November 13, 2011
VII. Eschatology – The Doctrine of the Last Things
As with baptism, and other matters of church government, the Christian Confession of Faith does not have much to say about the doctrine of the end times. This is another matter where Christians can disagree, because this doctrine has little bearing on the doctrine of the Gospel. Here is what the Confession does have to say on the matter:
Jesus Christ will return from Heaven as He promised, the dead will be resurrected, and the whole world will be judged, all at God’s appointed time. [Psa 96:13; Dan 7:9-14; 12:1-2; Mat 16:27; 25:31-46; Mar 4:22; 13:24-27; Joh 5:28-29; Act 1:11; 17:31; 24:15; 1Co 15:23-25; 2Co 5:10; 1Th 4:15-17; 2Th 1:7-10; 2Ti 4:1; Heb 9:27-28; 2Pe 3:10-12; Rev 1:7-8; 20:11-13]1
The Confession then goes on to summarize the biblical teaching about Heaven and Hell.
All for whom Jesus Christ did not die will live eternally in the pit of Hell and will be eternally tormented for their sins. Souls who are tormented in the next life will never suffer enough to even begin to pay for as much as one sin. Scripture rejects the lie that souls in Hell cease to exist or cease to be tormented, as this is a denial that offending the infinitely holy God is an infinite crime deserving of an infinite punishment. Scripture also rejects the lie of Purgatory as well as the lie that those who perish denying the doctrines of the gospel will finally accept them in heaven. [Deu 32:22,41; Psa 9:17; Pro 27:20; Isa 33:14; Dan 12:2; Mat 3:12; 5:22; 7:21-23; 10:28; 11:22-24; 13:41-42; 25:30,46; Mar 9:42-48; Luk 16:23-24,26; Joh 3:36; 10:11,26; 12:48; Rom 2:5-9; 6:23; Gal 3:10; 2Th 1:5-9; Heb 10:26-27; 2Pe 3:7; Jud 6-7; Rev 14:9-11; 19:2-3; 20:14-15]
All for whom Jesus Christ died will live eternally in Heaven in perfect fellowship with God, as He promised them. The final state of the Church will be eternal glory with her King and Husband. He will wipe every tear from her eyes and will entirely remove all indwelling sin from her. She will worship Him in the presence of His visible glory for all eternity. [Psa 49:15; 116:8; Isa 25:8; Dan 12:2; Mat 19:29; 25:34,46; Luk 18:29-30; Joh 3:15-16; 3:36; 4:14; 6:40,47, 54; 10:28; 14:2-3; 17:2-3; Rom 2:7; 6:22-23; 8:30; 1Co 15:53-54; Gal 6:8; Phi 3:20-21; Col 3:4; Tit 1:2; 2:13; 3:7; 1Pe 1:4; 2Pe 3:13; 1Jo 2:25,28; 3:2; Rev 14:1-5; 21:2-4,22-27; 22:1-5]2
It must be admitted that Wesley had a sound view of Heaven and Hell3. And despite believing in an intermediate state for departed souls4, he rejected the doctrine of purgatory (ie. that departed souls can atone for sin in the next life by their suffering5).
But at this point there is a major discrepancy in Wesley’s thinking. It has already been shown that he believed that the saints were not preserved from falling away in this present life by God. So how does it happen that they are then preserved from falling away when they are in Heaven? After all, to use Wesley’s own words:
Were human liberty taken away, men would be as incapable of virtue as stones. Therefore, (with reverence [sic] be it spoken,) the Almighty himself cannot do this thing. (6:318, Sermon 67 On Divine Providence)
So, according to Wesley’s principles, if God took away their liberty, men could not be virtuous even in Heaven. And if their liberty remains, then is it possible for a person to sin in Heaven? If yes, then what happens to that person when he sins? Is he sent immediately and irrevocably to Hell?
But if not, then what becomes of the person’s all-important liberty? Is it taken away? Is it then possible for him to do anything virtuous (in Wesley’s terms)?
And what of those who are in Hell? Is their liberty taken away? If yes, then the full force of Wesley’s arguments against predestination come down against him:
Men are as free in believing or not believing as if he [God] did not know it at all. Indeed, if man were not free, he could not be held accountable …. (6:227, Sermon 58 On Predestination)
As he has called us to holiness, he is undoubtedly willing as well as able, to work this holiness in us. For he cannot mock his helpless creatures, calling us to receive what he never intends to give. (6:416, Sermon 76 On Perfection)
But what if the person’s all-important liberty is not taken away in Hell? What if someone in Hell sincerely repents and believes the Gospel he had scorned in life
The God of love is willing to save all the souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together with the terms of salvation revealed by the Son of his love, who gave his own life that they that believe in him might have everlasting life. And for these he has prepared a kingdom from the foundation of the world. But he will not force them to accept of it; he leaves them in the hands of their own counsel; (7:317, Sermon 120 The Wedding Garment, Mar. 26 1790)
Wesley might answer that noone in Hell will sincerely repent. But how can he know that? Of all the millions and millions of souls in Hell, might there not at least be a few that sincerely repented? If nothing in this life could convince a man to sincerely repent of his sins, surely the fires of Hell would do the trick. And after all, doesn’t God (according to Wesley) love them and long for their salvation? How can he leave them screaming in the torments of Hell, when he so desperately wants to save them?
The very thought of this eternal chaos, souls in Hell making themselves fit for Heaven, and souls in Heaven making themselves fit for Hell, ought to convince us, once and for all, of the folly of placing Man’s need to be saved above God’s need to be glorified. It is God who preserves his elect from falling away from him, and it is God who hardens the reprobate in their sins. It is God who is glorified in the salvation of his people, and it is God who is glorified in the damnation of his enemies.
The Judgement Day & Future Life
Some of Wesley’s views regarding the afterlife can only be described as silly. For instance, he held that the day of judgement would last a thousand years, if not many thousands:
And from this very expression [2 Pet 3:8], some of the ancient Fathers drew the inference, that what is commonly called the day of judgment would be indeed a thousand years: And it seems they did not go beyond the truth; nay probably they did not come up to it. For if we consider the number of persons who are to be judged, and of actions which are to be inquired into, it does not appear, that a thousand years will suffice for the transactions of that day; so that it may not improbably comprise several thousand years. (5:174, Sermon 15 The Great Assize)
Even more bizarre is the view that there would be an afterlife for animals. In his sermon The General Deliverance, he begins by speculating about the condition of animals before the Fall, then goes on to describe the effect of the Fall upon their condition:
If the Creator and Father of every living thing is rich in mercy towards all; if he does not overlook or despise any of the works of his own hands; if he wills even the meanest of them to be happy, according to their degree; how comes it to pass, that such a complication of evils oppresses, yea overwhelms them? …. And as a loving obedience to God was the perfection of man, so a loving obedience to man was the perfection of brutes. And as long as they continued in this, they were happy after their kind; happy in the right state and the right use of their respective faculties. Yea, and so long they had some shadowy resemblance of even moral goodness. For they had gratitude to man for benefits received, and a reverence for him. They had likewise a kind of benevolence to each other. …. Perhaps insects and worms had then as much understanding as the most intelligent brutes have now. …. As man is deprived of his perfection, his loving obedience to God; so brutes are deprived of their perfection, their loving obedience to man.” (6:242-6, Sermon 60 The General Deliverance, emph. in orig.).
Then, he further speculates about the effect of the resurrection on the “brute creation”:
But will “the creature,” will even the brute creation, always remain in this deplorable condition? …. As a recompence for what they once suffered, while under the “bondage of corruption,” when God has “renewed the face of the earth,” and their corruptible body has put on incorruption, thy shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end. But though I doubt not that the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequince of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under their present bondage; …. May I be permitted to mention here a conjecture concerning the brute creation? What if it should then please the all-wise, all-greacious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now, — creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being? …. something better remains after death for these poor creatures also;” (6:248-51 , Sermon 60 The General Deliverance)
But Wesley did not hold these views merely for comic relief. He is in fact tying up some loose ends of his theology. As we have seen, Wesley had a wicked and idolatrous view of God. He worshiped a God after his own image. As such, Wesley’s “God” was responsible to treat all people the way Wesley himself was responsible to treat them — with fairness and equality. Therefore, Wesley’s “God” could not be allowed to simply divide the whole world into two classes and summarily pass sentence on half of them (Mt 25:32-3); he was responsible to try them all separately, and hear each case individually.
Further, Wesley’s “God” was not allowed to simply do as he will with the creatures he has made. He is even responsible to treat the animals fairly. In regard to the doctrine of Animal Resurrection, Wesley went on to say:
May it not answer another end; namely, furnish us with a full answer to a plausible objection against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that never had sinned to be so severely punished? (6:251 , Sermon 60 The General Deliverance, emph. mine)
Notice the word “plausible”! How is it possible that there could be a plausible objection to the justice of God?!?! Only if Wesley’s God is not the God of Holy Scripture!!
Isa 45:6-7 …that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to the sunset, that [there is] none besides Me; I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else; forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil.
Rom 9:20-21 Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, …?
Whatever God does is just, by virtue of the fact that it is God who does it. There is no such thing as a “plausible objection” against the justice of God, because this presupposes that there is a standard of right and wrong, independent, and even superior, to God himself. But on the contrary, the will of God is itself the standard of right and wrong. Wesley’s view of God was, therefore, utterly blasphemous.
1Christian Confession of FaithVII.A.; http://www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfvii.htm
2Christian Confession of FaithVII..B & C.; http://www.outsidethecamp.org/ccfvii.htm
3See 5:181, Sermon 15, The Great Assize; 6:193, Sermon 54, On Eternity; 7:323, Sermon 121, Human Life A Dream; Notes Rev 21:4, in loc; also 7:247, Sermon 112, Dives And Lazarus; Notes Luke 16:25, in loc.
September 26, 2010
Last week I discussed MacArthur’s list of “The Fruit/Proofs of Authentic/True Christianity“ (http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA162) (which is taken from “The MacArthur Study Bible”, p. 2190), posted on his website under the title, “How can we know if our faith is real?” I noted that MacArthur had put forth a false standard of judging saved and lost, because “there is absolutely nothing here about belief of the Gospel, the person of Christ, the work of Christ, or indeed any doctrine at all”.
Given that MacArthur has such a superficial, non-doctrinal standard of judging saved and lost, it should not be surprising that is unable to clearly warn his listeners and readers regarding others who believe in blatantly Gospel-denying doctrines. Take for example his confused judgement regarding the Promise Keeper’s movement:
There’s no denying that the Promise Keepers (PK) movement has been instrumental in turning unbelievers to Christ and stirring Christian men out of spiritual lethargy. Many men who have participated testify that they have found a new excitement about their responsibilities in the family. Wives have given equally enthusiastic testimony of the change in their husbands and their homes. We are grateful to God for whatever eternal fruit has resulted from Promise Keepers and the rallies the movement has sponsored.
We also believe there is a legitimate place for men’s gatherings. Men need to be challenged spiritually as men, to be faithful in the headship of home and church. This is particularly crucial in a culture such as ours, which is overtly hostile to biblical standards of masculinity.
Nonetheless, some aspects of Promise Keepers are troubling. Chief among our concerns would be the overt ecumenicism of the movement.
Some aspects of Promise Keepers are troubling? Seriously? In his article Is Christian Psychology Christian?, Marc Carpenter has this to say about a book that was endorsed by the PK movement:
In a book entitled The Masculine Journey, which is endorsed by Promise Keepers and was handed out to all Promise Keepers attendees, Robert Hicks uses his “stages of manhood” theory to condone sin and even to blaspheme. One of the stages he puts forth is the Zakar stage, which is a phallic stage. He says, “The phallus has always been the symbol of religious devotion and dedication” [referring to pagan sexual rites] and that every man has “the deep compulsion to worship with our phallus.” He says that a teenager’s first sexual sin should be thought of as a “rite of passage” and says that “we usually give the teenagers in our churches such a massive dose of condemnation regarding their first experiences with sin that I sometimes wonder how any of them ever recover. … I believe Jesus was phallic with all the inherent phallic passions we experience as men.”
This isn’t merely troubling, it is blasphemous, and revolting. Yet MacArthur is “grateful to God for whatever eternal fruit has resulted from Promise Keepers”. This is about as uncertain a sound as a trumpet can make. And yet, it all comes back to the fact that MacArthur is unwilling or unable to condemn Promise Keeper’s on the basis of doctrine.
For more on this topic see:
September 19, 2010
Previously, I have looked at John MacArthur’s redefinition of the doctrine of Faith. Today I want to look at his standard for judging saved and lost.
The necessity of judging saved and lost is discussed in section V.C.1-3 of the Christian Confession of Faith:
1. God requires of His people that they love and fellowship with each other. Love of the brothers in Jesus Christ is an inevitable fruit of salvation. [Psa 101:6; Psa 133:1; Joh 13:34-35; Joh 17:20-21; Gal 6:10; Phi 1:27; Phi 2:2-4; Phi 3:16; 1Jo 1:7; 1Jo 2:9-11; 1Jo 3:11,14-16,23; 1Jo 4:7,11,20-21; 1Jo 5:1]
2. One of the main proofs that believers love their brothers in Jesus Christ is that they do not speak peace to their brothers’ enemies. They obey God’s command to separate themselves from the world and false Christians. [Exo 34:15-16; Deu 13:1-3; Psa 1:1; Psa 26:4-5; Psa 101:3-8; Pro 4:14-15; Pro 9:6; Joh 15:19; Rom 16:17-18; 1Co 5:11; 1Co 10:21; 2Co 6:14-18; Eph 5:7-12; 1Ti 6:3-5; 2Ti 3:5; 1Jo 2:15-16; 2Jo 10-11; Rev 18:4]
3. For these reasons, as well as to witness the gospel to the lost, it is necessary for believers to make judgments concerning who is unregenerate (including who are false Christians) and who is regenerate. The standard by which believers are to make these judgments is whether or not the person being considered believes the gospel. [Isa 8:20; Isa 45:20; Mat 7:15-20; Mar 16:16; Luk 6:43-45; Joh 7:24; Rom 10:1-3; 1Co 5:11-12; Ga1 1:8-9; 1Jo 4:1,6; 2Jo 1:9]
Note that making judgements regarding who is a true Christian, and who is a false Christian, is a necessary fruit of regeneration. Those who refuse to do it are disobeying God, and showing hatred towards Christians. Also note that Christians are not free to choose any standard they want for making these judgements; the standard is belief of the Gospel.
In The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 2190 (reproduced on his website), John MacArthur gives us a very different standard for judging whether a person is truly a Christian:
The Fruit/Proofs of Authentic/True Christianity:
- Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7
- Repentance from Sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
- Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
- Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18
- Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
- Separation from the World: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
- Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
- Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5
The standards that MacArthur has listed here definitely qualify as fruit of genuine faith. But they cannot be adequate proof of genuine faith for two reasons. First, some of these “Fruit/Proofs”, such as “Genuine Humility”, are impossible to verify objectively, making true judgements of saved and lost impossible. But more importantly, note that there is absolutely nothing here about belief of the Gospel, the person of Christ, the work of Christ, or indeed any doctrine at all. In fact, there are multitudes of people who appear to meet every standard on this list, all while believing blatantly heretical doctrines.
In Romans 10:3, the apostle Paul said of the Jews:
For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
Sure they were zealous, devoted to God’s glory, and continually in prayer. And obedient to a fault. But they were missing something specific: knowledge. And the specific kind of knowledge they were missing was the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel (Romans 3:21).
Contrary to MacArthur’s pseudo-spiritual judgement based on various forms of works, Paul was willing to judge these Jews, his kinsman, to be lost, based on the fact that they didn’t believe the Gospel. For a Christian, there is no other standard.
For more on the necessity and standard of judging, please see: