Go to: table of contents
Every editor is solely responsible for the contents of his own articles. Contributions of general interest from our readers and questions for "The Reader Asks" department are welcome. Contributions will be limited to approximately 300 words and must be neatly written or typewritten, and must be signed. Copy deadlines are the first and fifteenth of the month. All communications relative to the contents should be sent to the editorial office.
Permission is hereby granted for the reprinting of articles in our magazine by other publications, provided: a) that such reprinted articles are reproduced in full; b) that proper acknowledgment is made; c) that a copy of the periodical in which such reprint appears is sent to our editorial office.
Subscription price: $17.00 per year in the US., US $20.00 elsewhere. Unless a definite request for discontinuance is received, it is assumed that the subscriber wishes the subscription to continue, and he will be billed for renewal. If you have a change of address, please notify the Business Office as early as possible in order to avoid the inconvenience of interrupted delivery. Include your Zip or Postal Code.
The Business Office will accept standing orders for bound copies of the current volume. Such orders are mailed as soon as possible after completion of a volume year.
l6mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm and 105mm microfiche, and article copies are available through University Microfilms international.
For new subscribers in the United States to the Standard
Bearer, there is a special offer: a ½ price subscription
for one year--$8.50. Those in other countries can write for special
rates as well to: The Standard Bearer, P.O. Box 603, Grandville,
MI 49468-0603 or e-mail Mr. Don Doezema.
Each issue of the Standard Bearer is available on cassette tape for those who are blind, or who for some other reason would like to be able to listen to a reading of the SB. This is an excellent ministry of the Evangelism Society of the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church. The reader is Ken Rietema of Southeast Church. Anyone desiring this service regularly should write:
Table of Contents:
Meditation - Rev. James D. Slopsema
Editorial - Prof. David Engelsma
All Around Us - Rev. Gise Van Baren
Feature Article - Rev. Charles Terpstra
Day of Shadows - George M. Ophoff
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass - Prof. David J. Engelsma
In His Fear - Rev. Daniel Kleyn
News from Our Churches - Mr. Benjamin Wigger
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed,
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God
which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12, 13
The way to exaltation is the way of humble obedience.
So it was with Jesus Christ. Although He was in the form of God, He took upon Himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself in obedience to God, even unto the death of the cross. Wherefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name.
The way to exaltation is the way of humble obedience also for us. Wherefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For humble obedience to God is accomplished by us only as we work out our own salvation.
Work out your own salvation.
Don't be mistaken here. We are not told to work our salvation, but to work out our salvation.
To work our salvation would mean that we do some good work to earn our salvation. This is what lies in the heart of sinful man. In his pride he imagines that he can work his own salvation. The Scriptures repeatedly condemn this notion and proclaim on every page that salvation is a free gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ.
We are not to seek to work our salvation; but we are called to work out our salvation.
This calling presupposes that we already possess the salvation of God. Paul, in addressing the church of Philippi, has already spoken of the work of the salvation God has begun in them (Phil. 1:5). In that connection, Paul also spoke of the faith that had been given them (Phil. 1:29). He even addressed the members of the church as saints (Phil. 1:1). So now he speaks of "your own salvation," the salvation you already possess.
That salvation each saint is to work out.
Repeatedly the Bible speaks of one thing working another. Thus, for example, the trials of our faith work patience (James 1:2). The meaning here is that the trials of our patience produce patience. In like manner our light afflictions, which are for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17). Tribulations work patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope (Rom. 5:3, 4).
The same word and idea are now expressed concerning our salvation. The salvation we have from God works itself out in our lives. It produces spiritual fruits of humility and obedience. Notice that the holy writer has just set forth the example of Jesus' humble obedience to God. This is exactly what the salvation we have in Jesus Christ produces. It works humility before God and obedience patterned after Jesus' obedience.
This is true because of the nature of salvation. When God saves us in Christ, He doesn't merely deliver us from the guilt and penalty of sin, leaving us to live under the power of sin. In Christ, God also delivers us from sin's dominion. He transforms us into new creatures and gives us a new life, which works itself out as humble obedience to Him.
Notice, however, that we do not have a statement of fact, but a calling. Work out your own salvation.
The salvation we have in Jesus Christ does not automatically work itself out into a life of obedience. We are not puppets on a string that God manipulates externally. We are rational, moral, thinking, choosing creatures. For that reason our salvation works itself out into our lives only in as much as we consciously and deliberately live in the power of that salvation. One may be born with a gift for music. But that gift will not work itself out into beautiful songs unless it is recognized, cultivated, and developed through much practice. So also the gift of salvation will not work itself out into a life of obedience unless it is recognized, cultivated, and practiced through much spiritual discipline.
And so we are called to work out our own salvation.
More accurately, the admonition is to continue to work out our own salvation. The saints at Philippi were already working out their salvation. This is evident in their obedience, to which Paul alludes. They had been obedient to the Lord, not only when Paul had been present with them, but also now in his absence. But the working out of their salvation was very difficult because of the obstacles placed in their way. The saints at Philippi had to contend with persecution, false doctrine, as well as their own sinful flesh. And so the exhortation to them is to continue to work out their own salvation.
Are you working out your own salvation? If not, this is a call to begin. If you are, the call is to continue in spite of the difficulties and obstacles placed before you by the powers of darkness.
With fear and trembling!
The unbeliever fears God. His fear is the fear of terror. He stands before God in dread fear and trembles. For he stands exposed to God's wrath upon his sins.
The believer does not fear God in this way. In Jesus Christ he knows God as a forgiving Friend rather than a terrible Avenger. However, the believer does fear God. His fear is the fear of awe and adoration. The believer stands in awe of God. God is the Creator of the universe. What an awesome work! What an awesome God! More awesome yet is the work of salvation, which God accomplishes through Jesus Christ. The more the believer understands the great work of salvation God has accomplished and will accomplish, the more he is awestruck. And since the believer is also the recipient of this great work of salvation, he adores the living God.
And he trembles. One who is suddenly rescued from what appeared to be certain disaster will tremble. So also does the believer tremble before God. How hopelessly lost the believer was in sin. How wonderfully and powerfully God has delivered him from certain disaster. How undeserving he is. Not only will he stand before God in fear; he will also tremble.
It is with that fear and trembling that we must work out our own salvation. How difficult it is to work out our own salvation. There is our sinful flesh; there is the world of temptation; there is false doctrine; sometimes there is persecution for obedience to God. All these stand in the way. To work out his own salvation, the believer must be properly motivated. No, the dread fear of God will not be enough to motivate him in this. Nor will the praise of men. The only thing that can motivate the believer to work out his own salvation into a life of humble obedience is godly fear and trembling.
Do you fear God? Do you tremble before Him?
The more we fear God and tremble before Him, the more we will be motivated to work out our own salvation.
And don't forget: the more we use the Word and sacraments, and the more we pray and seek the fellowship of the saints, the more we will fear and tremble before God.
For it is God who worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.
It is God's eternal good pleasure to save unto Himself a people in Jesus Christ. These people He has eternally chosen. He has ordained them to eternal life. And to that end He has given them to Jesus Christ, His Son.
Of (more accurately "on account of") that good pleasure, God works in His people both to will and to do. To will and to do what? To will and to do the working out of their own salvation. God does not bestow upon us the gift of salvation and then leave it to us to work it out on our own. It would never get done. Both the desire to do this and the actual doing of it are of God. He works in us. He energizes us. And the result is that we both will to work out our own salvation, and actually do it.
God works all this in us through various means. He uses the Word primarily, but also the sacraments, and prayer, and the fellowship of the saints.
This work of God in us is all according to God's eternal good pleasure. It is God's good pleasure to live with us in covenant fellowship and friendship, now and eternally. This is realized, not in the way of our sin, but in the way of working out our salvation into a walk of humble obedience to God. And so God works in us both to will and do these things.
This great work of God in us also explains the admonition given us to work out our own salvation.
God always calls us to live in harmony with His works of salvation. Jesus once said that we are the light of the world. Then He called us to act as light, letting our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16). So also here. God works in us both to will and to do the working out of our own salvation. Now we are called to be doing this.
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
As the previous editorial illustrated, the forthcoming commentary on Romans by Herman Hoeksema, Righteous by Faith Alone, builds up the believer through sound doctrine. It is not a whit less edifying as regards the application of the doctrine. The Romans sermons, which make up the commentary, are intensely, pointedly, and even painfully practical.
If the notion is abroad that Hoeksema was abstractly doctrinal, and not practical, in his preaching, publication of the sermons on Romans will lay this notion to rest once and for all. In these sermons, Hoeksema was busy applying the doctrine, not only from chapter 12 on (the practical section of Romans), but also from the very outset. His application was that his hearer submit to God's just judgment of guilt and depravity; that he believe the merciful verdict in the gospel, "Righteous in Christ!" and that thus he know and confess the sovereignly gracious God, so as to glorify Him in all his life. In the published form of the sermons, this now becomes the application to the reader.
The sermon on
("Thou art inexcusable,
O man, whosoever thou art that judgest") is titled, "The
Inexcusable Judge." In it Hoeksema points out that we all
are guilty of condemning each other. When we do this, we place
ourselves on the bench alongside the judging God, rather than
on the floor of the courtroom among the defendants. "The
admonition of the text," says Hoeksema, is this:
Come down from the bench. Come down to the floor of the courtroom. On the floor of the courtroom is a Lawyer. Man has no excuse. But for him who places himself on the floor of the courtroom, among the condemned, there is the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ is His eternal defense and apology.
Relentless Application unto Assurance
A deep concern of the Romans sermons is that God's people, who are prone to doubt, have the firm assurance of their own salvation by the faith that believes the message of Romans. In all kinds of ways throughout the series Hoeksema addresses the doubts of the child of God and instructs and exhorts unto assurance. In connection with this concern, Hoeksema pitilessly exposes and sharply condemns the sickly mysticism in certain streams of the Reformed tradition, which never can arrive at assurance.
Outstanding is the relentless application of the
gospel to the assurance of the believer in the sermon on
Romans 7:24, 25
a: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me
from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ
our Lord." The theme is "The Wretched Christian."
With reference to the words, "Who shall deliver me?"
Hoeksema observes that "the man who comes to the knowledge
of his misery surely seeks" deliverance. Having noted that
"the man who has only dogmatic knowledge of his misery does
not seek," he continues:
There is also another type of people who do not seek. They are a sickly kind of people. They are people who have a certain sickly knowledge of sin. They are people who leave the impression that they rejoice in the fact that they are able to say that they are so miserable. You can recognize these people by the fact that they always stop there. They say, "O wretched man that I am," and there they stop. They do not seek. This is not the apostle. If one knows his misery, he seeks spontaneously.
Hoeksema then contends with a miserable view of "seeking" that plagues the Reformed community to this day. He insists that the one who seeks finds. "'Who shall deliver me?' is surely followed by the answer, 'through Jesus Christ our Lord.'" Hoeksema recalls that
a man once said to me that he had been seeking all his life. I told him that was not true. Scripture says that he who seeks shall surely find. This man said, "Yes, but in God's time." I answered, "Yes, and God's time is, 'Before they call, I will answer them.'"
Still Hoeksema is not finished. He asks, "Why
are there so many who seem to seek and never find?" There
are several reasons. One is
that we do not seek in the right way. How do you seek? There is only one way: in the Word of God. Some people would like to have an angel come down from heaven to tell them. That cannot be. Others would like to have a certain word, or a certain experience. But it is a seeking outside of the Word of God. These people do not find. You cannot find God outside of the Word. But if you seek the answer to the question "Who shall deliver me?" in the Bible you will find the answer.
No Closet Antinomian, He
In the practical part of Romans-chapters 12-16-Hoeksema is sharp and pointed in his admonitions. If anyone ever suggests that Hoeksema did not preach admonitions, did not preach the "must" of the law, did not apply the law as the authoritative rule for the Christian's life, that is, that Herman Hoeksema was a closet antinomian, he should be given a copy of the commentary on Romans with a bookmark at the beginning of the treatment of Romans 12-16. Fact is, we ought to learn from Hoeksema to address sin in the congregation boldly and sharply. In sermon eighty-eight, on Romans 13:8 ("owe no man anything but to love one another"), Hoeksema talks about the necessity of paying financial debts.
Some people will run up a big bill. After they have run up a bill in one place, they will go somewhere else and run up a bill there. And they do not pay their debts. This is not a matter of money. It is a spiritual matter. We must pay our debts for God's sake. "Owe no man any thing."
Although this is not found in his exposition of the practical part of Romans, but in the sermon on
True Children of Abraham," Hoeksema is equally outspoken
on the very practical subject of birth control.
The children of God come in the line of the generations of believers . This is why we are proud of our seed. This is why we have as many children as possible. This is why we have nothing to do with the damnable practice of birth control.
He was not afraid to address problems in the congregation,
head-on. At the time of the preaching of these sermons, First
Church had four services every Lord's Day, two in Dutch and two
in English. Two of these services were in the morning, which made
for a late noon-meal. Evidently, some members, whose stomachs
were growling as the second morning service cut into the dinner
hour, grumbled that one of the morning services should be dropped
for the sake of their stomachs. Hoeksema came in the series to
"Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind
not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise
in your own conceits."
We may differ as to whether we should have four worship services, or only three, having only one service in the morning. This is a non-essential. The one thing we must bear in mind is the glory of God, the edification of the church, and the propagation of the truth. Do not say, "I can have dinner at a better time, if we have only one service in the morning." Your dinner has nothing to do with the one thing that all must mind. The one thing that all must mind is the glory of God, the edification of the church, and the maintenance of the truth.
In addition to its rich instruction in sound doctrine and its pointed practical application, the work is sprinkled with vivid, striking, and sometimes humorous expressions. Here is a sampling, in no particular order. In one sermon, Hoeksema drops the line, "I like to be minister of Fuller Avenue [First Church] for a long time." In another, sermon ninety-five, on Romans 15:14 ("filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another"), Hoeksema says:
To be able to admonish, one must have knowledge. The man who is to be admonished also must have knowledge. You cannot admonish a fool. I do not like to preach to a dumb church. I would rather preach to spiritual college students.
In the exposition of Romans 12:16, referred to above, Hoeksema explains that condescending to men of low estate is really the virtue of humility that seeks "the lowly things." He cries out, "Oh, suppose that we all would seek the lowly things. What a beautiful church we would be." The great threat is our pride. And then comes this lovely line: "God has taken care that, in order to be saved, we must become so brokenhearted that we crawl into heaven by the grace of Christ."
There were times when these sermons, even though in the cooler form of a manuscript, moved me to tears. There were other times when they caused me to laugh aloud. Hoeksema ends his introduction to the sermon on Romans 12:3-8, "Sobermindedness with a View to the Gifts of Grace," by telling the fable about the donkey who was jealous of the little dog which was permitted to sit in the mistress' lap. The jealous donkey broke into the parlor, tried to sit in the lady's lap, and was shot. Hoeksema then concludes his introduction with these words, "The apostle tells us, do not be an ass, in the spiritual sense."
In a sermon on the weaker and stronger brother of Romans 14, Hoeksema explains what a weaker brother is, and what he is not.
What does it mean that for the sake of the weaker brother we refrain from using our Christian liberty? Does it mean that we must refrain, the moment the weaker brother says, "You may not do this or that"? Does it mean that the weaker brother is now the man who imposes his conscience upon the entire church? God forbid. Then life in the church would become such that presently we would not know how to move. The man who imposes his conscience upon us, saying, "You may not do this" or "You may not do that," is not a weak brother. He is a nuisance.
How Could They Leave?
As I worked with this exposition of Romans, which was originally a series of sermons preached Sunday after Sunday to the congregation of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, again and again the question came up in my mind, "How could two thirds of a congregation that was blessed with such preaching leave it a mere ten or twelve years after the series concluded?" A Christian would crawl on his hands and knees to hear such preaching.
There is indication that Hoeksema himself realized, already in the late 1930s, that all was not well in First Church and that the spiritual malady showed itself in a bad attitude toward exactly such preaching as the congregation was hearing in the Romans sermons. In the sermon on Romans 11:16-21, "Humility Toward the Old Branches," Hoeksema said this:
Let us look at our own congregation. We are loaded down with the blessings of salvation. Do we care about it? We don't! We would like to have God feed grace and salvation to us with a spoon, and then we are too lazy to swallow it. Every once in a while, we need a poke; otherwise we go to sleep. We can't wake up unless we get a poke once in a while.
The poke came to First Church, and to the denomination, in the schism of 1953. As a poke from God, it was a very hard poke. It woke First Church and the denomination up, but it hurt them terribly.
Let every one of our congregations take heed to herself, whether she needs such a poke. And let the minister of any congregation that needs a poke have the courage to warn the congregation that a poke is coming.
How could people leave such preaching, such truth?
But the question is wrong. The question must be put this way: How could anyone submit to such preaching?
It is all grace. It is all gift. It is all God.
The wonder is that anyone stayed.
The date given for the one hundredth anniversary of the Spring Lake CRC by a correspondent in the letters column of January 1, 2002 was mistaken. The date is May, 1982.
The article authored by Rev. Dick published in the December 15, 2001 issue of the Standard Bearer is not good. Rev. Dick employs questionable metaphors and a frenetic writing style to garner attention. In this he has succeeded.
My understanding of what Rev. Dick is trying to say is that, because those who date can sin, dating, as currently practiced by many Christian young people, must be eliminated. As his only appeal is to reason, one can also reason that drinking wine should be eliminated. After all, one who drinks wine could do so to the extent that he sins by becoming drunk. Therefore, by Rev. Dick's rationale, wine drinking must be forbidden.
Absent any biblical references in his article, Rev. Dick says little of any importance and proves nothing. The entire article could be reduced to one topic sentence, that being that Rev. Dick does not like dating. Perhaps with that established, Rev. Dick should proceed to Holy Scripture to validate his proposition and try writing his article again. This time he should confine himself to using only proper English in complete sentences.
For many years the Standard Bearer has featured thoughtful, well-written articles that speak to a wide variety of topics and issues. The Standard Bearer is not a frivolous periodical. Writing that appears in the Standard Bearer must be held to some minimum level of professionalism. Writing that a high school English teacher would not accept should not be printed. There should be some seriousness and dignity to the submissions.
Historically, the contents of the Standard Bearer have served to provide something for the soul. Almost always the Standard Bearer has promoted solid Reformed thinking that conforms to biblical teaching. The article written by Rev. Dick fails to meet these standards.
Eric J. Ophoff
South Holland, IL
I am writing in response to the opinion article by Rev. Mitchell Dick in the December 15, 2001 issue of the Standard Bearer. I was disappointed to see this article published in the Standard Bearer, as well as the free use of the pronoun "we." I share neither in the spirit nor in the opinion of what is written. Upon opening the SB, I expect to read of doctrinal standards and scriptural truths, and I was angered to see it used as a forum for a mere opinion without one biblical verse or reference.
I have read a similar book addressing this same issue of dating entitled I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris; in fact, the outline was much the same as Rev. Dick's article, ending in a question and answer format. After reading that book, I did not cease from all dating, considering it sinful, but instead was further encouraged to continue dating as a Reformed and ever reforming Christian in light of marriage and, therefore, in the Lord. Imagine! This terrible "D" can be positive, good, and wonderful for Christian singles.
This article was written in such a way that it is possible for me to substitute the word "car" for the word "dating." Using Rev. Dick's logic, a car can be considered an evil mechanism that needs to be vanquished off a cliff as well. Of course, godless dating is not something we encourage or support. A car, like dating, could be misused, aiding us in sin; however, this does not mean that we do away with all cars, driving them off cliffs with cement on their wheel bearings.
The spirit in which the article was written, using phrases such as "I am out for blood," as well as Rev. Dick's previous articles on "Getting a Life," is not the way we speak as Reformed Christians. This should not be how we write in the SB, majoring in the minors, airing opinions on non-doctrinal issues without even one scriptural reference. We need articles expounding and explicating Scripture! Dramatic fluff is not needed in such articles expounding on the truths of Scripture and the precious doctrinal heritage we hold.
I do not need a murderous setting of a cliff and cement shoes, defining words like dating as only a sinful mechanism, to help me in my walk of life. I need the Word, telling me that my body is a temple of the most holy God, commanding me to flee from all evil, keep from lust, keep from sin. I need to adhere to this Word in any and all aspects of my life, dating as well. It is misguided to assume that when we "kick dating off the cliff" our sinful natures will go as well and only then will we be able to achieve "appropriate" interaction with the opposite sex as a single. Dating or courting, whatever word or definition used, we will continue to have to strive to obey the commands of the Lord and fight against our sinful nature.
South Holland, IL
I have just finished reading Rev. Dick's article, "On Kicking Dating Goodbye" (Standard Bearer, Dec. 15, 2001), for about the third time. I didn't want to be hasty in my thoughts on the article. As a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches, I am ashamed to think that anyone reading this article will think that it represents the view of the PR churches. His description of murder in the article is abominable. I don't care if it is a fictional murder on a fictional thing; it has no place in our thoughts. To liken dating to sin is to say that a person who is looking for a God-fearing person to spend the rest of his or her life with is not doing God's will.
God created man first and the woman for the man. When Adam was given Eve by God, he realized this as a gift from God. I'm sure they walked together and talked together alone in the garden and loved each other because it was arranged by God. Because of sin, Adam and Eve realized their wickedness, and covered and hid themselves from God.
Our children also are given a gift from God to date. This means looking for and finding the mate that God intended for them to have. How will they find this if they are not allowed to talk and share each other's dreams? Is Rev. Dick so bold to say that a man and woman should enter into marriage with each other without the courtship that one uses to pursue our mate with God's blessing? The purpose of dating is to find a God-fearing mate; it is not sin if used in the right way; it is not "the heathen way of cajoling," as Rev. Dick calls it.
As a parent of three children (one of whom is married in the church and dated several God-fearing men before God brought the right one into her life), I have always encouraged them to date in the church. Have they had heartaches? Yes. Have they dated because they found a person of the opposite sex attractive? I'm sure. But they know that the purpose of dating is to find a mate that loves the Lord as they do, and they have been warned of the evils of fornication. I don't intend to kick dating goodbye for my children. I will pray with them as they date and ask for God to bring the right person into their life. I will pray, as they date, that God will show them His will. They are not "little ones" who go off into the night with their evil date, but they are mature young people who love the Lord, and will call on Him in time of trouble. Are they going to be perfect in their dating? Probably not. But God is their Judge. He will direct them in their dating. If a hug and a kiss at the end of a date are given, why can't it be a way to show that that person is liked not only physically, but also spiritually? This is not wrong, and this is not fornication. The Bible speaks of saluting one another with a kiss and of greeting one another with a kiss.
I don't think it is possible to change Rev. Dick's mind as far as dating is concerned, and he is entitled to his ideas. He has not quoted any biblical texts to support his views, and, as far as I know, the Bible is unclear on dating. My concern is that he is using a publication with the Protestant Reformed name on it to support his thinking. He is using it to tell those who (in his eyes) are going off in the car for a night of dating that they are evil if they date and enjoy it. He says that the "new dating is good and biblical," but where does he get that from? Where is his biblical proof? If the old dating will bring my children into a happy and spiritual marriage that reflects the love of Christ and His church, then I believe that that is the reward of dating. Psalm 31:23: "O love the Lord, all ye his saints; for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud and faithful."
As a first-time letter writer to the Standard Bearer, I would like to express my gratitude for the sound, biblical instruction that we receive in every issue of this magazine.
It was with interest that I read the article by Rev. Dick, "On Kicking Dating Goodbye," (SB, Dec. 15, 2001), and to this I address my remarks.
I appreciate Rev. Dick's concern for the spiritual welfare of our covenant young people. In his series on "Grace Life," Rev. Dick has, I believe, successfully identified many of the dangers and temptations into which the young child of God can fall. It is good that the spiritual needs of our young people are addressed. But we need not compromise the manner in which we gain their attention.
I disagree, then, with Rev. Dick's method of bringing to us this admonition. I don't believe that it is necessary or even proper to use a writing style that shocks the reader into action or reaction. The use of an allegory that finds pleasure in violence and death, while having the intent of instructing us in a life of sanctification, is at best contradictory. It seems that there can be a reaction to this in which the reader, because of a dislike for this kind of writing, dismisses out of hand all that is scripturally sound and worthy of our attention.
More importantly, this type of allegory, which deliberately shocks readers into some form of action (positive or negative), sets at nought the power of God's Word and Spirit to be able to convince the believer of sin and of the need for a repentant life of sanctification. It is unnecessary to use clever literary gimmicks or stories to persuade the reader of the truth of God's Word. Sadly, any quote or reference to Scripture is noticeably missing in "On Kicking Dating Goodbye."
I state again that for the most part I agree with the thrust of Rev. Dick's article, namely, that we must do away with all ungodly dating: "Dating which is a 'pairing off' of a boy and girl not at all ready for, or interested in marriage. Dating of those that confess Fun, but who have not yet confessed Faith. Dating which is unsupervised trysts in the night. Dating which is good times had without a prayer made. Dating which is a trial and error 'playing of the field.' Dating without commitment, without purpose, without honor worthy of God's children." But my point is this. Rather than speaking of murder and of "kicking dating off a cliff," let the clear exposition of God's Word, along with the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, convince believing parents and covenant children to reprove the unfruitful works of darkness.
Scripture is replete with instruction on this subject; Ephesians chapter 5 is one example. In the interest of brevity I quote just verses 3 and 11: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." This simple Word of God is "unto us which are saved the power of God" (I Cor. 1:18 b).
Grand Rapids, MI
Several readers have kicked Rev. Dick's article goodbye. Some have a problem with my even having a problem with dating. All are repulsed by the bloody graphics. I am glad for this opportunity to address these concerns in the hope of mutual understanding, and especially in the hope that we will together see that there is a problem with much of our dating.
About the matter of dating, and my position on it: my scriptural proof for this is forthcoming. Next SB issue, God willing.
Concerning the "manner of speaking" in my article: the authors in the above letters to the Editor have nothing but scathing criticism. They have called this style of writing, in so many words, unbiblical, un-Reformed, unedifying, and the sort of "shocking language" that does injustice to the power of the Word. One has baldly stated that "this type of allegory, which deliberately shocks readers into some form of action sets at nought the power of God's Word and Spirit."
To this I would and must say the following:
To be sure, certain forms of verbal language, or other ways of communicating, are always wrong. Language and dancing on the table and whatnot which serves only to draw attention to itself, and which does not lead to Truth - this is always wrong. Writing which is just "cute," and which is to win praise only from the literati is self-serving. Writing which needs one gimmick, one twist of a phrase after another to hold the audience, but which is virtually empty of edifying content, is also abominable. It can be the case, as well, that certain language which may not be wrong in itself, is nevertheless inappropriate for a certain situation or audience. Telling a joke at a funeral, for example, would be most untimely. And about my use of a certain bloody allegory in the SB, I am still wondering if that was the best way to communicate to you all.
Having said that (and please note every sentence of that last paragraph), we must be careful here lest we throw babies out with the bath water (there I go again!). We surely do not want to say, do we, that there is a biblical and Reformed way of writing, which way happens to exclude, across the board, every graphic imagery, or even every shocking way of getting a point across. Nor do we want to say, do we, that the right style of communicating is only the way which we might be accustomed to hearing and reading.
Please consider even this, dear unhappy readers - the Bible itself often uses allegories, "shock tactics" of all sorts, and blood, and even sex, to prove its own point! So there in the very Word of God, and as the very Word of God, is...the Song of Solomon; God commanding Hosea to take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms to teach Israel of her own great whoredom ( Hosea 1); Jesus throwing out money changers in the Temple ( John 2), calling Pharisees whitewashed graves and worse ( Matt. 23, etc.), and declaring that the bread of the Supper is His body and that we are to take and eat it (Matt. 26:26), for which the heathen have accused the Christians of cannibalism; Paul exhorting us to kill our body parts (Col. 3:5); James telling us in so many words, to abort sin (James 1:13-16), and then calling the brethren to whom he writes adulterers and adulteresses (James 4:4).
And then there is this: godly men of old, Reformed and Presbyterian worthies, have not seen it beneath themselves and/or inappropriate, at least once in awhile, to write to "shock" the people in order to stir them to repentance and to living the godly life. One has only to read Luther and Calvin and Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" to learn this: lacking in shocking, graphic, even coarse, in-your-face, wake-you-up language they are not!
Finally, I would urge those who have concerns with both the content and manner of my writing to consider the following:
It seems that this last article of mine on Dating has gotten a lot of people thinking and talking about this matter, and also this manner of my communicating it. I praise the Lord for this - in order that it may serve for our holiness and God's glory in the marrying of the covenant seed. May we all praise the Lord together, not focusing on a man, his merit or demerit, but on the issue.
Seems as well - no, it is true - several people actually
have appreciated hearing my criticisms and writing them this way.
One such writes:
You have undoubtedly received much feedback from your last article in the Standard Bearer. I just wanted to encourage you and to let you know how much I appreciated it. I am a...recently married young man who could not agree more with your feelings on the current dating system that our young people are using (abusing).
I unfortunately am aware that most people find it easier to critique than to praise and encourage, which is why I wanted to...encourage you in your writing. I also pray for the work that you are doing at GVSU. As a graduate of a secular university, I am all too familiar with some of the challenges that you face there. I pray that you are well and that God continues to bless your labors."
That leads me to this: please remember that in this "Grace Life" rubric I am seeking to communicate especially to the youth of the church, to those, say, 15-25. I am seeking to relate to them. I understand the culture in which they live, and the "shocks" and temptations of the world of which they are well aware (believe it or not!). I am seeking, in my SB articles, as well as in my discussion-leading at GVSU, to be all things (without compromise) to all the youth, that I might help them live the godly life. The subjects I broach, and the style of my writing, reflect that attempt, and that I do indeed love them (and also their parents!) with all my heart.
OK, so we might never agree on certain things. My desire is that some day you and I might meet for a cup of coffee at Pietro's, and say to each other something like: You are strange, but there are all kinds of members in the body of Christ, and I love you anyway...!
And so, as you reread my article (and hopefully the next ones!), be assured that it is not your Aunt Sally, or your great-grandmother whom I would kick off a cliff. But maybe, just maybe, it is someone's sacred cow.
- Rev. Mitchell Dick
Our editor examined the position of Mr. Harold Camping
revealed in his book "1994?" in the Standard
Bearer (Vol. 69, page 149; see also page 269, where the editor
comments on a letter to the editor on this matter). Camping was
careful to put that "?" behind the date - but the book
made very plain that he believed with almost absolute certainty
that Christ would return in September of 1994. The editor exposed
the errors in this teaching. He concluded his editorial:
The mark of false prophecy is that "the thing follow not, nor come to pass" (Deut. 18:21, 22).
I have written the following announcement. It is to be published in the Standard Bearer of October 1, 1994.
"Christ did not come, nor did the world end, last month, as Harold Camping prophesied in 1991 in his book, 1994?. I now call on Mr. Camping to repent of his sin of disobeying Christ by predicting the date of Christ's coming and to repudiate the very idea of such predictions. I also call on him to recognize the error of his allegorical exegesis and to direct his followers to a true Reformed church where sound, grammatical-historical-spiritual exegesis is the basis of all preaching and teaching."
As all must know, Harold Camping neither repented nor recanted.
Even the secular press took note
of Camping's gaffe. U.S. News and World Report, December
19, 1994, reported:
Radio evangelist Harold Camping admits he is "slightly disappointed" that the world did not end last September.
A civil engineer by training and now president of Family Radio Inc.'s network of 39 Christian radio stations and 14 shortwave transmitters, Camping figured that he had deciphered the Bible's chronological blueprint:
"The world began with Adam in 11013 B.C. and was scheduled to end some 13 millenniums later, almost certainly in the first jubilee year after the birth of modern Israel. September 1994, to be exact. That's the time his book 1994?, which sold 70,000 copies, predicted that skies would darken at midday and graves would fly open as the dead joined the living to face God's fiery judgment."
Camping's critics say he ignored, or misinterpreted, the well-known passage (Matthew 25:13) where Jesus admonishes his disciples that no man can know the day nor the hour of his return. But Camping, whose radio network will take in some $12 million this year, up 20 percent since 1994? was published two years ago, brushes off the criticism.
The 73-year-old father of six says that he is in fact "delighted" to have a little more time, because he has many friends and family members who are "not yet saved."
"I still believe we are very near the end. Are you ready?"
The Christian Renewal, January
14, 2002, reports on a certain VanGeene in the Netherlands and
Harold Camping in California under the title: "Every fool
has a following." In both instances, these men indicate that
Christ is coming back soon - but according to a timetable they
have devised. And people seem ready to listen to them. The
Christian Renewal reports concerning Camping:
In California, popular Bible teacher and author Harold Camping announced in June 2001, that Christ's return is very close at hand. He has urged the listeners to his internationally known Family Radio programs to withdraw from their churches, to form small, informal house congregations or fellowships and prepare for His coming. Camping's explanation for this is documented in a pamphlet with the title, Has the Era of the Church Come to an End?, a question he answers in the affirmative. The pamphlet and a more recent Addendum are available at www.familyradio.com/cross/tract/church.htm.
Camping's Family Radio ministry, which broadcasts worldwide, has a School of the Bible with an enrollment (it is claimed) of 40,000 students. Because of his use of what "sounds like" Reformed Theology, Camping has had a considerable following among Presbyterian and Reformed listeners in North America and elsewhere.
In a 1992 book carefully titled 1994?, Camping, who was then a Teaching Elder in the Alameda Church, predicted that Jesus would return in September of 1994. When that turned out not to be the case, Camping unapolo-getically and piously informed his worldwide audience that his mathematical calculations would receive further divine enlightenment, to stay tuned and not turn that dial. In spite of that prophetic blooper, Camping's audience allegedly grew. Today the Alameda Reformed Bible Church (ARBC) is no more. With the agreement of the (now extinct) ARBC Consistory, has come in its place the Alameda Bible Fellowship (the ABF), the "Home of Harold Camping," its website proclaims. All the former Elders have resigned their offices (some involuntarily) as belonging to the now expired "church age" and as no longer needed in a pre-Rapture fellowship, apparently leaving Camping in charge .
Harold Camping in the pamphlet, "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?" explains his position. One must not be deceived by the "?" at the end of the title. Camping makes very plain that the church age has come to an end. He realizes that he erred earlier when he prophesied that Christ would return sometime in September 1994. His error, it seems, was that September 1994 in fact marked the end of the church era. The church has become apostate. The faithful are called now to come out of the church (all churches) and establish home-fellowships in which to worship on Sunday. The two witnesses of Revelation are dead. Neither elders nor deacons nor ministers of the Word represent Christ anymore. These can only be regarded as false prophets. There are to be no more sacraments and no more organized churches.
How must the gospel now be spread over all the world
until Christ returns? Camping concludes that this cannot be done
by an "increasingly dead church" but rather by "a
robust healthy presentation of the Gospel by means of an organization
like Family Radio." And, of course, there are no other radio
ministries with a "healthy presentation of the Gospel"
besides Family Radio. Camping puts it this way (page 5):
Thus we wonder: is there a correlation that exists between all of these major subjects we have been discussing? Let us review.
1. Tremendous apostasy in the congregations and denominations.
2. Exploding population.
3. Exploding electronic knowledge, resulting in enormous advances in mass communication.
4. Increasing blessing coming to a ministry such as Family Radio as it ministers globally the true Gospel.
Fact is, the Bible does provide a marvelous synthesis of these things. Once we understand the Bible's teaching on these subjects, we should understand how harmonious all of these phenomena are.
But there is a larger plan of God that must be looked at.
This plan shows that a time will come when God will no longer use the churches and congregations to bring the Gospel to the world. They instead will come under the wrath of God (p. 7).
Without entering at length into
the convoluted reasoning and her-meneutics of Harold Camping,
it could be stated that, on the basis of the history of Judah
and the captivity (as well as other Old Testament historical events),
he claims that the church age has ended. Faithful Christians
must leave their churches or face the doom of God's wrath
which falls on these churches. Listen to what he has to say:
Significantly at this time in history when the world's population is exploding, God has provided means by which the true Gospel can be heralded forth all over the world. This is particularly true as the Gospel is sent out by radio, by satellite, by Internet. Never before in the history of the world can a whole continent come under the umbrella of the Gospel.
Because we witness this phenomena by a ministry such as Family Radio which in no sense is under the authority of the church and which tries to be as faithful to the Bible as possible, we can know that we are in that time of the great tribulation. The next event will be the return of Christ and the end of the world.
And that brings us to a very real but very troublesome question. If we can still find or are still a part of a church that is reasonably true to the Bible, should we remain there? Does the Bible give us clear instruction concerning this very important question? Fact is, what are we to do if we could find a church where it appears that each and every doctrine they hold and teach is faithful to the Word of God?
And what is Camping's answer?
Significantly, in Revelation 11, where God speaks of the work of the church being finished He speaks of Jerusalem (the churches) as Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:8).
Significantly, too, as He addresses the subject of the great tribulation, He says, "Remember Lot's wife." She refused to flee and ended up under judgment. Those who attempted to remain in Jerusalem in 587 B.C. came under the judgment of God. Remember we saw this warning in Jeremiah 29:16-19.
The message should be clear. We must remove ourself from the church.
In the context of "Remember Lot's wife" God also declares in Luke 17:31:
"In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field let him likewise not return back." The housetop is identified with bringing the Gospel. In Luke 12:3 we read: "Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."
The house identifies with the church. But as judgment comes on the church the true believer is to stay outside the church bringing the Gospel to the world.
Because the church era has come to an end the churches have become dead as the church of Sardis long ago became dead. (Rev. 3:1). The churches of today have had their candlestick removed even as the church of Ephesus of Rev. 2 was warned that God would remove their candlestick if they did not return to their first love. The church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism to serve God as His appointed representative on earth.
Camping continues by quoting
Luke 21:5, 6
the following conclusions:
These temple buildings represent the churches and congregations God would build throughout the New Testament time. Those who come into this spiritual temple are gold, silver and precious stones, and wood, hay, stubble, (I Cor 3:12). That is, they are both true believers and those who appear to be true believers and actually are not. Thus each congregation is an integral part of that great temple.
But Jesus declares that there will be a time when there will not be left one stone upon another. That is, the temple will be totally destroyed. It will no longer exist.
But suppose a congregation believes that it can remove all of the high places. Yet will endeavor to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.
It then is insisting that it is still a tiny part of the temple that still exists.
But Christ said "there will not be left one stone upon another." Thus this congregation is effectively saying they are more holy than God. That congregation should realize that no church can still be a part of the temple.
On the basis of Hebrews 10:25 Camping insists that there must still be "assembling together" on the Sabbath - but without officebearers, without sacraments, without official preaching, without discipline. He concludes by insisting that the decision to withdraw must be a very personal decision. But he states this on the basis that the "corporate institution" is no more and therefore has no authority to tell anyone what to do. Yet he makes very plain that all who remain in the churches will be destroyed in God's judgment. And since these churches no longer represent Christ and His Word, the only conclusion must be that the pastors, elders, and deacons are false prophets. Unless they follow Camping's example, they will be destroyed with their churches. The only place where the gospel is now proclaimed is at Family Radio and by Mr. Harold Camping.
In harmony with his current teachings, Camping has disbanded his church (Alameda Reformed Bible Church) and has established the Alameda Bible Fellowship as of October 11, 2001. This was done by majority, but not unanimous vote of the members of that church. The term "Reformed" has been dropped. The "Fellowship" has no officebearers, no preachers, no membership role. Only Camping serves as Bible teacher.
In harmony, too, with his teachings, Camping has
ordered that churches may no longer broadcast over Family Radio.
At least, he has removed the "Back to God Hour," which
had been on the stations many years. Listeners who asked the "Back
to God Hour" the reasons for this, were answered by Rev.
For many years the weekly Back to God Hour program could be heard on stations owned by the Family Radio network. But at the end of November, 2001, Family Radio stopped broadcasting our program, without telling listeners the reason. Here is a brief account of the situation.
Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, has fallen into serious error, teaching that the age of the church has ended. Camping urges all Christians to leave their churches. He has also issued an edict that Family Radio must reject any program which is sponsored by a church or which speaks of Christ's abiding purposes for the church, its leaders, and its sacraments.
In the early 1990s Camping insisted that Christ would return in 1994. He turned out to be wrong. Rather than admitting his error and repenting, Camping instead used fanciful interpretations of Scripture to claim that 1994 was still a major landmark. It marked an unfolding of events in which the church age has come to an end. Camping claims that God has stopped working through churches and has begun a period of "latter rain" in which the Lord now works mainly through ministries such as Family Radio. Thus Camping's earlier error has grown into something even worse. He is distorting the Word of God and is offending Christ by attacking the beloved bride of Christ, the church. It would be legitimate to warn people that some denominations and congregations have wandered far from God's Word, but Camping entirely dismisses all churches, including many that are true to the Lord.
Harold Camping claims that evil has overcome the entire church and that Christ is no longer building his church, but Jesus promised, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). Camping says that church leaders - pastors, elders, and deacons - no longer have authority, but the Bible says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority" (Hebrews 13:17). Camping says the church's sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper - should not be observed anymore, but Scripture speaks of eating the bread and drinking the cup until Christ comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
We grieve that it is no longer possible for us to proclaim the historic Christian faith on Family Radio. We regretfully advise God's people not to support Family Radio financially, unless it stops spreading error.
Meanwhile, the Back to God Hour continues to broadcast on many other stations throughout North America and around the world. A station list is enclosed. We hope you can hear a station in your area. If not, please note that our programs can be heard anytime on the internet at www. BacktoGod.net.
All of the above might be considered rather ludicrous if it were not so deadly serious. One might charitably (?) attribute this to the afflictions of old age (Camping must be about 80 years old). Yet this man, who has espoused so many soundly scriptural (Reformed) doctrines, comes with that which is utterly repulsive and so contrary to Scripture. He who correctly in the past warned against "another gospel," now comes with another gospel. He who warned strongly against the delusions of Satan, now comes with a delusion which must cause joy to Satan himself. He who rightly condemned great apostasy in the churches, now proposes a "remedy" which, if followed, would destroy God's people and remove from them the spiritual nourishment they so sorely need in these evil days. All preachers, elders, deacons, and church members who remain within the churches will be destroyed. He who warns about the "high places," now himself sets up a "high place" - and it is in effect an altar set before Camping himself. Only Family Radio (there are no other radio broadcasts which bring the "true gospel") can seek to evangelize the world before Christ returns.
Camping's error is not that he teaches that Christ's coming is at hand - for clearly it is. His error is rather that he seeks to destroy the body of Christ - albeit under the guise of rescuing the "eternal church" of Christ. One can only pray for the man's repentance and conversion - lest the blood of many rest on his head in that great day of judgment.
A Serious Preparation
A final area of concern and consideration is that of preparing for worship.
If the worship of God is such a serious, solemn activity, then it must be entered into and carried out with careful preparation. Is it not true that if we have planned some important dinner-date with friends, then we take the necessary time and steps to get ready for it? How much more when we have an appointment with God in His house each Lord's day!
There are three parts to our preparation for worship. We'll start with the narrower aspect and move to the broadest.
First, our preparation for worship must take place just before the service begins - that is, when we have come to the church building and are seated in the sanctuary prior to the start of the formal service. This is an important time in terms of preparing ourselves for what is to take place. We need to begin seeking God's face, waiting to meet Him, to hear Him, and to fellowship with Him. Therefore we ought to be in prayer and meditation through the Word. Instead we often waste this time through frivolous activities. Let us be conscious of the need to prepare to meet our God (cf. Amos 4:12)!
Second, our preparation for worship must begin even before we arrive at the church building. Sunday morning and evening at home is a critical time also in terms of how ready we will be to worship the Lord. We all know how hurried and hassled we can be on Sunday morning. We sleep too late and become rushed. We fight for time in the shower and bathroom. We wolf down our breakfast. Maybe there is time for family devotions, maybe not. And then we rush out the door and hurry to church, arriving perhaps at the last minute, or with just enough time to read the bulletin. And we expect to be ready to enter God's presence and worship Him in spirit and in truth, with mind and body fully engaged?!
We must work hard(er) at preparing for worship on Sunday morning and evening. We can do better, much better. We must give ourselves time to get all the mundane things done on time. But we must do so in order that we may also prepare our hearts for worship. Make and take time for personal or family devotions. Stop to read and pray and ask God's blessing on you and the pastor and the service. Coming in this way, we will surely be better prepared to glorify God and be edified ourselves.
And then third, our preparation for worship covers the time of the whole week. We really cannot worship properly on Sunday unless we are living the whole week in preparation for worshiping the Lord. What that means is that we must be living in the fear of God and in the service of God all week in order for us to have true worship on the Lord's day. We cannot fear and worship God on one day. We cannot live in an ungodly manner all week, and then expect to come ready to bow before God and give Him thanks and praise on Sunday. We cannot be living in blatant disobedience to the will of God during the week, and then expect to come and do obeisance to the Lord on Sunday. We cannot be defying God's Word Monday through Saturday, and then think we will be ready to hear His Word on Sunday.
No, we must be living before His face all week long, day in and day out. We must be striving to do His will. Our whole life is to be a sacrifice of thanks and praise to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). When it is, then we will also be prepared to enter the gates of worship and offer our sacrifice of thanks and praise there.
There are a couple of specific things we wish to mention yet in connection with this activity of godly preparation during the week. This is what we usually call personal and family worship or devotions. This is a concrete way in which we can prepare our hearts and minds to worship on Sunday. If we are spending time daily with God through His Word and through prayer, then we are keeping ourselves in spiritual shape to work at worship on Sunday. Of course, it is also true that the public worship of God on Sunday feeds and empowers our personal and family worship during the week. But we are looking at this from the other point of view. And then it is certainly true that our time with God during the week makes us hungry and thirsty for God in the services on Sunday.
We believe this weekly worship time is also critically important for our children. It is in our family worship that we instruct them in the basic principles of public worship. We teach the importance of drawing near to God in covenant fellowship, of hearing His Word, of calling on Him in prayer, and perhaps singing also. We teach them the godly attitudes that must characterize all our worship: reverence, humility, submission, quietness, joy, and faith.
Thinking of these things makes us think that maybe we have touched on another reason why we do not worship the Lord as fully and acceptably and profitably as we ought; why our hearts are often cold and our service formalistic; why the service seems long and boring; why we too would begin to clamor for something new and innovative in worship. It may be because we are not seeking God in private worship and in family worship. This is at least something each of us needs to think seriously about.
VanDellen and Monsma, in their Church Order Commentary, make the following pertinent statement concerning this: "As spiritual life begins to wane, formalistic and extraordinary observances begin to increase. He who serves God in Spirit and with devotion will have little need for the unusual, and for constant innovations" (p. 275).
As we come to the end of our subject, we trust this has made us realize anew the vital role we have in worship, how we must be consciously involved, and how we ought to prepare for such a holy activity. Having been reminded of these things, let us put them into practice diligently - for the betterment of our worship, and above all, for the glory of God.
The matter which we began to examine in our last article was whether the believers of the old covenant were taught and empowered to read in the shadows any reference to future realities. We averred that the shadows did indeed speak to the believers of good things to come. They did so in that they, the shadows, were accompanied by the word of prophecy. The events of the new dispensation were declared, or exhibited, by means of the spoken word as well as by means of the symbols. These two, the symbol and the word, so it was pointed out, must go together. The symbol without the word is mute. The symbol, shall it yield to us its meaning, must be explained by the word. That word was there.
We shall now attend to the word of Jehovah - that
word which directed the attention of the believer of the old covenant to future events and objects.
("For the life
of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon
the altar to make an atonement for your souls") has been
singled out and commented upon. Passages such as these, being
explanatory rather than predictive, shall be passed by.
was quoted more in support of the contention that the symbols
of the old dispensation were not without the word.
Enmity set by the Most High
We call attention first of all to a passage in Genesis 3. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15).
We have here a most remarkable revelation of the course of events determined upon by Jehovah. There is the promise of two kinds of seed. Both the serpent and the woman shall have a spiritual posterity. Between the two there will be perpetual strife. The seed of the woman, it is asserted, shall prevail. The serpent's brood shall be vanquished. It is the dawn of grace. For here is the promise of a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, who shall set forth the praises of Him who called it out of darkness into His marvelous light. This nation, being holy, will of necessity be opposed to that which (in a spiritual, ethical sense) is unlike God. And the seed of the serpent, being what it is, will assert itself as an enemy of the seed of the woman.
It is no one less than God who is responsible for this state of affairs. I will set enmity. It is He who calls this seed into being and girds it on with strength from on high to assert itself as at one with God and as at odds with the seed of the devil.
However, the utterance "I will set enmity" must also be made to apply to the animosity of the seed of the serpent for that of the woman. For, to begin with, God's will is the necessity for its appearance as a corrupt seed. It comes forth, to express ourselves in the words of Calvin, out of the womb of the providence of the Almighty, and moves, lives, and has its being in His will. He must supply this seed with the strength and energy which it needs to assail the holy seed. Every fresh exhibition of hatred on the side of Satan and his brood is due to the fact that God hardens and stirs up this seed.
Such are the plain teachings of Scripture. Said the Lord to Moses: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart. and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land" (Ex. 7:3; 11:10). "And the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel" (Jud. 3:12). "In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house" (I Sam. 3:12). "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house" (II Sam. 12:11). "And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom" (I Kings 11:14). " Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them [the Assyrians]" (Is. 13:17). " Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side; the Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them: all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses. And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments. And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears, and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire . For thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will deliver thee into the hand of them whom thou hatest, into the hand of them from whom thy mind is alienated: I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria. for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God" ( Ezek. 23:22-35). "But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of Hosts" (Amos 6:14). " For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs" (Hab. 1:6).
These Scriptures assert time and again that, as often as an ancient oriental monarch set out on a military expedition, so often was he raised up and set in action by God to do the bidding of the Almighty. They were but tools or instruments in His hands. This is evident from the following passage. "O Assyr-ian, the rod of my anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood?" (Is. 10:5-15). With as little propriety could the Assyrians exalt themselves against the Almighty as the ax can boast itself against him that useth it. He, the Assyrian, was but an instrument in God's hand, devoid of all power, as is the ax. And as the saw he was raised up and shaken to do the thing that was in God's heart.
These Scriptures assert that it was God who arrayed this pagan monarch with his legions against Israel; and in doing so He, the Almighty, was using him as a rod of His anger. However, the Assyrian kings did not recognize themselves as a scourge in the hand of God, nor did they set out on their expeditions impelled by a desire to execute His will. To the contrary, it was in their heart to destroy and to cut off nations not a few. "Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and to cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemesh? Is not Hamath as Arpad? Is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?" (Is. 10:7-11).
Further, in laying low the nations, the Assyrian king was actuated by stinking pride and a deep-seated contempt for God. His aim was to exalt his throne above the stars. He would be like the Most High. "That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppresser ceased . For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High" (Is. 14:4, 13, 14). Having made the earth to tremble and having shaken kingdoms, this king would thereupon glory in himself. He would say: "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: and my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped" (Is. 10:13, 14).
It is a fact that Babylon is a type, or image, of the world. And this boaster, the king of Babylon, must be regarded as a type, or representative, of the mystery of iniquity at work from the very beginning - the serpent and his seed, that diabolical power in the world which makes it its business to oppose the Most High; the sworn antagonists of God, who rage and imagine vain things, who set themselves and take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us ( Ps. 2); the serpent and his seed, the destroyers of Jehovah's heritage, who are glad and rejoice (Jer. 50:11).
Yet, the heritage of Jehovah need have no fear. For it is the Most High who sets enmity. The antagonist is raised, stirred up, and sustained by Him. He moves when the Almighty so wills. His entire conduct is controlled and directed by the Most High. The Lord, then, has the situation well in hand. At every juncture He is the victor. And the serpent and his brood is ever engaged in doing the thing that is in God's heart. Such being the case, Jehovah can put an end to the affair and vanquish his foe whenever He sees fit. The outcome of the strife is, therefore, not a matter of conjecture. Such, indeed, is the case in ordinary warfare, necessarily so since neither of the contending parties derives its life and power from the other. The fact, then, that Jehovah sets enmity - raises, stirs up, and sustains His antagonist - is the only guarantee that he, the Most High, will prevail. And He shall prevail. So it is predicted. "And it shall demolish thy head" (Gen. 3:15).
And again: "That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased. The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing . Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us. Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Is. 14:4-15).
Nevertheless, to quote the Belgic Confession, God is neither the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins committed. For His power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even then when devils and wicked men act unjustly (Art. 13).
These, then, are the teachings of Genesis 3:15. This particular passage of Scripture, needless to say, leaves no room whatever for the theory of common grace.
"And between thy seed and her seed" (Gen. 3:15). Mention is made, let it be repeated, of two kinds of seed. And it is the plain teaching of Scripture that the term seed in both cases signifies an organism. Each organism, further, has its head. In each case must the term seed be made to apply first of all to this head. Christ is the head of the seed of the woman. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). But Christ has a body, which is the church, of which He is the life. He and the church comprise the seed. The latter prevails in Him to whom has been assigned the task of bruising the head of the serpent. To this end was given unto Him all power in heaven and on earth.
From this very passage under consideration it is plain that the other head is the serpent. And he is ethically related to his seed. In Scripture he is called the father of those who commit sin. The latter are in his power. It is he who, from the very beginning, fructifies the souls of the ungodly with his lies and influences them to yield to the forces of unrighteousness. Said the apostle Paul to the church: "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:11, 12).
Here, then, at the very dawn of history, is the promise of one who shall come to destroy the works of the devil. And in Him shall those foreknown by God triumph over the forces of unrighteousness.
This article introduces a study of the Bible's teaching on eschatology. The word "eschatology" comes from the Greek word in the New Testament meaning 'last': eschatos. I John 2:18 speaks of the "last time" (literally: "hour"). I Peter 1:20 refers to the "last times." John 6:39 teaches the "last day" (see vv. 44, 54; 12:48). Jude 18 mentions the "last time." In light of these and similar passages, eschatology is Scripture's teaching concerning the last time, the last things, and the last day.
Because the heart of the biblical teaching on the last hour, the last things, and the last day is the return of Jesus Christ, eschatology is the doctrine of the Bible about the second coming of Christ and, in connection with this coming, about the events leading up to the coming, as well as the events resulting from the coming. Included are the intermediate state, the millennium, the signs of the return of Christ, antichrist and the great tribulation, the second coming itself, the resurrection, the final judgment, the eternal destiny of all men, and the new world.
Eschatology is a doctrine of great interest to the believer and to the church. It is the answer to one of man's burning questions: "Whither?" "Whither as regards myself?" "Whither as regards history?" "Whither as regards the universe?" "Whither as regards the church?" The truth of the last things is the content of the Christian hope, and the Christian and the church live in hope and are saved by hope (Rom. 8:24).
At the present time, escha-tology is a doctrine of great prominence in the church. This has not always been the case in the history of Christian dogma. For the most part, little attention has been paid to eschatology, especially in comparison with the attention paid to the other doctrines of the faith. From the beginning, the early post-apostolic church believed and confessed the basic truths of escha-tology: a literal, bodily coming of Jesus in the future, which would be the end of this age and which would inaugurate the new age; the resurrection of the dead at Jesus' coming; the final judgment; and the church's enjoyment of everlasting life. The early church confessed these fundamental truths in the Apostles' Creed: "From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." But the early church neither emphasized eschatology dogmatically, nor developed it.
In fact, among the early theologians there was confusion and error. Some held a premillennial view of the second coming, although their view was not dispensational and even their premillen-nialism was mild. This was true of Irenaeus. Origen was a universalist, denying eternal punishment and advocating the eventual salvation of all without exception. Tertullian involved himself in Montanism, which was essentially an aberrant eschatological movement. "Montanism grew in an atmosphere saturated ... with the apocalyptic conceptions of Judaism and Christianity" (cited in J. Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, University of Chicago Press, p. 98).
Augustine set the church on the right track in a crucial area of eschatology when he interpreted Revelation 20 figuratively, explaining that the thousand years refer to the entire new dispensation from Pentecost to the time shortly before the second coming of Christ. The apostle John "used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of this world, employing the number of perfection to mark the fullness of time." According to Augustine, the reign of the saints with Christ during the thousand years must be understood "of the time of His (Christ's) first coming." "His saints (are) even now reigning with Him." This was Augustine's interpretation of the thousand years of Revelation 20 because Augustine understood that the church is the kingdom of Christ: "The church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him" (Augustine, The City of God, 20.7-9).
Augustine gave a severe blow to millennialism, or chiliasm. Millennialism may be described as the false doctrine that interprets the thousand years of Revelation literally as a period of time in the future, before the end of all things, during which Christ will establish a carnal kingdom of earthly power, peace, and prosperity in this world. Only in recent times has the wound that Augustine inflicted on millennialism been healed, so that there is a resurgence of millennialism both in the form of premillennialism and in the form of postmillennialism.
Millennialists in the Middle Ages were few. They
were mostly found in fantastical sects that either remained within
the church, where godly discipline had become a dead letter, or
that broke with the church. One intriguing millen-nialist was
Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202). Joachim divided history into three
periods corresponding to the three persons of the Trinity. He
called these periods "dynasties." The first was the
age of the Father, stretching from Adam to the first coming of
Jesus Christ, five thousand years according to Joachim. The second
was the age of the Son. This lasted one thousand years from the
first coming of Christ to approximately the time of Joachim's
own life. The third would be the age of the Spirit. Joachim expected
this age momentarily. This period would be the literal fulfillment
of the thousand years of Revelation and a "golden age."
The mysteries of Holy Scripture point us to three orders (states, or conditions) of the world: to the first, in which we were under the Law; to the second, in which we are under grace; to the third, which we already imminently expect, and in which we shall be under a yet more abundant grace . The first condition is therefore that of perception, the second that of partially perfected wisdom, the third, the fullness of knowledge. The first condition is in the bondage of slaves, the second in the bondage of sons, the third in liberty. The first in fear, the second in faith, the third in love. The first in the condition of thralls, the second of freemen, the third of friends. The first of boys, the second of men, the third of the aged. The first stands in the light of the stars, the second in the light of the dawn, the third in the brightness of day . The first condition is related to the Father, the second to the Son, the third to the Holy Spirit (cited in J. Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, Harper & Row, pp. 204, 205).
In the Middle Ages, a departing church seriously corrupted the truths of eschatology. A highly developed doctrine of purgatory took hold in the church. The father of this monstrous lie was Gregory the Great, who became pope at Rome in 590. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent made purgatory a dogma in 1546. John Scotus Erigena (810-877) taught universalism, significantly "on the basis of the universality of redemption." Erigena picked up the universalism of Origen (see K. R. Hagenbach, A History of Christian Doctrines, vol. 2, T. & T. Clark, p. 404).
Especially the end of the Middle Ages was characterized by an unhealthy, morbid fascination with the end, particularly the appearing of antichrist and the final judgment. The church regarded the end with dread and terror. This was evident in the hymn, "Dies Irae" ("Day of Wrath"), in many of the paintings, which represented the people cowering in terror before the coming of Christ, and in Dante's Divine Comedy with its graphic description of the torments of hell and its equally graphic description of the hellish torments of purgatory (1265-1321). A popular reaction was that the people turned to the tender Mary. They trusted in her to deliver them from the stern judgment of her awful Son.
The church's dread of the coming of Christ and terror at the prospect of the final judgment were due to the loss of the gospel of salvation by grace alone. To face the coming of Christ for judgment depending on one's own works and worth is terrifying. With hell as the certain outcome, there is nothing more terrifying. The false gospel of salvation by the will and works of man destroyed biblical eschatology.
The Reformation brought eschatology back under the sway of the gospel of grace, so that the believer's state at death and the coming of Christ, including the final judgment, are objects of hope, not of terror. The truths of the last things are a comfort to believers. This comes out clearly in the confessions of the Reformation. The Heidelberg Catechism assures those who believe the gospel that their death will not be "a satisfaction for our sins" (as the dogma of purgatory threatens), "but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life" (Question and Answer 42). In Question and Answer 52, the Heidelberg Catechism presents the anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ for judgment as comfort for the believer: "What comfort is it to thee that 'Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead'?" Similar is the view of the last judgment in Article 37 of the Belgic Confession: "We expect that great day with a most ardent desire." Such an attitude toward the coming of Christ was unheard of in the Middle Ages, as it is unheard of in the Roman Catholic Church today.
Affirming the great verities of eschatology and bringing escha-tology under the dominion of grace, the Reformation did much. But the Reformation did very little to develop the doctrine of escha-tology. The Reformation's benign neglect of eschatology is indicated by the fact that neither Luther nor Calvin wrote a commentary on Revelation.
The Reformers did reject the doctrine of purgatory,
which is an essential element of the theory and practice of indulgences,
the outworking of the doctrine that justification is partly by
man's own works. In a fine, vivid phrase, the Lutheran Smalcald
Articles (1537) denounced purgatory as belonging to the "brood
of vermin and the poison of manifold idolatries" brought
forth by the "dragon's tail."
Purgatory and all the pomp, services, and business transactions associated with it are to be regarded as nothing else than illusions of the devil, for purgatory, too, is contrary to the fundamental article that Christ alone, and not the work of man, can help souls (Smalcald Articles, Part II, Art. 2, in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, tr. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert, Fortress Press, pp. 294, 295).
The millennialism of the Anabaptist movement at the time of the Reformation provided the occasion for the Reformation to go on record as rejecting a literal interpretation of the thousand years of Revelation 20, a carnal kingdom of God in the future before the end, and any and every notion of a future "golden age" in history, during which the saints shall have earthly dominion.
Timothy George describes the strange millennial views
and practices of the Anabaptists.
Hans Hut, a sometime disciple of Thomas Muntzer, predicted that Christ would return to earth on Pentecost Sunday, 1528. He set about to gather the 144,000 elect saints (Rev. 7:4) whom he "sealed" by baptizing them on the forehead with the sign of the cross. He was dead by 1528. Hut's charred body (he had set fire to his prison cell in a futile effort to escape) was condemned posthumously. His movement soon splintered, although his apocalyptic message was taken up by other prophets, such as Melchior Hofmann who set a different date (1534) and place (Strasbourg) for the second coming-with similar results. Although both Hut and Hofmann counseled their followers to wield only the "sheathed sword," that is to absorb violence but not to inflict it, their drastic predictions and scathing invective against emperor, pope, and "bloodsucking anti-Christian Lutheran and Zwinglian preachers" created an atmosphere in which the overtly revolutionary kingdom of Munster could flourish. Through Hofmann's evangelizing efforts, Anabaptism came to the Netherlands. In 1530 he baptized around three hundred converts in the city of Emden and also commissioned lay preachers to carry his message into nearly every corner of the Low Countries. Convinced that he was the Elijah whom Jesus had said would prepare the way for His coming again, Hofmann returned to Strasbourg, had himself committed to prison where he awaited the Parousia (second coming of Christ-DJE). He remained in prison until his death some ten years later, pathetically hoping to the end for the descent of the New Jerusalem (T. George, Theology of the Reformers, Broadman Press, pp. 256, 257).
In the providence of God, this rampaging millennialism
compelled the Reformation to declare itself against every form
of millennialism, postmillennialism as well as premillennialism,
and in the process to identify itself unmistakably as amillennial.
This it did in the writings of Luther and Calvin and in all its
creeds, but most clearly and fully in chapter 11 of the Second
Helvetic Confession (1566):
And from heaven the same Christ will return in judgment, when wickedness will then be at its greatest in the world and when the Antichrist, having corrupted true religion, will fill up all things with superstition and impiety and will cruelly lay waste the Church with bloodshed and flames (Dan., ch. 11). But Christ will come again to claim his own, and by his coming to destroy the Antichrist, and to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31) . We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different (Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century, ed. Arthur C. Cochrane, Westminster Press, pp. 245, 246).
Sadness is a big part of earthly life. Countless circumstances and experiences make us sad. At times it seems we are not only passing through a valley of the shadow of death, but actually living in such a valley. As Moses puts it in Psalm 90, our days are characterized by labor and sorrow, by iniquities and sins, by death and dying. Life is a vale of tears.
But life for the child of God should not be an unhappy and joyless experience. It ought not be, and need not be, a dismal journey to the end. We can and should be cheerful. We can and should rejoice.
The desire for happiness is natural. No one enjoys being downcast and gloomy. For that reason the believer prays, in the words of Psalm 90:14, "that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." It is our desire to be always joyful. To be cheerful regardless of the circumstances of life. To be able to rejoice even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death. We desire a joy that is not lost in such a valley. We seek a joy of heart that nothing can take from us.
The reason for this desire is that countless things in life either could or do make us sorrowful.
The elderly are often sad. They experience the effects of aging. Many of them face a constant struggle with sickness and aches and pains. The body is much weaker than it used to be. Because of all these things the approach of death is very real. Real, too, as the elderly attend many funerals of those of their own generation. And often the elderly are greatly troubled by their sins. They sorrow and often weep.
Widows and widowers are often downcast and sad. Extremely difficult is the emptiness of their lives and the resulting loneliness. There is no one to talk to, no one with whom to go places and do things, no one with whom to share the concerns and struggles of life. They are all alone. Widows and widowers often weep.
Parents are at times discouraged and sorrowful, too. They seek, by the grace of God, diligently to train their children in the fear of God. They educate them in a Christian school, bring them to church, and send them to catechism. They pray for their children. And yet some depart altogether from the faith. Others rebel and are a constant challenge and struggle. Parents have many reasons for sorrow. Parents often weep.
Young people and children can be cheerless, too. We might be inclined to think otherwise, for they, for the most part, appear to be always laughing and having a good time. They seem to be void of worry and concern. They seem able to retain a cheerful smile and a positive outlook regardless of what happens. But children and young people can also be disheartened. They lose their youthful brightness because of lack of friends, or because of rejection by a specific (boy or girl) friend. They face daily struggles with temptations and sin. They are confronted by weighty decisions which at times make life unsettled. They are often discouraged and despondent. Having heavy hearts, they too weep.
Thus every child of God, at one time or another in his life, says with the psalmist, "My soul is sore vexed . I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief" (Ps. 6:3-7).
The reason for all of life's sorrow is sin. Sin is the root cause of all misery. When Adam fell into sin, all these things entered the world. Sin means life is characterized by labor, sorrow, and death (Ps. 90:1-10).
As we daily sin against God and against each other, misery follows in our wake. We make ourselves miserable. We make those we claim to love miserable. And the judgments of God come upon us - we are plagued with guilt, or we must live with the dreadful consequences of our evils. This, more than anything else, produces a heavy heart and a sad countenance.
The desire for joy, therefore, is very real for every one of us.
Yet it is not merely a desire. Happiness is also a requirement of Scripture. God commands us to be happy. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4). "Rejoice evermore!" (I Thess. 5:16). Since God requires this, it ought to be true of us. How can we be sad when God's command is, "Rejoice"? How can we be downcast when God says, "Rejoice always," that is, "Never stop rejoicing"?
Clearly implied in God's command is that it is sinful to be despondent and gloomy. It is wrong to be an unhappy Christian.
This is not to deny the difficulty of maintaining a cheerful outlook and attitude in life. Nor is this to say that it is wrong for the child of God to grieve and to shed tears on account of life's miseries. The Scriptures tell us there is "a time to weep" and "a time to mourn" (Eccl. 3:4). The shedding of tears is not in itself sin - especially not if we shed those tears, as we ought, over our sin.
But it is certainly wrong to be a Christian who is constantly gloomy. And sinful to be so, as can so often be the case, out of self pity. A believer should not be a pessimist. Even when there is just cause for sorrow, still the child of God should have joy within. And that gladness of heart should be victorious over sorrow and ought to be evident in one's life.
But how can we have this joy?
The key to true Christian joy is the mercy of God. In writing Psalm 90, Moses realized this and therefore asked for it. He did not ask for other things, but prayed, "O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days" (Ps. 90:14).
In taking this prayer on our lips, we also make this our request. We do not ask for riches or success. We do not ask for a trouble-free life. We do not ask God to remove all afflictions and all that has the potential of producing misery and sadness. We do not ask God to bring a halt to all labor and sorrow, or to end the process of death and dying. We ask for one thing - mercy!
Mercy is God's pity on His people. He sees them in their miseries and has compassion on them. He is kind to them and shows that by rescuing His people from their misery. He does that even though we don't deserve His kindness or have any claim to it. He does that at great cost to Himself, namely, the price of the life and blood of His own Son.
The misery from which God delivers us is the misery of sin. That means that the very heart of God's mercy is that He forgives our sins. He freely pardons them. He blots them out of His sight, casting them away from Himself. He then views us, in Christ, as those who are clean. He sees us as those who are spiritually beautiful.
This mercy of God can alone make us happy in life.
We will not find true joy in anything earthly, as we might imagine. We sometimes think to ourselves, "If only I could be healthy, or free from family troubles or debt, then I could rejoice!" The youth imagine, "If only I had someone to date, or were married and had children, or had plenty money, then I would be happy!" But none of these things satisfy or make one truly blessed and joyful. Through such things one might receive a few fleeting moments of earthly joy, but never a lasting joy of heart.
Do you want to be happy? Always? All the days of your life? Even when surrounded by sorrow and sin and death? Then you need God's mercy!
The reason mercy is the source of true delight is that when we have God's mercy we have God Himself. Having God's mercy we know we belong to Him in Christ. Then we know that God is not against us, but for us. Then we know that all the labor and sorrow and dying that fills up our days are not punishments of God, but work our salvation. God has turned away His wrath from us through Jesus Christ. He gives us all things in love. We can rejoice that God is our God, our Rock, our Help, our Tower of Defense, our Savior. We can have true Christian joy.
The joy of the Christian is not, therefore, a shallow and superficial happiness in things. It is joy within. It is the cheerfulness of heart by which the believer says, "I am forgiven!" It is the delight that arises from knowing and confessing, "God has been gracious to me as one of His children. I therefore exult in God and in His Son through whom I am pardoned. And I know that whatever God does to me is right, for it is done in mercy. Regardless of the circumstances of life, I have quietness and calmness of soul. Remembrance of God's mercy upholds me and carries me through. I am able then to rejoice always in the Lord."
We who are God's people can be happy. Not if we try to find happiness in things. Not if our happiness depends upon earthly circumstances. But only if it has its source in the truth that God is merciful to us in His Son and thus also in all that He sends. Then we can be joyful in this life as no one else possibly can be.
And remember, we live in the hope of the fullness of joy that will be ours when God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Then there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, and no more pain. Looking forward to that, we rejoice already with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Are you happy? Do you desire to be? Then daily ask for and meditate upon the mercy of God.
Green Eye of the Storm, by John Rendle Short. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998. Pp. ii-294. $19.99 (paper). [Reviewed by Herman C. Hanko.]
This well-known author from Australia has defended the creation narrative in
by describing the "controversy
between science and Christianity" in the lives of Arthur
Rendle Short (1880-1953), Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888), George
John Romanes (1848-1894), and the author. The lives of these four
men roughly correspond to the development of evolutionary thought
from 1750 to the present.
Philip Henry Gosse
Philip Gosse was a self-taught biologist who acquired a reputation for extensive knowledge in the field of biology. He was personally acquainted with Charles Darwin, had talked with him about his views, but was somewhat troubled by Darwin's harsh views of genetic mutations, transferal of mutations to offspring, and survival of the fittest. He attempted to soften the effect of Darwin's views by writing a book with the strange title Omphalos, which is the Latin word for navel. In this book he also took issue with Lyle's theory of uniformitarianism which was, in his judgment, the foundation of all evolutionary theory.
While Gosse attempted to defend creation from science, he did, toward the end of his life, make his final court of appeal the Scriptures.
After his death, his son Edmund wrote a cruel biography
which ruined his father's reputation.
George John Romanes
George Romanes was born into wealth, went mostly uneducated, but later in life turned to science. He was heavily influenced by Darwinism and also met Darwin personally. He was, in fact, so intimate with Darwin that he was Darwin's anointed successor.
Romanes, after Darwin's death, was converted from Darwinism over a very long period of time, being troubled mainly by Darwin's atheism.
In connection with the life story of Romanes, the
author makes an interesting observation concerning the explanation
of Darwin's influence on "a wide variety of disciplines and
professions in all countries and on all cultures from 1859 to
Not because of the scientific excellence of his theory. It has had to be revised more than once. The reason, I suggest, is because the theory destroyed the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, and especially the very foundation of the gospel in the first chapters of Genesis. And above all because Darwinism abolished the need for God and the Christian verities. Thus certainty was swept away. Nothing on the earth or in the sky could be guaranteed any more; everything was in a melting pot. Reality was nowhere to be found.
Arthur Rendle Short
Arthur Short was the father of the author, an Assembly of God minister and a medical doctor. He accepted Lyle's uniformitarianism, Darwin's evolutionism, and Scripture and became a theistic evolutionist. He was heavily influenced by the notion that Christ was a great moral teacher.
In the course of time, Arthur Short came to see that
the real battle was between evolutionism (in whatever form it
came) and the infallibility of Scripture. Sad to say, he never
resolved the problem in his own mind and heart.
John Rendle Short
In this concluding section John Short gives us the details of his own struggle. He was an evolutionist in his student days, but entered a long and bitter struggle as he gradually turned from evolution-istic theory to the creationism of Scripture. This struggle he describes in detail in this book.
Several aspects of this emergence as a creationist are interesting and enlightening. John Short suggests that the radical changes in culture from pre-World War II days to the present are due to almost universal acceptance of evolutionism.
In the biography of his father, John Short expresses his own opinion that any form of evolutionism (including, presumably, the Framework Hypothesis) is only another form of higher criticism. He castigates the Hodges and Warfield for making concessions to the doctrine of evolutionism.
For the author, the obstacles of theistic evolutionists were always especially three in number: 1) God's pronouncement of "good" on all that He had made - a pronouncement totally incompatible with a creation "red in tooth and claw" and in which was death; 2) man's fall and death upon the human race and the creation; 3) the creation of Eve. The author came to the conclusion that a commitment to theistic evolutionism would not enable him to accept as literal these three teachings of Genesis 1 and 2.
The book makes for some fascinating reading, even though it is not entirely clear why the three men whose biographies are included should have such an honored place in his book.
If one criticism could be leveled against the book, it is that the author does not emphasize with sufficient force that the Scriptures are so completely our rule of faith, also in the matter of creation, that the doctrine of creation does not (and ultimately cannot) depend upon scientific evidence or the ability to answer scientifically all the notions of scientists, it rests on faith alone. The battle between us who believe in the truth of God's Word in Genesis 1 and 2 and those who have adopted some form of evolutionism, particularly theistic evolutionism, is a spiritual battle between faith and unbelief, and must never be construed as a battle over the scientific evidence supporting the one position or the other. The same is true of the Framework Hypothesis.
Yet, in an important footnote
the author shows us his willingness to take his stand on Scripture.
He quotes with approval the author Dr. Werner Gitt in a book entitled,
Did God Use Evolution?
The basic principle of creation is that any understanding of the original creation can only be obtained through a biblical "temper of mind" [from a biblical viewpoint, the author]. Biblical revelation is the key to understanding the world. The Bible is the basic, irreplaceable source of information. It is a fact of creation that we may not extrapolate the currently valid natural laws into the six days of creation (a major concession to Lyle's uniformitarianism, but a crucial concession which any theistic evolutionist has to make, HH). Our present experiences do not allow us to really evaluate something that has just been created. Example: All adults were children. But Adam could not have been created as a baby, he was a grown man. He never was a child, and it does not make sense to extrapolate a number of years into his life, just because our present experiences require that every adult should have been a child. Similarly all the stars were immediately visible in spite of immense distances. Trees were not made as seedlings; they were fully grown and complete. Neither did birds hatch from their eggs and eventually grow up. The old question of "which was first - the hen or the egg?" has a clear and unambiguous biblical answer.
To that, any child of God committed to the doctrine of scriptural infallibility will answer with a resounding, Amen.
On Thursday, January 17, Rev. C. Terpstra, a member of our churches' Domestic Mission Committee, along with Rev. G. Eriks, pastor of the Loveland, CO PRC, the calling church for our mission activities in Spokane, WA, made their annual visit to the mission field. Not only did they inquire about the needs of Missionary Rev. T. Miersma and his family, but they also met with the families in the group and got a feel for the work there and how the Lord is using our churches to bring the "Good News" of the gospel to that part of the United States.
Delegates from the Southwest PRC in Grandville, MI, including their pastor, Rev. R. Cammenga, two elders, and one deacon, along with Rev. J. Slopsema and an elder from our churches' Domestic Mission Committee, traveled to our churches' mission field in Pittsburgh, PA from January 10-14. Plans called for the men to conduct family visitation with the members in Pittsburgh and to hold meetings with our missionary, Rev. J. Mahtani, and the Steering Committee. While there, Revs. Cammenga and Slopsema were also privileged to preach for the saints in the Pittsburgh Mission.
The Domestic Mission Committee of our churches sponsored a Mission Conference at the Southwest PRC in Grandville, MI on January 8. Our home missionaries, Revs. Mahtani and Miersma, and representatives of our calling churches were present. The subject chosen for this conference was "Missionary Concerns," and the idea was that our missionaries would together choose the issues that they wished to see addressed, and that they would also introduce the subjects at the conference.
Rev. R. Moore, a foreign missionary to Ghana since 1999, has announced his plans for emeritation this summer. He has already received approval from the council of his calling church, the Hull, IA PRC, and they in turn will forward that request to this year's synod through Classis West. This request was made for two reasons, the age of Rev. Moore and the continuing effects of his malaria.
Rev. J. Mahtani was able to preach the Word to the
congregation of the Grace Presbyterian (USA) Church in Landham,
MD on January 20.
The events of September 11 in this country continue
to have far-reaching effects on us all, the church included. I
noticed this in a recent bulletin from the congregation of the
Lynden, WA PRC. After the attacks in September it became
very difficult for citizens of this country and Canada to cross
the border without facing long delays. This proved to be a problem
for the Canadian members of Lynden PRC who faced long lines twice
on the Lord's Day. So Lynden changed the time of their second
service to 2:00 P.M. to eliminate one trip across the border.
But the consistory recently announced that, due to the easing
up of border traffic, there no longer seemed to be a problem with
long lines, and on Sunday, January 6, they went back to the time
of 7:00 P.M. for their second service.
We pass along our congratulations to the members
of the First Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore, who celebrated
their 20th anniversary
as a congregation on January 26. This celebration included a display
of the three periods of their history: 1) from Bible Class to
church institution; 2) from post institution to new building;
and 3) post new church building activities. There was a dinner
and a program of thankfulness for what our great God has done
in preserving them these past years.
The Hope Foundation of the Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI is once again sponsoring a travelogue series. The first of these films was held January 19 at the Grandville Middle School and featured "Yugoslavia, a Touch of History."
The students of Heritage Christian High School in
South Holland, IL were able to enjoy an interim period between
their two semesters this year. One of the courses offered was
taught by Rev. A. Brummel, on Practical Theology, while another
was a course dealing with prayer, taught by Prof. H. Hanko. We
can add here that, although the week-long class that Prof. Hanko
taught was not open to the public, anyone interested in the subject
was invited to the South Holland, IL PRC on January 11 to hear
the professor speak on the subject of prayer by way of a lecture
entitled "Problems in Prayer."
The Lynden, WA PRC has extended a call to Rev. R.
Cammenga to serve as their next pastor. (Rev. R. Cammenga has
since declined this call.) The Byron Center, MI PRC was to
call a pastor on January 27, from a trio consisting of the Revs.
Haak, Slopsema and Terpstra (Byron Center called Rev. C. Haak).
On Sunday, January 19, the members of the Trinity PRC in Hudsonville,
MI extended a call to Rev. A. Brummel to serve as their first
pastor (Rev. A. Brummel has since declined this call).
Young People Activities
The 2002 Young People's Convention, hosted this year by the Young People's Society of the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI, will be held August 12-16 at Epworth Forest Conference Center near Goshen in northern Indiana.
The Senior Adult Bible Society of Peace PRC expresses its Christian sympathy to our pastor, Rev. S. Houck, and his family in the death of their wife and mother,
Her earthly suffering is over. May our comfort be from God's Word: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Corinthians 1:3, 4)
Garry Eriks, Vice-Pres.
Alice Dykshorn, Secretary
The RFPA is considering the publication of a book of the shorter works of Herman Hoeksema. Anyone who has relevant materials (speeches, old pamphlets, notes, etc.) is asked to contact David Kregel, 6244 Ivanrest SW, Byron Center, MI 49315, FAX (616) 531-9241, e-mail email@example.com, or phone (616) 532-9076.
Last modified: 16-Feb-2002