Tag Archives: eschatology

Van der Weyden’s Last Judgement Spooked Atheist Peter Hitchens in Broad Daylight


Scoffing, he said, ‘Couldn’t these people think of anything else to paint?’

If there ever was a case of art in the cause for Christ then this anecdote will certainly qualify.

In fact, as Peter Hitchens put it in his book , 500 years after his death Van der Weyden was still earning his fee.

Stumbling across The Last Judgement

The story starts with Hitchens and his girlfriend visiting the u in Beaune in search of fine foods and wines. Being seasoned travellers they strayed off the beaten path to explore the ancient hospital.

According to their Green Michelin guide, Roger Van der Weyden’s fifteenth century polyptych  , was a must see. So he and his girlfriend hoofed it to find it.

Upon coming across the apocalyptic altar piece Hitchens’ instinct was to scoff. He then leaned in to peer at the details of the painting–and gaped.

What struck Hitchens was the naked people in the painting didn’t appear to be from the fifteenth century A.D. Nor did they appear to be tribesman from the Neolithic Age. Nor any remote age for that matter.

They appeared to be his contemporaries. And “one of them is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the last trumpet.”

How The Last Judgement Changed Hitchens

Hitchens points out that this didn’t lead to a mystical experience. No vision or swoon. Just a sense that religion was real. It was current. Not distant or remote. But something just as important as the study of economics or psychology.

If not more important.

The other effect that Van der Weyden’s altarpiece had on Hitchens was that it gave him a sense that he was among the damned. If there were any damned. And like the feeling any good horror novel would give, Hitchens was scared.

Unlike a good horror novel, however, Hitchens couldn’t close the altarpiece and sink into the comfort of a bed or couch with the horror gone. This time his conscience had been spooked, and the fear remained. Yet he began to think very clearly.

Hitchensexplains that fear is a gift. It puts us on high alert when physical danger is near. It could be during a motorcycle accident, in a car surrounded by an angry mob or when a soldier is shooting into the crowd you are in. Whatever the situation, fear keeps us sober and calm so that we make wise decisions.

People who are blind to fear miss the danger. In this case, their rebellion towards a gracious God.

Hitchens walked away from Van der Weyden’s altarpiece chastened. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed that it was fear that motivated him to seek God and atone for his sins. But he regards that the lesser of two evils.

Well said, Mr. Hitchens.

Your Turn

Has a piece of art–a painting, a novel, a play–ever scared your conscience? Did it play a part in driving you back to God?

Please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Feeling Sorry for That Poor Man in Sierra Leone? Don’t

Talk about flawed. Read the following verses from :

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall sthis wicked congregation grumble against me? tI have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, u‘As I live, declares the Lord, vwhat you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 wyour dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and xof all your number, listed in the census yfrom twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I zswore that I would make you dwell, aexcept Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

What was your reaction to reading that? Sorrow? Sorrow for the rebellion of a people toward their gracious God?

Want to know mine? I was sad. I was sad that that generation was forgotten. It was erased off the face of the earth. Erased out of collective memory.

I was sad that no one’s name–except for Caleb and Joshua–was preserved in history. And that that fate was more than likely my fate.


The Man in the Sierra Leone Village

I am obsessed with obscurity. I fear falling out of earshot with the literary elite–both living and dead.

I fear if my name is not embedded for AT LEAST four hundred years in our anthologies that I will have failed.

As you can imagine, this has created massive and unnecessary grief in the mornings spent agonizing over my future. Stupid attempts at attention.

Strangely enough, I used to feel sorry for the anonymous of the world. The man in the small village in the hills of Sierra Leone.

I used to feel guilty for my fortune of growing up in a country where opportunities are abundant. Where fame is at arms reach. While they were damned to obscurity.

Then it dawned on me: if not for the grace of God, those forces are at work on everyone.

Including me.

How I Have It Backwards

But that scheme is all wrong to begin with. I am elevating popularity in this life over popularity in the next life. On this note, the Bible is clear: popularity in this life equals .

However, obscurity–anonymity–in this life equals popularity in the next. Every advantage I have over that man in Sierra Leone in this life amounts to a disadvantage in the next life.

He will be honored beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And that is the more precious prize.

Demian Farnworth on Being Anonymous


The irony of my name being on the title of this post is not lost on me. 

Most of us try to avoid being anonymous. We strive to be the center of attention. We want to excel in sports or academics, business or politics.

In fact, most of us can’t stand the thought of going through life as a nobody.

As a young man I went to great lengths to be the center of attention. I wanted the fame of an Andy Warhol. To be a spectacle like Mick Jagger.

To be marginalized horrified me.

Anonymous Uses Anonymity

Some of us, however, indulge in anonymity.

The cultural movement known as  is just one example. They’ve used their anonymity to pull benign raids and devastating invasions against organizations online.

For example, when Pirate Bay co-defendants were found guilty, Anonymous responded with .

When the file sharing site Megaupload was shut down, Anonymous turned around and .

And , including over 9,000 active credit cards, 27,000 phone numbers and 20,000 “easily cracked” passwords, because of their dubious nature.

They invented the and .

As a taunt to their victims, whenever they appear in public, they wear masks, a cunning form of manipulation.

Those who applaud Anonymous do so because they view the people they attack as enemies of truth or freedom.

Strange, that a movement which values privacy is so eager to destroy it. 

While the average person doesn’t have to fear a raid on their privacy from Anonymous, there is still some irony in their resemblance to Big Brother.

The Advantages of Being Anonymous

Those who are anonymous do so to protect their own privacy. For example, the forum that is thought to be the cradle of Anonymous culture, |b|chan, revels in this anonymity.

Everyone is anonymous. And as you might expect–everything goes.

|b|chan is NSFW.

|b|chan is a space for people to exercise and indulge every whim.

It is the id of the Internet ego.

It’s where child molesters and white supremacists express their freedom of speech. It’s where homosexuality, pediastry, bestiality live along side of homophobia and xenophobia.

|b|chan is not only NOT safe for work–it’s not safe for life. As I said, everything goes.

This is the advantage of being anonymous.

Anyone who’s run a blog or commented on blogs knows that over time an “anonymous” comment will show up.

Anon or Anny will vent.

It could be stupidity, hatred, lies. Whatever, it will be extreme. Nobody makes an anonymous comment about their preference for butter on toast.

And the Internet has given us a free rein when it comes to being anonymous.

Anonymity and Confessions

In certain occasions we encourage anonymity. Feedback given at work, suggestions for new ideas, comments for journalists on stories.

Anonymity gives people courage.

But there are checks-and-balance in place in those institutions. A mid-level manager at a large firm promises to confess to cooked books under the promise that he will remain anonymous. However, he understands that his confession can be held under scrutiny by the reporter…and can be traced back to him.

In a sense, if he is lying, he can be brought to justice.

No such checks-and-balances online.

To leave a comment on a blog all you have to do is provide a name and email address, neither real, and you may say whatever you want.

Of course some people can chase you down via your IP address. Most of what we do in life is traceable, even if minute. But for the rank-and-file, there is no need to worry.

Anonymity is to be cherished.

Anonymity and Sin

The Bible describes a God who sees all. Nothing is hidden.

For those who are convinced of his existence, this provides a proper deterrent from indulging in our secret whims.

It is not a perfect prescription, however, because to the degree that we believe this is the degree to which we obey it.

And to the degree that we doubt it is to the degree we ignore it.

But there are even those who struggle in spite of this, where God’s omniscience and omnipresence provides no barrier to resist secret sins.

Behind closed doors we feed these sins.

For instance, back in 1982 a pastor who remained “anonymous” wrote a letter to Leadership magazine. He explained how he was released from his bondage to pornography, pornography of the grossest sort.

It was Matthew 5:7 that broke his bondage:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

It’s the promise that one day he would stand before God and see Him–but only on the condition that his heart remained pure.

That motivated the pastor to resist his temptation, and it proved effective in breaking his addiction, where his previous efforts under the “plague of guilt” had no impact.

God Cherishes the Anonymous

For starters, the people of Israel.

A nobody tribe from the Late Bronze Age. A nobody tribe who end up slaves of Egypt. Thousands of Israelites died over a 400 year period beneath the weight of back-breaking work and intense heat.

Not one single Israelite’s name is recorded during this time.

Except Moses.

After the Exodus, they rose to prominence, but fell again from their disobedience and again returned to slavery, this time under the Babylonians and Persians.

And they remained anonymous for the following 400 years.

They cried out, as the anonymous often do, to God who promised them a messiah, a figure who would give them liberty.

The messiah did not turn out to be who they thought he would be. As he walked through the rocky cities of ancient Israel he sought out the marginalized–the lepers, the prostitutes and the tax collectors.

He sought out the cripples, the poor and the children. Segments of society everyone had forgotten.

He ignored the proud. The educated. The wealthy. The physically fit.

He proclaimed justice to the anonymous–perhaps not here on this earth–but in the courts of heaven. He promised the poor that the wealthy will be the last in line–if given admission at all.

And he bestowed on children the greatest compliment of all–they were model citizens of the kingdom of God, ones whom we should emulate.

Adults, take note.

Why the Anonymous?

There is a certain mark among the anonymous.

It is the mark of humility.

Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Not this earth, surely, but the new earth, the one promised at the end of the age when all will be renewed for the sake of God’s glory.

The proud will have no part in it because .

We live in a culture that does not embrace anonymity. It is the cult of the extrovert. The famous. The beautiful.

That puts a burden on all of us to strive for fame and beauty–to resist being forgotten. To do something great, not for the sake of mankind or God or your family, but for ourselves.

No doubt man has always been possessed with this.

Men throughout the millenia strive for works of achievements to cement their names and reputations. God resists such achievements and men. In fact there is only one place in which our names and reputations should be cemented.

In the book of Life.

If not, the most fortunate of us may live on in the memories of the living for centuries, but among the dead we are a loathsome lot begging those whom we see enjoying the comforts of heaven while we suffer in the torments of separation from God.

This is the point of the , the ultimate parable on anonymity and fame. The  man who has no name triumphs over the man who has the name and the wealth.

And this is the classic truth of the gospel: the world as we know it has been turned upside down.

The last shall be first and the first shall be last.


Which brings us to the lesson of Anonymous and the anon. We’ve abused our positions of anonymity. We’ve used it to break laws and to say and do things we wouldn’t normally say or do.

We’ve used it to chase sin. And then, paradoxically, used it to chase fame.

God wishes we use to chase him.

Into the backwoods of the poorest countries. Into the cells of the darkest prisons. Into the wards of the sickest hospitals. Into the streets of the riskiest neighborhoods.

Fame isn’t sinful. Chasing it, however, is.

Hell: What’s at Stake If We Neglect It?


What happens when orthodox Christians neglect the doctrine of hell? We begin to tinker with orthodoxy in some unhealthy ways.

Hell doesn’t get much press.

Blame it on the  and its fear of all things supernatural.

To be fair, Enlightenment writers were reacting to a gross abundance of commentary on hell.

In fact, this environment forced  to remark that some Paris theologians wrote so well about hell that they evidently had been there themselves!

However, contemporary Christians have lost their backbone on this important biblical doctrine. That’s troubling for many reasons. Let me show you what I mean.

Hell: A Ghastly Nightmare

The doctrine of hell is a repulsive doctrine. In fact, it’s hard to believe someone just made it up. But the Bible says a lot about hell. Mostly in the words of Jesus himself.

First off, what is hell? The orthodox meaning is eternal punishment for those who reject God and His grace.

What does that punishment look like? . Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. .

Fire, no doubt, is symbolic. But this shouldn’t comfort the lost because fire is symbolic of something much worse.

How much worse? We just don’t know.

We do know that hell will last forever and in addition to physical agony, occupants will experience unrelenting guilt and regret due to their decision to reject God’s offer of mercy in Christ.

Objections to Hell

As noted above, some people simply dismiss hell as superstition. These are your skeptics and atheists.

Then there are your evangelicals…

Some evangelicals–Unitarians, for example–believe in universalism–the idea that everyone will eventually be saved. But Jesus’ words are unmistakable: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” 

Others believe in postmortem evangelism. These evangelicals insist the dead will be given another opportunity to repent after death. Again, the Bible doesn’t support this notion. Just the opposite: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

Finally, you have your annihilationists who believe that the wicked are exterminated at death. But annihilationists must hold this belief in the face of ample biblical reference to .

Now let me ask you: Why are so-called evangelicals busy reducing, revising and removing the biblical doctrine of hell when those who were evangelicals in the past would’ve ferociously resisted such ideas?

Here’s your answer: Hell is marked by so much awkwardness and embarrassment evangelicals are looking for anyway out of this doctrine.

The Logical Reason Behind Hell

Yes, hell is terrible. But NOT the least bit unfair. It is simply a gesture by God to honor those who reject him, his love and his offer of grace through Christ.

In essence, he gives them what they want: separation from God.

However, because of sin everyone deserves hell… including both those who accept God’s offer of rescue through Christ and those who reject it.

Yet hell is not a fate God wants people to experience:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

The Benefits of the Doctrine of Hell

Yes, even though hell is a horrifying doctrine, it does provide certain benefits.

One benefit is a sense of relief and gratitude for God’s mercy and forgiveness and promise of heaven. Mercy and forgiveness and heaven are meaningless if there is no depth…

We would certainly respond one way to a friend who kept us from stepping into a puddle. Quite another way to a friend who kept us from stepping off the edge of a cliff.

Another benefit involves our future and reminds us how important life decisions are here and now. The doctrine of hell motivates us to share the gospel when we know the outcome for those who reject Christ or remain in their sins is eternal physical agony.

Why We’ve Lost Our Backbone Over Hell

Yet, in spite of these benefits, contemporary Christians have lost their convictions about hell. There is at least one good reasons for this: Our view of the nature of God has changed.

In an attempt to shed any repulsive concepts attached to God, we redefine him to suit our preferences. Here are four ways we’ve done that.

1. We redefine God’s love so that it resembles sentimentalism and indulgence minus God’s hatred for sin. In turn, we love the sinner and ignore his sin.

2. Hell seems so excessive, so we limit God’s holiness. However, the traditional doctrine of hell argues that eternal punishment is a just penalty for an insult against the infinite holiness of God.

3. We limit God’s knowledge to suggest that he doesn’t stop decades of megadeath simply because he didn’t see it coming. This is the heresy of .

4. We minimize God’s justice by arguing that it would be easier to persuade a skeptic to embrace a God without wrath and righteousness.

But what’s more important: That we properly market God to our culture? Or that we stand up for orthodoxy–no matter the cost?

What’s at Stake if We Neglect the Doctrine of Hell?

Here’s the deal: The Bible presents hell as a concrete reality. It’s existence is not up for Debate. Revision. Or vote. To do otherwise is to pervert the truth, reduce the sting of sin and minimize the threat of hell.

So WHAT if hell is scandalous or too out of step with the contemporary mind?

That won’t make it go away.

We must deal with it. As Christians, that means defending it’s classic treatment. If we don’t, what’s at stake? Our very concept of God and the gospel are diluted.

And where does this end? Our culture gets to define our model of God? To do so would be to feed on lies. And I don’t want that to happen. Do you?

Annihilationism: A Near-Definitive Guide

Where I try to gather a lot of resources on why annihilationism is wrong.

Annihilationism is the belief that the final fate of those who are not saved is literal and final destruction…

A belief that runs against the traditional Christian understanding of hell.

So naturally as I worked through the doctrine of hell during my stint on last things, in the back of my mind I considered whether I’d address annihilationism.

It was bound to come up at some point, right?

And indeed, it did.

But when I went to do my homework, I realized quite quickly that I couldn’t possibly do the topic justice…

A handful of people before me have already answered all the arguments for annihilationism so much better than this half-baked intellectual could.

How can I add anything original to the discussion? Fact is, I couldn’t.

So instead I decided to pull together all the resources I could possibly find online–and share them with you.

In case you care, of course. [I know you do.]

Listen: Everything that I list here is going to be critical of annihilationism. But everything I list here is also very conversant with the advocates and arguments for annihilationism.

In other words, you can learn the arguments of annihilation advocates from reading the objections.

Of course nothing beats first-hand interaction–that is if you have the time. Enjoy.

Articles on Annihilationism

Jeff Spencer concludes the the moral, linguistic, and exegetical arguments for the doctrine of annihilation all fall to the ground due to a lack of reason, lack of lexical evidence, and a lack of good, solid exegesis.

Stanley J. Grenz writes a nice, 2-page summary of annihilationism and it’s problems for Christianity Today.

Stephen E. Alexander answers the questions: “Why is this doctrine so flawed, and why should we be concerned about its prevalence?”

l: Part One | 
In a two part series, Alan W. Gomes examined the scriptural teaching on the doctrine of hell, paying particular attention to key passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation.

Professor of Theology at Southern Baptists Theological Seminary Milliard Erikson takes a swing at annihilationism.

 by J. I Packer

British group acknowledges differences on annihilationism, but says doctrine of hell must be preached again.

The reality of hell, and the teaching that it is “occupied to some degree,” is reaffirmed in a 140-page report published in April by the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom.

What is hell—eternal torment or annihilation? Robert A. Peterson looks at the Evangelical Alliance’s The Nature of Hell.

Robert A. Peterson explores the theological methods of Edward Fudge, defender of annihilationism.

Tony Gray argues that annihilation is at the very least an option which ought to be considered fairly and honestly.

Kenneth MacLeod addresses Stott’s suggestion that the topic requires more humility.

Monergism has got a nice layout of this article by Warfield.

A systematic, detailed, scriptural argument against annihilationism by James Patrick Holding. Probably one of the best I’ve encountered.

Sam Storms works over annihilationism using Revelation 14.

Nothing new to add to the discussion except a table with the scriptural realities of hell–which you might find helpful.

A nice creed-style rejection of annihilationism by J. H. Gosden found in What Gospel Standard Baptists Believe.

Martin Downes shares an excerpt of an interview with Robert A. Peterson [found in his book Risking the Truth].

Then Downes shares even more of that interview.

Historical Mentions of Annihilationism

Embryonic forms of conditional immortality can be found in the writing of Justin Martyr [d. 165].

Ignatius of Antioch [d. 107] is also supposed to be a conditionalist according to some conditionalist writers.

Some suggest it is also found in the writings of Arnobius [d. 330]. See paragraph 61, last sentence.

Books on Annihilationism

 by Harry Buis

 Contributions by Walvoord, Crockett, Hayes and Pinnock

 Contributions by Beale, Block, Ferguson, Mohler, Moo, Packer and Yarbough

 by John Gerstner

 by Robert Morey

 by William Greenough Thayer Shedd

 by Robert A. Peterson

 A theological discussion of annihilationism between Robert A. Peterson [against] and Edward Fudge [for].

 by Martin Downes Contains the interview with Robert A. Peterson.

Your Turn

If you know of a resource not included here [especially mp3s, which I couldn’t find anywhere], please share in the comments. I’ll add to them to this post and give you credit.

Final Judgement: Do Not Take Lightly

There is no getting around it–the Bible speaks of a coming day of ultimate and final judgement.

A day when Jesus will proclaim the eternal destinies of all people:

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” 

This will be the event where God determines everyone’s spiritual condition–alive or dead.

It will be the ultimate separation of good and evil at the end of history. The Christian does not need to fear this moment. The unbeliever should.

The Biblical Fact of the Final Judgment

The Bible does not shy from the topic of a final judgment. Among all the details given on the final judgment, Jesus gives us one of the most vivid.

On the Mount of Olives he concludes his sermon with an explanation of the former parables [ and ]:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 

This is the scene of the final judgment. An event that will occur at the end of history, after the millennium. All individuals and nations will be judged. John :

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.

All the dead and the living–from the beginning of time to the end of time–will be judged.

Who and What Will Be Judged?

No man is excused from this judgment. Each of us will . Believer and unbeliever alike will stand before the his judgment seat.

For the unbeliever, their deepest  and  on the table–whether good or evil. Based on these deeds, Jesus will measure out .

But the most condemning piece of evidence against the unbeliever will be their persistent rejection of God’s salvation.

Believers, on the other hand, will be judged out of The Book of Life–a list of all who accepted God’s mercy through Christ.

Indeed, all their deeds will also be judged. But they will be judged to bestow degrees of reward–not on their justification. For those who trust in the Lord, repent of sin and walk in his ways will : ”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Who Will Judge?

The Bible is quite clear: the judge will be Jesus.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom. 

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 

Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. 

God gave the son this right to judge:

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 

Jesus’ death is a unique judgment where God paid the price justice demands for mankind’s sin. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the foundations on which sinners are saved. So it is significant that he is chosen to be the judge.

The Necessity of the Final Judgement

The final and ultimate judgment at the end of history is simply the culmination of redemptive history and God’s frequent judgment on his people. From the earliest of time, .

In the Old Testament God brought abundant blessing on mankind but he also visited judgment on them, too, for their constant rebellion and unfaithfulness.

Think the Flood, the tower of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah. And to this day  and idolatry and unfaithfulness.

Judgments throughout history serve as warnings for the consequences of unbelief, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

In this way God’s historical judgment and the future, final judgment reflect his character. It reveals his holinessjustice and wrath.

Yet, if believers pass from death into presence with God and unbelievers into a state of separation from God, why does God have a time of final judgment at all?

Simple. It serves the purpose of displaying before all rational creatures the declarative glory of God in a formal, forensic act.

Final Judgement Should Not Be Taken Lightly

The Bible’s message of God’s grace is set against the backdrop of a just God before whom we live. A just God who demands the satisfaction that crimes against him [for that is what sin is] be paid in full.

Crime demands justice. God’s judgment of unrepentant criminals naturally flows from this. On the other hand, his justification of repentant criminals flows from his grace. And this accomplishes one, very important thing…

In the end, all human history–from creation to the final judgment to heaven and hell–glorifies Jesus.  He will be glorified through both grace and judgement.

For the believer, falling down before God’s throne to worship him will be a privilege. It will be all misery and torment for the unbeliever.

Let’s do what we can to make sure we bring as many believers with us.

3 Ways of Looking at the Great Tribulation

About two years ago a friend asked me what I thought about the tribulation.

My response: “The what?”

I obviously hadn’t thought about it.

The question is, should I have thought about it?

More importantly, is this a doctrine that promotes a healthy, meaningful Christian life?

Or is this simply a speculative future event that causes nothing but fights?

I want to argue that it will indeed help Christians live a vivid, meaningful Christian life. That it can actually encourage us. And, combined with other doctrines of the last things, provide comfort.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s define the Great Tribulation real quick.

What Is the Great Tribulation?

The Bible talks about a time in the future of great anguish–tribulation–exceeding anything we’ve ever known:

…And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14

However, this is not to be confused with the general tribulation of common people [think childbirth] or believers [think torture] or God’s specific wrath found in hell.


This is a short but dramatic burst of intense moral evil and natural disasters that will cover the globe. [See .]

How short? Seven years. But WHEN will it happen? In general, there are three positions on this doctrine of last things that describe the when:


Some people believe that the church will be present during the entire 7-year tribulation. Christ’s second coming will occur at the end of this period.


A belief that simply sees Christ coming to rapture his church [read: remove them from the world] before the tribulation.


This position sees the church present during the first 3.5 years of the tribulation…before the severe anguish starts.

As you can see, we don’t have exact dates. That should tell us something: We aren’t supposed to calculate exact dates.

To do so–and then fail–will unnecessarily jeopardize our faith.

But it tells us something else: We are to be ever watchful and faithful. This is one of the redeemable qualities of this doctrine.

Here’s another: When combined with Christ’s second coming and the general resurrection, it provides comfort and encouragement.

To be honest, I don’t have a position on when the great tribulation will occur. Like the doctrine of the millennium, the when is not so important as the why.

Besides, this is not an issue Christians should die on the hill over. Neither is it something to quibble with unbelievers.

What about you: Ever think about the Tribulation? Ever read The Left Behind books? [I haven’t.]

Did I miss something in the positive benefits this doctrine provides?

Also, can anyone tell me the place and date of the above photo?  will shine your shoes if you get it right.

The Millennium: Can We Safely Neglect this Doctrine?

A quick look at the doctrine of the Millennium and the consequences of ignoring it.

I have to admit: Before I cracked open the books, I didn’t give the doctrine of Jesus’ thousand year reign a second thought.

Shoot–I hadn’t even given it a first thought.

But am I any less of a Christian?

And could I continue as a healthy, functioning Christian without this doctrine?

In other words, can Christians safely neglect the doctrine of the millennium?

Before we answer that question, let’s explore three different positions on this particular doctrine: amillennialismpostmillennialism and premillennialism.


According to this position, we are in the millennium. At Christ’s death, God reduced Satan’s power so the gospel could be effectively preached in this age.

This position declares that Christ’s one thousand year reign [a figurative number by the way] is a heavenly–and not an earthly–kingdom.

That means  is being fulfilled as we speak. It also means that there WILL NOT be a future kingdom.

This is it.

This reign will continue until Christ’s return when unbelievers will be raised to judgment and believers to eternal bliss.


This view holds that Christ’s return will occur AFTER the millennium.

In the meantime, this view sees the power of the gospel gradually growing over a very long time [the millennium, again, is a figurative thousand years] so that the world becomes more and more Christ-like…culminating in his second return.

As you can guess, this doctrine becomes very popular during times of pervasive peace and prosperity when we see strong influences of Christianity dominating our society.


This view sees Christ’s return BEFORE the millennium–but AFTER the tribulation. In other words, Christ’s return inaugurates his thousand year earthly reign.

At the beginning of this time Christ will cast Satan into the bottomless pit and believers will be raised from the dead.

At the end of this period Christ will release Satan from his prison who then attempts one last time to defeat Christ but is in turn summarily defeated.

Once Satan is defeated, final judgment will ensue–unbelievers to hell, believers to heaven.

Warning: Be Careful with This Doctrine

Listen: As with any prophetic, future doctrine interpreting the exact meaning of the millennium is both complex and difficult.

Our conclusions will be less certain than with other doctrines…

And although I think a strong case can be made for one position over the others [I’ll explain in a minute what that is], I also think it is VERY IMPORTANT to extend a large measure of grace when discussing this topic.

Putting aside questions of positions for a minute, what are we supposed to do with this doctrine? What’s at stake if we neglect it? Can we achieve personal applications from it?

To help us think through this I’ve adapted a few questions from . When you get a minute, answer these questions in the comments section. My answers are indented.

Questions to Ask Yourself about the Millennium

Do you have any conviction about Christ’s return: Whether it is amillennial, postmillennial or premillennial?

Yes. I affirm it is premillennial. I believe the stronger scriptural case lies with premillennialism. Furthermore, I believe the other positions create problems they can’t solve like amillennialisms slip into two returns for Christ .

How does your present view of the millennium affect your Christian life?

This is hard. Because it is in the distant future. But I would have to say it compels me to make my salvation sure, stimulate the faith of other believers and evangelize unbelievers despite my fears.

What do you think it will be like to live in a glorified body with Christ as King over the world? What sort of emotions and attitudes might you experience?

To the first question, weird. I don’t think I could confidently talk about such a state. I have zero reference point–expect for Christ’s resurrected body. So it may be the same, except without sin, disease or death. As far as emotions, I can only say it will probably be a deep sense of gratitude.

Lastly, do you really look forward to such a kingdom?

I confess: Not until I brushed up on the topic. I do now, though. In fact, I have a growing desire to learn more, because if you think about it contemplating such a kingdom and our place in it can only cause a far-reaching hope that sinks into every corner of our lives–changing us in ways Christ intended.

What about you? How would you answer these questions? Leave your answers in the comments.

And naturally your answers will depend on what position you hold, but don’t be afraid to share if we don’t agree. I’d still love to hear from you. I want to grow together.

Resurrection: Why It’s Necessary to Fight for a Precise Definition

“All who died will come to life.” That is the doctrine of resurrection in seven words.

It’s probably one of the most visible and enduring doctrines of the Christian church.

In fact, as a nation we celebrate the resurrection–Christ’s resurrection that is.

But I doubt most Americans–let alone professing Christians–could articulate a clear explanation of this doctrine.

I know I couldn’t until I cracked open the books.

Let’s change that.

How Important Is the Doctrine of the Resurrection?

Ask anybody–whether they believe in a physical resurrection, a metaphorical one or not at all–and all will agree that Jesus’ Resurrection is the center of Christianity.

Indeed, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 

, who’s written 15 books on the Resurrection said, “It’s the center of Christianity.”

Popular atheist :

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Indeed, Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. But not all believe it unfolded the same way–that is as a physical, bodily resurrection.

Alternative Views of Jesus’ Resurrection

John Shelby Spong believes the Resurrection is real. But  at best.

His logic?

Since it’s impossible to translate a God-event like Jesus’ resurrection, the Gospel writers resorted to what they had in hand–mythological language…

That means it would be a mistake to read into the Gospel accounts a literal risen Jesus walking around and eating.

Unfortunately, Spong never sufficiently explains why communicating an event like the risen Jesus barbecuing fish and chumming around with old friends is problematic.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

John Dominic Crossan thinks the Resurrection is best understood as a metaphor–a message that Crossan says is easy to understand.

But a metaphor misses the point. It loses the reality of God in the world.

Furthermore, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary , ”There’s no sense that any of the earliest followers had the remotest sense that this event was metaphorical.”

And finally, historian and atheist philosopher Richard Carrier  argues that the resurrection Paul spoke about was spiritual and not physical–a notoriously-slippery-slope notion William Lane Craig debunks.

But why should we care about the precision of Jesus’ resurrection? I mean can’t we “get the message” with out getting all technical?

One good reason why precision is so important is that Jesus’ own resurrection tells us what our future resurrection will look like.

Old Testament Hope of a General Resurrection

General resurrection is not a Christian invention.

In fact, many Greek philosophers like  the soul would be released from the body to reunite with the divine spirit.

Hebrews looked at it differently. The dead entered Sheol with their bodies and expected God to ransom them from this prison:

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. 

Moreover, their general belief in the goodness of God led the Jewish people to assume that the righteous dead would one day see God. Job said: “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” 

In a sense, God’s goodness was the foundation for this expectation.

New Testament Hope of General Resurrection

By Jesus’ time, as the Hebrew vision of general resurrection took shape, there were two competing positions on the topic.

The Sadducees and the Pharisses.

The Saducees dismissed general resurrection because they believed it was irrelevant to this life [“Look mom–a secular humanist!”] and was not included in the Law of Moses.

Pharisees, on the other hand, believed in a life after death that required a resurrection.

But why is the the Old Testament short on resurrection content while the New Testament presents a robust look?

Namely because the hope of the believer’s future resurrection rests upon the resurrection of Christ:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18

[See also  and .]

Five Elements to the General Resurrection

What does this general resurrection look like? Glad you asked. Here are five ways.

Transformed Body
Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 

New Dwelling
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling 

New Clothing
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 

Resurrection to Life
And come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

Resurrection to Judgment
Having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 

Now, not all who sought identification with the early Christian church proclaimed a future resurrection of the body.

Instead, they preached a spiritual awakening that already passed. This view, adopted by Hymenaeus and Philetus, and by later Gnostics, was condemned by Paul in .

The Over-Looked Accomplishments of a General Resurrection

Christ’s resurrection accomplishes at least three things.

One, it validates the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Two, Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates God’s triumph over death. And three, it establishes and under girds our hope of a future life beyond this world.

That last point accomplishes something very important…and often overlooked when it comes to the general resurrection: it inspires our evangelism.

Here’s how.

As C. S. Lewis noted, “We’ve never met a mortal.” And if humans are immortal, then we live on after death–either in heaven or hell.

If in heaven, then we want to share this good news. If in hell, then we want to warn. This means the doctrine of the general resurrection actually informs the rather remote doctrines of comfort and compassion.

Earthly suffering sucks. But eternal sucks way more.

In the end, as a Christian, it’s impossible to sever this life from the life of the next. We do our mortal brothers and sisters injustice if we think otherwise.

Let me know what you think.

Soul Sleep: Deviant Doctrine to Avoid

Most Christians agree that the soul survives death. What happens until the resurrection, however, is a matter of debate.

What happens to the human soul when a person dies?

Does it disintegrate the moment a person’s brain flat lines like materialists argue?

Or does it survive the body to live forever?

Of course most Christians agree that the soul survives.

However, not everyone agrees on what happens to that soul once a person dies.

Roman Catholics insist they trudge through purgatory.

Sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists, on the other hand, believe the soul remains unconscious until resurrection day.

This is called “soul sleep.” Or “conditional immortality.”

Soul Sleep: Biblical Proofs

Sects who embrace the soul sleep concept base their beliefs off of a host of verses:

Who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see…. 

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

The soul that sins shall die. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

At first blush it seems they might have a case. But they don’t. These verses have been wrenched out of their context.

Here’s how.

Soul Sleep: Where These Sects Went Wrong

Yes, First Timothy 6:16 suggests that it is God alone who has immortality. No argument from me. But in no way can we assume that he’s the only one.

In fact, Paul argues it’s BECAUSE God is the author of immortality that he is also the giver of immortality. We live forever because God sustains us.

I’ll admit, the notion of death in Genesis 2:17 is peculiar simply because Adam and Eve don’t actually die. At least not right away.

What’s going on? Here we have the promise of [future] physical death AND [immediate] spiritual death…

But the spiritual death the author of Genesis had in mind isn’t the soul sleep kind. No.

He had in mind the deadness in our desire for God…we turn the corner from agents who can sin to to agents who are slaves to sinblind to his beauty and incorrigibly bent to reject his son Christ.

What about Ezekiel and Romans? They simply echo the notion that physical and spiritual death is the punishment of sin. Adam’s original sin.

Okay. If souls don’t sleep while they wait for resurrection, what do they do? Here’s what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox View of the Soul After Death

Traditional Christians affirm that the human soul survives death. But not in a slumber.

In  Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Apostle  meant the “shedding of this body” and union with Christ in spirit.

Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” .

Then you have the spirits of the martyred tribulation saints in heaven who cry:  ”O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

The clincher, of course, is Jesus who said to the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” .


As you can see, the biblical evidence for soul sleep is lacking while evidence for the souls immediate union with God is strong. In a nutshell, when a redeemed person dies his soul is united with God immediately to wait the final resurrection of his body…

And when an unregenerate person dies, he is immediately ushered out of the presence of God to await final judgment.

Now, it’s your turn. What did I miss? Got any questions?

Share your thoughts. Brutal and all.