OT satan vs NT Satan

Over the years I’ve written a few posts on Satan (here, here, and here) and Lucifer (here), but my views are changing as I study the work of Dr. Michael Heiser and other Bible scholars.

Dr. Heiser is an Old Testament scholar, author, and Semitic languages expert, and his work addresses the fact that satan in the OT is far different from Satan in the NT.

He writes, “In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word satan is not a proper personal name. This is because it is nearly always paired with the definite article in Hebrew (the word ‘the’). Like English, Hebrew does not permit the definite article to be paired with a proper personal name (I don’t call myself, ‘the Mike’). The common noun satan paired with the definite article means ‘the adversary’—not ‘Satan’ as in the proper name of the Devil. This is why some English Bibles have ‘the Adversary’ in passages like Job 1:6 and not ‘Satan.’”

Dr. Heiser points out the noun satan occurs 27 times in the Hebrew Bible and only lacks the article 10 times. Of those 10 times, seven refer to humans and three refer to the Angel of Yahweh.

He concludes, “there are ZERO verses in the OT that have a personal name “satan,” and ZERO references to Satan as a cosmic evil entity as in the NT.”

Old Testament scholar John Goldingay agrees, “The word for adversary/accuser is satan…The word is not a name but a common noun; it has the article the. The earliest otherwise-known occurrences of Satan as a proper name come in Jewish writings from the second century [B.C.]…” (italics his)

The book of Job is the oldest document in the Hebrew Bible and in this book we see that “the satan” is an officer of Yahweh’s divine council. He “accuses” anyone he catches not obeying Yahweh. He’s not an evil being opposed to Yahweh; he’s simply doing the job he’s been given. The story of Job should be viewed as a friendly bet and not as a contest between good and evil.

Thom Stark, who has written quite extensively on second-temple apocalyptic Judaism and Christian origins, writes, “a dualistic cosmology between ‘good and evil’ wasn’t a feature of Israel’s theology until the post-exilic period, particularly with the rise of apocalypticism in the second century BCE. The idea that Satan was an enemy of God who rebelled against God didn’t come about until this period….The serpent in the garden did not come to be seen as ‘the devil’ until the intertestamental period. In ancient mythology, the serpent was a regular fixture in stories about the pursuit of immortality. Just as the serpent in Genesis is responsible for Adam and Eve’s loss of the tree which gave them eternal life, so too in the Epic of Gilgamesh, it is a serpent that steals from Gilgamesh the plant that gives immortality. The serpent was the perfect symbol for this, because a snakebite was lethal.”

Note: For more on this topic, here’s a good blog post by Jacob Wright: http://brazenchurch.com/biblical-satan/

Strange Old Testament Theology

Old Testament Theology can really mess with you. I’ve been reading Michael Heiser’s work on Divine Council in which he examines all of the verses that talk about the heavenly beings that act as God’s council. It appears the “Angel of Yahweh” (referred to in many passages as “the satan”) was a member of this council. This understanding certainly makes more sense of many Old Testament texts but at the same time it clashes with orthodox Christian beliefs.

The story in 1 Kings 22 (and 2 Chronicles 18) is a good example of this:

Yahweh decides King Ahab must die for his wickedness.
He asks his heavenly council how they will go about getting Ahab to go into the war that will lead to his death.
The heavenly beings deliberated but couldn’t come to an agreement.
Then one of the heavenly beings stepped forward and said, “I’ll do it.”
So Yahweh asked him how he planned to do it.
This member of the heavenly council said he would go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets.
Yahweh said this was a good plan that would definitely work and he told him to go and do it.
So the prophets all spoke the lie that Yahweh wanted them to speak which caused Ahab to suspect they were simply telling him what he wanted to hear.
Then Ahab sent for the prophet Micaiah to see what he would say.
Micaiah said he would only speak what Yahweh told him to say. He then proceeded to tell the same lie that the other prophets told: Ahab should go to war because Yahweh would give him the victory.
When Ahab demanded he speak only the truth, Micaiah changed his story and said Ahab would actually be killed in battle and Israel would be routed.
Ahab didn’t believe Micaiah. He put him in prison and then he went off to fight and was killed.

As they say in Colorado, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

Note: This story is similar to the story in 1 Samuel 16 in which Yahweh sent an evil spirit to torment King Saul.

Do Christians suffer more than non-Christians?

Many Christian teachers will tell you that the life of a Christian is (or at least should be) a life of suffering. But is this really true?

My guess is that, on the whole, Christians actually suffer less than non-Christians because their morals often prevent them from engaging in many harmful activities that many non-Christians engage in. For example, Christians often avoid the suffering associated with drug and alcohol addictions. They often avoid the suffering associated with divorce as the result of infidelity. They often avoid the suffering associated with incarceration. Etc.

Also, Christians often meet weekly with Christian “brothers” and “sisters” and are probably less likely to suffer from loneliness.

And when it comes to suffering that is caused by illnesses or natural disasters, Christians suffer proportionally at the same rate as non-Christians.

And most people, regardless of their beliefs, respect those who live according to the teachings of Christ. In other words, followers of Christ tend to make very good neighbors.

What about persecution?

Jesus predicted persecution for his followers, but he also knew the Romans were going to destroy Jerusalem and kill her inhabitants while some of his disciples were still living.

Several New Testament authors repeated Jesus’ message, but there is no indication they believed persecution and suffering should be viewed as a timeless and universal part of following God.

Obviously, Christians suffer greater persecution than non-Christians in countries like Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan, but this isn’t true in North or South America, central or southern Africa, Russia, or much of Europe.

In conclusion, I’m not convinced that at this point in history Christians universally suffer more than non-Christians, and I suspect the opposite is actually true.

Good & Bad Religion

I do believe God’s plan was to end Judaism through Jesus Christ, but I do not believe all religion is bad. Religion is simply “how” we worship God.

Holding signs that say God hates a certain group of people is bad religion. Loving all people, and especially those who are marginalized, is good religion.

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

Just like ice cream, some religion is good and some religion is bad. Avoid bad religion and practice good religion.

Rape Meme

I’ve been seeing this meme on Facebook lately, and it’s got me thinking about expectations. While no moral person would blame a drunk girl for being raped, I suspect many would question her judgment and, if the meme is correct, her expectations.

When a 3-yr-old climbs into a gorilla’s habitat because he expects his act of climbing over the wall to simply be a fun adventure, we don’t question his judgment or expectations, because he’s only 3.

However, when a 23-year old girl visits a university to attend a frat party, gets drunk and then stumbles alone outside in the dark, I hope this doesn’t reflect her normal judgments or expectations. And I suspect the meme is wrong and that it was the influence of alcohol on her brain that accounts for her actions and not a horribly naïve expectation.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where every year on most campuses drunk girls get raped. Girls, there are a lot of animals out there. Please exercise good judgment.

Are you my mission?

In an earlier post, I pointed out something many people are not aware of—that Jesus’ earthly mission was to the Jews. His mission was to share the gospel with fellow Jews and warn them to repent for the kingdom of God was soon coming (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3, 5). The coming of God’s kingdom would mean judgment on all Jews: the wicked would be destroyed and the righteous would be saved. (Matthew 21:33-45, 13:37-43, Luke 12:31-48, Mark 16:16)

Remember when Peter said to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27)

Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

Also keep in mind what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And when she bowed before him and persisted to ask for help, he said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:24, 26)

In Matthew 10, Jesus told his disciples they would carry on his mission: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

He also prophesied future persecution for his disciples as they carried out his command (Matthew 10:16-23a), but he told them to endure to the end in order that they would be saved from the coming judgment. (Matthew 10:22; 24:13)

And he told them his second coming would occur before they made it to all the towns of Israel: “For I assure you: You will not have covered the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23b)

I assure you: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)

Now some will object and point to the phrase “all nations” in Matthew 28:19, but it must be remembered that 1st century Jews were scattered in all nations (diaspora). And most scholars estimate the majority of Jews lived outside of Palestine.

So it appears Jesus and his disciples understood a limited commission. For example, James wrote his letter “to the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad.” And when Jesus’ prophesies about the persecution that would accompany the disciples’ mission to the Jews began to come true, the Jews who were forced to leave Jerusalem still only went to Jews:

“So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.” (Acts 11:19)

Also the phrase “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20) indicates Jesus was not thinking of a Gentile audience. Gentiles were never taught to keep the law, while Jesus stressed law keeping (Matthew 5:17-19).

All of this is not to deny a second limited mission to the Gentiles. Paul clearly believed he was to go to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles, which he did; however, it appears his mission to the Gentiles was primarily to cause Jews to become jealous and repent:

“I say then, [Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” (Romans 11:11)

Although Peter knew from his vision and subsequent visit to Cornelius that God did plan to save some Gentiles, it was clear that Peter and the other 11 disciples understood they were to focus on sharing the gospel with Jews (Gal 2:7-9) since Jesus planned to return very soon—while some of them were still living and before they were able to visit all of the cities in which Jews lived.

Does this mean we should not tell others of God’s great love? Of course not! It simply means the mission to the Jews warning of coming judgment was fulfilled in 70 AD. In other words, their mission is not our mission.

The Parable of the Lost Son

[Jesus] also said: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32)

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Why Doesn’t God do more?

Perhaps one of the most difficult, and often-asked, questions Christians ask is “Why doesn’t God intervene more often to prevent bad things from happening?” (A related question that often goes unasked is “Does God ever intervene?”)

These are perfectly reasonable questions that deserve more than silence, Christian clichés, or responses that imply you may not be a Christian for asking such questions.

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Was Jesus Anti-law?

Many view Jesus as an enlightened and civilized (read westernized) Jew who lived among primitive, barbaric, superstitious Jews two thousand years ago. Some imagine that unlike most Jews, he thought much of the Old Testament was archaic, silly, or borderline evil. And he is often pitted against the “angry, wrathful God of the Old Testament.” It’s common to hear believers say, “Jesus would not have supported the death penalty.” “Jesus would not have supported the stoning of homosexuals.” “Jesus would not have supported slavery.”

But was Jesus actually opposed to the Torah?

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Progressive Christian Blogs

I don’t read Progressive Christian blogs that much anymore because I always leave feeling annoyed. They blog about their progressive views and toss in a sprinkling of Bible proof texts, but they completely ignore all the Bible verses that disagree with their views. For example, these blogs often celebrate homosexuality and they do so by using verses that talk about God’s love and how God wants nothing more than for us to love. When commenters point out what the Bible says about homosexuality, the blog owners accuse them of hatefulness, bigotry, and, ironically, of using proof texts and taking things out of context.

I have much more respect for people who flat out say they disagree with portions of the Bible than for people who perform exegetical gymnastics to get the Bible to say what they want it to say. And I have even less respect for people who pretend to be unaware of Bible verses that contradict their view and who bully commenters who cite these Bible verses.

Sometimes I think the progressives get it right, but when that happens, I see it more as luck than anything else because progressives seldom employ the type of scholarship that leads to truth, relying instead on humor, sarcasm, satire, and appeals to modern cultural norms.

Convenient Christianity

Convenient Christianity, which is taught throughout much of the United States today, goes like this:

Believe that you were born sinful and that Jesus’ death enables you to have all of your sins forgiven so that you can go to heaven when you die. If you believe this and accept Jesus (ask him to come into your heart), you will be saved. Once you’re saved, you should live a good life but it’s not essential since once you’re saved, you’re always saved. (If you decide not to live a good life, you’re referred to as a “carnal Christian” or “backslidden.”)

What’s wrong with this? A lot!

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Do we get mansions in heaven?

Many people believe that when we die we go to heaven to live in mansions that Jesus prepared for us. This narrative comes from the beginning of John 14. But is this really what Jesus was saying? I don’t think so, and I think Steve Gregg’s paraphrase below provides a much better understanding:

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Christian Confusion ; )

Conversation between two Christian college seniors:

Andrew: Do you mind checking out my résumé. I want to start sending them out tomorrow.

Brittany: (After scanning résumé) It kind of looks like you’re bragging. You know pride goes before a downfall.

Andrew: So, I’m not bragging. I’m just highlighting my strengths, trying to make a good first impression.

Brittany: But don’t you realize how wrong that is? There’s no good in you…or me. We’re just sinners saved by grace. And why are you so concerned about making a good impression? Are you trying to please God or man?

Andrew: I see what you’re saying, but don’t I need to try to get a job?

Brittany: No. The world says to “try”; God says to rest in him. He’s got it!

Andrew: So you’re saying I shouldn’t even send out résumés?

Brittany: No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying God has a job already lined up for you. He’s sovereign! Nothing you do will change God’s sovereign plan.

Andrew: (Slightly exasperated) So you’re saying I should send out résumés?

Brittany: When did I say that? You should pray. Seek God’s face and rest in his perfect will.

Andrew: Ok, I think I’ll send out the résumés and then pray.

Brittany: Uhh, NO! You need to pray before you do anything! How do you know God even wants you to send out résumés?

Andrew: Ooh, good point. So often I just obey my flesh and do what I want to do. So what about you? Have you been seeking God’s will?

Brittany: Me? I’m a theology major!

Jesus’ mission to the Jews

When a Gentile woman asked Jesus to help her demon-possessed daughter, Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And when she bowed before him and persisted to ask for help, he said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:24, 26).

Now Jesus did eventually give in and help this woman’s daughter, but why was he so reluctant?

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Satan and demons

In the Bible, both Satan and demons are characterized as real spiritual beings and not just “signs” of the oppression of humanity by evil; however, we see in the Gospels the triumph of Jesus over them:

•Christ (and later his followers, Luke 10:17, 19) were given authority over “all the power of the enemy.” *
•Satan no longer has a presence at the throne of God (Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:9-12). **
•Christ is currently ruling (Ephesians 1:20-22).
•Satan is currently bound (Revelation 20:2), although he will be set free for a short time at the end of the world (Revelation 20:3). ***
   (This aligns with an Amillennialist view of scriptures.)

What about today? Can we blame our sins or the bad things that happen to us on Satan or demons?

Although I believe evil forces can influence our thoughts and actions, Christians have only themselves to blame when they sin:

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

And when I hear people say they are being attacked by Satan (or “the Enemy”) when their car won’t start, their home is being destroyed by termites, or they have a cold, my thought is check the fuel pump, call an exterminator, and wash your hands more often.

Yes, I’m skeptical, because what many call “the work of Satan,” I simply see as life. God never promised to place a “hedge of protection” around Christians. We experience as many car problems, home repairs, and illnesses as atheists.

So why do so many Christians blame their troubles on Satan?

I think most Christians who blame Satan or demons do it because that is what they were taught to do, but I suspect for some it’s a matter of pride: I must be really special because of the 7 billion people in the world, Satan and his minions decided to go after me.

*Demons recognized Jesus and obeyed him (and his followers) even before Yahweh officially placed them under his feet after his resurrection and exaltation.
**It appears in the defeat of the demons, Jesus foresaw the downfall of their chief.
***Amillennialists are not all in agreement when it comes to Satan’s influence in the present age. Some say that although he is bound, he still exercising limited influence. Others say he currently only indirectly influences the world through demons.

“Amillennialism has been widely held in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as in the Roman Catholic Church, which generally embraces an Augustinian eschatology and which has deemed that premillennialism “cannot safely be taught.” Amillennialism is also common among Protestant denominations such as the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, many Messianic Jews, and Methodist churches. It represents the historical position of the Amish, Old Order Mennonite, and Conservative Mennonites (though among the more modern groups premillennialism has made inroads). It is also common among groups arising from the 19th century American Restoration Movement such as the Churches of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Christian churches and churches of Christ. It even has a significant following amongst Evangelical Christian denominations including Baptist denominations such as The Association of Grace Baptist Churches in England.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amillennialism

The story of the Bible

Here’s a brief outline of the biblical story that emerges from a narrative-historical hermeneutic. Dr. Andrew Perriman argues this narrative recognizes the fact that “[the Bible] is an ancient text, written to address ancient circumstances, constructed out of the peculiar thought-forms of an ancient worldview” and its purpose is primarily to tell the story of Israel.

Old Testament
Yahweh created all things.
Wickedness increased among humans.
Yahweh chose Abraham to father a nation of people (Israel) to represent him in the midst of the pagan nations. He promised to bless those who blessed Abraham (and his offspring) and curse those who cursed Abraham (and his offspring). And Yahweh promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him.
Yahweh gave his law to this chosen people.
Israel rejected Yahweh as king and decided to be ruled by human kings.
Israel repeatedly violated Yahweh’s laws and killed Yahweh’s prophets.
Yahweh used foreign powers to punish Israel, after which Israel repented and was restored. But then she just turned her back on Yahweh again.
Yahweh’s law condemned Israel to be destroyed.

New Testament
Because of Yahweh’s love, rather than destroy Israel, he sent Jesus (the Messiah) to once again call his people to repentance, warn of imminent judgment, and announce the coming kingdom.
Instead of listening to Jesus, Israel’s leaders killed him, but Yahweh accepted this death as atonement for the sins of Israel, making possible a new future for a faithful remnant.
Jesus was vindicated when Yahweh raised him from the dead and exalted Jesus to his right hand in heaven to rule his kingdom.

All who believed this good news (Gospel) and repented of their sins would be saved from the judgment that Jesus would visit upon unfaithful Israel and then upon Israel’s enemies.
Jesus death redeemed Israel from the curse of the law by putting an end to the Old Covenant, effectively removing the dividing wall of the law that separated Jew and Gentile.
Yahweh poured out his Spirit on all who believed (Jew & Gentile) confirming the fact that Yahweh’s chosen were no longer ethnically defined but were now defined by all who believed the Gospel.
Those who believed were the first fruit of God’s new creation people (the church), called to live under the lordship of Jesus and called to represent Yahweh in the midst of the nations.
Israel’s judgment enacted through Jesus was severe—the nation was destroyed by the Romans, marking the end of the age for Second Temple Judaism (70 AD).
All who remained faithful till the judgment were saved and vindicated.
Jesus established his reign over the entire Roman Empire when the pagan gods were overthrown. (Rome’s conversion to Christianity was the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promises to bless all nations through the offspring of Abraham and to rule over the nations that had opposed Yahweh and his people).
Jesus will continue to rule as Yahweh’s anointed king until the Day of Judgment, after which death will be abolished and Jesus’ rule will end.
The resurrected, all who were not thrown into the lake of fire, will live with Yahweh forever on a new earth.

I think the outline above makes more sense of the biblical texts than any other I’ve seen, and I feel that the narrative-historical hermeneutic produces a less strained and more coherent narrative than the narrative shaped by European rationalism (from the 3rd century on), which dominates today.

How most people view the Bible

Old Testament
God created everything.
Adam & Eve ate a fruit they weren’t supposed to.
People sinned a lot.
Noah built an ark, and God sent a big flood.
There was a guy named Abraham.
Moses brought the slaves out of Egypt.
There were lots of battles.
David killed Goliath.
Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
There were lots of kings.
Israel was destroyed.
Israel was rebuilt.

New Testament
Jesus was born.
Jesus died for my sins.
If I accept Jesus (by saying a prayer), I will go to heaven; and if I don’t, I will go to hell.
One day there might be a rapture.

Is it any wonder so many people find Christianity confusing?

There are books like The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John R. Cross that try to take these jumbled facts and present them as a single story, but most of them start with Western Christianity and try to make a cohesive story by grabbing various proof texts to create a narrative that leads to personal salvation. The problem with this approach is that it fails to seriously address the historical purpose of the various writings that make up the Bible, and this leads to the creation of a new story rather than the retelling of an old story.

In my next post, I’ll give a different view of the Bible narrative that I find to be much more coherent.

The End – according to Preterism

Since Preterists say Jesus returned in 70 AD (they understand his return on the clouds as metaphorical language), how do Preterists see the world ending?

This depends on the type of Preterist you are. If you are a Full Preterist like Don K. Preston, you would say we have no idea how the world will end because God hasn’t revealed that to us. (Remember, Full Preterists believe all prophesies in scripture were fulfilled in 70 AD.) However, Partial Preterists are split into several camps on this issue:

Some Partial Preterists, like R.C. Sproul, believe there will be a third coming of Christ prior to the day of final judgment. He believes Christ will come to resurrect the dead and judge the world after the Battle of Armageddon and before the creation of a completely new heaven and earth.

Others, like N.T. Wright, would mostly agree but they would say the new heaven and earth will be our current heaven and earth renewed (not replaced), and when Jesus comes, he will come to stay.

Still others, like Andrew Perriman, do not see scriptural support for a third coming of Christ. Instead they say life will end on this earth when this earth is destroyed by fire after the Battle of Armageddon. Then the dead will be judged by Christ in heaven, after which God’s chosen will live forever on a new earth.

I agree with R.C. Sproul who says, “Debates over eschatology will probably continue until the Lord returns and we have the advantage of hindsight rather than the disadvantage of foresight. The divisions that exist within the Christian community are understandable, considering that both the subject matter and the literary genre of future prophecy are exceedingly difficult. This does not mean that we may push the Bible aside or neglect its eschatological sections. On the contrary the interpretive difficulties . . . call us to a greater diligence and persistence in seeking their solution.”

Providence vs Personal Revelation

I grew up hearing and believing that if you listened hard enough, you could hear God talk to you in a still small voice. I heard church leaders say prayer was supposed to be 2-way communication and that God desired to guide us via divine personal communication. So after almost 20 years of trying but never hearing God, I became a Deist. I came to believe God put things in motion and then just watched from a distance.

Later, somewhere in my 30’s, my views changed again. I started studying scripture intensely and reading a lot of William Lane Craig’s material and became convinced that God was in fact actively involved in all things, but I still wasn’t convinced He speaks to people today, even though most Protestant Christians will tell you He does. Well, I’m coming up on 50 now and I still haven’t heard God’s voice, so I am now almost certain that He doesn’t speak to people today. I’m not saying He can’t, or that He never has, but I don’t think He does. And I’m ok with that…just like I was ok with it in my 20’s. The difference between now and then is I now have a strong belief in God’s providence.

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Evolving Eschatology

When it comes to eschatology (the study of end times), my views have evolved over the years. I grew up as a Premillennialist (think Left Behind) but became an Amillennialist in my 30s. I now find the Amillennial/Partial-Preterist view most satisfactory. (Interestingly, it seems this is the view held by the Roman Catholic Church.)

So what exactly do all these big theological words mean?

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C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century, and he remains influential today. His famous apologetic work Mere Christianity, which was adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, has sold millions of copies and been translated into numerous languages. Lewis quotations find themselves regularly in sermons across America in churches of nearly every denomination, but ironically, many of Lewis’s views differ sharply from mainstream American Evangelicalism.

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R.C. Sproul & I

R.C. Sproul is a Reformed theologian, author, and pastor. I’m a Molinist ex-missionary and sometimes blogger. And although he’s more conservative than I am on most issues, there are several areas where we agree with each other.

For example, Sproul and I believe the spiritual gifts we read about in the New Testament are no longer active. In other words, he and I are Cessationists. We believe that God is actively involved in all things (Providence) but we do not believe God speaks to people today or reveals new truths. (We both acknowledge God could still perform miracles although neither of us expects them.)

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