Are You Ready to Meet Your Maker? By Augustus Toplady

A Classic Sermon on Applications of the Suffering, Death, & Resurrection of Jesus

*Augustus Toplady is perhaps best remembered for his Hymn “Rock of Ages” – and as you will see in reading this sermon – he was theologically deep, and astute at applying the gospel to all of life.

 “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God.” 1 Sam. 5:20.

And before this holy Lord God, every soul must one day stand. “We will all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,” says the apostle, “that every one may receive according to the things he has done in the body.” In some sense, we may be said to stand before Him now: “for He is not far from everyone of us;” yes, “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” The consequence of this is, that there is no creature which is not manifest to His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes “of Him with whom we have to give an accounting.” With regard therefore to His own Omniscience and Omnipresence, we already stand before this holy Lord God. He is about our bed, and about our paths, and is acquainted with all our ways; nor is there a word in our tongues, or a thought in our hearts, but He knows it altogether. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

I will not detain the reader with considering on what occasion the men of Bethshemesh spoke the words of the text: but only observe, that the miraculous judgment inflicted on them for looking into the ark, was that which gave rise to the above question, and made them cry out, with trembling and astonishment, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” But in whatever sense these words were meant by the speakers, they certainly contain a most momentous inquiry; — an inquiry in which every soul of man is deeply concerned.

If the Lord God, before whom each individual will shortly stand, is a holy God, a God of truth, and without sin, and of purer eyes than to behold sin with impunity; we may well ask, “Who is able to stand before Him? — Who can abide the day of His coming, or stand when He appears?” Appear He certainly will; and stand before Him we inevitably must. God only knows who will first be summoned to do this; but, first or last, the citation will be sent to all. Health is a tender, precarious flower; life is a brittle, slender thread; how soon the one may wither, and the other break, He alone can tell who lent us both. This only we know, from Scripture and from daily observation, that all below is of uncertain tenure; that we are no more than tenants at will, removable at the pleasure of God, the great Proprietor of all.

Some are dismissed from life in the dawn of infancy; some in the morning of childhood; others in the noon of youth. The sands of some are continued longer; and a very few are permitted to see the night of what we generally term old age. Not a day, nor an hour; no, not a minute passes, wherein multitudes of all ages are not called away to stand before the holy Lord God. Death, that promiscuous reaper, pays no regard to years or station. The infant of a day, and the man of a century, are alike to him; he mows the shooting blade and the mature stem: the growing and the grown unite to swell his harvest and augment his spoils. But is that which we term Death, the offspring of chance, or the result of accident? Surely, no. Death is a scythe! But if I may so speak, it is a scythe in the hand of God. Affliction, sickness, and dissolution, are messengers of His; which come not but at His command.

As King William used to say, with regard to those that died in battle, that “every bullet has its billet”, or is directed by special Providence; so it may truly be said, that every event has its commission from God, and is the effect of at least His permissive will. And therefore, though with regard to the act of dying itself, “all things come alike to all, and there is, in this respect, one event to the righteous and the wicked, and as the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath;” — though good and bad must die, the grave being the house appointed for all living; yet we must beware of thinking, because the holy and the wicked, the useful and the useless, seem to be taken away promiscuously, and without distinction, that therefore death is the effect of that unmeaning thing called chance; for both holy scripture and sound reason join in supporting the assertion of the celebrated Mr. POPE: —

“All nature is but art unknown to thee;


All chance, direction, which thou canst not see.”

So far is anything from being fortuitous or accidental, with regard to God, (however contingent and unexpected some things may be to us) that not a sparrow falls to the ground, but in consequence of His will; and the very hairs of our head are everyone numbered. Nor does the absolute and necessary dependence of all things on God, the first cause, at all interfere with, much less does it supercede, the liberty of second, or subordinary causes. Difficulties, indeed, may attend the reconciliation of human freedom, with the purposes and prescience of God from eternity, and with the efficacious influence of actual Providence in time: but yet it is plain, from experience, that man is free, that is, that he acts without any inward force or violent compulsion. What he does in a moral way, he does with the concurrence of his will. If unregenerate, his will inclines him to the works of darkness, and these accordingly he commits: if renewed by the Spirit of God, his will, from the new bias which grace has given, naturally and spontaneously inclines him to what is good, and he acts agreeably to this renewed will. So that in every view, man is free in what he does; though totally dependent on God, from moment to moment, he yet is free as to the actings of his will: which, according to its bias, naturally excites him to this or that. If therefore man himself may be, and is, subject to the efficacy and energy of divine influence, without any prejudice to his natural freedom: much more may other creatures be so.

Hence we see how prodigiously wide of the mark their reasoning is, who, under pretence of guarding natural liberty, exclude the Providence of God from having any influence on the creatures He made, and represent the Deity as no more than an idle spectator, and scarce that, of what is done below. As if it was either beneath the dignity of Him to superintend and direct the world, who did not think it beneath Him to make it; or as if, having made it, He would suffer the affairs of it to take their chance, and go on at random, without His taking any care or notice. Into such blasphemies and absurdities do those run, who forsake the Scriptures.

How much more exalted views, worthy of God, and comfortable to man, do the treasures of inspiration give us, respecting the Deity and His ever-acting Providence? There we are told, that He worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will; that whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven and in earth, and in the sea, and in all deep places; and that His effectual agency begun in creation, is carried on by Providence. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” said He who is in the form of God.

Hence it follows, that if the Almighty is thus operative, that declaration of the apostle is true, which tells us, that “God hath determined the times before appointed;” and that He even “fixes the bounds of our habitation.”  — “To everything,” says another inspired writer, “there is a season; and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die.” — ”Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth,” says Job; “Are not his days also like the days of a hireling,” which consist of just so many hours and no more. And elsewhere, speaking of man, he says, “His days are determined; the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” Conformably to which, he adds, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.”

It remains then, that God is the sovereign Disposer, as of all things else, so of life and death; and consequently, that the awful period is fixed, wherein we must each stand before this holy Lord God. But are we not sinners? And is not sin that which this holy Lord God hateth? All this is true. God abhors sin; we are sinful, and we must stand before Him. How then shall we be able to do this? What will be the result of standing at such a bar, and before such a judge? To be tried by the holy law of God, which we have broken; to be witnessed against by our conscience, and by angels who invisibly throng our most retired concealments; above all, to be heard by Him who is the searcher of hearts, and whose sentence is decisive either for heaven or hell. If the Holy Spirit should alarm the conscience by this consideration, it will stir up the individual to pray, that he may be found of Him in peace, and be enabled to stand with joy before this Holy God? But what can qualify us thus to stand? Is our own goodness sufficient to cover our guilty souls, and ward off the blow of justice? Alas! It is insufficient; as the prophet says, “Our gold is dim, and our wine is mixed with water.” Our purest obedience is sinful, and how can that which is sinful, save a sinner? Can a smaller sin atone for a greater; nay, do not both stand in need of an atonement from some other quarter? “All our righteousness,” says the church, in Isaiah, “ are as filthy rags.”

Now, should a man attempt to go to court, clothed in filthy rags, and endeavor to gain admission to the royal presence in such raiment as that, would not he be refused entrance, and driven with indignation from the palace gate? — Certainly he would; and can we expect to stand in the hour of death and Day of Judgment, undaunted before the holy Lord God, arrayed in no better robe, and defended with no better armor than that imperfect righteousness of ours, which the Scripture calls filthy rags? We must appear in a better dress, if we mean to appear at God’s right hand; a dress superior even to that which angels wear; a dress which God was manifest in the flesh on purpose to supply us with; and which, through grace, is to all, and upon all them that believe in Him. I need not say, that I mean the merits of Jesus Christ, consisting of His active righteousness and His atoning death; of all He did, and of all He endured, in obedience and submission to the law. This is that righteousness, that garment of salvation, in which St. Paul desired to be found; and in which we too must be interested and arrayed, would we reign in life through Him, and stand, at the latter day, in the congregation of the righteous.

The important doctrine of justification by the transfer of Christ’s merit to us, which doctrine is founded on the perfection of His obedience, as our representative, and the reality of His substitution to death in our stead; I say, this supplies us with a satisfactory answer to the question offered, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” Who? — The soul unto whom Christ is made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: wisdom, to discover its native guilt and inability; righteousness, to cover its moral deformity, and render the whole man legally acceptable in the sight of the infinitely holy God; sanctification, to master and subdue the body of sin, to give the will and affections a divine tendency, to fire the heart with holy love, and adorn the outward conversation with all the beauties of practical godliness; and lastly, to whom Christ is made redemption, by the efficacy of His atonement, blotting out our sins and the handwriting that was against us, giving us to see that both one and the other were nailed to His cross, and that therefore there now remains no condemnation to them that are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Now, if wisdom must be given to us to see our absolute need of an interest in Christ; if His righteousness must be imputed to us for our justification; if we must be sanctified by His grace; weaned from sin and devoted to God; and if the merits of His redemption likewise must be made over to us, in order to our obtaining the forgiveness of our evil works, and the acceptance of our good ones; I say, if these things are necessary for our salvation, and without them, we shall never be able so to stand before the holy Lord God, as to enjoy His favor, and be admitted to His kingdom; then, it behooves us to lay our hand upon our heart, and solemnly to ask ourselves, whether we have a hope that Christ is thus made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to us. — Soon we shall be called to stand, where self-examination will do us no service; when we appear before God, He will be the examiner alone. Judge therefore yourself, my Christian brother, now, that ye be not then judged of the Lord. Remember, that the night of death is coming on, and the shadows of the evening are stretching out; and as sure as natural night is succeeded by day, so sure will death be followed by the immediate scrutiny of that holy Lord God, who will bring all things to light; and upon your leaving the body will soon put it beyond all doubt, whether you belong to Christ or not.

Death, as I observed, respects not persons, neither taketh reward. Old and young, rich and poor, the serious and gay, the learned and the illiterate, the holy and the profane, one with another, must appear before the judge of quick and dead. When the call is issued forth, when the warrant is made out, it will neither admit of denial or delay. “O that men were wise, that they understood this, and would consider their latter end! “ Look not on what I say as words of course, but know, that if they are unheeded now, a dying bed will convince you of their importance.

Ask yourself, what am I building on, so as to be able to stand before this holy Lord God? If you are ignorant of this, I pray the blessed Spirit to convince you, that there is no “other foundation for any man to lay, but that laid, which is Christ Jesus.” May He give you faith and repentance, so as you may be led to have a total reliance on the righteousness, blood, and intercession of Christ for the pardon of sins, which will give a conformity to His image, and to the mind which was in Christ Jesus. These are the fruits of real grace, the evidences of an interest in Him, and the marks by which His sheep are distinguished from those who belong not to His fold. And for an encouragement to wait upon Him in prayer for the communication of these graces, let us bear this in mind, that the holy Lord God before whom you and I are to stand in judgment, is, at the same time that He sustains this exalted title, that person of the Trinity who assumed our nature, and in it wrought out the salvation of His church and people. The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son. May He be your Advocate as well as Judge!

There is yet another sense wherein men will stand before this holy Lord God; and a blessed standing it will be, a standing peculiar to the just. They shall stand —Where? In the New Jerusalem, the heaven of heavens, before the throne and before the Lamb. They shall stand How? Clothed in white robes, the robes of justifying merit and sanctifying grace. They shall stand — With whom? With angels and archangels, and all the powers of heaven. They shall stand — Doing what? Singing the song forever new, the praises of the great Three-one, Father, Son, and Spirit. They shall stand — How long? As long as eternity itself; wrapped in the vision of God forever and ever.

Do you ask, Who is worthy to stand thus before this “Holy Lord God?” — Who, indeed, abstracted from the merits of Christ? Without that, we should not only be unworthy, but absolutely incapable of this exceeding great reward. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. “Understand, therefore,” said Moses to the Israelites, “that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it, for thy righteousness.” And if even the earthly Canaan was not the reward of human merit, much less the heavenly. And yet Christ says of the saints at Sardis, and by consequence of all saints whatever, (for a saint is a saint, let him live in what age or country he will) “These shall walk with me in white,” that is, they shall be my companions in glory, “for they are worthy.” — How! void of merit, and yet worthy? And worthy too of walking with Christ in white? Yes, unworthy, totally so, in themselves; but worthy, completely so, of an eternity of bliss, through the blood of sprinkling and the imputation of Christ’s obedience, styled in Scripture, the righteousness of God, and elsewhere, the righteousness of the saints.

The righteousness of God, because wrought out by Christ, who, from the time of His incarnation, was God and man in one Person; and the righteousness of the saints, because freely imputed to them, and graciously made theirs, to all the purposes of justification and happiness. “Therefore are they before the throne, and serve God day and night;” that is, without end or intermission, “in His temple,” the region of glory. Hence it is, that they shall be able to stand before the holy Lord God; shall stand with joy in His presence, after death; stand at His right hand in the day of universal judgment; and stand before Him in His kingdom to all eternity. Just men made perfect in glory, are elsewhere in Scripture represented as sitting with Christ. Both phrases are evidently metaphorical. Their standing, therefore, may denote their bliss and alacrity; for standing is a posture of gladness and cheerfulness; and when they are described as sitting in heavenly places, the expression may signify the unspeakable freedom and intimacy with the Trinity, to which they will then be admitted.

There are some, it is to be feared, who think little about standing before the holy Lord God. Death and judgment, with what will follow, are seldom or never the subjects of their meditation. Indeed, dissipation and banishment of thought, seems to be one of our national vices at present, and is in great measure, the root of all the rest. Hence, concern for salvation is too generally ridiculed as superstition; and seriousness exploded as fanaticism. This is a melancholy but faithful representation of the state of religion, in this our day, nor will matters ever wear a brighter aspect, while gaiety and amusement, in ten thousand different shapes, and succeeding in endless rotation, are permitted to engross our time, and occupy the place of thought.

“A serious mind,” says Dr. Young, “is the native soil of every virtue.” And, if I mistake not, the same writer, elsewhere, makes this just observation: — that excessive attachment to fashionable pleasures begets levity; levity begets loose morals; loose morals beget infidelity; and infidelity begets death. And I verily believe, for my own part, that if we trace Deism and Libertinism to their fountainhead, we shall find, in most cases, the inordinate pursuit of pleasure to have been the source of both. Recreations are needful at times; but take care of these two things, that your recreations be innocent in themselves, and that you be moderate in your use of them.

If the time is hastening wherein all must, without any exception, stand before the holy Lord God, let the unbeliever tremble. “What!” says a Deist, with a smile, “tremble at that which I do not believe!” Yes, I repeat it again, tremble, lest conscience should be in the right, and what you now profess to disbelieve, should prove true at last. Many a deistical hero has been dismally frightened when death stared him in the face; and some of them much sooner; for I could mention instances of Deists, who, unable to bear the intolerable hauntings of conscience, and their pride disdaining to fly to religion for relief, have, in the madness of despair put an end to their own lives; have plunged into eternity as a horse rushes into the battle, and gone, with all their sins about them to stand before the holy Lord God. “A proof this,” say you, “that they really disbelieved a future state.” O! no; a proof rather, that a conscience gashed with sin, and uncured by the remedy of the gospel, flashes horror on the soul too great for it to hear; and therefore the miserable creature, wishing that there may be no hereafter, chooses rather, in the fury of his pain, to try the dreadful experiment, and run the risk of accumulated misery in the next world, to get rid of his tortures in this.

But I willingly dismiss this dismal part of the subject, on a supposition that the reader of these lines is no professed infidel. I will suppose that you admit the Scriptures to be, as indeed they are, the Word of God; and that you believe every article of the Christian faith. Nay, I will go farther, and put the case, that the historical belief, and assent of your understanding, has some influence on your eternal conversation. I would take for granted, that you are neither profane nor immoral, but stand in awe of that great and terrible name, the Lord thy God; that the temple of your body, is in purity and sanctification, not walking in any lust of uncleanness, like them that know not God; and to add no more, that you are morally honest in your dealings with all men, and are punctual to the worship of God, in your closets, in your families, and in the temple. All this is excellent; all this is needful; but remember, this is not your justifying righteousness. We are not pardoned and entitled to heaven on account of our holiness and good works; but are made holy, and abound in good works, in CONSEQUENCE OF OUR ACCEPTANCE in the Beloved, of our pardon and justification through the propitiation and perfect obedience of Jesus Christ the righteous; do you know any thing of this? In all matters, but especially in spiritual affairs, experience is the life of knowledge.

Did the Spirit of God ever convince you of sin? Do you see yourself liable to the curse of the law, and the just vengeance of God, for the innate depravity of your nature, and the transgressions of your life? Do you come to Christ humbled and self-condemned; sensible that unless you are clothed with the merits of Him our Elder Brother, you are ruined and undone, and can never stand with joy or safety before the holy Lord God? If so, lift up thy head; redemption is thine; thou art in a state of grace; thou art translated from death to life; thou art an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. But, if you never felt, nor desire to feel, this work of the Holy Ghost upon thy heart, this conviction of sin, this penitential faith, all the supposed righteousness of thine own, wherein thou trusted, is but a broken reed; a painted sepulcher; and the trappings of a Pharisee.

Let believers rejoice. The holy Lord God, to whom they must give account, is their Father, their Savior, and their Friend. What is death to such, but the accomplishment of their warfare, and the commencement of an endless triumph? I admire an illustration of the death of the righteous, which I lately met with in a discourse on that subject, by an eminent writer:

“As a man,” says he, “that takes a walk in his garden, and spying a beautiful full-blown flower, he crops it, and puts it into his bosom, so the Lord takes His walks in His gardens, the churches, and gathers His lilies, souls fully ripe for glory, and with delight takes them to Himself.”

If it is in the merits of Christ alone that we can stand with safety before God, let us renounce self-dependence in every view, and rely for justification and everlasting life on Him, making mention of Him and of His righteousness only, in whom all the seed of Israel are justified, and shall glory.

Lastly; Is the Lord God we must appear before infinitely holy? Then let us aim at holiness likewise. There is no true Christianity; that is, there is no dignity nor happiness, without it. He is not a Father, in a spiritual, saving sense, to any on whose souls the Holy Spirit has not impressed His image, and on whose hearts He has not inscribed His law.

*Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778), was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin, he was converted through a Methodist lay preacher, took Anglican orders in 1762, and later became vicar of Broadhembury, Devon. In 1775 he assumed the pastorate of the French Calvinist chapel in London. He was a powerful preacher and a vigorous Calvinist, bitterly opposed to John Wesley. He wrote the Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England (2 vols., 1774) and The Church of England Vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism (1769). His fame rests, however, on his hymns, e.g., “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”; “A Sovereign Protector I Have”; “From Wence this Fear and Unbelief?”; and especially “Rock of Ages”.

6 Evidences Verifying The Resurrection of Jesus by Dr. James Boice

Solid Evidence For The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ

(Article adapted from: Foundations of the Christian Faith. *James Montgomery Boice, Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press. 1986. Chapter 17, pages 348-360)

If the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is true it is obviously the best news the world has ever heard. But we ask, “Can any news that good be believed?” That question leads to an investigation of the evidences for the resurrection.

Some modern theologians maintain that we have no need for historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ or evidences of any other point of Christian belief for that matter. Such things are supposed to be authenticated by the logic of faith alone. There is, of course, a sense in which that is true. Christians know that their faith rests not on their ability to demonstrate the truthfulness of the biblical narratives but rather on supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit within their hearts leading them to faith. Yet many come to faith through the various evidences for the resurrection, and the substance and form of the Christian faith rests upon those evidences. Apart from them our experiences of Christ could be mystical and even quite wrong.

We have every right to investigate the evidences, for the Bible itself speaks of “many infallible proofs” of the resurrection (Acts 1:3 KJV). We want to look at six of them here:

(1) The Resurrection Narratives

A first important evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that of the resurrection narratives themselves. There are four of them, one in each Gospel; they are more or less independent. Yet they are also harmonious, and that suggests their reliability as historical documents.

That the accounts are basically independent is evident from the considerable variations of detail. Of course there might be some overlap simply be-cause reports of a given incident would have been circulating throughout the Christian church when these books were being written. An account could have been told by different people at times in nearly identical language. But the four writers obviously did not sit down together and conspire to make up the story of Christ’s resurrection. If four people had sat down together and said, “Let’s invent an account of a resurrection of Jesus Christ” and had then worked out the details of their stories, there would be far more agreement than we find. We would not find the many small apparent contradictions. Yet if the story were not true and they had somehow separately made it up, it is impossible that we should have the essential agreement we find. In other words, the nature of the narratives is what we would expect from four separate accounts prepared by eyewitnesses.

Here are two examples. First, there is the variety of statements about the moment at which the women first arrived at the tomb. Matthew says that it was “toward the dawn of the first day of the week” (Mt. 28:1). Mark says that it was “very early on the first day of the week … when the sun had risen” (Mk. 16:2). Luke says that it was “at early dawn” (Lk. 24:1). John says that “it was still dark” (Jn. 20:1). These phrases are the kind of thing the authors would have standardized if they had been working on their accounts together. But they are in no real contradiction. For one thing, although John says that it was “still dark,” he obviously does not mean that it was pitch black; the next phrase says that Mary Magdalene “saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” Presumably, the women started out while it was yet dark but arrived at the garden as day was breaking.

A second example of variation in detail in the midst of essential harmony is the listing of the women who made the first visit to the garden. Matthew says there were two Marys, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (Mt. 28:1). Mark writes, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome” (Mk. 16:1). Luke refers to “Mary Magdalene and Jo–Anna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them” (Lk. 24:10). John mentions only “Mary Magdalene” (Jn. 20:1). Actually, one reference throws light on the others. Mark and Luke, for example, explain who Matthew’s “other Mary” was. When we put them together we find that on that first Easter morning, when it was still dark, at least five women set out for the tomb: Mary Magdalene (who is mentioned by each of the writers), Mary the mother of James, Salome, Jo-Anna, and at least one other unnamed woman (who fits into Luke’s reference to “other women,” which includes Salome). The purpose of their trip is to anoint Christ’s body. They already know of the difficulty they face, for the tomb had been sealed by a large stone and they have no idea how they can move it. It begins to lighten a bit as they travel, so when they finally draw close to the tomb they see that the stone has been moved. That is something they were not expecting; so, although it suits their purpose, they are nevertheless upset and uncertain what to do. Apparently, they send Mary Magdalene back to tell Peter and John about the new development, which John himself records, although he does not mention the presence of the other women (Jn. 20:2). As the women wait for her to return, the morning grows lighter; eventually, emboldened by daybreak, the women go forward. Now they see the angels and are sent back into the city by them to tell the other disciples (Mt. 28:5-7; Mk. 16:5-7; Lk. 24:4-7).

In the meantime, Mary Magdalene has found Peter and John, who immediately leave her behind them and run to the tomb. John records their view of the graveclothes and points out that it was at this moment that he personally believed (Jn. 20:3-9). Finally, Mary Magdalene arrives back at the tomb again and is the first to see Jesus (Jn. 20:11-18; compare Mk. 16:9). On the same day Jesus also appears to the other women as they are returning from the tomb, to Peter, to the Emmaus disciples, and to the others as they are gathered together that evening in Jerusalem.

Two other factors also strongly suggest that these are accurate historical accounts. The first is that they leave problems for the reader that would have been eliminated were they fictitious. For example, there is the problem, repeated several times over, that the disciples did not always recognize Jesus when he appeared to them. Mary did not recognize him in the garden (Jn. 20:14). The Emmaus disciples did not know who he was (Lk. 24:16). Even much later, when he appeared to many of the disciples in Galilee, we are told that “some doubted” (Mt. 28:17). From the point of view of persuasion, the inclusion of such details is foolish. The skeptic who reads them will say, “It is obvious that the reason why the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus is that he was actually someone else. Only the gullible believed, and that was because they wanted to believe. They were self-deluded.” Whatever can be said for that argument, the point is that the reason why such problems were allowed to remain in the narrative is that they are, in fact, the way the appearances happened. Consequently, they at least provide strong evidence that these are honest reports of what the writers believed to have transpired.

Another example of a problem is Christ’s statement to Mary that she was not to touch him because he was “not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn. 20:17). Yet Matthew tells us that, when Jesus appeared to the other women, presumably within minutes of his appearance to Mary, they “took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Mt. 28:9). In the whole history of the Christian church no one has given a thoroughly convincing explanation of that anomaly. But it is allowed to stand because, whatever the reason, that is what happened.

Finally, the accounts evidence a fundamental honesty and accuracy through what we can only call their natural simplicity. If we were setting out to write an account of Christ’s resurrection and resurrection appearances, could we have resisted the urge to describe the resurrection itself-the descent of the angel, the moving of the stone, the appearance of the Lord from within the recesses of the tomb? Could we have resisted the urge to recount how he appeared to Pilate and confounded him? Or how he appeared to Caiaphas and the other members of the Jewish Sanhedrin? The various apocryphal Gospels (the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Pilate and others) contain these elements. Yet the Gospel writers include none, because either they did not happen or else the writers themselves did not witness them. The Gospels do not describe the resurrection because no one actually witnessed it. It would have made good copy, but the disciples all arrived at the tomb after Jesus had been raised.

(2) The Empty Tomb

A second major evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the empty tomb. We might deny that an actual resurrection took place, but we can hardly deny that the tomb was empty. The disciples began soon after the crucifixion and burial to preach about the resurrection, at a time when those to whom they preached could simply walk to the tomb to see if the body of the supposedly resurrected Lord still lay there.

The empty tomb has been so formidable an argument for the resurrection throughout history that unbelievers have invented a number of theories to account for it. One theory is that the women and later the disciples went to the wrong place. It is conceivable that in the dark the women might have made such an error. But, as we have seen, it was not entirely dark, and besides they had been there earlier and thus were acquainted with its location. Again, we cannot suppose that John and Peter and then all the others would make an identical error.

Another theory is the so-called swoon theory. According to that view, Jesus did not die on the cross but rather swooned––as a result of which he was taken for dead and then buried alive. In the cool of the tomb he revived, moved the stone, and went forth to appear as resurrected. But that explanation has numerous problems. There are the difficulties in believing that a Roman guard entrusted with an execution could be fooled in such a manner; or that the spear thrust into Christ’s side would not have killed him even if he had been swooning; or that a weak, barely surviving Christ could have had the strength to move the large stone and overcome Roman guards. Further, one would have to suppose that a Christ in such a condition could convince his disciples that he had overcome death triumphantly.

Finally, there are the views that someone either stole or simply moved the body. But who? Certainly not the disciples, for if they had removed the body, they would later hardly have been willing to die for what they knew to be a fabrication. Nor would the Jewish or Roman authorities have taken the body. We might imagine that they could have moved it initially in order better to guard it––for the same reasons they sealed the tomb and posted a watch: “We remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore order the sepulcher to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead'” (Mt. 27:63-64). If that had happened, they would certainly have produced the body later when the disciples began their preaching. The authorities hated the gospel and did everything in their power to stop its spread. They arrested the apostles, threatened them and eventually killed some of them. None of that would have been necessary if they could have produced the body. The obvious reason why they did not is that they could not. The tomb was empty. The body was gone (The evidence of the empty tomb is discussed by John Stott, Basic Christianity, Downers Grove, IL: IVP,  pp.46-50; Merrill C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection, Chicago: Moody Press. 1963, pp. 113-16; James Orr, The Resurrection of Jesus, London: Hodder and Stoughton, n.d., pp. 111-39; and others).

(3) A Not Quite Empty Tomb

According to John, the tomb was not quite empty. The body of Jesus was gone but the graveclothes remained behind. The narrative suggests that there was something about them so striking that at least John saw them and believed in Jesus’ resurrection.

Every society has its distinct modes of burial, and that was true in ancient cultures as today. In Egypt bodies were embalmed. In Italy and Greece they were often cremated. In Palestine they were wrapped in linen bands that enclosed dry spices and were placed face up without a coffin in tombs generally cut from the rock in the Judean and Galilean hills. Many such tombs still exist and can be seen by any visitor to Palestine.

Another aspect of Jewish burial in ancient times is of special interest for understanding John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection. In a book called The Risen Master (1901), Henry Latham calls attention to a unique feature of Eastern burials, which he noticed when in Constantinople during the last century. He says that the funerals he witnessed there varied in many respects, depending upon whether the funeral was for a poor or rich person. But in one respect all the arrangements were identical. Latham noticed that the bodies were wrapped in linen cloths in such a manner as to leave the face, neck and upper part of the shoulders bare. The upper part of the head was covered by a cloth that had been twirled about it like a turban. Latham concluded that since burial styles change slowly, particularly in the East, that mode of burial may well have been practiced in Jesus’ time.

Luke tells us that when Jesus was approaching the village of Nain earlier in his ministry, he met a funeral procession leaving the city. The only son of a widow had died. Luke says that when Jesus raised him from death two things happened. First, the young man sat up, that is, he was lying on his back on the bier without a coffin. And second, he at once began to speak. Hence, the graveclothes did not cover his face. Separate coverings for the head and body were also used in the burial of Lazarus (Jn. 11:44).

It must have been in a similar manner that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus Christ. The body of Jesus was removed from the cross before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, was washed, and then was wrapped in linen bands. One hundred pounds of dry spices were carefully inserted into the folds of the linen. One of them, aloes, was a powdered wood like fine sawdust with an aromatic fragrance; another, myrrh, was a fragrant gum that would be carefully mixed with the powder. Jesus’ body was thus encased. His head, neck and upper shoulders were left bare. A linen cloth was wrapped about the upper part of his head like a turban. The body was then placed within the tomb where it lay until sometime on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

What would we have seen had we been there at the moment at which Jesus was raised from the dead? Would we have seen him stir, open his eyes, sit up, and begin to struggle out of the bandages? We must remember that it would have been difficult to escape from the bandages. Is that what we would have seen? Not at all. That would have been a resuscitation, not a resurrection. It would have been the same as if he had recovered from a swoon. Jesus would have been raised in a natural body rather than a spiritual body, and that was not what happened.

If we had been present in the tomb at the moment of the resurrection, we would have noticed that all at once the body of Jesus seemed to disappear. John Stott says that the body was” ‘vaporized,’ being transmuted into something new and different and wonderful” (Stott, Basic Christianity, p.52). Latham says that the body had been “exhaled,” passing “into a phase of being like that of Moses and Elias on the Mount” (Henry Latham, The Risen Master. Cambridge Deighton Bell and Company, 1901, pp.36, 54). We would have seen only that it was gone.

What would have happened then? The linen cloths would have collapsed once the body was removed, because of the weight of the spices, and would have been lying undisturbed where the body of Jesus had been. The cloth which surrounded the head, without the weight of spices, might well have retained its concave shape and have lain by itself separated from the other cloths by the space where the neck and shoulders of the Lord had been.

That is exactly what John and Peter saw when they entered the sepulcher, and the eyewitness account reveals it perfectly. John was the first at the tomb, and as he reached the open sepulcher in the murky light of early dawn he saw the graveclothes lying there. Something about them attracted his attention. First, it was significant that they were lying there at all. John places the word for “lying” at an emphatic position in the Greek sentence. We might translate it, “He saw, lying there, the graveclothes” (Jn 20 5) further the cloths were undisturbed. The word that John uses (keimena) is used in the Greek papyri of things that have been carefully placed in order. (One document speaks of legal papers saying, “I have not yet obtained the documents, but they are lying collated.” Another speaks of clothes that are “lying [in order] until you send me word.”) Certainly John noticed that there had been no disturbance at the tomb.

At that point Peter arrived and went into the sepulcher. Undoubtedly Peter saw what John saw, but in addition he was struck by something else. The cloth that had been around the head was not with the other cloths. It was lying in a place by itself (Jn. 20:7). And what was more striking, it had retained a circular shape. John says that it was “wrapped together” (KJV). We might say that it was “twirled about itself.” And there was a space between it and the cloths that had enveloped the body. The narrative says, “Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (20 6 7) Finally John too entered the sepulcher and saw what Peter saw. When he saw it he believed.

What did John believe? He might have explained it to Peter like this “Don’t you see, Peter, that no one has moved the body or disturbed the graveclothes? They are lying exactly as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea left the eve of the Sabbath. Yet the body is gone. It has not been stolen. It has not been moved. Clearly it must have passed through the clothes, leaving them as we see them now. Jesus must be risen.” Stott says, “A glance at these graveclothes proved the reality, and indicated the nature, of the resurrection” ((Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 53).

(4) The Post Resurrection Appearances

A fourth evidence for the resurrection is the obvious fact that Jesus was seen by the disciples. According to the various accounts he appeared to Mary Magdalene first of all, then to the other women who were returning from the tomb, afterward to Peter, to the Emmaus disciples, to the ten gathered in the upper room, then (a week later) to the eleven disciples including Thomas, to James, to five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor. 15:6, perhaps on a mountainside in Galilee), to a band of disciples who had been fishing on the lake of Galilee, to those who witnessed the ascension from the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, and last of all to Paul, who claimed to have seen Christ in his vision on the road to Damascus. During the days following the resurrection, all these persons moved from blank, enervating despair to firm conviction and joy. Nothing accounts for that but the fact that they had indeed seen Jesus.

During the last century a well-known critic of the Gospels, Ernest Renan, wrote that belief in Christ’s resurrection arose from the passion of a hallucinating woman, meaning that Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus and deluded herself into thinking that she had seen him alive when she had actually only seen the gardener. That is preposterous. The last person in the world that Mary (or any of the others) expected to see was Jesus. The only reason she was in the garden was to anoint his body. Moreover, even if Mary had believed in some sort of resurrection through the power of love, there is no evidence that the disciples could have been so deluded or that they anticipated anything of the kind. Many despaired; some, like the Emmaus disciples, were scattering. Thomas, for one, was adamant in his disbelief. Yet we find that within a matter of days after the Lord’s alleged resurrection, all of them were convinced of what beforehand they would have judged impossible. And they went forth to tell about it, persisting in their conviction even in the face of threats, persecution and death.

One clear example of unbelieving disciples being convinced of the resurrection solely by the appearance of Jesus is that of the Emmaus disciples. One of them is identified. He is Cleopas (Lk. 24:18). If he is to be identified with the Clopas (slight variation in spelling) mentioned in John 19:25, then we know that his wife’s name was Mary, that she was in Jerusalem, had witnessed the crucifixion along with the other women and was therefore probably the one returning to Emmaus with him on the first Easter morning.

The importance of this identification lies in the fact that Mary, and perhaps Cleopas too, had witnessed the crucifixion and therefore had not the slightest doubt that Jesus was dead. Mary had seen the nails driven into Christ’s hands. She had seen the cross erected. She saw the blood. Finally, she saw the spear driven into his side. Afterwards Mary undoubtedly went back to where she was staying. The Passover came, and Mary and Cleopas observed it like good Jews. They waited in sadness over the holidays––from the day of the crucifixion until the day of the resurrection––for the same Sabbath restraints on travel that had kept the women from going to the sepulcher to anoint the body would also have kept Cleopas and Mary from returning home to Emmaus. The morning after the Saturday Sabbath finally came. It is possible that Mary is one who went to the tomb to anoint the body. If that is the case, she saw the angels, returned to tell Cleopas about it, and then––look how remarkable this is––joined him in preparing to leave. So far from their thinking was any idea of the literal truth of Christ’s bodily resurrection!

What is more, during the time that Cleopas and Mary were getting ready to leave, Peter and John set out for the sepulcher. They entered the tomb. Right then John believed in some sense, although he may not have understood all that the resurrection meant. Peter and John returned, told Cleopas, Mary and the others what they had seen. And then––again this is most remarkable––Cleopas and Mary went right on packing. As soon as they were ready, they left Jerusalem. Did that Palestinian peasant couple believe in Christ’s resurrection? Certainly not. Did they come to believe, as they eventually did, because of their own or someone else’s wishful thinking or a hallucination? No. They were so sad at the loss of Jesus, so miserable, so preoccupied with the reality of his death, that they would not even take twenty or thirty minutes personally to investigate the reports of his resurrection.

If someone should say, “But surely they must not have heard the reports; you are making that part of the story up,” the objection is answered by the words of Cleopas. When Jesus appeared to them on the road and asked why they were so sad, Cleopas answered by telling him first about the crucifixion and then adding, “Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us [Peter and John] went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see” (Lk. 24:22-24).

What accounts for a belief in the resurrection on the part of Christ’s disciples? Nothing but the resurrection itself. If we cannot account for the belief of the disciples in that way, we are faced with the greatest enigma in history. If we account for it by a real resurrection and real appearances of the risen Lord, then Christianity is understandable and offers a sure hope to all.

(5) The Transformed Disciples

A fifth evidence for the resurrection flows from what has just been said: the transformed character of the disciples.

Take Peter as an example. Before the resurrection Peter is in Jerusalem going along quietly behind the arresting party. That night he denies Jesus three times. Later he is in Jerusalem, fearful, shut up behind closed doors along with the other disciples. Yet all is changed following the resurrection. Then Peter is preaching boldly. He says in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know––this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24). A few chapters farther on in Acts we find him before the Jewish Sanhedrin (the body that condemned Jesus to death), saying, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

“Something tremendous must have happened to account for such a radical and astounding moral transformation as this. Nothing short of the fact of the resurrection, of their having seen the risen Lord, will explain it” (R. A. Torrey, The Bible and Its Christ, p. 92).

Another example is James, Jesus’ brother. At one point none of Jesus brothers believed in him (Jn. 7:5). Jesus once declared, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house” (Mt. 13:57). But later James does believe (compare Acts 1:14). What made the difference? Obviously, only the appearance of Jesus to him, which is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:7.

(6) The New Day of Christian Worship

The final though often overlooked evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the change of the day of regular Christian worship from the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday, the first day of the week Could anything be more fixed in religious tradition than the setting aside of the seventh day for worship as practiced in Judaism? Hardly. The sanctification of the seventh day was embodied in the Law of Moses and had been practiced for centuries. Yet from the very beginning we see Christians though Jews disregarding the Sabbath as their day of worship and instead worshiping on Sunday. What can account for that? There is no prophecy to that effect, no declaration of an early church council. The only adequate cause is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event so significant that it immediately produced the most profound changes, not only in the moral character of the early believers, but in their habits of life and forms of worship as well.

I was once speaking to another minister about his spiritual experience when the conversation turned to the resurrection. The minister said that when he came out of seminary he possessed no real convictions concerning the gospel of Christ. He probably believed some things intellectually, but they had not gripped his heart. He said that he began to reflect on the resurrection. I asked, “What did you find?” First of all, he replied, he discovered a strange happiness and internal rest as he struggled with the accounts and the questions that they forced to his mind. That indicated to him that, although he did not have the answers yet, at least he was on the right track. As he studied he came to see the importance of the issue. He saw that if Jesus really rose from the dead, everything else recorded about him in the New Testament is true––at least there is no sound reason for rejecting it. And he concluded that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, he should leave the ministry.

So he read books. He visited the seminary where he had studied. He talked with his professors. He said that he became convinced that Jesus is indeed risen, as the Bible declares, and that all the other doctrines of the faith stand with it. Interestingly enough, he came to that conclusion several weeks before Easter that particular year, and on Easter he therefore stood up in church to proclaim his personal faith in these things. Afterward members of his congregation said that they had never heard preaching like that before, and several believed in Christ as a result of his preaching.

That has happened to many: to jurists like Frank Morison, Gilbert West, Edward Clark and J.N.D. Anderson; to scholars like James Orr, Michael Ramsey, Arnold H.M. Lunn, Wolfhart Pannenburg and Michael Green. Green says that “the evidence in favor of this astonishing fact is overwhelming” (Michael Green, Runaway World, Downer Grove Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968, p. 09. Michael Ramsey wrote, “So utterly new and foreign to the expectations of men was this doctrine, that it seems hard to doubt that only historical events could have created it” (A.M. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1945, p.19).

Did Jesus rise from the dead? If he did, then he is the Son of God and our Savior. It is for us to believe and follow him.

*James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He is the author of numerous Bible expositions on Genesis, Joshua, Nehemiah, Daniel, The Minor Prophets, Matthew, John, Romans and one of my favorite Systematic Theologies called Foundations of the Christian Faith from which this article is derived.

Booklet Review: Four Views of the End Times by Timothy Paul Jones

Comprehensive and Concise Primer on End Time Events

 There are so many differing views and interpretations related to Biblical prophecy and the end times. Dr. Jones has provided a great service to the church by providing a clear, short, and very complete guide to the key Bible passages, definition of terms, key views, and the strengths and insights on four of the most popular views on the end times: Dispensational Premillennialism, Historical Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism and objectively gives the answers the following questions for each view:

What does this view emphasize?

What does this view teach according to the main proponents (historically and modern) of the view?

What Scriptures are used to support this view?

When has this particular view been popular in church history?

Who are the most prominent Biblical Scholars (past and current) who hold to this particular view?

How does this particular view interpret the book of Revelation?

There is also a printable PDF available that charts each particular view, as well as a concluding section that answers how each of the four views answer the following crucial questions related to the end times:

Will Jesus return physically?

When will Jesus return?

Do the rapture and second coming occur at the same time?

Will there be a great tribulation?

Will Christians suffer during the tribulation?

Will there be a literal 1,000-year millennium?

Who is saved during the millennial period?

When was this particular view most held historically?

If you are looking for an objective, concise, and comprehensive overview of the end time views – this is a great place to start. I especially recommend this little booklet for people who have never studied “eschatology” (the study of the end times) before. It will be a good objective guide for you to see the “big picture” and then be able to hone in on more specific studies related to eschatology when you see the major players (scholars) that hole to the particular views, so you can do more study on your own.

Book Review: Continuity and Discontinuity edited by John S. Feinberg

Great Discussion of the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments

This book contains various perspectives from leading theologians on issues related to that which continues and discontinues from the Old Testament into the New Testament.

Half of the contributors in this book would consider themselves “Covenant Theologians” – including contributions from O. Palmer Robertson, Willem VanGemeren, Knox Chamblin, Bruce K. Waltke, Fred H. Klooster,  Martin H. Woudstra, and Sam Storms. The other half would lean dispensational or in the discontinuity camp – including essays from John S. Feinberg, Paul D. Feinberg, Robert L. Saucy, Walter C. Kaiser, Allen P. Ross, and Douglas J. Moo.

The book is a tribute to S. Lewis Johnson– long time Bible teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary and Teaching pastor at Believer’s Chapel in Dallas, Texas (he went to be with the Lord on January 28, 2004). The beginning of the book and ending of the book contain some well written tributes from Sam Storms and John Sproule to Johnson and expound upon his outstanding attributes as a scholar, exegete of God’s Word, pastor, mentor, friend, and southern gentlemen – he was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

After a wonderful historical essay on the debate of continuity and discontinuity by Rodney Peterson the format of the book addresses issues related to six key areas: 1) Theological Systems and the Testaments; 2) Hermeneutics and the Testaments; 3) Salvation and the Testaments; 4) The Law and the Testaments; 5) The People of God and the Testaments; and 6) Kingdom Promises and the Testaments. Each of these six topics contains an essay from a continuity perspective followed by an essay from a discontinuity perspective.

Here are some of the issues addressed in the book:

Are Christians to see ethical dilemmas such as capital punishment and abortion enforced today?

Are Israel and the Church one or distinct today?

How do believers relate to the Old Testament law in practice today?

One of the points that became increasingly clear to me as I read this book was that the more one moves in the discontinuity direction, the more dispensational he is likely to become, and the more one moves in the direction of continuity, the more covenantal he will become.

This book is simply outstanding. It’s not an easy read – but well worth the effort. In my experience most people from both sides of the continuity/discontinuity continuum have a lot to learn from one another and this book helps people in either camp come closer to the center in balancing how to effectively understand and interpret the two Testaments of the Scriptures. I highly recommend this book to help you become a more effective interpreter of the Scriptures and lover of Jesus Christ at the center of it all.

 

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, And Finishing Well by Billy Graham

Bringing You Real Peace In Your Final Days

As I read this book the words “peace” and “simple” kept popping into my mind. Billy Graham is the master of keeping things simple, and of communicating the message of the gospel leading to peace in one’s life like no one else I know. In this short book Graham honestly and simply addresses the aches and pains of aging, preparing for and how to handle finances, what to focus on (what will last beyond the grave), and what to spend your time on so that you will indeed finish well. He doesn’t water down the difficulties of aging, but he is helpful in showing practically what to focus on so that you can finish your life well and leave a positive legacy for those you leave behind.

I wouldn’t say this is a great book, but it was definitely written by a great man. Reading the book brought tears to my eyes, because I don’t know if we will ever see a Christian have the influence that Graham had worldwide in our lifetimes. Though the book is simple, and not necessarily groundbreaking or earthshaking in its message – it is powerful and carries the weight of authority because it is backed by the one-two punch of Biblical authority written by a man that has lived a life of integrity for over 90 years (and counting).

My life verse was written by Paul to a young Timothy and I know of only two people that I think can say this with powerful authority and simplicity leading to peace with God – Paul and Billy Graham – “Watch your life and doctrine closely, for if you persist in doing this, you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Tim. 4:16).”

Billy, thanks for your faithfulness, your integrity, and for teaching people all over the world how to have peace with God in a simple and powerful way for all these years – and now in your last book. I recommend this book for those who are aging, those who know they are nearing home. And especially for those who need to know if they are at peace with their Maker or not, because clearly this is the most important issue of all – and Billy is the best at clearly and simply letting you know how you can be at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note – I received this book from the Booksneeze program of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: I Never Thought I’d See The Day by David Jeremiah

 What to Believe and Do As We Wait For Our King To Return

This is the fourth book written by Dr. Jeremiah based on a prophetic series given at his church in San Diego over the past several years. The author (who has been in ministry for five decades and counting) writes about what he never thought he’d see happening in America and in the World by way of cultural ramifications that impact Christians and the world.

He bases the book on two specific Bible passages. Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. And 1 Chronicles 12:32, “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” In other words, Dr. Jeremiah is concerned that we as Christians are not overwhelmed by the times we find ourselves living in – that we are knowledgeable about what is going on; and encouraged in the truth, so that we can effectively apply the Scriptures and make an impact on an ever increasing attack on God and His people around the globe.

Dr. Jeremiah tackles the following 9 specific developments in these times we are living in:

1)    The rise of angry atheists and how they seek to intimidate believers in God at every level of society.

2)    The intensification of spiritual warfare – the more the gospel spreads – the more the enemy attacks.

3)    The dethroning of Jesus Christ as God come in the flesh and King of Kings and Lord of Lords in whom is salvation and the only hope for the world.

4)    The redefining of marriage as articulated by God’s definition in the Bible.

5)    The moral deterioration of society both privately and publicly – especially among our so-called leaders.

6)    Dr. Jeremiah writes, “Intertwined with this free fall in morality is the growing marginalization of the Bible, which has moved from the center of political and cultural discourse to the far edges—from providing the founding principles of our nation to becoming a resource for token verses as ornamental platitudes. Sadly, many Christians and a growing number of churches have followed the lead of the culture and pushed the Word of God away at the center of their lives.”

7)    The growing irrelevance of the Body of Christ in our society.

8)    The growing influence of rogue nations.

9)    The decline of America’s loyalty and allegiance to Israel.

This book is very relevant, and provides historical and biblical ways to be prepared to know what we believe, why we believe it, and how to stand firm in God’s truth and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we as Christians may be faithful in serving our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ – until He returns. I highly recommend this book as informative, alarming, but also full of biblically helpful solutions and encouragement from a brilliant communicator of God’s Word and how it applies to the times in which we are living.

Book Review: Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing By Peter Kreeft

An Apologetics Masterpiece!

The Book of Ecclesiastes says “God has placed eternity in our hearts.” I have read this book several times and have been waiting to do this book a just book review, but the first thing I have to say is that it’s mind boggling that so many books other than this one have received such a wide reading – and this book hasn’t. I think it’s a classic masterpiece by a brilliant philosopher who in the mold of C.S. Lewis and Thomas Aquinas writes one of the best reasonable defenses for life after death that have possibly ever been written.

The book is not an “easy” read, but an incredibly “rewarding” read. I think the depth of Kreeft’s knowledge of philosophy coupled with theology and his wide range of reading and creativity makes for writing that feeds the soul and the mind. So much of what we read today is “fast food.” Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing is a seven-course gourmet meal that leaves you full and satisfied. After contemplating what you have just read it makes you long for Heaven and a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus.

The reason I call this an “Apologetics Masterpiece” is because I think Kreeft brilliantly articulates how Heaven is necessary in order for all our desires to be satisfied in the afterlife. He makes a great case for the existence of God and the necessity of our home with Him. There is so much that we long for in this life that will never be satisfied, but will be satisfied in the next. The atheist, agnostic, or even varieties of “ists” and “isms” can’t really explain why our hearts long for so much that can’t be obtained in this life. Peter Kreeft articulates with tremendous insight and creativity to show that Heaven is what we were made for and why that’s the case.

I can’t do the book justice. All I can say is what the Holy Spirit said to Augustine so many years ago: “Take up and read, take up and read…this book.” If you are philosophical and a deep thinker you will absolutely love this book. If you are not a deep thinker, you may struggle along, but I would encourage you to read the book slowly and thoughtfully. Anyone can benefit from this book, but especially those who read it slowly and thoughtfully. One thing this book always does for me, is increase my joy and my hope in my future home – where I will finally be satisfied with everything I’ve ever longed for and more.

Book Review: Preaching and Teaching the Last Things by Walter Kaiser

Walter Kaiser is a gifted Old Testament scholar who has the keen ability to be able to communicate well among lay people and scholars alike. In this new offering Dr. Kaiser does not disappoint. This book is especially geared toward pastors, but is also extremely helpful for all those who teach and desire to understand the Old Testament and it’s connections to the New Testament and the ultimate promise plan of God.

Dr. Kaiser lands somewhere between a “covenant” and “dispensational” theologian – in my opinion he is very balanced and makes an excellent case for each passage he exegetes. He definitely leans dispensational – taking passages and promises to Israel literally unless there is a textual indicator deeming otherwise.

The book is composed of six parts – covering different aspects of the end times. Each of these parts contains two or three passages of Scripture, and is broken down in this way:

1)   A discussion of the topic.

2)   Specific exegetical and sermonic helps for the specific passage being taught including: the text; title; focal point; homiletical key word; interrogative question; and teaching aim.

3)   A teaching outline for the passage.

4)   An exegetical discussion of the passage.

5)   Practical conclusions based on a thorough exegesis of the passage.

Here are the topics that Kaiser addresses in the book with thorough exegetical and insightful precision:

Part 1: The Individual and General Eschatology of the Old Testament

  1. Life and Death in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:1-20)
  2. The resurrection of Mortals in the Old Testament (Job 19:21-27)

Part 2: The Nation of Israel in Old Testament Eschatology

  1. The Everlasting Promises made to Israel (Jeremiah 32:27-44)
  2. The Future Resurrection and Reunification of the Nation (Ezekiel 37:1-28)
  3. The Future Return of Israel to the Land of Promise (Zechariah 10:2-12)

Part 3: The New Davidic King and the City of the great King in the Old Testament

  1. The Branch of the Lord and the New Zion (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2-6)
  2. The Extent of Messiah’s Rule and Reign (Psalm 72:1-17)

Part 4: The Day of the Lord and the Beginning of the Nations’ Struggle with Israel

  1. The Arrival of the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-3:21)
  2. God and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39)

Part 5: The Events of the Last Seven Years and the Arrival of the Western Confederacy

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

11. The New Coming Third Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1-41:26; 43:1-11)

12. The Coming Antichrist (Daniel 11:36-45)

13. The Battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 14:1-21)

Part 6: The Coming Millennial Rule of Christ and the Arrival of the Eternal State

14. The Millennial Rule and Reign of God (Isaiah 24:1-23)

15. The New Creation (Isaiah 65:17-25; 66:18-24)

I think this book is a welcome addition to any Bible student’s collection – especially due to the neglect of roughly 20-25% of the Bible being of a prophetic nature. Those of us who teach and preach God’s Word are required to teach the “whole counsel of God.” My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen him draw more parallels in the passages to Christ and how the gospel applies to believers in the here and now – and not solely in the past or future (read Tim Keller or Paul Tripp for excellence in this matter). Overall, I think it’s an excellent resource with wise insights into God’s Word and how His promise plan will ultimately be fulfilled.

*Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is the distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A History of Israel; The Messiah in the Old Testament; Recovering the Unity of the Bible; The Promise-Plan of God; Preaching and Teaching The Last Things; and coauthored (with Moises Silva) An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website: www.walterckaiserjr.com

Book Review: Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons by R.C. Sproul

Good Introduction to Heaven, Hell, Angels, and Satan

 Eminent Pastor, Writer, and Theologian R.C. Sproul has written a very helpful book addressing the “uncompromising supernaturalism at the heart of the Christian worldview.” The stated purpose of Sproul in this book is to provide a “brief tour through the Bible’s teachings in regard to heaven and hell, angels and demons [in order to] bolster your faith in Scripture’s teachings regarding the supernatural.”

Sproul Writes on the Supernatural in Four Parts:

Part One: Heaven – Using Key Passages of Scripture, personal anecdotes, and keen observations from theologians and philosophers – Sproul makes a biblical case for the realities of an objective material place called Heaven reserved for those who have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In these four chapters Sproul appeals to those things that we all long for – a permanent and secure home, no more pain, and perfect relationships with others and with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Part Two: Hell – In four compelling chapters Dr. Sproul gives an excellent Biblical case for the existence of a literal place where God’s judgment is executed with perfect justice by a God who of necessity because of His Holiness must punish the sin, and refusal to repent of the unrighteous who have refused to submit to the Lordship and salvific offer of the gospel through Jesus Christ.

Part Three: Angels – In five interesting chapters R.C. addresses the nature, character, and purpose of angels and how they interact with God and humanity.

Part Four: Satan – In the final two chapters of the book Dr. Sproul addresses how Satan is our adversary and how he deceives believers and non-believers.

R.C. has written a very helpful book and answers a lot of questions that Christians are asking about the supernatural. In a skeptical culture – it is important for us to be reminded of what God has said, and that He doesn’t lie. His truth stands forever, and it is of the uttermost importance that we understand the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that our trust in his atoning death on our behalf is our only hope to experience the wonderful realities that await those who have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Also, the warnings of this book and the importance of what awaits those who reject Christ – must be headed so that through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ hope may be yours.

I recommend this book as a good introduction to these topics, and an excellent summary of the clear teachings of the Bible with reference to the unseen realities that exist now and are a part of everyone’s future. I believe that what Sproul has written is cogent, Biblical, practical, helpful, and matters for eternity.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Christian Focus Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.