Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

Book Plunge: With The Clouds of Heaven

January 27, 2015

What do I think of James Hamilton Jr.’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With The Clouds of Heaven

With The Clouds of Heaven is a look at Daniel and the role it plays in the whole of Scripture, which is indeed a major one. I got this book largely because I do have a great interest in eschatology being an orthodox Preterist. So how did it deliver?

I thought Hamilton’s start was excellent at the beginning talking about how we have an assumed background knowledge when we make a statement. This is what we call a high-context society and the social science studies of the NT world are starting to bring this out more. Hamilton uses the example that he started writing this after the Super Bowl in 2013 where the Baltimore Ravens won. No one needs to be told what the Super Bowl is and no one thinks Hamilton is talking about a bunch of birds in Baltimore. Even I who is absolutely clueless on football knows that. Hamilton gives an example of what he said at his church as the pastor (And might I say it’s wonderful to see a scholar being a pastor too). His church does not have Sunday evening services so in the morning he said during announcements:

Warren and Jody are opening their home this evening to all and sundry. Evidently, there’s something happening on television tonight, maybe you know the details, apparently some commercials are going to be aired. If you’d like to watch the proceedings with others from our congregation, you’re welcome to bring a bag of chips, a jar of salsa, or a two-litre to Warren and Jody’s house.

According to Hamilton, when it was said that something was happening on TV that evening, there were smirks and snickers. Nowhere in this do you see the terms “Super Bowl” or “football game”, but everyone understands. I could go further and say nowhere do you see explained what a two-litre is, and yet Hamilton’s audience no doubt understood this term even if a reader unfamiliar with the language would not. Hamilton is also certainly right that many such allusions like he has in the announcements at his church take place in Scripture. A snippet from somewhere can bring to mind a whole passage.

For example, how many of us could be watching a show and hear a saying like “The Prodigal son returns.” When we hear this, we’re supposed to bring to mind the whole of the prodigal son story. None of this needs to be explained. It’s assumed that even if you’re a non-Christian, if you live in a Western culture, you know at least that even if you don’t believe Scripture, what the story of the prodigal son is. You know it’s a story about a wayward son that comes back home.

I appreciate also Hamilton’s insistence that Daniel is rightly in the canon and that a date that is more traditional does matter. I do wish there had been more on this as he compared Daniel with other writings at the time to show that they relied on it and thus it would have been accepted instead of being something new, but it would have also been good to have seen archaeological evidence presented, such as it now looks like Belshazzar was a co-regent and that’s why Daniel was offered the third highest position in the Kingdom. A later writer would not have known this.

The writing on how Daniel is laid out is also very interesting. Hamilton points to several chiasms that take place in the book. It is truly a marvelous work of literature. He also looks at the four kingdoms. I found it interesting on how after Daniel’s explanation of the dream of the statue with the gold head, Nebuchadnezzar makes a whole statue of gold, as if to say that if he is the gold, then he will make sure he is treated like he deserves.

When we get into eschatology, I did not find the stance of Hamilton too clear and what I did find, I do disagree with. I do not think there is anything in Daniel, especially the ninth chapter, about an antichrist figure. I’m convinced that Scripture does not speak of an antichrist person as much as an antichrist attitude. In that, everyone is either for Christ or they are antichrist. It’s interesting that John is the only one who uses the word, and yet nowhere in Revelation do you find anyone described as the antichrist. I in fact think the abomination described in Daniel 9 is that the pure Son of God was crucified in Jerusalem. What happened in the Middle of the week? That was when Stephen was stoned. It’s noteworthy that when that happens, he says he sees the Son of Man (How often is Jesus called the Son of Man outside the Gospels) standing at the right hand of God. Why standing? Hebrews says He sat down. He’s standing because that’s what you do when you judge. Jesus is pronouncing judgment on the Jews who have now killed the first Christian martyr.

This affects how I also read the way Hamilton thinks the rest of the NT interprets Daniel. I do think the section is interesting as it is a contrary viewpoint as far as I’m concerned, but I just don’t find it convincing and I leave it to readers to see the data that Hamilton provides.

If you like to study eschatology, I do think this is an important book to read and there needs to be serious look at Daniel and not just about eschatology, but how it relates to all of us as a whole. While I disagree with a good deal of what Hamilton says, he has done his homework and that is commendable and I do think again, that a church with a pastor who is also a scholar is indeed blessed. If only more of our pastors would strive to be if not scholars, at least be scholarly, we would all be better off.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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Book Plunge: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory

January 26, 2015

What do I think of Jerry Walls’s new book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

In the interest of fairness, I want it to be known that Brazos Press did send me a review copy and I consider Jerry Walls a friend.

When I first heard about Jerry Walls, I thought he was a Catholic.

Not because I’m anti-Catholic! Not at all! With my philosophy, I’m a Thomist in my philosophy and a reader of people like G.K. Chesterton and Peter Kreeft. I’d just heard that he’d written a book about Purgatory and thought that was the case. I was surprised a bit when I found out he was a Protestant just as I am. I suspect with this book out, some people would be surprised to learn that this is a protestant view of the cosmic drama, as he describes it.

But yes, Walls is very much Protestant. Picking out his position I find is interesting. The book is not about soteriology per se, but yet his strong position against Calvinism is noted. It’s more really about eschatology, but he is one of those rare people that you can talk about his position in eschatology and you don’t mean the one we normally mean, such as what is the view on the rapture or the Olivet Discourse. This is all about our personal eschatology. What happens to us when we die.

Walls is familiar with this seeing as he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Hell, and I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have to give a defense of your view that Hell is a justifiable doctrine. While I think it is, it is not the kind of position I would want to do a Ph.D. dissertation on, yet Walls did so and it looks like he managed to defend Hell in light of some of the best antagonism, so he has something to say.

Yet this time, he rightly starts with Heaven. What is Heaven. How will it be for us? Walls rightly shows that we Christians need to spend more time thinking about this doctrine. I do want to jump ahead to something he says at the end of the book about Heaven answering the question of if we will be bored in Heaven. I do that because frankly, hearing the way some Christians talk about Heaven, I think I would be bored endlessly if their descriptions were right. Too often we make Heaven sound like an eternal church service. (Never mind other baloney claims such as we become angels when we die) There’s a reason skeptics of the faith say that Heaven would be boring and if they’re in Hell, they’ll be with their best friends anyway.

Walls gets most of his information on Heaven from Scripture going to Revelation 21. He does not take it in a literalistic sense, but he does have it that this is powerful language. God who exists in Trinity is the central focus of our eternity. He is the basis. He is the one that makes Heaven, Heaven and he is the one that makes eternity to be eternity. Our origins are found in Him and our purpose is found in Him. As has been said, if you have a “God of the Gaps” mentality, you’re not really dealing with the God of Scripture.

Wells shows that this is not just pie in the sky nonsense to escape reality, but is facing reality head on. It is saying that all of our hopes and desires do point to somewhere. He does this engaging with numerous arguments from the skeptical side, such as those of Russell or Nietzsche. Heaven is the best explanation that we have of all of the data that we have. Heaven makes sense of our world.

Yet what about Hell? Why is there Hell? Walls works to show that Hell is God giving people what they have wanted for so long and for this, he is largely in debt to Lewis, who aside from Scripture I would say is no doubt the most quoted author in the book. The gates of Hell are locked on the inside. The people in Hell are the ones who ultimately choose they want nothing to do with the God of Scripture. I would have liked to have seen something in this section that would have dealt more with the conditionalist position which is gaining popularity. Walls could have done that in another book, but it would have been good to see something here.

From there, we get into Purgatory. Now this is where some Protestants could be raising up their intellectual shields in defense and preparing to go on the attack. It is understandable, but I agree with Walls that we really need to interact with this idea and not just associate it with Catholics. Catholics believe a lot of right things too after all and just because an idea was misused is no reason to throw it out entirely.

I will not go into the details of Walls’s argument other than to say it focuses greatly on sanctification and while I cannot say I’m totally sold on it yet, and I do not think Walls would want me to change my mind entirely after reading just one book, I can say I do think Walls has benefited us greatly by starting the discussion and one aspect I will say I am sure he’d be pleased with, is that it does get me thinking more about sanctification and how seriously we need to take it.

Walls also deals with the problem of evil, including from this the speaking of Ivan from the Brothers Karamazov. While Dostoyevsky who wrote the book was a Christian, these are some of the most powerful quotes you’d hear advocating the problem of evil that he puts on the lips of his atheist character. Many atheists should learn to realize that we know the problem very well and I think Dostoyevsky places it more powerfully than any atheist writing I’ve read on it.

And yes, Walls has an answer. Of course, those interested in this need to get the book so they can see it.

We move on from there to morality and if there is a grounds for it in atheism. Walls of course argues that there isn’t and looks at some of the best theories out there attempting to explain this. Of course, if there is no ground for morality, then it’s quite difficult to raise up the problem of evil unless you want to say that it is an inconsistency for Christianity but when you abandon Christianity, lo and behold, there is nothing that is truly good or evil.

Finally, there’s a section that includes theories on the possibility of someone being reached even after they die. This is an interesting idea, but again, I’m not really sold on it. I wasn’t really sold on Walls’s approach to Hebrews 9, but I do think he’s certainly right to show that if Scripture does contradict any idea that we have, then we have to come to terms with the fact that that idea is wrong.

So while I do not agree with all that Walls says, I have to say this is an excellent book to get you thinking. It will put in you a desire for the state of Heaven and get you thinking seriously about sanctification and holiness. I do not doubt that even with that conclusion, that Walls will be pleased.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 1/24/2015: Dee Dee Warren

January 22, 2015

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Often times, we can approach the topic of abortion without thinking about the person involved. This is somewhat understandable when we see statistics. Who of us could think about 4,000 individual babies dying every day? Who of us in turn could think about 4,000 individual mothers and fathers out there who to varying degrees are involved in the choice to end a life?

My guest this Saturday however is a reminder to me that we need to keep that personal aspect in. This Saturday, I am pleased to have Dee Dee Warren as my guest on the Deeper Waters Podcast.

DeeDeeWarren

DDW, as I normally call her, has been a friend of mine for several years. We first met through the medium of TheologyWeb.com, an online place to debate many issues, including apologetics issues as TheologyWeb has a number of atheists and non-Christians that post there, some of whom I understand even contribute financially to the site. It is a place that I think helped shape me tremendously in the work that I do today and I even have my own section on there now next to that of my ministry partner, J.P. Holding.

Some of you may also know DDW from her excellent work in eschatology. If you all want to know who was the main factor in turning me into an orthodox Preterist, look no further than DDW. DDW hosted the Preteristsite.com for several years and the Preterist Podcast and is the main force out there that i know of in dealing with Neohymenaeans. (Those who prefer to call themselves Full Preterists.) She has written also an excellent commentary on Matthew 24 that I understand will be published soon and yes, I hope to have her back on after that to discuss the apologetic value of the commentary.

But that is for another time. This time we are going to be talking about abortion and this is an issue DDW knows quite well and i would say she would encourage us all to do more about abortion than to just post something on Facebook. DDW knows how abortion affects real people and she has put in her service to help stop the act from taking place. I have heard her story on this issue and I found it one to be incredibly gripping and knew I needed to have her on.

Also, I plan on us discussing a more therapeutic side. How do we approach people who are considering abortion on a personal level? What if we meet people who have had abortions in the past? Are there any resources that are available to help them find grace and forgiveness? Not only that, but what about men? Believe it or not, men can suffer from abortion if they had their wives or girlfriends get one and realize later what they did. Men need healing too.

So I hope you’ll be watching your podcast feed for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I hope it will be a story that you will never forget.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Two Views of Hell

January 16, 2015

What did I think of Fudge and Peterson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

twoviewsofhell

My wife got me this book as a Christmas gift just going through my Amazon wish list I suppose. (And God have mercy on her since I have two just for books and one of them is completely full.) So naturally, I went through the book as soon as I could. I will admit my bias. I hold to a view of Hell that would be closer to traditionalism, although most traditionalists I think would not really hold to my view.

The book starts with the view of Fudge who holds to annihiliationism. I think Fudge would prefer it not be called that and today it’s more often called Conditionalism or conditional immortality. To be fair also, Peterson would prefer his viewpoint not be called traditionalism since it can look like one believes just because it is a tradition. I think it’s best for us as we consider the merits and problems of the book to look at the claims of the positions and not just their titles as we might just have to stick with those. Such is the nature of the beast.

The book starts with Fudge’s case. I found it in many ways an interesting look. I do agree with the criticism later on that a number of passages I do not think really are talking about what I prefer to call the after-death. I think Fudge did put forward a good argument and he did try to stay focused on the Bible. I do understand that as he went through each section of Scripture with an emphasis on the NT understandably and tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Peterson’s critique I thought of this section was good, but lacking in some areas. I do think too often Peterson had relied too much on a more futurist eschatology. I also did think it was problematic to say that Fudge went too much into the Greek. I understand the fear of writing to laymen, but the thing to do on Peterson’s side is just answer what he considers a bad usage of Greek with a good usage of it. I happen to think Peterson and Fudge neither one did well on their critiques.

Then Peterson made his case and he made his slightly different, but I understand why. He started off from a historical position. Many of the greatest minds in church history have denied annihilationism. Of course this isn’t a slam dunk. Peterson himself would not say it is. What it does mean is that if you are going against that kind of consensus, you had better have some good evidence for it.

Next Peterson makes his case from Scripture. In this, he goes to ten passages and tells the time frame and setting of each one and responds to the annihilationist interpretation, namely that of Fudge. I found this section to be quite well-written, though again there were times I think a more futurist interpretation was included in the text, but few if any texts depended on that.

Finally, Peterson shows how this impacts other doctrines and the best case was in Christology. What happened to Jesus on the cross when He died? Did He cease to exist? Did His humanity go away. These are questions that have to be answered and if Fudge holds that Jesus ceased to exist after He died, then I think that we are entering into some very serious issues at this point.

After that, we get to Fudge’s reply and honestly, this was for me the low point of the book. I have admitted my bias at the start, but when I read the text, I was trying to keep in mind that in some ways, Fudge was critiquing the view that I held. How would he do?

It didn’t help when the first sentence is “Robert Peterson now has done his best to defend the notion that God will keep sinners alive in Hell forever to torture them without end.”

Is there really any need for this? You would get the impression from Fudge that Peterson is practically roasting marshmallows watching unbelievers burn and celebrating it. I suspect Peterson would say that even if he thought Hell was a literal furnace, and he doesn’t, that he gets great sorrow from this. Fudge’s first sentence then in his reply was a let down for me and brought motives into play rather than dealing with the arguments.

Fudge also did this in pointing to how Peterson has to hold to the tradition that he is in and Fudge does not. His denomination is one that says Scripture is the final authority. That applies to Peterson as well I’m sure. If you asked him which was the final authority, he would no doubt say Scripture. The problem when we get often to just the Bible is that it is not just the Bible. It couldn’t be. The Bible is not a text in isolation. We have it translated and we have to interpret it with the works of the leading scholars. I seriously doubt Fudge has done all the textual work and linguistic study and such to translate and interpret every passage in the NT. He too relies on the minds of others. To not do this is to in many ways make us our own Popes.

This also troubled me when I read Fudge talking about Peterson referring often to uninspired writers. This is the kind of thing that I see from fundamentalists on the internet and it is troubling. What matters to me is the claims. It is not if the author is inspired or not. Jesus in his own culture used language from the Wisdom literature of the intertestamental period and some of which we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was not inspired, but so what?

And of course, the claims of being influenced by pagans is something that I would like to see more research on. Color me skeptical of this since I regularly see claims about Christian ideas being influenced by pagans be it from the Christ-myth camp or be it from Christians who want to say that holidays like Christmas have borrowed heavily from the pagans. It’s too easy to just throw out the idea of “pagan.”

So like I said, I think Fudge just did not do well in his critiques of the traditionalist position. There was too much emotional content that frankly I think does not belong in a debate like this. I realize this is difficult, but it just doesn’t. Too often too many times I see the ideas presented with speculation on what is better. Conditionalists will say “We do not have God keeping people alive forever just to punish them. Unbelievers get turned away by this.”

Well if an unbeliever is going to be turned away and not look at the evidence for a claim like the resurrection just because of something they don’t like, it’s their own fault frankly. You do not say “I do not like the claim, therefore the evidence behind the claim must be false.” One investigates the claim. If one finds that Jesus did not rise, then who cares? It’s not going to change my mind if Muslims change their doctrine of the after-death concerning unbelievers. I don’t care either way.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, traditionalists can say to conditionalists that you’re just giving unbelievers what they want. They just cease to exist. It looks like they get off easy. Again, I understand the sentiment there as well, but so what? The evidence for the resurrection changes because someone gets off easy? Conditionalism is false because it is believed that someone gets off easy? We end up speculating on this point and miss going with what the text itself really says. Now if we become convinced of either view in the text, then we can ask “Why did God do it X way instead of this?” That can be a fascinating way to learn, but it should not be used as a debate point.

In looking at the book as a whole, while both sides were interesting to read about, I think the book could have been better served with a more point-counterpoint position. To have each side present their whole case and then one counter to that is a bit overwhelming. It would have been better I think to have perhaps discussion on history and then on interpretation and then on ramification. It could have been longer had this been done, but I think the content would be better.

This is still an interesting read to see both sides of the issue and I can recommend it there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/29/2014: Raising Hell

November 27, 2014

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

We’re going to be entering new territory on this week’s episode. I’m going to be trying my hands at moderating a debate. The debate will be a Christian debate on the nature of Hell. Is it eternal conscious torment of some kind or is it rather going to be annihiliation where the wicked simply cease to exist.

Arguing on the side of annihilation is Chris Date of Rethinking Hell and the Theopologetics Podcast.

Mr Chris Date

Chris Date is the host of the Theopologetics podcast, as well as a steward of and primary contributor to the Rethinking Hell project, and co-editor of the 2014 Cascade Books publication, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism. A software engineer by trade, he believes theology and apologetics are for every average Joe in the pews, and not just for pastors, philosophers, PhD’s and the erudite in ivory towers. Formerly a traditionalist, he was not seeking an alternative to the traditional view of hell but became convinced by sound exegesis and systematic theology that the Bible teaches conditional immortality and annihilationism. He has since defended the view in several moderated debates and on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio program on Premier Christian Radio UK.

Arguing on the other side will be J.P. Holding.

J.P. Holding

James Patrick Holding is President of Tekton Apologetics Ministries. He holds a Masters degree in Library Science and has written articles for the Christian Research Journal and the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.

Date’s writing on this can be found in his book Rethinking Hell whereas Holding’s can be found in his ebook What In Hell Is Going On?

I will be seeking to be a fair middleman in this debate asking questions of each of the participants. Each one has also sent me various talking points. Naturally, there’s no way that we can get to everything. Furthermore, each of the participants in this debate will be allowed to dialogue with one another and ask the hard questions of the other’s position that they want to.

I consider this an important debate as it affects not only our evangelism but also our salvation in that we need to know what we are saved from and what we are saved to. (I in no way consider believers in conditionalism to be heretical or outside of salvation simply because they are conditionalists and of course the same goes for the traditionalist view) That in turn affects our view of God. We’ll be dealing with the many classical questions I hope as well. What about those who have never heard? What about the babies?

We will get into the meaning of words and concepts in the Bible. What does it mean to say that the punishment of the wicked is eternal? What does it mean when we hear of destruction? What does it mean when the text says that the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever?

This will be the first debate I have ever hosted so I hope that I will do a good job and I hope that any biases I have in the debate will be able to be suppressed. I also want to remind everyone that a debate is a starting spot. If any listener is driven to further study of this important issue by this debate, then the goal will be accomplished.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Conspiracy Theories. Don’t.

October 31, 2014

Should you pay attention to that idea of a conspiracy theory? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Okay. I know right up that conspiracies do happen. People do try to cover things up and pull them off together. Usually however, we have some idea that this is definitely going on. Eventually, it all comes down on those who do it. For instance, Watergate was a conspiracy of sorts, and frankly, it didn’t really last too long.

The main conspiracies I’m talking about are the kind that are popularized by too many Christians and are also the same mindset found in a number of atheistic circles. For Christians, these often involves “satanic plots” to control our children and indoctrinate them. Much of the time, you know that the Illuminati has to be behind it all!

Because, you know, the main way to send that secret message is to go through the half time show on Super Bowl Sunday. How is it that the Illuminati managed to reach all these dancers and send a secret message to people watching the Super Bowl? Before going off on how it is something you think is part of hidden satanic symbolism, why not just consider something else?

Maybe it’s just a tasteless performance.

Now this is saying nothing about the morality of what goes on in said performances. I am not at all endorsing that. What I am saying is that you need to be on the watch for thinking that there are several conspiracies afoot. For a Christian, this can result in a heightened paranoia and to the rest of the world, you just look ridiculous. We already look ridiculous for believing in Jesus. There’s no reason to add to that.

Atheists don’t always do much better. You can think about plots in Christianity to destroy everything that disagreed with Christianity and then of course, the process of canonization, that was all just a total plot! Very rarely is any actual real historical study done on the topic. Unfortunately in our internet age, too many people find something on the internet and think it’s true. We all laugh at the idea of “I read it on the internet so it must be true”, but too many people have that same mindset.

The thinking also leads to a heightened arrogance. Sure, everyone else misses the main message, but I know what it is. I am not going to be fooled the way everyone else is. If you do not see it, well you just haven’t really reached this level of insight and thinking. Of course, a possibly even worse case could be that you’re part of the conspiracy.

One point to keep in mind when researching these claims is see who is being cited as a source. Too many times conspiracy theorists regularly cite each other and validate one another’s claims. Try to find a source that you think will be as objective as possible. Of course, total objectivity could be impossible, but try to get as close as you can.

For Christians also, please especially avoid conspiracies related to end times madness. I have seen too many times the idea of secretly implanting chips in us that are supposed to be the Mark of the Beast. Honestly, I have reached the point where my eyes just start rolling immediately at this. It’s not just because I’m a preterist. If you’re a futurist, you should avoid this as well.

There are far too many important things to study than the idea of possible conspiracies. If some Christians would seek to interpret their Bible as well as they try to interpret a show at halftime on Super Bowl Sunday, we’d all be better off.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/1/2014: David James

October 30, 2014

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few months back, my wife saw something on television where a book called “The Harbinger” was being discussed. That aroused my suspicion since I’d heard concerns about it from a friend of mine who came out of the occult. Around that same time, a former pastor of mine contacted me and said his church was asking him questions about it and asked if I had anything on it.

I went and got the book myself and wrote a review of it. After that, I decided to look online to see if anyone else had written a review and might have pointed out the errors. No need to reinvent the wheel. I was pleased to find someone had and he sent me his own book in response. As a preterist, I was surprised to find this was a futurist critique as well. I decided then to have him come on the show. His name is David James.

Dave 02 - 400x400

Who is he? In his own words:

David James has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, a field in which he worked for five years.

After he and his wife were saved in 1984, they attended the Word of Life Bible Institute in the U.S. in 1985. The next year Dave then went to Dallas Theological Seminary where he received his master’s in biblical studies.

He and his family served with Word of Life for 21 years, with 16 of those years as missionaries in Hungary where Dave was the founding director of the Bible Institute, and later the associate country director.

In 2009 they returned to the United States to establish an apologetics and discernment ministry, The Alliance for Biblical Integrity.

As part of this ministry, Dave continues to teach for Word of Life nationally and internationally, as well as at other schools, churches and conferences. Besides teaching, he also does much writing, and weekly national radio interviews on important theological issues affecting the church.

In addition to The Alliance for Biblical Integrity, he works with the ministry of Prophecy Today, where he administers and teaches in a master’s and doctoral-level program in advanced eschatological studies.

He has been married to his wife Karen since 1980. They have two adult children who are married.

I have had a problem with much end times talk since so much of it relies on conspiracies and eisegesis of Scripture. Let it not be said I’m going to my fellow preterists on this one. With talk of blood moons and everything else being discussed these days, Christians need to not chase after the sensational in studying eschatology but need to rely on that which can be soundly backed.

I’m glad to have David James be my guest this Saturday to discuss this topic and hopefully it will clear up some confusion, especially since the author of the Harbinger has recently come out with another book that is already selling well in Christian bookstores. I hope that you will be listening to our show as well and watching your ITunes feed for it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Jesus, The Temple, and the Coming Son of Man

September 30, 2014

What do I think of Robert Stein’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are many secondary debates in Christianity that I just don’t care for at all. I have no desire to touch a debate on Calvinism with a ten-foot pole for instance. Eschatology, however, is an exception. I’m not sure why that is, but I just happen to really enjoy eschatology. It could be in our culture if we live in America, we grow up in a culture that has what Gary Demar calls “End Times Madness” and we have to find our place in it.

When I started my journey, I was a pre-trib, pre-mill dispensationalist. I was a full supporter of the rapture and just couldn’t see why people couldn’t see that in the Bible. Now I’m pretty much opposite. I have reached the conclusion where I am an orthodox Preterist and wonder how it is that anyone can see a rapture in the Bible.

That’s one reason I was curious to see a book such as Robert Stein’s on Jesus and the Olivet Discourse, that is Mark 13. What was his view on the little apocalypse that Jesus gives in this chapter? Would he match up with my Preterist understanding or would he challenge it or would he fall somewhere in between?

Right off, any reader who is thinking he will affirm a view that is more in line with Left Behind will be sadly disappointed. In fact, that position is largely argued against in the footnotes. There really aren’t many people in the scholarly world, even those who are Christians, who take such a position any more. It’s largely also an American phenomenon.

I happened to agree with many of Stein’s viewpoints and interestingly, he places them in the context of historical Jesus studies not only showing what he thinks that they mean, but showing also how they fit in with the quest for the historical Jesus, which largely sought to remove much of the eschatology from Jesus or else totally redefine it with something that would fit in more with an Enlightenment point of view.

I also liked that he did say much of the discourse has to apply to 1st century Judea. It would not make sense otherwise and it would only apply to those who were living in Judea. There is no general command for all Christians to flee to the mountains. There is only the command to do so when you are in Jerusalem and you see what you will know as the abomination that causes desolation. (To which, his candidate for that is entirely plausible.)

I did disagree on some points. For instance, when it comes to the coming of the Son of Man, I do see that as a coming that is heavenly. It is the sign that Jesus has been vindicated. I base this largely on Daniel 7 where Jesus approaches the Ancient of Days. If He is doing that, then it is clear that He is going up. He is not coming down.

I also would have liked to have seen a bit more on the passage that no man knows the day or hour but only the Father. It would have been good to have seen how this would reflect the high Christology that Stein says is in Mark, especially when it says that the Son of Man will send forth His angels. (note the use of His.) This is indeed something the church would not have made up as it would be embarrassing, but how are Christians to understand it?

The book does have several helpful references in it including pointing out the hyperbole that is often used and the constant comparison to Old Testament language. If we are to understand Jesus, we must understand him in the cultural matrix He spoke in, which included a culture that was saturated with the Old Testament and the thinking of Second Temple Judaism. Much of our misunderstanding in eschatology comes because we do not make this distinction.

The points that I disagree with are not primary to eschatological understanding and overall, I agree with the bulk of Stein’s approach. I also find it interesting that he chooses Mark to focus on since so much of even the early church just didn’t seem to care too much for Mark. It’s good there is a scholar who does really appreciate this Gospel and wants to bring out all the gems we might have missed.

Therefore, if you want a good look at the eschatology of Jesus with some historical Jesus studies thrown in, I think this is one you should add to your library.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

September 1, 2014

What did I think of David James’s book responding to the Harbinger? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Most people who read my material know I am not a friend of dispensationalism. I consider it to be a belief that has zero Biblical support and think that orthodox Preterism awaiting the return of Jesus and the bodily resurrection is the true message of Scripture in regard to eschatology. This does not mean that dispensationalists are my enemy. I married one. (Although she does hope my view is the true one.) I have many friends who are of a futurist persuasion. 

Despite this, if I’m cruising around on Facebook and see some sensationalism on the walls of Christians friends, it usually has to do with end times. Just this past week, I’ve had to deal with the claim that Jesus said the name of the antichrist was Barack Obama (And I am no fan whatsoever of The Empty Suit) and that Obama is also planning to implant RFID chips in people which as we know just has to be the Mark of the Beast!

Unfortunately for the dispensational camp, the sensationalists usually do carry the day. Right now, one of the big items going around is Blood Moons. I still remember being in a Christian bookstore with an aged pastor talking to the clerk about wanting to read the book on it and about his excitement with “Biblical Prophecy.” 

Sadly, I’m sure books by N.T. Wright, Mike Licona, and William Lane Craig are being neglected while Christians read spiritual junk food.

Another big one in recent times was the Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. Cahn is of the opinion that he saw a message from God that everyone else missed in the 9/11 attack and the following economic collapse and all of this was said to happen according to what was written in Isaiah 9:10. Of course, this is done by selective usage of facts and horrible Scriptural interpretation, but hey, details. Who needs them?

It’s natural that a Preterist like myself would condemn such a work.

It’s a breath of fresh air that a dispensationalist like David James does.

Yes. James’s book is definitely worthy of praise. James does not go in for any of this in the book. He has nothing against Cahn as a person, but he does think that Cahn’s idea of America being given a warning of judgment starting with 9/11 has no backing whatsoever. He does think that Cahn is right in that America needs to repent, and I do agree with that point, but the warning has not happened the way Cahn thinks it has.

Naturally, James and I disagree on a number of points. We could probably sign the same statements on the veracity of Scripture and of course, we would agree on the great creeds of the church. Each one of us has a viewpoint that falls within the realm of orthodoxy. Still, I would not agree with his view that much of prophecy is future with the rapture of the church coming and I would not agree with his views on Israel. (I also don’t care for the term “replacement theology.” I prefer the term “Grafting in theology.” God did not replace Israel. He expanded it beyond what it was to include people in all places, of all languages, and all cultures, and all times.)

That’s what makes it so wonderful. This isn’t a battle of dispensationalism vs. Preterism. This is good interpretation vs. bad interpretation. This is also a danger of getting into the sensational. In a private email with James, I even told him that as I was thinking about futurism, I decided to use Blood Moons as an example and said “Suppose for the sake of argument that these were true messages from God. So what?”

Seriously. So what?

Are we to say that if you knew Jesus Christ was going to return in say, a year, that you’d suddenly start living differently? Then you have a problem right now. If you are truly living a Biblical life, and to be fair none of us truly are definitively, then it should not matter to how you live your life really if you know Jesus will return tomorrow or if it will be 1,000 years from now. Your marching orders are still the same.

Fortunately with the Harbinger, James has done his research and he has done it very well. He looks at each and every piece of information given by the prophet in the story and shows how it doesn’t line up. He shows that Cahn is highly selective in the material that he chooses to presents and ignores quite often the historical, linguistic, and cultural context of the information. In many places, he is quite loose with the facts.

James also looks at Cahn’s behavior since the publishing of the Harbinger and how many times, while he denies being a prophet (And probably the son of a prophet) and denies that this is really a prophecy about America, his actions seem to say otherwise. There are many chances he’s had to clear it up naturally and it hasn’t been taken.

Also, later in the book, he shows Cahn is entering quite dangerous territory with using material that could be considered more occultic in nature, like the Zohar. While I have no problem with extra-biblical sources, I do think some can be quite dangerous at times not because of challenging ideas, but if there’s the possibility of the occult, we must be careful. Even if it is not so, Cahn gives a more dangerous spin as inspiration seems to play a role into what goes into the Zohar.

James also deals with the idea that America is a covenant people. As I have said, a covenant requires agreement by two parties. Anyone can stand up and say they’re in a covenant with God. It isn’t one until God returns the deal somehow. No one can force God to be in a covenant. He is the initiator of the covenant. 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is more people will read Cahn’s junk food than will read James’s antidote, and this is a shame. In our society, too many people only want to read or pay attention to that which agrees with their own conclusion and do not show any proper interaction with the other side. I am sure James’s character would also be attacked if more people knew about this book. (Well obviously, he’s just resisting the Holy Spirit.) Such is the way of thinking, or rather non-thinking, in our culture.

While I disagree with James ideologically, I find in this book he is entirely level-headed and not going for the sensationalist stuff that too many dispensationalists are and sadly, that group that is sensationalist becomes the group that most people perceive the whole as being like. I only wish there were more out there who were like James. While we disagree on many issues, our disagreements will focus more on Scripture than anything else. I urge dispensationalists, preterists, and everyone in between to read this book. If you know someone who has read the Harbinger, get them to read this one as well.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Blood Moon Lunacy

April 2, 2014

What do I think of Holding’s book on the blood moon theory? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In the interest of full disclosure for a review, J.P. Holding who wrote “Blood Moon Lunacy” is my ministry partner. I am always one of the first to get a copy of his book so that I can review it as well. In this one, Holding looks at the theory propagated by people like John Hagee. The idea is that when there is a tetrad, that is, a group of four blood moons, that take place on Jewish holidays, then that means there is something about to happen with the Jews. These blood moons are also accompanied by a solar eclipse which means they’re not really tetrads, but we’ll let that slide.

So is there any credibility to it?

Nope.

Holding points out that Hagee knows that there are seven times that this kind of occurrence has taken place, yet he only tells about three of them, which is awfully convenient. Just do your best to ignore the data that doesn’t suit your theory. Also, note that many times where one would have expected something like this, it never happened, such as 70 A.D., 135 A.D., or the holocaust.

Hagee also neglects to mention that many of these eclipses would not have been visible in Israel or even worldwide. Some of them would even be visible in only the arctic areas. Hard to imagine this being Hagee’s sign for the world if the world cannot even see them.

Unfortunately, Hagee has had this kind of reputation before. Holding points out that in past books he has predicted many events would take place and in fact, they haven’t, but shortly thereafter a new book will come out and it will use the same arguments and this time for a different event. There will be no apology or admission of fault for the past mistake.

This is something that always makes me wonder about these “prophecy experts.” No matter what, they are consistently wrong, and yet we still keep referring to them as experts. Why is that? Would you consider going to a doctor who was consistently wrong? Would you want a lawyer to argue your case who consistently lost? Would you follow the advice of a stockbroker who was consistently mistaken? Yet people are often willing to support even global policy on the words of people who are wrong regularly.

Of course, my answer to this is to suggest people look at the futurist hermeneutic with suspicion. That is one reason I accept a Preterist hermeneutic where I interpret prophecy based on ones that have already been fulfilled, which means to not read them in a wooden and literal sense.

Unfortunately, too many Christians will be paying attention to blood moon theories instead of paying attention to Scripture itself and not looking into the claims of people like Hagee who are misleading the church and filling them with fear.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again. When people like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and John Hagee are no names in the Christian community and people like Mike Licona, N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, and others like them are household names in the Christian community, we will experience the growth that we should in the church.

I highly recommend Holding’s book for showing the errors of John Hagee.

In Christ,
Nick Peters