Month: August 2015

Eternal Judgment: 1 – Judgment Is Needed For Justice

Gospel means good news. In order to understand how good the gospel of Jesus Christ is, one must understand how bad the bad news is. The bad news is very bad: God, at some point in the future, will put an end to the earth as we know it. He will bring all of humanity before Him, as defendants in a courtroom, and proclaim “guilty” or “not guilty” to each and every person. Those found guilty will be sent to everlasting torment, with no hope of parole. The first clear Biblical reference to this event, which is called the Eternal Judgment, is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel:

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

Before discussing how it is that God determines guilt or innocence, let us for a moment ponder the philosophical and logical implications of this event.

Adolf Hitler was a madman who killed millions of Jews for no good reason. He evaded justice by taking his own life prior to being captured. One must ask, “Did Hitler’s plan work?” Did Hitler escape justice by killing himself? If there is no Eternal Judgment, if there is no judgment after bodily death, then the answer is unequivocally yes, Hitler evaded justice. But if the human soul lives beyond the bodily death of this earth, and will stand before God one day, then no, Hitler did not escape justice. God will ensure that he is punished appropriately for his transgressions.

For a moment let us theorize that Hitler did not commit suicide, but was captured. Undoubtedly he would have been executed for his offenses, but perhaps leading up to his execution he would have been tortured. The question that must be asked is whether any amount of torture could truly repay Hitler for all the evil he committed. How much torture is needed to equal the deaths of six million Jews? How much torture is needed to account for the economic destruction, the lives lost during official combat, and the murdering of non-Jew invalids and the poor? Hitler would, even without killing himself, escape justice, because no human court could inflict a punishment that would ensure justice was served. It is not humanly possible to punish a man like Hitler, in proportion to all the evil and destruction he was responsible for.

The conclusion then is simple: without a judgment by God after death, there would be no such thing as objective justice. Justice would always be limited in scope (Hitler could never be adequately punished for his evils) and justice could be evaded (either through death or by hiding from human authorities). With an eternal judgment, justice is objective and no one will escape. God will ensure that all are brought to justice, with the righteous being rewarded and the wicked being punished.

Although intellectually we may nod our head at the notion of an eternal judgment being required for true justice, we at the same time may be fearful about such a judgment, wondering whether we will be found guilty. How is it that God determines guilt and innocence? The surprising teaching of the Bible is that God’s judgment is based not on one’s actual deeds, but on one’s faith in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – one can be a law-breaker and yet be acquitted and declared innocent. This scandalous idea will be the subject of the next discussion.


A Conversation With Perry Noble On Church Music

Doctrine Via Dialectic: Examining Biblical truths by means of fictitious conversations.

This conversation is based on a real event involving Perry Noble of NewSpring church, whose church infamously played ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” as the opening song of their Easter service in 2009.

Blogger: Pastor Noble, were you aware that one of the worst experiences of my Christian life was as a guitarist in a praise band, when I succumbed to the desires of my pastor and worship leader to play “Carry On My Wayward Son” as the opening song to our Easter service?

Perry: I was not aware until just now. That’s a shame what happened to you.

Blogger: Is it a shame that we played the song on Easter or that I felt bad for doing so?

Perry: It is a shame that you felt bad for doing so.

Blogger: I had a feeling you would say that, given what transpired at your church on Easter. Do you mind if we explore this idea of playing secular music in a church service?

Perry: No, I don’t mind. I like challenging the rigid doctrines of fundamentalist Christians.

Blogger: Sometimes, when exploring the truth of a doctrine, one must go to an extreme and work their way back to the middle. So consider this extreme – would you ever play a song, filled with explicit pornographic lyrics, at a church service?

Perry: No, certainly not.

Blogger: And the reason you would not do so is because you believe the Holy Spirit distinguishes between “godly” and “ungodly” music, right? Pornographic music is ungodly music and therefore unacceptable to God.

Perry: You are correct.

Blogger: How do we know the Holy Spirit finds pornographic music unacceptable?

Perry: Because of the revealed nature of God found in Scripture.

Blogger: And surely pornography is not the only type of ungodly music?

Perry: You are right. We could take what we know about the revealed nature of God in Scripture and find many other types of songs that are ungodly. It would be silly to think that only pornographic music is ungodly.

Blogger: With that being said, let me move this conversation from the realm of the theoretical. Do you believe that Highway to Hell, the song you chose to play at Easter, is godly and okay to play, or did you choose to play it even though it is ungodly?

Perry: If I were to say that the song is godly, you would review the lyrics and prove the opposite is true. But if I were to say that the song is ungodly, you would rebuke me for having a bunch of God’s people sing and play ungodly music at a service meant to worship Him. So you have put me in a hard spot and it is a hard question to answer.

Blogger: Don’t blame me for putting you in a hard spot. You are the one that played the song and put God’s people in a position to conclude only one of two things – that you think the secular song you played is godly or that you have no problem playing ungodly music at church for God.

Perry: Perhaps I had a good reason for playing that song at church. What appeared to be a bad thing – playing ungodly music at a church service – served a greater redemptive good. Many people came to Christ on Easter and were blessed by the church service, including the playing of the song.

Blogger: Oh, I see! You are adding a new term to our argument. The term is “a greater redemptive good” and you are defining this as a good end based on ungodly means, which God finds acceptable?

Perry: Yes, you have correctly understood what I said.

Blogger: Can you offer any Scripture in support of this?

Perry: You will have to give me a moment. I don’t have the Bible memorized.

Blogger: In the meantime, please explain how a pastor can tell if something sinful will serve a greater redemptive good.

Perry: I’m not sure I understand what you mean.

Blogger: Let me phrase it like this – before you played ungodly music for the greater redemptive good at your Easter service, you had no idea whether your good end would be achieved by your ungodly means. So on the one hand, if your plan worked, then God would be pleased with you. But if it failed, then you would have sinned, because there was no greater redemptive good achieved and you played an ungodly song at church.

Perry: What if I were to tell you that I knew beforehand the song was serving a greater redemptive good, and therefore I knew it could not be a sin in God’s eyes?

Blogger: How could you have possibly known such a thing?

Perry: The Holy Spirit laid it on my heart.

Blogger: Now the truth comes out! You received a direct revelation from God, and that revelation assured you that what you were doing was not a sin.

Perry: Exactly.

Blogger: And now it is time for our conversation to end.

Perry: Why is that?

Blogger: Because guys like you, who claim to receive direct revelation from God, can’t be reasoned with. No matter how unbiblical and illogical your decision to play secular music is demonstrated to be, you will always believe you are in the right, because you believe you are hearing from God when you are not. Yet I must ask, for your own safety, don’t you fear the words of Ezekiel being applied to you by God?

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean…(Ezekiel 22: 26)

Perry: Why should I fear God’s judgment, when He is the one that told me to play the song?

Blogger: You are stubborn to the end, aren’t you? I think it is apropos to finish with a quote from your beloved Easter song. It sure seems to me to summarize your ministry:

Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too

No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me round

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ

Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3

It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.

1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)