Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Question for Full Preterists

I have, on this blog, occasionally discussed issues related to the eschatological position known as preterism. This is the view that the vast majority of Old and New Testament prophecies were actually fulfilled in the first century in connection with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. With some of these ideas I am sympathetic. I am usually careful in these discussions, however, to distinguish my beliefs from the position called “full preterism”, that is, the view that ALL biblical prophecy (including the final judgment) was fulfilled in the first century.

Recently, a friend from church asked me if I could come up with a question to challenge the “full preterist” view. Being rather occupied with my recent move, I thought I would try to kill two birds with one stone and use her question as the prompt for this week’s SC post. I apologize in advance that it is a somewhat skeletal response.

There are several good biblical points to be made against “full preterism”, but the following observations are what finally led me to reject this position and to fix my mind on the so-called “partial preterist” view. The problem with full preterism is that it is forced to conflate sets of events that are really quite distinct and to make events contemporary which were clearly to be separated by a long period of time.

Revelation 20 prophesies as future events two distinct judgments of Satan and two distinct resurrections, both of which are very different in character from one another and both of which are separated by at least a millennium. The first judgment of Satan is a temporary restraining. He is bound with a chain and cast into the abyss, but only for a thousand years (v. 3). At this first binding of Satan, the first resurrection also occurs (v.5). This first resurrection is limited to the tribulation martyrs (v. 5). They, and only they, come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years (v. 4). The rest of the dead do not raise until the thousand years are finished (v. 5).

It is not until after this millennium has passed that the final judgment of Satan and the final resurrection take place, and both of these are very different from their prototypes. This second judgment of Satan, which follows his thousand year imprisonment, is not, like the first, a temporary binding in the abyss, but an eternal assignment to the lake of fire (v.10). On the heels of this judgment, comes the second resurrection (v. 5), which, no longer limited to the saints, is now universal, bringing before Christ’s throne all who have ever lived and died (vv. 12-13). Those who are not found in the book of life join Satan for eternal punishment in the lake of fire (v. 15).

Again, full preterists are forced to say that each of these judgments of Satan and each of these resurrections were to take place, at the most, within a decade of one another. Some even say that the second judgment and second resurrection are merely re-descriptions of the first.

My question, then, for full preterists is this: Given the clear differences in character and the thousand year interval between these two judgments of Satan and these two resurrections, how can all these events possibly be said to have taken place in the first century and at roughly the same time?

Monday, November 20, 2006

One Last Blog

I've decided to open up one more blog (the last, I hope). This one will be a bit more personal and a bit more random: family updates, occasional poetic quips, etc. Check it out: I've posted a cool picture of my kids.

I've been wanting to post some stuff like this for a while, but didn't want to clutter up this blog with non-theological material (trying to be audience sensitive). So here's the rundown: Solus Christus will be dedicated to theological, primarily Christological topics; At the Crossroads is for those interested in practicing or teaching the trivium; and Life in Shiloh will be more for personal stuff. Links to each are in the side bar. God bless.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Let all the Angels Worship Him!

Some time ago, I was having a conversation with some Jehovah's Witnesses about the deity of Christ. It's difficult at times to know just exactly what these folks believe on this subject. Sometimes it seems that when they are arguing against the trinity, they are proceeding from a deep misunderstanding of the doctrine, apparently thinking that trinitarians believe Jesus and God the Father are the same person.

Of course, JW's are unorthodox in their belief that Christ is a created being, but still they are willing to attribute some sort of deity to him. So other than the question of his origins (of no small significance) what's the essential difference between the two views? We both agree that Christ is not the same person as God the Father, and we both say that Christ is in some sense divine.

Until this past interaction, I had never quite been able to put my finger on the precise distinction. Were the metaphysical categories of trinitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses just a bit different? Did the orthodox merely have a better grasp of Greek philosophy? Was there really any practical difference between the two views? The essential point of difference, however, was presented to my quite plainly in this last discussion, when it occured to me to ask, "Of course, you worship Jesus, don't you?"

I was surprised by the shock with which the woman answered, "Oh no! We worship only Jehovah." Whoa. Here was a difference, a very practical difference. Whatever the Witness believe about the divinity of Christ, they do not believe he is worthy of worship. In other words, they haven't the slightest clue as to who he really is, and are Christians in no sense of the word.

As a result of this conversation, I did some study on the verb proskuneo, the most common word for "worship" in the Greek New Testament. I must admit, I was somewhat surprised at the clarity with which the orthodox understanding of Christ's deity presented itself. The scriptures teach in no uncertain terms, that Christ is worthy of worship in the same way that God the Father is worthy thereof.

The word proskuneo is unquestionably the word describing the worship appropriately offered to Jehovah God and to him alone; apostles and angels adamantly rejected it for themsleves. Yet Christ, in the days of his flesh and after his exaltation, willingly receives it; indeed, men and angels are specifcally commanded by God to give it to him.

1. Proskuneo is the term used in the New Testament for the worship of Jehovah God. It is what God seeks from his people (John 4:20-2). It is what the Jews and proselytes traveled to Jerusalem to do offer God in the temple (John 12:20; Acts 8:27; 24-11, Rev 11:1). It is what the convicted sinner offers God in the Christian assembly (I Cor. 14:25). It is what the elders in heaven do to Jehovah (Rev. 7:11; 11:16; 19:4-5) It is what angels call for men to do to Jehovah (Rev. 14:7; 15:4). It is what the angels themselves do to Jehovah (Rev 7:11).

2. This act is not appropriately done to men or angels but only to God. It is specifically what Satan demanded of Christ, and specifically what Christ answered was to be offered to God alone. (Matt. 4:9; Mark 4:8; Luke 4:9). It is what idolaters wrongly do to false gods (Acts 7:43; Rev. 9:20; 13:4-15; 14:9-11; 16:2;19:20). The apostles refused to accept it on the basis of their only being men (Acts10:25). Even angels rejected it, commanding that it was to be done to God alone (Rev 19:10; 22:8-9).

3. Nevertheless, throughout the New Testament, Christ repeatedly accepts proskuneo from mortal men, from perfected spirits of men, and from the highest angels. He accepted it from men during his earthly ministry and after his resurrection (Matt. 8:2;9:18; 14:33, 15:25; 18:26; 20:20; 28:9, 17; Mark 5:6; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He accepts it along with God from the elders and cherubim in heaven (Rev. 5:14). And he accepts it from all the angels of heaven by the express command of God (Heb 1:6).

Now the obvious question is: how could Christ have accepted an act that he himself testified was only to be given to Jehovah God? He could not have done so without claiming himself to be that very God. Here we have a very specific explanation of what the scriptures mean when they tell us that Jesus Christ is God. Is he the same person as the Father? No. But Christ, the Son of God, is worthy of the very same service, the very same honor, and the very same worship as God the Father.

Jehovah will share his glory with none other (Is. 42:8), yet he has shared his glory with Christ from before the foundation of the world (John 17:4-6). Man and angels are to honor God as they honor no other, yet all are to honor the Son, even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). It is in this very practical sense, that we must understand the deity and the divinity of Christ: He is most worthy of our worship.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I have reactivated my blog on the trivium "At the Crossroads." I will be trying to post there weekly (probably on Tuesdays or Wednesdays). The link is now in my sidebar. Again, this blog will be covering topics that are likely to render the average person unconscious in a matter of minutes, so unless you really have an interest in grammar, logic, or rhetoric, please pay it no attention.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Some Thoughts

Brothers and sisters, we do not know Christ as we should. We know some Bible, we know some theology, we know some words, but we have not even begun to catch a glimpse of Christ himself. How could we know him and not have our thoughts consumed by him? How could we know him and not have our words saturated with him? How could we know him and not have our works transformed by him? No, we do not know him. But one gaze at his glory, and we would never be the same. We would fall as dead at his feet and only by his right hand would we be able to rise up again. As it is, we are barely awake enough to be bored with him. We see the words about him in the pages of scripture, we mouth them in repetition, but deep down, they are meaningless to us. If we knew him, our senses would be overwhelmed. But we do not know him. Our eyes are dark, our ears weak, our hearts dull. Be honest, we don’t really even believe in him. God help us.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ

Another week in which I am required primarily to let the scriptures speak for themselves. I would only summarize by saying that the scriptures strongly encourage us to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

1. Increasing the saints’ knowledge of Christ was a primary object of the apostles’ ministry.

God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. He did so that they might attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Eph 4:11-14

Paul continually prayed that God would grant the saints according to the riches of his glory, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith; to the end that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be strong to know the love of Christ. Eph 3:14-19.

Paul strove greatly for the saints so that they might know the mystery of God, even Christ. Col. 2:1-3.

Paul determined not to know anything among the saints except for Christ and him crucified. I Cor. 2:1-2.

Peter commanded the saints grow in the knowledge of Christ. II Pet. 3:18.

2. Knowledge of Christ is exceedingly valuable, specifically addressing problems of impurity, immaturity, and false teaching within the church.

Paul counted all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ and was willing to suffer the loss of all things, considering them garbage, that he might know him. Phil 3:8-10

Knowledge of the love of Christ enables one to be filled with the fullness of God. Eph 3:14-19.

Knowledge of Christ multiplies grace and peace. II Pet. 1:3.

Knowledge of Christ allows one to escape the defilements of the world. II Peter 2:20

Knowledge of Christ is knowledge of the mystery of God, and in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col. 2:1-3.

Knowledge of the Son of God brings about maturity, that God’s people need no longer be as children, susceptible to being led astray by teachers of false doctrine. Eph 4:11-14