Categories
Theology

Seven Strengths of Amillennialism

I would rather be pelted by hard-boiled eggs in an ice storm than argue about eschatology (okay, that might be a stretch). Still, arguing end times is frustrating. Yet, I realize that developing a biblical and theologically informed view of the end times is good, healthy, and fruitful for me personally and the church at large. As I have said before, I hold to an Amillennial viewpoint. I have written a paper about my views, and you can read them here.

Bobby Grow (of the Evangelical Calvinist blog) summarizes Amillennialism and I heartily commend these considerations to you. It is probably a coincidence that he lists seven strengths, though perhaps this fact will win over some of my Dispensational brothers and sisters!

  1. It is highly Christocentric: it makes Christ the center of all the biblical covenants (even the “Land” covenant or Siniatic).
  2. It notes the universal scope of the Abrahamic Covenant (as key) to interpreting the rest of the biblical covenants.
  3. It sees salvation history oriented to a person (Christ), instead of a people (the nation of Israel).
  4. It emphasizes continuity between the “people of God” (Israel and the Church are one in Christ Eph. 2:11ff).
  5. It provides an ethic that is rooted in creation, and “re-creation” (continuity between God’s redemptive work now, carried over into the eternal state then).
  6. It emphasizes a Trinitarian view of God as it elevates the “person”, Christ Jesus, the second person of the trinity as the point and mediator of all history.
  7. It flows from a hermeneutic that takes seriously the literary character of the Scriptures (esp. the book of Revelation).
Categories
Theology

How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens

Michael Williams has authored a newly released book called How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. It walks through each book of the Bible in 4-5 pages and looks at the major points and themes of the book to show how everything points to Christ.

Watch this 2-minute interview with Williams to hear more about the book. The most important sentence is at the end, when he says, “I haven’t really found any books of the Bible difficult to read through the Jesus lens…because this is the way they were always intended to be read.”

Categories
Life Theology

Give Them Jesus, Not Morality

Part 3 in a 4 part series. View series intro and index.

If the whole Bible is about Jesus, then we must relate every Bible story, every character study, every thematic lesson to the person and work of Jesus. Also, we must present each story within the proper context in the drama of redemption. This is not “heavy theology,” so long as it is explained at an appropriate level. In fact, I believe that the earlier kids hear this “heavy theology” the sooner it will take root in their hearts, by God’s grace. Introducing this kind of teaching to a child when they are teenagers, after a decade or so of moralistic teaching, will not do them any good. We must start as soon as they are able to understand our speech and speak back to us (and even before).

Let’s look at three common children’s lessons, how they are usually taught, and how they should be taught.

Noah’s Ark
A quick Google search led me to a children’s lesson about Noah with this take away: “Noah was an obedient man. God saved Noah.” Another said, “Noah loved and obeyed God even when no one else would.” The problem with that is Genesis 6:5: every intention of the thoughts of human beings was evil all the time. The good news is Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah didn’t earn favor. He found it. God was gracious to Noah. In Genesis 9:21, we meet Noah in a drunken, naked stupor. Noah did obey at times, but he wasn’t perfect. He was a sinner like everyone else on earth. Even after his salvation (in the ark), Noah had problems.

Hebrews 11 says that Noah had faith in God to save him from the pending flood. Did that bring about obedience? I’m sure it did, but he only inherited righteousness by repentance and faith, not obedience (v. 7). The story of Noah is not about being obedient (otherwise we might all consider opening up a zoo inside a large wooden ship). It demonstrates God saving the human race and thus preserving the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15) so that the promised offspring would come to crush the serpent. Through Shem (Noah’s son, who was in the ark with him) came Abraham. Through Abraham came Isaac, Jacob, and eventually Jesus. Ultimately, our faith must be in Jesus, as Noah’s was. Only through faith in Jesus are we delivered from the flood of God’s wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

David and Goliath
Here’s how this lesson usually goes: David had the courage to defeat a giant. What giants are in your life? What will you use (Bible study, prayer, evangelism, etc.) to kill the giant? The story is actually about an underdog shepherd, the anointed-king-in-waiting, who wins a victory for a cowardly people who are too afraid to fight (and indeed incapable of doing so). The point of the story is “victory by representation.” We are the cowardly Israelites who cannot and will not fight. Jesus is the Greater David who represents us and wins for us victory over sin, death, hell, and Satan—the only giants that can really hurt us. Jesus is the underdog, anointed Shepherd-King who was born of a teenage virgin and grew up in a podunk town. Yet he never failed, unlike David (e.g. sleeping with Bathsheba and killing Uriah). He is the perfect King who wins for us an eternal victory over all our enemies. Only when we put our faith in this King who has conquered the giants of sin, death, hell, and Satan, will we be able to conquer the much smaller enemies in our daily lives.

The Golden Rule
Some people sum up the basis of Christianity in the Golden Rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you do this, God will bless you. If not, God will not love you.” What’s the problem? The gospel is about what God has done for us in his Son. The gospel is not “go love your neighbor.”

The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is set against the backdrop of Jesus introducing himself as the Messiah of Israel, but also to the Gentiles (Matt. 4:12-17). The point of Matthew 5-7 is to pull the rug out from underneath Jews who want to gain acceptance from God through law-keeping. The Sermon, certainly, expresses what true kingdom living looks like and we should pursue these exhortations. True disciples do what Jesus taught (Matt. 28:19-20). But remember Jesus’ appeal: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The point? No one is perfect. But there is one who is. And he is the one who said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). He is the kingdom, in the flesh and he has come to bring all those who believe in him into the kingdom. God accepts us as his children because he accepts Jesus as his true Son (Matt. 3:13-17). Jesus vicariously does this for us in his obedient life and sacrificial death. Therefore, we are now free to obey knowing our failures can’t damn us and our victories do not earn anything for us. Through Jesus, the one who fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17), we are kingdom citizens and accepted by god, yet we know that when we fail, we can turn (i.e. repent) to God from our attempt to gain our own acceptance by works (whether by making our own rules or self-righteously trying to keep God’s).

The Sermon ends with a series of four “two options” stories (7:13-27): two roads, two trees, two disciples, two houses. The “two options” are not “good or bad” or “moral or immoral.” Throughout the sermon, he’s not attacking the “bad people.” He’s attacking the “good people,” the Pharisees, the people who obey and keep the morals! But the contrast is between mere external obedience and heart-level obedience. And that only comes with a new heart that has been saved by Jesus. Thus the point of these “two options” sections is that we must bank on  Jesus, not ourselves. 

I hope these three examples will help you as your teach your children the Bible story. Please do not underestimate your children’s mind! They can handle more than you think. It may seem impossible at first, but it will help them when they are teenagers—trust me.

The Common Thread
The common thread in these examples is three-fold: First, a moral is not taught, a story is told. Good stories always instruct. Second, context is not thrown out the window. Each context is recognized and appreciated. Contextualizing stories will help children see the big story of the Bible instead of using the Bible as a grab-bag of pointless trivia. Third, Jesus is the focus, and since he is the only hope for your kids (and you!), that is the most important thing. Practice reading and studying the Bible with these things in mind and it will transform the way you teach the Bible to your kids.

In the final post, I’ll talk about interweaving the gospel story with non-biblical stories. I will also recommend some resources to help yourself and your kids learn to read the Bible this way.

Categories
Theology

Psalm 45 and Jesus

This is a love psalm for a royal wedding. The king is praised for his appearance and speech (v. 2), his military power (v. 3), and his work of justice (vv. 4-5). The psalm turns to God in verses 6-9 where God is praised because his throne is the perfect throne. God’s throne is “forever and ever” and he rules with “uprightness” because he “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (vv. 6-7a).

The pslamist then says something strange. He says that God has anointed the God mentioned in v. 6. It’s evident to the reader that this is dealing with more than a mere human king. Hebrews 1 tells us that this Psalm is ultimately about Jesus, the true Davidic king (Hebrews 1:8-9). Hebrews 1:8 says that God says to the Son (who is God) that it is his throne that lasts forever and ever. He is the one who rules his kingdom with perfection and justice. He is the one who takes a beautiful daughter to himself as his bride, the church, who is led to her king with “joy and gladness.”

Jesus’ name is the one that will be “remembered in all generations,” and he is the only king whom “nations will praise…forever and ever” (v. 17). For he is the true and better King of Israel, the only one whose speech, power, and justice is peerless.

Categories
Life Theology

Psalm 101 and Jesus

“A PSALM OF DAVID” means this is a royal psalm, a psalm about the place of the Davidic monarchy in God’s plan for his people. David writes about his commitment to faithful living before the Lord (vv. 1-4). David is to be the righteous one par excellence for the people of God. As king, David can proclaim that he “will not endure” those who have a “haughty look and an arrogant heart.” As king, David can say he will “look with favor on the faith in the land.” As king, David can say that “no one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house” and “no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.” As king, David can say that he “will destroy the wicked in the land” and cut them off from God’s city. As king, David is not only supposed to lead the way toward righteousness, but he is to punish all those who do not follow in his righteousness.

The problem with this is that we all know David was not perfect. The problem is that David slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband to get away with it. The problem is that David sinned in ways other than the issue with Bathsheba. In other words, David was not the righteous king par excellence. In fact, if he was not king and the leader of God’s covenant people, he would have been thrown out with the wicked. God’s anointing was on him, warts and all, but he pointed to something greater.

Psalm 101 must be pointing toward someone who can be the righteous king par excellence for God’s people. The only who accomplished perfect righteousness before the Father was the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus perfectly sang of steadfast love and justice on the cross. He is the only one who has pondered the way that is blameless and walked with integrity. He is the only one who has not set his eyes on something worthless. He is the only one whose heart has never been perverse and has not known evil. He was never haughty or arrogant, and deceit was never found in his mouth. Therefore Jesus, the righteous king par excellence, is the only one who can continue before the eyes of his Father. All else have been cast out the land. Jesus is the only one who remains, the remnant of God’s people who did not fall away.

This perfect, blameless King knew no sin, yet he became sin for God’s people so that in him they might become the righteousness of God (see 1 Cor. 5:21). We are welcomed into God’s city because of him. We are welcomed in by the righteousness of another, not our own righteousness. We can leave Psalm 101 saying, “I will do this today! I will have integrity and be blameless!” But chances are we will lie a half hour later. Chances are we will be able to be blamed for something else very soon. But if our righteousness is in Christ the King par excellence–if our record is actually his record in the Father’s eyes–then not only can we be we not be blamed, we are freed from the oppressive nature of trying to fulfill God’s law. Rather, because we are saved by grace, because of our Representative and Substitute, we are motived and empowered by the Spirit to uphold the law and seek to live in a way that would honor God. Yet when we fail, we go back to Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, giving up his heavenly crown to wear a crown of thorns. We revel in this and also in his perfect life as the record we need in order to be welcomed into God’s city. In fact, Christ was cast outside the city gates and crucified there, so that we might be welcomed in, not on our merit, but because of his.