My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 16

William Watson finds philo-Semitism, premillennialism, and even pretribulationism to be more prevalent before the nineteenth century than most theologians and church historians try to make us believe. Over four years of research reveals that some Westminster Assembly divines, Anglican bishops, and renowned Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean held a premillennialist viewpoint. Watson examined more than 350 primary sources, most of which have not been read (much less cited) for centuries. Holding a M.A. in European history, and a Ph.D. in seventeenth-century and eighteen-century English history (University of California, Riverside), he helped compile the English Short Title Catalogue (English works published between 1473 and 1800) that led to creation of the Eighteenth Century Collections Online. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Moldova in 2004, a visiting fellow at Oxford-Brookes University in 2007, and is occasionally an adjunct instructor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Dispensationalism before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism counters the theological myth that dispensationalism and pretribulationism commenced with J. N. Darby.

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 9

No greater subject for our contemplation exists aside from Jesus Christ Himself. We all need to spend significant time meditating on our Savior’s work and His role in our world, our life, and our future. John Owen’s classic, The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, will profoundly impact your life. It is not an easy read, because of the richness of its topic and the depths that Owen plumbs. This edition provides definitions for old English terms that have gone out of use to help the reader understand him better. Occasional boxes provide summaries and charts organizing some of the key observations. Consider just a few of the jewels to be gleaned from this superb work on Christ:

  • “The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, that the whole creation and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford.”
  • “he knows not Christ, he knows not the Gospel”
  • “It is in Christ alone that we may have a clear, distinct view of the glory of God and his excellencies.”
  • “all our present glory consists in our preparation for future glory”

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 2

Academics have dominated the realm of Christian theology (both systematic and biblical) for several centuries. This source for the Church’s theology has led to a degree of stagnation as well as a lack of true spiritual passion in the queen of sciences–resulting in theologically anemic churches. Great theologians like Augustine, Irenaeus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards (just to name a few), pastored churches. Their theology focused on the teachings of the Word of God for the people of God for living in the world. Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision chronicles the history and issues a challenge to renew a generation of pastors as theologians–for the good of the church. Every pastor should read this book and academic institutions should take its thesis into account before hiring their next professor of theology.

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 26

Pastoral leadership in corporate worship requires both passion and wisdom. John Newton was just such a pastor. He not only pastored his church through his sermons and letters, he also wrote worship-filled hymns. Beyond Amazing Grace: Timeless Pastoral Wisdom from the Letters, Hymns, and Sermons of John Newton, compiled and edited by J. Todd Murray, breathes the rarified atmosphere of the Word of God through a man of God. Newton’s pastoral example and words will rekindle spiritual fire in the reader’s own heart and life. D. A. Carson wrote of this book, it “deserves to become a classic in confessional evangelical spirituality, on par with Andrew Bonar’s Memoirs of M’Cheyne.”

Click on picture for link.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 19

Seven weeks ago I recommended the Grand Canyon companion to this guide book in the True North Series. This volume takes users on a trek through the landscapes of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks identifying evidences of the biblical flood in Noah’s time and talking about biblical creation. The four authors (John Hergenrather, Tom Vail, Mike Oard, and Dennis Bokovoy) present a creationist’s viewpoint of earth’s history. They offer travel tips, maps, details on the vast forests, grasslands, geysers, trails, flowers, hiking trails, wildlife and more–all vibrantly portrayed in many full color photos. If you visit Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, take the opportunity to study the majesty of God’s amazing creation with this volume in hand. Families will find the guide helpful for explaining the wonders of these parks to their children.

Another companion volume in the True North Series is Your Guide to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Click on picture for link.

Hebrew Whiteboard Update: Psalm 104:1-4

Psalm 104 provides a break from the early psalms (Psalms 1-6) and from the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-122). This psalm presents the poetic description of Creation as compared to the narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3. An anonymous psalmist marked off this psalm’s 35 verses by means of an inclusio like that used in Psalm 103. As a psalm of praise, it exhibits hymnic participles. As Hebrew poetry the psalm displays many forms of imagery that enhance its beauty. Psalm 104 offers an interpretive challenge regarding its subject matter: does it refer only to Creation, or also to the Flood of Noah’s day? At what point in the psalm does the author move from Creation to either the Flood or to the natural processes observable at the present day? We begin with the first four verses.

Click on Hebrew Whiteboard to download Psalm 104:1-4 or any of the previous studies of Psalms 1-6 and 120-122.

Identifying the Imperatives in Biblical Narratives

Narratives occupy a large portion of the Bible, whether its pages record the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph or the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness, or the events surrounding the judges and kings of Israel, or the stories of Ruth or Esther. And, those are just part of the Old Testament narratives. The Gospels and Acts in the New Testament also contain much narrative. The old saying is that “narratives describe, but don’t prescribe.” Sounds good. But, as with many such sayings, it is over-simplified and actually ignores explicit instruction from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Preachers and teachers need to learn how to carefully discover the imperatives within narratives.

As a contributor to ParkingSpace23’s blog, I posted a blog on this very topic. Although it merely scratches the surface (believe me, there is far more to tell and to teach about it within both testaments), I hope you will click on the following link Implications or Applications?: Preaching Biblical Narratives, read, and start identifying the imperatives of biblical narratives.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 12

Reading the Old Testament sometimes can seem like ploughing through long pages filled with words without fully understanding their importance. Don’t miss the overall meaning, beauty, and power of over two-thirds of your Bible. Allow What the Old Testament Authors Really Care About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, edited by Jason S. DeRouchie, to guide you into understanding the themes and doctrinal emphases of each of the books of the Old Testament. Seventeen different writers present valuable insights about authorship, historical setting, purpose, theological themes, and ultimate message. Richly illustrated with many full-color photographs and charts, this volume will delight readers over and over again. The contributors include DeRouchie, Daniel Estes, Todd Bolen, Stephen Dempster, Daniel Hays, Andrew Schmutzer, Boyd Seevers, Preston Sprinkle, Gary Yates, Gary Smith, Kenneth Turner, Jeffrey Mooney, Chris Miller, Donald Fowler, Daryl Aaron, John Crutchfield, and Edward Curtis.

Click on picture for link.

Pentecost Meditation: The Significance of Christ’s Ascensions

Bible readers often pick up on the apparent fact that Jesus ascended more than one time into heaven following His resurrection. Indeed, there appear to be three different ascensions, each accomplishing different purposes. As we come to the observance of Pentecost, which marks the historical beginning of the New Testament Church (see Acts 2), we do well to remember that its founding occurred after Jesus’ final ascension. Too often we pay so much attention to Jesus’ death and resurrection that we ignore the fact that His death and resurrection alone did not fulfill all that He came to accomplish in His First Advent. Without His ascension, many of the purposes for His coming could not be carried out.

Jesus’ First Ascension

Jesus’ first ascension occurred when He fulfilled Psalm 68:18 (see Ephesians 4:8). At that time He took all of the Old Testament saints (those in “Paradise”) to the third heaven (cp. 2 Corinthians 12:2–4). Jesus took Paradise up to (not into) heaven. Therefore, at that point He had not returned to the Father. He merely transported the Old Testament saints from their compartment in Sheol separated from the compartment of the unsaved by a great gulf (Luke 16:26). Because of this transfer of saints to heaven, all believers now depart this world for heaven directly. Jesus’ first ascension insured that our very next destination following death will be heaven itself (John 14:1–3; 2 Corinthians 5:6–8; Philippians 3:20).

Jesus’ Second Ascension

After Jesus took the righteous Old Testament saints up to the boundary of heaven, He returned to the earth so that He might exit the tomb. Before this He had been speaking to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19) to make His victory proclamation. Peter refers to the location as Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4). It most likely occupied at least a portion of the “great gulf” (or “great chasm”) between the compartments of the righteous and unrighteous Old Testament departed spirits in Sheol. As Jesus exited the tomb on Sunday morning (Resurrection Sunday), having rolled back the stone, He encountered Mary Magdalene and said, “Don’t touch me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17).

Then Jesus ascended to the Father and shortly afterward appeared to the group of women in Matthew 28:9. This ascension was necessary in order to purify by His blood even the heavenly altar (Hebrews 9:7–11, 23–24). This purification was not due to the heavenly altar being unclean or defiled—it was actually the anointing of the altar to initiate its function as a place where human spirits might worship the Godhead much as the Tabernacle altar was anointed (Exodus 29:12). This anointing the altar with blood also signified the formal initiation of the New Covenant (in His blood—cp. Exodus 24:4–8 [at the establishment of the Mosaic Covenant at the foot of Mt Sinai—a stone altar, not the Tabernacle altar]; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

Jesus’ Final Ascension

During the next forty days before His final ascension (Acts 1:9), Jesus appeared to many different individuals (e.g., Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus, and John 21 in Galilee to His disciples). At the end of those forty days, Jesus ascended the Mt. of Olives (see picture above) with His disciples and spoke to them about the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower them in their witness (Acts 1:8). Then He ascended into the sky, going into heaven. The two angels standing nearby then revealed to Jesus’ disciples that He would return just as they had seen Him depart (Acts 1:11).

Reasons for Jesus’ Ascensions

Christ’s ascensions were necessary for at least the following fourteen reasons:

  1. To fulfill prophetic Scripture—Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8.
  2. To transport Old Testament saints to the boundary of heaven, where they could then enter the throne room of the Father and join the angels in worship.
  3. To purify = anoint the heavenly altar by His own blood (Hebrews 9:7–11, 23–24).
  4. To initiate the New Covenant with His blood at the heavenly altar (see the third point above).
  5. To restore the Son to His former glory which had been hidden (except for a brief time at His transfiguration) (John 17:24).
  6. To seat Jesus on the throne of God in heaven at the right hand of the Father (Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).
  7. To intercede for us while seated on the Father’s throne (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
  8. To seat Jesus on the throne of God in heaven so that we, too, might be seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6).
  9. To demonstrate Jesus’ ultimate victory and the completion of all of His redemptive work by ascending into heaven, from whence He had come (John 16:28; 17:5; Hebrews 8:1–6).
  10. To send the Spirit as the Comforter in place of Christ (John 16:7), who would baptize and empower His disciples for witness to the world (Acts 1:5–8).
  11. To formally establish the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
  12. To leave a reminder that Jesus would return in the same fashion to the same location in the future and to fulfill yet another prophecy (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4).
  13. To prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:1–4).
  14. To prepare to return in the Second Advent in the glory He had had with the Father (Matthew 16:27–28; 24:30) from heaven in judgment (Matthew 25:31-34) and bringing His kingdom (Luke 19:11; 2 Timothy 4:1).

Concluding Thoughts

Without the ascension of Christ, the work of Christ would not be complete. He could not rise from the dead and just remain here, walking around on the earth. He had a heavenly work to accomplish then, now, and in the future. Without the ascension, His sacrificial death and His resurrection would be to no purpose, would fail to fulfill prophecies, and would leave much of His work on our behalf incomplete. Without the ascension, He would not be interceding for us directly to the Father, preparing a future abode for us in heaven, or readying all things for His Second Advent. Because He ascended, we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, June 5

Wyclif’s legendary status as “the Morning Star of the Reformation” fails to survive Gillian Evans’ vigorous professorial investigation. Her portrait of Wyclif in John Wyclif: Myth and Reality reveals a complex and conflicted man — an irascible academic as well as a contrite cleric. His academic setting at Oxford forms the dominant background for Evans’ portrait of both the ecclesiastic and the educator. As a parish priest, Wyclif was more educated than most. In 1379 (some years after he had departed the parish ministry) he authored a book on “The Pastoral Office” in which he defined the duties of the godly pastor: to feed his sheep with God’s Word, to purge his flock of contagious spiritual disease, and to defend his flock against ravaging wolves. Evans concludes that Wyclif found pastoral ministry less than satisfying, so he returned to Oxford to pursue a Doctor of Theology degree. He was a staunch critic of absentee pastors holding a plurality of parishes and/or benefices that drew them away from their pastoral duties. Evans’ focus is so much on the educator (and, later, the public servant of the royal court) that the ecclesiastic suffers adequate coverage. This may, in part, be due to an absence of adequate documentation, the result of the ultimate condemnation and burning of Wyclif’s books in 1410. However, if a pastor, rather than an academic, were to write the biography, Wyclif’s portrait probably would include a more detailed examination of his pastoral practices for comparison with his pastoral philosophy. In De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae (“About the Truthfulness of Sacred Scriptures”) he declares that no human writing is superior to the Bible, all Christians have a right to read it, and the Scriptures are the best foundation for secular and ecclesiastical life. As far as the Wycliffite translations of the Bible into English are concerned, Evans finds no evidence of any contribution directly from the hand of Wyclif. Evans paints a dark and disappointing picture of a failed hero. On occasion Evans’ own political sensitiveness manifests itself. She appears to use this biography as the springboard for expressing her own political bitterness and/or agenda with regard to the war in Iraq. In spite of the author’s pessimistic approach and assessment, her volume is still worth reading. Every future biographer of Wyclif needs to begin with Evans’ book. It is as much an exposé of early Oxford as it is of Wyclif. The reader will find Evans’ enthusiastic study of the Middle Ages infectious.

Click on picture for link.

Get updates via email

I can easily send you the latest updates. Just enter your email below and I'll send you a summary of my postings once per week.

Thank You for Subscribing!