Second Reformed Church

Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: "Eschatology"



Eschatology.  The mere title of editors D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider is enough to get the backs of Christians up – especially those of us who are sure we have the end times all figured out.  That being said, give this book a second look – it is not quite like any I have seen on the subject before.
This is more of an introductory text on the subject with articles by “thirty evangelical authors” (back cover) divided into four parts:
In the first part, “The Doctrine of Future and Its Foundations” opens the text looking at why thoughts on the future matter and how it relates to other topics in the Scripture.
The second part, “The Doctrine of the Future in the Bible” looks at the major types and authors of the Scripture to explore the views of the future presented.
The third part, “The Doctrine of the Future in the History of Christian Thought” looks at a number of major figures in Church history and several movements, including the modern movements to explore the understandings of what these figures and movements said of the Bible’s teaching on the future.
In the final, brief section (3 essays), “A Doctrine of the Future and Christian Ministry,” three authors look at how eschatology and our understanding of it ought to effect the way we carry out Christian Ministry.
This is an ambitious and useful secondary resource, and I welcome it as such into the fold.  It would be useful in adult/college studies and in colleges and seminaries.
That being said, the authors, though not antagonistic, do not shy away from their own views (and I cannot say this is a thoroughly balanced evangelical presentation) as Charles Ryrie, for example, argues that anyone who believes in any form of preterism “weakens” all prophecy throughout the Scripture (71ff)!
The biggest weakness for this volume is that it is a secondary source.  I would hope that anyone who uses this book would also have the students read the actual Scripture and the actual writings of the figures discussed in the historical section.  The primary sources, especially the Scripture are paramount in this discussion.  And a person’s views of a theologian’s views may well be faulty, so it is best to read – along side of interpretation – the primary sources here as well.  Perhaps a companion volume of primary sources could be issued to be used with this book.
A second companion book could be also issued just on the subject of how we minister as Christians in the light of our understanding of eschatology.  Perhaps there could be a section of responses for each of the different perspectives.
This is a useful volume, and I hope it will inspire more work to be done, as I have described it.  Do not consume this work and think you know it all or that everything is completely accurate.
#Eschatology
 [I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com.]

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Pastor is Gone

The pastor is on vacation from August 8th through August 29th.  I you are in need, please call the church office, a member of the Consistory, or Paul Vroom.

Thursday night study will resume, D.V., on September 1st at 7 PM.

Please join us for worship the next three weeks as guest preachers deliver God's Word.

"When I Am Lifted Up" Sermon: John 12:27-36



“When I Am Lifted Up”
[John 12:27-36]
August 7, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            Last week, we saw Jesus explain that it was time for Him to be glorified.  With the Gentiles coming to Him for salvation, it was time for Him to be tortured and crucified and dead and buried – so, like a seed planted in the earth – He would rise up again and bear much fruit through all those who would ever believe in Him.
            Today, we see Jesus explain that in that horrific act of crucifixion – men and women of every race and language and nation and time will be drawn to Him for salvation.
            We read:
            “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
            This might sound familiar to us, because it is like Jesus’ questions in the Garden of Gethsemane:  is there any other way to accomplish this work other than through the horror of crucifixion and receiving the Wrath of God?  But, not My will, but Yours be done.
            We saw Jesus explain that it is necessary to bury the seed for the plant to grow and bear fruit, but now, the God-Man confronts feelings of aversion in His humanity.  As Jesus considers what He knows He will endure – the mental anguish, the whipping, having spikes driven through His wrists and ankles, enduring the Wrath of God for all of the sins of every person who would ever believe in Him savingly, and then suffocating to death through crucifixion, He looked at this and was repulsed – He didn’t want to endure it, He didn’t desire to suffer like that – only a madman would want to suffer like that – though no one but Jesus could survive it.  And His soul was troubled.
            And He asks the question, “Shall I ask God to save Me from this hour – from this horrific death?”  And His answer is the one that must be given by the obedient, incarnate Son of God, “This death is why I came.”  “Father, I will suffer everything You require, so long as You are glorified in My suffering.”  As long as God was revealed and the Way of salvation was revealed, as much as Jesus hated the death He was faced with, He received it – as the author of Hebrews explains – “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2b, ESV).
            And we might hear this and think, “Yeah, Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, but wasn’t it wrong for Him to ask if He could be delivered?”
            It would have been sin – and then Jesus would not be our Savior – if He faced what was coming and then said He would not go through with His horrific death.  But it is not wrong for a human – and remember Jesus is at the same time 100% God and 100% human in one person – that’s what the Bible teaches – and that is necessary for Him to be our Savior – but it is not wrong for a human being to feel one way or another or to even be tempted to sin, so long as he or she ends up doing what is right – what is the Will of God.
            We may not feel like getting up and coming to church and worshipping God on any given Sunday.  I may not feel like preaching any given Sunday.  But, we are commanded by God not to
neglect the assembling together of the saints – in other words, if the Church is gathering to worship, God says we are to be in worship – and I, as the called minister, am to preach.  We can have feelings, but we must do what is right – what is pleasing to God.
            And Jesus’ death at the hands of evil men did please God – in the sense that Jesus accomplished and secured salvation on our behalf – those who put Him to death sinned.
“Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ’This voice has come for your sake, not mine.’”
            God the Father spoke from Heaven and said what Jesus already knew – that God the Father had glorified Himself through the Incarnation thus far and would continue to do so through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.  As Jesus said, the Word of the Father from Heaven was for the sake of the crowd about Jesus.
            God the Father spoke to assure the crowd that Jesus’ crucifixion was not the tragic end of the story – God wanted to assure them that what was going to happen was what had to happen, and they should not be overwhelmed by the crucifixion, but understand that great benefit – great fruit – would come from Jesus’ death.
            But some people said they heard thunder.  And some people said they hear the voice of an angel talking to Jesus.
            Some people come into the church, heard the Word of God preached, and go out with the strangest understanding of what was said.  Some people grow up in the church and end up saying that the Word of God is merely a collection of human writings.
            It is human blindness that allows us to hear the Word of God or read the Word of God and say it is something other than what it is.
            These people heard God the Father speak, and they were so blind that they heard thunder and angels.
            And then Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
            The first question we ought to ask ourselves is “when is the ‘now’ Jesus is referring to?”
            Well, Jesus is talking about the crucifixion, so He is telling them things that will happen at the time of His crucifixion.
            Second, “who is the ruler of the world”?
            The Triune God is the Sovereign over everything that is, but Satan is called “the ruler of this world.”
            So, Jesus is saying to the crowd and to us that at the time of His crucifixion, the world will be judged – that is, as the spikes are pounded through Jesus’ flesh and He is raised up to die on the cross, the Father will pour out all the fullness of His Wrath – eternal torment in Hell for the sins of each person that will ever believe savingly in Jesus – and that judgement will fall on Jesus again and again and again for each one who will believe – and He will die.
            Also at the crucifixion we have what the Apostle John called the beginning of the millennium – the period of time from Jesus’ crucifixion until His return.
            Without trying to explain all the symbolism of the book of Revelation, hear how John describes symbolically what Jesus just said about Satan being cast out of the world at the time of the crucifixion:
            “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:1-3, ESV).
            And we remember that when John writes about the millennium or the thousand years, he does not literally mean a thousand years, but, a very long time.
            So, for him who has ears to hear, Jesus says, at His crucifixion, He was judged and paid the debt for the sins of everyone who would ever believe savingly in Him, and He conquered Satan and cast Him into prison until the end of the world.
            And Jesus continues, “’And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
            Jesus used the expression “lifted up” because the biblically literate people of His day would understand what He was referring to:  being “lifted up” referred to being crucified.  And it would have reminded them of what Jesus told Nichodemus: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, ESV).
            Moses recorded the foreshadowing of what Jesus would do:
            “From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Numbers 21:4-9, ESV).
            God punished the sin of Israel by sending serpents to bite and kill them.  Israel called out to Moses to interced, and God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and crucify it before the people, and anyone who looked upon and trusted in the crucified one for salvation would be saved.
            And God promised: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10, ESV).
            And so, after a night of abuse and then an early morning flogging that left Jesus with severe blood loss, He was turned over to the team for crucifixion.  He was stretched out on the cross on the ground and spikes were beaten through His wrists and ankles, and then the guards pushed the cross up and dropped it into the hole where it was kept aloft.
            The perfect, sinless, holy Son of God hung between heaven and earth, and God the Father inflicted Him with unimaginable suffering again and again for each one He came to save, and as this bloody Man succumbed to death – an unimagined victory was won.  The judgment had been passed.  Satan had been thrown into the pit.  And anyone who lifts up their eyes to the Crucified One from that day and until the day He returns will be saved.  Anyone who lifts up their eyes to the Crucified One, believing that He is God the Son and Savior – that He has accomplished salvation for us, that person will be saved.  If you believe in the One Who was slaughtered and hung on a cross – forsaken by God as judgment rained down on Him – you will be saved.
            And that call to repent and believe – to look upon the One they had pierced is to every man, woman, and child throughout history.  In the crucifixion, Jesus draws and continues to draw people from every type of background and nation and language and ability to Himself.  Everyone that He came to save is being drawn to Him and will come to Him and will be saved by Him!  Jesus died for the sake of victory – and He will not lose one that He came to save.
            Have you looked upon Him and believed?
            How did the people that day respond?
“So the crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’”
The crowd said, “Wait a minute, the Scripture says that the Christ – the Messiah – the Savior – will reign forever?  How can He die, if the Scripture says He will reign forever?  How can the Son of Man be crucified and be eternal?  Who are You saying the Son of Man is?”
The crowd sort of had a good question – but only because they either purposefully or ignorantly ignored some of the Scripture.  Yes, the Scripture says the Christ – the Son of Man – will live and reign forever.  But it also says that the Christ – the Son of Man – must die.
It’s like people who say, “Well, the Bible says it is against the Law to have sexual relations with your brother or your sister, but it also says that it is against the Law to eat shrimp.  And you eat shrimp, so incest must also be fine – unless you admit that eating shrimp is a sin.”
Yes, the Bible says that incest and eating shrimp are sins, but there is also a repealing of the law about eating shrimp being a sin – it is no longer a sin to eat shrimp, but it is still a sin to commit incest.  When we read the Bible, we can’t pick and choose verses, we have to take the entire document in its context to understand it.
The crowd questioning Jesus was not taking it all together, and they were being pharisaically blind in asking Who Jesus claimed the Son of Man is – Jesus said over and over again, “I am the Son of Man!”  “I am God, the Son of Man!”
And so, Jesus responds with a warning:
“So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’”
First, Jesus said He is the Light and if you don’t believe in Him savingly, you are in darkness.
So, second, while the Light is with you, walk – look and believe – because when the Light is gone, you will be in darkness such that you do not know where you are going.
And third, while you have the Light, believe in the Light savingly, and you will become sons of the Light.
Even now, Jesus tells us that we are born in sinful darkness, but He is drawing all those who will believe to Him – but the time to repent and believe is short – none of us has unlimited time to believe in Him and receive His salvation.
So look – look at what God’s Word has to say – hear the preaching of the Gospel, see if it is not all true – look upon the One Who was crucified – look at him hanging there – understand how this was not the grand failure of Jesus, but the very plan of God for victory and the salvation of His people.  Look at Him being mocked.  Look at Him bleeding out.  Look at Him gasping as He suffocates.  And understand that this was done to pay the debt to God for sin.
The Seed was dead and planted in the dirt, but Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and calls out to each one – even those He is drawing – to repent and believe in Him.  Be saved by His work, and then respond in good works in thanks to Him.  Jesus has saved all we who believe – nothing we do earns that salvation – yet we respond to Him.  Believing makes us children of God.
As John explains, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13, ESV).
Have you felt the draw to the Crucified One and believed savingly in Jesus?  We are brothers and sisters.
Have you felt the draw to the Crucified One and are holding off?  You don’t have time to not believe.  You could die before I finish speaking.  Satan is restrained right now.  Jesus has done all the work – will you believe?
If you have not felt the drawn of the Crucified One – if you still don’t see that there is any big deal in all this Jesus stuff –
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to live and die – that the penalty for our sin would fall on Him – and You would be satisfied.  You are the God of Salvation – we confess we do not have the inclination or ability to believe, but You draw people to Your Son that they would believe and live lives that are pleasing to You.  Lord, we ask that any here who have not believed would be disturbed by the Crucified One – haunt them and drag them and cause them to be confronted by the Truth of the Gospel, and in Your Mercy, as You are willing, cause them to believe and make them sons and daughters of God with us.  And we ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.