Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eschatology is Doxology:

The Presence of the Future 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.

These words are the last two lines of the English version{1} of the Gloria Patri. It is a confessional prayer that has its origins in the Second Century undoubtedly linked directly to the original Disciples of the Lamb of God. Particularly in mind would be Polycarp of Smyrna{2} (69-160AD) a disciple of the Apostle John.

Divine Harmony

What is the “it?”  It is the Glory of God.  God was glorified in His creation and He will be glorified in His re-creation.  The Divine tension of these two anchor points sustain and direct all that goes on in the interim.  So to speak, the harmonic tune is set and all else conforms to its pitch–thus accentuating the fact that every seemingly finite transaction traces its origin to the Decree of the Infinite: “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Acts 4:28 

The first lines of this doxology read:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;

If we even have a modicum of understanding of the Divine process, we will be apprehended by the realization that the course of our own lives are also so ordained. “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased...” Galatians 1:15 May we not neglect the fact that this is that which is pleasing to God. And from Isaiah: “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother's womb he has spoken my name.” Could anything be any more unalterable? 

Many of us are very familiar with this hymn of praise - others maybe not so much - yet the question is still begged: “Do we really believe what we have been confessing?”  The Glory of God is that which has always been and always will be. A world without end always has its course determined by this consummate disposition. Annihilation of His creation has no place in the epilogue of the Song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” Revelation 15:3 

Continuing in this vein: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Colossians 1:16{3}  How is it possible that that which was created not only by Him, but also for Him, could ever cease to exist?  And how does that influence our message? Are we only trying to save souls for a heavenly abode or is our eternal hope a company of transformed beings inhabiting a transformed creation? We must concur with the last word of the Gloria Patri: “Amen!”  That is to say, “So be it Lord!” 

The Presence of the Future 

Eschatology is a big word and is subject to much speculation. To many it only points toward that which is to come.  I believe it is much more expansive than that.  It looks back to what once was - the original intent -  while pointing toward that which will be–thus determining what is. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8  

Gleaning from N.T. Wright: “So when I (and many others) use the word eschatology we don’t simply mean the second coming, still less a particular theory about it; we mean, rather, the entire sense of God’s future for the world and the belief that that future has already begun to come forward to meet us in the present.”{4}

Pan Out?

Many of a well-meaning disposition eschew the whole proposition by saying something like, “Well, it will all just pan out in the end.”  Undoubtedly this attitude has come as a result of the controversy often arising when such matters are discussed.  However, the unintended result is a diminution of the purpose and plan of God.

In response we must assert, “Does God have a plan or not?”  With the emphasis of this treatise being the proposition that He does we then ask, “How does He allow us to be privy to it?” The finality of our rejoinder can only be, “By His Word!”

A word of caveat would be appropriate at this point. I am not intending to advocate a particular position in this musing.  After forty years of preaching, teaching and study of the Word of God, I have not emphatically landed on any one perspective. I am more sure of what I cannot countenance while looking forward with continued expectancy to that which is to be revealed. In this journey I am becoming more and more apprehended by the Glory of God and am thus propelled onward. 

The Revelation 

Many turn to the Book of the Revelation for answers to what seems to be an insurmountable puzzle. Yet, when this seminal panorama is viewed only through futuristic lenses the result is to be dragged down even deeper into a quagmire of befuddlement. The Revelation is that of Jesus Christ who we have already seen is He who was, who is and who is to come–encompassing all of eternity from beginning to end. Please do not call this book Revelations - at least not in my presence. It is like the scratching of fingernails on a chalkboard. As the purpose of God is solely singular in the Son so is the Revelation of God.

Another great disservice to the Revelation is to refer to it as the apocalypse with the denotation being the final destruction of all things.  Some things are to be destroyed indeed, but that which is eternal is only purified. Wood, hay and straw are consumed while gold, silver and jewels are refined–becoming even more glorious. The book is apocalyptic indeed for the word means the revelation of the divine purpose.  The connotation of widespread disaster is the weakest definition possible and should be relegated to the dustbin of misnomer.  


So then, why does it matter?  My conviction is that a solely futuristic perspective of the consummation of all things - or a disinclination toward an authentic Biblical understanding - provides no energy or focus toward societal transformation. Thus the eschatological hope of Paul is conveniently - should we say comfortably - set aside: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:19, 21

Looking again to N.T. Wright: “In his appearing we find neither a dualist rejection of the present world nor simply his arrival like a spaceman into the present world but rather the transformation of the present world, and ourselves within it, so that it will at last be put to rights and we with it. Death and decay will be overcome, and God will be all in all.”{5}


This malaise of unfocused fervor has only crept into the evangelical church in its somewhat recent history - early 19th Century - resulting in an abdication of its societal obligations into which other organizations full of altruism, but devoid of eternal consequence have flooded. Many of these organizations by their very names or emblems indicate their original connection to eternal purpose - yet the glory has departed. 

When message and method are no longer linked the witness becomes incredulous with confusion being the result. Genuine seekers are faced with a bewildering dilemma in their search for authenticity. Some of whom are labeled as postmodernist are those involved in just this pursuit.


There must be a return to historic relevance such as found in the Gloria Patri for the church to fully execute her mission in the earth and to be presented to her Lord and Savior without spot or blemish.  I see our Faithful Father raising up just such a company who are rejecting the recent faddishness - modernity - of the church in their quest for relevance. Some are too quick to say that they have left the church - might not the truth be just the opposite? 

The following stanza which will serve as our benediction is one of the most comprehensive eschatological statements I have ever read–succinctly summarizing all that I have been saying..

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
Maltbie Babcock - 1901

And for our concluding amen

“On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.” The Gospel Coalition 

{1} Book of Common Prayer edited by Thomas Cranmer in 1552 representing the Reformed perspective of faith. Archbishop Cranmer was later burned at the stake for the unswerving faith that had gripped his soul - ushering him into eternity and the fulness of the Gloria Patri. 

{2} He has come to be know as The Heretic Fighter - he also suffered martyrdom at the stake. 

{3} The through or by of John 1:3 can just as easily be translated for: “All things were made (for) him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

{4} Wright, N.T., Surprised By Hope, HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2008, p. 122

{5} Ibid, P. 142 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Glory Be To Our Great God!

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

Why do I call myself an evangelical agnostic?  I am totally and unswervingly committed to the Evangel - the Good News in Jesus Christ - for I am held in its firm grasp. Yet I am agnostic as to the means with which we - the modern evangelical church - represent it. This essay is an odyssey into a concern that is a - or even the - central theme of the Evangel which unfortunately is often relegated to the dust bin of ages past - the Glory of God.  And as will be seen, much of my appeal to this splendor will be from voices of previous generations. The peruser may detect an element of redundancy.  It is there for an emphatic purpose. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Fanny Crosby

Why does God rescue even a single one of Adam’s race?  There is ultimately one reason and one reason alone. For His Glory! The purpose of our salvation is not what is in it for us–it is about what is in it for Him. I believe we get this decidedly backwards resulting in ineffectiveness. Many decry rightly, “Why is the church not more effective as salt and light in the world?” It is because we believe amiss–our motivation is constrained in the wrong direction. 

In expositing on "The Lord our God hath shewed us His glory.” Deuteronomy 5:24 Charles Spurgeon addresses this issue. GOD'S great design in all His works is the manifestation of His own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of Himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. 

This is what the Son says concerning those that the Father has given Him: “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” John 17:10 This could hardly be any more explicit–the very words of the Son to the Father. This is not a wishful petition, it is a declarative injunction–what He has come to restore is being accomplished. That which was lost in Adam is being renewed in the Son - a company of the created ascribing glory to the Creator. The soon to be Exalted Son continues: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;...” John 17:22

Glory is the providence of God and God only - “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1Cor 1:29 This is the operation of the Father and the Father alone: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44 Mankind can only be its recipient as result of the a priori action of God the Father. 

That He has a perfect knowledge of all persons and things, and sees them all, even that which is most secret, at one clear, certain, and unerring view. Matthew Henry

Man cannot regenerate himself - he cannot initiate it, sustain it or bring it to completion. This is the charge of the Father in the Son.  Nearing the conclusion of his earthly sojourn Paul desired to bequeath this unfailing hope to his young disciple: “I am convinced (persuaded) that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

The Glory of God draws mankind back into the original relationship - children of God. This is the Adamic blessing and it is what was forfeited - and could only be regained by the One and Only Son of God.  “No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son-- the One who is at the Father's side-- He has revealed Him.” John 1:18 HCS We also read: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:3

“the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;” Nicene Creed

The Glory of God comes by a revelation of God given and sustained by God. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30 This is the ultimate and singular purpose - nothing plural here - a company of the elect in the Son glorifying the Father.

At a recent large gathering of evangelicals one of the plenary speakers referred to the preceding verse - Romans 8:28 - “who have been called according to his purpose(s).” I was horrified! There is no accurate translation that makes purpose plural. If it is plural, it is toward the glory of man - if sui generis (unique) it is the Glory of God.

since he is the image and glory of God; 1 Corinthians 11:7

Our current evangelical message is often a setup for ineptitude - for its focus is not on the Glory of God, but on the welfare of man. The ultimate welfare of man is found only in the Glory of God - we must not get these backward.  Even in distress the Glory of God remains our sole hope. When Christ was confronted with the news of the illness of His friend Lazarus He replied: "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." John 11:4 He was so constrained by the Father’s purpose that He stayed where He was two more days. Upon arrival He was confronted by the grief of Lazarus’ sisters: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” The compassion was so strong in Him that He wept, yet He was never dissuaded from the Father’s sole objective. 

What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Westminster Shorter Catechism

A similar instance occurred when He along with His disciples encountered a man born blind. Immediately the disciples appealed to the temporal: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 The Son was quick to refocus them on His mission: "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 He knew He was to glorify the Father by doing the works of the Father - that is, what the Father had told Him to do. “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4

Fanny Crosby found her ultimate and complete satisfaction in the Glory of God: It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.

Mike Bickle has taught us that prayer is telling God what He has told us to tell Him. In this is God glorified.  The kingdoms of this world cannot stand against the Glory of God. If we ask otherwise, we ask out of futility and our asking will be amiss: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,...” James 4:3

The authentic Glory can only give expression to the Son - “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 The test of eternal veracity lies at the feet of this passage. No matter how persuasive the speech, nor the seeming demonstration of the miraculous - if the attention of the hearer or recipient is not rapt upon the Glorious Son of God there is no validity.  Its illegitimacy will fail this proofing every time: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” 1 Peter 4:14 We must beware adulation for it will betray the testimony of the Savior for it is He that said: “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 

Turning again to the insight of Charles Spurgeon: It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why He bringeth His people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when He comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.

The means of glory is omniscient initiative - “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 Just heard a Christian radio commentator assert that God has given everyone a freewill and then he went on to pray that God would change the will. What?!  Our message is so confused that genuine seekers find great difficulty in determining its credibility.

The hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote: “Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine.” 

Modern evangelicalism has largely deserted this call for a self-centered concept of me-ism: What is in it for me.  The glory of the creator has been exchanged for an image of the created.  How often have we heard, “Well, my god would not do that.” By saying this they are creating God in their own image.

The Reformers hit this issue head-on: It is affirmed that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. It is denied that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self- fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel. Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria)!

The issue of glorious believability will finally be settled at the consummation of all things:  “when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-- for our testimony to you was believed.” 2 Thess 1:10  On that day the full impact of the High Priestly Prayer of the Son as found in John 17 will be fully realized: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” 17:24

At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as He willed with His own; and that in every part of the work of grace He accomplished His purpose, and glorified His own name.  Charles Spurgeon on Ephesians 1:11 

May we concur with the prayer of A.W. Tozer the answer to which can only be found in the providence of our Eternal God:

“O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

As a fitting seal of earnest may our amen concur with this confession of timeless truth from the Second Centennial of the Church Age:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Gloria Patri - Author Unknown