end is near
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth before the future 1,000 year kingdom. The tribulation is final seven-year period of wrath inflicted on the planet before the kingdom begins. Meanwhile, the term rapture refers to the event that occurs before Jesus establishes his kingdom in a literal and physical sense, when he will descend from the heaven, and Christians who are still alive will be caught up together with Jesus in the clouds. At the rapture, will meet him in the air and then we will always be with the Lord.

There are essentially three possibilities about when this rapture will happen in relationship to the tribulation. Either the rapture will happen before the tribulation (the pre-trib view), during the tribulation (the mid-trib/pre-wrath view), or after the tribulation (the post-trib view).   Continue Reading…

Photo from Three Rivers Episcopal blog, used under fair use rulesIn paedobaptist teaching, baptism is seen as a mark of divine ownership, a sign and seal given to those who are God’s own possession. When an infant is baptized, not only does he enter God’s covenant family, but “his parents declare that their child belongs to God” (Daniel Doriani). In this way, baptism is considered a sign of initiation by which an infant is received into the church and “reckoned among God’s children” (John Calvin). As John Murray writes, infants who are baptized “are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.”

This idea that children of believers are automatically children of God provides part of the rationale for infant baptism. According to one paedobaptist, “The children of Christians are no less the sons of God than the parents, just as in the Old Testament,” and since “they are sons of God, who will forbid them baptism?” In this view, just as “the adoption of sons” belonged to infants in Old Testament Israel (Rom 9:4), it now belongs to infants in the New Testament Church, and therefore the latter should be baptized just as the former were circumcised.  Continue Reading…

Left GomezI love the whimsical sobriquets of erstwhile baseball legends. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Luke “Fumblefoot” Appling, “Eyechart” Gwasdz, “Piano Legs” Hickman, Squatty, Fatty, Lippy, the “Hebrew Hammer” Braun, and of course, the Bambino. One character was far more original and colorful than his nickname. Lefty Gomez, the Yankee southpaw in the 1930s was renowned for his quirky antics, especially eccentric reasons for calling a time-out.

He once called a time-out in a World Series game to watch a plane fly overhead. On a subsequent occasion, when a thick fog settled on the field, Lefty called a time-out to retrieve his box of matches. He then held the lit match up as if to help the other players see better. Once he was pitching a tense game, the bases were loaded, and the game hinged on his pitch. Unsurprisingly he called for a time-out and beckoned  the catcher to come to the mound. The catcher was delighted, assuming they were going to discuss a strategy for this important pitch. But Lefty, in all seriousness, asked him if he had any hunting dogs he wanted to sell. The flustered teammate burst out, “Why are you asking me about dogs while the bases are loaded?” Lefty explained, “A friend of mine knows you hunt, and he asked me to find out if you had any dogs for sale. I promised I’d ask you the next time I thought of it. And I just thought of it!”

Though the unpredictable timing of Lefty Gomez must have been a source of frustration for his teammates, as this vignette reveals, that to Lefty a promise was a promise.

Many Christians are irked by the lack of specificity in God’s promises to bring about His kingdom. The when, where, and how of the kingdom of God is a hotbed of friendly debate (and at times in history, violent Crusades) between Bible students of all stripes. But there is one aspect of God’s promises we should all agree on and take comfort in: the  certainty of their fulfillment.

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BaptismOne of the most common arguments for infant baptism is found in the climax of the apostle Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter has just set forth the redemptive work of Jesus (vv. 22-35) and proclaimed that He is both Lord and Christ (v. 36), and his Jewish listeners are cut to the heart, asking, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter responds in Acts 2:38-39:

Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2:38-39).

The argument for infant baptism is found in Peter’s declaration that “the promise is for you and your children”—not just you, but you and your children. According to paedobaptists, the promise that Peter refers to in Acts 2:38-39 is the same promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 17:1-8. As Robert Booth explains:

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Who is church history’s most notorious false teacher?

It might not be possible to answer that question definitively. But if we were to create a top-ten “most wanted” list, the name Arius would undoubtedly be near the top.

In ancient times, Arius’s teachings presented the foremost threat to orthodox Christianity — which is why historians like Alexander Mackay have labeled him “the greatest heretic of antiquity.” None other than Martin Luther said this about Arius:

The heretic Arius [denied] that Christ is true God. He did much harm with his false doctrine throughout Christendom, and it took four hundred years after his death to combat its injurious influence, yea, it is not even yet fully eradicated. In the death of this man the Lord God exalted His honor in a marvelous manner.

In case his name doesn’t sound familiar, Arius was a famous fourth-century false teacher who taught that the Son of God was a created being. Consequently, Arius denied Christ’s equality with God the Father, and along with it, the doctrine of the Trinity. Essentially, he was the Continue Reading…

I was going to write today about why I believe in the pre-tribulational rapture, but as I began that, it occurred to me that something more basic often needs to be proved. I have talked to many amillennialists that find the way premillennialists describe the rapture to be unconvincing. So before getting to why I believe in the pre-trib rapture, I wanted to explain why I believe in a rapture at all.

Scripture describes the rapture as the physical removal of believers from the earth, where we are caught up into the air to meet the Lord, and then we will be with the Lord forever.The word rapture is a biblical word, the Latin translation of harpazo in 1 Thess 4:17, which in English gets translated as “caught up” or “suddenly caught up” (NET).

Some think this sounds fantastical, or that it is too extreme to be plausible. I remember reading a Nathan Wilson book that mocked the idea of a rapture (he joked that people must by necessity leave their clothes and appendixes behind, both being useless in our new bodies). But the fact is the Bible does describe this event in at least three places.  Continue Reading…

As a former youth pastor, I was asked regularly why so many of young people eventually leave the church. Why is it that so many of the teenagers who came to sunday school and youth group, who professed to know Christ, would abandon the faith when they went off to college? Why is it that so many young people who would come to a youth camp and make a decision around a campfire would not be serving Jesus Christ years down the road? Furthermore, why is it that this “falling away” (see Matt 13:20-21) is not limited to youth but extends to many who profess to have made a response at a jail ministry, nursing home outreach or other evangelistic encounter?

easy

The unfortunate answer is that they were never born again (cf. 1 Jn 2:4-6). Folks proclaim regularly in their testimony of conversion that “I asked Jesus into my heart in grade school, but never got serious about Christianity until twenty years later when I dedicated my life to Him after a serious issue in life.”

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Fields Hill crossesToday I drove past the site of the horrific accident that occurred on Field’s Hill, Pinetown, South Africa–10 minutes drive from my home. Both sides of the road are marked by large white crosses, marking the number who died in an impossibly unpredictable split second. On September 5th, in an indescribable instant of horror, 24 lives were dispatched to eternity by a careening truck, effecting 30 families, and rocking our community. The vehicle’s hydraulic breaks failed and it became an unstoppable torpedo.

Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, has a section that has sent chills down my spine every time I’ve read it. When I saw the footage of the crash these words began to play in my mind as my hand went to my quivering lips in a reflex of stunned incredulity. It’s a lengthy quote, but worth meditating on…

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September 27, 2013

The Minister as Waiter

by Mike Riccardi

Reposted from August 26, 2011.

In Acts 6, we find that famous passage in which the occasion comes for the Apostles to designate the priorities of the Christian ministry. The twelve make it known to the congregation that, above all other ministerial responsibilities and worthy pursuits, they will devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Ac 6:4).

The Greek word translated “ministry” in that passage is diakonía. It comes from the verb diakonéō, the normal New Testament verb that is translated, “to minister.” While it eventually takes on the more technical connotation of what we think of as “Christian ministry,” its most basic meaning is to serve. In fact, it’s used this way in the very same passage. In Acts 6:1 we’re told of the problem that prompted the Apostles’ response: the widows of the Hellenistic Jews “were being overlooked in the daily serving (diakonía) of food.”

And the word is used in this most basic sense frequently throughout the gospels.

  • Peter’s mother-in-law began ministering (diakonéō) to Jesus after He healed her. What was her ministry? The NASB says, “…she got up and waited on Him” (Mt 8:15, NASB).
  • Similarly, the alert slave waiting for his master’s coming is said to wait on (diakonéō) his master and his guests (Lk 12:37, NASB).
  • In Luke 17:8, the “unprofitable servant,” who is not thanked for doing his duty, is said to serve (diakonéō) his master while he eats and drinks.
  • Finally, Martha complains to Jesus about Mary leaving her “to do all the serving (diakonéō) alone” (Lk 10:40), which of course included the practical preparations for Jesus’ visit to their house (see also John 12:2). Here again, ministry takes on this connotation of waiter- or waitress-like service.

If we seek to follow in the Apostles’ footsteps in devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word of God, we must adopt the attitude of a diákonos in the various contexts of the Christian ministry. The biblical shepherd is to be a servant—a waiter who supplies the food of the Word of God appropriately according to the various hunger pangs of the flock that Christ has entrusted to him.

As I reflect on the implications of this illustration of the minister as waiter, I find that there are some really insightful parallels between the pastor and the waiter. Here are five of those.

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File:Paul Apostle.jpgClick here to read Part 1 or Part 2.

When we talk about “the gospel in church history,” it is necessary to start at the beginning of church history—in those initial decades recorded for us in the book of Acts. Significantly, the essence of the gospel was the central issue at the first major council in church history.

The Jerusalem Council met around AD 49 or 50, nearly twenty years after the church was established on the Day of Pentecost, and 275 years before the next major church council—the Council of Nicaea (which convened in 325). The Jerusalem Council, which is recorded in Acts 15, assembled to answer one primary question: “What is the essence of the gospel?” But to fully understand what was at stake, we need to begin with Paul’s first missionary journey, found in Acts 13–14.

The Proclamation of the True Gospel (Acts 13–14)

In the first few years of church history, immediately following the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the church was composed entirely of Jewish Christians. It wasn’t until the conversion of the Samaritans (in Acts 8) and Cornelius (in Acts 10) that non-Jews began to be incorporated into the body of Christ. After highlighting Cornelius’s conversion, Luke detailed the spread of the gospel into Gentile lands (in Acts 11:19–24), culminating in the formation of a predominantly Gentile church in Syrian Antioch.

The inclusion of Gentiles into the church represented a major paradigm shift for Jewish Christians. For the previous 1500 years of Israel’s history, since the time of Moses, God had been specifically working through the nation of Israel. But now, in the church, Gentiles were being saved without having to first become Jewish proselytes. Of course, God had prepared the apostles for this by saving Cornelius while Peter was present. Continue Reading…