Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

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Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:30 pm

Do you know of any books that address how we should view the nation of Israel? How do we regard Israel and the prophecies made to her (land, protection, etc)?

I have found the Perspectives and Counterpoints series very helpful for questions like this. They get someone from each major perspective on the topic to write a short argument for their view, and then allow each author to respond to the others. It allows you to see the different options that are out there, and begin to evaluate them.

When you only read a book from one perspective and don’t give time for any push-back, you can often walk away convinced that the author was right – even if they were totally wrong. Like Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

https://www.amazon.com/Perspectives-Israel-Church-4-Views/dp/0805445269/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1513256747&sr=8-7&keywords=israel+church

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:31 pm

I am a bit confused on what the difference is between heaven and the new earth. How are they similar or different? Do you think we will feel time in heaven? As those in heaven wait for Jesus to come back, do you think time is the same as here on earth?

In its strict sense, heaven is God’s realm. “The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind.” (Psalm 115:16) Heaven is where Christ currently reigns, sitting at the right hand of God. When believers die, they go to be with Christ, so we can assume they go to heaven (even though the Bible never actually says explicitly that we go to heaven when we die). But that’s not the end of the story. In an important sense, heaven is not meant to be our final destination.

In the final chapters of Revelation, heaven is depicted as coming down to meet the renewed earth in a great wedding celebration. Those who have died (and are with Christ) return with Jesus, and everyone is reunited. Now the dwelling place of God (heaven) is with men (earth). Our eternal destination is the joining on these two realms, where creation is liberated from decay and God’s will is done perfectly here on earth, just as it has been in heaven.

However, the popular use of the word “heaven” has shifted over time, coming to be used as a catch-all term for all the good things promised to us in the future. So people often speak of going to be in heaven forever. Which is sort of true, but sort of not; it’s sloppy theology. But it’s also understandable, because the future is a little more complex. But you usually see this sloppy theology in places where the doctrine of the resurrection is neglected. Resurrection reminds us that even those now in heaven with Christ have not yet fully “arrived;” we all await the future day when our bodies will be raised, and all of creation will be renewed, and earth and heaven will be one.

As for what our experience of time will be like in heaven, the Bible doesn’t say, but I have no reason to think that we will experience time any differently than we do now. Eternal life is not depicted as a timeless state, but rather as unending time. When thinking of the life to come, where everything will be renewed and perfected, I try to find the closest parallel in my current life and imagine it getting even better. So when I think of time-without-end, I don’t think of waiting in line at the BMV, or in traffic on 37, but rather like the party you never want to end, or the date that you wish would keep going forever, or those times in God’s presence are sweeter than words convey.

As for those waiting in heaven with Christ, I imagine that waiting is somewhat similar, but probably much easier. They are in paradise with Jesus, so I’ll bet that takes the sting out of being patient.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:31 pm

Why are the angels judged and what for?

Short answer, we don’t know. But God seems to hold angels as morally accountable creatures that will be judged for their actions. And somehow, we will have some role in judging angels. But the Bible provides few details as to what that’s all about. And I kind of like that. It’s like God has given us a trailer for a great movie, but the trailer was only a teaser and didn’t spoil all the big twists. There’s a lot to look forward to!

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:46 pm

Lots of people believe loved ones interact with them from the dead (signs, dreams, angels, etc) – how to we respond to this?

That’s a difficult question. The Biblical evidence is hard to decipher. We have stories like King Saul consulting a witch in 1 Samuel 28, where she seems to successfully summon the spirit of Samuel to speak with the king. We also have the disciples convinced that Jesus was a ghost when he was walking on the water (Matthew 14), and when Peter is released from jail in Acts 12 the girl thinks it’s his “angel” (either a guardian spirit or his ghost) that has come to visit. Furthermore, the Bible gives strict prohibitions against trying to communicate with the dead (e.g. Leviticus 19), not because it’s silly and doesn’t work, but because people will be defiled by it.

The Bible leaves open the question of whether or not you can actually communicate with the dead, or with ghosts and whatnot. Some passages make it seem like those experiences are actually interactions with demons, not the dead (1 Corinthians 10). But it’s not clear.

What the Bible is clear about is that God’s people are not to attempt to interact with the dead. God does not want us to be misled or manipulated by people who try to trick us (like fortune tellers, etc), and he does not want us to be defiled by interaction with evil spirits.

In regards to dreams, I’m not sure. I have friends who have been very comforted by a deceased love one appearing to them in a dream. It seemed to be a healthy, cathartic experience. The effects on their life seemed either spiritually beneficial or at worst neutral. I have no idea if they genuinely encountered anything, or if was just in their head. And I tried to be happy about whatever good effects it had and not argue too much about analyzing it.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:49 pm

If you are a post-trib guy, is a trib a worldwide one or regional? That’s what makes me skeptical about the tribulation.

We touched on this briefly at the learning party. I will just add that the Bible actually doesn’t put much emphasis on one “Great Tribulation”, but more often talks about Christians regularly undergoing tribulations. So we don’t know for sure if the last, great tribulation will be universally felt all over the world in the exact same way. But we are instructed to be watchful and alert, and to endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ, and pray for our brothers and sisters who are right now experiencing tribulation.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:52 pm

On page 335 Bird states “some might still prefer to reign in hell rather than to serve in heaven.” Is there Scripture to suggest that one can reign/have authority in hell? He seems to paint a picture of hell as a place where life continues and one can choose to dwell.

Bird is making an allusion to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, a poem about the Fall. In that work, Satan says that he would prefer to reign in hell rather than to serve in heaven. It’s not necessarily meant to be an airtight theological work, but expresses the corruption of sin that makes us reject God’s authority and prefer rebellion + death over repentance + life.

The Bible certainly does not depict hell as a place where people will reign or have authority in any sense.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:56 pm

On page 335 Bird says that hell is not literally a place of fire because Jesus refers to “outer darkness.” However, in many places (Mark 9:33, Matthew 5:22, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 25:41, Matthew 18:Cool, Jesus specifically indicates hell as a place of fire. If God is light and can cause physical light without a sun or moon (c.f. Rev 21:23) then can’t hell’s “darkness” be an absence of God?

The Bible uses two main images for hell/punishment: (1) fire, burning, and torment, and (2) death, destruction, perishing, darkness, and non-existence. I can’t tell you the exact number of lumens that hell might have, but we need to hold both of those images together when we think of the fate of the wicked. In one sense, there will be a fiery punishment; in another, a destruction and perishing. We start to get in trouble when our view of hell is based on only one of those.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:53 pm

Why does God hold people who cannot be saved in Sheol? Why wait for judgment all at once? Or can people in Sheol be saved? (I do not believe do.)

Only God knows. He has not revealed very much about what the intermediate state looks like for unbelievers, nor has he revealed his reasons for so ordering things. We could speculate that maybe God wants everyone to transition to their eternal destiny together (any Lost fans out there?), but we just don’t know why.

There’s an important aspect of theology that we will run into over and over again: the good pleasure of God. Colossians 1:19 says that God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ. Sometimes that is the only thing we can saw about God’s motivation and reasoning – it was his pleasure, his will, to do things a certain way. In this case, God was pleased to create an intermediate holding area for humanity after death. And it is his will to resurrect all people to judgment one day.

And I would agree with you, the Bible seems to strongly indicate that people’s eternal destinies are locked in after death. The vast majority of Christians over time have affirmed that view.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:05 pm

Bird states that it is merciful of God not to annihilate humans but for them to have an eternal state. Even if that is eternal destruction. Can we really call that merciful? (pg 307)

I agree with you. When I first read Bird, I wrote about my disagreement in the margin of the page. It feels false to label this as “mercy.” Justice, perhaps; but not mercy.

This is one reason why I personally lean toward a “conditional immortality” (aka annihilationism, terminal punishment) view of hell. This view says that the wicked will indeed be punished in hell for an appropriate time, but the end result of that will be their destruction where they will cease to exist. Thus, the punishment is eternal in its effects and consequences, but does not necessarily entail unending conscious torment. In my opinion, this view does a good job balancing the handful of verses about hell with the common refrain that the wicked will perish/die/be destroyed one day. It also strikes me as upholding both the justice and mercy of God: he punishes, but not infinitely. The fate of the wicked is terrible and tragic; it is also just and appropriate.

Preston Sprinkle has a few helpful introductory thoughts on this view: https://www.prestonsprinkle.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2015/02/biblical-support-for-annihilation

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:13 pm

Is Nero the antichrist? If so, are we already experiencing the tribulation?

Nero is the strongest candidate for the antichrist of Revelation. But probably what’s going on here is “prophetic dual fulfillment.” That is when an event in predicting in the near future, but it also finds a future, greater fulfillment at a later date.




John probably had Nero in mind when he wrote about 666. But we can anticipate echoes of the antichrist into the future, looking ahead to an even greater fulfillment before Christ’s return. As 1 John tells us, even back then the spirit of antichrist was at work and many antichrists have gone out into the world.

The original tribulation would likely have been the Jewish War of 66-70AD, culminating in the destruction of the temple. But wary Christians will look ahead in history, anticipating cycles of tribulation, culminating in a greater tribulation preceding Christ’s return.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:19 pm

Why does Bird so often make reference to books outside of canonical Scripture/the Bible of the Catholic church?

The Bible holds a unique place in Christianity. It is our “canon,” a measuring rod or ruler by which we judge all other words. But while Christians affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, they do not claim that the Bible is the only inspired book. The New Testament was formed for to be an authoritative guide by which we measure all other books. It is not the only place where God speaks to people. (Thank God! We all hope that God is inspiring our preaching and gospel proclamation, right?) But we submit our preaching and writing to the canon of scripture to judge its truthfulness.

Bird quotes other books because God has been active through the church ever since Pentecost. He has primarily spoken through his Son. He has authoritatively inspired a canon of scripture to guide his church. But he is still at work among his people. And these other books have value, and should influence our theology.

Scripture has revealed all that is necessary for life and faith. Scripture needs nothing added to it in order to guide us to salvation. But scripture doesn’t address every question we have. So we start with scripture and always looks back to it as our guide. And then, humbly and carefully, we look around to see where else God might be speaking through his people.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from December 13

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:34 pm

I don’t understand why Bird says that Douglas Moo’s exegesis on page 266 is false simply because of the discussion of Mark 14:62?

Moo is begging the question. He assumes that anytime the word parousia shows up in the New Testament, it must refer to Christ’s future coming. Therefore, Mark 14 must refer to the future return of Jesus. But Bird says, “Hold on a second - let me show you several times when parousia more likely refers to the events of 70AD. Therefore, we can’t assume that Mark 14 refers to a future event.”

Bird also alludes to the idea of prophetic dual fulfilment that I discussed in a previous answer above. We can say that Mark 14 primarily referred to the destruction of the temple, but it can still valuably inform our discussion of what Christ’s return will look like. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; we don’t have to be afraid of preterism.

Does that make sense? Please follow up the discussion if I didn’t understand your question.

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