Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter 2008 - What Happened from the Cross to the Throne? (and what it means to us)

As Easter has arrived, and Resurrection Sunday is just hours away, I thought I might deal with and explain an issue which I (and others far more intellectually savvy) are asked each spring about this time.

What happened from the time Jesus died, until His resurrection?

And there are corollary questions that go with that, like:

Where are the souls of those who died (faithful and faithless) prior to the time of Christ?

What's the difference in "hades" and "gehenna"? Aren't they both "hell?"

Is the "Paradise" which Jesus mentioned to the thief on the cross the same as "Heaven?"

Did Jesus "go to hell?"

And there are many other variations and related inquiries. I hope the following explanation will be enlightening and help to make sense of these questions....

Until the time of the Cross, ALL men who died, went to a "temporary" place for the dead -- "sheol," "hades," etc... The righteous dead -- those who died in FAITH -- departed to "Abraham's bosom," or Paradise [as did Lazarus] while the faithless dead went to "Hades" [as did the 'rich man'] (Luke 16:19-31).

NOTE: All who died in faith prior TO the time of Christ looked forward to the promised redemption of God in FAITH -- though WHAT or WHO that redemption would be had not been revealed -- the means of salvation has ALWAYS been FAITH. But we KNOW that they certainly figured it out by the time Jesus was on earth:

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw [it], and was glad" (John 8:56).

So, prior to Christ' death and resurrection, all who died went to these "holding cells," akin to a county jail -- where they are bound over UNTIL the time of trial [or THE JUDGMENT] (Revelation 20:11ff).

As to those in Paradise -- indeed, when Jesus "dismissed His spirit," Scripture seems to indicate that Jesus did "descend into Hades" as is stated in the Apostles Creed, and affirmed in Scripture:

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water" (I Peter 3:18-20; cf. Psalm 16:10).

This "Preaching," however, WAS NOT meant to be remedial, nor to offer those who had died without faith "another chance." Rather, it was to declare to those who had died the [b]final revelation of the redemption [/b]which they had [i]already[/i] received or rejected -- and that revelation was JESUS CHRIST Himself.

Those who had died in faith were delivered from Paradise, and ushered into the VERY PRESENCE of God, heaven:

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" (Ephesians 4:8-10). It is worth noting that some of those "captives" who were set free apparently made a stop along the way: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose..." (Matthew 27:52).

Thus, "Paradise" is now empty, because Jesus has through His death and resurrection become the way for ALL the redeemed to come "boldly before His throne"... HOWEVER, those in "Hades" -- the portion reserved for the faithless dead, remains "in business," adding to it's number, "enlarging it's borders," in anticipation of the Great White Throne -- THAT Day, the LAST DAY, the Day of Judgment -- Final Judgment:

"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

[i][b]And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire[/b][/i] This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15).

In other words, after the Millennial Kingdom, at the Final Judgment, THEN "death and hell [HADES] are cast into the Lake of Fire [GEHENNA]" for eternity.

So, in summary, when Jesus "gave up the ghost," He "descended into Hades" and "preached unto the spirits in prison" in the sense that he presented Himself as the ultimate redemption which those in Paradise had looked forward to in faith, and those in hades had rejected in faithlessness. He then "led captivity captive," opening the way for all those who had by faith trusted God for redemption to enter into Heavenm the very presence of God. Those in hades remain there in waiting until their final judgment and their final disposition as eternal occupants of the Lake of Fire. Since Jesus' resurrection, ALL who have trusted Him upon their death are IMMEDIATELY ushered into heaven, for "to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8).

Hope this presents a solid explanation of what Jesus did "from the Cross to the Throne," and what the disposition of the People of God is past, present and future.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Will Restore...

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you" (Joel 2:26).

In my recent reflection on the Scriptures, this passage has stayed with me. It came to my mind again today, as I considered how -- as humans -- we allow so much to crowd into our minds and cloud our lives. Sometimes, it's merely the "tyranny of the urgent." Too often, it is the corruption that we are heir to in the flesh.

It's troubling that we don't even recognize this corruption that courses through our veins or that clamors for our attention in our minds. Contrary to the teachings of some, these sinister drives, doubts and temptations lurk even within Christians. Christians are human too. Christians struggle with the flesh. They struggle with the dilemmas of existence, the challenges of ethical and moral decisions. And yes, they -- WE -- fail. Not always. Not without remedy -- Thanks be to God through Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

But I find comfort -- even repose -- in the words of Joel 2:25. God, speaking to His people Israel, promises personally to "restore...the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm..." Those years -- YEARS -- that were "eaten," were consumed by our own errors. Our own sins. Our own wanderings. Our own rebellion. Those insects were "a great army which I [GOD] sent among you." Our lives, our possessions, our TIME, were laid waste -- because WE have wasted them. Our decisions, our choices, brought upon us this waste and corruption.

But God, in His GRACE, promises, "I will restore..." Not that we deserve it. Only that He, in mercy and love, will return that which we've forfeited. And then He'll give MORE...

I affirm in my own heart often, this truth: "But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy [is] good, deliver thou me" (Psalm 109:21). That assurance is priceless in the peace it provides to one who too often fails -- but eternally trusts in Him.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

John Piper On Self-Determination and Arminian Heresy

It's always sad to me when I see a man of God (or so I think) from a different theological perspective whom I believed to be above this kind of intra-Christian exclusivist language to charge full steam ahead into the abyss of ignorance, or worse, the territory of theological lies.

Recently, John Piper, well known Baptist Calvinist Pastor from Minnesota and popular author, spoke at the "Resurgence Conference." The title of his message was, How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels. Already, if you're like me, you're expecting trouble. The series of quotes below are from that message. I'll at least initially leave extensive commentary to others, and only note points of interest. But to check the context and accuracy, you may see Piper's blog or the Resurgence blog, where outlines or transcripts are located: ... e_Gospels/
OR: ... nd_context

In part of his opening statement he said, "My working out of my salvation tonight is in the defense and confirmation of the gospel."

Piper lays out "Six Aspects of the Gospel Without Which There Is No Gospel." These include:

1. The gospel was planned by God beforehand
2. The gospel is an objective physical event in history
3. The gospel is an objective accomplishment—the purchase or obtaining of redemption for all who would believe
4. The gospel is an offer to be made to all that what Christ accomplished is free and may be had only by faith in him
5. The gospel is an application through faith to specific people of what Christ accomplished
6. The gospel is an eternal and infinitely happy future destiny

NOTE: Does any of this, so far, sound like something Arminians DON'T believe?!

He continued, "There are many today, as in every day, who bring to the Bible the presupposition that sinful man must have the power of self-determination in order to be held accountable by God. This is not a biblical presupposition."

NOTE: What Piper describes is not Arminianism, but Semi-Pelagianism. But do you think HE knows the difference? Do you?

But then he adds, "We don't usually think about Arminianism as a threat to the atonement. It usually comes in at the point of the accomplishment of the gospel and the offer of the gospel, not the point of the plan of the events of the gospel. But here we see that there is an intrinsic incompatibility between the basic Arminian presupposition and the gospel as including a set of planned sins against the Son of God. That presupposition is that for humans to be morally accountable agents they must have the ultimate power of self-determination at all those points where they are found blameworthy or praiseworthy."

It's downhill from here. He continutes, "That presupposition pushes people away from believing that God has the right and power in righteousness and wisdom to infallibly plan the death of his Son through the sinful acts of morally accountable men. But the Bible teaches that he did. There is no atonement and no gospel without God-planned sins against the Son of God. He died at the hands of sinful men by God's design. That is an essential part of the gospel."

He continued, "This is typical Arminian teaching. It diminishes the glory of the cross and encourages people to take into their own hands what belongs to the work of the cross, namely the purchase of their own rescue from unbelief."

NOTE: This is not only wrong, but it is blatantly false, and a man like John Piper should know that. NO Arminian worth his salt would EVER say such a thing, and for Piper to make this charge he is either: (1) completely ignorant of Arminian teaching, or (2) lying through his teeth willfully.

He further charged that "God is allowed to rescue them from the guilt of sin by the cross, but not from the bondage of unbelief by the cross. The cross does not obtain or accomplish that. I must provide the decisive impetus for overcoming my unbelief, the cross did not accomplish that. In that way part of the gospel is undone."

NOTE: If any of you actually understand this twisted logic, let me know...?

Piper further said: "The accomplishment of the cross is offered freely to be received by faith alone apart from works of the law, meaning, any work of the heart or hand at all, anything other than faith."

NOTE: But, that's what Arminians believe, right...?

He says, "Arminianism (Wesleyanism) teaches that God helps all people overcome their deadness of soul and leaves to the decisive will of man whether to follow that grace and trust Christ and as a consequence be born again. In other words regeneration does not cause faith; faith, in an act of ultimate self-termination, chooses to agree with God's grace and believe and thus be born again."

NOTE: Wait -- is he defending the Gospel -- or CALVINISM?! Insisting regeneration precedes faith is CALVINISM, not the gospel....

Piper continued, "How serious is this? Must one believe that faith is decisively caused by God through regeneration? Or can one be saved believing that faith causes regeneration?"

NOTE: Indeed, how serious is this? If Arminians reject regeneration preceding faith, does that mean we believe and preach a "false gospel?"

His summary goes something like this: "The issue comes down to this: Is the heart relationship to God one of utter reliance on God's grace in Spirit-wrought humility, such that God gets the glory for all of my salvation, both accomplishment and application?"

NOTE: Uh, yeah -- Arminians BELIEVE that John -- but Semi-Pelagians DON'T. LEARN from someone other than Calvin.

He asks, "Can the heart be truly humble and reliant in this way while the mind espouses a theology that claims that the human will is taking credit for what the humble heart is really depending on God to provide?"

NOTE: Again, not what Arminians teach....

AND, ""Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining."

NOTE: No, that's what most Evangelicals believe -- but that's the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism, NOT Arminianism...

FINALLY he charges, "Arminianism/Wesleyanism recognizes more truth about our sinful and helpless condition apart from grace, and gives more credit to grace, but stumbles intellectually over the implications of sovereign grace. It cannot bring itself to embrace the apparent implications of faith as a gift of God, namely, unconditional election. It appears to them unjust and unloving. Historically, a charitable view of a good heart behind this mistaken theology have been encouraged."

Okay -- what say ye all??

J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.