Category Archives: Postmillennialism

RePost: The best way to defend soteriological Calvinism?

I had objections to the doctrine of predestination but, eventually, these were overcome. What happened is R. C. Sproul’s original (black hair, turtleneck, plaid pants) lectures on “The Holiness of God”powerfully reintroduced me to my own depravity and guilt. The new understanding of my depravity broke down my objections to facing the passages that talk of our need for God’s invincible grace. The new understanding of my guilt broke down my objections to facing the passages that spoke of God’s sovereign rights to have mercy on whom he chooses.

From that point on, I was sure that all objections to decreetal calvinism stemmed from an underestimation of our depravity and our guilt in comparison to God’s holiness.

But what if there are Arminians who are not concerned about such issues?

What if they simply want the cross of Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation in the Gospel to be as deeply revelatory of God’s nature as anything else in Scripture?

It was Athanasius, I think, who said we learned something more essential about God when we named him “Father” from the revelation of His Son, Jesus, than when we named him “Uncreate” from the revelation we find in creation. The point was that creation was God’s volition but that begetting the Son, and being begotten of the Father were eternal relations. God could have chosen not to create and would have been no less God, but he could never fail to beget the Son. Knowing the Son is the Son and the Father is the Father is a grasp of God’s essence much more than knowledge of God as Creator.

And here is the problem. Salvation is supposed to be a revelation of God. It can’t be given equal weight with the trinitarian relationships, of course; if God could choose whether or not to create then the cross could also be chosen or not. But, within creation and the revelation therein both special and general, when we compare the wrath of God to the love of God, wrath looks like it is more fundamental and more revelatory of God’s character.

Think about it. What do we know about God’s character? What must be true about God beyond any possible contingency? The answer is: God must inflict penal suffering on sin. What is fundamental about God is that he punishes. That he is loving and merciful is true, but it could just as easily not be in regard to sinful human beings.

From one angle, this all makes perfect sense. Mercy can’t be obligated, of course. But when it comes to understanding God’s fundamental nature, what it can sound like is that it would make no difference to who God is if he were to damn all creation. He would still be a holy and righteous God. (Come to think of it, inasmuch as Sproul’s lectures were intended to make the listener open to TULIP, the entire project was theological: to relativize love and make it subordinate to holiness. God can decide to be forgiving but fundamentally he must establish separation, control, perfectionism, and punishment.)

Every time a Calvinist tries to get an Arminian to see things differently, he might well be saying something that sounds quite different to the Arminian than what he intends. I have assured and do assure people every time the issue comes up that we should not be amazed that sinners are reprobate but instead should be amazed and thankful that any sinners will ever be saved. Soteriologically and legally this is fine. Theologically it sounds like we have no real revelation of God’s character in his salvation of sinners. The fundamental reality is wrath and the contingency is sometimes that wrath gets put on Jesus instead of the sinner. And this rhetorical gap only widens as we talk about who amazing it is that God saves, how suprising and how strange. Are the doctrines of grace a revelation of or an exception to God’s essence?

I have known of professing Christians who struggle with assurance for no apparant reason. I’m beginning to wonder if this is not a sort of existential or metaphysical angst. Yes there is grace and salvation but the bedrock character of God is punitive justice. Wrath is the fundamental metaphysic. And I think we see other problems cropping up in the Christian life, though if someone wishes to simply deny this, I have no argument to make. Recall Jack Miller’s query as to whether believers who affirm that God loves them are willing to concede that God likes them? Is our presentation of God’s love for sinners something like Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice? Does God confess that he loves us in spite of his better judgment and even against his character? Do we give that impression? Would it be good news if we did? Yet it is hard to know how we can affirm slavation as a gratuitous gift without risking sounding like this. Obviously God wasn’t obligated to forgive anyone. Nevertheless, there is tension present in affirming this. It sounds like we don’t know God and this may be the reason why the particularism of Calvinism is resisted.

Is it possible much promotion of calvinism is designed to distract listeners/readers from this problem? Of course, the distraction involves truths about God’s holiness, our sin, and God ability to save. No one is trying to be distracting. But when we find people resisting, maybe it is not because they want to believe they are less depraved than they really are or that God is less capable of salvation. Maybe they want to believe that God is love–that the giving up of his Son is just as revelatory of God’s character as anything else.

So what to do?

First off, I think we should beat Arminians to the punch in bringing up this objection. Let’s admit to it and face it.

Secondly, let’s say that, as powerful as such considerations are, exegesis still trumps our feelings. Of course, by that I don’t mean that our feelings are wrong. On the contrary, it is obvious from reading the Bible that God wants us to have those feelings. Rather, the point is that those feelings must somehow be compatible to what the Bible teaches about predestination and salvation. Even if everything doesn’t fit together as neatly in our minds, it still remains true that the Bible teaches God’s ultimate plan for all things, total depravity, unconditional election (nothing foreseen is the basis for it), limited atonement (God’s motive for sending Jesus was personal), invincible grace, and the preseverence of the eternally elect.

Thirdly, lets emphasize The Free Offer of the Gospel and Common Grace. Here John MacArthur’s excellent comments are a helpful corrective to a lot of hypercalvinism is a great help. But there is a lot of great stuff out there including John Piper, Robert Dabney, and, of course, John Calvin. A couple of things are important here:

  1. Creational Grace The difference between monotheism and everything else–atheism, pantheism, deism, or polytheism–is that the latter means that one can and should have ultimate grattitude and ultimate trust. Reality is not the product of chance, whether impersonal forces or competing personal agents, but a gift of grace. The awful truth of sin and reprobation is found in the fact that people have refused to given thanks and refused to trust (Romans 1.18ff). The background and presupposition of depravity is God’s initiating love.

    We believe that man was created pure and perfect in the image of God, and that by his own guilt he fell from the grace which he received, and is thus alienated from God, the fountain of justice and of all good, so that his nature is totally corrupt. And being blinded in mind, and depraved in heart, he has lost all integrity, and there is no good in him (Gallican Confession, Article IX).

    Everytime we tell of sin we have a chance to tell people of the goodness and love of God that we have and continually deny and distrust. This doesn’t answer every possible question one might have but it does reinforce the metaphysical reality that God is the giving God (James 1.5)

  2. The offer of mercy and grace is sincerely given to all who here it. Even in affirming that the resistance to God’s kindness will lead to perdition Paul does not hesitate to affirm that God’s kindness is intended to bring us to repentance (Romans 2.4, 5). We need to teach God’s decree but not allow it to be used to portray God as either insincere or stingy.

This won’t solve every issue, but it will help us all remember that an ontology of love is something that wrath must somehow fit into rather than love being an inexplicable raft on a sea of fire.

Fourth, lets remember the danger of relying on the printed word to persuade people of the truths of predestinaton and monergistic salvation. When people hear new doctrines (new to them) they have nothing but their imaginations to guess how these new principles would alter their lives. It is much better to introduce people to new communities where people can see that these truths are embodied in love. Otherwise, many may reject the doctrines of grace thinking that, in order to be in the image of God, they must be selective in their love. And worse, some who do embrace these teachings may miscalculate and become the charicatures we all want to avoid. (Think of John MacArthur’s words in the article linked above: “I am troubled by the tendency of some-often young people newly infatuated with Reformed doctrine-who insist that God cannot possibly love those who never repent and believe. I encounter that view, it seems, with increasing frequency.”)

Fifth and finally, when one sees photographs of people who lived their lives in the American frontier wilderness, one often sees people hardened by the elements. And, in our literature and moveies we often see those who survive scoffing at the “tenderfoots” and “soft” Easterners who pass by on trains. Let us not grow hard because we have mistakenly been thinking of reality as hostile, and if we have grown hard, lets not rationalize this by mocking Christians who seem more concerned about portraying a God who is generous than one who is the ultimate cause of all things. One shouldn’t have to choose between those options but if one does, it is not at all clear that one is superior to the other.

Growth test for churches

The American Spectator : Thriving Christianity.

If you have ever been a pastor in a really small town, you will know what I am talking about.

You can be in a tiny town and see churches that haven’t really grown in years. They service a few families and that is it.

And then the suburbs grow to encompass the town and everything changes. New stores. New gas stations. New traffic lights. And of course the real challenge: new people.

And so many churches start to grow. New people, new children in Sunday school, new officers, new Bible studies and outreach projects, new building programs eventually.

But sometimes a church remains the same in the midst of all this growth. Same people and same families. Same size.

For awhile.

Because if it doesn’t grow eventually the more productive people who aren’t directly tied to the main family (and there always is one) will decide they want a more open community.

And as the church remains the same and then shrinks, there will be a flurry of sociological and theological rationalizations. We are a loving community but others don’t want commitment. We are theologically astute but they are all Arminian or liberal or don’t recognize that our unused copy of an ancient creedal statement was the pinnacle of human history and doctrinal development.

And amillennialism will also help. God loves a remnant for its own sake, not as a seed for growth.

This happens in small towns (when there is economic growth, anyway) all the time. The church becomes older, grayer, and not any wiser.

But what is true of churches in small towns will also prove true of ingrown denominations on planet Earth. The growth of Christianity means some entire communions will sink into oblivion with no one but some church historian who is later searching for an excuse for a PhD dissertation to document the groups decline for postmillennialism to amillennialism.

RePost: John 3.16–Whom Does God Love?

Us calvinists occasionally get in debates about John 3.16. “Does God love everyone in the world?” some ask. And we get painful explanations about how “world” (kosmos) means world of the elect.

Well, I as strange as it may sound, I don’t think John 3.16 really refers to the whole world.

I think it refers to reprobate Israelites.

First of all, when the Gospel of John uses the term “world” we know it, at least sometimes, does not mean the whole world.

My most obvious example: John 15.18-16.4a:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

So “the world,” here, are those who have witnessed Jesus’ miracles and witness, who have the Law of the Old Testament, who will cast the disciples out of synagogues, and who persecute in the name of God, not of Caesar or Diana of the Ephesians.

The world is the establishment of First-Century Judaism.

What about John 3.16? In context, is there any reason to think that Jesus is still speaking to Nicodemus? Despite the red-letters in many passages, we know John starts commenting without warning.  This reads to me like one of those instances.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

John is summarizing what happened, looking back on the outcome after the years have passed. Jesus came to bring salvation to Israel and Israel chose judgment.

John 3.16, then, would be pretty much the same message as Jeremiah 13.11:

For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

The whole point of John 3.16 is the tragedy of rejecting the Son. It isn’t dealing with the secret decrees of God but of His sincere offer, motivated by a love that sent His Son.

On the day of judgment, God’s not going to accept the claim from the reprobate, “You never loved me, anyway.” And I don’t want to hear any of them add, “At least that’s what I learned from internet calvinists.”

Related Posts:

For Further Reading:

Postscript: Is there a verse that says God so love the world (as we know it)?

Yes! Of course there is. It is found in Genesis 12.3:

Now YHWH said to Abram,

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
And I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,
and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Abraham wasn’t chosen at the expense of the world but for the sake of the world! The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, identifies God’s message to Abraham as the Gospel itself:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Thus, postmillennialism is extremely important to the Gospel!

Your mission field includes your mouth, hands, and feet

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

So you work outward from your point of origin to the end of the world, taking dominion.

Or is it that simple?

Maybe there was another element of Adam’s and Eve’s commission. Consider the language that James uses:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

I have quoted all of chapter 3 because I want to point out that the reference to wisdom is important and rooted in Proverbs. But for now look at the references to animal domestication. Dominion over the body is described as the ability to “bridle.” And then dominion over speech is described as being “tamed” and compared to taming animals. Adam’s charge to rule the animals applies to his own body. Here is a similar concept from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Again, the quest to take control of the world translates into a quest to take control of one’s own body as a part of that larger quest. In fact, the more literal reading would be “I pummel my body and make it my slave.” That is a pretty violent way to take dominion.

But that is part of what wisdom is about. The Commandments tell you what kind of speech is sinful, but Wisdom tells you it is best to train your mouth to be quiet. They are about going beyond simply a list of what it right and what is wrong and cultivating a kind of disciplined character.

The Great Commission includes in discipleship: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Any time you teach your children or any other Christians what God commands, you are participating in the Great Commission. Any time you read the Bible yourself you are teaching yourself more about what Jesus has commanded. Your job is not just to witness to others; your job is to witness to your hands and feet.

The Bible aims at a glorious city. But to help build that city your own body needs to become a better ordered civilization.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Proverbs 16.32).

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25.28).

You already know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (First Corinthians 6.19). You can think of your habits of work and speech as your construction project. God has made you a king with a grander commission than Solomon’s mandate for mere gold, cedar, and stones. Build wisely and create your tower or be complacent and build a ruin:

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13.3).

Whoever keeps [i.e. guards; perhaps even “bridles”] his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21.23).

So when the Proverbs exhort you to diligence in work, they haven’t failed if you don’t build wealth or extend your dominion in an obvious public way. If you master yourself, God will glory in your work and will say “Well done.”

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied (Proverbs 13.4).

The New Testament authors exhorted their readers to be diligent–and it wasn’t about becoming wealthy. I’ve already quoted the apostle Paul, so here is Peter from his second epistle:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do you want to change the world? Then change yourself. Do I think you have to wait until you are perfect? Of course not. But I do think that God will give you opportunities to master if he sees that you are mastering yourself. He who is faithful over a little will be set over much (Matthew 25.21). And even if he does not, you are still better off.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
than a rich man who is crooked in his ways (Proverbs 28.6).

Series guide: The Future of Jesus

The Future of Jesus 1

The Future of Jesus, 2: Few to be saved throughout (future) human history?

The Future of Jesus, 3: Are there earthly blessings to be expected in the future?

The Future of Jesus, 4: Will He Make a Difference in the World?

The Future of Jesus 5: So if Jesus Rules Why Isn’t Life Better?

The Future of Jesus 6: To three thousand-PLUS generations

The Future of Jesus 7: The Feast of Booze

The Future of Jesus 8: When is Jesus King of Kings?

The Future of Jesus 9: Who inherits the Land/Earth?


Mark 4.30-32 and the growth of the Kingdom

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, and when it is sown, it grows a magic invisible plant and becomes larger than all the garden plants but puts out large invisible branches, so that the birds of the air fly right by it without noticing.

And it produces no shade.

(Or if you prefer the truth: Mark 4.30-32)

The Future of Jesus 8: When is Jesus King of Kings?

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I’m not sure if this belongs in “eschatology” or not (except in Vos’ sense).  But here goes. I’ll go ahead and put this in the same series as the other “Future of Jesus” entries.

There are a lot of disagreements about how the book of Revelation should be interpreted.  My point is not to rehearse them.  My point is that they don’t matter as far as the question of Jesus’ kingdom is concerned.  Revelation as a letter comes from

Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth (Revelation 1.5).

Jesus is not becoming king at some point in the future. To be more pointed, he is not becoming the king of all nations on earth at some point in the future.  He already is. The book of Revelation presupposes he already holds that office.  It doesn’t predict it will happen because it already has.

This does indicate that maybe Revelation, at least at some points, is recapitulating the past rather than predicting the future.  In Revelation 11, for example, we read, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”  This indicates that, in the vision of chapter 11 at least, the vision is providing an explanation of the past, how Jesus came to be “the ruler of the kings on earth.”

But even if some other explanation can be found, the fact remains that Revelation is a letter dictated to the Apostle John by someone who is already “the ruler of the kings on earth.” Period. End.

So, to be clear: every single human being on earth, whether Muslim, Secularist, Buddhist, Jew, or Christian, lives under a global Christocracy.  And since the incarnation is real, this is also a global theocracy. Nothing needs to become anything to bring this about. It already happened. It is history. To bring this series full circle, it is the basis for the Great Commission.

So the future of Jesus is dependent on the past of Jesus: he has already been installed as the king of the universe.  What next?

Does Jesus simply want these kings under his rule to be oblivious to his authority. Does he want to rule them with the kind of judgments and plagues we read about in Revelation, without any opportunity to actually acknowledge his lordship? Or does he want them to be discipled?

Again, we’re back at the beginning: Jesus wants them discipled.

The Future of Jesus 7: The Feast of Booze

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It is not really the feast of booze; it is the feast of booths. It was a week-long feast when people made booths or tents to live in around the sanctuary. It was Old Testament Bible camp.

But it is easy to get confused not only when you say it out loud but when you read about it:

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

“Whatever your appetite craves” is worth a bit of contemplation, but this is all beside the point.  So I will now get to it.  The feast of booths is the last of three feasts.  Here they are in Deuteronomy 16:

“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose, to make his name dwell there. 3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. 5 You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, 6 but at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. 8 For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God. You shall do no work on it.

9 “You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. 11 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

13 “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

What does this have to do with the future of Jesus?  We should expect the Feast of Booths to relate to the future of Jesus because Passover and Pentecost are about the past of Jesus.  Jesus was crucified during the Week of Unleavend Bread and was dead during Passover.  Then he gave the Spirit on Pentecost.  Notice the relationship: first no leaven is allowed and then leavened bread is offered to God as a sign of new life (Leviticus 23.16, 17).

So we have moved from Passover in the death and resurrection of Jesus, through Pentecost in which the Spirit is given to the Church.

What are we moving toward?

The Feast of Booths also happens to be the time when seventy bulls are sacrificed leading to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 29). Seventy bulls stand for seventy nations. The week commemorated God’s plan to gather in the whole world to his feast.

Jesus loves you and your Christian family but he did not die and rise again to have you in his private party. He died and rose again not only for you but also for the whole world.  He wants everyone to come to his table and he will eventually ensure that the whole world is present at his feast.

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Too bad Randy Alcorn hasn’t delved into the Reformed Theology known as “the Federal Vision”

What is your view on limited atonement? – Resources – Eternal Perspective Ministries.

I really enjoyed this essay and also Pastor Doug Wilson’s excellent point about postmillennialism in response.

But in all this talk about “logic,” I want to point out that I think logic is being ignored.

In John MacArthur’s Study Bible, commenting on 1 John 2:2 he says, “Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.”

But that means no unbeliever who later is converted was ever under God’s wrath, a direct contradiction of Ephesians 2 and, for instance, the rest of the Bible. Unbelievers are not justified because they are elect and Christ died for them. They are justified because and when they are given faith in Christ–which is only because of God’s mercy and because Christ died for them.

This truth is safeguarded in the Westminster Confession, though I confess I was blind to the document thanks to the sloganeering of neo- (pseudo- sub- ?) calvinists. J. I. Packer had to wake me from my dogmatic slumbers. (There is now an excellent resource on the web that documents the Reformed heritage on this point.)

Also, Randy is acting like there are only two options: Christ died for the elect or Christ died for the whole world. Two points to make here:

First, what about statements that Christ died for the visible church? (Acts 20.28; I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that Paul is not demanding the watching of an invisible church). In that case, Randy needs to rethink his options:

Furthermore, 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of false teachers who bring swift destruction on themselves, and describes them as “denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” Either Christ died for all men, including those who aren’t elect, or the false teachers who bring destruction on themselves are elect. I just don’t know how else to interpret this passage.

Does “elect” only and everywhere in Scripture denote election to eternal life? There are simply more options than “died for the whole world,” and “died for the elect.” For example, not everyone hears the gospel. Those that do hear it have been given a gift from God and due to the death of Christ. When the non-elect (not chosen for eternal life) reject the Gospel they will be held accountable for rejecting a gift that cost God his Son to give them.

This brings me to my second point: How Christ died for someone or group is not mutually exclusive to other statements using the same language of “for.” First Timothy 4.10 should put this beyond doubt: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” This is especially compelling since, in the same letter, Paul wrote:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

So Christ died for all but especially for believers. This is not a denial of the doctrine of limited atonement, but a glorious affirmation of it.

And frankly, the problems we have in seeing this are anything but logical. I don’t think they were ever driven by logic. I think the need to defend the truth of Scripture eventually degenerated into a desire to believe we are special because we obsess over “the five points” all the time, make it the key to all reading of Scripture, and an essential element in even professing the Gospel (in some extreme cases). Obviously, this made us develop a new language at variance with the language of the Apostles and Jesus and the prophets.

So the Bible suddenly sprouts up “problem passages” from the perspective of our new mentality, that we claimed as our piety. They were not “problem passages” because false teachers twist them–we will always have to deal with those. Now they had become “problem passages” because we would never permit ourselves to write or speak that way. We know better than God how to allow our congregations to talk and write. And our job as theologians and pastors became to protect our congregations from the Bible and teach them to focus on the “safe” passages.

And we actually imagine that this is faithfulness to Christ on our part.