“At the same time, when you do start studying life issues and abortion, you realize that some contraceptives are abortifacients, and you ought to take a serious view of sex. The sad thing is that abortion and sex without consequences is turning women against their own uniqueness. So many women at the end of the day regret not having children. Abortion is definitely a war on women. There are a lot of base motives for pushing certain contraceptives, pushing abortion. There’s money-making (Planned Parenthood, after all, is a billion-dollar business!) and there’s eugenics. The big push for contraceptives, especially dangerous kinds like Norplant, which focuses on certain demographics, is eugenics. But if the mainstream media is against you right now, they’ll twist the reasonable things you say and they’ll let slide things other people say that are horrible.”

(Stella Morabito interviews Maria McFadden Maffucci — Human Life Review: Forty Years Of Fighting For Human Life And Dignity)

A War on Women

“That a life of daily self-consecration and daily communion with God should be aimed at by everyone who professes to be a believer – that we should strive to attain the habit of going to the Lord Jesus Christ with everything we find a burden, whether great or small, and casting it upon Him – all this, I repeat, no well taught child of God will dream of disputing.  But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more than generalities about holy living, which often prick no conscience and give no offence.  The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject.  True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace.  Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations – our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects – our dress, our employment of time, our behaviour in business, our demeanour in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty – all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers.  
“They are not content with a general statement of what we should believe and feel, and how we are to have the roots of holiness planted in our hearts. They dig down lower.  They go into particulars.  They specify minutely what a holy man ought to do and be in his own family, and by his own fireside, if he abides in Christ.  I doubt whether this sort of teaching is sufficiently attended to in the movement of the present day.  When people talk of having received “such a blessing,” and of having found “the higher life,” after hearing some earnest advocate of “holiness by faith and self-consecration,” while their families and friends see no improvement and no increased sanctity in their daily tempers and behaviour, immense harm is done to the cause of Christ.  True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions.  It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favourite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us.  It is something of “the image of Christ,” which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings” (Rom. viii. 29).
(J.C. Ryle, “Introduction,” Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, p5, `1877, enlarged 1879) 

J.C. Ryle on the Particulars of Holiness

“The answers are: First, infinite guilt demands an infinite punishment, but not therefore an everlasting one; provided the sufferer could suffer an infinite one in a limited time.  We do not view the atoning value of Christ’s sacrifice, as a quantity, to be divided out by pound’s weight, like some material commodity.  We do not hold that there must be an arithmetical relation between the quantity of sacrifice, and the number and size of the sins to be satisfied for, nor do we admit that, had the sins of the whole body of elect believers been greater, the sufferings of the substitute must also have been increased; as when the merchant buys more pounds of the commodity, he must pay more money for his purchase.  The compensation made to justice is not commercial, but moral.  A piece of money in the hand of a king is worth no more than in the hands of a servant, but the penal sufferings of a king are.  One king captive would exchange for many captive soldiers.  Hence, Christ paid, not the very total of sufferings we owed, but like sufferings, not of infinite amount, but of infinite dignity.

How Could Temporal Suffering Satisfy For Infinite Guilt?

The Seventh Beatitude in Revelation

My previous post highlighted the bookend-like use of the first and sixth beatitudes in the book of Revelation.  Now it is time to wrap up this series by exploring the seventh and final beatitude.  Here is the verse:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14, ESV).

When reflecting upon this last beatitude, it is important to recognize who benefits from it.  The answer comes in the first clause: “…those who wash their robes…” (Rev. 22:14a, ESV).  It goes without saying that the surrounding context fleshes out their identity.  In the very next verse, the apostle John lists behaviors that exemplify people who have not washed their robes and reside outside of the city, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:15, ESV).  This section of scripture reminds the reader of the apostle Paul’s list reagrding the works of the flesh found in Galatians 5:19-21.  He contrasts these with the fruit of the Spirit, which give evidence of a life transformed and obedient in the Spirit.  Basically, those who wash their robes do not exhibit the lifestyles depicted in Rev. 22:15 or in Gal. 5:19-21.  There is one more point to highlight about Galatians chapter five.  Paul concludes the section about the works of the flesh by declaring that those who practice them “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21b, ESV).  This is exactly what the apostle John depicts in Revelation 22:15 where the unjust live outside rather than inside the city.

Because I see a parallel between Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 22:15, this casts more light upon the meaning of the clause “those who wash their robes.”  I believe that it is clear from the context of Revelation chapter twenty-two that this clause describes all those born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3 & 5, ESV).  If this is the case, then anyone who is born again may rightly see himself or herself as the recipient of this last beatitude in Revelation.  A natural question at this point is the extent of the beatitude’s inclusiveness and exclusiveness.  The gospel must go out to everyone  in the whole world, which is the inclusive aspect known as the general call; however, the blessings attached to it only benefit those who receive it by repentance and faith (Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-9, ESV).  This is the exclusive part of the gospel sometimes referred to as the effectual call.  There is one more piece of evidence linking the clause, “…those who wash their robes…,” with the believer’s conversion.  The apostle John uses it earlier in the book of Revelation to describe the great multitude redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 7:9 & 14, ESV).

If this beatitude grants blessings to all those who are born again, then it behooves God’s people to embrace them, to know them.  One piece of the blessing comes in the form of the tree of life.  This is a direct reference by the apostle John to the same tree found in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9, ESV).  In book of Genesis, the tree of life promises eternal life for all those worthy to partake of it (Gen. 3:22, ESV).  Because Adam and Eve sinned against God, the Lord guarded the way to the tree of life; however, in the New Jerusalem, this is no longer the case since all those enjoying eternal life have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Gen. 3:24; Rev. 7:14; 22:14, ESV).  Through Christ, sin and its curse have been removed from the redeemed and the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:4, 27; see 2 Timothy 1:8-10, ESV).  What God the Father held out as a promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden has reached its ultimate fulfillment through the Son in the new creation.  If this does not cause one’s heart to leap for joy, then I doubt that anything will.

Before ending this post, I want to touch upon the other portion of the blessing where those who wash their robes “…may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14b; see Isaiah 35:8, ESV).  This verse fulfills the passage in Hebrews where the redeemed throughout all of history yearned for a better country being prepared by God (Hebrews 11:14-16, ESV).  If I may toss in something even more astounding, this promise of entering the city had been an expectant hope of those in the Old Testament.  Back in the Psalms, there is the following verse: “This is the gate of the Lord; and the righteous enter through it” (Psalm 118:20, ESV).  More than likely, this passage would have been sung by the Old Covenant people in adoration of God.  His people praise him in the present, and this continues into the eternal state.  What this emphasizes is that there is no end in sight for praising the everlasting God.  The reasons for praising him are manifold, which only causes awestruck wonder within me like the Psalmist: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me” (Psalm 116:12, ESV)?  Somehow I think that every believer will find that question to be unanswerable in the New Jerusalem.

The Sixth Beatitude in Revelation

In the previous entry, I explored the nature of the first resurrection and the second death and their relationship to the fifth beatitude.  Now it is time to turn our attention to the second to the last of the beatitudes in the book of Revelation.  Here is today’s text:

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7, ESV).

Right away this verse should be setting off bells and lights.  This beatitude is a repeat of the first one covered in this series (Rev. 1:3, ESV).  In fact, it is the only beatitude in the book of Revelation that makes more than one appearance.  It functions like bookends on a bookshelf with one in the beginning and the other at the end.  This structure suggests to me that the Lord assigns spiritual significance with respect to his words in the book of Revelation and to the one who keeps or obeys them.  The only way to obey them is to know them; however, the only way to know them is to read them.  It seems to me that God’s call to his people is to immerse themselves in the book of Revelation for the express purpose of receiving his blessing through the words of his prophecy.

Is the repetition of the first and sixth beatitudes only significant from a structural standpoint as in my bookend analogy?  No.  I think there is something else bubbling underneath the repetition.  There is a sense of urgency from the Lord about obeying his commands.  The reason pertains to Christ’s second coming.  For example, twice in the book of Revelation, the Lord refers to his return as unexpected and unknown with the simile, “I come like a thief” (Rev. 3:3; 16:15, ESV).  There are eight references in this book about the Lord’s return as either near or soon (Rev. 1:3, 3:11, 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20, ESV).  Let me add another layer to these observations.  I mentioned earlier that the sixth beatitude and the first one function like bookends.  The same is true with the references to the Lord’s return as coming soon where the first one occurs in Rev. 1:3 and the last in Rev. 22:20.

The point to all of this is that Christ may return any day, which raises the stakes for obeying his commands.  How do we know this within the book of Revelation?  Those who disobey God and his commands end up facing eternal punishment in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 14:9-11; 19:1-3, 19-20; 20:9-10, 14-15, ESV).  It is a horrible fate that many deny in our day including those within the church.  The lake of fire stands in stark contrast to the destiny of the righteous, who will reign forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5, ESV).  Torment defines the second death, but joy characterizes the New Jerusalem; consequently, God the Father extends the offer to all who are thirsty (Rev. 14:10b-11a; 20:10, 14-15; 21:6b-7, ESV).   Of course, this means that the thirsty must recognize their need for God to satisfy it.  The thirsty recognize their need by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.

If there is one big takeaway from the sixth beatitude, it is the absolute necessity for reading and obeying God’s word.  There are some today who attempt to create a false dichotomy between God and his word.  These individuals envision God’s love lived out as more palpable than his love revealed in scripture.  What is ironic about this type of argument is that it employs scripture itself as the basis for it (1 John 4:8, ESV).  In the age to come, this type of sophistry will no longer have a place in the New Jerusalem.  God the father declares this fact in Revelation twenty-one and the eighth verse: “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” (Rev. 21:8, ESV).  At some point, all who claim to be in Christ must demonstrate that they are either hot or cold toward him; otherwise, not choosing either one is making a choice to be cold (Rev. 3:15-16, ESV).

The Fifth Beatitude in Revelation, part II

In part one, I touched upon four things: 1.) the preceding context to the fifth beatitude in the book of Revelation; 2.) the relationship between chapters nineteen and twenty; 3.) the participants of the first resurrection; and 4.) the different schools of thought regarding the thousand years.  Each of those points lays the foundation for today’s discussion primarily regarding the meaning of the first resurrection.  There is scholarly consensus when it comes to interpreting the phrase “the second death,” which makes my life much easier.  Here is the beatitude in bold along with the preceding verses for the purpose of context:

4.Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.  They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.  This is the first resurrection. 6. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6, ESV).

Based upon my reading of this passage, I embrace the view that the first resurrection refers to the bodily resurrection of believers at the second coming of Christ.  There are a couple of reasons to support this interpretation.  First, the independent clause in verse four, “they came to life,” seems best taken as a physical resurrection.  Second, the word resurrection in the fifth and sixth verses is anastasis in the Greek text, which is used forty-two times in the New Testament (NT).  In forty of those uses it always means a physical rising from the dead.  There are two exceptions: one undisputed reference is found in Luke 2:34; however, the second example is our text, which is highly disputed to the nth degree.  Third, the ones who come to life and experience the first resurrection are contrasted with “the rest of the dead” who do not come to life.  Lastly, those who experience the first resurrection had been beheaded or physically killed.  I will discuss each of these points in turn, and there might be overlap.

The independent clause “they came to life” is a translation of the Greek word ezesan.  It may or may not refer to bodily life after physical death.  We must rely on the context of the passage in order to determine the meaning of ezesan.  In the above text, all NT scholars agree that “the rest of the dead” who do not come to life during the first resurrection will rise from the dead in their physical bodies for the final judgment (Rev. 20:12-15, ESV).  Presumably, this is the implied second resurrection.  Here is the kicker from my perspective.  If all scholars agree that “the rest of the dead” come to physical life in the second resurrection, then the same thing occurs for the those in the first one.  I find no evidence in the text to interpret the Greek word ezesan in two different ways, especially considering the fact that the apostle John qualifies ezesan as the first resurrection.  There are objections to my interpretation, but for the sake of time and space, I will bypass them.

Earlier in this post, I stated that the Greek word anastasis means a physical resurrection in forty of the forty-two uses in the NT.  This alone seems to seal the deal for the view that the first resurrection is a bodily one.  There is another factor to consider, which involves the Greek word ezesan.  This word pops up in two earlier passages in the book of Revelation to denote Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the beast’s falsified one (Rev. 2:8; 13:14, ESV).  To say that Christ’s coming to life is a true resurrection, and that the beast’s is false, demands that the Greek word ezesan mean the same thing in both passages.  If this is not the case, then there is no real difference between Christ’s coming to life and the beast’s.  It is my contention that this truth applies to the distinction between the two resurrections in Rev. 20:4-6.  If the Greek word ezesan, that is qualified by anastasis, does not mean a bodily resurrection, then it is pointless to distinguish between those who rise in the first resurrection and the rest of the dead who rise after the thousand years have ended.

Now that the worst part is over, I want to address briefly the phrase the second death.  According to the beatitude in Rev. 20:6, those who participate in the first resurrection do not succumb to it.  Another way to say this is that they overcome the second death in Christ.  I hear the question in my ears: “That sounds nice, but what does the second death mean?”  Thankfully, the apostle John gives the answer in the fourteenth verse of the twentieth chapter.  The second death is the lake of fire, which is the place of eternal punishment for the wicked after the final judgment (Rev. 20:14-15; see Rev. 21:8, ESV).  It is a horrendous place no matter how one slices it.  Some see the depiction of the lake of fire as merely metaphor, but that avoids the objective reality that the metaphor depicts.  The second death is not something to embrace or set as a life goal.  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus does not use the phrase second death, but he uses similar language like “…the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV).  I doubt that there will be any celebrating in the lake of fire.  The company itself sounds dreadful.

I love this beatitude about the first resurrection.  It is such a glorious promise of reward and victory.  My sufferings and trials in this life will be in the distant past; however, this promise is not only individual, but corporate.  All those who follow Christ will rise with a glorified body and reign alongside him.  The second death will be under their feet because they are in Christ, who stands in victory over Death and Hades (Rev. 1:18, ESV).  Does this mean that those who follow the Good Shepherd lack a present vindication from him?  According to the apostle Paul, the redeemed exhibit an inkling of the blessings of eternity in a couple of his letters to the early church (Eph. 2:4-6; Colossians 1:13-14, ESV).  There is a present, but partial fulfillment, which serves as a guarantee for the fullness of it in the age to come.  What a wondrous day that will be to receive a glorified body.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.