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Blessed are the centenarians

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

If she were alive, my paternal grandmother, who went to be with Christ in 2003, would turn one hundred years old today.  Being of a historical cast of mind, this set me to thinking about all of the changes she saw in her comparatively long lifespan: society moving from horse-drawn conveyance to the dominance of the automobile; widespread air travel to far-flung places; telephones,  radios, televisions, and the personal computer proliferating; men on the moon rather than the fanciful “man in the moon” – just to name a few of the epoch-making shifts in technology that occurred between 1911-2003.

For all of this, I cannot help thinking that one hundred years is much briefer than what ought to be for someone to really accomplish something. How our lives are shortened and depleted by the effects of sin: change, decay, pain – the ubiquitous fruits of the Fall (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12; Rom. 8:18-19.) Science and pseudo-science alike vainly pursue ways to cheat death, while science fiction posits future utopias where humans live for ages (or just beat the system through time travel.) Yet at the end of the day, people still succumb to illness, accident, and violence – many of them far short of the century mark. Moses could relate to this grueling mortality, which he experienced in Israel’s wilderness wanderings:

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalm 90:9-10

Thankfully, the Word of God points ahead to the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom on earth, where the effects of the fall will first be drastically rolled back, and then after the thousand year reign on earth, they will give way to an eternal reign of deathless bliss. To convey the blessedness of those who live during the initial Millennium (so indicated by Rev. 20:4), Isaiah 65 invokes the image of the prevalence of centenarians in this future kingdom. Verses 19-20 declare:

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.

What a scene! If one dies at on hundred they are merely a child! Such people succumbing at one hundred will only do so because of punishment for sin – a swiftly carried out death sentence for grave disobedience to the Son of God who will be reigning on earth from His headquarters in Jerusalem. Revelation 19:15 describes the Lord Jesus ruling “with a rod of iron“; His administration will tolerate no rebellion or warfare. The last Adam will demonstrate what God the Father always desired for earth by perfectly governing  the earth for one thousand years, there will be a brief war with those who refuse to submit to His authority (Rev. 20:7-10.) This insurgency will promptly be vanquished, and the earth will be renovated by God’s purifying fire. This age will be superseded by the age to come, where there are “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwell righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13.)

So blessed are the centenarians! If one reaches that milestone, it is due to the grace of God in giving natural life. But only if you are born again can you be assured to live with the Son of God in that age beyond the century mark to a deathless future eternity through the new life that He gives (Jn. 3:3.)

The Comforter Cometh

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The Comforter Cometh

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and
devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2:25
In this world of sorrow people yearn for deliverance from life‘s problems and stresses. If only
someone could give them relief from the things that oppress their spirits and make their lives
drudgery, they reason, then their lives would be ideal. First-century Israel was no different, for
the Jews of that day longed for liberation from the onerous yolk of Rome as well as a restoration
of the glories of their independent past. Against this backdrop, a devout man named Simeon
walked into the Temple precincts one day in order to see the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. His
aspirations went far beyond nationalistic sentiments or personal desires for an easier life. Rather,
he awaited the coming of ―the Consolation of Israel‖ – the advent of the Messiah, a person
whose life and actions would have cosmic and eternal effect for Israel and the nations.
Thou Wilt Command Thy Servant’s Consolationi
The translators of The New King James Version rightly capitalize ―Consolation‖ in Luke 2:25,
recognizing that it is a messianic title, and not merely a description of an activity towards Israel.
It is true that the nation will one day be consoled – in addition to many other nations that will
share in the blessing of Christ‘s millennial reign – yet one must remember that this comfort is
bound up in one person: the Messiah Jesus.ii The phrase ―the Consolation of Israel‖ certainly had
technical messianic overtones in other contemporary Jewish sourcesiii, and later Rabbinic
Judaism frequently employed it to refer to the Messiah.iv As one historian notes: ―In Rab.
Judaism the ‘consolation of Israel’ is a blanket term for the fulfillment of Messianic
expectation…‖v Another author agrees: ―…’the consolation of Israel,’ is rooted in the consolation
language which in Isaiah is connected with God‘s eschatological restoration of his people (Isa
40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 52:9; 57:18; 66:10–11).‖vi David Gooding further elucidates the origins of this
expression, saying:
The delightful term ‘consolation of Israel’ suggests that his expectation was based on the
programme enunciated in such passages as Isaiah 40ff. He was looking for the day when
Israel’s warfare and chastisement would be over, and God would ‘comfort his people’.
Nor was Simeon narrowly concerned simply for the future of Israel. Basing himself again
on Isaiah’s predictions (e.g. 42:6; 49:6 etc.) he foresaw the time when the light of God’s
salvation would spread to the very ends of the earth (see 2:31-32).vii
Comfort Ye My People
After all of the awful things that happened to Israel in antiquity, the nation collectively felt
an understandable desire for comfort from their woes. As the land in between competing
2
southern and northern superpowers – Egypt, Aram, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia to name
but a few – they experienced periodic military invasions. They were also harassed by their
western and eastern neighbors: Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon. At the end of the Old
Testament period, Babylonian captivity successively gave way to Medo-Persian and
Hellenistic domination. The outward assaults were matched by inward spiritual declension,
as the Jewish people repeatedly struggled with departure from the Lord, bringing in idolatry,
perversion, disunity, and spiritual impoverishment. In addition to these national calamities,
individual Israelites felt the weight of personal sin, as well the burdens of living in a fallen
world.viii Yet the Lord spoke of personally comforting His people in the future as their perfect
Shepherd King (Isa. 40.) As two linguists assert: ―Comforting is God‘s proper work. He turns
earlier desolation into perfect consolation both in individuals…and also in the people of God,
cf. Is. 54:11 ff.; 51:19 ff.‖ix Subsequent pogroms, pervasive anti-Semitism, and the horrors of
the Holocaust (ha-Shoah, to the Jews) augment the needed comfort for the Jewish people.
The future time of Jacob‘s trouble – the Tribulation of the New Testament – will turn the
nation‘s eyes to its Messiah (e.g. Zech. 12:1-13:1; Rom. 11:25-29.) The Consoler of Israel
will defend them and usher in His reign among them.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Luke 2:25 is pregnant with the expectation of what Peter called ―the restoration of all things‖
(Acts 3:21.) Pius believers like Simeon patiently and earnestly awaited personal, national, and
global deliverance from the powers of evil. Messiah‘s kingdom will eventually fulfill all of the
prophecies for Israel‘s restoration and glory, as well as accomplish the ultimate triumph over sin
and evil in the universe. Charles Wesley‘s classic hymn captures the spirit of Simeon‘s rejoicing
heart:
Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.x
As Woudstra writes: ―Thus in one comprehensive gesture we see all the messianic prophecies
plus all the saving interventions of God in behalf of His people summed up in this one beautiful
phrase: the consolation of Israel.‖xi
God‘s New Creation is centered in the person and work of His glorious Son. This man will
console His redeemed people during His Millennial reign and the eternal kingdom that lies
beyond it (Isa. 66 and Rev. 21-22.) In his inimitable way, J. Vernon McGee straightforwardly
articulates the centrality of Christ in His Father‘s plans for the present and future manifestations
of His salvation: ― God had promised Simeon that he would see the salvation of God. What did he
see? He saw a little Baby. Salvation is a Person, and not something that you do. Salvation is a
Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ. You either have Him, or you don‘t have Him.
You either trust Him, or you don‘t trust Him.‖xii
3
Things Future, Nor Things That Are Nowxiii
While Isaiah 40:1-2 and Luke 2:30-32 teach that ―the Consolation of Israel‖ will one day
extend His comfort over all the earth, He also presently gives His comfort to those know Him by
faith. This personal Comforter presently ministers for His children before the throne of God (1
John 2:1-2; Heb. 7:24-28.) In their struggles and trials He consoles His people. As James G.
Deck‘s poetry fittingly express this truth in song:
O JESUS, gracious Saviour,
Upon the Father’s throne —
Whose wondrous love and favour
Have made our cause Thine own;
Thy people to Thee ever
For grace and help repair,
For Thou, they know, wilt never
Refuse their griefs to share.
O Lord, through tribulation
Our pilgrim-journey lies,
Through scorn and sore temptation,
And watchful enemies;
Midst never-ceasing dangers
We through the desert roam;
As pilgrims here and strangers,
We seek the rest to come.
O Lord, Thou too once hasted
This weary desert through,
Once fully tried and tasted
Its bitterness and woe;
And hence Thy heart is tender
In truest sympathy,
Though now the heavens render
All praise to Thee on high.
O by Thy Holy Spirit
Reveal in us Thy love,
The joy we shall inherit
With Thee, our Head above;
May all this consolation
Our trembling hearts sustain,
4
Sure — though through tribulation —
The promised rest to gain.xiv
Do our hearts rejoice in the great Consoler ? Like Simeon are we looking for His coming? Or do
the things of this world distract us from our Lord and Savior? Let every saint examine
themselves to ensure that they are currently enjoying fellowship with and trusting in the Lord
Jesus Christ. Those who seek strength and comfort from Him will never be disappointed. As the
Psalmist says: ―When I thought, ‗My foot slips,‘ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When
the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul‖ (Psa. 94:18-19, ESV.)
i Anonymous paraphrase of Psa. 42, ―As pants the hart for streams,‖ found here:
http://nethymnal.org/htm/a/p/h/aphfstrm.htmhttp://nethymnal.org/htm/a/p/h/aphfstrm.htm Accessed on 3/31/11.
ii The terms Messiah (Hebrew) & Christ (Greek) are equivalent, & when not transliterated are best translated
―Anointed One.‖
iiiPlummer affirms that ―Those ‘who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death’ (i.79) need consolation; and the
salvation which the Messiah was to bring was specially called such by the Jews…There was a belief that a time of
great troubles (dolores Messiae) would precede the coming of the Christ. Hence the Messiah Himself was spoken of
as ‘the Consoler,’ or ‘the Consolation.’‖ Alfred Plummer, ICC: A Critical & Exegetical Commentary On The Gospel
According To St. Luke. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903, p. 66. [Italics in the original.]
Farrar adds that ―‗May I see the consolation of Israel!‘ was a common Jewish formula, and a prayer for the Advent
of the Messiah was daily used.‖ F.W. Farrar, The Cambridge Bible For Schools & Colleges: Luke. Cambridge: The
University Press, 1890, p. 72. Compare the Pseudepigraphical work of the first or second century A.D., 2 Baruch
44:7: ―For if ye endure and persevere in His fear, And do not forget His law, The times shall change over you for
good. And ye shall see the consolation of Zion.‖ Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Edited by Robert Henry
Charles. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004. [Emphasis mine.] For background on 2 Baruch, see
James H. Charlesworth, ―Baruch, Book of 2 (Syriac)‖ in Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary,
Vol. 1. New York: Doubleday, 1996, pp. 620f.
The Dead Sea Scrolls also evidence this messianic association of ―the consolation.‖ Referring to one of them,
4Q176, Hatina remarks: ―Fragments 1–11 are of greater value for NT studies. They are a fairly well preserved
anthology of biblical texts. Except for the possible reference to Psalm 79:2–3 at the beginning of the first fragment,
all of the quotations are taken from what is today called Second Isaiah, namely, Isaiah 40:1–5; 41:8–10; 43:1–7;
49:7, 13–18; 51:22–23b; 51:23c–52:3; 54:4–10a. The quotations are arranged sequentially and preserved accurately,
which suggests that the compiler read progressively through Isaiah 40–55 and recorded certain texts. While the
fragmentary condition of the document prevents us from understanding the broader significance that the quotations
once had for the Qumran community, an informed inference can be made on the basis of a common theme running
through the quotations. In every quotation Yahweh offers words of consolation or comfort—the meaning of the
Hebrew word Tanḥumim in the title given the scroll—to his people Israel by assuring them that he is a faithful and
loving God who will soon bring restoration to those in despair. Although Second Isaiah was originally concerned
with the release of the Israelites from Babylonian exile, the Qumran community interpreted these texts as prophecies
relevant for their own day.” Thomas R. Hatina, “Consolations/Tanhumin (4 Q176)” in Porter, Stanley E., and Craig
A. Evans. Dictionary of New Testament Background : A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.
electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
iv Darrel Bock comments: ―In fact, later rabbis will call the Messiah Menahem, or Comforter (Schmitz and Stählin
1967:793; y. Berakot 2:3). It was such deliverance that Simeon expected.‖ Darrell L. Bock, IVP NT Commentary:
Luke. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1994, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.,
PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa.
5
v G. Braumann, “Comfort” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, ed. Colin
Brown. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971, p. 329.
vi John Nolland, Word Biblical Commentary : Luke 1:1-9:20. Vol. 35A. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p. 118.
vii D.W. Gooding, According to Luke. pp. 55f. Electronic ed., accessed here: keybibleconcepts.org on 3/29/11.
Morris‘ comments are also helpful: ― The consolation of Israel for which he looked is another name for the coming
of the Messiah (cf. SB). This was expected to be preceded by a time of great suffering (‗the woes of the Messiah‘)‚
so that he would certainly bring comfort. In days when the nation was oppressed the faithful looked all the more
intensely for the Deliverer who would solve their problems.‖ Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary.
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988, p. 104 [Italics
original.]
Other helpful quotes on Jewish understanding of the phrase:
― Simeon had waited for ‘the consolation of Israel’ (2:25), a term used for the hope of God‘s restoration of the
theocracy to that nation.‖ Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume
150:600 (Oct. ’93). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1993, p. 466.
―The consolation of Israel, for which Simeon had waited, refers to the coming messianic age.‖ Mark C. Black, The
College Press NIV Commentary: Luke. College Press Publ. Co., 1998, p. 36 [Emphasis original.]
viii Consider Ecclesiastes and Malachi just to name a few of the ancient laments against sin and injustice uttered by
godly souls. Romans 8:22-26 articulates the groaning of the godly in this fallen world: ―For we know that the whole
creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of
the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But
if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our
weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for
us with groanings which cannot be uttered.‖
ix Otto Schmitz & Gustav Stahlin, “παράκλησις” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 5. Edited by
Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964, pp.
789f.
x Charles Wesley, ―Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,‖ Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (London: William Strahan,
1745), number 10. I quote the first stanza only, found here:
http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/m/comtlong.htm Accessed on 3/30/11.
xi Martin H. Woudstra, ―Theological Influence On Translation,‖ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume 10. Lynchburg, VA: Evangelical Theological Society, Spring 1967, p. 97.
xii J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, p. 254.
[Italics original.]
xiii A.M. Toplady, ―A Debtor to mercy alone,‖ Spiritual Songs, #326 found here:
http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/326 Accessed on 3/31/11.
xiv J.G. Deck, ―O Jesus Gracious Saviour,‖ in Spiritual Songs, #187 found here:
http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/187 Accessed on 3/31/11.

The High Cost Of Liberty

Monday, February 28th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE IN PDF., CLICK HERE: The High Cost Of Liberty

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

The author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson once penned the following regarding armed revolution:

We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it’s [sic] liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s [sic] natural manure.[i]

Despite this incendiary rhetoric and all of his contributions to the founding of the United States of America, Jefferson never shed a drop of his own blood to create or defend liberty.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

The recent unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and other despotically ruled nations once more shows the innate human desire for freedom from tyranny. It remains to be seen whether these protests will produce political situations where freedom may flourish. Yet on a higher level the Lord Jesus Christ “preached freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed” through the shedding of His own blood (Luke 4:18; Eph. 1:7.) He was willing to suffer the heinous torture of crucifixion in order to free repentant sinners. Rather than sending others to die for spiritual liberty, Christ Himself gave His life on the cross. By pouring out His blood He paid the redemption price to liberate people from the tyranny of sin, Satan, the grave, and hell. His resurrection shows that the rescue has been accomplished. Only the Lord Jesus can grant true eternal freedom to lost sinners.

To obtain “a better resurrection” many of the Lord Jesus’ followers have suffered physically and emotionally (Heb. 11:35.) Old Testament Israel experienced tremendous oppression from numerous occupying powers. As a nation Israel currently disbelieves in their true Messiah Jesus (“Yeshua” as His name is in Hebrew); for them the “times of the Gentiles” continue (Lk. 21:24.) They will not recognize Him until He comes to defend and rescue them from the ire of the nations at the end of the Tribulation period (Zech. 12:1-13:1; Matt. 23:37-39.)

Freedom Worth Suffering For

Today millions of Christians around the world continue to suffer and die for their faith; yet their stories often go unreported in the western media. Nonetheless, one day the great Deliverer the Lord Jesus Christ will come to rescue His servants from those who mercilessly persecute them (2 Thes. 1:4-10.) What is more, He will liberate both them and the creation itself from the bondage and pain that sin produces in this world (Rom. 8:14-24.) The freedom that Jefferson and other people pine for is but a pale reflection of the far greater program of liberty that God will inaugurate through His peerless Son. His work will encompass every nation and extend far beyond this planet as it currently is (Rev. 21-22; Isa. 9:6-7.) If you have never done so, call on Him for salvation, confessing your hopeless condition as a sinner, and He will save you (Rom. 10:9.) Or if you already have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, continue on in the struggle – “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12)! The kingdom that God will establish in the age to come is worth suffering the loss of everything in this age (Acts 14:21-22; Matt. 16:24-27; Mk. 10:30.)[ii]


[i] Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to William S. Smith, 13 November 1787;” accessed here on 2/28/11: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl64.htm ; emphasis mine.

[ii] An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared on the Carryduff Gospel Hall website (http://www.carryduff.org/ ) the week of February 21, 2011.

Of Excuses & Autocrats

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The unregenerate human heart recoils from taking responsibility for its evil actions and moral failings. A recent book review unintentionally noted a practical example of this problematic but common attitude, citing many former officials from Saddam Hussein’s regime as examples. Like the Nazis who were put on trial at Nuremberg after the Second World War, the men interviewed by Wendell Steavenson tried to excuse their actions by shifting the blame to their superiors. In the words of the reviewer:
Perhaps most dispiriting of all, virtually none of those interviewed acknowledges responsibility for what was done. Most of their explanations are variations on ‘we were only obeying orders.’ ‘What could I do?’ ‘But I helped people, many people!’ ‘I suffered also, you know.’ ‘This was usual then.’ The gassing of 5,000 Kurds in Halabja was, concedes a seemingly upright general, ‘a political mistake.’
Steavenson comments: “I liked them. I joked with them. I sympathized with them. But not one ever looked me straight in the eye and admitted responsibility for the crimes of the government which they had served.” At this point, the reviewer interjects: “Even after the depredations of Saddam Hussein, many of those Ms. Steavenson talked to still hankered after someone like him. Iraqis, says one, are ‘an unruly mass of shirugi – slang for thickheaded Marsh Arabs – who need the rule of the rod, a strongman, to control them.’ ”i Indeed, if people are able to transfer the guilt of their actions to another, then they will cede total power to such a one in order to sin with impunity.
The Strongman Complex
Dictatorship has been a common feature of modern governance. Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Muammar Qaddafi, Manuel Noriega, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Enver Hoxha all achieved near absolute power and lasting infamy through their repressive, authoritarian regimes.ii Nearly every corner of the globe has felt the effect of the cult of personality that gives rise to cruel despots such as these. Most of them arose to fill power vacuums. They were readily received by the masses for they promised desirable conditions such as social stability, economic prosperity, and national pride. What is more, they also appealed to baser human instincts like racism, jealousy, and greed. The Bible speaks of a future time when a world leader will wield tremendous power on a global scale. The nations will follow him – even
giving up their independence – for he will embody the traits of these former dictators, and will produce unprecedented economic and political prosperity.
Superman or Beast?
The nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche posited the coming of this type of leader, referring to him as the ubermensch (German for “Superman,” or more accurately “Overman.”) He saw many such leaders arising at different times in humanity’s developmental history. One modern philosopher remarks: “The ubermensch transcends the boundaries of classes, creeds, and nationalities; he overcomes human nature itself, and maintains a lordly superiority to the normal shackles and conventions of social life.”iii The characteristics of such extraordinary ones are further described by another scholar: “They must be thinkers, and men of action at the same time. They will choose themselves, and, so to speak, put the crown on their own heads.”iv A third comments on Nietzsche intention for the Overman: “…he sought to direct our efforts to the emergence of a ‘higher humanity’ capable of endowing existence with a human redemption and justification, above all through the enrichment of cultural life.”v The Overman’s aims are further elucidated thus:
It is evident that Nietzsche has in mind a control of humanity such as has not been heard or perhaps thought of before. He speaks repeatedly of a world-economy, a rule of the earth—and it might be said in reply that there would be need of a God to administer it. A sort of contradiction might be charged up to him in that the superman who is to be reached as the outcome of a process of evolution would be required to start and guide the process—we should have to be Gods to know how to create them! And Nietzsche could only answer that, as individuals learn by doing and have to venture even if they make mistakes, so with mankind—that the only practical thing in the present ease is to start with as strong, masterful intelligence as we can get, aiming at world-control, and hope to win sooner or later a world-result.vi
Such thinking quickly won adherents, for it meshed well with cutting-edge scientific notions of Nietzsche’s time.vii The Nazis adeptly used this philosopher’s works to promote the Fuhrer as the Overman, who should be blindly followed by the masses.viii Correspondingly, large segments of German society blindly followed these wicked men to their personal cost. What is more, under that pernicious regime many were complicit in unspeakable atrocities – while many more ignored the evil in their midst.ix
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
A future dictator will arise and incite the masses to the greatest rebellion ever seen on planet earth. They will not rebel against mere human authority; rather, they will shake their collective fist at the Almighty and revolt against His throne. How will this “Man of Sin” – also called “the Beast” – get the nations to invest him with total power? Rev. 13:2 divulges that, spiritually speaking, his authority will be of Satanic derivation, saying: “…the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.” The people will be too busy admiring his eloquence, martial prowess, and intelligence – all demonstrated by “wonders” that he will perform (Rev. 13:5; cf. 2 Thes. 2:9 where the wonders are described as “lying.”)
He will be a military tactician like Alexander the Great and Napoleon, an orator with the verbosity of Cicero and Churchill, and a ruthless despot like Herod and Stalin. His economic genius will rival Smith, Keynes, and Friedman; and his innovative, problem-solving intellect will rival Newton, Einstein, and Gates. The world never lacks seemingly intractable troubles such as the Israeli-Arab conflict, global warming, world poverty, and natural resource depletion. At the present time, it is impossible to determine which of these extraordinarily complicated difficulties he will seem to solve, but through demonic power and insight he will gain the trust of the nations. They will gladly hand him the reins of power in order to enjoy material prosperity, libertine intellectualism, and world peace. “Who is like the Beast?” will be the headline on a thousand newspapers and websites (Rev. 13:4.) Unbeknownst to them, these “blessings” will be ephemeral.
Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss: Autocratic & Opposed To God
The Man of Sin’s name emphasizes his opposition to all that pertains to God. He is further described as “the son of perdition” (2 Thes. 2:3.) The New Testament earlier employed this title to describe Judas Iscariot, the betrayer (Jn. 17:12.) Just as Satan entered that traitor in order to oppose Christ and deliver Him up to the Gentiles, so this son of lostness under the influence of that Old Serpent will try to destroy anyone who is loyal to God (Jn. 13:2, 27.) His speech is characterized by blasphemy and he “…opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (Rev. 13:5; 2 Thes. 2:4, ESV.) The philosophy of Secular Humanism will be embodied in this wicked ruler. Man will finally be deified as supreme – “man, the measure of all things.”x The old satanic stratagem “You will be like God” will reach its zenith with this wicked pretender to God’s throne (Gen. 3:5, NKJV.)
The Lord Jesus predicted the public acclaim that would greet this evil tyrant, telling the Pharisees: “I receive not glory from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?” (Jn. 5:41-44.) He came fulfilling the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, performing signs that no one else did. Furthermore, his opponents conceded that “No one ever spoke like this man” (Jn. 7:46, ESV.) The Lord Jesus spoke and operated in the name of His Father; nevertheless, they rejected Him. When the Man of Sin comes flouting the authority of God and espousing the deification of man, the world with its religious, political, and economic segments will
receive him. This is in keeping with the world’s essential nature: loving what belongs to it and hating what glorifies and belongs to God (Jn. 7:7; 15:19.)
Paradise Regained & Ruled Over by Its Rightful Monarch
It is sad to consider the wretched consequences that the nations’ reception of the Man of Sin will bring upon the earth’s populace. Nonetheless, it is God merely allowing people to have what their sinful hearts desire. This false messiah will bring the world to ruin, but after he is consigned to the Lake of Fire, the King of kings will establish a perfect kingdom on this planet (Rev. 20.) The Lord will show the greatness of His reign by bringing about lasting peace and economic prosperity (Isa.35.) In His kingdom the meek will be in positions of responsibility and “the poor in spirit” will feel right at home (Matt. 5:3, 5.) Health rather than disease will be the norm, and longevity, rather than mortality (Isa. 65:20.) “Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end” (Isa. 9:7.) Amazingly, at the end of a thousand years of such glorious governance, some people will rebel, only to be swiftly put down (Rev. 20:7-15.) Such is the restless nature of the sin-tainted human heart.
Thankfully, there is an alternative to embracing the Man of Sin; one may declare allegiance to the Messiah-King, the Lord Jesus Christ instead. To side with Him is to join a kingdom which shall have no end – one which culminates in the “…new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13.) This regime will be based on truth and led by a monarch who shall never fail or disappoint. Rather than give humans permission to cede their moral responsibility to a dictator, the Lord will transform believers into His glorious image (Rom. 8:28-30.) Under His authority, they will live eternally and act righteously.
i “Only Obeying Orders,” The Economist, March 7, 2009, pp. 90-91. Review of Wendell Steavenson, The Weight of A Mustard Seed: The Intimate Story of An Iraqi General & His Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny (London: Collins, 2009.) Electronic edition available at: http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13226332, accessed on 6 July, 2009.
ii Of course, those are just a few of the twentieth century’s notorious tyrants. Time would fail to tell of Castro, Pinochet, Suharto, Milosevic, Sese Seko, Al-Assad, or those of their ilk.
iii Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996, p. 385.
iv William Mackintire Salter, Nietzsche The Thinker, A Study. London: Henry Holt & Co., 1917, p. 401. Electronic Edition: http://books.google.com/books?dq=Salter+The+Journal+of+Philosophy,+Psychology+and+Scientific+Methods,+Vol.+12,+No.+16&jtp=401&id=Y3MuAAAAYAAJ&as_brr=0
v Richard Schacht, “Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. Robert Audi. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999, p. 616; emphasis mine.
vi Salter, Nietzsche The Thinker, A Study, p. 405; emphasis mine.
vii One early twentieth century comparative religion scholar comments: “Since evolution has been accepted as a truth, we may fairly trust that we all believe in the overman. All our reformers believe in the possibility of realizing a higher mankind. We Americans especially have faith in the coming of the kingdom of the overman,
and our endeavor is concentrated in hastening his arrival. The question is only, What is the overman and how can we make this ideal of a higher development actual?” (Paul Carus, “Nietzsche & Other Exponents of Individualism”, Chicago: The Open Court Publ. Co., 1914, p. 42. Electronic Edition: http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA42&dq=nietzsche+overman&ei=Xa9SSt-SL4-UzATst8DdAg&id=1HgRAAAAYAAJ&as_brr=1)
viii Historians debate how much Hitler actually read Nietzsche. The Nazi cult of personality certainly expanded on that philosopher’s thoughts. What Nietzsche saw as a superior cultural figure, they turned into a supreme political leader, demanding implicit faith & obedience. The Third Reich propaganda machine studiously portrayed Hitler as the fulfillment of the Overman – photographing him looking at a bust of Nietzsche, presenting Nietzsche’s leather-bound works to Mussolini, etc.
ix It should be noted that many ordinary Germans opposed Hitler in different ways, public & private. Niemoller, Bonhoeffer, Barth, & other signers of the Barmen Declaration protested the ascendancy of the Fuhrer cult. Still others like von Stauffenberg actively participated in physical resistance. In spite of these instances of resistance, Niemoller’s words must be remembered: “When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” [http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Martin_Niem%C3%B6ller; There are several versions of this quote, depending on whether one consults his speeches from the 40’s, 70’s, or 80’s. For an interesting site concerning the historical development of the quote, see: http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/niem.htm#discsources .
x Paraphrasing the pre-Socratic philosopher Protagorus: See S.W. Dyde, The Theaetetus of Plato: A Translation With An Introduction Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1899, p. 22. Electronic Edition: http://books.google.com/books?id=wt29k-Jz8pIC&pg=PA22&dq=protagoras+measure&as_brr=1&ei=A-tXSq73EIzcygTFo_WkBw .

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The Future of Israel: An Assurance of God’s Faithfulness

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Israel continues to dominate the headlines on an almost daily basis. For a small nation with a population of just over seven million, whose land area is about the same size as New Jersey, it holds a remarkable position in world affairs. Some of the brightest minds of Europe and North America have spent the better part of the past sixty years trying to devise a solution to the problems of this tiny democracy. At first glance, all of this attention seems unwarranted. Why is this country so important? Of course, God’s promises to biblical Israel do not justify everything going on in the modern state of Israel or its policies; nevertheless, it is clear that God has a plan for the Land and the Hebrew people.1 This future design has great implications, which extend far beyond the borders of that nation. Furthermore, the Almighty’s will for the Jews is tremendously important for the Gentile world as well. It may be safely (and biblically) said that if the Lord does not carry out His plans for Israel, then there is no assurance of the fulfillment of anything else that He promised in the Bible. Thus, upon the fate of the Jews hinges the credibility of the sovereign God of the Universe. Moreover, His usage of the Gentiles in connection with the Jews displays His incomparable wisdom and mercy. Why Doesn’t Israel Recognize Christ Now? Regrettably, Romans 9-11 has become a controversial part of the Bible. Leaving aside the theological polemic that often accompanies discussion of this passage, it is important to see its context in Romans. The preceding chapters explain the principles of the Gospel with copious quotations from the Old Testament bolstering each point. The eighth chapter concludes by talking about nothing separating the believer from God’s love in Christ (v. 39.) One can imagine the critic of the gospel countering: “If this gospel is according to God’s plan why don’t more Jews believe it? If they are not saved, then why should Gentiles pay any heed to this message?” Moreover, the Gentile believers in Rome may have wondered why they should care about Israel. Chapters 9-11 answer these queries.
Paul responds by explaining the historical purposes of God with the nation of Israel. First, he points out the great privileges that they enjoy, including: “…the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all…” (9:4-5.) In spite of these great blessings, physical descent from Abraham is no guarantee of spiritual relationship with God. A survey of the patriarchal period shows that many
1 Some well-meaning Western Christians equate present-day Israel with the prophecies regarding restored Israel. It should be noted, however, that the bulk of Israel’s citizens reject the notion of God, let alone the Messianic claims of the Lord Jesus. Someday a believing remnant will be restored to the Lord (e.g. Zech. 12:9-14.) Until then, we should not link our affections and agreement to any particular regime in the state of Israel. Like every other nation, they do good things, as well as bad things. Also like other nations, they are not in the habit of seeking God’s opinion for their current policies.
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of those associated with Abraham did not share his faith in Jehovah. It never was the case that all of those who physically descended from Abraham were saved. Only the children of the promise were brought by faith into the promises that God made to the patriarch. The Gentiles Receive God’s Mercy
In the matter of God’s selection of tools, He chose to use Israel as His instrument in the world prior to the dawning of the Church age. Hosea is referenced, envisioning the time when “Not my people” will become “My people” (Rom. 9:25-26.) With what astonishment would the pious Jew read this prophecy and the succeeding quotation from Isaiah being applied to a remnant of Jews and Gentiles becoming righteous through faith! Yet this mercy is extended to those who do not stumble at Christ the stumbling-stone, but through faith call on Him as Lord for salvation (Rom. 9:33; 10:9-13.) What is more, by faith the Gentiles are brought into the service of God. These verses demonstrate that when salvation comes to Israel, it will be a remnant that believes it, instead of the unbelieving multitude. So it should not surprise one that in Paul’s day only a remnant believed. This has been the ordinary state of affairs throughout history and will be so again in the future.
Salvation in Christ through faith alone was the major obstacle to the Jews of Paul’s day. They were passionate for the Law; nevertheless, they sought to establish their own righteousness by keeping the commandments. They balked at the truth that “…Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4.) In keeping with the teaching of the first eight chapters, Paul argues that the gospel is the story of what Christ freely offers man, as opposed to human religious effort; it requires faith, not human works. One may suggest that maybe it was just ignorance on the part of these pious Jews. This is not so, however, for the message was proclaimed to them, but they did not obey it (the citations from Isaiah affirm this; cf. Rom. 10:16 with Isa. 53:1.) Therefore, God turned to a different tactic: provoking Israel to jealousy by extending His mercy to the Gentiles.
Man’s Failure Employed In The Extension of Divine Mercy
Rather than an interruption of God’s plan, the gospel of Christ with its inclusion of the Gentiles is actually a broader fulfillment of it. The current unbelief of the Jews affords the Almighty the opportunity of saving many Gentiles. This does not rule out, however, the future fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs. Even now, Paul points out that there is “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5.) In the future this remnant will expand to include the beleaguered nation of Israel at the end of the Tribulation – as it is put in Rom. 11:26: “And so all Israel shall be saved…” It is the ingenuity of the Lord to use Israel’s failure as the means of showing mercy to the Gentiles, who were once “…strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, without God in the world…” (Eph. 2:12.) He can then use these same strangers to turn the Jews back to Himself through jealousy, as they behold His gracious dealings with those who previously were afar off.
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This blessing should not breed haughtiness in non-Jewish hearts, for Israel will one day reclaim center stage in the dealings of God. Whereas currently the numerical majority of Christians are Gentiles, during the Tribulation believing Israelites will comprise the bulk of believers. God is not forgetful of His promises to Israel. What is more, the fulfillment of them will entail blessings that involve more than just one ethnic group; when God performs His promises they will encompass the entire world. The Scripture sums up this expansively gracious program in these words: “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:30-32.) Thus, God’s promises are faithful and true, and His credibility is beyond question. Whether Jews or Gentiles, believers of every epoch can rejoice in the steadfast mercy of the covenant keeping Lord.

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