Featured Post

Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Legacy of John Nelson Darby

 There are very few people in modern theological circles as maligned or denigrated as John Nelson Darby. A descendant of revered British Admiral Horatio Nelson (hero of the Napoleonic Wars), Darby was raised and was ordained in the Church of Ireland (essentially the Anglican Church in Ireland). When he discovered the wonders and joys of the biblical charge to rightly divide the Word of Truth for himself, he left his ordination behind and took to an in-depth and literal study of scripture. His legacy is what are called Plymouth Brethren assemblies throughout the world, a literal interpretation of scripture, and the truths of dispensationalism. 

Full disclosure, despite not being a Darbyite, I named my youngest daughter "London Darby" in honor of his literalism. I disagree on his understanding of the Rapture, the Lord's Supper, Water baptism, etc., but I admire his leaving his position in the Anglican Church to pursue a literal understanding of the Bible. As with Luther, we can (and should) admire the light he brought to scripture for the times in which he lived. I am not the judge of another man's servant. Darby will stand on his own before his Lord. Being of one mind with him on the finished work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I can call him a brother while respectfully departing from him on certain points.

The one doctrine mostly associated with his name (namely the Rapture or "catching away" of believers before the start of the Tribulation) is where we find much of the slander against the man. Videos, web pages, booklets, etc. are filled with vitriol against the man. I do not hold to his interpretation of the relevant passages in 1 Thessalonians 4 and in 1 Corinthians 15, yet I do not find his attempt at a literal interpretation to be abhorrent. [Note: I interpret these passages literally as well, just through a different understanding of the ages and hopes and timing.]

Unfortunately, far too many of the attacks on his doctrine are not based on a purely scriptural argument, but upon a bit of urban legend in regard to the supposed influence of one Margaret MacDonald and her supposed "visions."

On its face it is a ridiculous charge as Darby was a cessationist. His general view would be that supposed visions are demonic or false. McDonald's "vision" was a partial-rapture. He hardly would have adopted her visions as truth. There is much evidence that Darby's understanding of 1 Thess 4:17 was formed before anyone had heard of Margaret MacDonald. 

JND was part of the movement to rescue scripture from the allegorical interpretations common in Augustinian and Catholic-influenced theology. It was his literalism that led him to see 1 Thess 4 as a literal "catching away" before a literal Tribulation in literal Israel. That's all.

"Origen was the first to lay down, in connection with the allegorical method of the Jewish Platonist, Philo, a formal theory of interpretation, which he carried out in a long series of exegetical works remarkable for industry and ingenuity, but meager in solid results. he considered the Bible a living organism, consisting of 3 elements that answer to the body, soul and spirit of man, after the Platonic psychology. Accordingly, he attributes to the Scriptures a threefold sense: ( 1 ) a somatic [body], literal, or historic sense, furnished immediately by the meaning of the words, but only serving as a veil for a higher idea: ( 2 ) a psyche [soul] or moral sense, animating the first and servingfor general edification; ( 3 ) a pneumatic [spirit] or mystic and ideal sense, for those who stand on the high ground of philosophical knowledge. In the application of this theory, he shows the same tendency as Plato, to spiritualize away the letter of Scripture... and instead of simply bringing out the sense of the Bible, he puts into it all sorts of foreign ideas and irrlevant fancies" 
(Staff, Philip, Anti-Nicene Christianity: Ad 100-325, Vol. 2 of A History of the Christian Church, Cedar Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1958)

h/t Sojourner414 at RaptureForums.com


Even though I come to certain different conclusions in my interpretation of the epistles than does JN Darby, I admire the man for his conviction to interpret scripture literally. To that end, I have great respect for my Plymouth Brethren brothers and sisters. And I'll have to say that the PB have been excellent on typology in the Old Testament.

For my views on the "Rapture" passage, I refer you to the following for consideration. As I'll say again, I wouldn't mind being wrong on this one!


[JND was] a saint more true to Christ’s name and word I never knew or heard of...
A great man naturally, and as diligent a student as if he were not highly original, he was a really good man, which is much better. So, for good reason, I believed before I saw him; so taking all in all I found him, in peace and in war; and so, in the face of passing circumstances, I am assured he was to the end. Do I go too far if I add, may we be his imitators, even as he also was of Christ?

Excerpt: John Nelson Darby As I Knew Him by William Kelly

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Twelve Wells of Water and Seventy Palm Trees

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

-Exodus 15:27 

While we need to be careful when we handle pictures, types, numbers, or metaphorical language in scripture. I am a literalist, but we can surely handle figures of speech and metaphors when we encounter them. In the case of our verse above, we will try to draw from it truths that are verified elsewhere in scripture.

A number of commentators see this picture (created from a literal event) as a picture of Israel's calling in the earth. That is, Israel has been chosen by God to serve as priests for the nations. 

And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

-Exodus 19:3-6

We've looked at this conditional promise and calling (If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant) before in different ways. Here we want to note that this could never be the Body of  this age or any group wanting to usurp this promise from that people. This passage speaks of a future ministry, on the earth, for a specific people to serve other nations. If the believers today are somehow "Israel," who are these other nations and how are we priests for unbelievers?

Yes, Israel failed under this covenant, which is why the Lord has made provision for a New Covenant yet future. In that coming day, after the nation and kingdom is restored in the land, Israel shall serve as priests for the nation. To do so, she must be cleansed of her sin. That will have two prongs. The first prong involves the purging of Israel of her unbelief and her unbelievers in the Time of Jacob's Trouble and the instilling of the "heart of flesh" prophesied by Ezekiel. 

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

-Ezekiel 36:25-27

We can never read "the church" or "the Body" into Israel. We cannot teach that God "replaced" Israel with a "new Israel" we call "the Body of Christ." To do so is to do violence to scripture. Doubtless you have hear these verses in Ezekiel quoted from the pulpit as some sort of Old Testament picture of the current age. But the context does not allow this interpretation.

Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: and I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.

Try replacing "Israel" in this passage from Ezekiel 36 with "the Body of Christ."  It makes no sense, particularly in light of how many want to use verses 25-27. God is angered with the Body of Christ and has punished us among the nations? And even if we want to cram ourselves in there, we necessarily render the supposed "gospel message" of a heart of flesh meaningless. Believers have a new heart of flesh, then punished by God by scattering us, only to give us a second "new" heart?

There is very large movement is these last days to try and claim the promises to Israel for "the church." This is dangerous and foolish in two ways:

1. By failing to rightly divide the different hopes and blessings in scripture, we fail to serve God in a way that is pleasing to him.

2. We will miss the unsearchable riches in Christ in the heavenly places if we are hoping for blessings related to the land and the earth. 

So, with the goal of rightly dividing the plans of God in mind, we can look at the picture of the twelve wells of water and the seventy palm trees with more clarity. The true, believing twelve tribes of the physical sons of Abraham and Jacob (Israel) will one day bless the 70 nations of the earth and serve as priests (representatives between God and man).

After the flood, God recognized 70 nations from among the descendants of Noah. To these he assigned angels, keeping Israel for himself.  

These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

-Genesis 10:32


Here we have the beginning of the nations. God knows them and keeps track of the nations of the earth. The order of the sons of Noah is here changed. Japheth comes first. Ham’s place is unchanged. Shem comes last. This order is given in view of Noah’s prophecy. 
[Excerpt: A.C Gabelein's Annotated Bible]

For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure

-Psalm 135:4

For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

-Deuteronomy 14:2

When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations,
When He separated the sons of Adam,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the children of Israel [sons of God - LXX].
For the Lord’s portion is His people;
Jacob is the place of His inheritance.

-Deuteronomy 32:8-9


This verse [Deut 3:8] carries us backward. The boundaries of the nations were made by God with a direct reference to the children of Israel. The name of God used here, “the Most High,” is the millennial title, which He will have when His blessed Son our Lord receives His Kingdom. (See Genesis 14:19 .) When that time of blessing comes and Israel converted is no longer the tail but the head of the nations, this divine division will then be fully made known. And how they are reminded again what Jehovah did for them! “He found him, He led him, instructed and kept him.”
[Excerpt: A.C Gabelein's Annotated Bible]

We are hard-pressed to try and jam "the church" into these promises and prophecies. We make the Word of God of no effect by our traditions (Mark 7:13). Let God lay out his plan as he will. God's plan "since the foundation of the ages" is built on his plans for his earthly treasure, Israel. His plans for us in the current age, which was hidden from "before the foundation of the ages" point us to unsearchable riches in the heavenly places where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Let us not confuse these.

The 12 tribes watering the 70 nations involves God's plan for the earth. While this does not apply to us in this age, we can marvel at God's goodness and his faithfulness to his promises. Israel is currently "Lo-Ammi" (not my people), but very soon Israel will again be "Ammi" (my people). We dare not step on that plan lest we offend the Lord and miss our own calling.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Response to Dr. Heiser's Critique of the Gap Theory

We've discussed the Gap Theory previously (and its importance to proper interpretation of a number of truths), but I'd like to post a quick response to this Michael Heiser clip wherein he rejects it. 

 Here are links to previous, related blog entries:

In regard to the content and premise put forth by Dr. Heiser, I'd just say that not all Gap Theory adherents teach that the fossils were formed during the Gap. I personally believe the fossils were formed during Noah's flood (but I don't think it's terribly important). In any case, Dr. Heiser doesn't seem terribly familiar with the full biblical argument (and he gets the scripture reference wrong). If he is familiar with the full argument, he doesn't do it justice.

He bases the bulk of his argument on the word translated "was" in Genesis 1:2. As we will see, I believe "was" is not a proper translation of the Hebrew (nor can it be). But even with the word "was," we have the whole witness of scripture which witnesses to a Gap and great destruction between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The Plan of God and the implications for the ages is seen in a proper understanding of Genesis 1.

And the earth was [became, Hebrew: hâyâh] without form [tôhû], and void [bôhû]; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The word translated "was" in Gen 1:2 is "hâyâh" which clearly means to "become"

to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out
1a1a) to happen, fall out, occur, take place, come about, come to pass
1a1b) to come about, come to pass
1a2) to come into being, become
Strong's Concordance
A primitive root (compare H1933); to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary): - beacon, X altogether, be (-come, accomplished...)

Heiser references scripture, but fails to quote it. He refences the context, but does not give it. Be your own judge. He references Isaiah 34:11 for some reason, but the proper reference is Isaiah 45:18

"Thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens;
Elohim himself that formed the earth, and made it;
He hath established it,
He created it not [
tôhû]." [i.e. not empty]

He likes the NKJV, so here it is there:

For thus says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it [empty or a waste],
Who formed it to be inhabited:
I am the Lord, and there is no other.

Heiser also references Jer 4:23, but only points to the darkness and seeks to justify it. His argument is that God "hides in the darkness" Yet we need to read the entire passage.

I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void;
And the heavens, they had no light.
24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled,
And all the hills moved back and forth.
25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man,
And all the birds of the heavens had fled.
26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness,
And all its cities were broken down
At the presence of the Lord,
By His fierce anger.

The land became "without form and void" because of the Lord's "fierce anger." This is not simply God dwelling in dark secrecy, this is a display of God's destruction because of sin in his anger. Thus, we have verse 3 in Genesis 1 starting with "let there be light." The heavens "had no light" as a result of God's anger. These are parallel, biblical ideas.

Darkness is very much connected to judgment.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.

-Exodus 10:21-22 

This truth has relevance to our redemption. Paul recalls this calling of light ("let there be light") out of "darkness" as a picture of own re-creation in the Lord. The Lord in Genesis 1 commanded light to shine out of darkness which parallels calling us out of "darkness" (judgment) into his glorious light. 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

-2 Cor 4:6

He has called Israel out of her darkness and judgment under the law into the light of his promises.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light...

-1 Peter 2:9

Satan (Lucifer) was in Eden before Adam. He was there in blessing and perfection. So, we must conclude that he either fell sometime before the creation of Gen 1:3 or sometime after Day 7. 

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

-Isaiah 14


You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.

14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
-Ezekiel 28

If this is Lucifer in the Garden with Adam after Day 6, then he was doing all these things in Eden in perfection. God was done creating Day 6, so Lucifer had to have already been created. Do we want to place Lucifer, in perfection, in Eden after Day 6? If that is so, when was his fall?

And [the Lord Jesus Christ] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

-Luke 10:18 

This could be prophetic (Rev 12:9) or it could be a reference to the casting out of Satan to earth after Genesis 1:1. I only include it for your consideration. All of the "very good" creation (including all in Eden) came out of the darkness of Genesis 1:2. If what was created in Genesis 1:1 includes the darkness, can we say it was "good?" This in not a conclusive argument, just part of the whole. When we interpret scripture, we must consider the implications of our concluisons.

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
-Genesis 1:31; 2:1-2


We then must look at Peter's testimony.

For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. -KJV

`Where is the promise of his presence? for since the fathers did fall asleep, all things so remain from the beginning of the creation;' -YLT

This cannot be Noah's flood since the context is all things continuing "from the beginning of the creation." So, we have "the heavens" which "were of old" and the "earth" "perished" [Thayer's, Strong's Mounce's: to destroy) in water. The flood of Noah was obviously after the creation. This "destruction" of the earth  was before the current creation, thus things NOW continue as they have from that beginning.

The first heavens and earth were not created void [empty] as we have seen (Is 45:18). The earth became without form and void, in darkness, in God's fierce anger when Lucifer was judged (Is 45:18; Jer 4:23), etc.

That first earth was destroyed 2 Peter 3:6

The following possibility is included for your consideration, it is speculation on my part... I'm not fully convinced of this, but... I believe we live in the second earth and second heavens and there will come a day when we have the "new heavens and the new earth" which will be the third heavens and the third earth (as such).

You don't have to hold to the Gap Truth, it's not necessary for either "Life through his name" (John 20:3-31) or for fellowship, but Heiser is a bit sloppy here, in my opinion. I think there is much truth to be understood when we recognize the Gap. And having time between verses in not unbiblical.

The Gap of Time in Isaiah

Dr. Heiser contends (or at least implies) there is no biblical basis for large gaps in verses. Let's see how the Lord Jesus Christ "rightly divided" a verse into two timeframes separated by thousands of years:

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Do you see it? Isaiah was being fulfilled in their hearing with the Lord in his earthly ministry... but was all of Isaiah 61 being fulfilled? No. What is the other half of that final verse in Isaiah?

and the day of vengeance of our God

That coming day was not yet here when the Lord read Isaiah in the synagogue, so he stopped reading mid-verse. It is part of a future judgment and the restoration of Israel in the land. This verse is split by thousands of years. The passage continues and clearly speaks of future events.

And they shall build the old wastes,
they shall raise up the former desolations,
and they shall repair the waste cities,
the desolations of many generations.

5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
and the sons of the alien [foreigner] shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord:
men shall call you the Ministers of our God:
ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

Thus, another GAP of 2000 years or so in seen in Isaiah 61, as taught by the Lord in Luke 4 (despite the Hebrew in Isaiah). There are other examples of gaps of time in statements in scripture. Dr. Heiser's presumptuous arguments do not stand up to scrutiny, in my humble opinion. 

And when we fail to see the Gap (and the related "overthrow" and "overflow" of the earth, we will not rightly divide or understand when the scriptures speak of "the foundation of the ages [world]." And if we fail to see the overthrow and overflow, we will not understand the current calling from "before the foundation of ages" against the callings "since the foundation of the ages.