Sunday, September 28, 2014


Review: THE PEOPLE, THE LAND, AND THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL Editors Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 2014.

There could not be a better time for the publication of this book. Israel and the conflict in the Middle East have renewed the interest in what the Bible teaches concerning this nation. It is also a time where there has been an increased support for the Palestinian political view. The book is an outgrowth of a conference of the same name in October 2013 by pastors, theologians, and biblical scholars. It is a call of support and to clarify what the Bible teaches about the people and land. This book is the publication of the subjects covered in that conference.

This fresh look concerning Israel is divided into sections:

  • Hebrew Scriptures. This section is subdivided in 4 chapters:
1.      Israel according to the Torah (Eugene Merrill). Showing that the nation of Israel is founded upon the unconditional covenants which guarantee they will be redeemed and returned to the land to fulfill these covenants.
2.      Israel according to the Writings (Walter Kaiser Jr). He continues the trajectory from the Torah, seeing the continuation and climax with the Davidic Covenant and its emphasis on the coming kingdom. The emphasis is on the reunited Israel.
3.      Israel according to the Prophets (Robert b. Chisholm Jr). The trajectory of the prophet’s vision is that of Israel’s future restoration. The prophets gave the main features as return, reunification, repentance, restoration, and worship of the nations. The prophets looked forward to fulfillment.
4.      The People and Land of Israel in Jewish Tradition (Michael L. Brown). This deals with the Jewish understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures.

  • New Testament. This section is also subdivided into 4 chapters.
5.      Israel according to the Gospels (Michael J. Wilkins). Wilkins centers mostly on Matthew. There are two vital truths that he brings out. First, the disciples preach the messianic aspects of the kingdom. Second, Israel was not replaced by the church. The future of the messianic kingdom stands. There is still an eschatological fulfillment for Israel, including both the land of the kingdom and the mediation of the kingdom.
6.      Israel in Luke-Acts (Darrell L. Bock). He points out that though Luke-Acts has not changed, Israel’s story has not changed in its hope. Gentile inclusion did not mean Israel’s exclusion from God’s future plans.
7.      The Jewish people according to the book of Romans (Michael G. Vanlaningham). He rejects that the Church fulfills the eschatological promises of Israel. He sees Romans as a key to the future of Israel, especially Romans 4; 9; 11; 15. He attempts to show continuity between the Old Testament and Paul concerning Israel. To me this is the key chapter of the book for the future position—worthy of time and study. 
8.      Israel according to the book of Hebrews and the General Epistles (Graig A. Evans). He deals with authorship of these epistles showing clear Jewish authorship of these books. He shows that each epistle identified ethnic Israel explicitly or implicitly

Hermeneutics, Theology, and Church History
9.      Israel and Hermeneutics (Craig A. Blaising). He points out that how one perceives the end of the story will affect how one perceives the whole story. In this chapter he recaps the historical approaches to Scripture. He concludes any approach need a “holistic eschatology” which includes the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.
10.  Israel as a necessary theme in Biblical Theology (Mark R Saucy). Dr Saucy traces the fabric of Israel that is woven throughout Biblical history and story. It is an unfinished but not unknown.
11.  Israel in the Land as an Eschatological Necessity? (John S. Feinberg). To me this is one of the best chapters of the book. Feinberg shows that the OT Prophecies demand a literal fulfillment of Israel being in the land. He keys on Daniel 9, Zechariah 12, and Isaiah 19, which all predict end-time events that involve national Israel.
12.  Israel in Church History (Michael J. Vlach). This is an overview of how the church has viewed Israel over time. He centers upon the concepts replacement and restoration conflict and traces it in the history of the church.
13.  Israel in light of the Holocaust (Barry R. Leventhal). Today, when the Holocaust remembrance is being lost, Dr. Lenenthal shows the significance of this event in present events and thinking.

  • Practical Theology
14.  The Jewish people: Evidence for the Truth of Scripture (Michael Rydelnik). The only hope for finding a reason for Israel’s continued existence is through the Bible. Civilizations have come and gone, but Israel remains. It is a tribute to the preservation, power, and faithfulness of God. This should lead all believers to give God the glory for his faithfulness, to trust God’s Word, and to stand up for the Jewish people.
15.  Israel and Jewish Evangelism today (Mitch Glaser). He pleads that the eschatological argument should motivate us to evangelize the Jewish people, not to minimize it.
16.  Israel and the Local Pastor (David Epstein). He serves in a Jewish community of New York. This chapter is somewhat a testimony as to why a local pastor should reach out to the Jews. With him it is personal, moral, political (i.e. the smart thing), and Biblical. What was interesting to me was his comments concerning Islam. It is the most inspiring chapter in the book.
17.  A survey of Positions on Israel Currently Taught at Theological Schools (Gregory Hagg). Results of this survey were not surprising. It clearly shows a waning of the importance of Israel and its future in today’s seminaries. However, I would suggest it is worst than indicated, since only 14 out of 70 schools responded. Not sure why this chapter was added except to show the reason for the overall waning of the subject among the pulpits of today. It could have been omitted without taking away from the overall significance of the book.
18.  Conclusion (Darrell L. Bock). This chapter deals with why this subject matters. He draws five conclusions from this book.

 I took the time to survey each chapter for the reader of this review because I wanted to show the vital subjects it deals with, and the tone of the book. It represents some of the best thinking from a premillennial and dispensational view. The value of the book is seen in its depth of the subjects covered. It is also intended to be studied not simple read. Each chapter ends with study questions to stimulate the reader. I would encourage everyone interested in eschatology, no matter their viewpoint, to read and study this book. That is not to say that the book is without some weaknesses, for example I wonder why there was no study of Pauline thought, except for Romans. Key as that chapter is, I think the book needs a stronger emphasis on Pauline thought. Also more could have been said on unity and disunity between the church and Israel. There is also no chapter on the book of Revelation showing the climax of the promise to the people, the land, and the future of Israel in its fulfillment. However this does not hinder the importance of the overall significance of the book.

I found it stimulating to both reevaluate my own position on the subject and do further study. It is also a timely study that was sorely needed in light of the theological and political atmosphere of today. It should be in every Pastor’s and Bible student’s shelf.    

[I received this book free from Kregel Academic in exchange for the review. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions are my own].

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Snapshots of Jesus from Mark’s Gospel #3


Mark 1:21-22

The job of a photographer is to capture the essence, tone, and feel of the moment, place, or person. A good photograph is more than capturing the simple likeness of the subject. A good photograph is one that allows the viewer to not only see the object, but feel the essence of the object. A good photograph makes us not only see, but to feel the emotions of the subject. It centers our attention on the subject. A good portrait gives us the likeness of the person, but goes much deeper and captures the character of the person. Mark does this in the simple portrait of Jesus as teacher. Mark records “They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. There were amazed as His teaching for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

The Setting. The setting of a photograph can make it extraordinary, or simply make it ordinary. The setting makes this picture of Jesus. The setting tells us immediately that it is a place of instruction. The people gathered to pray and learn of God. Unlike our churches today, the service in the synagogue consisted of three things—reading the Word, prayer, and teaching the Word.[1] It was a special place for a special purpose. It has the feel and element of worshipfulness. It has this special feel that is completely different than his teaching at other locations (e.g. Sermon on the Mount). The setting makes the feel and tone of the picture that Mark wants to convey to the reader.

The Action. Jesus “began to teach.” Notice that the action is stated simply and without detail. We do not know what Jesus taught on that day. We only know that he taught. This was a key feature of the ministry of Christ (Mark 2:13, 4:1-2; 6:2, 6, 34; 8:31; 10:1; 11:17; 12:35; 14:49). The synagogue was not only a place of worship, but edification as well. Christ edified with his teaching.

The Results. This is the focus of the photograph. The setting and the action leads us to the emphasis of the event. This is where the emotion of the picture centers. Without this element of the snapshot; it is ordinary, without life and feeling. This gives it the touch of the extraordinary. This is indicated by two features:
  • Amazement. “They were astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 1:22, KJV). If a photographer would have been at this event, I am sure he would make a point to capture the expression on the faces in attendance that day. This indicates the impact of Jesus’ teaching. The word astonished (amazed) indicates that it “struck the people like a blow, knocking them out of their normal state of mind.”[2] Whatever Jesus taught, it amazed them, for it was the voice of God.
  • Authority. This authority came not because of what was said so much as who said it. This is the first of other early snapshots in Mark (1:22, 27; 2:10; 11:28, 29, 3:3). His authority was paramount in these instances, and most of the time it slips into the background, but always present. For emphasis, the special authority displayed by Jesus is contrasted with the ordinary authority of the scribes. Jesus’ words to that audience were anything but ordinary. As we see beyond this snapshot, authoritative words lead to the display of authority (e.g. healing).

[1] William Barclay, DBS: THE GOSPEL OF MARK, [Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975], 30.
[2] D. Edmond Hiebert, THE GOSPEL OF MARK, [Bob Jones University Press, Greenville SC, 1994], 49.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Moses / Jesus

Parallels between Moses and Jesus

Exodus 2:1-10
Raised as sons of a Virgin
Matthew 1:22-23
Exodus 2:2
Extraordinary Infancy
Luke 2:40
Exodus 1:22
Tried to kill in infancy
Matthew 2:13-16
Exodus 3:10
To be Deliverers
Acts 7:35
Deuteronomy 18:15
John 6:14 / Luke 7:16
Psalm 99:6
Hebrews 7:23-27
Deuteronomy 33:4-5
Matthew 2:2, 27:37
Exodus 18:13
John 5:27; Phil. 17:31
Exodus 3:1
John 10:11-14
Exodus 33:8-9
1 Timothy 2:5
Numbers 21:7
Romans 8:34
Hebrews 11:24-27
Refused the Glory of Kingdoms
2 Corinthians 8:9
Hebrews 11:26
Endured for Future Glory
Hebrews 12:2
Hebrews 11:26
Rich, but became Poor
2 Corinthians 8:9
Hebrews 11:27
Called Out of Egypt
Matthew 2:15
Acts 7:25-28
Rejected by their Brethren
John 1:10-11
Acts 7:35
Rejected by Man and Exalted by God
Acts 2:36
Exodus 5:4-5
Brought Rest from Burdens
Matthew 11:28-29
Exodus 9:13, 12:31-33
Brought Liberty to Captives
Luke 4:18
Exodus 11:8
Enemies will Bow the Knee
Philippians 2:9-11
Exodus 11:4-6
Midnight Cry
Matthew 14:21
Exodus 14:21
Power over the Sea
Matthew 8:26-27
Exodus 17:6
Water to the Thirsty
John 7:37
Exodus 17:4
Nearly Stoned
John 8:59
Numbers 27:5
1 John 2:1
Numbers 12:3
Matthew 11:29
Psalm 100:16
Mark 15:10
Exodus 34:29-30
Transfigured Faces
Matthew 17:1-2
Exodus 32:1
Return was Scoffed At
2 Peter 3:3-4
Numbers 13:1-3
Called Twelve Men
Mark 3:13-14
Numbers 11:16-17
Called 70 men
Luke 10:1
Exodus 24:8
Both are connected with the Blood of the Covenant
Luke 22:20
Deuteronomy 1:37
Suffered for Others
Isaiah 53:4-5
Numbers 14:17-20
Obtained Pardon for Others
Ephesians 4:32
Deuteronomy 33:1
Pronounced a Parting Blessing
Luke 24:50-51

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: MAKING SENSE OF THE BIBLE by David Whitehead.

This book is a mixed bag. While it has a good purpose of making the Biblical understanding accessible to the beginning or average layman, it seems to me to fall short of its purpose.

Chapter 1 – Deals with the differences of translation. It is a survey of the three main methods of translation. He adequately defines these methods—Literal, Paraphrase, and Dynamic Equivalent. To my mind he does not adequately do the job or explain the difference. One major ingredient that lacks in this chapter is its relationship to Truth. And he favors the more loose translations.

Chapter 2 – Deals with the reader. He rightly indicates that the reader’s heart is a vital part of reading the Bible. That the heart must be open to the exposure of sin; to change of heart; and the strengthening of the heart is necessary. He correctly stresses that we must read the Bible to understand the Bible. It is one of the most vital duties we have as believers. This may well be his best chapter in the book.

Chapter 3 –Deals with the writing styles in the Bible. The Bible is literature written in different styles. He points out that God uses the same creativity in his Word as he did in his creation. This is seen in the number of authors (44) as well as the number of books (66). Within these you can find styles of every type.

Chapters 4 though 12 are a survey of areas of the Bible. It is somewhat disjointed for it jumps from place to place and back again (example: Chapter 4 deals with Abraham, Chapter 5 the Gospels, Chapter 6 the Epistles, Chapter 7 back to Old Testament Narratives) that I personally find it confusing. I do not think it will be an aid to understanding the Bible, especially for new believers. I am uneasy with him giving the impression that the book of Revelation is to be read even if it is not understandable. For a book to make sense of this Bible, it is not satisfactory.   

In the whole I am disappointed in the work. The book is very basic, but has factual problems (when did Canaan get moved to Turkey? p. 46). It is easy to read which is aided by numerous use of summaries. However, it misses the mark.

I received this book free from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Snapshots of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel (#2)

Mark 1:12-13

Another snapshot of Jesus is found in Mark 1:12-13. It is that of the temptation in the wilderness. Unlike the snapshot of His baptism which was a close up, this one is taken with a wide-angle lens. It is more like a landscape.  Every landscape can be photographed from a number of angles. Capturing the subject in its best light can be a balancing act. It does not center upon any one detail, but exposes details in harmony of the overall setting.

The setting is clear; it is the wilderness of Judea. The wilderness is the subject matter of the snapshot, as seen by the double reference (1:12-13). The wilderness of Judea is a high desert, mountainous terrain, with canyons, little or no water, and is an uninhabitable area. It reminds one of the Death Valley in California. It is a place of desolation. It extends from the beach of the Dead Sea to the edge of the central hill country. It was to this place that the Spirit drove Jesus  after His baptism. The details of where this place cannot be seen. Tradition says it was west of Jericho which is commonly call Mons Quarantania (meaning 40 days), but that is not commonly held and there have been other suggestions. The exact place is unknown. The Jews thought of the wilderness in terms of danger, gloom, and the abode of demons (cf. Matt. 12:43, Luke 8:29, 11:24). In this setting we see three things about this wilderness and Jesus:

IT IS A PLACE OF STRESS. This is clearly pictured by Mark, for Jesus was “tempted by Satan.” The Spirit did not lead Jesus into temptation, but into the wilderness. God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13). This snapshot does not give us the details of the temptation, but only the fact of the temptation. Jesus was there being tempted for “forty days,” and while many take this to be  symbolic, there is no reason to think it was not actually the time. The words, “tempted by Satan” is a present participle indicating that Jesus was repeatedly subjected to temptation. He was under intense pressure and pressure causes intense stress. This shows the intensity of the stress by indicating repeated temptations.

IT IS A PLACE OF DANGER. Mark notes that “He was with the wild beasts.” Only Mark reveals this fact. The place of danger causes fear. In the wilderness you have snakes, coyotes, mountain lions, scorpions, and wild hogs. “The sound of those animals piercing the darkness of the night is enough to stop the heart, chill the brain and turn the muscles into jelly.”[1]  This is the temptation to become fearful in the face of the environment. It is designed to paralyze us where we are, to let our circumstances overtake us, rather than us overtaking our circumstances.

IT IS A PLACE OF RELIEF. The wilderness can be a peaceful place in spite of the stress and danger. Mark reminds us that “the angels were ministering to Him.” Jesus was not alone. The word ministering is an imperfect tense, indicating action over a period of time. It was not just a short relief effort. It was an intense effect of sustenance and encouragement. Although their ministry here is unique, it reminds us that God is ready to give us relief in the wilderness of this world and its hostile environment.

[1] Jerry Vines, EXPLORING THE GOSPELS: MARK, [Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune NJ, 1990], 17. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Snapshots of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel (#1)

Jesus’ Baptism
Mark 1:10-11

I am an amateur photographer. Each photograph captures a moment in time. Mark is like a word-photographer. He takes a snapshot of time which is short and to the point. He captures moments of time in the life of Jesus with his words. The first snapshot of Jesus is his baptism: “Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased’ ” (Mark 1:10-11).  This records only a short instance within the event, much like a snapshot from a camera. The other accounts in the Gospels are much more detailed and expanding accounts than what Mark records. Mark captures not the complete event, but a moment of time within the event. In this snapshot we see nothing of the process of baptism; rather, it is a snapshot a moment of time within the baptism.

This snapshot captures:

THE MOMENT OF EMPOWERMENT. The Holy Spirit came upon him like a dove. The snapshot balances Jesus coming up out of the water with the Holy Spirit coming down upon Him (1:10). His “coming up” is a present participle indicating the occasion of His anointing by God’s Spirit. The descending of the Spirit like a dove upon Him is a picture of God’s empowerment for ministry. It fulfills the promise of the Messiah being endowed with God’s Spirit (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:13).

THE MOMENT OF IDENTIFICATION. God spoke to identify who Jesus is—“My beloved Son.” Mark not only captures the visual, but the audible as well. This is a pronouncement of God the Father declaring who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. The verb is in the present tense, indicating the essential relationship that is continual. It did not have a beginning, and will not have an ending. It is a unique relationship. “In this context ‘Son’ is not a messianic title, but is to be understood in the highest sense, transcending messiahship” observes Lane.[1] The identification of Sonship is not what Jesus became; rather it is what He was, is, and will be (cf. John 1:1).

THE MOMENT OF APPROVAL. The Father voices His approval of the Son—“In you I am well-pleased.” Every son wants the approval of his father. God the Father voices that approval. In this we see the echo of Isaiah 42:1. Jesus is the delight of the Fathers’ soul. The statement communicates both the approval and pleasure of God the Father.

THE MOMENT OF INTERACTION. This snapshot in one of the few moments in the New Testament when the Godhead (Trinity) is seen together. Here they acted together; each with his part. Jesus is the physical presence of Son on earth; the Spirit descending from Heaven; and the Father speaking from Heaven. 

[1]  William L. Lane, NICNT: MARK [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1974], 57.