Creeds and Full Preterism
As depicted in this painting (see above), imagine one of the debates that the formers of the Westminster Confession of Faith had in the Westminster Abbey went something like was this:
Man #1 (standing – Classic Amillennialist) – “The coming of Christ in Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 and the book of Revelation is His ONE Second Coming event.”
Man #2 (standing – Partial Preterist ex. John Lightfoot) – “But Christ’s coming in Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 and in the book of Revelation was fulfilled spiritually in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” and thus was “at hand” and “shortly” fulfilled in AD 70.”
Man #3 (sitting in red chair – Sovereign Grace Full Preterist in formation) – Thinks to himself, “I wonder if these gentlemen realize that if they are both correct (and seems that they are), then that means Christ’s ONE Second Coming was spiritually fulfilled in AD 70?”
Unfortunately, the Partial Preterists and men like John Lightfoot were outnumbered and the Classic Amillennialist view made it into the creeds while at the same time man #3 never stood up to voice his solution that would have “bridged the gap” between the two.
Added to the complexity of this debate between the classical Amillennial and Partial Preterist views (that also require a revision in the creed and confession) are the recent admissions from Reformed Partial Preterists that:
- The resurrection of Daniel 12:2, 13 was fulfilled corporately, covenantally and spiritually with Daniel’s soul be raised out of Abraham’s Bosom or Hades to inherit eternal life and God’s presence at Christ’s parousia in AD 70.
- The coming of Christ in both Matthew 24 and 25 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70.
- The “last days” is a NT phrase only discussing the end of the OC age in AD 70, and has nothing to do with the end of world history or the end of the NC and Church age.
- The parable of the wheat and tares (cf. Mt. 13:39-43) was fulfilled at the end of the OC “this age” in AD 70 (not at the end of world history).
As I document in House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology, here are the contradictions within Reformed eschatology (without SGFPism harmonizing them) and how they have formed Sovereign Grace Full Preterism:
|Classic Amillennialism and Historic Premillennialism
|Partial Preterist (Mostly Postmillennial)
|The coming of Christ in Matthew 24-25 is Christ’s ONE Second Coming event and the parallels (analogy of faith) between the OD, Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 confirm this.
|The coming of Christ in Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 and is using common prophetic apocalyptic language.|
|The coming of Christ throughout the book of Revelation is His ONE Second Coming event.||The coming of Christ throughout the book of Revelation was spiritually fulfilled in an AD 70 “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly,” “about to be” time frame.|
|The Day of the Lord, de-creation, new creation and judgment of the living and dead of 1 Peter 4:5-7 and 2 Peter 3 is Christ’s ONE Second Coming event and there are no multiple arrivals of the New Creation or judgments of the living and dead.||The Day of the Lord, de-creation, new creation and judgment of the living and dead of 1 Peter 4:5-7 and 2 Peter 3 was fulfilled in an AD 70 “at hand” time frame with the passing of the elements being the Old Covenant system and the arrival of the New being the New Covenant system. We are currently in the New Heaven and Earth.|
|Christ’s Second Appearing/Coming in Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:37 is His ONE Second Coming event.||Christ’s Second Appearing/Coming in Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:37 was fulfilled at the end of the OC age in an AD 70 – “in a very little while” and did “not delay” time frame.|
|The judgment and resurrection is ONE event inseparably linked to Christ’s ONE Second Coming (Dan. 12:2 / Rev. 11; Rev. 20).||There was a spiritual judgment and resurrection event that attended Christ’s imminent parousia in AD 70 that was:
b. covenantal / corporate
c. involved the righteous souls being raised out of Abraham’s bosom or Hades to inherit eternal life (Dan. 12:2 / Rev. 11; Rev. 20).
|The “rapture” or resurrection change of the living and the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s parousia in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 is ONE event and is future.||The “rapture” or resurrection change of the living and the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s parousia in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 was fulfilled in AD 70.|
|The coming of Christ in Acts 1:11 is the coming of Christ in Matthew 24 and His ONE Second Coming event.||Since the coming of Christ in Acts 1:11 is the same coming of Christ in Matthew 24, it was fulfilled in AD 70.|
|The “last days” encompass a period from Christ’s first coming to His Second Appearing/Coming to close the NC age.||The “last days” (roughly from AD 30 – AD 70) encompass a period from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming to close the OC age.|
|Eschatology is simple – there is the Churches present “this age” (the NC age) that will be closed at Christ’s Second Coming that ushers in the “age to come” (the eternal state).||The NT’s use of “this age” is referring to the OC (then present) age that was closed at Christ’s Second Appearing/Coming that ushered in the NC “age to come” in AD 70.|
|The the glory “about to be” revealed and creation groaning in Romans 8:18-23 refers to the planet earth’s re-creation and resurrection event.||The glory that was “about to be” revealed (was in AD 70) and the creation groaning in Romans 8:18-23 YLT is not the literal creation of the planet, but the creation of men.|
We argued that the Reformed and Sovereign Grace creeds and confessions need to be revised – especially since they claim they may be in error and are subject to a clearer and more exegetical interpretation (on any given subject) if one comes along (just as their interpretations surpassed the RCC and their confessions). Many have revised that the Pope is not the Antichrist. That’s a start, but OBVIOUSLY (see chart above) there is way more in the area of eschatology that needs to be revised. After making the exegetical case in House Divided (which seven Futurist Reformed theologians have not been able to respond to), I now turn my attention to revising the creeds and confessions (this is an outline or guide towards that end).
Because this is a Sovereign Grace “Full Preterist” confession and the main emphasis is to change and revise the creeds in the area of eschatology, it should not surprise the reader that at the various sections of the confessional creed eschatology may be addressed and emphasized. This added to the fact that one cannot separate soteriology (the study of salvation) from eschatology (study of consummating this salvation at Christ’s Second Coming), will also necessitate eschatological themes within the confession.
Creeds and Sovereign Grace
Many assume just because someone believes in the doctrines of grace (5 points of Calvinism – as I do), he or she must be “Reformed.” This is simply misguided. One can affirm the sovereign and free grace of God (monergism) and NC theology, while at the same time rejecting the legalism that comes from Reformed theology on such issues as keeping the Sabbath/Lord’s Day, progressive sanctification “more and more” etc…
Not everyone enjoys a confession of faith
I understand that there are Sovereign Grace folks that don’t believe in creeds and confessions. Likewise, I understand that there are some Full Preterists that don’t believe in creeds and confessions. However, I am a Sovereign Grace Full Preterist that does see the usefulness of a confession of faith as long as it is put in perspective – and I believe (Lord willing) I have put this one in a useful perspective.
This is a work in progress, so please keep checking back from time to time for new material…
I. Creeds & Confessions
A. Creeds and confessions are not to be placed upon the level of the inspired and infallible Scriptures.
We agree with the WCF in that in times past creeds and confessions have contained error and may continue to do so. They can only be seen as accurate insofar as they reflect an accurate exegesis of the Scriptures and doctrines they refer to. Since many Reformed and Sovereign Grace confessions or statements of faith are in error in the area of eschatology (the study of the timing and nature of the Second Coming, last days, judgment and resurrection of the dead and New Creation), it is beneficial at this time to compose a statement that better reflects the teaching of God’s Word on these subjects.
B. Creeds and confessions have been and can be organic in their developments (“Reformed and always reforming”).
It took the church 300 years to develop sound teaching on the Trinity and while we don’t have any historical documentation from any of the early church fathers or church history that forensic justification was being taught prior to Luther (for 1500 years) Reformed theologians seem to have no problem with this. And if one would like to argue that there was a remnant of believers that were believing and teaching this (without historical documentation), then one would have to concede there could have been a remnant of believers who held to the doctrine of Full Preterism – the Second Coming happening in AD 70 (just as Jesus said there would be in Mark 9:1). So if there isn’t a problem in accepting it took 1500 years to get historical documentation on forensic justification, then what is the logical problem in accepting that it took an additional 300 years or so to get back to what the Bible teaches and harmonizing two competing Reformed views of Bible prophecy which have once again brought us back to and formed Full Preterism:
1). The classical Amillennial view – the NT only teaches ONE parousia or Second Appearing of Christ that closes the last days and brings about the end of the age which results in the ONE judgment and resurrection of the living and the dead, which is inseparably connected to ushing in the ONE arrival of the New Creation or eternal state.
2). The Partial Preterist view – there was a truly imminent spiritual parousia or Second Appearing of Christ that closed the last days of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 – that was inseparably connected to a spiritual judgment and resurrection for the living and the dead, that was inseparably connected to a spiritual arrival of the New Jerusalem and New Creation.
3). The Sovereign Grace Full Preterist view – the NT only teaches ONE truly imminent spiritual parousia or Second Appearing of Christ that closed the last days of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 – that was inseparably connected to ONE judgment and resurrection for the living and dead, that was inseparably connected to ONE arrival of the spiritual New Jerusalem and New Creation.
As one can see the Sovereign Grace Full Preterist view is a synthesis or organic development (“Reformed and always reforming”) of these two Reformed views of eschatology.
While this is the main thrust of this confession, there may be other differences, corrections, and areas of freedom reflected herein that are not present in others.
II. Revelation & Scripture
A. General Revelation
General revelation resides in the human mind as it seeks to discern and understand God’s sovereign power, wisdom, and gracious design within the world he lives (cf. Ps. 19:1-2; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15). Through general revelation men have some sense that they are the offspring of God and desire to grope and know Him (cf. Acts 17:27-28).
B. Special Revelation
God throughout the formation of the Old and New Testaments communicated His presence and will through dreams, visions, theophanies, clouds, fire, smoke, stormy winds, angels (even the pre-incarnate Christ), His voice, tabernacle/temple, urim and thummim, miracles (physical signs – pointing to spiritual truths/healing of the soul ex. Mrk. 2:5-12), the giving of His Son (the living Tabernacle/Word/expression and very Wisdom of God, the giving of His Apostles, and the internal direction of the Holy Spirit (cf. Num. 12:6; 27:21; Isa. 6; Ex. 8:2; 33:9: Ps. 78:14; 99:7; Job 38:1; Ps. 18:10-16; I Kings 19:12; Gen. 16:13; 31:11; Ex. 23:20-23; Mal. 3:1; Deut. 5:4; Jn. 1:14; I Pet. 1:11; Jn. 14:26; I Cor. 2:12, 13; I Thess. 2:13). Unlike God’s general revelation, His special revelation instructs man directly on God’s plan of salvation and what He requires of Him.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read, “All Scripture (the OT and the then forming of the NT) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Peter instructs us that the letters of Paul (and thus the other Apostles and those under their authority forming the NT) are on the same level with the OT Scriptures (cf. II Pet. 3:16). The OT and NT prophets and writers were often directed by the Lord in their instruction with the common phrases, “thus says the Lord,” “The word of the Lord came to me…,” “Thus says the Holy Spirit” (Jer. 36:27, 32; Ezek., chapters 26, 27, 31, 32, 39; Acts 21:9-11). In many cases the Lord told Moses and Joshua exactly what to write (cf. Lev. 3 and 4; 6:1, 24; 7:22, 28; Josh. 1:1; 4:1; 6:2, etc…). God puts His words into the mouths of the prophets and instructs them to speak to the people on His behalf and they understand them to be “the very words of God” (Jer. 1:9; Ezek. 3:4, 10, 11; 1 Thess. 2:13).
1). The Holy Spirit used the writers of the Bible just the way they were – within their culture, using their unique personalities, gifts, talents, education, languages, vocabulary and particular styles of writing. He illumined their minds, gave divine insights and interpretations into OT passages and reminded them of the teachings of Christ.
2). Special revelation differs from general in that it reveals Jesus and His redemptive plan of salvation. Without one being sent to preach the gospel or faith in Jesus “the (only) way” to the Father, people die in their sin (Rms. 10:9-17; Jn. 14:6; Jn. 8:24).
3). Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) was never designed to be a text book on the various sciences (ex. astronomy, biology, medicine, diet, etc…), but rather to infallibly demonstrate how and when God’s presence would be restored to sinful man.
4). It has been well said that, “the OT is the NT concealed and the NT is the OT revealed.” The Apostle Paul preached no other things except that which could be found in the Law and Prophets (Acts 24:13-15; 26:22). The NT is not coming up with something new, but rather unfolding the mystery and salvation that was contained in the OT. Jesus is the “yes and amen” to all the promises in the OT scriptures (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). The OT/OC with all of it’s types and shadows of being blessed and saved “in the land” and through the Temple system typified the spiritual substance of a salvation “in Christ” preached through the NT/NC Temple – the Church.
5). All of the prophecies of the coming Messiah even His Second Coming and “time of the end” (not end of time) were all fulfilled by AD 70. The writings of the OT and Protestant NT were all written and fulfilled prior to AD 70 (Lk. 21:22-32). According to the Holy Spirit moving through the Apostle Peter, the OT prophets wrote of the coming salvation and glories that follow (soteriology & eschatology) to be fulfilled in the times of Peter and his contemporaries (1 Pet. 1:11-12; 4:5-7, 17). The Old Covenant (OC) “heaven and earth” with all it’s jots and tittles were fulfilled and then passed away “shortly” at the “soon” AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” Second Coming of the Lord that destroyed the Temple and ended the OC age (Mt. 5:17-18; Mt. 24:27-36; Rev. 1:1—10:6-7—chapters 21-22:6-7, 20). Post AD 70, the Church is to preach this message of fulfillment and for lost sinners (within the nations) to come and be healed (spiritually) through the preaching of the everlasting gospel — as they walk through the gates of the New Jerusalem and partake of the Tree of Life / Christ (cf. Rev. 22:17).
6). Sola Scriptura (Scripture only) & The analogy of faith principle of interpretation – The WCF states,
“I.9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly (2 Pe. 1:20-21; Acts 15:15-16).”
All this means is that while we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, the Bible does not nor can it contradict itself. Therefore, we should always seek to interpret seemingly unclear or “difficult” passages in light of the more clear passages (and not the other way around).
As pointed out in the previous points on the organic development of the creeds and confessions, without Sovereign Grace Full Preterism (SGFPism), Reformed creedal Futurism is a “House Divided” or “contradiction” (not heeding to the analogy of faith principle) since the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24-25 and throughout all of Revelation cannot be BOTH His ONE Second Coming event while at the same time being His spiritual AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly” AD 70 coming. This contradiction is solved with SGFPism and thus the Reformed creeds and confessions need to be revised to reflect a better and more consistent exegesis of God’s Word.
As Sovereign Grace Full Preterists, we affirm that the Futurist creeds and confessions have made gross hermeneutical and exegetical errors.
a. For the most part they have spiritualized away the clear meaning of “this generation,” “soon,” “at hand,” “about to be,” “quickly,” “will come in a very little while and will not delay,” while…
b. …then applying a hyper-literal hermeneutic to the commonly known prophetic and apocalyptic (metaphoric and symbolic) literature and passages such as Matthew 24; Revelation; 1 Thessalonians 4-5; 2 Peter 3; etc…
This hermeneutical and exegetical approach is completely upside down and is the chief reason there has been so much division in the church over eschatology for the last 2,000 years!
The “more clear” passages are the time texts which should be interpreted literally, and the passages containing prophecy and apocalyptic language (the seemingly unclear or “difficult” passages) should be interpreted understanding the genre in which they were written with a spiritual fulfillment (even 1 Thess. 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15) and as ONE parousia event fulfilled in AD 70:
PREMISE #1: The parousia/coming of Christ in Matthew 24 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (according to Partial Preterism and Sovereign Grace Full Preterism).
PREMISE #2: The parousia/coming of Christ in Matthew 24 is the same coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 (according to Classical Aamillennialism and Sovereign Grace Full Preterism).
CONCLUSION: The parousia/coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 was likewise fulfilled spiritually in AD 70.
Preterists unite these two clear premises from both groups:
1. Partial Preterism – The imminent time texts concerning the parousia of Christ, judgment/resurrection of the dead = a spiritual fulfillment in AD 70 and…
2. Classical Amillennialism – The analogy of Faith/Scripture supports there is only one NT “hope” of a Second Coming/judgment/resurrection of the living and dead.
Therefore, we “…speak more clearly” and consistently in our debate with Futurists (even “Reformed” ones). The divided corporate Reformed “House” contains the two premises (which we assume are true) and we are simply uniting the two valid premises into one new House. We’re validating the Reformed and Sovereign Grace House by accepting both of it’s competing premises, and then uniting them, further honoring the Reformed and Sovereign Grace House. This has and will continue to appeal to Reformed and Sovereign Grace believers as Biblical preterism spreads throughout their churches. We are making a motion to revise the creeds to make them more “orthodox” (straight) with the “more clear” teaching of Scripture–“Sola Scriptura” and “Semper Reformanda”–selah.
After all Jesus said He would come on the clouds in the glory of His Father in some of the lifetimes of those listening to Him (cf. Mt. 16:27-28). But how had the Father come on the clouds and in His glory in the OT? Was this not apocalyptic language (not physical) – in that God was not physically seen on a literal cloud, but rather seen / perceived / understood to have come through invading armies (ex. Assyria or Babylon)? So too must the language of Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation be understood. Christ came in His Father’s glory on the clouds – that is through the Roman and Idumean armies in judgment upon OC Jerusalem in AD 70.
And that the gathering of His elect into the Kingdom was not a literal event can be discerned from Jesus teaching that at His return [in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation”] His Kingdom would not be physically seen, but realized “within” (cf. Lk. 17:20-37/21:27-32). The Apostle Paul affirms this same eschatological hope (of a spiritual heavenly home/New Jerusalem made w/o hands in the heavens), which is a hope, “…not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18-5:5/Rev. 21-22).
7). Scripture is sufficient & teaches there will be no more revelation or prophecy added. The WCF states,
“I.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (2 Tim. 3:15-17; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Th. 2:2).”
The WCF sounds nobel in it’s intent, but the truth is that it’s Futurism contained within the creed itself, necessitates that there may be future “prophecy” given. For example, the confirming sign and revelatory gifts are to continue until the Second Coming or “that which is perfect” and the seeing of God “face to face” takes place (cf. 1 Cor. 1:6-8; 13:8-12). This is clearly the Second Coming event attended by the arrival of the New Creation whereby God’s face is seen, but when we use the analogy of Scripture we see that it is further clarified to be fulfilled in an AD 70 “shortly” and “quickly” time frame (Rev. 22:4-7). If the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation was not fulfilled in AD 70, then this leaves room for more “prophecy” to continue.
The truth again is within Reformed theology:
a. Classic Amillennial view – 1 Cor. 13:10-12 and Rev. 22:4-7 are the same event.
b. Partial Preterist view – Rev. 22:4-7 describes Christ coming “quickly” in AD 70 and we see God’s face in the New Creation spiritually today.
c. Sovereign Grace Full Preterist view – 1 Cor. 13:10-12 and Rev. 22:4-7 are the same event that were fulfilled at Christ’s coming “quickly” in AD 70, whereby we see God’s face in the mature/perfect state of the NC age.
Likewise, if Daniel’s Seventy Sevens prophecy was not completely fulfilled when Jerusalem was desolated in AD 70, then the office of prophet and prophecy continue today (Dan. 9:24-27). As pointed out earlier, Jesus and the NT confirms that “all” Scripture would be fulfilled within His contemporary “this generation” (Lk. 21:22). Therefore, there cannot be any more “prophecy” given or new revelation – as we see pretended to be taking place within the Charismatic and last days cults today.
This part of the WCF also states that we should not seek nor tolerate adding man-made “traditions” to the Scriptures and yet that is exactly what the WCF has done in the area of eschatology! It has become a “sick” “hope deferred” carrot and stick system, while SGFPism is a “tree of life” proclaiming a “hope realized” gospel eschatology (Prov. 13:12/Rev. 22:1-17). While it’s intensions may have originally been good, nonetheless, it has sought to “make null and void” (the teachings of Christ and the Apostles) “due to their (hyper-creedal) traditions” in the area of eschatology.
8). We affirm in using a grammatical historical hermeneutic method of interpreting the Scriptures.
a). ex. Historical / Cultural – The Jews understood “this age” to be their Old Covenant age anticipating the “age to come” which was the New Covenant or Messianic age. The NT follows this, in that the OC age was “ready to vanish” in Israel’s “last days” and “passing away,” while the NC age was “about to” come into it’s full and mature state at Christ’s “in a very little while” coming in AD 70 (Heb. 8:13–9:26-28–10:37; 2 Cor. 3; Ephs. 1:21YLT). The WCF and other creeds error when they identify “this age” with the NC Church age and the “age to come” to be the eternal state ushered in at the end of world history.
b). ex. Contextual and grammatical – The “end of the age” is identified with the Temple’s destruction and is apart of the “all these things” that would be fulfilled in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” – therefore, it is the end of the OC age that is in view in Matthew 24 and not the end of world history. The rest of the NT follows this pattern on “this age” and the “age about to come.”
Again, interpreting the NT imminent time statements literally concerning Christ’s Second Coming inseperably connected with an “about to be” “at hand” judgment and resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15YLT; 1 Pet. 4:4-7; Rev. 1:1–22:20) along with recognizing these passages are using familiar and cultural OT apocalyptic language, places these events as fulfilled at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 to end the OC age. These also harmonize with Christ’s teaching of His NC Kingdom being “within” and “not of this world” (Lk. 17:20-37/21:27-32; Jn. 18:36; etc…). This is also consistent with the Orthodox and Reformed belief of some Partial Preterists that Daniel’s soul was raised out of Abraham’s Bosom or Hades at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 to inherit eternal life per Daniel 12:2-3, 13/Rev. 20. This WAS THE Second Coming and THE end of the age Judgment and resurrection event. The problem for these Partial Preterists, is two-fold: 1. The Scriptures do not teach TWO parousias, and two end of the age(s), and 2. nor does the WCF! This is ONE event and it was fulfilled at the end of the OC age in AD 70.
9). The Reformed doctrine of private interpretation – Reformed author and teacher R. C. Sproul correctly understands that this view or doctrine originated from Martin Luther himself:
“Two of the great legacies of the Reformation were the principal of private interpretation and the sharp focus in the sixteenth century. Hidden beneath the famous response of the Reformer to the ecclesiastical and imperial translation of the Bible into the vernacular……. It was Luther himself who brought the issue of private interpretation of the Bible authorities at the Diet of Worms was the implicit principal of private interpretation.
When asked to recant of his writings, Luther replied, “Unless I am convinced by Sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant. For my conscience is held captive by the Word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me.” (of course Luther never said “Here I stand…….” –Topper) Notice that Luther said “unless I am convinced…….” In earlier debates at Leipzig and Augsburg, Luther had dared to presume to interpret Scripture contrary to interpretations rendered by Popes and by church councils. That he would be so presumptuous led to the repeated charge of arrogance by church officials. Luther did not take these charges lightly but agonized over them. He believed that he could be wrong but maintained that the Pope and councils could also err. For him only one source of truth was free from error. He said, “The Scriptures never err.” Thus, unless the leaders of the church could convince him of his error, he felt duty-bound to follow what his own conscience was convinced Scripture taught. With this controversy the principal of private interpretation was born and baptized with fire.” (R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, pg. 33-34).
If Luther could place his own personal, independent, private understanding of Scripture (and his conscience) above all the Popes and Councils with all of their myriads of Theologians, then why is a SGFP so wrong to “stand upon the shoulders” of the classic Amillennial and Partial Preterist giants and harmonize them and the Scriptures into a consistent cohesive exegetical position?!? My conscience and study of Scripture confirms for this purpose and ministry, I have been called and born into this world (all the while loving and enjoying His presence and blessings forever)!
A. The oneness or uniqueness of God
Deuteronomy 6:4 should be translated as the NJPSV does which is grasping the historical and contextual meaning,
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.”
The OT oneness of God within in it’s original context is not discussing the philosophical nature or complexity of God, but rather lays within the context of Israel being commanded to not worship the other gods of the nations – because He alone is the one true God. The Midrash underscores this as well,
“Hear, O Israel [i.e., Israel/Jacob, our father], the Lord is our God, the LORD alone. Just as in your heart there is only ONE (echad) so also in our hearts there is only One (echad).” To this Jacob replied, “Blessed be his Name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever” (b. Pesahim 56a; Sifre Deuteronomy 31; Genesis Rabbah 98:4). In other word’s the emphasis is that although Jacob/Israel is worrying about one of his sons being unfaithful, they all reply that they indeed would be faithful to the LORD alone. The point is that the LORD alone would be the God of Jacob’s descendants.
When Jesus addresses this subject in Mark 12:28-30, He establishes that the Father is the only true/one God that is to be worshiped with one’s entire heart (thus not leaving room for other idols). In John 17:3 Jesus again affirms that His Father is the one and only God. The Messiah’s message is to get the people to leave their idols and to serve the one true God.
B. The complexity of God & the Deity of Christ
The complexity of the God-head existed in the OT before we even reach the NT and the Christian view of the Trinity emerges. If the Scriptures said that no one could see God and live (Ex. 33:20), how is it that these same Scriptures taught that people saw Him on the earth (and didn’t die) while at the same time He sat enthroned in heaven running the universe? Didn’t God come in human form – even talking and eating with Abraham, wrestling with Jacob and leading the armies of Israel?
We will now examine the Deity of Christ in that all God is said to be and does, Jesus is said to be and does.
1). Jesus the Divine and eternal Word – Before examining the Gospel of John and John’s description of Jesus as the “Word,” let’s once again try and get the Jewish cultural and contextual understanding of “the Word” before the Messiah even comes into the world. In the Aramaic Targum (their translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which was read in the synagogues), the “LORD” is substituted with the “Word” or “Word of the LORD”: Genesis 1:27; 3:8; 6:6-7; 9:12; 15:6; 20:3; 28:20-21; 31:49; Ex. 14:31; 20:1; 25:22; Lev. 26:9; Num. 10:35-36; 11:23; 14:35; Deut. 1:26; 1:30; 4:7; 18:19; 31:3; Josh. 1:5; Judges 11:10; Isa. 45:17). Here it’s the Word that creates, it’s the Word that walked in the garden with Adam, it’s the Word Abraham believed in and was justified by, they believed in the Word, the Word rose up and returned in saving and justifying Israel, the Word decreed, the Word gave the law, Moses prayed to the Word, the Word sits enthroned in heaven listening to the prayers of Israel, the people rebelled against the Word, the Word led and fought for Israel, the Word passed before the people, etc… And watch this comparison of Genesis 28:20-21:
“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be with me, then the LORD will be my God.”
And the Targum,
“If the Word of the LORD will be with me…then the Word of the LORD will be my God.”
Belief in the “Word” is what justified Abraham, and the “Word” was Jacob’s God!
Even the Jew Philo understood the Word (Greek Logos) as a “second god,” “mediator” and the “governor and administrator of all things.”
So once we approach John 1, we can see John is not coming up with something completely new to the Jewish thought. He understood what was being read in the synagogues about the Word (memra) and writing in Greek He understood what was being taught about the divine logos by his Jewish brethren. As God’s plan of redemption is unfolding, there is now more clarity on WHO the “Word” has been all along – Jesus the eternal Word/Son of God. It is through Him (the Word) that all was made (just as in Jewish thought), except now the Word became a man/flesh and dwelt among us. But even this is not completely foreign because in the OT Scriptures God was seen as a man upon the earth (while at the same time somehow fully spirit enthroned in heaven ruling and maintaining the universe). The Word/Son of God revealed Himself (theophany) in the form of man to Abraham, Jacob and Israel prior to his incarnation. But what became of this human body after the Word appeared in it? Since “God is Spirit” (Jn. 4), we know He did not return in His glory with it. This being the case, I affirm that when Jesus ascended in the divine glory cloud and went back into the glory He shared with the Father before the world began, that He no longer presently has a physical body (Acts 1:9-11; John 17:3-5, 24). We no longer know him according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16). In AD 70 Christ returned in His pre-incarnate form “in His glory” (in His glory cloud) and now has taken up His home (along with the Father and Holy Spirit) within the believer – of which through faith we “believe” this to have taken place (Jn. 14:2-3, 23, 28-29; cf. Lk. 17:20-37; Mrk. 8:38-9:1).
John 1:14 literally reads that the Word (that in the previous context states is God) “lived in a tent” or “pitched his tent” among us just as Jehovah pitched his tent in the forms of the Tabernacle and Temple in the OT and dwelt in His glory among Israel. Here again, God’s presence was both on earth and in heaven at the same time. When God’s presence filled the OT Tabernacle, His “glory filled it” (Ex. 40:34-35) and now John says that we have seen his “glory” full of grace and truth. God fills His Son/the Word and through Him all things came about and in Him is the exact representation of His being (Heb. 1:3). (Note: Although I have learned a lot about the Jewish understanding of the “Word” through John Gill and John Lightfoot in the past, I have found Dr. Michael L. Brown’s treatment on the subject to be the best so far! See his book, Answering JEWISH OBJECTIONS TO JESUS Vol. 2 Theological Objections, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 14-23).
2). Jesus is God who creates – (cf. Jn. 1:1-3; Cols. 2:6-9; Heb. 1:3-10 / Gen. 1:1; Ps. 19:1; Ps. 33:6).
3). Jesus is God the Ancient of Days who rides upon the clouds and is worshiped – Many Rabbis didn’t fully understand such passages as Daniel 7:13-14 and had to admit it was possible that there was a description of two Divine beings being depicted. Only God was the divine “cloud rider” and “worshipped.” And yet the NT seems to follow the (OG) LXX which reads that the one like the Son of Man comes upon the clouds “as (not “up to”) the Ancient of Days” and is worshiped (Dan. 7:13-14). Jesus is depicted as the Son of Man coming upon the clouds, the eternal “alpha and omega” and the Ancient of Days in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 1:7-18).
a. His coming upon the clouds affirms He is the Divine Son of God to the High Priest – who claims Jesus is “blasphemous” for making Himself out to be God in this way (Mt. 26:62-66).
4). Jesus is God (the Ancient of Days) who’s face is seen sitting on the heavenly throne in glory and judgment establishing His Eternal Kingdom– In Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 20:11-15 Jesus sits as God (the Ancient of Days) and is worshipped as such (cf. Dan. 7:9-14).
In the book of Revelation God and Jesus (the Lamb) are said to sit on the throne and yet Jesus/the Lamb is at the center of the throne and it is ONE face they see: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads” (cf. Rev. 3:21; 4:2; 5:6, 13; 7:9-10, 17; 22:1, 3-4). There is one throne (not two), His servants serve Him (singular) who sits upon the throne, and they see His (singular) face and worship Him/God (singular) (cf. 22:9). The face that is seen whom is God in the New Covenant / New Creation is none other than that of the Christ’s/Messiah’s (Isa. 52:8; 1 Cor. 13:10-12; 2 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:4). The “face” here is no more literal than the “lamb” on the throne. This is a vision and human accommodative anthropomorphic language is being used. At Christ’s “soon” Second Coming in AD 70 to close the Old Covenant age, we continue to see God’s face spiritually in the spiritual New Covenant / New Jerusalem / New Creation.
5). Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”) and thus “Mighty God,” and “Everlasting Father” – (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Luke 1).
6). If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father – In John 20:17 Jesus says He goes to “my Father” and “my God,” and yet Thomas when He sees Jesus declares, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28).
7). Jesus is the eternal and great “I am” – Jesus is the great “I am” that is “from above” whom Moses saw in the burning bush and Abraham longed to see (Jn. 8:56-59; Ex. 3:14). For this the Jews sought to kill Him (again for blasphemy [claiming to be God] cf. Mt. 26:62-66).
All of Jesus’ “I am” statements are spiritual realitiesfor us to experience right now – It is odd that Futurists will recognize this and yet then proceed to cherry-pick His “resurrection” as only a physical event and ours must therefore be at the end of history (Jn. 11:5, 25-26):
Scripture teaches that His resurrection was the “first.” Obviously He was not the “first” to be raised physically! Christ’s physical resurrection was a miracle and sign to demonstrate that He was the “first” (“first born” & “first fruits” cf. Cols. 1:15; 1 Cor. 15:20) to be raised from a much more serious death – the spiritual / sin / death that separates man from God, which came through Adam the very day he sinned (cf. Gen. 3:17). It is this death that Christ overcame at His parousia in AD 70 (1 Cor. 15). In AD 70 at Christ’s Second Coming and resurrection of the dead, those alive believing in Him would “never die” (Jn. 10:25-26; see also 6:47, 50-51, 58; 8:51 – this is a spiritual resurrection for the living (while living upon the earth – not leaving it). At His coming the living were gathered into His spiritual Kingdom, and His full presence was restored “within” them (Mrk. 8:38-9:1; Jn. 14:2-3, 23, 28-29; Mt. 24:30-31/Lk. 17:20-37/21:30-32) – and that is the resurrection for the living. And when they die physically (post AD 70), they do not go to a waiting place (again death/separation has been overcome), but go directly into His presence.
8). God is the “Lord of lords” as is Jesus – (cf. Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:1-4; Rev. 17:14).
9). God “alone” is “Savior” and yet Jesus is the “Savior” (cf. Isa. 3:3, 11; 45:15, 21; Hos. 13:4; Luke 2:11; Phil. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:3; 2 Tim. 1:10; Jude 1:25; 1 Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:20).
10). God is “from everlasting” or eternal and so is Jesus/the pre-existing Divine Word – (cf. Isa. 43:10; Psalm 93:2; Isaiah 63:16; Micah 5:2; Jn. 8:56-59; Jude 1:25; 1 Jn. 5:20; Heb. 1:8). Jesus taught, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Jesus Christ (the eternal Word) is eternal, and therefore has power to give “eternal life.”
11). God is the Rock and so is Jesus – (cf. Deut. 32:4, 32:15, 32:18, 32:30-31; I Sam. 2:2; and Psalm 18:31; I Cor. 10:1-4, I Pet. 2:7-8, and Rom. 9:33).
12). God is the Shepherd and Jesus is the promised NC Shepherd of God – (cf. Ps. 23:1; 80:1; Ezek. 34:12).
13). God is the light and so is Jesus – (cf. Ps. 27:1; Mic. 7:8; John 1:4-9; 8:12).
14). God is the ONLY “first and last” and so is Jesus – (cf. Isa. 44:6/Rev. 1:17).
15). Only God is omnipotent (all powerful) and yet so is Jesus – (cf. Rev. 19:6; Rev. 2:26; Cols. 2:2-10; 1 Tim. 6:15).
16). Jesus said God alone must be worshiped and yet Jesus is worshiped – (cf. Mt. 4:10; Mt. 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 28:9; Jn. 9:38; Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 19:10; Dan. 7:13-14 (OG) LXX).
17). God alone forgives sins, and yet Jesus forgives sins – (cf. Jer. 31:34; Mrk. 2:5-11; 1 Tim. 3:16).
18). God would re-marry and restore Israel in her last days, and yet Jesus is the Groom who marries the restored new Israel of God (i.e. the Church) – Under the Old Covenant God was married to Israel (cf. Ex. 19). After the Kingdom splits, then God is pictured as being married to two sisters as His wives: 1) Israel (Aholah / Samaria capital of Israel) and 2) Judah (Aholibah / Jerusalem capital of Judah) (cf. Jer. 31:31-32; Ezek. 1:1-4; 1 Kings 11:9-13). These two sisters were notorious for their adultery and playing the prostitute (cf. Ezek. 23:3; Jer. 3).
Although God divorced Israel through the Assyrian captivity, He remained married to His other harlot wife Judah, from which line of descent Jesus/Messiah would come. Judah/Jerusalem was judged by the Babylonian captivity but never divorced (cf. Ezk. 23:22-45). Yet, in Israel’s last days God would re-marry Israel (the scattered 10 northern tribes) who became sown in the land of the Gentiles and in essence became Gentiles/Samaritans (Hos. 2:18-23).
Jesus is God who begins courting His wife with the woman at the well (Samaritans – John 4). Here the eschatological courtship/marriage begins. The believing Samaritans, Jews, God-fearers, and Gentiles constitute the restored and “last days” marriage. Jesus states He is the Groom that would consummate His marriage with the Bride at His coming in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Mt. 24-25). In the book of Revelation God finally divorces His unfaithful wife (OC Jerusalem) through the Romans, and yet at the same time consummates His marriage with the restored NC Israel of God “shortly” and Christ’s AD 70 “soon” coming (Rev. 1:1; Rev. 17–22:20).
19). God alone forgives sins, and yet Jesus forgives sins – (cf. Jer. 31:34; Mrk. 2:5-11; 1 Tim. 3:16).
From all of this we learn: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
C. The offices of Christ (Prophet, Priest and King).
1). Jesus is the “Faithful and True” Prophet – Jesus is the Messianic greater prophet that Moses predicted one come (Deut. 18:15-19). There was coming another “generation” in Israel’s “last days” that would experience and eschatological “end” – i.e. judgment and salvation (that would include the Gentiles, cf. Deut. 31-32:5, 20, 43). The prophet Isaiah predicted a Messianic second exodus (Isa. 11). Putting this together, Jesus is the greater Moses or anti-type that would usher in another second exodus within another 40 years generation. Peter informs us in Acts 2-3 that Israel’s “last days” AD 30 – AD 70 “perverse and crooked generation” predicted in Deuteronomy 32 is the one that would experience reformation and restoration at His Second Coming from heaven (“the great and dreadful day of the Lord”) – with a coming judgment for those Jews that would not heed His words and a salvation for those that would.
Consistent with Peter, Jesus predicts that the Temple’s destruction, the end of the OC age and His Second Coming would take place within the contemporaries of those He preached to and in their AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Mt. 24:1-34; see also Mt. 10:22-23; Mt. 16:27-28/Mrk. 8:38-9:1).
2). Jesus is the High Priest that would “not delay” – In His first coming (as the sacrificial lamb) and in His Second Appearing (as the Great High Priest) at the end of the OC age (a period roughly between AD 30 – AD 70), Jesus would finish His redemptive and atoning process in order to forgive the sin of His people (Heb. 9:26-28; Rms. 11:26-27; see also Dan. 9:24-27). Under OC typology, the Day of Atonement process was not complete until the High Priest came out from the Temple (the second time) and sprinkled the awaiting congregation. The next chapter confirms this first century Second Appearing, would be “in a very little while” and “would not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).
The OC economy was typified by the “first” Holy place, and the NC economy with The Most Holy Place. When the “first” was removed in AD 70, the NC Most Holy Place would be left and thus full entrance was made (Heb. 9:6-9). In Revelation we see the New Jerusalem in the shape of a perfect cube (indicating that She is God’s new Most Holy Place dwelling) and that she was in the process of coming down and would fully arrive “shortly” at Christ’s “soon” return (Rev. 1:1; Rev. 3:12 NIV; 21:16; 22:6-7, 20). It is here in the New Jerusalem and New Creation (God’s Most Holy Place), that we can see God’s face without shame (cf. Rev. 22:4) because He has completely taken away our sin as our Great High Priest! The New Jerusalem as the Most Holy Place and access to the Tree of Life (Christ) both communicate the one born of the woman brining us back and restoring what was lost (His presence in the MHP) in the original Garden Temple:
3). Jesus is the King of a spiritual NC Kingdom – Jesus taught that He was a King of a Kingdom that was “not of this world” and therefore it would be realized “within” at His Second Coming that would take place within His AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Jn. 18:36; Lk. 17:20-37; 21:27-32). After the destruction of OC Jerusalem, the Church would be able to look back upon this event and know that His Kingdom had already come in power (Mrk. 8:38-9:1). It would be at this time the Kingdom would be taken from OC Israel and given the restored NC Israel (Mt. 21:33-45).
The rest of the NT confirms the AD 70 arrival of the NC Kingdom:
a). “I do fully testify, then, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge living and dead at his manifestation and his reign/kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
b). Paul’s first century “we” expectation in 1 Corinthians 15 communicates a fulfillment of the parousia, Kingdom and resurrection in some of their lifetimes – i.e. in AD 70. This is when “the end” (of the OC age) would be fulfilled or when the “Kingdom” would arrive (1 Cor. 15:24). The last enemy to be destroyed or conquered was “the death” (spiritual death/separation that came through Adam the day he sinned – 1 Cor. 15:26). The result of the parousia (presence of God) and these promises is that “God may be all (when the Father Son, and Holy Spirit) in all” (fully in Jew and Gentile – 1 Cor. 15:28).
c). The eschatological “not yet” salvation of the soul, glory, inheritance and “entrance into the everlasting Kingdom” prophesied in the OT would be fulfilled in the days of Peter’s first century audience – thus “the end of all things was at hand” (1 Pet. 1; 4:5-7; 2 Pet. 1:11).
d). In the book of Revelation, at the seventh and last trumpet (the same as Mt. 24:30-31) when the Great City/Sodom/Egypt or the harlot Babylon (OC Jerusalem where Jesus was slain 11:8) would be judged, is when the kingdoms of this world became the Kingdoms of the Lord. Again, this was all to take place “shortly” at Christ’s “soon,” “quickly,” “at hand” AD 70 coming (Rev. 1:1; chpts. 10-11; 22:6-20).
D. The Deity of the Holy Spirit
1). The Holy Spirit is eternal – (Heb. 10:29).
2). The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (all powerful) – He is active in creation (Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30), the power by which Jesus performed miracles (Mt. 12:28; Rms. 15:18-19),
3). The Holy Spirit is omnipresent – (Ps. 139). The fact that the Holy Spirit in Scripture is said to be active in salvation in regeneration, while at the same time being poured out, and filling and leading Christians all at the same indicate omnipresence.
4). The Holy Spirit is omniscient (knows all things) – He searches all things, knows the thoughts of God, and is therefore able to teach, remind and lead the Apostles into forming the inspired Scripture (1 Cor. 2:10; Jn. 14:26; 16:13).
5). The Holy Spirit is not a force but can be lied to as God (Acts 5:3-4).
6). The Holy Spirit could be blasphemed against – (Mt. 12:23).
7). The Holy Spirit can be grieved – (cf. Ephs. 4:30).
8). The Holy Spirit speaksas a person (“I…”) and thus a distinct person – (cf. Isa. 48:16; 61:6; 63:9-10; Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7).
E. The Trinity
After examining the Deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, we can readily see that while the Scripture does not explicitly mention the “Trinity,” this doctrine exists within it’s inspired pages. It is complex (surpassing our full understanding) and yet wonderful and personal at the same time.
1). Salvation consists in the work of the Trinity. The Father ordains, chooses, elects and predestines His people (even knowing them by name), the Son lays His life down only for them (His Sheep and the Church), while the Holy Spirit effectually calls and opens the hearts of His beloved (Jn. 10; Rom. 9; Ephs. 1; Jn. 1:12; 3:5; 6:63). The Father “foreknows” (that is loved beforehand in election), the Spirit sanctifies in holiness and the Son applies His blood in atonement (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2).
Since the the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit) is the full expression of the Godhead involved in salvation,…
2). …The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned in the Great Commission and Apostolic blessing – (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:13; Lk. 1:35; 3:21-22; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2).
3). While there have been different explanations for God speaking of Himself in the plural (Gen. 1:26; 11:7), after further examining the OT and NT, it should become clearer that this is the Father, Son/Word and Holy Spirt.
Likewise, after viewing all the evidence, Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone (or “the LORD is ONE),” should be understood as a compound unity. The Hebrew here for “one” is echad which is used of two (man and a woman) becoming one (echad) flesh. In Hebrew culture, members of one family could also constitute “one flesh.” And although there were many parts to the Tabernacle and Temple, once assembled they were one building. There are many members of our country, and yet we are one nation indivisible under God.
IV. Man & Salvation Through the Cross and Parousia of Christ
A. The very day Adam sinned against God he died spiritually breaking covenant with God and being alienated from His Most Holy Place presence in the Garden (Gen. 2:16-17; Rms. 5:12).
We are naturally born into this world in a spiritual state of death and alienation from God’s presence (Ephs. 2:1).
When Israel (as a corporate Adam) broke covenant with God, she too was struck dead (spiritually) and carried away captive (east) from her holy land (cf. Hosea, and a gathering back into the land in faith and repentance is a resurrection, ex. Ezek. 37).
B. This Spiritual Death Produces an Inability on Man’s Part to Believe or Save Himself.
Contrary to the heretical Pelagian and Arminian views, man is not in a neutral state able to choose or not choose to be saved like he may choose a box of Cornflakes over a box of Wheaties. Man is born into this world speaking lies (sinning), is a slave to sin, cannot change his disposition anymore than a man can change his skin color or a leopard can change his spots and ultimately man hates God and loves (agape’s) darkness and therefore will not come to the light or seek Him in truth apart from God dragging/drawing him to Himself (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Job 15:14; Jn. 8:34; Jer. 13:23; Jn. 3:19-20; Rms. 3:11; Jn. 6:44).
One of the purposes of the OC law of Moses was to magnify sin and this spiritual state of death with its inability to please God – when the commandment comes there is an inability to perform to its standards (Rms. 7; Gals. 5:1-3). Likewise, when the gospel is preached today with it’s standards of belief in the Son and NC Kingdom living – it is like the sun’s rays – it will either harden the clay (the reprobate) demonstrating that they hate this God and have no desire to follow Him, or melt it will melt the wax (save God’s chosen). The gospel lays bear the motives of man’s heart and is either foolishness to him and an aroma of death, or becomes good news and an aroma of life (through the power of God).
C. Therefore, Salvation is monergistic.
Monergism simply means that a person is born again and converted completely by the sovereign free grace and power of Christ alone, without human help.
Jesus came into the world to actually save lost sinners (not make salvation possible for all mankind) by laying His life down for the sheep (not goats) that the Father had given Him before the world began, thereby bringing sinners to repentance – not the religious self-righteous (Lk. 5:22; Jn. 10). He instructs Nicodemus that one must first be “born from above” (or born again) before he can even “see” or “enter” the Kingdom (Jn. 3:3, 5 – here the act of spiritually seeing is synonymous with belief or faith – as one moves from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight/understanding).
This is a spiritual birth that has nothing to do with the will of men, but is the result of the Spirit blowing sovereignly where He will to open and raise the spiritually dead which is the means by which the gift of faith is given (Jn. 1:13; 3:6-7; Ephs. 2:8-10). In verse 5, the Greek can also be translated as being “born of water even the Spirit…,” which means being born of the Spirit in one’s soul is to be cleansed inwardly with water (in a figurative or metaphorical sense). The Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word or the Gospel, is likened to the agent of water because it satisfies and cleanses the soul of man (Isa. 44; Ezek. 36:25; Jn. 4:14; Ezek. 47/Jn. 7:38/Rev. 22:17).
Under the OC, if a gentile proselyte desired to join the covenant community of Jehovah, he needed to repent from following his false gods, exercise faith in Jehovah, be circumcised, and be baptized with water. Upon believing and confessing that Jehovah alone was God and performing these outward covenant rituals (which outwardly pictured what was professed to have already taken place in the heart and mind), the gentile was said to be a “new creation” or born anew.
The OT prophets foretold a second exodus, judgment, rebirth/resurrection of a nation, the sprinkling of water by the Holy Spirit, and arrival of another New Creation as a result of the redemptive work of Messiah and His establishing the New Covenant (Psalm 87:4-6; Isa. 10-11, 44; Isa. 60-66; Ezek. 11, 36-37). Nicodemus (a teacher of Israel) was as ignorant of what the Prophets had taught about these soteriological and eschatological events as those he sought to instruct. This was both an individual and corporate or covenantal re-birth that Jesus is discussing. OC Israel was being transformed (or being born from above) from OC glory to NC glory roughly between AD 30 – AD 70. Post AD 70, the gates of the NJ are open for sinners to still come in and be apart of God’s New Creation and therefore be born from above (Rev. 22:17).
The Apostle Paul in Romans 9 confirms that man’s salvation is totally dependent upon the sovereign mercy and plan of God. Jacob was effectually called to salvation in election and not Esau (before they were born), so that God’s purpose would be accomplished (vss. 10-12). Then Paul deals with the obvious objection that God is not fair by giving the illustration of the Potter’s right to do with his clay what he wills (or that God can do with men what He wills). This illustration is to buttress what has been said earlier in verses 14-18: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” And, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” It couldn’t be clearer, salvation is not dependent upon man’s will or works, but upon God’s sovereign right to have mercy on whom He wills.
But one will think to himself, “But faith and repentance are required for conversion, and we do that right?” Yes, we do, but faith and repentance are like to conjoined twins that while necessary for conversion to take place, are nonetheless both gifts given by God. We have no right to boast even in our faith and repentance (over against others that don’t believe and repent), because even they are gifts that come from God and only those He has ordained to eternal life will believe and turn to Him (Ephs. 2:8-12; Acts Acts 11:18; 13:48; 2 Tim. 2:25; Rms. 2:4).
1. Is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:25).
2. Is a turning to God and a hatred toward sin (2 Chron. 7:14; Job 42:6; Pa. 51:4; 119:128; Jer. 8:6; 15:7; 31:18-19; Ezek. :6; 18:30-31; 36:31; Joel 2:12-13, 15; Amos 5;15; Acts 20:21; 26:20; 2 Cor. 7:11; Rev. 9:20-21; 16:11).
3. Bears good fruit (Mt. 3:8; Lk. 3:8; Acts 26:20).
1. The object of faith is specifically the person and work of Jesus Christ the Lord and in the Word which testifies of His work (Isa. 45:22; Jn. 1:12; 3:15-16, 18, 36; 6:35, 37, 40; 7:38; Acts 10:43; 16:31; Rms. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9; Lk. 24:27; Acts 24:14; 1 Thess. 2:13).
2. Reformed theology teaches that we are justified through faith. However, it should be clarified that faith receives justification – it does not produce it. We are “justified by His blood” and by His grace and redemption – with faith receiving that work of Christ (His imputed righteousness) which is what justifies the sinner (Rms. 5:8; Rms. 3:21-22, 24-25, 28, 30; 5:1; 10:4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).
3. Saving faith bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17-19; 12:33; Lk. 6:44; Jn. 15:1-11; Rms. 7:4; Gal. 5:19-23; Phil. 1:11).
4. Saving faith and the believer (through the new birth) are kept by the power of God and his faith “cannot” nor “will” it ultimately fail (Lk. 22:32; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 Jn. 3:9).
5. Our assurance comes from the work of Christ and the gift of faith – that is, that we believe on Him (1 Jn. 5:10). We have “assurance of faith” because He has sprinkled our conscience through His sacrifice (Heb. 10:22; Heb. 9:13-14).
6. On saving faith and sanctification – we reject the “Reformed” view of progressive sanctification or that our assurance somehow comes from our growing obedience “more and more” (WCF, 13.1). We were set apart for God’s purposes before the world began, declared holy and made holy through the work of Christ (through His sacrifice and parousia). We are in the New Jerusalem and are thus “clean” or fully sanctified. There are only two groups – those inside who are clean and those who are outside and are therefore unclean. Once in the NJ or NC, we don’t become “more and more” clean/sanctified. We are in fact not just fully sanctified, but glorified (Rms. 8:18YLT – this glory was “about to be revealed” and in AD 70 WAS – with the glory and splendor of the NJ and NC in Revelation 21-22 illustrating this very fact).
7. On saving faith & the eschatological “not yet” of justification and the view of N.T. Wright or the “new perspective” – since the Second Coming/Presence and arrival of the “world of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3) has been inherited by the believer since AD 70, we are most assuredly made righteous in His sight right NOW. The believer awaits nothing to make or declare him as justified in the sight of a holy God! Selah.
8. On saving faith and Dispensational views – the folly of men such as Charles Ryrie and Zan Hodges of the Dispensational “Free Grace” movement, is that they claim a Christian may cease to believe (becoming an atheist for example) and yet remain a Christian. This is foolishness to propose the contradiction that there are unbelieving believers in the Church! Think about it.
F. Old Covenant Israel and New Covenant Salvation – Israel’s Inheritance Promises: Seed, Land, Jerusalem/Tabernacle New Creation.
In typological form Israel’s promises were fulfilled during the reign of Solomon. God’s promise to make Abraham a great nation and make his descendants as numerous as “the dust of the earth” and as the stars of the heavens was fulfilled in the OT (Gen. 12:2; 13:16 = 2 Chron. 1:9; 1 Chron. 27:23; 1 Kings 4:11). Even Israel’s land promises “from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” were fulfilled (Gen. 12:7; 22:17 = 1 Kings 4:20; Josh. 11:23; 21:41-45; Neh. 9:21-25).
Once we reach the NT we learn that Israel’s promises have their ultimate fulfillment not in the literal land or literal real-estate, but rather in the New Covenant or being “in Christ.” Christ Himself and those united to Him through faith are blessed with Abraham and fulfill the seed promise (Gal. 3:9, 16, 18, 28-29). We also learn that Abraham’s faith in the promise was rooted in a spiritual fulfillment of a heavenly land and city that were “about to” be received at Christ’s “in a very little while” Second Coming to close the OC age (cf. Heb. 9:26-28—10:37—11:10-16—13:14YLT). Even Paul’s statement that believers would inherit “the world” (Rms. 4:13) is understood in context to mean believers (Jew and Gentile) in all nations (Rms. 4:11-12, 16-17).
The heavenly land and city (New Jerusalem) that Abraham looked to for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise (along with the prophets promise of a New Creation – Isaiah 65-66) was in the process of coming down in John’s day and “shortly” did at Christ’s “soon” Second Coming in AD 70 (cf. Rev. 1:1, 3:12NIV—chapters 21:1–22:20). This is not a literal cubed city/tabernacle/MHP that will someday float down to earth, but rather the perfecting of the New Covenant people of God or New Covenant believers (the “Jerusalem from above” – Gals. 4). The coming Tabernacle/Temple of Ezekiel 37, 40-48 is referring to the Body – the Church (Ezek. 37:27=2 Cor. 6:16). Again, the New Creation is not physical real-estate, but rather New Covenant believers (Isa. 65:17 = 2 Cor. 5:17).
Literal land or global real-estate inheritance concepts coming from say Premillennialism and Postmillennialism are “heretical” and on par with unbelieving “Jewish dreams and myths” originating in a hyper-literal non-apostolic hermeneutic and we reject them as such.
The Jew understood his Temple and Land to be a “heaven and earth” with the light of Torah radiating from it, while the Gentiles were in utter darkness outside. Once a Gentile converted to the teaching of Torah and believed in Jehovah he entered the land and was declared a “new creation.” This gives the historical context on how Revelation ends the way it does. The Church is the spiritual New Jerusalem / Most Holy Place dwelling of God and a New Heaven and Earth with the light of the Gospel radiating from her bidding the nations to enter her with open gates.
G. Post AD 70 Salvation is Complete – No More Death, Tears or Pain.
Because “the death” that came through Adam is spiritual death (alienation from God) realized through the commandment-breaker Adam and amplified or increased under the Law of Moses (the old covenant), we can see how God gave His elect the victory over “the death” in the end of the old covenant age of condemnation. The fact that men die physically is in no way evidence that the “spiritual conflict” of “the death” continues for the church throughout the new covenant age.
God’s people under the old covenant, unlike God’s people today, experienced covenantal and spiritual death (cf. Hosea 13:1–14; Isa. 25–27; Eze. 37). What made physical death dreaded for the saints under the old covenant was that they died with the awareness that their sins had not yet been taken away. In the new covenant creation, Jesus promises that whether we biologically die in Him or biologically live in Him, we “never die” (John 11:25–26). This was not the case before Christ.
Thus under the old covenant, the residents of Jerusalem wept because they did not have a lasting atonement or eternal redemption. They longed and groaned for the day of Messiah’s salvation. Until that day would come, they knew their sins were not put away (Heb. 9:26–28; 10:4, 11). The promise that there would be no more mourning or crying or pain does not refer to any and every kind of mourning, crying, and pain. It refers to mourning, crying, and pain concerning God’s people being dead in sin under the condemnation, curse, and slavery of God’s law. That sad Adamic state is no more. In the Son, God’s people are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
As Athanasius wrote in his Festal Letters, iv. 3, “For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.”
Under the old covenant, when David or the nation was exiled from Zion and God’s city and temple, there was much inner pain, weeping, and bondage that followed (2 Sam. 15:30; Ps. 137; Isa. 14:3; Isa. 22:4–5; Jer. 9:1; 13:17; Jer. 22:9–10; Lam. 1:16; Joel 2:17). Under the new covenant, the heavenly country and Jerusalem are not subject to being made desolate or shaken by invading armies as was the old (Isa. 62:4; Heb. 12:27–28). The concept of the gates of the New Jerusalem always being open, even at night (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:25), is not merely a picture of evangelism; it is also a picture of security for the residents of God’s City. The believer, through faith in Christ, is the new covenant creation and it is impossible for him to be exiled from the City (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 3:12; 22:12). The new covenant believer is characterized as one whose weeping has ended, because God has forever taken away his sin and united Himself with him (Isa. 60:20; 65:14, 18–19; Jn. 17:21–23).
Christians in the new covenant world do not shed tears in agony and cry out to God to save them from the Adamic Death of Sin, as Jesus Himself did on our behalf (Heb. 5:7). “The sting [pain] of the Death” cannot harm us anymore (1 Cor. 15:56) because the power of Sin has been removed through Jesus, the Law-Fulfiller who clothes us and indwells us. Now we live and reign with Christ in the new covenant world, wherein dwells the Righteousness of God.
It is again noteworthy that Mathison avoids any mention of Paul’s declaration that Satan would be “crushed” “shortly” (Rom. 16:20) in his work on Postmillennialism and in his chapter addressing the time texts in WSTTB. The reason for this is that the majority consensus among all brands of commentators is that the “crushing” of Satan in Romans 16:20 is a direct reference to the final “crushing” of Satan as predicted in Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 20. Manifestly , the judgment and wrath that came in AD 70 was not merely “a” “minor” judgment. It was “the” judgment. It was the crushing of Satan.
Future eschatologies would challenge us with the empirical reality that Death and Satan could not have met their ultimate demise in AD 70 because, after all, just look around and you will clearly see that people still physically die and that there are wars and murders taking place all over the world today. Are these clear evidence that Satan and his demonic hordes are active in our world?
There were certainly times that Satan moved men, such as Judas, to commit sins. But the Bible does not teach us that this was ever the norm. James tells us that wars and fights come from within men (Jms. 4:1) instead of from Satan and demons. Satan’s primary purpose has come to an end: He can no longer function as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), because Christ came out of Zion a second time at the end of the old covenant age to put away Sin once and for all for His church (Acts 20:28; Rom. 11:26–27; 13:11–12; Heb. 9:26–28).
Our salvation and Christ’s Second Appearing/Coming as the Churches great High Priest are not events that take place at the end of time, but rather within time – namely at the end of the OC age in AD 70. The seed of the woman has overcome the Sin, the Death, the Law and crushed Satan for His heavenly people – the Church/New Creation. You may not feel perfect or like a city of jewels and gold, but that is how God views you through His Son’s finished redemption – accomplished and applied for you through His work on the cross and Second Appearing. Go now and preach this message (Rev. 22:17)!