Sunday, August 20, 2017

Psalm 136

First, let us note the simple outline of this Hymn.
·        136:1-3: the call to give thanks for God's eternal mercy.
·        136:4-9: thanks for God’s eternal mercy in creation.
·        136:10-22: thanks for God’s eternal mercy to Israel.
·        136:23-26: again, a call to give thanks to God for His eternal mercy. 

What a wonderful Psalm.  The message is clear: give thanks to God for His mercy endured forever, a phrase repeated 26 times in 26 verses.  But the message of God’s faithfulness is even more profound if you consider the backdrop.

Mercy is the Hebrew checed.  It is translated sometimes as lovingkindness, favour, goodness as well as mercy.  At its root is the idea of zealous desire.  God only does good; He has a deep desire to do good.  Meditate on that for a moment.

Then there is olawm, forever.  The root of this term is hidden; it’s as if the clock is hidden.  There is simply no thought of time.  So that’s a definition.  But look at this word in the context of Israel and you will understand why this Psalm reflects on God’s zealous love in the particular historical events it mentions.

·        Gen. 13:15: God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants the land he had come to and it would be theirs forever (olawm).
·        Gen. 17:7,13,19: God promised Abraham that the covenant He made with him would be an everlasting (olawm) covenant.
·        Gen. 17:8: Again, God promised to give the land to Abraham and his descendants forever (olawm).

·        Gen. 21:33: For years Abraham did not own any of the land on which he lived, though God promised it to him.  But after many years there came a time when he made peace with the inhabitants of the land in the South (Negev area) and they recognized Beersheba as belonging to Abraham.  At that point Abraham a tree and there called on the LORD, giving Him the name El Olawm, the Everlasting God.  Note: he did not build an altar; he did that many times.  But he planted a tree, something in the land that would outlive him.

Psalm 136 recognizes God’s eternal mercy to Israel and to all flesh (v25)!  Meditate on this today, especially if you have entered into the New Covenant.  It also is a forever covenant.  Give thanks to God, and trust in His zealous love.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What do you mean when you say the Church “does not belong” in the Tribulation Period? (1) 1 Thess. 4:13-18

This is in response to recent questions we have been asked on the matter of a pretribulational rapture.  We have said that our primary reason for holding to the view that the Church will be removed before the 70th week of Daniel begins is that the Church doesn’t belong there.  

Many people assume, and perhaps some believe this, that the primary reason we hold to the pre-trib position is that we just want to avoid tribulation.  Jesus did, in fact, promise that the Church would escape the wrath to come (1 Th. 1:10).  Thus whatever view you have (post-trib, mid-trib or pre-wrath rapture, you must make sure that the Church is not on the scene or is somehow protected after Rev. 6:17 when the great day of His wrath has come.  But of course Jesus also promised tribulation to all who follow Him (John 16:1-4,33; 2 Tim. 3:12).  So no rapture will enable us to escape tribulation.  

Let me say also that I do not ascribe to every supporting argument given by pre-trib scholars.  Years ago John Walvoord’s book The Rapture Question ended with a section called 50 Reasons for a Pre-Tribulational Rapture (or something similar to that).  I agreed with some of his reasons; he’s a good man.  But some I felt were over-statements or misunderstandings, in my opinion.  For example, some equate Rev. 4:1 (when John is called up into heaven) with the rapture as many of us believe this passage occurs at the outset of the time of Jacob’s trouble.  That may be coincidentally true.  But I don’t see it as evidence of a pre-trib rapture.  It just says John went to heaven to see things that from God.

One more thing.  Every Bible student must have a view of the rapture.  Tribulationists often hear such things as “rapture is not in the Bible” or “the rapture is a recent theological invention by Darby and his followers.”  Rapture is not in the Bible like Trinity is not in the Bible.  The specific word is not there but the concept is there.  The catching away (as some like to call it) in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 is a return of Christ event for the Church; it is when the dead rise and those who are alive and in the Church also rise to meet Him.  But it is not the second coming itself or the revelation of Jesus Christ described in Rev. 19:11-16.  Jesus welcomes them in the air, not on the Mount of Olives or anywhere else on the earth.  There must be an explanation for how the marriage supper of the Lamb (which of course involves the Church, His bride) occurs BEFORE His return in Rev. 19.  So I am just saying, you cannot ignore it.

And as for Darby, truth is not just an issue of how long we have known about it.  If it’s true, then it’s true.  I understand that new truth should always be suspect.  But the way to deal with any idea is not simply to ignore it or deny it ONLY because it is new.  The way is always the Berean way, to search the Scriptures and either deny or defend it on that basis (Acts 17:11).

Friday, August 18, 2017

Isaiah 25:1-26:11

Chapters 25 and 26 give the worship that will be expressed in the last days.  Ch. 25 is praise from the world for God’s faithfulness and truth.  Ch. 26 is Judah’s praise for salvation and restoration to the land.
·        25:1 makes the overall statement of the theme of this song.  God has done wonderful works and He has kept His word.  Compare this again with Rev. 15:3-4 and 16:5-7.  As the terrible events are occurring there is recognition that God is keeping His word.  How is he doing this, specifically?

·        25:2-9 tell us that God will diminish the cities of the world while he exalts the city of Jerusalem and His people Israel.  While this is the theme of Israel’s praise (Ch. 26) we see that the nations will also recognize what God was doing for Israel.  Israel’s long wait will finally be over.
·        25:10-12 singles out Moab as a stubborn nation that will not learn God’s faithfulness in keeping His word until the very end.

·        26:1-6 now tells of the praise that will come from Israel in the land of Judah.  Israel will come out of its hiding place (where God has protected them) and enter Jerusalem.  The picture is of a saved nation, experiencing the long prayed-for peace of Jerusalem because they trust in the Lord.  They are called to trust in Yah forever (a shortened form of Yahweh) because He is the one who alone has everlasting strength to make Israel to be able to rest secure.  Many people have rightly memorized 26:3 as the principle is always true. 

·        26:7-9 further emphasizes the saved nation who are upright, walking in the way of the just.  Those saints had waited long, often praying how long (as in Rev. 6:10 and answered in 18:20).  And note as well that finally the nations will learn righteousness from God’s righteous people. 
·        26:10-11 are profound words for each of us today.  The wicked, even when shown grace by God, would not learn righteousness.  In that future day they will see the truth that today they reject.

Ask God to give insight and application from these passages; there are many things it has to say to us.  Perhaps we will be encouraged to wait patiently for the working out of God’s plan in our lives.  Perhaps we will want to make sure our minds are stayed on Christ.  Perhaps we will understand how we must respond to His grace in our lives.  

The offer of salvation is just such grace.  God has sacrificed Himself for our sins.  This is done.  The Savior has suffered.  What has been my response?  Have I received His grace by faith in Christ?  Or am I rejecting His grace by trying to offer Him something of my own creation?  For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).