Dear Aunt Tracy:

The Great End Time Debate Clarified for Busy Homemakers

 

Actually, Aunt Tracy is my sister-in-law. However, she is indeed a most excellent and busy homemaker.

For that reason—and also because she is delving into Isaiah at Ladies Bible Study Fellowship—she asked me to write something SHORT on the question of the millennium (Revelation 20).

If you know me at all, you know I don’t do short. Nevertheless, I trust that the following letter—which was short by MY standards—proved helpful to her.

I post it here (with some non-short emendations) in hopes that it will also be of use to anyone else who may be looking for a brief introduction to the Great End Time Debate.

To take a look-see, please click here.

 ” . . . that all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.”

(John 5:23)

Cosmology is the study of the origin, structure, purpose, and destiny of our universe. Now that’s a topic to wrap your head around!

I am guessing that most folks today doubt we can ever be sure about such lofty and complex matters. But here’s a thought to consider: Doesn’t the very fact that we’re able to ponder these questions imply that our minds were actually created to find the answers? Cosmological skeptics may moan and groan, but surely it is not without significance that nearly all of us remain incurably curious about cosmology!

Could it be, then, that we we were meant to behold and enjoy the one true cosmology—and that any religion or philosophy that hopes to win the allegiance of thoughtful people must offer us one?

No doubt. But if that cosmology is to prevail in the war of the worldviews, it will have to be a good one: clear, comprehensive, logical, well-supported by good evidence, and full of hope for a suffering humanity that knows there’s a god, but is having difficulty discovering his truth about the world he created.

Having studied naturalistic, pantheistic, and theistic cosmologies for many years, I have concluded that Biblical Cosmology meets all these criteria, and that it does so far better than any other contestant in the ring. Indeed, I am  convinced that here we reach the spiritual and philosophical home our hearts were made for.

Yes, its teachings run hard against the grain of  the cosmological “wisdom” of modern man. And yes, because of this, many Christians are reluctant to study, formulate, embrace, and defend a deeply biblical cosmology.

However, such cosmological conflict should not surprise or demoralize intellectually hungry believers. Has not God said that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to him, and that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men? In such a universe, does it make sense for the lovers of truth to let the majority rule?!

If, then, Christians would only dig a little deeper into these matters, and let the Spirit of Truth perform His wonderful work of illumination, I believe they would find, to their amazement and joy, that in his Word God  really has graciously granted us the full spectrum of cosmological truth for which we, by our very nature as creatures in his image an likeness, are ever hungering!

A blog is not the place to explore Biblical Cosmology in detail, or to defend it from Scripture, history, philosophy, and science. It is, however, an excellent place to pique your curiosity about this fascinating and most important of subject.

Lord willing, I will do so from time to time in the months ahead. Today, I offer installment number one: the HEART of Biblical Cosmology. Your comments and questions are most welcome!

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Leaning Trees of Worship

By faith, Jacob, when he was dying,

blessed each of the sons of Joseph,

and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

(Heb. 11:21)

 

Joseph was displeased. His father Jacob had just extended his right hand, laid it on Ephraim’s head, and blessed him. Then, with his left hand, he had done the same for Manasseh.

But Manasseh was the older, the first-born! By rights, by custom, by time-honored tradition, the greater blessing—the blessing of the right hand—should have fallen upon him!

Having explained it to Joseph as best he could, Jacob rose from his bed, stood on his feet, took up his staff, leaned comfortingly upon it, and worshiped.

As he prayed, he reflected: Ever since that night at the ford of Jabbok it had been this way. Before the wrestling, he had indeed honored the LORD, but also walked tall, confident, and self-assured, guided by the wisdom of man.

But afterwards—after the Angel touched the socket of his hip, blessed him, and changed his name to Israel—he had walked with a limp, leaning upon his staff. And in so doing, he had somehow learned to receive the word of the LORD—the inheritance of wisdom from above—and to bestow it upon the beloved children of God.

If only Joseph could understand.

 

Of Pillars and Leaning Trees

In our mixed up world there are two postures of worship.

The first is that of a pillar. In exemplary fashion, it was struck long ago by the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. Standing very tall and very erect, he said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess!” A pillar of righteousness, in his own sight.

The second posture is that of a leaning tree. In exemplary fashion, it too was struck in Jesus’ parable, this time by a trembling tax collector. Standing far off, unwilling even to raise his eyes to heaven, he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Can you not see him leaning? He is leaning far, far away from himself, his character, and his accomplishments, all of which, in his own eyesight, seem like iron chains, ready to drag him down to hell. Can you not see him leaning, as far and as hard as he possibly can into the strong wind of God’s raw mercy.

A leaning tree of worship—who alone, according to Jesus, returned to his house justified in God’s sight.

 

Learning to Lean

But we dare not misunderstand.

To be sure, God is merciful: His great Father heart inclines him to it always. But his holiness, sovereignty, and paternal responsibility for the proper government of his world do not permit him simply to show mercy at his pleasure. No, he must show mercy by finding a way to satisfy his own justice, placate his own anger, and make guilty tax collectors—as well as self-centered Pharisees—righteous in his sight.

Just here we meet the Glad Tidings: In Christ Jesus—the Staff of God—he has done this very thing.

By his perfectly righteous life, he has won a perfect righteousness for all—for all who will lean on him.

By his atoning death, he has paid the just penalty for the sins of all, and placated the divine wrath against all—all who will lean on him.

Before Christ had finished his course, the poor tax collector cried out to God for mercy—and trembled in fear and uncertainty. Had he cried out after Pentecost, God would have replied, “Lean on the Staff that I have just provided, and like Jacob of old you shall have mercy, and a new name besides: Prince with God, and My Beloved Son in Whom I am Well Pleased!”

 

Princely Sons

When I imagine the aged Jacob standing before Joseph and his sons, leaning upon his staff and worshiping the One who had lovingly brought him so near, I think I hear him saying, “LORD, bring them all to an understanding; but as you do, please, be as gentle as you can.”

For it is no light thing to become a leaning tree of worship. The Angel of the LORD himself must come to you by night. He must cast his dreadful gaze upon the libertine—or the proud, self-righteous Pharisee—within. And he must also cast your gaze upon the heavenly wrath and hellish torments that the libertine and the Pharisee so richly deserve.

Moreover, if he does come, you must not let him go. Rather, in fear and trembling, you must wrestle until you prevail; until you receive the holy wound with which you will walk—haltingly and in frequent pain—for the rest of your days. And you must wrestle until you receive the holy Staff that will enable you to do so.

No, it is no light thing to become a leaning tree. And yet, for the sinful sons of Adam, there is no richer gift, no higher honor, no sweeter pleasure. For now, having become such a tree, you learn to worship.

Since it is precious in your sight, you take your Staff in hand and say, “Thank you God for having mercy on me, a sinner. Thank you for the visitation, the wrestling, the wounding, the placing of your dear Son securely beneath my arm. Thank you that I can now walk—be it ever so haltingly—in your holy presence.

“But most of all, thank you for my strong Staff. Thank you for placing my sins upon him. Thank you for placing his righteousness upon me. And thank you for placing his Spirit deep within, that I might become a Christ-centered son, rather than remain a self-centered sinner.”

Beloveds, the eyes of our heavenly Father are seeking all over the world for worshipers like this. Truly, they are the joy of his heart.

And if you are among them—standing before his throne, leaning upon your Staff—be prepared! For like Jacob of old, you are sure to find yourself filled with the Spirit, and receiving words of wisdom from above.

When you do, simply extend your hands, lay them on the heads of God’s dear children (as he directs!), and speak the words boldly.

Behold, they too will become trees of worship, leaning on their Staff; they too will receive the inheritance of the princely sons of God!

I AM a Winner!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,

For He who promised is faithful.

(Heb. 10:23)

It is a no good, very bad, horrible day.

The Titans are 13 and 0. Last night, they won the Regional Championship. Last night, the whole town—only months back torn and bleeding with racial strife—was deliriously united in the joy of victory. Last night, the eyes of all together were zeroing in on the prize: a win in the State Finals, and a walk into the history books.

But today, Gary Bertier—the all-American defensive linebacker and captain of the team—lies in a hospital, crippled for life. The automobile accident has changed everything.

Or almost everything.

Bill Yoast, coach of the defensive team, enters his office at the high school. Herman Boon, head coach of the Titans, joins him. Bertier’s presence—and his absence–fills the room.

Says Boon, “Here’s the Marshal film. We’ve got to be sharp offensively and defensively, got to stay focused, do a couple of extra practices. I’ve scheduled a press conference. . . ”

Interrupts Yoast, “Press conference! Look, what we do here, between ourselves, that’s one thing; but this is no time to be parading around . . . ”

Objects Boon, “It’s not about parading around, it’s about staying unified. Look, I’m hurting just like you. But I didn’t . . . we didn’t come this far just to break down and lose . . .”

Cries Yoast, “You know, Herman, everything’s not always about winning and losing; it’s about . . ”

Declares Boon, in no uncertain terms: “I am a winner. I am going to win.”

———-

So what do you think? Is Boon a callous, self-absorbed egomaniac? Yoast thought so. But the end of the matter—which was indeed a state championship for the Titans—proved otherwise. Boon really was a winner—and so was the whole team and the whole town that he loved and served, including Gary Bertier.

When Boon affirmed that he was a winner, it wasn’t ego; it was simply that the Truth had spoken through him.

Saints of God, days are coming when the storms of Providence will rage against you; when gale force winds threaten to blow you all the way back to Egypt, back into the very jowls of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Then is the time you need to hold fast the confession of your hope, without wavering, and to remember that he who promised is faithful.

Has he promised that He chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world?

Has he assured you  that it is finished; that Christ has laid down his life for the sheep, so that not a single one shall ever perish, nor shall any ever snatch them out of his hand?

Has he guaranteed you that the saints are sealed with the Holy Spirit , who is the deposit  and pledge of your inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession at the resurrection of the dead, to the praise of his glory?

Has he made you to see and believe and thrill to the thought that whom he foreknew, these he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son; and whom he predestined, these he also called; and whom he called, these he also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified?

If so, when the winds begin to rage, you must confess it. Confess it all. Confess it aloud to the entire stadium, to the whole great cloud of witnesses watching you run—to God, the angels, the saints above, your friends below, and to your own wavering self.

Say, “I am a Christian.

Say, “I will enter Heaven.”

Say, I am a winner, I am going to win.

Beloveds, it will be neither ego nor presumption, but simply the Truth—the voice of the faithful One who has promised—speaking through you.

And the great cloud of witnesses will cheer you on to victory.

 

ALIEN GOSPEL

For false Christs and false prophets will arise,

and will show great signs and wonders,

so as to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect.

See, I have told you beforehand.

(Mt. 24:24)

 

Most Christians are familiar with these words, and most of them are on the alert: for human false prophets arising out of the earth (Rev. 13:11f).

But in these turbulent last days, here’s a question well worth asking: Could some of those false prophets be evil spirits masquerading as highly evolved aliens coming down out of the heavens—not to blast us, but to “bless” us with redemptive “wisdom” from the starry deeps?

Well, if  you know anything about the great dragon—that serpent of old called the devil and Satan and the prince of the power of the air—you wouldn’t put it past him (Rev. 12:4, 9).

And yet many Christians are double-minded on this subject. “Who’s to say,” they ask, “that extra-terrestrials don’t exist? Surely in a universe as big as ours, there must be other intelligent life forms somewhere out there! Isn’t it a bit arrogant to think that we, and we alone, are “the ones”?

Good questions, and questions that I myself have asked. But in devoting a couple of years to the study of biblical cosmology, I was stunned to learn something of great interest and, in credulous times like ours, something of great practical importance. I learned that, Yes, we really ARE the ones!

Very briefly, let me make the case.

 

What Shape is Your Cosmos?

Did you know that prior to the sixteenth century, no one in the Western world believed in aliens? In part, that’s because no one believed in cosmic evolution. But in even larger part, it’s because no one believed that space was infinite, or centerless, or curved, or shaped like a saddle, a hyper-cube, or a multi-dimensional toroid! (Not to worry if you can’t even imagine some of these hypotheses about cosmic structure; neither can the modern cosmologists who propose them).

Instead, the prevailing view was that God, in six literal days, created the cosmos as a finite sphere, rotating around a stationary earth, that was home to the apple of his eye: us! And where did folks get an outlandish idea like that? You guessed right: the Bible (with a little help from Aristotle, as well).

Ponder this carefully (for it’s well worth pondering): Aliens came in when biblical geocentrism went out; when Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and their followers demoted the earth from the central place given to it in the Scriptures. As far as I can tell, it was Kepler who first let the alien genie out of the bottle, speculating in his book Dream about the inhabitants of the moon. Four hundred years later, his followers at NASA and the SETI program are still at it!

If we want to understand the Bible on the question of extra-terrestrials, its teaching on the purpose and structure of the cosmos is the place to begin. And as unpalatable as that teaching may be to modern man, it is surprisingly clear and comforting: The earth really is at the center—at least of God’s affections, plans, and purposes, and likely of his whole creation as well.

I won’t try to argue that thesis here, but would simply point you to Genesis 1. As you read, please keep these few questions in mind: What did God create first: the Earth or the heavenly bodies? What, according to a cosmologically unbiased reading of the text, revolves around what: the earth around the sun, or the sun (and the rest of the luminaries) around the earth? And why exactly did God create the luminaries in the first place? Was it to supply a home for aliens, or was it simply to supply lights, times, seasons, and signs to the dear children made in his own image and likeness: the human inhabitants of the earth?

Now whatever your answers may be, this much should be agreeable to all: biblically, the Earth really is at the absolute center of God’s cosmic attention, so that when he hung the stars, he did it for us, and not for ET (Gen. 1:14-19). And because ET can do nothing to help us see at night, tell time, or glorify God for his heavenly handiwork, it is reasonable to conclude that ET does not exist.

 

Extra-terrestrials and the Justice of God

The biblical case against extra-terrestrials runs deeper still. That’s because the Scriptures also declare that in the beginning “the whole creation” was cursed; that it was “subjected to futility” (i.e., to decay and death) due to the sin of Adam (Rom. 8:18-23). Moreover, this terrible judgment portends a still worse judgment, for the cosmos itself will one day be destroyed—earth, stars, planets, and all—just prior to its eternal renewal at the hand of the returning and glorified Christ (Phil. 3:20-21, 2 Peter 3:10-13).

All this creates a serious problem for Christians entertaining the idea of alien life forms. For if extra-terrestrials exist, they and their world(s) must suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin, even though they themselves are not his offspring and stand in no spiritual relationship to him whatsoever (Rom. 5:12f).

This conclusion seems all the more inescapable when we remember that such extra-terrestrials would have no savior. For the Bible consistently represents the cosmic Redeemer as having taken to himself—for all eternity—“the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5f, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 2:14f, Rev. 1:9f). It is as a man—and not as an extra-terrestrial—that the Son of God became the High Priest of his people: dying for them, rising for them, and interceding for them in Heaven to this very day (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25, 9:24).

So again, if extra-terrestri­als exist, they have no connection with Adam and no connection with the Redeemer made in Adam’s likeness. Nevertheless, according to the Bible, they all must perish in the end time conflagration. But is God unrighteous to perform such a manifestly unjust act? May it never be (Deut. 32:4, Isaiah 30:18, 61:8, 2 Tim. 4:8, Rev. 15:3)! The conclusion, then, on biblical premises, is that extra-terrestrials do not exist.

 

Heads Up!

What then of all the alleged sightings of UFO’s and contacts with aliens? Biblically, the options are few, simple, and sobering: Either they are scams, purely natural phenomena, or demonic de­ceptions, designed to rob the High King of Heaven of the worship rightly due to him (Luke 4:5-7, 2 Cor. 11:14, 2 Thess. 2:9-12, 1 Tim. 4:1).

For those who reckon the Bible to be a trustworthy revelation from God, this is useful information indeed. And it may be especially useful in the year ahead, when (as I am told) Hollywood jumps on the UFO band-wagon big time, giving us six thrillers about alien invasions from on high.

They may well materialize: the movies, the invasions, or both. In any case, wise Christians, understanding that they really are the (beloved) ones, will lift up their eyes and fix them steadfastly on the Bright Morning Star.

It is scheduled to rise soon, and will most assuredly appear in a theatre near  to you (Luke 21:28, Heb. 12:2, Rev. 22:16).

For more, see The New Answers Book (Master Books, 2007), chapter 18. Also, visit the excellent blog of astronomer and mathematician, John Byl. Finally, you may wish to read Alien Intrusion, by Gary Bates (but definitely not before bed).