My Twin Brother Jimmy Goes Home

My brother Jimmy was born on October 13, 1953. That was five minutes after I was born. I watched my twin breathe his last breath on this earth around 10:45 am on Monday, March 12, 2018 after battling kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs. His entire family was gathered around him. Sunday and Monday (March 11-12) were probably the hardest days of my life. He was 64. For the first time, I have lived in this universe without him being an email, text, or phone call away.

I have posted memories of him in Facebook but will begin to copy them to my blog for those who do not access to those posts.  As of the original writing of this post, I am trying to keep myself together as I work on the funeral sermon I will preach on Friday, March 16. Jimmy was a great evangelist and a great brother. He is still alive in heaven and is no longer suffering as he was the last few weeks. I look forward to the time when Jesus will come and begin to make all things right.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

The NFL and the Star-Spangled Banner and the Desire for Freedom from Criticism

Like most of you, I have been somewhat riveted by the debate of recent times spawned by the refusal of some NFL players to stand and show respect for the US Flag during the national anthem before games.  The President waded into that debate over the last weekend, perhaps unwisely, but time will tell.  What I want to concentrate on here is tangent to the debate, but still important.  Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan football coach, responded by telling the President to read the Constitution.  If I understand his statement correctly, he was suggesting that the President was violating the free speech rights of the NFL players given in the First Amendment.  But this is patently untrue.  It is a fallacy we all fall into sometimes.  When we are debating someone else, especially if that someone else is a good debater, we resort to a false challenge.  This happens a lot from those on the Left side of the political spectrum but they are not by themselves.  What they are really arguing for is “freedom from criticism.”  The First Amendment does not say we have freedom from criticism.  NFL players who are unhappy with America have the right to criticize by kneeling down during the national anthem.  Others have the right to criticize those players if they disagree.  Even Presidents have freedom of speech, although we can criticize them and even vote them out of office.  As a Pastor and Seminary prof, I received plenty of criticism.  If we are supposed to be free from criticism, I want to pass the offering plate again.  Somebody out there owes me something!

Gospel-centered, Jesus-centered, God-centered, or Glory-centered?

There is much emphasis on “gospel-centered” in the evangelical culture and scholarship of our day.  I have written here and in other forums that this is not where I am.  I have suggested that “Jesus-centered” is a better way to go since such an approach encompasses all that Jesus does, past-present-future, on our behalf.  While the gospel of eternal life serves as a foundational truth for past accomplishment, present experience, and future blessing, it is not broad enough to integrate all that Jesus is and all that He does, from the creation of the world, provision of salvation in the Cross and Resurrection, setting up of a kingdom when He comes again, and the ushering in of a new heavens and new earth in the end – all of which combined offer more breadth than the simple gospel.  This should not be taken to minimize the strategic role the gospel plays in history or in our theology.

Last week we had our annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.  The topic was “Dispensationalism and the Glory of God.”  Much profitable discussion centered on a doxological unifying theme of the Bible (Ryrie).  The Niagara Conference men of an earlier generation said the same thing but would be comfortable with the words “doxological purpose or purposes for biblical history.”  I think the presentation is legitimately biblical.  However, the Niagara Conference men also treated this doxological purpose for history as focused on Christology.  That is, it was “Jesus-centered” as I have mentioned above.  My paper on Arno C. Gaebelein at the Council was the illustration I used for this point of view.

When we ask if the Bible or biblical history or Christian life (or however we word it) is primarily soteriological (gospel-centered), Christological (Jesus-centered), theological (God-centered), or doxological (glory-centered), we are in danger of skewing the truth if we are not careful.  All of these things are so tightly intertwined that to diminish one may be to diminish the others in our theological discourse.  But if I had to choose, I would believe in a doxological purpose to biblical history with a Christological center.  Jesus-centered to the glory of God.

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 2017

The 10th annual meeting of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics is being held in Jackson Hall on the campus of Clarks Summit University and Baptist Bible Seminary.  The dates are September 13-14, 2017.  Our group is a discussion group for traditional dispensationalists who try in an irenic way to discuss hermeneutical and theological issues among ourselves.  It is a discussion group more than a presenter group although papers are, of course, the basis of our discussions.   The meetings are primarily for Bible college and Seminary professors and pastors but others interested in what we are doing may attend.  There is no charge to attend but all travel, lodging, and meal costs are up to the attenders.  The theme this year is “Dispensationalism and the Glory of God.”  The schedule is below. Read the rest of this entry »

Homegoing of Another Close Friend

I have not posted in my blog for quite sometime.  Transition to a new ministry has sidelined me quite a bit in this matter.  I have been traveling a lot internationally for my ministry at Friends of Israel.  In the last year, I have been to Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, and Argentina.  I hope to bring some regularity to my blog (once a week?) in the days ahead.

The reason for my blog today is not pleasant.  I have lost another friend who was with me during my days at Baptist Bible Seminary.  Dr. Bill Arp has gone to be with his Lord.  The gain is heaven’s.  The loss is ours and it is deep.  Bill was one of my closest friends on the faculty.  The wisdom flowing from his longevity at the school helped me much as I negotiated the ups and downs of academic life.  When I flew up to Clarks Summit, PA in April 1994 to interview to teach at BBS, the first home I was in was Bill and Joanna’ s.  I remember the lovely dinner and the lively conversation.  But most of all the family warmth.  I spent numerous times in Bill’s home over the 22 years I was at the seminary.  His love of family was apparent.  It was a pleasant place to be.

Bill was a quiet scholar who knew his area of expertise (Greek & NT) quite well.  He also had some breadth as we discussed issues of theology and ministry.  Above all, he was a praying friend who cared for me and my family deeply.  He was an easy man to love.  I will miss him greatly.  His legacy continues. Please pray for Joanna and the family he leaves behind.  We take great encouragement from the promise of resurrection given by Jesus:  “because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).

Leaving Baptist Bible Seminary for Friends of Israel

Many people already know. But I need to make an announcement here just in case. I have resigned my position as Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary effective June 1 and have accepted the position of Director of International Ministries for Friends of Israel.

I worked for BBS for 22 years. Never been treated better any place I have been. So I am thankful for the many paths the Lord has led me down in the best ministry I’ve had to this point in my life. When I think of my students at the seminary and the students from the college that worked with me in Mission Scranton, I have no regrets. God has been more than gracious to me.

But a new challenge awaits. I hope I am up to it. Cindy and I will live for the time being in Clarks Summit.

Reflections on the Life, Ministry, and Influence of Dr. Charles Ryrie

RyrieWord has traveled widely about the home going of Dr. Charles Ryrie. As someone whom he befriended and who has defended his overall approach to the Bible, I thought it appropriate for me to share my thoughts here.

I came to Christ in 1974 partly through the ministry of a local church – West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. It was that church and the pastor of that church, Dr. Sam Wolfe, who pointed me in the direction of reading books by “Dallas Seminary men.” Dr. Ryrie was of course one of them.

Early in my Christian life, I was an aerospace engineer/computer programmer who shared an office with a Reformed Presbyterian friend Mark Scot. We swapped resources. He gave me a copy of G. I. Williamson’s Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith and I gave him a copy of Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today.

I have never left my traditional dispensational roots although I have grown in my faith and in understanding the Scriptures. When I went into ministry and eventually became a pastor, seminary professor and then Dean, I found increasing opportunities to use some of Dr. Ryrie’s insights in my teaching. I have for over 20 years used his book on dispensationalism as a text in a course I teach on dispensational premillennialism. I have defended some of Ryrie’s points (such as the famous sine qua non) at conferences, in sermons, in print, to my students, and in conversation with other Bible scholars.

I had the wonderful honor to be a speaker at conferences where he also spoke. He came to our Baptist Bible Seminary on at least three occasions to do lecture week or special conferences. When we started the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics in 2008, he came to help support our beginning steps. He was gracious and humble and always let us know that he was not a pastor but a lay teacher.

He graced me with his presence in my office and let me pester him with theology questions. While some of the scholarly world viewed him as oversimplifying biblical truth, I found him committed to the Reformation cry to get the Bible in the hands of the common man so he can understand it for himself. He wrote and spoke so people could understand him. His approach was, in a word, refreshing.

In my presence, I never heard Dr. Ryrie make a disparaging mark about anybody. Disagreement, yes. Disparagement, no. He was a quiet and unassuming man. He was flawed like all of us are, but not fatally flawed since he had trusted in Christ as payment for his sin. He was in love with Christ and His Word. He has helped many of us find the Bible more approachable through his teaching.

Dr. Ryrie supported my school financially from time to time as he did many ministries across the world. But that large heart also cared for individuals like my own children who still remember the humor he showed in a lunch we all had together. It is hard to think of him gone from us. It is easier to think of him as with his Lord. The world has lost a great man. It is a loss for me personally. “Dispensationalism today” will never be the same. But many of us believe in the literal promises of the Bible like Dr. Ryrie did – promises for both Israel and the Church. And as long as there are folks like us who do, Dr. Ryrie’s legacy will continue.

More on the binding of Satan in Revelation 20

Below is a section from my upcoming paper at the Pre-Trib Study Group.  My paper analyzes Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come.  In particular, this section talks about 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 and how its interpretation should be integrated with the teaching of Revelation 20 about the binding of Satan.  I think this is a difficult passage for amillennialism to address.  I know I have my problem passages, but I would prefer my problem passages to their problem passages.

“The case is more problematic for the amillennialist when Pauline teaching on the matter is examined. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 states the issue rather clearly: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” On the face of things following literal interpretation, this passage seems to suggest that the god of this world (Satan) is currently deceiving individuals within the nations. In fact, the Apostle seems to suggest that all lost individuals among the nations of the world are being blinded by Satan. To diminish the direct import of the passage, Storms makes some assumptions. First, he assumes that good angels may actually aid in hindering Satan: “we may rest assured that in some way they [good angels] are present to strengthen, guard, and encourage those who proclaim the gospel and perhaps even to restrain the adverse influence of the demonic who would seek to undermine the reception of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4).”[1] This almost sounds as an admission that Satan’s dominion is actually deceiving individuals within the people groups of the world, something he has denied in his discussion in Revelation 20.

Second, Storms relativizes the deceiving ministry of Satan. In another place in the book, he comments: “In other words, it is the influence of the Church, as a result of the universal preaching of the gospel, which inhibits the activity of Satan in this particular regard. Though Satan still blinds the minds of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4), he is providentially restricted from hindering the pervasive expansion of the gospel throughout the world. Satan may win an occasional battle, but the war belongs to Christ!” The premillennialist looks at such a comment and interprets Storms’ words as teaching a partial deceiving of the nations. Blinding means deceiving. Revelation 20:3 teaches that for one thousand years, Satan will do no deceiving of the nations. Storms is attempting to have his cake and eat it too. However, such partial deception by Satan is not consistent with the binding of Satan taught in the Bible for the millennium.

In the end, the premillennialist remains confident that his approach to the structure of the book of Revelation, especially chapters 19-20, is correct. Satan will be bound in a future time that begins at the second coming of Christ. The premillennialist will continue to believe the amillennialists have not made their case.”

[1] Storms, Kingdom Come, 271. Storms is discussing the meaning of “messengers” in Matthew 24:31 when he makes this statement.

The Binding of Satan

The binding of Satan in Revelation 20 has always been a major issue of debate between premillennialists and amillennialists.  Premillennialists, like me, insist on the chronological nature of chapters 19-20. So the second coming of Christ in Revelation 19 precedes the 1000 years of Revelation 20.  Amillennialists, many of them following the Augustinian recapitulation view of the literary structure of the book of Revelation, argue that Revelation 20 begins over again with a discussion of the present age.  Hence, the 1000 years (as an indefinite period of time) describes the present or Church age.  This means that the binding of Satan described in Revelation 20 is happening now at the present time.

Consequently, there is a debate between premillennialists and amillennialists over the activity of Satan during the present time.  For example, in the excellent book (in my view) Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams, he honestly affirms that, because he is an amillennialist, he does not recognize demon possession when he counsels people.  Now, his views as well as others, always get qualified in later writings or expressions, but the sentiment is generally a limitation of Satan’s activity in the present age.

Read the rest of this entry »

Friends of Israel

Yesterday, I was approved to be on the board of the Friends of Israel outreach ministry to the Jews.  It was a delightful day of interaction.  I have published some articles in their excellent magazine Israel My Glory, but I am happy to be, in a more direct way, part of an organization that I have followed and supported for many years and which has stood by the central dispensational truths of the Word of God.  Their heart to reach Jewish people with the gospel of Christ is beyond question.  They have a great relationship with the nation of Israel.  God is doing many wonderful things.  I ask my friends to pray for me as I enter into this new and important responsibility.