East Dereham, a town with an Historic Past

I have no doubt that if you were to delve back into the history of any village, town or city you would find something of interest in its past, the town where I live, East Dereham, situated in the centre of Norfolk is no different, admittedly you have to filter myth from the truth.

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East Dereham Town Sign

Let’s begin by looking at the story behind the town sign. 

In the early years of the seventh century, Anna was king of the Angles. He had four daughters. Ethelreda, the eldest, inherited the Isle of Ely, and there she founded the great monastery and abbey. The next two sisters married and left East Anglia, while Withburga lived at Holkham. When their father died in 654, Withburga came to a small village in the middle of Norfolk – Dereham. Here she founded a small nunnery, no doubt with help from Ely. They settled down to teach and care for the people, and to build a small church. At times money was short and they had little but dry bread to eat. One night the Virgin Mary appeared to Withburga, saying ‘Send two of your women down to the stream every morning, where two does will stand to be milked’. This they did, and there was butter and cheese for all to add to their diet.

The tale of this wonder spread around, and many more of the country folk came to ask for help and advice – so much so that the Reeve of the village became jealous of Withburga’s fame. He set off with his hounds to kill, or drive away the deer, but his horse stumbled and threw him, and his neck was broken.

The years passed, Withburga died, and was buried in the churchyard until a suitable shrine could be built. When the time came to move her to her final resting place, the coffin was opened, and her body was found to be whole and uncorrupted as on the day she died. One story tells how one of the men reached and touched her cheek with his finger – whereupon the maiden saint blushed at the sacrilege!

Then came the Danish invasion. The nuns were scattered, the nunnery destroyed. But the church and shrine escaped, and when peace returned, became the parish church.

In 870 King Edgar gave to the Bishop of Winchester Ely and all the other monasteries destroyed by the Danes. He restored Ely, and at Dereham had a prison and court-house. On one visit, he suggested that Withburga, a royal princess, should lie at Ely with her three sisters, but Dereham folk did not wish to lose their saint. The next time, Ely monk:s gave a great feast to the men of Dereham and afterwards crept away, broke into the shrine, loaded the coffin onto an ox-wagon and set off for Ely. When morning came and the desecrated tomb was found, there was hot pursuit – they had almost caught up by Brandon, only to find the monks had got the coffin aboard a barge and were sailing down the river to Ely. The account in the Liber Eliensis ends with ‘and the men of Dereham ran along the bank, throwing clods of earth’. When they returned to Dereham, they found the empty tomb had filled with a spring of clear water, which they felt certain was recompense for the loss of their beloved Saint. Still pilgrims continued to come to pray, and drink the holy water, which to this day has never run dry.

Years later, at the end of the eighteenth century, a Bath-house was built over the spring, in the hope that the town would become a second Buxton nor Bath. Described as ‘a hideous building of brick and plaster’, it was never popular and about 1880 the Reverend Benjamin Armstrong got permission to pull it down. It was replaced with iron railings and for years was smothered in ivy and ferns, the water green with duck-weed. Since 1950 it has been cleared, the ivy replaced with climbing roses and rock plants, and the water kept clean.

(This account was written by Mildred M. Cook and is available  from http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living- spring/sourcearchive/fs6/fs6mmc1.htm)

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Edmund Bonner, “Bloody Bonner”

There is one aspect of Dereham’s history I am not very proud of and that is the fact that Edmund Bonner was at one time rector of the parish. This name may not mean much to many people, indeed  the people of Dereham may only be aware of it in that his cottage next to the parish church still stands and operates as a museum today.

Bishop Bonner Cottages - Dereham
Bishop Bonner Cottages – Dereham

Those who have a little understanding of Church History will know that Edmund Bonner went on to become the Bishop of London and during the reign of Queen Mary and was responsible for the martyrdom at Smithfield of over 200 people who deified the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, in his day he was became known as “Bloody Bonner”.

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William Cowper

One person who was connected to Dereham will need no introduction,  and that is the hymn-writer William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper).  Dereham is immensely proud of its connection to William Cowper, there was a Cowper Society in Dereham at one time, but today it is incorporated into The Dereham Antiquarian Society.

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Cowper Memorial Evangelical Congregational Church – East Dereham

Cowper moved to Dereham with his friend Mary Unwin and they lived in house that was situated in the town market place. The house no longer stands, it was demolished and on the site now stands the Cowper Memorial Evangelical Congregational Church, for five years I served as a member of the pastoral team, but that is another story. William Cowper was a great friend of John Newton, and together they are well known for their collection of “Olney Hymns”. The list of William Cowper’s hymns includes hymns such as “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (beginning “There is a fountain fill’d with blood”) and “Light Shining out of Darkness” (beginning “God moves in a mysterious way”) which remain some of Cowper’s most familiar verses.

Although after being institutionalised for insanity in the period 1763–65, Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity, the inspiration behind his much-loved hymns, he often experienced doubt and after a dream in 1773 believed that he was doomed to eternal damnation. Several of Cowper’s hymns, as well as others originally published in the “Olney Hymns,” are today preserved in the Sacred Harp.  Cowper died at Dereham on the 25th April 1800 at the age of 68 years he is buried in the chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury, in St. Nicholas Church, East Dereham.

East Dereham was also the birthplace of the poet George Borrow, his birthplace still stands today although it is off the beaten track and rather difficult to find. I recall in my boyhood days delivering newspapers to the house every morning for two or three years. Although born at Dereham, Borrow died on the 26th July 1881 in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

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George Borrow
george borrow's birthplace, dumpling green, dereham
George Borrow’s birthplace in Dumpling Green, Dereham
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CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER, EXCEPT THEY BE AGREED?

GOD’S JUDGEMENT ON HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE 
DUE TO THEIR SINS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
Amos 3:1-15
(A SERMON PREACHED AT HETHERSETT REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCH)
(3:1-15) INTRODUCTION:
 
The verse of scripture I have chosen for our Church motto for 2013 is the third verse of Amos chapter three. Imagine the Creator of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, choosing a human being to be His companion …… Imagine His choosing to walk and talk and share with man …… Yet this is exactly what the Lord has done for the His people. He has offered them the wonderful privilege of knowing Him personally and intimately …… of fellow-shipping and communing with Him in the closest bond imaginable.
In addition, the Lord offers them the privilege of His care, provision, protection, peace, purpose, and fulfilment—all the good and perfect gifts of life (James 1:17) …… BEING CHOSEN BY GOD IS THE GREATEST PRIVILEGE GIVEN BY THE GREAT CREATOR.
The present Scripture shows how God chose the Israelites and, sadly, how the Israelites rejected the privileges God gave them. They refused to follow the Lord and rejected His Holy Word and commandments …… Instead of obeying the Lord they chose to live selfishly and unrighteously. As a result, God pronounced judgement on His chosen people ……
In these first fifteen verses of this third chapter of Amos we see two points set before us:
1. God’s three reasons for punishing His chosen people (vv. 1-10).
2. God’s coming judgement upon His chosen people (vv. 11-15).
 
1. (3:1-10) THREE REASONS FOR PUNISHING HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE:
God summoned His chosen people to listen closely …… this is stressed in the words“Here this word that the Lord has spoken” …… Through Amos, God gave three reasons why He would punish them.
Look closely at the Scripture:
a. The Israelites ignored God’s salvation (vv. 1-2). Amos addressed this message to the entire family of Israelites, both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. By far, most of the people rejected God’s glorious salvation …… They dishonoured His Holy Name and His wonderful deliverance of the nation down through the generations …… Centuries earlier God had saved them from Egyptian bondage, a symbol of the world and its enslavements.
Among all the families of the earth, the Lord had reached down and chosen the Israelites for the high privilege and supreme honour of being His holy people.
They were chosen for two primary purposes: firstly; to be the channel through whom the Lord would send His Holy Word and the Saviour (Messiah) into the world, and secondly; to bear strong witness to the world that the Lord—He and He alone—is the living and true God
Nevertheless, the people dishonoured the privilege given them …… They did not respond by loving God, nor did they offer up thanksgiving and praise for what He had done. They refused to follow God …… Although they professed to know the Lord … they did not live for Him. They did not live righteously nor obey His holy commandments.
Their profession was false; consequently, they degraded their witness and brought shame to the Name of the Lord in the eyes of the world …… As a result, the Lord would punish the Israelites for all their sins (v. 2).
b. The Israelites did not walk with God (vv. 3-8). To the contrary, they chose to walk through life without God …… Tragically, the course chosen by the Israelites was entirely different and in the exact opposite direction from the righteous path laid out by God for the human race …… For that reason, they stood condemned and were to face the judgement of God.
Standing before the congregation, Amos used a series of rhetorical questions to stir the people to think …… The questions explained why judgement was to fall upon them …… God’s judgement was aroused because of their disobedient behaviour.
Note how these questions are an argument for cause and effect:
If the people were to suffer God’s judgement (effect)
It was because they stood guilty before God (the cause)
Quite simply the Israelites were guilty of not walking with God.
Several facts showed this to be the case:
The people did not agree with God nor follow Him (v. 3)…. Therefore the question was asked:
“CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER EXCEPT THEY BE AGREED?”
TWO PEOPLE CAN ONLY WALK TOGETHER IF THEY AGREE TO FOLLOW THE SAME PATH AND TO WALK SIDE BY SIDE. The Israelites did not agree to follow the Lord’s path of righteousness or to walk through life with the Lord …… They did not agree with His Holy Word and commandments.
The people aroused the roar of God’s judgement (the lion) and became the target of His punishment (v. 4). As verses 9-10 show, it was their sin that aroused God and caused them to become His prey.
The people fell into the trap of sin just like a bird falls into a snare; therefore, the spring of the trap—God’s judgement was to snap shut and catch them (v. 5) …… Getting out or getting away was no longer an option. However … the people did not fear the warning of God (v. 6a). When they heard the trumpet sound of God’s coming judgement  they should have trembled …….They should have immediately joined the Lord as He walked along the path of righteousness …… But they ignored and rejected the warning signs of impending doom.
The people did not know that disasters are a warning from God (v. 6b). God uses trials and trouble to arouse people either to repent and turn back to Him or, if they already know Him, to draw closer to Him ……But the Israelites rejected the idea that God would bring disaster upon them.
After all, they professed to know the Lord, and they possessed His Holy Word …… Hence, they felt eternally secure. They felt that no matter how they lived, their profession and God’s Word assured them that He would never judge them. They ignored the fact that a person who truly believes in the Lord will cast himself upon God, trusting and following Him along the path of righteousness.
True belief involves both trust and righteousness …… Since the Israelites did not walk with the Lord, they failed to know that disasters were a warning from God. The problem was that the people rejected the warnings of the prophets (v. 7). God revealed His plans (secrets) of judgement through them over and over again …… But when the prophets proclaimed the revelation of God’s coming judgement  the people rejected both the messages and the messengers …… They refused to repent, refused to turn back to God and walk with Him in righteousness.
The people stubbornly refused to fear the roar of God’s warnings (v. 8). Although the lion—God Himself—had given fair warning of coming judgement  the people refused to tremble, refused to walk with the Lord. Nevertheless, Amos shouted out that he would continue to warn the people …… The Sovereign Lord Himself had spoken, and once He had spoken, His prophet was constrained to proclaim God’s message.
THOUGHT: As we walk throughout life, we are to walk with the Lord. We are to follow the path of righteousness laid out for us by God …… Remember, Satan is out to trap us with every snare imaginable …… For this reason, we need to keep close the Lord in order to know Him better and to understand His will for us.
THOUGHT: We need to pray for wisdom to discern what God is trying to say to us through the events happening in our lives …… God loves and He will do everything in His power to draw us to Him.  That is not to say God’s power is limited or insufficient to draw us to Him …… How far from the truth! …… He has given us so many reasons to follow Him: ……. His love …… forgiveness …… deliverance …… salvation …… mercy ….. compassion …… care, and protection …… to name but a few.
But often our hearts become hardened and our ears are tuned to the world …… we think that we know best. As a result, we so often choose to walk down our own path, feeling secure in our self-righteousness, ignoring all the signals and warnings God sends our way ……. For this very reason, we must stop and pay attention to what God is saying.
If we ignore God … if we stray from God … if we reject … disobey … or fail to fear God … we too will face His righteous judgement …… Therefore, we should no longer walk in the sinful ways of this world.
 
c. The Israelites set a horrifying, evil example before the world (vv. 9-10). Their sins were so utterly shocking that Amos summoned the surrounding nations to witness the scandalous behaviour of Israel’s citizens ……
Keep in mind that Israel professed to know the Lord, the only living and true God ….. Therefore, when Israel’s behaviour differed so much from what the people professed, their neighbours were astounded.
How could a people claim to know the Lord and to possess His Holy Word, yet do the very opposite of what they professed and what the Lord’s Word commanded? In the eyes of the world, the profession of the Israelites was a sham …… They were nothing but hypocrites, far worse than the other surrounding heathen nations ……
What they saw was appalling …… a society guilty of unimaginable evil …… Unrest and turmoil permeated all of society …… turmoil within the hearts of individuals as well as within the communities and cities.
Extreme oppression was a common trait in society. …… Not only did the rich oppress the poor …… but also nearly everyone oppressed someone weaker (v. 9c). Righteousness could scarcely be found, with very few people even knowing how to do right (v. 10a).
NOTE THAT THIS WAS A CHARGE THE LORD HIMSELF MADE …… The people were ignorant of His Holy Word; therefore, they simply did not know God’s commandments nor how to go about living righteously. Citizens thought nothing of taking what did not belong to them; thus people everywhere were stealing (v. 10b) Violence, assaults, and robbery were widespread …… People hoarded their wealth and neglected the poor and needy.
THOUGHT: We must not disobey the Lord or break His holy commandments …… If we profess to know the Lord and live sinfully before the world, we dishonour and bring shame to the Name of the Lord.
Tragically, we also damage our testimony before others …… often shattering any chance we might have of ever leading unbelievers to Christ.
For these reasons and so many more, we must not follow the evil examples of this world.
2. (3:11-15) GOD’S COMING JUDGEMENT ON HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.
 
God summoned His chosen people to pay close attention: judgement was coming upon them due to their horrific sins …… LISTEN TO GOD’S HOLY WORD:
 
a. A cruel enemy, the Assyrians, would attack and overrun the land (see outline and notes—2 Kings 17:1-41 for more discussion) …… They would destroy all the defence and fortress cities of Israel (v. 11). Scripture actually says the enemy would totally devour the nation like a lion devours its prey, and Israel would cease to exist (v. 12). Only a mutilated remnant would be saved and survive the brutality of Assyria’s armed forces …… Only a few would be left to serve as proof of the Israelites’ destruction.
Yet, note the wonderful promise of God: despite His terrifying judgement  He would leave a remnant or small number of survivors through whom He could fulfil His promises. The promise of salvation through the coming Saviour and of His Holy Word would be fulfilled …… God could not and would not violate or break His holy promises (Word).
b. The nations who had been summoned earlier (Ashdod and Egypt) would testify against Israel (vv. 13-15). Then God would execute His judgement against the entire nation of Israel.
The major worship centre at Bethel—the place where so much false worship was offered up to God—would be destroyed (v. 14) …… In addition, the horns of the altar would be shattered. No longer could the guilty find sanctuary or protection by fleeing to the altar …… The people’s houses would be demolished and left in shambles, even the houses of the wealthy.
The winter and summer houses as well as the houses filled with ivory or extravagant furnishings would all be reduced to rubble …… No palace or mansion would be left standing.
THOUGHT: God’s judgement upon Israel was utterly devastating, and it was final …… Never again did the Northern Kingdom of Israel rise as a nation.
So it will be when Jesus Christ returns to execute judgement upon the earth …… All the cities and nations of this world will be brought down, ruined; …… every human being who has ever lived will stand before God in judgement ……
We will all give an account for our behaviour …… there will be no escape …… no hiding place …… our self-righteousness will be of no protection …… how devastating will it be to hear the voice of the Great Almighty declare …… “AND THEN WILL I PROFESS UNTO THEM, I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY”.……. Matthew 7:23 (KJV)
The message from God to Israel is still the same message He gives to His people today ……“CAN TWO WALK TOGETHER, EXCEPT THEY BE AGREED?”
 (Preached by Rev David G. Farrow – Pastor)

 

The Death of Thomas Bilney – Martyr of the Reformation

220px-Thomas_BilneyEach year in early September the Protestant Alliance organise a Memorial Service for Protestant Martyrs of Norwich, there were ten of them in total, all burned at the stake in the Lollard’s Pit off Riverside Road, Norwich, the site had been excavated as a chalkworks and that the time was owned by the Bishop of Norwich, a memorial marks the place of execution today. The best known of the Norwich Martyrs was Thomas Bilney who was ordained in 1519 by the Bishop of Ely to the title of St Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield. The following is an account of the execution as detailed by J.H. Merle d’Aubigné.

The Death of Thomas Bilney
Martyr of the Reformation
Burnt at the Stake at the Lollard’s Pit, Norwich
Saturday 19th August 1531.

by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné

[Thomas Bilney, ‘whose conversion had begun the Reformation in England’ was, in God’s hands, the instrument of Hugh Latimer’s conversion. The story of his life ‘in strength and weakness’, leading to his martyrdom in 1531, is eloquently recorded in The Reformation of England, volumes 1 and 2 by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné. These volumes trace the history of the Reformation from its earliest origins to the end of the reign of Henry VIII. Written in a lively evangelical spirit, they are both instructive and heart-warming. The following extract comes from volume 2.]

A few of Bilney’s friends went to Norwich to bid him farewell: among them was Matthew Parker, later archbishop of Canterbury. It was in the evening, and Bilney was taking his last meal. On the table stood some frugal fare [ale brew], and on his countenance beamed the joy that filled his soul. ‘I am surprised’, said one of his friends, ‘that you can eat so cheerfully’. — ‘I only follow the example of the husbandmen of the country’, answered Bilney, ‘who having a ruinous house to dwell in, yet bestow cost so long as they may hold it up and so do I now with this ruinous house of my body’. With these words he rose from the table, and sat down near his friends, one of whom said to him, ‘To-morrow the fire will make you feel its devouring fierceness, but the comfort of God’s Holy Spirit will cool it for your everlasting refreshing.’

Bilney, appearing to reflect upon what had been said, stretched out his hand towards the lamp that was burning on the table and placed his finger in the flame. ‘What are you doing ?’ they exclaimed. — ‘Nothing’, he replied; ‘I am only trying my flesh; to-morrow God’s rods shall burn my whole body in the fire.’ And still keeping his finger in the flame, as if he were making a curious experiment, he continued: ‘I feel that fire by God’s ordinance is naturally hot; but yet I am persuaded, by God’s Holy Word and the experience of the martyrs, that when the flames consume me, I shall not feel them. Howsoever this stubble of my body shall be wasted by it, a pain for the time is followed by joy unspeakable.’ He then withdrew his finger, the first joint of which was burnt. He added, ‘When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned.’ These words remained imprinted on the hearts of some who heard them, until the day of their death, says a chronicler.

Beyond the city gate—that known as the Bishop’s gate—was a low valley, called the Lollards’ Pit: it was surrounded by rising ground, forming a sort of amphitheatre. On Saturday, the 19th of August, a body of javelin-men came to fetch Bilney, who met them at the prison gate. One of his friends approaching and exhorting him to be firm, Bilney replied: ‘When the sailor goes on board his ship and launches out into the stormy sea, he is tossed to and fro by the waves; but the hope of reaching a peaceful haven makes him bear the danger. My voyage is beginning, but whatever storms I shall feel, my ship will soon reach the port.’

Bilney passed through the streets of Norwich in the midst of a dense crowd: his demeanour was grave, his features calm. His head had been shaved, and he wore a layman’s gown. Dr Warner, one of his friends, accompanied him; another distributed alms all along the route. The procession descended into the Lollards’ Pit, while the spectators covered the surrounding slopes. On arriving at the place of punishment, Bilney fell on his knees and prayed, and then rising up, warmly embraced the stake and kissed it. Turning his eyes towards heaven, he next repeated the Apostles’ Creed, and when he confessed the incarnation and crucifixion of the Saviour his emotion was such that even the spectators were moved. Recovering himself, he took off his gown, and ascended the pile, reciting the hundred and forty-third psalm. Thrice he repeated the second verse: ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.’ And then he added: ‘I stretch forth my hands unto thee; my soul thirsteth after thee.’

Turning towards the officers, he said: ‘Are you ready ?’ — ‘Yes’, was their reply. Bilney placed himself against the post, and held up the chain which bound him to it. His friend Warner, with eyes filled with tears, took a last farewell. Bilney smiled kindly at him and said: ‘Doctor, pasce gregem tuum [feed your flock], that when the Lord cometh He may find you so doing.’ Several monks who had given evidence against him, perceiving the emotion of the spectators, began to tremble, and whispered to the martyr: ‘These people will believe that we are the cause of your death, and will withhold their alms.’ Upon which Bilney said to them: ‘Good folks, be not angry against these men for my sake; as though they be the authors of my death, it is not they.’ He knew that his death proceeded from the will of God. The torch was applied to the pile: the fire smouldered for a few minutes, and then suddenly burning up fiercely, the martyr was heard to utter the name of Jesus several times, and sometimes the word ‘Credo’ [‘I believe’]. A strong wind which blew the flames on one side prolonged his agony; thrice they seemed to retire from him, and thrice they returned, until at length, the whole pile being kindled, he expired.

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The Protestant Martyrs of Norwich

A booklet entitled “The Protestant Martyrs of Norwich” compiled by Charles Scott-Pearson has been published by, and is available from The Protestant Alliance, 77 Ampthill Road, Flitwick, Bedford MK45 2TT. The author of this booklet has researched all the details of all ten of the Protestant Martyrs who died at Lollard’s Pit, Norwich. Full contact details for the Alliance can be found on their web site

www.protestant-alliance.org

IS ARMINIANISM A DIFFERENT GOSPEL?

The seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking can be a point of contention at times. It is not unheard of that in Reformed circles critical comments about Arminianism are met with blank stares, a degree of indifference, or even a degree of hostility. The hostility may arise as it is felt that the criticism is unjust, extreme, inaccurate, or, even if it is correct, unnecessary as despite the differences those holding to Arminian theology are still Christians.

In recent reading I came across some remarks concerning Arminianism which showed both the seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking and how it is incompatible with the Reformed faith which, after all, is the Scriptural faith. In essence, in Arminianism we have a different gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-8), a gospel which denies salvation is the complete gift of the sovereign God who graciously justifies sinners through faith alone.

Just to refresh your memory, Arminian thinking, so soundly renounced in the Canons of Dort, denies God’s sovereign eternal election unto salvation. While affirming God’s grace, Arminianism claims that God merely offers salvation and it is up to man who decides to accept or reject the gospel. One author summed up Arminian thinking as follows,”….God was made dependent on free-will-equipped-men for whom He politely had to wait, looking to see whether the man would be so kind as to believe”(1).

Though the Reformers of the early 16th Century did not have to contend with Arminianism as such, since Arminianism arose late in the 16th century and early in the 17th century, they did have to contend with its theological cousin, Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that man is spiritually sick. As such he does need the help of God’s grace in order to get better. However, it is up to man to take the spiritual medicine which God offers. God must have man’s co-operation. In theological terms this was called “synergism”. You can see the similarity to the Arminian position. The Reformers responded to this by stressing the sovereign grace of God, as heard in the cry “Sola gratia”. God calls those dead in sin to new life (see Eph. 2:1-10). The Reformers stressed the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace. This was a point of unity between the Reformers despite differences about other issues. (2) In the Book “The Bondage of the Will” this was the point that Luther argued with Erasmus.

We should note then that Arminianism is a reincarnation of Semi-Pelagianism with its emphasis on man’s freedom. This explains why the churches acted so resolutely with respect to Arminianism. They saw it as a serious threat to the gospel and condemned it “as being in principle a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into ameritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought). Arminianism was,indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as unchristian and anti-Christian as the other.”(3)

The Reformed faith thus teaches the helplessness of man in salvation. Arminianism, in typical Semi-Pelagian style, teaches self-help religion. It is sovereign God versus sovereign man. It is indeed the different gospel which Paul warned about. It is appealing because it extols the dignity of man. It is a lie because man is dead in sin, totally helpless.

While the aforementioned points show the seriousness of the Arminian teaching and how it stands in contrast to true Reformation theology, to what extent is it found today? One author stated that”Arminianism … has had American evangelicalism in a stranglehold since the days of Charles Finney.”(4) Charles Finney (1792-1875) was a revivalist preacher who was very influential with his revival techniques. Another author states that 86 percent of American evangelicals hold to the Arminian position as comes out in their agreement with the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” (5)This comes out very clearly in the writings of the well known Billy Graham who has even written a religious self-help manual titled “How To be Born Again” in which the various steps to salvation are clearly spelled out..(6)

The apostle Paul fought with great vigour against the”different gospel”. In that gospel they will speak of Christ and use words like grace, election, faith, regeneration, etc. Yet, it is not the gospel of sovereign grace received through faith but of grace received on the ground of one’s faith. The earlier mentioned reference linking Rome and Arminianism is worth drawing to your attention again.Actually,there is a common denominator in all false religion in that it ascribes ability and free will to man by which he can effect his own salvation if he so wishes. It displays the arrogance of sinful man,even more so when he dresses lies with words of the gospel. That makes the enemy all the more difficult to detect as he works in his subtle way. We can all the more understand Paul’s warning about Satan disguising himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

Personally I don’t enjoy having to harp on the point of the Arminian danger. I fear, however, that it is necessary because it is not realized how serious and extensive a threat it is. The true church glories in the gospel of sovereign grace where God rescues dead sinners and grants them the righteousness of Christ through faith. Let me conclude quoting in full Paul’s words in Gal. 1:6-9,

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”.

1. K. Schilder, Extra-Scriptural Binding – A New Danger (In American Secession Theologians on Covenant and Baptism & Extra-Scriptural Binding). (Neerlandia: Inheritance Publications, 1996. p. 131.)

2. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, “Historical and Theological Introduction,” in Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Cambridge: James Clarke/Westwood, N.J.:Revell,1957, pp. 57-58)

3. Ibid. p. 59

4. R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) p.180

5. M. Horton, In the Face of God. (Word Publishing, 1996) AppendixCURE (Christians United for Reformation).

6. To give just two examples, Graham writes “The context of John 3 teaches that the new birth is something that God does for man when man is willing to yield to God”, and “He gives the Holy Spirit to draw you to the cross, but even after all this, it is your decision whether to accept God’s free pardon or to continue in your lost condition.” (B. Graham, How To Be Born Again. Originally published 1977. Quoted from the 1989 edition by Word Publishers, pages 150, 162)

(This article was penned by Rev. E. Kampen and downloaded from Spindle Works.com)

 

Amillennial Eschatology

A Brief Sketch of Amillennial Eschatology

A common criticism of amillennial eschatology is that it is too negative, spending its strength primarily in opposing and refuting eschatological systems with which it does not agree. Leaving aside the question of whether this criticism is true or false, I would like at this point to counteract the negativism of some amillennial eschatologies by sketching briefly some positive affirmations made by amillennialist theologians. In this way we shall be able to see amillennial eschatology in its totality, rather than just as a certain interpretation of the millennium of Revelation 20.

This sketch will cover two areas: first, what amillennial eschatology teaches with regard to inaugurated eschatology, and, second, what it teaches with reference to future eschatology. By inaugurated eschatology I mean that aspect of eschatology which is already present now, during the gospel era. The term inaugurated eschatology is preferred torealized eschatology because, while the former term does full justice to the fact that the great eschatological incision into history has already been made, it does not rule out a further development and final consummation of eschatology in the future. When we speak of “inaugurated eschatology” we are saying that for the New Testament believer significant eschatological events have already begun to happen while other eschatological occurrences still lie in the future.

As regards inaugurated eschatology, then, amillennialism affirms the following:

1. Christ has won the decisive victory over sin, death and Satan. By living a sinless life and by dying on the cross as the sacrifice of atonement for our sin, Christ defeated sin. By undergoing death and then victoriously rising from the grave, Christ defeated death. By resisting the devil’s temptations, by perfectly obeying God, and by his death and resurrection, Christ delivered a deathblow to Satan and his evil hosts. This victory of Christ’s was decisive and final. The most important day in history, therefore, is not the Second Coming of Christ which is still future but the first coming which lies in the past. Because of the victory of Christ, the ultimate issues of history have already been decided. It is now only a question of time until that victory is brought to its final consummation.

2. The kingdom of God is both present and future. Amillennialists do not believe that the kingdom of God is primarily a Jewish kingdom which involves the literal restoration of the throne of David. Nor do they believe that because of the unbelief of the Jews of his day Christ postponed the establishment of the kingdom to the time of his future earthly millennial reign. Amillennialists believe that the kingdom of God was founded by Christ at the time of his sojourn on earth, is operative in history now and is destined to be revealed in its fullness in the life to come. They understand the kingdom of God to be the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to redeem God’s people from sin and from demonic powers, and finally to establish the new heavens and the new earth. The kingdom of God means nothing less than the reign of God in Christ over his entire created universe.

The kingdom of God is therefore both a present reality and a future hope. Jesus clearly taught that the kingdom was already present during his earthly ministry: “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12:28, NIV). When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, he replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, `Lo, here it is!’ or `There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk. 17:20-21). But Jesus also taught that there was a sense in which the kingdom of God was still future, both in specific sayings (Mt. 7:21-23; 8:11-12) and in eschatological parables (such as those of the Marriage Feast, the Tares, the Talents, the Wise and Foolish Virgins). Paul also makes statements describing the kingdom as both present (Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:19-20; Col. 1:13-14) and future (1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; 2 Tim. 4:18).

The fact that the kingdom of God is present in one sense and future in another implies that we who are the subjects of that kingdom live in a kind of tension between the “already” and the “not yet.” We are already in the kingdom, and yet we look forward to the full manifestation of that kingdom; we already share its blessings, and yet we await its total victory. Because the exact time when Christ will return is not known, the church must live with a sense of urgency, realizing that the end of history may be very near. At the same time, however, the church must continue to plan and work for a future on this present earth which may still last a long time.

Meanwhile, the kingdom of God demands of us all total commitment to Christ and his cause. We must see all of life and all of reality in the light of the goal of the redemption not just of individuals but of the entire universe. This implies, as Abraham Kuyper, the renowned Dutch theologian and statesman, once said, that there is not a thumb-breadth of the universe about which Christ does not say, “It is mine.”

This total commitment further implies a Christian philosophy of history: All of history must be seen as the working out of God’s eternal purpose. This kingdom vision includes a Christian philosophy of culture: Art and science, reflecting as they do the glory of God, are to be pursued for his praise. The vision of the kingdom also includes a Christian view of vocation: All callings are from God, and all that we do in everyday life is to be done to God’s praise, whether this be study, teaching, preaching, business, industry or housework.

A common source of tension among evangelicals today is the question of whether the church should be primarily concerned with evangelism or social and political action. A proper kingdom vision, it seems to me, will help us to keep our balance on this question. Needless to say, evangelism — bringing people into the kingdom of God — is one of the essential tasks of the church. But since the kingdom of God demands total commitment, the church must also be vitally concerned about the implementation of Christian principles in every area of life, including the political and the social. Evangelism and social concern, therefore, must never be thought of as options between which Christians may make a choice; both are essential to full-orbed kingdom obedience.

3. Though the last day is still future, we are in the last days now.

This aspect of eschatology, which is often neglected in evangelical circles, is an essential part of the New Testament message. When I say, “we are in the last days now,” I understand the expression “the last days” not merely as referring to the time just before Christ’s return, but as a description of the entire era between Christ’s first and second comings. New Testament writers were conscious of the fact that they were already living in the last days at the time they were speaking or writing. This was specifically stated by Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost when he quoted Joel’s prophecy about the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh in the last days (Acts 2:16-17). He was thus saying in effect, “We are now in the last days predicted by the prophet Joel.” Paul made the same point when he described believers of his day as those “upon whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). And the Apostle John told his readers that they were already living in “the last hour” (1 Jn. 2:18). In the light of these New Testament teachings, we may indeed speak of an inaugurated eschatology, while remembering that the Bible also speaks of a final consummation of eschatological events in what John commonly calls “the last day” (Jn. 6:39-40, 44,54; 11:24; 12:48).

The fact that we are living in the last days now implies that we are already tasting the beginnings of eschatological blessings—that, as Paul says, we already have “the first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23). This means that we who are believers are to see ourselves not as impotent sinners who are helpless in the face of temptation but as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and as those who have decisively crucified the flesh (Gal. 5:24), put off the old self and put on the new (Col. 3:9-10). All this involves having an image of ourselves which is primarily positive rather than negative. It also involves seeing fellow Christians as those who are in Christ with us and for whom we should therefore thank God.1

4. As far as the thousand years of Revelation 20 are concerned, we are in the millennium now. Earlier in the chapter evidence was given for the position that the thousand years of Revelation 20 extend from the first coming of Christ to just before his Second Coming, when Satan will be loosed for a short time. The amillennial position on the thousand years of Revelation 20 implies that Christians who are now living are enjoying the benefits of this millennium since Satan has been bound for the duration of this period. As we saw, the fact that Satan is now bound does not mean that he is not active in the world today but that during this period he cannot deceive the nations — that is, cannot prevent the spread of the gospel. The binding of Satan during this era, in other words, makes missions and evangelism possible. This fact should certainly be a source of encouragement to the church on earth.

Amillennialists also teach that during this same thousand-year period the souls of believers who have died are now living and reigning with Christ in heaven while they await the resurrection of the body. Their state is therefore a state of blessedness and happiness, though their joy will not be complete until their bodies have been raised. This teaching should certainly bring comfort to those whose dear ones have died in the Lord.

As regards future eschatology, amillennialism affirms the following:

1. The “signs of the times” have both present and future relevance. Amillennialists believe that the return of Christ will be preceded by certain signs: for example, the preaching of the gospel to all the nations, the conversion of the fullness of Israel, the great apostasy, the great tribulation and the coming of the Antichrist. These signs, however, must not be thought of as referring exclusively to the time just preceding Christ’s return. They have been present in some sense from the very beginning of the Christian era2 and are present now.’3 This means that we must always be ready for the Lord’s return and that we may never in our thoughts push the return of Christ off into the far-distant future.

Amillennialists also believe, however, that these “signs of the times” will have a climactic final fulfillment just before Christ returns. This fulfillment will not take the form of phenomena which are totally new but will rather be an intensification of signs which have been present all along.

2. The Second Coming of Christ will be a single event. Amillennialists find no scriptural basis for the dispensationalist division of the Second Coming into two phases (sometimes called the parousia and the revelation), with a seven-year period in between. We understand Christ’s return as being a single event.

3. At the time of Christ’s return, there will be a general resurrection, both of believers and unbelievers. Amillennialists reject the common premillennial teaching that the resurrection of believers and that of unbelievers will be separated by a thousand years. They also reject the view of many dispensationalists that there will be as many as three or four resurrections (since, in addition to the two resurrections just mentioned, dispensationalists also teach that there will be a resurrection of tribulation saints and a resurrection of believers who died during the millennium). We see no scriptural evidence for such multiple resurrections.4

4. After the resurrection, believers who are then still alive shall suddenly be transformed and glorified. The basis for this teaching is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (NIV).

5. The “rapture” of all believers now takes place. Believers who have just been raised from the dead, together with living believers who have just been transformed, are now caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). That there will be such a “rapture” the Bible clearly teaches. But I have put the word rapture between quotation marks in order to distinguish the amillennial conception of the rapture from the dispensationalist view. Dispensationalists teach that after the rapture the entire church will be taken up to heaven for a period of seven years while those still on earth are undergoing the great tribulation.

Amillennialists see no scriptural evidence for such a seven-year period or for a transference of the church from earth to heaven during that period. Risen and glorified bodies of believers do not belong in heaven but on the earth. The word translated “to meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (apantesis) is a technical term used in the days of the New Testament to describe a public welcome given by a city to a visiting dignitary. People would ordinarily leave the city to meet the distinguished visitor and then go back with him into the city.5 On the basis of the analogy conveyed by this word, all Paul is saying here is that raised and transformed believers are caught up in the clouds to meet the descending Lord, implying that after this meeting they will go back with him to the earth.

6. Now follows the final judgment. Whereas dispensationalists commonly teach that there will be at least three separate judgments, amillennialists do not agree. The latter see scriptural evidence for only one Day of Judgment which will occur at the time of Christ’s return. All men must then appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

The purpose of the final judgment is not primarily to determine the final destiny of men since by that time that final destiny has already been determined for all men except those still living at the time of Christ’s return. Rather, the judgment will have a threefold purpose: First, it will reveal the glorification of God in the final destiny assigned to each person; second, it will indicate finally and publicly the great antithesis of history between the people of God and the enemies of God; and third, it will reveal the degree of reward or the degree of punishment which each shall receive.

7. After the judgment the final state is ushered in. Unbelievers and all those who have rejected Christ shall spend eternity in hell, whereas believers will enter into everlasting glory on the new earth. The concept of the new earth is so important for biblical eschatology that we should give it more than a passing thought. Many Christians think of themselves as spending eternity in some ethereal heaven while the Bible plainly teaches us that there will be a new earth. When the book of Revelation tells us that the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down from heaven to the new earth (21:2), that God will now have his dwelling with men (21:3) and that the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the new Jerusalem (22:3), it is teaching us in figurative language that in the life to come heaven and earth will no longer be separated but will have merged. In the final state, therefore, glorified believers will be both in heaven and on the new earth, since the two shall then be one.

When one keeps the vision of the new earth clearly in mind, many biblical teachings begin to form a significant pattern. As we have seen, the resurrection of the body calls for a new earth. The cosmic significance of the work of Christ implies that the curse which came upon creation because of man’s sin (Gen. 3:17-19) shall some day be removed (Rom. 8:19-22); this renewal of creation means that there will indeed be a new earth. The Bible also contains specific promises about the new earth. We have already looked at Isaiah’s prediction of the new earth in 65:17 (see 66:22). Jesus promised that the meek shall inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5). Peter speaks of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell (2 Pet. 3:13). And the elders and living creatures whom John sees in the heavenly vision recorded in Revelation 5 sing a song of praise to the victorious Lamb which includes these words, “You have made them [those whom you purchased with your blood] to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10, NIV).6

In the light of biblical teaching about the new earth, many Old Testament prophecies about the land of Canaan and about the future of the people of God fall into place. From the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews we learn that Canaan was a type of the Sabbath-rest of the people of God in the life to come. From Paul’s letter to the Galatians we learn that all those who are in Christ are included in the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:29). When we read Genesis 17:8 (“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” [ASV]) with this understanding of the New Testament broadening of these concepts, we see in it a promise of the new earth as the everlasting possession of all the people of God, not just of the physical descendants of Abraham. And when, in the light of this New Testament teaching, we now read Amos 9:15 (“And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which 1 have given them, saith Jehovah thy God” [ASV]), we do not feel compelled to restrict the meaning of these words to national Israel and the land of Palestine. We understand them to be a prediction of the eternal dwelling of all God’s people, Gentiles as well as Jews, on the new earth of which Canaan was a type. Amillennialists therefore feel no need for positing an earthly millennium to provide for the fulfillment of prophecies of this sort; they see such prophecies as pointing to the glorious eternal future which awaits all the people of God.

When premillennialists therefore charge amillennialists with teaching a future kingdom which is only spiritual and which has nothing to do with the earth, they are not representing the amillennial view correctly. Amillennialists believe that Old Testament prophecies which predict that the land of promise shall be the everlasting possession of the people of God, that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and that the earth shall be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, shall be fulfilled not just for a thousand-year period but for all eternity! This interpretation, we believe, gives us a richer, wider and more relevant understanding of those prophecies than that which restricts their meaning to a description of an earthly millennium which shall precede the final state.

Some Implications of Amillennial Eschatology

What, in conclusion, are some of the implications of amillennial eschatology for our theological understanding? Let me mention four of them:

1. What binds the Old and New Testaments together is the unity of the covenant of grace. Amillennialists do not believe that sacred history is to be divided into a series of distinct and disparate dispensations but see a single covenant of grace running through all of that history. This covenant of grace is still in effect today and will culminate in the eternal dwelling together of God and his redeemed people on the new earth.

2. The kingdom of God is central in human history. That kingdom was predicted and prepared for in Old Testament times, was established on earth by Jesus Christ, was extended and expanded both in New Testament times and during the subsequent history of the church, and will finally be consummated in the life to come.

3. Jesus Christ is the Lord of history. This means that all of history is under Christ’s control and will ultimately prove to have been subservient to his purpose. We must therefore be concerned not just with enjoying the blessings of our salvation but also with joyfully serving Christ as Lord in every area of our lives.

4. All of history is moving toward a goal: the total redemption of the universe. History is not meaningless but meaningful. Though we are not always able to discern the meaning of each historical event, we know what the ultimate outcome of history will be. We eagerly look forward to the new earth as part of a renewed universe in which God’s good creation will realize finally and totally the purpose for which he called it into existence: the glorification of his name.

All this implies that regarding world history, amillennialists adopt a position of sober or realistic optimism. Belief in the present rule of Christ, in the presence of God’s kingdom and in the movement of history toward its goal is accompanied by a realistic recognition of the presence of sin in this world and of the growing development of the kingdom of evil. Amillennial eschatology looks for a culmination of apostasy and tribulation in the final emergence of a personal Antichrist before Christ comes again. Amillennialists do not expect to see the perfect society realized during this present age.

Yet, since we know that the victory of Christ over evil was decisive and that Christ is now on the throne, the dominant mood of amillennial eschatology is optimism — Christian optimism. This means that we view no world crisis as totally beyond help and no social trend as absolutely irreversible. It means that we live in hope — a hope that is built on faith and that expresses itself in love.

Amillennial eschatology, therefore, gives us a realistic, yet basically optimistic world-and-life view. It is an eschatology which is exciting, exhilarating and challenging. It is an eschatology which gives us an inspiring vision of the Lordship of Christ over history and of the ultimate triumph of his kingdom.

By Anthony Hoekema

Anthony A. Hoekema was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the United States in 1923. He attended Calvin College (A.B.), the University of Michigan (M.A.), Calvin Theological seminary (Th.B.) and Princeton Theological seminary (Th.D., 1953). After serving as minister of several Christian Reformed Churches (1944-56) he became Associate Professor Bible at Calvin College (1956-58). From 1958 to 1979, when he retired, he was Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Professor Hoekema spent two sabbatical years in Cambridge, England (1965-66, 1973-74) and has written The Four Major Cults (1963), What about Tongue-Speaking? (1966), Holy Spirit Baptism (1972), The Bible and the Future (1979) and was a contributor to The Meaning of the Millennium from which these are articles were taken (1977).


LETTER TO AN ARMINIAN WHO ACCUSED US OF FOLLOWING THE ‘WRITINGS OF A MAN’ – EVEN JOHN CALVIN.

LETTER TO AN ARMINIAN WHO ACCUSED US OF FOLLOWING THE ‘WRITINGS OF A MAN’ – EVEN JOHN CALVIN.

Dear Jim,
Once again please forgive my late response. I trust that all is well with you and your family. I realize that our friendship has reached an ‘uneasy level’ where we are NOT in agreement. But sir, trust me if this was a MINOR issue where we could ‘agree to disagree’ I would be more than willing do that. But this is an issue concerning the ‘crux of the matter’ as far as the ‘gospel’ is concerned and I must remain faithful to the message which God has delivered to me concerning His absolute sovereignty.

I would start by reminding you, that it was NOT CALVIN who said – “I lay down My life for THE SHEEP”! [John 10:11] Again it wasn’t Calvin who said, “No man CAN COME to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me DRAW HIM”! [John :44] Neither said he – “AS MANY as were ORDAINED to eternal life believed”! [Acts 13:48] 

Now I want to make it very clear that we use the term “Calvinism” ONLY FOR IDENTIFICATION, and are NOT IN AGREEMENT with all that Calvin taught. That Calvin contributed a lot to the system that bares his name we do not deny. But even though we may quote a few things from the works of Calvin, our appeal is NOT TO CALVIN OR ANY CONFESSIONS OR CREEDS OF THE CHURCHES, BUT TO THE LAW AND TESTIMONY OF JEHOVAH.

Historically speaking, the so-called “Doctrines of Grace” – which go by the nickname of Calvinism – did not originate with Calvin. They are the result of a Synod held in Dort, Holland in 1618/19, after Calvin was long dead. Those of us who hold to Reformed Theology do so not because we are attempting to replicate the theology or ecclesiology of a mere MAN – John Calvin, but because we are convinced that the Biblical arguments and the conclusions stemming from that Synod are valid and our OWN EXEGESIS AND EXPERIENCE CONFIRMS THE FIVE POINTS.

If it could be proven that John Calvin was indeed a murderous wretch, an ‘Infant baptizer’ or whatever, still it would have no effect on the theology that sprung from the pen of the Reformers. In other words, the “guilt by association” tactic has no teeth!

If John Calvin believed what the Spirit of God has taught us in our personal study of God’s Word and our experience in our preaching ministry, then good for him! But it means NOTHING TO US! 

We be persuaded that the Spirit of God would have by and by taught us these glorious truths WHETHER THERE WAS A CALVIN OR NOT! 

No infant comes into the world knowing everything, but learns as he grows! Even so a truly born again child of God may have many misconceptions concerning the nature and method of his salvation at first, but if he is saved at all, then the Spirit will by and by teach him what He means when He says that “It is NOT of him that WILLETH, nor of him that RUNNETH, but OF GOD that showeth mercy”! [Rom 9:16] 

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day”! [Prov 4:18] 

Whatever glorifies God 100%, THAT is what is right! 

The doctrines of grace which we hold gives God ALL THE GLORY and puts man where He belongs, i.e. IN THE DUST!

“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake”! [Psalm 115:1]

You are either an Arminian or a Calvinist! You either believe that Salvation is ALL OF GOD, or you believe that it is partly of God and partly of man! 

There is NO MIDDLE GROUND!

Those who pretend that they are neither Arminians nor “Calvinists” are in reality hypocrites! They suppose that they are neutral! But in matters pertaining to the doctrines of Soteriology (salvation) there are NO NEUTRALS! 

NOBODY IS NEUTRAL! EVERYBODY HAS A BIAS FOR OR AGAINST! You’re either a capitalist or a communist. You’re either a conservative or a liberal–a rightist or a leftist–right or wrong! Nothing short of right is right. There is no such thing as neutrality on anything. Even a battery has only two poles, positive and negative, and you cannot get them together without fireworks! No battery has neutral poles: You’re either alive or dead, hot or cold! 

Oh, the neutral is always so fair! “I can see BOTH sides.” The Liar! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BOTH SIDES! Only ONE side can be right and only ONE side can be wrong, so in claiming to be neutral and pretending to see right and wrong on both sides, the neutral puts himself above everybody. He is the most righteous of all. He can see how everybody’s a little bit wrong but him and he is the only one right–the only one who really sees the truth, which he claims is somewhere in-between, which makes him the worst liar and most treacherous enemy of all! As Jesus said “He that is not for Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.” [Matt 12;30] 

You either believe fallen man is totally depraved and CANNOT come to God of his own ‘free-will’ or you don’t! [John 6;44]

You either believe God has elected a CERTAIN NUMBER and sovereignly ordained them to eternal life or you don’t! [Acts 13:48]

You either believe that Christ laid down His life FOR THE SHEEP and them alone, as he said He did, or you don’t! [John 10:15]

You either believe that the Holy Spirit DRAWS God’s chosen by an IRRESISTIBLE POWER or you don’t! [Jer 31:3]
And finally you either believe Christ saves FULLY AND FINALLY those whom He died for unto the end or you don’t! [Heb 7:25]

There is no MIDDLE GROUND HERE! 

I know what have written might sound harsh and ‘un-loving’, but “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the TRUTH”?! [Gal 4:16]. “FAITHFUL are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”. [Prov 27:6]

If you choose to believe that fallen, depraved man has a ‘free-will’ to either accept or reject Christ, and that the spiritually dead man can respond to God’s call anytime HE chooses, you are free to do so. But I believe that if you are TRULY SAVED by the Spirit of God and have ‘the root of the matter in you’ [Job 19:28] then God will sooner or later open your eyes to the truth of that word – “it is not of him that WILLETH, nor of him that RUNNETH, but OF GOD that sheweth mercy”!! [Rom 9:16]. 

Dear Jim, to further dialogue and debate this issue would be a waste of time for both of us. I am sure you realize this by now. But please know that I shall be praying for you that God will be pleased to open your eyes to the truth of His absolute sovereignty and show you that our God is STILL the Absolute Sovereign who has ‘mercy on WHOM HE WILL and hardens WHOM HE WILL and NONE can say unto Him “what doest Thou”?! [Daniel 4:35]

Love
Mike!

(Posted by Michael Jeshurun on Facebook on 16th July 2013 – http://michaeljeshurun.wordpress.com/)

The Knowledge of God

ImageIf we desire to understand God then we need to understand the character of God …… then not only does the gospel make sense …… but the doctrines of Scripture … of Christ …. And everything else fall into place. The problem is that there are many who attend church and sit under the ministry of the word …… they look interested …… they nod in agreement at the right time …… they give the impression that they have all the wisdom required to understand the character of God …… yet really they know little or nothing at all. While many study the person of God …… they are formulating a false view of Him altogether …… Indeed, last time we considered some of the false teaching concerning the matter of Justification by Faith Alone.

When we consider the matter of the Knowledge of God the same problems with false teaching arise …… Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in the doctrines of “OPENNESS THEOLOGY”. At its core, “OPENNESS THEOLOGY “teaches that while God knows the past and the present, HE DOES NOT KNOW THE FUTURE! …… He cannot know the future because the future has not occurred. They say that God could only know the future if He had predestined it …… but God couldn’t have predestined the future, for then people’s lives would be predestined and they would not be free personal agents in the final sense of the word.

Furthermore they teach that since God created man as a free personal being …… God cannot know the future, because man hasn’t chosen it yet. This kind of doctrine in nothing more than Arminianism gone mad …… for while Arminianism does strip God of His absolute sovereignty it at least admits that God foresees all things.

These false teachings that have invaded the church are, as one man has suggested, like a bus travelling along the motorway at 90 miles an hour with no driver at the controls …… There is no clear purpose or direction for the bus …… it has no destination …… where it is going is an anomaly. Tragically those who follow such teachings of God will in time go from worshipping a God who is not sovereign to one who has no clue about what is going to happen …… They will not be worshipping the God of the Bible … but deity (if we may call him that) who is more like Greek mythology than Biblical Christianity.

Listen to God

How then do we set about unravelling true Christianity …… Well it is imperative that instead of following the teachings of man’s imaginations …… we listen to God himself …… we must let the Lord tell us who He is and what He is like.

We must ask ourselves …… “Does God’s Word instruct us that He is ignorant of the future?” …… “Does the Bible show us a God who learns as He goes’ along?” …… The problem is that some scriptures appear to be saying those very things.

The Old Testament several times declares that God repented of something He had done …… This would certainly imply that the Lord had learned by His mistakes and changed His mind.

Take for instance Genesis Chapter 6 the human race had become apostate …… verse 7 gives God’s response to the situation “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them”. Is this a picture of a God who had great expectations of His creatures only to be disappointed and wished He had never created them in the first place?

In Genesis 6 (and other places) the Bible presents God as learning and changing His mind in order to communicate the infinite God to finite creatures. Therefore the Bible sometimes speaks analogically when it depicts God changing His course of action based on something in the creatures.

The Bible communicates in this way to contrast God’s holiness, righteousness and justice with man’s wickedness and sin …… God is presented as though He is finding out about man’s sin and then issuing judgement because this is the only way we can grasp the urgency for us to cast ourselves upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Also in Jonah 4:2 where God repents of the Judgement He promised to bring on the wicked Ninevites if they did not change their wicked ways …… The moment they repented God, Himself turned His wrath away and did not judge them. Was God then waiting with baited breath to see what the Ninevites would do? …… The answer is “No” in that the eternal God is infinite and not limited, as are His finite creatures. Unlike us … God depends on no one …… Furthermore, He knows how we will respond before we do so.

Exodus 32:12 provides another example of God changing His mind about intended action …… In the light of the Lord’s declaration that He would wipe the recalcitrant Israelites, Moses prays, “Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people”. … As a result, the Lord responded to Moses’ plea and did not destroy His people.

What then are we to make of God’s changing His mind? …… In one sense, the Lord allowed Moses to intercede for Israel to shows man’s need of an intercessor and a mediator …… In this sense, Moses is a type of Christ. But this in no way means that God did not know that Moses would intercede …… On the contrary, God predestined these things so that He could teach us about Christ’s mediation for us.

This then is the way that God has deigned to deal with His people …… but it in no way indicates that God actually learns as He goes along …… Rather it shows us how He works with us in time, but says nothing of how the Lord views things from the perspective of eternity.

God Knows All About Us.

We must refrain from regarding God as weak and limited like us …… He is not impotent …… rather He is omnipotent for God is greater than the universe …… Nor is He bound like His creatures …… His only limitation (if it could be called so) is His being consistent with who He is …… God cannot be other than God.

It is a fact that mainstream theologians have always taught that God is omniscient …… He knows the past, present and future …… There is nothing that God does not know, and he never forgets anything. It is impossible for God to learn anything …… nor does He make up things as He goes along …… You and I may do …… but God never does …… God knows everything there is know about us ……

The Psalmist states: “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether”. (139:2-4) Sitting down and rising up is a figure of speech which speaks of our whole life …… Every moment we live … every step we take … every decision we make are all known by God …… He knows every single detail of our lives …… In fact God knows us better than we know ourselves.

We can go further than that …… God knows what we are going to say before we say it …… How many of us can say that? …… Sometimes we open our mouths and talk before we think not knowing how it will affect others …… Unlike us, God knows everything we will say long before we speak it.

Not only does God know all about us …… we can conceal nothing from Him, for He even knows what we think …… Try as we might we cannot hide our thoughts from Him …… In Ezekiel 11:5 God says: “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them”. God knows what you are thinking at this very moment …… He knows every single thought that flits through your mind …… and that is a very sobering thought in itself.

But wasn’t that the point Jesus was making when He said that refraining from actually committing adultery wasn’t enough …… The very fact that you do it in your mind is a sin against God worthy of eternal condemnation. From one perspective it may seem rather scary that God knows so much about us …… But from another point of view it is altogether comforting …… Despite all the bad things He knows about us, God has chosen us for His people and He has set His love upon us. The amazing thing is that God knew everything about us before He betrothed us to Himself and He still chose us for His own …… There is no deeper love than that.

As repugnant as we were to Him, God chose to reach down and befriend us …… Therefore because of God’s unmerited and unconditional love, we can pray as did the Psalmist: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. (139:23-24)

God Knows the Future

Not only does God know the past and the present, and everything about us …… He also knows the future …… In fact His knowledge of the future is as complete as His knowledge of the past and present. If something could happen apart from God’s knowledge, the event would be independent of Him, and God would no longer be supreme …..

Not only that, but Scriptural prophecy would be exactly what liberals have said all along ……They claim it is not the foretelling of the events, but the mere recognition of events after the fact, written as if they were prophesied in advance …… Such a view of prophecy renders Scripture highly deceptive …… Even worse, it depicts God as nothing more than a celestial super salesperson that, by sleight of hand, appears to be what He is not. We may be certain that Scripture is not deceptive and that God’s knowledge of the future is no abstract knowledge …… rather it is tightly connected with His eternal purpose.

If, as Ephesians 1:11 says: “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will”. …… we can rest assured that God knows what He has predestined.

Now the very concept of predestination is that of determining beforehand what will occur …… This is precisely what God has done …… from all eternity. The Bible is filled with hundreds of prophecies, which God foretold because He had predestined them and therefore knew beforehand that they would become true.

For example, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ was foretold in Isaiah 7:14 … as was the place of His birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) …… Jesus Death on the cross and resurrection from the dead were also foretold hundreds of years before He lived (Psalm 22, Psalm 16, Isaiah 53) …… Even Judas’ betrayal was prophesied (Psalm 41:9).

If the events prophesied about Jesus’ first coming occurred as they were foretold, we may be sure that His second coming will happen according to the Biblical prediction …… Jesus will return.

As the disciples were watching Jesus ascend to heaven two men dressed in white clothing said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”. …… The apostles all looked forward to that great day …… the return of the Lord Jesus Christ just as they has seen Him go.

The bible also gives us views of what heaven will be like as far as those who have responded to the call of God on their lives are concerned …… However, we are not in heaven …… we only hope for it.

We are living here on earth, taking one step at a time …… We don’t know whether we’ll live to see tomorrow …… from our perspective life is one surprise after another …… when we think things have settled down, along comes something else to upset the situation.

We may not know the future …… but we want to know someone who does …… Such is the God of the Bible …… He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He has predestined all things and knows every event of history …… He has every hair on your head counted and not even a sparrow falls to the ground unknown to Him.

Not only that, but God who knows all things, past, present and future has planned then all for our ultimate good …… How can we not bow down and worship such a God as this.