Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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The 1260 days in prophecy

A number of vivid prophecies were given to Daniel, containing references to the abomination that maketh desolate and a period of three and one half years. The prophecies give details about the beginning and ending of this time period and the symbolic language contains clear information about the persons and nations involved.

The conquests of Alexander are clearly portrayed, his early death, the division of his kingdom into four parts and the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes who would conquer Jerusalem and cause the daily sacrifices to cease.

Daniel records the time period in various ways: a time and times and the dividing of times (three and one half years); 1260 days, 1290 days and 1335 days. It is said the the sanctuary would be trodden under foot for 2300 days until it be cleansed. It appears that this latter refers not to days but to the evening and morning sacrifices, or 1150 days.

Some four centuries after the prophecies were given, Antiochus conquered Jerusalem, caused the sacrifices to cease and desecrated the temple by offering pig’s blood. Maccabees 1 calls this the abomination of desolation. Josephus says it was three years from the time the sacrifices ceased until the temple was cleansed and they began to be offered again.

Some commentators feel that the variation in the numbers given may be a clue that they are not to be taken as precise definitions of the time period. The three years mentioned by Josephs might not be exact either, but both Josephus and the writer of Maccabees clearly understood those events as the fulfilment of the prophecies given to Daniel.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentions the abomination of desolation, a clear hint that Daniel’s prophecies will have a further fulfilment in the NT era. The period of  time of forty and two months or a thousand two hundred and threescore days is also found in Revelation.

There is one striking difference between this time period in Revelation and the similar one in Daniel: in the book of Revelation there are no dates or events to mark the beginning or end of this period. Unnumbered scholars and learned men have devoted whole careers to discerning the exact period of time to which these refer. Anyone who does not value his sanity is welcome to collect and attempt to reconcile the widely differing conclusions they have reached.

May I suggest that no anchoring dates or events are mentioned because they are not at all the point of the prophecies in Revelation. The real message is in the events that occur during this time period.

Those events are:
1) the holy city and the court outside the temple will be trodden underfoot of the Gentiles;
2) the two witnesses shall prophesy, clothed in sackcloth;
3) the woman clothed with the sun will find a refuge where she is fed by God;
4) the dragon will speak great things and blasphemies.

There, in a nutshell, is a description of conditions throughout the New Testament era. The church built by Jesus Christ will always be a minority, often threatened and oppressed, yet sustained and fed by God. The enemy will take many forms, but will never cease to boast, threaten and blaspheme.

The two witnesses, the candlesticks mentioned in Zechariah and Revelation, are giving light from pure olive oil, the Holy Spirit. These are the Word of God and the Church of God. The dragon has always made war against them, working through pagans, papists and protestants. At times he has almost succeeded in destroying them, they have appeared to be dead, causing great rejoicing among their enemies. Yet they have always risen up again and continued to shine the light of the gospel in this sin darkened world.

The following reasons are therefore the cause of our separation.

May it be known to everyone that the cause of our separation has been such; for the essential truth of faith, and the interior knowledge of a true God in three persons in a unity of essence, a knowledge that neither flesh nor blood gives; the proper worship due to God alone, the love which belongs to him above all things, the sanctification, the honor which is due to him above all things and all that is called the living hope that is through Christ in God; regeneration and inner renewal by faith, hope and charity; the merit of Christ in all sufficiency of grace and justice; the communion of all the elect; the remission of sins, the sanctity of life, and the faithful fulfillment of all commandments by faith in Jesus Christ; true repentance, perseverance to the end and eternal life.

The truths which concern the ministry are these: the external assemblies of the ministers with the people who are subject to them, in suitable place and time, to instruct them in the truth through the ministry; in the truth mentioned above, bringing it there, strengthening it, and maintaining it there by faithful and frequent assemblies; the good ministers being, as to faith and conduct, an example of obedience, and following with vigilance the practice and example of the Lord to the flock.

The things that ministers are bound to do to serve the people are these: to preach to them the word of the gospel and the word of reconciliation, or the law of grace, according to the purpose and intention of Christ. For they are to announce the word of the Gospel, and the sacrament is joined to the word, confirms its intention and significance, and strengthens the hope in Christ in the faithful. Communion administered by the minister contains everything of the essential truth. And if there are some other things that concern the ministry, they can all be included in what has been said.

Now, of these particular truths, some are essentially necessary to the salvation of the humans, the others are conditionally necessary. They are contained in twelve articles, with the addition of several words of the apostles.

Six Iniquities of Antichrist
1. The errors and impediments presupposed by the Lord, concerning the Antichrist, are the following: varied and innumerable idolatrous service, granted against the commandment of God and of Christ, not made to the Creator, but to the creature seen or unseen, corporeal or spiritual, intelligent and sensible, produced naturally, or by any art, or under any name whatsoever, as of Christ and saints, and, relics, and persons in authority, to which creatures is rendered a service accompanied by faith, hope, actions, prayers, pilgrimages, alms, offerings, sacrifices, very expensive. They serve such creatures, they worship them, honor them in many ways, by singing, by panegyrics, by solemnities, by celebrations of masses, by vespers, by compliments to these creatures, by hours, by vigils, by feasts, to acquire grace, acquisition which is essentially in God alone, and meritoriously in Jesus Christ, and which is obtained only by faith by the help of the Holy Ghost.

For there is no other source of idolatry but a false opinion concerning grace, touching the truth, touching authority, invocation, intercession, which the Antichrist removes from God to assign to the ministries and works of his hands, the saints and purgatory. And this iniquity of the Antichrist is directly contrary to the first commandment of the law.

Similarly, the unrestrained love of Antichrist for the world is the source from which all the evils and sins of leaders, directors, and officers proceed in the Church; sins which remain without correction, and which are contrary to the truths of faith and to the knowledge of God the Father, according to the testimony of John, who says: He who sinneth neither knows God nor has seen him. For if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

2. The second iniquity of the Antichrist is that he places the hope of forgiveness, grace, justice, truth, and eternal life, not in Christ, nor in God by Christ, but in men living and dead, in authority, in ecclesiastical ceremonies, in blessings, in sacrifices, in prayers and in other similar things mentioned above, and not in a true faith which produces repentance, with charity, the removal of evil and the advancement of good.

So the Antichrist teaches not to hope firmly for regeneration, strengthening, spiritual renewal or communion, the forgiveness of sins, sanctification in eternal life: but by the sacraments and by his perverse simony, means by which the people are deceived, and having all things for sale, he has imagined old and new ordinances to obtain money, allowing that if someone said or did this or whatever, he wants him to acquire grace and life. And this double iniquity is, properly called, in the Scriptures, adultery and fornication. Therefore, such ministers, who lead the rude people into such errors, are called whores of the Apocalypse. This iniquity is contrary to the second article, and also contrary to the second and third commandments of the law.

3. The third iniquity of the Antichrist is that, besides what has been said, he has invented false religious orders, rules, monasteries, churches, as means of acquiring hope. Similarly, they affirm, against all truth, that it is a duty for everyone to hear masses often and devoutly, to receive the sacraments, to confess (but rarely with contrition), to fast or to empty his purse, to be a member of the Roman Church, to indulge in or deliver to rule or hood. And this iniquity of the Antichrist is directly contrary to the eighth article of the symbol: I believe in the Holy Ghost.

4. The fourth iniquity of the Antichrist is that, being himself the fourth beast formerly described by Daniel, and the whore of the Apocalypse, he attributes to himself names, authority, power, the dignities, the ministries, the offices, the writings, to the point of equalizing and comparing themselves to the true and holy mother Church, in which there is ministerially, and not otherwise, salvation and truth, as to the life, doctrine and the sacraments. For if it were not that she covers herself and her ministers with error and manifest sinners, she would be abandoned by all if she were known.

But because the emperors and kings, and the princes, judged that she was like the true Holy Mother Church, they loved her herself and endowed her against the commandment of God. This iniquity of the ministers, of the subjects, of those ordained in error and in sin, is directly against the ninth article: I believe the holy Church. These things belong to the first part of the article.

In the second place, in fact, by participating in only the external forms, according to the humanly ordered and invented usages, they believe and hope to have their part in the truth of the offices of pastors and the cure of souls, as if those who would be shorn like lambs, who would be anointed in the manner of a wall, and who would receive the blessing by touching the book and the chalice, could claim to be rightly ordained priests.

It is the same with the subjugated people, if, because he has his share in the words, the signs, the external exercises, and in their various ceremonies, often repeated, he persuaded himself that he had part in the truth which is covered with them. And this is contrary to the other part of the eighth article: I believe the communion of saints.

One thing is to be done, it is necessary to move away from the very evil communion of the monks who, to bring carnal men to themselves, make them hope, by means of things of nothing and avarice, that they will make them share in their poverty and chastity, whoever they may be, or whether they are lustful or avaricious, provided they give gifts to them..

5. The fifth iniquity of the Antichrist is that he promises, by deception, forgiveness and remission of sins to sinners not truly contrite and who have not firmly renounced evil deeds. And he first makes this promise of the remission of sins by means of auricular confession and the absolution given by men, by means of pilgrimages dictated by greed.

This iniquity is contrary to the eleventh article of the Creed: I believe the remission of sins. For this forgiveness depends on the authority of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ, by partaking in faith, hope, repentance, charity, and obedience which, according to the Word of God, is in man.

6. There is yet a sixth iniquity, that they prolong the hope of forgiveness until the end of life, by means of the hidden iniquities already mentioned for the manifest sinners, and especially by means of the extreme unction and purgatory dream, so that the unlearned men, who do not know the truth, persevere in error and are absolved of sins from which they have never moved away from by free will so that they could hope for it. coming remission and eternal life. This iniquity is directly contrary to the eleventh and twelfth articles of the faith.

The true signs by which the Church of Christ may be known

1. By an unadulterated pure doctrine. Deuteronomy 4:6, 5:12; Isaiah 8:5; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:15; John 8:52; Galatians 1

2. By a Scriptural use of the sacramental signs. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:22,23

3. By obedience to the Word. Matthew 7; Luke 11:28; John 7:18, 15:10; James 1:22

4. By unfeigned brotherly love. John 13:34; Romans 13:8; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 John 3:18, 4:7,8

5. By a bold confession of God and Christ. Matthew 10:32; Mark 8:29; Romans 10:9; 1 Timothy 6:13

6. By oppression and tribulation for the sake of the Lord’s Word. Matthew 5:10, 10:39, 16:24, 24:9; Luke 6:28; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 2:9, 3:12; 1 Peter 1:6, 3:14, 4:13, 5:10; 1 John 3:13

-Menno Simons, 1554 AD

No compulsion in matters of religion

Around 204 AD, Tertullian wrote: “As the religion of others does not concern us, and neither profits nor harms us; therefore it does not become any one religion to force itself upon another; since it must be accepted voluntarily, and not by coercion, for what is required is the offering of a willing mind.”

In 320 AD Lactantius Firmianus wrote these words to the Emperor Constantine:

“The more the religion of God is suppressed, the more it breaks forth and grows; hence they should employ reasoning and admonition, it is not necessary to proceed with violence. For religion admits of no compulsion; persuasive words can do more to promote the cause than blows.”

In another place he wrote: “We Christians do not desire that any one should serve God, the Creator of all, against his will; neither are we angry if he does not serve Him; for we trust His Majesty, who can easily avenge Himself against those who despise Him, as He does the vexations and injuries inflicted upon His servants. Therefore, when we suffer such shameful things, we say not one word against it, but commit all vengeance to God; not doing as those who would be regarded protectors of their gods; and very cruelly assail those who do not worship them.”

In 1554 Menno Simons wrote: “Faith is a gift of God, therefore it cannot be forced upon any one by worldly authorities or by the sword; alone through the pure doctrine of the Holy Word and with humble ardent prayer it must be obtained of the Holy Ghost as a gift of grace. Moreover, it is not the will of the Master of the house that the tares be rooted up as long as the day of reaping is not at hand, as the Scriptural parable shows with great clearness.

“Now if our persecutors are Christians, as they think, and accept the Word of God, why do they not heed and follow the word and commandment of Christ? Why do they root up the tares before the time? Why do they not fear, lest they root up the good wheat, and not the tares?  Why do they undertake to do the duty of angels who, at the proper time, shall bind the tares in bundles and cast them into the furnace of everlasting fire?”

No earthly ground

Of this water we find further, extensively, in the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 47, where he was brought to the house and saw waters issuing out from under the threshold of the house eastward. . . .  This water is typical of the spiritual water of the word of God which flowed from the temple, that is, from God and the Lamb, Revelation 21:22, till it increased and became, by Jesus Christ and his gospel, so full and deep that in this spiritual water no earthly ground of man’s salvation can be found; but man must swim without any ground or support from the doctrine and commandment of man. For the ground is alone in Jesus and in His heavenly word, which is spirit and life — therein must he be grounded, — therein swim and walk; for that is given for the salvation of man; in Jesus and his word alone will the souls of men be blessed.

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

Somewhere a forest is burning

Somewhere a forest is burning
A blue smoky haze blurs the horizon.
Acrid fumes affect our breathing
Causing eyes to sting, tears begin to run.

Somewhere a forest is burning
A forest of churches now redundant;
Made weak and sickly from learning
To accommodate half-true new doctrine.

New interpretations of truth
Weakened those who once were mighty and tall.
Rottenness took hold of the roots
One by one the branches began to fall.

Places where once the Word of God
Shone over the pathway for young and old.
Who will weep for all that is gone?
Who recalls the truths that once here were told?

Fire consumes twisted undergrowth
Heavenly light touches the hidden seeds.
Out of ashes appears the truth
Growing the forest this world so much needs.

All that man builds the fire will try
That alone which came from God will remain.
Then may we forever rely
On the Word of truth that He has proclaimed.

Copyright © August 16, 2014 by Bob Goodnough

[Another poem? I think this is all for awhile. Friday I sat in Scott’s Parable Christian Store in Saskatoon with a cappuccino and a notebook and scribbled down some notes. After considerably more scribbling, crossing out and shifting things around I came up with these two poems. The smoke was pretty noticeable on Friday, from forest fires a thousand miles away in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.].

Is anybody listening?

Christians who suffer from depression or other emotional or mental distress often face disapproval if they try to find help in psychologists and pills.  It is true that there are dangers with both.  What kind of help are we offering them?

“Why do Christians shoot their wounded?” was the title of a book published some years ago.  The question is entirely valid.  Why do Christians in a fragile emotional or mental state find it so difficult to talk openly with fellow believers of their struggles?  Isn’t it largely because we are apt to make them feel worse?

I believe there is a time and place for professional help and pills.  They can help someone through a crisis.  But many mood-enhancing pills carry warnings that suicidal thoughts may be a side effect.  Some people find that these drugs make them feel worse.

These people need someone to listen to them.  That is probably the biggest benefit from psychological counsellors.  If you pay them, they will listen.  Why can’t we learn to listen to people with emotional struggles?  We may not be able to identify with their struggles, but would it really hurt to listen?

Our listening should not be passive, neither should it be judgmental.  We will make things worse if we tell people to just snap out of it and stop always looking on the dark side of things.  If they could just snap out of it, they would.  We need to remind them of God’s love and our love.

If sin is somehow involved, it needs to be faced and repented of.  But if we begin with the conviction that every emotional or mental disorder has a spiritual root, we will be miserably useless counsellors.

Years ago an older man began attending the congregation where we were members.  He had spent time in a mental hospital and had been given electro-shock therapy.  He was searching for peace, but in a horribly muddled way.  His strong point was that when he was in a struggle, he had to talk about it.  I was one of the brethren he called.  Sometimes we wondered if his mind was damaged too much to ever find his way through, but after several years and many struggles he found the peace for which he had been searching most of his life.  He had a peaceful and calm trust in God.  He was baptized and we enjoyed his fellowship for a few months and then the Lord took him home shortly before his seventieth birthday.

His son also got converted and was baptized, but in one crucial way his nature was the opposite of his father’s — when something went wrong in his life he would disappear.  He could not face the brethren and admit he had slipped.  One day I happened to meet a man who had known the family years earlier.  He said this son had always wanted to be strong, he exercised, rode a bike and lifted weights to increase his strength.  A light went on for me, he was trying hard to be a strong Christian, too.  He has hit some serious lows in life by always trying to be strong.  Things are going better today.

For twenty years now my wife has had almost daily phone conversations with a lady in another province.  This lady had a miserable childhood and seemed very paranoid when we first got to know her.  I will give my wife a lot of credit for the fact that this lady is doing much better today.  My wife has not agreed with the psychotic suspicions of this lady, but has been sympathetic and supportive and has repeatedly pointed out to her that God is more powerful than all the forces of darkness.

We need to let people know that it is OK to be weak.  The Lord told the apostle Paul “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We are not being an enabler of another person’s unbalanced state of mind when we listen in sympathy.  Their suspicions, fears, and bizarre dreams seem like reality to them.  By listening with love and patience, not giving a lot of critical advice but rather offering them truths from God’s Word, we can help them discern between their troubled feelings and reality.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations (Romans 14:1).

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Romans 15:1).

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