Saturday, November 29, 2008

God's Perfect Love

Listen to this...

Steve Brown says that, "Love in response to goodness is not love; it's reward. Fortunately for us, that is not God's way."

Isn't that awesome?

When we go to God dirty we can leave his presence feeling good. Not good in the moral sense but good in the emotional sense. It ought to make us happy. We can shout, "He's not mad at me!"

Think about it...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Why a 21st Century Temple?

In our church we have been studying some pretty heavy stuff...

A couple Sunday nights ago I did a two hour teaching on how the Old Testament Temple is obsolete and about how the Temple of God is now made up of Jesus Christ (the chief cornerstone) and the church (the living stones). This New Covenant Temple is a spiritual temple not made by hands. It is a temple that will never be destroyed. It is a temple that God loves.

Ephesians 2:19-22
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

Prior to these verses Paul writes that Jesus is our peace who has broken down the walls of division. What walls? The physical walls that kept both Jew and Gentile from entering the places not yet prepared for them under the Old Covenant. Moreover, they are the physical walls that separated man from God and His shekinah or indwelling presence.

1 Peter 2:4-8
"As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,' and, 'A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.'"

Here paul writes that we are being built into a spiritual house that we might be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God. Some Christian Zionists would have you believe that the "chosen and precious" stone laid by the Lord in Zion is a literal stone on which many other literal stones will be laid in order to rebuild the physical Temple of God in Jerusalem. However, this seems inconsistent with New Testament/New Covenant teaching.

Certainly, if we only read the Old Testament scripture through the lens of the Old Covenant and without a clear understanding of the type and shadow contained within it's pages, we will never understand the true meaning of the Old Covenant and the Old Temple. The Law was given to "tutor" us to Christ. The Temple was a shadow of the New Covenant reality that God's shekinah would be inside of man not a building made of stone and built by hands.

In Romans 12:1 Paul writes that we are to daily offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. He goes on to say that this is truly our spiritual act of worship.

Some criticize this way of thinking and accuse it of "over-spiritualizing" the Bible texts. However, there is a great deal of difference between spiritualizing the Bible and reading it with spiritual eyes. To Spiritualize the biblical text is to impose things upon a verse or text that simply aren't there. To read the Bible spiritually is to see things in a verse or text that ordinary eyes would not see.

Indeed, the Bible is to be taken literally. Understanding typology, context, and genre are imperative to a genuine understanding of Scripture.

Three quick thoughts...

1. If we believe that another physical Temple must be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, then we cannot believe that Christ's work on the cross was complete and finished; that he was not the once for all sacrifice that the Hebrew writer says he was. If daily sacrifices need to be re-instituted and the priesthood must be reestablished, then what of the spiritual Temple and the priesthood of all believers?

2. To believe that the Temple must be rebuilt before the Second Coming of Christ is to rob the return of its immanency. We cannot believe that the bride-groom will return at any moment for his bride if there are major events yet to happen that delay it from taking place. Either we can know the "day and the hour" or we cannot. Note the parable of the Ten Virgins.

3. To go back to the need for Temple sacrifice is to regress from New Covenant substance to Old Covenant shadow. Revelation 22 clearly states that in the New Jerusalem there is no Temple because Jesus is the Temple. Christian Zionists and Dispensationists alike will tell you that the Bible says that in the last days the Temple will be destroyed. This, however, in my opinion, is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible as well as human and church history. It is beyond me as to why Jesus would have to stop being the spiritual Temple for a period of time in order for a physical Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem so that it can be destroyed again at the last. However, I will refrain from explaining this in detail in this post.

Put it this way, if we would just accept that all of the Revelation (accept the prophecies concerning the final future of mankind) has been fulfilled, we could stop looking for signs and start living as the spiritual Temple our precious Savior's death made possible. The goal of apocalyptic prophecy is not to get us looking for signs, it is to encourage us that one day Jesus will come and clean up the mess. Let's move completely from Old Testament shadow into New Testament substance. Let's rejoice that God's shekinah is with us and in us and that we have direct access to God's throne-room. We are the spiritual Temple. Let's live like it and enjoy it's freedom.

Think about it...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exegetical Eschatology

I've always been interested in "End-Times" prophecy...

In seminary we were taught to believe the "Premillennial Dispensationalist" model of Eschatology. This view comes ripe with myriad charts and diagrams describing when and where End-Time prophecy will be fulfilled. It also comes with the ability to strike fear into the hearts and minds of people everywhere by threatening that if they are not right with God they could be "left behind." According to Tim LaHaye, Dispensationalisms favorite son, those who are left behind will suffer (along with the Jews, of course) the greatest tribulation this world has ever known. There'll be stars falling from the sky, water turning into blood; there'll be a one world government, a one world currency, and computer chips imbedded in the hands or foreheads of people everywhere in order that the Anti-Christ can keep track of everyone. If you listen to Jack Van Impe, he'll tell you that we'll also be having sex with robots and living on Mars.

As you can tell, I find this model of Eschatology very nonsensical. What is even more fascinating than the grand-scheme of events that Dispensationalists have wrenched out of the Word of God, is the large number of people who adhere to this way of thinking and interpretation of Scripture. Men like Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, and Jack Van Impe are all major proponents of the Dispensationalist convention. These men are indeed great men who love the Lord and do anticipate the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ in order that he might set up a Kingdom and restore order and peace to a war-ravaged world. I myself am the pastor of a small rural church and compared to these men my list of accomplishments seems rather insignificant. I'm not a prolific writer. I have not grown a mega-church. And I'm certainly not on television. So what gives me the right to criticize these proponents of Pre-millennialism? The simple fact that "error gives birth to error."

For decades the myth concerning a secret coming of Christ, where He "raptures" his Bride and whisks them away to mansions in glory in order that he might unleash His judgement on the earth and on the Jews for rejecting Christ as Messiah, has dominated the way the North American church interprets apocalyptic literature.

This myth was started in 1831, the same year Darwin was fabricating the myth of evolution and natural selection and Joseph Smith was fabricating the Book of Mormon, by John Nelson Darby. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Darby fabricated the myth that God has two distinct people, with two distinct purposes, and two distinct destinies.

Darby describes these two peoples as the Bride of Christ (the church) and national Israel. He believed that after the death and resurrection of Christ and the founding of the New Testament church on the Day of Pentecost, that God started a new "dispensation" where He would work to bring the apostate and obstinate Israel together with His glorious Bride, the church. The culmination of that work, Darby believed, would happen when the Jews were re-gathered to their homeland and subsequently exposed to myriad tribulations and tortures at the hands of a false-Messiah. Many believe that this tribulation at the hands of a false-Messiah will prove once and for all that Jesus was the Christos and that their rejection of him was a big mistake. It would stand to reason that what proved Jesus as Messiah was the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70AD which Jesus predicted would happen in Matthew 24. Contrary to faithful interpretation of Scripture, Dispensationalists would have you believe that Jesus was talking about the destruction of a 21st Century temple. You can see how nonsensical this eschatalocial model really is.

In 1948, when Israel once again became a sovereign nation, the frenzy began. People began speculating that the Temple would be rebuilt, the Rapture of the church was about to happen, and that anti-Christ was alive and planning his coronation as King of the World. With the advent of every new technology came the words of some fundamentalist preacher that this was the sign spoken of by the prophet John in the book of Revelation. With the success and popularity of the television came speculation that this was the medium by which the whole world would be able to hear the gospel and also by which we could all see the bodies of the Two Witnesses, whom the anti-Christ would refuse burial, lying in the streets of Jerusalem. (I am, of course, paraphrasing the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24 and the words of John in Revelation 11) and on and on the unbridled speculation continues.

Now, I must admit, there was a time when I believed the same things as Hagee and LaHaye (if for no other than I didn't know another way existed). I was perpetuating the error. For years I taught the youth groups I pastored about "God's Redemptive Plan" according to "Charting the End-Times" by Tim LaHaye, not according to the Bible. For months I taught an adult Bible study using misinterpretations of my Savior's words about the destruction of the Temple as the study source. I have even given money to support an effort to re-gather the Jews to their homeland in Palestine in order to be a part of the fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy. Now that I think about it, how arrogant am I to try and force God's hand and also, how evil am I to be a part of corralling the Jews back into Jerusalem so that I can be "Raptured" and they can face annihilation at the hands of the Beast? It just all sounds so confusing and ridiculous.

I could write for hours concerning this subject, but for now I will publish this post and see how you respond.

Think about it...