Big Picture Gospel – Part 2

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose: 1) to have relationship with Him and others (and) 2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation.

It is this two-fold purpose that establishes the two greatest commandments in the Bible (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) (Mat 22:37-40).

It should therefore come as no surprise that moral physics – most specifically the practice of justice (or equity), is what makes us peacemakers (Mat 5:9 “peacemakers” = Equity promoters and protectors – Mat 7:12 “for this is the Law and the Prophets” [Mat 22:40 “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets”]; IOW: Equity [or justice] is the foundation of moral physics, the Bible and our creation mandate. Hence Psa 89:14 “justice is the foundation of your throne”).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is defined by the Bible (God’s written words).

Anything therefore not agreement w/the Bible is not truth, beauty or justice.

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

It is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships w/God and the rest of Creation.

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

This then is the other reason we suffer; this life is a test.

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation).

6. Like our human marriages, the covenant relationship we exist in with God operates according to the principles of gain and maintain: we gain the relationship w/God by grace through vows of faith (expressed in baptism) and we must maintain it through faithful submission to the rest of His covenant laws (His moral physics: truth, beauty and justice) as our Head or Husband.

1) (Exo 24:7-8 w/Lev 18:5 [Eze 20:11]; 1Pe 1:1-2 w/3:21 w/Gal 3:26-27 [“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”; IOW: faith = baptism]; Mat 28:19-20).

2) (Mat 19:16-19 [v21, “if you wish to be complete”]; Luk 10:25-28; Rom 3:28 w/Jam 2:21-24 [v22, “faith was completed”]; Phi 2:12-13; Phi 3:16 [“let us keep on living by that standard to which we have attained” = Let us maintain what we gained] followed by a warning vv17-19; Deu 29:18-20 w/Heb 10:26-30; Jer 3:3-8; Isa 50:1).

3) Faithful not perfect (Deu 28:1); We can be faithful (Deu 30:11-14).

4) God is our head/husband (Isa 54:5).

5) We must obey the latest version of God’s Law and its application – i.e., the one associated w//His current salvific covenant. In our case, the New Covenant. In every case, this Law is comprised of two-parts: clean laws (the signs associated w/that covenant’s justification/right standing w/God: 1] Adamic and Noahic = Animal sacrifice, 2] Abrahamic = Animal sacrifice and circumcision, 3] Old = Animal sacrifice, circumcision, separation and sabbaths [in the NT these are referred to as “the works of the law”], 4] New = baptism and the LT) and moral commands (the rest of God’s commands according to the current covenant’s prescribed application – e.g., 1Co 5:1-5 versus Lev 20:11).

7. Jesus, the fully God – Son of God is not only the specific Person of the Godhead[6] with whom we must gain and maintain a marriage covenant if we want to be a part of the new Creation (i.e., He is the divine Husband), but also the One lovingly sent to earth by the Father so that through His death and resurrection, sin could be sufficiently cleansed from His covenant people and the way of salvation finally opened to all those nations who formerly rejected Him.

1) (Joh 1:1 “Word” [Grk., logos] = Jewish philosopher Philo id’d Melchizedek as “the logos of God” before the time of Jesus w/Joh 8:56 [Gen 14:17-20 w/Heb 7:1-28 and Heb 11:10 “city whose builder was God” = Jewish tradition says that Mel was the builder of Jerusalem – i.e., Jesus built Jerusalem; Jud 1:5; Heb 9:15-16 w/Exo 24:1-8; Eph 5:22-23).

2) (Joh 3:16; Eph 2:4-5; Rom 3:25 w/Heb 10:1-18; Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:1-4).

3) (Mat 1:21; Luk 2:32 [Act 13:47]; Act 17:26-31; Luk 10:1w/17 = Seventy sent out to take control back from the demons as a sign of Jesus’ coming deliverance of the seventy gentile nations given over to Satan and the demons [Gen 10:1-11:9 w/Psa 106:35-37 w/1Jo 5:19]. Hence v18; Eph 2:12).

8. Because God is reasonable and just (or equitable), He will give to people as their eternal home what they freely chose based on their deeds in this life which means hell – or a place of nothing but fire – for those who rejected their two-fold purpose since this is all that is left after God takes His truth, beauty and justice with Him into the New Creation.

1) (Deu 7:9-10; 1Sa 26:23; Mat 16:27; Rom 2:6-10; 1Pe 1:17; Hence Rev 20:11-15).

2) (2Pe 3:10-13) = The removal of the righteous and all that is righteous from this Creation will start a blaze that will never be put out or escaped by those left behind.[7]

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE = Do your best to give people the big picture (gospel).

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (your are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] The one true and only God of heaven and earth eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence the reason all three are named in our baptism of allegiance (Mat 28:19 w/1Pe 3:21).

[7] Hell or the lake of fire is also described as a place of utter darkness (Rev 21:8 and Mat 25:41 w/Mat 8:12, 22:13, 25:30 and 2Pe 2:12, 17 and Jud 13). Is it possible this is all that remains when the elements of Creation are removed? A field of dark energy or burning plasma similar to that found in space? Is it possible that the expansion of the universe caused by this dark energy (which scientists believe came after initial creation of the universe) is a result of sin and the countless demons and dead spirits which are expanding its realm (Eph 6:12 “forces of this darkness”)? “An exotic possibility is that [dark energy] springs from the physics of extra dimensions.”(Ron Cowen, “A Dark Force in the Universe,” Science News).

Big Picture Gospel – Part 1

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose:

1) to have relationship with Him and others.

1) (Gen 1:27 “image”) = Not only does this word infer humans are eternal, free-will spirits w/a moral conscience like God but also relationship w/God and other image-bearers given this is the primary reason things are created to be like one another: to make them compatible in relationship.

2) (Gen 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply” = Create others w/Gen 2:18-20 “there was not a suitable helper found for him”) = Because of the massive dissimilarity between humans and animals, animals cannot be used to create other humans and remove loneliness (deficiency of deep relationships w/others like you -i.e., humans).

2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation. 1) (Gen 1:31 w/2:15-17 “cultivate”) = Promote or develop and expand…the borders of Eden according to its moral design (“Eden” = Paradise – a place filled w/truth, beauty and justice); “keep” = Protect and care for… Eden according to its moral design.

2) God’s moral physics (t/b/j) were to be promoted and protected in relation to both Him and His Creation – which included the woman or other image-bearers since the garden of Eden was her (or humanity’s) original residence as well.

3) It is this two-fold purpose that establishes not only the two greatest commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) but the entirety of God’s Law and Word (Mat 22:37-40).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is always in agreement with His law, as established by His written words in the Bible.

1) (Gen 1:31 [Heb., tobe]) = Full of truth, beauty and justice (excellence).

2) (Gen 2:7 w/19) “formed” [Heb., yasar] = To form as art (beauty); “breathed” = Filled w/His moral essence (t/b/j). This same idea is communicated when speaking about the Bible (2Ti 3:16).

3) Consider also (Psa 119:142, 15, 160 w/Joh 17:17 “your Word is truth”; Psa 119:96 “I have seen a limit to perfection [beauty]; Your commandment is exceedingly broad” [the most beautiful] w/ also Ecc 3:11 “everything [in God’s Word] is appropriate [beautiful] in its time [perfect for understanding God’s purpose and plan]”; Psa 19:7-9 = God’s Word establishes justice).

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

1) IOW: it is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships and/or w/the rest of Creation.

2) (Gen 2:17 w/3:16-19; Rom 6:23; 1 Jo 3:4)

3) Consider also (Rom 8:19-21) = The rest of Creation suffers b/c of the sin of humanity in failing to promote and protect her according to t/b/j. As a result, we suffer also. Hence the reason the Creation waits w/eagerness for the revealing (or arrival) of those who will be her good moral stewards (i.e., “the sons [children] of God”).

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation[6] where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

(Mat 10:37-38 [Contra Mat 22:8]; Luk 20:35; Rev 3:4-5; Jam 1:12 [Hence Jam 1:1-3]; Rev 21:1-8)

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation – Gen 1:28 w/Gen 2:18).

1) What you discover when you read the Bible is that God uses covenants to save people. And those covenants are marriage covenants (e.g., Jer 31:31-32). Hence the reason the Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage (Gen 2 and Rev 19) and a great portion of the language of Scripture is marital in nature (e.g., Rev 21:2). 2) In addition, the first marriage (Gen 2:23), possesses the same Hebrew structure as the Bundesformel [“I will be their God and they will be My people”], the vow of allegiance God makes when He enters into covenant w/people for the purpose of salvation (Lev 26:12; Jer 31:33; 2Co 6:16).

3) We likewise take vows of allegiance in our marriage to God (Exo 24:7-8 and 1Pe 1:1-2 and 1Pe 3:21 “appeal to God for a good conscience” = Pledge/vow of our allegiance to God).

4) As an additional connection between marriage and new creation, consider what we become when we get saved/enter into marriage w/God (a new creation – 2Co 5:17).

To be continued…

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (you are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are the lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] This then is the other reason we suffer: this life is the test.

God’s New Covenant Prescription for Singing in the Church

Scholars agree that the subject of Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). What many also agree on is the interchangeability of the terms “psalms”, “hymns” and “spiritual songs.”[1] IOW: these terms do not refer to different types of songs but rather function as “overlapping near synonyms”[2] meant to emphasize the imperative of congregational singing.[3] With that in mind, here (then) is God’s prescription for our congregational singing:

1. The focus must be on God and His work not us or ours.

1.1. (Eph 5:19, “singing…to the Lord”; Col 3:16 “singing… to God”)

1.2. Too many songs in MCW (modern Christian worship) are guilty of placing the focus on us (what we are feeling, doing or going to do for God) w/very little – to no communication in respect to God (Who He is and what He has done or is doing). IOW: they are heavy on us and light on God.[4]

1.3. Compare: 1) (Psa 8, 46) = Words focused on God: Who He is and what He has done.[5] 2) Crown Him With Many Crowns (“the Lamb upon the throne…Awake my soul and sing of Him Who died for Me; And hail Him as they matchless King thru all eternity…Crown Him the Lord of heaven; One with the Father known…His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.”) = The focus is on God (Jesus): Who He is and what He has done (not us or what we are going to do).

to [Last week’s top 20 worship songs, CCLI]: 1) I Speak Jesus (“I just wanna speak the name of Jesus, Over every heart and every mind, Cause I know there is peace within Your Presence, I speak Jesus, I just wanna speak Jesus”) = The focus of this song is what we are going to do – not Jesus or His work. 2) How Great Is Our God (“sing with me, how great is our God and then the world will see how great is our God…name above all names worthy of all praise, my heart will sing…”) = Besides being entirely about what we are doing or singing (we are the primary acting agent), the song makes no mention of Who God is or what He has done or is doing, nor speaks any of words directly to God. Consider also [the 7 top cliches in MCW]: 1) I want you, 2) I need you, 3) I lift you up, 4) I lay it down, 5) I’m in awe, 6) I’m alive in you, 7) I am living for you. = All focused on us as the primary acting agent.

1.4. PNTM: We are here to sing to God – or about God not ourselves (i.e., bows not vows is how we give praise to God).[6]

2. The words (and music) must communicate God as our King not our girlfriend.

2.1. (Eph 5:19) “Lord” = A term used to confer majesty to those in positions of authority. Our songs must therefore communicate this majesty. IOW: the songs we sing must sound like an expression of majesty to a king versus a solicitation for intimacy with our girlfriend.

2.2. Example: All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name (“All hail the power of Jesus’ name let angels prostrate fall, to Him ascribe all majesty and crown Him Lord of all, to Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all!”).

2.3. Compare: The Secret Place by Phil Wickham (“Where are you going to run my soul…How you gonna keep this flame alive…In the fading light when night is breaking, I know you will always be waiting, You’ll always be there, I running to the secret place. Where you are…you stole my heart, stole my heart. Better is a moment I spend with you…I’m running, I’m running to the secret place.”).

to The Secret Place by RC Sproul (“He who dwells within His most secret place, Is never far from His blessed grace…The secret place of God Most High, The shadow of our Mighty King, The dwelling place where angels cry, Is where our praise will forever ring.”).

2.4. Examples from other MCW songs: 1) “Capture my heart again, your love is extravagant, your friendship, intimate.” (Your Love Is Extravagant by Casting Crowns), 2) “As I feel your touch, you bring a freedom to all that is within.” (Pour Out My Heart by Craig Musseau), 3) “A sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside my chest.” (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan), 4) “Lay back against you and breath, hear your heartbeat, this love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand” (The More I Seek You – Kari Jobe), 5) “We’re going all the way, and the wonder of it all is that I’m living just to fall more in love with you.” (Deeper ’99 by Delirious)

2.5. It is not just a song’s lyrics that can make us be guilty of treating God like our girlfriend. It can also be the music. Does the music [melody etc.,] make you feel like God is your king or your lover? Does it sound more like the Michigan Wolverine’s fight song, Hail To The Victors! or Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On?

2.6. PNTM: what we sing and how it sounds must be majestic. If it doesn’t feel majestic, then we probably shouldn’t be singing it.

“Care must always be taken that the song be neither light nor frivolous, but that it have weight and majesty.” – John Calvin

“There is a great difference between music which one makes to entertain men at table and in their houses, and the [songs] which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels.”- St. Augustine

3. Songs must also communicate rich wisdom and theology that will aid in the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.1. (Col 3:16) “Let the word of Christ [or early manuscript version: the Lord] richly dwell within you [in] all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” = Because of its large biblical content, our congregational singing should represent the first sermon of our church service. Our worship in song should feel like “the meal before the main course.”

3.2. With the exception of the Getty’s (and a few other modern hymn writers), the wisdom and theology found in most MCW is extremely lacking or completely non-existent.

“Too often today the church serves up affective sentiments without much care for the discipline of the Word.” – R. Kent Hughes

“One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that [it is filled with] trite jingles that have more in common with contemporary advertising ditties than with [God’s inspired music], the Psalms. The problem here is not so much the style of the music, though trite words fit best with trite tunes and harmonies. Rather the problem is with the content of the songs…Today’s songs reflect our shallow or nonexistent theology and do almost nothing to elevate one’s thoughts about God.” – James Montgomery Boice

“Many American evangelicals continue to exhibit a considerable gap between the materials they sing and the theology they preach. They confess to believe in a transcendent God who is above all creation, yet they sing few [songs] which properly reveal God’s excellences. Some congregations expect “strong meat” in biblical preaching but seem to be satisfied with “milk” or even lollipops in song.” – Donald Hustad

3.4. MCW Examples: Oceans by Hillsong (“You call me out upon the waters; The great unknown where feet may fail; And there I find You in the mystery; In oceans deep my faith will stand, I will call upon Your Name; And keep my eyes above the waves; When oceans rise; My soul will rest in Your embrace; For I am Yours and You are mine; Your grace abounds in deepest waters; Your sovereign hand will be my guide;
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me; You’ve never failed and You won’t start now; Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters; Wherever You would call me;
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander;
And my faith will be made stronger;
In the presence of my Saviour; I will call upon Your Name; Keep my eyes above the waves; My soul will rest in Your embrace; I am Yours and You are mine.”) = This song could be talking to any (so-called) God given there is nothing specific or any theology which exclusively ties it to the God of the Bible. It is completely void of any biblical wisdom or theology.

3.5. We need to be concerned about more than simply making sure the lyrics are orthodox, they need to also be rich in wisdom and theology (“Poor songs [also] lead us to idolatry. Not just inferior worship – idolatry. It’s that important.” – Chris Anderson). [7]

3.6. In contrast, most hymns – including modern hymns (e.g., Getty’s) are packed full of wisdom and theology that aids the saints in their spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.7. Example: Crown Him With Many Crowns (“The Lamb upon the throne; Hark How the heav’nly anthems drowns; All music but its own! Awake, my soul And sing; Of Him Who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King; Thru all eternity [Rev 5 and 7]…Crown Him the Lord of heav’n; One with the Father known; One with the Spirit thru him giv’n; From yonder glorious throne; To Thee be endless praise; For thou has died for me; Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days; Adored and magnified [Heb 1; Rev 15 and 22]; …His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.” [Rom 4 and 5; Rev 5, 12 and 13]).[8]

3.8. PTNM: Worship (in song) is not testimony it’s teaching (“rhythmic theology” – Anderson). The question then to ask when deciding whether a song should be sung by the congregation: What is it teaching? Is it (this “first” sermon) doctrinal sound or sinfully idolatrous? Additionally, how much wisdom or theology is being communicated through its verses and chorus? Is it an aid to the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude?[9]

4. The words and music must be beautiful but without a feminine vibe.

4.1. Similar to the above point, much of MCW makes God seem more like a metrosexual than the mighty warrior portrayed in Scripture (e.g., most if not all music/songs by Chris Tomlin especially when it is sung by Chris Tomlin).

4.2. Among the many reasons God only identifies Himself in masculine terms in the Scripture is most certainly this: to make clear that His tastes are not feminine. The words we sing and the music we use must therefore never be anything less than fully masculine. No feminine vibes allowed!

4.3. That being said, our God also cares deeply about beauty – especially in His house and what takes place there (Exo 28:2, 40; Psa 27:4, 50:2, 96:6).

4.4. What this means is that: 1) beauty is not a feminine invention – nor something that only women should care about. It is instead at the heart of masculinity (rightly understood), 2) the masculine music we sing must also be beautiful (e.g., masculine music that is not majestic/beautiful = Country worship music [words may promote aspects of masculinity but the music is not beautiful – it is instead as the saying goes, “like clean underwear covered in a sh*tty suit”]).

4.4. “The Christian Life should not only produce truth– but also beauty” – Francis Schaeffer

4.5. Beauty is achieved when our music/songs are “skillful” (i.e., complexity performed w/excellence; Psa 33:3), “glorious” (i.e., filled w/rich wisdom and right theology; Psa 66:2) – and (again) majestic (def., beauty expressed in dignity, power, perfection and stateliness).

PNTM: We must protect the masculinity of God and the beauty He loves (and is!) in the songs we sing since anything less can also make us guilty of idolatry.

CLOSING COMMITMENT: 1) song-writing group to start writing hymns, 2) a hearty diet of singing only hymns for the next 8 weeks (to inspire our song-writing group and strengthen our souls) 3) a removal of all music from our congregational singing that do not meet the criteria discussed today.

 

 

[1] See for example, F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians; Douglas J Moo, The Letters to Colossians and Philemon; Andrew Lincol, Ephesians; Frank Thielman, Ephesians; See also David F Detwiler, “Church Music and Colossians 3:16”

[2] Scott Aniol (Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs: Assessing the Debate”). That the terms psalms, hymns and spiritual songs should be viewed as referring to the same thing (as overlapping near synonyms) is supported by their interchangeable use in Scripture. For example: 1) all three terms are used in the LXX as titles for the Psalms, 2) The NT writers use the term “psalm” (Grk., psalmois) to refer to “hymns” ([Grk., hymnois]1Co 14:26; cf. 1Co 14:15) and spiritual songs ([Grk., odais] Jam 5:13). “Since [these three Greek terms] are each used as translations of psalm titles in the LXX and are employed interchangeably in the NT, the weight of evidence seems to suggest that Paul did not intend the terms to designate clearly identifiable genre of corporate song.” – Aniol (ibid)

[3] That Paul expects the church to be characterized by singing that involves the entire congregation (versus a select few – or one) is established by the “one another” phrase found in both verses. Additional PNTM: 1) the people leading us in worship are not the only ones ministering to others thru singing (we are all “speaking [ministering] to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”), 2) singing is not optional (how we accomplish the command to “let the word of Christ [or the Lord] dwell richly in [us]” is by “singing”), 3) refusing to sing or singing w/an unthankful heart is sin which not only qualifies as a threat to our eternal future (Heb 10:26-30), but may also place us under God’s immediate and special wrath (Heb 13:28-29 w/13:15), 4) the songs we sing together must be something that is easy for us to sing (hymns are “songs for unmusical people to sing together” – Erik Routley) .

[4] “In many cases, congregations have unwittingly begun to sing about themselves and how they are feeling rather than about God and His glory.” – Chris Anderson (Theology That Sticks)

[5] Keep in mind that not all of the Psalms were meant to be sung by the congregation. Only 55 of the 150 are directed to the choirmaster. Most of the psalms were meant for special music or special occasions (e.g., songs of ascent).

[6] Music must be tethered to God – His attributes, His names, His works, His purposes, and His glory. This is vital, perhaps more than anything else.” – Anderson (ibid)

[7] “Careful attention to the selection of hymns and praise songs is important. People learn from everything that happens in a worship service, not just the sermon. Indeed, there are probably many Christians who imbibe more of their theology, for good or ill, from what they sing than from what they hear taught.” – Carl Trueman (“The Trinity and Prayer”)

[8] “The old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways and with winsome, memorable language. They lifted the worshiper’s thoughts to God and gave him striking words by which to remember God’s attributes.” – James Montgomery Boice

[9] “Congregational song is part of the teaching ministry of the church. Church musicians and pastors should ask themselves: if our people learned their theology from our songs what would they know in twenty years about God, the cross, the resurrection, the offices of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, creation, justification, election, regeneration, the church, the sacraments, and all the other fundamental doctrines of the faith?” – Anderson (ibid)

Divine Council – Part 3

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim).

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? After considering the possible options, there is only one that meets all the biblical tests: the anointed priests and levites (judges) of the covenant community.[2]

3. What are the practical implications and application associated with the God’s divine council being the priests and levites in Christ’s churches (the New Covenant community)?

3.1. Deacons/officers are a part of the DC by proxy (i.e., they are deputized not anointed, e.g., Korah the levite – Num 16:3 “we are all holy” [anointed]) (Deu 21:5 [priests are judges] w/2Sa 15:1-4 and 2Ch 26:21 [kings are judges] = Deu 17:8-9) = The king and priests are the anointed judges in the CC (high court judges or divines[3]). Levites and the heads of households help the king and priests in judging. They are the low court judges (2Ch 19:8). They have been deputized to represent the high court judges – i.e., the divine council or council possessing divines or those w/divine authority/anointing (Deu 16:18 “judge the people…tribes…in all your towns”; “judging ones [participle; the wise heads of household in each tribe[4]] and officers” [Levites] versus 17:8-9 “if any… cases of dispute” are “too difficult…then you shall arise and go to…the Levitical priests and judge” [priests and king/the anointed/divines]; NC = Pastors and deacons, Isa 66:21 [priests and deacons selected as heads of their households] w/1Ch 17:6 “the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd My people”).

3.2. Jesus confirms that the NC possesses a DC just like the OC which means there is supernatural authority, power, protection and guidance in our church that Jesus Himself backs up or supports – which is what makes it a divine council issuing divine judgments:

1) (Mat 18:15-16) = [Deu 16:18, 17:6],

2) (Mat 18:17a) = [Deu 17:8],

3) (Mat 18:17b-20) = [Deu 17:9-12].

3.3. The way God perfectly cares for and leads His people to heaven is through the fallible and fallen leadership of His DC which means:

1) though fallible and fallen, God’s DC can judge/rule with justice (or equity) and righteousness (e.g., 2Sa 8:15).

2) unless it can be disproven to the congregation, our default position as a congregation should be to view the decisions and judgments made by our DC as coming directly from God (Pro 16:10; 2Co 1:21 w/4:6-7; Consider also 1Ti 3:1-16 = The P+D are what make the church the pillar and buttress [fortress] of truth; Mat 10:40 and 18:19-20; Act 15:22).

 

3.4. Anyone who thinks the church possesses no DC (i.e., no human judges w/divine authority):

1) is ignorant of the Scriptures and God’s power (in the church) (Mat 22:29).

2) has not considered the implications of such thinking w/respect to not only the preservation of justice and righteousness in the church but protection from demons and demonic influence (e.g., how many of us wb okay w/getting rid of the American judicial system which appoints secular men as judges w/final authority in relation to laws and issues of justice? If we deem them necessary to procuring the aforementioned things in this country, why would the same not be necessary for the church? [1Co 6:3-4]. Do we not view the secular judges as possessing authority from God? [Rom 13:1] Then why not those leaders in the church?).

3) are more than likely rebels who despise such authority or judges since they are a threat to their wicked way of life (Pro 21:15).

3.5. The church’s DC will be under stricter judgment by God and so should be careful in their decisions and judgments to make sure they are always promoting justice and preserving equity (Deu 16:20; Jam 3:1; the result of such carefulness wb the ignorant/disobedient viewing many of their decisions/policies as petty or unrighteous – e.g., late = absent; Pro 28:5).

3.6. Understanding that the DC in the church is actually referred to as elohim, brings further clarity and certainty to why insubordination or insurrection amounts to apostasy from God (Deu 17:9-12 [Num 15:30-31; Deu 29:18-20] w/Mat 18:17b-20 [Mat 12:32]; Mat 10:14-15; Rom 13:2 w/5; the crayon-eaters dilemma = When you refuse or reject the counsel of the DC, you have pushed your case to God on J-Day – which allows for no recourse/redemption after judgment).

3.7. It makes sense that the DC of the church will be involved in the final judgment of those who were a part of their congregation given they will also be involved in the judgment of those angels who caused their office and congregation pain and distress (1Co 6:3 = Those angels who caused trouble to the CC over which that DC was responsible. The righteous angels will face no judgment; Heb 13:17; Hence why then even the archangel Michael chose never to speak against the DC – Jud 8-9; Consider the context of Jude: humans treading where no angel would dare to tread; 1Th 5:12-13 “live in peace w/one another” = CC w/their DC; Num 12:1 w/9-10).

3.8. The existence of a DC in the church means that though Jesus has left us for heaven, He has not left us as orphans (i.e., persons w/o a father – or one who through their vision and discernment, discipline and discipleship, provides them with the tools to prospering in this world and passing the eternal test).

In the ANE, it was assumed that those w/o fathers were also those w/o the proper leadership in their lives to become wise or make wise decisions. Orphans – or those left as orphans, were as a result, often the idiots and criminals of society.

How (then) Jesus (though again in heaven), keeps His church from becoming aimless idiots and crooks who ultimately damn their souls b/c of such folly or lack of wisdom = Through the special anointing of “another Helper…the spirit of truth…the Holy Spirit” on certain members of His DC (Joh 14:16-18a w/25-26).

Why we cb confident that John 14 is a reference to the HS’ special anointing of the priests (in Jesus’ DC) and not the HS given to all at baptism:

1) bc the three things Jesus says about it are in perfect agreement w/what Jesus says at the initial special anointing: 1] He will personally deliver it after His death (18-20), 2] it will be associated w/Jesus’ special peace (26-27), 3] it will strengthen their belief (28-29). All three of these things are only found in (Joh 20:19-22).

2) the purpose of the John 14 HS is not the purpose of the Spirit given at baptism/@Pentecost. It can make someone a prophet (the gift of revelation – Act 2:15-18) but not a judge/part of the DC (the gift of remembrance in re: to truth – Joh 14:26; Consider also 1Co 15:29 “others judge” = The judges/DC [v28 w/Act 15:19 “my judgment” = James the anointed priest]. IOW: prophets are not judges. What about the prophet Samuel who “judged Israel”? [1Sa 7:15] Sam was also a priest – 1Sa 2:18 w/22:18 and 7:9 in contrast to 13:12]).

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

[3] Old term for priests and theologians (e.g., Westminster Divines)

[4] In ancient times, being the head of a household or tribe did not require you be the oldest in the family (e.g., David; hence Psa 119:100). It meant that those in the community (or household) viewed you as among the wisest and most righteous of their clan (Exo 18:21).

Divine Council – Part 2

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[2]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim). [3]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3; 1Ki 11:33)

Why this is not a viable option: Other deities do not exist (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13)

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible, God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings (the view of Michael Heiser)

Specifically: Satan and the other fallen angels who are identified as “sons of God” before His throne (Job 1-2) and are responsible not only for the Fall but mating with humanity and promoting global rebellion against God leading to the Flood (Gen 6 w/1Enoch 6-11). God placed these demons over the Gentile nations as their divine council (or spiritual authorities) after their rebellion at Babel (Deu 32:8-9 w/17 = “Sons of Israel” sb “sons of God” referring to “demons”, who inherited the Table of “Nations” as God’s judgment against the Gentiles for the Tower of Babel event [Gen 10-11]). God’s rebuke and condemnation of this council in Psalm 82 is the result of their poor oversight. Though wicked they were still expected to rule righteously.

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (Heb 1:14). [4]

2) The idea that angels had sex with women infers not only that angels have the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[5].

3) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 is not only a false assumption – one leading directly to Heiser’s change of the phrase “sons of Israel” (MT) to “sons of God” (DSS), but a failure in reading comprehension.[6]

The entire context and focus of the Deuteronomy 32 (Moses’ Song) is God’s inheritance for the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the MT is correct.

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is simply recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]) since this is what prohibited them from receiving or realizing this land inheritance.

4) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans).

2.5. the anointed priests/judges of the covenant community (Deu 17:8-9 w/Deu 21:5 = Priests/levites are the judges in the CC)

1) the place where the elohim carry out their office as rulers/judges is on earth (not heaven), the same place as the priests/judges of the covenant community (1-4; hence why God will also judge them on the earth – v8 “Arise O God, judge [the unrighteous judges] on the earth for it is You [God] who possesses [owns] all the nations”).

2) the judges (priests and levites) of the covenant community are also referred to as elohim (e.g., Exo 21:6 [See “God” Fn]; Exo 22:8-9).

3) the word translated “earth” in (5,8 [eretz]) can also be translated as land – as in the land of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., 2Ki 5:2 “land” [eretz]).

4) the word translated “nations” in (8) can refer to the tribes of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., again Gen 17:4-6).

5) The predominant concern and scope of Scripture is justice in the covenant community and among its leaders – not the other leaders or nations. To therefore assign a context bigger than God’s people to Psalm 82 (as Heiser does – the 70 nations of the Gentiles from Gen 10-11), is to assume an interpretive position or approach contrary what is most common in the OT – including its largest literary portion, the Prophets (e.g., Jer 22:1-17; Eze 45:9; Amo 5:10-24)[7].

6) Paul uses divine council language to speak of Old and New Covenant priests and levites:

1] (Eph 2:6) “seated us” = Paul’s audience according to 1:1-3, is the church (“Paul” along w/the “saints…and faithful…in Ephesus”) not the individual. At the very least then, the “us” of ch.2 refers to the covenant community – most specifically, her priests and levites (“faithful” = Or “faithful ones” – most likely a reference to her priests and levites – See Phi 1:1[8]). This is further supported by Paul’s connecting phrase “with Him in the heavenly places” – a direct allusion to (Psa 89:5-7) = The leaders of God’s assembly/covenant community are viewed as existing in heaven. IOW: this is the origin of their office and authority (Eph 3:10).

2] That Paul is indeed referring to spiritual leaders in the covenant community when using the phrase “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”) versus spiritual beings such as angels or demons (again, Heiser’s view) is confirmed by the role of the church in explaining and proclaiming the “mystery” and “gospel” of God’s Messiah [Jesus] – most especially to the Jewish nation (Act 1:8; Rom 2:10) – including its spiritual leaders (Eph 3:1-10) = Assuming Heiser’s view, why would the gospel need to be preached to demons or angels – those with no hope of salvation? These verses therefore have to be referring to a human occupied divine council – most specifically those in the OC community. Why the OC divine council (priests and levites) and not those under the NC? Because of (Eph 3:11-15) = Paul’s preaching this gospel (as the ambassador of the “church”) to the aforementioned rulers and authorities has caused him “tribulations” that will bring the Ephesians “glory” (or “glory in the church”). It can’t therefore be New Covenant priests and levites Paul is referring to since not only would they not be guilty of persecuting him, but by such tribulation, bring glory to the church (such actions – if true, would bring shame to the church). How then will Paul’s preaching to OC divine coucil bring glory to the church (one that makes the tribulation/persecutions suffered bc of it worth it)? Through their conversion. They remain a part of “God’s family” (again, vv14-15) and therefore the field of final harvest for the church before Christ’s return (Rom 11:11-12). Consider (Rom 11:11-12).

3] What Paul says about these heavenly rulers or authorities in his letter to the Colossians confirms this is who Paul has in mind (the OC divine council/priests and levites) (Col 2:15-16) “When He (God) had disarmed (or defrocked and dismissed) the rulers and authorities” (through Jesus’ atoning death that removed our debt before God – v14), He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him” = IOW: Christ was able to make us righteous before God without the OC priesthood which in turn made them essentially obsolete (Heb 7:12 w/8:13). Additional support: (v16) = B/C the priests of the OC community have been defrocked and dismissed, we are to no longer recognize them as our spiritual authorities (our divine council).

4] Lastly, consider how Paul uses this phrase (“rulers…in the heavenly places”) at the end of his Ephesian epistle. Close cross examination of this phrase with earlier portions of the letter and other Scripture also points to Old Covenant priesthood.

(Eph 6:11-12) “schemes of the devil” = Schemes accomplished thru the “deceitful scheming” and trickery of men (4:14) = More than likely a reference to the Jews since this was – once more, the main antagonist in Paul’s ministry – and the apostolic church[9]. Additional support (1Th 2:14-18) = Notice Paul views the Jews “hindering” his mission in the gospel as satanic [“Satan hindered us”]). Paul’s point (then) in verse 12 of Ephesians 6: “Our struggle is not (only) against flesh and blood but against the rulers…in the heavenly places” (i.e., the OC divine council) who – though they have been defrocked/dismissed from their former poisitons, are now being empowered by “the powers” related to “the world forces of this darkness…the spiritual forces of wickedness” (i.e., Satan). That Paul is in these verses referring specifically to the Jewish rulers and authorities (“in the heavenly places”) is also supported by the fact that the Greek term Ioudaioi (v14, “Jews”) was the common way to refer to the Jewish priesthood and its levites (e.g., Joh 2:13-18).

7) If the anointed leaders of the Old Covenant community possessed spiritual authority (i.e., represented God’s divine council), how much more this would be true for the New Covenant community given:

1] the biblical evidence of priests and levites (judges) existing under the New Covenant just as they did under the Old (Isa 66:21; Deu 17:8-9 w/Mat 18:15-20; Consider also 1Co 6:1-4 = The church will appoint her own judges who will not only be competent enough to make righteous decisions concerning “matters of this life” but also one day judge the angels. How is that possible unless they like their predecessors have been anointed and/or deputized as God earthly vice-regents?).

2] the Body of Christ has also been given the indwelling Spirit to help her leaders – something not present under the OC.

3] We possess the “perfect” or completed corpus of God’s revelation for securing justice in the covenant community (i.e., the completed canon of Scripture – 1Co 13:10).

8) In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE/CONTEMPLATION: What are the practical implications and application associated with the divine council being God’s anointed leaders in the church (the New Covenant community)? List as many as you can and discuss with others.

 

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[3] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[4] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2Co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[5] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men” [human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[6] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

[7] The Prophets (major and minor) contribute 250 chapters to the Old Testament’s total of 929 chapters – almost as many as the entire New Testament (260 chapters).

[8] The Ephesian church is made up of Christians (or “saints”) including also “faithful ones” (priests and levites). See similar in Col 1:2.

[9] This only changed after 70 A.D. and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Neronic persecution – influenced, aided and abetted by the Jewish priesthood, ultimately back-fired, turning Rome’s destructive forces against them and their religion.

Divine Council – Part 1

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[1]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand ([participle -singular], “taking His stand) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods; See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” [again, elohim]). [2]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3) “You shall have no other gods (elohim) before Me”, 2) (1Ki 11:33) “Ashtoreth the goddess (elohim) of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god (elohim) of Moab, and Milcom the god (elohim) of the sons of Ammon.”

Why this is not a viable option: (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13) [in reference to Samuel the witch of En-dor says],“I see a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth.”

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible (e.g., besides 1Sa 28:13, see also Isa 29:4), God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings

1) (Psa 8:5) “gods” [elohim] translated as “angels” in (Heb 2:7); (6) “I said, ‘You are gods (elohim), and all of you sons of the Most High (a reference to God) = elohim are sons of God w/(Job 1:6) “sons of God” (elohim) which included “Satan” who exists as part of the angelic class known as Watchers/archangels [Dan 4][3] or cherubim [Isa 28]). In the case of Psalm 82, fallen watchers/cherubim -i.e., demons, hence the rebuke and condemnation of (2-7). This is the view of Dr. Michael Heiser.[4] Included in Heiser’s view, is the belief that the global flood was the result of Satan and his fallen watchers/cherubim having sexual relations w/human women (which produced the Nephilim or giants) and convincing humanity to (once more) rebel against God. Heiser’s view comes from an Enochian understanding of (Gen 6:1-4).

“The divine transgression before the flood is retold in several Jewish texts from the intertestamental period. At least one has the divine offenders coming to earth to ‘fix’ the mess that was humankind—to provide direction and leadership through their knowledge. They were trying to help, but once they had assumed flesh, they failed to resist its urges. The more common version of events, one with a more sinister flavor, is found in 1 Enoch 6–11…The story begins very much like Genesis 6: “And when the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget for ourselves children’…The offspring of the Watchers (sons of God) in 1 Enoch were giants (1 Enoch 7)…But what does it all mean? Why is Genesis 6:1–4 in the Bible? What was its theological message? Yes, there were giants, renowned men, both before and after the flood (Gen 6:4). But those offspring and their knowledge were not of the true God—they were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings. Genesis 6:1–4, portrays…a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout humankind. Genesis 6:5 is essentially a summary of the effect of the transgression. It gets little space—it’s a restrained account. The later Second Temple Jewish literature goes after it full bore. First Enoch 8 goes on to elaborate how certain watchers corrupted humankind by means of forbidden knowledge.” – Heiser (ibid)

 

“They [the Watchers] became servants of Satan and led astray those who dwell upon the dry ground” (1 Enoch 54:6)… “These are the Watchers (Grigori), who turned aside from the Lord, 200 myriads, together with their prince Satan(ail)”(2 Enoch 18:3).

2) (Deu 32:8-9 w/17) “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the sons of Israel” (Masoretic Text) – versus “sons of God” (elohim) (Dead Sea Scrolls) = A reference to God giving over the 70 nations of Genesis 10 (the “table of nations”) to Enoch’s watchers (the “demons” of verse 17) due to the people’s rebellion at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). It is therefore also these individuals that God is rebuking and condemning in (2-7). Though fallen, the demons were still expected to exercise righteous judgment.

“Deuteronomy 32:8–9 describes how Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people. This is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 1:18–25, a familiar passage wherein God ‘gave [humankind] over’ to their persistent rebellion. The statement in Deuteronomy 32:9 that ‘the LORD’s [i.e., Yahweh’s] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage’ tips us off that a contrast in affection and ownership is intended. Yahweh in effect decided that the people of the world’s nations were no longer going to be in relationship to him. He would begin anew. He would enter into covenant relationship with a new people that did not yet exist: Israel. The implications of this decision and this passage are crucial to understanding much of what’s in the Old Testament. Most English Bibles do not read “according to the number of the sons of God” in Deuteronomy 32:8. Rather, they read ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel…’ The difference derives from disagreements between manuscripts of the Old Testament. ‘Sons of God’ is the correct reading, as is now known from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Frankly, you don’t need to know all the technical reasons for why the “sons of God” reading in Deuteronomy 32:8–9 is what the verse originally said. You just need to think a bit about the wrong reading, the “sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:8–9 harks back to events at the Tower of Babel, an event that occurred before the call of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. This means that the nations of the earth were divided at Babel before Israel even existed as a people. It would make no sense for God to divide up the nations of the earth ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel’ if there was no Israel. This point is also brought home in another way, namely by the fact that Israel is not listed in the Table of Nations. So what happened to the other nations? What does it mean that they were apportioned as an inheritance according to the number of the sons of God? As odd as it sounds, the rest of the nations were placed under the authority of members of Yahweh’s divine council. The other nations were assigned to lesser elohim as a judgment from the Most High, Yahweh… God decreed, in the wake of Babel, that the other nations he had forsaken would have other gods besides himself to worship. It is as though God was saying, ‘If you don’t want to obey me, I’m not interested in being your god—I’ll match you up with some other god.’ Psalm 82, where we started our divine council discussion, echoes this decision. That psalm has Yahweh judging other elohim, sons of the Most High, for their corruption in administering the nations.” – Heiser (ibid)

3) (6b) “sons of the Most High” (elyon).

“Elyon is a completely transparent title for deity, both in Hebrew and Ugaritic. The word refers only to God in the Bible and Ugaritic religious texts. The point here is that the phrase ‘sons of Elyon’ in Canaanite (Ugaritic) material always refers to gods/divine beings.” – Heiser (“Divine Council 101: Lesson 2: The elohim of Psalm 82 – gods or men?”).

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (e.g., guardian angels) (Heb 1:14). [5] The idea that angels had sex with women (Enochian understanding of Gen 6) infers not only that angels have penises, but sperm – or the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[6].

2) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 and the Tower of Babel incident in Gen 11 is a false assumption[7]. The entire context and focus of the chapter (Moses’ Song) is instead about God’s allotment to the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve tribes or nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16 = All references to nations in these verses are speaking about the twelve tribes of Israel; See also God’s words to Jacob in Gen 35:11) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the Masoretic text is correct. How then we should understand Deu 32:8-9:

“When the Most High (God) gave the nations (the twelve nations of Israel) their inheritance (Israel btw is the only one ever spoken of in the OT as receiving an inheritance from God), when He separated the sons of man (the Jews), He set the boundaries of the peoples (God pre-determined the borders of the land that wb given to each Jewish tribe when they entered the Promised Land) according to the number of the sons of Israel (twelve sons equaling twelve nations within the one nation of Israel).”

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation which eventually led them to being prohibited from entering into the Promised Land (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]).

3) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans). Furthermore, though the term “sons of God” can be used for angels and other spiritual beings, the term “sons of the Most High” is only used in relation to humans (Christians) (Luk 6:35).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Who are the members of God’s divine council?

 

[1] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[2] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[3] “The term ‘Watchers,’ meaning ‘wakeful ones’ (Aramaic ןיריע), glossed as ‘sons of Heaven’ in 1 En. 6:2, refers to a class of angels, mentioned in the Bible only in Dan. 4:10, 14, 20. – Angela Kim Harkins (The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions)

[4] “The term elohim more broadly does not refer to ‘deity attributes.’ Rather, it points to a plane of existence. An elohim is simply a being whose proper habitation [or origin of office and authority] is the spirit world…An elohim is a divine being, in that an elohim is an inhabitant of [or office-bearer in] the spiritual place of reality.” – Heiser (ibid)

[5] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[6] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men”[human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[7] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

What the Bible Teaches About Resurrection

Resurrection (def.,): The supernatural phenomenon whereby the present state of those who have died is replaced by once more being alive in a physical/material body yet unable to die again.

1. Easter is also known as “Resurrection Sunday” since it marks the day Jesus Christ became the first person to experience resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is also the reason God’s people corporately worship God on Sunday rather than Saturday (Rom 6:9; 1 Co 15:20; Act 20:7 = Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday).

2. Jesus’ resurrection (to Paradise): 1) proved that He is the Divine Son of God (Rom 1:4 w/Joh 10:18), 2) means His sacrificial death was sufficient to propitiate – or satisfy God’s requirements for cleansing the sins of His people and make them truly righteous before God the Father. As such, the temporary injunction of animal sacrifices (“pass-over atonement”) was forever canceled (Rom 3:23-25, 4:25 w/Heb 10:10-17; also Mat 1:21).

3. No one since Jesus has experienced resurrection since: 1) the son of the Shunammite woman, the widows’ sons, Lazarus, Dorcas, and Eutychus experienced resuscitations not resurrections given they died again (1Ki 7:17-23; 2 Ki 4:18-37; Luk 7:12-15; Joh 11:39-44; Act 9:36-41, 20:9-10), 2) all those who have died in the past currently exist like God without physical/material bodies ([Due 4:15-18 w/Joh 4:24 w/Luk 24:39] w/1Co 15:20-23; 1Th 4:16-17; 2Co 5:8).

4. Every person who has ever lived will experience a resurrection at the return of Jesus to earth (Joh 5:28-29; Act 24:15 [Dan 12:2; Psa 11:7]).

5. Before Jesus’ resurrection, those who died went either to Abraham’s bosom (the temporary resting place of righteous disembodied spirits) or Hades (the temporary torturing place of wicked disembodied spirits) and neither could cross over to the other (Luk 16:19-26).

6. After Jesus’ resurrection, those in Abraham’s bosom were allowed into heaven (their sins having been propitiated versus simply passed over) to fellowship w/the Trinity, the angels and the righteous disembodied spirits of those who die after Jesus’ resurrection (Heb 9:15-16 w/Eph 4:8-10; 2Co 5:8; Luk 23:43).

7. Experiencing the resurrection of the wicked will: 1) be the fate of most human beings because they chose to love wickedness rather than put faith in and be faithful to Jesus during their earthly life (Mat 7:18-23; Luk 13:23-24; 2Th 2:1:5-9, 2:10-12, 2) be followed by God’s condemning judgment and then being tortured in a lake of fire everyday forever (Psa 11:4-6; Rev 20:11-15; 2Th 2:10-12; again Joh 5:28-29 and Dan 12:2).

8. Experiencing the resurrection of the righteous will: 1) be followed by God’s approving judgment then an eternal life of never sinning, suffering or being bored, as they will be forever equipped with superhuman bodies and forever occupied with discovering, developing and enjoying King Jesus’ perfect new – and infinite universe to His glory (Rev 21-22), 2) require not only pledging your allegiance to Jesus in this life through baptismal faith but then living in faithful obedience to those vows until you die or Jesus returns (1Pe 3:21; 1Jo 3:7-10; Luk 20:35 “those considered worthy to attain to the resurrection [of the righteous] w/Joh 5:29).

9. We should not be surprised that people mock our belief in a future resurrection, the resurrection was as unpopular (a belief) in the ANE as it is today (e.g., Act 17:18 w/31-32). To not believe in a resurrection – most especially, the resurrection of Jesus, will eternally condemn you (1Co 15:1-4 “the gospel which I preached to you” w/Gal 1:6-9 “a different gospel…anathema”).

“Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter claimed that somebody had been truly dead and had then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.” – N.T. Wright (The Resurrection of the Son of God).

10. The fact that there will be a future resurrection not only confirms that this is not the only life we will live, but that the point of this very temporal life is to determine what version of eternal life we deserve (1Co 15:32).

 

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY: GOD IS REAL. THIS LIFE IS THE TEST. GAIN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE RIGHTEOUS.

 

PHI 3:10-11

“10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”