A review of Charles Ryrie “Why I am a Pretribulation Rapturist” from Isael My Glory. Part 2: Does 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 teach the Pretribulation Rapture?

After discussing “Who are Raptured?” Ryrie asks the question over which there is the most debate, “When is the Rapture?” Whether intentional or not, Ryrie seems to mock the posttribulation “timeline” of saints being raptured to meet Christ in the air only to continue with Christ back to earth. Ryrie’s apparent criticism of is unfortunate since the word “meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is used in only used in Matthew 25:1-10 and Acts 28:14-16 in exactly the sort of way that Ryrie seems to poke fun at: a group of people come leave their location to meet someone then escort that person to his intended destination.

Far more important to the discussion is Ryrie’s treatment of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Ryrie’s treatment of this passage has two flaws. First, Ryrie never defines what he believes the “Day of the Lord” is. From his discussion, it appears that Ryrie associates the day entire seven year tribulation period with the Day of the Lord. Whether or not this is true, Ryrie never demonstrates from the text that the rapture must precede the Day of the Lord. Why not? Because the text states the opposite position of Ryrie: which points to the greatest problem with Ryrie’s treatment of this passage.

To make 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 teach the pretribulation rapture, Ryrie completely ignores a portion of the text that contradicts his position. Below is presented the text as given by Ryrie and then as given in the ESV.

 

Ryrie

ESV

We ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by [a] spirit or by [a] word or by [a] letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

 

Ryrie omits the first several phrases of Paul’s thought. As Ryrie presents the text, there is really nothing about the rapture at all in the passage. As Paul presents the test the rapture is plainly mentioned: “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him.” So why does Ryrie exclude Paul’s mention of the rapture when Ryrie is attempting to determine the time of the Rapture? This seems counter-productive.

Perhaps Ryrie omits the first phrases of this passage because they completely undermine the pretribulation rapture position. If the Day of the Lord refers to the seven-year tribulation, and if the Thessalonians believed the rapture occurred before the tribulation, Paul’s entire discussion is superfluous. The Thessalonians would have known the Day of the Lord had not come yet because they had not been raptured!

As the text stands, however, Paul disagrees with Ryrie in a few details. First, Paul includes the coming of Christ and our gathering together to him in the Day of the Lord. As unique and horrendous as the events of the tribulation will be, Paul marks the Day of the Lord off as something even greater. This aspect of the Day of the Lord including the coming of the Lord to earth and the simultaneous gathering of the elect is will attributed in the Old Testament (Coming- Joel 3:16; Hab. 3:16; Zech. 14:4; Mal. 3:2; Gathering- Isa. 11:11-12, 16; 27:13; Mic. 4:6-7; Zeph. 3:18, 19, 20). Secondly, Paul says that this Day which includes the coming of Christ and our gathering together to him occurs after the revelation of Antichrist not before. Ryrie is right, the Day of the Lord occurs after the Antichrist’s revelation. But by leaving out Paul’s mention of Christ’s coming and our gathering to him, Ryrie ignores the most pertinent information for the discussion. As one commentator notes, “The present verse [2 Thess. 2:1] brings to grief the popular notion that the rapture of the church will somehow take place before the tribulation.”[1]

For as systematic as it presents to be, the pretribulation rapture is built upon an atomistic treatment of Scripture. It is no coincidence that one of C.I. Scofield’s works is “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.” Dispensationalism and the pretrib rapture position certainly excel in dividing the Scripture. But as Ryrie’s mishandling of just four verses demonstrates, the pretribulation rapture cannot stand up to a more holistic reading of Scripture.


[1] Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), 301.

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A review of Charles Ryrie “Why I am a Pretribulation Rapturist” from Isael My Glory. Part 1: Is this really what the posttribulation rapture position believes?

The January/February issue of Israel My Glory includes an article by noted theologian Charles Ryrie entitled “Why I am a Pretribulation Rapturist.”  I cut my teeth on a Ryrie study Bible: it is what accompanied me through Bible college. At said college, his Basic Theology was the text for theology classes. I profit from his sober and careful commentary on Revelation whenever I consult it. So what follows is not the result of any personal animosities or prejudices, but merely comes from a desire of furthering understanding of Scripture.

To begin his article Ryrie offers brief definitions of the various rapture positions. For the posttribulation rapture position Ryrie writes, “Posttrib has the church living through the entire Tribulation and enduring many of God’s judgments.” Ryrie is a capable and responsible theologian; and contributing to Israel My Glory certainly does not require the same amount of rigor as contributing to a theological journal does; but such a definition of the posttribulation rapture position is neither fair nor accurate. One might just as well state that a pretribulation rapturist believes Christians will never face any troubles in life. Neither this hypothetical definition of the pretrib position, nor Ryrie’s proposed definition of the posttrib position represents the truth.[1]

Whether intentional or not, Ryrie’s definition poisons the well and erects a straw man that is easily thrashed. What Christian wants to believe that he will experience any, let alone “many,” of God’s judgments? The Scripture clearly and repeatedly relieves believers of such worries. The promise of being kept from God’s wrath is one that all believers should hold (John 5:24; Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). When the posttribulation position is defined in such terms, it is not too difficult to assert a lack of Scriptural support.

Toward the conclusion of the article, Ryrie offers more precise language: “Posttrib rapturists think they’re going to live through the Tribulation. They say the phrase I will keep you means God will protect the Christians as He protected Israel in Egypt.”

This is a much more accurate picture of the posttrib rapture position. While the experience of the Israelites in Egypt is probably the best illustration, it is certainly not the only illustration of the kind of existence and protection envisioned by those who believe the rapture will follow the Tribulation. Mention could also be made of Noah who was saved through the flood, not from it; of Job who was not saved through disaster and illness, not saved from it; of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were saved through the fire, not from it; of Daniel who was saved through the lion’s den, not from it; and preeminently of Christ who was saved through the crucifixion, not from it. One might say that these are special examples of God’s providence that are not meant to exemplify God’s normal dealings with his people. But we would do well to remember the promise of Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Is it stretching the data of Scripture and history to assert that God does not keep his children from trouble but keeps them through it?

Ryrie seeks to gain more ground in this area by stating, “There will be earthquakes, tsunamis, and water turning to blood. People in the Tribulation will turn on a faucet and get blood. If they can find water, it will be bitter. It seems highly unlikely that an earthquake or other disaster that affects millions will not touch Joe and Sarah Christian who live in the same area as everyone else.”

First of all, on a very practical level, such deliverance is not necessarily as far-fetched as Ryrie makes it out to be. We know that Antichrist will make war with the saints and that they will have no way to buy and sell in the open market. What is likely to happen in such a situation? More than likely some form of ghetto-ization. While it might seem counter-intuitive for believers to gather together thereby making them an easier target, Revelation 12:6 seems to present just such an occurrence. Ryrie mentions that during the plagues the Israelites lived in Goshen which made it more possible for corporate protection. Why would saints during the Tribulation not seek the increased safety and provision of communal or corporate life? Ryrie simply assumes that “Joe and Sarah Christian” will be living with everyone else. I do not see that as necessarily, or even as likely, true.

Second, is there not a difference between suffering from affects of judgments and suffering the judgments themselves? For thousands of years believers have suffered and died because of God’s judgment on sin. For thousands of years believers have lived and died because of God’s judgment on sin even as they are promised that their sins have been fully judged in Christ and that death no longer has dominion over them.

Third, Ryrie wants to paint a picture of complete global chaos and indeed in many ways it will be. But careful attention to the details of Revelation reveals a constant refrain in the series of judgments: they are targeted on Antichrist and his followers:

  • Rev 9:4  [The locusts] were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
  • Rev 16:2  So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
  • Revelation 16:5-6  And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
  • Rev 16:10-11  The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.[2]

As far as I know, no responsible posttribulation rapturist teaches that believers will suffer God’s judgment. By asserting the contrary Ryrie may score some points with the home team, but he does nothing to further meaningful dialogue between those who teach a different rapture position.

Pretribulationists and posttribulationists alike agree that there will be believers, or saints, of some sort on earth during the tribulation.[3] Let us lay aside whether they are “the Church” or “Tribulation saints.” Ryrie’s position does nothing to answer how those people experience the protective provision of God. The pretribulation rapture position teaches that the church will not be on earth during the Tribulation because the church is promised deliverance from God’s wrath. Yet it also must teach that there are believers of some sort on the earth during the Tribulation and that those believers will in some way endure God’s wrath.

Ryrie rightly teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Whoever the saints are on earth during the tribulation one thing is clear: they must be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. This causes at least two problems for the pretrib position. First, if so called “Tribulation saints” who believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation experience God’s protective provision during the Tribulation, why couldn’t the same grace be given to any and every saint? Second, how can someone who trusts in Jesus Christ for his salvation not be considered a member of Christ’s body, the church?


[1] As I look at the article in the magazine, the five definitions are offered apart from the main text of the article within a text box inside of a full page picture. I suppose it is possible that Charles Ryrie is not even responsible for the definitions, but that they were included by the editors of the magazine. In the end, however, my dispute is with the statement more than with who said it.

[2] To this list could be added the judgments that have the same result of this 5th bowl judgment: i.e. those who survive do not repent thus specifying that God’s enemies were the ones who experienced judgment (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9).

[3] The following references from Revelation all indicate that there will be believers of some sort on earth during the Tribulation: Rev. 6:9-11; 7:2-3; 8:3-5; 9:4; 13:7, 10; 14:12-13; 16:5-6; 17:6; 18:24. More often than not, the word used for these people is “saints”: the standard New Testament word for believers in Jesus Christ.

Wilhelmus á Brakel on The Image of God and Dominion of Man

I appreciated Wilhelmus á Brakel’s discussion of the image of God and the creation of man. The discussion is broken down into three elements: basis, form, and consequence. Brakel begins to illustrate these aspects with the following example:

If a painter wishes to make a good picture, he must first have a proper and well-prepared canvas. He cannot paint a picture in water, in air, or in dry sand. He either needs a piece of wood, canvas, or some other solid material, which in turn must have been properly prepared, Having all these, he then must have a suitable model for that which he wishes to express.

The soul is the basis for the image of God. The soul is the “part” of man which carries, or displays the image of God. Just as the canvas is not the picture, the soul is not the image. But just as a picture could not exists without a canvas (or other similar medium), the image of God would not exist without the soul.

Some thoughts: Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” What is the role of male and female in the image of God? Is it that male and female both are in the image of God- i.e. as individuals- or that male and female together-i.e. so that the image of God cannot be understood without male and female together- are in the image of God? The first option would support á Brakel’s position, the second would oppose it.

If the soul is the medium of the image, the basis, what is the substance-or form- of the image? “The essential form, the true essence of the image of God, consists in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, they being the qualities that regulate the faculties of the soul: intellect, will, and affections.” There is solid biblical ground for considering knowledge, righteousness, and holiness as the attributes of God’s image. We do not see these qualities described at man’s creation, but each one is used to describe aspects of man’s re-creation:

Col. 3:10: and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Eph. 4:24: and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

What I appreciated most was how á Brakel connected the image of God and the dominion of man. This is an important area of debate as some teach that the image of God is the dominion of man. But á Brakel correctly describes man’s dominion as the result of God’s image in man: “The consequence of the image of God is the exercise of dominion over the entire earth.” Because man had pristine knowledge, righteousness, and holiness he was immanently capable of exercising dominion over God’s creation.

This does provoke some other questions. First, we notice that dominion, like the image of God, is something that the man and woman share in equally. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Does this do anything to answer the previous question about the role of male and female and the image of God? I don’t think so. Whether man and woman individually or collectively portray the image of God, man and woman would exercise dominion. Does the joint exercise of dominion offer any support to the feminist argument that the submission of wives to their husbands is a result of the fall? Not necessarily. The sphere of dominion is God’s physical creation. The dominion mandate says nothing about human institutions- even God-ordained ones.

The language of Genesis one should not be ignored. The image of God was something Adam and Eve had. The dominion over earth was something Adam and Eve did. Therefore, I consider á Brakel’s distinction of the basis, form, and consequence of the image of God helpful.

Wilhelmus á Brakel on Election and Assurance Part 4- Sanctification

The third characteristic of the truly elect and, therefore, of those who should have assurance of their eternal salvation is sanctification.

If you then perceive within yourself a hatred, repulsion, and sorrow concerning both the secret sins of your heart, as well as your sinful deeds, and if you find an inner delight and love for a godly spiritual frame and the practice of all virtues in the fear, love, and the obedience of God, as being His will; if you perceive within yourself the warfare between flesh and spirit so that sin does not have dominion over you, that is, that you are not governed by your evil will; if sin meets with an internal resistance of your will, being restrained and often driven away by the fear of God; if you perceive within yourself the inclination to pray, wrestle for peace of conscience, and experience the nearness of the Lord; if, either privately or in the presence of men, you desire to let your heart, thoughts, words, and deeds be governed by the will of God; if, I say, these things be in you, then you are a partaker of the spiritual life and the principle of sanctification is in you. This is not the result of your natural disposition, but a gracious gift of God issuing forth from election. Thus, you may conclude your election from this spiritual condition.

Perhaps á Brakel could have done better by expositing 2 Peter 1:5-10, his point is nevertheless made. Hearkening back to the previous two marks, it should be recognized that the force of this argument is only fully appreciated by one who has accepted the biblical teaching regarding total depravity and the spiritual death of the sinner.

The soul that is saved seeks a greater experience of that salvation.

The thought that guides á Brakel’s entire discussion of assurance is that that election is personal.

Why is the gospel proclaimed to you? Why are you called, drawn, and quickened? Why do you know Jesus and receive Him by faith? Wherefore may you have some delight in communion with God and are desirous to fear His name? Does not all of this issue forth from his eternal counsel to save you? Lose yourself in holy amazement and confess with Hagar, “Have I also here looked after Him that seeth me?” (Gen. 16:13), and with the Psalmist, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of Him?” (Psa. 8:4).

Wilhelmus á Brakel on Election and Assurance Part 3- Faith

The second characteristic of those who are truly elect and, therefore, of those who should have assurance of their eternal salvation are faith.

If then you are assured that you find delight in God’s counsel to reconcile sinners to Himself through the Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ; if, due to grief and sorrow over your sinful heart and deeds, for God’s wrath, love for communion with God and a spiritual walk, and a sense of your own impotence to attain to these matters, you take refuge to this Surety who offers Himself; if you look to Him, long for Him, engage in transactions with Him, accept His offer, surrender yourself to Him, rest your salvation upon Him, and rely upon Him—be it one time with more, and then again with less intensity, with more clarity or more darkness, with more or less strife, continually or intermittently—if these things are to be found in you, then you are a partaker of true faith. If you may thus be assured of your faith, you may then consequently conclude your eternal election.

How do we draw strength from faith? First be realizing that faith itself is from God. á Brakel cites Acts 13:48, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”; and Titus 1:1, “the faith of God’s elect.” We should also include Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The soul struggling with assurance needs to be reminded that on his own, man does not believe in God. There is none who seeks after God. On his own, man cannot produce faith from within himself. The capacity for faith is something that God gives.

The struggling soul might reasonably ask, “Since I am struggling with assurance doesn’t that indicate that I do not have faith?” But the root of such questioning might not be faith itself, but the amount of faith. It may seem like an overly precise classification, but someone who is worrying about whether they have “enough” faith by be falling into the trap relying on their faith to save them rather than relying on the Savior to save them.

It is insensitive to experience and the biblical data to presume that everyone is going to demonstrate the same strength of faith at all times. Jesus speaks of faith as a mustard seed. Jesus helps the man who believes even as he struggles with unbelief. What we are looking for is the presence of faith, not the abundance of it.

Again á Brakel focuses attention on the object of faith, and not faith itself. This is where the struggling soul needs to look. What is the response of your soul to the gospel? Amazement or incredulity? What is the response of your soul to Jesus Christ? Attraction or revulsion? God’s children, however imperfectly, desire a relationship with the Father based on the merits of the Son. They seek such a relationship because of the working of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that you desire to draw near to God believing that He will accept you is an indication that He has chosen you to eternal salvation. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

For true assurance of biblical salvation we must accept the biblical testimony regarding such salvation. No one has any desire at all to come to Christ, to believe in Him, unless the Father first grants such a desire and such a belief. Do you believe in Christ? This is the gift of God which will certainly bear fruit unto your eternal salvation and His eternal praise and glory.

 

 

Wilhelmus á Brakel on Election and Assurance Part 2: How Can I know I am saved? Are you called?

In a previous post we discussed Wilhelmus á Brakel’s assertion that “assurance of salvation” is something that children of God can and should have. Yet this assurance does not come from believing in assurance. That quote was concluded with these words, “Rather, one obtains this assurance from the Word of God wherein is found a clear description of those who are elect. If these characteristics are discerned within, he may draw the conclusion that he is one of the elect.”

On their own, these words could lead to disastrous consequences. Assurance is important, but it needs to be handled carefully. Having a false assurance could be more dangerous than not having assurance at all. Or, it is more dangerous to know the wrong thing than to not know. Assurance is not a Scripture scavenger hunt. The person who is seeking assurance should not be given a check-list. Not even a biblical one. The mention of “description” and “characteristics” might lead one to believe that assurance is not much more than a grocery list. Assurance of salvation must not be reduced to legalism.

Wilhelmus á Brakel deftly avoids this trap in offering three indications of salvation. Their potency lies in the fact that they are indications that do not point to the seeker of assurance or to themselves but to the Lord Himself.

 The first characteristic is the calling. God calls internally and efficaciously only those whom He has chosen. This is a well-established truth. “Moreover whom He did predestinate, then He also called” (Rom. 8:30); “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). If, while bringing yourself into the omniscient presence of the Lord and examining yourself in truth, you may perceive that your mind has been illuminated to enable you to discern the spiritual dimension of the spiritual benefits of the covenant of grace; if you perceive within yourself a love and desire for spiritual frames within your soul such as the love and fear of God, willingness and obedience, spiritual liberty, and joy in the Lord; if you perceive within yourself a recurring stimulus, stirring you up to think upon God, to pray, to repent after backslidings, to walk in a way pleasing to God; and if you perceive that the nearness of the Lord is your life and His absence your grief—if all these things are to be found in you, then you may be assured of being called and drawn.

If assurance of salvation is to be found it must be found in the same place as salvation itself. The relation the Bible has with assurance is the same relation it has to salvation. No one has or ever will be saved by the Bible. Yet no one has or ever will be saved without the revelation the Bible offers (Rom. 10:13-17; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Similarly, we do not gain assurance of salvation from the Bible, but we do find it in the Bible’s revelation.

In this discussion of calling the objective and external witness of biblical truth is wonderfully balanced with the internal objective witness of the inner man. Both are needed. If assurance is to be had, the personal soul must have it. If assurance is to be had, there must be an identifiable “it” to have. “Calling” is the first objective subjective.

It is easy to point to Moses or Paul and make the claim that they had solid ground for assurance because the Lord came to them in a special way. But this is to give the subjective a greater role than it deserves. What does your assurance rest on: the Lord who calls, or the way the Lord calls?

 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God… (Romans 8:16)

This is the normal operation of the Lord. To seek assurance from a miraculous experience is just as misguided as seeking it in a list of do’s and don’ts. Has the Lord called you? Where is such assurance of his calling found? Read again the words of á Brakel and note terms like: presence of the Lord, illuminated, spiritual benefits, spiritual dimension, love and desire, spiritual frames, joy in the Lord, think upon God, pleasing to God, nearness of the Lord is your life and His absence your grief, etc.

Salvation is of the Lord. And so is assurance. Perhaps the secret to assurance is to know that it cannot be found in anything other people can identify in you. I cannot give you assurance of salvation. I cannot even tell you if you should have assurance of salvation. The only thing I can do is to tell you where you can find it: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:21, 39). Have you called out to the Lord for salvation? It is only because he called out to you first.

Family Devotions using the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 6 February 5-11

Family Worship Guide
For the Week of Lord’s Day 6

 

Catechism

16  Q.  Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

A.  God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin;[1] but a sinner could never pay for others.[2]

17  Q.  Why must he also be true God?

A.  So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.[3]

18  Q.  And who is this mediator; true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

A.  Our Lord Jesus Christ,[4] who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God.[5]

19  Q.  How do you come to know this?

A.  The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;[6] later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs[7] and prophets,[8] and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;[9] finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.[10]

 

Scripture Memory

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:15

Daily Scripture Reading

Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Ezekiel 18:1-13

Tuesday          Hebrews 2:14-18

Wednesday    Isaiah 53

Thursday        Matt. 1:18-23

Friday              1 Corinthians 1:22-31

Saturday         Hebrews 9:1-15

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday          Pray for the college students in your church.

Tuesday          Pray for the leaders of our state.

Wednesday    Pray for those who are homebound and for their caregivers.

Thursday        Pray for missionaries spreading the message of Christ throughout the world.

Friday              Pray for the marriages in your church.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Monday’s Scripture follows question and answer 16. The rest of the week’s readings have reference to various aspects of all the questions. Aspects in each will apply to multiple question and answers

MONDAY

This is a good passage to use in teaching the important truth that God does not have any grandchildren. God is just and deals with each person on an individual basis. It would be beneficial for you to read the entire chapter beforehand and be prepared to incorporate other verses in discussion with your family.

TUESDAY

Jesus is as human as humanity can be. If he were not he could not be man’s merciful and faithful high priest by offering atonement for man’s sins.

WEDNESDAY

Pay attention to the “he” and “we” pronouns. Teach your family what this passage teaches: the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

THURSDAY

Here, at the beginning of his incarnation, we receive a clear teaching about the nature and purpose of the Messiah. Jesus is God’s Son, having the nature of God he is God. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. While verse 21 certainly supports “limited atonement” there are greater truths to meditate upon in this passage.

FRIDAY

Many commentators note critically the cold, logical bluntness of this section of the Catechism (Lord’s Day 5 & 6). It is indeed a danger to be wary of. This passage is a helpful reminder that however logical the faith seems to us it is foolishness to the unbeliever. We do not strive to have a faith we can understand even as we seek to understand the faith we have.

SATURDAY

The last phrase of verse 14 stands in stark contrast to the surrounding context that speaks only of sacrifice and death. The death of Christ means life. The death of Christ is the power and right to serve the living God.

 

Catechism Comments & Quotes

Summarizing the group of questions:

It was already clear in the Old Testament that animal sacrifices, in themselves, were not enough to atone for man’s sin. There had to be something better. There had to be the sacrifice of a divine0human Savior. The New Testament shows how God fulfilled his great promise by sending such a redeemer. When the perfect and final sacrifice was finally made in the person and work of Jesus Christ, then at last God’s people could really be free—put right with God forever. (Williamson, 34)

Why must he be truly human? Why must he also be true God? We should not pretend that we have a compelling logical argument by which we can “prove” that our Mediator had to be god and man in one person. The Bible presents him that way. God gave him to us. And we accept him in faith and with adoration. (Kuyvenhoven, 38)

Precisely at this point the catechism intends to show by its arrangement and conception of the questions and answers that the fact of Christ, the ground of man’s redemption, is not an accidental and arbitrary fact but a meaningful, necessary, logical happening (Logos!) in which the wisdom of the divine decree is revealed. (Barth, 48)

 

When one considers these early attacks upon the truth concerning the Saviour, His person and natures, and is aware of the fact that all or most of these heresies repeatedly arise in the Church on earth, and attempt to destroy the true Christian doctrine concerning Christ and salvation, he will be able to appreciate properly the efforts put forth by the Heidelberg Catechism to demonstrate the necessity of the two natures, and of the unity of the person of Christ. (Hoeksema, 40)

Question 16

…in man’s sin, the question underlying the Gospel of Love is: who will be victorious? Will it be God’s justice demanding punishment or man’s sin in setting up his own standard of right and wrong? For God to be just and the justifier of the unjust, this divine must is satisfied in Christ. In him “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). (Vis, 25)

As far as the humanity of Jesus is concerned, it already appears in those outward marks of his life which attest to his true sharing in human existence: Jesus knows hunger (Matthew 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), sleep (Mark 4:38), joy (Luke 10:21), sorrow (Luke 19:41). (UCP, 46)

He must be very, i.e. real man. And a real man is one that partakes of our human nature. He must not assume a temporary appearance of a human being, for then he is not related to us. He must not come in a specially created human nature, for then he stands outside the scope of our race. He must be of us. He must subsist in the very human nature that was created in the beginning, and as far as his humanity is concerned, he must have been with us in the loins of Adam. He must be a very real “son of man.” (Hoeksema, 41)

Even though he is a son of man, born of woman, blood of our blood, and flesh of our flesh, yet the defilement and pollution that adheres to all men, to the whole human nature, may not cleave to him. (Hoeksema, 42)

Question 17

How great, how powerful must our Mediator be, so that he could be mediator for all time for all men? What did God require? That in the power of his Godhead he might, in his manhood, bear the burden of God’s wrath. That means that God’s wrath is so great that no one can measure it or satisfy it; it is infinite. Only God is infinite, and no matter how great the weight of sin, God’s infinite merit is greater. Thus by the power of his Godhead Christ bore the burden of God’s wrath. (Vis, 25)

 

Very God the mediator must be. That means that He must be of the divine essence. He must be the eternal One Himself, the I AM, the infinite God, Who exists in Himself, and has life in Himself, Who is the almighty, the allwise, the omniscient, the Lord of all! The mediator must not be a god, but he must be very God! (Hoeksema, 43-44)

Question 18

Nothing and nobody else are needed or wanted to unite us with God. He is the bridge from earth to heaven, for he is a true human being. He is the bridge from heaven to earth because he is truly God. (Kuyvenhoven, 39)

We do not have to do here with two acts, but with the one act of redemption which is given us in our Lord Jesus Christ in his fulfillment of God’s assertion and restoration of his own and man’s right. God is due recognition as the Lord; man is due life under his lordship. God’s right and man’s right are threatened by sin. God’s act as Redeemer restores both. He defends his right and his honor, but he does it in just such a way that he also takes up man’s destroyed right. Jesus Christ assumes responsibility for man before God. He “pays” for sin. He bears the burden of God’s wrath and thereby removes the abnormal condition of man. He establishes God and man in their right again. (Barth, 48)

Christ Himself is the fullness of our salvation. It is Himself we receive. Himself He imparts to us through faith by His Spirit. We do not receive Him piecemeal, bit by bit; we do not receive the blessings of salvation one by one until gradually we have appropriated the whole Christ and all His benefits: we receive Him! Into Him we are ingrafted by a truth faith. (Hoeksema, 46)

He is made or become unto us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. He is all this for us. (Hoeksema, 49)

Question 19

According to Scriptures, Christians are bound to acknowledge only one Mediator, by whom all people must come to God. That does not mean that we are disrespectful of all who would seek access to God elsewhere. It means that the Christian religion is a missionary religion. If Christian faith does no show its urge to bring all men to the Mediator, it has become untrue to its very character. As soon as it outgrows its “narrow” view that Jesus is the only way, the Christian church loses its missionary zeal; in fact, it ceases to be Christian. (Kuyvenhoven, 36)

The gospel is not a summons to kingdom living or a message about what we can do for God or a description of our efforts at cultural transformation. The gospel, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again on the third day. (DeYoung, 41)

His existence cannot be deduced and postulated a priori; it can and must be understood after the fact. The church knows what it is doing when it knows and praises in him “our only comfort,” for he is God’s righteousness and therefore also his mercy in person. (Barth, 50)

The “gospel of the promise” is, therefore, not to be changed into a vague, general, “well meaning offer of grace to all.” For between the “gospel of the promise” and a well meaning offer” there is as much difference as between day and night. The two have nothing in common. He that preaches a well meaning offer cannot preach the glad tiding of the promise. (Hoeksema, 57-58)


[1] Rom. 5:12, 15; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:14-16

[2] Heb. 7:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:18

[3] Isa. 53; John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21

[4] Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:5

[5] 1 Cor. 1:30

[6] Gen. 3:15

[7] Gen. 22:18; 49:10

[8] Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1-2

[9] Lev. 1-7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10

[10] Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Col. 2:17

Wilhelmus á Brakel on Election and Assurance Part 1

It is thus the duty of every Christian to strive for assurance according to the exhortation of the apostle in 2 Peter 1:10, as this assurance is the fountain of much joy in God and results in much growth in sanctification. One does not obtain this assurance by ascending into heaven to examine the book of life for the purpose of ascertaining whether one’s name is to be found in it (Rom. 10:6-7). Neither is this assurance obtained by imagining oneself to be one of the elect, so that by the duration of this imagination one could consistently maintain this assurance, being of the opinion that it is a sin to be doubtful about it even though one lacks the least foundation for this assurance. Rather, one obtains this assurance from the Word of God wherein is found a clear description of those who are elect. If these characteristics are discerned within, he may draw the conclusion that he is one of the elect. (Christian’s Reasonable Service (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992), 247.)

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10

Assurance of salvation is something that I have had past struggles with. I know I am not alone in this. As I examine my life it is interesting to me that embracing God’s sovereignty has only increased my assurance. What is the place of assurance on the life of the Christian? Can a person be saved and not know it?

á Brakel begins with the assertion that assurance is indeed something that a believer should seek and have. What I appreciate about the Apostle Peter’s exhortation and á Brakel’s treatment is the recognition, however, that assurance is something the believers do struggle with. At places in the New Testament, we see the biblical authors more certain of the readers’ salvation than the readers themselves (cf. Luke 22:32; Heb. 6:9). We should not miss the fact that Peter’s encouragement demands that some of his readers were indeed unsure of their “calling and election.”

But if God’s election is eternal and sovereign, how can anyone be sure of it? Brakel gives two important ways not to gain assurance. We cannot wish to know God’s hidden decrees. One day the books will be opened. But God is not like Amazon. He does not offer a look inside. In any event, such a vision would be disastrous. Do we live by faith or by sight? Seeing God’s list would only serve to destroy our faith…the very instrument of our salvation.

Secondly, we are not to talk ourselves into assurance. Having the wrong faith is just as damning as having no faith. As the saying goes we are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. So we are not assured of being God’s elect by our declaration that we are elect.

So how can I know for certain I am one of God’s elect?

Wilhelmus à Brakel on Reprobation and Election and Reprobation explained as simply as I know how

 God will never damn anyone but for his sins. God does not prevent anyone from repentance, believing in Christ, and salvation. Man and his own free will are to be blamed for the fact that he lives and ungodly life, and it is therefore just when God punishes and damns him for his sins.
Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service vol. 1 “Eternal Predestination: Election and Reprobation”)

I really appreciated this chapter and Brakel’s treatment of the very difficult subject of reprobation. He seemed to try to keep the tension of the Biblical testimony. Like election to salvation, reprobation to condemnation is presented as an aspect of God’s eternally certain, absolutely free decision. Yet Brakel consistently maintains that man has only himself to blame for suffering eternal judgment.

Obviously election, reprobation, predestination, foreknowledge, etc. is an impossible sphere of study. There has never really been an agreed upon understanding and- this side of the end- there likely never will be. While I certainly have no delusion of being able to please everyone with a “solution;” I have nevertheless started to explain the dilemma with two statements:

 There is one thing that the saved will never say to God in eternity: “We did it!”

All praise for salvation will always go to God and to the Lamb eternally.

 There is one thing the damned will never say to God in eternity: “I wanted to be saved but you just wouldn’t let me.”

God loves His Son too much to not give to him even one soul that desires salvation.

I am aware that these two statements do not really do anything to explain the decrees of election or reprobation in the past, but merely address the result of those decrees in the future. But we often do not understand the present until we can look back on it in retrospect. These two statements attempt to do the same thing with election and reprobation.