Monday, May 18, 2009

My Eschatelogical Woes: The Rapture

I have finished with Matthew 24. So far I am in favor of a post-millennial view of revelation. There are several reasons why I like this view:
  • It places Christ on the throne now, giving Him the authority He claimed to have at the end of Matthew [Matthew 28:18]
  • It means that the church through Christ will ultimately prevail, making me an optimistic person in times of seeming hardship
  • If the church is to succeed, it will be with the gospel. This makes Pauls statement that the gospel is 'the power of God unto salvation' [Romans 1:16] is true, because people will be saved
  • It presents consistency between periods of time. A long period at revelation 20 rather than at the beginning of Revelation 4 ('thousand years'1 versus 'after this' [Rev 4:1])

I still have some issues and I am afraid that English translations of the bible are not quite what they should be. Either that or I need to improve my Greek. Probably both. What was really peeling my onion this week was the issue of the rapture. The rapture is not found in Matthew 24, but it is mentioned by Luke and Paul:

9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,11and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."[Acts 1:9-11]

"16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]

This clearly speaks of a personal coming of the Lord. But wait... there is some devil in this detail. The very argument I use in Matthew 24 can be used against me: This passage is using personal pronouns. Now the dispensationalist will say: "You see that personal pronouns can be used with future intentions, since we know that Paul was beheaded, so he could not have been talking about himself." Well... not really. Personal pronouns are personal. But could this one be different from the usage in Matthew 24? Well, if it's the same we have a real hermeneutical problem, because in the one context we have Jesus speaking to His disciples on a hill, in the next we have Paul writing a letter to Thessonalica.

If I said "we humans landed on the moon" I would be correct in saying so, but to assume that I personally have landed on the moon would be a mistake in interpretation (as implied by the structure). Is that the case with the rapture? Do I convert to a premillenial view because a personal pronoun dictates that it must be a future 'we?' Well, no, that would be stupid because words start losing their literal meaning. The fact of the matter is that the 'we' is qualified as to whom it belongs: "who are alive [and] remain." This indicates that Paul himself didn't expect to see it, although it was probably his hope. His audience becomes the believers everywhere and everywhen. He even exorts us to 'comfort one another with these words (verse 18).' It is an instruction of hope, that we can tell other members of the Christian faith.

A premillenial view isn't the only one that has a future sight of the rapture. But the order of this rapture is very important. Some say that this connects to Matthew 24, but it doesn't. The context of the rature is the ressurection of the dead. There is no ressurection of the dead in the Olivet Discourse. Premillenialists seem to believe in a 'secret rapture' where no one will see Jesus. They must be deafened first to miss the trumpeting.

I'll leave it there for now. God bless and keep well!

1 I would rather be accused of taking the 'thousand years' to mean a long period of time that 'after.' Please note that in the Greek, much like English, a prefix would usually indicate numeracy, meaning that this actually does not mean one thousand.

Matthew 24 follow up

Matthew 24, as previously discussed, deals with events that are clearly prior to 70 C.E. Most people have a problem when it gets down to the events that are predicted in Matthew. The first thing we need to consider is the audience:

"See that no one leads you astray"[Matthew 24:4]

Clearly, in this first section (at least) Jesus refers to the disciples, he starts off with things that they are to not identify the coming of the end of the age by:
  1. Many will come in His name claiming to be Christ
  2. The disciples will hear of wars and rumors of wars
  3. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom
  4. Famines and earthquakes in various places

All these things do not mark the beginning of anything. That is what Christ is saying. He says this will lead to the 'sign of His coming' and the 'end of the age:'
  1. 'They' will deliver the disciples up to tribulation and put them to death
  2. The disciples will be hated by all nations for Christ's name's sake
  3. Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
  4. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
  5. The love of many will grow cold.
  6. And the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

At this point most people from the popular view will argue that their hermeneutic is scriptural because the gospel has not been preached in the whole world, and that will usher in the tribulation, rapture and millennial reign of Christ. Wrong! That hermeneutic will lead to read this verse first, lean on your own understanding, and then re-read the passage with 'futurist' eyes just because you think 'world' means something it actually does not.

The term 'world' here is the Greek word 'oikoumenē', which means 'land.' [SOURCE] It does not refer to every person on the planet literally hearing the gospel. Even if you believe it that way, try reconciling this:

"...the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth," [Colossians 1:5-6]

The bible points to the fulfillment of Jesus' words in Matthew 24.

Then some people will argue that Matthew 24 splits up the end of the age and the second coming of Christ. This is generally due to the fact that Jesus says " will be the coming of the Son of Man" in verse 37. Or does did Jesus come in Judgment in C.E. 70? I think He did. The reason is

"36But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. [Matthew 24:]

My argument is that Jesus came in judgment of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. I believe that the second coming is not taught in Matthew 24, but in other places of scripture, which I need to address.

The Secret


I am a fairly new member of the Christian society and I am still on my path of discovering what my absolute convictions in regards to theology are. Some people would label me as a liberal though I would describe myself as someone who is open to new ideas and opinions whether it be conservative or liberal. I am still very easily influenced and can easily be misled by wrong teachings.

The church that I am attending right now can be categorized as semi-charismatic/liberal. Last night in church our guest reverend hosted a discussion on the book "The Secret". This book has created a stir around the world and has been read by millions of people. For those who like me don't know what "The Secret" is here is just a quick explanation: The Secret revolves around the concept of "the law of attraction." Basically, you attract everything in your life to you whether it be good things or bad things. Successful people attract success. According to the the book this law is the sovereign power of the universe. You can not escape from it thus you must learn how to use it to your own advantage. By means of your mind you can learn how to control this law. You are your own destiny. That in short is The Secret.

Now, the reverend did not push for us to believe The Secret he just compared it to the bible and pointed out the good points and the bad points. At the end of the day it is up to you to decide if you want to believe in this or not. But what upsets me is why are we having an entire sermon about this?? If I had known what the sermon was going to be about I would have stayed at home.I went to church to receive a message. To learn something.To be humbled. To learn more about God. To prepare myself for this week.I did not go to church to have a book discussion. I feel that the church has far more important things to do than to waste an entire sermon on this. The first 50 minutes was devoted to the book with the last 10 minutes or so focusing on God and how we should give him control over our lives, how we can not be in control. I am sorry but the message was completely lost on me. Maybe I am overreacting but I truly feel my time was wasted.

Guest Author

I have a friend at work who wishes to express herself theologically every now and then. Thus I have invited Nelmari to be a guest blogger on gthruf. She is liberal and hates to be tied down to labels (hehehe...). I do not necessarily agree with her on all matters of theology, in fact I know I don't, but it will be nice to be bouncing some other idea's around the table.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Calvinism Number 3 in top 10 World Changing Ideas

I heard of this a while ago, but I never thought to actually link to it. But I have some time so it is worth mentioning. Time magazine is busy publishing the top ten of everything, one of them is "Ideas Changing the World Right Now." Who would have expected calvinism to even have entered their minds, let alone win the bronze?

"Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision." [Source]

'Amoritality' came in fifth:

"Amortality is a stranger, stronger alchemy, created by the intersection of that trend with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion — all viewed through the blue haze of Viagra....The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death."[Source]

Well, you can't have your cake and eat it now can you? It seems that while religion makes a difference, it does not necessarily make a difference to every single person.

Of course, not all religion is the same.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Lord's Prayer (Part 1)

The Lord's prayer is a topic of my study at the moment. I found that both prayer and bible study where waning, so I decided, in my usual lazy fashion, to combine the two. What a fantastic blessing it has been. Already my prayers are longer (not that it matters, but if we don't have much to say to our Lord and Father, we just can't say we love Him that much) and I feel genuine in prayer again.

I am reading the texts every day (Matthew 6 and Luke 11) as well as J.I. Packers "Praying the Lords Prayer". I am getting so much out of it that I think blogging can only make it better and further my depth.

Prayer is such an important aspect I'm not even going to delve into the text first, I want to get the context. The same prayer is given in two different contexts, so determining whether they were given at the sime time is not actually possible. I would say that although these texts are parallel, their contexts are not.

In Matthew 6 , Jesus is giving the famous sermon on the mount. He is giving instructions on Godly living before our common creator, right before prayer, he talks about giving to the needy, he connects the idea of giving and prayer in that both can be done far more humbly than what the religious leaders etc. of the day where doing. Twice in the text the phrase " And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Now Jesus did not give us a personal prayer, He actually gave us a group prayer. "Our Father..." which will be expounded later, but this supposes that we are not always to lock ourselves away, but that, appropriately, prayer must be done in a group.

In Luke 11, the sequence is heavily disconnected. I would assume that the preceding chapter is not tied to this chapter. We have a story of Mary and Martha, chapter 11 beginning with the disciples asking Him to teach them to pray. They must have seen the difference to the way Jesus prayed from the pharisees, but also noticed a similarity from John (the baptist?). In this context the disciples innitiate Jesus speaking of prayer as a result of seeing Him pray.

Prayer is our communication mechanism with God, it is not to be taken lightly. To not pray is to decidedly turn our back on our God. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. I think one of the main reasons I fall so easy is that I do not hold on to God as fast as I should in terms of prayer.