Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2019

“It’s the Rapture!” “No, It’s Not!”

Two forthcoming titles take two different paths to explore a similar theme. I thought it was interesting that both of these have a scheduled release date of March 19th. For the record, I did not receive review copies from either publisher.

First, Herald Press offers Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong by Zach Hunt, available in both hardcover and paperback.

Are you rapture ready? As a teenager in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Zack Hunt was convinced the rapture would happen at any moment. Being ready meant never missing church, never sinning, and always listening to Christian radio.

But when the rapture didn’t happen, Hunt’s tightly wound faith began to fray. If he had been wrong about the rapture, what else about his faith might not hold water?

Part memoir, part tour of the apocalypse, and part call to action, Unraptured traces how the church’s focus on escaping to heaven has it mired in decay. Teetering on the brink of irrelevancy in a world rocked by refugee crises, climate change, war and rumors of war, the church cannot afford to focus on the end times instead of following Jesus in the here and now. Unraptured uses these signs of the times to help readers reorient their understanding of the gospel around loving and caring for the least of these.

Then, releasing on the exact same day, Chosen Books releases Not Afraid of the Anti-Christ: Why We Don’t Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Michael Brown and Craig Keener in paperback.

Despite the popular belief that Christians will be raptured before the start of the Tribulation, Scripture paints a very different picture. Nowhere does the Bible promise that believers will escape the revelation of the Antichrist and his war on the saints. In fact, God tells His people to expect tribulation–and to persevere through it.

In this eye-opening text, acclaimed scholars and authors Michael Brown and Craig Keener offer encouragement and hope for the approaching dark times. Together they walk you through an intensive study of Bible passages, helping you gain a better understanding of what the future holds. Through it all, there is no need to fear; God has a plan. He will not abandon His people in the terrible days ahead.

Take comfort in the words of Jesus: He has overcome the world. Even in the midst of great sorrows on the earth, we live in Jesus’ victory until He returns at the end of the age.

People who are strong adherents of traditional Evangelical eschatology may be offended by both books (!) but there are those who have misgivings about that end times model which may welcome these two books.

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October 29, 2011

Living Creatures: A Halloween Post

While surfing the blogosphere for material appropriate to Christianity 201, I came across the rather lively blog of Carole McDonnell and a particular post she wrote just in time for Halloween.   The line that convinced me we needed to borrow steal feature it here was,

…I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.)

Is that cool or what? Now then, internet etiquette dictates that you actually click over and view this at her blog, but statistically, most of you won’t which means you would miss out on something truly different…


My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I’m not gonna talk about demons either. True, they’re living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in heaven…in fact they live in God’s throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat…which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other’s bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. “ (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.

10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don’t ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in case…so they don’t miss anything. And then there’s that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can’t even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this…and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelation?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:

The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel’s vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They’re still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures “Cherubim” and John calls them “living creatures.”

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what’s interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can’t begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns….but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really “look” like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a “person” is can understand?

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim — especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column d — and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called “The man Gabriel.” He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth.

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God.

~Carole McDonnell


I hope you agreed that was worth it. Even though you didn’t click over to her blog, why not give Carole a courtesy click now and check out other stuff she’s got there.

Next, you need to see some of the other videos over at John8ThirtyTwo’s YouTube channel.

Carole: I think the word Quadrinity has been used elsewhere, changing the ‘t’ to a ‘d’.

May 27, 2011

Friday Link List

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t the link list be on Wednesday?”  Well, these are a couple of longer items that bear closer scrutiny, and I didn’t want them to get lost in the list the day before yesterday.  So here goes…

  • Left Behind Theology.  Not everyone agrees with it, but it dominates Christian publishing, most eschatological discussions, and last weekend’s non-rapture event.   Won’t we be “caught up to meet Him in the air”?  The Greek word apantesis more implies going out to meet someone on the way, the way you might walk out to the driveway to welcome the family you invited for dinner, or perhaps, the way the invited guests might line up on the road to meet the bridegroom in a Jewish wedding in Bible times.  Also, according to Matthew Dickerson, the references to Noah are key to understanding Jesus’ statements about the last days.  Check out the Christianity Today article, Who Gets Left Behind?
  • Ever wonder what motivates some people to pursue the ministry ventures they do?  Pastoral callings are a little easier to understand, but callings to parachurch organizations are usually more complex.  In his continuing “five questions” series — though this one is actually nine Qs and As — Rick Apperson talks to Wess Stafford, the president and CEO of Compassion International.   Look… I know you guys aren’t big on clicking, but at least read the first question and answer, and I guarantee it will draw you into the rest of the article.  It’s a true survival story.   Check it out over at Rick’s blog, Just a Thought.
  • Here’s a bonus item; someone posted this video yesterday as a comment to a rather old item here, but the video is new.  The soundtrack is Timothy Keller preaching, author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God.  If you go to the source, there’s also a copy of the text, which some of you might want to keep on file.  [Note: Vimeo takes about three times longer than YouTube to load fully.]


Songs with substance
If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are now listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

Today’s links list lynx is a Canadian Lynx as photographed by Max Waugh. Click the image to link to the lynx. 

September 19, 2010

A Rather Unique Explanation of ‘666’

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:48 pm

I’d forgotten about this particular post at this blog until an e-mail last night jogged my memory.    I’ve made some changes to it in order to insert a longer excerpt from the original blog…

Remember those people in the late ’60s who declared that VISA and MASTERCARD credit cards were “the mark of the beast?”   Well, what if they were somewhat right?

Actually, the cards were called by other names back then.   VISA was “Chargex” here in Canada, “BankAmericard” in the U.S. and went by other names elsewhere.  Meanwhile, MASTERCARD went by the now awkward-sounding name “Mastercharge.”

Some Christians (okay, mostly evangelicals) declared this was the beginning of the end when it came to interpreting the “666″ mark in Revelation, but were strangely silent decades later when debit cards were introduced.   I’ve never understood what made the difference and the resultant silence on ATM cards.

I remember Pat Robertson commenting that the mark on the hand and forehead were symbolic.   The hand represents the work of man and the forehead represents the thoughts of man; the result being an anti-Christ figure who wants to control both.

Online, I ran into Tim Jamz.  In a post on March 28th, 2008, he suggested that “the mark of the beast” isn’t the number 666.   It’s numbers, period.    Our preoccupation with them.   Our can’t live without them.  Commenting in another forum, Tim said, “Our focus on our own contrived systems of analysis, and the reliance on these systems, separates us from our Creator.”

The road he takes to get to there, an examination of themes occurring in both Genesis and Revelation is going to seem murky to some readers, but you should read it anyway.  Here’s the highlight:

The “Mark of the Beast” is 666, right? Technically, it is “six-hundred, three-score, and six,” according to the King James Version of the Bible. Well, a friend I hung out with many moons ago … brought this up; it’s stuck with me ever since, and the more I think about it, it really makes sense.

The Book of Revelation, where the Mark is referenced, was written during the reign of the Roman Empire, in a region, which was primarily ruled by Rome. Naturally, the original text, and the number written to mean the “Mark of the Beast” would have been written in the Roman language… enter: Roman Numerals. We’ve all learned these in grade school, and most television shows and other “scholarly” works use them to denote dates, et al.

If you write out the number 666 in Roman Numerals, it comes out: DCLXVI. (500+ 100+ 50+ 10+ 5+ 1= 666) That’s right, one of each Roman Number, in descending order. So, it could be surmised that “numbers,” in general, are the Mark of the Beast. Before you exorcise your computer, think about this.

Modern civilizations are wholly dependent on numbers; for currency, for architecture, for science…. EVERYTHING! Everything except God, that is. Our quest for knowledge between good and evil… our ultimate desire and preconception that our minds are able to make determinations in general… these are what separate us from simple existence, and one-ness with the Creator.

I found the conclusion resonated more than the premise, but make your own decision.   To go directly to that post, titled ‘Lost in Translation,’ use this link.

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Time for this week’s links.   I think I need to just be boring and call this by the same title each week, the perfunctory Wednesday Link List.   But the lynx, the chain links, the cuff links and the golf links will make an occasional appearance.    This was a very busy week online for a lot of people.   Pick a few of these and let me (or them) know you what you think:

  • Video link of the week is the animation of a great Sovereign Grace Music song, The Prodigal.
  • There are seven letters to different churches in the first chapters of Revelation.   Now it’s 2010 and you have the chance to write The Eighth Letter.    I don’t usually promote conferences, but that’s the premise of one coming to Toronto in October, with guests Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, Andy Couch, and perhaps even you:  Three people will be selected to have their own 15 minutes of fame.
  • Shaun Groves talks to Christian business students and asks the musical question; “Is ‘Christian’ and ‘business’ not a bit of a contradiction?”
  • Ever read Jewish blogs?   Everybody knows cheeseburgers are not kosher (although your cat can has them) but here’s some detail why that is, and why adding cheese to your chicken sandwich is simply a case of guilty by association.
  • After a discussion with a police community support officer, who is also “the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered liaison officer” for his area, a UK street preacher is  jailed for saying homosexuality is a sin.
  • Most of the stuff on Wayne Leman’s blog about Bible translation issues may be over the heads of many, but here’s a simple post on how a Bible version expert appreciates a titanic translation.
  • Trevin Wax rightly calls into question the tradition in some churches of noting (in small ways) or giving an entire service over (in really big ways) to Mother’s Day.
  • Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?   Dan Phillips launches a series on this topic that will make you think, but not everybody is going to agree about, on extra-Biblical revelation.  (Hit the home page to continue to locate subsequent discussions.)
  • Here’s a very new question-and-answer blog that bridges the gap between parents and teenagers.   Later this week we’ll introduce Matt who started it, but meanwhile, checkout ihaveaQ.
  • Mark Batterson thinks we need to listen to the voice of innovation, but also the voice of wisdom if we want to avoid making the classic mistake.
  • Some classic Ben Arment this week on the difference between a teacher and an exhorter is reposted at Christianity 201.
  • The media may have moved on, but the messy cleanup in Nashville continues, with one particular church — operating out of a building where they’ve yet to hold their first service — doing a lot of the heavy lifting.   Pete Wilson also thinks a 1,00o year flood is a 1,000 year ministry opportunity.

  • Liberty University’s seminary president Ergun Caner says he grew up Muslim, but now others are saying his claims are unsubstantiated.

  • Coming soon to a Holiday Inn near you… (not really) The reunion of the veteran Christian rock band Petra.  Tour kicks off in October.
  • Okay, so I’m the billionth blogger to link to this, but North Point Media did a really good spoof of “contemprovant” Churches in this Vimeo clip, Sunday’s Comin’.
  • In our “scariest thing done in the name of Christianity” department, check out the people “aisle running” at Stuff Fundies Like.  (But I’m sure next week SFL will find something scarier.)
  • In our “beating up Donald Miller” department, here’s a look at the question, “Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who weren’t sinned against?”   I always thought it was a rather inspired thing to do, but here’s an opinion that it’s really done out of pride.
  • In our “Let’s just keep to ourselves” department, here’s a critique of the mechanics of Tim Challies latest Christian book reader’s survey.  Also, here’s how the Calvin Crowd responded.

  • Here’s a worldwide look at what our online search terms say about our spiritual interests versus our interest in sex.

  • Our cartoonist today is a return visit by Joe McKeever at Baptist press, who does a new cartoon daily.

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May 21, 2009

Psalm 19 in The Message – Excerpt

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:16 pm

7-9 The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God‘s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.

Something about the wording of this really struck me the other night.    I hope it helps someone out there today!   The Message is a modern-language rendering of the Bible by Eugene Peterson.   Although some call it a ‘paraphrase,’ it’s important to note that Peterson worked from the text in the original languages, not another English version.   We prefer to call it a ‘loose translation.’

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