The Trinity in the Book of Revelation

stormsArticle by Dr. Sam Storms (original source here)

Many struggle to understand the Trinity. I count myself among them! But I believe it! I believe it not because I can explain it with logical precision, but because the NT so clearly and repeatedly teaches it. One such place is the book of Revelation. There we see consistent and repeated evidence of the Deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three co-equal persons existing as One undivided God.

The first explicit reference to the Triune character of God is found in Revelation 1:4b-5a,

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

There are only two occasions on which God himself speaks in Revelation, and they are both declarations concerning his identity as God:

“I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8).

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (21:6).

What makes these important is that they correspond to two self-declarations of Jesus, thus testifying to their shared deity:

“I am the first and the last” (1:17).

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13).

The words “the first and the last” are taken from Isaiah where it occurs as a self-designation for God (44:6; 48:12). One could hardly find a more explicit claim to exclusive deity than this. As the first and the last Jesus is not only claiming equality of nature with the Father but is declaring that he both precedes all things, as their Creator, and will bring all things to their eschatological consummation. He is the origin and goal of all history. Continue reading

Writing a Sermon

pulpitArticle: How to Write a Sermon: A Template by Bob Thune, Pastor of Coram Deo Church, Omaha, NE (original source here)

How do I get from text to sermon? This is the question in sermon preparation. After preaching for 15 years, I’ve developed a basic pattern that might serve as a helpful resource to others. Call it “Thune’s Template for Sermon Prep.”

In building this template I’ve unapologetically applied the insights of some of my best teachers: Chapell, Keller, Robinson, Eswine, and others. These men have taught me wonderful things about preaching, but none of them have summarized their insights in 2 pages or less. That’s my unique contribution. (See the end of this post for a downloadable PDF). I’ve also included the insights of some of my peers and “preaching friends” who have made valuable contributions to my own ministry.

All the great teachers of preaching focus on two basic disciplines: exegesis and homiletics. EXEGESIS seeks an accurate understanding and interpretation of the biblical text as received by the original audience; HOMILETICS seeks to craft an orderly, coherent, and compelling sermon for delivery.

In order to ensure Christ-centered preaching, I suggest adding gospel-centrality as a third and distinct discipline. GOSPEL-CENTRALITY seeks to anchor the text within the broader canon of Scripture, connect the sermon to God’s redeeming grace, and ensure faith in the good news as the means of transformation.

STEP 1: EXEGESIS

Commune with God. Enjoy personal communion with God through Bible reading and prayer. Otherwise, preaching prep becomes toilsome instead of worshipful.

Identify the Genre. Prophecy is not the same as poetry. “Every novel is a book – but not every book is a novel.” Know the genre, and know the rules for reading each biblical genre well.

Break Down the Text. Study it. Analyze its structure. Get down into its words and phrases. Identify its key sections and themes. Outline the text to ensure that your sermon is faithful to the intent of the original author.

Summarize the Big Idea. Ask: what is this passage about? Then ask: what is it saying about that topic? Bring these 2 answers together to summarize the exegetical main point or big idea of the text in one sentence. Continue reading

The Dispensational, Pre-Tribulational View of the Millennial Kingdom

stormsThe following is what I believe to be a faithful summary of this popular eschatological position, even though neither its author, Dr. Sam Storms, nor I hold to it.

(Original source here)

Dr. Sam Storms:

[I should point out that my description of what most dispensationalists believe does not mean I endorse the view. See my book, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus Publishers).

The best way to describe the dispensationalist’s view of the millennial kingdom is chronologically, i.e., by means of the temporal order in which the events actually occur. Although there are variations among those who call themselves dispensationalists, I will focus here only on the majority view known as dispensational, pretribulational, premillennialism.

(1) First, according to this scheme of end-time events, Jesus will appear suddenly and unannounced in the heavens at which time he will rapture or translate or “catch up” to himself all Christians currently alive on the earth. This event is imminent, which is to say that no other prophesied event must first occur. Thus the rapture could occur “at any moment” and without warning. All believers at that time are transformed or glorified and receive their resurrection bodies in conformity with that of the risen Lord himself. Some embrace a “partial” rapture of the church, insisting that only those who are living in expectation of Christ’s return and the godliness that this necessarily entails will be caught up to their Lord in the heavens. All others will be “left behind” to endure the horror of the Great Tribulation, together with the unbelieving populace of the earth.

(2) Subsequent to the Rapture, there will ensue a period of seven years during which the judgments and wrath of God (as expressed in the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of the book of Revelation) will be poured out on the non-Christian peoples of the earth. This seven-year period is the seventieth and final week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). A world leader, popularly known as the Antichrist will emerge. He will initially establish a covenant of peace with Israel, only to betray the agreement at the mid-point of the Tribulation (3½ years), at which time he will orchestrate a global persecution of the Jewish people and any who may have come to saving faith in Christ subsequent to the Rapture.

(3) At the Lord’s second coming after the Tribulation, in conjunction with the Battle of Armageddon where the Antichrist and the enemies of the gospel are finally and fully defeated, the vast majority of Israelites who survive that period of time will be converted to faith in Christ (Rom. 11:25-27). Those who remain in unbelief will be put to death and not permitted to enter the millennium (Ezek. 20:33-38). Thus Christ’s return is in two stages: a coming in the heavens (but not to earth) before the Tribulation to rapture the church, and a coming to earth at the close of the Tribulation to defeat and judge his enemies at Armageddon.

(4) All Gentiles who also survived the Tribulation will be judged (Matt. 25:31-46): the sheep (who are saved) being left on the earth to enter the millennium and the goats (the lost) being cast into everlasting fire and condemnation. These saved Israelites and saved Gentiles will therefore enter the millennium in their natural, physical, un-glorified bodies.

(5) When Christ returns at the close of the Tribulation there will also occur the bodily resurrection both of OT saints and those believers who died during the Tribulation period.

(6) Satan will at that time be bound and sealed for 1,000 years (he and the Antichrist having been defeated at the battle of Armageddon), wholly prevented from perpetrating evil during the millennial kingdom.

(7) Christ now begins his millennial reign. He ascends a throne in Jerusalem and rules over a predominantly Jewish kingdom, although Gentile believers share in its blessings. The subjects of Christ’s rule are primarily those Israelites and Gentiles who entered the kingdom in their natural bodies. Thus, at the beginning of the millennium there are no unregenerate/unbelieving people alive on the earth. This reign of Christ also fulfills the promises made to Israel in the OT.

(8) Those who have entered the millennium in their natural bodies will marry and reproduce, and though they will live much longer than they would have prior to Christ’s coming, most of them will eventually die. This period is a time of unparalleled economic prosperity, political peace and spiritual renewal. Worship in the millennium will center in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in which animal sacrifices will be offered: these sacrifices, however, will not be propitiatory but memorial offerings in remembrance of Christ’s death. Some dispensationalists, such as J. D. Pentecost, believe that the millennial kingdom will see a virtual revival of much of the Mosaic and Levitical systems described in the OT.
All resurrected saints (i.e., OT saints, Christians raptured before the Great Tribulation, and believers who came to faith during the Tribulation but were put to death by the Antichrist) will live in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5). J. D. Pentecost argues that this New Jerusalem will be above the earth, in the air, shedding its light and glory thereon. Resurrected saints will play some role in Christ’s rule on the earth; their primary activity, however, will be in the New and Heavenly Jerusalem.

(9) Children will be born to those believers (both Jew and Gentile) who entered the millennial kingdom in their natural bodies (and it is reasonable to assume that these children will themselves in turn live long lives, get married, and in turn bear yet more children). Many will come to faith in Christ and be saved. Those who persist in unbelief will be restrained by the righteous rule and government of Christ. At the end of the millennial kingdom Satan is released and will gather all unbelievers in one final conflict against Christ (Rev. 20:7-10). The rebellion will be crushed and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, where the Antichrist and False Prophet already languish (having been judged and cast there at the close of the Tribulation). Two more bodily resurrections now occur: that of all unbelievers of every age and that of believers who died during the millennial kingdom.

(10) The consummation will then come with the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), at which all unbelievers of every ethnicity and every era of human history will appear. They will be judged in accordance with “what they had done” (i.e., according to their works; Rev. 20:13-14). Finally, the New Heavens and New Earth are created as the everlasting dwelling place of God and his people, and thus begins the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-22:5).

Judaism

Sproul JrArticle by Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr (original source here)

It’s Monday again, and therefore it is time for our weekly Ism Monday. Today’s Ism is a little tricky. We’re going to be talking today about Judaism. Perhaps more specifically, about the relationship of Judaism to Christianity. There is a reason why the broader world, including the secular world, speaks of this thing that they call Judeo-Christianity. Well, what’s Judeo-Christianity? It’s an attempt to acknowledge that one of the things that Christianity has in common with Judaism is a belief in a transcendent God. It’s a belief that at least the Bible or parts of the Bible is the revelation of God. It’s a belief in the existence of a transcendent moral standard that is immutable.

Years ago, J.D. Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, published a landmark book that has helped shape the culture called Culture Wars. In that particular book, Hunter argues that the battle lines in the culture wars are not drawn specifically between this religion and that religion that at least recognizes itself as a religion. This is not India at the time of its independence when you had Hindus and Muslims at war with each other. Rather, he argued, the fault line is between those who believe in a transcendent moral standard, and those who don’t. And those who do believe would include the tradition of Judaism, it would include Christianity, it would even include Islam. And on the other side we have what he calls the progressives, those who deny that there is a transcendent standard.

Well, Judaism is a monotheistic religion that looks to the Old Testament as an authority, that believes in the existence of God, that the God that exists made the heaven and earth, made Adam and Eve, spoke to Abraham. That’s where we start to see, there’s so much overlap, that we’re tempted to look at Judaism as sort of Christianity minus Jesus, or Christianity as Judaism plus Jesus. We recognize that God worked in and through the Old Testament and that He called together His saints and gathered them into His Kingdom in the Old Testament, and so we have this continuity with Old Testament Judaism, but it raises the question, how do we look at Judaism after the advent of Christ?

Well, it would be nice and pleasant and polite to suggest that Judaism in our day is specifically Christianity minus Jesus. You hear people express that reality by saying things like this: Christians and Jews worship the same God. Well, not only do I disagree with that, but I’m going to argue that Jesus Himself disagreed with that. It’s true that they have the Old Testament and we have the Old Testament and New Testament, it’s true that they have been given much.

But Jesus Himself said that you cannot have the Father without the Son. You cannot separate the Father and Son in such a way that you are, I don’t know, ⅓ of a Christian because you’ve got ⅓ of the Trinity in your sort of pantheon. Rather, the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God, the chosen Messiah, as God the Son, necessarily requires the rejection of God the Father as God the Father. You can’t have the Father without the Son and you can’t have the Son without the Father. One thing we need to make sure we understand is that our understanding of the Trinity cannot be a tritheistic understanding. That is, an understanding that affirms that there are somehow three gods, so you can get one without the others.

Rather, the triune God is a triUNE God. And in fact, ironically, our Jewish friends should help us remember that. I’ve often said that if there was an emblematic text in all of the Old Testament that sort of defined and united the self perception of the Jewish people, it would have been Deuteronomy 6:4, what we call the Shema. And that text, if you look at ancient manuscripts, all through the whole of the Old Testament you have this really careful copying of the text in such a way that there is no margin, there is no punctuation, in fact, it’s so zealous to cram as much as they can into a small space, they don’t even have vowels.

But if you look at the text, you’ll find that there is one text that is sort of written in bold, written in larger, and that is the Shema, which reads “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Absolutely true. This is an affirmation of God’s unity, of His simplicity, and our embracing of the Trinity should never undo that affirmation. But what this means is that if Jesus is God the Son and you reject God the Son, than you’ve rejected this one God, the God who is one.

Judaism has much to commend it, we have much in common with them, we can work together as co-belligerents, but we must understand that even while we affirm that those who were redeemed in the Old Testament were redeemed because of their submission to and their trust in the coming work of Jesus Christ, that we are not sharers of the same faith.

Understanding Sola Scriptura

michael j krugerArticle by Michael Kruger (original source here)

We live in a world filled with competing truth claims. Every day, we are bombarded with declarations that something is true and that something else is false. We are told what to believe and what not to believe. We are asked to behave one way but not another way. In her monthly column “What I Know for Sure,” Oprah Winfrey tells us how to handle our lives and our relationships. The New York Times editorial page regularly tells us what approach we should take to the big moral, legal, or public-policy issues of our day. Richard Dawkins, the British atheist and evolutionist, tells us how to think of our historical origins and our place in this universe.

How do we sift through all these claims? How do people know what to think about relationships, morality, God, the origins of the universe, and many other important questions? To answer such questions, people need some sort of norm, standard, or criteria to which they can appeal. In other words, we need an ultimate authority. Of course, everyone has some sort of ultimate norm to which they appeal, whether or not they are aware of what their norm happens to be. Some people appeal to reason and logic to adjudicate competing truth claims. Others appeal to sense experience. Still others refer to themselves and their own subjective sense of things. Although there is some truth in each of these approaches, Christians have historically rejected all of them as the ultimate standard for knowledge. Instead, God’s people have universally affirmed that there is only one thing that can legitimately function as the supreme standard: God’s Word. There can be no higher authority than God Himself.

Of course, we are not the first generation of people to face the challenge of competing truth claims. In fact, Adam and Eve faced such a dilemma at the very beginning. God had clearly said to them “You shall surely die” if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). On the other hand, the Serpent said the opposite to them: “You will not surely die” (3:4). How should Adam and Eve have adjudicated these competing claims? By empiricism? By rationalism? By what seemed right to them? No, there was only one standard to which they should have appealed to make this decision: the word that God had spoken to them. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Instead of looking to God’s revelation, Eve decided to investigate things further herself: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes … she took of its fruit and ate” (3:6). Make no mistake, the fall was not just a matter of Adam and Eve eating the fruit. At its core, the fall was about God’s people rejecting God’s Word as the ultimate standard for all of life.

But if God’s Word is the ultimate standard for all of life, the next question is critical: Where do we go to get God’s Word? Where can it be found? This issue, of course, brings us to one of the core debates of the Protestant Reformation. While the Roman Catholic Church authorities agreed that God’s Word was the ultimate standard for all of life and doctrine, they believed this Word could be found in places outside of the Scriptures. Rome claimed a trifold authority structure, which included Scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium. The key component in this trifold authority was the Magisterium itself, which is the authoritative teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church, manifested primarily in the pope. Because the pope was considered the successor of the Apostle Peter, his official pronouncements (ex cathedra) were regarded as the very words of God Himself.

It was at this point that the Reformers stood their ground. While acknowledging that God had delivered His Word to His people in a variety of ways before Christ (Heb. 1:1), they argued that we should no longer expect ongoing revelation now that God has spoken finally in His Son (v. 2). Scripture is clear that the Apostolic office was designed to perform a onetime, redemptive-historical task: to lay the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The foundation-laying activity of the Apostles primarily consisted of giving the church a deposit of authoritative teaching testifying to and applying the great redemptive work of Christ. Thus, the New Testament writings, which are the permanent embodiment of this Apostolic teaching, should be seen as the final installment of God’s revelation to His people. These writings, together with the Old Testament, are the only ones that are rightly considered the Word of God.

This conviction of sola Scriptura— the Scriptures alone are the Word of God and, therefore, the only infallible rule for life and doctrine—provided the fuel needed to ignite the Reformation. Indeed, it was regarded as the “formal cause” of the Reformation (whereas sola fide, or “faith alone,” was regarded as the “material cause”). The sentiments of this doctrine are embodied in Martin Luther’s famous speech at the Diet of Worms (1521) after he was asked to recant his teachings: Continue reading

Division Demolished!

Text: Ephesians 2:11-22

The Jewish/Gentile division is unlike any other, and what is more, God planned for it as He made a distinction between Israel and every other nation on earth, making them His own special people. Yet in Christ, the erected barriers are not merely discouraged but utterly destroyed. In Christ’s cross all racial and social divisions are obliterated forever!