What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to
the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one
who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the
one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted as righteousness ...
Saturday, August 30, 2008
RETRIBUTION FOR BELIEVERS (By Joey Faust)
(Note- not all Free Gracers agree with Joey Faust's Millennial Exclusion view, but it is a view that believers would do well to consider)
by Joey Faust
1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That NO MAN go beyond and defraud HIS BROTHER in any matter: because that THE LORD IS THE AVENGER OF ALL SUCH, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
The above Scriptures reveal that the Lord will meet some believers as an AVENGER. This clearly speaks of retribution. And we are warned that such terror may be experienced at the Judgment Seat of Christ when the Lord returns (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Such plain truth is shunned or denied for certain philosophical or emotional reasons that will be evaluated in this article.
When believers come face to face with the Biblical warnings to believers in regard to the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Millennium it is natural for many to wonder WHY the Lord would punish at such times. The time for repentance for believers will be ended when the Lord returns and reigns in His Kingdom. Many therefore use this question as an objection:
"Why would God temporarily punish believers at the Judgment Seat? What good would it do? It will then be too late for repentance and reformation. All judgment upon believers is for repentance and reformation. Therefore, the view that God will punish unfaithful believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ and during the Millennium must be wrong, since there would be no reason left, at these times, for such punishment."
Of course, a faulty premise will result in a faulty conclusion. This objection assumes that reformation and prevention are the ONLY purposes of judgment in regard to believers. It entirely overlooks the fact that RETRIBUTION is a crucial purpose of judgment, even for the children of God - especially after previous warnings and chastenings have been despised and spurned. It is crucial that we do not allow modern, humanistic philosophy and psychology to influence our doctrinal views (Colossians 2:8). Humanism naturally recoils from all aspects of Divine retribution, in all its manifestations. Therefore, to rightly comprehend the Bible's teachings in regard to the Judgment Seat of Christ, all faulty, humanistic foundations must be rejected.
Before examining the Scriptures on the subject of retribution, it might be helpful to notice the changes that many have made (or desire to make) to the criminal justice system in America. These changes reflect a "new" way of thinking that has had profound effects upon the way the Scriptures are viewed and interpreted. We are living in an age that largely views retribution as archaic, rusty, and even savage. Criminals (especially women) are too often viewed as victims. (Even Judas is being "rehabilitated" as a victim!) They are seen as "sick," and therefore in need of "treatment" and rehabilitation. Increasingly, punishment is determined by judges based upon the perceived good it might or might not do to the criminal! This humanistic view is often called utilitarianism. It maintains that only the criminal's future matters. Both the real victim, and the very principle of justice itself, are often ignored in order to apologize to, excuse, and "treat" the criminal. There is a growing movement that believes that the duty of sentencing criminals should be totally removed from judges and placed into the hands of "doctors" and mental specialists (i.e. psychological quacks). Certainly, with such humanistic philosophies abounding, it is no wonder that we might have some trouble grasping the Biblical doctrine of retribution (especially when applied to the people of God).
Presbyterian minister James M. Orr (1838-1865) noticed the error of the modern view of punishment that was already gaining some ground in his day:
"The modern humanitarian spirit tends to exalt the reformatory and preventive ends of punishment, at the expense of the RETRIBUTIVE. That every effort should be put forth for the reformation of the criminal which the case admits of, we cordially allow. But the danger is, in these matters, that sentiment degenerate into sentimentalism. Crime DESERVES punishment, and on that ground alone, were there no other, ought to receive it. No theory can be satisfactory which loses sight of RETRIBUTION, and makes reformation and prevention the all in all." ("Pulpit Commentary," Deuteronomy 25)
Have not many modern Christians succumbed to this error in their views concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ? Certainly, the whole concept of punishment has been attacked in the state, in the home, and in the church; and this has greatly downgraded the views of many preachers in regard to the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers. First, the "modern humanitarian spirit" (which has its foundation in humanism) has made the very idea of punishment for unfaithful believers seem shocking, absurd and preposterous. My book, "The Rod: Will God Spare It," connects the modern rejection of the Judgment Seat of Christ (for God's children) with the humanistic rejection of Biblical discipline in the home. Many preachers who rightly resist the humanistic attacks upon the family, and upon Biblical discipline in the home, are nevertheless, unwittingly drunken with the same spirit when it comes to the Judgment Seat of Christ. With one side of their mouths they exhort fathers not to spare the rod; yet with the other side, they teach that GOD will automatically spare the rod at the Judgment Seat! Secondly, the "sentimentalism" of this modern humanism moves many to overlook RETRIBUTION as one of the chief purposes of judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. When this crucial purpose is lost sight of, or forgotten, the Biblical-judgment warnings to believers are constricted and made to conform to the dictates of humanistic philosophy. In the same manner that our law courts are infected with a lackadaisical mentality ("What's done is done; what good would it do the criminal to punish him/her now?"), so are our pulpits often diseased with the same vain reasonings in regard to the warnings concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ!
William Powell Clark (in the 1920's), writes:
"The real reason underlying the refusal of some dear children of God to accept belief in the punishment of unfruitful believers - not eternal, but during the Millennial reign of Christ - is an inadequate sense of THE JUSTICE OF GOD. Acceptance of the belief in the temporary punishment of such Christians during the Millennial reign safeguards the eternal merits of Christ's atonement on the cross, and at the same time, preserves the absolute Justice of God."
Notice, this Christian judge had a clear view of the necessity of JUSTICE at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Clark believed that the adoption of humanistic thinking concerning retribution and justice was the underlying cause for the disbelief of many in regard to the Lord's warnings to unfaithful believers. If this was the case in the 1920's, how much more is this modern generation of Christians confused concerning God's retributive justice? Let us pray that we might see these concepts in a Biblical manner.
At the heart of retributive justice are the concepts of merit and desert. Justice REPAYS the guilty for his or her wrongs committed. Therefore, in answering the question of whether retribution plays a crucial part in the judgments unfaithful believers will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we simply need to examine the Scriptures to see if such concepts are used in relation to believers. Upon doing so, we immediately find that retribution plays an important role at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Notice how contrary the following Scriptures are to the ungrounded view that states that RETRIBUTION (i.e. God's moral justice) must play no part in the judgments upon unfaithful believers WHEN THEY STAND BEFORE GOD'S TRIBUNAL:
Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But HE THAT DOETH WRONG shall RECEIVE FOR THE WRONG which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that YE ALSO HAVE A MASTER IN HEAVEN.
The idea of "receiving for the wrong" is certainly that old, archaic, traditional view of justice! The context refers to believers. And notice that the Judgment Seat of Christ is not merely PARENTAL in nature. There are other pictures or backdrops in place. There is also the servant/master relationship that occurs so often in Biblical warnings to believers! While some in modern times might have trouble understanding retribution in the parental setting, none should have any trouble understanding it in the servant/master relationship often presented in the Bible:
Matthew 24:48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Many wrongly decry the application of these Gospel warnings to believers (also see Luke 12:45-48, 19:22-26, Matthew 25:30, etc.). Many get on a high horse and proclaim, "We are not mere servants. We are sons!" For the moment, we will put aside the fact that fathers had the power of life and death over their sons in ancient times. We also will ignore the fact that in the Old Testament legislation, incorrigible sons who would not repent after they had been properly chastised, were to be slain (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Certainly, these are important types for the New Testament teaching on the Judgment Seat of Christ. But what is more important is the fact that the Epistles do not present "sonship" as the only picture or relationship between believers and the Lord! The Judgment Seat of Christ is largely presented to New Testament believers in the context of the servant/master relationship (as seen in Colossians 4:1). And in the context of this relationship, "mere retribution" plays an important role:
Ephesians 6:9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to HIS OWN MASTER he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Again, Romans 14, like the Gospel warnings, presents future judgment in the context of a servant/master relationship (John 13:13). However, it even goes beyond this picture, since the very subject of a "judgment seat" reveals the throne of a magistrate:
John 19:13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the JUDGMENT SEAT in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
Acts 18:12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the JUDGMENT SEAT,
Acts 25:10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's JUDGMENT SEAT, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. 11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die...
The fable that the Judgment Seat of Christ is only an awards banquet of some kind (usually argued by replacing the word "judgment" with "bema," though the preacher is speaking English!) is plainly exposed by the above Scriptures which use the same word for "judgment." At Caesar's "judgment seat" there was RETRIBUTION, even to death! And the Lord Jesus Christ, as King of Kings, has a higher, more terrible throne than any Caesar!:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST; that every one may RECEIVE THE THINGS DONE in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the TERROR OF THE LORD, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
It should be clear to all that the Lord's judgment throne is a throne of retribution for believers, and that we need to bring our doctrinal views in line with the Scriptures. Notice how the earthly ruler is called by God to render justice and retribution:
Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a REVENGER to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
If he is a REVENGER, then he is called to administer justice and retribution! And we have already seen that the New Testament presents God as a Master or Judge who will REPAY believers according to the deeds done in the body. The concepts of repaying and avenging are central to the concept of moral retribution!
With these thoughts in mind, notice another important Scripture:
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, VENGEANCE BELONGETH UNTO ME, I WILL RECOMPENSE, saith the Lord. And again, THE LORD SHALL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This passage presents the judgment upon believers (who do despite unto the Spirit of grace and refuse to repent) as "vengeance," and a "recompense." These are the same elements of retribution that we have seen presented elsewhere in relation to the judgment of believers:
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my REWARD is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just RECOMPENCE of reward; 3 How shall WE escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
The upholding of moral justice is a crucial purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Millennial Kingdom. The Bible teaches that the coming age of justice (in contrast to this age of the Lord's longsuffering) will BEGIN with the judgment of the Lord's own household:
1 Peter 4:17 For the time is come that JUDGMENT MUST BEGIN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
"...the coming millennial day of Justice, dominated by the Judgment Seat, has for its essential characteristic the recoil of works in JUDICIAL RETRIBUTION. 'For he that doeth wrong...'- the context is addressed solely to believers (Col. 3:25)." (D.M. Panton, "The Judgment Seat of Christ")
What would it teach the nations of the Millennial age if there was no retribution at all for the unfaithful of the Lord's own household? What do people think of one who is strict with his neighbors but too soft with his own household? Did not Eli's softness concerning his own house provoke Israel to abhor the offering of the Lord? The Lord will uphold moral justice for the righteousness of the principle itself. But this just retribution (for those who did not seek mercy beforehand) will also demonstrate the righteousness of God to all nations, and even to the angels.
It is interesting that the majority of objectors to retribution at the Judgment Seat of Christ have no problem with positive rewards:
Hebrews 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the RECOMPENCE of the reward.
Yet, the same moral justice that rewards good behavior must likewise punish bad behavior. The same error is seen in the many interpreters who take the promises of reward literally (i.e. Jesus will gird himself and serve the dining believer, Luke 12:37), yet refuse or spiritualize the warnings in the same context (12:39, 46-49).
The main objection offered against retribution at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers) is that since the Lord has already PAID for all sins (past, present and future), there is, therefore, no place or ground for ANY future retribution. However, this objection fails to leave any logical room for any chastisement at all, even in this life! Yet, the Bible teaches that believers may be judged for sins committed after regeneration (Acts 5:10, 1 Corinthians 11:29-32, 1 John 5:16, etc.). Therefore, the fact that Jesus has PAID for the sins of believers does not mean that there is no danger of any consequences for sins committed after salvation. In the type, David was forgiven of adultery and murder, but he still suffered some temporal consequences (2 Samuel 12:10-14). The smallest sin in the sight of the eternal God merits eternal torment; yet the Blood of Jesus has removed this penalty for every believer, for all sins (past, present and future). But the Lord's work on the Cross was never meant to bar the Father from administrating the affairs of His household! The merits of Christ place the sinner on new ground (as a son, servant, etc.). But this new ground is not without some severe accountability - even though there is no danger of eternal retribution.
The branch that obediently abides in the vine, is purged so it will bring forth more fruit (John 15:2). This is the only aspect of God's parental dealings that are admitted or taught by many preachers. However, this purging is for faithful, obedient believers! The Lord warns that the branch that does not abide in the Vine, will not be purged - it will be cut off (John 15:2,6). Some believers refuse the discipline that is meant for their growth in holiness. They faint under or despise the purging. Such discipline that is not endured in patience (giving God reverence by our subjection) can result in severe retribution, in this life, and at the Judgment Seat.
The very facts concerning the judgment of believers in this life reveal that the humanistic theory is in error. If retribution plays no part at all in the judgment of believers, and they can only be chastised for one purpose (i.e. provoking their repentance in this life), then how does one answer the fact that believers are sometimes killed by God for their sins (Acts 5:10, 1 Corinthians 11:29-32, 1 John 5:16, etc.)? Certainly, it is obvious that such a judgment leaves no room for repentance, reformation or rehabilitation in this life! It therefore follows that the theory that all judgment of believers is only for correction in this life is erroneous. Believers are often judged for the purpose of retribution; and any "correction" and instruction (at least in this life) is often for others who see the judgment:
Acts 5:10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon ALL THE CHURCH, and upon as many as heard these things.
Even the retribution that was often administered to Old Testament believers is used as a warning example to New Testament believers (1 Corinthians 10:11).
On the other hand, although moral retribution is an important purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ, I do not maintain that it is the only purpose. God is able (and He has every right) to use such judgments to accomplish ALL the purposes He intends to accomplish. The intent of this article is to demonstrate the error of binding the Lord to only one purpose of judgment concerning believers. RETRIBUTION ALONE is presented in the Scriptures as a crucial purpose for judging some believers during the Millennial Age. Disobedient, unrepentant believers (who seek no mercy beforehand in godly fear) must be punished on the grounds of moral justice alone. The prevalent ignorance of this well-established principle of criminal justice moves many modern judges to let repeat offenders escape proper prison-time. They reason, "What good would such an extended stay in prison do for the rapist or murderer? We cannot undo the crime. Let us therefore concentrate on helping the criminal." We must not use such humanistic, darkened reasonings when interpreting the warnings to believers!
I am sure that Pre-Wrathers will welcome Zane Hodges' contribution to the debate. He raises some interesting issues:
The shortening of the tribulation
The Pre-Wrath interpretation of the cutting short is certainly not the only viable interpretation. However, it is still a possible and plausible one.
If the days of the tribulation are pre-determined it does seem odd that they should be shortened in advanced. How long should those days be?
Wrath in the Tribulation
Hodges cites Matthew 24:22 as evidence of divine wrath in the tribulation. I do not think this is a necessary conclusion, even if we reject Rosenthal's reading of that verse. I am sure I have read Pre-Tribbers understand that verse in terms of the war and famine that will be unleashed through the destructive energy of man. That energy is halted by the outpouring of divine wrath after the rapture.
Hodges faults Rosenthal's view that 'no flesh' refers to the Jewish nation. It may not convince all, but it does fit the Jewish context of the passage and reflect some of the Old Testament descriptions of devastation falling on the land of Israel. Pre-Tribbers make plenty of assumptions about Matthew 24 too.
The Day of the Lord
Zane Hodges suggests that reading the term 'Day of the Lord' as a static term always referring to a specific period is very questionable. I agree that viewing the term as a fixed and definite period is not demanded by the biblical texts, but the Pre-Wrath view does provide a framework that can allow for consistency between the uses of the term.
Pre-Wrathers and Post-tribbers have frequently faulted Pre-Tribbers for their failure to defend the idea that the entire period of the Daniel's Seventieth Week is the Day of the Lord.
Are the seals, trumpets and vials consecutive?
Hodges raises an important fault with Rosenthal's book. Rosenthal failed to defend the consecutive view. Thus, when I first read it I was quite unconvinced. My previous Post-Tribulational views of course depended upon the seals, trumpets and vials being parallel events. When I came to doubt the certainty of this conclusion, it became clear that the Pre-Wrath view was a better option.
It is interesting that Hodges makes this point, because in general, Pre-Tribulational writers seem to assume that the seals, trumpets and vials are consecutive.
The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. By Marvin Rosenthal.
Here is yet another book which claims to refute the pre-tribulation Rapture. But in this one there is a new twist. The author is neither mid nor post-tribulational. Instead, he holds to a new placement of the Rapture which locates it around the middle of the last three and a half years of Daniel’s seventieth week. He calls this view the "pre-wrath" Rapture.
Rosenthal is a graduate of Dallas Seminary and is presently the executive director of a faith mission called Zion’s Hope. Although he was formerly pre-tribulational in his convictions, Rosenthal tells us that he came painfully to the conclusion that these convictions were wrong. In his book, however, he expresses an almost dogmatic certitude about many of his present persuasions.
This reviewer appreciated the overall tone of the book. Rosenthal is careful to praise his former mentors (men like John F. Walvoord, Charles C. Ryrie, and Dwight D. Pentecost), and there are no harsh personal attacks. At the same time, however, one senses here and there a slight note of condescension toward those who have not noticed the obvious biblical facts to which Rosenthal directs us. For example, on p. 292, he suggests that nobody would have missed the connection between the seven churches (Revelation 2, 3) and Daniel’s seventieth week apart from their preconception that the Church is raptured before the seventieth week. This is both unfair and a bit snide. But by and large, Rosenthal handles his polemics rather well.
On balance, however, the book is a serious disappointment. The author’s confidence in his new position is not matched by an adequate finesse in exegesis or argumentation. In fact, a book refuting Rosenthal’s volume has just appeared, written by a very gifted Dallas graduate, Paul S. Karleen. (See The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church: Is It Biblical? published, 1991, by BF Press [P.O. Box L-601, Langhorne, PA 19047], 102 pp.) Karleen does an excellent job in exposing the weaknesses in Rosenthal’s conclusions.
See also "A review of the Pre-Wrath rapture of the Church" By Gerald B. Stanton
Within the short scope of a review, we can only discuss a few of the numerous places where Rosenthal’s exegesis and argumentation seem seriously flawed. Below are given four cases where some of the major premises of this book rest on extremely questionable foundations:
1. Rosenthal claims that the Great Tribulation is shortened to less that three and a half years, while "it is beyond refutation that the seventieth week of Daniel is not shortened" (p. 109). This shortening is indicated in Matt 24:21, 22 and Mark 13:20.
This distinction is crucial to Rosenthal’s case since his whole scheme depends on distinguishing the Great Tribulation from the Day of the Lord (which he believes begins around the middle of the last three and a half years).
Rosenthal’s argument in no way proves his point. He does not even consider the option that the last three and a half years are, in fact, the time frame into which a potentially longer Tribulation will be compressed. After all, the prophecy of Daniel 9 doesn’t use the word "years" either, so that it is only by a process of deduction that we can determine the literal length of time. But there is no real reason why this deduction cannot also apply to the Tribulation. It is logically inadmissible to claim that the shortening of the Tribulation necessarily results in a shorter time span than three and a half years. To make that claim assumes what remains to be proved.
Rosenthal should also have noticed that Mark 13:20 speaks of this shortening as already an accomplished fact. God has shortened the days already so that their length is pre-determined. No text states that this shortening is to a time span briefer than Daniel’s seventieth week, which is equally pre-determined!
2. Rosenthal argues that the Tribulation contains no divine wrath but is "uniquely Jewish." He denies that the statement that "no flesh would be saved" (Matt 24:22) has a universal reference, but instead must mean "in context" "no Jewish [!] flesh" (pp. 174, 206, 304).
This is a forced and impossible exegesis. "No flesh" without qualification is not at all likely to be a reference only to the Jewish race. Such a reference is ruled out, in fact, by the immediately preceding verse, which states that the Great Tribulation is without parallel "since the beginning of the world"! This is quite different than the statement (to which Rosenthal appeals) found in Dan 12:1: "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation." Clearly, while Daniel speaks of the experience of a "nation," our Lord speaks of the experience of mankind.
With the collapse of this point, Rosenthal’s whole system fails, since Rosenthal must show that the Great Tribulation is merely persecution of the Jews and not a time of God’s wrath. But if the extinction of the whole race is threatened by this period, clearly God’s wrath will be at work. Thus, on Rosenthal’s own premises, a pre-wrath Rapture would have to be at least a pre-Great Tribulation Rapture!
Besides, if the Great Tribulation is the time of Jewish persecution, then Revelation itself shows that this time is three and a half years in duration (see Rev 12:6, 13–14). The flawed exposition and reasoning which Rosenthal displays in Matt 24:21, 22 are distressing.
3. Rosenthal treats the "Day of the Lord" as a fixed and static term. According to him, the definite article used in this phrase by the OT prophets shows that "they knew of only one such event" (p. 129).
Rosenthal makes a false linguistic point. Even if the definite article were used with this phrase, it would not prove that there was only one event to which the term could apply. When I say, "The dog came into the house," I certainly do not imply that there is only one dog or one house. But unfortunately for Rosenthal’s case, the Hebrew text does not employ the definite article with "day" in this phrase, as Karleen has pointed out (p. 38)!
It is highly unsophisticated to make linguistic points based on faulty concepts about language. Instead, Rosenthal should have come to grips with the OT data which suggests that the prophets felt free to use the phrase "day of the Lord" to describe the divine judgments in their own time (e.g., Joel in reference to a locust plague: Joel 2:1–11).
Nor does Rosenthal show any awareness of a distinction in the NT use of this phrase which was suggested long ago by J. F. Strombeck in First the Rapture (3rd ed., Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1951), 54. On such a view, there would be two NT usages of this term:
(1) The Day of the Lord-A signless eschatological period which overtakes the world suddenly while man’s normal life patterns are proceeding as usual (1 Thess 5:2, 3; 2 Pet 3:3, 4, 10; see also Matt 24:36–39).
(2) The Great (and Terrible, Notable) Day of the Lord-An intense period of divine judgment preceded by signs (notably cosmic disturbances) and including the appearance of Christ in glory (cf. Joel 2:30, 31 / Acts 2:20; Rev 6:15–17; and see also Matt 24:29–31; Luke 21:25–28). We may call this "the Day of the Lord par excellence."
To assume, as Rosenthal does, that the biblical concept of "the day of the Lord" has but a single and fixed significance, is an enormous begging of the question.
4. Rosenthal holds with many others that the three cycles of judgment in Revelation (the seals, trumpets, and bowls) are given according to the chronological order of their fulfillment. Again, this understanding is indispensable to Rosenthal’s position.
But he never demonstrates its correctness. The text of Revelation itself by no means connects the three cycles to one another in such a way as to suggest Rosenthal’s approach. There is no good reason to extend the content of the seventh seal beyond 8:1. John often begins new units in this book with "and" (cf. the Greek text of 10:1; 11:1; 11:15; etc.), so that the words of 8:2 ("And I saw the seven angels…") can be treated as the beginning of a separate unit. Still less is there any reason to connect the seventh trumpet (11:15–19) with the bowl judgments of chapters 15 and 16.
Rosenthal gives no serious attention to the alternative view that the three cycles are to some extent parallel in the periods which they cover, and that all three carry us right up to the end of Daniel’s seventieth week just prior to the glorious appearance of our Lord. On this issue, Rosenthal has not dug deeply enough nor coped adequately with alternative positions.
Although Rosenthal claims that "a logical, unforced, chronological unfolding of Revelation has evaded pretribulational … commentators" (p. 112), we may well ask whether this might not also be said of him. In the pursuit of an "unforced, chronological" understanding of Revelation, Rosenthal ends up stating that "Christ will literally return to assume His kingdom at the seventh trumpet" (p. 146). But this requires him to assign the bowl judgments of Revelation 16 to the thirty-day period mentioned in Daniel 12:11, which follows the last three and a half years of the seventieth week. But Revelation is totally silent about the thirty-day period mentioned in Daniel! Moreover, the glorious return of Christ in Revelation (ch. 19) is actually presented after the bowl judgments! And where is Armageddon in this scheme, since it too follows the bowl judgments in the text of Revelation? Neither the charts in Rosenthal’s book, nor the text, inform us!
Clearly, whatever this system of thought may be, it is not an "unforced, chronological" understanding of the book of Revelation!
Finally, though this reviewer admires what he believes to be an evident sincerity on the part of the author, the publication of this book must still be viewed with reserve. A radical shift of perspective which, the author tells us, began in 1986 should probably not have been rushed into print some four years later. In the complex field of biblical prophecy, there is no substitute for years of reflection and study on the pertinent passages. A change of view in this area ought really to be tested over a considerable period of time before it is submitted to the Christian public for consideration.
The Christian public already has more than enough controversies to engage its attention. All of us who write should keep that in mind.
Many people may be surpised to know that the word elohim is used in Psalm 8 to refer to angels. A lot of Christians do not realise that there are such things as gods.
This is why Christians who try to argue that the Jehovah's Witnesses' rendering of John 1:1 is objectionable on theological grounds will hit a brick wall:
Christian: How can the Word be a God when there is only one God.
J.W: Ah, but the Bible refers in several places to plural gods.
It has been my contention in a number of posts that the Bible teaches a qualified polytheism. There is only one creator. There is only one all-powerful God who dwells from everlasting to everlasting. However, there are beings that are called gods in the Bible.
I believe that God has created powerful beings called angels or gods. They have been given authority and dominion over the cosmos. Some of them exercise godly rule, while others cause chaos and promote wickedness and engage in spiritual warfare against the Kingdom of Yahweh.
As we are told in Psalm 8, mankind was created a little lower than the gods. Mankind was given charge over the earth, but the gods exercise heavenly rule.
Yet Psalm 8 reveals that it is God's purpose to put all of His works under the control of humanity. This has begun in Christ.
The risen Christ has ascended in heaven and has been given all authority and power over heaven and earth. He is the head of a new heavenly humanity, a celestial aristocracy. Those who are in Him and brought into a new divine relation. Through Christ their humanity is joined to divinity and they share in the very life of God.
The service of the Christian in the present age is meant to determine His ultimate status in the coming kingdom. If we are faithful and ready to suffer with Christ, we shall have a part in ruling over heaven and earth with our Saviour.
Though human beings are lower than the gods, we are to be given the same authority that they have. We are to replace the fallen angelic hierarchy, the principalities and powers. Thus, it is not incorrect to say that the goal of the Christian is to become a god. The glorified Christian is an heavenly being and in her the true likeness of God is realised.
"Two months ago, Vanderslice founded a Democratic PAC called the Matthew 25 Network and soon noticed that the negative e-mails she received from conservative Christians fell into two general topical categories: abortion, and the assertion that Obama is the Antichrist."
I preached this sermon this morning at a small, non-denominational church.
1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3 And the LORD said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
5 ¶ And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
The first part of the book of Genesis is a story of terminal decline. God created the world perfect. Yet its guardians, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and so the world fell under a curse. We read of the killing of Abel by Cain and the aggression of Lamech.
At this stage, things had reached boiling point. There was more evil in the world than could conceivably be tolerated. Notice that God has allowed things to go on in this state for a while. He had given man the power of self-determination.
Some people ask why God allows evil things to happen. That is a good question and the Bible does not give a direct answer. Yet it is clear that if we are to be able to make free choices, we must be able to that which is wrong as well as that which is right. God had allowed the men before the flood to continue in wickedness, but now they had gone on to far.
Yet God had not left man without a witness. God said “My spirit shall not always strive with man”. Though God allowed men to make their choices, His Spirit wrestled with them, urging them against evil. These people were acting against the movings of their consciences. But they were also resisting the Holy Spirit, just like the Pharisees did.
Convicting the world is one of the chief ministries of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. Our Lord told us that the Spirit convicts the world of sin. He enlightens people as to their sin and urges them to turn to God.
It may be that the Holy Spirit is at work in convicting you, of causing you to see the reality of your sin and your need for the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross. I would say to you to follow Him and turn to Christ.
Maybe the reason you are here today is that you are under the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you know deep down that there is something wrong with your life. You realise that there is more to life than working, shopping and holidays. While other people take no interest in God, you are desperate to come to know Him. I tell you, if you seek God, you will find Him. It says in the book of Hebrews that God is the rewarder of him that dilligently seeks after Him. Other people use the name of Jesus as a curse word, yet you see something so lovely in the name of Christ. Jesus can give you eternal life if you receive it from Him.
We are told that the ‘sons of God’ took wives of whom they chose. Scholars have disagreed on who the sons of God were. The earliest Christians believed that they were angels who committed the terrible act of interbreeding with humans, producing giant offspring. I agree with that view.
Many commentators were uneasy with this interpretation and suggested that the sons of God were believers who married unbelievers. The problem with that interpretation is that men are never called the sons of God in the Old Testament, while angels are. And it does not explain why giants were produced through this union.
Mankind had reached the heights of wickedness and it had come to the point where mankind was committing sexual immorality of the most horrible kind.
We must not forget that there is an unseen world of angels out there. Some are good and serve our creator while others are wicked and evil.
It was through a fallen angel, Satan, that evil entered the world and he still dominates it. The New Testament speaks about rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This is why the world is in such a mess.
Often when disasters happen, like the cyclone in Burma, there is a tendency to blame God. Unbelievers will ask why such things should happen. Christians on the other hand tend to either put it down to some mysterious divine plan or else to think of some reason why the disaster must be a judgment of God. Seldom do people acknowledge that there is an unseen dimension, inhabited by spiritual beings that wield great power in this world. I would suggest that we should explain disasters like the Burmaese cyclone in terms of the working of evil angels rather than God’s plans. Jesus never attributed sickness to God. He always treated it as the work of the devil.
These evil angels have tremendous power, far more than George Bush or any human ruler. Yet they will be defeated. The sons of God who sinned before the flood were defeated. It would seem they are the same angels that Peter and Jude saw were cast into hell and bound with everlasting chains. Through His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ humiliated every power and authority opposed to God.
When Jesus Christ returns He is going to end the misrule of Satan and his angels. We shall see a new kingdom of peace and righteousness.
Returning to our passage, we see a peculiar statement, that “the Lord repented that he had made man.”
Sometimes people have some very wrong ideas about God. Sometimes people have this idea that God is totally removed from His creation. That God is without any passion or emotion. This idea is foreign to the Bible.
God is an emotional being. He cares about His creation. He feels its pain. He is sorrowful when people hurt each other. God is sorrowful when men and women reject Him. God felt so sorrowful at the wickedness of men and women that He regretted creating man at all.
If you are rejecting God now, God is sorrowful. He desires you to seek Him and to find life. If you do not know God, I would urge you to seek Him.
However, if you continue to reject God there is judgment. The people of the world had the opportunity to find mercy and grace, but they rejected it. The Holy Spirit had striven with them to lead them to repentance, but they had rejected His convicting work. And thus they were liable for the consequences of their rebellion. They had their chance and had blown it. They wanted independence and they had it. But they had to face some consequences.
So God sent a flood to destroy them utterly.
God promised never to send another flood. Yet He will send fire upon the earth in the last days. As Paul tells us, when Christ returns He will take vengeance on those who have rejected God with flaming fire.
When I was a child I saw a man on the streets of Nottingham with a big bushy beard. He was wearing a sandwich board. You don't see people wearing sandwich boards these days, but this man did. His sandwich board said "Armageddon is near!" and he was shouting about the coming of Christ. My father asked me what I thought about this man. I replied that he looked very strange, but what he was saying was true. Yes, Armageddon is near. Christ is coming back and he will bring fire to cleanse this world. Maybe we need more Christians to wear sandwich boards and shouht about Armageddon. That is a message that people need to hear.
We rightly think of Jesus as the prince of peace. He is the one who will ultimately bring peace to the earth. Yet He compared His return to the flood of Noah’ s day. There will be a kingdom of peace on earth, but first there will be judgment on a sinful world. Just as the flood took the sinners in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of Man bring destruction on those who reject Christ now.
We do not know when Jesus Christ is coming back, but He is going to return. If you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, I want to warn you that His coming is going to bring destruction to the world you know. If you continue to reject Christ, you are in danger of being among those who perish on that day. As it was in the days of Noah, sop shall it be when the Son of Man comes.
If you are a believer, then you can rejoice that the coming of Christ will bring you to glory. You are going to be with Him forever. And if you have served your Saviour faithfully, you will be among those who rule that new and perfect kingdom of peace and righteousness.
At the end of this rather depressing passage, we read that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” This one man out of the all the people on earth had been found faithful.
In every age there are those who have found grace and acceptance with God, even in the most awful circumstances. God always has His remnant.
Today we are living in a world full of sin and wickedness. Just as the days of Noah, there is far too much murder and sexual immorality.
Yet God is still at work transforming lives. God is presently gathering a people for Himself who are called to be holy and separate from this world. A people who can live lives transformed according to the pattern in Christ. They have found peace with God through the reconciliation in Christ Jesus.
You can be among that people, if you would only turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and believe on Him. He came to this world to save sinners through suffering and rising again. He can give you eternal life if you only receive it from Him by faith.