Has "Brexit" just spoiled “End Times” prophecy?
In a word, no.
Unless of course you are of a Dispensationalist view, then this sudden exit from the European Union by Britain will have caused you some theological holes you may feel the need to patch up.
There’s already been some satire articles posted in light of this, highlighting the errors of Dispensationalism and its main adherents tendency to interpret Biblical prophecy by the current news headlines. One such article, by The Babylon Bee, poked fun at the current events by writing that “premillenial dispensationalists around the world held emergency meetings Friday morning, frantically adjusting their prophetic charts to include the completely unanticipated new development” and another on Patheos has the headline of “The Antichrist is a Little Sore About One-World Government Plans After Announcement of Brexit”.
As humorous as these articles are, it really does affect this theological view in some serious ways; and as one person on Facebook said to me, they are “completely at a loss” at how this lines up with the “greater scheme” of world events and prophecy. Considering that for years now, many “End Times” preachers have been going on about this “one world government” and predicting that it was all tied up in the EU, I’m not sure how they will fit the current “Brexit” into it ‘officially’ – though I’m sure they will, like some already have by saying things like: “Bible students have long expected Britain to leave the European Union, and current events are fulfilling this Bible Prophecy before our very eyes”, and that they knew “that the EU would only last a short time”.
Except I’ve never heard anyone state that. Ever. Until now, that is.
Many different websites and preachers will tell you that the EU is some type of “revived Roman empire” which sets the stage for a one-world government (which is also the “beast” of Revelation and part of the prophecy in Daniel), and thus begins the reign of the aniti-christ across the globe – identified by popular End Times preacher John Hagee, as the head of the European Union.
As you can see, this type of eschatology (the fancy word for “end times prophecy”) which is mainly based on interpreting newspaper headlines over Scripture, leads to all sorts of nonsense and failed predictions year after year, plus the need to rewrite your theories whenever something doesn’t turn out as expected… like the UK leaving the EU and potentially bringing about its collapse.
Maybe Brexit just inadvertently thwarted the devil and unwittingly did the world a favour!
Or maybe, it could be that those who are popular teachers on this subject aren’t necessarily the right teachers for the job, but just end up being listened to as they have a large platform from which they can speak.
Looking at the book of Daniel, and the dream that Nebuchadnezzar has about the large statue which represented various kingdoms, one of the majority views is that the last kingdom is speaking about the Roman Empire.
But since that empire came to an end (and the world didn’t), futurist theology has invented this “Revived Roman Empire” or “the revived Holy Roman Empire” (depending on who you talk to) to shoehorn a Roman Empire back into the prophecy. This doesn’t make sense and is also at odds with how the earliest Christians (who were living in the original Roman Empire) interpreted Daniel’s prophecy.
They saw the Jewish War and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD as fulfillment of Daniel’s “70 Weeks” prophecy, and also as fulfillment of Jesus’ predictions in Matt 24/Luke 21 about the “end of the age”.
To the Early Church, it wasn’t about the world ending in a ball of fire, and arguably, it never was. So why is it the focus of the Church today? We’d do well to know our history in these cases.
“Brexit” may or may not be bad for the UK and Europe in general, which has possibly got you worried, but as for an anti-christ rising from the ashes? I don’t think so, I don’t see any Scripture to support the notion either.
If this topic has piqued your interest, or you are interesting in learning more about the “End Times”, or maybe want to study a different, more historically based perspective on it all, then I recommend having a look at my series on the Second Coming of Jesus:
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Luke J. Wilson | 21st September 2020 | Eschatology
Most people have some idea about what the rapture is – or do they? Generally there is an idea or concept of a form of escapism from the world when Jesus returns, which happens pre, mid or post tribulation and in some connection to the millenium. Now, if you understood any of those terms, you are most likely on, or aware of, the Dispensationalism side of things. There’s a lot of doctrine all bundled together in “end times” beliefs, and a fair bit of speculation around “the rapture” with its timing and logistics etc. which makes the whole thing a but murky, but nonetheless, it’s pretty much taken for granted as a staple belief within the Evangelical world. But has this always been so, and does it have any biblical basis? In short: sort of. What is The Rapture? This is the primary verse where the doctrine finds its footing: …then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:17 On the face of it, that is a pretty obscure (and short) text, yet so much has been written on and speculated about around this event. I’m not going to cover every aspect of rapture doctrine here, but rather want to just highlight the context of this verse and its parallels in Paul’s other letters, as this seems to get lost under centuries of doctrinal baggage, which, incidentally, also the leads to the next point to look at: is the rapture biblical? The origin of The Rapture The word “rapture” itself comes from the Latin word rapere, which means: “to seize” or “to abduct”. It is a translation from the Greek word that is rendered as “caught up” (ἁρπάζω / harpázō) in our English Bibles today. For many, asking if this belief is biblical is a non-starter because it is assumed so based on 1 Thess. 4 so obviously it is. But this is a presupposition, reading the modern ideas of what “the rapture” means into the text. The modern idea being that Jesus comes back briefly (and maybe secretly), whooses all the Christians into the sky and takes them to heaven, away from all the troubles on the earth, before coming back later to do a proper “second coming”. John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian, is often credited with creating this premillennial rapture doctrine, followed closely by C.I. Scofield who wrote a best-selling annotated Bible which promoted Darby’s rapture views in its footnote commentary. This particular Bible became wildly popular across America in the early 1900s and ended up solidifying the futurist dispensational viewpoint for generations to come within Evangelicalism. Despite the popularity of Scofield’s Bible, what it (and Darby) taught was a novel idea which had not been seen nor heard of before in the previous 1800 years of Church History, yet many Christians accepted it without hesitation, likely due to it being part of the exposition alongside the Scripture they were reading, and therefore a seeming authority. I realise there is somewhat of an irony here in that I’m acting similarly like an authority telling you that this belief is wrong whereas Scofield was writing as though it were accurate, but in an even more ironic twist, just a handful of verses later, the same letter to the Thessalonians says to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This is what I would invite you to do: don’t just take my word for it, test everything and see if what I say is accurate. The context of The Rapture So what is the context of these verses, if not about being whisked away into the sky with Jesus? A couple of things, but one slightly more obvious than the other, though still overlooked by people, I’ve noticed; the other requires knowing some more about the ancient Greco-Roman culture of the time. Firstly, we only need go back a few verses to see what Paul is writing about here: he begins the passage in verse 13 by say...
Luke J. Wilson | 26th October 2016 | Eschatology
What is the “eighth day” you may ask; surely we know there are only seven days in a week! But in ancient times, Sunday – which was also known as the first day of the week, was also referred to as the eighth day by Christians. This day was considered a holy day from the earliest of times by Christians (despite some weak arguments that Constantine, or the Pope, “changed the Sabbath” some 400 years later), and this was because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead! I will make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. For that reason, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day on which Jesus rose again from the dead. Barnabas 15:8-9 Barnabas, in his epistle, makes the first recorded mention of this day as specifically called the “eighth” which is as early as somewhere between 70 - 130 AD. But the concept of an "eighth day" isn't new and is found throughout the Scriptures in the Old Testament, specifically in the last of the great feasts: the feast of booths (Leviticus 23:33 onwards), and circumcision on the eighth day after birth. The priests and Nazirites also had seven days of cleansing before offering sacrifices specifically on the eighth day (Numbers 6, Leviticus 8:33ff). The apostles pick up on these themes, like with the eight people, including Noah, who were “saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20) and how we now have a spiritual circumcision of the heart instead of a physical procedure (Romans 2:29). But if we look back at the gospel in John 7:37-38 and also John 8:12, we can see that during the festival of booths Jesus used the symbols of that festival (water and light) to declare that he himself is the true fulfillment of that! You can read a more in depth explanation of that at jewsforjesus.org. After Barnabas, we find scattered references in other early writings which show understanding of Christ's fulfillment in these things – such as Justin Martyr, who wrote saying that the eighth day “possessed a certain mysterious significance, which the seventh day did not”; and Cyprian who wrote that this was also the fulfilment of the Jewish practice of circumcision on the eighth day after birth (Genesis 17:12) which was a shadow of Christ rising from the dead to give us “the circumcision of the Spirit”. This symbolism and spiritual fulfillment carries on throughout various early authors too, and is also sometimes referred to as the “Lord’s Day”, which is a phrase you might recognise from Revelation 1:10 too. But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. Didache 14:1 As early as Acts, we can see the believers all began to gather and teach on a Sunday (the first day): Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. Praise and worship was held on Sunday’s because of the resurrection – this day was to be a celebration of what Jesus accomplished and what that now means for the rest of us who are in Christ: being a part of the New Covenant, which makes us a new creation through baptism and through our outworking of the faith, we reconcile the world back to God as co-workers with Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:9)! 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. Resting with God This is God showing that things work differently now. No longer is he...
Luke J. Wilson | 20th July 2016 | Eschatology
The importance of context of what's being said, and to whom, in Scripture. I came across this image the other day (in the header above; see larger here) that links together three parts of Matthew’s Gospel to highlight the connection which many often miss, or read as separate events. I like the image because it shows that when Jesus spoke these things, he would have been saying them directly to the disciples and others who were listening to his teaching, and not in some cryptic, ambiguous dictation to a prophetic scribe, devoid of all context and meaning to those around him at the time. Update Feb 2017: I am adding some additional information to this to display some of the counter arguments/alternative interpretations used by dispensationalists, sometimes also called “Futurists” (those who believe these passages refer to a distant future event centred around the “Second Coming” of Jesus, and is typically the most popular and recent interpretive framework taught in churches today) to try and give a more well rounded view and a defense of the non-dispensational interpretation. So let's break it down and look at each quote in a bit more detail to see how these all connect together coherently. Matt 10:23 Matthew 10:23 Matthew 10 is Jesus telling his disciples about their mission and the persecutions it would entail. He explains to them all the things that would happen to them – "they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me" (Matt 10:17), which we can see fulfilled in Acts (cf. Acts 8:1; Acts 11:19; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:22; Acts 20:23). Jesus rounds this short discussion off by telling them to flee from one town to the next and that they "will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matt 10:23), which gives us a time statement and some parameters about the coming of the Son of Man. On the face of it, this sounds like any other eschatological statement by Jesus in regards to his “coming” at the end of the age, which he mentions a few times using this same or similar terminology (see: Matt 24:27; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 18:8). But the Futurist interpretation would say that this isn’t what Jesus refers to at all, but rather is a convoluted way of him saying “you won’t have travelled far until I catch up with you later” – ie. until Jesus (the Son of Man) comes [back to the apostles]. That conclusion is quite a stretch of the imagination and, like the other dispensationalist interpretation which says that this refers to some far future event, it completely rips it from its direct and immediate context: a message to the apostles. But, as many commentaries point out, the Futurist interpretation was not the common view until recent times, nor the historical position of the Church for millennia. As the Benson commentary (amongst others) puts it: ...until the Son of man shall come — To destroy their capital city, temple, and nation. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is often called the coming of the Son of man. See Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 24:44; Luke 18:5. "The son of man comes" or the "coming of the son of man" is a phrase only used in one particular way all the way throughout the Gospels: to mean the judgement of God on a nation. This is seen in many places in the Old Testament, often called the Day of the Lord. The same is true here, Jesus is once again teaching about the impending doom of Jerusalem as punishment. Hence the urgency towards his disciples to flee towns that won't listen and go to where they do accept the Gospel. Matthew 24:34 Matthew 24:34 Matthew 24 is a similar conversation, but with some more details. Whilst walking by the temple, the disciples point out the magnificence of the building, and Jesus responds by saying "Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thr...
Luke J. Wilson | 27th September 2015 | Eschatology
September 28th 2015 will be a supermoon and a red moon at that. I last wrote about these four "blood moons" way back in April last year when certain self-styled prophets John Hagee and Mark Blitz's "End Times" teaching gained some popularity (and subsequent book promotions). One thing that I predicted in my previous article was that if nothing else comes from all of this "end is nigh" nonsense, is that these "prophets" would indeed profit from their books – as has been shown to be true in which the "Four Blood Moons" book has been in the top 20 on the New York Times Best-seller List, and has also recently been turned into a docu-drama! Other than these pastors reaping in loads of cash from books sales and movie rights via gullible people, there is a potentially worse consequence to all of this: to get on the NYT Best-sellers List it means that hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians have bought the book and have possibly accepted their doctrine of the blood moons. I've seen countless online discussions and Facebook posts concerning all of this, with many believers defending the doctrine vehemently, many of whom often have a very strong Zionist emphasis. Without the nation of Israel being something special, these predictions fail. That is also another issue with these predictions: they are based on the assumption that the natural, national Jewish people are still God's chosen people who are separate from Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. That there are two "chosen people," two covenants with two different ways in which God deals and interacts with the people concerned. This leads to the Zionist theology that can be seen mainly in America, although it does come across sometimes here in the UK too, where Churches and Christian organisations are striving so hard to "Support Israel" with time, money and resources because they have also bought into this line of thinking. But it isn't so, and I'm not sure how it can be when the New Testament repeatedly speaks of Israel in spiritual terms linked with those who now believe in and follow Jesus. I don't think it gets much clearer than this in the book of Galatians: Galatians 3:6-9Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. I've already wrote extensively on this topic before, here and here, which you can read and comment on, if you want. I believe wholeheartedly, that if you want to make a good and positive difference in this world, then our theology and doctrine has to be right. Because when it's wrong, it can lead to all sorts of wrong actions and atrocities in the name of God. Believing national Israel and geographical Israel is still something separate and special from the rest of us being one of those things. Red Moon by Sudhamshu Hebbar (Flickr) Anyway, back to the topic at hand. It's been well over a year since Hagee et al, began these predictions, and so far nothing Earth-shattering has happened. Sure, there's been some natural disasters like the Chile earthquake/tsunami, and the Syrian civil war has escalated, plus ISIS in general always in the News – and while all these things are tragic and terrible, they are, sadly, nothing new. Though with blood moons and doomsday prophecies looming over us lately, they suddenly become almost "unique" events and fodder for the apocalypse fuel; a final "a-ha!" to point to and say "I told you so" in order to prove a point. Or worse still, to point to, and yet not do anything about it because you believe it's all part of God's plan to destroy the world, so why bother trying to change it? As with most of these end-of-the-world predictions, the...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd April 2020 | Coronavirus
Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection. Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost. I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith. The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.” Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us. And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33). There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...
Luke J. Wilson | 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus
We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...
Luke J. Wilson | 14th January 2020 | General Interest
If you follow certain Christian blogs, or have Christian friends on Social Media, then you may have seen a short video clip being shared which has been taken from a recent sermon by popular Evangelical pastor/speaker and author, Francis Chan of Crazy Love ministries. Depending on who shared the clip will depend on which reaction you have seen; some are praising his words, others fearing for his future calling it a “red flag”. And all of this over a short statement he made about communion! I recommend you watch this 3 minute clip below before continuing, if you haven’t seen it already. I would also recommend watching the whole 47 minute sermon for some better context, where he talks about his struggles and journey to this point in his faith around the topic of communion — something he was wrestling with even back in his BASIC series teaching on Communion from around 2012, views which have clearly moved on since then towards a more historical view. Chan says he isn’t making any sort of “grand statement” here, and goes on to give a brief, if little distorted, overview of church history: “I didn’t know that for the first 1,500 years of church history, everyone saw it as the literal body and blood of Christ … And it wasn’t until 500 years ago that someone popularised the thought that it’s just a symbol and nothing more. I didn’t know that. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something to consider.’” This part isn’t too far from reality, really, though a little over-simplified. But I understand his zeal and excitement about this discovery of his, as I went through the exact same mind-blowing realisation around five or so years ago when I first delved into the writings of the Early Church Fathers and was forced to come to the same conclusion that there was something there to seriously consider. If the Church had always understood Jesus’ words and the interpretation of Scripture in a fairly singular and unified way for nearly two millennia, then who was I to come along and say my understanding exceeds the wisdom of everyone before me? It was actually one of the earliest texts, from a second century bishop called Ignatius, that really tipped me over the edge from a “memorialist” view (that the bread and wine are purely symbolic, nothing more), to a sacramental view (that the bread and wine are a means of grace that God uses). Ignatius was writing against a heretical group who were teaching a false doctrine about Jesus not really coming in the flesh, and uses communion as an example to prove the opposite, which also gives us an interesting and early view on the sacraments: “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.”— Ignatius Of Antioch: Letter To The Smyrnaeans (c.108 AD) At first reading I was stuck by the literal nature in which Ignatius spoke of the Eucharist (communion), and as I read more of the Early Church Fathers, that same, common thread kept appearing: they all held to a view of Communion which was definitely more than simply a symbol or memorial (you can read some more quotes on the topic here). Chan later talks about unity in the early church and how he longs to see that type of unity again in the Church globally, explaining that making communion more central to worship would help with that. Chan then laments about the apparent disunity within Protestantism, citing the dramatic statistics of there being “30,000 denominations” in the Protestant world. It’s a common claim, often from Roman Catholic apologists, but it’s not exactly accurate; there’s really only about six general umbrellas if you boil it all down: Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal/Charismatic. Most “non-denominational” churches are still largely Baptist in their theology, despite avoiding an...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd December 2018 | Missions
You've probably seen it in the news lately: John Chau, the American guy who tried to evangelise the secluded Sentinelese tribe off the coast of India. Much of the debate in secular media has centered around the grief of his friends and family; how he could have brought outside disease to the tribespeople and potentially killed them all (despite this not being their first contact with outsiders, with no known ill effect), or that he ventured there completely in ignorance with no preparation or wisdom — something which the missionary agency, All Nations, has recently debunked. But the question I want to look at is this: was Chau's mission total madness or is he a modern-day martyr? Well first, what is a martyr? The dictionary definition is simply: “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs”, and the word itself comes from ancient Greek meaning “witness”. For those who may be unfamiliar with the whole story (as much as we can see), John Chau had said since 2011 that he felt called by God to go and tell the good news of Jesus to the Sentinelese people. After many years of preparation, about two weeks ago in late November, he succeeded in getting to the remote island via a fishing boat (which was illegal to visit under normal circumstances). But after a few attempts at making contact, he is believed to have been killed. The fishermen saw some tribespeople dragging Chau’s body across the beach, so it has been assumed that he is dead – and no one knows any differently to date. So in the strictest sense as the definition above, he may not be a martyr as he wasn’t necessarily killed because of his beliefs, as the tribespeople couldn’t even understand his preaching, and on the face of it, it does seem like madness. In the broader sense of the word, I think it’s fair to call him a martyr, as that would be one who “sacrifices his or her life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause”. His cause was Christ, his principle was to spread the Gospel and he sacrificed his life for it. This was living out the message of Jesus to its fullest. Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. There are those who argue that he died purely because the islanders were hostile towards any who would try and step foot on their land, and his death had nothing to do with whatever purpose Chau went there with, therefore he wasn’t technically martyred. But if that is the case, then you could make the same point about many of the early Christian martyrs who were killed by the Romans. Sure, there were times of specific and targeted persecutions against the Church, but there was also times where persecution was more of a by-product of the Roman Empire’s hostility to those were disloyal to the Emperor. The men and women who were killed during those times were still seen and declared to be martyrs for the faith since they stood strong in their convictions in the face of death. For example in the early centuries, on pain of death, the people of the Roman Empire had to swear loyalty to the Emperor and publicly perform some act of worship and veneration towards him. This wasn’t an attempt to root out Christians necessarily, but they did refuse to partake due to their beliefs in worshipping God alone and not committing idolatry by performing an act of worship towards the reigning Caesar. As far as the Romans were concerned, the Christians were traitors and committed a treasonous act. It didn’t really matter why, only that they couldn’t be convinced otherwise and were killed for it to be an example to others. Were these early Christians martyrs or completely mad? How you answer that, I suspect, will inform you of how you view young John ...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd July 2021 | Christology
Now you may be wondering about the title, or thinking “who the heck is Sophia??” — well, bear with me, and all will be revealed. It’s not as sinister or weird as it may first appear. I saw a post on my Instagram feed the other day that just got me a little riled up. I’ll admit it, I can be a little short-tempered at times, especially around the subject of Jesus and seeing him/the Christian faith misrepresented to such a degree that it could mislead others down the wrong path. I don’t normally write responses to things like this, but I felt this one deserved it, mainly just to add some clarity to a somewhat confusing topic, and so there’s a place I (or you, if you fancy sharing my posts!) can point people to if this type of ideology is going to spread. Here’s the Instagram post in question, but it’s the caption below it that got to me. I’ll quote the caption below, too, in case the embedded post doesn't work (here’s a direct link too). View this post on Instagram A post shared by Adam Ericksen (@adamericksen) Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia.You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia?Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom.And God’s Wisdom is a Woman. Her name is Sophia.Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence.Deuteronomy 32 says that God gave birth to the people. That was Sophia.Christians began to associate Sophia with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is Sophia. She is the divine feminine who is the Third Person of the Trinity.Sophia is our divine Mother.God is She who loves you.❤️❤️❤️ — via @adamericksen A lot of the comments under that post seemed to find it quite affirming in some ways, others were confused as they’d never heard this before (and rightly so) but were keen to look into it. There were also a lot of references to a single author, and book, called, She Who Is, by Elizabeth A. Johnson, where this idea seemed to have originated in some form. In fact, the majority of the comments were wanting to explore this idea in more depth. So, I think maybe there’s something to be said there for the lack of female representation in the Church if it garnered this type of response, but I also thought if people are this taken by the idea, I wanted to write something to offer some Biblical and historical views on this “Sophia”, as she isn’t a new concept at all. The caption under the Instagram post sounds nice, but it’s ever so slightly off-kilter that it misrepresents everything. Let’s look at the claims line by line: Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia. Well, not much to say here yet, but… nope. You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia? Well, yes, I do. Maybe you, dear reader, know as well. But I began to question whether the author of the caption did. Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom. OK, finally. Getting to some facts and less conjecture. Although I would clarify that “sophia” (σοφία) is simply the Greek word for “wisdom”, not specifically “God’s wisdom” (or a name), per se. It’s a minor point though, I’m just nit-picking now. Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence. Right, so here’s where it gets a little “squiffy”. It’s true that Wisdom, or “Sophia”, was there at the very beginning before anything was created, and that she stood beside God during creation. We can see all of this in the book of Proverbs, and it’s all very interesting. I’m sure you’ll notice parallels with John 1. But was this Sophia a separate entity from who we normally think of as being there in the beginning? Who created everything — the Word or the Holy Spirit? Proverbs 8:22–31The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,the first of his acts of long ago.Ages ago I was set up...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd July 2021 | Hell
Welcome to Part Two of my study and examination of Conditional Immortality (aka Annihilationism). If you missed part one, you can read that one here. As with part one, this will be a long post as there is still much ground to cover before we can really grasp the bigger picture about what Scripture teaches. So with that said, I’ll pick right up where we left off. In part one, I covered a lot of New Testament texts, a few Old Testament passages, plus a look at what some of the earliest church leaders also wrote on the topic to the early church. In this one, we will be looking at a few more Old Testament examples and how they relate to the imagery used in Revelation, amongst other things. Unquenchable Fire and Undying Worms What of unquenchable fire and undying worms? Do these phrases really mean that the fuel of the fire and the worms must last forever and ever? We have a few references to shed some light on the meaning of these phrases which we can examine below: Ezekiel 20:46–48Mortal, set your face toward the south, preach against the south, and prophesy against the forest land in the Negeb; say to the forest of the Negeb, Hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it; it shall not be quenched. So, in our first example, Ezekiel was obviously not prophesying that the forests of Negeb would burn forever and never go out. Instead, fire that “shall not be quenched” is used to mean fire that cannot be interrupted or stopped in its destructive purpose. No one is able to stop a fire like this until it has run its course, or it is stopped by something greater, which is what the word “quench” actually means. It is an action performed by something external which stops the flames — what it doesn’t mean is a fire burning out naturally once it consumes its fuel. The fire will continue regardless. Jeremiah 17:27But if you do not listen to me, to keep the sabbath day holy, and to carry in no burden through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates; it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched. Here is another reference to an unquenchable fire consuming something and not being stopped even after the object of destruction has been “devour[ed]”. The image is one of a fire which rages on and on, even after everything in it is burnt up and destroyed. Now let’s move onto the “undying worms” and see how that phrase is used. In the New Testament we see this phrase used in Mark 9:47–48, which originally comes from Isaiah, and also a similar theme in Jeremiah. Isaiah 66:24And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. A little earlier in Isaiah 66 (v.16) we see that God executes judgement with fire and “by his sword, on all flesh”, and that the dead will be many, ending the chapter with the verse quoted above. Jeremiah picks up on a similar theme of God’s judgement, people being killed to such an extent there won’t be room to bury them. This is also where we find a reference to Gehenna, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, as its name means (also called Topheth), in chapters 7 and 19. The concept of Gehenna as a place of punishment is then picked up by Jesus in Matthew 10:28, which he uses in a more eschatological sense. Jeremiah 7:32–33Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of ...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd March 2021 | Easter
Much like any major Christian holiday, there are the usual arguments and accusations about how it’s all just pagan festivities with a “Christian mask”. Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called “pagan roots”, or in the month or so preceding it, Lent being some “invention of the Catholic Church”. Table of Contents The Lenten Fast The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Is the Name “Easter” really the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre? Chocolate eggs and bunnies? Concluding Thoughts Further Reading and Sources I like to try and observe Lent, as it is one of the most ancient customs in the Church, which led me to researching its origins, along with the Easter celebration, to see where they have their basis. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent as “pagan” are either fabricated or is just misinformation. So let’s examine the different aspects of Easter to see how we got from Passover to resurrection, to little bunnies and chocolate eggs! The Lenten Fast A forty day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to possibly within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus in the second century: For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days … And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.–Irenaeus (c.180) Notice here that Irenaeus mentions that this was a practice passed onto them by their “predecessors”, a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those who immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lenten fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180, and also possibly having Apostolic origin. The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Back in the days of the early church, there arose a controversy around the celebration of Easter (or “pascha” as it was known then). But no, before your imagination runs wild, it wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds and still had nothing to do with “paganism”. The dispute was over which day to hold the festival! Yep, the controversy really is as mundane as that. In fact, it was one of the issues raised at the council of Nicea to be discussed and hopefully settled, and is officially known as the Quartodeciman (lit. Fourteenth) controversy/dispute. It’s called this due to the issue being over whether the Easter celebration should follow the Jewish pattern of Passover on the 14 Nisan or not and simply follow the days of the week (Friday and Sunday). It became a bigger issue when the not only the Jewish community of believers wanted to follow this method, but when the Gentile Asian communities also claimed that their Quartodeciman practice was of Apostolic origin! It was a disciple of John the Apostle, and bishop of Smyrna, called Polycarp (c.69–c.155) who followed this practice in one of the seven churches of Asia as well as Melito, bishop of Sardis (died c.180). Irenaeus tells us that, in his old age, Polycarp visited the bishop of Rome to discuss this matter with him as the Roman church had diverged from the Quartodeciman custom and celebrated the resurrection according to the day Jesus rose instead: Sunday (the first day of the week). We gain an important glimpse about this whole dispute from Irenaeus though, when he tells us of the meeting between Polycarp and Anicetus: Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. … And they parted from each...
David Jakubovic | 17th March 2021 | Book Review
This is a guest post by David Jakubovic. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith. A 20 year update of the 1996 book by the same name, this slim volume (211 pages) is a helpful cross-section of current evangelical thought on Final Punishment, sampling Denny Burk on Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT hereafter), John Stackhouse Jr on Conditional immortality (CI hereafter), Robin Parry on Christian Universalism (CU hereafter) and Jerry Walls on (a Protestant) Purgatory. Preston Sprinkle pens both Introduction and Conclusion, plus there are Scripture, Author and Subject indices. The Introduction sets the scene, listing the 3 historically available views along with speculation about post-mortem purgatorial sanctification, before clarifying that it is not the existence of hell that is here in doubt: “They agree that hell exists, but they differ on what this hell is like.” (11) Sprinkle lists verses used by all 4 views, then introduces the academic background of the 4 essayists. He finally issues a substantial challenge to the reader: “You, of course, will probably agree with only one of the following essays and disagree with the other three. But keep in mind: disagreement is not refutation. We must be able to refute the evidence of the views that we disagree with and then provide more compelling biblical evidence for the view that we uphold.” (15) Burk kicks off Chapter One (‘Eternal Conscious Torment’) with a startling parable. He visualizes a man torturing creatures in increasing order of complexity and dignity: first torturing a grasshopper, a frog, a bird, a puppy and finally a human baby. Burk states: “In each of the scenarios above, the ‘sin’ is the same – pulling the legs off. The only difference in each of these scenarios is the one sinned against…The seriousness of the sin is not measured merely by the sin itself (pulling off the legs) but by the value and the worth of the one being sinned against.” (19, italics his) This macabre thought-experiment is of course a gruesome version of Anselm’s ‘Status Principle’, namely that to sin against an infinitely good God merits infinite or eternal punishment. But fellow pro-ECT essayist Walls squashes this analogy: “There is profound disanalogy in the parable that undermines the central point he wants to establish. This resides in the fact that we do not have the power to do anything to God that is remotely analogous to the harm the character in the parable inflicts on helpless creatures ranging from grasshoppers to human infants. Indeed, God is so far above us in power, glory, and moral perfection that we are utterly incapable of harming him.”1 Burk even ventures that ECT “will ultimately become a source of joy and praise for the saints as they witness the infinite goodness and justice of God.” (20) Yet it is grossly incongruous to place ECT side by side with notions of ‘joy’, ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ as these are universally understood. The very philosophical logic behind the ‘Status Principle’ is itself highly suspect, as Kronen points out when dismantling the ‘Classical Doctrine of Hell’ (CDH): “It is by no means obvious that an offense against an infinite being must be punished by the sorts of torments envisioned by CDH. One might sin more or less gravely against such a being, and in that case it does not seem that just any sin against an infinite being would merit eternal, continuous, and excruciating pain.”2 Spiegel adds that “human guilt is at most maximally great, not infinitely great”3, meaning that human guilt is still finite: “Finite guilt, however great, presumably does not warrant endless punishment in the form of ECT.” (Spiegel, op. cit. 41) He adds that, under the ‘Status Principle’, even the first sin you commit as a child is enough to incur ‘infinite guilt’, but this does not allow for the vast spectrum of p...