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.
November 21, 2010
Recently, I have been reading through Marc Carpenter’s sermon series “True vs. False“. I have just started the first sermon on “True vs. False Teachers”, and I found the exposition of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 very interesting. In the thirteenth and eighteenth chapters of Deuteronomy, God puts forth two standards by which to judge true prophets from false prophets. Of course, the very concept of judging prophets by any standard has become utterly anathema to most professing Christians; just ask Earl Jackson. As a result, on the rare occasion they talk about the standard for judging a false prophet, they usually focus just on the standard God put forth in Deuteronomy 18:15-22:
15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’
17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Note that the only standard for judging that is put forth here is whether or not the prophet makes an accurate prediction of the future (v.22). But also note, that this standard is only to be applied to prophets who speak in the name of the Lord (v. 18-20). But in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, another standard is put forth: prophets who speak in the name of other gods are to be executed even if what they predict comes true. This, of course, is the crux of Marc’s exposition of the subject.
Today I found this old article from the LA Times about “boy prophet” Archie Inger. In 1905, Inger said:
“It has been revealed to me that there will be a great European war, over the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan will lose his kingdom, and will flee to Palestine.”
Except for the fact that the Sultan fled to Malta (and later Italy) instead of Palestine, this was a pretty amazing prediction in 1905. Of course, even a mistake in one insignificant detail should be enough to mark Inger as a false prophet, but his book, Revealed Translation of John’s Revelation, is still being promoted in Charismatic circles, as if he were a true prophet.
But even if Inger had been right about the Sultan’s flight, he could still be judged as a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 13:1-5. What really puts the lie to Inger’s profession of faith is his doctrine:
“I think the time has arrived when men are so far developed that they may receive direct and individual guidance. …
“The second coming of Christ is here and now. People did not recognize Christ when he came before, because he did not appear in glory, as they had expected. … Men have solved most of the problems of the earth and the heavens. [Ironically, 1905 was Einstein’s miracle year, in which he published four papers that radically changed physicists understanding of matter, space, and time. – CA] Everywhere you see divine revelation in the hearts of men. To some it comes through Christian Science, to others through spiritualism, and to the great multitudes, it is a sort of creedless religion of love and trust.”
This glowing view of the nature of man is completely contrary to the biblical doctrine of the nature of man. Inger also claimed that he was merely a medium for Christ, who was speaking to the world through him (contrary to 2Pe 1:3, and Rev 22:18-19).
As Marc Carpenter said in his sermon “True vs. False Teachers”:
As I said before, a false prophet, or a false teacher, is one who speaks forth lies. But we see in many passages that the Bible concentrates on SPECIFIC lies that the false teachers speak. In most cases, these lies are about the character of God – who He is and what He does. Even when the false teachers speak lies about man, they ultimately reflect on the character of God. Let’s first go to some descriptions of false prophets in the Old Testament and how they relate to false teachers in our day. Let’s first turn to Deuteronomy 13:1-5:
Deuteronomy 13: (1) If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams rises among you, and gives you a sign or a wonder, (2) and the sign or the wonder which he spoke to you occurs, saying, Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them, (3) you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams. For Jehovah your God [is] testing you, to know if you love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (4) You shall walk after Jehovah your God, and you shall fear Him. And you shall keep His commandments, and you shall hear His voice, and you shall serve Him, and you shall cleave to Him. (5) And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall die, because he has spoken apostasy against Jehovah your God, who is bringing you out of the land of Egypt, and has redeemed you out of the house of slaves, to thrust you out of the way in which Jehovah your God has commanded you to walk. And you shall put away evil from among you.
Notice that the sign or wonder ACTUALLY HAPPENS. And when it happens, the false prophet tells the people to serve other gods. Now in modern day charismania circles, the sign or wonder is proof that this is a man of God. Doctrine is put on the back shelf. But what does God say here? Which do you go by to tell that it is a false prophet? It’s his DOCTRINE. It’s his TEACHING. The FALSE DOCTRINE that a man teaches overrides everything else. It doesn’t matter what else it is. If a teacher teaches FALSE DOCTRINE concerning the character of God, then he is a FALSE TEACHER. I’m sure you can think of many examples in modern-day evangelicalism that relate to this. “But he’s so kind and loving and moral and sincere.” Can’t you hear them say it? Yet these false teachers of today are telling their hearers to go seek other gods. They’re telling their hearers to go seek a christ who died for everyone without exception and wants everyone to be saved. They’re telling their hearers to pray to and worship a god who is neither a just God nor a Savior. They are false teachers.
Inger failed the test God put forth to distinguish true prophets from false. But this judgement could hardly have been made strictly by looking at his predictions of future events. It was necessary to judge his doctrine.
“20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20
For more information on this topic, please see: