Friday, December 16, 2011

Revelation 20:1-6 (Millennial Views)


Have you ever read a really good Science Fiction book? If you have, what kept you interested in it? I bet the cast of characters, the worlds described and the plot built your intrigue about what was going to happen next. The Book of Revelation has a similar feeling to it as we hear the Apostle John talk of a Beast who comes from the sea, a dragon set on destroying the world. In our day and age these things come across as a fanciful story with no real grounding in history (be it future or past) to some people whether they are inside or outside of the body.

Before we can begin to understand what the book means, we must understand where it came from, and the man who wrote it. The Apostle John was the author; he was a beloved disciple of Jesus himself. Out of all the Apostles, he is the only one not to die a martyrs death. According to conservative history, the Book of Revelation was written around the end of the first century in A.D. 95, on the island of Patmos. What makes this book special is that it is not a second hand account seen by another and told to John for him to write down, but they were things actually seen by the Apostle (Rev. 1:11-12).

In this book we find many different things that are left to interpretation, and from these interpretations come some pretty serious conflicts. One the largest conflicts that arise has to do with Revelation 20:1-6, and the millennium that is spoken of in this section of Scripture. There are generally three main views about this topic; they are a/pre/postmillennial. A very brief description of each view is that the amillennialist do not believe that Christ will rule on earth for a literal one thousand year reign, but for a long indefinite period of time between his crucifixion

and his second advent. While the premillennalist do believe that Christ will reign on the earth for a literal thousand year reign, but only after the period of the Great Tribulation. Postmellinnials

believe that the church will spread the gospel to all nations and Christ will rule for an indefinite period of time after the church is the majority rule in the world.

At the time of writing this, I personally do not know to which position I hold firmly; however I do know the position I do not agree with. No matter which view we hold to we should be able to agree with C. H. Spurgeon when he says, “Tomorrow Christ may be on this earth, “for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh” (Matt. 24:44). Tomorrow all the glories of the millennial splendor may be revealed.”[1] My goal is to dig deep into the word itself and see what it has to say verse by verse and then attempt to cover the millennial views in the later part of this essay. So let us begin our endeavor into Revelation 20:1-6 by reading what the passage has to say.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

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. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 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. (Revelation 20:1-6 ESV)

Exegesis of the Passage

John begins this portion of Scripture telling us that he saw and angel (or messenger) coming down from heaven. Now what I am curious of is does John mean heaven as in the place where God dwells or from the sky? Because in the Greek, οὐρανός ouranos; is used 273 times in the New Testament, and fifty-two times in Revelation. Of all the ways it can be translated, heaven is the most common; “heaven:—air(9), heaven(218), heavenly*(1), heavens(24), sky(22).”[2] So with this understanding we can picture John watching this messenger from heaven coming out of the sky with a key to the abyss or bottomless pit, while carrying a great chain. Mark Wilson in his commentary on Revelation points out that, “This is the second time that the Abyss is opened with a key. In 9:1, a “star” opens the Abyss to release a plague of demonic locusts. Here an angel is dispatched from heaven, not to release, but to imprison.”[3] In regards to the size of the chain, Wilson goes on to say, “That such a large chain is required suggests the great demonic power of the one being bound.”[4]

The very next thing we are told is that the angel seized the dragon, and the verse continues to lay out the other names he is known by so that there is no confusion. The text says that after he seized him, he bound him. The word used here is dēo used forty-two times in the NT and twice in Revelation, it can be defined as “to tie, bind:—bind(7), binding(1), binds(2), bound(23), imprisoned(4), prisoners(1), put … in chains(1), tied(4).”[5] So we could know that it meant that he was imprisoned, for a thousand years. This is where it can become interesting because there are those who will tell us that the thousand years is an allegory to a long period of time while others are emphatic that it is a literal thousand year period. In making his point John MacArthur says, “Using the same literal, historical, grammatical principles of interpretation so as to determine the normal sense of the language, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that Christ will return and reign in a real kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. There is nothing in the text to render the conclusion that “a thousand years” is symbolic. Never in Scripture when “year” is used with a number is its meaning not literal (see note on 2 Pet. 3:8)”[6]

There are some who believe that Satan was bound at the time of Christ’s death on the cross and that he is restricted in his activities now. But the text as a whole tells us that he was bound (imprisoned) and then thrown into the bottomless pit. I don’t know about you but anyone I know that has been incarcerated has not had the ability to do anything outside of their confinement. Warren Wiersbe articulates it this way,

Some Bible students feel that the “chaining” of Satan took place when Jesus died on the cross and arose from the dead to ascend to heaven. While it is true that Jesus won His decisive victory over Satan at the cross, the sentence against the devil has not yet been effected. He is a defeated foe, but he is still free to attack God’s people and oppose God’s work (1 Peter 5:8). I think it was Dr. James M. Gray who suggested that, if Satan is bound today, it must be with a terribly long chain! Paul was sure that Satan was loose (Eph. 6:10ff), and John agreed with him (Rev. 2:13; 3:9).[7]

As verse three continues, it says that he will be bound for the thousand years, and it is this section that begins our trouble; is this going to be a literal period of time or is it an allegory of a long period of time? Lawrence O. Richards believes, “The debate is not really about the length of time, but whether O.T. prophecies are to be understood as literal or merely symbolic revelations of God’s plans for the future. If the O.T. prophets are taken literally, many prophecies must surely be fulfilled during this 1,000-year span.”[8] Then you have some like Herschel Hobbs who is the polar opposite of Richards. Hobbs believes, “The 1,000 years is a symbol of a long period which perfectly fulfils its aim.”[9] If we go back to the point of John MacArthur previously, it would seem that we should agree with the idea that the thousand years is a literal span of time.

What has caused more trouble for me than the question of the thousand years has to do with the phrase “he must be released for a little while”. If the Lord has come to set up his kingdom then why must he allow Satan a second chance to mess with his saints? The best answer that I have found is from John Walvoord, he says,

If Satan is actually deceiving the nations today, as the Scriptures and the facts of history indicate, then he is not now locked in the Abyss, and the thousand-year Millennium is still future. This interpretation is also supported by the final statement that after the thousand years, he must be set free for a short time (20:3). Here expositors again are at a loss to explain this except in a literal way, making possible a final satanic rebellion at the end of the millennial kingdom.[10]

Verse four starts off with, “Then I saw thrones…” What are these thrones in heaven? Wouldn’t God the Father have the only throne since he was the ruler of the world? Bob Utley points out that, “This is an allusion to Dan. 7:9. Numerous thrones are mentioned in Revelation: (1) God’s throne (cf. 5:1, 1, 17; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4; 21:5); (2) Satan’s throne (cf. 2:13); and (3) the beast’s throne (cf. 13:2; 16:10). It is a metaphor of authority and power.”[11] Now understanding that there are others who sit on thrones, who are those who sit with the authority to judge? There are some commentators who believe this is reference to the Apostles and elders of the tribes of Israel. Others think that it refers to all Christians throughout all time. Then the last and most prominent point of view I came across is that those sitting in judgment of others were the tribulation saints. However Wilson’s treatment of this topic is interesting, he says, “Judgment by the saints is a familiar theme in New Testament. Jesus promised the apostles that they would “sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30). And Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?...Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2-3). While the martyrs are given authority to judge, they are never shown judging.”[12]

It is interesting that as the verse moves along John says “Also I saw” meaning that this again is not something told to him but a fact he witnessed himself. But what he saw is the thing that quickens my attention. He says he saw the souls of those beheaded for the testimony of the Lord. Now what stood out to me first was the word beheaded, because in his commentary MacArthur writes, “The Greek word translated “beheaded” became a general term for execution, not necessarily a particular method.”[13] The word being considered is pelekizo is used only once in the New Testament in this verse and it means to “to cut off with an ax, esp. to behead:—beheaded (1)”.[14] So with all due respect to Pastor MacArthur if we take the use of one thousand years literally why should we take the use of this word any less directly? The souls John saw not only belonged to those beheaded for their testimony but also those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark, and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. While the passage is specific about those who were beheaded, it does have a bit of a vague feeling when dealing with the other group John saw. One thing that has a hint of curiosity is there was no specific mention of them accepting and following Christ. We can assume that since Christ has allowed them to reign with Him, they are his followers.

The first resurrection seems to point to all who were/are believers in Christ returning to life after the Tribulation saints. Verse six goes on to tell us that we are blessed who share in the first resurrection because we will reign with Christ for a thousand years. After looking closer at this passage of Scripture, it is easily noticed that John refers to a thousand years more than once. With that being the case, it seems to be that there is the possibility that John means one thousand years because he very easily could have chosen to use different terminology. With that being said, I will attempt to take a look at the different views of the millennium.

MY View of the Millennium

Generally everyone has their own understanding of what the millennium means or brings with it. Personally I am not sure which lane to take on the millennial highway. I gave a description of the major views in the introduction, the two views that I believe hold the most merit are the pre-millennial and the amillennial views. My struggle with the post-millennial view is its belief that the church will have done a good job reaching all the nations with the gospel and will then help usher in the kingdom of God. When you survey the world around you there does not seem to be enough evidence that we are doing a good enough job for us to begin to think that the Lord will return at any moment. Both the Pre and Amillennial positions have an urgency to their stance. For me there is an appreciation of the amillennial stance of the already/not yet understanding of the fulfillment of Christ promises. My struggle with their view lies in the use of very specific terms used by John in the book. He could have very easily said an extended period of time, or any number of things. He specifically and repeatedly said one thousand years. There is an appreciation for the premillineal view because it shows the love of God to keep believers from having to face the extreme hardships of the tribulation. However, I struggle with the special place that is made for national Israel, Paul in the Book of Romans speaks about how Christians are the true Israel as the seed of Abraham.


While there is much I am still uncertain of, there are some things I do know. I know that Jesus Christ is Lord, and he has a plan for this world. He has an enemy in Satan, who he will defeat permanently at some point. Before that defeat takes place Satan will work as hard as he can to stop the spread of the Gospel, by using a human vessel in the form of the Antichrist. The Antichrist and Satan will both be cast into the lake of fire and spend eternity there. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and the Triune God will rule from the New Jerusalem.

For a good brief general discussion of the major millennial views, read Across the Spectrum by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy. They do a very good job dealing with the topic as a whole and bringing up the objections that may be raised. Even though I have read this material I am not sure if what I believe falls into any specific millennial view; but it is the understanding that I have now and as I grow in the Lord, may he change me as He sees fit. It is my hope that this work has glorified God and enriched you in some way.


Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes, Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Dockery, David S., Trent C. Butler, Christopher L. Church et al. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992.

Paschall, Franklin H. and Herschel H. Hobbs. The Teacher's Bible Commentary: A Concise, Thorough Interpretation of the Entire Bible Designed Especially for Sunday School Teachers. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972.

Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith. Grand Rapids Zondervan: Zondervan, 2011.

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Johnson, Alan F. The Expositors Bible Commentary-Revelation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985.

Knowles, Andrew. The Bible Guide. 1st Augsburg books ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

McNaughton, Ian. Opening Up 2 Thessalonians. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008.

Richards, Lawrence O. The Bible Readers Companion. electronic ed. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997.

Spurgeon, Charles H. 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.

Utley, Robert James. Vol. Volume 12, Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001.

Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1997.

Wilson, Mark. "Revelation." In The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 245-383. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

[1] Charles H.Spurgeon, 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005) 183.

[2] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[3] Mark Wilson, "Revelation." (In The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 245-383. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) 358.

[4] Ibid, 358.

[5] Thomas, New American

[6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 2034.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Re 19:11

[8] Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1991), 925.

[9] Franklin H. Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs, The Teacher's Bible Commentary: A Concise, Thorough Interpretation of the Entire Bible Designed Especially for Sunday School Teachers (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 816.

[10] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Re 20:1–3.

[11] Robert James Dr. Utley, vol. Volume 12, Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 138.

[12] Wilson, Revelation, 359.

[13] MacArthur, Commentary, 2035.

[14] Thomas, New American.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (9:24-27)


“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

(2 Peter 1:21 ESV)

The Apostle Peter is very clear that man can never accurately produce a prophecy unless directed by God himself. This includes Daniel, all of the dreams he interpreted and prophecies he gave, were not of him. One of the most controversial prophecies in the whole book, if not the whole Bible, is found in last four verses of chapter nine, Daniel 9:24-27. The prophecy found in these four verses in commonly called the “seventy weeks”, but it is also known as the “seventy sevens”. The prophecy of the seventy weeks is such an important part of understanding God’s word that H.A. Ironside said, “for if the seventy weeks be misunderstood then an effort will necessarily be made to bend all the other prophetic scriptures into accord with that misinterpretation.”[1]

What makes Daniel all the more interesting is that his primary job was not that of a prophet like some of his other contemporaries (Isaiah, Ezekiel, & etc.). For a long time he served as the second in command of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, taking care of the business of the country. By the time Daniel received the revelation of this prophecy he was an elderly man possibly over eighty years old, he had already lived his adult life under the rule of a foreign king;

and he was praying to the Lord, seeking to find out when his people would be freed from this bondage. During his prayer is when the angel Gabriel arrives to give him answers to his question. And these are the words he spoke,

“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” [2]

Concerning Verse 24

When you begin to fully delve into this passage of scripture, you notice right away that verse twenty-four is pregnant with information. It then becomes our job to understand the best we can what the Lord is trying to tell us through Daniel. Right from the very beginning we have to clarify what Daniel means when he says “Seventy weeks”; is he referring to a literal period of time? Stephen Miller in his commentary on Daniel points out that there are four views on what this can mean; first - they are literal years that extend through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, second - they are symbolic periods of time ending in the first century A.D., third – they are symbolic periods of time ending at Christ’s second coming, fourth – They are literal years ending with Christ’s second coming.[3] It seems that most of the commentators I have read fall into the fourth category. This is because they have taken a closer look at the word used for weeks in the Greek text heptad, Ironside believes, “The word here rendered “weeks” does not necessarily mean weeks of days, but it is a generic term (like our word dozen) a heptad, meaning a seven, and may be applied to whatever subject is under consideration.”[4]

So if we understand the point Ironside is trying to make is that when Daniel speaks of the Seventy “weeks” or heptads he can be referring to a group of seven years. This is something that is difficult to be dogmatic about, but if we use context clues and common sense we come to the understanding that Daniel did not mean days or weeks. By multiplying seventy by seven we are given 490, and this is what starts making the prophecy sticky. However, there are those like D.M. Lloyd-Jones who take the stance that, “it is unwise to regard the ‘seventy’ and ‘seven’ as exact terms. I suggest to you that in prophecy, numbers are symbolical. They are not meant to be exact, but are meant to convey an idea.”[5] Miller responds to those like Llyod-Jones by asking, “…those who contend that the sevens are symbolic must account for the fact that specific numbers are used and for division of the seventy sevens into units of seven, sixty-two, and one. Why would such definite numbers be employed to represent periods of indefinite length?”[6]

Miller makes a good point, especially when we take a closer look at the word decreed. The Hebrew word is hātăk meaning decreed or ordained when it pertains to a plan. This word is only used this one time in the OT. This leads into what Daniel was praying about his people (the Jews) and his city (Jerusalem). Gabriel goes on to explain that there are six great achievements that must take place before the end. Those achievements are to finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy (some versions add place). MacArthur tells us, “… the first three are fulfilled in principle at Christ’s First Coming, in full at His return. The last three complete the plan at His Second Advent.”[7] However, I think Archer gives us a much better understanding of the division when he says, “the first three relate to the removal of sin; the second three to the restoration of righteousness.”[8]

It should be mentioned that the root for the word of transgression is peša which usually means rebellion against a ruler in the secular context, but in the religious sense it should refer to Israel rebelling against God. So the first and second are tied closely together since the word used for transgression and sin are the exact same word in the Hebrew. It seems that most commentators are in agreement that the third point emphatically points to Christ’s work on the cross. As we move into the fourth point, it has been suggested that it deals with the millennial kingdom that takes place and righteousness shall reign there, Walvoord and Zuck understand it to mean this, “Being satisfied by the death of Christ, God will bring in everlasting righteousness. The form of the verb “bring in” here, means “to cause to come in.” The word “everlasting” (here pl. in Heb.) means ages. Thus this phrase (lit., “to bring in righteousness of ages”) is a prophecy that God will establish an age characterized by righteousness. This is a reference to the Millennial kingdom (Isa. 60:21; Jer. 23:5-6).”[9]

When we read the fifth point like any of the others it could easily cause confusion, what could Daniel possibly mean when he says, “to seal up vision and prophet”? While many commentators speak of the different interpretations of what this can mean, Miller summarizes all the different aspects available when he says, “In the first case “to seal up vision and prophecy” would signify that these forms of revelation would be closed, and in the second the idea would be that God will someday set his seal of authentication upon every God-given revelation (“vision and prophecy”) by bringing about its complete fulfillment.”[10]

Last, and by no means least it says to anoint the Most Holy. There are several major translations of our day that add place at the end of the phrase (the ESV, NASB, NET, and HCSB). The NIV is one translation that ends the sentence after the Most Holy. Through my research I have noticed that there tends to be two main views on this translation. There are those who want to view this anointing as that of Christ (James Smith, D.M. Lloyd-Jones), but there are those who argue against this, saying that it is the Holy of Holies in the temple or tabernacle (Miller, Archer, Jamison, Faucet and Brown). I can see the point of Smith’s argument that those following verses point to Christ and not the temple the word qō∙ḏěš means “…sanctuary, i.e., a building dedicated in service to God, a place in which the Lord is normally present when ritual and moral purity are practiced (Ex 35:19; Ps 20:3[EB 2]), note: this can refer to a moveable tabernacle building, or a permanent temple building;…” [11] Through further investigation however, the words here are for holies or holiness and at times may refer to a person. When we are allowed to view scripture in the best way possible, and we are to use the context available, we are still left to question if this refers to the temple or Jesus. In the end we settle with what is previously established elsewhere in scripture, and conclude that Daniel was referring to the temple.

Now that we have set the stage for the seventy weeks, let’s take a closer look at what is really going on.

Concerning Verse 25

Verse twenty-five starts off with a powerful command, the ESV translates yada as “know” which is where we get our phrase yada yada, or I know, I know. It could have also been translated as “consider” like it had been five other times in the OT. Gabriel could have been easily telling Daniel, consider what I am telling you, and understand that from the word, to restore Jerusalem to the coming of the anointed prince; there shall be seven weeks. So after Daniel is supposed to know and understand there is going to be a command or a word to restore Jerusalem, this is where things get challenging. There are those who believe that the command being mentioned here is the one that comes from Cyrus to allow the Jews to return home and rebuild their temple in 538 B.C. Then there are others who believe it was during the twentieth year of Artaxerxes in 445 B.C.

When it comes to the time frame Lloyd-Jones feels that, “The most obvious interpretation is that it was the time when God first gave His command to Cyrus, but it does not of necessity follow that that was when it began to be carried out. Rather that was when it was first mooted, when it was first indicated, when God first showed that this was to be done. But we cannot prove it and, therefore, how dangerous it is to try to fix exact dates!”[12] However, if we take a close look at the decrees that allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, the one from Cyrus was not about the city; it was specifically about the temple itself. In my opinion the best understood decree would be that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, issued on March 5, 444 b.c. (Neh. 2:1-8). On that occasion Artaxerxes granted the Jews permission to rebuild Jerusalem’s city walls.[13] So while the city itself had not been fully rebuilt in that forty-nine year the wall had been rebuilt, and that allowed the next set of 62 weeks to come in. Leading the way to the anointed one, a prince; along with the rebuilding of the city itself.

Verse twenty five covers in total sixty-nine of the seventy weeks we are taking a look at. One thing that is troubling to me though, is it speaks of the going out of the word to rebuild Jerusalem, to the coming of the anointed one is seven weeks. Is this supposed to mean that during that time frame the Messiah (which means anointed one in Hebrew) would come? Warren Wiersbe helps answer that question by explaining that,

Gabriel said that there would be a total of sixty-nine weeks, seven and sixty-two, between the giving of the decree and the arrival of Messiah, the Prince, in Jerusalem (× = 483 years). Keep in mind that “prophetic years” in the Bible are not 365 days, but 360 days long. It has been calculated by scholars that there were 483 prophetic years between the decree in 445 B.C. and the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (cf. The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson, Kregel, 1967).[14]

For a better understanding of the prophetic year, take a look at Walvoord and Zuck’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg 1362, they have a graphic explaining the difference in days. This also brings up the question of the division of the Seventy Weeks, why seven weeks, sixty-two, and one? Because it allows us to see the building of the city and the temple and the coming of Messiah, during the first sixty-nine weeks. It seems however one of the greatest controversies over scripture has to do with the seventieth week.

Concerning Verse 26

After the city has been rebuilt and the Messiah has come and presented himself to the people, Daniel tells us that he shall be “cut off and shall have nothing”. It is understood by most all commentators that this speaks of the death of Christ. Smith lays it out in these terms, “The text does not indicate in verse 26 how long after his appearance this cutting off takes place. The language points to a premature death. At the time of his death the Anointed One would “have nothing.” This is a forceful way of indicating Messiah’s utter rejection. The fulfillment is evident in the life of Jesus. He was arrested, tried and executed on a cross at the age of thirty-three after a brief ministry of three and a half years. Christ was stripped of even his clothes.” [15]

The verse goes on to say that the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the temple. Well we know that the Jews would not want to destroy their own city and temple after putting in the effort to rebuild it. So the verse must be speaking of another prince. Most will agree that the prince who is to come is referring to the Antichrist himself. And the people he would come from would be one of the countries that made up the ancient Roman Empire because according to Miller, “In A.D. 70 Titus Vespasianus led the Roman legions against Jerusalem and utterly destroyed both the city and the temple. Exactly forty years after his crucifixion, Christ prophecy about these events was fulfilled (cf Matt 24:1-2).”[16] It is thought that “comes as a flood” is referring to a quick destruction of the city. But we do know that throughout history the Israeli people have not had any peace, it was not until 1948 that they were considered to be a country again. And even since then they remain in constant conflict with someone.

Concerning Verse 27

He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week. Who exactly is the he? According to the last person mentioned it is the prince who is to come or Antichrist. So we know who the he is but who are the many? That is a question that has a couple of possible answers. Miller again offers a great perspective on both sides, “Walvoord believes the phrase “the many” refers to unbelieving Jews, whereas Archer and Young contend that these are “true believers”, the likely meaning of the expression in Isa 53:11-12. In this context however, “the many” is best taken as a description of the Jewish people as a group, the nation of Israel.”[17]

Since we have understood the weeks to represent periods of seven years, the covenant he makes is for a period that long. And for half of that time he will put an end to sacrifices and offerings. So for a period of three and half years he will end these things. The verse continues its description of what will happen with the Antichrist, it has been suggested that the wing is a wing of the temple and that is how he comes to make desolate. The decreed end he will receive is what is promised of him and Satan in Revelation 19:20.


The Book of Daniel is an amazingly powerful book and these four verses alone can captivate the minds of any who attempt to understand them. Daniel spoke of prophetic times that have come to pass for the most part, the city was rebuilt, Messiah came and was rejected, and the city was destroyed all over again. However, we have yet to witness the rise of the prince who is to come and the abomination of desolations he will cause. This is a real prophecy with a real time frame, but we should do as our Lord asks and keep watch for him and not spend our time seeking after another.


Archer Jr., Gleason L. The Expositiors Bible Commentary-Daniel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes, Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. electronic ed. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000.

Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries. 22 vols. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Drane, John William. Introducing the Old Testament. Completely rev. and updated. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000.

Gingrich, Roy E. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel. Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing, 1996.

Ironside, Henry Allan. Lectures on Daniel the Prophet. 2d ed. New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1953.

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. The Church and the Last Things. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary-- Daniel . Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994.

Smith, James E. The Major Prophets. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1996.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Edited by Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993.

[1] Henry Allan Ironside, Lectures on Daniel the Prophet., 2d ed. (New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1953), 155.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Da 9:24–27.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, The New American Commentary-- Daniel . (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994) 253-57.

[4] Ironside, Lectures, 163.

[5] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 122.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 258.

[7] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 962.

[8] Gleason L Archer Jr., The Expositiors Bible Commentary-Daniel. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981) 112.

[9] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Da 9:24.

[10] Miller, Daniel, 261.

[11] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[12] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 124.

[13] Walvoord, Bible, Da 9:25.

[14] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Da 9:20–27.

[15] James E. Smith, The Major Prophets (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1992), Da 9:26.

[16] Miller, Daniel, 268.

[17] Miller, Daniel, 271.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Hell Debate: Is Punishment Eternal?


Some say, “I could not rest comfortably if I believed the orthodox doctrine about the ruin of men.” Most true. But what right have we to rest comfortably?[1]

-- Charles H. Spurgeon

What comes to mind when you think of hell? If we are all truly honest with ourselves we have developed some type of characterization of hell that was never intended from Scripture. Do you see Satan (or Lucifer, or a multitude of other names he has in Scripture), as a man all covered in red, with horns and a tail, oh and let’s not forget the pitchfork/trident? Or perhaps you are one of the people in the world that believes that there is no after life at all; when we die we are dead and gone. If you are one of those people, please listen to this conversation and see if your opinion changes.

However, this conversation is geared more towards those of us who call ourselves evangelical Christians, and the belief in hell is a doctrine that we can all agree upon; but where we differ can bring a great divide. Boyd points out, “Evangelical Christians disagree over whether this punishment is eternal in duration or in consequence. That is, when the Bible speaks of “eternal destruction,” does it mean rebels will eternally suffer a process of destruction, or does it mean that once rebels are destroyed, it is eternal (namely, permanent, irreversible)?”[2] This essay is going to focus on the two most prominent views taken on hell in evangelical circles; the eternal literal view and the annihilationist view.

The Literal View

Those who argue on behalf of this view make sure to take their argument back to the Old Testament. Did the Jews of ancient Israel have a view of hell and what would take place there? Usually when a discussion of the Old Testament turns to its view towards hell, the first thing that is mentioned is sheol. Sheol’s etymology is uncertain because in the KJV it is translated “grave” thirty-one times, “hell” thirty-one times, and “pit” three times; while the NIV’s usual translation is grave.[3] It was regarded as a place of horror (Ps 30:9; Num 16:33), weeping (Is 38:3), and punishment (Job 24:19).[4]

While there is no specific mentioning of the on goings in hell in the Old Testament; there is one specific thing that Boyd emphasizes,

In Old Testament times, the ultimate disgrace was for a person’s corpse to be left above ground, where it would be eaten by maggots or burned with fire. The prophet uses this imagery to communicate the intense disgrace in the afterlife of those who oppose the Lord. When people suffered this terrible fate in history, the maggots or fire eventually consumed their corpses. In the final judgment, however, the maggots will never die and the fire will never go out! To enter into eternity in opposition of the sovereign Creator is to enter into unending suffering.[5]

The passage that Boyd is alluding to is Isaiah 66:24, and it is generally thought to be referring to Gehenna. In actuality, the place that reference was being made of was the Hinnom Valley and it started to gain the imagery mentioned earlier during the time of the prophet Jeremiah (see Jer. 7:29-34; 19:6-9; 32:35). According to Chan the “Jews living between the Testaments picked up on this metaphor and ran with it. The word gehenna was widely used by Jews during the time of Jesus to refer to the fiery place of judgment for the wicked in the end times….”[6] Jesus himself shows the relevance of understanding hell by using the word gehenna upwards of twelve times, it would be this very word of gehenna that ties the Testaments together.

One of the strongest supporters for eternal punishment seems to be Jesus Christ himself. While there are numerous passages throughout the New Testament to attribute to the doctrine of eternal punishment, one that draws the greatest analogy has to be, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 ESV) In regards to this parallel Lloyd-Jones has one of the most thought out points of view,

The same word ‘eternal’ is also always used in the parallels and contrasts that are drawn in the Scriptures between believers and unbelievers. They face either eternal life or eternal destruction. Perhaps the best example of this is the last verse of Matthew 25: ‘And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal’ (v. 46). The contrast between the unrighteous and the righteous is the contrast between everlasting punishment and everlasting life. And if everlasting as regards punishment means only for a while and then extinction, why should everlasting not mean the same when it describes the righteous and the life that they will inherit? There is no exception to this. Constantly in the Scripture the fates of the believer and the unbeliever are contrasted in that way and each time exactly the same word is used in both cases—eternal on the one hand and eternal on the other. So if there is no such thing as everlasting destruction, there is no such thing as everlasting life, and all that is promised to the believer will only last for a while and then come to an end.[7]

Another extremely powerful verse used to express the type of punishment to be received is Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”(ESV) Did you notice the words that drive home the type of torment that was going to be received? They were “forever and ever, and they have no rest”, in my understanding this shows no end. There has been argument made around the Greek word aion and its meaning of forever. Annihilationists contend that the Greek word aionios, derived from aion, which means “age,” has the meaning of “age long” rather than “everlasting.” However, aionios is the strongest word in the Greek language to express the idea of endlessness.[8] Mark Driscoll in his book on doctrine asserts that “the word forever (Greek aion) means unending. This word is used to describe the blessedness of God, Jesus after his resurrection, the presence of God, and God himself. As uncomfortable as some may be with it, it also describes eternal, conscious punishment.”[9]

Some of the biggest arguments against the view of eternal punishment have to do with how we perceive justice. You will often hear questions along these lines, “If God is loving how can he punish someone for eternity?” or “That’s not fair.” In response to this, Grudem makes a compelling point,

The argument that eternal punishment is unfair (because there is a disproportion between temporary sin and eternal punishment) wrongly assumes that we know the extent of the evil done when sinners rebel against God. David Kingdon observes that “sin against the Creator is heinous to a degree utterly beyond our sin-warped imaginations’ [ability] to conceive of … Who would have the temerity to suggest to God what the punishment … should be?” He also responds to this objection by suggesting that unbelievers in hell may go on sinning and receiving punishment for their sin, but never repenting, and notes that Revelation 22:11 points in this direction: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy.”[10]

These objections and several others are usually raised by supporters of the annihilationist view (also known as “conditional immortality). Driscoll believes that “despite having proponents who are otherwise fine Bible teachers (such as John Stott), annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches.”[11]

The Annihilationist View

Let’s understand that even for those that hold this view, they still believe in a realistic hell. Clark Pinnock, an adamant supporter of this view tells us, “For me too, hell is an unquestioned reality, plainly announced in the biblical witness, but its precise nature is problematic.”[12] We should also understand that this is not some new thing that has just sprouted up over night, apparently “…this opinion had a solitary representative in the 4th-cent. African Christian author *Arnobius, it was never held in Christendom until recent times, except in isolated cases of philosophical speculation, and it was formally condemned at the Fifth *Lateran Council in 1513.” [13]

As we take a look at a more current advocate, Pinnock begins to set the stage for his understanding of this eschatological view by turning to the Old Testament. He uses two major references Psalm 37 and Malachi 4:1-2, to support his idea of destruction, but right after referencing these two passages he says, “While it is true that the point of reference for these warnings in the Old Testament is this-worldly, the basic imagery overwhelmingly denotes destruction and perishing and sets the tone for the New Testament doctrine.”[14] The question that Pinnock brings upon himself from this quote is “Am I reading too much into Scripture?” For the annihilationist there are several words that they attempt to build their whole case upon. According to Lloyd-Jones,

…the primary argument for conditional immortality centers upon terms like ‘destruction’, ‘perish’ and ‘death’. Now, it is said, destruction means destruction, and it is inconceivable that something can go on being destroyed forever. Destruction means complete disintegration, the end of something. ‘Perish’ and ‘death’ likewise must mean the end of existence. So if you quote 2 Thessalonians 1:9, which speaks of ‘everlasting destruction’, you are told that that is impossible.[15]

One thing that is troubling while reading Pinnock’s understanding of hell was his constant reference to the second death, because that phrase is used only in the book of Revelation (Rev 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). It shows that he is willing to pick and choose what should be taken literally from Scripture and should not. Chan’s response to the second death, “While the word death itself could suggest finality, it is often used throughout the New Testament in a more metaphorical (nonliteral) sense. For instance, New Testament writers often refer to unbelievers as “dead”…So it seems best to understand the word death not in terms of total annihilation but as a description of those who will be separated from God forever in an ongoing state of punishment.”[16]

Another argument that has been raised is that the human soul is not originally immortal. Pinnock believes that we have allowed Hellenistic teaching to invade our understanding of Scripture and therefore skewed our exegesis of it. He believes that “Presumably the traditional view of the nature of hell was originally constructed in the following way: People mixed up their belief in divine judgment after death (which is scriptural) with their belief in the immortality of the soul (which is unscriptural) and concluded incorrectly that the nature of hell must be everlasting conscious torment.”[17] The question that comes to mind when I read this is, “When God originally created Adam and Eve, and said, “Let us make them in our image,” did this not have the possibility of immortality? Or How about Genesis 2:17 when the Lord tells Adam that if he eats he will surely die, we know he did not suffer physical death at that moment, could this also be an indicator or the loss of immortality?” However, Lloyd-Jones responds to this topic with a bit more savvy than I,

What argument do people have for this idea? Well, they are fond of quoting that statement which I referred to in the last lecture: God ‘who only hath immortality’ (1 Tim. 6:16). That, they say, must mean what it says—that only God is immortal. But, as we indicated, while we must accept that and agree with it, it does not of necessity preclude the fact that God has given the gift of immortality to all men and women. Immortality, it is stated, is referred to in the Scriptures as a gift—‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,’ says Paul in Romans 6:23.[18]


This has been a very heavy journey that should not be taken lightly. Throughout the process of researching this paper, ideas that were originally held to were challenged and some even changed. As of right now I must admit that I cannot see a way to adhere to the annihilationist view and still feel that I am remaining true to Scripture. At the same time there is a logical struggle with the idea of hell being full of fire and yet dark simultaneously. With that being said, hell is a place where eternal punishment will take place, but whether its literal or metaphorical is for the Lord alone to know. If we take serious the threat of hell it should light a fire under us to do our part to tell people who Jesus is and what he has done; so that they may not have to find out the hard way the truth about hell.


Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Cabal, Ted, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Chan, Francis, and Preston Sprinkle. Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011.

Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Duffield, Guy P. and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los Angeles, Calif.: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983.

Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 2001.

Gundry, Robert H. "Pastoral Pensées: The Hopelessness of the Unevangelized". In Themelios: Volume 36, No. 1, April 2011. United Kingdom: The Gospel Coalition, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. The Church and the Last Things. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998.

Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Chicago: Moody Press, 1972.

Spurgeon, Charles H. 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Walvoord, John F., et. al. Four Views on Hell. Edited by William Crockett. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

[1]Charles H. Spurgeon, 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005) 99.

[2] Gregory A.Boyd, and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 281.

[3]John F. Walvoord, et. al. Four Views on Hell. Edited by William Crockett. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 14.

[4] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995).

[5] Boyd, Across,282.

[6] Francis Chan, and Preston Sprinkle. Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011) 61.

[7] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 73-74.

[8] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angeles, Calif.: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983), 551.

[9]Mark Driscoll, and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010) 430.

[10] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), 1151.

[11] Driscoll, Doctrine, 430.

[12] Walvoord, Four, 135.

[13] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 397.

[14] Walvoord, Four, 145.

[15] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 72.

[16] Chan, Erasing, 107.

[17] Walvoord, Four, 148-9.

[18] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 72.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Growth of Christianity in India


While India attempts to show religious tolerance, it has difficulty doing so when those born in that country are automatically considered Hindu and leaving is extremely difficult.[1] Along with this religion in India lies the caste (jati) system which tells people, men in particular what their worth in life is. In the caste system people range from the Brahman (usually wealthy and well-educated) to the Dalits (usually considered socially invisible)[2]. But the Lord speaking in his hometown synagogue to a group of people told them, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

While Hinduism is not the only religion it is the largest (around 73%) part of the population, followed by Islam (13.7%), and then Christianity (4.7%).[3]

Christian Movement into India

The church in India was not necessarily a new concept; it has been speculated that St. Thomas himself was the first there to share the gospel, but of that we have no hard evidence. With that being said we will start a just little closer to the present day (around 1500 AD). “Western Christianity came to India with the ships of Vasco da Gama in 1498. In their small territories of Goa, Cochin, etc., the Portuguese exercised strong pressure, though not actual coercion, on the inhabitants to become Christian, but they made no extensive attempts to convert the inhabitants of the country as a whole.[4] Within the next half century there would be attacks made on a small pearl fishing village unable to defend itself, “John da Cruz, and fifteen Paravars offered an alliance. A year later, their jati thalavan (chief), Vikrama Aditha Pandya, gave the Portuguese access to the lucrative pearl trade. Families of some 20,000 pearl-fishers were baptized. In 1537 a furious sea battle ended threats from Hindu and Muslim forces, and the entire Paravar community declared themselves Christian.”[5]

A few short years later St. Francis Xavier would begin his work on the Fisher Coast having a great impact in that region because he “exploited a deeply ingrained indigenous genius for memorization involving rhythmic recitations each morning and evening, and reinforced by mnemonic exercise, they drilled bright-eyed boys in imperfectly translated essentials: the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Creed, Ten Commandments, and other rudiments of Christian Faith…”[6] As the 1600’s ensued there was only one recorded case of an Anglican baptism in India.[7] However that is not due to lack of presence, there were English and Dutch churches in India but their work consisted predominantly of taking care of their own people, with minimal records of missionary work and fewer conversions.[8]

Turning of the Tide

During the eighteenth century the tide began to turn in regards to missionary work in India. While there were many different missionaries, one of the most prominent would have to be Friedrich Schwartz, who was an amazing linguist (he was fluent in Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Persian, Sanskrit, and Portuguese); as well as a preacher, teacher, diplomat, and statesman.[9] Just imagine that without the influence of Schwartz in India the gospel may never have impacted as many people as it did, because he was able to train a man named Sundaranandam David. Sundaranandam would take the message that he heard back to his village and eventually “Thousands, often whole villages, turned Christian,”[10] because Schwartz was willing to sacrifice and reach a people so many others in the Hindu tradition had written off.

Sundaranandam was also a man would did not want to tolerate social injustice. He would set up what were known as “Villages of Refuge”, because as his Christian message spread, those who were not converted became more violent toward those who had. These villages took in those who were “fleeing, needy, sick, and poor widows and orphans. Every decade for a century the number of new converts doubled or tripled.”[11] This is a prime example of what William Carey meant when he said, “the forming of our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius, and cherishing every gift and grace in them; in this respect we can scarcely be too lavish in our attention to their improvement. It is only by means of native preachers we can hope for the universal spread of the Gospel through this immense Continent.”[12]

This would be important because it would necessarily be the wealthy and knowledgeable, who were being converted, but “…among the most oppressed and poverty-stricken sections of the community….”[13] Gradually in certain parts of the country the local leaders of the churches would begin to outnumber the missionaries in that region.

The Church after 1900

The church in India is one that can be considered as awe inspiring. Unlike churches found in many other nations, the different denominations found a way to come together and glorify the Lord by creating one church. Granted this all did not take place over night, nor did the whole countries Christian community gather into one large church there are some differences between the Church of South India (CSI) and the Church of North India (CNI). Gonzalez takes care to point out that, “By 1908, Reformed and Congregationalist joined to form the United Church of South India, and in 1947 this church with the addition of Methodist and Anglicans, resulted in the Church of South India.”[14] To show the extent that Christians in India are willing to work together, Jonathon Hill notes that

In 1958 the Mar Thoma Syrian Church established intercommunion with the CSI, meaning that, while they remained separate churches, they regarded each other’s ministers and sacraments as valid. The CNI subsequently joined this accord, and in 1978 all three churches established a Joint Council which was to oversee what was in effect a federation of the three churches, known collectively as the Bharat Christian Church. Today, there are efforts under way to merge them into a fully unified Church of India.[15]

While the church in India is making great strides to come together as one large ecclesiastical body there are still more things that need to be in place before that can transpire; because certain parts of India are under the rule of the Roman Catholic Church, and have not entered into the conversation of joining together with any the ecumenical associations.


While Christianity may seem like the underdog in the predominantly Hindu country, we can trust that anywhere the gospel is faithfully preached there will be a church. Christ promised his followers, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20 ESV) Fellow Christians throughout the world would do well to follow the example set by the Christians in India; by putting minor things aside and enjoying the majors together, by worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a unified body.


Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Frykenberg, Robert Eric. "Āvarna and Adivāsi Christians and missions: a paradigm for understanding Christian movements in India." International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 1 (January 1, 2008): 14-18. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 5, 2011).

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianty Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville: Nelson, 1995.

Spinner-Haley, Jeff. Hinduism, Christianity, and Liberal Religious Toleration. Feb 2005. (accessed October 7, 2011).

The Association of Religion Archives.,%20234 (accessed October 11, 2011).

[1] Jeff Spinner-Haley, Hinduism, Christianity, and Liberal Religious Toleration. Feb 2005, 36. (accessed October 7, 2011).

[2] Robert Eric Frykenberg,. "Āvarna and Adivāsi Christians and missions: a paradigm for understanding Christian movements in India." International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 1 (January 1, 2008): 14 . ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 5, 2011).

[3] The Association of Religion Archives.,%20234 (accessed October 11, 2011).

[4] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 832.

[5] Frykenberg, Āvarna, 15.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976) 440.

[8] Cross, Oxford, 832.

[9] Frykenberg, Āvarna, 15.

[10] Ibid.15

[11] Ibid.15

[12] Johnson, History, 441.

[13] Cross, Oxford, 833.

[14] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianty Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010) 498.

[15] Jonathan Hill,. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006)474-75.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Understanding of Eternal Salvation (A brief description)

While this topic is not one we enjoy considering, I believe that everyone that follows Christ has truly contemplated the state of their salvation. My understanding of Scripture and who God is (albeit a very small understanding) have led me to believe that true believers cannot lose their salvation. What is meant by saying that is if someone is truly a Christian they will not want nor lose their salvation. In the famous John 3:16 we are promised eternal life, and in order for it to be eternal it cannot have an end.

As human beings in a fallen world with a fallen nature still inside of us, we will sin; but it should not be a lifestyle if we believe ourselves to be Christian. Take for example, Peter, he was the one given the revelation of who Christ was and he still denied Jesus at his trial. In Luke 22:31-32, Christ tells Peter he is going to screw up (or backslide), but when you come back strengthen your brothers (a very loose interpretation). Even though we will have struggles and times where we make mistakes, MacArthur points out, “A true believer has an ongoing love for God that holds fast even in trials. And as we’ve noted previously, love for God shows itself through obedience to His Word (see 1 John 2:5-6; 5:1-3).”[1]

When dealing with the issue of apostasy I have to believe that these people never really knew Christ. As John says in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”(1 John 2:19 ESV). If you have truly had a life changing experience with Christ, just remembering what he has done will make it difficult to walk away from the life he has given you. So while we will make mistakes we can rest in knowing that we are safe in Christ’s hands (John 6:37-40). Once you have gained a greater understanding of your assurance of salvation, you can then appreciate the fact of your eternal security. It is comforting to know that when you can witness growth in your walk, you have evidence for yourself and those around you that you are growing in the grace of the Lord.


MacArthur, John. Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2006.

[1]John MacArthur, Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2006)170.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Baptism Debate


All that should matter in this life is the fact Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world. Sadly enough for some church goers it is not. They would much rather spend their time arguing over what can be called second tier issues. What issues do you allow to rule your experience with the church or most importantly with Christ? Take baptism for example, in your church there is probably a particular standard that is adhered to and by you being a member you support it. But would you condemn a fellow Christian who attends a different church because they practice differently? When it comes to the controversy surrounding baptism D.M. Lloyd Jones wisely says, “Is it not perfectly obvious, before we go any further, that this subject cannot be finally decided, that it is not one of those subjects concerning which you can give an absolute and unmistakable proof? If it could, there would never have been all this controversy and there would not have been denominational distinctions.”[1]

With all of that being said we must still take the time to investigate for ourselves and come to our own conclusion of what Scripture is telling us, without blindly following our denominational history. Throughout this essay there will be comparisons and contrast drawn between different views regarding the purpose and merits of baptism, who should receive baptism, and the different modes of baptism. Personally this essay has been a challenge for me, as a member of a PCA church. In the end hopefully a biblical and well balanced understanding of baptism has been presented. If a random person were to walk up to you and ask, “Why were you baptized?” and then followed it with “Is there any benefits to it?” how would you respond?

The Purpose and Merits of Baptism

In helping us to understand what the purpose is we will first take a look at what it is not. Nettles says, “The first caricature sees baptism as nothing more than a personal insurance policy that the one baptized will go to heaven; the second reduces baptism to receiving a name or to getting into the membership of a particular church within a certain cultural expression.”[2] Now that we have established what baptism’s purpose is not, we must examine what it is. According to the Baptist view, baptism is a symbol of Christ saving work. There are those who will argue that baptism is merely a symbol and holds little to no spiritual significance, while others believe we become regenerated through our baptism, and another sees it a mysterious encounter with God.

Nettles argues, “Baptism represents the confident reliance on the judgment that Christ took for us, which judgment becomes our salvation. Baptism itself does not remove the damnable filth but expresses one’s confidence that only the propitiatory death of Christ saves.[3] It can also be stated that the Baptist view, points to baptism symbolizing a person’s acceptance into a congregation. Castelein in Understanding Four View on Baptism rebuttals this argument with, “One important truth needs to be added: the church (both in its universal essence and local expressions) is the body of Christ. The Scriptures do not warrant separating incorporation into Christ by faith from a later incorporation into a local church by baptism.”[4]

The Roman Catholic Church continues to teach that upon baptism man then begins the process of regeneration, making it a necessary act to receive salvation. Lloyd Jones expresses that, “No sacrament is essential to salvation: if you say it is, you are aligning yourself with the Roman Catholics. Protestants have always said that while baptism and the Lord’s Supper are commands of the Lord, and we should therefore practice them, they are not essential. They do not add grace, they simply point to it and bring it to us in a special way.”[5]

That special way would fall into the Reformed view, because “…Reformed theology views baptism as a mysterious encounter with God that takes place through a rite involving physical elements and special ceremony. Through this encounter, God graciously distributes blessings to those who participate by faith and also judgment to those who participate without faith.”[6] It is usually argued that the Reformed view believes that baptism is sacramental and covenantal. This response in the end comes across rather ambiguous and very confusing. When reading on the Reformed understanding of baptism, one cannot help but notice that there is a heavy reliance on creeds and confessions.

One of the best summations I have heard about baptism comes from,. J. I. Packer, who believes,

“Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11-12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptized that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus.”[7]

After hearing all of these different views my understanding is our baptism signifies our union with Christ, while telling others we have come to trust the Lord for our eternal salvation, and it’s a promise of assurance of our justification.

Who Should Be Baptized?

This is a question that has caused heated debate, and it would seem that the New Testament points more in favor to a believer’s baptism over the padeo-baptism argument. When we scour the New Testament we can find no direct place where we are told to baptize infants. Elwell supports this by saying, “To be sure, there is no direct prohibition of infant baptism in the NT. But in the absence of the direction either way it is surely better to carry out the sacrament or ordinance as obviously commanded and practiced than to rely on exegetical or theological inference for a different administration.”[8]

Often times supporters of infant baptism will choose to cite Acts 2:39 to support their view of the covenant extending to their physical family. Again Lloyd Jones notices that,

“Clearly, by ‘children’ Peter does not mean physical descendants, he does not mean the children of those listening but, in effect: ‘The promise is not only for you who are immediately here, now, but is for the next generation and the generation after that and after that and it will continue down the running centuries. And it is not only for Jews but also for those who are afar off’—the Gentiles, those who are outside the commonwealth of Israel. Indeed, it is for ‘as many as the Lord our God shall call’.”[9]

After defining what is to be the purpose of baptism and its meaning, the case for infant baptism seems that much weaker; because when we view the majority of accounted for baptisms in the New Testament we can see that they follow a very specific pattern of preaching, repentance, and then baptism. “Accordingly, the only appropriate candidate for the witness of baptism is someone who has something about which he can bear witness (Acts 2:38; 8:12–13, 36–38; Eph. 4:5).”[10] It has been argued that to baptize babies into faith is dangerous because if they grow up and leave the faith it brings condemnation on them.[11] In regards to this argument Lloyd Jones answers with,

“Similarly, people often say something like this: ‘Look at the thousands of children who were baptized when they were infants. p 43 They were accepted into the Christian Church but subsequently they lapsed, proving that they were never really Christians at all.’ The answer again, of course, is exactly the same. That has happened, alas, thousands of times with people who were baptized on confession of faith when they were adults. We must be very careful as we handle these arguments because the same point can be raised on both sides. We must not base our arguments on observations but, as we have been trying to do, on the Scriptures.”[12]

Proponents of infant baptism will cite the fact that circumcision is for all of God’s people in the Old Testament, and baptism is the correlating sign for the New Testament. One thing that they tend to neglect is that the idea of the mark of the covenant has gone from being physical to spiritual. One key text that padeo-baptist tend to rely on for their circumcision/baptism argument is Colossians 2:11-12. Salter says of this text that, “…baptism and spiritual circumcision are connected with spiritual cleansing and new life. In this respect they are unlike physical circumcision, which is sharply distinguished from spiritual circumcision and its concomitant realities. Paedobaptists have blurred the distinction between the physical and spiritual that Paul sees so clearly.”[13] Supporters of infant baptism also choose to cite references in the Book of Acts 16:15 and 33 in attempts to say that when it mentions whole households that it includes infants also. We have no way of knowing for sure who was in the household so this is a case of speculation.

There are also attempts to say that the holiness of the parents can be passed on to the children as long as their parents are believers based upon 1 Corinthians 7:14. Two very theologically sound men J. I. Packer and D. M. Lloyd Jones have very different views about the meaning of this verse in particular. Packer contests that, “…one partner has become a Christian by invoking the certainty that the children of such a marriage are relationally and covenantally “holy,” that is, are dedicated to and accepted by God in company with their one Christian parent. So the principle of parent-and-child solidarity still stands, as Peter also indicated in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:39).” [14] In regards to Packers assertion we have already mentioned Lloyd Jones view of Acts 2:39, so there is no need to repeat it here.

In the end there is no empirical evidence that tells us to baptize infants while we were given the specific command of the Lord to make disciples and baptize them (Matt 28:19-20). So that leaves me agreeing with Boyd & Eddy, when they say, “Without exception, baptism follows faith and constitutes the first act of discipleship made by a responsible person who has decided to follow Jesus.”[15]

The Mode of Baptism

The mode of baptism has become a topic of great debate over the last several hundred years. While it is argued that the word “…baptiziō its cognates often refer to immersing or dipping, these terms are also used to describe washing and cleansing.”[16] While conversely the Holman Bible Illustrated Dictionary says,

“But overwhelmingly the most prominent use of the word refers to the first response of obedience by a new follower of Jesus. The word “baptize” is itself a loanword borrowed from the Greek term baptizo. Few scholars contest that the meaning of the term is “immerse,” and not “to pour” or “to sprinkle.” In classical Greek, the word is used, for example, to describe the sinking of a ship that is, therefore, “immersed” or totally enveloped in water.”[17]

According to Packer, “No prescription of a particular mode of baptism can be found in the New Testament. The command to baptize may be fulfilled by immersion, dipping, or sprinkling; all three modes satisfy the meaning of the Greek verb baptizo and the symbolic requirement of passing under, and emerging from, cleansing water.”[18] What is to be found more interesting are the multiple ways the word baptizō can be understood. Lloyd Jones gives us a great example with these words,

“If you read Luke 11:37–38 you will find this: ‘And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.’ The word used there is baptizō and clearly it does not mean that they were surprised that he did not go and have a complete bath. No, it was the custom of the Pharisees, before they sat down to eat, to hold their hands under running water. They thought it was essential and were surprised that our Lord, instead of holding His hands under running water, immediately sat down. So there is the suggestion of sprinkling.[19]

It has also been alluded to, that Old Testament cleansings can relate to baptism. If that is the case when we understand those cleansings we know that they very rarely involved full immersions but sprinklings. When the priest would make offering on the altar he would sprinkle the corners of the altar. “In the Old Testament things were set apart, purified, consecrated and sanctified by sprinkling. The horns of the altar were sprinkled with blood, and blood was sprinkled in front of the curtain of the Holy Place (Lev. 4).”[20]

With all things being considered both forms of baptism should be acceptable, because when we understand, “In Romans 6, Paul refers to burial to show the absolute character of death.”[21]


This essay has attempted to prove the purpose of baptism, by showing our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that it should be only for adult believers who are able to make a conscious decision to do so. While I believe that both modes of baptism are acceptable it should be the heart of the person receiving baptism that is more important than the means in which it is received. Baptism while not being essential to our salvation is vital to our relationship with the Lord because he told his disciples, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)


Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 2001.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. The Church and the Last Things. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998.

Lutzer, Erwin. The Doctrines That Divide. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998.

Nettles, Thomas J., et al. Understanding Four Views on Baptism. Edited by John H. Armstrong. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

Salter, Martin. "Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? An Examination of the Relationship Between Circumcision and Baptism in Colossians 2:11–12". In Themelios: Volume 35, No. 1, April 2010. United Kingdom: The Gospel Coalition, 2010.

Schaff, Philip and David Schley Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Strawbridge, Gregg ed. The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003.

[1] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 35.

[2] Nettles, Thomas J., et al. Understanding Four Views on Baptism. Edited by John H. Armstrong. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) 20.

[3] Ibid,38.

[4] Ibid, 51.

[5] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 36.

[6] Nettles, Understanding, 59.

[7] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology : A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1995).

[8] Water A.Elwell, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic, 2001)131.

[9] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 40.

[10] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 168.

[11] Elwell, Dictionary,134.

[12] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 42-43.

[13] Martin Salter, "Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? An Examination of the Relationship Between Circumcision and Baptism in Colossians 2:11–12" In , in Themelios: Volume 35, No. 1, April 2010 (United Kingdom: The Gospel Coalition, 2010), 29.

[14] Packer, Concise,

[15]Gregory A. Boyd, and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002)218.

[16] Gregg Strawbridge, ed. The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism. Phillipsburg: (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003)115.

[17] Brand , Holman, 167-68.

[18] Packer, Concise.

[19] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 44.

[20]Ibid, 45.

[21] Strawbridge, The Case, 116.

Saturday, September 24, 2011



Have you ever stopped and considered how you view the Bible? No, then take a moment and do so. Now, did you tell yourself that it is the inspired word of God, or is a bunch of stories that people use to make them feel better about themselves? What you think of the Bible will determine, how you think of God. During the Enlightenment and the early part of the eighteenth century, the way people understood the Bible became a big deal.

Ever since the first several centuries after Christianity’s star began to rise, there has been controversy over the Scriptures themselves, especially about what should be considered as Scripture. However, it would be during the eighteenth century that Kant and others like him would begin to deny validity of the Bible and its need in our lives. Kant basically believed that since we cannot see God we cannot trust that he exists, and in the end all we can do is try to lead good lives.

During the early to mid-nineteenth century there was a German man named Friedrich Schleiermacher, who while trying to do a noble thing would end up tearing a hole in the heart of the gospel. He would attempt to reconcile science and religion to one another without ever staying true to either side of his argument. Hodge in his systematic theology says, “The supernaturalists, who believed in the Bible, charged him with substituting the conclusions of his own philosophy for the dictates of Christian consciousness. And the philosophers said he was true neither to his philosophy nor to his religion. He changed from one ground to the other just as it suited his purpose.”[1] This essay hopes to take a look at the man and his theology and see where he happened to go wrong.

The Man

While most homes in today’s society seem to lack any religious influence, this was not the case prior to and even somewhat after the Enlightenment period. This is the time when Friedrich Schleiermacher was born; while there is no exact date we are told he was born in 1768. Schleiermacher was, “a native of Breslau in Silesia, he was the son of a Reformed army chaplain, and, after his parents’ conversion to the *Herrnhuter Brethren, was educated at their college at Niesky and their seminary at Barby.” [2] By him being the son of a Reformed chaplain, we can assume that he had a very strong theology instilled into him from a rather early age. Gonzalez points out that: “Although Schleiermacher was Reformed, Moravian Pietism did leave its mark on his theology.” [3] While he was a student at the university he was introduced and became very interested in the arguments of Immanuel Kant.

When he was close to thirty years old he left his job as a tutor and an assistant pastor with his uncle to go to Berlin and become the chaplain of Charity Hospital there. During this time he was struggling with his own understanding and was starting to feel torn between theology and philosophy. It would be during this time that the insights of the Romantics would help him find his own voice from the debacle the rationalism had created.[4] Shortly thereafter in 1799 he would go onto write his famous On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. For a time Friedrich was an assistant professor at the University of Halle, during his time there he would write several different works; one on Plato would be influential for years to come. His time at the university would be overshadowed the Napoleonic Wars and the French invasions. In 1809 he returned to Berlin where he “…was a professor of theology and also minister of the Trinity Church. The church itself was an early venture in ecumenical relations. It was shared by the Reformed and Lutheran churches, which the king of Prussia was anxious to bring together as an instrument of unification and renewal. Schleiermacher represented the Reformed Church.” [5]

In 1821 he wrote his most influential work, The Christian Faith as an attempt to write a systematic theology for both of the churches. It would be this work that would epitomize the last days of his life. After learning about the man, its time to examine his theology and see what went wrong.

His Theology

Throughout most of his life his theology was constantly evolving because he felt the need to “…bring together the academic world, the church, the state, and family life.”[6] Over time Schleiermacher’s focus would become less of what the Bible had to say and more about feelings. Gonzalez points out,

“His main argument was that religion is not a form of knowledge, as both the rationalist and orthodox believed. Nor is it a system of morality, as Kant implied. Religion is grounded neither in pure nor in practical or moral reason, but rather in Gefühl—a German word that is best translated, although not quite accurately, as feeling. The Speeches did not clarify the content of such feeling, and Schleiermacher undertook that task in his more mature work, The Christian Faith. There he clearly shows that this is not a sentimental feeling, nor a passing emotion or a sudden experience, but is rather the profound awareness of the existence of the One on whom all existence depends—both ours and that of the world around us.”[7]

Schleiermacher’s ideas at the time were not making a huge impact but later in the nineteenth century and even until modern times he has found a following. While most historians give us a glimpse into his theology, Charles Hodge in his systematic theology has a whole section dedicated to Schleiermacher’s theology (especially his Christology and Anthropology). His teaching on feeling is most well known, but what makes his teaching even more dangerous is his denial of the Trinity, and his teaching on the person and work of Christ. During this time most churches were using creeds and other things to affirm what they believed, and heresies were departures from these affirmations; but the doctrine of the two natures in Christ, and three persons in God, he believed to be misleading, and the resurrection, ascension and return in judgment inessential.[8]

It is a sad state when a man who claims to follow Jesus denies all of the aspects of what makes up the doctrines of Christian faith. Hodge states, “The first objection to Schleiermacher’s theory is that it is not and does not pretend to be Biblical. It is not founded upon the objective teachings of the Word of God. It assumes, indeed, that the religious experience of the Apostles and early Christians was substantially the same, and therefore involved the same truths, as the experience of Christians of the present day.” [9] In the end Schleiermacher felt he was doing something important and powerful for the kingdom of God, while in reality he

“… greatly influenced Christianity through three major achievements. First, he made religion socially acceptable to those who no longer took the Bible and its doctrines seriously by showing its appeal to man’s aesthetic tendencies. Second, he attracted to theology countless young men who were interested in religion primarily as an expression of man’s imaginative spirit. And third, for a time he changed biblical criticism from historical to literary analysis.”[10]


It would be his so called achievements that would lead him to being known as “The Father of Liberal Theology”. It would be his theology that would influence the likes of Ritschl and Kierkegaard, he would find some of his greatest challengers “in the twentieth century, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner voiced the criticism of many when they pointed out that Schleiermacher’s theology, being man–centered, neglected the revelation of God in his Word.”[11]

When we stop taking the Bible as our greatest authority and place our own feelings in its place we deny our need for God. Also, by denying who Christ is and his atoning work we basically tell others and ourselves that we are capable of redeeming our own souls. As long as we hold the Bible in great respect and trust that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

As Christians the ultimate goal is to live a life according to what Scripture teaches while also surrendering to the Holy Spirit. In all things come back to the Bible and if you must choose between a feeling and what Scripture teaches, go with Scripture and you will never go wrong.


Brown, C. "Schleiermacher, Friedrich Ernst Daniel". In Who's Who in Christian History. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992.

Cross, F. L. and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. rev. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Eckman, James P. Exploring Church History. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2002.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianty Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.

Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Rev. and expanded. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.

Hill, Jonathan. Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville: Nelson, 1995.

[1] Charles Hodge, vol. 2, Systematic Theology (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 443.

[2] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1474.

[3] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianty Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010) 389.

[4] Ibid, 389

[5] C. Brown, "Schleiermacher, Friedrich Ernst Daniel" In , in Who's Who in Christian History, ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 611.

[6] Ibid, 611.

[7] Gonzalez, Story, 389.

[8]Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976) 375.

[9] Hodge, vol. 2, Systematic, 443.

[10] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 143.

[11] Brown, Who's Who, 612.