Aug 25, 2008

The Tabernacle Was Still Standing!

Watch the following passionate reading of Hebrews' chapters 9 and 10 (video below). As Ryan Ferguson's inspiring soliloquy of the inspired Word captivates you, please consider the original audience that received these words of comfort, hope and exhortation. Although the letter to the Hebrews is as relevant and profitable today as it was 2,000 years ago, this timely message delivered to the heavily persecuted first century Christians, must be understood in context. Though "All Scripture is inspired by God...that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16-17), the fact remains that these poignant words were delivered to the "Hebrews" in the AD 60s.

So, in order to determine the way in which this God-breathed text should impact us today, we must first determine the author's original intent. "Reader relevance" (considering context) is oftentimes overlooked or discarded by our quest for personal application.

Written a few years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. (Mt 24:2-3; Luke 21:20-22), this letter is closely aligned with Peter's understanding that they were living the "last days". (Heb 1:1-2; Acts 2:16-21) The temple/tabernacle was still standing (Heb 9:8) and even though 3 decades prior, Christ made the once and for all sacrifice for sin (Heb 9:26-28), the sacrificial system was still very much in force.

The Old Covenant was passing away, growing old and ready to vanish but it had not yet disappeared. (Heb 8:13) This 40 year transition period from 30-70 AD (Pentecost to Holocaust) is the Exodus anti-type. The Israelites had been freed from captivity (Exodus 13:33-51), but an arduous 40 year journey (filled with signs and wonders) stood between them and the Promised Land.

The New Covenant, established at the cross and inaugurated at Pentecost, was steadily transitioning into fullness. That's why we see this "already but not yet" type language spread throughout the New Testament e.g. "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed". (Rom 13:11) Was Paul not already saved? Why was salvation merely nearer? Yes, Paul was clearly saved, but it wasn't until the 2nd coming that salvation would be sealed.

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV) so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

There is an eager anticipation pervading the NT writings. As Paul notes in his letter to the Corinthians, "the time is short" and "the form of this world is passing away". (1Cor 7:29-31) They were nearing the end of Judaism's Old Covenant "last days", Peter making emphatic reference when he wrote, "The end is near". (1Pet 4:7). Paul, again assured the Corinthians "so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ...upon whom the ends of the ages had come." (1 Cor 7:1; 10:11)

The present evil age was coming to a close and the new age was dawning. Eternal life would be found in the age that was about to come.

Mark 10:30 (NASB) but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

As you listen to Ryan so eloquently recite this amazing portion of Scripture, I caution you not to make the same mistake I made for far too long i.e. placing these inspired words in our future. So when you read Heb 10:24-25 and Heb 10:36-37, it might be helpful to remember that these exhortations and expectations were delivered 2,000 years ago! The Hebrews could SEE the DAY approaching because in a very little while He who is (was) coming will (did) come and will NOT DELAY.

Hebrews 10:36-37 (NASB) For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.

Yes, I realize this greatly disturbs your paradigm as it did mine, however, my prayer is that you will allow the Bible to reform your mind and allow it to lead you in all truth. Overriding long held presuppositions can be a very disturbing process. Press on toward the call, my friend!

Aug 12, 2008

Is Barack Hussein Obama the AntiChrist?

There are all kinds of wild accusations running rampant on the internet but the reality is that being both The Antichrist of the World and President of these United States may prove to be an unwarranted strain on Barack's energies--not withstanding the need for just compensation. Not that I have done it before, but ruling the world sounds a whole lot more taxing than playing charades with Cheney. :) Later, I will attempt to take a serious look at the crazy internet claims, but first let's first consider our pressing political conundrum. What are we going to do on Tuesday, November 4, 2008?

Please take the time to read the recent Alan Keyes World Net Daily (WND) article, "
2-Party System - No Choice but Evil". Keyes exhorts us not to be ruled by fear but be of sound mind and moral conviction as the election approaches. Easier said than done! Alan makes some rather challenging but apropos comments regarding the current presidential climate and our responsibility therein.

Who should we vote for? Barack Obama, John McCain, Alan Keyes, Ron Paul, Pat Paulson, Pete Townsend or ________? Should conscience play a significant role, and if so, from a practical standpoint what does that mean? It seems as though we are perpetually left with less than enthusiastically-driven choices. Are we to be succumb to the bullying of conservatives like Gary Bauer, who argues the "lesser of the two evils" approach is both prudent and pragmatic? In lieu of the Obama extremes (he may out-left Brian Moore the Socialist Party candidate), it is rather tempting to cave in to the horrific ramifications of Obamarama and punch the golden McCain ticket. (A little veiled Willa Wonka reference!)

Even Dr. James Dobson seems to be hedging just a mite from his rather emphatic statement uttered this past January, "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances". I don't for a minute question Dr. Dobson's integrity or his motivations (since he has long proved to be a principled leader), but I do wonder about our collective resolve to stand against evil--since it is clearly not a respecter of political parties. My guess is that Dobson will reluctantly cast his support in favor of McCain.

Should we do the same? Alan Keyes, whom I respect a great deal, says that we shouldn't. Alan writes:

No one can or should deny another the right to change his or her mind in light of new information or a better understanding of the facts. Dr. Dobson may be correct when he cites a "constantly changing political context." However, he presented his opposition to McCain as a matter of conscience, not political calculation. As Dr. Dobson wrote in an essay defending his position of conscience, "Polls don't measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one's principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear." ("The Values Test," the New York Times, Oct. 4, 2007) From this perspective, the question is not whether the political facts have changed, but whether there has been a change in the moral truth that should govern conscientious choice. In this respect, the moral facts about both Obama and McCain were clear when Dr. Dobson first declared his position of conscience. Nothing has changed.

We need to prayerfully consider our role in the upcoming election. Many issues are on the table. Do we "change" simply for change sake? Do we know where that change will lead?

As you think through these things please also mull over your reaction and ensuing responsibility to the presumption that Barack Obama is THE Antichrist. Preposterous you say? Not so fast. I'm certain that I'm not alone in the receipt of such emails detailing the composition of this beastly character (the antichrist). Should we continue to propagate this kind of thing? Should we consider it a viable possibility. Since the election's stretch run is going to be so emotional charged, I think it is necessary for us to seriously consider what we do and don't pass along to our e-buddies.

Is it not our responsibility to confront this whole notion head on with Scripture? Gary DeMar of American Vision has done just that in recent blog article, "Hal Lindsey, Obama and the Antichrist". One thing we simply can't afford to do, is foster an ever greater distrust for the Word of God based upon wild and crazy conjectures. There are lasting consequences when God's Word is perverted. I don't think it's intentional but the damage has nonetheless been done when these emails proliferate unchallenged. It isn't simply harmless fun when we don't put an end to that which can be proved false.

Undoubtedly you've received more than one "serious" email suggesting (some "proving") that Barack Obama is the antichrist. This following short blurb subtitles the blog, “Barack Obama the Antichrist?”: (Barack Obama may be the Antichrist, he has risen up out of no where, he mesmerizes crowds, people are gathering in huge numbers, he is likely becoming the next President of the United States. Do not look only to what I say, but look to your Bibles, to passages in John, Daniel, and Revelations.) Matter of fact, a pole on this blog posits some rather chilling results with over 73% of the 8,756 respondents believing that he is or might be the antichrist. (BTW, the book of Revelation doesn't end with an "s")

Excuse my English, but this sort of nonsense (I know that's harsh but we have to call it like it is) totally ignores the Scriptural references regarding antichrist. Although truth based upon sound interpretation has never short-circuited people from making similarly outrageous claims (further damaging the credibility of the inerrant Word), for the sake of the Gospel I don't believe we should allow these kinds of claims to continue into perpetuity. At least not without serious and unintended side-effects. We must handle the Word of God precisely and without preconceived prejudice.

Check out the list of “antichrist” candidates from past failed predictions. They include: Yassar Arafat, the ‘Beast” super computer of EU, Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, Mikhail Gorbachev, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissenger, Martin Luther, Benito Mussolini, Nero, Pope John Paul II, David Rockefeller, Anwar Sadat, Saddam Hussein, Willy Brandt, Boris Yeltsin, and many others. (thanks to Larry Seigle for this infamous list)

Let’s dispel this irresponsible “Obama’s the antichrist claim” not because the man doesn’t fit the Biblical definition, but by applying consistent Biblical hermeneutics (science of study). We know that Obama cannot be the antichrist. How? By resorting to God's Word. But before we determine the "how" let's create a Scriptural definition. Antichrist is only found in 4 verses, all from John’s epistles—and none from the Revelation. The Greek word Antichristos is anyone who is Christ’s adversary. Anyone who is anti Christ. Let’s consider the Scriptural usages thereby creating a definition based upon the Word not from some fictional book series.

  1. It is the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (1John 2:22) (there’s a whole lot in this power-packed phrased “Jesus is the Christ”, not the least of which includes the fact that Jesus is THE way THE truth and THE life and without faith in Him (John 14:6) everlasting life with God is not possible)
  2. …every spirit that does not confess Jesus—is not from God.” (1John 4:3) (again, there’s a whole lot more to confessing Jesus than believing in His existence--"behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world")
  3. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (these were the first century "last days" mockers)

Now let’s put this in context and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that although Barack Obama may be the worst and most dangerous presidential candidate to be a hanging chad away from the highest office in the land, he is not “THE ANTICHRIST”. How can we be so certain? Audience relevance. Scriptural context.

We must recognize that although the Scriptures were written FOR us (2Tim 3:16) they were not written directly TO us. If we are to proclaim the miraculous nature of God’s Word we cannot continue ripping passages from their context in an effort to meet our expectations. Considering the only 4 passages containing the word “antichrist” we learn the following:

  1. There is no ONE person called the antichrist. (1John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2John 1:7) — Those who oppose Christ are anti-Christ. The Apostle Paul was at one time an antichrist. Many false Messiah’s appeared in the first century between the cross and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. For an absolutely breathtaking look at first century events surrounding the predictions found in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21), read the following written by Peter Hoford in 1805: The Destruction of Jerusalem: An Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity—Including a narrative of the calamities which befel the Jews so far as they tend to verify our Lord's predictions relative to that event. If you read this paper you will never again look at Bible prophecy with the same 21st century glasses. There was a pervasive “spirit of the antichrist” that signified “the end of the age”.
  • …and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared
  • He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son”
  • “…and this is the spirit of the Antichrist
  1. The antichrists referred to by John lived 2,000 years ago—their appearance marked the culmination of the “end times”/“last days” signified by John’s usage of “it is the last hour”.
  • “even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour”
  • “this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world”

In conclusion, I hope we will dispel irresponsible statements regarding Obama or anyone else as being THE antichrist. I'm sorry if I may be perceived as offensive here, but the Word of God must not be prostituted to satisfy errant eschatologies. John tells us that the "Spirit of the antichrist" was prevalent in the first century. That does not preclude people today from being anti-Christs, since anyone opposing the Gospel of Christ is anti-Christ, but no one this side of the first century destruction of Jerusalem is a Biblical fulfillment of John's statements.

I also hope that we can gain God's mind on how we can best fulfill our stewardship of being ambassadors to the Kingdom of Christ. Should opposition to Obama drive us to McCain? If the Christian community ever became united in purpose and commitment to Christ there's no telling where our world would be.

  • make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:2 (NASB)