Friday, May 29, 2009

GOG – MAGOG, Ezekiel Prophecy and the New Testament?

The basic framework of end time prophecy isn't too hard to grasp - but when we try to narrow it all down to specific timetables we are guaranteed to get it wrong. This is MORE likely if we try to read and understand scripture with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

We need to be wary of allowing our preconceptions to mislead us from the truth. The Gog-Magog prophecy in Ezekiel is one example to consider. This has often been interpreted as referring to Russia invading Israel, but what is the prophecy really about and what is its significance in the end time program? To gain understanding without being misled by speculation, it is important that we don’t deviate from what scripture itself reveals.

I tend to think it is not prophesying a single event. OT prophecies can predict separate events as if they are one. OT prophecies about Jesus were like this, in which there was no distinction made between His first and second comings.

I have heard this combining of two events into one prophecy being described with the illustration of an observer looking at two distant mountains one behind the other. The distant mountains seem to be one peak because the valley between can not be seen by the observer. Likewise two events (two mountain peaks) separated by time (the valley) are seen as a single event (mountain) by the prophet (the observer).

A battle involving Gog and Magog is mentioned only twice in scripture. There’s an extensive account in Ezekiel and a brief one in Revelation 20. Despite the brevity of the Revelation reference there are several similarities that indicate it is possibly describing the same event as the Ezekiel references.
But, while parts of the prophecy match this event in Revelation 20, there are also aspects that don't fit that scenario, but they do fit descriptions given in Revelation 19 of Armageddon.

So could Ezekiel be describing the events of Revelation 20?
Is he describing Armageddon? (Rev 16 & 19)
Is there possibly a combination of the two?
Or is it an event that the NT ignores? (I personally think this last option is unlikely)

Following is a comparison of the Ezekiel prophecy with the two different events in Revelation. Because the Ezekiel account spreads over three chapters I’ll note the relevant verses but won’t quote the text here. The Revelation accounts are much shorter so I’ll quote the whole relevant sections at the end of this article.

Similarities between Ezekiel and Rev 20 (end of millennium)

1) Gog and Magog are involved.
2) Their attack is directed upon on Israel
3) The attack is at a time when Israel is at peace (Eze 38:11) (Rev 20. end of the millennium, after 1000 years of Christ’s rule on earth)
4) It involves “the nations” or “many nations”.
5) The battle is ended before it begins by fire from God. (Eze 39:6)

Similarities between the Ezekiel account and Revelation’s description of Armageddon.

1) Attack directed on Israel.
2) Many nations join the attack
3) Massive earthquake and mountains thrown down (Eze 38:20)
4) Great hailstones fall (Eze 38:22)
5) Dead are left for the birds of the air to eat (Eze 39:4)

Those are the similarities but what about the differences?

The latter three events are not mentioned with regard to the post millennium battle.
Gog and Magog are not mentioned in the Armageddon account.
Will Israel be at peace and living in safety leading up to Armageddon?
The Antichrist’s army at Armageddon is not destroyed by fire from heaven – but by Jesus who has returned to earth.
The leaders of the battle at Armageddon are thrown alive into the lake of fire. The leaders in Ezekiel are given a grave.(Eze 39:11).

Other questions raised:
The aftermath of the Ezekiel battle leaves a battleground strewn with weaponry that is gathered and used for fuel. If this is after the millennium, it would mean that life continues on this earth for several more years prior to the second resurrection and the judgment. This is not suggested in Revelation – but then again it is not ruled out either.

If the Ezekiel battle does not fit anything described in Revelation, then the NT is entirely silent about a major event that happens in the end times. I don’t see this silence is likely but I suppose it is possible.

Armageddon, before millennium

Rev 16:16 -21
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since the human race has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.
From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

Rev 19:17-21
And I saw one angel standing in the sun. And he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, Come and gather together to the supper of the great God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses, and those sitting on them, and the flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies, being gathered to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet doing signs before it, (by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast), and those who had worshiped his image. The two were thrown alive into the Lake of Fire burning with brimstone.
And the rest were slain by the sword of Him who sat on the horse, it proceeding out of His mouth. And all the birds were filled from their flesh.

Scriptural account of Battle After the Millennium

Rev 20:7-9
And when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be loosed out of his prison. And he will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle. The number of them is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth and circled around the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of Heaven and devoured them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Total Depravity: Depraved or Deprived?

In a recent contribution to a Christian forum, I was commenting on the Calvinist understanding of “Total depravity”. Within that article I got my words confused and instead of using “depraved” I wrote “deprived”.
This mix-up was soon brought to my attention.

However, looking again at the differences between the definitions of the words “depraved” and “deprived” – I now see that my use of “deprived” was totally appropriate.

In the Calvinist scheme of things man comes into the world DEPRIVED of the ability to seek or desire God in any way. It is NOT man’s depraved nature that leads him to be condemned to hell. The determination of his eternal destiny was made before creation – therefore it was made PRIOR to the man being born with a depraved nature and obviously before he has had the opportunity to sin.

According to Calvinist doctrine a man is destined to hell entirely because God withheld his saving grace from them. In other words they have been totally DEPRIVED of the very thing that they need for salvation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TRUTH or Tolerance and Compromise?

It is becoming increasing evident that the teachings of men have replaced the authority of scripture in the church’s theological foundations. The evidence has become overwhelming. Rather than accept and trust scripture, people will go to all kinds of lengths to explain why it doesn’t mean what it is clearly saying.

We have Calvinism redefining salvation and the means by which God has made it available. Then there are the extreme charismatics who have redefined signs and wonders and have turned God’s love into an expression of His desperation to be accepted. And what about the “extreme prophetic” and the “New Apostolic Reformation”? They’ve created new definitions of the prophetic and apostolic?

No matter which direction we turn there’s someone trying to improve on the truth God has provided in His written word.

I don’t know how many feel the same kind of frustration that I’ve been experiencing increasingly over the last year. From regular involvement with a variety of blogs and forums I’m coming across more and more people who are content to tolerate clear cut doctrinal error.
The first clear (recent) examples came in response to concerns about Todd Bentley and his Lakeland “revival”. No matter how weird and perverse things became there were always those who jumped up to defend what was happening. No matter how aberrant the preaching; no matter how many flaky prophecies were given; no matter how much occultic mysticism was mixed with a sampling of bible quotes – there was always a stridently vocal cheer squad singing the “revival’s” praises and condemning the ‘heresy hunters”.
Even Bentley’s open immorality was not enough to open the eyes of many. Instead the support continues.

But the modern day charismanic circus is only one aspect of the problem. The deceiver knows that you can’t tempt everyone with the same flavours. There are other things he provides for the unwary to taste. Those without a sweet tooth, who are not attracted to fluffy, sugary carnival treats, might prefer something a bit meatier; something with more substance. While the extreme charismatics prefer a scripture-lite approach that shuns “traditional interpretations”, others cling to traditional teachings as if they have the authority of scripture itself. They prize scripture – as long as it’s been filtered through a trained and ordained intermediary. Scripture is beyond the average believer and contains mysteries that are best left to those more qualified to seek out its truths.
And so centuries old traditions are passed from generation to generation and defended ferociously should they be challenged.

My personal journey over this last year (and more) has included experience with these opposite extremes of Christian tradition. One group interprets scripture through a centuries old theological system while the other group seems to make things up as they go along.

One group gives lip service to the authority of scripture while in reality authority is given to their theological tradition and how IT interprets scripture.
The other group gives lip service to scripture while in reality giving authority to spiritual experiences and glib clichés.

One group esteems long dead theologians the other adores the flamboyant man (or woman) of the hour.

In these different groups it seems that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are pitted against each other. One is governed by established doctrines, and interprets scripture according to those doctrines. The other is governed by “the Spirit” and interprets scripture according to “spiritual” revelation.

There are obviously some very distinct and irreconcilable differences between these two groups. And yet they have at least one common factor. Both in reality have applied some kind of condition to their approach to scripture that takes away the average believer’s relationship with God’s word. Those average believers are TOLD what can be believed and how it should be believed. They are told that scripture doesn’t necessarily mean what it seems to mean, promoting the understanding that a (traditionally) college trained or a (charismatically) anointed teacher is required to convey what scripture really saying.

Of course, the extent of how this affects the church is immense and it would be impossible to go into every aspect of the problem. But to the person who wants to know and understand the truth, and is willing to spend the time and make the effort required, the truth is easily accessible. Everyone reading this blog has the means and the ability to search the scriptures for themselves because they can obviously read. But are they willing to utilise that ability?

To a great degree we have been conditioned to believe that scripture is hard to understand and that we need someone to explain it all and to share its hidden secrets. We lack confidence. But we should recognise that it is not only a lack of confidence in ourselves – we are lacking confidence in the God who desires to make Himself known through the revelation of scripture. We lack confidence in the One who promised to send His Spirit to be our teacher, and we lack confidence in His Spirit’s ability and willingness to teach us.

The conditioning process that has distanced us from scripture has also worked by giving us an expectation of how scripture should be approached. Our exposure to scripture has been through “texts” – often meaning isolated verses that are expounded upon at length by an appointed teacher of the word. In most cases little attention is given to context and meaning is given to the selected “text” that indicates some kind of special insight has been needed to get to what was really meant by that text.
Through this experience, we ourselves then try to delve into parts of scripture according to the same method used by the teacher. We dig around and try to find the deeper things hidden within those parts of scripture. And this is usually done before the student has developed even a rudimentary understanding of how the whole bible fits together, and what its overall revelation is about.
There is little understanding of how God has related to mankind throughout history and there is little understanding about the significance of God’s relationship with Israel. To most believers, the Old Testament account is a total mystery – beyond a few half remembered stories of certain bible characters.

Now I’ve waffled on and on about this for long enough. A lot of it I’ve touched upon before on this blog and on others. But is the message getting through? Is what I’m saying having any effect?
It seems not. From what I’ve read elsewhere people are quite content to cling to their personal traditions and to tolerate the traditions of others. Relativism is alive and thriving within the “church” and it has been demonstrated time and again in some of the responses my writings have received.
While I have made it abundantly clear that I am totally opposed to Calvinism and its abhorrent “doctrines of grace” – those Calvinists that have been most ferocious in their responses to me have at least shown a devotion to those things that they believe. They recognise the exclusivity of their beliefs and see little room for compromise. The same can not be said for so many others who demonstrate (though they would surely deny it) that they accept the relativity of “truth” – that what is true for one person is okay for that person, and what is true for me is okay for me. There is a clear opposition to any idea of bringing correction to others – such actions would be seen as divisive, and it seems like division should be avoided at all costs, even if it meant compromising on the truth.

Recently I have seen time and again how people will twist scripture in every direction possible to avoid accepting what it clearly states. All kinds of mental and logical gymnastics are performed to come to an understanding that contradicts or ignores what would be unavoidable if only the actual words of scripture were accepted for what they actually said.
Why do so many persist with this wilful blindness? And why do so many let them persist, all in the name of keeping the peace?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

21 Things My Bible Didn’t Teach Me.

This list is potentially endless so I’m limiting it to those things that I’ve come across personally. Even with that limitation I might have to do a second list at a later date.

1) The correct response to the gospel in order to be saved is to either a) ask Jesus into your heart, b) say the sinner’s prayer c) respond to an “altar call” in which you do both a & b.
2) Believers will be “raptured” from the earth immediately prior to the Great Tribulation.
3) Upon death Christians go to their eternal home in heaven.
4) Satan and his demons reside in and rule their kingdom from hell.
5) Between His death and resurrection, Jesus was tormented in hell by the devil
6) Jesus victoriously snatched the keys of death and hell from the devil.
7) The devil made me do it.
8) Baptism is optional (it can also be done to babies with a sprinkling of water).
9) Sin in the life of a believer doesn’t matter because all of our sins have been forgiven
10) God loves the world so much…
12) God offends the mind to reveal the heart
13) People need hours of counselling/ inner healing/ deliverance sessions to be freed from hurts and problems caused by their past.
14) Faith is a force
15) Confess and possess
16) We should not question our leaders (“touch not the Lord’s anointed!)
17) There are different kinds of anointing and some Christians are more anointed than others
18) Tongues is THE sign of being baptised in the Holy Spirit
19) Scripture doesn’t really matter
20) God knows the future because He has fore-ordained everything that will happen.
21) Man has no free will.

God’s word or Man’s – the choice is ours.

Almost daily I see more and more examples of Christians who have little respect for the scriptures. They give more authority to the words and teachings of men than they do to some of the clearest and simplest parts of the Word of God.

All manner of twisted and convoluted theologies are used to manipulate scripture into a form that is acceptable to their own wisdom. During discussion they quote page after page of their teachers in an attempt to demonstrate that scripture doesn’t really mean what it is clearly saying.

What more can be said about this? Doesn’t anyone trust God anymore? Why do so many “believers” put more faith in men and men’s wisdom than they do in God Himself?
Do they consider their own wisdom is greater than God's that they can reinterpret scripture to force it into their own ideas of acceptability?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Problems due to change of template.

I have recently changed the template of my blog to (hopefully) improve its appearance. Unfortunately the change has affected some of the text leaving large sections of blank space; seemingly deleting some paragraphs.

As I notice these “deleted” sections I try to fix the problem. It is not always easy to find those sections that are missing so if anyone comes across a problem of missing text please let me know.

"Weighed And Found Wanting"

"Weighed And Found Wanting"
George Bryson.

I recommend the article at the following link. It is long but well worth reading if you want to get an understanding of Calvinism as promoted by Calvinist teachers. The first part of the article (pages 1-26) is constructed mainly of quotes from Calvinist writers. In my opinion their statements expose the lie of Calvinism more effectively than any opponent of Calvinism could. Of course that is conditional upon how affected by Calvinism the reader’s theology has become.

I don’t think the second part of the article has the effect of the first. The writer doesn’t always present his own arguments as clearly as he could – and he doesn’t expose the errors of Calvinism anywhere as efficiently as the Calvinists have already done themselves earlier in the article.

I came across this article recently and have only just read through it. I don’t agree with all of the conclusions the author makes, but it’s still a very interesting read.

The Five Points of Calvinism -"Weighed and Found Wanting" by George Bryson

Friday, May 01, 2009

1 Corinthians 10:13 – regarding “The Believer and Sin”.

In a (now deleted*) comment from the “Am I an Arminian” thread, I was accused of “proof-texting” when I made reference to 1 Corinthians 10:13.
I quoted that verse to show that when a believer sins it is a result of his/her choice and not because of some irresistible tendency to sin that drives the believer to live in disobedience to God.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

That verse makes it clear that no believer is tempted by anything that is beyond their ability to withstand. God Himself makes sure that all temptation we face IS resistible – and we therefore need to take PERSONAL responsibility for our sin. If we do not take that personal responsibility, then I cannot see how we can genuinely come to the Lord to confess OUR sins in order to receive forgiveness and cleansing from unrighteousness.

It is clear that I am not the only one to be faced with this same accusation of “proof-texting” by drawing attention to the promise God gives in the above mentioned verse.

See the blog entry at the following link:

A Contextual Examination of 1 Corinthians 10:13


* I do not make a habit out of deleting comments, but the person referenced above became abusive and showed himself to be a wilful liar. Further information on the reason for the deletion of of his comments can be found in the comments section of the “Am I an Arminian” thread.