Anthony Buzzard – What Happens When We Die? A Biblical View of Death and Resurrection

If contemporary secular society has retained a flicker of interest in any department of religion, it is surely in the question of life after death—if only to provide answers for inquiring youngsters. Faith in the reality of life beyond the grave seems to be faltering, since an article in the NOW magazine of December, 1979 quoted the astonishing statistic that 50% of those who claim to be Christians and churchgoing members of the Church of England do not believe in an afterlife! And yet, in New Testament terms, Christianity without a belief in the afterlife represents an absurd contradiction. Indeed, the tendency to doubt the future resurrection of the faithful called forth some of Paul’s most forceful words. To the church at Corinth he wrote:

First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. In the end he appeared even to me…This is what we all proclaim, and this is what you believed. Now if this is what we proclaim, that Christ was raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there be no resurrection, then Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith; and we turn out to be lying witnesses for God, because we bore witness that he raised Christ to life, whereas, if the dead are not raised, he did not raise him. For if the dead are not raised, it follows that Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith has nothing in it and you are still in your old state of sin. It follows also that those who have died within Christ’s fellowship are utterly lost. If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all men are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:3-8, 11-19, NEB).

To continue reading Anthony Buzzard’s book, click here

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Michael Boling – Introduction: What Happens When You Die? The Biblical Position on the Afterlife

What happens when you die? Death is something we all know will occur and cannot avoid, yet it is something most want to avoid talking about. Depending on your religious orientation, there are a plethora of ideas as to what happens at death. Some believe we are reincarnated. Others believe nothing exists at death with this present life being all there is to worry about. Still others affirm something happens such as the soul departing the body to journey somewhere. Some suggest death brings a period of waiting for a final eternal reward or punishment. Many simply do not know what to believe.

Which belief system is correct? What exactly takes place when we breathe our last breath? This is not a trivial question to tackle. If nothing exists after death, then matters of eternity are essentially irrelevant. If we are merely reincarnated into something else, while our actions might have future consequences, a final eternal judgment is not in the cards and thus nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if there is an eternal finality, one that determines where we spend eternity, understanding not only that phase, but also what transpires leading up to it, is of course vitally important.

As believers, we place our confidence in what God has revealed in Scripture. As such, we must understand what happens when we die from the clear framework and patterns provided throughout Scripture, from beginning to end. Given the plethora of passages that deal with this issue, we can ascertain this is not a trivial doctrine. Understanding what happens when we die truly has eternal consequences and a correct perspective on this issue provides a proper framework upon which to understand a number of closely connected theological concepts.

This series on the subject of what happens when you die will begin in Genesis and will walk through Scripture, noting the consistency of how God outlines for us what actually transpires. Admittedly, there will be a great deal of word definitions as defining terms from the outset sets the stage for how we approach and understand this issue. Additionally, we will spend a great deal of time examining the difference between the Greek and Hebraic mindsets as it relates to this topic. Viewing this issue through the proper lens has a great impact on a proper understanding.

Some of what is currently taught regarding what happens when you die is wrapped in denominational/religious tradition or excerpts from Scripture that do not taken into account the immediate or larger context. In some cases, the influence over the years of pagan philosophical thought. You might be slightly (or greatly) surprised at that last statement. Trust me. We will examine that element in much detail in due time.

This will likely be a long journey. As I noted, God has much to share with us in His Word on this topic. So buckle up for what will be a fruitful study.

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Michael Boling – Theodices and the Problem of Evil

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INTRODUCTION

The problem of evil is an issue that has continually perplexed humanity. Philosophers such as David Hume, John Hume, J. L. Mackie, and Alvin Plantinga, along with theologians such as Augustine have developed theodices in an effort to provide an answer to not only the existence of evil, but also why an omnipotent God allows the existence of evil. Many, when attempting to postulate a solution to the problem of evil still ponder the ancient philosopher Epicurus’ age old question: “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

How one engages this complex issue greatly influences their perception of God as well as His interaction with humanity. One must broach the problem of evil through the lens of scriptural exposition. Given finite man is incapable of holistically understanding the actions of an omnipotent God, any theodicy will encounter difficulties explaining the existence and purpose of evil. This paper will outline four respected theodices arguing for a combination of the ideas presented by Augustine and Alvin Plantinga as the basis for both a biblically sound approach to an ultimate solution for the problem of evil based on the concomitant ideas of God’s goodness and man’s sinfulness.

THE NEED FOR A THEODICY

John Stott rightly commented, “the fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.” In a world fraught with suffering, it is necessary for the believer to develop a cogent theodicy. The multifarious solutions presented by philosophers and theologians have only served to obfuscate the underlying issue that must be addressed, namely how an omnipotent God allows evil to exist. C. S. Lewis saliently explains the prospect of answering [the problem] depends on showing that the terms “good” and “almighty,” and perhaps also the term “happy” are equivocal: for it must be admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or the only possibly meanings, then the argument is unanswerable. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Exegetical Paper on Psalm 72

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INTRODUCTION
Psalm 72 has been explicated by biblical scholars as Messianic due to similarities with Messianic prophecies contained in Isaiah 11:1-5 and Isaiah 60-62. As noted by Derek Kidner, “as a royal psalm it prayed for the reigning king, and was a strong reminder of his high calling; yet it exalted this so far beyond the humanly attainable as to suggest for its fulfillment no less a person than the Messiah.” The hyperbole utilized in this royal psalm that finds its fulfillment only in the persona and work of Yeshua has resulted in this psalm being classified, at a minimum, as indirectly Messianic.

Authorship of this psalm has been attributed by some to the psalms penned by King David; however, strong arguments have been made for it being a work of King Solomon. Scholarly debate on this matter resides on the interpretation of the superscription which alludes to Psalm 72 as a Psalm of David with King Solomon as the subject and not the author. Franz Delitzsh argues for Solomonic authorship in his statement that Psalm 72 is for the most part distichic, which has less of original freshness and directness than of an artificial, reflective, and almost sluggish manner, the geographic range of view, the richness in figures drawn from nature, and the points of contact with the Book of Job…these are coincident signs which are decisive in favor of Solomon.” Scholars are divided on the issue of authorship; however, strong arguments have been put forward for this Psalm being a prayer of blessing for the reign of King Solomon or more appropriately, a prophetic declaration of the Messiah. Perhaps the best argument provided for Davidic authorship is given by James Mays who comments that “Superscription and colophon taken together ask that the prayer be read as David’s intercession for his seed and successor, a prayer that the vocation of God’s king be realized in his son.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Exegetical Paper on Psalm 72”

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Book Review – A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old and New Testament

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I have owned or own numerous single volume or collected sets of introductions to the Bible. Some have been quite helpful in my studies, personal or academic, and others have been shall we say a bit lackluster and somewhat disappointing. Given the plethora of biblical introduction style commentaries that have made their way in and out of the market, I am always interested to see what a new addition has to offer, if anything, to the discussion.

Recently, two such additions made their way to the new release offerings and I figured why not take a look. These new releases are A Biblical-Theological Introduction the Old Testament and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament edited by Miles Van Pelt and Michael Kruger respectively with contributions from numerous heavyweights in Old and New Testament scholarship. With an admitted bit of skepticism which I typically have with books of this type, I dug into the material. Let me just say my original attitude of skepticism was very quickly replaced with appreciation for the excellent work provided by the contributors.

For starters, these are not minor contributions to the biblical introduction category of study. At over 1200 pages combined, they contain serious scholarship. Now mind you mere size does not determine the quality of scholarship as an author or editor can include a lot of fluff, big words, and concepts that are of no use or that are quite frankly wholly incorrect. One will not find useless fluff and incorrect biblical theology in these efforts. This is serious, quality, purposeful, and important biblical scholarship.

Additionally, these are gospel focused texts. I realize the term “gospel-(insert word)” is a popular title these days and is often just that, namely just a set of words that carries little if any meaning. When I state these texts are gospel focused, it means they actually use as a start and end point the message of the gospel as expressed in the front and back halves of Scripture.

An example of the focus on the gospel found in these helpful biblical introductions and more specifically the reality that the core message of Scripture is the promise, coming, and future return of or Redeemer can be observed in the introduction of the Old Testament volume:
“Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. This means that the person and work of Jesus as presented in the New Testament (including his birth, life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and return) constitute the singular reality that unifies and explains everything that appears in the Old Testament.”

Far too often the Old Testament is skimmed over in an effort to skip right to the Gospels or writings of Paul. Without establishing the foundation found in the front of Scripture and recognizing the connectedness of the whole of Scripture as it relays the message of redemption, understanding Scripture’s coherent and unified message will be difficult if not impossible. The contributors do not fall prey to the temptation to spit apart as unrelated the Old and New Testament texts. Conversely, they aptly outline for the reader a sound biblical, gospel-centric approach.

Each book of the Bible is engaged with the all-important elements of background information, authorship, literary analysis, structure and outline, message and theology, with any relevant major themes of each book receiving in-depth discussion. Something I am always appreciative of are helpful bibliographies. Okay….call me a book nerd, but I am a stickler for authors both referencing the work of other scholars and providing helpful tools for further study. At the end of each book of the Bible that is engaged in these volumes the reader will find a great list of resources. Also provided are some very interesting appendices that discuss anything from Daniel’s 70 weeks to New Testament Textual Criticism.

To put it simply, these are excellent works that I encourage not just seminary students and pastors to consider purchasing. It would be a shame if these books only found their way to the shelves of the academic minded individuals. They are truly useful for the average laymen as well in their study of Scripture. In fact, I recommend splurging a little and purchasing both volumes as a set. You will not be disappointed and I submit you will greatly appreciate the amount of sound scholarship provided and more importantly, I am confident you will grow in your knowledge of Scripture and in your relationship with God as a result using these helpful tools as part of your Bible study repertoire.

These books are available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here and here.

I received these books for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God

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Admittedly I am a very visual learner. Many times when my wife is attempting to describe her vision for a future home renovation project, it is difficult for me to put her words into a mental picture of what she is trying to get across. I need a blueprint or a picture at least to put some context and connections to the vision being relayed. Once I have that in hand, the grand vision and to a large degree the details begin to come into focus.

Tim Challies, noting that many others fall into the same visual learning category as myself, began to offer on his website a series of infographics. These well down visual depictions of a number of theological truths, were something I continually looked forward to as I found them quite helpful besides being visually appealing. Using that idea, Challies and Josh Byers have provided a book aptly titled Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth about God in which they utilize a number of excellent infographics to help the reader make needed connections on matters of theology.

For starters, this is a visually stimulating book. This is not a statement I often make about books dealing with theology. Typically I comment on the plethora of footnotes or the expansive bibliography or the manner in which the author elaborates and exegetes a particular element of theology. Make no mistake that this book deals with theology. The authors examine a number of important theological topics. They just do it in a somewhat unique manner, namely through the use of full page and colorful infographics.

I am sure most remember trying to memorize that dreaded periodic table of the elements. I recall trying to put to at least my short term memory for a test all the facts concerning the elements such as the abbreviation, weight, and other facts. Challies and Byers used that periodic table picture concept to present the books of the Bible. I mention this because it is rather clever and it represents just a small sample of how these infographics are quite helpful in driving home facts and concepts. In the case of the books of the Bible periodic table, they provide an abbreviation for each book, the “long name” if you will, the author, and the date of authorship. What a great way to depict some basic facts that would be very useful in a Sunday School classroom or for my personal purposes, as part of a homeschool curriculum.

There was even one of my least favorite types of infographics, namely a flowchart. I encounter these at work and I usually cringe when trying to follow the process that is being depicted. Challies and Byers use a flowchart to outline how to mortify sin. I humble admit that I was able to completely follow the train of thought and the yes/no decisions throughout the flowchart. Furthermore, besides being visually useful, the information was spot on theologically, an important element after all for a book discussing theology.

This is a book I highly recommend, especially if you are a visual learner or you interact with visual learners. As I noted, this is a tool I will be using as part of my homeschool curriculum this coming year. What is even more useful is the various graphics provided in this book are available for purchase and download here. Pick up a copy of this book. I am confident you will find it very useful in your study and application of God’s Word.

This book is available for purchase from Zondervan Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Zondervan Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michael Boling – A Form of Godliness: Fasting, Social Justice and the Sabbath: An Exposition of Isaiah 58:1-14

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Exposition of the Text

Introduction
The pericope of Isaiah 58:1-14 is an exhortation-laden oracle denouncing Israel’s lack of spiritual perspicuity and their penchant to acquiesce to pagan cultic rituals as a method to coerce God into action. Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared that a complete dénouement to such behavior was a precursor to the renewal of a covenant relationship with their Creator. If Israel was to experience the benefits and blessings of the covenant, a cessation of a form of godliness was in order. True godliness, according to Isaiah 58, must evince a concern for the poor and downtrodden, a rejection of selfish motives, and a delight in the original intent of the Sabbath. Isaiah 58 evinces the need for the people of God to reevaluate their relationship with both God and their fellow man. Additionally, it reiterates an ongoing message in Isaiah’s prophetic discourse; God desires obedience rather than sacrifice.

Matthew 22:37-40 states the entirety of the Law and the Prophets hinges on loving God and loving others. The Isaiah 58:1-14 pericope reveals that attempts to manipulate God through selfishly motivated acts of piety, while having the appearance of probity, are repulsive to God. As noted by John Walton, the Israelite’s attempts at godliness were “selfish and oppressive. Instead of their religion making them a blessing to those around them, as God intended it made them a curse.” As such, their devotion was nothing more than a verisimilitude preventing God from pouring out his justice and mercy on them. Ironically, it was God’s blessings which Israel hoped to acquire through means of their cultic expressions. In order for Israel to experience the covenant blessings and thus enjoy Sabbath rest, a paradigm shift was required. But wait, there’s more!

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 3: God Will Reward Every Wrong Endured

Jesus says that those who follow him will suffer, and many of you will suffer for doing good. In this lab, John Piper reminds us of God’s love for us in every trial, and uncovers the promise that one day he will make every wrong right.

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Ken Ham – What is the Gospel?

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Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel in Genesis is a vital key to unlock a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.

Surely the answer to this question is obvious to the average Christian. The word gospel means “good news.” When Christians talk about the gospel, they are presenting the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4,

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note very carefully how Paul explains the gospel message later in this same passage:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Corinthians 15:12–45).

Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul went to the book of Genesis and its account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus payment for sin, until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from a pastor’s wife. It went something like this: “Our church can’t come to your seminar,’ she said to me.

“Why not?” I replied.

“Well, you insist on taking Genesis as literal history. But Genesis is not that important—it’s not that essential what one believes about Genesis. Why can’t we just agree on the essentials of Christianity?’

“So what do you mean by the essentials?” I asked.

She answered, “The fact that we’re all sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sin. This is what is essential to Christianity. Believing in a literal Genesis is certainly not essential.” She then went on and asked me, “If someone is born again as the Bible defines, but doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis as you do, is he saved and going to heaven?”

“Well,” I replied, “if he is truly born again, even if he doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis, of course he is saved and going to heaven.”

“See,” she blurted out, “Genesis is not essential—what Jesus Christ did on the cross is what is essential to Christianity.”

I then asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead,” she responded.

“Why did Jesus die on the Cross?”

She immediately answered, “For our sin.”

“And, what do you mean by sin?” I inquired.

“Rebellion,” came the answer.

I then asked, “Could you please tell me how you came to define sin as rebellion? Is that your idea or someone else’s idea? I’ve even heard some people define sin as ‘a lack of self-esteem.’ On what basis have you determined sin means rebellion? Where did you get that definition?”

And her response? “I know what you’re trying to do!” she declared. She realized that I had her boxed in. She didn’t want to admit that without Genesis, she could not answer the question. Because the meaning of anything (like sin) is dependent on its origin, you could not define sin without referring to the literal event of the Fall in Genesis. The literal rebellion of Adam, as recorded in Genesis, is the foundation necessary to understanding the meaning of sin.

What was I trying to do? Simply this: to demonstrate that the only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man, Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent, thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.

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