Posted in bible, clarity, eschatology, last things, macarthur, mohler, perspicuity, prophecy

Why prophecy is important (The world is unraveling)

I love prophecy. To me, it is the clearest identifier of God as sovereign over the universe, the earth, humans, and time. He writes history in advance, because He is king of all, and what He says will come to pass.

I also love studying the bible. I believe it is the highest and best use of time, to get to know the attributes of the LORD, to seek His face through what He has told us. If you want ‘direct revelation’, the bible cannot be beat for informing us of our Lord and King, Jesus.

The bible is knowable and understandable to the Christian. We have the Holy Spirit in us to illuminate His word to us. (Ephesians 1:17-18). The Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual things. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Of course there are some things in the bible we cannot understand, such as the Trinity, One God in three Persons. We cannot understand the Spirit’s overcoming Mary and producing a child. We do not understand all the ways in which God thinks. However, for the most part, the doctrines upon which He has given to us, are understandable.

One such doctrine is the doctrine of eschatology. This is the doctrine of ‘last things’, or end times. Just because there are many people who won’t or can’t understand the various threads of prophecy does not mean there exists confusion about what He plans to do. The pre-tribulation rapture is one of these understandable doctrines, clearly outlined in the bible to those who care to learn. Some people say Revelation is difficult, I find it easy to understand. I do find Daniel difficult, but that does not stop me from studying it, nor from turning to other scripture to help me interpret Daniel’s book. It can be done, and it has been done. Oliver B. Greene’s commentary on Daniel is wonderful. John MacArthur’s book “Because the Time is Near” is a clear explanation of Revelation.

Even this is a doctrine! It is called the Perspicuity of Scripture. According to the Theopedia, the perspicuity of scripture means,

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the “perspicuity of Scripture”) teaches that “the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will.”  

“The witness of the Church throughout the ages is that ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there.”

Yet there are some people who refuse to believe the doctrines of last things, because so many other people are mixed up over them. ‘They can’t be understood, so why try?’ I was told by one man in church. “I’m a pan-tribber, it’ll all work out in the end,” he said.

Illustrator, Chris Koelle, The Book of Revelation

That is a highly offensive statement, and I said so to his face. It is a blight on Jesus, the Spirit, and God who inspired it, and all the Apostles who wrote the inspired word, and all the martyrs who protected it, to be so blatantly dismissive of 30% of God’s holy doctrines. Jesus did not reveal last things to John, nor the angel to Daniel, so God’s people could mock them.

Did you know that every NT book except Philemon mentions last things?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

So I was so pleased when John MacArthur was asked about eschatology in his latest Q & A session at Grace Community Church. In Q&A session #62 it was stated by the interviewer that they had received more than a dozen questions regarding eschatology.

First, MacArthur noted that a church without a solid understanding of eschatology has got a huge loose end. Here are MacArthur’s words on the importance of the church understanding and teaching last things:

a church without a solid biblical eschatology, meaning understanding of the end of history has got a huge loose end. It’s huge. I said something about that this morning when I was kind of wrapping up. I said, the Jews wanted to force all the prophesies regarding the Messiah into His first coming. We have Christians who want to take all the prophesies concerning Christ and push them back into His first coming. They’re called pretrerists, amillenialists. So they have this theology with this totally open end. It just has no closure. They don’t seem to care particularly. It’s almost like a badge of Reformed loyalty to be unsure about how everything ends.

I am running into this attitude more frequently, the badge of loyalty to uncertainty. “I’m super-spiritually humble because I refuse to state how things will end.” Or, “I’m super tolerant of all the different interpretations, because who am I to say dogmatically? It’s all just beyond little ole me.” Uncertainty is the new loyalty. But is that right? Is that honoring to Jesus? Here’s more from MacArthur.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work well with me. First of all, I don’t think God gave a clear beginning and just kind of lost Himself at the end. I don’t think if Genesis 1 says that God created in six days and there’s no question about it, and He lays out exactly how He did it; and you get to the book of Revelation and you hear about periods of certain weeks and certain months and certain years and a thousand year millennium, and then an eternal state. I don’t think God lost His way at the end. I don’t think He was confused at the end. I think the end is as precise as the beginning. To be honest with you, I am far more concerned about the end than I am the beginning. The beginning is over. I’m glad it was what it was, and it explains why things are the way they are.

This is an important point. God did not state it clearly in the beginning and then back away from clarity for the end. He is just as clear in Revelation as He was in Genesis.

Source

As for the people who say, ‘There are so many interpretations, it’s just best to let go and let God. It’ll all work out in the end, anyhow,’ I say that’s just a bunch of lazy hooey. There are not many views of last things. There is only one view, God’s view, and He has shared it with us.

But I don’t think you can over estimate the value of a church with a clear ecclesiology and a clear eschatology. Clear understanding of the church, and a clear understanding of what the Bible says about how things are going to end. It does say something. It doesn’t say everything, and it doesn’t say whatever you want it to say. It doesn’t have ten views or five views or four views. There’s just one view.

MacArthur went on to describe a wonderful moment in Kazakhstan some years ago. Kazakhstan is east of Mongolia and north of Turkey. It is around the world. He was asked to teach 1600 men at a pastor’s conference. MacArthur taught 8 hours a day for 6 days a week. The men were hungry for the word, to be taught. They had been behind the Iron Curtain and now were released into more freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion, and to gather. They’d been denied a congregation, education, commentaries, access to internet or anything resembling study aids. They had each other, and the bible…and the Holy Spirit. So they wanted to know about all the doctrines, including eschatology.

MacArthur said,

I laid out; I went through the book of Revelation systematically and showed them the end. They said to me after that – I took a day to do that. The end of that day they said, “You believe what we believe.” I said, “I believe what you believe?” Same Bible. Guess what? It’s so clear that people with no training, no seminary, and no commentaries could understand what the book of Revelation said.

The reason I gave you the illustration about Kazakhstan is because that is as alien a place as you could ever be. Thirty-five hours to get there. You step off the plane. I’ve never been there. I don’t know what’s going on. I teach them a whole day on the end times, and they tell me that’s exactly what they believe. How did they come to that? They don’t have seminaries. They don’t have books. They don’t have anything. That’s what the Bible says. You have to go to school and listen to somebody who deceives you to undo that because that’s what’s there.

MacArthur has said before that any believer who landed on a desert island with nothing else except his bible can and would understand eschatology. The 1,600 Kazakhstan men were as close to desert island as you can get in this modern world, and eschatology was made understandable to them- because they studied it.

Source

As a note, what a glory it is that we believers have this unifying thread! What a moment of recognition between a Scottish-descended pastor from Sun Valley CA and Kazakhstani men isolated behind the iron curtain, to know each other as brothers! This unifying thread is the holy word, the Bible.

For men to say, ‘Ack, it’s all too much for me, it’ll all work out in the end, anyway,’ is a direct rejection of the wonder of being able to recognize and commune with brothers via a common and eternal understanding of God’s word, wherever you are on earth.

Rejecting eschatology is also a rejection of the work that the Spirit has done in men that He has raised up. Many resources are out there, as I mentioned, commentaries, sermons, books, timelines…it is all there for us.

To continue what MacArthur said about eschatology,

I think it matters how it all ends. I think God is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the Creator, the beginning; and I think He is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the consummator, the end. I think that’s a huge benefit for Christians looking at the world and wondering where is this going? Where is this going?

In talking to Al Mohler when I was back there a few weeks ago, he said he’s more eschatological than he’s ever been. He’s almost apocalyptic because he sees a world that just there is no way to reverse this. This thing is in a massive free fall, and there is no way to stop this. He’s pretty well-attuned to the way things are, and he says, “I’ve never felt so eschatological, so apocalyptic about the way the world is going.” Well, if you want to understand where the world is going, you can as a believer. That gives us such a powerful confidence that all that is coming is laid out for us on the pages of Scripture. I think that’s a treasure that a church can’t underestimate.

Do not reject the treasure of eschatology. It is just as much a treasure as the Psalms and the Gospels. Do not reject the work we are to do through eschatology. We have the answer to how it will all end. Lost people are confused and frightened about where this world is headed. We know it. Do not be afraid to study, and then to share.

What message does it send when a mature man of the faith in church makes a public statement dismissing eschatology? It tells the next generation that it is not worth studying, and bible illiteracy increases, just at the time when the next generation may be the very generation to see these things come to pass and could have been more fervent and diligent about sharing the truth with lost and confused people.

John MacArthur is a unique individual and is in a unique position. It was common in the old days for a pastor to stay for decades. Not so any more, where the average pastoral stay is 5 years or less. MacArthur has been at Grace Church for 46 years. He is 75 years old. He has seen history unfold, prophecy fulfilled and apostasy rise. He said,

I’m seeing this world unravel. There doesn’t seem to be any way back. I mean this is totally out of control. This is a free fall down a black hole. So, you can’t just say, “Well, eschatology doesn’t matter.” That is not helpful. People want answers. Where is this thing going? It’s not fair to God, it’s a dishonor to God to say, “Well, the Bible is not clear.” It is clear. It is absolutely clear.

Yes, it is sad and offensive that there are so many people who refuse to study last things. Those who dismiss the Spirit’s work in inspiring that portion of the bible are simply missing out on so much glory. It is also sad that so many brethren have unfortunately come to different understandings of what God clearly laid out. But does that mean we reject it all? Does that mean that is is useless for us individually to study it? No.

I just wish that the church was unified on what the Bible says. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t believe in Creation, but believe in some form of evolution. I think that dishonors God and confuses people. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t accept what the Bible says about the end either. But I think it’s wonderful that we do, and the answers are there.

God’s word has all the answers, including last things. Please do not be afraid to jump in and read, learn, pray, and receive illumination from the Spirit. Do not be afraid to seek credible, quality study aids. Always remember the perspicuity of scripture. The bible is clear.

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Further Reading

Academic Paper – The Master’s Seminary: The Perspicuity of Scripture

Essay – Oliver B. Greene on the Pre-Tribulation rapture

Essay – Thirty-Six Pre-Trib Rapture texts

Sermon – Christmas Future: Last Things of Jesus Christ in Revelation

Sermon – The Clarity of Scripture, Part 1

Posted in clarity, humble, perspicuity, scripture, The Hermeneutics of Humility

Sayings and mottos that sound pious but aren’t. #3 "I’m too humble to think that I could ever know what the Bible really means"

Part 1: “Let Go and Let God
Part 2: “I don’t use commentaries because they’re men’s wisdom. I only use God’s Word when I study.”
Part 4: #4: Pray Big Because We Have a Big God
Part 5: He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good

Some sayings sound legitimate on their surface. They sound pious. They sound biblical. Like this one: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Only problem is, that one isn’t in the bible. At all.

It is sometimes hard to tell what truly is Christian and what merely sounds Christian. Charles Spurgeon wisely said, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” So what sayings are right, and what sayings are almost right (AKA ‘wrong’)? Let’s look at the following sayings which have become such cliches.
Some of these mottoes are:

  1. “Let go and let God”
  2. “I don’t use commentaries because they’re men’s wisdom. I only use God’s Word when I study.”
  3. “We can’t know for certain what the bible means, I’m not that smart”
  4. “Pray big because we have a big God.”
  5. “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good”
#3, The Hermeneutics of Humility.

Mike Ratliffe said, “Hermeneutic of Humility” is a way of looking at our faith and interpreting the very Word of God through a filter that sees certainty as a product of pride and uncertainty as a virtue. … These people contend that to be certain divides people while uncertainty creates an environment of unity.

However the mantra that doctrine divides is a misconception. True doctrine does divide, and that is a good thing, because that is what it is supposed to do. But first let’s define hermeneutics.

CARM defines Hermeneutics as “The science of interpretation. Theologically, and biblically, speaking it is the means by which a person examines the Bible to determine what it means.”

The hermeneutics of humility says that anyone saying for sure what the bible means is being proud and displaying arrogance. Ultimately, it is a subtle denial of the truth.

There’s a new hermeneutics, a new science of interpretation called the Hermeneutics of Humility, and this is serious to the people who espoused this and their Hermeneutics of Humility say, “I’m too humble to think that I could ever know what the Bible really means and so I can only offer my opinion and I certainly can’t say that this is in fact the truth.” (source)

Now, while it is good to be humble (that’s why this saying is a subtle trick), let’s look at the difference between personal humility and interpretive humility. In personal humility, Romans 12:3 says,

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

In other words do not exalt yourself, but think soberly and judge rightly.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Do we suppose that sober judgment and rightly handling the truth means that we can never know what it means? As Paul would say, “What a ghastly thought!” Denying that the bible can be clear is denying the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes it clear. (John 14:25-26).

Yet the issue is a delicate one. Professor of religion and philosophy Winfried Corduan said, [link is to a .pdf]

…the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth (John 14:26; 16:13). The Christian interpreter ought never to proceed without relying in both mind and spirit on God’s gracious gift of illumination. Nonetheless, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (undeniable though it is) does not provide a short cut through the hermeneutical process. The obvious counter-example to any such presumption is found in the fact that Christians who are equally committed to the discovery of truth disagree with each other. But the Holy Spirit does not teach different truths to such believers. Apparently it is possible to (at least claim to) rely on the Holy Spirit alone and not arrive at truth. Consequently it is best to say something along the line that the Holy Spirit’s work of disclosure is not entirely divorced from the human task of interpretation.”

It is why we strike a balance between personal humility and interpretive humility in the learning process, and boldness and confidence in proclaiming what we have learned.
The doctrine of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture (that the central message of the Bible is clear and understandable, and that the Bible itself can be properly interpreted in a normal, literal sense) has been a cornerstone of evangelical belief ever since the Reformation. ~John MacArthur
The reason why these sayings resonate is because they sound almost right. There is a grain of truth to the fact that we need to demonstrate humility when we approach the scriptures. It is an interpretive humility we need to possess.

In Kevin J. Vanhoozen’s book,”Is there a meaning in this text?” he writes,

God is a speaking God. The Father is the one who, in the words of the creeds, est locutus per prophetas. [spoken through the prophets]. Most of what God does, creating, commanding, warning, communicating, promising, forgiving, informing, comforting, etc., is accomplished by speech acts. Moreover, God’s speech agency is the epitome of clarity and efficacy.”

Pride rears its head in people exhibiting a lack of interpretive humility when we believe we have got the meaning right before we have made the appropriate effort to recover it, as Vanhoozen explains. In other words rightly divide and make a sober judgment and with the aid of the Holy Spirit we will know what God is saying to us as far as our assigned faith will take it. Clearly and definitively. Because what good is unknowable truth?

Illumination: Wiki Commons

Ultimately as Vanhoozen says, “Humility must be balanced by conviction. The uncommitted interpretation is not worth hearing.

What a person adhering to a hermeneutic of humility is really saying is that:

–I am too lazy to put in the effort to really understand God’s written word,
–If we can’t know for sure what the bible means, then I don’t have to follow its commands,
–Look at me, I’m so humble I won’t even try to figure out what God is saying,
–God spoke but not clearly enough to understand it. He is a God of confusion.

Ask the Spirit to aid you in remaining personally humble, and seek His aid in being interpretively humble. Then, when the Spirit illuminates a truth to you, proclaim it boldly and certainly! The bible never says that bold faith is arrogance.

–In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. (Ephesians 3:12)

–Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:31)

Scripture itself at tests its own perspicuity, but not to the point that it can not be misunderstood or is in every point equally simple and clear. The doctrine does not rule out the need for interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible by qualified leaders. The doctrine does mean that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means… Professor Larry Pettigrew, The Master’s Seminary

Sir Gawaine the Son of Lot, King of Orkney,
by Howard Pyle (1903)

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Further reading

Definition: The Clarity of Scripture

Ordinary Essay: The Clarity of Scripture

Seminary level paper: The Perspicuity Of Scripture (.pdf)

Posted in clarity, holy ghost, spirit

The Ghost is clear

A funny kid thing. At recess last week, the kindergarten boys were playing. Two hid behind a tree and gestured across the expanse of grass to two other boys. One boy instructed the other, “You can’t go until you say “THE GHOST IS CLEAR”.

I and the other teacher on duty laughed at this, even asking the boy to repeat the message again. The Ghost is clear. So cute!

I thought about that all day. The phrase kept ringing in my head, and not just because the innocent malapropism was sweet, but for its spiritual application. There is always a spiritual application. I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I always apply everything to the spiritual , lol!

Now, spiritually, the Ghost IS clear. His functions as a communicator of joy to the saints. (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). He teaches us. (John 14:26).  He guides us. (John 16:13). He reveals the deep things of God and searches them out. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He is Light in our darkness. To that end, the Ghost is clear. Without Him, we can see nothing, we can know nothing, we can do nothing.

As Paul noted in the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, even with the Spirit we can only know in part, and we see through a glass darkly. It’s pause for thought that man’s depravity is so dark that even with the clarity of God’s Spirit we still only see through a glass, and darkly at that. But He is clear! His clarity brings us joy, guidance, edification, and illumination of the Word. Often forgotten as the third member of the Trinity, praise the Holy Ghost for His ministry of bringing God’s standards to us clearly!