Category Archives: Revelation

Knowledge Of God

Brunner & Barth: The Natural Knowledge of God

https://philosophicalphragments.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/brunner.jpg?w=500

It was the 1930s when Swiss theologian Emil Brunner published his little book entitled Natur und Gnade (Nature and Grace).  In this treatise, Brunner argues that in the theology of his “mentor” John Calvin (1) the imago Dei (image of God) in man formed the contact for the gospel and (2) God’s revelation in nature can be seen through the lens of Scripture.

Calvin considers this remnant of the Imago Dei to be of great importance.  One might almost say that it is one of the pillars supporting his theology, for he identifies it with nothing less than the entire human, rational nature, the immortal soul, the capacity for culture, the conscience, responsibility, the relation with God, which -though not redemptive-exists even in sin, language, the whole of cultural life.
Brunner’s book was met with a harsh and emphatic NEIN!  the title of Karl Barth’s treatise. In this work Barth set out to refute Brunner.  Part of the reason for the aggressive tone in Barth’s response was due to the pro-Nazi use of natural theology.  Barth argued (1) the fall of man had so debased the image of God that our natural knowledge of God is idolatry and superstition at best and (2) natural revelation serves only to render man guilty before God without excuse.  (3)  For Barth, there is no knowledge of God the creator outside of a knowledge of God the Savior.
“The possibility of a real knowledge by natural man of the true God, derived from creation, is, according to Calvin, a possibility in principle, but not in fact, not a possibility to be realized by us.  One might call it an objective possibility, created by God, but not a subjective possibility, open to man.  Between what is possible in principle and what is possible in fact there inexorably lies the fall.  Hence this possibility can only be discussed hypothetically”
What do you think?

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God’s Promise of a New Home

Week of October 11, 2015

Bible Verses: Revelation 21:1-8.

The Point: A life in Christ means a life with Christ forever.

The New Heaven and the New Earth: Revelation 21:1-8.
[1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [6] And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [7] The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. [8] But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” [ESV]
PRELIMENARY STUFF
The book of Revelation is actually a letter written by John while imprisoned on the island of Patmos to a persecuted church. It is an exhortation to stay the course in the face of adversity up to the possibility of death. In this letter John demonstrates the history of redemption beginning with the coming of the Messiah and concluding at the end of the age. It is only after Revelation chapter 20 (where John describes the final judgment 20:11-15) that he discusses our new home or heaven.

VERSE 1
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”. Here John makes a big distinction between two completely different orders of things. What we know as the “first heaven” is the state of affairs that we experience today. It is characterized as “fallen” or corrupt. Something interesting here, many Bible teachers when they read the words “new heaven and a new earth” immediately register in their minds a second earth. Maybe it is because they are following John’s order of a “first heaven and the first earth.” While that is understandable it is not what John said and we shouldn’t automatically assume it. The Greek words that John uses are καινὸν καὶ γῆν which has to do with a different kind or type of thing meaning that the new heaven and earth is different from the current heaven and earth. The present heaven and earth is temporary and will perish. The new heaven and earth belong to the age to come which is eternal.

VERSE 2
John “saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared
as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Here John refers to this new heaven and earth as the new Jerusalem. You can reference Isaiah 52:1 which speaks of a time of restoration at the end of the messianic age. This is what John is seeing in his revelation of the new heaven and earth the new Jerusalem which at this point in Revelation is made up of believers. It is the actual Kingdom of God fully realized in its complete manifestation.

VERSES 3-5
This actualization or realization as I referred to above is the reality that we as believers so desire to see. As we wait in anticipation in a fallen and sinful world that is full of pain, suffering, cruelty, we long to hear the words, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God (3)”. John tells us that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (4)” and God is making all this new (5).

Here it is. This is the culmination and completion of our salvation. These words of being God’s people and He being their God are remincent of God’s covenant promise made to Abraham (Genesis 17) and extended out to all his covenant people as many as there are stars in the heaven (Genesis 15). Here promise as become fulfillment, type and shadow have become a reality as God dwells with His covenant people who are forever fully redeemed and glorified. This is the reality of the “promise land” that had been spoken of as God’s people had finally entered in and enjoy the true Sabbath rest.

VERSE 6
“And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” In short God is sovereign above all things in this world. Not just things present but things since the beginning through things yet to come to include the new heavens and earth.

VERSES 7-8
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. [8] But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” As with all covenants (promises) there are covenant keepers and covenant breakers. The severity of this covenant is the second death. Those who are in Christ keep the covenant of grace and those who reject Christ will be judged on the basis of the law which no man but Christ can survive the scrutiny of the law.

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BOOK REVIEW: More Than Conquerors

More Than Conquerors (MTC)by William Hendriksen was a great read (for the second time)providing insight on the book of Revelation with a pleasant prose making it enjoyable to read for just about anyone. Originally published in 1939 MTC has been able to demonstrate its worth and legitimacy by withstanding the test of time. Still relevant even today when compared to recent scholarship yet very accessible.

For those who come from my own church background-fundamentalist evangelical-MTC is going to read very different from what we are typically used to. Hendriksen’s purpose is to amplify the original message of the book of Revelation which is very applicable to the church today. Hendriksen takes seriously the hermeneutic of Scripture interpreting Scripture as he demonstrates how the message of Revelation would have been understood by its original audience.

CONTRIBUTIONS

MTC is very applicable and arguably one of the most applicable books on Revelation. The common approach to Revelation is to create a prophetic time line of end time scenarios by decoding Revelation through the grid current events. Hendriksen’s approach is much different as he views Revelation as a book that applies to the church in every age. He properly understands Revelation as book that gives us hope in Christ as we persevere and encourages us to draw closer to God.

What was new to me in Hendriksen is his view of the external architecture of Revelation. He explains that Revelation is not linear or chronological but consists of 7 parallel accounts (also known as “Progressive Parallelism” or “Recapitulation” theory of Revelation ) of the church age and the final day of the Lord. In this view each account speaks of the evil in the world using symbolism and ends showing that God will be victorious, judgment will come upon the evil, and the persecuted saints will be protected, vindicated, and saved. This is great encouragement for the persecuted church in every age.

Lastly Hendriksen properly explains the symbols that John uses in Revelation. The common approach to symbolism is to interpret the symbols literally. Hendriksen properly shows how many of the symbols used in Revelation are taken from Old Testament symbolism that point to specific truths for the church age.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Hendriksen comes from a historic Protestant background so his approach to Revelation will be different than what many readers are accustomed to. However, this shouldn’t be a reason not to give Hendriksen a fair reading. His book went through more than 25 publications since 1939 because it really is that good. For decades his was one of the few commentaries on the book of Revelation that carried with it a sense of legitimacy because of its candor and its Christ centered message. For this reason alone it ought to have a place on any Bible student’s book shelf.

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the Seven Churches of Asia Minor

This is a great site which hosts many videos and picture of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation.

http://drkoine.com/lectures/revelation/

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