Well, you have to at least give the guy credit for (finally) owning up to his mistakes. I really thought he was going to hold fast to his false convictions until the end…
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed when studying prophecy, it’s that coming to any certain conclusions is tough. I guess that’s how God constructed it so that while watchful believers would see prophecies come true and believe more firmly, the rest of world would not deliberately try to thwart His plans. Believers should also continue to live dutifully in this world (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) and not sit around counting down or anything…as tempting as that can be. As long as God is our primary purpose in life, we aren’t called to stand on rooftops holding up signs reading: “Come take us away, Jesus!”
We are to study these things and prepare spiritually (and perhaps take some practical measures as well), but we are not to date-set or tell people precisely how things will come to pass. For instance, we may know that there will soon be one world currency, utilized through the “mark of the beast,” but we shouldn’t boldly proclaim the nitty-gritty details. We don’t know if it will be a “666” blazoned across people’s foreheads (most assuredly not) or some microchip implanted in people’s hands. It could be something else that we don’t know of yet. Speculating is fine as long as we don’t push one possible way as the only way.
The ultimate example of prophetic difficulties, of course, is Jesus Christ himself. He was prophesied numerous times in the Old Testament, and the Jewish people thought they had a firm grasp of what to expect. For instance, the Jews were sure that the Son of Man coming on the clouds to reign in Daniel 7:13-14 showed their Messiah as an all-powerful ruler on earth. The 12 disciples themselves thought they were following this very man who would rise to the very top and stay there forever.
They were right…more or less. Jesus is certainly that “Son of Man” in Daniel 7. However, there was a wrinkle that no one really expected. They didn’t expect that Jesus would first be the suffering servant depicted in the Old Testament—see, for example, Isaiah 53 (they used to think that servant was symbolic for Israel, which actually doesn’t make a lot of sense if you read it with our present knowledge). So when Jesus was crucified and killed, the disciples were shocked and in disarray. They were so sure that Jesus would be a conquering hero, not a slain lamb. Only after seeing Jesus risen, post-crucifixion, did the disciples finally get it: Jesus would return as ruler of the world at his SECOND coming, after Daniel’s 70th prophetic week (see Daniel 9:24-27). Some of Jesus’ teachings, such as Matthew 24, only came into focus after the disciple’s shifted their expectations and were able to mold their ideas to the truth. Atheists, on the other hand, seem to fix their truths firm, and if something doesn’t conform to their thinking (or immediately “make sense”), they throw it out…but I digress.
I think a lot of present-day prophecy is like this. We come to conclusions, only to realize after the fact that there is something we didn’t take into consideration: an extra wrinkle or layer beyond the surface…
Don’t get me wrong, some signs are pretty blatant. While we need to be careful to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions—which I have admittedly done in the past somewhat—that doesn’t mean we should stop being watchful. Please don’t take the opposite extreme of living your life as the world does, thinking that nothing can be known or expected (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). Take in what you hear with a grain of salt. Use discernment and prayerfully consider things. Sometimes our best efforts may not be good enough, but hopefully we’ll at least come close.
If you read the Bible enough or deal with people’s responses to it, you’ll inevitably come across the question of whether it’s “fair” for God to kill people. Why is it that God can wipe out an entire city—or even most of the world’s population (Noah’s flood)—and He’s still all good, loving, and just?
Well, let’s get the obvious cliche answer out of the way first. By the way, being cliche doesn’t mean it’s not true.
God is sovereign and creator of everything.
If God created the entire universe, including every single person in it, then who are we to tell Him what He can or cannot do? Technically, our lives are in His hands, even on a daily basis. The Bible tells us (e.g., Psalm 54:4) that God sustains our lives, gives us our every breath. Why then is He obligated to keep us alive if we have completely turned away and rebelled? What does God owe us? The answer is, of course, nothing.
This answer is really at the root of the issue, but it’s not enough for some people. So let’s take a practical look at how we can justify God’s killing of people (even though a perfect being should never have to justify His actions to us). Note that this next section is based on human reasoning (mine) so it’s prone to error, but it’s just one possible way to look at it.
God knows every person and is completely just, punishing and rewarding accordingly.
Here are a few verses to read and consider before we dive in:
Luke 12:47-48: “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
Psalm 62:12: “and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”
What do these verses tell us in a nutshell? First, there are varying degrees of punishment and reward. In hell, whether you’re a traditionalist or annihilationist, it’s clear that people will be punished according to their deeds. This may mean longer suffering or a different measure of severity; we cannot know for sure. Second, God searches the heart and examines the mind. This means He knows our thought life and our actions—past, present, and future. Whether or not every one of our future actions is set in stone is not important. God knows where we’ve been and He knows the direction/path of our lives. He literally knows us better than we know ourselves.
Finally, God is loving. Sometimes, this seems to be at odds with His perfect justice, but it’s really not. They work together, but logically we can assume that God would want people to suffer the least amount of punishment while still achieving perfect justice. He will not overly punish anyone—there is no overkill with God.
So now let’s apply this to instances in the Bible. Picture the city of Sodom, where wickedness abounded. God was rightfully angry and wrathful when He wiped it out. But what gets lost in the skeptics’ minds is that God was also just and loving.
He was just because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but He was also removing a source of corruption from the world. Is it any secret that moral decay spreads quickly when left unabated? If you think peer pressure (and culture) is something that only affects feeble-minded teenagers, think again. It affects everyone, though to differing degrees.
If the people of Sodom were allowed to live and increase in population and influence, can you imagine how much the rest of the world may have followed? Every time a wicked people was allowed to live in the Bible (usually in disobedience to God’s commands), they would cause the righteous around them to fall to sexual immorality and idolatry. The natural flow of the stream always goes from difficult –> easy, high to low.
For example, the Jews—God’s chosen people—were easily taken in with Baal worship and some even committed the reprehensible act of child sacrifices. These kinds of things wouldn’t have happened if the wicked around them were wiped off the earth. If you think the world is full of evil and suffering today, please know that it could have been much worse if drastic measures had not taken place in the past.
All it takes is one prominent figure—for instance, in the music industry—to push the limits of decency, and the world will swiftly follow. Things that used to shock us or seem abhorrent quickly become the norm. We need more and more extremeness to elicit any moral outrage from us as we grow increasingly callous and desensitized. God knows that this is how humans are. In His wisdom and foreknowledge, He cuts off the source of corruption like a cancerous tumor…and then people accuse Him of being “mean” and “petty.”
God was also loving in this scenario, even to the Sodomites. Think about it logically here: if God punishes people according to their deeds, then you would think that MORE bad deeds would incur MORE punishment in the long run. So if God knows that the Sodomites were a lost cause, unwilling to turn from their ways, then wiping them off from the face of the earth instantly is the most merciful solution. This way, they will enter into the afterlife with a shorter rap sheet. Simply put, God will have less to punish than if He had allowed them to live longer.
Remember that sin entails punishment since God is perfectly just, but God’s love wants to limit the severity of that punishment if at all possible. The only way to do this (without infringing upon free will) is to cut a person’s life short if they’re headed down the wrong path.
This principle also applies to “good” people as well. Consider King Josiah whose life was ended at 39 years of age. All throughout his life, He served God and brought his people back away from idolatry. So why didn’t God allow him to live longer? Well, we may never fully know the answer to that question. Part of the reason lies in the sins of Judah leading up to that point (2 Kings 23:26-27). Realistically, there are consequences for past generations’ mistakes as well as federal headship.
But also, the event that caused his undoing may hold some hints. Egypt was marching up to the Euphrates River to help Assyria against the Babylonians, and the Egyptian pharaoh had rightly warned Josiah not to interfere. Their quarrel was not with Judah, and God had warned against attacking the Egyptians at this juncture (2 Chronicles 35:20-22). But Josiah, overly confident and reckless, decided to try anyway. He was killed for failing to take heed of God’s warning. Pride had started to seep into him after all the blessings God had poured out onto Josiah’s kingdom.
So why did God kill Josiah so quickly after one act of disobedience? Maybe it was a necessary part of God’s timing regarding judgment on the kingdom of Judah. But also, maybe God knew that Josiah was on the same track as King Solomon who preceded him. Solomon had started out his reign in complete and humble submission to God. After he prayed for wisdom—which greatly pleased God (because most people would have asked for riches and power)—God blessed his kingdom mightily. Solomon’s kingdom became wealthy beyond imagination and the king’s wisdom was known through much of the world around him. But this eventually caused pride to seep in, and not only that, but Solomon was taken in with the desires of his flesh—namely, scores and scores of foreign women as his wives. Solomon’s empire began to crumble away, and the next generation would see the kingdom split into Israel and Judah.
Anyhow, sorry for that detail. It’s still fresh in my mind from my studies, but the point is that Josiah may have been on a similar track. By killing him at 39, God may have seen that Josiah’s later years (from 40-on) would be more bad than good. So God lovingly allowed Josiah to die then and enter into the afterlife with a relatively clean record. Eternal reward infinitely outweighs all temporary worldly prosperity, including a long life.
I hope this made some sense and that I didn’t ramble on too much. Again, this is just my take, and it’s therefore very limited. But you can see how we can make some sense of God’s actions if we’re not so quick to close our minds. Knowing the Bible in its entirety helps, too. You can’t look at one piece of scripture in isolation, but rather, you need to piece it together in light of the overall picture.
God knows what He’s doing, folks, and please take comfort in knowing that He’s a lot wiser and loving than you and I could ever be.
Thought this was kind of funny, but at the same time one of those “sad but true” things.
This video is a parody of one of those TV CD offers…very well done:
These are the anthems of the lukewarm. May we all continue to make an effort to NOT let these songs be true in our lives!
My apologies for being a bit slow on updates lately. My first term of seminary just came to a close last night…this past week was all about working on a big final project for Pastoral Counseling, then studying for a multiple-choice exam and essay for Old Testament Survey I. But now, I’m finally done…until next week when I start New Testament I and Systematic Theology I. =) Can’t wait (though I wish I had finished out the OT with OT II…fascinating stuff)!
Anyhow, I thought I’d share this opinion piece about atheists:
I have to say, from my experience, everything he writes is spot-on. Yea, atheists will give you all sorts of excuses and reasons, but at the end of the day, their over-reactions and anger point to something deeper. The comparison between rebelling against parents and rebelling against God is appropriate. There is a sort of twisted pleasure we get in fighting authority, isn’t there?
I admit, I’ve been struggling to love atheists these days as the human side of me just finds them irritating and laughably hasty to draw final conclusions about questions that are way above their powers of reasoning. They really seem to think that they can solve the mysteries of the universe with about 30 minutes of pondering each issue. There are even kids on YouTube denying the Holy Spirit, and this kid probably just learned how to dress himself a couple years ago. Seriously, what the heck? (As you watch that video, you may cringe at the tragic haughtiness oozing from your computer screen.)
Yes, intelligent people are prone to question things and even poke (apparent) holes in theology. You think I don’t wrestle with issues in my mind all the time? I’ve lost count of the number of times I thought I had discovered some fatal flaw, only to be humbled later with further investigation. After this happens enough times, you should eventually learn your place—some much later than others (some never at all).
But if everyone stops at these initial “AHA!” moments and puffs themselves up, who knows what amazing knowledge about God they might miss? Most will vastly underestimate the complexity of the issues. Something tells me these people will never bother to get to the bottom of it; they’ll hardly scratch the surface. Their arrogance has convinced them that Christianity is paint-by-numbers and that they have already mastered its depths, despite the fact that scholars can spend their entire lives trying to unravel a single subsection of the Bible. Even “simple” chronologies take intense research, taking into account lunar vs. solar years, ascension vs. non-ascension year dating, coregencies, etc.
I know I’m supposed to care about nonbelievers, but for the most part, my heart is leaving them…at least those who are opposed to God. I need to pray and repent profusely. I’ve learned that I really lack in the area of love. I am a work in progress.
This blog was originally intended to be a place for apologetics and arguments for the faith. But more and more, I’m realizing that it’s a matter of the heart. Mining the Bible for truths is a lifelong effort, and it’s hard to find the motivation to stray away from that to find “real-world” proofs in the comparatively mundane areas of science, history, logic, etc. The Word of God is just so much more captivating to me these days. Maybe I’ll find a good balance soon.
Love is patient, love is kind…love is jealous?
Jealousy gets a bad rap sometimes, and as I often emphasize on this blog, I think it has to do with people’s tendency to oversimplify everything. Most people want their truths in obvious blacks and whites; nuances are troublesome to deal with. (There are also shortcomings with any human language that people seem to ignore.)
But if you think about it, true love cannot be wholly separated from jealousy. There are good and bad types, to be sure, and it’s important to differentiate between the two.
For instance, if I love my wife fully, it is not possible for me to be OK with her professing romantic love for some other man, or even overtly flirting with someone else. If I’m fine with her caring about another man more than me, then I think that points to an obvious lack of love on my part for her. I wouldn’t be jealous if I only had some kind of nonchalance or apathy toward her, but with complete love, jealousy is always a potential reality. This is a good kind of jealousy. It is a healthy indication or symptom of true love.
But if I feel strongly that she is not allowed to come in contact with any other men out of paranoia, or if I lose sleep over her commenting on the attractiveness of a certain Korean celebrity actor, then that points to something different. That kind of “jealousy” points to my own insecurity or a possessiveness that betrays the oneness and equality that is found in marriage. Rather than looking out for her happiness—out of love—I am watching out for my own fulfillment, using her as the object to achieve that means. Put another way, she becomes a means to an end (my own satisfaction) rather than an end in herself.
Now, considering that God is the embodiment of love (and truth, justice, goodness, etc.)…should the following verse surprise us at all?
Deuteronomy 4:24: “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
“But that’s the Old Testament God,” some people say. “Jesus changed all of that.”
Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.”
(By the way, I wish I didn’t have to point this out, but “hate” in the verse above does not refer to an intense feeling of dislike. The verse is emphasizing the relative unimportance of our earthly families compared to God. Considering that many other parts of the Bible show that family is highly important, this stresses how much more God is to be exalted in our lives.)
God is perfect in love for us, so jealousy comes hand in hand. He has no apathy toward His people, so is it any wonder that He views it as abhorrent when we make anyone or anything in this world higher than Him in our lives? Whether it’s a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, money, career, health…whether it’s a good or bad thing…how can God NOT get jealous? When we choose work or play over spending time in His word, can we rightly say, “Oh, God will understand. He is love! He’s my teddy bear!”
It’s BECAUSE He is love that He cares. In fact, He gets fiercely angry with righteous anger when we exalt idols in our lives. We often read the Old Testament and snicker at the stupidity of the people bowing down to golden calves and figures. How is it any different when we care more about popularity or success than growing in righteousness toward God? People haven’t changed; the types of idols have.
Always remember that God is a jealous God. And guess what? You WANT Him to care when you stray too far because that means He’s in love with you and wants you for Himself. When you no longer see His jealousy for you, that’s when you have to worry…
Psalm 81:12 shows us what God does to those who have rejected Him out of arrogance and idolatry. He doesn’t always destroy them in an outward act, but sometimes from within their own hearts: “So [God] gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”
That is scary. Have you ever wondered how some people who have rejected God seem to be doing so well in this world? It’s because God has stopped thwarting them. He is no longer jealous for them. In fact, He’s given them over to the fate they sought after so hard: temporary pleasure in this world for eternal damnation. Bad trade if you ask me.
Imagine a cliff with a steep drop. Everyone is walking in line and falling off the cliff to their death. You ask the person in front of you, “Why is everyone going this direction? Why not try to cross on the other path?”
“Oh, well that path is windy and uphill. This way is much easier.”
As soon as he finishes explaining that, he too follows the crowd off the cliff. SPLAT~!
Would you follow him off, thinking, “Surely, if EVERYone’s going this way, it must be OK.” Would you take one look at the harder road that safely leads across and think, “but I don’t feel like sweating”?
Following the rest of the world on the wide road (Matthew 7:13) will surely lead to destruction. It doesn’t matter that everyone else is doing it; there is no safety in numbers. Unless the bodies pile so high that you can safely land on someone who before you, you’re destined to die just like the rest of them (hint: the pit is bottomless, OK?).
Don’t concern yourselves with fitting in. Don’t shy away from being on fire for Christ. Seriously, who cares about the opinions of other human beings? We’re all just a huge collection of sinners and goofy idiots, bumbling for truth when it’s right under our noses. Personally, I don’t look up to any person as “cool” and worthy of occupying my thoughts for more than a few seconds at a time. I’d rather impress the Almighty God.
Being casual and lukewarm about God leads to the exact same place as having no faith at all, so you might as well live it up now. Or, hopefully you’ll come to your senses and commit fully.
To be honest, I don’t know much about this pastor, but I do know that he seems to be a straight-shooter who doesn’t beat around the bush on difficult topics. If you’re interested, here are his top 10 posts where he discusses issues openly and honestly:
#3 – Masturbation
#2 – The Pastors Pain (Great post for pastors who are frustrated b/c it seems no one understands what they are going through.)
Remember that it’s just one pastor’s opinion—it’s not God’s word. But it’s eye-opening and thought-provoking at the very least.