Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The foundation of end time events is the covenants. A covenant is an agreement made by God to do certain things. There are two types, conditional (the Law) and unconditional (Abrahamic). It is the unconditional covenants that are the foundation of end time events. These covenants are literal, eternal, and all made with Israel (Rom 9:4).

The foundation covenant is the Abrahamic (Gen. 12-13, 17). Its features are threefold: (1) Personal to Abraham (12:1); (2) to His seed it promises a land, a nation, and blessing (12:2-3); (3) to the families of the earth, blessings through Abraham and his seed (12:3). This is an eternal covenant (Heb. 6:13-18). It was ratified by God alone (Gen. 15:8-18). The ratification process was to kill an animal, split it in half, and both parties pass between the pieces of the animal. But here God alone passed through the pieces, Abraham was asleep. It was God alone binds Himself to fulfill the covenant.

The significance of the Abrahamic covenant is fourfold: (1) It was based on the principle of Grace (unmerited favor). God made the covenant with Abraham by His grace.  (2) It is the title deed to the land of Israel. It gives the land as an inheritance. (3) It is the basis of expectation and prophecy. It is the basis of the future hope of Israel (Rom. 11:25-29).

This is the foundation covenant for Israel. It is the root of all the promises given to Abraham’s seed (Israel). It promises them a land, a nation, and blessings (i.e. redemption). This covenant was expanded by other covenants.

The promise of land was expanded by the Palestinian Covenant (Deut. 30:1-10). This covenant guarantees the land to them, and obligates God to judge and remove its enemies. This is reaffirmed in Ezekiel 16:60-66.

The promise of a nation is expanded in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:8-16). This promises David an everlasting throne (cf. Psalm 89:34-36). It will be fulfilled in the earthly kingdom when Christ sets upon the throne in Jerusalem (Rev. 20:6, 11-15).

The promise of blessing and redemption is seen in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Many forget that this covenant concerns Israel—today’s church is not its fulfillment. While we may received some of the redemptive blessings by grace, the dispensational blessings of Israel’s conversion is still future, and this covenant is a foundation of end time events (Rom 9:25-27).

These are what Paul calls the covenants of promise to which the Gentiles were strangers (Eph. 2:2). Notice Paul’s phrase—covenants of promise. Not all covenants were covenants of promise. I have heard preachers say all the covenants were made with Israel—not true. An example would be the covenant made with all the earth through Noah. We should be careful how we phrase things. The covenants of promise were made with Israel, not all covenants.  They are covenants of promise because they build upon the foundational Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was expanded by the Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenant—all covenants of promise. All of which the end time events are based and will be fulfilled. These covenants of promise necessitate that: (1) Israel as a nation and a people be preserved; (2) Israel must be in the land at the end times; (3) they be restored and redeemed when Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom on earth. 

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN by J. Ramsay Michaels

This is a massive work (1094 pages) on John, which replaces Leon Morris’ work in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series. As I have been doing some study in the Gospel of John, I added it to my library. I must say that after using it, I am not impressed with Michaels work. While he is conservative in the approach to John, I am disappointed in the commentary. I found the following: 

  • I was surprised that he acts mostly with older scholars (Bultman and Barrett); little with Carson and Keener, and with Kostenberger at all. I was expecting more. To me this dates the work before it came out.
  • He is not afraid of controversy; in fact he opens in Gospel with such with his view of the Prelude.  Some of this is interesting, but does not outweigh the rest of the work.
  • He downgrades the idea of John the Apostle being the author. His conclusion is we cannot know who wrote it.
  • He has some unusual interpretations. An example of a fanciful connection is found in John 19:30 where he connects Jesus laying his head and giving up the spirit to Matthew 8:20 where Jesus had no place to lay his head (page 964).
  • He seems to be brief on theological issues, and does not cover others, like John’s use of the Old Testament.
  • Overall, I found he did not add much to what I found in other works.
I would not recommend this work. To me the cost benefit is not there. The cost is great and for me the benefit are little. In my humble opinion it certainly does not measure up to the work it replaces by Leon Morris. Carson, Keener, Kostenberger, and Beasley-Murray are much better choices.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Books on my Desk

While I have 1000 or more books, the most important ones are on my desk. Each Pastor has his most used books on or at his desk. Mine are:

  • Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.
  • The Majority Text Greek New Testament Interlinear
  • Strong’s Concordance
  • King James Bible
  • New King James Bible
  • New American Standard Bible
  • The Complete Study Dictionary: NT
  • Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics (Wallace)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Basic thoughts on PROPHECY

If one is to study the Bible, one cannot avoid prophecy. Well over half of the Bible is some type of prophecy. Prophecy has been defined as history written in advance. While it may be true that one verse in four was predictive when it was written, that is a narrow view of prophecy. The MERRIAM—WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY, 11th Edition, (page 996) defines prophecy as (1) an inspired utterance of a prophet; (2) the function or vocation of a prophet; (3) a prediction of something to come. Prophecy is wider than just being predictive. Prophecy has two major purposes: predictive (which is future when spoken) and corrective (which deals with the present). Daniel, for example, shows us both. One finds the predictive elements in the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9), and the corrective element is seen in the pride and punishment of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4).

A prophet is a seer. He is a person to whom the will of God was revealed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in order to communicate truth (present and/or future) to the people of God. The message was not their own, that is, they did not preach it out, dream it up, or in any sense develop it (Jer. 23:16; Ezek. 13:2; Zech. 1:3). What did he see?

  • Word of God (Isa. 21:10). A prophet is a forth-teller. He gave forth the word of God to the people, normally in the form of warnings, rebukes, promises, and exhortations. His main function was preaching, not teaching. In preaching his main object was personal, social, and/or religious renewal (2 Sam. 12:1-10; Hosea 4:1; 2 Chron. 15:1-8). This falls within the corrective purpose of prophecy.
  • Events (Dan 7). A prophet is a fore-teller, usually in the form of prognostications and predictions of coming events (near and/or far). They are based upon visions or direct revelation in some form. Their fore-telling centered mainly on world events, Messiah’s coming and suffering or the Messianic reign on earth (the kingdom). This falls within the predictive purpose of prophecy. This aspect of prophecy can be fulfilled (Isa 7:14) or as yet unfulfilled (Dan. 9:27).
The first prophecy in Scripture is Genesis 2:16-18. Here God is the forth-teller and the result is life, but there is a prophetic warning: “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” However, there is another form of prophecy that arose up against true prophecy—that is false prophecy (Gen. 3:5). The false prophecy has as its source Satan, with the result of sin and death. It is based not upon truth, but a lie: “in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Note false prophecy can come true). The student must be aware of this other form of prophecy even through his attention may be on true biblical prophecy.

Because true prophecy has two elements (corrective and predictive) there are certain benefits one receives from its study:

  • It reveals the Sovereignty and character of God.
  • It guards against deception (Matt. 24:4).
  • It gives comfort and encouragement (1 Thess. 4:18).
  • It gives us peace (John 14:1-3).
  • It produces functional holiness (1 John 3:3).
  • It stimulates us to service (2 Cor. 5:9-10).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thoughts on Literal Interpretation

What is literal interpretation? It is taking the Bible in the original sense of speaking in the normal, customary, and proper usage of language. Tan points out that “In order to determine the normal and customary usages of Bible language, it is necessary to consider the accepted rules of grammar and rhetoric, as well as the factual historical and cultural date of Bible times.”[1]  This means one accepts the normal usage of language. However, literal interpretation is taken by some as wooden, non-flexible, and even absurd.  Normal usage of language includes:

  • Literal interpretation accepts figurative language as a normal and customary part of language. Figurative language does not militate against literal interpretation. William Tyndale declared: "Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, where unto if thou cleave thou canst never err nor go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Nevertheless, the Scripture uses proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddles, or allegory signifieth is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently."[2]
  • Literal interpretation recognizes that the Scripture contains spiritual truths. However, to know these spiritual truths come not by spiritualization, but are revealed through the ordinary, customary, language.  

All Bible students believe in literal interpretation in some form. The problem is that not all Bible students are consistent in their interpretation, especially in the field of prophecy. A prime example of this is seen in Zechariah 9:9-10. Zechariah 9:9 is the prophecy of Jesus triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. All commentators agree that had a literal fulfillment. Jesus rode into the city on a donkey. Zechariah 9:10 which speaks a coming of total disarmament and world peace. It speaks of the Messiah’s dominion being world wide. Yet, many all the sudden make this spiritual in content. They do not believe this will be literally fulfilled by the second coming of Christ to set up his kingdom of earth. For example, Matthew Henry says:

His kingdom is not of this world, but a spiritual kingdom. It will not be advanced by outward force or carnal weapons, ver. 10. It shall be propagated and established by speaking peace to the heathen. Christ came, and preached peace to them that were afar off, and to them that were nigh, proclaiming on earth peace, and good will toward men. His kingdom shall extend to all parts of the world, in defiance of opposition. His gospel shall be preached to the world, and be received among the heathen.[3]

Why is verse 9 literal, while verse 10 is spiritual? It is so, only by inconsistent interpretation. To be consistent, one should hold to literal in both verses, unless there is some clear indication that it should not be. There is no such indication here, except the will of the interpreter. The result is that it is not the text that becomes the authority and indicator of the meaning, but the mind of the interpreter.

If we take the text following the normal, customary, and usual rules of language we see a moral literal meaning. Feinberg follows this when he gives the meaning of verse 10.

He speaks peace to the nations: in three short words in the original we have the blessed act told forth. This does not mean that He will speak peaceable or teach peace, but by an authoritative word He will command it. Then will be accomplished by His word that men have sought to bring about by the use of arms and munitions. True, He speaks peace to individual hearts now (Eph. 2:17), but in that day He will speak peace to the nations. Note that peace is not the result of peace conferences, not of the preaching of social gospelizers, but of the direct, immediate activity of the glorified Son of God, the Prince of Peace. Therefore, He is the Desire of all nations, though they know if not.[4]

J.C. Ryle is correct and observes:

“…the literal sense of the Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected by the Churches, and is far too much neglected at the present day, and that under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed its meaning.”[5]

[2]  Quoted by J.I. Packer, FUNDAMENTALISM AND THE WORD OF GOD, 103.
[3]  Matthew Henry, COMMENTARY OF THE HOLY BIBLE, 2:515.
[4]  Charles L. Feinberg, GOD REMEMBERS: A STUDY OF ZECHARIAH, 129.