• Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Fulfillment of Scripture is More than Prophecy

    We see the use of “fulfillment” terminology all over the New Testament. For example, in reference to Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Elsewhere John says that the events of the crucifixion happened “that Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 19:36). These are just two of the numerous examples in the New Testament where a fulfillment formula is used. The question is, what does it mean? Fulfillment as Prediction and Actualization of Prophecy The most common understanding of the fulfillment formula is that of prediction-actualization. The Old Testament prophets predicted certain things, and the actualization of that prophecy comes to pass (i.e., it was fulfilled). For example, in Isaiah 7:14 we see a prophecy concerning a virgin giving birth. In Matthew 1:22–23 we see that this prophecy is actually realized (fulfilled) in the virgin birth of the Messiah, Jesus. Similarly, there are…

  • New Testament,  Theology

    A Significant Chronological Problem for Postmillennialism in Acts 3:21

    Postmillennialism is trending upward on the eschatological popularity scale. It has many visible and popular adherents, such as Doug Wilson, Jeff Durbin, and more recently, James White. As postmillennialism gains popularity, many questions arise about whether it is an accurate view of the world’s future. One significant challenge postmillennialism has is a chronological issue in Acts 3:21. Postmillennialism teaches that, over time, the church will emerge victorious by progressively and gradually triumphing over the world. Eventually the whole world will embrace the gospel, times of immense blessings will flow, and then Jesus will return to receive the kingdom. A self-assessed optimism of the future marks this view. In contrast to postmillennialism, premillennialism teaches that the coming of Christ must precede the establishment of a peaceful earthly kingdom. When Christ comes, he himself will establish a thousand-year reign (millennium) on the Earth. There are many ways to assess the theology of…

  • New Testament

    Not So Silent Night Above Bethlehem?

    Will Varner recently posted over at Focus on the Family about how, although we often view the first Christmas night as a beautiful and tranquil evening, it was probably anything but that! Varner notes that although we often visualize angels as messengers of peace and good news, angels were often symbolically gathered for war! The first matter to consider is our mental image of angels. The biblical word cherubim has morphed into the English word cherub, which evokes images of fat and cute little creatures intended to warm our hearts. Such images are foreign to the Biblical description of angelic beings. The second matter is the Hebrew term tsva, often used to describe a group of angels and translated into English as “host.” But tsva is better understood as a military term, and in Modern Hebrew, tsva means “army.”  Luke refers to these angels with the Greek word stratia, which translates that Hebrew tsva (“army”) in the ancient…

  • New Testament

    The Nasty Innkeeper Who Turned Away Mary and Joseph—Did He Exist?

    Everyone is familiar with him. He’s the nasty, mean innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph because the inn was full. The innkeeper is so famous, every Christmas many Christians draw lessons from his failure to provide accommodation for the Savior’s family. Indeed, some Christians allegorize the story by saying we all relate to the innkeeper because we often don’t make room for the Savior in our own hearts. But what if the notion of an innkeeper in the traditional telling of the Christmas story is a little misleading? Okay, I actually think it is not just misleading but actually just wrong. I don’t think the evidence is there in the Christmas story for an innkeeper. Here is why I think that. The Word Traditionally Understood as Inn, Likely Does not Mean Inn In the KJV of Luke 2:7 we read, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Should We Expect a Future Kingdom for National Israel?

    It is becoming increasingly popular to discount a future kingdom for geopolitical Israel. But both Old and New Testaments speak of a time when Israel will be restored as a national kingdom, with the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. Passages such as Psalm 72:1–20, Isaiah 2:1–3, 11:1–9, 65:17–25, Zech 8:4–5, 14:16–19 are but a few of the passages which teach a future kingdom for Israel that is distinct from the eternal state. Although the Old Testament is very clear when speaking of a future kingdom for Israel, some biblical interpreters believe that the New Testament tempers our expectation for a future kingdom for Israel. Yet, there is no reason to deviate from what is clearly laid out in the Old Testament. The General New Testament Expectation of a Kingdom for Israel Rather than adjusting the expectation of a future kingdom for Israel, the New Testament confirms what the Old Testament told…

  • Biblical Languages,  New Testament

    Faith is Not Enough To Save Someone

    In the King James Version, James 2:14 reads, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” This verse was quoted to me in high school by a Mormon who was arguing that faith alone is not what saves an individual. According to my Mormon friend, and others who perhaps read the KJV, James 2:14 teaches that faith alone cannot save an individual. Some readers will be initially discouraged to hear that the Greek language makes the point even more strongly. In Greek, the phrase, “Can faith save him?” is μὴ δύναται ἡ πίστις σῶσαι αὐτόν. The presence of the μὴ particle assumes a negative reply. This means that when we read the question, we are supposed to know that the answer is “Of course not.” In other words, James has telegraphed the answer to the question—faith is…

  • Culture,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Slavery—Why Does the Bible Allow It?

    Why does the Bible allow slavery? At first glance this seems an irredeemable blemish to the goodness of the Bible’s message. Slavery is recognized as one of the great evils of our history. To many, this provides a significant reason for rejecting what the Bible teaches. Some balk at the belief that Christians can believe God revealed himself in a book which, not only does not condemn slavery, but actually allows it. How should we think about the fact that the Bible allows slavery? This is a challenging issue because our society brings with it cultural baggage which makes accurate interpretation of biblical texts on slavery difficult. Those of us who live in the Americas and Europe are familiar with the African slave trade, and this is the kind of slavery that we envision taking place in the Bible. But there are some key differences between the Bible’s picture of…

  • Christian Living,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Are We Living in the Last Days?

    The concept of the “last days” or end times captivates the imagination of many Christians. It conjures up vivid images of the rapture, the Antichrist, and apocalyptic events preceding Christ’s return. But what does the Bible actually teach about the last days, and are we living in them now? Intriguingly, the Bible declares we are living in the last days (but not in the last of the last days). Why We are Currently Living in the Last Days Thankfully, the Bible talks quite a bit about the issue of the last days. The Old Testament speaks about it prophetically, and the New Testament authors make it very clear that we are currently living in the last days. For example, in his sermon at Pentecost, Peter declares the dawn of the last days by quoting the prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Theology

    Do a Pastor’s Children Need to be Believers? A Look at Titus 1:6

    According to the NASB, Titus 1:6 states that leaders in the church must have children who believe. In other words, a church leader who has children, must have children who believe (i.e., Christians). Leadership certainly is a high calling. The significance of leadership is magnified within the Church because of the importance of the Church as a unified witness of God’s plan of redemption to the watching world. For this reason, Paul clearly lays out two lists of leadership qualifications which give the standard of character for the would-be leader in the Church (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These lists are essentially the same, although a few differences exist. As noted above, the biggest difference is Titus 1:6, which seems to mandate that an elder have children who believe (i.e., Christian children). On the other hand, other translations choose the phrase “faithful children” instead of children who believe. A brief…

  • New Testament,  Theology

    Do Spiritual Gifts Exist Today? A Look at the Cascade Argument.

    There is a big division in the church today about whether or not miraculous spiritual gifts continue today. Many churches affirm that speaking in tongues, prophesying, healings, and the like continue today in like manner to their New Testament manifestation. These Christians are known as continuationists. On the other hand, a cessationist is a Christian who believes that although miracles still happen, God has ceased granting individuals the miraculous abilities mentioned in the New Testament (i.e., tongues, prophecy, healings, etc.). Do such miraculous spiritual gifts exist today? Although there are a variety of ways one can examine whether spiritual gifts exist today, I often point to what is known as the cascade argument. I was first introduced to the cascade argument by Sam Waldron in his book, To Be Continued? The cascade argument walks through the miraculous spiritual gifts showing that they are connected in purpose and function, and that…