Category Archives: Theology

Some Thoughts on Redemptive Hermeneutics

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I was talking recently with a friend about the centrality of Christ in Scripture, and how all the Bible finds its fulfillment in Jesus.

This is explicitly taught in passages such as Luke 24:27. As the Lord walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus, it says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Read through the Bible for yourself, and you simply can’t miss this overarching theme. Christ is the greater Adam, the seed of the woman, the ark of God’s rescue, the substitutionary lamb, the scapegoat, the righteous branch of Jesse, our great high priest, our Sabbath rest, and so much more.

The one thing we have to be careful of, however, is pushing this “magic key” of redemptive hermeneutics too far, at the expense of a literal, grammatical-historical interpretation of the text.

This is the problem with many Reformed scholars such as Graham Goldsworthy, Ed Clowney, Kim Riddlebarger, Sam Storms, etc. They interpret God’s promises to ethnic Israel so redemptively that they smother a plain, literal reading of the Old Testament text. Christ and His church become the “new” or “true” Israel. Heaven becomes the true “land of promise.” Salvation and the Eternal State become the true “kingdom.”

We see this, for example, in Vern Poythress’ “Overview of the Bible” in the ESV Study Bible. He says, “The promises and blessings [of the Old Testament] point forward to Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promises and the source of final blessings.” So far so good, but later, Poythress adds, “The OT, when it pays attention to physical land and physical prosperity and physical health, anticipates the physicality of the believer’s prosperity in the new heavens and the new earth.” This all sounds very spiritual and wonderfully Christocentric, but it is a gross misinterpretation of God’s irrevocable promises to real people living in a real place in real time and history.

Yes, Jesus is at the heart of Scripture, and God expanded the benefits of his kingdom and covenants to include or “graft in” the Gentiles. But that never replaced or superseded His original promises to the chosen remnant of the Jews (see Romans 9-11). For a more technical discussion on this, check out Thomas Ice’ article “Dispensational Hermeneutics.”

I know many will disagree with my dispensational view, but I would encourage people to exercise discernment in the area of redemptive historical hermeneutics. There is so much good in it, but we have to use caution and not to press it too far.

Question: What have you found helpful about redemptive hermeneutics? Click here to leave a comment.

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Is the Rapture Near?

Hamas Launches Rockets from Gaza City
 
Israel May Declare War

America Reaches Fiscal CliffSyria in Civil War

 
Iran Expands Nuclear Program
Today’s headlines are just the kind we would expect to see in the last days (Matt. 24:4-8; 2 Timothy 3:1-9). The rapture may be near, but we shouldn’t set dates or pack our bags just yet.
The fact is, the rapture could be today. It could be this year. Or it could still be 500 years from now. This would not be the first time Christians thought “This is it!”
Here’s part of an article written by John Walvoord in 1999, showing how current events point toward a rapture that could occur very soon – and how we should respond. It sums up well what I believe…
Undoubtedly [in the 21st century] there will be changes in the Holy Land, where now the Israelites and the Palestinians are in tension over the possession of the land. Any fair assessment of the situation reveals immediately that the Palestinians are not going to be content until they possess all the land, not just part of it. Palestinians believe, based on the Quran, that Abraham gave the land to Ishmael, Abraham’s son by the Egyptian handmaid Hagar, and that the land belongs to them, not to Isaac and the children of Israel. The fact that the promise to Isaac was written 1, 500 years before Christ and that the Quran did not appear until hundreds of years after Christ does not deter them from accepting its legitimacy…
…With this evidence before us it is obvious that, if the Rapture occurs soon, there is an unparalleled opportunity at the present time for aggressive evangelism, using all the modern means that are available for dissemination of the truth. While evangelist Dwight L. Moody could only reach twenty thousand people because this was the limit of the human voice unaided by electronic means, today millions of people have heard the gospel at one time.
In my own experience of responding to questions regarding Armageddon at the time of the Gulf War, I either appeared in person or was discussed on television stations reaching a hundred million people, and I was able under that circumstance at least to affirm that Christ is coming and that the world should get ready. Such a widespread publication of the facts of the coming of Christ was impossible in many generations. Obviously we should do what we can to get the gospel out, and the many means that are being used today—radio, television, Internet, and the printed page—all need to combine to accomplish this task.
The present prophetic situation also puts emphasis on the necessity of Christians walking in the light (1 John 1:7), that is, walking in the will of God and bearing a testimony to the transformed life that follows a new birth. Too often Christians have clouded their testimony by being identified more with the world than with the church, and this of course hinders the winning of people to faith.
In my own experience of teaching prophecy more than sixty years and seeing the development that has occurred in that period, I find there is every reason to be excited and to believe that the coming of Christ could be very soon. One of these days, without further waiting, the Rapture will occur, and everyone who belongs to Christ will be caught up together to meet Him in the air to go to heaven. What a tremendous event that is, and now each day, as the light of day comes upon us, we naturally raise the question, “Could it be today?” The fact is that it could be.
(Emphasis added. Source: “Signs of the Times,” Journal of Ministry & Theology Vol. 3:2, p. 16).
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The Effectual Call of the Spirit

This is one of the most beautiful statements I’ve ever read on God’s sovereignty in our salvation. Just chew on it awhile like a good bite of steak…

“Original sin renders all human beings naturally dead (unresponsive) to God, but in effectual calling God quickens the dead. As the outward call of God to faith in Christ is communicated through the reading, preaching, and explaining of the contents of the Bible, the Holy Spirit enlightens and renews the heart of elect sinners so that they understand the gospel and embrace it as truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection. Being now regenerate and able by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good, they turn away from their former pattern of living to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to start a new life with him.”

-J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993).

Related posts:

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Am I Really a Christian?

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re using Wednesday evenings at First Southern to journey through a discipleship program called “Growing in Christ.”

Our first series was “Am I Really a Christian?” based loosely on Mike McKinley’s book that shares the same name. It focused on the need to examine ourselves spiritually and to look for evidence of being truly born again.

We recently concluded this first course, but it’s not too late to follow along! All the handouts and even some of the audio recordings are available online. This would make a great self-guided study of basic Christianity.

Here’s a complete list of the lessons:

“Am I Really a Christian?”
Growing In Christ, Course 1

Lesson 1:  Am I Really a Christian? (handout | request audio)
Lesson 2: More than a Name (handout | request audio)
Lesson 3: The New Birth (handout | request audio)
Lesson 4: Saving Faith (handout | request audio)
Lesson 5: Dead to Sin (handout | request audio)
Lesson 6: Finishing the Race (handout | request audio)
Lesson 7: Loving Others (handout | request audio)
Lesson 8: Contentment (handout | listen to audio)
Lesson 9: Assurance (handout | listen to audio)
Lesson 10: You’re Not Alone (handout | listen to audio)

As you can see, some audio is available, though our podcast service has a limited data plan so I wasn’t able to upload all of the lessons. The others are available by request. Just click on the link or leave a comment below and I can send you a copy of the other audio lessons.