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Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

“Thus, then, it is that God is saving the world—the world, mind you, and not merely some individuals out of the world—by a process which involves not supplanting but reformation, re-creation. We look for new heavens and a new earth, it is true; but these new heavens and new earth are not another heaven and another earth, but the old heaven and old earth renewed; or, as the Scriptures phrase it, “regenerated.” For not the individual merely, but the fabric of the world itself, is to be regenerated in that “regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory” (Matt. 19:28). During the process, there may be much that is discarded. But when the process is completed, then also shall be completed the task which the Son of Man has taken upon himself, and the “world” shall be saved—this wicked world of sinful men transformed into a world of righteousness.”

“Surely, we shall not wish to measure the saving work of God by what has been already accomplished in these unripe days in which our lot is cast. The sands of time have not yet run out. And before us stretch, not merely the reaches of the ages, but the infinitely resourceful reaches of the promise of God. Are not the saints to inherit the earth? Is not the re-created earth theirs? Are not the kingdoms of the world to become the kingdom of God? Is not the knowledge of the glory of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea? Shall not the day dawn when no man need say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know him from the least unto the greatest?”

-Warfield, “God’s Immeasurable Love”

-Vos, “Eschatology of the Psalter”

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XIV. The rest of God, from the work of the creation, was a type of a far more glorious rest of God from the work of the glorification of the whole universe. When God had created the first world, so as to be a commodious habitation for man during his probation, and an illustrious theatre of the perfections of the Creator; he took pleasure in this his work, and rested with delight. For he bestowed upon it all the perfection which was requisite to complete that state. But he had resolved, one day, to produce a far more perfect universe, and, by dissolving the elements by fire, to raise a new heaven and a new earth, as it were, out of the ashes of the old: which new world, being blessed with his immutable happiness, was to be a far more august habitation for his glorified creatures; in which, as in the last display of his perfections, he was for ever to rest with the greatest complacency. And besides, as God, according to his infinite wisdom, so wisely connects all his actions, that the preceding have a certain respect to the following; in like manner, since that rest of God after the creation was less complete than that other, when God shall have concluded the whole, and which is to be followed by no other labour or toil; it is proper to consider that first rest of God as a type, and a kind of prelude of that other, which is more perfect. In fine, because it tends to man’s greatest happiness, that the whole universe be thus glorified, and himself in the universe, that God may altogether rest in him, as having now obtained his last degree of perfection, he is said “to enter into the rest of God,” Heb. 4:10.

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God’s design was perfectly to restore all the ruins of the fall, so far as concerns the elect part of the world, by his Son; and therefore we read of the restitution of all things. Acts 3:21, “Whom the heaven must receive, until the times of the restitution of all things; and of the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Man’s soul was ruined by the fall; the image of God was defaced; man’s nature was corrupted, and he became dead in sin. The design of God was, to restore the soul of man to life and the divine image in conversion, to carry on the change in sanctification, and to perfect it in glory. Man’s body was ruined; by the fall it became subject to death. The design of God was, to restore it from this ruin, and not only to deliver it from death in the resurrection, but to deliver it from mortality itself, in making it like unto Christ’s glorious body. The world was ruined, as to man, as effectually as if it had been reduced to chaos again; all heaven and earth were overthrown. But the design of God was, to restore all, and as it were to create a new heaven and a new earth: Isa 65:17, “Behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” 2 Pet 3:13, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

The work by which this was to be done, was begun immediately after the fall, and so is carried on till all is finished, when the whole world, heaven and earth, shall be restored. There shall be, as it were, new heavens, and a new earth, in a spiritual sense, at the end of the world. Thus it is represented, Rev 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.”

[from A History of the Work of Redemption]

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Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5. “In Scripture symbolism the grave is the gateway to hell. Accordingly, Sheol in the one sense is the anteroom of Sheol in the other sense.”

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4

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Just finished recording the lengthy chapter “The Biblical Argument” in W. G. T. Shedd’s theological treatise, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment. Truly the definitive modern work on the subject. Listen to them here. Among other insightful and profound passages is the following on the apocalyptic, revelatory nature of death:

“. . . in Scripture death is represented as the deciding epoch in a man’s existence. It is the boundary between the two Biblical aeons, or worlds. Until man dies, he is in ‘this world’ (ho nun aion); after death, he is in ‘the future world’ (aion ho mellon). The common understanding of the teaching of Scripture is, that men are in ‘time,’ so long as they live, but when they die, they enter ‘eternity.’ ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, but after that judgment,’ Heb. 9:27. This teaches that prior to death man’s destiny is not decided, he being not yet sentenced; but after death his destiny is settled. When he dies, the ‘private judgment,’ that is, the immediate personal consciousness either of penitence or impenitence, occurs. Every human spirit, in that supreme moment when it ‘returns to God who gave it,’ knows by direct self-consciousness whether it is a child or an enemy of God, in temper and disposition; whether it is humble and contrite, or proud, hard, and impenitent; whether it welcomes or rejects the Divine mercy in Christ. The article of death is an event in human existence which strips off all disguises, and shows the person what he really is in moral character. He knows ‘as he is known,’ and in this flashing light passes a sentence upon himself that is accurate. This ‘private judgment’ at death, is reaffirmed in the ‘general judgment’ of the last day.”

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The following passages come from Thomas Chalmers’ sermon, “Heaven: A Character, Not a Locality.” Is the future state one that leaves the earth behind? Not according to Chalmers! Profound thoughts here. Heavenly ….. and earthy!

* * * *

“This may serve to rectify an imagination, of which we think that all must be conscious—as if the grossness of materialism was only for those who had degenerated into the grossness of sin ; and that, when a spiritualizing process had purged away all our corruption, then, by the stepping stones of a death and a resurrection, we should be borne away to some ethereal region, where sense, and body, and all in the shape either of audible sound, or of tangible substance, were unknown. And hence that strangeness of impression which is felt by you, should the supposition be offered that in the place of eternal blessedness, there will be ground to walk upon; scenes of luxuriance to delight the corporeal senses ; or the kindly intercourse of friends talking familiarly, and by articulate converse together; or, in short, any thing that has the least resemblance to a local territory, filled with various accommodations, and peopled over its whole extent by creatures formed like ourselves—having bodies such as we now wear, and faculties of perception, and thought, and mutual communication, such as we now exercise. The common imagination that we have of paradise on the other side of death, is, that of a lofty aërial region, where the inmates float in ether, or are mysteriously suspended upon nothing –where all the warm and sensible accompaniments which give such an expression of strength, and life, and colouring, to our present habitation, are attenuated into a sort of spiritual element, that is or meagre, and imperceptible, and utterly uninviting to the eye of mortals here below—where every vestige of materialism is done away, and nothing left but certain unearthly scenes that have no power of allurement, and certain unearthly ecstasies, with which it is felt impossible to sympathise. The holders of this imagination forget all the while, that really there is no essential connexion between materialism and sin—that the world which we now inhabit, had all the amplitude and solidity of its present materialism, before sin entered into it that God so far, on that account, from looking slightly upon it, after it had received the last touch of His creating hand, reviewed the earth, and the waters, and the firmament, and all the green herbage, with the living creatures, and the man whom He had raised in dominion over them, and He saw every thing that He had made, and behold it was all very good. They forget that on the birth of materialism, when it stood out in the freshness of those glories which the great Architect of Nature had impressed upon it, that then “ the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” They forget the appeals that are made everywhere in the Bible to this material workmanship—and how, from the face of these visible heavens, and the garniture of this earth that we tread upon, the greatness and the goodness of God are reflected on the view of His worshippers. No, my brethren, the object of the administration we sit under, is to extirpate sin, but it is not to sweep away materialism. By the convulsions of the last day, it may be shaken, and broken down from its present arrangements; and thrown into such fitful agitations, as that the whole of its existing framework shall fall to pieces; and with a beat so fervent as to melt its most solid elements, may it be utterly dissolved. And thus may the earth again become without form, and void, but without one particle of its substance going into annihilation. Out of the ruins of this second chaos, may another heaven and another earth be made to arise; and a new materialism, with other aspects of magnificence and beauty, emerge from the wreck of this mighty transformation; and the world be peopled as before, with the varieties of material loveliness, and space be again lighted up into a firmament of material splendour.”

Works 7:283-285

“And it is indeed an homage to that materialism, which many are for expunging from the future state of the universe altogether—that ere the immaterial soul of man has reached the ultimate glory and blessedness which are designed for it, it must return and knock at that very grave where lie the mouldered remains of the body which it wore-and there inquisition must be made for the flesh, and the sinews, and the bones, which the power of corruption has perhaps for centuries before, assimilated to the earth that is around them and there, the minute atoms must be re-assembled into a structure that bears upon it the form and the lineaments, and the general aspect of a man—and the soul passes into this material framework, which is hereafter to be its lodging place for ever—and that, not as its prison, but as its pleasant and befitting habitation—not to be trammelled, as some would have it, in a hold of materialism, but to be therein equipped for the services of eternity-to walk embodied among the bowers of our second paradise-to stand embodied in the presence of our God.”

Works 7:286-287

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Being a huge Chalmers fan, one of the things I love the most about him is his vision, his idealism.  He longed for the Christianization of Scotland.  He wanted the Lord’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.  And he worked for it, being a wise and faithful steward.

He had reason to be hopeful.  The Bible gives great promises about the success of the Gospel among the nations.  The leaven will leaven the lump.  The small mustard seed will grow into a great tree, the glorious refuge for the fowl of the heavens.

And yet, as I read critical historians on Chalmers and others sympathetic with him (most recently, I’ve been reading up on Thornwell and Smyth in the antebellum South), I am reminded that our hopes must never morph into our Messiah.  Promises are one thing.  But we need to give ear to other portions of biblical revelation that qualify how those promises will work out in this world.  Prior to the return of Christ on the clouds, there will be no Christian utopia.  History can have a brutal way of giving us a reality check.  Chalmers had hopes for Scotland, but they were disappointed.  So with Thornwell and with Smyth for the American South.  Heaven on earth is ever elusive; and though it comes close, it is at the same time just beyond reach.  Frustratingly so.

But lest our hopes of a better day for Christianity in the West be dashed to the ground, we need the reality check of the Scriptures.  Jesus also said that in the world we shall have tribulation.   The love of many will wax cold.  The tares must remain with the wheat.  We must suffer with him, and then on the day of Christ we will be glorified.

That shouldn’t mean we must be resigned to pessimism.  Or that we shouldn’t hold out ideals – even concrete ones – and vigorously strive after them.  I long to see once again what Wells called ‘the delicious paradise’ of New England Puritan community; and I’m convinced I have a mandate to drive me and a (general) promise to encourage.

But may it never become my Jesus.  May I ever learn to say with Him, not my will, but thine be done.  May I learn to be patient.  And may I ever lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt, where thieves do not break through or steal.  Because even if Rhode Island becomes Christianized, it will still remain a part of this age.  And the fashion of this age is fading away.

The now and the not yet is a biblical tension.  So it is not surpising that we feel the strain now.  We are caught in the middle.  Our strain in this world may find partial relief, here and there.  But “that which is perfect” must wait for another day.

Even so, come, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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