purchase additional significantly, now undervalued stock.  So, as you can see, one’s view of Bible prophecy can drastically affect one’s decisions which will directly impact one’s future.

This is exactly what happened in many cases during the 2008-09 market decline. Person “A” either never got back into the market or got back in at much higher prices 4-5 years after the market had gone through a significant rally. And person “B”, given equal financial status to person “A” at the time just prior to the bear market, is now worth considerably more than person “A”. This is why well-intentioned books like Burkett’s can be deleterious to one’s long-term financial health. One’s view of eschatology is a major driving force in decision making. Even those who say that they are panmillennial (it will all pan out in the end), are far more affected by the gloom and doom hype than they realize. 

Though Burkett’s catastrophic prediction was clearly wrong, in context let’s take a peek back to the economic earthquake which began in 1929. The Great Depression was so severe that suicides went up substantially.  There was a deep, pervading sense of hopelessness. And I can’t even imagine how much worse things would have been had those in the 1920s and 1930s been avid followers of today’s pessimillennialism. If the Left Behind series had been inculcated into the fabric of the 1930s church as it is today, I shudder to think how much more severe the depression would have been.  

“Suicide rates, which averaged 12.1 per 100,000 people in the decade prior to the Depression, jumped to an alarming 18.9 in the year of Wall Street’s crash. The suicide rate remained higher than normal throughout the remainder of the Great Depression, then fell sharply during World War II.” (https://www.shmoop.com/great-depression/statistics.html)

But let’s say that we do experience another financial disaster on par or even greater than the Great Depression. Why would it be a sign of the end when the Great Depression wasn’t? Why wasn’t the Black Death with a death toll estimate as high as 40% of all Europeans during the 14th century, a sign of the impending return of Christ? Why weren’t the famines which killed upwards of 20,000,000 Asian Indians during the 1870s, a sign of the end?  Why wasn’t the 526 AD earthquake that hit Antioch, killing 250,000 (decades later the population was only 300,000), not a sign of Jesus’ return?  

Nothing that we are witnessing in this country or throughout the world is unique in history. Nothing! And this is absolutely critical to realize. J.D. King in “Why You’ve Been Duped Into Believing The Myth That The World Is Getting Worse and Worse” argues that things are improving worldwide. and he makes some rather formidable points. Look at Christianity’s growth rate in the world map. Just because the U.S. is experiencing a downturn (the main reason may not be what you have been told)doesn’t mean that this is the case worldwide. Did you know that China has as many Christians as does America and that the gospel is exploding throughout the world?

During the past 50 years, wars, famine, disease and natural disasters have diminished a great deal. Though this doesn’t necessarily prove that things are getting better (certainly the U.S. is experiencing moral degradation), but by the same token, it doesn’t mean that things are worsening on a global scale. So why the perception that things are getting substantially worse? Three main reasons:

  1. We have become terribly egocentric and myopic.
  2. We are being inundated by 24-hour global news, most of which is decidedly negative.
  3. We have been repeatedly told that before Christ returns things must get worse.

Our myopathy has a great deal to do with having very little historical context. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. It’s quite natural to think how bad things are compared to “the good ole days”. But the truth is that the good old days only exist in minds severed from past reality. Can you imagine what it would have been like living through the Civil War or the War to End All Wars if social media had existed? A 24 hour Facebook feed of nothing but death, destruction, fear, doom, and gloom.

So coupling this kind of historical blindness with being constantly hammered by bad news (while writing this, my AP news feed told me that there were 8 dead and scores injured when a car driven by a Jihadi deliberately targeted a Manhattan bike path), can leave us with a rather helpless, pessimistic mindset. But, I would argue that this glass-half-empty worldview is antithetical to the proliferation and propagation of the Gospel.

Now, anyone would be foolish to pretend that we don’t have significant problems. That’s a given in any age. But to believe that today’s “scary” times are worse than other eras is not only invalid but I believe it is unhealthy.

So, not only must we interpret the Bible without a newspaper in hand (as is all too common today), but we must also use sound hermeneutical ( the science of interpretation) principles to understand Bible prophecy.

And that leads me to address what I believe is a profound and all too common hermeneutical error. Notice again that after the blogger quoted Matthew 24, he wrote, “what stands out the most is that He tells US not to be alarmed.

Do you see the interpretational faux pas? When, for example, many Christians see the words “us” and “you” in Scripture, too often they immediately presume that they are being directly addressed. But what we must realize is that, although the Bible was written FOR us and for our benefit, it was not written directly TO us. There are plenty of passages like the Sermon on the Mount that generally apply to all people of all generations but there are others where specific people were addressed. There are those sections in Scripture like the thrashing of the religious elite in Matthew 23, where Jesus was specifically targeting those leaders living at that time. Notice the number of times Jesus addressed “you” as in the Pharisees and Sadducees.

34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36)

Have you ever read this passage and assumed that you will crucify prophets, that you will one day scourge them in the synagogues or that all the righteous blood shed on earth will fall upon you? Me neither. And that’s the point.  This is no different than reading ourselves into Matthew 24. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus was speaking directly to His disciples, not you, not me and not anyone from the 16th century or any other time period.

Jesus never said anything directly to this blogger or anyone else in our generation. So why did this fellow write, “He tells US not to be alarmed.”  Jesus was speaking directly to His disciples, not to us. And though this may seem trivial, one of the building blocks of sound hermeneutics is to consider the context which includes what is called “audience relevance“.

So, as you consider the Olivet Discourse, perhaps in a new light, notice the number of times (20) that refer directly to the disciples. Once I began to read this passage with audience relevance in mind, my entire view of Bible prophecy underwent a major paradigm shift. And my prayer is that this blogger who wrote “It’s About Time” (and millions like him) will soon travel a similar path (to mine) and realize it is about time that we change our presuppositions and cast off errant views of Bible prophecy. 

Yes, tick tock the time is drawing near, but not the end of the world. What is drawing nearer by the day is our life on terra firma. Will we continue to propagate this dire end is near message that has crippled the church for at least the past half century, or will we realize that the glorious Gospel will, over time, transform this world into conformity with the Kingdom of Christ?

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15)

The last thing to note as you peruse the following verses…notice, for example, that when Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation”, therefore when you see the abomination of desolation”, and “truly I say to you, this generation will not pass until all these things take place”, that you will understand to whom these things were said. 

Matthew 24:2“And He said to THEM…Do YOU not see all these things? Truly I say to YOU”
Matthew 24:4“And Jesus answered and said to THEM, See to it that no one misleads YOU.”
Matthew 24:6“YOU will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that YOU are not frightened…”
Matthew 24:9“Then they will deliver YOU to tribulation, and will kill YOU, and YOU will be hated by all nations because of My name.”
Matthew 24:15“Therefore when YOU see the abomination of desolation…”
Matthew 24:16“Then those who are IN JUDEA must flee to the mountains.”
Matthew 24:20“But pray that YOUR flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.”
Matthew 24:23“Then if anyone says to YOU, ‘Behold, here is the Christ, or There He is, do not believe him.”
Matthew 24:25“Behold, I have told YOU in advance.”
Matthew 24:26“So if they say to YOU, Behold, He is in the wilderness, do not go out…”
Matthew 24:32“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, YOU know that summer is near;”
Matthew 24:33“so, YOU too, when YOU see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
Matthew 24:34“Truly I say to YOU, THIS GENERATION will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Matthew 24:42“Therefore be on the alert, for YOU do not kno which day your Lord is coming.”
Matthew 24:44“For this reason YOU also must be on ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour when YOU do not think He will.”
Matthew 24:47“Truly I say to YOU that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

If you have any questions regarding these things feel free to address them below. And if you’d like to read further on this issue, I would highly recommend George Holford’s 1805 book, The Destruction of Jerusalem – An Absolute & Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity. I also suggest you listen to the following podcast in which Gary DeMar (formerly the president of American Vision) joined hosts Julio Rodriguez, Steve Denhartog, and Shane Kirk on BRIDGE Radio. It’s an excellent interview detailing the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse. Gary is doing a series of interviews surrouding his newest book, “Wars and Rumors of Wars.”  

Posted in 2nd Coming, Audience Relevance, Eschatology | Leave a comment

Thy Word – Sound interpretational principles

Reading God’s word… A gentle admonition

Ed Ferner, a mentor of sorts, once gave me some simple but sage advice that’s worth passing along. “The Scripture was written FOR us but it was not written TO us.” As obvious as that sounds, though we pay lip service to this undeniable fact, we often ignore it. We know, for example, that Paul didn’t write Colossians directly to us, but because we understand that it has timeless applications and implications, we have a tendency to read it as though it was addressed to us. This slight change in mind has made the Scriptures come alive for me in ways I would never have dreamed.

Therefore, I believe it is imperative to view Scripture through the lens of the writer and through the eyes of its recipients with the full realization that we are reading someone else’s mail. Clearly, the Bible was written and has been preserved for our benefit, but we read it as though it arrived with the morning’s paper, we will forever be confused. So, if we are faithful in this regard, we will, through the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within, unlock many truths in God’s word that have escaped us (and so many countless others) for generations.  Bold you say? Perhaps.  Arrogant? Not really. Possible? Absolutely!

I always assumed that the early church fathers who we revere so much, had each been given a special interpretive key into the mysteries of God. In my opinion, this mediator-type system’s vestiges had their beginnings in a state-controlled church where the Word was not entrusted to the “masses”.  Now more than ever we have the tools available to study God’s word that even the elite scholars of the 3rd century lacked.

We have access to the entire Bible in 40 translations from Arabic to Russian at the stroke of a mouse click. We can search the Scripture for every usage of “The kingdom of God” in less than a second. We can scan through the exhaustive writings of Josephus and Tacitus in the blink of an eye. And we have the capacity to ferret through what we formerly took at face value. We need not remain in the dark relying on others for our doctrinal positions.

Early in my Christian life many of us relied heavily upon the notes written in the margins and at the bottoms of each page. C.I. Scofield (through his Scofield reference Bible) indoctrinated generations simply by making his theological system so readily available. Many treat those notes as Gospel not realizing that they are nothing more than a built-in commentary of his opinions. It was so easy to read a passage and then immediately determine what that section actually meant, or so I thought. But as I discovered Scofield too often misinterpreted the Greek in order to fit his paradigm. Was it intentional? I don’t know but it nonetheless can cause serious problems.

For example Scofied substituted the meaning of the Greek word genos for genea (generation) in Matthew 24:34. An oversight we hope but if used properly as genea this would have been a huge nail in the coffin of his dispensational system. Jesus said,Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Genos (1085 Strong’s Greek) means offspring, stock, kin or a people. The correct word, Genea (1074 Strong’s Greek), means an age, generation or time.

As you can see, the meaning of the verse changes drastically with this small error. “This generation shall not pass away” carries with it an entirely different meaning than “This race will not pass away”, which was found in Scofield’s original notes.

So with the capacity to check lexicons and sources, we no longer need be held captive to these kinds of mistakes whether they were intentional or accidental. Though some defend Scofield to the nth degree, I think there’s good reason to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

Although we have the technological advantages over the early church fathers, we lack something that we must make up for.  And that’s proximity to the source.  They had an understanding of the times & culture associated with the writers of the Scripture that we lack.  Our westernized mindset is a huge stumbling block to proper interpretation.  Therefore, we must go back be diligent to study the historical setting, culture and times surrounding the Bible. Only then can we begin to grasp the Word in context.

If we extract the contents of Paul’s letter to the Galatians or John’s Revelation to the expectant believers in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and put those words into a 21st-century context, we will not ascertain the full meaning of what these writers intended to convey to their readers.  Audience relevance is absolutely critical.

In Acts chapter 2 verses 16-21, what was Peter’s explanation to those present at the Day of Pentecost regarding the supernatural abilities of the unschooled Galileans (who were speaking in the many languages of those present or perhaps the crowd was hearing in their own language)? Peter begins to quote Joel, “in the last days…” and then proceeds to give a list of things that would happen in the time of the end.

Most of us extract those words “last days” and transport them in a time machine 2,000 years future into the year 2007 and we assume that we are living in the “last days”. But is this what Peter was implying? He was applying the term “last days” to exactly what they were experiencing right then, 2,000 years ago.  So, if we forget the Biblical hermeneutic of audience relevance we are likely to misinterpret the passage.

Therefore, it is imperative that we put on our 1st-century glasses when we read the words of the apostles. Without a working knowledge of the times, customs and settings we will never uncover the truth and we will continue to be frustrated with our inability to make sense of God’s word. And this will ultimately result in apathy regarding our thirst to read His word. It’s very difficult to stay motivated when you are constantly confused.

A good friend,  Pastor James Saxon, used to say time and again that we must interpret the unclear in the light of that which is clear. When the Bible uses terms like, at hand, shortly, soon, or in a little while, it is imperative that we avoid assigning an arbitrary vagueness to these words of imminency.  That will do great damage to the context of these passages of God’s Word.

When reading these time sensitive statements we must not allow our minds to become clouded and misapply a verse such as 2Pet 3:8, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years”. We must be both intellectually honest and consistent. For when Jesus says, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me” was He not referring to a short time period? Then when in the book of Hebrews we read, “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry“, do we change the meaning of “a little while” to fit our long-held presuppositions? If we don’t consistently apply word meanings (always in context) then we are in danger of remaking the Scripture to fit our preconceived paradigm. This is known as eisegesis i.e. reading our biases into the text. At the very least, this kind of confirmation bias (confirming our views by manipulating what we read to fit our preconceptions) sets our feet on rather dubious interpretational ground.

Approximately 500 years before fulfillment, the prophet Daniel was told to “seal up the vision” for it was “many days in the future” at the “time of the end“.  Yet in John’s Revelation he was told, “do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near“.  This is truly a remarkable contrast, but one that is not often considered.

So how can pastors and Bible students believe with any degree of  intellectual honesty, that Daniel’s sealed vision which was prophesied to take place “many days in the future” (approx. 600 years to fulfillment) be significantly shorter than the unsealed Revelation’s contention that the “time is near” (which is supposedly almost 2,000 years and counting)?  Do you see the glaring problem? We would never consider performing this kind of word gymnastics with any other form of literature, but when it comes to the inspired, inerrant Word of our Creator, we tend to discard reason. Why?  Because of the expectations created by our paradigm.

Put yourself in the place of the disciples when Jesus said, “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” and “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Do you think the hearers of those words took Jesus seriously? At the very least, do we not find it rather disingenuous and downright misleading to utter these types of time indicators if in fact they are actually coded so that only someone 2,000 years future can decipher them? (In my opinion, treating the Scriptures in this manner lends credibility and acceptance to blasphemous books like the Da Vinci Code.)

Would we not be put-off by being told to “flee to the mountains“, scaring us half out of our minds, if this admonition is meant for a generation thousands of years hence?   Can we trust Jesus for our salvation if we cannot rely on Him to do the things he said he would do in the time He said he would do them? C.S. Lewis apparently didn’t have a problem with this when he wrote,

“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong.” He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.

C.S. Lewis was being honest and for that he should be commended. However, it is quite sad that even this great stalwart of the faith had no hermeneutical grid with which to effectively understand these prophetic passages.

Take heart. Jesus didn’t delude anyone and neither did the NT writers. There is a theological system that can effectively answer the tough questions that the many like C.S. Lewis were not able to deal with. In fact we can make sense of New Testament statements of imminence while increasing our reverence for the inspired Word. We can know that Jesus meant exactly what he said and that He fulfilled his predictions in the exact time sequences in which they were stated.  We don’t have to hide from the atheistic, Judaistic, or Islamic websites and proselytizers as they incessantly trot out Jesus’ Words per Matthew 24:34, Matthew 10:23, and Matthew 16:27-28 in an attempt to discredit Scripture.

However, in order to do this it is imperative that we set our presuppositions aside and be open to what the Scripture teaches regardless of the implications.  For most of us a rather seismic paradigm shift is in order—and process can result in periods of uneasiness and uncertainly. For a season, every answered question may find two taking its place. But I can attest that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel—it’s Jesus in all His revealed glory!

A type of Biblical language that seems to create a great deal of confusion and consternation is the recurrent use of figurative speech. In order for us to begin to understand God’s plan throughout history we must effectively recognize apocalyptic language and metaphoric speech while allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. We see this kind of writing in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and even in the Psalms. Upon first glance we are prone (by our westernized 21st century mindset) to take the words of Daniel 8:10 literally—“and some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.In 1837 Adam Clark referencing the above verse wrote, “The destruction of the Jews by Antioch Epiphanes, is represented by casting down some of the host of heaven, and the stars to the ground.” Daniel is not speaking of the dissolution of a planet but the judgment of a nation. So when we read this same type of language in the Second Testament we must not change our interpretational grid.

Have you ever asked or been asked the following question… Should God’s Word be taken literally or figuratively? The truth is that it must be interpreted both ways. A great obstacle that we must overcome is that our westernized mind is so far removed from the times when Peter dropped his nets into the Sea of Galilee. Surely when we read, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” we realize that God isn’t saying that the thousandth and one hill is up for grabs. Or when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, we don’t get the picture of a supernatural construction company of angels working around the clock for 3 days building a temple more marvelous than the one that was destroyed.  Did they get it? Did they think he was speaking literally?  No, they didn’t have a clue & yes, they interpreted His statement literally just like we oftentimes do today.

The complexity has been interjected by theologians who refuse (like first century Jews) to recognize that His coming was far different than expected.  The Jews anticipated a political warrior prince who could physically vindicate them from the bondage of Roman tyranny.  He was rejected because He did not meet their expectations.  Instead He came as a suffering servant offering the forgiveness of sins, not as some sort of temporal respite but of eternal consequence.  In Acts 1:6 they still didn’t get it even after the resurrection.  They said, Lord will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?  It was never about physical earthly rule as Jesus pointed out to the woman at the well in John 4.   Jesus said, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father….23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

That’s why they missed Him the first time.  Their physical expectations didn’t meet God’s spiritual intentions. Have we repeated the same mistake a second time?  (I thought a little repetitive redundancy was in order)

Many warn us against “spiritualizing” too many texts but don’t think it doesn’t happen often in all forms of eschatological systems. Those that claim to be literalists have equated the locusts mentioned in Revelation 9 to Cobra helicopters.

So he who is without figurative language cast the first stone of heresy. It is quite obvious that all Scripture cannot be taken literally. So the question shouldn’t be whether to use a consistent literal or figurative hermeneutic—it should be a question of when.

For example: When we read “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree”, how do we interpret these words? In our 21st century mindset most of us think that this is a prediction of the destruction of the earth at the end of time. Let’s take a closer look. This prophecy was uttered by Isaiah in chapter 34 verse 4 and is clearly announcing the desolation of Bozrah the capital of Edom late in the sixth century BC. This is judgment language as referenced above in Daniel 8 & it’s quite clear that it can’t be taken literally since we are still make earth our temporal residence.  As I sidebar, read Isa 13 & 34, Micah 1, Nahum 1, Ezek 32, & Psalm 18

So when we come to passages with similar language in the New Testament like that of Acts 2:16-21, Matt 24:29, 2Pet 3:10-12, or Rev 6:12-14 are we going to be consistent in our interpretation?  How do you think the people living in the first century viewed this type of language? (Lest we forget—it’s certainly worth noting that no one had the benefit of a pocket New Testament tucked neatly in their tunic pocket or resting prominently on their nightstand.)

Let’s look at Caiaphas’ response to Jesus’ declaration that, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven”.  It says, “He has spoken blasphemy”! It’s quite evident that Caiaphas fully understood this type of apocalyptic language of “coming on the clouds”.   Only God came on the clouds! This is referenced repeatedly in the Old Testament—The oracle concerning Egypt; Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt; The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within themIsa 19:1

 And let’s not let the word “you” in Matthew 26 escape our notice. Jesus said, “YOU will see…” as he was speaking directly to Caiaphas.  Nothing like dropping a bombshell on our eschatological paradigm!

The Word of God is the unfolding of the Greatest Story Ever Told and we do it great disservice by compartmentalizing its contents as though we are reading hundreds of different unrelated stories.   We separate the Old and New Testament like it was some sort of God-ordained division when in fact we can see Christ clearly on page after page of the Old Testament.

The plan of redemption is clear from Genesis to Revelation.  God has always been sovereign & his plans were not & can not be thwarted. His plan has been unfolding throughout history with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. It has always been by faith and never by our own effort that has given us acceptance before a perfect & holy God.

The New Covenant didn’t abolish the Old – it fulfilled and completed it. The Old Covenant was merely an imperfect shadow. Christ’s work of redemption on the cross & His coming in judgment 40 years later in AD 70 (against a wicked & perverse generation) was the perfect fulfillment of that which had been foretold & so masterfully weaves God’s new with the old when he writes, “…A new covenant”, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. It was growing old & it did in fact vanish with the destruction of the temple & the entire sacrificial system in those horrible days of tribulation as Titus obliterated Jerusalem. Prophecy was indeed fulfilled but yet since many of us know so little about history, sadly those still waiting for a future fulfillment seem more numerous than the grains of sand in the Sahara.

Since this Old Covenant passed away, we now worship God in spirit and in truth and no longer are we constrained to meet God in boxes or buildings since we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. For we are the New Jerusalem which comes from above & we are joint heirs with Abraham in the Kingdom of God which has come. We have not replaced Israel but become partakers in the promise. Nationality, circumcision, obedience nor any outward manifestations of our humanity would ever become a pleasing aroma in God’s holy & perfect kingdom. It was by faith then & it is by faith now that we enter God’s eternal peace.

God is never forced by man’s rebellion to resort to alternate plan B’s, C’s, or D’s. And it is with this backdrop that we study God’s word with the confidence that through the Spirit’s illumination that we can understand the mystery of God.

Our God is in complete control and He shall reign forever & ever, Amen!

So when we read the Scripture we will do well to consider the fact that although the Scripture was written for our benefit it was not written directly TO US.  If we do not understand a passage in the light of the original audience then we find ourselves making unintended application.  Audience relevance is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the faith. “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;” Eph 3:9

I would highly recommend Frank Turek’s “Cross Examined” podcast and specifically this one regarding “There are no verses in the Bible.” Frank gives a number of very helpful “how not to interpret the Bible” tips, some of which is discussed above.

Posted in Audience Relevance, Eschatology, Hermeneutics | Leave a comment

Plagiarius to Martial – kidnapping words…

In Pastors, Sermons And Plagiarism In The Internet Age, Sarah Pullham Baily wondered how plagiarism was/is affecting modern day pulpits. She wrote, “Recent cases of high-profile pastors who have been accused of lifting others’ material are raising questions about whether pulpit plagiarism is on the rise — and whether it has become a more forgivable sin.”

An unknown pastor

Well, let’s first ask what is it and when did it originate? Norton/Write explains:

The word plagiarism has a curious history. It is derived from the Latin plagiarius—literally, a kidnapper who ensnares children or slaves in a plaga (net). The Roman poet Martial (40-102 AD), fiercely protective of his literary creations, was the first to apply the word plagiarius to someone who stole his words with false claims of authorship.

This entered the English language as “plagiary,” and then, in the seventeenth century, plagiarism, as the theft of words became a more and more widespread problem amidst the burgeoning culture of books and literacy made possible by the printing press. Something can be “stolen,” of course, only if it can be owned in the first place—and so naturally the modern concept of plagiarism grew up alongside the development of copyright law and the status attached to authorship and originality.

I found Baily’s article interesting if not rather disturbing. There seems to be a wide variety of reactions to it. Some pastors found guilty of plagiarism have been fired while others have, for whatever reason, been elevated to positions of greater scope and responsibility. Clearly it’s not the be-all-end-all sin, but what jettisoned Joe Biden from 1988 presidential contention appears to be on the rise within the Christian community and, in my view, this is not a healthy trend.

So determining how to wade through one’s moral obligations in this changing digital world (both as a hearer/reader and a speaker/author) is clearly a complex task. Most of us have probably been guilty of some level of plagiarism either intentionally or not, but perhaps simply because its a practice common should not give us license to disregard abuse, especially if it’s blatant and premeditated.

Most of us have few original thoughts (I guess I should speak for myself). We glean the majority from others and are most often not even cognizant from whence an idea came.  The question is, should there be a different level of accountability during daily conversations and those who dispense knowledge from pulpits, lecture halls and print/digital media? In the normal discourse of everyday life we effectively become conduits of the burgeoning information overflow. So my question is, should the standard be the same as for pastors, teachers and speakers who may only appear to be delivering fresh content?

In other words, should there be a different level of scrutiny for our general conversations where we might hear something interesting and pass it along having no clue of its origin, and the speaker/author who intentionally takes the words of others (perhaps written in an online blog or used in a sermon) and pretends that they are his or her own?  And is this latter offense worthy of concern?

In this cyber age, protecting intellectual property is going to become a greater and greater concern. In daily interactions it would be nearly impossible and downright cumbersome to cite our sources and stopping every few sentences to use finger quotation gestures, would be very awkward. Not only that but quite frankly, recalling, on-the-fly, specific sources in our melting pot minds, would be nearly impossible.

That said, if I’m reading a book that provides the brunt of my ideas and during daily discourse I pass them off in a way that makes it appear that they are original thoughts, would that be somewhat dishonest? Clearly I wouldn’t have broken any copyright laws but wouldn’t it be more honorable to at least mention the book, article or lecture where an idea was culled.

Now, in the matter of public speaking and authorship, there are already laws in place to protect private property. So, would it not be wise in the Christian community to at least match that standard of expected conduct?

Some of the articles I’ve read on this subject or those I’ve interacted with, have suggested that plagiarism isn’t wrong unless and until the plagiarizer benefits monetarily. Let’s say a pastor or motivational speaker has enjoyed increased stature by using other people’s words, and therefore has benefited from the substantive growth in his/her online presence or overall popularity and notoriety … and if this amplified regard and visibility is ultimately parlayed into greater income, doesn’t this indirectly meet the criteria for monetary gain? And if that is the case, even if there is no direct tangible profitability i.e. through selling a book with plagiarized content, that would not absolve the guilty party would it?

We’re all keenly aware of the group Milli Vanilli and their brush with success. If you recall they tumbled from their pedestal when their lip-syncing was uncovered. In reality, all they did was pretend to sing songs. And people really enjoyed their act. So why was there such outrage?

They didn’t actually steal the voices of others. The vocalists signed contracts to provide the voices for what became Milli Vanilli, so there was no ambiguity in this arrangement. The producer hired both the lip-syncers and vocalists and forbid anyone from divulging their secret. But as we well know, “conspiracies” don’t remain such for long.

At any rate, have you ever wondered why there was such brouhaha over a situation where no one was essentially stealing anything or violating copyright laws?

Interestingly, one of the men whose voice was being used said he felt bittersweet about the stardom achieved by Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan (the actors comprising Milli Vanilli). Knowing that the very substance of his voice had been parlayed into the #1 single in the world made him proud but at the time it caused some regret. In the interview highlighted at the above link, he said, “You have two sides. One side you feel good because you saying my voice done made it, #1 worldwide. But you still sittin’ in the back and sayin’ ‘that’s not what I really wanted’. I wanted to make it.”

So again, why were these men publicly shamed and humiliated? They didn’t hurt anyone and the ones whose voices they lip synced had agreed to the entire arrangement. Perhaps it was because people felt deceived. The world had become infatuated with Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, but it was all based upon smoke and mirrors. They were not who they and their producer represented them to be, and apparently that deception was not appreciated.

Could these men have ever become stars without using the voices of others? Clearly not. Could the vocalists have become stars in their own right without the look and persona of these actors? Probably not. Well, then, shouldn’t the same question be asked of pastors and teachers who do the same?

In Finding Forester, Jamaal Wallace, a brilliant kid from the ghetto, attended a very prestigious private school. After entering a marvelous piece of pros into a school writing contest he encountered severe scrutiny. As it turned out, Jamaal had merely begun with a few words from something his famous mentor had written. Though the overwhelming majority of his paper was of his own creative imagination, the fact that he plagiarized the first few lines was of such grave concern that it almost caused his expulsion.

In the pivotal scene of confrontation between Jamaal and his very critical teacher (a writer wannabe very jealous of Jamaal’s mentor’s success), Jamaal was justly accused of plagiarism. As it turned out, the few words that he ‘borrowed’ to begin his paper had been part of an article that appeared in the New Yorker! But the point is that even the use of those few words created a firestorm. As we learned earlier in the movie, a mitigating circumstance was that his famous mentor/author/ friend was the one who actually encouraged him (Jamaal) to be begin the flow and cadence of writing by starting with his mentor’s words. The caveat was that no writing that took place in the apartment of his friend and writing coach, Mr. Forester (Sean Connery), was to leave the premise.  That violation nearly cost Jamaal his scholarship.

That wonderfully heartwarming scene is captured below. But the point is that lifting words and pretending them to be one’s own was determined to be a very serious offense.

In Good Will Hunting, an arrogant condescending Harvard student was trying to impress a female student in a bar by embarrassing a kid (Ben Affleck) from the hood who was trying to pretend to be well educated. This Harvard man was resoundingly outed when Affleck’s well-read janitor friend from Southey (Matt Damon) began finishing this Harvard kid’s quotes while citing the commensurate authors. This was the ultimate putdown because the Harvard guy was trying to make it look like he was being original, when in fact this impressive spewing of platitudes was nothing more than a regurgitating of other famous people’s thoughts. He was trying to create the illusion that he was basically somebody that he was not.

Along the same line as using the ideas of others, it appears to be a growing trend for pastors to purchase sermons from sermon outlets. Is there anything inherently dishonest about this practice? Scot McKnight in “Plagiarizing Sermons” identifies a number of underlying problems with this practice. There are a number of factors not the least of which is borrowing personal illustrations and sharing them in the first person as if they were the experiences of the pastor.

Now, it appears that no copyright laws are being broken since these sermons are sold with the creator’s full blessing. But again, we’re confronted with this idea of deception. Does the pastor leave the impression (intentionally or not) that his sermons are personally crafted?  The parishioner mistakenly concludes that the pastor has spent hours of study in order to develop the convictions and salient points laid out in the sermon.

And it logically follows that there would be greater esteem for puppeteers developing fresh content than the pastor who bought his or her message. I am not insinuating that this is an illegitimate or unethical practice but I am attempting to make the point that if the congregation is unware that a sermon is canned, it may be somewhat deceptive. What would be wrong with saying something like, “I enjoyed the sermon series so much that I decided to use it as my guide”?

At this point I think it’s prudent to ask whether we should simply ignore this pulpit? Is the theft of intellectual property only a sin if we derived a direct monetarily benefit? Or is it a problem that should be addressed because those who “borrow” the words of others are engaged in a form of deception?

Some may ask, what does it hurt? The author of the original material will probably never know. And the fact is that they might actually find it flattering that their words were being copied. Charles Colton once wrote, “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

In Christianity Today’s website, an article entitled, “When Pastor’s Plagiarize” gave somewhat of an apologetic, justifying, at least to an extent, a pastor’s license to share borrowed content with others.

“During many eras, in the English Reformation for example, sermons were crafted by church leaders, printed, and distributed to parishes, where local pastors would preach them word for word. Congregations did not blink. It was assumed that sermons were not individualistic efforts but the work of the church.”

Though I agree with a number of the points made in the above article, I think the author omitted some vital factors.

  1. The sermons passed down by English Reformers were assumed not to be “individual efforts but the work of the church”. Is that actually the case in many of the situations dealing with plagiarism today? No one expects all the words from a pastor to be original. Coming up with 50 sermons per year, year after year, straight from one’s own study, is clearly a monumental task. So I get that. I am awed by any pastor’s ability to constantly create fresh Biblically-sanctioned sermon material. However, what’s wrong with holding up a book or two or citing the articles that inspired the sermon? What’s wrong with quoting the source and giving proper attribution when taking sentences verbatim from others?
  2. Yes, it’s wonderful to see the Christian community operating on an organic level, always building on the efforts of others. This kind of collective synergy is necessary to the growth and vitality of the Gospel message. No one is asserting that pooling resources is unhealthy or imprudent. However, again, what’s the problem with proper attribution?  Could it be that some pastors are consistently and serially tapping into the content of others to the point where it would be embarrassing for them to admit that much of their most astute sounding verbiage has been copied verbatim?

I called a pastor friend I’ve known for many years and asked him what he thought about this whole matter. As it turned out, he was involved in teaching a course motivated by book someone else had written. Though he said that most of the points he addressed in the class were of his own creative juices, since he was empowered and encouraged by the book’s overall message, it was second nature for him to give full credit to the author in each class. It should be noted that this pastor was under no obligation to disclose the wind beneath the wings of his teaching points, since none of the material he presented was plagiarized. However, he felt that it was necessary to cite this other man’s work.

So, in closing, let me ask you these few questions.

  1. Do you think plagiarism is a problem within the Christian community and if so, what would you recommend doing about it?
  2. Should a pastor guilty of constant plagiarism be censured in any way? Would you support action taken against them or do you think this is an insignificant offense that doesn’t warrant any negative action taken?

Let me be clear that I am not without foibles. I am not casting the first stone. Sometimes it’s laziness, other times ignorance and occasionally it’s willful and blatant deception. And it seems that the punishment should fit the crime. However, if we continue to ignore this issue, won’t we be in danger of compromising the integrity of authors and pastors and won’t we be guilty of demeaning creative abilities?

Posted in Ethics | Leave a comment

Jesus Is Coming Soon!

Few will disagree that Chris Tomlin is both a gifted writer/performer and a man after God’s ownjesus-is-coming-soon heart. Often his songs are so majestically inspiring that they exhort and compel us to fall on our knees and worship Jesus.

In a recent Sunday service, we sang a very popular Tomlin tune, “Even So Come“. As I surveyed the audience, it was obvious by their impassioned faces that this emotionally engaging song tugged deeply at their heartstrings. It evoked a clear visceral response, especially during the refrain, “Jesus is Coming Soon.” Since the early 70s when I became a Christian, similar tunes like “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” and “The King is coming“, flicks such as “A Thief in the Night” and apocalyptic novels espousing “Late Great Planet Earth” eschatology, were the order of the day. Jesus was clearly coming soon! In 1973 during my sophomore year in college, there wasn’t a day on my commute to USF, where I’d miss gazing up into the clouds wondering if this would be THE DAY when Jesus split the sky. But that was 43 years ago when Robertson, Falwell, and LaHaye assured us that Jesus was coming soon.   

Rewind to the first century when “Even So Come” would have topped the early church charts.  In the AD 60s when Christians were being heavily persecuted, tortured and murdered for their allegiance to Christ, there was no ambiguity as they pleaded  “Come Lord Jesus, come!” The slain believers under the altar cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10) In the New Testament’s pages, there was an unmistakably eager expectation of the Lord’s coming to both avenge and reward the beleaguered church. How long, indeed! So, 2,000 years ago, Tomlin’s words would have been extremely poignant and far more emotionally compelling than they are today. Why?  Because the Holy Spirit convinced every last NT author that Jesus was indeed coming soon. So again, since Chris Tomlin has received no such divine inspiration, what gives him the certainty that he’s right? This is the first verse of “Even So Come”. 

All of creation,
All of the earth,
Make straight a highway,
A path for the Lord,
Jesus is coming soon.

Contrast this with the inspired Apostle Paul’s writings…

(1 Cor 1:7) Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

(Heb 9:28) so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Do you see the problem? Something is awry and though many refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, a few decades ago it began to weigh heavily on my soul. Why were the NT authors inspired to create such eager anticipation? Were the recipients of these letters mislead? Are the souls under the altar still crying out “How long?”

Living nearly 2,000 years after the fact, I am quite frankly baffled by the repeated insistence that “Jesus is coming soon.”  Though Tomlin is convinced that after 2,000 years of assuming Jesus’ imminent arrival is even more imminent than ever, I believe the eschatology promoting this kind of soon coming should provoke a rather troubling question. If not then (in the AD 60s when every NT author proclaimed Jesus’ imminent return), why now? What has fundamentally changed that would cause Tomlin to be so confident that we have finally arrived at what has been an interminably imminent moment?

(At this point, let me offer a disclaimer lest you get the very wrong impression that I am a skeptic. I am NOT! Far from it. I believe every word that proceeded from the mouths and pens of those who authored the NT. This problem, some refer to as “the time statements”, is one of interpretation, not inspiration. (2 Tim 3:16)

Yes, it’s clear that America’s moral climate has degraded to the point where it is rivaling that which has been commonplace in Europe for decades. And yes, the fabric of life as it was in the 1950s has been torn apart and is in disrepair. How often though have we heard the Apostle Paul’s warning to Timothy, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come”  used as proof that we must be living in the last days near the end of time? The apocalypse must be just around the corner! The worse things get, the closer to Jesus’ coming…or so many believe.  

Following Paul’s ominous words was a laundry list of moral depravity: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Tim 2-5)

Exposing all manner of wickedness, I constantly hear items plucked from this menu of sinful proclivities as proof that we have finally reached the zenith of a sin-drenched world. But let me pause for a moment and ask a question. Is there truly anything on Paul’s list that is peculiar to 2016? Lovers of self and lovers of money? Disobedient to parents? Ungrateful? Haters of God? Lovers of pleasure? Does anyone seriously believe that this list could not apply to every generation since it was written? If we think that things today are worse than they’ve ever been, I think it’s time we take a serious peek into history to gain context.  Perhaps a read through George Holford’s 1805 classic, “The Destruction of JerusalemAn Absolute & Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity” would be in order (the pdf is only 30 pages in length)?

Stop for a moment and put your objective hat on. Do you truly believe that at the time the Apostle Paul issued this warning, that this group of sins wasn’t thoroughly inculcated into that AD 60s generation in which Paul wrote? (and I’m not talking about the 1960s!) Considering the very next verse. “Avoid such men as these“, why in the world was Timothy instructed to “avoid such men” if Paul was specifically targeting our generation 2,000 years into the future? How could Timothy and his disciples avoid evil men who were thousands of years from being born? And since when has anyone argued that the humanism which has swept through Europe and America in the past century, could in any way be construed as “holding to a form of godliness”? There is no semblance of godliness in today’s secularism.

This isn’t a description of our day’s moral depravity, but rather of the times in which it was written a few decades after the ruling religious elite who killed Jesus continued to deny their Him as they persecuted His followers. Paul, in his warning to Timothy of that which was to befall that wicked and perverse Christ-killing generation in the latter days, exhorted Timothy to stay the course of godliness. It is imperative that we read the NT letters with first-century glasses. How can we possibly think we can understand Paul’s second letter to Timothy if we rip from it’s AD 60s moorings and time-warp it into the 21st century? 

(2 Timothy 3:10) But you [Timothy] have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured.

How often have you heard a pastor or teacher pluck the following verse completely out of it’s context and apply it specifically to our time? If evil men and imposters have been growing worse and worse since the AD 60s, then we wouldn’t be able to go outside for fear of being murdered. Paul is talking about the wickedness of his time, not ours when false Christs and antichrists were attempting to deceive the Church.  

(2 Tim 3:13-15) But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 

Notice the exhortive contrast in the very next verse to the proliferation of evil.

14 But you [Timothy] must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Yes, there was indeed a crescendo of evil as men were growing worse and worse in the last days of Old Covenant Israel. During the war with Rome (AD 67-70), the wickedness inside Jerusalem was unparalleled. Consider for a moment how the 1st-century Jewish historian, Josephus, characterized the generation to which Paul was referring.

“Neither did any other city [Jerusalem] ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age breed a generation [AD 30-70] more fruitful in wickedness than this one, from the beginning of the world.” War of the Jews, Book V, Section X, Flavius Josephus.

No generation since the foundation of the world was more fruitful in wickedness? And this includes the days of Noah! How often has someone or perhaps even you cited sins on Paul’s list as proof that we’re living in the last days? Though I don’t have time to fully explore it here, did you know that both Peter (in Acts 2:16-21) and Paul (Hebrew 1:1-2) said rather unequivocally that they were living in the last days

Sidebar note: If the “last days” lasted longer than the Mosaic economy it was supposed to be the tail end of, does that make any sense? If we continue to ignore the meanings of these kinds of simple phrases, I think we do ourselves a grave disservice.

So is Chris Tomlin referring to the same soon which was associated with the last days of the Old Covenant economy? Is he referencing the same soon that Jesus prophesied in the 1st words of the apocalypse? “The Revelation [unveiling not the concealing] of Jesus Christ, which God [the Father] gave Him [Jesus] to show to His bond-servants [in the seven churches of Asia Minor], the things which must SOON take place…” (Rev 1:1)  Tomlin is also using the same imminent phraseology that James, the brother of Jesus used: “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is NEAR.” (James 5:8)

Is Tomlin echoing the sentiment of Peter as he addressed the Church in his first epistle: “The end of all things is NEAR”? (1 Pet 4:7)  Or the Apostle Paul, writing in the early AD 60s to the Philippians and Hebrews respectively, “The Lord is NEAR” and “In A VERY LITTLE WHILE He who is coming will come and WILL NOT DELAY.” (Phil 4:5; Heb 10:37)

The common theme throughout the New Testament was the eager expectation that Jesus was, in fact, coming soon. So again, the question we all should be asking is, Why now, Chris? Could it be that many ignore the timing because they have not understood the nature of His coming? This sense of imminent anticipation is dripping from the pages of the NT. “EAGERLY WAITING for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Cor 1:7“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who EAGERLY WAIT for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb 9:28) Just before Jesus conquered the grave and ascended to the right Hand of the Father in AD 30, He made clear that He was returning in that first-century generation while some of His followers were still alive. (Matt 24:34; 16:27-28)  It should, therefore, be noted that Jesus created this eager anticipation of the blessed hope.

We’ve been told ad nauseum that all of the imminent language surrounding the second coming of Christ had no direct relevance to the beleaguered and maligned first-century believers who received it. It has been beaten into our brains that when Peter, Paul, James or John spoke imminently about the Parousia (coming with a consequential presence), that they really didn’t mean it, because after all, God’s timing is not ours. Is time really supposed to be cajoled, manipulated and elasticized to fit the reader’s paradigm?

Twenty-six hundred years ago God put an end to the proverb, “The days are prolonged, and every vision fails’”. In other words, just as today when people take Peter’s “a day of the Lord is as a thousand years” out of context arguing that God’s prophetic word is as elastic as silly putty, they did the same in Ezekiel’s day. And notice how God addressed this notion.

(Ezek 12:23- 2523 Tell them therefore, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will lay this proverb to rest, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.”’ But say to them, ‘“The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision. 24 For no more shall there be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. 25 For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,” says the Lord God.’

Could God have been any clearer? “It will no more be postponed”!!! “The days are at hand and the fulfillment of every vision”. And if anyone questioned God at this point, He made it even clearer.(Ezek 12:26-29) 26 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 27 “Son of man, look, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ 28 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done,” says the Lord God.’”

So again, when Paul wrote, “In A VERY LITTLE WHILE He who is coming will come and WILL NOT DELAY”, are we on safe ground to say, that which Paul prophesied was to take place “many day from now”? If “None of my words will be postponed” doesn’t mean “Will not delay”, what does?

Listen, I realize for some this is a very hard teaching. But rather than continue to foster a proverb that God put to rest, shouldn’t we take the intellectually honest high road and try to figure out what Jesus and the NT authors meant by their many imminent statements? Is it possible that they were correct and that our presuppositions are in error?

Do you really believe that Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God the Father after He had overcome physical death and ascended to glory, was speaking ambiguously when He said, “things which must soon take place…for the time is near”? Listen, I realize this puts serious pressure on your eschatological worldview and what you’ve been taught for probably your entire Christian life. I understand the angst. I was there wrestling with this very issue for decades. I believe there is a better answer than the one which we have been given for the past 150 years.

Read the following words and ask yourself why soon means soon when Tomlin wrote it but in the inspired word of the living God, soon supposedly means thousands of years?

Jesus is coming soon.
Call back the sinner,
Wake up the saint,
Let every nation,
Shout of Your fame,
Jesus is coming soon.
Like a bride,
Waiting for her groom,
We’ll be a church,
Ready for You,
Every heart longing for our King,
We sing…
Even so come,
Lord Jesus come.
There will be justice,
All will be new,
Your name forever,
Faithful and true,
Jesus is coming soon.
So we wait,
We wait for You,
God we wait,
You’re coming soon.

How on earth can Tomlin know that Jesus is coming soon? Sure, he’ll appeal to the condition of our world and conclude that it can’t get much worse. But is that really the case? Does he have any understanding of history? Are we truly living in the most horrific times’ mankind has ever experienced? Is it possible that times have been far worse, especially in the first century just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? And is it possible that the NT reference to “last days” was not speaking about the end of the world but rather the end of the age?  

A King James mistranslation of Matthew 24:3 has created some rather skewed expectations. The disciples asked Jesus when the “end of the age [aion]” and NOT “end of the world [kosmos]” would come. This is absolutely critical. Did you know that there’s not one reference in the NT referring to the “end of the world“?
I highly recommend three lectures/sermons which may answer many of your questions. The first is from an Australian pastor, John Alley as he specifically targeted the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. 

The other two come from Bruce Gore who is one of the best teachers in biblical history I’ve ever encountered. These come from his “Apocalypse in Space and Time” series.

Posted in 2nd Coming, Eschatology | Leave a comment

Is Israel the apple of God’s eye?

How many times have you heard someone say, I believe the Jews i.e. modern-day Israel, are God’s chosen people and the apple of God’s eye? In the minds of many, this view is so sacrosanct that to dare question it is to hang one’s toes over the precipice of heresy. Rather emphatically and defiantly, John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, makes clear that receipt of heavenly blessings is contingent upon the way individuals and nations treat Israel. After quoting Genesis 12:3, Hagee writes, “God has promised to bless the man or nation that blesses the Chosen People. History has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the nations that have blessed the Jewish people have had the blessing of God; the nations that have cursed the Jewish people have experienced the curse of God.” So if you even question Israeli policy, Hagee asserts that you become an enemy of God.

Oddly and contrarily, all those who espouse this popular doctrine known as Christian Zionism put little to no emphasis on the way nations and individuals treat Jesus the Messiah. And I find that somewhat curious, don’t you?

It might be argued that Jesus is central in the Christian Zionist view, but if we listen to those championing this message, rarely is there mention of Jesus in this same context. And I find this rather telling. Perhaps it should be the first sign that something is amiss with this supremely popular doctrine.

So, according to this view of the Bible, the secular nation of Israel (which was founded in 1948), is THE focal point of Bible prophecy. Let me again point out that any doctrine, unwittingly or not, neglecting to make Jesus Christ the centerpiece of both history and prophecy, must be questioned. Admitted or not, intention or not, in the political rhetoric of the Christian Zionist, the supremacy of Jesus Christ has been supplanted by the nation of Israel.

And lest anyone think Hagee stands alone, the late Jerry Falwell, founder of one the largest Christian university in the world, echoed Hagee when he wrote, “I believe that the people of Israel are the chosen people of God.” Not to be outflanked, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke in 2006, former presidential candidate and founder of CBN, Pat Robertson, made this startling and disturbing declaration, “God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says ‘This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No, this is mine.’ … He was dividing God’s land. And I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.’ God says, ‘This land belongs to me.You better leave it alone.'”  

So, not only must we support the nation of Israel and turn a blind eye to the human rights violations it commits, but we must protect the dirt on which the nation rests lest we incur the wrath of God.

The above statements are standard fare within evangelical Christian leadership and not surprisingly, it is also the view held by the majority of the laity in American mega-churches. Given the dominance of Christian Zionism, one might conclude that this doctrine has overwhelming Biblical support. But to the surprise of those who take the time to study this issue on their own, that is not even remotely the case.

You may be shocked to learn that every New Testament usage of the word “chosen” (by God), refers singularly to those who have faith in Christ. And nary once is it mentioned in the context of national Israel or even physical descendants of Abraham, that they are “God’s chosen people”.

So, how in the name of intellectual honesty, have we come to the place where we regard the Jews as “the apple of God’s eye”? It’s as if the New Testament was never written because save for a few cherry-picked verses, there’s not a shred of New Testament support. Neither Jesus nor any New Testament author ever stated or even implied that ethnicity was a Kingdom factor. Matter of fact, Jesus emphatically stated, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” Does this sound like an endorsement for the Jews continuing to be God’s chosen people? How can one read this and other similar statements in light of what Christian Zionists teach?

It will be developed more thoroughly in the video below, but suffice it to say, the Apostle Paul couldn’t have been clearer in his opposition to Christian Zionism when he wrote, “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GODAND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”  What about the Jewish birthright, Paul?

Well, just a few verses down Paul added, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Therefore, becoming a child of Abraham didn’t/doesn’t involve heritage, birthright or any other physical factor…for we all, both Jew and Gentile Christ-followers, are heirs according to the promise. Today there is neither ethnicity in God’s Kingdom nor is there any advantage to being born with even a fraction of Abraham’s blood. The first century Jews had every advantage (Romans 9:1-5) but it was all for naught since only a remnant (Romans 9:27; 11:5) was to be saved.

And if you think any of the above verses are isolated, let me say gently that you would be wrong. The New Testament overwhelming rebuts the notion that the Jews are God’s chosen people and it resoundingly opposes this idea that the modern nation of Israel must be supported at all cost. The decision to support Israel or any nation for that matter should be made on political and moral grounds irrespective of one’s bloodline.

At this point let me make clear that I am NOT saying that Israel has no right to exist or to defend itself against aggression. That is a false charge that I, and those who side with the Apostle Paul, have been accused of. Simply because I believe Christian Zionism is seriously misguided and cannot be supported Biblically, does not mean that I side with Muslim extremists who wish to drive Israel into the sea. I vehemently oppose ALL aggression, for Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” And this ministry of reconciliation should be the role of all Christians as we bring the good news of the Gospel to all, showing no genetic partiality.

In fleshing out this extremely important issue, let me recommend to you the following lecture from friend and UK rector, Stephen Sizer. He. in my view, did a masterful job of dealing with and exposing the fallacies of Christian Zionism. If you will set aside your presuppositions for just a few minutes, you may be exposed to some ideas that you’ve possibly never considered. Surely, none of us likes change and we even less want to admit being wrong, but after studying this issue a number of years ago, I was forced to alter my view and admit that I had been very wrong. So please keep an open mind. Perhaps this article and the video won’t cause a complete change of mind right now, but it may provide the seeds that may grow into a paradigm alteration.

Let me add that both Stephen and I love the Jewish people just as the apostle Paul did. For in his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”. Paul was so distraught by the Jews stiff-necked unbelief, that he was willing to be accursed if it meant their salvation. But, and this is a very important distinction: those of us who oppose the doctrine of Christian Zionism don’t love the Jews exclusive of other people groups. Everyone needs the Gospel, no less the Muslim, the Hindu or our mail carrier. 🙂 Jesus Christ has brought His bountiful blessings to the nations, and this includes Israel, but it also includes China, Iran, India and the rest of humanity!

“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you. So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatian 3:6-9)

Anyone, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, deist or agnostic, can become a child of Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the focal point of human history and how you treat Jesus Christ will determine whether you will be blessed or cursed eternally.

Posted in Eschatology, Israel, Zionism | Leave a comment

Does anybody really know what time it is?


Does eschatology matter? Clearly, it’s not a bedrock issue like the atonement, the virgin birth or the deity of Christ, so why waste valuable time studying a doctrine that causes so much conflict and seems to accomplish so little? After all, whether we understand the Biblical view of the end times or not, everything is going pan out the way God intends. So, since brilliant people can’t come to a meaningful consensus, why bother flirting with a subject that seems above most of our pay grades? Wouldn’t it be prudent to simply take the path of least resistance rather than get caught up in all the hype and confusion that accompanies the prevailing eschatological view? After all, who do we think we are, believing that we can discover God’s truth on a subject that those far brighter have been jousting about for centuries? 

Well, perhaps after watching this short video, you’ll begin to appreciate the reasons why eschatology really does matter and why it might be time for you to take a serious look. Maybe it’s not quite as complicated as you’d imagined? And it may turn out to play a far more extensive role in the health and vitality of the Church than you’d ever dreamed…and it might even make a difference in the way you view your future. 

Posted in 2nd Coming, Eschatology | Leave a comment

bin Laden re 9/11 in his own words

I continue to hear people, empowered by conspiratorialists like Alex Jones, claim that ISIL, ISIS or whatever name you choose for the Islamic State, is merely a fabrication of the CIA/Mossad, and that the terror they are accused of spreading, only serves to falsely demonize Muslims. But what about the beheadings? Crisis actors. Yes, that’s correct, they insist that the dead journalists were just part of the illusion. And these same conspiratorialists believe that the U.S. government in consort with Israel, plotted and perpetrated 9/11 and that they, are the greatest dangers to worldwide freedom. 

Now, if you believe or are entertaining such a belief, I’d like to know if you’ve ever taken the time to listen to the words of Osama bin Laden one month after the collapse of the Twin Towers. In this interview, bin Laden not only proudly claimed responsibility for the attacks on New York and Washington, but he openly shared his motivations for masterminding this nefarious plan? 
However, the conspiratorialists are not easily fooled. They insist that bin Laden was a mere CIA asset and that he’s simply part of the charade. 
I’d like to challenge you to listen carefully to bin Laden, as he clearly enunciates the fact that he is not a pawn of the west, and has only and always represented the interests of Islam. If you think this is a vaudeville act, then you will have no trouble believing just about anything. 
Why was America attacked on 9/11? Bin Laden states a number of reasons, one being the U.S. backing of Israel as they’ve treated the Palestinians with contempt. But the bottom line is that bin Laden was no a patsy. Most people won’t watch the interviews, but they will continue to repeat the mantra, “9/11 was an inside job” and then begin to turn reason on its ear. 
*Addendum. All of the videos (posted at the time of this blog article) of the bin Laden interview have been removed by YouTube. But even after watching those videos which went into great detail explaining bin Laden’s motivation perpetrating the attacks, few conspiratorialists will believe him. They will either say that he was part of the false flag CIA-planned attack or that he was scapegoated. 
Following is a nightly news report with bin Laden boldly proclaiming his motivations. Clearly not as thorough as the lengthy interview but nonetheless clear. 

Posted in 9/11, Conspiracy Theory | Leave a comment

Secrets and Conspiracies – never the twain shall meet

The following story is a rather poignant reminder why large-scale conspiracies involving hundreds, if not thousands of people, simply cannot be true. The fact is that people can’t keep their mouths shut… not for long. Even in this small group of highly trained Navy Seals, not all of them kept their traditional oath of silence. When money, fame and/or notoriety are on the line, somebody always chirps.


On Nov. 11 and 12, Fox News Channel will air “The Man Who Killed Usama Bin Laden,” a two-part documentary featuring “an exclusive interview with the Navy SEAL who says he fired the shots that killed terrorist leader Usama Bin Laden,” according to a Fox media release, using an alternate spelling for the jihadi’s name. The retired SEAL, “who will reveal his identity and speak out publicly for the first time, describes the events leading up to and during the historical raid that took place on May 1st, 2011.” (TBO.com)

Though the detail in which “The Shooter” described his assassination of bin Laden seems inappropriate for public consumption, it nonetheless serves to confirm this object lesson. Silence, even in an event confined to a band of brothers, is a virtual impossibility. And this Seal team revelation came to light less than 2 years after the death of bin Laden. 
So when people talk about conspiracy theories on the magnitude of 9/11, where thousands had to have been “in the know”, the chances of long-term silence are extremely slim. It’s simply contrary to human nature, especially in a free society?
Recently, a Facebook friend argued that since the BBC reported the collapse of WTC7 (the Solomon Brothers building) in advance of the actual collapse, this was proof that the BBC had prior knowledge. Therefore, in his eyes, this was clear evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, that Larry Silverman (owner of the complex), plus all of the alphabet networks, the CIA, the Mossad, the U.S. military, and many high-level government officials, were all in on the plot. 

So instead of this fellow realizing that on that chaotic day of mass hysteria, reporting was at times confused and downright errant, he chose to believe that thousands knew of the supposed conspiratorial plans to bring down the Twin Towers and WTC 7 through controlled demolition, to wreak havoc on the Pentagon through a missile strike, and to shoot down Flight 93 (that they insist didn’t crash in Shanksville).

As a sidebar, I have always found it absurd for the conspiracists to claim that covert operators within our government issued a stand-down order to the military tasked with protecting U.S. airspace (and especially Washington) and then argue that “Flight 93 was shot down by a missile and disintegrated in midair, scattering the wreckage over a large area.” So, if the intent was to wreak the most havoc possible why shoot Flight 93 down miles away from nowhere? Why not let the airliner hit the White House, Capitol Building or some other equally vital icon? And why, if the military was told to stand-down, would they have shot down Flight 93? It makes no sense to their narrative.

And that’s the point. Conspiracists have a nasty habit of throwing as much conjecture against the wall hoping something will stick. “I just think the official narrative sounds fishy”, they say. Their theories, when taken to their logical extremes, are nonsensical. And in typical fashion, after they realize one particular argument doesn’t fly, they say, “I’m just asking questions.” Asking questions is something we all ought to do regarding every event. We should never take the government’s word for anything. But finding a few anomalies, that on balance are nothing more than what one would expect in a highly fluid catastrophic event (with so many moving parts), does not a conspiracy make. 

Yes, indeed, the 19 hijackers were just a bunch of poor Muslim patsies scapegoated so that the U.S. could muster the moral justification to invade Iraq while ultimately stealing their oil. Or so it has been argued. So why weren’t any of the patsies actually from Iraq? Couldn’t the sociopathic NWO masterminds who were supposedly orchestrating the attack, have managed to throw a few Iraqis into the flight manifests? And why does the U.S. import a lesser percentage of oil post-Gulf War than it did while Hussein was in power? These menacing little factoids don’t matter to the true believer.  
Further, consider this. Why would the triumvirate of Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld have used four planes (two to strike the Twin Towers, one to merely fly over the Pentagon, and one to shoot down), as some sort of magician’s misdirection? Why not crash all four planes into hard targets to create the most damage?   
A friend, deep into the rabbit hole, scolded me, “Use your HEAD, man!” As if I was the one who was living in a dream world void of reality. But using my head is quite frankly what eventually woke me from my conspiratorial stupor. Instead of watching one propaganda flick which is riddled with lies and half-truths, I began to do some serious research. I decided to be a Berean and not simply believe what I’d been told. And so, after reading thousands of website pages and viewing the video evidence in detail, I climbed out of the rabbit hole and left the cozy confines of conspiracism.  
The bottom line is that people will believe whatever is necessary to confirm their bias. And even when confronted with the improbability of their conspiracy theory, undaunted they simply ignore the evidence, get verbally aggressive and move on to force the next square peg anomaly into their conspiratorial round hole. Anything to make the world less complex. 
So this latest Seal shooter revelation is further proof that massive conspiracies are as improbable as a snowy day in San Francisco. People don’t keep secrets even in the most well-confined events, much less the 9/11 granddaddy of them all. 
My recommendation? Break down every conspiracy claim and determine if it can stand on its own merit. Don’t fall prey to allowing the massive number of bogus claims overwhelm you. A hundred false claims do not the truth make.   
One concluding thought. For goodness sake, don’t watch one clever YouTube vid and believe you have all the facts. One of the guys obsessed with 9/11 being an inside job, did just that. He actually made the following statement which he believed was proof that WTC 7 had to have been collapsed by controlled demolition. “Your video [which simply showed the WTC 7 collapse in real time] shows NADA of this. NOTHING ON TOP OF THIS BUILDING absolutely NOTHING because they were turned into DUST!!!”

I don’t mean to sound unkind, but this is complete nonsense, devoid of reality. The slick “Loose Change” movie producers, using carefully selected video clips, led this dear brother to believe that the Twin Towers were basically vaporized into what conspiracists like John Lear and Judy Wood refer to as nano-dust. How could they come to this conclusion if they watched ANY of the video footage of the collapse? 

Watch the following to see the kind of “nano-dust” that fell to the ground during the collapse. They hauled away massive amounts of steel, but the revisionist’s theories are so compelling to the uninformed, they don’t even do a cursory fact check. 

Conspiracism is a rabid form of cynicism that is not serving us well. It’s both crippling and debilitating, and it causes such a severe malaise that one is left feeling disenfranchised and helpless. Ultimately people remove themselves from the political process believing that their vote and voice are worthless. Clearly, our government is seriously flawed. And yes, it conceals far more than it ought. But blaming the government for things done by terrorists is not only unhealthy but it’s intellectually dishonest. Don’t allow a small group of cyber-conspiracists to control the debate. Think for yourself.

Posted in 9/11, Conspiracy Theory | Leave a comment

Does Bill Gates want Depopulation through vaccines and health care?

A FB friend posted a snippet of a 2010 Bill Gates’ speech, “Innovating to Zero”, where Gates essentially outlined what he believed are grave environment problems that will guarantee cataclysmic results. He specifically referenced global warming through greenhouse gas emissions as the main culprit. One of his methods to reduce C02 is through global Population (P in the equation below) reduction. Though I have serious issues with Gates’ alarmist environmental claims (which I dealt with in a prior blog), my intent here is to focus on one particular facet of a statement which I shall quote in a moment. 
Because the amount of CO2 emitted correlates to world population (with developed countries emitting far more of the environmental load), Gates briefly mentioned ways to reduce the projected world population (currently at 6.8B headed to 9B), including “reproductive health services” i.e. abortion and contraception, and also the vaccine initiatives. Following is the exact quote from the lecture. 

“Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we lower that [the population] by perhaps 10 or 15 percent”. (article HERE, video below) 

Did you catch that? One can certainly understand how abortion and contraception lower world population, but how in the world can new vaccines and better health services also shrink population. Aren’t vaccines designed to prevent disease? 
Well, not according to the way Natural News and the many other conspiratorial-minded websites, interpreted Gates’ intentions. Natural News reposted just the first 3 minutes of the 30-minute lecture and changed the title to, Bill Gates Wants Depopulation Through Vaccines and Health Care.” And off they went with their NWO (New World Order) diatribe accusingdavos_bill_gates-jpeg Mr. Microsoft of plotting to wipe out millions. But is that truly what Gates meant by the above statement? Even if that was his intent, would he be so brazen to telegraph his diabolical plan to kill off half the world? 
Though I couldn’t disagree with Gates more on his bogus global warming assertions, and I despise (is that a harsh enough word?) his pro-abortion initiatives, anyone with a modicum of common sense should have known that Gates, in that 2010 speech, was not talking about euthanizing large population centers with some sort of killer drug disguised as a vaccine. Talk about confirmation bias!

Admittedly, though he sounded a bit like Mr. Hyde with some severely demented logic, he was essentially saying that reducing infant deaths by using vaccines and providing better health care, reduces a family’s fears of losing their children through disease. Therefore, he argued, that they’re not as apt to have as many children to compensate for the expected infant deaths. And given the following stats, one need not wonder why. 

  • Diphtheria–760,000 deaths
  • Hepatitis B–12,700,000 deaths
  • Measles–96,700,000 deaths
  • Meningitis-21,900,000 deaths
  • Polio–130,000 deaths (and who knows how many permanently crippled)
  • Smallpox–400,000,000 deaths (yes, 400 million)
  • Tetanus–37,000,000 deaths
  • Whooping cough–38,100,000 deaths
Gates wrote in his 2009 Annual Letter, that a surprising but critical fact [is] that reducing the number of [infant] deaths actually reduces population growth.”
He continued by explaining the theory that “parents will have more children when infant mortality is high, so as to ensure that several children will survive to take care of them as they grow old.”
Furthering that argument in a 2008 CNN interview, he said, “If you improve health in a society … surprisingly, population growth goes down. And that’s because a parent needs to have some children survive into adulthood to take care of them when they’re old. And so, if they think having six children is what they need to do to have at least two survive, that’s what they’ll do. And amazingly, across the entire world, as health improves, then the population growth actually is reduced.”
If Natural News had done a simple internet search or called the Gates Foundation directly, they would have preempted this false accusation. And if my friend would have done the same, it would have saved them the embarrassment of propagating a falsehood. One has to wonder if Natural News chose to close their eyes or if they simply wanted to believe the lie since it confirmed their bias against the nefarious “they”. This kind of bogus reporting, which seems all too typical of Natural News and similar conspiratorial “watchdog” organizations, makes the many Christians who share their blogs look rather foolish. But this raises the wider question about vaccines. Are they as dangerous, and are they’re makers as evil as they’re made out to be. 
Consider the fact that Small Pox, Polio, and Influenza have killed and crippled hundreds of millions. Do Natural News and the anti-vaxers really want to return to those days? It has been estimated that nearly 1.7 billion people have died from infectious diseases. Though Dr. Mercola points out that the Gates Foundation vaccination programs are not necessarily what malnourished, dehydrated, children living in squalor, need, vilifying Bill Gates as some sort of a sociopathic monster waging a murderous population control campaign through the use of vaccines, is libelous and irresponsible. Natural News and others who spread this disinformation ought to be ashamed of themselves.

If we don’t do a better job of holding these kinds of organizations accountable, we’re going to continue to look like fools to the world… and not for the right reasons. And the Gospel’s proliferation will be compromised simply because too many Christians are passing along these errant stories lessening our credible by the day.
In closing, let me leave you with some food for thought about vaccines. I apologize in advance for the occasional foul language in the following video, but I offer it to you to dispel some of the anti-vaccine rhetoric that I continue to hear. In my view, too much of what we take at face value from the alternative medicine community is poorly researched. Though I put little trust in traditional medicine in dealing with cancer and immune disorders, I’ve found that I was throwing too many babies out with the bath water. As Bereans, we tend to disbelieve anything and everything coming out of the establishment, but I have found this to be imprudent. Everything should be studied on a case by case basis. Vaccines are no different than anything else.
Posted in Alex Jones, Conspiracy Theory, Vaccines | Leave a comment

Global Warming, Fact or Fiction?

Global warming is a fact, the polar ice caps are melting and industrialization is the root cause. Well, that’s at least what the “experts” are telling us.  

Is our planet really in a dangerous state of warming precipitated by human activity? Are we truly on an imminent and ominous Armageddon type collision course lest we immediately and resoundingly throttle back our greenhouse gas production? One need only listen to the Paul Revere style rhetoric of Al Gore, John McCain and the true believers in this “climate crisis”, to realize that more than science is fueling this movement. It has reached religious fervor and, according to them, only ignorant neanderthals incapable of objective inquiry and open-mindedness could possibly disagree with their conclusions. The facts, they say, stand decidedly in their corner. 

Listen, I have no ax to grind. I want to be a faithful steward of God’s provision. If we need to alter our behavior to save the planet from calamity, I have no problem making the necessary changes. However, in my view, the interpretation of the facts may not be quite as clear as the climate crisis advocates would have us believe. In the “The Mind-Blowing Truth about Global Warming that Nobody Talks About”, blogger Steven Bancarz makes the following rather insightful observation.

Every single planet in our solar system is experiencing the exact same changes the earth is experiencing.   Uranus, Pluto, Mercury, Mars, you name it.  Global warming is not an effect unique to the earth, but is instead a universal phenomenon that is happening throughout the entire solar system in ways that have been documented by Hubble, NASA, BBC, CNN, and mainstream university professors and scientists all over the world.  Every celestial body in our solar system is undergoing dramatic changes, meaning that global warming on earth would still be happening even if it was uninhabited by humans.”

If you are confused by Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and wonder if the global warming denialists are full of hot air, I highly recommend the following videos. I think you will find that science is not as decidedly on the side of the alarmists as they would have you believe.

One closing word of caution. Though some climate alarmists appear to have an anti-free- market agenda, I don’t think it’s prudent to jump on the conspiratorialist bandwagon as so many are prone to do. Every issue must be weighed individually and should not be linked into some web of NWO (New World Order) conspiratorial fear-mongering dogma. You don’t have to believe that 9/11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing were false flag hoaxes, to realize that humans are not the enemy of God’s gracious provision. 

Should we be responsible stewards of the earth? Absolutely! However, the fact remains that global warming and cooling are phenomena which have been cyclical since the creation without regard to human activity. So it seems prudent that we ought not assault industry until we have a far better handle on this issue. And after watching the above videos I think you will find that man-made global warming is anything but a certainty. 
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Either Convert them or kill them! Islam or Christianity?

Who recently said, “Either convert them or kill them?” An Islamic terrorist or Cleric, right? It clearly sounds like Middle East rhetoric we’ve heard before, but in this instance, it was a famous Christian duck hunter. 
Phil Robertson seems like a very committed believer. In reading the book, “Duck Commander”, I came away with three thoughts. He really, really, really like to kill ducks (never heard of so many varieties), he’s a very simple man who loathes technology, and he loves the Lord. I believe he and his family are bold and courageous in their willingness to stave off political correctness and speak affirmatively concerning Christian values.  

Recently as a FoxNews contributor, Robertson made the statement regarding ISIS, “Either convert them or kill them.”

In reaction, a FB friend’s repost simply stated, “‘Convert them or kill them.’ Congratulations, Phil, you just taught the philosophy of Islam. I found the ensuing debate rather intriguing and invigorating. Many Christians supported Robertson with a “get them before they get us” mentality, The first response was, “He ain’t wrong when it comes to radical Islam. However, since a conversion is unlikely with these radicals, just save time and go to option 2”. Another posited, “If Christians and “Christian nations” do not bring “liberty and justice” to the world, then who the hell will.” Yet another expressed an entirely different point of view when he simply wrote, “He’s Phil’s Christ”, and then linked the following photo of Jesus holding a 50 caliber machine gun. 

To a wildly cheering crowd, John Hagee (video link) has made similar statements regarding the Palestinians, Muslims and what he regards as the terrorist state of Iran. A number of years ago he proclaimed, “It is time for America to consider a military preemptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel and a nuclear attack in America.” I refer to this as the Hagee commandment, “Nuke unto others before they nuke unto you.” 
The fellow who posted the Hagee video which included the above quote, wrote, “It’s time for all americans [sic] to rise up and nuck [sic] the terrorists in Iran before they come over here and hop on the Al Ciada naval ships and reign down nuckler terror on America! It’s time to say no to the racists and liberal ku klux klan nazi members like Pat Buchannan and Ron Paul who just want us to roll over and surreder [sic] to the terrorists.”
Though this guy (whom I have a great deal of respect for) could clearly benefit from a little spell check (which in and of itself makes him sound extreme), I don’t find his sentiment all that unusual. Perhaps most are not quite as blatant in their militaristic attitudes, but it appears that he’s clearly not out of the dispensational mainstream. Just watch the Hagee video and take a good look at the crowd as they cheer his war cry. 
At another time, John Hagee and Benny Hinn gathered to pray to lead this nation into war… Though the Hagee ministry eliminated this prayer session from public view based upon “copyright infringement”, it can still be found here: John Hagee With Benny Hinn: Praying For War, In the Name Of Jesus. Certainly doesn’t remind me a whole lot of Jesus’ sermon on the mount’s “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called son of God.” How did we get so far from the prayers for peace? 
But as much as it feeds our sense of justice to hold savages and terrorists to an account, is this a Biblically sanctioned response?  ISIS may be out of control, but to pray for the annihilation of a sovereign nation that has NEVER attacked us (Iran), seems less than prudent. 

The question we must answer is if Hagee’s and Robertson’s message is that of Jesus and the NT authors? Where does “love your enemies” and pray for those who persecute you come into the equation? Every last disciple (and yes, I believe John is included) died martyrs. Stephen didn’t even pick up a rock in self-defense and as he was dying said, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”  And the one time a disciple attempted to use aggression to thwart the enemies of Christ, Jesus rebuked him and restored the ear of the enemy. 
So are Phil Robertson and John Hagee correct? What should we do? Following is an interview with Semse Aydin, the Christian Widow Who Forgave the men who brutally tortured and murdered her husband and two other missionaries in Turkey

 In closing, please consider the following article, “Phil Robertson preaches Islamic doctrine? Convert or die?, as Joel McDurmon of American Vision weighs in on this debate. He wrote, “While Robertson’s sentiment resonates with a lot of people, especially conservatives stirred to outrage by gruesome videos of alleged beheadings and alleged threats to “America,” we must step back for a moment and check our reaction. 
On the surface of this quotation, Robertson’s response is little more than the doctrine of the very Islamic “thugs on steroids” he would confront. “Convert them or kill them,” is no different than the classic Islamic battle cry: “convert or die!” Is this really the response Christians should have? Is this what the Bible teaches? Is this even what the allegedly harsh and outdated Old Testament ethics for war would prescribe? No, it is not.
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The earth shall SOON dissolve like snow?

One of my all-time favorite songs, John Newton’s 1772 “Amazing Grace”, contains some of the sweetest words ever written. “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see”. God’s love, grace, and mercy are truly amazing! 

The healed blind man said it first, one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25) A whole new world opened up to him. What a powerful metaphor for our spiritual condition prior to faith in Christ.
As you may be aware, Chris Tomlin’s updated rendition of Amazing Grace (My chains fell off), eliminated the last verse and included the following.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine.
What you may not know is that Chris’ version, though a slight alteration of the one found in most hymnals, was, in fact, a revival of Newton’s original (published in 1779). 

John Newton, 1779, Olney Hymns 
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine. 

Do you notice the difference between Newton’s original and the one in the hymnal below? 

In the mid-1800s, the verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years…” replaced the apocalyptic predictions of Newton. 

With that revelation, two questions immediately sprang to mind.

1. Why was Newton’s “the earth will soon be dissolved like snow” replaced?

2. And why did Chris Tomlin bring it back?
Clearly, Newton believed like so many before him, that the current world conditions at the end of the 18th century signaled the end of the planet. And this point is critical because we continue to repeat his error. There is a doom and gloom atmosphere that pervades today’s Church as it has for the many generations before ours. The church seems to believe the worst about everything. The currency, financial markets, and society as a whole are always assumed to be on a crash course. But given the sordid track record of these doomsayers, should that not at least cause us pause?
Since Newton penned this beloved song so long ago (241 years to be exact), is that perhaps the reason this verse was eventually eliminated? Did someone finally realize that an event can’t be perpetually imminent?  That, since the earth did not dissolve “soon” as Newton expected, it became somewhat of an embarrassment? How long will it be before we stop to realize that something cannot be forever on the verge? 

In a sermon, this Sunday morn, the pastor, in his attempt to explain the imminence of 1 Peter 4:7 (“The end of ALL THINGS is NEAR…”), fell all over himself trying to explain what Peter “really” meant by NEAR (Greek eggizo). Surely Peter didn’t mean that the earth was ABOUT TO dissolve as snow, given the fact that he’d penned these words in the earthly AD 60s, almost 2,000 years ago… slightly less than a GENERATION after Jesus proclaimed, “This GENERATION will not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS take place” (Matt 24:34)? 

Even after reading two verses earlier “…to Him who is READY TO JUDGE the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5), the pastor immediately dispelled the notion that Peter, an inspired Apostle, meant exactly what he wrote. After all, the pastor quipped, Peter never said that the end of all things would take place in his GENERATION. 

Do you realize what this dear pastor was arguing? Even though Peter’s teacher, Messiah, friend, and Savior, made that exact statement some 3 decades earlier, simply because Peter didn’t use the word GENERATION, “near” basically meant nothing. I’m sorry, but this kind of logic is, well, not logical. This pastor apparently doesn’t understand the ground he’s giving the atheists and mockers of our day. We need to be prepared to give a defense, and this, in my view, is not it. 

The reason Peter made that and other bold time sensitive assertions was in direct response to the claims of Jesus Christ. Not only had Jesus said that “ALL THESE THINGS” would take place within a GENERATION of His audience, but He made it abundantly clear that He would return before His disciples finished going through the cities of Israel while a few were still alive. (Matt 10:23; 16:27-28). And, in the Revelation, Jesus at this point (approx AD 62) sitting at the right hand of the Father in full knowledge of the events about to transpire, told John “Things which are to SOON take place…for the TIME IS NEAR.” (Rev 1:1,3)  

So, respectfully, we must not continue to make these kinds of excuses for the Word of God. If we will begin to interpret it in context, we will find out how amazing the Bible really is. 

So why did Tomlin remove the one verse (below) that instills the inevitable, our date with death? I can’t answer that but it is, in my opinion, what our focus should be. Our lives will “soon dissolve as snow”. We are here but for an instant. Our life is but a vapor in the wind. 

For centuries, the millions if not billions who have awaited the return of Jesus, have one thing in common. They have all died. So doesn’t it seem that our focus should be on our life that will eventually fade? How precious is this verse?
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.
Concerning Newton’s last verse, a blogger wrote, “There will come a time when the “earth will soon dissolve like snow” — melting snow is something that we’ve all seen either in person or remotely. 
This comment is a microcosm of the modern day problem and is not dissimilar to that which the pastor said this morning. The majority have become so desensitized concerning time (the misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:8 is at the hub) that they don’t recognize this kind of faulty logic. Do you see it how inane this is? They are saying that there will come a time when the earth will SOON dissolve? Really?  Is that what Newton meant by “the earth will soon dissolve like snow”? Was he ambivalent about the timing of the end? Did he mean that one day in the distant future the earth would SOON dissolve? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 
If I tell my wife, “I’ll be there soon, honey,” does that mean that at some future time when I finally decide to leave the office, that I’ll be there soon? Can you imagine what she would say if that was my excuse for not coming home when she expected? How do you think this would sell? “Honey, I only meant that when I left, I would be there shortly.” These are the kinds of ludicrous leaps of logic that arise from having to support a very faulty eschatological system.
It has come to the point where words don’t mean a thing. Christians read the first verse in the Revelation, “…things which MUST take place SHORTLY”, and they are so conditioned to ignore the simplest time-sensitive language that they don’t even consider the impact. I’ve spoken to countless folks who have engaged in rather extensive Bible studies on the book of Revelation, and when I ask them what “must take place shortly” means they look at me almost incredulously as if to say, “We all know that shortly can mean thousands of years.” 
The reality is that John Newton, however well-intentioned, joined the long list of false prophets when he wrote, “The earth will soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine.” 
So why then did Chris Tomlin bring that verse back? 

Perhaps he was motivated by his eschatological presupposition? In my view, Chris made the same mistake as Newton. No doubt Chris believes, that given the state of affairs today, the earth will in-fact SOON dissolve like snow.
However, I want to know why, when he sings this verse, that he thinks soon actually conveys something that is actually AT HAND? If the inspired NT writers weren’t implying imminence when they used terms like “shortly“, “soon“, “at hand“, “quickly” and “in a very little while“, time becomes totally irrelevant and it would be impossible to hold a prophet accountable. So why would Chris use what has so often been characterized as a Biblically ambiguous term? (for a more comprehensive look at the Biblical usages of imminent language click HERE)

The kind of de-creation apocalyptic verbiage Tomlin brought back (earth dissolving like snow) is found in the Olivet discourse (Matt 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) and in the Revelation as the 6th seal is opened (Rev 6). So when were all these cataclysmic events supposed to take place? Written in Approx AD 62, Jesus, through the Angel, told John…
Revelation 1:1-3 (NASB) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
So, what’s going on? If the calamitous events Tomlin references were imminent 2,000 years ago but never happened, what makes him think they’ll happen soon? Do you see the problem? The issue is not with God’s faithfulness but rather our understanding of what is referred to as “apocalyptic language“. 
When the Bible refers to this kind of judgment de-creation language like the moon turning into blood, the stars falling from the sky, and the sun ceasing to shine, we need to determine if these prophetic words have EVER spoken of the literal/natural? The answer is, not even once. (for a fuller discussion click HERE) Until we understand the context and genre of apocalyptic language, we will continue to get stuck in the eschatological quagmire. 
So what’s actually going on here? What kind of expectations is Tomlin creating? If you expect the earth to dissolve in the near-term, how will that affect your expectations both in the near-term and long-term? Will it cause any lifestyle changes? Will you begin hording food? Will it incline you to become a prepper? Will you see any manifestation of societal degradation as an inevitable sign of the end? If you believe the world is on a crash course toward certain implosion, there’s little chance that you’ll have the necessary resolve to effect transformation for God’s ultimate glory? For the past 50 years “occupy until I come” has been the common refrain. Occupy? Is that truly what Christianity has become? 

The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians that the “time is short…for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29-31). And because they were nearing the end, what was Paul’s admonition? To remain as they were! “So that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it…” So why aren’t Christians heeding this message if they truly believe that we only have a short time left? Why aren’t Christians remaining as we are? Because Paul is most obviously warning the recipients of his letter with no regard whatever to us today? Scripture must be read in context lest we develop some very strange conclusions. 
Chris Tomlin is a gifted songwriter as evidenced by the wonderfully inspiring verse (our chains have fallen off and we truly have been set free!), but the problem is that he’s spreading an eschatological system that is simply not supported by Scriptural. Isn’t it rather audacious to say that soon actually means soon today, but it didn’t mean soon when Peter or Paul wrote it?  

The crux of the matter is that the experts have led us to believe that, when Peter wrote, The end of all things is near that he was referring to the end of the planet. Neither Jesus nor Peter were referring to the physical end of the universe, but instead, the end of the Old Covenant age that was growing old and ready to disappear. (Heb 8:13) Consider the following:

Revelation 6:12-17 (NASB) I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” 

If this passage is to be interpreted literally/naturally, do you notice the glaring problem? A dark sun, a blood-red moon, stars crashing onto planet earth, the sky splitting and rolling up while every mountain moves out of its place… and yet people are hiding under rocks? Are you kidding me? What rocks? How in the world could anyone hide under a rock after the entire Milky Way has obliterated our planet? This de-creation language is poetic and symbolic but it was never intended to be taken naturally. Yes, judgment was clearly coming upon the generation of Christ-killers and it was devasting just as Peter and the inspired Bible authors foretold, but not a star fell from the sky. 

If you would like proof that these things happened within the predicted timing (this generation), I highly recommend the following short book with a really long title, “The Destruction of Jerusalem: An Absolute and IrresistibleProof of the Divine Origin of Christianity including a narrative of the calamities which befell the Jews, so far as they tend to verify our Lord’spredictions relative to that event. With a brief description of the city and the temple” written in 1805 by George Peter Holford. With titles so verbose who needs to read the book?  🙂

We have unambiguous historical proof that these events did indeed take place “soon” as Jesus returned with both blessings and cursings. The holy city was destroyed along with the temple that will never be rebuilt. The sun never again shined on the Jewish nation that killed their Messiah as 1.1 million Jews died the most horrific holocaust that nation would ever see.
So the next time you sing this song or any song for that matter, ask yourself if each verse is Biblically supported. If truth matters, it seems that we ought to become more theologically discerning. Music is a simply marvelous venue with which to dispense sound theology, but if it is not theologically sound, the danger is that it can easily escape our filters and become inculcated into our views.

Perhaps “the earth shall soon dissolve like snow” should in-fact be permanently replaced with:


When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
Posted in 2nd Coming, Eschatology | 2 Comments